Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Iphigenie en Sale

In a 4AM IM to Alex from a problematically orange hotel room in London, I proclaimed that, due to opening night pricing and a pocket book drained from a failed attempt at low budget international travel, I would not be attending the Iphigenie prima.

Then a spectacular thing happened!

Iphigenie went en sale. This happened last year for the opening night of Die Ägyptische Helena. If an opening night is not selling well, it seems the best strategy is to wait it out until about 24 hours before, as there just may be some price slashing.

I could not be more pleased that this happened. Not only because I love a bargain...

Folks. RUN to this production. I'll make it easy: Click here for tickets to this terrific production

Stephen Wadsworth, whose Rodelinda was without question the best part of that particular evening, has brought to the Met (via Seattle) a tasteful, coherent and ultimately pretty simple production. Punctuated with a few moments of well placed theatricality, this staging is effective in a way very few of the new productions in the past couple seasons have been. In fact, only Minghellafly comes to mind, really.

The thing is, the performances this evening could have been given in a flourescent lit rehearsal space and I'd have been on my feet screaming.

Susan Graham. Who knew? I mean, I liked her a lot in AmTrag, and thought her Komponist was totally solid. But seriously--I always sorta figured she may be a hair on the unexciting side. Not so...in addition to seeming totally comfortable in the role (she HAS sung it a fair number of times at this point...) she brought a sensitivity and and an urgency that really caught me off guard. Add to that a completely committed physical performance and you are left with excitement indeed.

Maury and I are currently discussing going to every performance.

Groves and Domingo seriously gayed it up as Pylade and Oreste. It was really sort of sweet and sad. And they both sang the crap out of those roles. It's unbelievable to me that Domingo's sound is still as big and focused as it is. It was my first time hearing Groves, and I'm pretty impressed. And what a gorgeous role...

Is it fine if I like Iphigenie more than Orfeo? Because, I think I am leaning that way. Maybe it's just a phase.

So, this gets my vote for best thing so far this season. See you there. Seriously, maybe at every performance.

Maury makes a bold proclamation.
JSU is none too pleased.


J's threat to stay away from the Iphigenie prima has proved baseless. This just in via text: "They lowered fam circ prices so I came. Awesome production. Priddy tree."

Shout out

For this Rigoletto Henry Fogel played on his WFMT radio show the other night. It's really something of a revelation. I don't think I've ever heard Rigoletto sound so 'serious' for lack of a better word. Gavazzeni slows the tempi way down from what we generally hear, but plays it to the hilt, and the effect is tremendous. Moments one generally consigns to filler become fraught with tragedy and emotion and the readings of the arias are wonderful. There's no chance of falling into the 'pretty line over oom-pah' syndrome here. Each is distinctive, incredibly engaged, and heartbreaking.

The singers--young Scotto, Kraus, and Bastianni--are tremendous, but most of all Bastianni. Sweet lord let me hear a Rigoletto like that live in my lifetime. It is at that rare freaky level of operatic art where somehow the vocal reading is elegant, refined, and smooth AT THE SAME TIME as the raw, unvarnished emotion of the moment comes through with disturbing "opera can be this upsetting??" clarity. Kraus's voice, which I don't love in Mozart, is right-on for the Duke. Scotto doesn't sound terribly distinctive here, but it ends up being a plus, making for an extremely pure, flawless Gilda: i.e. none of that choking it through the last scene for effect, she does it as intended and the result is marvelous.

It has been noted.

Apres la Norma terrible

J: William Berger on Norma:
J: "this is not just one of these symbolic women who kills children for fun"
A: ha
A: that was not so good
J: it was god awful
J: awul
A: made one appreciate the ol' HP
J: yeah Hazmat Pompadou was great compared to this.
A: give it up for Hazel Pasternak
J: good work Hamsteak Papillon
A: v nice
J: Farina got no cheers, which was nice
A: oh swell
A: he's no where on the met futures page
A: that is encouraging
J: funny I scoured that for him earlier this evening too
J: Guleghina is all over that shit though
A: seriously
A: so wierd
A: like...what cachet does she have?
J: right?
A: cat is going nuts trying to get into this tupperware filled with science diet
A: he is going to be so disappointed
J: yeah seriously
J: Andrew is biting my hand furiously, then, remembering he has no teeth, starts licking it like crazy
A: haha

