Sunday, November 09, 2008

The World's Shortest Epistolary Novel

Quoth the Foreign Correspondent:

I saw Magdalena Kozena last night from my stage side seat at the Mozart Saal. Fortunately she withstands close scrutiny. She's really rather tall and elegant, like one of the Redgrave ladies, I thought, not the wispy fairy nixie thing she sometimes seems to be in publicity shots. The programme was all Czech, folk poetry set by Dvorak, Martinu, Janecek, Schulhoff u.a., and though there were no English translations, I can't say I minded, for it was a two hour stream of beautiful voice, and in this repertoire that little Popp-ish tang in her voice really pops, so... uh... irresistable!

Hoffmann in Geneva was fun the other night. It was the sort of production where in the middle of the Antonia scene the stage revolves and Hoffmann briefly finds himself in the middle of a street where a naked woman wearing a skeleton mask walks by followed by a donkey wearing an alter of votive candles, and then things shift and the story continues. A lot of bits were effective otherwise and there was a cumulative thrust to the whole thing for a change and the big finale really had some emotional impact. Still, I think for a newcomer to the work it might have been a bit overwhelming and that might explain this conversation overheard in the intermission after the Olympia act. A girl was expressing her general enthusiasm to an older woman who clarified a few points about what had just happened and then:

Woman: The next act is my favorite though. In this one, he falls in love with an artist.

Girl: After that is the courtesan, right?

Woman: That's correct.

Girl: And they're robots too?

Woman: No. They aren't.

Tonight I'm seeing a recital by Jessye Norman. I've no idea what to expect really,at least with regard to her vocal state, but I can't imagine it not being a fascinating experience.

Did you attend last evening's Damnation?

[Well, did I ever! So I spake, spake I:]

I attend every evening's Damnation in some rather obvious sense, but yes. More on that in a moment.

It's just such a relief to hear you confirm that Kozena is excellent because she's so pretty I'm afraid she can't be any good and I'm just suckered by her nice head of hair or something. Did we already discuss that she's doing Damnation at Carnegie Hall, and how much better I think it's going to be than Graham? It's with Quasthoff who is excellent on record but I've never heard live (admittedly I find him a little more irritating having listened to some of his jazz improvisations on youtube) and someone named Sabbatini. I assume he took this name during the few years when people were dreaming up highly emetic cocktails called appletinis and chocolatinis and stuff like that, to be more popular with the Sex & the City crowd. (Not for nothing there is no drop of gin in these cocktails and they need to learn that just because you are served in a martini glass doesn't mean you are anything more than a common sorority house shot.)

Once I've heard him sing I will attempt a clever remark about what's in a Sabbatini.

Someone I tried to convince to be romantically interested in me earlier this year heard Jessye Norman do a benefit concert with Rufus Wainwright. Unless I'm misremembering that in order to have gotten something out of another amorous failure.

Sometimes it's hard to keep straight who's a robot. I'll let you in on a secret: Rigoletto makes much more sense if you admit that they're robots, all robots.

Oh so yes. The opera that Sarah Palin might call the Darnation of Faust. I'm still figuring out what to think of the production, but the singing was all very good, and none of it brilliant. Bad idea of mine: listening to the Pretre recording A LOT in the weeks before. I am not a die-hard Janet Baker fan but must admit she's heavenly in that, and Gedda is the foundation of my understanding of French operatic style, so...

So Graham as you know I mostly don't care for, though I loved her in Iphigenie. She was here what I think she most always is: proficient and even very stylish without the spark of art/genius/whatever the thing we go for is. Due to the insanity of the production, though, I got to see her on fire, so that was kind of nice revenge for her Komponist. Giordani sang with some passion, had the right weight for it, and maybe (predictably) not quite the mastery of the style, but again, possibly Gedda's fault for singing it directly into my ear for a few weeks. The crazy thing is he sang the high notes in [what is the name of the duet?], firmly, solidly, not crooned, not even voix mixe, but in some kind of crazy soft ut-en-poitrine-of-the-damned I had no idea he (or anyone) had. It didn't sound quite like anything else I'd ever heard from a tenor.

Relyea I like a lot, and I think he gets taken for granted. He may have been the best of them. I'd like him to have sung Satan just a little more as if he were freshly laid, but it was very good. I think I saw him on the subway once and now I'm fixated on the idea he lives near me.

Later note on the production itself: MADNESS! MADNESS!!! But in a way that bodes very well indeed for The Ring. Because honestly, The Damnation of Faust was clearly written on laudanum or at least during a series of very bad hangovers, so not-right-in-the-head is it. So you might as well run with that, right?

Notes from Twitter: fanciful, incoherent, lovely, ostentatious, lyrical, and then there's the 5 story head of Susan Graham.

Ok probably only three stories, anyway it was only one of plenty of unforgettable images, some of them awkward; others, ingenious. The thing is, it does what the piece does; it lurches around dramatically, is unafraid to be meditative one moment and violently over-the-top the next. The obvious thing to get excited about a few years early would be things like the Tarnhelm and the big barbecue.

But think for a minute, too, about what happens in the end of Walkuere when James Morris just stands there singing (or sometimes not singing, as the orchestra takes over) on the big rock with the illuminated smoke. It has a kind of grandeur, sure--the music itself can carry plenty of dramatic weight, and Morris on a good night has some drama in him--but it can't help but be mostly static as a Thing Happening. I am quite itchy now to see what goes on behind, uh, presumably Rene Pape in a few years. God, and the "schlafst du, Hagen mein Sohn" scene. It's really rather exciting to imagine what that's going to be like.

So, that happened. And I may go back but I think it's selling like those crazy Palin glasses frames probably really aren't anymore. So who knows what's next, maybe Peek Damn.

Also, in case you have the Sunday night blues and need another dose of this:

3 comments:

Alex said...

Arg. I hate her stupid glasses so much. Apparently she is giving an exclusive interview tonight from Wasilla in which she feeds Greta van Susteren moose stew. Where is the dustbin of history when you need it???

Damnation sounds kewl.

Christopher Tkaczyk said...

Isn't a Sabbatini made with gin and Manischewitz?

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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