Sunday, September 28, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Like MTV in '83

All videos all the time!

This seems like an interesting rarity though the conducting is frightful:

Slowest performance of same on record?:

For relevance to this season, one last:

[3 is Piotr Beczala; 2 is Josef Traxel; 1 is Wunderlich, or says it is.]

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Viewing pleasure

Right, you might expect me to be posting about Gioconda, and I guess I may, but...I read a shitload of rehearsed disdain on the intertubes this morning and am feeling oddly averse to entering the conversation just right now. So here are some nice youtube clips. The first is Peter Mattei as Onegin in a pretty-looking modern dress staging. I've expressed my admiration for Hvorostovky's take on the role plenty of times, but Mattei's is certainly the most beautiful voice I've ever heard in the music. Like I actually kind of can't believe how lovely he sounds. Is it too honeysweet for Onegin? Maybe. You tell me.

...and here's another excerpt I find quite thrilling starring Panteleimon (!) Nortzov.

But wait. Did you know there was film footage of Pavel Lisitsian? Because I sure as hell did not.

In fact there's other Lisitsian on youtube, though some of it I can only imagine to be him lip-syncing to recording from when he was younger. I may be wrong, though. Anyway. This Russian loveliness brought to you by my minor fit of pique. (You can just call me the pique dame, if you like.) Later on maybe I'll sound off about how Gioconda, against all expectations, was the best thing Voigt's done in a long time, and of course type in some tedium about Podles.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ich bin verliebt in deinen Oberschenkel, der ist wie eine Schwarzwalder Schinken

First of all I just gotta say the one pissy thing I gotta say: it must really suck to be Morris Robinson and hear Juha Uusitalo singing a starring role while you stand there with your twenty-times-better instrument and sing third Brooklynite or whatever that role is. Why, I ask me, and you too if you're listening, is Morris Robinson still singing this role? Ridiculous. And before I go back to being statively ambivalent, why have I seen Salome as many times as I have and never heard a better than fair Jokaanan?

Salome and I go way back. While the other kids were learning to count from Sesame Street, I was all "seven....six....five....jeez, sister, how long does it take to undress?" No, of course not, don't be absurd. But truly there was a period when I considered a playing of the final scene to bring good luck of a sort, and I copied the Solti from the library's CDs onto tape so I could be all obsessive with the repeat listenings. But you know what? I never liked Nilsson in the role as soon as I heard someone else. Not to get all The Queen's Throat about things, but I need some effort, maybe even (ok, you win Mr. Koestenbaum) some potential breakdown in certain roles, and this is one of them. Sadistic may it be in me, but Salome can't be easy or it's no fun.

So it'll make more sense now when I say two things: 1) Mattila's voice, though the rumors over at you-know-where of vocal crisis are bullshit through and through, is definitely something other than it was five years ago, something cruder and more earthbound, subtly more marine than debutante. And 2) this has made her assumption of the role markedly more thrilling. In 2003 (?) I was most excited by the air of anticipation in the house--who can forget the silence and then the roar? This year, there was less roar, but I didn't need it, as I was already contorted in my seat, unrelaxed as one must be if Salome has had any impact at all.

It's hard to know what's going on in the heights of her range: a note will sound shouty in one context and spin nicely elsewhere. Walking to the subway, we talked about things like Mattila-Elektra, and had to admit it would need to happen soon because the C may be packing its bags as we speak. In any case, when she's getting a note across with evident effort, it is usually at a moment where she's able to make use of the roughness dramatically.

It is, as you have seen or heard, a portrayal that goes for broke pretty much from the starting pistol, replete with a physicality that tells you the girl's not right. Sometimes it's over-the-top and even funny, the example that pushes the envelope being when a dying Narraboth reaches out for one last grope before the great beyond and Salome-Mattila kicks his hand aside, more thoughtlessly than with any apparent malice (though in context, the difference is not great), too busy thinking up nauseous metaphors for different bits of Jokanaan. And, like last time, she goes full monty, putting her money where her well anyway...

