Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Even if my man throws confetti in my face

It feels a tad strange, with Broadway in dire straits as far as new musicals are concerned, to feel almost giddily optimistic about the future of the movie musical. And yet giddy I am.

The cause for this is the new Dreamgirls movie, of course. It's yet more proof that, after so many decades in the wilderness, movie directors (or at least people allowed to direct movies) are finally figuring out how to make musicals with the language of modern movies. Prior to the current crop of new musicals, we've had two equally unsatisfactory templates to draw on. There was the model remaining from the last era of successful movie musicals--delightfully overgrown stage productions filmed with the appropriate restraint. And the music video, and the assorted rock films that preceded them. Awesome for three + minutes, trippy for an hour and a half, these left little on which to hang a narrative.

Navigating a happy medium between these two influences has been understandably difficult. Yet today, we have a burgeoning vocabulary for the movie musical which seems to have real staying power. It takes advantage of the kinetic energy audiences expect from modern editing styles, yet never degenerates into the monotony of constant stimulation. It is a language of spectacle, certainly, but a language of the camera which constantly dissects that spectacle. It uses the intimacy of the music video closeup but eschews its tendency to displace the viewer in time and space. The greater structure of the number is always present and dominant.

Perhaps more importantly, these developments embrace the pop musical recitative common to modern musicals. Dreamgirls uses these parts of the score judiciously, and to be sure, they are awkward for the audience at first. Yet these sequences, so critical to the real goal of advancing the plot through music, are filmed skillfully and win over the viewer quickly. Take note Tim Burton. Excising huge chunks of the Sweeney Todd score because they are too talky will not be taken as lightly.

I'm not going to pretend that Dreamgirls doesn't have its problems, because it does. (Take all this with a grain of salt, tho...I've never seen it onstage, so I don't really know what the book entails.) There is a tendency to use montage to solve those problems left to imagination on the stage, and this becomes alienating on film. And a number of filler numbers retained in the film still feel like filler.

But shweet Jesus did I have a good time. And by far the best times came from the musical sections. This is not a movie that tells its story and has some nifty musical interludes. This is a movie where the story intimately depends on the musical numbers. And it was exhilarating. So everyone and their mother needs to pay their 9 and change for this, because we need to send a message in support of Hollywood's newfound infatuation with the musical. There's a reason why the musical format has produced some of the smartest and most beloved films of the last several years: think Chicago, Moulin Rouge, Hedwig, and South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. Society craves the musical theatre, and the recent drought cannot last.

Quick shout outs: Beyonce acquits herself admirably, especially in her big new torch song. Eddie Murphy is fantastic as Jimmy Early. Jamie Foxx was fine, tho his voice was def the weak link in the cast...funny considering all the hype he got for that Ray Charles movie.

As to the matter of how "I'm Not Going" is carried off by a certain Miss Jennifer Hudson. Now, I wouldn't want to oversell it by saying I thought I was going to pass out due to the involuntary spasms of sheer delight racking my body. So I will simply say that Ms. Hudson does not disappoint.

Thoughts on Puritani Broadcast

8:45 PM
Reconnecting to arbaker340…

J: I am really glad we're not at this Piece of S. Puritani
8:50 PM
You left the chat by logging out or being disconnected.

A Christmas without Tower

Just for the record, Christmas sans Tower is not pretty. I ended up at the Virgin Megastore in search of a Salome for my father on the 24th and was greeted with exactly two options. (Tho it should be noted that Chicago Virgin Megastore is considerably quieter and more bearable than either Union or Times Square Megastores, so kudos for not being a slave to your prefix, Chicago Virgin Store.)

I opted for Behrens/Karajan over Nilsson/Solti since 1) I really like Behrens' Salome and 2) methinks the Nilsson cover is a bit unsettling for a Christmas present. Anyhow, the Chicago Virgin Megastore now offers exactly one Salome option. Yes, there are certainly bigger problems in the world, but let's just acknowledge that this is a difference.

P.S. To respond to what seems like the fairly common view that Borders "has a good section": no, no it does not. I recall New York Borders (I'm thinking of Park and 57th) being marginally better than the two-thirds-of-a-Beethoven-cycle-and-Il-Divo-overstock offered at the outposts here, but that ain't saying much.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


That is the time I promptly vacated my seat and walked out of Tan Dun's The First Emperor, the first true failure of the season (not counting Cristina Gallardo-Domas, who was overshadowed by the lovely context in which she blew).

I don't have much to say. The score and libretto are a disaster. The singing was basically fine. Domingo seemed to sound OK though Futral wasn't having an easy time of it. She bears no responsibility, however; the score is awkward and unsingable.

A couple of interesting orchestral bits and some slick design elements were not enough to make up for this $2 Million mess.

I am listening to the end of the Sirius broadcast and of course the audience is cheering like crazy and it's making me furious.

Update: Sounds like Tan Dun and the librettist got some spirited boos. Makes me slightly wish I'd stayed.

Further Update: Maury doesn't care for this opera.

JSU isn't wild about the libretto...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ah, YouTube...

J: ok speaking of YouTube
J: there is a completely wonderful video of Mattila doing the first Elsa aria
J: from Paris or something
A: ooh
J: and it's giving me chills
A: where is it?
J: [click here...embedding disabled]
J: it's mainly that first part
J: jesus
A: that's awesome
J: her voice man
J: whatever the flaws
J: when she is right in her most comfortable place
J: it's really a special instrument
A: no doubt
J: her Elsa is so freaking magical
A: omg:

A: this is really cute
A: I love that scandinavian-tastic rehearsal get-up
J: hah
J: whoa Gwyneth Jones~
J: !
J: sounding like ass, but still
J: here is a C G-D Un Bel Di where she sucks less

J: still not my cup of tea
J: but at least you can see why she was hired
A: those things look like dreads
J: haha
A: and some real silly opera faces
J: yeah her faces are insane
A: what the f is going on with this ariadne:

J: hah
J: Ariadne auf Lauper
A: heh
A: Flourescent bikini top or no, she is spectacular
J: she is ridiculously great
A: ah youtube
A: one moment Richard Strauss, the next moment "Hand Farting the Star Spangled Banner"

