Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Don't mind Maury. He's just typing.

You're thinking I've foresworn opera, maybe for a heap of mean and spiteful gold, but it's not true. It's just that this stretch of the year is kind of the styrofoam peanuts in the season.

I'm going, back, really. It's convenient, though, because it gives me some room to go to the theater and see things like the wholly satisfying revival of Shaw's Heartbreak House. Plays don't last a minute on Broadway, so git if you wanna see it. Support non-singing happenings upon the stage, much as we love the singing ones. Heartbreak House: singularly bad candidate for musical setting. In fact, it's a play that could have used a brisk edit, but you won't mind once it's Swoosie Kurtz, Laila Robbins (so unforgettable in Frozen, both of them. Please do go to nonmusical theater or they'll stop making it, and that will make me cry.) and Phillip Bosco chewing their way through it.

Unfortunately the Met doldrums have also given me time to spend somewhat less than two months' salary at Berkshire. One game I like to play is the one where I make myself feel better about the looming spectre of the poorhouse by thinking how much more I would have spent if I'd bought everything new. In this case $130 more, based on numbers I (of course) mostly made up.

The spoils:

1) the one I'm listening to right now: La Gioconda with Cerquetti, del Monaco, Simionato, Siepi. So far the only letdown is La Cieca. One wishes one could choose a different disability for her. La Muta? Anyway it cost $3.99 so who cares, Edith?

2) Now you're all going to have to line up and let me box your ears (sorry, Shavian moment) for not telling me there was a Gotterboomerang with Mechior, a whole one. I mean, except for I assume several hours of cuts since it's on 3 discs. I can't remember if I like Marjorie Lawrence, but I shall find out.

3) There's this decision process where another Borkh Salome seems more important than ongoing ability to repay student loans. The argument goes: Mitropoulos is betterer than Keilberth than solvancy is better than soup kitchens. You agree, right? I trust you do.

4) Irene Dalis sings all the parts in Parsifal. And conducts it. Fine, maybe she had a little help from Jess Thomas, George London, and Hans Hotter. I mentioned to the fellow who probably taught me most about the adoration of fine singing that Hotter is probably singing with a cane, and he said, "Oh, no matter what year it is, everyone always says 'pretty late for Hotter!' " or else if it's really early they'll say he's not fully formed. This is hard to dispute.

"Voce di donna", my ass. I wish I were La Sorda, and I don't mean Tommy.

As usual, when Maury D'Annato makes a sports joke, that's the last sentence of the posting, because the world has just ended.

Irrelevant ETA in the "itunes ain't right" department: want to guess how many songs by Michelle Shocked you can find on itunes? THREE.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sitting by the computer with my acetate machine

Wait, so can I record streaming Sirius broadcasts? And is it a process comprehensible to my rudimentary brain-like thing? Because gosh, I'd love to have that Trovatore they're playing. Corelli's sometimes out of tune and his lisp is absolutely cartoonish, plus Price (though radiant) skips a high note or two she does in the...what...Karajan? with Simionato that are always welcome. Really one reason I prefer it over that one, my general high regard for Simionato notwithstanding, is Dalis as Azucena. So expressive!!! I am the charter member of the Irene Dalis Adoration Society. You are all welcome to join if you like. Meanwhile, someone with a great deal of patience must explain to me how I can get a cylinder of these fine broadcasts.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Regina per un Giorno

For years I went around saying I had heard Voigt's first and last Salome, that being her unstaged reading at Tanglewood, so I assumed. Seriously, people simply started dropping dead from how tiresome I was about it. I did consider myself lucky, for though it had lacked some of the gleeful, icky intensity of her perfs of the closing scene with the Philharmonic, it had made up for it by 1) being the whole opera, and 2) having that wonderful supporting cast of Heldencreep Kenneth Riegel (demented, brilliant) and laser-voiced Jane Henschel, whose failure to appear more stateside is a continuing source of disappointment.

Salome, it seemed to me, addressed exactly what was lacking in certain Voigt-abends. She really wasn't kidding, maybe, when she sang that novelty song in her recitals about the drudgery of singing noble, suffering Wagner heroines. It's a knack you either have or don't, and despite the great fit of the voice in many of those roles, there really was a little something missing, a kind of failure to crawl into the role. It's not Ms. Voigt's fault she's more fun than tragic. And it's no more her fault than yours or mine that there are no comic roles written for her voice type.

