Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Quality time with Dagon

A bit after the fact, but Samson on Tuesday night was something of a mixed bag. As promised Clifton Forbis' dark-hued tenor is worth the trip indeed. The voice is gigantic, easily mistaken for a baritone on the street, and grounded like a mountain--thus, the thrill of hearing him launch it into the stratosphere really doesn't get old. He is also a fine actor, and good thing too, as he is largely left to shoulder the drama alone here.

Maria Domashenko certainly has the dark chocolate sound you want in your Dalila, but she isn't much of an actress. Her 'characterization' basically boiled down to a bag of stock "vampy ho" gesticulating--and sure, there ain't much more to Dalila than that in the end, but there's gotta be something truly sinister and seductive there for Samson's coeur to ouvre to in the second act. Forbis was certainly doing his part in fretting over it, but against Domashenko's thin charms the reponse was more "dude, you need to put yourself together and just bail already." There's also the small problem of her nearly inaudible middle register. Poor Emmanuel Villaume was doing his part to quiet the band for her--often to a fault--but to no avail. No bones about it, her voice just has zero cutting power in 40-60 percent of the required range.

I had never seen this production, and went back and forth about it--i.e. I was real, real sick of salmon tones about 15 minutes into Act II, yet the mesmerizing Orgy des Thongs in Act III had me eating every snarky thought I've ever had regarding lamo French ballet interludes.


Chalkenteros said...

I am ambivalent about the production also. I say: MORE HALF NAKED MUSCULAR MEN in ALL Met productions, even if their presence is irrelevent and they're just standing in the background lookin' hot. All the better, as in the case of S&D, if they can be persuasively integrated into the drama. I wanted to take one of those soldiers home.

And how sexy is it when those dancers are planting white hand-prints all over the bodies of the other troupe members?!

I loved the orange and salmon tones. Striking and beautiful. And the slanting pillar of light in which Samson is turning the mill at the beginning of act III is powerful in its starkness. That said, I *hate* the set design for act II. It didn't help that at this performance the big "cone" downstage was losing its paint in SHEETS. It just looked cheap.

All the more impressive, I thought, was the singing at the end of act II. When Forbis and Domashenko realized that they were competing with disintegrating scenery, they really seemed to turn up the register of their performances. They went from hot to blazing.

Forbis' voice is fantastic, capable of truly heroic volume and tones. I was less attuned than you were to Domashenko's vocal shortcomings, but I did wish that she had lingered more over some of the phrases in "Samson, recherchant ma presence ..." at the begninning of act II. But that's just because I am used to Obraztsova singing the part, and I am in love with her sick, sensuous phrasing of that aria. As for Domashenko's "acting" -- I rather thought that her "vapmy ho" routine worked in regard to the production as a whole, reminding us, as it were, that *this* Dalila is ALL surface, an androcentric projection of a certain *kind* of femininity. Whether or not that was Domashenko's intention, I cannot say.

vcguy said...

Unfortunately, the conductor really has no control over the orchestra because he has no control over his body. So don't blame the orchestra. I should know, I was in the pit! His movements are so large that everything looks like forte.

Baritenor said...

You know maybe I was watching a differant conductor than you were, because I thought Villaume was great. The act two storm has never sounded better (though maybe it was more the orchestra I should be praising. VCguy, I've never heard a sub-par performance from you guys.)