Sunday, January 08, 2006

Much Flap over Fairly Little

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is what were her encores? Which is the quickest answer of all because there weren't any. No Summertime, not even a paltry two minute Zueignung. So there, that's out of the way.*

The next thing you might want to know would be stuff about her gown, a sparkly purple something or other thingy in the form of a, uh, dress. The forces of gayness apparently determined that I didn't need the fashion gene to complement my overdeveloped opera gene, so I can't tell you a damn thing. Besides which I was in the second worst seat in the house. Truly. I am reasonably certain she was clothed, but I may have been looking at the concertmeister.

I'm sounding grumpy, I think. It's just I hemmed and hawed over this, decided not to buy a balcony seat from a kind reader, was about 34th in line for 30 cheap seats, and eventually said yeah, what the hell, I'll wait around for the rest of the afternoon and blow a few hours' wages on a return in row Q (and that's not a fanciful bit of hyperbole) in the balcony. Three guesses, all you alphabet afficionados out there, how far the rows in Carnegie go.

And this for a concert I feel safe in calling an instant non-classic. Now let's get oriented for a moment. I was a big Fleming fan in the early 90's, and over the last few years have become something a good deal more ambivalent. I recently spoke of her Desdemona as one of a very few perfect role readings I've had the pleasure to witness, and Arabella in 1998 wasn't too far off that mark. But then there's Manon, and Irma or Shirley or whatever the name of the heroin in the one about the pirates is.

How does the nursery rhyme go?

There once was a girl
With a strawberry curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good,
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad, it was usually in some revival of 19th century crap we didn't really give a good goddamn about anyway, but increasingly it was also in Strauss which is not ok.

You had your nursery rhymes; I had mine. The point is I'm not in the business of trashing her for kicks.

Actually, i don't know...I think this was more mixed than truly disappointing, and so in fact disappointing from an artist of often high and consistent caliber. Tatiana's letter was pretty but underpowered. I posted earlier this year that her Manon sounded a little small-voiced compared to my last memory of her this fair? Her Russian is correct but not terribly clear, which is to say if you knew the text, it was quite comprehensible and I think also idiomatic on a phrase level, and she didn't make any of the phonetic mistakes you'd expect other than a dropped palatalization here or there. I think this shows a passion for detail that is not a minor deal. I can't entirely decide if she's going to be a good Tatiana--the voice and the manner speak more of the glamour of the post-Queer-Eye Tatiana of the last scene than the bookish girl who falls for the bad boy, and the big teen drama that closes the opera is louder stuff than the letter.

I'm sort of kicking myself for not having known the Altenberg lieder even slightly, both because they're sort of riveting and because it's hard to judge a performance of a work you're not familiar with. She made some very excellent sounds, but otherwise I'm not sure what to think. I have a hunch this was the highlight of the concert but I'm not going to bullshit you.

The Capriccio scene was hardest to file. It wasn't outrageously swoopy in the style of her Manon, say, and the high notes were stunning even in Row Q, but, eh. Overall, not a thought-provoking reading. Me, I was a little thrown by the fact that they billed Julien Robbins then skipped directly from the Mondscheinmusick to "Morgen mittag um elf!" Someone, presumably Robbins, did sing the Haushofmeister's single line at the end of the scene, so what? Was he in the bathroom? If anyone figures out what was up with that, I'd love to know. Anyway maybe the main point, if there is one, is that this music is not what I want she seems to do better than anyone anymore. I still harbor these peculiar fantasies of hearing her in a lot more Italian rep. Well, excepting Il Pirata.

Maybe what's bothering me is just that Fleming concerts are approaching OONY in terms of the number of people you see talking to themselves, rocking gently back and forth, and generally betraying a level of internal preoccupation that makes me wonder if I'm hanging with the right crowd. Maybe it wasn't Fleming at all, but my seat and the expense and the whole air of head injury ward field trip. This isn't an entirely fair review, I fear.

Incidentally, always your Closing Night Clara, I did show up for the very last Fledermaus. I actually went the other night as well, on the kind invitation of a charming fellow in turn invited by a cast member, which is why I did't blog it--reviewing something you're attending as a gift strikes me as bad karma indeed, even if the inviter turned out to be perhaps the strongest link of the cast (or I thought so, but to each his own. Well fuck me, I couldn't stop myself from throwing in a little hint.) So anyway there's not a hell of a lot to tell about this production except maybe could we just assume everyone knows the story or doesn't care and skip the dialogue? It's not a piece I find ideal for siizing up singers, at least not beyond their capacity for zany hijinks. I'm still profoundly and immediately delighted by the very sound of Radvanovsky's voice, though I'm a little worried by the weird way her very top notes don't hold a vibrato very well, or didn't Friday.

p.s. yeah, there was orchestral stuff. This is an opera blog. Rest assured you would't want to read the words I could muster to describe an orchestral performance.

