Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shorter Fidelio

Karita: Super enjoyable, often awesome. She is a constant joy to behold onstage. The sound is always distinctive, somehow managing to project a disarming warmth through that trademark silvery peal.

And yet, perhaps there's something lacking though when she's called on to deploy the real punishing firepower stuff? The sound loses focus at the top? There's something imprecise about the attacks? We can't quite finger it. Elsa will be an interesting opportunity for comparison.

Heps: Brilliant. I'm so stoked for his Lohengrin I can taste it.

Alan Held: Yet another great reason to be excited if he does his Wotan in the DC Die Walkure-homa next year.

Jennifer Welch Babidge: Boy is that a thankless character. She spends the whole first act almost getting accidentally gay married and doesn't even get a line to tie up her plot when Fidelio goes reverse Crying Game on her. Still doesn't excuse a vibrato that sounds like the CD is skipping.

The Pit: Decidedly not a top of their game night for the Met orchestra under Jimmy replacement Paul Nadler. Not that I can fathom how anyone manages to pull off a successful reading of Beethoven, run a really difficult entire opera at the same time, all while trying to make good on an intimidating cover job. But the shortfall in control and larger vision was pretty noticeable. Some uncharacteristically graceless playing from the string section too.

The Production: Neither here nor there until the laugh out loud staging silliness at the end. What's with the closing chorus dance party?

In sum: I still think it's kind of lame. The impression of opera by committee is really strong in person, like that Word document in your office that everyone edits to within an inch of its life. But at the same time you just have to respect the people that can make those insanely difficult numbers work. I have a feeling that when this is done poorly, it gets really, really bad. So props for a very solid if at times lackluster show.


Lisa Hirsch said...

It's a problem opera, I think. I liked it better on stage in SF (in a miserably directed and dramatically limp production) than in the Met broadcast with Matilla and Heppner, which I thought really made clear the weak spots in the work. It's so high-minded, but its nearest model is Zauberfloete, and the low-comedy end of Fidelio doesn't work nearly as well as the Papageno/Papagena subplot of Magic Flute.

I can imagine Matilla just lacking the firepower, but I might prefer her to Brewer, who sang gorgeously and didn't move me a bit. Well, she got terrible direction....

Lisa Hirsch said...

I was at yesterday's matinee, and there were improvements from your report (the conducting was outstanding and blew away what Runnicles did in SF last year; otoh, Heppner got off to a pretty bad start and Held barked or shouted too much. More on Iron Tongue of Midnight when I get around to it.

Alex said...

Hmmm. I didn't get to listen, but I'll give you the conducting as I am still pretty unfamiliar with it. And I can see where you're coming from on Held. Not sure what was up with Heps, tho. He was pure buddah in the one we saw.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Not warm enough? had a cold? Dunno, but he slid up to "Gott!" and then took a while before he sounded completely steady.