J: wait what?
J: this little docu thing about Varnay?
A: I mean

J: heh
J: it's impressive
A: I don't know how he gets different tones

Sunday, December 17, 2006

B-cast chat

J: oh, Jiggletto
A: its sort of weird they brought it right back
J: right
J: I was going to go today, since it's the last perf w/Calleja but I slept through it
A: Calleja is good?
J: he is very solid
J: this is like dumbed down Rigoletto thouugh--no one has taken any high notes all season
A: weak
A: it sucks there are only 4 Meistersingers
A: they are all during finals time
A: or thereabouts
J: blech
J: I feel like it may not be that great
A: I just need to see it
J: it's Wing Chang Gong and Hep B and James Morris. Bleah
A: I think they replaced Heps w/ the Mullet
J: ahh he couldn't cut it!
A: I haven't seen that mentioned anywhere
A: I mean, he was totally in it, right?
J: I think so right?
A: I vividly remember being like "Heps is Walther, natch"
J: well, Mullet Dumpty may be fine in that
J: his Gurrelieder this summer was very good
A: oh...this guy is nice
J: he is pulling it out
J: earlier ones his top was a little weak, tho he was otherwise terrific
J: I wish I had gone
J: damn
J: then again, I am in my PJ's with the cat and the tree
A: there are certainly worse places to be
J: $25 says they'll skip the high note at the end
J: they keep doing it
A: on the broadcast?
J: G thinks it's a conductor choice
A: boo
J: boo
A: Fanciulla got pulled from next year, it seems
A: that is lame
J: well
J: I am fine with it--the cast was so bad
A: oh
A: who was it?
J: I like this line
J: it was Grewwber
J: and Licitra I think
A: snore
J: snooze!
J: she is sounding great
A: no doubt
J: bra-freaking-va lady
A: classy
J: Ziti ziti ziti ziiiiiiii
A: ha
A: I love all the randy mens choruses in this opera
J: hah
A: it's somewhat weak that there are four Meistersingers and yet JL is only doing three
J: that is weak
J: shut up Renaay
A: her midwestern accent is kind of intense
J: it is
J: she isn't the worst interviewer though
A: maybe that's a good second career for her
J: yeah
A: perhaps the advent of constant opera broadcasting will lead to a thing like in sports where washed up singers become radio personalities
J: I am counting on it
A: whoa...he's young
J: wow
A: that was nice and diplomatic
J: what??
A: which? J: when he was all "there's one soprano who can wear horizonal stripes"
A: cuz she's all hot
A: and not fat
J: right
J: but it was just funny
A: "there's one soprano who has perky tits"
J: hah
A: a'ight
A: I'm off to the 'rents
J: ok
J: ciao
A: adio!
J: adio!
J: adio!
A: adiiiiiio!

Friday, December 15, 2006

It's beginning to feel a lot...

J: I got a tree!
A: bonus!
A: a real one?
J: of course
J: bitch please
A: my bad
J: hsh
A: I am going to go to the *gym*
J: whoa
A: I am so bored
A: this is what I have been driven to
J: hah
A: back in a bit
J: ok enjoy
A: so many bad jokes come into one's head while listening to Gotterdammerung on the treadmill
J: haha
J: such as?
A: Siegfried's Funeral Jog
J: heh
A: Immolation (of the carbs)
J: oh jesus
J: check out my tree:
A: that is really, really magical
J: I am happy you think so
A: and it's pretty wide but still fits
A: in your apt
J: yeah it doesn't look too big
A: did you go ornament shopping?
J: at the 99cent store
A: sweet
A: they have everything
J: it's true
A: has andrew tried to climb it yet?
J: he likes to smell it and bat at the ornaments
A: that's pretty cute
A: a'ight
A: I'm out again
J: a'ight
A: good work on the tree

Monday, December 11, 2006

In praise of silence between movements

Checked out the seasonal concert of the choir I sang with growing up today. They sound pretty fantastic these days, yet, as befits a concert with "children's" in the name, the audience etiquette was decidedly subpar. The rampant child non-disciplining and mid-song bathroom breaking is to be expected. As is the gratuitous applause after every. single. song. Including the individual movements of the Poulenc Mass in G. While the last breach might be forgiven in this setting, it made me remember just how bothersome clapping between movements is. And despite the opinion of some that clapping between movements is a sort of trick the sand/head bound classical elite uses to keep the potential prole Beethoven lovers in the dark, I feel I must reaffirm that inter-movement silence should be seen as progress in concert protocol, not some snobby tick to be eliminated.

I enjoy not clapping between movements. It sustains tension between the different components of the piece and makes the ending more satisfying. From the performer's perspective, I feel silence between movements helps to keep focus--maintain "character", if you will. Applause, on the other hand, is a cue to break character, and is thus intrusive when one is caught up in trying to express a single multi-movement work. Performers aren't awkward about excessive inter-movement clapping because they aren't used to it, they're awkward because they feel they still have more work to do.

Do I believe this is a hard and fast rule? Of course not. Many periods of opera have built in applause pauses, and these are very reasonable breaks in the action. Sometimes, in a concert piece, there is a performance so stupendous that all one can do is clap. It is nice when that happens, and refreshing. But it is spontaneous, and relatively rare, and should be kept so.

"Oh, but people used to clap between movements back in the day when classical music was actually popular!" they say. I say whatever. People didn't know a lot of things back when classical music was popular. Moreover, I see no reason to dignify the claim that inter-movement clapping has some relationship to classical music's likeability.

Thus, I call on non-inter-movement clappers of the world to unite. Listening to nonstop applause after every movement is annoying. People interested in the music don't like it and performers don't like it. It's just an inefficient way to run a modern concert. And it's a piss-poor way to attract new classical music lovers. I mean, who are the wilting daisy rock enthusiasts who are so wounded when they find out the concert hall protocol is no clapping until the entire piece is over? Do these people actually exist? And do we even want them in the club? I mean, we still have some standards right?

Just remember kids, only Communists clap between movements.

Update: ACD reprises an earlier post with a nice elaboration of the historical angle here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Rodolfo come on over for dinner...

J: the Trebs/Villazon Boheme was not all that, btw
J: Domingus is a terrible, terrible condustor
J: conductor
A: that blows
J: like, he was just plugging through the whole thing, not letting anyone phrase anything
J: none of it was exciting
J: and the best parts were just rushed through
J: and like the singers were trying to phrase stuff
J: so everyone was out of synch a lot
J: but Trebs and the Mexicano were really into it
J: and both sounded really good (though he was very very quiet in act 1)
J: Relyea was awesome as Colline
J: best see-ya coat aria ever
A: oh nice
A: was it like trebazon paw-fest?
J: they had a paw, yes
A: Che Gelida Manina (Let me touch your tit)
J: haha
J: "oh my muff is so warm. here, stick your hands in it"
A: haha
J signed off at 6:17:12 PM.
J signed on at 10:53:52 PM.
J: Company!
A: good stuff?
J: really great
A: is it an open ended run?
J: I think so
A: I need to see that on stage really bad
J: yeah you need to see this
J: it's so lovely
A: sondheim revivals are having really good luck these days
J: hah High Fidelity got a HORRIBLE review
A: bah
A: good
J: "Still, High Fidelity definitely deserves a place in my own catalog of Top 5 lists. That would be on the roster of All-Time Most Forgettable Musicals. Now if only I could remember the names of the others."
J: says Brantley
A: good burn
A: broadway people can be such retards

Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves

Caught the last night of "The Azucena Show" featuring Dolora Zajick (aka Il Trovatore) at Lyric yesterday. Needless to say, DZ owns this role like Satan owns Dick Cheney. I saw the Met vid with her and Pavoratti a while back, so it was quite a pleasure to see it in person. I mean:

'Nuff said.

