August 8, 2013

Happy Thurs. Grayish here with patches of blue. 57 degrees.

Over the weekend we watched the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice show Evita in the film version starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. Following on the success of Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita was conceived as an opera based on the life of Eva Perón, wife of the Argentinian military strongman and president Juan Perón. For about 5 years 1947 to 1952 Eva was Perón’s best campaigner and probably the most powerful woman in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. She was of humble origins but knew what she wanted and succeeded in climbing to the top of society as first lady of Argentina.

She pandered shamelessly to the labor unions and persuaded Juan to push through voting rights for women, both of which tactics gave the Perón government a strong popular vote. Then Perón rewrote the constitution to permit being re-elected, and so forth. Perón admired the authoritarian regimes of Mussolini and Franco and implemented some of their fascist policies in Argentina. He nationalized the British-owned and operated railroads and the American-owned and operated telephone system. It’s an extremely interesting part of South American history.


Eva Peron


Anyway, the star of the show is Evita, as she became known to her admiring public. She spent government money lavishly and erratically on clothes and jewels for herself and on charity projects for the poor. She was a celebrity. When she died of cancer at age 33 in 1952, Peron had her image put on a series of postage stamps. It was a criminal offense to cancel a stamp in a way that defaced her image. After the Perón government fell, some of these stamps were purposely smudged. The show has one memorable tune, Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina. The film is enjoyable, but you will want the subtitles on to follow the sung statements of the actors.

Madonna is pretty good as Evita. Reportedly she took singing lessons for the role. Banderas also sings his part, pretty well, actually, though his “songs” are mostly commentary on the action by his character Ché, meant to evoke the Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto Ché Guevarra, who was a boy when Evita was first lady. Tim Rice put out an interesting book about the show that I got from the local library that has photos of Evita and Juan and street demonstrations by workers, as well as the lyrics of the show.


Eva Peron stamps

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