Barring comic heroines, it has always seemed to me, the next best fit for her would be characters who are to some greater or lesser extent fucked in the head. Elektra one day, maybe? I had hoped. In the days when the internet was slightly less filled with mouth-breathers and Voigt, the first online diva, was able to answer her own email, I actually asked her about Elektra and she said: probably not. I'm still kind of hoping. Her Chrysothemis remains on my obsessively maintained list of the five or so assumptions of any role I heard in the house that I consider without flaw and don't hope to hear bettered. (Play your cards right and I won't list the others.)

And then there's Salome, who is in fact here and there funny, if you're listening for it. Maybe it's me; I always get a chuckle out of the line "So, this prophet, is he...old?" She has a better list of qualities for DV than all those sob-sister spintos. Compare it to the Forza Leonora, essentially a musical episode of Queen for a Day. As Salome you get to be flirtatious, deranged, imperious, homicidal, and so on, and then you get to be crushed to death under a bunch of shields. This last one just doesn't happen in Italian opera, though I wish it would in Forza, actually, long about Act I, to every single character. Rataplan, rataplan, Mann tooooooote dieses Weib! [squish!]

And here's the part where I admit I'm not about to review her Salome because I didn't see it. I'm just flapping my gums. Reviews are starting to roll in, though, and they're unanimously full of praise for the Debster. I know the Wellsungs went, so you can bet one or both will blog it up. All I'm really saying is I hope they'll split the next Met run between her and Mattila.


Dear itunes,

Your classical listings are a fucking disaster. Did it occur to you I might want to know the name of more than one singer per track? Like maybe if you have this album full of tracks of Melchior in Wagner, maybe I'd be curious who the soprano singing the Dawn Duet with good old Lauritz is? Because, oh I don't know, it's a duet?

No love,

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Again with the sad news

Manprano reports that Anna Russell has died at a ripe old age.

Like anyone, I've spent the odd quarter-hour painfully backed into an elm tree at an outdoor party by some opera queen who thinks it's funny to recreate the entire Ring lecture. Her stuff was just so inspired, it turned people into raging geekosaurs. It's like Monty Python, in a way--ludicrous and unique, so maybe it's no surprise that we sometimes have to live through the grown-up variant of those gangs of kids in high school that thought each singing of the Lumberjack Song is as fresh and hilarious as the first.

Not sure why I'm going on about the painful legacy of Anna Russell when the main thing is that her comedy, with its extremely particular demographic, has become part of our language. I have this feeling if you did a search on opera-l for the phrase "not making this up" smoke would start pouring out of your computer. And people quote it, endlessly, because at the point where Madame Russell says it in her Ring synopsis, it is the only reaction a rational being could have to the subject.

This is a sad passing in its own way--a different age is gone than died with Nilsson or Tebaldi. Try to imagine, if you will, anyone making a career of pointing out the humor in Art Music. These days, her great wit no bolster against the cruelty of time, the most she'd amount to is a blogger. There could be no Victor Borge today--and to him I tip my hat especially for titular reasons--and there could be no Anna Russell.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I'd be remiss if I didn't say a few words about Grey Gardens, now in previews after its wildly successful off-Broadway run. Wildly successful, if you ask me, less on account of its overall shallowly fanciful, occasionally inspired score than the jaw-dropping performances of its two leads.

Yes, I had doubts when I heard they were making a musical of Grey Gardens. Actually, that's not right. Doubts imply mixed feelings. I just thought it was the worst idea I'd ever heard. I began to imagine musical numbers with chorus lines of big dancing racoons waving slices of white bread, and wake up screaming. Because really the choices seemed to be either: go for broke/insane; or just lift the entire text, for lack of better term, from the movie and through-compose it into a nightmarish epic.

Well, the creators had an idea I had not, which is why they're writing musicals and I'm typing whatI think of them for an audience of seven. They filled in the backstory, much alluded to in the film, giving Christine Ebersole a chance to pull of one of those Broadway coups everyone likes, playing first Big Edie in the 40's and then Little Edie to the B.E. of Mary Louise Wilson in 1973.

You know, the first time I saw the film Grey Gardens, I was so bored I couldn't make it through. It's certainly grown on me, though I'm not a full-fledge fanatic. But yeah, I get that they're utterly fascinating personalities...Little Edie famously notes how hard it's getting to drawn the line between the past and the future, all the while straddling the line between batshit crazy and eccentric in a way I'm not sure society allows anymore.

