Ok, how embarassing. I have almost nothing to say about tonight's Boheme. I shall have to try extra hard to whip up my 1.5 thoughts on the matter into a big, verbitudinous empty nothing.
I think maybe tonight was a coulda-been-a-contender night, where one problem takes the air out of a whole lot of potential. Not to keep you in suspense, since I'm sure otherwise you'd have been positively shredding your food wondering who ruined Christmas*, the culprit is a tenor, and it ain't Villazon, nosireebob. Oh and it's not Parpignol either, since Parpignol as an operatic role is sort of like Family Circus as described in the movie Go: he just sits there in the score, waiting to suck. He's probably the only character who deserves the miserable fate of being surrounded by a children's chorus. So, who's left? Flacido Flamingo, of course, whose Siegmund I would gladly hear any day, but who just doesn't have it going on conductorially. Many people have told me so, but it was driven home for me last night: what should have been a big event was instead a slightly frustrating, decent night at the Met.
It just never came together, and I mean that in a broad figurative sense as well as the most literal: a bunch of world class singers at the country's premiere opera shack were actually not together with the orchestra and sometimes with each other, and near as I can figure, it may have been from the shock of having to drop any notions of musically conveyed drama to plod along with Domingo's workmanlike concept of the score.
The singers weren't bad. Quite the opposite. Villazon in the first act raised questions about his ability to sing a spinto part in such a large hall, but Act III was perfectly audible and terribly pretty. His reaction to [spoiler alert!] Mimi's death was just as hammy as it needs to be to jolt you out of having heard the scene four score and seven times. His little scream before the big "Mimi!" outburst was a fleeting moment of grand tragic over-the-damn-top acting that crowned a nuanced, deeply endearing performance (the seduction of Mims was particularly funny and convincing.) I'm trying to stop short of saying his performance made me want to give him a big old hug, because that would just be creepy. Seriously, though...Rolando, man, if you need one, I'm here for you. His Duke in Rigoletto was more exciting, but Rodolfo is certainly a success, too.
Ne-osobenno-trebko sounds so, so much righter in Puccini, to my ear, than she did in Rigoletto. Though I was expecting her to knock it out of the park on that one note in Act II that Tebaldi fans used to sit around waiting for, her performance was more a whole package, tastefully imagined and more than competently produced. Nothing flashy, but nothing less than excellent. Maybe not riveting, but I mean, c'mon, it's Mimi...you shoot for "endearing" more than "fascinating." I've never gotten to the end of a Boheme and thought "wait, but if she dies, how can she finish her dissertation?" Here and there, the Trebs could use a consonant transfusion, but I've heard worse cases of that particular disorder.
A native of Perm, Russia ("Where Every Day is a Bad Hair Day") Anna Samuil, who stepped in for someone named Glanville as Musetta, has a pretty sweet and youthful sound except right at the top, where it goes a bit Russian. She got through the legally required mugging without being irritating, but didn't create a particularly vivid character as Musetta, which I do think is possible, though I'm having trouble thinking of anyone who does it. That Quando M'en Vo didn't get a mid-act ovation I'm going to blame on the guy with the stick, and if you disagree, you'll tell me.
The backup crew, foremost the dependably top notch John Relyea and a charming Patrick Carfizzi, were entirely in line with the caliber of casting, and equally besmirched by the torpid flow of things.
Now, I fall solidly into the category of non-booer, myself, but I have to say it was amusing to watch a boo-vs-bravo war start up at both intermissions when PD hit the podium. Didn't happen at curtain calls--presumably the booing party could stand to be there no longer. I don't think I'll ever boo anyone (was in fact mortified when people booed an admittedly lackluster sub for Villazon last year...maybe it marks me as Southern but I think there's a certain virtue to gracious acceptance of lousyness when an expression of our disdain won't accomplish anything beyond hurting someone's feelings) but I have to admit, knowing Domingo has years of fame and success buffering him from taking these things too seriously, or so I'd guess, never having been famous, that it kind of tickled me.
Oh, for the record: whether this was Villazon's lapse of taste or Domingo's, I have no way of knowing, but Rodolfo did not take the genlteman's option in ending Act I but rather took the top note with her, which is always vulgar. Also for the record, I believe the end of the act was in key, though honestly-truly I've kind of forgotten where to listen for the transposition. Is it right after "Gia mi mandi via?"
Next up: remains to be seen.
*I've heard some protestant families have a wintertime fun ritual of determining who ruined Christmas. As a General in the War on Christmas, I certainly hope it was me.