Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2nd Anniversary=Paper, more specifically Kleenex

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.

14 comments:

Chalkenteros said...

I'm interested to see how Botha does this in-house. His performance over the radio was underwhelming, if pleasant. I couldn't agree more about Fleming.

Philip aka Oberon said...

Maury, my friend Lisette & I had a balcony box last night. Which side were you on? We both thought it was the best thing Renee has done in the past few years.

Maury D'annato said...

chalk: I guess, ok, it wasn't stunning. But it was a lot better than I was expecting, and here and there it was very good.

P aka O: we switched sides at halftime (shhhh!) so: both.

Robert Gordon said...

Here's the Anne Frank opera I know about:

http://www.longbeachopera.org/index.php/2008-Season/the-diary-of-anne-frank/

Philip aka Oberon said...

Oh, then I think you were very near us for Act II. Red sweater?

It's funny because people who blog about ballet in NYC are all friends and we have meet-ups and go to performances together but the opera bloggers are all wrapped in mystery.

Someone did recognize me at WALKURE last Saturday though...he said "I know you, you have a blog, right?"

Philip aka Oberon said...

So Maury, have you ever thought that we bloggers who are always the first to get the story out and who go to mid-run performances that the msm never covers should have press passes to the Met?

I'm on the press list at NYC Ballet, Parsons Dance and MORPHOSES but getting press at the Met would be a big help in the $$$$$ department. Lisette thinks we should contact 'Pater' Gelb; I emailed the press person once but had no reply. Have you ever tried?

Maury D'annato said...

P aka O: I always dress as if I were on my way out of a burning building so I couldn't tell you for sure what I was wearing last night.

Anyway sure, I'd love to have free, great seats, but I don't much expect the Gelb or anyone else to think of me as a major media outlet, so I'm not holding my breath.

Philip aka Oberon said...

Aw, you don't want to out yourself?

Anyhow, dance companies have started to recognize the speed and reach of the blogs. Maybe the opera companies will catch up.

FRCohn said...

In what kind of performance would Ghiaurov have played Maggie Price's father? You see, when a shiksa refers to someone as her "Father Guardiano," it doesn't mean she has actually sprung from his mighty Bulgarian loins. Whatever--I would love to hear an M. Price Forza, no matter how geneologically confused.

Meanwhile, does Leonora have a trill in that opera? What about Amelia in Ballo?

FRCohn said...

oops--I see you meant Leontyne Price. silly bunt! Still, I very much doubt that Ghiaurov ever played the Marquis of Calatrava to Mme's Leonora...

Maury D'annato said...

frcohn: I'm going to say you've won the MFI Mistake Trifecta here. The Database thinks it is Giaiotti I have somehow transposed with Ghiaurov, and on top of that, ok I just remember watching it in high school and hearing her address him as "mio padre" and since I developed an allergy to Forza around then, I'm afraid I never gave it a further thought.

Also no, I don't think Amelia has a trill. Not sure about Forza due to above-mentioned allergy.

jfmurray3 said...

It's funny you mention Margaret Price - I've been listening to her Desdemona all week.

I had a Parterre box seat (I usually don't but, circumstances allowed it) and I thought the balance was awesome. I am usually a Grand Tier Box guy (best deal in the house - front row is a great view of the stage and awesome view of the orchestra - in that light, last night's star was really the English Horn player, who, btw, co-stole last week's Die Walkure with the bass clarinet.)

FWIW - I thought Renee was spectacular in Acts III and IV (in I and II she was muddier and wimpier than I would have expected). I loved Botha, although I feared he was going to trip and fall as he sang "Exsultate".

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Maury, on the blackface issue - we don't expect our Madama Butterflys to look like 15-year-old Japanese girls, despite what the libretto says, so let's drop the whole minstrel show.

I was incredibly moved by a concert performance of the Willow song that Fleming gave here in the UK a few years back - it actually made sense of what until then I had thought of as one of the weaker passages in the opera.

David

Anonymous said...

Of course, they could just hire a tenor who doesn't need to adjust the skin tone...

bear