Except that I also want to say how very, very much I am in love with the low end of that woman's voice. I would gladly trade in some high bits, thrilling as they are, just to hear that light-bending black hole that is her lower register a few more times. *Chills*

SandRad was in tremendous form as Leonora. After seeing the Cyrano sans Domingo last year, J called her: "that hard to find perfect balance of presence and delicacy--creating a beautiful sound yet never losing full command of the stage," and I am inclined to agree. I feel like most renditions one hears of the big Leonora songs error on the side of the priddy, but Radvanovsky doesn't really settle for the priddy. Instead, she uses miraculous control over her instrument to perform them like a cat in opera heat. For instance, towards the end of D'amor sull'ali rosee, she spun out this one line longer than most people can hold their breath underwater, covering just about every shade of anguish the human voice is capable of short of shrieking. The audience sounded like they'd been tasered. Granted, the price of that commitment might be a few less than in sync patches (although she can turn on the accuracy something fierce when she wants to) but I for one am glad to pay it.

As for the Count, let me note again that Mark Delavan is just a classy, classy, dude. The man is a pro in the finest sense of the word. Nothing is ever forced or blown off. Everything is elegance and poise. And what's not to love about that marvelous cavern of a voice? For my money, his big number outside of the convent was just about as close to the ideal Verdian art of the baritone as one can hope for.

Vincenzo La Scola (Manrico Due for this run) has a top that's more yodel than ping. And some pitch issues. But he gave a very touching Act IV, so I forgave a bit. And while a good Manrico is awfully nice, I get the sense that the lack of one doesn't make or break a good Trovatore.

This new production...sand...ramparts...revolve...phoned Goya reference on scrim...blah, blah, blah.

I guess that's it for Chicago opera for the time being (tho I might still suffer the Gounod and go to an R&J before Xmas). The next *pair* of productions here are stupid Flaydermowce and Turan-dont (Gruber is still around). Otherwise, I'll be waiting til February for Cosi/Carmelites or hopping a plane back to NY. We'll see how long I can hold out...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Afternoon on Crete

Revisited Idomeneo this afternoon. A quick rundown...

Röschmann is still perfection. Is she scheduled to sing anything else here in the next couple seasons? I don't understand the criticisms I have heard of her in this role. I have heard from a couple people that she is too dark/heavy for it...what?

Bitch please. I haven't heard singing like this in months.

Magdalena Kozena was, not surprisingly, excellent. She was the real reason for this afternoon's revisit, though admittedly I was thoroughly impressed with the smoov mezzo stylings of Kristine Jepson at the season prima. Kozena, despite her grand-scale emoting, makes the whole thing seem so effortless. She may be the 06-07 Mozart Mezzo to beat.

Kobie Bryant Beef van Rensburg, the second South African tenor we've heard at the Met this week, turned in a perfectly solid Idomeneo. Possessing the required agility for the role, KvR is probably a more successful Idomeneo than Heppner, whose singing is just a bit too labored to really pull off Mozart at this point

Alexandra Deshorties was a fun Elettra. I like her voice perfectly well, though I'm not overwhelmed by it. She was light years better than Olga Makarina, however, which allowed for the principal cast to feel nicely rounded out in a way it previously did not.

Jeffrey Francis and Simon O'Neill as Arbace and the High Priest, repsectively, both sing with greater prowess than one generally expects from these semi-thankless roles. O'Neill in particular was a pleasant surprise.

I'm really glad I went back. I think the whole thing was just a bit more buttoned up the second time around. And I still can't decide on a recording...

Saturday, December 02, 2006


A: all this Handel has me kind of itching to see Rodelinda again
J: but not with Renaay
J: you have to remember how awful that was
A: I'm thinking like Rodelinda, hold the Rodelinda
A: or at least get someone who can friggin enunciate
J: and maintain one dynamic level for longer than a quarter note
A: I hope she doesn't fuck up Eugene Onegin
J: evidently she does that one well
A: she is not to be trusted anymore
J: it's true
J: she is officially a COD account
A: no credit for you, Flemball
A: that shit needs to be paid up front, yo
J: and we'll need a PO
A: Quantity: 1
A: Item: Renaay not sucking ass
J: hah
A: man, I'm listening to the CSO's Messiah with Solti
A: the chorus is amazing
J: do they have a resident chorus?
A: yes
A: they were really famous back in the day under a woman named Margaret Hillis
A: most American orchestras don't have resident choruses, right?
J: yeah I don't think so
A: the runs are so insanely precise
J: that is so awesome
J: is it really light?
A: like, it's a chorus of 100 people, and it sounds like about 5 in the quiet delicate parts
A: I think maybe I will start a little handel hobby
J: of recordings and stuff?
A: not sure yet
A: I guess trying to acquire the big operas and some of the oratorios
A: it's really unpleasant when its not done right, tho
A: which would be part of the hobby, I suppose
A: charming weather here
J: oh snow!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Don Carlo: A Solid 6

Alex asks: On the Verdi Enjoyability Scale of 1-10, with Forza being a 1 and Traviata being a 10, where does Don Carlo fall?

Well, tonight was the much anticipated (at least in this household of 1) season premiere of Don Carlo at the Met. After the particularly kick-ass preview we got from Pape and Hvorostovsky at the Volpe Gala last May, I had sort of expected an evening unending baritonal splendor.

The thing I sort of forgot is that the vast majority of the first 3 acts of Don Carlo are sort of a drag. Notable exceptions on this particular evening were Borodina's ever so slightly uneven but well packaged "Nei giardin" in Act 2 and the Act 3 scene 1 trio for Carlo, Rodrigo, and Eboli (virus).

Speaking of Borodina...I am really crazy about her. The love affair started with her Amneris last season, was confirmed with her Dalila, and was further solidified with her Laura in this season's Gioconda. That said...something was up tonight with her Eboli. Perhaps it's because she was singing a role with a name that is the perfect hybrid of a famous & fatal virus and a famous & fatal bacteria. Or maybe she was just having an off night. Her upper register was really strained and lost most of the immeasurable richness and solidity she has so unfailingly in the middle and lower part of her range. I know the top is there--I've heard it. Anyway, no love lost, clearly.

Johan Botha's Carlo got off to a shaky start with a surprisingly wimpy "lo la vidi" but got slowly stronger as the evening progressed. What he lacks in stage presence and acting prowess he makes up for with bright, powerful top notes and a marvelous display of vocal stamina. And a mullet to beat all...

Good ol' Pat Racette was in fine form tonight--her solid performance culminating in a sensitive and agile "Tu che le vanitá". It's hard to know what to say about her. Her voice has harsh edges, but she's just so darn reliable. And in a world of Heppners, Giordanis, and Gallardo Domas-es, that reliability is REALLY valued.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky had moments of brilliance, but spent much of the evening covering his sound in a way that made it come off a bit muffled and smaller than I remembered. His "Per me giunto" in Act 4 (of 37), however, was thrilling and received a lengthy, enthusiastic and much deserved ovation. Also, I decided I think Hvorostovsky looks like this caricature of Peter Gallagher.

Opera Hot Rene Pape remains an absolute genius. His resonances make my entire body vibrate. I don't even know what else to say. He absolutely does not disappoint. His "Ella giammai m'amò" at the top of act 4 was when the evening finally got off the ground. And it was worth the wait. Judging by the screaming around me at the aria's end (including a very nice older gentleman who was quietly saying "yaaaaay")--the crowd was in agreement that it was worth the wait.

