Isn't it true that Einstein said a minute sitting by a hot stove is like an eternity while a minute sitting on a pretty girl is like an instant? You know, I think I have my prepositions backward. But he said something like that. (Anyway, if you're the sort who would find it funny, imagine some lovely lass shrieking at Einstein "for fuck's sake get off my lap--you're a fully grown physicist!") I couldn't help but think about it tonight.
Why? Well Wagner, of course. I find it interesting that people tend to agree on the idea that Furtwangler can play things slow and still have them hang together better than other conductors (name your whipping boy--Barenboim?) who also play them slow. I agree, too, and yet I don't think it's one of those things you should just say and not think about what it means. On the face of it, it's pretty nonsensical. Could it be something we just say because we cathect to Furt and not to Bohm and once we've settled on an opinion, we become overly identified with it? I don't think it is, but I invite you to tell me how this works. Is it about proportion, perhaps, in subtle ways that can't be formulated? One friend of mine always speaks of Furtwangler in terms of an overarching architectural conception but you know how I hate metaphors. They are a poisoned arrow flying through the heart of a melancholic aardvark. I mean it.
Whatever the reason, tonight's date with Lorin Maazel was like five hours with a pretty girl sitting ON MY TRACHEA. It could hardly have gone by slower--matched, in fact, the visuals of Herr Schenk bore for bore. I left after the second act, feeling like I'd gotten way more for my money than I intended. Even the thunderous prelude felt leaden. Oddly enough this had one pleasant result: with nothing else to do, I really sat with James Morris' interpretation and found it, on such a backdrop, more profound than it had sounded before. Yes, I still flashed forward to a future hypothetical Pape-Wotan, but not with bitterness. The regret, the fear, the plain old age: all felt organic to the character, and necessary, highlighted somehow by the tedium in the pit.
I'm pretty tired of hearing myself talk about Voigt, moreso since so many reports of her have turned into a predictable "State of the Voice" address, but could only be nostalgic, hearing her Sieglinde, for a very long trip I made to hear it in another century. Her partner then was Domingo, who I heard as Siegmund twice, about ten years apart. Each time was a marvel, but I think I've heard his better in the role. Clifton Forbis should be singing every role at the Met that requires serious lungpower, which is not to say that's all he has. Nothing like it. Next year may call for a trip to Chicago to hear what bids fair to be the bona fide Tristan of, well, right now. Tonight was his last in this run and he looked triumphant at his "my character is dead and I'm going to Fiorello's" curtain call, as he should have. Beyond volume, there's a matter of authority in this kind of singing, and that's what was so wonderful to hear.
Harder to comment on Gasteen because the role opens with an iconic moment she objectively cannot deliver, which colors one's experience...ok and because I didn't hear half of her role. There's good heft to the instrument, and generosity or openness of spirit in the performance that stops short of fiery inspiration in the mode of Leider, but I'll have to hear her again before I really know what the deal is.
I'm in the vast minority here, but for my shekels, Michelle DeYoung is really a work in progress. People talk a lot about line in bel canto, but there's a Wagnerian sense of line one must have as well (think of Jon Tomlinson's King Mark for a great example) and I don't hear it in her singing. Certainly it's a fine voice, and I'm glad to hear the warm reception she gets.
On another topic altogether, the New Yorker article on Nico Muhly by Rebecca Mead quotes one of our own. It's rather an engrossing article, at least if you come in knowing zippo about Muhly. It does appear I'm going to need to familiarize myself with "Speaks Volumes" if I'm to continue thinking of myself as a snooty music fag, and in any case, the article makes mention of an upcoming commission at the You-Know-Where. (Rhymes with retro collagen.)