It had to be about three minutes into Romeo & Juliette that I figured out why I had let four performances go by while all the cool kids were already blogging it. The explanation requires subtlety, intricate logic, and a fine grasp of the Kleinian concept of the depressive position: I hate Gounod. For the lenght of one '78, he's great. Then I go into sort of a trance and find myself (for example, throughout act II) hearing the voice of Mrs. Parker saying:
Although I work, and seldom cease,
At Dumas pere and Dumas fils,
Alas I cannot make me care
For Dumas fils and Dumas pere.
So what I'm basically telling you is I have no review because you just can't say much worth reading about something you dislike a priori. (Get Maury with the Latin and the italics and shit!)
Except I paid twenty five smackers for my age-inappropriate student ticket, and I'm damn well going to write about it.
The production seems to be the first thing leaping to everyone's finger tips. I won't buck convention. It's...it's fine is what it is. It's not shockingly avant garde, nor is it an artifact from Otto Schenk dustbunny hell. I would say for all the bells and whistles, one basically never feels from one act to the next one has gone anywhere new, except for the justly ballyhoo'ed floatin' bed, an image so pretty as to recall ...one's first kiss? One's first Met b'cast? [Mine was Rosenkavalier, I'm pretty sure. In the immortal words of Patty Bouvier: there went the last lingering shred of my heterosexuality.] The weather forecast in the back did get a bit ponderous, but I'll admit that the giant moon made me smile. Laughing with/laughing at will not here be debated.
And I kind of think avant garde design should go with some attempt at quirky staging, otherwise you have all these people milling around acting normal despite the fact they're in La Serva Padrona set in a strip mall, or what have you. This is why I'm stoked for the return of the Bob Wilson Lohengrin, despite the fact it's, well, preposterous. Well or worse than acting normal is when they're clumsily staged. I'm afraid the swordplay conformed uncomfortably to tristoogean aesthetics for me (which is to say it cleaved to the teachings of Larry, Curly and...right, that's what I was after.)
And nobody, nobody, looks good in purple velour.
I'm really going on about the staging. There's a reason for that. We'll get there. But, wrapping up, if the main piece of stage business that sticks in my head from the production is the cute little pantomime Dessay and Vargas did during the applause for the Waltz, I should probably have stayed home and read a book. [Jesus was it cute though. Her little mask took a bow, his little mask clapped for her, both little masks kind of hopped toward each other and I think made out or something. It's not impossible I dreamed this part.] I really do believe Dessay sees the silliness in this opera. In one scene she made stock soprano gestures that could only be interpreted as self-mockery or a kind of mean imitation of Aprile Millo.
Alright. I'm backed into a corner. Cards on the table time. I put off talking about the singing because I have practically nothing to say about it. Vargas was I think maybe nervous about ye olde falling bedde because he sounded tentative until the damn thing was on the ground and then great like I remembered him. When he's singing quietly, he's in a league of his own. When he's not, he does a bit more gear-shifting than I imagine to be part of ideal French singing. Having heard Alvarez lately, I miss the splash of bad taste Diana Vreeland (as quoted by The Mother of us All for years in his opera-l signature) recommends. Dessay's voice has a nice ping and her diction seemed swell to me but my French is rotten. [Franklin Pierce Adams or someone round tably like that is reputed to have noted that once you step off the plane, you quickly realize nobody speaks Intermediate French.] I'm sorry to say her voice always makes me think of recordings of Mady Mesple and wish I'd been born earlier, and in France. It gets around the bends pretty flashily, but it just isn't love. I wouldn't not go hear her again (say, I bet that would be tricky in French what with the double negatives) but...
I agree with everyone about Tybalt and Mercutio: they're fab. I'd like to hear them sing other things, things that don't make me consider the sacrilege of leaving before curtain calls. Theodora Hanslowe's timbre reminded me in some insubstantial way of von Stade, but her scene is so short it's hard to size her up.
And with that, forgive me, I'm out of ink.
Oh, but no. One other thing. Why is Juliette's calling card that we all know and, depending who we are, trot out at auditions, when in fact her little "I'm so nuts I just may drink this drano" number has actual dramatic content, more moods, and a greater variety of musical ideas?
Next: I try to drag myself to An American Tragedy, having learned no lessons.