That was cheap. I apologize.

The dance is curious, though. My interlocutors pointed out to me that it may well be that Mattila's Salome is not so much doing a 25% clunky extended lap dance as lampooning the conventions of striptease. Not to say that she's a cultural critic in her spare time, chit-chatting with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick over negronis at the cistern, but she may be expressing in her hyper-sexualized and interpersonally stunted way her contempt for Herod.

And this is the thing about her portrayal, actually. A certain monster and I discussed this production. The monster in question had one chief quibble (how! I am Chief Quibble) which was that Salome spends no time in this production as an innocent; even a deranged one. The minute you meet her, she's adjusting her cleavage. But I think a good case is made here for a more believable character than the teenage princess who, even if she's got some scantly suppressed sexual pathology (Atom Egoyan's wacko production took a blunt tack on this one, very Freud-before-he-renounced-the-seduction-theory), needs a big event like, I dunno, meeting an angry prophet who hates her and also apparently is not that crazy about grooming or hygiene either, to derail things.

The physical production is not, I think, a popular one, but I can't much see why. Its visual gestures are bold, but it doesn't impinge on the story as we know it. It makes suggestive/evocative use of implied space outside the stage, which I think is a real limitation of many Met productions which seem to be set, well, on a stage. The only thing that is (presumably) unintentionally funny is the site-specific costuming of the companion was taken aback at the attitude of the normally friendly and helpful B&H staff.*

Anyway yeah, singing, right. Ildiko Komlosi was annoying as Preziosilla some seasons back but that's nobody's fault but Verdi's. She was watchable and made good sounds in the profoundly unrewarding role of Herodias, well partnered by Kim Begley in another dog of a role, though I still remember an insane, sweaty Kenneth Riegel making much of it at Tanglewood. Joseph Kaiser didn't make a huge impression but sang prettily.

And so now, in six more hours, I'll be on the good ship Gioconda. What a week!

Oh, jesus, wait. I almost forgot to kvetch about the conducting, which was...what's a step beyond four-square, sixteen-square? There were moments like the very end when this lent an unusual hint of lyricism, but on the whole one missed the drive and occasional savagery of Gergiev. Well what one missed, frankly, was any sense of tension, but that's the kind of abstract language makes writing about music hard to take.

*It once occurred to me that, if you read the Missed Connections, and I know you do, you'll always see people living out some kind of usually culinary institutional transference, trying to catch the eye of the service person that got away, that you see all kinds of familiar venues named in these, but mysteriously never B&H...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

e due (mille) parole

[Antes de nada, we hear tell congrats are in order to Alex Ross for, jesus, a Macarthur Genius Grant. Yeah I totally got one of those one year but didn't want to brag. So welcome to the club, Ross.]

…but the thing is, there’s little to say about the music that I haven’t said already, and the only thing worse than Maury typing is Maury retyping. So first, more idiot musings about the event itself, and then Capriccio, how’s that? Oh I will say one thing about the Traviata, though, which is that it’s kind of a relief they went somewhere awkward with Mr. Hampson’s hair, because nothing could fuck up the dynamic of that act faster than Germont pere being, well, I think the French acronym might mean Germont pere being a PQJVF, but maybe acronym-based humor isn’t the best idea to begin with. Also minor humor in his and John Hancock’s apparent tallness contest with the ever-splended Vargas a very distant runner up, but what of it?

Anyway, the Proceedings. The Fordham plaza jumbotroncast worked out nicely, on the whole. We ended up retreating to the lobby on account of cold winds and lack of sartorial foresight, but it’s a different and somewhat rewarding way to take in a performance. As expected, much in evidence was one of the underreported shortages during the Soviet Era, that being vaccination against inappropriate chatter, but it wasn’t drastically worse in the house with the exception of an ANSWERED cell phone call. If it had happened during “Amami, Alfredo” there was about to be a reverse pogrom starring me, but it didn’t turn out that way.

