Monday, October 22, 2007

The Scottish Play

Oh, antes de nada, if you were going to ask, it's pronounced LU-chich, where the first "ch" is pronounced on the, hmmm, I guess alveolar ridge, like the first c in "Lučić" and the second one is further back, like the second c in "Lučić." What, I'd give you examples in English but it's not phonemic in English, so I can't.

Well, if I were cursed, you know, I think I'd want it to be a big, awful curse. A totally terrifying curse, yessiree Bob. What I mean is imagine you had a haunted house and you invited your whole family over and the clock struck midnight and some rather apologetic ghost sidled up to your Aunt Chayudis and muttered, "oh yeah. Boo or something," and then just helped itself to the artichoke dip, nobody would really talk about it the next day, and pretty soon you'd have to serve better hors d'oeuvres to get people to come over. So in a certain way, it's a pity the Met's new Macbeth isn't a full-fledged disaster. I say that sincerely: disaster is something you can sink your teeth into. This was just a disappointment, and like Royal Tenenbaum, I'm not very good with disappointment.

Your first question might, I'm thinking, be: did Guleghina take a shot at the C# in the sleepwalking scene? And I think what actually happened is she took a shot at the C# in another work altogether, perhaps one by Luigi Nono. Or, hell, La Sonnambula. It's confusing. No-one can blame her. What she actually hit with that shot was...well it was a high C#, right where it should be, but it wasn't something you'd ever ask to hear again. (I'm imagining Guleghina auditioning for the part, if that's how things happened. Thank you, Ms. Guleghina. Please don't do that again. Did you bring any Mozart?) It came from the wrong side of the tracks, that C#, and it brought its friends C and B, thugs, the lot of them. I have started with the bad news, because I'm like that. The good news is if she could walk around with maybe Elizabeth Schwarzkopf behind her, she would be a certain kind of fascinating in this role.

Things are missing, other than the high notes. She uses no chest voice at all, which I understand from those who make more of a study of technique than I do, may have something to do with the lack of high notes, actually. If you're secretly Cornelius Reid, you can correct me, or even if you're not, but be polite. And for some reason I can't dream of knowing, the passagework on the way up works ok, but the down escalator is more like a staircase.

However. She's also, for one thing a riveting stage presence, as we knew from other appearances. She makes gestures that reach Fam Circ, but they're somehow not obvious. Her reading of the letter was better than any I know on record, offhand--she sounded giddy/nervous/bloodthirsty. That's worth plenty. Also the middle third of the voice is like a silver girder. In something like Santuzza, she'd still be a treat.

You know what they should really do is when they have someone like Guleghina in the cast, have her come out to the Peter Gelb Walk of Shattered Dreams and, needing no microphone, make an announcement in her native tongue to her coutrymen to shut the fuck up. I swear...my peasanty ancestors lived in Russia, I speak the damn language, I've even visited, though I never went to the opera. But I am dead certain their opera programs there include an insert with suggested conversation topics in case anyone should find that, during "Ah, la paterna mano," they can't think of anything to say.

(I liked what I heard of said aria through the Slavic banter a row up, but didn't love it. Dimitri Pittas has a top notch set of pipes, but hasn't yet worked out an elegant or stylistic way of using them, and sings without much urgency, besides. The crowd went maddish after his number, but I think it was more of a "Hooray, at long last a tenor" thing.)

Lučić is less of a mess but also less to get worked up about. The role of Macbeth presents no hurdles he has to kick over, but again, it's not a very distinguished reading. Here and there, the finely turned line of Verdi, but oh. You can't sing "Pieta, rispetto, that's amore" like you're not that into it. Fudge the rest of the opera if you have to, but don't get lazy on the swan song in one of the few operas named for the baritone, Zeljko old thing. I say this as a friend, as someone who can pronounce both kinds of c in your last name.

But then on the other hand, who could blame you, surrounded by such a lot of terrible mistakes. I am wont to over-rely on references to Twain's Fennimore-Cooper essay, but then who the hell else am I going to go to, having witnessed out of a possible 114 directorial mistakes, 112? The crown jewels in the treasure trove of bad ideas may have been the big green flag. Not that there's anything wrong with big green flags. But if you have a stage full of tattered looking folks singing a chorus, and someone runs up from behind and unfurls a flag (does any other noun make use of the verb to unfurl?) and starts waving it around, the gays are immediately going to start looking for Fantine.

Other highlights: stuff pouring from the ceiling until you really began to wonder if they just hadn't gotten all the falling petals out from the other night's Butterfly (note to powers that be: moratorium on snow for a while, k?); a naturalistic attitude about diagetic stage noise that meant the music was frequently drowned out by fakey "we're at a party!" hollering, for instance; and for heaven's sake, I realize the witches' music is kind of a no-win situation, but can't someone think of a way to stage the witches that isn't so clumsy and amateurish as to make it all worse?

