Wednesday, October 31, 2007

[Yes, Aida was skipped. And then the passive voice was used. If you are last night's performance of Aida, please feel free to be reported by someone else. I guess the passive voice doesn't really work there.]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Setting oneself up for unhappiness

One of my less endearing hobbies is having a really specific test to see if I like a singer in a role which consists of judging the whole damn effort, all the hours of learning the words and blocking and everything, by how he or she manages some more or less inconsequential passage of several syllables. It could even end in the middle of a lexeme. You just never know. It's probably something I should talk to someone about. Do you think they make psychoanalysts whose specific task is to make one more able to appreciate perfectly good opera performances instead of pick-pick-picking?

The relevance of this to, oh, anything marginally related to anything, is that one moment of decision for me at last week's Macbeth vis-a-vis Zeljko Lucic was this: if, at the end of a dark, hard sing, a fellow has it in him to sing the words "ahi lasso! la nenia tua," at the point in the aria where they're all on one note (2:19 is the timing for Leinsdorf/Warren, Warren being someone who sets the standard) with legato and a hint of a sob, I'll forgive any other transgressions retroactively. You know what I mean? Can I get a "you're not nuts"?

Selfsame Macbeth is reviewed yonder in one of those reviews that you just never would have gotten to read in the dark years before the A.B. era. (Anno Bloggini) He's absolutely right, except of course that I totally don't agree with half of what he says.

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.

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 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.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My turn next

We flipped a coin. She gets first crack.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Crystal Ball

New thing I'm oddly excited about: the ever reliable Met Futures Page lists an upcoming revival (new production? Do they even have a production?) of Adriana with Guleghina and Kaufmann. How high does the Simionato role lie? Could Podles do it? I suppose Borodina is a more likely choice, or DZ. Yeah, I barely know Adriana and I associate it wholly with Magda, which is to say, Guleghina WTF? But anyway my interest is piqued.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


A blog makes a fine pet, I suppose. You don't have to feed it, though it's a bit like a cat you have to knit fresh every few days from scratch, on the other hand; otherwise, it's just aesthetic taxidermy.

So happy birthday, little pet blog! I think these entries have to start "X years ago, I got it in my head to etc. etc." Well, two years ago, I started doing this with no idea of the fame and fortune that would follow. As I sit here in my Central Park West penthouse, acquired with the lucre of opera blogging...

Real story of course, as I may have explained last year: I started writing whatever bullshit popped into my head and now several people read it. And I thank all several of you for doing so, and thank you again for commenting. Sincerely. The exchange of [pick one: ideas, witticisms, raw snark, coded aggression, bourgeois banalities] is the whole point of this. To put it in context, I'm creeping up on my 100,000th hit, whereas I think Perez Hilton gets like 8 million hits per day. So I think from a statistical standpoint you could say that nobody has ever read this blog, including you. In the grand scheme of things, you are doing something else right now.

But anything that contributes to a sense of community is good in my book*, and just as the devoted found the mothership of Parterre back in the day, I hope this little network--please see blogroll, and the blogroll of those people--of opera fans and singers and so on, yammering on a virtual street corner (how many times, he thought, I have used the verb "to yammer" since starting a blog. what, I wonder, does it mean?) can contribute to that feeling of being among one's own. It's lovely to be a tiny part of that. If MFI is the corner of a cushion on a barstool in a virtual, operatic Cheers, rah!

Before I dispense with this round of sentimentality, I do have to say: through various stories that are almost funny enough to constitute a failed film script, I've met some fine and peculiar individuals in ways involving (oh, for instance) a blog, 2/3 of an operetta, pomegranates, and a traffic jam on 10th Avenue. For these things, I am willing to forgive life's failure to reward blogging with park view penthouses.

*well that's probably an overly general statement since Hitler created a really rather impressively strong sense of community, for example.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Remind me: what is the rest?

The Rest is Noise is now in bookstores, which is exciting. I'm trying to think if there's a bookstore near work where I could sneak for a few minutes and read the first few pages. (Yes, I am an author's thrifty nightmare. I have been known to read entire books at the bookstore, though mostly I did that at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park where you had to act a lot stranger than that to stand out. In this case, as all we bloggers I think feel a real investment in the book in question and a hopefully not too corny sense of kinship with its blogging author, I am certainly intending on, you know, purchasing this fine, hefty stack of words sometime soon. You should, too!)

