Well, it's finally happened. I've totally lost touch with reality.
Either that or last Saturday night I actually watched the North American
television premiere of a new opera from hell (or, at least, that's where
half of it was set). Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, "Jerry
Springer: The Opera".
Yes, folks, the spouse-cheating, chair-tossing, shock-TV show is now
an opera and not just any old opera, but one that will ensure for all
eternity that this musical form will never endear itself to our esteemed,
opera-hating Moderator. (I heard about this production a while back,
but I thought it was an April Fool's Joke.)
The BBC-produced opera was composed by Richard Thomas (not, I assume,
the facially birthmarked actor from "The Waltons"). This controversial
new work starred David Soul (of Starsky and Hutch ... I can never
remember which one) in the non-singing title role. This isn't poor
casting; the actor has so aged and put on enough weight that only minor
costuming is necessary for him to pass as a Springer twin. His marvellous
performance anchored a reasonably entertaining set of performances;
however, while this is an opera with a Soul, it is also one without
Be forewarned, even an objective observer cannot dispute this comic
piece qualifies as lewd, foul-mouthed and blasphemous. The use of the
f-word is so extensive, it numbers in the high hundreds. There is also
a sprinkling of the c-word and a-word. Not only does a bullet-ridden
Springer go down to hell where the language on his show originates,
but visits are also made by God, Jesus, and Adam and Eve, who all give
swearing like a sailor a shot. In a duet of Jesus and Satan (sounds
like South Park, doesn't it?), the latter merely repeats the f-word
without sounding the last letter for an excruciating few minutes until
he finally spits out a world-popular 2-word epitaph that ends with "you".
As his end of the duet, Jesus holds up his palm to Satan and keeps
repeating "talk", until he finishes it with "talk to the stigmata" (a
take-off on a suggestion made earlier in the opera and involving another
part of the human anatomy).
Oh, and let us not forget the tap-dancing Ku Klux Klaners (I wish I WAS
kidding) and backdrop videos of full frontally nude male Neanderthals
and Angels whose bouncing body motions yield the expected and, in this
case, uncensored results.
The opera begins on the earth-bound Springer show with guests that
include a man who cheats on his fiance not only with her best girlfriend,
but with a transgendered male as well. Another singer turns up as a
diaper-wearing, anal-obsessed baby wannabe (and, possibly in a move
to skyrocket the shock value, returns later to portray Jesus wearing a
eerily similar crucifixion loin cloth). In the performance, Springer is
shot and goes down to the upper reaches of hell where Satan (previously
his TV show warm-up guy) commands him to stage a hellish version of the
favourite show in North America's trailer parks as part of a conflict
resolution with heaven that is supposed to include an apology from God.
Springer's motivation, if he doesn't agree to this, is that he will be
consigned to the actual fires of hell, where he will neverendingly be
sodomized with barbed wire (visually demonstrated by Satan to eliminate
any doubt about his intentions). Nice, huh?
When God appears (yes, in hell) it is as a somewhat weak supreme being
who sings "It's Not Easy Being Me". For some reason beyond logic, he
wants to retrieve Springer and take him to heaven where he will sit
beside God and hold His hand.
The music (oh yah, there's music) is a pleasant mix of melodic, dissonant
and atonal. It shares with other modern operas a similarity with the
music of shows such as "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables" (to
which the producers of these shows chose not to give the kiss of death
by calling them singspiel operas, which is what they are).
"Jerry Springer: The Opera" was a success with audiences in Great
Britain and won a couple of awards there, but it also generated tens
of thousands of complaints and some death threats to the head of BBC
programming. Plans to stage it in North America have apparently been
postponed. I wonder why.
There is a point in the show where Springer, in his standard closing
comments, wisely pinpoints the condition of good and evil in our world,
but most of the opera's libretto is deliberately intended to titillate
and shock. Here's a mild sample that is repeated throughout the
"This is my Jerry Springer moment /
I don't want this moment to die /
So dip me in chocolate /
And throw me to the lesbians."
Opera will never again be the same for me. Same goes for the "Jerry
Springer Show". I think I'll throw a chair, now.