Through vocal mimicry of the most modulated, lived-in sort and a kind of physicality most opera singers never learn, Ms. Ebersole and Ms. Wilson channel exactly that quality, and it's tremendous theater. The supporting cast is quite capable in roles that feel a bit half-imagined, maybe 3/4, best of all/most of all Bob Stillman as Big Edie's accompanist/royal subject of fag haggery George Gould Strong. The role is a throwback, not in a good way--it features (but seriously) a joke where Big Edie says she's been looking for flowers for a party but there's not a single Pansy from here to East Hampton or something. I'll let you fill in the punchline. But Stillman makes much of little.

This Rigoletto on Sirius, by the by, is pretty wonderful. Tucker in nice form, Gueden, Warren, and my peculiar fixation, Jean Madiera. Hopefully they'll replay it and you can listen if you're a subscriber and fond of Verdi. I don't make any money from them, honest, I am just enjoying the fuck out of the broadcasts. Hurrah! Um, so anyway...

The songs, save for two melancholic little gems to close each act, are not awful. They're just not special. They suffer in comparison, say, to the deft, deadpan wonderfulness of the writing in The Drowsy Chaperone. The songs from Grey Gardens are 90% less likely to get enjoyably lodged in your cranium. And one or two, like the "Jerry Likes My Corn" number are pretty perplexing. Still, if I were you [and, consequently, not sitting here typing out this duller than dishwater review] I'd at least consider going, and make sure to dream up the right costume for the day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I tried SO hard not to

I mean, not to be a dick or anything, but for the record the "Enzo Adorato" phrase ended on a perfectly comfortable A natural.

I'm trying to figure out why I feel compelled to point this out. I feel like one of the hellish, barn-bred Domingo bashers on rec.music.opera back in the day who couldn't leave people's liking for their singer alone. It's just...I admit the flaws of the singers I love--I'm sure I'm going to be irritatingly enraptured by Podles' Azucena next summer, but I'm equally sure she's not going to reach the climactic notes with much grace-- and without trying to tear down anyone's idols, it does seem fair to point out the claylike substance in the sandals when it's all getting up around my neck a little.

Anyway I had to run out on an adventure involving domestic violence, the Kartvelian language family, and walnuts so I missed all but the first hour of the broadcast. By all accounts Madame Millo sang the rest of the night with an easier top and her, uh, usual gusto.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Weekend of Non-operatic Kulcher

Let's see if I can even write about A Chorus Line, shall we? I knew every word of it years before I was obsessing about who's the perfect Woglinde [Schwarzkopf. Glad you asked], so it's kind of like trying to draw the back of your eyelids. I saw the original run as it was limping toward the grave in 1989, but before that my parents had been playing the original cast album on car trips for as long as I can remember. Another good reason not to review it: the original cast is so tightly wound around my aural synapses, it's hard not to react in that infurating way, judging performers by their likeness to the Platonic ideals.

So I tried just to hear it with new ears, and it's been long enough since those car trips with the ol' cassette playing, I think maybe it worked. And on those terms, the revival is a real success, though I'd love to hear it settle into something even better. Almost everyone onstage is a double threat, with a triple here and there. Charlotte d'Amboise as the ostensibly most three dimensional and for me, the least interesting character, Cassie, for the most part knocks it out of the park, though her vocal production feels weird to me, seems like she's about to bust a chord. I think my favorite though was Natalie Cortez (I just googled, hope that's her name) as Morales. She does, yeah, sound a bit like Priscilla Lopez, so YMMV, if anyone still says that. But she sings on the words, which the rest of the cast does to varying degrees. And yeah, the horrific 70's gay shame monologue of Paul the Tragic Queen, whereafter he is to all intents and purposes snuffed plotwise, made me cry. What can you do?

