Monday, October 19, 2009

Vergogna? For Scarpia, Yes, This is a Shame

We've all heard about it: The groping of the Madonna statue, the prostitutes in Act II, the leap from the tower, the stark sets, the absence of the candles, and most of all, the boos. Whether you love it or hate it, this production of Tosca will be talking about for seasons to come, if it lasts that long. And there's no doubt it will, considering the stir its caused. Peter Gelb is probably rejoicing at the icy reception it has received, the run was mostly sold out!!!
On Saturday, I attended the evening performance of Tosca in standing room. I got a good look at the set, and was, needless to say, underwhelmed. Act I was disappointing, no church in Italy is as blank as that. Even a street chapel has some ornamentation, or at least a proper altar! No, you won't find a painting of a topless Mary Magdalene in a church, but that was the least of my worries by the end of the act. There were some good moments leading up to the final notes of the "Te deum," including Scarpia's entrance on the balcony on the left side of the stage, and the ominous procession of bishops, priests, and choir boys, but in the final chords, Scarpia, in a moment of insanity, pulls the statue of the Madonna on top of him in a very inappropriate manner. I heard some audible murmurs of disgust around me, including my own.
I'll jump right to Act III (in order to save the worst for last): The set I did not mind, I even liked the patrolling officer pacing on the wall, it was an ominous and appropriate effect. I thought the leap was cool, even if I was worried Tosca wouldn't make it up the tower in time. There was, however, a slight delay in the lighting, so we saw the stunt Tosca humorously rebound after the wire caught her fall. Other than that I have no serious complaints about that act.

Act II, I believe, was the worst. I dare to call it a travesty. Never before have I had the urge to boo any opera, or scream "vergogna! shame!" at anything, and in the middle of the performance no less! Of course, I restrained myself, waiting until the curtain to voice my opinion. The act opens to an ugly room in the Palazzo Farnese, colored with yellows and browns and covered with maps of Italy. It was beyond ugly, but that wasn't the worst of it. The crudeness of the prostitutes was absolutely unnecessary. Luc Bondy has to realize that American audiences are not like European audiences, we DO mind when sex is too blatantly presented to us on the stage, especially when it's nonsensical. Not only that, but anyone will tell you that the character of Scarpia would never solicit prostitutes. It is so beneath him. It's not about the money, or the women really, it's about his power! Power is Scarpia's driving force and Luc Bondy completely misses that and shows no consideration for the character when he presents those women on the stage. The next glaring problem I saw came after Tosca agrees to give in to Scarpia's demand and she asks for a safe pass out of Rome. Scarpia says "You wish to leave us?" and Tosca says "Yes, forever," whereupon Scarpia falls to his knees and starts to convulse in fake sobs. He crawls towards Tosca, to the audience's horror, and the stands up, gives a typical Scarpia look of disgust, and goes to his desk to write the pass. When he fell to his knees, I literally took a step back, stunned, and others around me look similarly surprised, even some people in the orchestra seats shifted around uncomfortably. Finally, the whole business with leaving out the candles and the crucifix would not bother me half so much if (1) Puccini had not clearly written it in the score or (2) Bondy hadn't replaced it with something ridiculous. What person would stay at the scene of the crime long enough to relax and fan herself on a couch? No, it's not right. Plus, I don't agree with having "foreshadowing" with Tosca almost jump out the Palazzo window. You can bring new things in, just don't disrespect the composer.

Actual review for singers coming next.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Confirmation: VERY STRONG BOOS at Opening Night

Slightly shocking........heehee but not really.
I knew it was going to be an "interesting" production.
Production team HEAVILY booed by the Met audience. Tremendous applause for all of the vocalists (and it's well deserved) but the director and production staff ohhhhh myyyyy that was QUITE intense. Not as wishy-washy as even the Sonnambula booing fiasco. This was LOUD, CLEAR booing.

I'm kind of in shock hahahaha I almost can't believe it.

All I have to say is: Franco Zefferelli is somewhere chuckling to himself.

Happy Listening!! =)


Well here we are! Look at this, the start of the new season already! It seems like just yesterday that I was watching Renee Fleming waltz in designer bling through three acts from three of her favorite operas!!!!!!!

Now I'm here listening to POWERHOUSE Karita Mattila dive into the role of Tosca. I am a great fan of this woman and I hope that she performs masterfully. Well, I'm sure she will.
I am more concerned, however, with the new production. Secretly, (well not anymore) I want it to not be a good production just so I can fight to have the Zefferelli production back. Oh, how purist of me. Apparently, as I've heard so far this production is veeeerrrryyy different from all past productions. The end of the second act especially. (were those "boo"s I've heard?? Hmmmmm...) I am so curious to see what it looks and feels like. A whole new feeling for Tosca, I'm intrigued.

This has, so far, been an interesting beginning to the season. Innovative to say the least.
More on this later, when we've had more time to discover this new Tosca.
Happy Listening!!! =)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hildegard Behrens 1937-2009

I came out of my not-blogging cave to sadly announce the death of one of the great Wagnerians sopranos, Hildegard Behrens. I was introduced to her work, however, not through Wagner, but through the perfection that is the 1985 Zefferelli Tosca. When I delicately dipped into the world of the Wagner cult, the Otto Schenk Ring cycle with her as Brunhilde was the only one I could watch. She always stunned me with her emotional and dramatic power on the stage, not to mention the force of her beautiful voice.

