Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Encores, etc.

Lucas Rhonn has elbowed me gently in the side to prompt a wee review, y'see. I meant to write one anyway but if you can imagine a steamroller going over a tube of tootpaste, ok see and now the steamroller is my job and the toothpaste, naturally enough, is the human spirit...

Yeah, just woke up, the metaphor center is still operating on a skeleton crew.

Actually first things first. Exhibit #17,923 in the Opera=Mental Illness file is that I was very graciously invited to Onegin last night, demurred on account of I've gone so much lately that opera is just part of the weather...and then everyone said the word "Jenufa" a little too much on Saturday morning, and I realized I'd miss her when she's gone, and I surreptitiously slunk up to standing room after all.

It's impossible to stack the performances up against one another at this point...I feel like I may be making it up if I say Mattila was extra-intense and Silvasti extra-pretty, but of the, um, four I went to, it was certainly one of the four best. Well, fuck me, but they were all great.

This one did have Jay Hunter Morris in for Raymond Very as Steva, and if I had to hand out little soccer trophies, yeah, he'd probably get best Steva. Voice has a bit more presence and probably "face" than Very.

Also we did this thing I haven't done in nearly a decade: we went to the stage door. One has mixed feelings, of course. Getting closer to your beloved star is purely illusory, and except in certain rare instances, is a little disappointing once you do it. You don't want to be one of the OONY sorts that thinks the person emerging from that door is dying to hear your opinions on what s/he should sing next and so forth, but it's also a little bit of a letdown to let the moment go exactly as it should: hand over the program, say "Thank you," and maybe "We came to hear you four times!" or some little compliment, and step aside, unless otherwise engaged by the star in question. (Some people, like say Voigt and Menzter, are quite gregarious. I think it's not presumptuous to chat when the person signing the autograph initiates.) I indulge myself insofar as saying thanks in the star's language if I know it, and that's as close a step as one ought to take to the daydream wherein Madame Cantatrice says, "oh, you're from Antarctica, too?" and the two of you go off and have tea and after that it's all phone calls and birthday cards.

Anyway, we did it because we had in fact gone four times and a souvenir seemed appropriate. It's idiotic to report on it because singers would be well within their rights to skip the whole thing, so a word or two will suffice. Silja, after many years no doubt of doing this, is warm and funny. Someone said how nice it was to hear her at the Met and she said grandly but with umistakeable humor, "After fifty years, they discover me!"

Silvasti was in a rush but sweet and self-effacing. "Four times? Wasn't it too much?" He was off to Zurich, he said, flight in three and a half hours. Barbara Dever was surrounded by a little entourage but made time for everyone and seemed perfectly pleased to do so. Jay Hunter Morris was charmingly Southern and stopped for a minute to tell us about the excitement of getting the call to show up. I know, it's weird: I'm reviewing people offstage. If anyone had been chilly or thrown anything at me, I would've left it out. Frankly, we were thinking it would be an honor, in a way, if Silja murdered or even just threatened us a little.

Mattila, one has heard, will not be seen until she looks perfect, and emerged last in a crazy fur hat. And announced what she's singing next season. Well, she's probably not too worried anyone's going to fire her for it, but just the same it seems like bad etiquette to blurt it out here when it was a casual answer to someone's question backstage. Check out Met Futures--it's probably on there. She has a grand manner about her, a little aloof which god knows is understandable given some of what was standing around in the cold to breathe on her. Seriously, people really get up in a singer's bidness with their video phones and such. I'm not trying to be superior here...I mean, yeah I am, a little...I think it's just bad manners and kind of icky.

...which leaves me about twelve minutes to think of what to say about Follies, because I have a luncheon appointment, I do.

Well first off, cross your fingers the Broadway-bound rumors are for real, because it was a very good time. Apparently Donna Murphy will be busy when they're talking about doing it, which is a big drag, but life goes on.

The Encores series is billed as unstaged, I think, or semi-staged. Keep in mind that I've never seen Follies before, so I may not know my ass from my elbow, but this seemed as staged as it would need to be, being (as it is) set in a somewhat imaginary space. I mean, the first part is set in a theater, but in light of the second part, which is set I suppose in the inner lives of the four protagonists, the whole thing takes on an air of unreality, not much reined in I suppose by the fact that people periodically start singing. Yes, yes, I know. That happens in all musicals. I haven't completely lost my own negligible grasp on reality. I'm just saying in this particular instance, with the semi-staging and stuff, it was extra dreamlike.

Especially when the plum role is that of a woman for whom the line between what's in her head and what's out of it is not extra-special thick. That's Sally, played here by Victoria Clark, who could not have been much better. The show's greatest number, by my reckoning, is "Losing my Mind," which she sang by an imaginary stage, curtains descended from above and a spot, as if holding a little nervous breakdown cabaret in her head. It was at once elegant and terribly sad.

