Sunday, October 01, 2006

Die Tote Scrim

I was just thinking about that time I was blogging Mazeppa (and they say there are no original utterances!) and requested a new rule whereby I get a dollar for every minute the scrim is down during an opera production. Kind of a refund from the lyric muse or the universe more generally for making me experience my art as if through a giant pair of nylons--say what you will about my effete prose style; I was only in hose one ill advised Halloween and I did not wear them over my head. It just doesn't make for a good view. Actually in retrospect I wish I had known that Halloween to kindly phrased suggestions that I'm a little horsey looking in drag by saying the look I was going for was Simionato by way of Theda Bara. That would have made me seem cunning instead of just fugly.

Where the hell was I?

Scrims. Right. Well if I had made that particular financial arrangement with the right people I'd say drinks are on me, but it was only in my head. Like so much else, you will be thinking. There is in fact not a moment when the veil is lifted from City Opera's venerable and somewhat likeable production of Die Tote Stadt. Much beloved production, I should say. So I've heard, and I kind of get it. It's fanciful and has a point of view. It's also pretty liberal with the gouda, I must opine. It is of its era in the way Lincoln Center is; you kind of have to love it as a mother would. All the film footage is pretty while entirely ham-fisted, etc. And there's something about a scrim, beyond my visual testiness about the way it makes me feel removed from the experience, that seems to justify other vagueness. Like the way the production gets called Freudian in that meaningless way, and nobody says, "what exactly is Freudian about it?" Or the fact that that isn't a lute but a mandolin, I don't know.

It's a wonderful opera, and I'm glad to have gotten to see it, and I'm puzzled that the Met (unless this is my blunder-of-the-day) hasn't done it since Jeritza asked for it. Jonathan suggested Mattila might be wonderful as Marietta, and I agree.* Susan B. Anthony fell short ofwonderful, somewhere in the fine to good range. Does her voice remind anyone else a little of Behrens? Without the temperament, I'm afraid, but some of that interesting craggy quality around the edges that I do genuinely value in a time of many processed and homogenized sounding soprano voices. Dan Chamandy was about on par, warming up toward the end into quite a ballsy, indelicate sound. I think his could be a useful voice. Seriously, truly, I am not being cunty when I say he'd be outstanding in heldensqueak stuff like Mime. Weston Hurt was in fine form indeed until the went and shot him. (Other scrim issue: as in Mazeppa, there was a moment where he was supposed to appear, an apparition, with a bullet hole in his forehead, as if to announce that death is "Schlechter als die Hahnchen bei Kreskes." Yes, that's right, we here at My Favorite Intermissions occasionally crack idiotic inside jokes for the benefit of exactly one person. Anyway you could hardly see the deadly wound from our stage-near seats, so I'm guessing elsewhere it was invisible.)

On another level altogether there was the exciting debut (?) of Keith Phares. Shut up, I'm totally talking about his voice. Fine, yes, he's also dreamy. But even so, I'm sure I'm not hearing with my loins when I say his reading of Pierrot's Tanzlied was exemplary. I meant to tell you what he has coming up, only I can't for the life me find my program.

This is the problem with reviewing a couple of days later: things fade and disappear. I'm going to have to stop there, and feel my account is sketchy. Next up: as the Magic 8 ball used to say, ask again later. Maybe Gioconda. Here at the beginning of the season it's harder to go to opening nights because they're all kind of piled up and you'd have to quit your job. If you know any dowagers looking for an heir, I'll consider it, but barring dowagers, I gots to make the donuts. Time to look around the blogroll and see if there's much news of Gioconda or Idomeneo--though I'm waiting for the other cast for that one.

*my first asterisk of the season and surely not my last: we had a tougher time casting Paul. Klaus Florian Vogt perhaps?

current listening: Callas as Ifigenia in 1957. It's heaven, actually.


JSU said...

Phares: sang The Pilot in NYCO's Little Prince.

DTS production: ridiculous.

Previous revival of NYCO's DTS production: beyond horrible.

Mattila and Vogt in anything: well, duh.

This format: enough.

Do you remember Anthony's Senta?

meretrice i. d'oscena said...

I just looked up Mr. Phares's headshot, and he certainly does have Magnificent Baritone Hair. If he grows out the back into a barimullet and then sprays the whole thing into a bouffant, he could nab the prestigious Thomas Handsome Prize.

