Oh god, that's even worse.
People do seem to love it, though, and not without reason.
Last night was, for me, a few things. It was the first time I heard ACB at the Met (um, yes, her debut was last Friday and I was AWOL) and that by itself was a thrill, especially in that she sounded de-lovely. It was a fascinating lesson in casting to the strengths of singers who at times don't seem to have any, about which more in a minute. It was also, and this isn't necessarily of interest to anyone who doesn't live in my head, where I discovered which Puccini opera is my favorite and which is my least.
The least, I'll just end the suspense here, is Suor Angelica. For me, a painfully treacly exercise, this one. Makes my teeth hurt. I once read in liner notes somewhere the opinion that the first act of Samson et Dalila is like watching asparagus grow. Same goes for the first half hour of Angelica, as far as I'm concerned, and in this production actually...well I decided to watch without reading my Met titles and can tell you now: it's about nuns gardening. Maybe they're growing asparagus. No, of course not. It's actually about how religion inherently ruins people's lives, but then I think a lot of things are about that. The cast was without a weak link, though I felt like I might enjoy a slightly heftier voice in the title role, and the set was the best kind of purely representational stagecraft: realistic but not kitchen-sinky, though the mule could go, cute as it was. Say did you ever stop and wonder, when she's signing over her fortune to la Zia Principessa (a villain of dumbfounding banality) what name she's signing? Because, like, it must be her real name. Her whole name. I like to think it was Rivka Rosenblatt, because it makes the whole story just a leetle more complicated. Maybe just more comic. My friend Michelle in high school insisted that certain works--I think her example was Jane Eyre--became tolerable only when you thought of them as comedies. Certainly a Vera Galupe-Borzkh Angelica would be good fun; is there one?
But yeah, my new fave Puccini, the one that gets to go around wearing a sash that says "Maury's Favorite Puccini Opera," is Il Tabarro, just for being so very lean and unsentimental both lyrically and libretto-wise. This one was the miracle of casting. Guleghina, whose Norma I'm dreading like everyone else, sounded like a dream, and of course her dramatic commitment has never been in question, so she was fun to watch. Juan Pons who has given me some great nights (Pagliacci years ago) and some headaches (can't remember, blocked it out), well, Michele fit into his voice just as whatsername, Murgatroid?, did for Guleghina. Flaws erased, strengths underlined. Above all, Salvatore Licitra was like a completely different singer than I remember pissing all over various Verdi scores. Virile is a good word, and "in tune"--that's two very good words.
I know I should be saying more about Stephanie Blythe. There is absolutely no question she is a top notch singer. I bet, if you think about it, you have a singer everybody really loves that you think is just fine. That's pretty much Stephanie Blythe for me. I have absolutely no idea why she doesn't set off fireworks for me. There's really nothing missing. I guess I liked her most as Zita in Gianni Schicchi because I think she's a fun comedienne, and the whimsical spirit of Jack O'Brien's very updated Schicchi made nice use of that. Yeah, the hijinks are a bit senior playish in a way the libretto makes unavoidable, but it's gentle and the sets (plural, yep, well hello Mr. Stage Elevator! How've you been since Aida?) are, at risk of damning with pastel praise, really pretty, and it's hard not to like. Good ensemble cast with some soloists I feel I didn't get to size up properly.
Up next: Cesare on Friday, but you've already heard all about that, and besides, I'm dealing with a minor case of blog burnout.