Lucia--did I tell you about Lucia? The production kind of grows on you, doesn't it? I seem to remember I wasn't that thrilled with it before (too lazy to go back and check, and besides, it makes me feel senile that I really don't know) and now I find the much discussed directorial conceit for the sextet a natural and sensible solution, right down to the pop of the proto-flashbulb. Even the Edward Gorey hallucination for the fountain scene feels more happily familiar than contempt-breeding familiar.
Damrau is doubtless beginning to feel a little like Dessay's much-delayed echo, and for now that's an appropriate status. Yes, she brings a welcome vocal security to this, as she did to Zerbinetta (where her assurance was something staggering.) But Dessay...you know, I'm tempted think Dessay's battle with her voice has been one of deliberate injury. One of those rules of apportionment in the universe does seem to be that if you can sing a high F, you probably don't have a broad range of colors in your voice. Dessay, I'm told (endlessly, out of Schadenfreude) used to find every possible comic nuance in Zerbinetta, but I don't think she could have put the same blood and madness into Lucia had she not banged her voice around until it got some bruises. Her e flats these days are strong but ugly. She has squandered a natural gift in the most ingenious way; a sacrifice that paid off.
Damrau is, on the evidence of her Lucia, a healthier singer. The voice grows as it goes up, and the top few notes...did I ever tell you about the time I was listening to two ladies in a laundromat and one of them produced one of the choicest utterances ever? "Them Dulcolax do not play," spake she. Diana Damrau's top five notes are, forgive me, pure aural Dulcolax. No, that's too awful. Let's just say they pack heat and leave it at that. What's below is pretty and fades into not much in ranges she isn't called on to use very often. Not pretty in the backhanded sense, though. Really a collection of sounds worth hearing, and all knitted together by a technique that allows for fearless florid singing and a good legato in plain lyric passages.
No complaints, then, except it isn't what it isn't. There's room in this world for different kinds of Lucias, though most days I'd rather hear the more harrowing kind, myself. I'm looking forward to her run of Rigoletti, though chances are good by that point in the season I'll be checking it out Siriusly.
I'm actually quite curious to know what other folks thought of Beczala. I sat up and took notice at his Rigoletto, whenever that was, and probably wrote some horseshit of the form: Look Out For This Singer. (Why is that sentiment so often irritating to read, I wonder? I guess it seems like a cheap 50/50 on whether one is just so tuned in to what makes for future success or just easily excited.)
Alright, here's what I said last time about Beczala:
As was pointed out to me, there were some choppy phrases and weird cutoffs, but really it was a most athletic piece of singing. I suppose I should throw in the word slancio somewhere here, so there it is, and there it was. If I had to choose between hearing Beczala and Villazon, I think what I'd most likely do is start a new paragraph, about Ekaterina Siurina.
Which I did. But back here in the present, I'm interested to hear from the past that there were problems, because there were problems again as Edgardo. To the point that I was concerned for him. It was again impressive, and really (as I think I twittered) stylish, but there was a bottled-up quality to the tone in places that gave me pause. By the end, I actually felt like the role was beating him up. Was it worth it to hear him do all the Italianate emoting about the marriage contract, son tue ciffre or whatever? Nuh-huh, mos def. But I'm still curious if it got better later in the run or if it was all in my ear to begin with.
Ildar Palin-Abdrazakov (I dunno, I was just trying to think what would prompt one to name a kid Ildar and then I thought "Track"?) didn't rose tint my world the way he has once or twice before, but was certainly up to the task at hand. Sean Panikkar--who, did you know?, is really cute...I just googled him and it's true, and thus concludes the Tiger Beat portion of this posting--was in the weird position of following quite a trick in a very small role, which is to say Arturo isn't that much in the spotlight unless last year's Arturo impressed enough people to get bumped up to Edgardo for a performance. Anyway, he impressed me more here than in his role in Manon Lescaut. Obviously he's a young guy with plenty of voice, and I think the artistry is budding as well.
Um, and yeah. I left before the last act. Some weeks are like that. So adjust some of the above for broadcast-ness.
It does look like I'm not going to get around to blooghing Gioconda. Suffice it to say: Voigt was, I don't care what you've heard from people who went in expecting her to fail, really in swell form, forked over generously from the chest, and has come a long way in the Italian idiom. Tosca will never be hers, but I'm just going to call her Gioconda, without much hesitation, a success and something she can be proud of. She and Borodina (a cat in catnip in this rep) seemed to inspire each other to give a lot in the big Act II smackdown. Everyone else was, frankly, better than expected, and I'm leaving out one singer I'd waited a long time to hear in the opera house I call home, because by now you know exactly how I feel about her and there's no need to go there again.
Next up, Doctor Atomic, PhD.