The weekend's other excursion, with Mama D'Annato, was to this year's Capote biopic, Infamous. The film begins promisingly enough with a strange, wonderful scene of Gwyneth Paltrow as Peggy Lee, either having a little breakdown onstage or putting on a riveting performance of one. GP can sing, by the way. And then she has her breakdown and so does the movie. The movie purports to be based on George Plimpton's fascinatingly curated volume on Capote, a bunch of written records of oral history. The movie starts out lunging in this direction with some fake documentary interviews with the likes of Gore Vidal and Diana Vreeland. These are awkward. Holy mackerel, are they awkward. And they set the tone that this is going to be a movie about imitation rather than interpretation as was the much, much more succesful Capote with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. To this end, they have cast an actor who looks shockingly like Capote, certainly moreso than the decidedly un-waify, strangely handsome Hoffman. Before you ask, I do realize I'm probably in the minority in finding him hot, yeah.

It's an incredibly difficult way to do a movie like this, and the film fails rather starkly. And so it goes in other directions as well, including a daring, sort of embarassing go at pure speculation involving TC's relationship with Perry Smith. Um and this is the part where I return to the draft of my review and am still a tiny bit drunk from this benenfit thingy but want to turn out an entry, so my review is going to die an untimely death. Go see Infamous and tell me I'm not nuts, that it's really incredibly clumsy. And wins this month's award for bad southern accent on film, though I won't say who because she's really kind of endearing.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

There's Always Room for Gioconda Lore

Reader* Flying Diva writes:

...I write to confirm the comment Zinka made about the b-flat. She made it on a public radio program called "The Vocal Scene" during an interview with the host, George Jellinek. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing in disbelief. I figured that I had heard this incorrectly. A few years later, they reran that episode and, sure enough, that's what she said.

However, my favorite Zinka moment was the one I had the privilege to witness. In the mid 80s, Queler and OONY did a Gioconda with Ghena Dimitrova. Although she later sang some decent performances at the MET, this performance was definitely NOT one of her triumphs. After the performance, where she had been booed a bit, I noticed Zinka standing on 7th Ave. just below 57th St......waiting for her ride? As was her way, she stood larger than life, in a white coat, signing autographs. As I got mine, one of the "faithful" said to her, "Ooh, Mme. Milanov......no one could EVER forget YOUR Gioconda!!" She seemed to grow another few inches as she steeled herself and smilingly replied, "ESPECIALLY after tonight!!!"

*I sort of hate this "Reader Flying Diva" business because it seems condescending..."Enthralled follower of my glorious pen," etc., but I can't very well say "Faithful correspondent" since I had never heard from Mr. or Ms. Diva before.

Mad as I am for Dimitrova, I couldn't resist passing along a delightful story.

Another Obituary of Sorts

Reader, I mean correspondent, I mean person-who-is-reading, I hope you have been appraised of the closing of Tower Records if you live in the New York City area. More to the point I hope you have been appraised of it but aren't going to go snap up the things I want. I have an odd history with Tower--just after college, I actually worked there, for minimum wage, for a little while. Nasty people to work for. But I also used to go there every trip to New York before I moved there, knowing I'd find things I couldn't get at home. Maybe I could have ordered them online but there's something about having it all arrayed before you that can only dredge up the awful cliche of a Kid in a Candy Store.

Blah blah, vaseline the lens, insert fond memories of rushing to tower after a late performance, crazy things I found there, I'm being dismissive because in point of fact when I walked into the one on lower Broadway and saw the "Going out of Business" signs, I felt (cross my heart and kiss my elbow) like crying. It's hard to explain. I think the key fact is that until now when I went in there, because I'm not a bazillionaire, I'd look at forty things and say, "I'll maybe get it later" and then walk out with some laserlight crap "Mado Robin sings Disney" bullshit that fits my budget better. And then, if you'll excuse the materialism, I'd dream of the ridiculously priced Keilberth Siegfried I left behind until one day I found it on sale for whatever one third of ridiculous is and decide to sacrifice the cat's college money. Now there is no later. I imagine there are recordings I simply won't find again.

I have no idea what I'm going on about. It feels a little like that dire prediction of many years about the classical record biz going belly up on us is a little bit coming true. itunes is still hideously understocked for opera, and besides, itunes is becoming creepily proprietary and universal in a troubling Googlean way. Listen, I'm going back to 33's, if not 78's. It has been pointed out to me by One Who Knows that of all musical recording media, the oldest ones hold up best if you look at it one way--78's sound exactly as they did in 1945, whereas CD's I bought last week won't play. So I'm throwing the battle, as far as technology goes. If you need me, I'll be in the corner with my Brunswick suitcase model.

Oh p.s. I got my Dalibor. It was the last copy. Sorry!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

In the Flesh

I sort of already wrote up Faust, so just a few comments now, since on the whole, I agree with me.

