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 like...one 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.


Luxie P. said...

People seem to think of singers as freaks of nature, I guess, but the truth is that not every singer is going to be able to do every role at every possible tempo, volume, whatever.

If it's a vocally congenial role, you'll probably have some leeway with it, but honestly? Puccini for soprani is often God-Awful hard to sing even if you're in awesome voice at the time. (As opposed to Strauss or Mozart, who wrote fiendishly hard roles, but when your technique is in place, they are vocally gracious, and allow you room to explore them.)

When you have a long, vocally taxing role with a rather high tessitura, and a singer who may or may not be in their best vocal estate, well, it behooves the conductor to move with them. There's no point in dragging the tempo to make a point. You hired 'em, you work with them.

Singing is a collaborative business. If the conductor sucks, or refuses to work with the singer, it unfortunately reflects more on the singer than the conductor. Alternately, when the conductor is awesome and works with the singer's abilities, it seems effortless, and everyone thinks "What a great singer!"

Just pointing out that you can't just decide what the tempo is going to be, finito, and then expect your cast to shine. Some nights your instrument just doesn't cooperate and you need it faster. Some nights you're just on point, and can spin things out forever.

Anonymous said...

. . .“I actually saw the point in some comments made here a while back--that Levine's pacing may have been too slow for her.” . . .

What can I say? - better late than never.

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