So, this isn't my favorite Verdi. And it wasn't the constant magic for which I had hoped. But, in this production, the good bits are really, really good. Definitely don't miss it.

PS: A, I am overall giving Don Carlo a very solid 6.

Update: Maury more elegantly details the "DON CARLO truly begins in act 4" phenomenon.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Late Night

J: statistics?
A: naw
A: Mikro
J: blech
A: can't sleep?
J: precisely
A: boo
J: I did for awhile
A: I am writing about the idea of deregulating the market for livers
A: it is gross
J: um
J: ew
A: liiiiiverrrrs
J: wait like
J: duck livers
J: or like human transplant livers
A: human
A: like, if you could just go out and buy a liver instead of the whole waiting list thing
J: right
J: ebay!
A: haha
A: exactly
J: "shows signs of wear. seller has 89% positive feedback rating"
A: haha
J: seller accept PayPal ONLY
A: ha
A: did you know that China sells off the organs of all the prisoners it executes?
J: huh
J: so I guess they don't do electric chair
A: I guess
A: probably not firing squad either
A: wow...that is some morbid conversation for 4/5 in the morning
J: it is
J: wait the best would be the ebay feedback:
J: aweomse seller!!! Liver exactly as described. Works perfectly. a credit to ebay A++++++
A: haha
A: that's genius
J: hm i want my cat
A: I suppose i should schlaf and look at this in the morning
A: good luck...
J: thanks
J: night
A: 'night
J signed off at 4:20:46 AM.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Wagner and Karólína: On Ice

So, *somewhat* on impulse, but with enough lead time to get my opera tickets in order, I skipped out on the turkey this weekend and instead gave thanks Wellsung-stlye in Iceland.

And what a weekend...from half a dozen different kinds of herring to volcanic craters to cocktails and hot dogs with a particularly hospitable contingent of Reykjavik's classical music community, it was a weekend worth blogging.

After initial explorations of the city on Thursday afternoon, and a platter of lamb unlike anything I believed possible, I trekked over to Háskólabíó, a cinema connected with the university campus in Reykjavik. Until the Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands moves into their new space in the soon-to-be-revamped Reykjavik harbor in 2009, they are housed in an unglamorous but perfectly adequate hall within the cinema complex.

(The program was Wagner: the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde and, working surprisingly well as a concert piece, the entire 3rd act of Parsifal, featuring the formidable Gurnemanz of Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson. Spoiled as we all were by Rene Pape's spectacular G-Manz last season at the Met, I went in fully braced to be underwhelmed. I was in for a seriously pleasant surprise: At least in this intimate space, Sigmundsson's performance resonated every bit as richly as Pape's, and was infused with emotion and elegance.

The rest of the singers fared decently well: Ruth-Maria Nicolay had an intense (bordering on terrifying) presence, but a smallish voice. Consequently, she was often drowned out during the Liebestod, but was admirably committed to Kundry's wails and screams during the Parsifal. In her defense, from what I could glean from the website, she was a replacement for Petra Lang, who became unavailable(?) (spake I any Icelandic, I'd know for sure. Perhaps one of our new pals from the symphony can fill us in).

Kolbeini Ketilssyni and Wolfgang Schöne turned in respectable if not thrilling performances as Parsifal and Amfortas, respectively. I couldn't tell if Schöne was legitimately cracking up top, or if he was just doing some Hampson-style emoting. Nonetheless, I found it peculiar. Kolbeini is a light voice for this rep--it worked nicely in that space, but would be lost on a larger house.

The star of the evening was the spectacular Iceland Symphony Orchestra. They should give a master class to the NY Philharmonic. They played with the precision and commitment of a fine chamber ensemble; it was some of the tightest work from an orchestra of that size I have ever heard. Speaking to some of the players in the ensemble, they deflect a lot of the credit to the guest conductor that evening, Johannes Fritzsch. And from what I could tell, this music is deeply felt by Mr. Fritzsch, and manifests itself physically in his conducting subtly and effectively.

See some of Alex Ross' thoughts on this orchestra here.

So that was Thursday evening.

Friday was full of waterfalls, national parks, volcanic craters, northern lights hunting, and geysers (did you know that the word "geyser" in English actually comes from the Icelandic "Geysir", which was the name given to the first of this sort of geothermal activity discovered on the island?)

Saturday brought some museum-hopping, and more lamb. After a quick visit to the illuminated manuscripts of the Icelandic Sagas, and a quick change of shoes and light dinner I headed over to the Íslenska óperan, Reykjavik's very intimate (450 seats) opera house in the center of town.

The performance this evening was the premiere of a new Icelandic opera from composer Karólína Eiríksdóttir entitled Skuggaleiker (English title: Shadow Play). Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story The Shadow, the opera has four characters: A Poet (tenor), His Muse (Soprano) and their Shadows (a counter-tenor and mezzo, respectively). I would have trouble summarizing the basic action of the opera, so here is the english language synopsis on the company's website.

I don't really have the vocabulary to discuss Karólína Eiríksdóttir's complex score. It is music of a contemporary nature to which my ear has never fully adjusted, but there are some beautiful and unexpectedly lyrical lines for the Muse, and some heartbreaking passages for the Poet--Karólína places them late enough in the piece that the uninitiated listener has enough time to adjust to the challenging musical language to be able to appreciate these refreshing moments of lyricism.

The production is very simple (see a picture of the set to the right)--a set of rectangular white panels with slowly shifting lighting cues and a series of related projections.

The four singers: tenor Eyjólfur "Eyvi" Eyjólfsson, soprano Ingibjörg Guðjónsdóttir, mezzo Ásgerður Júníusdóttir, and countertenor Sverrir Guðjónsson display some serious musicianship in their ability to learn and deliver this incredibly challenging score. My biggest compliments to Eyjólfur and Ingibjörg (see picture on the right), two singers from whom I imagine we will be hearing a lot more. Both have effortless voices that, judging by their ability to make it through this piece and deliver some of their finest singing near the end of the evening, are also tireless. Eyjólfur, in particular, sings with the sort of strength and clarity that will make him a true competitor on the international stage.

The setting was intimate and informal enough that I stuck around after the performance to meet some of the cast and creative team, as well as some members of the symphony who were in the audience that night. Fortunately for me, these are some of the friendliest, most inclusive people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Several cocktails and a couple of shockingly delicious Icelandic-style hot dogs later, I was able to officially name that evening as the standout of an alotgether incredible weekend.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Way last thoughts on Minghella-fly

So, I snuck into NY under cover of night this weekend to catch the last Budderfly, among other things (i.e., my little sister TEARING S**T UP in an NYU "Once On This Island".)

So, let's get it out of the way: I had the misfortune of joining Maury for my first tour in the Met penalty box during the first Act on Saturday. After many years of faithful devotion to the Queensboro Bridge for all my midtown entry needs, I forsook it for the #*(&$*& Midtown Tunnel and was roundly served my kharmic deserts: Islip to Greenpoint Ave: 1 hour...Greenpoint Ave to 2nd Ave: 45 minutes. Arg.

