...as there are several things pawing to get out of my head.
I approach music that still gets called New Music, as I may have said, with a kind of hangdog "please just don't be too mean to me" expression on my, uh, soul or whatever. I try to like it, but I don't try very hard, and that's the truth. It's because part of the process of liking something is recognizing it, and though it's just the build of my own metaphorical ear, I know, I can't often find the voice or face or whatever half-apt concretization is least offensive here. This form of enjoyment is built partly on insecurity, no doubt: who wants to say "I love Medea Mei-Figner" when there's some possibility (admit it, there is) that at some later moment, a recording of Madame Mei-Figner will come on the jukebox and you'll go "what is this awful croaking" and someone will say "but I think you loooooved (with ironic iconic lengthening) Mei-Figner." I trust you have followed this imbecilic narrative and taken the point anyway: there has to be something to grab onto, some aural object permanence, or the music can't be your friend.
So I get especially happy when that does happen. There are two Bright Young Things that spring to mind whose voice I think I have happily made the tentative acquaintance, like that first coffee you have that's sort of an interview for a date. I posted a clip of Judd Greenstein some time back, because I found his "Hillula" interesting and knowable.
Now, because I am apparently the guy who is like "hey I just got an Atari have you heard of it?" I am introductorily onto the very talked-about Mr. Muhly. I felt like I should be is the honest truth of the matter. I had gotten past the slight resistance one sometimes has to causes-celebres and watched a clip on youtube which, yes, of course I'm about to make you watch, too.
Something of its mood was still with me when next I read his name, so I think we're off to a good start, me and his compositional oeuvre, and will maybe have a second date, traditionally an ethnic cuisine designed to show one's worldly appetites, ideally followed by one of the mints from by the cash register and then by making out. Except not as much when the talk is of music and not an actual second date.
Now that I've thoroughly worn out my welcome, I do think I should say a word or two about Rosenkavalier, but really, let's keep it brief, like a bad date where you sit in a cafe on Damen Avenue waiting enthusiastically for the rain to end so you can leave. Oh wait, you weren't there for that one. Fleming, as you have read elsewhere, has reined in a lot of the things about her Marschallin that are true of her Strauss-singing more generally and that have earned her a lot of fairly justifiable criticism. Gone is the fuss. Gone is the inscrutably-motivated constant dynamic change. This is all cause for celebration.
What is still lacking, for me, and I will say this is just not my favorite role for her, maybe especially in comparison to Rusalka which I've been addictively re-listening headphonically...what's still lacking is passion. I don't know why this never comes through, for me, in Fleming's reading, but it makes the opera tough to sit through, because there is enough about the Marschallin that's redolent of money and status that the unbegreiflich Herz that beats under the conventional persona must be glimpsed. Though I'm glad the cooing has gone AWOL (because in fact it never accomplished this, either) there remains a certain too-virginal quality in Fleming's Marschallin that seems to convey not passion contained by years of upscale socialization so much as passion contained as passion domesticated to the point of utter manageability, like flyaway hair happily responsive to conditioner. The moreso when her Oktavian is someone whose sense of poetry never makes it to my ear, either. In both cases, it almost feels like something [oh yeah, I'm gonna go there] that could be shaken up into something better with a production that wasn't so insistently traditional.
I'm not saying that's the only answer, but I do enthusiastically remember what seems to me to have been the greater sincerity of Fleming's body language in the more-or-less modern dress of Capriccio at last season's opener. There's just something so all-around corseted about these characters' interactions, at this moment, in this production, that feels stifling to me, and I feel almost certain it could be otherwise. Am I alone in this? Miah Persson, by the way, has exactly the right voice for Sophie, not too busy stretching toward a note to bloom, and aurally conveyable intelligence, to boot, but perhaps lacks that last degree of musical personality that would have rescued this for me and made it, ahem, a three-act Rosenkavalier rather than a two-acter. It was a good time, all in all, but it takes more than that nowadays to make me miss the last uptown express, some worknights, at least for an opera whose third act begins with several hours, experientially speaking, of tedium before twelve minutes of heaven. And a local train.
See, this is also where I could mention Regina Spektor at Radio City, but it's a bit much at this point. Suffice it to say I started to mention her above, because in some better world, pop singers, who often know how to connect bodily with their music, might be engaged to offer master classes in same at opera companies. It is, in some ways, a more powerful thing to watch someone perform her own compositions to a hall of people allowed to do more screaming than to watch people sing music with a lot of socioeonomically prescriptive baggage to a room with a lot of rules. There is more freedom, of course, and it's not fair to compare the two things. But watching what must have been a very emotional experience (play a huge, famous hall in your hometown, singing things you came up with to people shouting your fucking name!) it was impossible not to long for some transfusion of energy from this night of song to the other, in the opera house. Yes, well, and the ability to take one's alcoholic beverage into Radio City would not be such a terrible thing, either...
(On the topic of Perssons. Or Peoplle, I guess. Chain of association. Miah Persson->Nina Persson. Is everyone in Scandinavia blond and can I be Scandinavian next time?)