Sunday, April 01, 2007

Like Christmas morning for the heathen opera queen

Seriously, I look forward to the Finals concert for months. It's just...exciting. You never know, one year may be a bunch of perfectly talented kids and a lovely afternoon of aural bon-bons but nothing that makes you want to get in a time machine and hear the singer in question five years hence after indenture of the "cena e pronta" variety.

And then another year you might hear Amber L. Wagner sing Vanessa and Tannhauser, and wet your pants just a little from excitement. Purely as a figure of speech, you understand--I'd never do that to the nice velvet seats at the Met. I'm getting ahead of myself, though, as usual.

I'm actually not feeling like a full run-down of everyone. Suffice it to say, all the young singers--Jesus Christ, they are at this point, to a one, several to many years younger than me--that got up there had stellar attributes. I'm not just being nice. They made it through a lot of cuts because They. Are. Good. Period.

The people that totally knocked me over and ran off with my wallet, though, I guess there were three. And all three were among the winners, so yay. The first, as I have stealthily already told you, was Amber L. Wagner, who I'm pretty sure won her spot after about four bars of her aria. When you're 26 and have a little bit of Helen Traubel in your voice, there really can't be too much suspense, though she looked stunned when she came out at the end. It's just a magnificent instrument, though I've begun to hate that phrase and its separation of the artist from the sound. She sang "Do not utter a word," which of course I love anyway, and "Dich teure Halle," which I don't really, and I feel pretty secure in saying she will be coming to a Halle near you, soon. JSU, who turned a more critical eye to these artists, seems to have been similarly bowled over.

Maybe even more of a surprise, Michael Fabiano, a 22-year-old from Hoboken who fucking knows how to sing verismo. I'm not drunk, and I'm not kidding. He did an aria from Le Villi (which I assume is an opera, though I always get stuck thinking it's part of your intestine) in a way I haven't heard seasoned 30- and 40-somethings willing or able to do Puccini, though I've wished they would. It's tough to evince elegance and vulgarity at the same time, but if you can't do it, you shouldn't be singing verismo, or you should attempt to get lessons in it from Michael Fabiano before you try it. Then he sang Lensky, also extraordinarily well. In terms of, pretty much, everything.

Last but not least in this partial round-up, Alek Shrader gave us a reedy, heart-rending "Il mio tesoro" with the long phrases that have come to be somewhat expected, but with no sacrificial rush through the notes and an apparent reserve of breath at the end to judge by the insouciance of the syllabe "-gar". But what brought the house down, as it will if it sounds like anything but suffering, was "Pour mon ame." I don't mean to imply that the choice of arias was the key to his success. The key to his success was the panache, well and yes also just the ease with which he sang it. And I couldn't tell for sure from where I was sitting, but he may be adorable. Sorry, buddy, you hit the big leagues and crazy old things like me get to say "and he has cute hair." It's probably not a bad thing if you're singing the same rep as certain Peruvians of oft-noted cuteness. It's also not a bad thing if you can hold a C for a really, really long time.

In brief: the three other winners were Jamie Barton, whose Hansel and Gretel aria was sung with great relish; Ryan Smith, who sang from "L'arlesiana" with pathos and great vocal assurance; and Angela Meade--the audience almost didn't let her sing the cabaletta in their enthusiasm to applaud a vocally lush "Casta diva."

Also to be lauded: Kiera Duffy imbued "Tornami a vagheggiar" wit and dynamic subtlety; Matthew Plenk graced Tom's aria from The Rake's Progress with ardor and a lovely tone; Nicholas Pallesen had high notes to burn in Figaro-Figaro-Figaro; Disella Larusdottir seemed to find easy humor in "Chacun le sait," and has a naturally very pretty voice to boot; Ryan McKinny's song to the evening star was subtle and solid; and ok that's everybody after all. Except Mark Delavan and Alexandra Deshorties, and they can fend for themselves.

Actually no, I do think it's odd that Ms. Deshorties threw herself so fully into "D'oreste" and got such a nothing reaction. I'm afraid Met audiences may still hold her, uh, inauspicious broadcast debut against her. This was good singing in a drag of a timeslot, and nobody really gave it up for her, and then they were quite vocal for Delavan's (also expert) reading of the Falstaff scene. C'mon, folks.

Next up: I have no idea.


Mark said...

Nice rundown! Thanks for this. I know what you mean about being excited about a new voice. That's fun. Now that I actually I have a bit more time for a life here in NZ, we hear young singers and that's a nice thing.

Anonymous said...

I've always had the impression that the Deshorties voice is not compatible with her persona. She comes on all Callasian-diva style but the voice is just a bit smaller than it 'needs' to be carry out her intentions. I do like her though, as a rule. Some friends of mine insist that her one unalloyed triumph at the Met was as Andromache in TROYENS.

Grrg said...

Deshorties was very, very good in Seattle last month, as Cleopatra, a role for which her voice was the perfect size.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I do share your enthusiasm for Amber Wagner...The grapevine says that she really outdid herself in her Finals performance, one of those rare moments when all the elements of singing that are not yet happening consistently in the practice room coalesce on the stage. Kudos to her. Fabiano just didn't capture my imagination, or did so in a bad way, by which I mean that I inexplicably hated him, despite the polish and the charisma. Wish I had something more substantial to say there, but really, I was all foreboding about him and his career without a decent reason; sometimes these things just feel personal, no? I continue my pity party for Disella Larusdottir. Adored her, despite the top having lost some of its sheen; that was sincere, direct communication, well-presented and a gorgeous instrument. And Deshorties? She screamed her way through. I was horrified after hearing so many fresh young voices giving the performances of their lives; she was exhibit A for the danger of not identifying with your proper Fach... Mark Delavan made me myself again, at least for few minutes. Until I went into mourning for Larusdottir.