August 3, 2021

B. B. King was a woman

B. B. King was a woman


Yesterday all the news of the world opened their sections of culture with the death of Montserrat Caballé. This gesture, absolutely logical given its virtuosity, delimits, however, a lapse of sixty years in which the lyric has been forced to share with other singers its place of privilege in the Olympus of the arts. It was precisely because of the years when he was born, when the first universal figures of popular music began to appear: Gardel, Luis Mariano, Chevalier, Frank Sinatra, etc. The teenagers grew in economic power during the post-war prosperous times and exchanged their teddy bears for new mascots shaped like fashionable singers. The poets, the actresses, the lyrical divas and – in our country – the bullfighters had been to date the heroes made flesh of human emotions. But the invention of the phonograph changed everything and, although it might seem contradictory, it was not the opera performers who benefited the most. The first popular singers were followed by rock, and with it, in sound art, an unexpected factor took on an enormous importance: adrenaline. Why do people do bungee jumping or do extreme sports? For the same reason why, in 1975, one dived to dance among the mass of a concert of the Rolling Stones. For that rush of adrenaline euphoria that only later has science explained to us how addictive it is. Agree, "Norma" is a sensitive experience of the first order, where emotions are mixed as the different flavors would overlap in a haute cuisine dinner. But it is digested sitting, at rest, satiated; with the belly gurgling. Instead, pop and rock offer an adrenaline fire that had only been experienced until then in risky sports such as boxing, motor or bullfighting. As if the lungs were opening twice and the Everest air entered them. The poets were the most harmed and were soon replaced by rock bards (in fact, until today the Swedish academy continues to perpetuate that confusion). Lyric singers and actors resisted a little better, but were forced to reluctantly share their scepter. This situation benefited those who dominated the coloratura and the trine, the "belcantistas". They had been going down since the lyrical verismo had been imposed at the beginning of the twentieth. But the most savvy of the figures of the lyric realized immediately that what would distinguish them in the coming years would be the things that none of their new rivals could do: that is, trill and coloratura. Figures such as Teresa Berganza, Alfredo Kraus, Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti or Caballé took on enormous importance. And they deserve it, because their voices are sometimes so technical, so clear, so perfect, that on many occasions they are even scary. And because of that mystery of the overwhelming emotions we are in art, or not? Given the stars of the lyric from the perspective of rock we could make curious parallels. Plácido Domingo could be a kind of Elvis, capable of all the records; with a trunk of human power in the voice that reminds the old country gentleman capable of presenting himself with a bottle of champagne at the ladies' door and being always admitted. María Callas would be the vulnerability of Janis Joplin or Billie Holliday. Josep Carreras would remember the truncated cleaning of Buddy Holly. Kraus would be the ultimate rigor, Lennon and McCartney. Pavarotti, without a doubt Joe Cocker and Juan Diego Flórez, Jagger-Richards, that is to say, something of the irreverence of the bad and surprising boys. And what would the Caballé be? Undoubtedly, B.B. King. Father and mother of the modern popularization of the genre (in this case, the bel canto) normalizing it at all levels. His "Salome" is unforgettable, based on technical rigor. The sensational emotions for others. See if not the video of «Barcelona» with Freddie Mercury: it is he who makes the diva poses, while Montserrat sings happy and looks at him calmly.

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