Winpal said...

Thanks for the review. I love this opera, and have been waiting decades to see it (how pathetic does that sound?). Since NYCO is closer than Stuttbourg, or wherever it typically plays, this is the impetus for my cross-country trek later this month. Millo and Minghella are icing on the cake (oh, and a taping of The Daily Show. Jon Stewart -- cute AND brains). From your description, it sounds like I won't totally hate myself in the morning.

Now, if someone would just do Das Wunder der Heliane....

Chalkenteros said...

I'd better hurry up and see this thing FAST! It's almost gone.

Re: Gioconda. See my remarks here:

How long I will sustain my lame attempts at blogging? Eh, we'll see.

Willym said...

but did you notice that tuft of chest hair in the photo... hmmm.... we ain't talking that Nathan Gunn shaved look....

Jonathan said...

Phares was about the only thing that kept me from plucking my eyes out with a stick during last season's THE LITTLE PRINCE. I totally admit it was my own damn fault for going in the first place.

I daresay he sounded even better here.

(I'd say he looked even better here, but he was, alas, dressed and painted as a Harlequin).

Maury D'annato said...

Yeah, I have a clown fetish.

I don't really.

rysanekfreak said...

I remember that NYCO "Tote Stadt" from years ago, and I hated the scrims. I also hated them in "Pearl Fishers." Brilliant idea to demand rebates by the minute on scrim time.

But "Tote Stadt" has all that decadent luxuriant orchestration, so one can close one's eyes and visualize something else... James Valenti and JD Florez playing jockstrap volleyball?

And yes on "Wunder der Heliane." There is an act-ending scene (perhaps the end of ACT ONE) that is so loud and bombastic and forever that I can just imagine a packed Carnegie Hall cheering and roaring enthusiastically through the loud chords at an OONY performance. And why didn't Leonie ever do "Heliane"?

Ariadne said...

Jeritza! Did someone say JERITZA!!!??? And Die Tode Stadt! OMG, Das Wunder der Heliane!!!!!!??!! (Ooooh, talk dirty to me like that some more, you guys, please!!!!!!!)

rysaniefreak: I'm no historical genius, but if you're talking about Leonie Rysanek, I think there was a huge rift in the Korngold's political/social space time continuum back then. (Anyone with better history than me is welcome to set us straight on that one, though.)

Hey! Someone once said to me that they wished Renee had dug in her heels for a Tode Stadt at the Met, instead of a stupid Pirata. Was that you, Meretrice?

Everytime I try to talk to fellow musicians about doing a new Heliane, they shout me down, saying "It's too hard!" and indeed the score is ridiuclously densely scored (what are there, like 3 harps and all kinds of chimes and pianos and shit) and complex/difficult. But it's so GLORIOUS!!! Is Levine the only one who can handle it?

Not to mention the fact that it's going to take someone with Levine's clout & prestige to literally wrest the score, any full score, from the clutches of the Korngold Society and Schott.

"Help us Obi Wan Levine, you're our only hope!!!"

Ariadne said...

Although I have gotten to thinking more and more about whom I would nominate to conduct alot of '07 Korngold deathiversary music...

Hmmmm... Maybe I'll post something about that idea.

Winpal said...

OK, this beats Fantasy Football. Here's a thought -- Michael Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony have been doing some great semi-staged opera performances the last couple of years. Mlada, Flying Dutchman, Le Rossignol, Oedipus Rex. They've been tossing off the Mahler 8th lately without a second thought, so Korngold would be a piece of cake.

Ariadne said...

Korngold = "a piece of cake", nobody's said that to me before. Yes, MTS, now that's a *very* good vote! I'm about to try & put a few local conductors up to some. Wo. Korngold Deathiversary, here we come, ready or not...

As an aside, I have a feeling (the proverbial "sneaking suspicion"), that a live production of Heliane would/will be PHENOMENALLY EXPENSIVE, not because of the set or the singers, nor even the famosity (?) of the conductor, but because of all the instrumentalists required.

$$$Kaching!!!!$$$ as they say.

My fantasy Korngold conductor designate is a much more renegade concept than Tilson Thomas, though. (Betcha nobody can guess it!)

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