Donna Murphy, as I have implied, was also terrific, and I went in with not the very highest expectations since I was the person who didn't really like her that much in Wonderful Town. I don't know her music as well, but there's a certain cred you get just for making it through the Jesse & Lucy song, sort of like "Getting Married Today" in Company. Her dancing is also spectacular.

The men were not quite on the same level. Victor Garber, who I'm afraid I'll always think of as a tight-lipped secret agent and a really lousy father, was maybe the best actor up there, but the singing is of that "extremely good for an actor" variety more than something I'd want to judge by the barroom, benzedrine standards of this voice-obsessed blog. Um, also, I know he's basically my dad's age, and I always get squicked when people (usually women, come to think of it) go on about how hot Sean Connery is, in fact I'm feeling a little nauseated just typing it, Victor Garber kind of slightly lights my fire. Michael McGrath as Buddy I simply didn't care for that much, but I also don't think it's as good a part as the others.

Christine Baranski got the number everybody loves: "I'm Still Here", complete with the couple of verses that get clipped because nobody gets the references. I'd been watching Yvonne de Carlo a bunch on youtube after she died and I discovered she was the original Carlotta, and Baranski took a different approach, one I generally liked. She didn't come out of the gate belting, let the first half of the song warm up to the balls-out Broadway stuff. This would have been a particular success had the climactic belt of "heeeeeere!" not fallen in a weak or worn part of her voice, or had she not had a dry throat, or whatever happened, but it did, and though it was no Behrens at Tanglewood moment, it let the air out a little.

Mimi Hines, from whom I don't know, was Hattie, who gets to sing "Broadway Baby!" and did so with a great sense of fun. Lucine Amara was Heidi, who sings a duet with her younger self, and it was neat to get to see her, though time and years of faithful service have not left her with a lot.

And I'm done, I think. Longest. Entry. EVAR!

Boccanegra on Monday? Oh, probably.


JSU said...

You mean the Puccini?

Next season, by the rumors, looks fantastic. Dessay sings Donizetti -- twice. Renee sings Verdi -- twice. Revivals of Ernani and American Tragedy. Galouzin twice, once perhaps with Mattila. And the return of most every star worth worrying about -- except Silvasti, who should really be wedged into the revival of Grimes somehow.

alex said...


the boccanegra looks like it'll be a fun time. you must blog it!

i've always been too chickenshit to go backstage, but it's always gratifying to read about it. more please? also, is this the royal 'we' we are using in this post?

sidenote: the picture on the Met's page of Hampson with his shirt loosely undone is kind of making my mouth water. what is it about salt and pepper hair?

Anonymous said...

Thomas Hampson makes my heart go pittypat even with his shirt buttoned. Victor Garber, not so much. But is there really a possibility of a revival?

Chalkenteros said...

I was thinking about going backstage for Futral. I have a major homo crush on her. But then I thought it would just be kinda creepy. Plus I didn't know where "backstage" was. I have identified white-haired Lois, tho -- so I suppose I could have just followed her (she goes backstage, like, all the time, right?).

But I'm not sure I want to become one of those kind of people. But if I know about Lois, aren't I already that kind of person?

alex said...

chalky-chan (may i japoniminutivize your handle?),

I'm a big proponent of going with the urges that seize you at the moment, when it comes to these things. Too often, I catch myself over-thinking (always to its detriment and my semi-regret). My operating theory is that once a backstage visit is "staged" does it become creepy.

Otherwise, it's just a spirited person wanting to thank an artist personally for an extremely pleasurable evening. Plus, some exceptions aside, it's not like opera singers are so crushed by their celebrity to be jaded in the face of true admiration.

Of course, having said all this, I'm still chickenshit and terrified to go backstage. Maybe we can go together the next time I go to a show at the Met (and you are there). Deal?

Anonymous said...

To actually go backstage you have to know the singer or get on a list by contacting a rep of the singer. Anyone can go to the stage door and wait for the singers to come out. I've done both and I've always found them to be friendly, patient and accomodating with pictures and autographs, from the biggest stars on down.

Chalkenteros said...

Alex: deal.

Some of my anxiety stems from (god I can't believe I'm writing this) waiting in line for over an hour to meet the cast of Oz at a DVD signing at Tower Records-- Well, ok I just wanted to see Chirstopher Meloni in person (and he is so hot in person you have no idea) -- and when I got up there to meet him it was totally uncomfortable, like he did NOT appreciate the fact that a guy in his early 30s had waited in line for so long AND WASN'T EVEN BUYING A DVD. Maybe I would feel less intimidated trying to say a simple thanksalotyouareagoddess to Mattila or Futral. But that incident with Meloni, well, meh, it kind of put a bad taste in my mouth.

Quoth the Maven said...

Maury--Not to get you all riled up, but you are at least the right gender for Mr. Garber. As far as your characterization of his talent: He started out, at least, as a musical-theater type, even though I'll agree his singing last week didn't exactly indicate that. (A cold maybe?) He was the Anthony, the juvenile in the original "Sweeney Todd." The role's a serious sing, including the big ballad "Joanna," and he was just fine. (Check out the original cast recording.)

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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