Sunday, November 25, 2007

News from London

J: I found some good YouTube links to people who snuck tape recorders into the Rent Remix
A: nice!
J: I forgot to mention that during Seasons of Love, which was done as part of a medley at the opening of the show, was accompanied by a loud ticking clock
A: "God...I just, I really want the audience to get that like time is running out...how are we gonna do that???"
J: hah
A: there is a 2001 meistersinger on
A: and Heppner just cracked something brutal
J: jesus
J: he better not ruin Tristan
A: like
A: the big Meistersinger song isn't all that high, I don't think
J: if you crack on the Lied, you don't get no freaking Preis
A: serious
A: he just got close again
A: but he righted himself
A: Sachs is all "this was an ok rehearsal...do you think you could avoid dairy before the show tomorrow? Maybe its the dairy..."
J: who's the Sachs?
J: J Mo?
A: yeah
J: boo.
A: i'm still not really sure what I want in a Sachs
J: I'm not sure about Meistersinger in general
J: I don't think I can go to the first Iphigenie
J: it's just too damn expensive
A: meh
A: i think that's ok
J: yeah
A: it may improve if you get really into it
A: but it is definitely pretty boring the first time around
J: oh hrm
A: or so I thought from the one here last year
J: oh fun
J: there are clips on YouTube from the original Rent at NYTW
J: and there are songs that never made it to Broadway
A: oh neat
J: wow they're awful
A: yikes
J: One Song, Glory used to be called "The Right Brain"
J: "Fiiiind, The RIght Brain"
A: ha
A: "Jonathan, about the Brain song"
J: there's also a goofy little song where Benny tries to talk Mark into going into Real Estate
A: i sort of don't want to like KM as Eva
J: why?
A: it's just such a different sound than other Evas
J: right
A: and it seems like there are about a million better uses for her
J: yeah. I mean, it's probably not bad.
A: indeed...all that kind of falls apart when she starts in
J: I sort of can't believe the subway here ends at midnight
A: yeah
A: that is nuts
A: PS, shortly after you signed off, KM did the quintet
A: it was out of control
J: oh man
J: I need to hear that
A: she's on this really nice recording i have with Solti and the CSO
A: but this even blew that out of the water
A: like, you don't know what to do with yourself
J: man
J: hm, it says I can't download it from you
J: is that the CSO quintet?
A: here it is
A: wrong one before

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Late Night Kabanova

A: are you going to listen to some of the Kata Kabanova?
J: totally
J: I just got back from an awesome freaking Figaro
A: oh you were there!
A: it sounded amazing
J: that Harteros woman needs to be president
A: yeah
A: wow
J: did you hear Dove Sono?
A: totally sick
A: Terfel sounded lovely
J: he did
J: and Keenlyside was great
A: i can't really identify Barbarina over the radio
A: how was ACB?
J: oh she was good
J: I mean
J: it's a weird little part
J: but she got some "woo"s in the curtain call
A: swell
A: It's interesting how Figaro with a meh cast is such a hugely different experience from Figaro with a great cast
J: yeah I mean, it still feels interminable in places
J: but yes it's a completely different experience
A: that stupid ballet the principle from Ferris Bueller had him put back in
J: that damn ballet
J: that took me a minute
J: oh you should sign up for Skype
A: on it
J: KM is awesome in this
A: damn
A: she really is
J: Greg points out it may be even better for her than Jenufa, which I'm willing to accet
J: accept
A: I mean
A: these are difficult distinctions
J: it's true
A: do you have a recording of her doing this?
J: no I don't think there is one
A: dang
A: it would be great to have this for one's own
A: they don't seem to be playing it again in the near future
A: or I would try to do the computer recording
J: Saturday afternoon
A: ah
A: I see
A: ok
A: I should remember to do that
A: they had paul plishka on the intermission today
J: hah Xmas day
A: hah
A: nice choice
A: merry christmas: go jump in the river
J: merry christmas: your mother-in-law has S&M sex before watching you die
A: ha
J: there are like 4 singers who know these Janacek roles
J: Raymond Very was in this, Jenufa at the met, and Jenufa in DC
A: yeah
J: the production looks neat
A: kewl
A: the ending to this act is so great
J: I was just going to type "god I love this little melody"
J: I wish I could go back in time
A: this is incredible
J: hm earlier it was "Janacek's Opera of Oppression"
J: now it's "Janacek's Opera of Injustice"
A: gotta love those slavs
J: are you listening to this Brewer bit from Vanessa?
A: yeah
A: nice
A: go Brewer
J: she's sorta great
A: I need to spend some time with it
A: word
A: I wasn't really feeling the grandeur in Flanigan's version
J: right
A: this is more like it
A: i can't tell if he sort of blows it with her in the later acts, or if it was the performance
A: i definitely got tired of her being so clueless
A: and not in a tragic way
J: right, she's just sort of desperate and annoying
A: i think maybe it is getting the extreme contrast with the first act right
A: and playing that duet in II for desperation
A: rather than enthusiasm
J: uh which duet? you remember better than I. I may go back Saturday
A: the "Take Flight" one
A: or maybe that is III
A: the one happy one with her and Anatol
J: oh right
A: who is this
A: yerg
J: total yerg
J: Jon Vickers
A: they need to put the singers on the internet player
A: oh
A: yikes
J: from Benvenuto Cellini
A: not a good day for JV
J: yeah I've told Greg I am going to put a webcam in front of my sirius receiver and leave it on 24/7 so he can always know who the singer is. it drives him crazy not knowing.
J: bleh, I guess I should sleep
J: goodnight
A: 'night

