White Shirt Monday: The Georg-Friedrich-Hogwarts-All-Girls-in-Uniform-Boarding-School-After-Dark-Room-Special. With Ties. And Swords.

[Brenda Rae (Armida) and Sonia Prina (Rinaldo) effectively Handeling the situation in a very lesbian bedside manner during “Rinaldo”, staged by Robert Carsen, Glyndebourne 2011. – All images: click if you want even more details]

Sorry, but there is no other way to title this post, and I didn’t even mention Xena and ET and anime riot grrrls and Malory Towers yet, and the production is already filled with more queer than you can take a stick at. Or a riding crop. Or a sword. But I am getting ahead of myself. – You know the common saying how sometimes lesbians “channel their inner gay man”? This is a post about Robert Carsen channeling his inner boading school lesbian with a kinky crush on the austere headmistress. In fetish leather. With gorgeous Handel singing to boot.

But let’s take it from the top (and I mean that in *every* possible way), shall we?

First of all, since it is White Shirt Monday, let’s appreciate Sonia Prina in a school uniform doing just the right mix of studly and cute.

While Konwitschny’s “Lohengrin” is hanging above every classroom scenario since (it’s perfect!), here it does work in its own way – the entire opera, originally set in the Crusades, is envisioned as one little baby butch school boi boy having a dream adventure, with classmates and teachers taking over roles in it. What better place to start than swords and armor and braggadoccio arias?

So… there is Sonia Prina (Rinaldo), the shortest of the bunch, as title hero Rinaldo. Then there is a goggle of Warblers Abercrombies uniformed male-born, squeaky-western-white classmates, but who gets to be lead wolf Goffredo? Armenian mezzo Varduhi Abrahamyan. Carsen is always pretty, but it’s even prettier when some Gender Critique happens.

…Gender Critique with great mezzo singing.

…and with ties, and sword hilts, and white shirts. Also, she he possibly teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts. With Dark Timbre.

Aporpos Dark: Enter Armida (Brenda Rae). I’m not sure what she would teach, but I’m sure you would need to be of age of consent to enter that particular class.

…and she comes with an entire entourage of manga-inspired boarding school riot fangrrrls who fawn over her. Or her riding crop. Or both.

…of course she wields swords, too.

As adolescent fantasies go, it isn’t particularly subtle.

Screw “subtle”, where do I sign up for this class?!

Meanwhile, Rinaldo has a thing for librarians. That means he has a crush on Almirena (Anett Fritsch). Who could blame him/her – a tie AND glasses!! (And Carsen actually uses BIRDS for “Augelletti, che cantate”. Cute meta.)

There’s even a reference to the wire fence from “Gìa” thrown in. Just in case you didn’t notice because you were distracted by the cute contralto/soprano hand-holding.

…remember Elizabeth Mitchell in “Gìa”?

And then the knight kissed the librarian…

…and they sang a glorious duet…

…also: hands, hands!…

…and they lived happily ever after.

…until Armida strode in with her Feminist Riot Posse and abducted Almirena the Librarian for some mandatory Women’s Studies 101.

At this point, Sonia Prina gets to sing a sublime “Cara sposa”. (Darren Who?)

I’ll just be over there in the corner, swooning.

Of course, then Rinaldo draws his sword and the Handelwarts Boy Band pays tribute to Queen’s “Bicycle Race” before they dash off to save the Princess Bride Princess Librarian.

I did mention the brandishing of swords, right?

Unsubtle. Overruled. Still dashing.

Then this happens.

Don’t even ask. We’ve got a librarian to rescue. (didn’t Drew Barrymore have pigtails back then?)

Rinaldeebo Brinker’s journey of awakenings: First, it’s Siegfried(a) and the Rhine Maidens (we shall simply call the additonal two Bachblüte and Flachflute)…

Also: sword-sheathing. Oh my.

…then, it’s Odysseus and the Librarian Sirens (Don’t cross your Penelope, Rinaldeebo. – No, I’m not even sorry about the bad puns today. I think the only appropriate reaction to an adolescent fantasy is to giggle and paint yourself with the bigger sword.)

