Someone didn't fully explain to Franco Farina the rules of the Gong Show, it would seem. Oh, that's in the score? Never mind then.
I can't shake the irritation I experienced, reading one discussion of Norma where it was suggested that the opera be shelved for twenty (was it forty?) years until someone worthy of, oh, what was the rhetoric, "the mantel of the great priestess" no doubt, should burst upon the scene. I don't remember, but I'm guessing this was in reference to the rumored Fleming/Wilson Norma. Actually for what it's worth, I think a Robert Wilson Norma might be just the thing. Just as Lohengrin is the better for taking singers' instincts about what to do during static moments out of the picture (well, and directors' frequent inability to help them), Norma might really lose some of the awkwardness it's frequently bestowed with if Waco Bob had a shot at it. Robert Wilson: for operas that are marginally viable in a non-concert setting. I dunno, I'd show up.
But we hear Fleming has sensibly dropped the project, and it was hard not to think about this and approve last night. While I do think the difficulty of filling Norma's apron, er shoes--sorry, Norma is such an archetypally waitressy name, I sometimes forget what the opera's about--is slobbered upon rather too much, it is a big sing. Fleming would be terrific in The Aria, if recent habits have any permanency, and then she'd be lost. Someone more fixated on fach than I might be tempted to think of Fleming as Adalgisa, but hell hasn't frozen over, last I checked, so again never mind.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the role is being sung by Hasmik Papian, and not badly either. Thank god nobody locked that forty-year safe. Not to say she was at all moments electrifying. Here and there the voice goes all squishy, seriously I can't think of a better word for it. And the top is a sometime thing, potent when the approach is felicitous; short or flat when it ain't. But she's not what I recalled from Aida in the 90's, a soft and wholly unmemorable presence. Her phrasing is, while not riveting, attentive and regal, and in the last scene of the opera, she found some inner resources of tragedy and shared them with us.
Oh, Dolora Zajick. How long has it been now for you and me? I'd say about ten years. What a long strange trip its been, huh pal? First there was Aida, and I really think at that point I'd never heard a bigger voice. Then there was Marfa in Khovanschina, we still laugh about that one, right? Oh and then there was the time I got super cranky because I went to a dress rehearsal for Cavalleria and you marked a lot, and your cover sang the aria, because yes, a rehearsal is a rehearsal, but what can I say? I'm a prick when I'm disappointed. Last time I heard you, you were ripping it up as the annoyingly pious mom in An American Tragedy and I think that's how, twenty years from now, forcibly regaling the young 'uns with stories of the old days, I'd like to remember you.
Adalgisa is an ok fit. Like Papian, Zajick has a good florid technique, which I guess is why everyone constantly thinks of her as slightly edgy casting for Macbeth. There are a couple of little opportunities to belt. From a dramatic standpoint, it's kind of a mistake, though, and all the soft singing brings out the more generic side of her formidable instrument. Know what, I do think she's oddly used at the Met. Ideas I've heard tossed around by the geekerati include Die Amme, which would be ever so much more gratifying than Adalgisa. Or, again, Macbeth, though the potential complexity of the character would be missed.
The singing of Eduardo Valdes was a welcome relief.
Ok, I'm not going to let it go at that. Farina sang well for about twenty measures of the opera, when he was singing softly. And the rest of the time, well, you pretty much know how I feel. No need to harp on it. But the thing is, am I on crack or did he take several low variants in his first act aria that aren't there? That pissed me off as much as the monochrome bawling. I covered my eyes, because it seemed slightly less rude than covering my ears.
Julianna di Giacomo, who made such a nice showing at Il Podlatore, was certainly a bit of luxury as Clotilde. Vitalij Kowaljow, who I somehow forgot about until I was editing this, for my money made the finest vocal showing of all.
Next up: was going to be another Vanessa, but for a scheduling snafu. I'd get up and look at the ticket pile but the cat is having none of that idea.