Much to my surprise, I think I'd take this cast over the one that opened the production, though that may be mainly about Soile Isokoski and the newly wonderful Ruth Ann Swenson. I once had a brunch go very awkward over the fact that as Lucia, I found her utterly banal. (Doesn't that sound like I was having brunch with Ruth Ann Swensen? 'K, think that if you want.) Since then, her voice has settled into a warm, pliant thing though the last few notes are a little dire, and her acting has gone from nonexistent as I remember it to rather moving. It was always a substantial sound and remains so. Marguerite isn't really a money note role anyway as long as you sound solid in the trio.

If one were to look back over the last 15 years, can there be many singers who have been consistently so rewarding to hear as Ramon Vargas? No, I'm actually asking, or at least half asking. I have missed plenty of his work but every few years when I check in he's still such a class act. True, he didn't bowl me over in Romeo et Juliette but I don't think anyone would've. It's just not an opera I can deal with. As Faust he left nothing to be desired, vocally speaking. If he had better stage instincts, he'd be unquestionably a better choice than Alagna, who I adored in this role during the first run of the production. As it is, he's just a better singer. I heard him the morning of the performance on Sirius singing an equally lovely Alfredo to a pleasantly restrained Fleming. Personal to RV: can we be pals? Best Friends 4EVAR? Mejores amigos pa' siempre?

Tommi Hakala I missed on Sirius the other night, and he's really an interesting, not straightforward singer. I'm surprised to find by googling him that aside from being pretty cute, which is statistically very likely if you're Finnish, he's also apparently young. He doesn't sound it. The voice is kind of all over the place, most unruly. And he pours it out with a generosity that stands in contrast to all that caution that makes for long, dull careers. Jesus, he'd make a great Wozzeck, not least because his acting is (on the evidence of one performance) good and over the top.

Not much to add about Abdrazakov--still impressed. Still wondering about the bottom of his voice, but it's not a big deal. When you can hit it out of the park in the "et Satan conduit le bal" range, you can sell enough of the role that only the very sourest would throw a fach-fit.

A propos de rien, or is it just a propos rien?, Bernard Holland's review of Gioconda made me kinda happy.

p.s. Why is there no recording of Dalibor on itunes? What is the world coming to?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Prosecution Rests

Knock knock
Who's there?
Your posse of ballad-singer buddies carrying the chick who likes the guy you're after in a chemically induced death-resembling sleep.

You know your life is way crazier than the other girls at the office when your gang of street-singer friends shows up at the front door with the etc.

The question is: how does La Gioconda manage to be about an hour too long, feature the stupidest (but this time we mean it!) most verkakte libretto ever imagined, include a ditty we all know either as "Hello muddah" or "that commercial with the little puppy who can't quite sing the last line but has no more fleas" and still be one of the best times you can have without Ann Coulter and a pack of hungry lions?

In the case of The People vs. La Gioconda, here are the exhibits:

Exhibit A: (con) Seriously, I don't know about you guys, but I'm never sure where to go about getting a bottle of stuff that isn't poison, but looks like poison, but only knocks you out, and allows you to awake just when your rival in love who has decided to save you is about to be stabbed. Apparently in 17th century Venice, this was like getting a latte.

Exhibit B: (pro) The great thing about hiring a soprano who used to be a mezzo is she can get all chesty about the "fra le tenebre" and such. The great thing about that soprano being Violeta Urmana is that the fach reassignment surgery appears to be a done deal, no Frankenstein seams on the voice. I bet her Lady Macbeth would be a bitch on wheels, though after seeing her in La Gioconda--Italian for You're Joking--and Ariadne, it's hard to know if she's a stage animal or not. The former is a bit of a cartoon and the latter is too, only a grand and tragic cartoon. Neither one cries out for acting, per se.

Exhibit C: (con) The Dance of the Hours would be one thing if the opera weren't already (with intermissions) on a geological time frame.

Exhibit D: (pro) The Met has some excellent dancers on hand. Actually their ovation was louder than anyone else's, whatever the hell that's about. Perhaps Peter Gelb's next direction in pulling in audience should be to cancel the entire season and just put on Giselle and The Nutcracker and stuff. I jest. Where are those smelling salts? Does the vast majority of people secretly like ballet better than opera? I know I don't. But I digress from my original point which was that the dancers really were awfully poised and lovely to look at. That "I can spin around on my toe and my other leg won't touch the ground" trick becomes quite jaw-dropping after a point.