And things jes' got more interesting from there. Intermission 1 lasted about an hour, due to "technical difficulties". Eventually resolved, we finally got down to business:

CDG: Gah...what a maddening singer. Her big n' loud I found really quite awesome. She's a formidable actress and stage presence for sure. But the rest is really inexcusable. I actually saw the point in some comments made here a while back--that Levine's pacing may have been too slow for her. But should think our opera singers would be able to maintain support at a variety of tempi, not just the fast stuff and big FX.

JL: Well, I suppose there are reasons he stays away from the Puccini. The pit was really one of the demerits of the evening. One could see him trying to apply that clinical dissection/reconstruction thing that works so f'ing brilliantly in Berg and Mozart. But Puccini don't roll like that--it just falls apart if you try to take it in pieces. Best to just play the darn thing.

The Production: Not that I need to say anything more here. All hail this kick-ass production.

Creepy Awesome Puppet: OMG. Who the hell didn't like the Trouble-puppet?? It was BRILLIANT. There's something about having a real child in the presence of especially dramatic or gory stage business that's always a bit lurid--some part of you is uncomfortable with someone in the performance who isn't fully aware of the proceedings, and it detracts from the drama. Butterfly w/ actual little boy suffers from this in spades. But Butterfly w/ boy-puppet? Perfect solution.

The technical difficulties weren't the end of the fun, though. CDG bailed on the last act of the run and instead we got one Cynthia Lawrence, who was quite good really. No special revelations I suppose, but quite powerful and just what good lyric soprano money should buy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

One Song, Glorye

A: some parts of Messiah kind of sound like "Rent"
J: really??
A: some of the recitative parts
A: that are just a bit too tuneful for normal recitative
A: but just about right for "Rent" recitative
A: and the strings come in all "ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba"
J: btw I am at Postworks QCing an output
A: what did the output do to you that you need to QC it?
J signed off at 9:54:11 PM.
J signed on at 9:56:25 PM.
J signed off at 9:58:25 PM.
J signed on at 9:59:15 PM.
J: ok the wireless here is sort of crap
A: apparently
J: they have two networks and I have switched to the other one
J: which parts of Messiah sound like the Rent?
A: I'm just basing that on the recitatives that lead into the "Glory to God" chorus in Part I
J: oh hah
A: I kind of like the idea of Messiah as "the Rent" of 1742
A: people are clamoring for "Unto Us a Son is Born" at harpsichord bars across London
J: haha
J: confirmed bachelor harpsichord bars
A: hehe

Monday, October 30, 2006

Reason #463 why opera is not to be taken literally

A: so, I had a big "only weird for opera people" moment the other night
J: what was that?
A: choir sang at this nice community Halloween concert that the university orchestra does
A: and the theme was "Dangerous Women" with fun orchestral excerpts from the usual suspects
J: hah
A: we sang the carmen entrance sequence
A: but, they also did the dance of the seven veils from Salome
J: oh sweet
A: which was all well and good, and the orchestra did a good job, but the community involvement part involved dancers from the Hyde Park Ballet academy
A: who were ACTUAL 15 year old girls
J: ahhhh!!
J: that's so genius
J: and did they go all the way?
A: dude
A: it was really uncomfortable
J: what were they thinking?
J: it was like at the 4th grade talent show when Ariel Whiting Simons sang "She's Like the Wind" a capella and she replaced all the "She's" with "He's" so it was "He's like the wind through my tree..." etc
J: and also she was 9
A: haha
J: "I feel his breath on my face...his body close to me"
A: amazing

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Da Voigt

'Twas really spectacular, as J notes below. Hearing that woman plow through Salome with an intensity and accuracy one pretty much resigns for another age, one feels like a bit of a heel for being part of the world that kept her from bringing it to the universe short of massive surgery. I mean, who really gives a fuck in the presence of artistry like that, right? For shame.

The supporting cast as otherwise noted, was without weak links. Orchestra deserves a very substantial mention. This was the Salome score as it should be, where each moment brings new grand, erotic or terrifying delights from the pit.

The design leaves a good amount to be desired, IMHO. The set looks like nothing so much as a nondescript lobby centerpiece from the Luxor, the kind of thing you ooh and ahh over for the benefit of your traveling companions but secretly wonder whether this is really the best Vegas can do. I mean, it's Salome. The opera is always going to outdo you, so why not kick it up a notch?

But whatevs. The point is Debbie V, singing the hell out of a role she was placed on this earth to sing. The rest is gravy.

Deborah Voigt

I'm not sure why it's taken us a good four days to post anything about Saturday evening. I think it may have something to do with Voigt's First Staged Salome (the VFSS, if you will) being a huge relief, in a way. It was a thrilling achievement. Somehow, though, I found myself ever so slightly removed from the moment--a tad plagaued by an overwhelming sense of "Thank God it was good."

Does this make sense? I wanted so badly for it to be wonderful--not just because it was also *my* first staged Salome (which I flew Southwest out of Islip to make happen), but because I really found myself wanting it for Deborah Voigt. The woman deserves an inarguable triumph--let's face it: being shamed into horribly invasive and painful surgery followed by a surprisingly protracted period of potentially scary vocal readjustment and long term career rethinking (read: cancellation of Vienna Brunnhildes) makes for a pretty shitty couple of years.

Whether it was all worth it is something only one person can answer. But one thing is unquestionable. Deborah Voigt's Salome on Saturday evening was first class. I can't imagine a more vocally beautiful, musically precise, and emotionally brave performance. And when the curtain came back up after the piece's wrenching final moments, the audience gave as powerful an ovation as I have experienced as she tilted her head back in a much deserved moment of exhaustion and relief. Congratulations to her.

Quick notes on the supporting cast: Alan Held's Jokanaan was generally excellent, but lacked the same sharp resonances I remember from his Wozzeck. Kim Begley turned in an appropriately lecherous and easy sounding Herod. Judith Forst's Herodias made me giggle in anticipation of her one-off Kostelnicka in February...

I don't have much to say about the production. I found it a bit drab and without cohesive vision. But frankly, I could not have cared less...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

