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Postmodern Village
est. 1999
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Tammy Faye: the Opera
A Critical Review by Angus Bifstake

Opera written and composed by Rubert Rampant
Directed by Franco Zeppelinelli

It's not so much the gaudy sets: those could be expected. Nor is it the wrenching Country/Gospel-on-a-neo-Romantic-half-shell-with-a-Bernstein-twist of a score that inebriates this thick sludge of on-stage excrement. Indeed, its main offense is the way Tammy Faye: the Opera grills contemporary post-feminist views of womyn, problematically equating make-up with empowerment and marrying real-estate developers with career advancement.

Perhaps, in the case of the real Tammy Faye, it was, but symbolized as operatic fodder, endowed with the highest art's cache for myth and myth-creation, the notion is insufferable. With the scratching whine of the score's bizarre pop-country adaptation of Copland's Rodeo droning in the background, Tammy Faye: the Opera purports to reveal the self behind the make-up: "Just an innocent girl," she tells us, "trying to do God's work in a world gone commercial."

A nice sentiment, but Exxon and AOL, this performance's main sponsors, appear not to be listening as their computer-generated logos are projected insidiously across the stage.

Other than that, the story is the familiar one: girl marries guy; girl gets caught up in his TV ministry; guy gets involved with scandal; girl marries rich developer and saves herself from loneliness and bankruptcy. The librettist didn't even have the cajones to play fast and loose with the facts. This is bad both fictively and mythologically: the voicing of the marginalized must exist as counter-myth. Only in this way can patriarchal hegemonic forces be properly de-mythologized. Of course, Tammy Faye: the Opera doesn't even try to do the former, so it's a bit of a moot point.

We must view this only as a desperate attempt to stay relevant. Perhaps Rampart knew that his opera's ability to ride on the coat tails of the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye would be reasonably short lived.

I will not embarrass the performers by mentioning their names here; to their credit, they do the best they can with what they've been given. I can only hope they're being paid well.

Ultimately, of course, what damns Tammy Faye: the Opera is that it does not take her role seriously enough. Tammy Faye was a symbol of the Christo-Capitalist hegemony usurping her body from her womynhood. Most properly, she was a victim, not a heroine, and her opera should be a tragedy, not a serio-comic farce.