And now I really, honestly don't think I'm going to anything for two weeks or so. The Met is dark, and just for laughs I have decided to see what happens when I spend my money on food and shelter. Because the single drawback of the Metropolitan is that they won't let you sleep there, and the restaurant is only open for dinner.

*Yeah yeah don't yell at me. Encores are a privilege, not a right.


Anonymous said...

Sorry you didn't enjoy it Maury. I thought it was quite nice. By the way, there have been no encores at Met Orchestra concerts I've been to. Lots of curtain calls (so to speak), but no encores.

Maury D'annato said...

Howdy Chelsea, and thanks for the note. Maybe the Met Orchestra has some contract clause about no encores, who knows? I just retouched my review a little since, from what you've written, it sounded like I didn't enjoy it at all, and I did, some.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Robbins MIA in the opening of the Capriccio was a head-scratcher. One of the highlights for me was the Altenberg Lieder. The atonality of it sandwiched between the lush romanticism of the Tchaikovsky and the Strauss was a nice change of pace. It's been a memorable week for Berg.

Susan said...

Sorry you ended up sitting in Yonkers for the concert. From front balcony she was a bit overpowered in the Letter Scene, though not in the Strauss. I want to compare with her performance on the Strauss Heroines CD. Yesterday she wasn't as mannered as in her recent Manon, but what has happened to her phrasing? The egregious overuse of chest voice I blame on her recent "jazz" outings. And yet the Berg was wonderful--maybe it requires too much concentration to do a lot to it.

What IS it with the audience weirdos? Madame Bighair two rows in front of me kept bending down to fuss with her purse--maybe she brought her diva-loving chihuahua?

JSU said...

"Madame Bighair two rows in front of me kept bending down to fuss with her purse--maybe she brought her diva-loving chihuahua?"

Or her diva-loving minidisc recorder...

Maury D'annato said...

Susan, I think I, I started to say I saw your Madame Bighair but to assume there was only one person with the coif of the damned is probably naive. Did she have an enormous fur coat? And did you happen to catch the little old lady in the huge fire-engine red fur hat and dress to match? Madame B's fur coat made me think of Thelma Ritter saying "looks like a dead animal act!"

susan said...

If Madame B had been recording she would have captured mostly her own rustling and fidgeting. I don't remember whether she wore a fur coat--she was dressed more like Second Tier than Balcony, so maybe. At least she avoided noisy fabric.

Sorry I missed the vision in crimson fur. Sounds more eyecatching than La Renee's drab chocolate-and-eggplant ensemble.

Paul said...

Saw Fleming as Desdemona at the Lyric in Chicago 2-3 (4?) years ago (I'm old, so everything runs together in my mind these days). She was incredible, although Heppner sang like a lox (later on we learned he was having "voice issues" in that era), and the sets were typically LOOC crappy. Oh, and some moron had his cell phone go off (TWICE!!) in the last ten bars of the opera. None of that was enough to damage a fabulous performance by la diva. Also attended "Pirata" because my wife has a serious crush on Dwayne Croft (we've seen him as Giovanni in Palm Beach, Mr. Ford at the Met and the Barber in Chicago), and I thought the last act would NEVER end! Too bad the baritone doesn't make it out of the second act alive. Am I the only person, though, who thinks that her voice has not aged well? I have an Opera Rara recording of her in Donizetti's "Rosamunda d'Inghelterra" that is quite spectacular.

Maury D'annato said...

Singing lox!! This made my evening. But yeah, that was the Desdemona I had in mind. In my memory, at least, flawless.

straussmonster said...

And when she was bad, it was usually in some revival of 19th century crap we didn't really give a good goddamn about anyway, but increasingly it was also in Strauss which is not ok.

I love you.

Anonymous said...

Girlfriend seriously needs to take a sabbatical and work on her passaggio.

Maury D'annato said...

Girlfriend=Maury, and by "passaggio" is meant "writing"?

Anonymous said...

Ha ha.

Girlfriend Fleming needs to take a sabbatical from singing like that (weighing down her lower register and making Strauss sound bad) and work on her middle transitional register known as the "passaggio."

Otherwise known to singers as "that tricky as all hell 2-3 notes in my voice that threatens to fuzz out or skip off the sun and go completely pitch AWOL, ruining what might otherwise be a respectable or even fabulous voice"

"Girlfriend" Maury needs to take a sabbatical from being paranoid.

ps Anonymous desires to know whether the name Maury d'Annato refers to some kind of pineapple or to the proverbial annual new wine?

Maury D'annato said...

Right, right, I know from passagio, little joke, as was the paranoia. (The self deprecation here at Fisher Price My First Opera Blog, for the record, is only 87% sincere.)

As to the name, it's a geekarific joke. It has to do with Tosca.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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