Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Half 'n half

There's a cumulative risk associated with attending the Grand Ol' (Metropolitan) Opry all the damn time, and that is that once it's not, alas, a special occasion sometimes, there will be nights that are neither cause for rejoicing nor a platform for neat little one-liners. That night, you may actually decide you've gotten your fifteen bucks' worth in-house, and that half a Siriusabend with Pakistani takeout and the company of the cat just doesn't sound like any kind of comedown. Maybe you'll feel a little jaded, maybe not. If you are, ahem, a fellow or a dame of the bloggish persuasion, you will also risk looking a little apathetic. Maybe it will make you feel a little less extraplanetary that beforehand, in the Met shop, you saw a bigshot CAMI artist manager, and recognized him, and thought, "I recognize managers now. This opera thing has gone too far." (Because you're not crazy if you recognize that you might be crazy, you tell yourself.)

Oh hey, get this. In the midst of leaving, I texted he-whom-I-text-from-the-opera saying what the hell do I write, and he informed me that I once said "pretty good is the hardest thing to write about." It's great being prematurely senile because it's like you're just leaving yourself all these time capsules, and when it turns out you agree with yourself, it's...I can't figure out if it's reassuring or a good hint it's time to check into a home.

I do have the 'cast on, and some ground chicken something or other (I'd offer you some but you may well be in Boise or somewhere) and the cat is attempting to ingest the toes of my right foot. None of this because it wasn't good. It had been long enough since my last Fils-Caron that it didn't feel pre-heard, and we had interesting seats--funny balance, nice view--and the sting of Roschmann's cancellation had mostly passed. It just felt like two acts were enough.

The other cancellation, you know, recent enough for a program slip but not last minute enough to slip by La Cieca's notice, was Isabel Bayrakdarian, an always welcome singer who just happened to be, as I believe they say in her native Canada, seven months pregnant*, with a kid who's going to rebel by becoming an accountant. In her stead, an auditions winner from a few years back many of us liked especially, the very young Lisette Oropesa. Her showing here was very promising and showed no sign of her short rehearsal period, though it did hint that the Met is still a large space for her poised, exquisitely sunny sound.

Oh hey, here's Kathleen Kim, who was waving a machine gun around last time I saw her. She's tonight's Barbarina. Even for me, the vibrato is pronounced. We're talking Erika Koth. I think she's going to be great in a kind of narrow range of roles. God knows she knocked us out as Mama Mao. I think I was about to talk about Hong, though. If I've said it once, I've said it 6.0221415 × 10^23 times: I recognize the appeal of her unfailingly fine singing, but once in a while I just find myself thinking, "this is a singer who doesn't do demented." That's kind of ok in Mozart. Yeah, I wanted more self-pity in "Porgi, Amor," but then for the rest of the act, she measured up taller than my memories of Fleming in terms of emotional transparency, humor, and apparent spontaneity. The countess of course holds a certain danger of looking like a spoiled rich gal, so I was at times quite moved....uh...hang on.

Aright. Got distracted by what Erwin Schrott was doing there. One of my regular complaints about singers is that the acting in the body isn't reflected by any acting in the voice, but that's a touchy balance in Mozart, and he keeps crossing it. He did earlier, too, turning in a rare verismo performance of "Non piu andrai," but just at the end, after a good amount of unimpeachable singing, so granum solis or whatever, Chalkenteros will correct me. It's a big voice, and he's funny in a non-stupid way, so really I just want him to occasionally turn it down. "Aprite un po'" not equals sign "Nemico dalla Patria." Actually when he's not doing that, he's absolutely suitable to Mozart, which can't really be said of Pertusi at this point. Too gruff and blustery. JSU liked him a little, but not much, better than I did.

Confession time! Yeah, I know, how scandalous could it be. Here's my secret: I like Susanna's suitcase arias way better than her actual arias, which is one reason I didn't care that Bartoli was being a dick in 1998, the other being that Jonathan Miller didn't exactly come off as Prince Charming in that one, least not as it was reported back then. Also whatever, Bartoli could sing the Rush songbook and I'd show up. And you have no idea how I feel about classic rock unless maybe you're on Prednisone. I bring any of this up because I'm pretty sure Oropesa just tied "Deh vieni" up in a neat little bow and took it home, but I couldn't say for sure because I've never heard a performance of it that did anything for me at all.

Hey, any mezzos out there tonight? (I know. It's like I'm practicing to be a failed standup comic.) Because I wonder if Cherubino is a role one looks forward to singing or not. From my perspective, as one who has only sung it in small, porcelain halls of notable humidity, and only the arias at that, it's not really brimming with opportunities. I suppose if you're the creme de la creme, you can make something of it--von Stade in the film from Paris, or Mentzer at the Met. My gentleman companion was shocked to report that "Voi che sapete," of all things, reduced him to tears when the artist in question was Joyce DiDonato. But for 99% of the mezzo world, it's hard to distinguish yourself in the role, or so it seems to me. I have no complaints about Anke Vondung's delivery, or none that I wouldn't blame on Maestro Jordan's twenty yard dash approach to some of this music, but I also don't feel like I know what she's about. For a second I thought she looked like Jo from Facts of Life in the ponytail, and then I started imagining the Countess as Mrs. Garrett and Susanna as maybe Natalie, but then you're kind of out of girls, so I guess that's a bit of regie madness that will never see the light of day. Too bad, right?

