Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Idomeneo and Friends

Interesting note about the Met's 24 year old production of Idomeneo--it seems that someone forgot to paint the set. Oops!

It is the most drab, lifeless, stilted production of all time. Ever.

There isn't much more to say about that, but I do have one other big concern:

WHAT is going on with the Met curtain?? Where is it? There was this hideous, velour-like mustard yellow crap hanging there in its place. Is it being cleaned? I am really attached to that curtain. So, if anyone has any insight as to where the hell it may be, do let me know. It did lead to the enjoyable theory, though, that the mouth of the massive head of Neptune, which hovers for 4 hours over the blandness of this production, was sitting agape at its ugliness (see photo above).

This incarnation of Mozart's underappreciated opera seria thoroughly overcomes the confines of its craptastic production. Mozart with Levine is always an ear-opening experience. In fact, I think I can safely say Levine is teaching me, one opera at a time, to love Mozart. Idomeneo, an opera often slighted as being a bit dry and inaccessible, is instead here filled with emotion and lyricism. Sitting in the house last night, I felt a little bummed out it has taken me so long to spend any serious time with this piece (with that in mind, recording recommendations are hugely appreciated).

Hep B (Ben Heppner, for the uninitiated), was actually one of the weaker links. His voice had its characteristic moments of brilliance and strength, but is no longer fluid enough--14 years after his met debut in this role--to deliver the consistent accuracy and clean lines that are imperative to successful Mozart-singin'.

Totally disappointing was Olga Makarina's Elettra. Her more lyrical moments came off well--truly beautifully, in fact, in a couple of cases. But the real meat of this role is in her fury-driven Act I and Act III arias (a bit more the Ele(k)tra we know and love...) These, sadly, came off timid and musically uncertain. Unfortunately, these moments were really palatable anti-climaxes.

Now that I have my griping out the way...

Mezzo Kristine Jepson, as Idamante, balanced emotional vocal freedom with total Mozartean accuracy. Her first entrance was not her strongest, but it didn't take much time for her to warm right up into mezzo-tastic greatness. Oddly enough, I think the fact that her interpretation of the role really made me fall in love with it led to me spend much of the evening looking forward to Kozena singing it later in the run. Considering my love for Kozena, we'll call this distraction a compliment.

I am going to wait before I declare this officially--but I am thinking Dorothea Röschmann may be one of my new favorite singers (I know, SUCH a distinction). Her Ilia was flawless from the moment she took the stage. Her performance was marked by ease and clarity, backed up with consistent power and solidity. I think I need to start a wish list of roles I want to hear her sing.



Huomiseksi said...

Was there, too.

Don't worry about the curtain. I think the gold Wagner curtain can't clear Ponelle's Idomeneo set because it juts too far downstage, so they substitute it with that drab one-piece vertical curtain. They've been doing it for years, I see it every time. They'll change back to the gold one tonight for Faust, I'm sure.

Yeah, the Idomeneo production is far from tight nowadays. Good thing the singing was decent. Wish it had been better, though.

I can't agree with you on Röschmann, she's totally wrong for Ilia. Too dark, with incessant colpo di glottis. She and Makarina should have switched roles.

Yeah, Kozena will probably be a better Idamante than Jepson. Her high-strung energy should fit the role well. Although as Dorabella she totally reminded me of Joan Cusack.

Jonathan said...

Good news about the curtain.

Sorry you didn't like Röschmann. I thought she was pretty outstanding. Admittedly, I don't know the opera that well; perhaps after further listening I'd change my mind.

Joan Cusack? I do like her. I must have not been sitting close enough to catch that.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I like Mackerras, which I think is note complete, with a fine cast: Bostridge, Frittoli, Milne, and (sigh) LHL. Bostridge is pretty convincing in "Fuor del mar" even though it's not a heroic voice. For fun, run down Herman Jadlowker in about 1911. Amazing singing from a purely vocal standpoint. If you can find it, Heppner off the air in 1991, which is simply amazing, because he not only nails every run, he has the perfect vocal character for the part.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Lisa. The Mackerras sounds like my cup o' tea, actually. Perhaps I'll grab that one.

Huomiseksi said...

The John Eliot Gardiner live concert CD on Archiv is worth hearing. 1990 Royal Festival Hall. Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Anne Sofie von Otter were amazing, gorgeous, ideal in these roles at the Met in 1991. The recording gives you an idea how they sounded. Hard to beat. Well, impossible, I'd say.

However, there are big drawbacks. The orchestra sounds rushed and whiney. So does Sylvia McNair as Ilia. You hear a lot of "doppler effect" early music phrasing. Really cold.

Hillevi Martinpelto makes quite a good Elettra, though.

Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)