R&J and Fledermouse can suck a nut

J: dude there was just a centipede in my office
J: I screamed and made my intern kill it
A: sick!
A: how long?
J: oh man!
J: we lost it
J: and are now in a fight with this tree hugger girl in the office
J: though PS she eats meat and wears leather
J: but is mad that we killed a 'pede
A: whatever
A: those things are like animals
A: they are not to be allowed inside
A: the new cubs manager is giving a press conference, and just said something like "I'd like to have the success Joe Torre's had with the Yankees over here"
A: and there was an audible beat of silence from the reporters
J: hah
J: is idle at 1:13:06 PM.
J: is no longer idle at 1:27:55 PM.
J: is idle at 1:57:58 PM.
J: is away at 2:32:58 PM.
J: returned at 2:36:51 PM.
J: signed off at 6:54:58 PM.
J: signed on at 9:14:46 PM.
A: dude
A: I just *swam*
J: wow!
J: that is awesome
A: It basically killed me
A: more or less
J: well right
J: but it feels good
A: and in some way I feel there is more potential for going back than with running
A: where you're all "I feel great! I'm doing this every other day! (not)"
J: yeah that makes sense
A: also, the cat is apparently really intrigued by chlorine
A: he's going crazy on everything I brought back
J: oh awesome
J: Cristina Gallardo-Domas is such ass
J: it
J: is so retarded
A: you went again?
J: I am listening
A: oh right
A: where the hell did she come from anyhow?
A: this was her debut, right?
J: no
J: she did some Mimis and stuff before
A: there was no alternate cho-cho san night, right?
J: no!
J: I hope she falls ill when my parents are here
A: when are your parents coming?
J: Veteran's Day weekend
A: nice
A: anything besides budderfly on the agenda?
J: they are joining the Barbiere premiere
A: oh cool
J: hah Juntwait is hilarious about the puppet
J: she just said "now the entire company is in a line...along with the puppet boy...who is the way."
A: hahaha
A: awesome
J: I have done a total 180 on that woman
A: I want it so bad
A: I am on ebay now
J: wait wait
J: don't buy one
A: k
A: ?
J: just don't ;-)
A: oh you...
A: Sports radio is discussing whether it is valid to be happy about the Bears' win last night.
J: a win is always good, I think
A: people here are very self-critical
J: right
A: it was pretty awesome at the time though
A: they were down like 13 five minutes from the end of the game and made it all back
J: yeah that is neat
A: people in Jimmy's were like shrieking with joy
J: I mean, I maintain football is sort of retarded and boring
J: haha
J: like, I am not one to rag on sports or anything
J: but football I just can't engage with
A: I mean, just to be clear, I still haven't watched a complete game
J: I suppose I haven't really tried
J: hah
J: whew
A: the third quarter of monday night football starts about when I get out of choir
J: haha
J: my parents are going to Tristan in SF this weekend
J: I am jealous
A: oooh
A: awesome
A: Brewer?
J: yeah
J: I like her
A: who is the 'stan?
J: Moser
A: he seems like the go to tristan, but no one is very happy about it
J: is he bad?
J: well it's kinda like how Linda Watson is the go to Brunnhilde...but have you ever met a LInda Watson fan?
A: the one thing I really remember him from is this Frau Ohne Schatten video
A: where he was really great
J: oh neat
A: I am back and forth re: Watson
J: I have never really heard her
J: I never really heard much of the Bayreuth b'casts
A: Re-Listening through those Bayreuth b'casts there were times when I thought she had pitch and stridency issues, and times when I thought she was interesting and right on
J: oh cool
A: it's way on the gym-teacher end of the Brunnhilde spectrum
A: which isn't necessarily bad
J: well she is the B-hilds in the DC Walküre this season
A: oh--Vincent from choir has podcasts with the highlights
A: I'm sure they are still on his site
J: oh swell
J: I'll listen
J: but I think right now since I am not prepared to sit entirely still with headphone I am going to put on the Tristan with Meier and Jerusalem
A: I still need to hear her Isolde
J: he sounds a little assy on it
A: that is Barenboim?
J: but she is good
A: he is assy all over
A: the Siegfried on those Bayreuth 'casts is neat
J: it is B-boim
A: He has to noticeably change his tone to hit some stuff, but it may really be the most secure Siegfried one can find these days, and he is very musical
A: he spent like 6 years in the "Phantom" nat'l tour before returning to opera
A: it is a neat story
J: oh wow
J: like, AS the Phantom?
J: I am so glad he came back
A: yeah...THE phantom
J: huh
J: I have been wondering if Forbis could ever sing the more serious Wagner stuff
A: right?
A: he totally does the 'stan
J: oh man I would LOVE to hear his 'stan
J: oh and he sings Parsifal
A: dude, they need to give him that shit at the Met
A: nothing against Hep B
A: but they need to mix it
A: up
A: fuck
A: no more rib tips left
J: oh crud
J: and PS
J: totally fine to diss the Hep B
J: the guy has great moments but if often a disappointment
J: is often
J: ok hm
J: maybe I should switch over to the Bayreuth Tristan from 1953 with Nilsson
J: the Barenboim is sort of bumming me out
A: who's the conductor on that '53 bayreuth?
J: oh sorry
J: I was getting it confused with a '53 Krauss Ring
J: it is '66
J: and Böhm
A: ah
A: I was about to comment on how ridiculously long that woman's career was
J: have you seen this M-A trailer?
J: they are side by side on the shelf
A: arg
A: I am missing a plugin
J: urg
A: I don't know why it hates me
A: everything seemed to be going so well
A: I need a laptop
J: it's just a quicktime, so that is weird
A: when does it open everywhere?
J: friday
A: I was in this funny dance club on the North Side on Friday called "Berlin" and it was plastered with Marie Antoinette posters
J: oh awesome
A: clifton forbis has a nice big Wagner face
J: he does
J: I like the CF
A: I bet he has a really funny deep speaking voice
J: and maybe a souther accent
A: yeah...I want to hear him talk
A: barber premiere is the 10th, right?
A: maybe I will get my sister tix to that
A: it is her birthday thursday
A: but all the cav/pags look kind of dumb
A: so much Farina
J: is idle at 11:55:03 PM.
J: is no longer idle at 12:04:55 AM.
J: I know it
J: it gets better in the January ones
J: Guleghina is replaced by Zajick and Farina is replaced by someone who is not Farina
A: score
A: it is too bad all the DZ trovatores here are right after you'll be here
J: hrm
J: yeah
J: I think my next Chicago opera trip will be Carmelites
A:'s S-rad too
J: I know!
A: barring the DZ and S-rad, tho, that's really the only other interesting thing on the schedule
A: I'll go to the Cosi, but R&J and Fledermouse can suck a nut
J: yeah
J: oh but it's lovely Matthew Polenzani
J: in R&J
A: oh!
A: hm
A: I am so turned off by that opera after last year
J: yeah
A: I guess the chances are pretty slim that the Lyric would come up with something as retarded as the Met
J: it's true

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why would he play football like that, Murph?

