Ow, my aesthetics are chafed.
It's the week of too damn many performances. Later tonight is the now very well-reviewed Follies at City Center, which depending on how much my job does or doesn't trample my spirit tomorrow, I'll write up a little then. Tuesday was the final installment of Tom Stoppard's fluffy soap opera The Coast of Utopia which was too overwhelming, in itself, to blog though the last part is certainly the least memorable.
Yesterday I took the train to New Brunswick to see a run of I am My Own Wife that's ending its run and anyway le tout New York saw it a few years ago. Tragi-comic story there, I went through the TKTS line twice intending to see it and, at the last moment, decided instead to see 1) the overrated revival of Wonderful Town, but more forehead-smack-inspiringly 2) Stephen Belber's enormously ill-advised Match, in which Frank Langella delivered a lyrical paean to cunnilingus, as I seem to recall through a haze of mortification. I mean, we're all in favor of it, but...
So that leaves Jenufa last night, about which I've already expended verbiage--add only, here, that Forst was really marvellous but both because the one-off cast change produced a less cohesive feel and because everyone's ears are (remarkably) tuned to the color and scale of Silja at this point, it felt like less than it was. Oh and Silvasti was, if possible, even more wonderful than the other two nights I heard him. He's the center of the production, for me, it turns out, despite the caliber of his collaboratrices.
Onegin was a fine time and I think you should go. Which is not exactly practical advice since either you have a ticket or you're S.O.L. The big question on the minds of people I talked to was: is this going to be a winner for Fleming or a continued slide down the slope. The letter scene as delivered about a year ago at Carnegie wasn't much of an indicator. Which was actually an indicator.
Tatiana was a mixed bag for The Beautiful Voice. She was a bit underpowered, but sang with real fire in the last act, the kind we sometimes miss in her mannered, well-mannered accounts of certain roles, and recall fondly in older essays. The letter had a kind of spontanaeity, but...the energy I long for here is nervous intelligence, kind of like Dessay brings to pretty much everything, if that makes things clearer at all. That's who Tatiana is, in the novel: she's this girl who likes to read and probably gets told to cheer up a lot and goes off the deep end a bit when she meets someone totally not from her hick town. This is not Fleming's long suit, this restlessness, which is not to imply she's not smart. The very pleasant news is that she sang many notes at one fixed dynamic, adding to my theory that she doesn't have to make every note a little concerto when she's busy concentrating on things like palatalized t's and dark l's.
Not for nothing, wouldn't it be great if the Met had a soprano with native Russian who was really pretty, could look girlish or regal, and whose acting got a lot of raves, and whose voice had in recent years had gotten quite plummy to the point that her Puccini was a lot more enjoyable than her bel canto, suggesting an ability to be heard in the loudish final confrontation where Chaikovskii's Tatiana is considerably less composed than Pushkin's? That would be downright habit-forming.
Anyway they did hire a native for Onegin. Not doing so would almost be crazy--like do you remember that film of Othello some years back with Irene Jacob as Desdemona and it pretty much didn't work? Pushkin, chopped up as we may find him chez Chaikovskii, is something you want delivered by someone who is not reciting phonemes. Hvorostovky is such an obvious choice in this. He's not quite handsome but extremely interesting-looking, and his vocal suavity and the hint of coldness about him are Onegin in a nutshell. Additionally, he sings the fuckity fuck out of Onegin's splendid, introverted, better-than-the-tenor-aria aria.
Vargas is kind of a favorite of mine but Lensky, not so much my favorite role. He was at his best in the aria, and moving elsewhere I suppose. The less said about his lady love, the better, strange to say given the phalanxes of able mezzos out there. Olga isn't the brightest bulb, but if there's no mystery at all about her, the romance with Lensky plays as farce, and that's no good.
All I have to say about the conducting is: Gergiev/Obama '08.
Seriously, he really gets it.
Oh, um, I've seen Follies now, but this is getting longsome. So maybe tomorrow. My goal for this week is to avoid culture altogether. I may go so far as to read The Post on the subway tomorrow.