We lingered by the red carpet for a spell and, as you possibly already read, saw a few starry stars and a number of skeletons draped in fabric who got lots of attention (the way of the world, I’m afraid.) Helen Mirren looked swell and Martha Stewart looked gorgeous. You know, it didn’t have the same giddy air as two years ago, when opening night leapt from being “when they let those people back out onto the streets” to something glamorous, but it’s still fun to feel like you’ve run into your pal Martha at the opera. Call me, Martha! We’ll do Wagner!

By the time we got over to the plaza, Susan Graham was interviewing Nico Muhly who I imagined to be a little frightened by his surroundings, but whose hair had the studied messiness many of us will spend a lifetime striving for. He’s quite a good sport, that one. Later on we’d catch some footage of Voigt talking to Penny Woolcock in Times Square, and Voigt (it will not be so surprising to hear) is the more natural talkshow host. Graham ended up kind of playing Opera-L “what are your five favorite Verdi operas” games with NM at one point. Voigt seems destined or doomed to inherit the mantle of Sills in some non-vocal sense.

Oh, and they have those perverse portraits of a number of the season’s distaff lovelies, and I can only imagine said portraits are deeply unfunny to the subjects. You can’t help but wonder what the same artist would make of, say, Salvatore Licitra.

Wish I could comment more on Manon but by that time we were listening under less than ideal conditions. The Varg did, as far as I could tell, his usual immaculate thing in the St. Sulpice hoedown, maybe the top’s leatherier than it used to be? And then it was time for Capriccio in almost its ideal form. One would love to hear it presented as the sextet, the sonnet as sung by the tenor, and then right to the Schlußszene, but barring that, just the Schluß will do.

I have been underwhelmed by RF in this music on at least one occasion. In this instance, she nailed it. Somehow without the benefit of a whole evening to burrow her way into Madeleine, she nonetheless found in the big number, Madeleine’s Turn if you will, the elusive balance of intelligence and nostalgia to make the character nicht trivial. Text was pointed but not flogged. The line that took me by surprise was “ich will eine Antwort”—just short of melodrama, which at times is exactly the right place for a phrase to land. From my vantage there was actual demented going on, right down to her exit. If her Manon remains a cipher, her Madeleine is as surely a triumph, or was tonight.

In eight short hours, I will be staring down cool Nordic vaj vadge, so more later.

due parole/faute de mieux

aaaaagh must post something b/c tonight=salome and i am lucy at the candy factory conveyor belt and Ewa Podles is on the conveyor belt too, help! Sure, yes, it might be argued that there is no real urgency in blogging the fucking opera, but insofar as we have suspended disbelief about that, aaaagh.

No time just now. I will say this though: there were some excellent celebs there (isn't that what opening night is about?) that we didn't see. Parker Posey looking like a million bucks and Faye Dunaway looking like a scrunched up twenty!

More later. There was also music.

[text of Twitters posted by phone last night, for the record...reverse chron order because I don't feel like cutting and pasting that much:

Last minute nico muhly sighting!

Sensational! And now my phone is about to die.

She's touching her face rather too much. A director with a strong negative capability needs to iron that out.

As oscar hoped to be worthy of his blue china, she is rising to the occasion of her galliano.

Capriccio dress and hair a knockout. Those more tuned in than i have roundly dissed the others.

And here is where we knew something had gone very wrong for villazon. And the costume ordeal dawn fatale calls supermanon, everything but the phone booth.

Also the part where some old coot yelled out "sensational!" repeatedly that one year.

This is the part where she annoys the shiv out of me. Sorry, phone is a lexical prude.

Can't shoosh people in a lobby. There goes my hobby. Sorry for rhyme, couldn't see a way around it.

Too cold. Watching from lobby. Not ideal.