…apropos bigger sword: Armida Bradshaw has taken up after-hours teaching with the Girl Posse, and Rinaldo stumbles right into the dormitory of Mädchen in Uniform (both 1931 and 1958 version).

Naturally, Rinaldo ends up tied to a bed with a set of school uniform ties. By a couple of manga schoolgirls. Please note the rolled up shirtsleeves and open collar on the very right. A+!

Armida Bradshaw apparently gives private lessons.

Unbuttoned.

*no coherent commentary forthcoming at the moment*

So this brings us back to the cover graphic.

I guess you don’t mind the reminder.

So there are two ways this could go down…

No, actually there is just one way. That, and thanking the universe for it.

But the studly contralto butch makes a stand about her librarian.

And strikes a pose (also: always guard your riding crop dangling from the wardrobe. Renders so many questions unnecessary).

I take your pose and raise you… stilettos.

…Hands-on-hips, Honor Roll in the sack.

…and arms. And shoulders. (perhaps Brenda Rae is Swedish? And actually a mezzo?).

Please take note of Rinaldo spontaneously combusting in the background.

Mrs. Armida Robinson isn’t giving up yet. – Why did you say no again, Rinaldo?

WHY?

Oh, yes, the librarians.

Ah well. Two tops wouldn’t have worked out that well, anyway.

Rinaldo kisses his way through the whole line-up of Almirenas to prove his rather butch-looking point.

(No complaints here.)

I’m sure there’s a Greek goddess named after this pose.

Then this almost happens…

…and then Rinaldo draws his sword. From *under* Armida.

Yeah, why kiss when you can go all grown-up meta instead.

Some angry eye!sex ensues, but I am distracted by Prof. Bradshaw’s heels.

Rinaldo storms off, so Armida draws her own sword (I am groaning at my own puns, but really, this is what happens on stage).

Armida does a 180 and pulls a soulful Alcina (with sword, though).

…with a sword AND a tie.

…and a riding crop.

*gulp*

And apropos riding crop —

— in this Mädchen in Uniform dorm after dark (remember the infamous dormitory kiss scene?), the schoolgirls get spanked goodnight. (and now we officially know way more about Robert Carsen’s inner lesbian than we ever wanted to)

In an attempt to help Rinaldo, the Handelwarts Boy Band channels the Malory Towers All-Girls Hockey Team.

When in doubt: Drag!

Meanwhile, in the Dark Room School Gym: Armida and her manga class have Rinaldo, Almirena and, for the guys among us, Luca Pisaroni chained up. No, I am not making this up.

Of course you can also us a tie to blindfold someone.

But then the contralto in question cannot appreciate those heels. Or that skirtline.

Despite Rinaldo’s protests: Armida still has the bigger sword.

The fake Malory Towers Hockey Team arrives, with hockey sticks, and battles the Manga Girl Posse, who wield Lacrosse sticks. I am sure this scenario was mentioned in Ginzburg’s Benandanti study somewhere.

Also, Armida gets to do some more sword-wielding.

The Drag Team wins and Rinaldo gets the girl. In a white shirt. And by that, I mean wearing nothing BUT a white shirt (and a tie, of course).

Happy reunion. Also, Almirena has taken some pointers from Armida on the art of sword-wielding during her 101 class in Riot Feminism. Rinaldo clearly doesn’t mind.

Also, I’m still not over the Glorious Girl Posse, who are all very happy to have their stern Ms. Bradshaw to themselves again.

The final battle is transformed into a ballgame of boys-vs-girls, and the girls suddenly wear the famous Gabrille outfit from Xena Warrior Princess. Pop culture reference overkill! Also: forever BGSB!

Well, if you can’t have the cute contralto, there’s always the option of Luca Pisaroni’s Argante. Perhaps he’ll appreciate that hands-on-hips stance properly. And doesn’t mind being topped.

Goffredo officiates Rinaldo’s wedding to Librarian Almirena.

“Ah, buckle this! We now go to ludicrous coloratura speed!” (Yogurt! Yogurt! I hate Yogurt! Even with strawberries!).

And here the dream ends and we find Rinaldo alone in the classroom, watching his adventure fade away.

…he still really knows how to strike a dashing pose, though. – Oh Captain, my Captain!

The End.

