Did you know the Latin root of the chemical name for aspirin is the same as that for "O salce, salce, salce?" That's because aspirin is derived from willow...bark, I think. I'm not going anywhere snippy with that, though I suppose I do sometimes feel like I need an aspirin or seven to deal with the Verdian orthodoxy that later Verdi is more worthwhile, Verdi for cognoscenti. Well and actually I find Iago's drinking song to be something of a musical hangover, so there's that. Mostly though you're just suffering through this preemptive diversion because we used to play the Latin Prefix Game in the D'Annato household while the other kids were playing basketball, which goes a long way to explain my figure and my popularity with the gents, I guess. Where was I?
I was where I always am: in a balcony box. Funny balance up there, works out alright for Mozart but not highly recommended for louder things. Mostly all you hear is orchestra, even when you (finally) have a tenor who doesn't sound like the music is going to break him. It's funny--if you'd asked me, sitting there in our box, to name the places Heppner used to make me stand up and scream something about Amy Winehouse calling and wanting her crack back, I couldn't have told you exactly. But I knew it in my gut, and when those places came around, I tensed up. For naught, my friends, or for naught much anyway. Act III saw something a bit like a shout, but the tenor-killer near the beginning of Act II was apparently not a big deal for Botha. Always audible, frequently sensitive in his phrasing...say, who gives a handkerchief as a romantic present anyway? What do you get on the second date, gym socks?
A propos de rien, is it maybe time to cut it out with the blackface in Otello? Not that you can reverse these things but they didn't put Madame Price in Bulgarian-face in Forza so she'd pass for Ghiaurov's daughter. No but my real point, insofar as I ever, ever have one is that it's explicit in the libretto, the audience knows the deal, and it looks stupid, not to speak of the awkward cultural baggage. It's one of those places I'd just as soon let my imagination do the work.
Getting back to the sonic side of things (keep it on the sonic side, always on the sonic side...< /carterfamily>) I sat and waited where Fleming was concerned, too, but not for cracks. I'm like a broken record about Fleming and Desdemona: best role ever, cuts down on her futzerei for whatever reason, yada yada, cut and paste. I feel vindicated, though, by my Fleming-skeptical (fleptical?) boxmate's agreement that yes, this is a far finer thing than much of what we've witnessed in recent years, and wait though I did, not once did I notice her slipping into the premeditated cooing we have come to dread. Moments where she really lets go, like the climax of the Aspirin Song, both legitimize her status and excuse her hype. All of Act III is unimpeachable craftsmanship.
Guelfi had some living down of his own to do, i.e. a lousy Rigoletto a couple seasons back, and he more or less did. "Neither brilliant nor offensive" was my verdict early on, not the very best balance for Iago. But the credo was convincing in musical terms (less so, dramatic ones) and he held up his end of the bluster in "si, pel ciel." Wendy White was a fine Emilia with some terror and urgency at the end; Garret Sorenson reminded me that for some reason we often get a little luxury in Cassio--my last Cassio was Jonas Kaufmann. Sorenson may well follow a similarly fruitful career trajectory.
Semyon Bychkov (oh thank GOD someone tugged on someone's sleeve about the avoidance of false cognates in Russian transliteration) led a reading that was maybe a little four-square in places but made up for it with blood and guts where required. Among the Met's stodgy productions, this one ranks with Aida among the winners.
It occurs to me for no reason that Desdemona is one of rather few Verdi heroines not asked to sing a trill. One of you will doubtless know that Alzira or Shakira or someone also does not. Suddenly I think Aida doesn't either. Maybe nevermind. Actually speaking of Maury D' stupidism of the day, on the 1 train platform after it all wrapped up, we were discussing whether anyone had ever written an Anne Frank opera (other than Neutral Milk Hotel's somewhat abstract Anne Frank opera that is In the Aeroplane Over the Sea that is.) I have an odd reason to know that someone did, as one or two of you may know, but the Gracie Allen moment came when I specified that the only one I knew of was a 20th century work. Say good night, Maury.