Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Letter from an Imaginary Reader

Dearest Maury,

Please advise me on the following point of etiquette:

If I have a case of Martian Death Flu, as just about everyone in New York does right now, only I simply adore Rigoletto and decide to go anyway, what is the appropriate behavior? First of all, should I unwrap my Kleenex at the beginning, or would that be unimaginative? Should I, maybe, instead, buy one of those plastic packs that has a little seal on it so I can seal and unseal it every wonderful time the urge to blow my nose arises?

Well, and speaking of the blowing of noses, should I dab at my nose in a genteel fashion, quietly expel air and offending matter, or (oh, I just know you'll choose this one, since it obviously the proper manner of conduct) opt for the florid splendor of the loud, long, cartoonish honk followed each and every time by two wet coughs?

Heavens, I know I'm pushing it by asking so many darn questions, but there's just one more, 'kay Maurizio, old thing? Let's say I've opted for the crinkling and the honking. Should I do it when there's applause, or at intermission, or when they go more or less apeshit with the wind machine during the storm? Or might it really spice things up more to blow my nose loudly in quiet moments, in the middle of Sparafucile's low F, during Parmi Veder le Lagrime, and just about every other possible exposed moment as if I WERE FOLLOWING WITH A FUCKING SCORE.

All the very best,
The person behind you

Aright, that's out of my system.

It can't have been much more or less than a year ago that I got exceedingly enthusiastic about Villazon, and had my first deeply mixed feelings about Anna Dovol'no-trebko. Who I'm smarmily happy to report is a full tilt knockout in person, drinking her champagne five feet away near what we've come to refer to as the barbecue deck (because that's exactly what they should do with it at intermissions in nice weather, Rene Pape out there flipping burgers) in her totally cute skirt and long boots. There's always the temptation to say something to glamorous personages one runs across, but if you imagine the conversation, I mean really go through with it in your head, it ends up sounding like that bit from The Waltz: "Did you go to the circus this year, what’s your favorite kind of ice cream, how do you spell cat?" Only possibly in Russian. And I mean how well is "your Gilda was magnificent except for the singing" going to go over? (I'm just fishing for a laugh here; I could easily and sincerely praise Miss N's exquisite Mimi.)

What I remember most about that earlier Rigoletto, and what I think I'll remember when I'm a withered old windbag (shuddup) is the jittery energy with which Rolandochka (as I'm certain Trebs calls him...I should've asked) swaggered around, physically and vocally, during "Possente Amor," and then ran offstage like he was really, truly about to get laid. I have to admit, that was missing tonight in Piotr Beczala's Duke, but nothing else was. I'm dying to hear what everyone else* thought of him because I was Im. Pressed. As was pointed out to me, there were some choppy phrases and weird cutoffs, but really it was a most athletic piece of singing. I suppose I should throw in the word slancio somewhere here, so there it is, and there it was. If I had to choose between hearing Beczala and Villazon, I think what I'd most likely do is start a new paragraph, about Ekaterina Siurina.

Bit of a drag to go point by point here, comparing last year and this year, but it's late and I had this weird blood sugar thing going on all night, so humor me. Trebbers wowed me last season (twice) without actually doing much singing I liked. She's very alive onstage, and the girth of her voice is exciting, but in every other regard, Kathy S. is her vocal better. The voice itself is that kind that should be a dime a dozen but ain't. It's sunny and even-tempered and makes soft landings wherever it goes. It is, for me, illustrative of why "pretty" is not necessarily faint praise. I want a duvet filled with it for all the winter nights we're apparently not having anymore since we're headed straight for the sun. I want to bathe in it. It should be noted that Ms. Siurina doesn't so much as roll her eyes when there's a trill in the score, so YMMV if you're a stickler about those things. And her acting, yeah, is generalized. She should probably be enrolled in that deprogramming course where lyric sopranos are broken, by any means necessary, of the habit of spinning around with their arms up when they're playing happy, but if she started singing, her deprogrammers would make like the animals in the Magic Flute and start dancing around, and she'd escape.

What am I talking about, though? The real news, given the things we have and don't have, is probably Carlos Alvarez. I do mean Carlos, right? I'm not just making up some Mexican sounding name because I can't remember his real one? Oh, whatevs, call him Fifi Alvarez if you need to; just call him next time anyone's doing Verdi. I saw this one coming when he sang in Ballo with Debbie. I mean...sometimes lately I feel like the Roger Ebert of opera bloggers, not in terms of anyone actually reading me or havng a tv show or anything, but rather because I'm relatively enthusiastic about what I hear, at cumulative risk of sounding uncritical. So let's say this was not perfection, but certainly it was excellence. Ok, back to the drawing board on toning things down. And even though this is one of those hoary cliches of opera reviewing, I just gotta say it's a pleasure to hear the role sung rather than shouted. I can't seem to write my way around it. The only thing missing in Paco Alvarez' assumption of the role of Rigoletto is the spark from within that makes people like Villazon and Netrebko appear to be living their roles, making it up as they go along. The motivation here is so clearly externally motivated, the action frenetic without a point, and though Alvarez stays in character a while into curtain calls, which suggests a connection he can sense, it hasn't made its way out, to us, yet.