Exhibit E: (con) Plieting about on a 40 year old set, it probably goes without saying you're not going to bust out the newest moves, which suddenly makes me think of that horrible poseurish looking thing on the mailing from BAM where the swanned up Ballerina is flashing gang symbols. Shoot me. But just the same, with that much mothball-ready material onstage, I kept half hoping some mad auteur would swoop in and stage it instead with footage of Satanic rituals or whatever's hip in Berlin this season. A revisionist Gioconda: that would be comedy gold.

Exhibit F: (pro) the rest of the cast, for the most part. Point, game, match, and set. Once in a while I do get the faint sarcastic vibe form Borodina in stupidhead material, but I may be projecting. She certainly brings the loud. Say did anyone else hear she smokes? Because her voice sounds something like indestructible, in that Simionato way. While I do like a little element of nervousness and potential heartbreak in my singers, there's also something gratifying about a pair of brass cords, a voice built like a tank. Mishura, by the way, who didn't entirely impress as Amneris in one of the joyless Aidas of the last few years, was pretty much a peach as La Cieca. Didn't keep one from anticipating Podles, but you couldn't ask for much more in the chestage department, nor that of campy, just-in-case-you-forgot representations of blindness.

Machado sounds like a work in progress, but maaaybe an excellent work. He spent more of the evening tiptoeing than I'd have liked, but he's decametres if not furlongs ahead of the pack (Licitra, Farina...) in terms of tone and musicality. Lucic (I hate to lose his diacritics, as it's one of the fun features of Serbian that it has two distinct "ch" sounds. They're phonemic. Isn't that exciting?) barreled through the role of Barnaba but wasn't much fun in an awfully juicy villain role.

Exhibit G: Oh my god, the note. The note the note the note.* How could I not talk about the note? It made my eyes roll back in my head is all. She didn't do that "Am I still even singing?" trick--it was a plain old one-p piano, but it was shapely and ravishing.

I'd kind of like to say something statementy about Paata Burchuladze and the value of a well aged bear of a voice but I think he's just one of those singers I like because I like him.

Oh and p.s. the other reason Gioconda prevails despite its many laughable qualities is that nearly every bar is filled with operatic deliciousness. Maybe Urmana, whom I first heard in--no joke--a high school auditorium in Cicero, Illinois, billed as Violeta Urmanacitivus or something along those lines, can talk the Met in the interest of novelty into putting on I Lituani. That could only be a positive development.

*I wont be coy. In case you're not a Giocondaphile, The Note is a b flat that comes between the contralto's aria "Voce di donna" and the baritone/tenor duet "Enzo Grimaldo, Pricipe di Santa Fior." It's well set up to be a dazzler, and back in the day some Croatian lady named Kunc** whom I've never much cared for made it her calling card. "Pipple came for mine b flet," she is rumored to have said, "and vent home." Story courtesy of one Mr. JL, who may wish to remain nameless so we'll stick to initials.

**There I am being coy. Zinka Kunc, better known as Milanov.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I Caved

Currently listening to Sirius online. Need superglue to repair my one decent pair of headphones.

Very curious to hear how this Faust was from folks who were there. On air, it's 90% superb, though I came in very late. Swenson's weak on top (who could have foretold?) but so much more enjoyable in this rep than her old one; Abdrazakov: maybe weak on bottom? But to my delight, more willing/able to camp it up than the stately Pape, a vocal genius but a boring Mephistopheles.

Though the raging debates about Met announcers give me a headache--they're not conducting the damn thing--I will say I find Ms. Juntwait an agreeable companion at the opera.

I'm recalling, as the soldiers sing, how last time around we watched the parade of coffins onstage and could not help but think about how our government had forbidden us to see the coffins that would make the war a tragedy rather than a football rally. I think that was this scene.

And here's the serenade...sorry to liveblog...so far, so good, but will he fumble on the awkward har-har-har? Not in the least. This is so much more charming and involving than his mirthless duet with his wife at the Volpe Gala. Somewhere out there, a very young opera fan just asked, "Who's Volpe?" Well, probably not yet. Aright--by making the laugh really raucous, Abracadabrov avoided the issue of the last few yuks being probably unsingably low for him. That works for me, actually.

