Sunday, June 25, 2006

Maury D'annato, Out and Intermittently Proud

Intentionally or not, the Free for All series at Town Hall celebrated Gay Pride (or, in my case, just another weekend of profound ambivalence) with an appearance by out homosexual lesbian female dyke-arino Sharon Isbin and friend-to-the-community Susanne Menzter. Or I kind of assume she is, anyway...she used to put on benefits for Bonaventure House, an HIV related social service agency in Chicago. The funny gay footnote--and as you know, I'm a footnote fetishist--is that as Isbin gave a little biographical sketch of Garcia Lorca, one of the composers on the program, she omitted the fact that one source of trouble for the poet under Franco was his gay homosexual faggotry, though she did focus on his death, and that of about six other people she talked about. Really, it was like an evening with Edward Gorey. Oh the other funny thing is I had happened to watch the episode of The L Word on which she had a totally gratuitous cameo the night before. Shut up, it's totally great.

In any case, Isbin and Mentzer put on an enjoyable and at times gripping show focusing largely on Espana. If you'd like to teach me to type a tilde on blogger, you're more than welcome to. Very little of this was rep tailored to Mentzer's particular areas of wonderfulness, if you ask me, though she did shine in the last two or three of the Seven Popular Songs of Falla. And though there were so many of them as to appear at times gratuitous, each floaty pianissimo was a master class, a very very quiet master class. The first time I remember hearing someone sing pianissimi you could magically hear throughout the house was Michel Senechal as M. Triquet in the Met's Onegin. It's a trick I'll sure as hell never figure out, but thankfully for all of us, I do not sing in front of the public. Mentzer's Spanish is attentively produced with a "ceta" in regionally appropriate songs and just the right muting of certain consonants so as not to sound like a language lab tape.

For the record, my pissyness about Mentzer being long absent at the Met turns out to be pure paranoia. The decision, as we found out during an intermission interview, was Mentzer's--she largely took time off from opera to deal with having (how sharper than a serpent's tooth!) a teenage son. And now that he's packed safely off to college, I hope she'll be back for more than just the Tan Dun next year. My loopy fantasy is that she's covering for LHL in next year's run of Orfeos, which the L seems at this point almost certain to cancel. [Later edit: News had just spread that Lieberson had canceled the remainder of her engagements for 2006 when I wrote this. In light of the next entry, this comes off as callous to say the least, but I didn't know, and this is what I wrote.] I don't think Mentzer has sung the role but it seems like it would work out and for my money she's about the only one of the large flock of excellent mezzos we have who matches Hunt Lieberson in raw sincerity of expression.

Isbin performed several solo numbers between the song sets, including one written for her by Leo Brouwer that I found melodically rather plodding. Casting my lot with the lowbrows, I was more delighted with her performance of a number of chestnuts of the rep we know as Spanish guitar music, though it's all arranged I guess. Isbin's readings of these very familiar pieces were dynamically nuanced almost to the point of being fussy, with the overall effect I think of coming off with less swagger than we're used to, but having instead a heightened introversion. Asturias sounded less likely than usual to result in string breakage and was the more fascinating for it. Recuerdos de la Alhambra was fine grained and sentimental, in an extremely appealing way.

So anyway, thought I'd poke my head out from the cave where I'm hibernating until Caramoor. (Where "me"=Maury, anyway. The man behind the name unfortunately has to work for a living--no rest for the wicked, I think they say.)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Not Outrageously Special Tony Award Edition

I mean, I'd only seen two of the nominated shows: Sweeney Todd and Souvenir, both strewn with adverbs and such in these pages. So I didn't have a lot of emotional investment in the proceedings. I suppose I was sorry that Patti LuPone didn't pick up a statuette for her dirty work, but for all I know La Chanze (who I hope will be provided with a last name as part of her prize) actually brought things to the role of Celie that Angela Lansbury simply didn't have in the original production. Oh, wait...

So all I really want to say is I guess people should stop writing musicals now that they're giving top honors to musicals where the important process was photocopying. Yes, I have a giant chip on my shoulder about jukebox musicals, never having seen one. That's just because the whole idea is so goddamn stupid. I'm just terribly afraid in fifty years the choices on broadway are going to be "Toxic! The Musical" and "Glitter, the Mariah Carey Story." That sound you hear coming from Mount Olympus is Euterpe, the lyric muse, chugging (nay--shotgunning) a bottle of Drano.

For a much more thorough round-up, please see manprano.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ring, etc.

When you're an opera fiend, and this fact is known, people who are opera-curious or even opera fans but not yet mentally ill about it are bound to ask you, "which Ring should I buy?" My shorthand answer is "[until you have problematically specific tastes] buy the Solti." My snooty answer is, "develop problematically specific tastes and then mix and match. My ideal goes something like: famous big deal Kna Gotterdammerung w/ Varnay etc or maybe in fact Solti, impossible to find Flagstad/Melchior Met Siegfried* or recently released bazillion dollar Windgassen/Varnay thing, Leinsdorf Walkuere with Vickers, Brouwenstijn, young Nilssen, and I don't really care what Rheingold because I hate Das Rheingold." By this point most people have fled. Anyway La Cieca has, I believe, taken it one step further and is going act by act, which should be fun. Check it out over at Unnatural Acts.

Come to type of Wagner, I couldn't help myself this afternoon and bought a used Gala set of Bernstein and Farrell doing bleeding chunks. Get home and put it on only to find it is very late in the game for Farrell and recorded in an unflattering acoustic, the Dawn Duet anyway. Looks like the main or only draw is going to be the considerably earlier Immolation under de Sabata, a bonus track. I suppose the Tristan and Walkuere stuff could be better, but it's around the same year as the d.d. in which she sounds, and I just can't think of a more apt way to put it than the hipster locution: like ass. [Edit to add: I think it's the recording acoustic as much as her vocal estate. The Sieglinde from two years earlier sounds rather a lot better.]

*seriously, I stumbled upon it used in Chicago, then some asshole borrowed and never returned mine, and now I'd have to order it from overseas