Finished Daredevil just after breakfast yesterday, and spent the rest of the morning consuming the fandom that has sprung up around it, before going off to watch the Met Opera’s broadcast of Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci. It was a very Catholic day. Most of it was made pretty much by virtuoso performances.
The more I think of it, the clearer it becomes that while Daredevil has many truly great qualities, the one that really makes it is the main character. Especially in fandom, where we like our boys handsome, occasionally awkward, ridiculously good at what they do, possessing a lot of usually suppressed feelings, involved in a huge bromance that turns angsty, righteous but prone to venturing into very grey areas morally, and very capable of being hurt. But even beyond that, it is Charlie Cox’s ability to completely embody Matt Murdock and to break our hearts every time his voice cracks that truly takes the series to a superior level even by Marvel movieverse standards. He’s helped by Vincent D’Onofrio similarly embodying a villain we can pity without it effecting our loathing of his evil, and also by his two co-stars Elden Henson & Deborah Ann Woll shining in episodes ten (perhaps the most emotionally devastating moment of this first season) and end of 11/beginning of 12 respectively. We may appreciate the questions and political points this series raises, but it’s the people we care for most.
That the series is made today, and for the moral & social values of the modern viewer, also helps it too. That becomes especially apparent when you go to see a pair of operas written in the 1890s. The broadcast host informed us before the show went on that the production was supposed to set the two operas as taking place in the same village, fifty years apart, although this was not something that was apparent on its own. And really, if they’d wanted to go with that idea, it might not have been the best idea to give one of the operas an abstract set and the other a more literally fancy one. Indeed, the Met’s version Cavalleria Rusticana portrays the village as a very dark place, one where any helpless young woman can fall victim to Santuzza’s fate, used and discarded by men and shunned by the women who pretend they couldn’t have easily been her. While the Met advertised the double bill as having Marcelo Alvarez star in both, his role in the first opera of the day is actually secondary to Eva-Maria Westbrock’s Santuzza(and they even gave her the last bow during the curtain call), especially when they had her on the stage for the entire show. Not the only way they made harder what is already a very demanding role, especially to a modern audience who finds it hard to take the character’s guilt seriously. The other ways they did this, however, are less praiseworthy, since they minimized her anger, meaning she just had to act more guilty, failed to let Alvarez’s about-face in regards to his abandoned lover be done in a way that would let it make sense psychology, and they staged her interactions with both him and George Gagnidze’s scorned husband to have their physical interaction not make sense in any way at all. This also meant the show as a whole had serious trouble working. That Westbrock’s performance actually did is a testament to her ability.
Alvarez, all in all, got one scene in Cavalleria Rusticana in which to shine, and then several more chances in I Pagliacci, and he did in all of them. I Pagliacci was much more conventionally done, although they let there be a large amount of sympathy for the wife, especially as Patricia Racette sang her. To the modern audience, she is arguably a victim of a husband who took advantage of her when she was desperate and now forces her into an unhappy life, and like a domestic abuser murders her when she tries to escape; the killing that the 1890s audience would have seen as justified now seems very different. Not that we can be certain how many people in the production realized all this, but it wasn’t a message they blocked. Which means, really, that both Alvarez and Gagnidze’s characters in this one come across as terrible people, especially when the staging has the latter trying to commit rape. That the original opera didn’t see it that way becomes something of a problem. Still, Alvarez’ singing of that famous aria at the end of the first act had its impact.
Next year, there comes a number of broadcasts mom and I might go see, and hopefully some of them will be good. At least we can rely on the next season of Daredevil being a good one(although I do hope they don’t have that stupid live triangle from the comics…)