A: there is great discontent in Chicago this evening
J: oh did the Bears lose that game after coming back?
A: no, they came back and did win
J: oh swell
A: but it did not negate the shitty playing
A: and everyone is upset
J: ah
J: weird
J: I like it here where no one cares
A: right
J: people care some about the baseball, but I feel sort of distanced from it
A: people are like committing suicide on 670 "The Score" right now
A: even though they actually won
J: hah
A: the guy on right now can barely speak he is so concerned
J: hah
J: that is retarded
J: and sort of great
A: "I mean, Murph, he, like, he, I mean, how could he fumble? Like, why would he play football like that? Why Murph?"
J: evidently the Lyric is going to start broadcasting now?
A: ?
A: where did you see this? JFerrantel: Greg told me
A: I feel like they do some broadcasts, but nothing regular
J: well, the are broadcasting the Salome this Saturday
A: oh sweet
A: Windows media player is f'd up on this @#$)(#$ computer and I can't get sirius yet
A: I want it oh so bad
J: ok I would suggest doing what I did
J: which is buying a receiver and Sirius boombox online
J: and just plug it in
J: and go nuts
J: like used on ebay I mean
J: mine was a floor model and just had a subscription active on it that could stay active forever
J: or not
A: huh
A: I thought the units were relatively kind of expensive
J: I got a boombox online for $10, an receiver for $10, paid about $40 for shipping and $25 for an adapter
A: dang
J: so I paid about $75 all-in
A: does it make you happy?
J: it makes me pretty happy
J: the sound quality is really good
J: and when they are playing Bel Canto bullshit, there's always the Martha Stewart channel
A: good thing
A: literally
J: I wonder what she has on now
A: Martha After Hours
J: the one bad thing is that when they are not broadcasting opera
J: they play really random and often sort of lame stuff
J: like random period recordings of random movements from concerto grossi
A: um
A: boo
A: I thought the filler was all historical stuff?
J: they play the historical stuff all day
J: but there is space between them
J: and then from like midnight to 6AM is all the lame stuff
A: ah
J: there is also the showtunes channel
A: oh right
A: is that good?
J: yeah
A: that seemed like a good alternative
J: the mix of stuff is really amusing
J: like, "What's the Use of Wonderin" from Carousel will be followed by "Defying Gravity"
A: haha
A: that sounds like my kind of station
J: totally
A: p.s. I just realized I had two diet cokes in the fridge when I thought I had none
A: *bonus*
J: oh sweet!
A: they are going to help me as I try to graph demand functions
J: on a similar note, I just remembered I had some delicious ice cream in the freezer I had forgotten about
A: also *bonus*
J: oh btw
J: Juntwait is so much cooler on the nightly broadcasts
J: it's not as scripted
J: and her intermission banter is sort of sweet
A: arg
A: I want it so bad
A: I literally spent all of saturday fucking with my computer and not doing homework trying to make it work
J: darn
A: there is some weird Microsoft thing, comme toujours, that is fucking up the process
J: hah they are playing "Comfort ye" from the Messiah
J: which, btw, I really love even though it is October and an opera station
A: that is nice
A: I am enjoying learning Messiah for reals for the first time
A: the conductor we have is kind of sarcastic but in a good way
A: like, he does these imitations of the sopranos but in good fun
A: no passive aggression
J: oh that is nice
A: today he was all "you're giving me kind of a speaker feedback sound, when I really want distant cicadas"
J: haha

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


A: dude
A: Tower is closing
J: I know
A: crazy!
J: it is sad
A: my mother and I were just in the lincoln park one talking to the old guy who runs the classical section
A: he said 8 to 10 weeks
J: it is depressing
J: but should result in some sweet sales
A: he said there was a sign in the back that said *80 % off*
J: holy crap
A: today was only 10
A: but I found a complete Knapperbutsch Ring for 55
A: so, perils of drinking #156
A: this morning I couldn't get "Grease" out of my head
A: like, for hours
A: and I kept thinking how odd it was
A: I just opened the CD player and found, sure enough, that I had dug up a Grease CD and put it in there
J: hahah
J: that is awesome
A: whoa
A: is that Mattilla Strauss Four Last Songs on the schedule?
J: wait
J: when??
A: jfmurray mentioned it on the date
J: oh my holy god
J: it's on Nov. 3rd!!!
J: god damn it
J: I have tickets to that Stoppard play that night
J: maybe we can sell them
A: fuk
A: is the stoppard open-ended?
J: no but I am sure I could unload them or trade with someone
A: one must not forsake Karita lightly
J: and the four last songs!!
A: it sounds awfully hott
J: shit
J: what am I going to do?


J: I get to see you in like 10 days. sweet!
A: total sweet!
J: schweet even
A: we ran into a Lyric cellist my mother knows
J: oh rad
J: and?
A: he says the principles are coming on Saturday
A: he is very excited
J: oh man
J: that is so awesome
A: truly
J: it's going to be so great
J: even if it's not great it will be great
J: because no matter what, it's live Salome
A: two hotttest non-genital related words in the english language: live Salome

Monday, October 09, 2006

CSO Round 1

Considering Chicago's terrible stinginess with teh opera (Lyric takes 3 WEEKS to cycle in a new show!!) I have been pursuing some contingency measures to get that sweet, sweet, fix...most recently Matthias Goerne in a program with the CSO this past Saturday, doing selections from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (translation, courtesy J: "The Boy's Wondrous Horn").

First, the remarkable: that dreamboat baritone does not disappoint in public--it's all the chocalatey goodness I had come to expect from the records, and I was actually a bit taken aback by the power he can bring to bear where appropriate (despite confirming that this is essentially a Euro rather than Met-sized instrument). The readings were sensitive, thoughtful, introspective, seamless, etc., etc.

The small quibbles: So, I'll admit it. There were moments when I had that creeping sense that this is what they mean by a CD-voice. As noted above, it is a marvelously beautiful sound, like, ballpark platonic-baritone beautiful--but I found myself a bit distracted. Not that he's a cold interpreter by any means, but just that rough edges are actually something of a boon to effective live performance.

The Woundrous Boy-Horn Songs: Is anyone else just not that into these? I mean, yeah, there are gems, but I can't shake the sense that there's a bunch of filler too. And I like Mahler's songs! Hook me up with the Lieds of the Earth or the Dead Kid Songs and I'm in heaven. But the Wunderhorns? So sue much of it just feels like Mahler phoning it in.

And oh yes. The non-opera-related-program-activities of the second half. Maybe I just didn't give the NY Phil a chance, maybe it was Avery Fisher, or maybe they just really aren't that interesting a band--but boy am I psyched to be back in a town with a marquee orchestra I can really root for. The CSO under Paavo Jarvi (Neeme's brother?) turned in a simply bitchin' Shostakovich 10 which I'm still giddy about 48 hours later.

I am generally of the opinion that Shostakovich is poorly served on headphones, so this was an extra super lucky treat for me. The brilliant ecstatic clarity of the orchestra, the commitment of the soloists, the sheer noise deployed. It was a breathless, bravura performance from start to finish. In contrast to my (slight) misgivings about the time with Goerne, Shostakovich as heard here simply can't be reproduced on disk.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Call me an A-Hole, But I Love This...

From GAY CITY NEWS, courtesy of one James Jorden:

"Unfortunately, the gaping hole in the center of this “Butterfly” is soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, whose threadbare lyric soprano could do little more than sketch in the rich Puccini vocal lines. As heard on September 30, the middle of the voice wavered constantly out of focus, and the top, though powerful enough, failed to land solidly on pitch.

These technical shortcomings might count for less if the soprano could muster consistently interesting and musical phrasing, but line after line emerged shapeless and self-indulgently slow. True, Gallardo-Domâs is an imaginative and fiercely physical actress in the Teresa Stratas mold, but all the emoting in the world is moot if the soprano can’t sing the music."

Excuse me while I go bathe in these words.

Violeta o' my Heart

I promised myself I'd find a way to begin this post with something other than the obligatory mention of how completely retarded the libretto is for La Gioconda.

But let's face it folks. It's retarded. Like, really really retarded. It's also really long--partially because of the 3rd act ballet featuring man-with-ass-of-chiseled-stone spinning very swiftly to the rousing tune of "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh"

Remember on METropolitan OPERA's Opening Night® how you could hit the button on the Met Titles™ a second time and read the translation auf deutsch? I was a little bummed that feature was not active for last night's performance. I guess that was just part of the pizazzerie. It would have been fairly sweet to try to figure out Gioconda in German. I actually went in last night having spent only a marginal amount of time with the music, and clearly NO time with the libretto. Consequently, I spent most of Act III giggling (what with Gioconda astutely anticipating Laura's demise, and showing up with some of Juliet's leftover "deathlike slumber" potion).