(and if you’d like to repeat this adventure (or relive your own school crush days) with your own eyes and ears: there’s a DVD.)

25 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: The Georg-Friedrich-Hogwarts-All-Girls-in-Uniform-Boarding-School-After-Dark-Room-Special. With Ties. And Swords.”

  1. PS.: I just saw that there’s a review of the DVD over at La Cieca’s, up this very morning: http://parterre.com/2012/10/07/schoolboy-crush/ Some more detailed singer critique (Pisaroni comes off best, honorable mentions for Abrahamyan and Mead; some critique on lack of passion/uniform sounds when it comes to Fritsch and Prina) and making a point about how the production is fun, but lacks depth and isn’t about the religious conflict of the Crusades.
    All good points, although I don’t think the original “Rinaldo” setting is all that much about religious conflict, either, and uses the Crusades just as well to stage contrasting passions mostly grouped around love and/or heroism, but of course this is a rather meta-heavy production with lots of winks at the audience, not a brooding Andrea Breth production.

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  2. Ooh, and this is in the mail on its way to me as we speak…
    And speaking of white shirts and school, I need a lesson in the official code of conduct for white shirt reps at Kasarova concerts for my upcoming trip to Oslo. What do I need to do – faint? throw flowers? shout “brava!”? wait by the stage door? get an autograph? wear a white shirt?
    And now for something completely unrelated – have you seen this stunt by Ernman, witnessed by the entire Swedish royal family, forced grins plastered on their faces: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6gzFvpb8RU

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    1. Oh I think there’s a script for that:

      ‘* Script name: white shirt deportment.kasarovaintheflesh.first time
      ‘* Author: The White Shirts
      ‘* Purpose: Defines appropriate code of conduct for Kasarova sighting.
      ‘* Modified to reflect internationalisation requirement.

      do hold self tightly {trying really hard not to let out a primal scream at an inopportune moment};
      if {the “civilians”} start applauding,
      start brava-ing loudly {ratio civilian decibels * 10};
      else;
      wait,
      do until opera done;
      then;
      if British,
      retire {to nearby pub for dreamy reminiscing};
      else,
      join adoring fans {autograph queue, stage door]
      next;
      do scan web {anxiously waiting next opportunity to see her}
      end.

      # adapted from COBOL programme FassbaenderEtiquetteDerRFirstTime
      # note needs developed to account for second time behaviour modification

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      1. Hear hear, wish I could think of something witty to say but too busy cleaning up mess from snorting all over my desk. Carsen’s inner lesbian – kerching! Anik you’re a genuis.

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        1. if it makes you uncloak off starboard, something clearly has worked out right for me in all that tie-induced haze. 🙂

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  3. Lacks depth? As though Tasso were Steven Runciman. Well if Carsen is a naughty Tasso, you are his ribald Ariosto, Anik. What flights of language and image! What references! (There’s no such thing as a free association, they say, but these are brilliant.) And what jokes!!
    So glad to learn this is on DVD. Watched the stream, laughing like a drain and thinking “Some little girl didn’t hear me say, ‘Unarmed combat.'” Wa and hoo!

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    1. Associations not being free led to this whole shenanigan in the first place… I think. Although I am not sure whether I have an excuse for Dark Helmet. – very happy you enjoyed it!

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      1. It has been a while!  Your hilarious summary was a good way to kick off the week.  I had to re-read it again today and snigger under my breath on the bus.  Also: contralto/soprano handholding!  Cuuuuuuuute!

        Ps. Congrats on your Ph.D.!

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  4. Still laughing! (acually, laughed since yesterday morning when I started to read this on the phone, but was rudely interrupted due to the picture overload!) Mädchen, Mädchen, you’re going to turn me …. towards opera in the end. I feel it coming. I cannot decide who is more enticing: the Gabby streghe or Mrs. Bradshaw (God, wouldn’t mind to be kept in school after class with this one!). What effect has wearing those heels and skirt on one’s voice, I wonder….? Baaah, who cares!

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        1. yes! Especially since I plan on opening an electronics store (toasters only) in case academia continues to be so fickle about emplyoment options.

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  5. This made my day, just brilliant comments Anik!
    By the way, the suit is made of latex, not leather, and is from House of Harlot… 😉

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