First things first: season announcements are upon us. Last year it seems to me it was Opera Tattler who pounced on them, so check there. Meanwhile, the nice folks at Spoleto emailed me (which I just now saw) about their season, now up on their site. Of particular interest to you lot, an opera called Flora:
"A wronged heiress, a faithful lover, a resourceful maid and, of course, an avaricious uncle play out their roles in the first opera ever performed in the American colonies. Flora swept the British Empire in the 18th century as one of the first ballad operas with lyrics written to the accompaniment of popular tunes of the time. In 1735, Flora reached Charleston and was such a success it was repeated the following year in the first purpose-built theatre in America, the Dock Street Theatre. Now 274 years later, Flora returns to the Dock Street as the theatre reopens after three years of renovation, in a delightful production that will thoroughly illuminate just why this was a theatrical staple throughout the 18th century."
What's not to like? I went to Spoleto twice as a teen, and it's divoon. Opera and chamber music in a historical, picturesque setting not far from the beach. It's like the next best thing to the Bermuda Couch Opera. Oh, wait, haven't gotten there yet.
Anyway, I crawled out of the hiatal cave to go to--of all things--Stiffelio last night. May be kind of dead-blogging it later with Squirrel, so only a word or two now, or maybe seven paragraphs.
You may know of the Bermuda Couch Opera, only probably you don't because it's an inside joke between me and J von Wellsung*. Anyway what you almost definitely don't know is that it is the BCO's policy not to perform any operas ending in -elio. To this bylaw was added a rider (I don't actually know what either of those words means) stating that in such operas as exclusively do not end in "-elio", no tenor shall be cast whose name terminates in "-ura."**
I had actually wondered for years about Jose Cura, because he made such a splash somehow with his early recordings, be that because of the color and phrasing that suggested a large, dramatic voice, or the pictures that made plenty of listeners want to sing beloved 19-century opera duets with him, as one not-much-used euphemism would have it. There are two disappointing facts for which, I assume, the reality of the opera house rather than the ravages of time are responsible. One is that the voice isn't really that big or even that present--some growling went on as the evening went by, but none of it made any impression at all. The other is that, for the entire first act, he sang with a kind of careless, maybe even sloppy musicality that won him no love from me or my klatsch.
God knows there was time to get around to any sort of commentary during the intermissions, which were as long as you've heard. My Least Favorite Intermissions, a line I'm surprised I haven't used before.
Notable also on this night, Andrzej Dobber who I heard nothing particularly kind about after his debut as Amonasro sounded solid and refined as...oh which character is which is this silly opera...Stankar? Not kidding as usual, that's an actual character's name. Michael Fabiano, in whom all of us at the auditions that year feel a kind of investment I'll wager, didn't have a lot of opportunities to knock anyone over with Raffaele's music, but was in swell voice and cuts a fine figure on stage.
Radvanovsky is a pet diva around here, so it won't surprise anyone when I agree with the enthusiastic opening night crowd. Opening night on a Monday, jeez. I'm going to start using the phrase "less fun than a Monday night Stiffelio" and see if it catches on. Let me know if you hear it like a year from now on a sitcom. Oh anyway right. I still feel like Radvanovsky is very strangely utilized at the Met, but I suppose Lina constituted a reasonable vehicle for her unique sound.
The thing is I get people's gripes about the voice. It's peculiar. The vibrato can sound grainy, if that's not too intersensory a description, and depending on whether you're me or someone else this strikes you as individual and interesting or weird, respectively, I guess. There's not a lot of mezzo-forte available. But the impact of it when she cranks it into overdrive remains utterly visceral for me, and the floaty pianos are not overused and awfully pretty, so if there's not a lot between two compelling extremes, I can't find much cause to kvetch. And hey, if her acting remains unsubtle, at least she's in an appropriate rep for it.
What I remembered last night is that the physical acting is secondary, as it might as well be in things with schlocky librettos. What she does, that I thought was what everyone wanted, is to find the pathos in the arch of a phrase, the "dying fall" if I'm clear on what Shakespeare meant by that. It's not a theatrical sense so much as a more broadly aesthetic one: this is not perhaps great drama, but as far as I'm concerned, it's great singing.
Domingo conducted and I don't really have to tell you what that means.
Next up: Bernarda Fink recital I'm not sure I'll blog because WTF do I know about lieder, and then dell'Arte's Anna Bolena. But before then look for the Maury & Squirrel show on like Friday.
*later inflated to a bit of internet weirdness by a third party altogether. Um, feel free to become a Friend of the Bermuda Couch Opera on facebook. Feel equally free not to.
**special dispensations may be made in the case of Anthony Laciura, but not Shura Gehrman, who I'm not sure-a was a tenor.