Friday, October 12, 2007

"My dream would be an empty stage"

In recommending that you spend half an hour of your life watching Dessay on Charlie Rose, I cannot avoid the word "inspirational." How does she come off? A bit grandiose, which is for some reason is not only ok, but seems just and right. It would be a little tiresome if she were humbly unassuming. It's a treat to revisit opening night with closeups, a guilty pleasure to hear Dessay diss Mary Zimmerman in a way that could possibly read as innocent. La D also throws a little shade Sutherland's way, but it's wonderful to hear her pay tribute to Callas as Callas did to Ponselle. Some may note the symmetry of Dessay saying in English approximately her antipodal American diva said in French sometime or other: I'd like the public to forget that I'm singing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Highly negligible note on Figaro libretto

Don't you awfully wish modern English had an utterance like "Che gran fatalita" to be used in moments of distress?! I think if it did, it might look like: what a fucking funeral! And yet, if you spoke those words just as the turnstile went from "swipe again" to "card recently used," people would think you were nuts.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lepidoptery for fun and profit

Sorry for the delay. I like to imagine y'all were sitting around humming while you waited.

There's a moment I'd always like to judge a singer or even a whole production of Butterfly by, that being the lady in question's outburst of "E questo!" in the middle of Act II. Unfortunately I cannot. For a moment, I am always derailed, and it would be like trying to review a storm at sea. (Points deducted here for mixed metaphors of travel, but onward...) Fortunately, thereafter, the thing returns to paint-by-numbers pathos, and as for the rest of this most popular, most awful wallow, I'm pleased to report that it is in every way improved from the last time you saw it.

The things that were iffy still are iffy. I'm not cheating by going back to look and see how I felt about the puppet last time, but for all the marvel of watching really intricate stagecraft, I now bang my operatic gavel and rule that it is too unintentionally Brechtian and dulls, for instance, the death of Butterfly, a moment so precariously balanced between heartache and melodrama to begin with that you want all the other factors exactly right. Oh and if you had any kind of ambivalence about the puppet ballet that begins the last...scene, I guess (The Metropolitan Opera: Now Serving Drinks Between Arias!) I'd suggest the back seat in a balcony box, whence you simply can't see it.

Anyway the main point is of course that Patricia Racette is done being Lucine Amara if she wants to be and should agitate for an opening night, having shown them last night what Butterfly without compromise is like. Oh, um, fasten your seatbelts. Epic digression ahead. There's this book about the history of Yiddish called Kvetch, and even though I totally only read two chapters of it, it's really interesting. It starts out with a Yiddish joke (formerly known as Jewish joke) where this old Yid is in a train compartment, presumably in Russia, and he keeps muttering "Oy, am I thirsty....oy am I thirsty," ceaselessly, into the night. Finally the other fellow in the compartment has had it and goes and gets the alte kaker a glass of tea. He chugs it [I bet Yiddish has a great verb for "to chug." Yiddish is handy with stuff like that] and a moment later begins muttering "Oy, was I thirty....oy, was I thirsty...."

The book then theoretizes the joke in a way I don't entirely follow, but my understanding of it is: if you relish things, truly, you relish complaint, and if you relish them almost to the point of insanity, then complaint even in retrospect becomes a sport, an art. I bring it up because I don't want to jump right back into slapping Gallardo-Domas around, great as the temptation is. It's being done elsewhere, if you're in a spectator mood. So I'd like to compare the two geishas, hey, two geishas walk into a bar, isn't there some kind of joke in there?, by way of praising Racette, and the CGD-bashing that may occur is an unavoidable by-product.

The first thing of course is that PR's top is healthy, full, and in tune. Maybe the soprano-killer last note of The Big One was clipped off a moment early [oh god, the temptation to lapse into wretched Orientalist imagery, clipped off like a chrysanthemum not fully....blegh, nevermind] but it was dead centered on the pitch, had spin and throb, and filled the house like a trillion, uh, marshmallows. Fine, a trillion jasmine flowers, whatever. There's one odd thing, cognitively, which is that while Racette's voice is robust everywhere it needs to be, the basic sound is not spinto in the least, but then neither was Toti dal Monte's and it didn't hurt her any. Apparently the point is that there's more than one kind of Butterfly, and though it's fun to dream about one in the Tebaldi mode, Racette's is something different and equally worth having. The high-and-soft stuff probably comes from what the wags, ages ago, termed "the fake place," but it's killingly effective.

