Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Eric the half-a-concert

Awful to find oneself riffing on Monty Python when, in one's high school days, one associated Monty Python mostly with mortifying attempts to cobble together enough English accent to get through the parrot skit and, consequently, with bitter weariness. But I couldn't help it. It was just such an odd joy to plunk down $10 for a lousy seat in a hall where (aurally) there really are not lousy seats and strike a deal with oneself to go to the first 50 minutes of a concert and the guiltlessly go home. The second half (Strauss tone poem whatsitcalled) was most probably fab, but then so is getting home at ten to my blissfully overheated apartment.

Not a lot to say, enjoyed Ligeti's Atmospheres though I'll never quite have a place to tuck Ligeti away in my brain, i.e. don't wholly know what's special about him. For sure there are gripping effects in Atmospheres, but also...the section where all the string players are just doing layers and layers of harmonics? That is a bold, bracing musical gesture that not one person in the history of Suzuki lessons who realized how to play harmonics has not thought "oh hey what if a room full of people were doing this?" I'm not making the argument from "my third grader could paint a Jackson Pollack," because that's the oldest trick in the anti-intellectual's playbook, just saying when you watch the bass section sliding heir hands up and down the giant fingerboard, you might have a moment of wondering what separates originality from doodling, iconoclasm from mere fancy. Insofar as I can judge the performance of the avant-garde, it was crisply and convincingly laid out. People laughed at the part where the brass players blow notelessly through their instruments, but it seemed more like a "wow, that's diff" laugh than a nervous WTF giggle, so fine.

Predictably, I went mostly out of curiosity about Measha Brueggergosman, who has some interesting hype online, some good press in general, and a few worthwhile vids on youtube. It's a very pretty voice, and there seems to be plenty going on verbally, but I'm a little sorry to report that she had about half the vocal presence she needed to pull of the Wesendonck Lieder. Now listen, I'm not one of those. "I couldn't hear her in Row K," is the mating call of idiots on opera-L, almost invariably the sign of someone who has an axe to grind and a wit somewhat duller than the unground axe. But, c'mon. Wagner, Max. Why pick this when you're young and fresh but not fat of voice? Carnegie is very acoustically kind, and only in places did the voice strike its proper proportion with the orchestral environs. I do not think this is the conductor's fault. I look forward to hearing MB in something else. It seems certain she will be a delight.

Can't think what's next. Possibly Adriana?

7 comments:

quoth the maven said...

Maury--I gotta disagree with the idea of Carnegie Hall being "acoustically kind" to singers. Perhaps downstairs. But ever since they rejiggered the place in the late 80s, I've found that voices sound diffuse and indistinct from the balcony. I've had trouble hearing Mattila, W. Meier, Fleming, Hunt-Lieberson etc etc from up there.

Maury D'annato said...

Hm, well...to me, Fleming sounds about the same @ Met as @ Carnegie (i.e. oddly smaller than a few years ago), but you may have a better ear for this stuff than I do. My friends a level down also found MB underpowered--have you heard her? Am I being unfair?

armerjacquino who is having problems logging into google/blogger said...

Sketch. Not skit, sketch. The pythons deserve the word 'sketch'. 'skit' sounds like people in Wodehouse dressing up as Dido.

Quoth the Maven said...

naw, haven't heard MB live. Just remarking that I'm not fond of what the top balcony there does to singer's voices.

Was Fleming singing with orchestra when you heard her there?

Maury D'annato said...

Amerjacquino: I think I'd prefer the Dido shenanigans.

Maury D'annato said...

QtM: Yes, the Met Orchestra. She wasn't inaudible by any stretch, but I do remember hearing her not long before in things like Desdemona and wondering about Trovatore. These days that seems like a stretch. Even as Tatiana she didn't seem to authoritatively inhabit the soundspace of the role (where the fuck did that phrase come from?) until the last scene.

alex said...

I remember seeing a rather racy poster for Opera Atelier's Idomeneo with a very imposing and haughty looking Measha B as Elettra and a VERY naked barihunk as Nettuno.

The role debut has come and gone, I think, but based on your outing, what say you about the weight of something like Elettra for the voice?