Thursday, March 22, 2007

La Donna del Lager

The title of this post doesn't mean anything. I just couldn't come up with anything witty, because my brain is just a little bit still in the clutches of boredom.

Yessiree Bob, La Donna del Lago is a snoozefest. No way around that one. You could lop off the whole first act except for "Mura felici" and nobody would care except Phillip Gossett, and you might be able to distract him by waving around a telephone book and claiming it was a recently discovered manuscript of Il Signor Bruschino. (This paragraph is dedicated to the Straussmonster.)

Still, you'd have to leave Mura felici or...I'm not going to finish that thought just yet.

You know what, I have this perverse notion about things that I'd nine times rather hear a good soprano than a good mezzo, because we're drowning in mezzos, or we were for a while. I can't think of any mezzo or contralto roles that I sit around dreaming I could hear sung as I imagine they should be sung. This is clearly not so for soprano roles. I despair of hearing a truly great Elektra or Brunnhilde or even Butterfly. I mean, not really despair, I just like that usage "despair of." I'm more like skeptical, if you want to know.

Anyway I'm making an exception to this jaded pose of opera-queen weariness, because Laura Vlasak Nolen is, I shit you not, exciting. She's not a booming contralto and I don't know if she'd be a good, like, Rosina, but she is a top notch mezzo, no two ways about it. Florid technique: check. Solidity: check. Basic luxury of tone: check. Ability to sink into the role: check. If she'd pay my rent, she'd be everything I'm looking for. I engaged in that useless habit of trying to think whose voice her reminded me of, and I'm not going to tell you because you'll think I'm on crack, but it made me wonder if she'd be good in Mahler.

The rest was good but less fully satisfying. Alexandrina Pendatchanska, whose singing I have admired in these pages, was epicly, unconscionably miscast as Elena, whose two settings are Worried and Jubilant. I can still hear in my head the clips La Cieca posted once upon a time of her blazing Ermione and I just don't understand how this happened. It wasn't bad, per se, but it was certainly disappointing. Still, she's got a voice on her, and her fioratura is clean and not stingy with the little notes. She's also really interesting looking, like a cross between Helena Bonham Carter and Ellen from first grade, who you don't know. Actually if you do, tell her hi; I'm totally curious what happened to her.

Barry Banks deserves a better role than Uberto or Rodrigo or whoever the hell he sang (spoiler alert: he turns out to be the king, too!) because, while he can pack in every little turn and run, it's not all that fun to listen to, nor would it be with anyone else singing, including the guy singing Rossini across the plaza.

The production team received a baffled reception, it seemed to me, and I can't argue. I actually get a little nervous lately with the occasional link from places like Parterre that someone other than my mom might read this, and it gives me an iffy feeling about slagging on stuff, but suffice it to say I have no idea what they were going for beyond that generalized City Opera aesthetic where you put brick walls in the countryside and then bathe the last scene in yellow light and put everyone in ball gowns. I mean, that's actually what they did, but if you thought really hard, couldn't you name about seven other NCYO productions where they do pretty much that? My only really emphatic complaint is, guys, can't you find quieter snow? That there Scottish snowfall is, like, deafening.

Up next: Chenier, maybe? Or a Stoyanova Traviata.


Drew80 said...

The Minnesota Opera staged "La Donna Del Lago" last autumn, and I attended one performance, and I thought that it was pretty dull, too, even with Ewa Podles in the cast.

Alexandra Del Lago is much more interesting, I believe.

Willym said...

I saw Horne-Von Stade-Blake do it in Houston or was it Dallas? more years ago than I care to remember. Even then it wasn't the most exciting thing I remember seeing - do recall the production having Elena floating a la Phantom across a fog river - long before Mr Prince got the idea I might add - and a rather strange man running around like Falstaff in Act 3 with stag horns on his head. Decided at that point I had seen it once and that was enough.

rysanekfreak said...

I too saw the von Stade/Horne/Blake show in Houston. Charming. Lovely. Old-fashioned.

Could Miss Nolen sing Fides in "Le Pro...?" Oh, nevermind. That would require a star tenor the likes of which doesn't exist right now.

The finale of Act I of "Lago" is a wonderful bouncy tune, and I love it.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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