Friday, December 01, 2006

damp firecracker

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.

19 comments:

pietb said...

Sounds as though you *need* to see Roschmann. Go ahead, sneak out. We won't tell.

Anonymous said...

Rene Pape is one of the most fabulous singers I have heard live in the opera house since 1956 he stole last night's performance

followed by Dimi

then Pat

then Johan

then Sam

AND THEN - what the hell was Olga B singing about. I was all set to pee my pants over "O Dawn .." when actually I had to reminisce my wet drawers when I heard Shirley and Tatiana in that role. What a disappointment.

Chalkenteros said...

agree with most of what you said here, esp. about Botha and Borodina and Pape and Racette (who btw crushed me in paglacci earlier this season). BUT, Mr Maury ... Don Carlo not emotionally accessible?! I was there for the whole ride, from beginning to end. Tyranny and freedom, dude. Church and state. Riveting stuff!

Jonathan said...

1) Maury needs to go hear Röschmann on Saturday.

2) Rene Pape is a wet dream.

3) I hope Olga B was just having momentary trouble. She really is a wondferful singer...but this was seriously problematic.

4) Good ol' Pat Racette.

Maury D'annato said...

Djedushka (Dobro pozahlovat', vo pervykh..)

You heard Troyanos? I am hanging myself from envy. I've watched the video of the telecast a million times, mostly that scene. It just kills me. At the end she looks like she's truly falling apart. This is why the word "demented" was invented.

Me, I have my memories of Podles, though I try to give everyone else a fair shake as well. Podles was weird in the role, but devastating.

Maury D'annato said...

Chalkers, the church and state stuff is interesting in an infuriating, too close to home way, I guess. It's just a little-two sided for me, I guess. Religion is a topic I acknowledge my irrationality about. Sure, the Grand Inquisitor is gratifyingly monstrous, but the auto-da-fe scene with the heavenly voice seems to imply some kind of beauty or salvation to be found in the situation of people killing each other in the name of god.

The rest, well, it's just paint-by-numbers Italian Opera romantic shenanigans, and the gowns and scepters quality of it all makes it impossible to get worked up about, for me. That's why I want to see it set in a lawfirm or something, see if anything can shake the dust off.

meretrice i. d'oscena said...

Many people did not care for the Pappano 'Don Carlos' with it's smaller scale and modern-ish dress and the horrifying dirty bomb that was Waltraud Meier's Eboli (although she looks fantastic in a slinky black gown).
But Mattila sings like a figgin angel and acts the hell out of it; and Alagna fares rather well(although the sight of him singing a duet with Hampson towering over him is kind of funny).
All of this with no one dressed up in period costumes that look like 50 yards of grandma's sofa upholstery.

But I'm not the right one to ask about this- Don C is my favorite, and the only grand opera that I wish were longer. If you get rid of the Rodrigo arias (which I find to be that by-the-numbers stuff you mention; and I'm saying that as a baritone-ish tenory person), you could find space for a real confrontation between Phillip and Carlos.
But the music still gets me, from Act I on. Formulaic or not, the Elisabeth/Carlos duets are just so damn beautiful.

Maury D'annato said...

Is Alagna short? Yay, he goes on The List with folks like Gael Garcia-Bernal. (I'm 5'5", you see. A gift from my ancestral yids and my imaginary Italian heritage.)

I'm sorry I insulted your favorite, though. Just my way of talking, as Thelma Ritter says, and had more to do with the production (all told) than the opera. I had a nice time at the one in Philly. Anyway my favorite Verdi is Macbeth so I am clearly "not right" to borrow a southernism.

Spizz said...

Whenever Hvorostovsky sings at SFO there is a similar large and *ahem* chatty ethnic contingent, comprised of mostly tiny ladies of antique vintage (not unlike Mme. Souza in Triplettes de Belleville). If not ejector seats (liability issues), perhaps cones of silence?

jfmurray3 said...

Re. Meretrice I d'Oscena

"But I'm not the right one to ask about this- Don C is my favorite, and the only grand opera that I wish were longer."

How true! (Of course, I also think Meistersinger seems rushed.)

I am actually a little worried that both Jonathan Wellsung and Maury seemed a bit underwhelmed by the first few hours of Don Carlo. I am going on Monday night, and I have been counting the days to see this opera with this case. So such advance warnings have praying at the tomb of Carlo V in the hopes that Monday is a better experience.