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

That's all we needed: a Druish princess...

Well there sure are a lot reasons to dislike this Norma revival. Let us enumerate them:

1. Franco Farina: please stop shouting at me. I don't know what I did to deserve this, but you have made your point several times now and it's beginning to look silly. Seriously tho, there were times in this that I forgot my distaste for him a bit--he spun some lines in the middle regions that certainly suggested something sensitive and lyrical and not shouty, but overall, it wasn't so much 'enjoyable' as it was the aural equivalent of partially turned half and half. Sure, if you smell it really quick, you can sometimes convince yourself its OK, especially if your other options are skim and non-dairy creamer, but ultimately it's going to leave a nasty taste in your mouth.

2. Someone needs to tell Maestro Benini that it is a purifying of the sacred clearing and not a funeral for said clearing. Too bad, too, because the sound he was drawing from the orchestra had lots of light n' clear bel canto goodness. But all that purdy sound quality don't count for much when it's deployed with zero momentum. The main numbers and the climaxes hummed well enough, but I found a lot of the intervening stretches ploddy and lifeless, enough so that I feared the whole thing might accidentally grind to a halt.

3. This is one cheap-ass looking production. It's like they had some cash left over in 1992 and someone bet the scene shop they couldn't put together a whole Norma with it (although it is fact only *5* years old). Seriously, it's like they decided to do Norma as the random Winter musical at my high school that no one got too invested in. Only my high school had better stage direction. This is amateur, amateur stuff. And PS, 6 guys with mini torches does not a funeral pyre make. At the very least, they could have turned the ginormous moon shaped piece of scrim red for the finale. But perhaps there wasn't money left for red gels after they had bought all the papier mache and chicken wire for the Druid-y stump things that make up the 'set'.

And yet...despite those misgivings, I'm still awfully glad I went, thanks to DZ, the greatness of the piece itself, and the wonderful Hasmik Papian. Papian is a Norma worth the price of admission. The tone is beautiful, the top crystal clear and exciting, the vocal acting nuanced and frequently disarming. Seeing it live for the first time, I really understood why people go on about the difficulty--I suppose one really needs to verify in person that the same noises are successfully coming out of the same throat to be awed at the challenges of the part. So it was extra exciting to watch Papian take it in stride. Sieglinde has a nice description of Papian's virtues. If you won't go without quibbles, I will note that 1) in a few of the florid lower passages she sounded a bit anemic, and 2) she relinquished focus and control of the stage at times, especially during a few ensembles (tho I felt there might also be opening night nervousness/wretched blocking in play). Happy now?

DZ was her usual brilliant self. She definitely makes for a heavier-voiced Aldagisa than I've heard in my limited listening experience, and it seemed to show particularly in the bits with Norma, that were more power duets, less delicate trifles. I'm awfully intrigued by the chatter in other quarters about how she should take on the title role herself.

Bottom line: you can't keep a good opera down no matter how you try. So let's do it for real next time. If no RF/Wilson, let Hasmik headline it. Bring DZ back. Put ANYONE in there for Farina. And don't even be clever about it, just build an applause-at-the-curtain realistic field/rocky monolith set and include some tasteful fire FX at the end. Is that really so hard? Come now.