First thing I must do is see a psychoanalyst for a few years and see if he can't cure me of the infernal urge to turn to withered old ladies in the august elevators of the Metropolitan and murmur, "Pardon me, madam, but...aren't you Frida Leider?" It's worst at Wagner operas.
I first caught the Met's Robert Wilson Lohengrin in its second season, when Mattila had already stepped in for Voigt and I think perhaps Pape had just joined the party. Robert Wilson, by the way, is from Waco, Texas. I don't know if you knew. I just find it sheds and interesting (bluish) light on things. Anyway the shock had at least to some extent worn off in '98 after what is reported to have been a scandalous opening, at least among les bourgeois epates, with the booing and the out-walking. At this point everyone had decided it was really awfully pretty, which it is. And now, I mean...I'll tell you a secret, which is that if you've never seen another Lohengrin production, it's actually rather difficult to imagine how some of the time is filled (for instance what the hell is Elsa doing as the herald asks her lengthily to answer for herself--combing her hair?) if not with crazy underwater vamping around.
Aright, Blogger has crashed my browser twice now, so here's a very skinny skinny and if I pull myself and my computer together later, I'll edit. [Which I did, but may do again. People are writing thoughtful and provocative things about this performance and here's Maury, cracking jokes.]
Mattila I've never heard in such good form. I realize it makes me a huge hypocrite to complain about her fidgety nature onstage after praising Netrebko's Norina so highly a few weeks ago, but I like the way RW's straightjacketed choreography stills her, and I'm very pleased about the way Elsa fits her vocally. Very very pleased. I can be a bit of an agnostic regarding her deity status, but I can find no fault with her here. Can we play gay slumber party games now and cast her in things we'd like to hear? Tentatively I'm going to run Ariadne up the flagpole and see who salutes. It's a role in which I've never been fully satisfied with any active singer. (I started to say "living singer" but decided to put aside my suspicions that Schwarzkopf is doing a Weekend at Bernie's thing. I always thought Boris Yeltsin was, and then he went and actually died, disproving my theory.) Anyway if you don't believe me, pull up a chair chez Jonathan von Wellsung and JSU. Oh and now Steve Smith of Night after Night. I am, as ever, cheered greatly by a warm audience response, and hers was a stomping ovation.
And at long last I have the sensation after last night of finally having heard Ben Heppner when he's not having an off night. There were a couple of cracks on notes right in the middle of his voice, sung mezzo forte, that were kind of inexplicable in the context of an unflinching march through the opera's estimable terrors of tessitura and volume. I suspect I'm never really going to warm to the color of the voice or awaken to unnoticed psychological detail in the singing, but there's no denying he was in fine form.
Now, Luana DeVol is a good kind of singer to have around these days, but of her kind she isn't quite what I'd hoped. She's actually quite expert at Robert Wilsoning around the stage and wringing grandure out of cruelly proscribed gesture, however that's done. She's also got the kind of loud, ugly voice I for one can't get enough of. It just isn't well put together, or perhaps has worn badly over the years--it's been pointed out elsewhere that though this is her Metropolitan debut, she's had a career already elsewhere. Lest one is tempted to make jokes of the form "The weebles called...", a moment must be taken to peruse the mental list of alternative Ortruden. DeVol is kind of fine for now, given what we have. It is not lost on me, by the way, that unless you were four years old pretty much exactly when I was, my weeble joke is going to look like gibberish. I'm filing Ms. DeVol under: not disappointing/not thrilling, to be reviewed at a later date.
The dude whose name I am blanking on who stepped in for an ailing Other Forgotten Name Dude as Telramund had a bit of an impasse with Mr. Wagner in the first act, but it was brief, and otherwise he sang with distinction. (Edit: the cover was for Pape as the King.)
I think for once I am totally, but for real, going to bow out on orchestral commentary, since others seem to have been paying more attention or perhaps gotten more sleep before writing their reviews.
Funniest part of production: (No, I don't think it's bad, but there are moments that teeter between awe inspiring and guffaw-inspiring. Sometimes those are my very favorite details.) when Lohengrin and Telramund have a voguing competition and Lohengrin throws more attitude, thereby voguing Telramund to death.
Next up, I think: Parsifal.