Speaking of deathlike slumber--The Tylenol PM are kicking in. I really should say something of some substance pretty quickly here so I can get to bed.

So here goes. Violeta Urmana is completely genius. Her performance was basically flawless vocally--and surprisingly impassioned: reports from rehearsals led me to anticipate a perfectly sung, but potentially dry reading. Not so at all--she managed, pointless libretto and all, to evoke full sympathy, while never giving up her position as the absolute and only master of her own voice. I guess that is what most impressed me--there was never any worry that a/"the" note wouldn't be there, or that a phrase would end abruptly. She may be the reigning mistress of reliable excellence. The R.M.R.E.(?)

That said, I have been debating whether to say this...and this is coming from someone (me) who is flying to Chicago in a couple of weeks to see the Voigt Salome, but...based on last season's Forza, Tosca, Volpe ('member him?)Gala, and a couple shaky reports from San Francisco's Ballo, I am beginning to wonder if Urmana is in fact the one to beat. Not that such comparisons or musings are totally worth our energy--but seeing as Voigt is singing Gioconda chez Met in a couple years, it was on my mind last night.

As for the rest--Chilaquiles Machado's Enzo was less exciting than I had hoped. He sort of falls into the category for me of "acceptable-plump-italian-opera-singing-tenor". His voice has moments of exceptional focus, but it tends to spread a bit in the upper registers. His phrasing is largely mechanical and his stage persona very much of the "stand and sing" variety.

Olga Borodina, as expected, was totally wonderful. This is only my second time hearing her live (the first being her Dalila last season). She is such an impressive singer. And the sexy, rich tones in that voice...she's rapidly becoming one of my favorites.

Rounding out the ladies was Irina Mishura's Cieca. While it was most fun indeed to imagine Podles(!) singing the role, one could not help but be distracted from one's big Polish fantasy by the fact that Mishura was actually totally fantastic.

As Barnaba, baritone Zeljko Lucic was showing signs of wear and generally not my favorite. And Paata Burchaladze, whose massive bass never fails to impress, despite an increasingly wide vibrato, turned in an appropriately sinister and vocally solid Alvise. Not knowing the score all that well, I am going to decline to comment in any substantial manner on Bertrand de Billy and the orch...but I will say that I was impressed with his energy--even having conducted the season prima of Faust the previous evening, he was among the most alert and lively in the room come curtain call.

Next up--possible Faust tomorrow, tonight.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pity the cat

A: so
A: the bears won this big game on Sunday and I am kind of into the football
A: and have been listening to the funny call in shows
A: and it dawned on me that with the Met broadcasts, an opera call-in show is now technically possible
J: it's true
J: I mean
J: they have a whole station
J: I sort of can't deal with football
A: I like that it is so manageable
A: only 16 games
J: that is a good point
A: lord knows I have tried to like baseball...but there are just too many other things to do with one's time than watch it for four hours like EVERY day
J: seriously
A: the smaller number of games makes each one kind of consequential, which is also a pro
J: true
J: who would host the opera call-in shows?
J: Juntwait?
A: not
A: it would have to be kind of mean and boisterous
J: "OK, calling from Des Moines Iowa, we have Andrrrrrea Johnzon"
A: yeah
A: no way
A: more like "Gary on west 26th street, you're on the air"
J: yeah totally
J: it would be like the worst case of "you need to turn your radio down"
A: haha
J: "Sir....SIR you have got to turn Vissi D'arte down"
A: haha
A: "Sorry Bill, yeah, I got a question about Idomeneo last night...uh, who does Heppner think he's fooling in this Mozart rep?"
J: "Gary, I know what you're saying. No one's going to argue his moments of clarion brilliance, but you know and I know it is 2006. We can't keep resting on a successful 1992 outing"
A: oh man
A: it would be fun
A: and then there would be all these freaks who fool the producer and then start going on about some obscure singer once they get on the air
J: totally or are like
J: "I love you Renee Fleming. I love you and I know where you live."
A: it would probably need a pretty good lawyer
J: on a different note, they are selling "limited edition" sticks of Secret™ which evidently celebrate "50 Years of Strong Women"
J: Is this the most retarded thing you have ever heard of in your life?
J: Because it is for me.
A: wow
A: that is really, really, f'ing retarded
A: dozens if not hundreds of people had to sit in meetings about that with a straight face
J: "Celebrating 50 Years of Strong Women Not Reeking to High Heaven®"
A: haha
A: “A Half Century of Fighting Woman Stank”
J: haha
J: I think I'm gonna see Gioconda tomorrow
A: nice
J: I am gonna try those ruch tix
A: I am intrigued
A: oh yeah
J: er, rush
A: that is sweet
A: yay gelb
J: yay indeed
J: yay that nice rich lady who is paying for the rush tickets
J: it's like a program sponsored by a board member
J: she and her husband gave $2million specifically to offer the rush tix
J: which is neat
A: yeah
A: I officially invite them to my house for dinner and opera, should they be in Chicago
A: and if they somehow read this
J: well, here's hoping they like cats.
A: my mother was trying to push a kitten on me
J: oh man
A: she's kitten crazy these days
J: she has a problem
J: she is like me and opera tickets
A: totally
A: a surefire way to depress the fuck out of yourself is visiting adoption sites
J: i would want every damn cat
J: I would love to have a kitten
A: look at this female andrew style cat who no one will take:
J: so much amazing in this:
J: "She has been with us for a very long time, only because of her age. She is suck a loving cat...Ask about our Senior Feline reduced prices."
A: yes
J: suck a loving cat
A: won't you today?
J: haha
J: A loving cat. Suck it.
A: ha
A: the punk adoption agency slogan
A: "Get your face smashed...with a sweet kitten"
J: hah
J: that is sad about that Andrew cat
J: we'll call her Andrea
A: ok
A: she has that nice big face
J: did you visit her in person?
A: no, that's actually in Colorado
A: I typed in the wrong thing
J: oh hah
J: I may go into work a little late tomorrow so I can watch Mr. T on Martha
A: that seems valid
A: has something happened with Mr. T recently?
J: he has a new show
J: titled "Pity the Fool"
A: what does that entail?
J: I have no idea
A: perhaps him saying that
A: alot
A: before
J: no doubt
A: today
A: he is aging
J: hahah
J: oh Mr. T
J: I hope his real first name is Vernon
J: Vernon T
J: Mr. Vernon J. T
A: haha
A: it is Laurence Tureaud
A: not bad
J: not bad
J: Mr. T should come do a stint in Chicago the Musical
A: oh man
A: that is gold
J: as Billy Flynn
A: that would be the hottest irony ticket on broadway in a second
J: no kidding
J: Rev. Billy Flynn
A: according to imdb, "Stopped wearing his trademark gold chains as of last year (2005) because of the Katrina devastation."
J: hahaha
A: I kind of feel that "donating" his trademark chains would have been more of a statement
J: you are dissing the T
A: only because I love