Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Did you hear the one about the cell phone in the desert?

I think I'd like to have triplets so I could name them Sola, Perduta, and Abandonnata (Donna for short.) That's the thing, though. It seems like naming kids is the fun part and that lasts about a minute and then the rest of your life is basically terror and debt, so maybe I won't, after all.

Yes, I have gone back to the opera. A thousand times, yes. That must be my longest absence since, well, just summer I suppose, nothing all that dramatic. It was a fine welcome home, though, as long as one was willing to be a flexible listener.

I mean, golly, can you imagine trying to cast Puccini from the roster of stars currently on the boards in New York? We have some stellar talent, I don't need to say, but there are gaps, and the second biggest one is shaped like a Puccini soprano. The funny thing is Netrebko might have made something of it (hat/broach/pterodactyl) but the problem would have been in the last act: simultaneously portraying terrible weakness and yet somehow coming up with the strength for a twenty yard dash to the orchestra pit to dangle her locks in it. Wouldn't have been logical and god knows Manon Lescaut is a work of sobering rationality. Okay, or not.

I think actually there was no choice but Karita Mattila, despite the fact that she possesses almost objectively the wrong instrument for the job. Am I making any sense if I say it's not malleable enough? And in the climaxes, it cuts where it should billow? Certainly viable, but not ideal. But then on the other hand what else can you do when you need someone who can both give a physical suggestion of exposure and dehydration and perform a sarcastic minuet? Furthermore who else has the instinct in the second act to circumvent the irredeemable and fully unlikeable powder-my-wig-some-more banality of the character by going in for full-on camp? Also, though she surprisingly didn't demonstrate this as Salome, it appears she can do splits. Why was this in there? Why not. I am tempted to use the word kooky to describe her Act II Manon. You think I am knocking her, but I'm not.

I'd actually kind of like to know what the crowd that constantly bewails the golden age think about the Divine Miss M, Nordic edition. The thing is she's never done anything shabby, though it's hard to love her equally in everything. As far as I'm concerned, since she made an exit, quite expectedly, stark naked (in Salome) she's been a star, a true star, and never will be anything less. Yes, that's partly an excuse to paraphrase All About Eve (what isn't? you would be excused for asking), but it's also partly the truth. I'd never been at an operatic event where that kind of expectation hung in the air. That doesn't happen unless you're legit, by virtue of cords or by presence or both.

And though I've focused on her presence, it's not that the big numbers were wanting, through a vocal lense. "Sola, perduta" was rather wild, and sister, her chest voice is from the wrong side of the tracks. I guess I didn't love "In quelle trine morbide" but life's like that. On the whole, let's say, sometimes it wasn't great Puccini but it was every minute great opera. Very good opera, at least.

When KM was singing with Signor Giordani, it was a curious blend, but mostly in a good way. I've never heard Giordani sound quite so much in his element. There was some warming up that got done in front of us, but by "Tu, tu, piccolo iddio oh wait I'm in the wrong opera I mean amore, tu?" the rehearsal was over and he was taking it out and chopping it up. Slancio. Squillo. Oh I just thought I'd say those words because I'm talking about an Italian tenor and it's required by the laws of the universe. Did you think you were on opera-l for a minute? No, but they also happen to be appropriate, those words. Marcello Giordani is, how can I put this, what Franco Farina would sound like if he weren't awful. The top kicks your ass, and the rest at least slaps you around a little, or anyway calls you mean names. It's 1 am, you wanted normal compliments? Anyway, in this rep, in particular, there are moments of grandeur, and (thank you, jesus) abandon.

Croft, too, pleased me more than in recent memory. The hollow tone that sometimes haunts him at this stage of his career was not in evidence, nor was the line-breaking syllabic punch that, for me, makes his Germont like a ride with someone new to driving stick. Dale Travis was fine in the thankless role of Geronte, and debutant Sean Panikkar, though stylistically a little green, has a lot to work with and probably, down the road, a lot to offer.

If I can be a total killjoy for a minute, I'm actually getting a little tired of the lovefest that greets Levine at his first entrance to the pit--not because it's not deserved, you understand, but save some for the end, right? It starts to look like the reflexive standing O that happens at everything I ever go to on Broadway. think for a moment of future generations of Sirius broadcast listeners, folks. They're going to think audiences in the early 00's were coming to the theater drunk or something, which is actually my plan for Peter Grimes, but that's another story. I guess what I'm trying to speak of here is a cheapening effect. It's not the end of the world but it's just not my favorite audience phenomenon.

So yeah, of course, I'm going back Friday. I don't know that I'll have anything new to say then, but my season is back in gear. Wednesday week I'm at Die, Walkurie, Die!

Bonus: Carnegie Hall '08-'09. Upon cursory review, I can report that they're doing all the Mahler symphonies!! Probably not including the 10th because, um, he didn't write it. Featured in this morass of Mahler: bunch of Quasthoff and Roschmann!!! Hm, what else for voice fiends, Damnation of Faust with Kozena and Quast, Mentzer in L'enfant et les Sortileges, Measha Bruggergossman does Wesendoncks. Exciting in a "never gonna happen" way, non-vocal, Martha Argerich is scheduled to cancel the Prokofiev and Shostakovich concertos. JSU points out also a show in which Madame DiDonato will lose her marbles over and over again for our listening pleasure. Collecting her marbles and giving them back to her between numbers, presumably, will be Les Talens Lyriques. Anyway, this is not exhaustive. Check it out.


JSU said...

A Sideshow Bob joke! Very nice.

JSU said...

At Carnegie, DiDonato in an all-Handel mad scene show with Rousset's band. Should be great. She also appears with the Met Orchestra.

No solo Röschmann appearances, I'm afraid. Nor at Great Performers, which does at least have Kozena (and a lot of Gergiev).

BAD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
armerjaquino said...

I remember seeing KM as a supreme Fiordiligi at the Garden, and then as a horrible Countess Almaviva about a year later. This was right at the start of her career, when she had some kind of vocal (and for all I know, personal) breakdown. Her tuning was all over the place. Then she came back with that Philips recital (the one with Pritchard- Rusalka, Faust, Freischutz, Tell) which was just stunning. She doesn't seem to have looked back since.

So many of the ideal Manons don't seem to have done it much, or at all- de los Angeles and Cotrubas spring to mind. I don't know Racette's work at all well because we don't get her much over here- but if she aced Butterfly as everyone said, isn't Manon something *she* should be singing at the Met?

Chanterelle said...

La Mattila DID do a split in Salome -- maybe not the night you saw her. Glad to hear she can still strut her stuff. Somehow I can't picture her personality in the role, but I'll see for myself next week.

Will said...

Armerjaquino's quite right--KM began as a rather ordinary, useful singer and then suddenly it all pulled together to launch her into a tremendous career.

And she certainly DID do a split the night I saw here as Salome at the MET--on top of all her other virtues in the role, she aced the dance and topped it with the split. Or maybe she topped it by being topless (and bottomless) but she did one hell of a dance.

Earl said...

I saw the Salome split too! But, heavens, when on earth does Mattila do splits in Manon? Not during "Sola...

Maury D'annato said...

I think what we have here is simply the Maury D'Annato Mistake of the Day and she probably did the split. The split in ML was during act II though I forget exactly where. Maybe she did it to create a diversion when the cops busted in? No, probably not. It would have been hilarious in the third or fourth act.

Will said...

I think Sola, Perduta and Abandonnata would be great names for a trio of cats. One could call them in song from one end of the house to the other.

Many actors have probably done this but I have a personally know one who named his black Lab Stella so he could yell up the stairs "Stellaaah! Stellaaaaaah!

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