At a moment I've had to rely on others to identify for me as the utterance "ei torna e m'ama" so refulgent was Racette's tone in its own way, and so wrenching, in that moment, her connection to note and text, that a Monday night audience broke into fairly persistent mid-act applause. This was a highlight, but her ability to blur the line between singer and character was admirable throughout. I get the feeling from interviews the lady is a no nonsense sort, and Butterfly is one of opera's most enthusiastically foot-seeking doormats, so it's interesting to wonder about the process by which the singer finds her Jungian shadow. [Yeah, Jung is the least interesting and most gratingly coopted face of psychoanalysis but I couldn't think of a better way to say it.]

Alagna for Giordani feels like more of an even trade-off, though given the choice, I'd rather hear Alagna. Some heft is sacrificed, though he phrases as if he had the spinto goods, if that makes any sense, leans into the notes as if they were about to knock you out, and they never do 100%. It's fine, though. His voice is obviously younger and less toughened than his predecessor's, and they share a sauvity onstage that lends some kind of complexity to one's internal fantasy of breaking him in forty pieces for being the foot that seeks the mat. Even if he does remind me in an itchy way of Kevin Kline. I thought "Addio, fiorito asil" might get some more of that applause that ignores the lack of a musical platform, but it didn't. I suppose we're lucky he didn't storm off, ha ha. The reception at curtain calls was very warm, and deservedly so. The one real problem was his tendency to play tug-of-war with the conductor, especially in the first act.

Maria Zifchak continues to make improbably much of a truly thankless role and continues to get a roaring reception for doing so. Luca Salsi brings gallons more voice to Sharpless than Croft before him, though in the conversation with Butterfly where the humming chorus music starts up in the background, the opera's other heartbreaking moment for me, I remember a marvellous ability to convey guilt and regret through body language in Croft that wasn't really there for Salsi. I meant to tell you that I got a good read on the voice of Mr. X who sang Yamadori but it's going to have to be a later edit because my program's at home.

I do think I'm done with Butterfly for a little while, unless Mortier gets someone to stage a radical feminist reading across the plaza wherein "Butterfly! Butterfly!" is the death cry of Pinkerton upon being stabbed by a geisha who changed her mind about who in this picture needed a good knifing.

Next up: the one with the girl and the guy and their parents getting all uptight and the poison.

Monday, October 08, 2007

This just in, but don't get all revved up.

You'll be wanting to know that Gramophone gave its opera recording of the year nod to, well, apparently Rossini wrote something called Matilda di Shabran. Seriously, does someone sit around making up new bel canto operas by the formula [Girl] di [Place] knowing nobody will say, "hey, that's not an actual Rossini opera!"? Next year's race, I predict, will be a tight one between a historically informed reading of Shaniqua di Gowanus and a remaster of recently unearthed reel-to-reels featuring the hit of Glyndebourne's 1956 season, Amy di Plano, Texas starring Blanche Thebom in the role of Plano, Texas. (A revival is planned with Susan Graham in mind, a little bird tells me.)

Also awarded a little soccer trophy: Keilberth's Gotterdammerung on Testament. This award was given with a shrug of uncertainty, as several judges opted to make house payments instead of forking over for this recording, whose price tag is apparently not intended as comedy. Me, I ripped the Knappertsbusch from the public library, and I'm feeling fine about that decision.

Various other pieces of plastic were deemed more worth having than yet other pieces of plastic, and appeared pleased at the news.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The moral of the story... when you're traipsing around Academy, talking yourself out of things so as not to have to explain the importance of old Met broadcasts to the landlord, you should never count on those things being there the next day when you've decided that a Price/Bergonzi Ballo is indeed comparable in some way to a roof in the rain. The Irene Dalis Macbeth may also be gone, snatched up by some vulturous fiend who may or may not number among the select few who really get Irene. (Yeah, sometimes we like our divas even better when they feel like something we discovered.) And then, to make everything worse, you may get home to find that the Tucci/Corelli/Dalis Aida that you returned for to claim--because 1) see 'bove about Ms. Dalis, 2) the Corelli/Price Trovatore you got yesterday has renewed your understanding that it is all, all, all about Corelli and 3) you want to know what the golden age whiners are squawking about when they say "if a second stringer like Tucci walked among us today, she'd be worshipped as a god"*--is in fact a McCracken/Troyanos/Cruz-Romo Aida a kind friend slapped on CD for you years ago. Hm, the use of the second person here to universalize the experience is somewhat undercut by the specificity, I suppose, but I'm leaving it.

