I really have to throw my two cents in here about the crimes against humanity's ears and general musical sensibilities that occurred on Tuesday night at the Met.
How do I put this delicately... Renee Fleming is a disaster as Rodelinda. What the hell is going on? WHY does she sing this rep? It was like one big slur that lasted for four hours. I did not hear one consonant, and there was no sense whatsoever of where one note ended and another began. It was just this sort of formless, free-flowing sound that sort of skated over Handel's music--the music that was hiding somewhere under this drool-bag of vocal drivel.
I will reiterate what Alex mentioned--I don't get off on disliking Renee Fleming. By HER, I think I am reffering to her singing. I have definitely enjoyed and respected elements of her singing in the past. But I don't f-ing want to hear her sing Handel ever again. Also, I resent that somehow people have convinced themselves that it is good--or even that it is vaguely acceptable. The crowd of deaf (evidently), bravo-screeching Renee devotees were really pissing me off. She really, truly is singing her own precious little arrangement of this role--her covered, safe little sound cowering behind the deceptively daunting challenge of singing Handel as written. And I really want to make these people understand. Or at least make them go away.
OK, that said, it was actually a lovely evening all in all. John Relyea had me at Ciao. Actually, I was pretty convinced of my adoration for him back in October after his virile turn in Lucia. Stephanie Blythe's characteristically near-baritone sound was as precise and impressive as ever. I feel like she is one those Met go-to singers who gets a fair amount of work, but rarely gets to really show off the goods as much as I'd like.
The Wellsung Prize for Awesomeness goes, without question, to cutie countertenor Andreas Scholl's heartbreakingly beautiful turn as Bertarido. His flawless precision and control culminated in an breathak artistry that actually made up for the lack of substance in the leading lady.
Also awesome was this production. As it is a year old I will not say much--it manages to strike just the right balance between detailed extravagance and understated elegance. It is an accomplishment.
It looks like we were at a different performance or Rodelinda Starring Renee Fleming than Steve Smith. I think Mr. Smith is a terrific writer and critic. Though I have to quote, for humor's sake more than anything, Alex's thoughts on the discrepancy in our reactions:
"I mean, there are differences of opinion, and then there are the noises she was making."