Someone sounds unpleasant right now but Faust is one of those operas I never make it to the end of, so I'm not entirely sure who it is.

Is Sirius going to transport us all back to 1980, crouching by the speaker of the radio with a tape recorder?

Well, this likely less than riveting play-by-play has just run up against my need to turn off the sonar and hang from the ceiling for a while. An earlier text message indicates to me that JSU will be blogging this fer real, so tune in. Meanwhile, Chalkenteros has tossed his tiara in the ring!

p.s. Goddammit. I stayed up to hear the trio.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Die Tote Scrim

I was just thinking about that time I was blogging Mazeppa (and they say there are no original utterances!) and requested a new rule whereby I get a dollar for every minute the scrim is down during an opera production. Kind of a refund from the lyric muse or the universe more generally for making me experience my art as if through a giant pair of nylons--say what you will about my effete prose style; I was only in hose one ill advised Halloween and I did not wear them over my head. It just doesn't make for a good view. Actually in retrospect I wish I had known that Halloween to kindly phrased suggestions that I'm a little horsey looking in drag by saying the look I was going for was Simionato by way of Theda Bara. That would have made me seem cunning instead of just fugly.

Where the hell was I?

Scrims. Right. Well if I had made that particular financial arrangement with the right people I'd say drinks are on me, but it was only in my head. Like so much else, you will be thinking. There is in fact not a moment when the veil is lifted from City Opera's venerable and somewhat likeable production of Die Tote Stadt. Much beloved production, I should say. So I've heard, and I kind of get it. It's fanciful and has a point of view. It's also pretty liberal with the gouda, I must opine. It is of its era in the way Lincoln Center is; you kind of have to love it as a mother would. All the film footage is pretty while entirely ham-fisted, etc. And there's something about a scrim, beyond my visual testiness about the way it makes me feel removed from the experience, that seems to justify other vagueness. Like the way the production gets called Freudian in that meaningless way, and nobody says, "what exactly is Freudian about it?" Or the fact that that isn't a lute but a mandolin, I don't know.

It's a wonderful opera, and I'm glad to have gotten to see it, and I'm puzzled that the Met (unless this is my blunder-of-the-day) hasn't done it since Jeritza asked for it. Jonathan suggested Mattila might be wonderful as Marietta, and I agree.* Susan B. Anthony fell short ofwonderful, somewhere in the fine to good range. Does her voice remind anyone else a little of Behrens? Without the temperament, I'm afraid, but some of that interesting craggy quality around the edges that I do genuinely value in a time of many processed and homogenized sounding soprano voices. Dan Chamandy was about on par, warming up toward the end into quite a ballsy, indelicate sound. I think his could be a useful voice. Seriously, truly, I am not being cunty when I say he'd be outstanding in heldensqueak stuff like Mime. Weston Hurt was in fine form indeed until the went and shot him. (Other scrim issue: as in Mazeppa, there was a moment where he was supposed to appear, an apparition, with a bullet hole in his forehead, as if to announce that death is "Schlechter als die Hahnchen bei Kreskes." Yes, that's right, we here at My Favorite Intermissions occasionally crack idiotic inside jokes for the benefit of exactly one person. Anyway you could hardly see the deadly wound from our stage-near seats, so I'm guessing elsewhere it was invisible.)

On another level altogether there was the exciting debut (?) of Keith Phares. Shut up, I'm totally talking about his voice. Fine, yes, he's also dreamy. But even so, I'm sure I'm not hearing with my loins when I say his reading of Pierrot's Tanzlied was exemplary. I meant to tell you what he has coming up, only I can't for the life me find my program.

This is the problem with reviewing a couple of days later: things fade and disappear. I'm going to have to stop there, and feel my account is sketchy. Next up: as the Magic 8 ball used to say, ask again later. Maybe Gioconda. Here at the beginning of the season it's harder to go to opening nights because they're all kind of piled up and you'd have to quit your job. If you know any dowagers looking for an heir, I'll consider it, but barring dowagers, I gots to make the donuts. Time to look around the blogroll and see if there's much news of Gioconda or Idomeneo--though I'm waiting for the other cast for that one.

*my first asterisk of the season and surely not my last: we had a tougher time casting Paul. Klaus Florian Vogt perhaps?

current listening: Callas as Ifigenia in 1957. It's heaven, actually.