I get the feeling Hugo von Hoffmansthal was encouraged by his successes to try a good thing twice. And fuck it up irredeemably. This notion comes not from any in depth knowledge of his oeuvre, but just a conversation at intermission: could anything be a more disappointing rehash of the presentation of the Silver Rose than the presentation of the, uh, beverage in Arabella? (Let's do a production set in Kindergarten with everyone dressed in pajamas where she hands him a sippy cup of grape juice. That would be more disappointing.) And in revisiting the crazy Love & Death metaphysics of Ariadne, could he have possibly gotten it more bewilderingly wrong than Die Agyptische Helena?
Yeah, I went back for seconds at the seafood buffet. And though I noticed each infuriatingly ostentatious eccentricity of the production just as much as last time, or more, I enjoyed the whole package more, I think. Sometimes, and I hate to shatter your sterling conception of critics and bloggers and such here as warriors for truth, some great degree of one's reaction to a night of singing or anything else is mostly just about the day you had, isn't it?
Like what was I slagging so hard on the role of Menelaus for? It's not genius like Bacchus, but it's not without its share of opportunities for vocal glory. Torsen Kerl met them admirably, especially in the second act. There's one cry of "Helena" that starts in some cruel octave, unaccompanied, and at first it sounded like he might totally blow it, but it came out clarion and terrifically long-breathed.
Also how did I not notice last time that Aithra is really a pretty great role? I recall well my irritation at discovering her lilting first utterance translates to "Dinner's ready!" And there's lots more where that came from (lilting utterances, not dinner) and Damrau is objectively wonderful and I'm not sure why I'm having a hard time committing to unreserved enthusiasm in her direction. I think JSU has categorized her, with Trebolina, as proficient but in some way heartless. I'll look it up. Yep, he praises her acting but says her singing in Ariadne "lack[ed] even a drop of tenderness." To some extent I see his point. There's something missing, maybe vulnerability. But there's plenty of recompense. Next time, I will love her. It seems like the right thing to do.
Voigt was announced as indisposed, and indeed act I was tentative, the big exposed high note dodged, and I wondered if she would cancel at halftime rather than face "Zweite Brautnacht." She didn't, and she nailed it. Nailed it, nailed it, nailed it. Better, in fact, than opening night. Didn't elide the little drop before the C#. The top is now just very bright instead of (forgive me a food metaphor. You know I hate them) buttery like the middle, and like the top used to be, but it will be of service in some of her new roles, I think. I went back and listened to the disc of Wagner duets with Domingo to make sure I'm not painting the past rosy, and yeah, it's nostalgic to hear how the richness used to go all the way up. What is there to say? Things change. She's still a star.
I didn't mean to give this a full second gab, but there it is. Next up: Violetta Bulgariana