The one happiness of this tale of woe is that you get to feel like the most unbearable sort of smarty-pants for knowing what you've been stuck with, the moreso after you verify this fact by means of the distinctive bravo long into the applause for Celeste Aida. Well plus you did go ahead and buy that Tibbett set with a little of this and a little of that and the funny programs that declare Mr. T, I mean Tibbett, "a 'natural' negro" [please now sing "you make me make me make me feel like a..."] that turns out to be rather spectacular, so all is not lost.

But really, Bensar records. Why break my heart? Perche me ne rimuneri etc?

*Yes, the point is conceded: there's no really good Verdi spinto just now that I can think of. But I don't think it impossible one will pop up. Just for fun, let's say this: keep an eye on Dana Beth Miller whose Desdemona in Iowa (!) just got a great Opera News write-up, and who, when I heard her as a young pup at Glimmerglass, already had promising heft an plushness. It could be her. It could be Amber Wagner of last year's Finals. It could still be Racette, though actually for my shekels, Verdi doesn't seem to be the realm of her finest output. I actually live in much greater despair of ever hearing anyone do what Corelli did. Do you like it when my parentheticals are as long as the purported substance of posting? I can't help it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A little more of the story

Well of course I had to email LaCieca about it with all possible haste because it was so funny and besides, one would want to hear if one's neologism had made prime time. But the part I left out, that makes the story somewhat funnier, is that after La Juntwait popped the hunkentenor question, Mr. Kaiser (who comes off as both charming and unassuming, sudden ubiquity notwithstanding) sounded just a tiny bit flustered, whereupon La J most amusingly channeled her inner flapper and told him he's "the cat's pajamas." Which I suppose he probably is--I'll find out in about a week, but anyway, still mid-fluster, he managed the modest semi-sequitur, "Well I'd rather wear the cat's pajamas than be called a hunkentenor." And then, "but I don't wear pajamas. I suppose that's too much information."* Hardly!

I mean god forfend I should ever be interviewed on the radio. I have a feeling I'd probably sit there muttering, "right, cheers. Thanks a lot."

*all quotations approximate and intended for entertainment value only.

Spotted the Metropolitan, on Tuesday, in the audience: Anna Netrebko. Again. Why do I mention this? Because in my ongoing inner deliberations about Trebs' place in my operatic affections, I just have to award her trillions of points right now based on the fact that she actually goes to the opera, apparently rather frequently. And maybe she's going because she's doinking Figaro, and maybe she's going because she likes to be seen in a fetching frock, but hey. The experience of going to the opera is many things to many of us. I like walking up the central staircase at the beginning of the evening. Don't know why, guess it makes me feel grand and elegant in my jeans and bad haircut. Anyway the fact is she goes, and stands around at intermission where anyone can approach, and I just think these are things I like in a singer. I'll always think of that interview with a defensive June Anderson saying, "this is just my day job," as if to say: oh, don't worry, I don't actually LIKE this stuff. It appears Anna Netrebko likes opera. Regardless of whether this can somehow be heard in her singing, it's certainly not a bad thing.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Half 'n half

There's a cumulative risk associated with attending the Grand Ol' (Metropolitan) Opry all the damn time, and that is that once it's not, alas, a special occasion sometimes, there will be nights that are neither cause for rejoicing nor a platform for neat little one-liners. That night, you may actually decide you've gotten your fifteen bucks' worth in-house, and that half a Siriusabend with Pakistani takeout and the company of the cat just doesn't sound like any kind of comedown. Maybe you'll feel a little jaded, maybe not. If you are, ahem, a fellow or a dame of the bloggish persuasion, you will also risk looking a little apathetic. Maybe it will make you feel a little less extraplanetary that beforehand, in the Met shop, you saw a bigshot CAMI artist manager, and recognized him, and thought, "I recognize managers now. This opera thing has gone too far." (Because you're not crazy if you recognize that you might be crazy, you tell yourself.)

Oh hey, get this. In the midst of leaving, I texted he-whom-I-text-from-the-opera saying what the hell do I write, and he informed me that I once said "pretty good is the hardest thing to write about." It's great being prematurely senile because it's like you're just leaving yourself all these time capsules, and when it turns out you agree with yourself, it's...I can't figure out if it's reassuring or a good hint it's time to check into a home.

I do have the 'cast on, and some ground chicken something or other (I'd offer you some but you may well be in Boise or somewhere) and the cat is attempting to ingest the toes of my right foot. None of this because it wasn't good. It had been long enough since my last Fils-Caron that it didn't feel pre-heard, and we had interesting seats--funny balance, nice view--and the sting of Roschmann's cancellation had mostly passed. It just felt like two acts were enough.