The set itself was kind of grand, and there were a few stage effects that were jaw-dropping, but I'm not sure how to describe them, and I'm actually writing this paragraph last, and I gotta go to bed. Someone else will tell you, pretty surely. Morning edit: I sound like I'm describing a disaster after all. Like I said, I'm not good with disappointment, and when I think of Macbeth, I turn into the high school English teacher my father told me about who would read Yeats at them aloud and say in a beatific voice, "isn't it wonderful!" while they all thought, in chorus, "no it ain't, lady." There were a couple of real coups including the How'd They Fucking Do That succession of kings and (less on the level of effect, more significant) the fact that lord and lady were allowed to look like they actually liked and wanted each other, which keeps them from being moustache-twirling villains.

Oh I've neglected to mention John Relyea, and truly, he probably did the best singing of the night before they chopped him up like eggs for caviar. I seem to hear rumblings of discontent about him lately, to the tune of "dutiful but boring," but all I hear when he sings is a fine instrument and a good sense of style, so I can't board that ship. I have also neglected to mention Maestro Levine, and will continue to do so until he gets his Parsifal out of my Macbeth. Seriously, love the guy, was struck anew on Saturday by how much more he makes of Lucia than is actually there, but this was the worst kind of plodding, self-conscious reading. The bigs were too big and the smalls, well, they didn't happen much, and as a result, it felt like a very long opera.

As I crossed the plaza into the unhaunted night, I received a text message encouraging me to review the production in three words. A child of my generation, I settled on "Oh, the humanity." If I were going to aim for something a little more today, I might instead go with: Made Of Fail.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Guleghina looked like a drag queen in that red gown. She is so camp. Horrible singing. What must Levine have been thinking conducting for her? He rushed thru her music, the sooner to get her off the stage.

If you have no chest, no top, no breath control, no skill at moving the voice in the rapid passages and bad Italian to boot, that qualifies you to be a Met Lady M? Sad times we have come to.

Let's give Kelly Cae Hogan or whatever her name is a shot at this...or get Lauren Flanagan back for a couple.

Chalkenteros said...

Disappointing indeed! Guleghina was a captivating Santuzza last season -- that's why I was so excited about hearing her in this role. But if any character needs dips into the chest, it's Lady MacB. I'm hoping things will be more in-place when I attend.

Maury D'annato said...

anon: and yet it wasn't wholly bad. I mean, right? Some of the role lies in the part of her voice that's probably stronger than the corresponding part of any other voice on the Met stage.

La Cieca said...

Just as a matter of pedantic accuracy, the high note in the Sleepwalking Scene is not a C-sharp but rather a D-flat. The scene is written in D-flat minor modulating to D-flat major.

Maury D'annato said...

La Cieca: well, Semper Maury, Semper mistaken, that's my motto almost. It really wouldn't be a My Favorite Intermissions write-up without one glaring factual error! It's like the little plastic baby Jesus in the king's cake: whosoever finds it has good luck. Actually I've just googled king's cakes and apparently that's not what happens; you're treated really nicely all year and then slaughtered for a succesful harvest. Well, we'll just skip that last part. Doyennes are exempt from ritual slaughter, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Meretrice said:
One thing (of many) you did get right, Maury, is the crack at Levine's tiresomely overblown Verdi. I think that Levine owns the record for the longest, slowest recorded Parsifal prelude (and that's saying a mouthful) and it's magnificent. But in Verdi, not so much.

I don't see why anyone would feel the need to insert the appearance of Valhalla, as though Verdi is not dramatic enough on his own.

brian said...

yes, maury, there is another noun that makes use of the noun unfurl - umbrella.

i found that out when they asked me to "furl" my umbrella before checking it at the Met!

Burns said...

Yeah, that was some raunchy stuff from Madame G. I for one totally enjoyed your account and am glad you stayed up to write it, not least because it captured that post-performance gush we all get.

You missed the intermission feature with Margaret J. interviewing Biserka Cvejic! A treasure-trove of Slavicity! Also you get to hear MJ pronouncing "Zeljko" as if it's "Jellicoe"...

Maury D'annato said...

Burns: oh god, don't go there, or I'm going to start singing "Zeljko songs for Zeljko cats," and nobody wants that.

straussmonster said...

If I were going to aim for something a little more today, I might instead go with: Made Of Fail.

Well, this bit just made my day.

Maury D'annato said...

Personal to Straussmonster: I almost left this comment on Parterre but decided the fandom overlap was an empty set and I'd just be thought peculiar so I demurred: "I have the strangest urge to photoshop some tentacles onto last night's Banquo and caption it John R'lyeh." I have this feeling you'll get it, lousy though it is!

rysanekfreak said...

Believe it or not, I was hoping for the ballet, but then I realized Levine would make the ballet last (or at least seem to least) for an hour. So I'm glad there was no ballet.

Philip aka Oberon said...

Didn't the last Met production feature a naked ballerina as Hecate in the apparition scene?

Earl said...

Yes, it did.
The Hecate was topless and she delivered the erotic thrill of two eggs, sunny-side up.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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