This doesn't really have anywhere to fit in my review, but I did want to say that the end of the second act was diminished for me in a small but not ingorable way by the fact that I was watching Patrick Carfizzi stuffed into the role of Antonio, a few measures of slapstick that will not contain his stature as a fine, underused singer at the Metropolitan. It's been too many seasons for there really to be any excuse for this. Really.

My cat says hi. I typed that because she walked up and spoke her mind (a brief utterance), and because I'm on some level a 55 year old secretary from the suburbs. Named Jean. And because I have nothing else to say. And because the opera is now over. Next up: Butterfly with a protagoniste worthy of the set.

*Or was she born in Armenia? Ah well, I believe they use the same quaint turn of phrase in Armenian. Or I could look in the program and see that she was born in Lebanon.


JSU said...

"I'm pretty sure Oropesa just tied "Deh vieni" up in a neat little bow and took it home, but I couldn't say for sure because I've never heard a performance of it that did anything for me at all."

Not to be all "ha ha, you missed it," but that may be because you didn't see Röschmann -- she and Furlanetto made an incredible couple in 2003. Time stopped as she sang that piece.

Anonymous said...

your review is about as rambling as that performance ;)

jondrytay said...

I'm gobsmacked about your 'Deh, Vieni' comment. Each to their own I suppose, but it's always the highlight of 'Figaro' for me, along with the heartbreaking downward phrase in the orchestra after 'Or tutti contenti saremo cosi'. No one does simple like Mozart. And although I'd always be happy to come across 'Al desio di chi t'adora' in a concert, in Act IV of Figaro I think it'd make me want to throw things. I know what you mean about 'Venite Inginnochiatevi', mind. Susannas ALWAYS try to twinkle their way through it and I ALWAYS get bored about six bars in.

I think Figaro is one of those operas which only catches fire live if it catches fire as a piece of DRAMA- it really is one of the operas where pretty singing ain't enough. Discuss... Did the telecast of the Covent Garden production from 86 or thereabouts make it over the pond? Allen, Desderi, Vanness, McLaughlin and Kleindienst is hardly a cast to write home about, but it was ELECTRIC.

Maury D'annato said...

Well it's all meaningless preferences of course but for me, "Deh, vieni" is cute and "Al desio" is beautiful.

alex said...

Re: cherubino, I actually think that the role works better with a soprano, generally. For me, at least, it's a big part of why von Stade and Mentzer are so memorable in the role.

What cemented this for me was listening and watching Christine Schaefer on the M22 disc from Salzburg.

For instance, I think Soderstrom would have made a smashing Cherubino (she *must* have sung it at one time or another, and it *must* have been amazing).

La Cowntessa said...

-- turning in a rare verismo performance of "Non piu andrai" --

Dude, that made me snort my tea! Still, I suppose a verismo Non piu is probably better, all things considered, than a verismo Porgi amor.

Maury D'annato said...

Anonymous, my dear, verismo Porgi amor is even funnier. I am going to try and sing it later in aforementioned humid, tile-lined concert hall where I am (even there) a utility singer. The aesthetic model in my head is Magda Olivero.

Chalkenteros said...

"granum salis"

"granum solis" is "grain of the sun" -- surreal

A Sirius b'cast and a container of Pakistani sounds like heaven.

Anonymous said...

Nice use of Avogadro's number there -- I've never seen that linked to opera before. The chemical engineer in me salutes you!

La Cowntessa said...

*snickers* If it were possible to take a digi cam into said humid concert hall, I would beg for a video. Fortunately (for our dignity), there are places even YouTube can't go.

Sadly, on days when the God(s) are against me, I have a feeling that the verismo Porgi amor is what *I* end up putting out. *cough* I love Mozart a great deal, but there are times when I feel he sat down and thought to himself, "Hmm, what is the absolutely hardest thing I can ask a soprano to do, today?"

Maury D'annato said...

Tom N: I find it's nice to pull things in from spheres having little to do with opera. In the spirit of full disclosure, I couldn't remember Avogadro's number, and had to google it. The last time we spoke, Avogadro's number and I, was in my 10th grade chemistry class with the homophobic fundamentalist chemistry teacher (imagine the hilarity he found in Gay-Lussac's law!) so between that and my iffy relationship with chemistry itself, none of it was filed under "cherished memories." None of this to diminish chemistry, which is probably very interesting if you're inclined to understand it.