Friday, October 26, 2007

Sundry (no, not Kundry. Must everything be about opera with you?!)

Started to manufacture a thorough opinion on the Costello debut (not debut, but y'know) heard only on Sirius by me, but I think it's been soundly dished at Parterre. I suppose my opinion in briefest brief is that it sounded like a little bit of a stretch but as a one-off I enjoyed his performance very much indeed.

I ought to say something about Massis, though, having heard her now once on air and once in house. The only interesting thing I have to say (and by interesting I mean "slightly fucked") is about the mad scene with and without flute. Oh and it's not about the singing, so whoops. So here's my crackpot theory: one of the great successes of Dessay's mad scene was the absence of flute. "And why is that so great?" you fail to ask, which I ignore. Because by doing this, she pulled a fast one and made 90% of the audience know what it's like to hear things that aren't actually there to be heard, which is to say she shared with us in the smallest way the experience of madness. Didn't you kind of feel unsettled during the blank spots? And feel like you were hearing the old flute line, and then feel for a moment like singing it back at her? And maybe stabbing someone? So it was an operatic folie-a-douzaines.

No but Massis did a commendable turn, and created a wholly different interpretation without being what I imagined she would be, the other half of a "demented, but the voice is fraying" duality in which she's "pretty chirping, but doesn't this thing have a plot?" None of that. She's a good actress, particularly adept at the backward cower, and some of the acting (in a distinction I find increasingly central to my enjoyment of the art) takes place in the voice. And for all you Stimmhounds out there, she hangs on to the high notes 'til the crazy Scottish cows come home. Covered in blood. Whoops, runaway figure of speech. It's not so substantial an instrument as to be heard clearly in ensembles, but she doesn't sound lost in the Big House, either. Um, the Met I mean. Not jail. If they had lots of money to lose (because I don't think that many people like Lakme much, but I've ruined the surprise of where this sentence is going) they ought to put on, uh huh, Lakme for her, though as my kind host at the Lucia said: over Dessay's dead body.

Your moment of Podles: Madame was, one hears, applauded after her first note in rehearsal for Ballo by the HGO orchestra. Fortunate Houston to hear her twice this season while we in New York hear her only in fond memory of concerts past.

In news of the operoblogosphere, JSU is back from a few weeks of quiet with the unavoidable truth, and the opera blog called Opera Blog is tentatively scheduled to come back on the air. Me, I don't have much coming up until Aida, and if the Radames turns out to be Farina, I can only honor my opera-going partner-in-crime's resolution:

1) I will never again be in the same opera house as Franco Farina.

7 comments:

Chalkenteros said...

I've decided not to blog on Costello. My opinion is pretty much the same as yours. Nice sound but not *quite* filling out the part, and he seemed to hesitate on some big notes. I have yet to see the guy live, but I very much look forward to doing so, hopefully soon. I'd like to hear him sing an Ernesto alongside Netrebko in Don Pasquale.

Ben said...

I will be attending tonight's performance of Ballo in Houston. I'm about to pee my pants with excitement. I'll report back tomorrow if I'm able to form complete sentences after the performance.

winpal said...

I suspect if there really is a Hell, it won't be fire and brimstone and Hieronymus Bosch creepy-crawlies. It will be sitting in a beautiful opera house and the Intendant coming out before the gold curtain and announcing your favorite tenor is being replaced by Franco Farina (and/or Bruno Beccaria, who may in fact be the same person). Night after night. For eternity.

BTW, I noticed your Millo comment over at Parterre. Welcome to the dark side. And on the same day as La Cieca's generosity toward La Renee. What IS this world coming to?

Maury D'annato said...

Chalkz: I'm not sure what I'd like to hear him sing. Probably Des Grieux somewhere less barnlike. Or any number of other things somewhere less barnlike.

Ben: I look forward to your impressions of...everyone, but in particular Podles!

Winpal: Well, I've admitted that some of her early stuff is smashing. I try like hell to be fair.

Ben said...

Well, Podles was unbelievable. I mean, I haven't heard anything like it before - huge and raw, yet totally under control. Ulrica seems to be a perfect role for her now, as nothing seemed strained or beyond her at all. It sucks that her part is so small though. The rest of the cast was pretty good too. Vargas sounded beautiful, but also smaller than I remember him. Carlo Guelfi barked his way through most of Renato. Tamara Wilson played Amelia - she's a former studio artist, and only 25. She's got an incredible voice but Amelia seems a size or two too big for her. All the notes were there, but weren't connected very well and the performance wasn't very musical. But she definitely will be a force to be reckoned with in 5 - 10 years. Definitely a Verdi soprano. The Oscar was Lyubov Petrova - her singing was excellent, but her characterization was very odd, almost David Bowie-esque in its androgyny. Don't know if this was the director or what.....


All in all it was pretty boring - the sets were OK, but didn't make much sense. It's just such a weird opera - I don't find myself getting caught up in the story at all, despite some terrifically beautiful music, especially the love duet in act II.

Oh well. Very glad I went to at least hear Podles. I'm still pretty stunned at what I heard. A couple of times it was hard to tell whether it was a tenor singing or if it was Podles (my seats were quite far from the stage), which I thought was great.

winpal said...

Allow me a Podles moment. About 10 years ago I saw her sing Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky with the SF Symphony. Rather than come on stage at the beginning of the piece and sit through the opening sections as is usually done, she entered after The Battle on the Ice, just before her solo. She ever so slowly made her way through the orchestra, surveying the musicians as a hunched old peasant woman would be overlooking the field of dead soldiers. She stopped on occasion and supported herself on a violinist's chairback to keep from collapsing. When she finally reached the front of the stage, she sang the most moving, soulful lament I think I have ever heard. (I am a fan of figure skating, and the ever annoying Dick Button once commented that a Soviet skater had "the weight of all the Russias in her face." Well, in that context he was laughable and absurd. But somehow Podles conveyed something of that, authentically and without mannerism, in her voice). She then exited the same way. It was mesmerizing and unforgettable. If I were to try to count my most memorable evenings in any theater on one hand, this would be one of the first fingers.

Julio said...

I think your explination / thoughts on Dessay's missing flute cadenza was right on. It is a little maddenning to hear music only you can hear and by Natalie sharing that with us, it made the scene interactive. And how many artists these days can say that?