Sunday, February 15, 2009

Not a rhetorical question, though you'll quicky wish it had been

I don't think I typed about Onegin, but the main thing I wanted to do in any case was clone about 100 of me and have us stand arranged so that if you saw us from above, it spelled WTF. Not about Hampson, who had good moments and bad (the Russian displays a positively Puerto Rican relationship with the consonant kingdom, but he basically gets the character), nor certainly about Mattila, who sang the letter precisely as it is meant to be sung. Oh, not Beczala, either. Fine showing. I thought he sounded strained in Lucia last year but am beginning to suspect he's the Next Big Tenor Thing.

No, ladies and germs, my WTF is reserved for Mr. Richard Bernstein, the evening's Zaretzky, and tucked into its what-the-fuckish abbreviationality, it carries the condensed message: why on earth are you singing tiny roles, man?! This can only be an "I wanted my weekends free" raise-the-kids kind of lifestyle choice, it seems to me, because the voice is objectively of such fine quality. Also he looks like a Jewish fratboy all growed up, but in a good way. (I lived across the street from the SAM house in college. Only time I've ever had a fond thought about basketball, or, say, used binoculars to watch it.)

Well you know where I'm going? I'm marching straight over to his website to see if maybe he takes a bunch of gigs in some other city or something. Won't you come with? Oh, uh huh. See? This season it looks like he has covered a bunch of stuff, for one thing. I hear you can make a living that way and potentially never have to put a wig on. And then he did a shitload of Raimondos at Central City, which is almost certainly in one of those states with more outdoors than indoors where people choose to spend their summers even if they're not singing Raimondo, which most people aren't.

Well, as that great opera fan Chernyshevsky once asked, what's to be done? Either he sings tertiary roles at the Met because he wants to or he sings tertiary roles at the Met because someone's an idiot. I'm not in a position to change anyone's mind and god knows I get no say in the world's idiot count, though I have been accused of adding to it. And that, as the bard wrote, cleans up the matter.

10 comments:

erick said...

Bernstein has been a stalwart cover/comprimario singer at the Met for the past dozen years or so and I've always found his voice interesting. Had the opportunity to see him go on as Figaro in 1999 and it was great. Like you, I'm surprised that he never really graduated to better roles. He seems to have the whole package.

Anonymous said...

I think the casting for next season points to option B. Hei Kyung Hong spent years in a similar position, reportedly because she was devoting time to her kids. Even so, I think she was vastly neglected at the Met during her best years.

jfmurray3 said...

Bernstein was superb a few years ago in "A View from the Bridge", one of two American operas I would like to see the MET revive, since they already own the sets. (The other is "An American Tragedy" - and I think Bernstein was in that as well, wasn't he?)

R. said...

the Russian displays a positively Puerto Rican relationship with the consonant kingdom

I'm afraid I need to ask for clarification.

Maury D'annato said...

R: oh just a little joke between me and me as usual. If Puerto Rican Spanish is considered a dialect rather than its own language, one might say that a lot of the consonants you'd find in, say, Castilian or Mexican Spanish just vanish. What is written "usted esta" for instance is spoken as something very like /ute eta/. There are similar consonantal vacations in Hampson's Russian, or so it seemed to my ear.

R. said...

I see. The analogy is in the sense of "consonantal vacation" (a term I rather like, btw). I'm guessing Hampson should be used to the consonant clusters of German, no? After that, the Russian shouldn't pose such a challenge. Personally, I've given up on idiomatic Russian diction on the stage and expect it only when the singers hail from that part of the world.

alex said...

your post reminded me that I had seen this name before years ago in one of those one-to-two page spreads in Opera News.

Found it -- 1998.

clicky for Bernstein in speedo:

http://www.geocities.com/lundqvist_to2/1266069.pdf

Will said...

We had a strongly cast Simon Boccanegra in concert by the Boston Symphony a couple of weeks ago and Bernstein sang Pietro. The role usually doesn't go for much but it certainly did on this occasion. He gave it profile vocally and dramatically.

Thanks for that link, Alex--I had remembered fondly that picture of Bernstein emerging from the pool. That photo and others like it of other hunky baritones and bases were the basis for coining the term "barihunk."

A number of very fine and vocally gifted singers (Victoria Livengood is another) are being paid a lot of money to cover without guarantee of a single performance of their own. Much talent is being wasted in this manner.

Paul said...

Central City can be a challenge for flatlanders - singers and audience members alike - since the town is at 8500 feet above sea level. This summer they're doing "Rinaldo" and "A Little Night Music" in addition to "Lucia di Lammermoor." The latter is being directed by Catherine Malfitano, but no word yet on the singers. The opera house is tiny, which is great for singers with less-than-huge voices, and the auditorium is a lot more comfy since they replaced the old wooden armchairs with real theater seats. Still, legroom is pretty tight and old folks on portable oxygen are so common up there - the whoosh-whoosh can be very annoying - you almost expect to see vendors carrying around those little green bottles the way Wrigley Field beer sellers push Old Style. For me it's a pleasant 45-minute drive "up the hill" and the only place I know where you can play the slot machines during intermission (Colorado voters approved casinos in three mountain towns back in 1990).

Aaron said...

I THOUGHT EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Like why does this kid only get two lines? Wow.

As for everyone else....eh. I actually thought Hampson had nearly nothing to offer as a character--one facial expression per act. Beczala is good but am I the only one underwhelmed by his high notes? He's a solid musician but from what I could tell that night a fairly lightweight voice.