Celebs: martha stewart, helen mirren, some models who need a serious bag of french fries, rufus w. bien sur.

The doctor atomic banner is up. One can't help hoping the dowagers will attend the prima dressed as nuclear weapons.]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Something like telepathy but thankfully not quite

Over there, on the right. No, that's the wall. Look back a little.


That's where, through the dark shamanic forces of Twitter, I am able to post 140-character micro-blather from my goddamn phone. Srsly.

So of course I'll post something realish tonight or tomorrow morning, but meanwhile, I will be sending tiny smoke signals, as if from half a cigarette, on the progress of the gala. Well, anyway a mediated experience of the gala at lovely Fordham University's Someone-or-other-wealthy Plaza. I don't know what it's called, but they don't name plazas after just anyone, you know.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two Nights Only

Krunoslav has gently prodded me (shut up) to point out that The Podles is putting on a second show, and then a rerun of same, all this presumably without the olympic staircase diving, later in the month. In this one she will be doing her damndest to liven up Respighi's aggressively dreary Il Tramonto--seriously, I heard Horne go a few rounds with the piece and she either lost or fell asleep, one--and then performing all the roles in Ariadne auf Naxos. Kindly do not contradict Maury when he is in denial. You will know he is in denial when he begins speaking of himself in the third. Well, alright, have it your way. She will be introducing us forcibly to Haydn's Arianna a Naxos which one can only hope is merely Haydn's loving chamber arrangement of a piece written long after his death, but it's probably not, Haydn being a stickler for chronology (seriosly, those damn symphonies...what do you imagine comes after the 98th? Well don't say I didn't warn you, it's the 99th.) Speaking of Chronology, I see that one of the players is Ani Kavafian, who I believe is on the recording of the Quartet for the End of Time recorded right around the beginning of time, possibly with Haydn on clarinet and John McCain on Cello.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tales from school

A little bird told us the most endearingly nutso bit of Podliana...

So this was in a rehearsal, and I guess Madame Podles has been putting as much thought into her entrances as we have, because she announced that she'd like to be, as I was told it, "dragged down the stairs for her entrance in Act III."

She makes this known to Guelfi, who demurs, being a gentleman or perhaps afraid of her. And then, apparently wishing to demonstrate her seriousness of intent, "she dived head first and slid down the stairs on her stomach." As they say in Polish: I szit you not.

The chorus, we are told, was aghast!

Of course what I wish would happen is whoever was in charge of Mario Lopez'z appearance in A Chorus Line, you know, where they took a role with essentially no stage time and put him onstage from the get-go so people could get what they paid for, would be flown in to arrange for maximal Podles. She could just kind of hang out and occasionally throw herself off things, though of course I'd prefer if they could shoehorn in a few suitcase arias, maybe La Cieca is sitting on the edge of the stage before the curtain comes up on act I and she's, like, humming to herself, and then busts out with "di tanti palpiti" because, you know, maybe she went to the opera as a little girl, and compensated for her lack of sight with a really good memory for complex Rossinian ornamentation. I don't care, it could be something else. "Summertime." Whatever. It's just a suggestion.

Friday, September 12, 2008

This does not fill me with confidence.

"Renowned organist Gordon Turk will also be featured performing Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana on the famed Hope-Jones Organ."

Hm. Really?


"Newly auditioned chorus members from the NJSOpera’s Summer 2008 State-Wide Talent Search will be featured as well."

I still want to go, though. Maybe especially now that I know that it might be, well, carnivalesque. This is from a listing for a concert of rather hazy content (Maybe it's Cav/Pag? Maybe it's arias? Maybe it is performance art of some kind?) The point is Galuzin is somehow implicated, and even if he's the page-turner, I'm a little bit intrigued. I was once told that depending on the night, he's either the second coming of Corelli or unrelenting awfulness, but the only time I heard him it was more in the Corelli vein, so it could be worth a train ride.