Don Carlo is one of my favorite operas (it certainly is my favorite Verdi opera). The cast, on paper, looks superb. I have seen this production several times before, and while it is nothing fantastic, it is serviceable. (Hell, I was raised Catholic. I am a sucker for a good auto-da-fe scene.) Yes, the political stuff is there, and I always find myself symptathetic to the plight of the Flanderses. (Including Ned, Rod, and Todd.)

Maury D'annato said...

Ha. I almost made a Flanders joke. Di fiandra ari-doodly-ivo.

I think you'll like it. I think maybe I'm just not completely on the right wavelength for Don Carlo.

meretrice i. d'oscena said...

I agree that this cast sure as hell should be able to cause some excitment in DC. I think that we differ in that I don't think it's Verdi's fault.
I agree with folks who complain that Carlos is almost a guest star in his own opera: he's certainly far from the most interesting character, and if someone foolishly cuts act I, he's got no solo. But his 'Io la perduta!' exclamations in Act 2 with the monks and his boyfriend.. oops, I mean, of course his best friend Rodrigue.. singing in the background is as genuinely painful, heart-wrenching a passage as Verdi ever wrote.
It would be worth singing the entire role just to do those few measures.

Gert said...

The chattiness I can deal with, just about, it's the pushing and shoving and physical assaults - such as being barged off the pavement (sidewalk) and onto the street by some stuck up nouveau-riche mafiosa wife and her tarty daughter. And that's when you're not worrying about Pollonium 210

rysanekfreak said...

Cannot agree about cutting it. "Don Carlos" should be longer. I'm sure there's a 12-minute overture still hiding in the Paris Opera vaults. I want a grand overture for it, like the discarded "Aida" overture.

I want the complete ballet with the exchanging of the veil music that precedes it.

I want the big tenor-basso duet after the death of Posa.

I want a bigger-longer showdown duet between the two divas before "O don fatale."

I even want Act VI--in the convent. Eboli is not happy. Big aria. Philip comes to visit her. Big scene. He wants her again. She plays hard to get...for 30 seconds. Big love duet. Philip invites her back to the court. She accepts. Huge stretta finale.

Maury D'annato said...

RysanekFreak, if you make the opera any longer it's going to have to be in German!

Lisa Hirsch said...

I have to confess to finding Don C. something of a mess - all those unhappy and unsatisfied couples running around. What I want is to hear the warts 'n all uncut French version, with the music Verdi cut from the Paris primo.

That said, "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" had me rolling on the floor.

bear said...

What I'd like is the alternative universe version where Boito writes the libretto, and it all comes out so much less of a plastic surgery disaster.


Still, as operatic trainwrecks go, I admit it's my favorite, and the twenty-five thousand versions we currently have of it are better than none.

Anonymous said...

I saw the (in theory) completely complete French Don Carlos in Vienna last summer... the veil swap scene is helpful, and the ballet music is fabulous. But I must admit I wasn't paying the closest attention to it since it was accompanying a dream sequence set in Eboli's head that seemed to take place in maybe a 1950s sitcom (so far, the setting had been period). It was a Konwitschny production, and that was only the start of the weirdness. The first time I saw it I was confused, the second time I absolutely loved it.

I saw the Met Carlo last Monday and liked it quite a lot; this is one of my favorite operas as well. I went with a friend who hadn't seen Carlo before, and I explained the plot to her sort of based on the Vienna production and the Alagna DVD. After seeing the Met performance she was a bit mystified as to why I'd mentioned a major and unsubtle Carlos-Rodrigo subtext.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 感情挽回, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 挽回感情, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 捉姦, 徵信公司, 通姦, 通姦罪, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 捉姦, 監聽, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 外遇問題, 徵信, 捉姦, 女人徵信, 女子徵信, 外遇問題, 女子徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 徵信公司, 徵信網, 外遇蒐證, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 感情挽回, 挽回感情, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 外遇沖開, 抓姦, 女子徵信, 外遇蒐證, 外遇, 通姦, 通姦罪, 贍養費, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 女人徵信, 外遇

徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信網, 外遇, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 女人徵信, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信,

徵信, 徵信社,徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 離婚, 外遇,離婚,

徵信社,外遇, 離婚, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信, 外遇, 徵信,外遇, 抓姦, 征信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信,徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社,徵信,徵信,