Monday, June 26, 2006
Celebrating AIDS, Earthquakes and Elza
During the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire this last April, signage sprouted all over the Civic Center in what looked to be a celebration of death and destruction.
On the other side of the banner, there is a phoenix with the slogan "San Francisco Rising," but let's get real.
The entire commemoration, with its weeks of repetitive, overkill media was basically "earthquake porn," as one poster at Metroblogging put it.
For this year's San Francisco Gay, Etc. (Lesbian/Bi/Transgender/What-Have-You) Pride Festival, the signage and theme all seemed to revolve around celebrating the arbitrary 25th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic.
This included a week of San Francisco Chronicle articles reprinting all their greatest death and destruction hits, such as "Look how many people died in the San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus!"
The "Pride Festival" is a huge tourist event that attracts most of gay suburbia from the Bay Area along with tourists from further away, and it seems to grow larger and more elaborate each year.
It's no longer enough to have just Gay Pride March Sunday. Now we need to have an entire weekend festival in the Civic Center that includes free entertainment on the main plaza on Saturday, including this year's inaugural hour-long recital by student Merola singers from the San Francisco Opera.
They started with a trio from Mozart's "La Clemenza de Tito," and the featured female singer was my next-door neighbor, Elza van den Heever from South Africa.
Later, she sang Lisa's difficult suicidal aria from Tchaikowsky's "Queen of Spades" so extraordinarily well that I started crying.
Voices as large and as beautiful as Miss Elza's are freakishly rare.
It's going to be really interesting to see what happens with her career, but in terms of raw talent and natural musicality, she reminds of a young Joan Sutherland or Jane Eaglen.
The question is whether or not she will meet the equivalent of her Richard Bonynge.
On Sunday's Gay Pride March Sunday, I returned to the main stage with my partner domestique Tony to hear Elza's return singing a dance remix version of "Un Bel Di," the big aria from "Madama Butterfly."
The celebratory AIDS signage was still there above the stage, and it reminded me of the very rude parody of "Rent" in "Team America: World's Police" where the hero is singing the rock anthem, "We all have AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, AIDS..."
At 12:30 the Parade Board of Directors President, who looked a bit like Charles Nelson Reilly, and who had one of the most annoying voices imaginable, kicked off the main stage entertainment.
He introduced a flamenco troupe which danced delightfully for 15 minutes only to be replaced by A Speaker, a published Jewish Female-to-Male Transgender Socialist Worker Leftist.
He/she somehow managed to utter more cliches in his/her ten minutes than one thought humanly possible while exhorting us with tired leftist slogans ("Beware of Big Oil!"). It almost made me want to become a Republican hetero white male.
Finally, after also hearing from a group of Native Americans, who at least chanted a bit rather than lecturing us...
...Miss Elza made quite the entrance...
...and the audience roared with pleasure.
Though I prefer the Malcolm McLaren dance remix of the same tune, just for its sheer musicality and trashiness, Miss Elza again took no prisoners with her amazing set of pipes. Brava, diva.