The other cancellation, you know, recent enough for a program slip but not last minute enough to slip by La Cieca's notice, was Isabel Bayrakdarian, an always welcome singer who just happened to be, as I believe they say in her native Canada, seven months pregnant*, with a kid who's going to rebel by becoming an accountant. In her stead, an auditions winner from a few years back many of us liked especially, the very young Lisette Oropesa. Her showing here was very promising and showed no sign of her short rehearsal period, though it did hint that the Met is still a large space for her poised, exquisitely sunny sound.

Oh hey, here's Kathleen Kim, who was waving a machine gun around last time I saw her. She's tonight's Barbarina. Even for me, the vibrato is pronounced. We're talking Erika Koth. I think she's going to be great in a kind of narrow range of roles. God knows she knocked us out as Mama Mao. I think I was about to talk about Hong, though. If I've said it once, I've said it 6.0221415 × 10^23 times: I recognize the appeal of her unfailingly fine singing, but once in a while I just find myself thinking, "this is a singer who doesn't do demented." That's kind of ok in Mozart. Yeah, I wanted more self-pity in "Porgi, Amor," but then for the rest of the act, she measured up taller than my memories of Fleming in terms of emotional transparency, humor, and apparent spontaneity. The countess of course holds a certain danger of looking like a spoiled rich gal, so I was at times quite moved....uh...hang on.

Aright. Got distracted by what Erwin Schrott was doing there. One of my regular complaints about singers is that the acting in the body isn't reflected by any acting in the voice, but that's a touchy balance in Mozart, and he keeps crossing it. He did earlier, too, turning in a rare verismo performance of "Non piu andrai," but just at the end, after a good amount of unimpeachable singing, so granum solis or whatever, Chalkenteros will correct me. It's a big voice, and he's funny in a non-stupid way, so really I just want him to occasionally turn it down. "Aprite un po'" not equals sign "Nemico dalla Patria." Actually when he's not doing that, he's absolutely suitable to Mozart, which can't really be said of Pertusi at this point. Too gruff and blustery. JSU liked him a little, but not much, better than I did.

Confession time! Yeah, I know, how scandalous could it be. Here's my secret: I like Susanna's suitcase arias way better than her actual arias, which is one reason I didn't care that Bartoli was being a dick in 1998, the other being that Jonathan Miller didn't exactly come off as Prince Charming in that one, least not as it was reported back then. Also whatever, Bartoli could sing the Rush songbook and I'd show up. And you have no idea how I feel about classic rock unless maybe you're on Prednisone. I bring any of this up because I'm pretty sure Oropesa just tied "Deh vieni" up in a neat little bow and took it home, but I couldn't say for sure because I've never heard a performance of it that did anything for me at all.

Hey, any mezzos out there tonight? (I know. It's like I'm practicing to be a failed standup comic.) Because I wonder if Cherubino is a role one looks forward to singing or not. From my perspective, as one who has only sung it in small, porcelain halls of notable humidity, and only the arias at that, it's not really brimming with opportunities. I suppose if you're the creme de la creme, you can make something of it--von Stade in the film from Paris, or Mentzer at the Met. My gentleman companion was shocked to report that "Voi che sapete," of all things, reduced him to tears when the artist in question was Joyce DiDonato. But for 99% of the mezzo world, it's hard to distinguish yourself in the role, or so it seems to me. I have no complaints about Anke Vondung's delivery, or none that I wouldn't blame on Maestro Jordan's twenty yard dash approach to some of this music, but I also don't feel like I know what she's about. For a second I thought she looked like Jo from Facts of Life in the ponytail, and then I started imagining the Countess as Mrs. Garrett and Susanna as maybe Natalie, but then you're kind of out of girls, so I guess that's a bit of regie madness that will never see the light of day. Too bad, right?

This doesn't really have anywhere to fit in my review, but I did want to say that the end of the second act was diminished for me in a small but not ingorable way by the fact that I was watching Patrick Carfizzi stuffed into the role of Antonio, a few measures of slapstick that will not contain his stature as a fine, underused singer at the Metropolitan. It's been too many seasons for there really to be any excuse for this. Really.

My cat says hi. I typed that because she walked up and spoke her mind (a brief utterance), and because I'm on some level a 55 year old secretary from the suburbs. Named Jean. And because I have nothing else to say. And because the opera is now over. Next up: Butterfly with a protagoniste worthy of the set.

*Or was she born in Armenia? Ah well, I believe they use the same quaint turn of phrase in Armenian. Or I could look in the program and see that she was born in Lebanon.