Here's your plan: next time Don Carlo is up, go get a nice dinner somewhere and show up for Acts IV and V. You think I'm kidding.
Now, I'm known far and wide as a musicologist groupie, maybe the only one in existence. I hang around them, have been known to date them. But one thing I'll never get is the idea they all seem to have that operas should never be cut. Have you ever heard the Callas Vestale? Have you ever tried listening to all of Vestale? I'm not proposing anything drastic, mind you, just I'd be happier if we could cut all of Don Carlo but Act III scene I and then the last two acts.
Alternately, it could be presented in some radical restaging designed to piss everyone off. The whole thing is set at a gas station, except Act IV scene I, which is at a high school dance because that's the only place there's ever that much drama. Or, hell, flip the score over Bob Wilson's way. I'm all for that. It's just so damn dusty, Don Carlo, that without a bit of devilry, it is almost always going to be, for all the fine singers you can muster, emotionally rather inaccessible.
To be fair, certain things do not help. In the roles of Elisabetta and Carlo, Patricia Racette and Johann Botha have pretty much exactly the chemistry you might expect from, yeah, a fundamentalist Christian and a lesbian trying to play two hot-headed fools that can't keep their damn hands off each other. In with the bargain, they are dressed like a hotel lobby. And somehow this fails to ignite their passions.
Racette, however, is in very fine form. May I digress? Thanks, don't mind if I do. I find it's best to get to know a new or relatively uknown voice in an opera one knows well, just as it's helpful to see singers you like if the opera they're in is one you've never heard. It gives you something to latch on to. So this was in a way my maiden voyage with Racette, having heard her only as what's-her-head in American Tragedy. Didn't know her voice, didn't know the piece, couldn't really take it all in at once. Now I sort of get it.
There are debits...the floaty p's are sweet but not 100% sure to stay in place; some find her phrasing in places pedestrian. The overall package, though, is admirable. She sings a Verdi line that's hard to argue with and there's real strength throughout the voice. Her acting this evening was pro stuff and best of all, she sings a reasonable amount of the time with abandon, the one thing in such short supply.
So this stood in pretty sharp contrast to Botha, so wonderful tis summer in Gurrelieder and so plain as Carlo. "Io la vidi" was, in particular, something like ungainly, its grupetti phrased in a desperately clunky mannner. He warmed up, but I'm just not buying him in this rep. Jonathan von Wellsung liked him better than I did and has blogged the whole thing up most amusingly.
Nor, I'm sorry and surprised to say, am I buying the sure-footed, steel-voiced Borodina as Eboli. Either the woman's got a cold or the tessitura threw her, but it just wasn't friendly territory, and while the Veil Song was fetchingly put together, some of the ensembles went for nothing and "Oh, Dawn Fatale" (as we have come to think of it) came shockingly close to true vocal mishap. Acting is very context-dependant for the habitually regal Ms. B, and she missed the desparation of Eboli by a wide mark.
Her compatriat is a shoe-in for Rodrigo, and nobody seemed particularly surprised when he walked off with it. Besides which, we all saw him do it at the Gala, right? It's 2 a.m. and I'm not fishing around for my program to make sure I'm not making that up. Okay but one thing while we're on the topic of Russia, which we sort of were when the paragraph began, and that's good enough for me. And that one thing is can we make a rule about, I don't know exactly, performances where Hairostovsky and Olga B bring out an audience full of a certain nationality that is a wee bit more talkative at the opera than is accepted hereabouts? I'm not sure what the rule would be exactly, but it might involve ejector seats.
Don't I always save dessert for last? I don't want to repeat my Volpe Gala freakout about Pape, but...JSU and I were, blogwise, kind of discussing performances that are almost unnarguably good vs. performances that really slap you around. Pape, in his heartbreaking monologue [must think fast...will sound repetitive if I say he broke my...] truly sprained my liver. Fuck, that didn't work out at all. Um, he made me sad, and anxious, and lonely, and all of this was welcome, because if that aria is done right, that's how you're supposed to feel, for a few minutes. Jesus Christ I can't wait for his Wotan, whenever that happens.
One of the most complimentary things I ever say about a piece of singing I will say here: breathing stopped being and automated process somewhere during his account of Ella/Dormiro. (Which one was next? Inhale or exhale?) Why are all these attempted compliments making it sound like he gave me a panic attack? Not sure, but Chalky corroborates the effect over at marginalia.
But see, you could totally go to Rosa Mexicana until 10 or so, have a late dinner, and then go in and hear that part, and Ramey's perfect cameo as The Old Mean Religious Dude who is So Old He Justifiably Sounds Like That, and Racette's meticulous "Tu che le vanita" and then the stupid scene that doesn't make any sense and then enjoy the curtain calls.
And that's that until Boheme on the 5th, unless I sneak out and go to Idomeneo beforehand.