Just the same, with that, we may have reinstated another vocal category missing for some time in any confidently claimable way from the Metropolitan: the Verdi Baritone.

I am in serious need of sleep right now, but don't want to sign off without noting Robert Lloyd's luxuriantly charred-black sound and Kate Aldrich's fluid physicality and decidedly non-comprimaria sound as Maddalena. And now I'm off to dream a little dream about Kleenex filled with chloroform.

*okay, except for some people


Anonymous said...

crap! I am totally unfamiliar with any of these names in practice (except for the apparently eternally evergreen Robert Lloyd). UGH. Now I need to see if there are any "reruns" of the broadcast!

Sigh, I definitely hear you on the honking and phlegm -- it can be really distracting. But what gets me more is actual invasion of personal space. This past spring, I made pilgrimage to the city to see ABT perform Cinderella.

Mistake no. 1: Going to see Cinderella (even if it is Prokofiev)
Mistake no. 2: Going to see Cinderella at a *matinee*
Mistake no. 3: Going to see Cinderella at a *matinee* in the Family Circle.

There was this little rugrat who really didn't want to be there the first 2 acts just sitting right behind me, happily swinging his legs smack dab into the back of my seat. And he wasn't even doing it in time!

The best part is that evil glares backwards at his keeper(tm), who was sitting right next to him, did absolutely nothing to alleviate the problem.

These are the times when I feel like pioneering the sport of shot-putting children off balconies.

Rest up well -- I seriously am curious about the whole Netrebko sighting (details! your readers need details!!)

Oberon said...

I hate audiences!!!

Beczala & Siurina sound so good together; can we have them in TRAV or ELISIR? Alvarez surprised me, and Robert Lloyd is remarkable.

Very good evening, but who booed Haider?

Anonymous said...

It was my fourth rigoletto of the year. Yes It was quite a triumph for everyone involved.

There was whistling, not in a bad way, but in a good way for Beczala.

Yes I too heard the lone boo. I don't know what that was about since I enjoyed Maestro Haider immensely.

Maury D'annato said...

I didn't have any particularly strong feelings about Haider except I'd have liked the vengeance duet to be a little more bloodthirsty. The boo was unexpected. Maybe someone was emboldened by recent well documented boos.

Anonymous said...

yikes, I hope not.

for your imaginary reader with the case of the martian death flu, I'd highly recommend Mucinex.

Alex said...

Pape? I thought DV was assuming balcony grill master duties!

Maury D'annato said...

D'oh! And it occurs to me that was your joke. Joke plagiarism: very low.

OperaGuyNY said...

I think I was sitting near you (Orch right Row Y), I was so FUCKING pissed at:

a) Next to me, Mr. Magoo chomping on his Juicy Fruit like it was the GREATEST FUCKING THING HE'S EVER TASTED, I should know because I could smell it.

b) The Mouth-Breather behind me who obviously was never told that breathing should be SILENT (motherfucker!)

c) The two BITCHES behind me that felt that every silence and applause was a perfect time to go over their mothers Brisket recipe.

I was so furious that after act one I had to go into the courtyard and scream.

I did have low blood sugar, my boyfriend was all, "Um, I can see it in your eyes!"

Carlos Alvarez is THE SHIT! I heard him in Miller last year and thought, yep he's the real deal.

Beczala was fine, albeit he looked REALLY nervous, much better than Callejas. Is it just me or does he look like Julian McMahon from Nip/Tuck?

Siurina - BEAU-T-FUL, gimme more of those high, floaty pianissimi! But damn it, I want my Gilda to serve up some High E-flats, it just sounds wrong without them.


Dalva said...

Good evening, friend

You are so fortunate to live in NY!

I live down here in ão Paulo, Brazil, and as I couldn't be in NY to see my favorite tenor, Piotr Beczala, sniff sniff sniff... I ... I followed this Rigoletto live from the Met in Sirus Radio. I felt the emotion of the public when he sang "Questa o quella", or "La donna è mobile"... oh, how I wish I were there!

Maybe someday.

Peace and Love