The soprano died on August 16th in Japan, reportedly of an aneurysm, at the age of 72. Ms Behrens was in Japan for a festival where she would perform and give master classes. She will be remembered fondly as the best Brunhilde in the post-Nilsson era.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ballet Boot Camp Year II aka Ashley Bouder Knows My Name aka Darci Kistler: The End of a Remarkable Era

Well if you have been wondering what I have been up to the past.....month I have not been posting, then you should know that I have been dancing my tail feathers off at a ballet summer intensive in Saratoga Springs, New York.

One of the benefits of this particular program is that many of the dancers you look up to on the SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) stage then come to teach your ballet class! For example, my intensive was witness to the incredible New York City Ballet Gala which marked the final performance of Darci Kistler in Saratoga in the ballet "Slaughter on 10th Avenue." She is retiring with the NYCB next year at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center. Her retirement marks the end of an era with the NYC Ballet because she is the last ballerina in the company to have been chosen by Balanchine to join the company. Just a few short days after this amazing gala I was taught by Darci Kistler herself. First she watched our rehearsal of the "Raymonda Variations" and then taught us an amazing pointe class. Oh and just saying: She said I did beautiful pique turns =D =D It was possibly the best moment of my life.

We also had the fabulous opportunity to be taught the Raymonda Variations (and many other classes) by none other than Ashley Bouder, one of the best ballerinas in the whole world and a principal dancer with the NYCB, and Melinda Roy, a former principal dancer with the NYCB and the director of the summer intensive. We worked so closely with Ashley that she quickly learned all of our names. She is one tough cookie, but she makes everything perfect. She is a wonderful teaher and oh my gosh what a gorgeous dancer. I can't even describe! One day we walked into the studio and she was rehearsing Firebird. All of us were stunned. We sat 5 feet from her as she danced through the pas de deux by herself, hearing her breathe and seeing her every move. That's an experience that none of us will forget.

One of the perks of being in the highest level of the intensive (while it is extremely difficult) is the opportunity to take a partnering class with dancers from the NYCB. Such participants include Ask la Cour, Amar Ramasar, and Henry Seth who are so wonderful and kind and are so helpful. This was my first experience in a pas de deux class and they were so understanding and always wanted to help. The other wonderful thing is that we had four classes: two taught by Jason Fowler, one taught by Philip Neal, and one taught by the legendary Jock Soto. It's hard to imagine my emotions when he walked into the room. He said so many funny and wacky things like "You want to be like the prize turkey" and when we stood proud before a combination he turned to Melinda Roy and said "Those are prize turkeys." He was quite the character.

Daniel Ulbricht.... Oh my what to say what to sayyyyy. Well he complimented my passe and had me demonstrate a balance for the whole class. It made my day. He taught us only twice but both times he was so charming and personal and we all learned a lot from him. He is such a charismatic dancer and he translates that so well to his teaching. He gives difficult combinations that are often very fast and very complicated and it's fabulous because it makes us work so hard! Plus we're trying to impress him =) but that's not a big deal haha. He says that he gives us these crazy things so that when another teacher comes and gives us a simpler combination, we can relax and focus on our technique rather than too much on the steps. I found that to be so logical, or maybe I was just charmed.'s logical.

This NYCB SPAC season, while a week shorter than last years, was just as exciting. Even more exciting than the season itself, however, was the dancers that I had the privilege to study under this summer. Thank you NYCB!

Back to opera soon I promise!

Happy Listening!! =)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some Enchanted Matinee

After the opera season has ended, what is an opera fanatic to do but to search the city for other shows to attend? I jest, I am a huge fan of Broadway, and always have been, but never in my life have I attended a production at the Lincoln Center Theater. That is, not until last Saturday when I finally saw the award winning Bartlett Sher production of South Pacific.
Ever since I saw Paulo Szot serenade Deborah Voigt during the opening night moviecast last September I've been itching to see it. Plus, who doesn't get the irresistible urge to hear a true baritone sing "Some Enchanted Evening"?
I first have to say that I am a great fan of Bartlett Sher, I loved his Barber of Seville at the Met and this was just as impressive. There were no moving doors, mind you, but the sets were beautiful and the moving thrust stage was very affecting at certain moments in the show, particularly the first act curtain. The stage also pulled back during the famous and fabulous overture, revealing the talented orchestra led by Fred Lassen. They sounded like a lush, old-fashioned Broadway orchestra. In other words, very much like an opera orchestra or a philharmonic, and they accented the singers beautifully.

I kept hearing how I simply must see Kelli O'Hara, as the original Nellie, but truthfully I thought Laura Osnes did as fine a job as anyone. She was charming, sang beautifully, and moved with grace and sparkle across the stage. My one bone to pick is that she did not keep her "hick" accent while she was singing. I know how hard this can be, but if you want to have an accent you have to keep it. Otherwise I thought she was lovely, particularly during "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" and "Honeybun."
Paulo Szot was frankly put the best pick for the role of Emile de Becque. His European charm, dashing good looks, and operatic voice (which made any microphone virtually unnecessary) made him a perfect romantic hero. Being in the very front row, I could watch him very carefully, not to mention that he almost sang "Some Enchanted Evening" right to me. You could tell the moment he started singing that he was an opera singer, just the way he approached the music made it so obvious. It was beautifully done, as was "This Nearly Was Mine." Besides his beautiful singing, Mr. Szot is also an affecting actor, eliciting so many emotions from the audience.
Another actor who brought heart-wrenching emotion from the audience was Andrew Samonsky as Lt. Cable. He portrayed the lieutenant as very suave and yet tortured. His "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" was chilling, and "Younger Than Springtime" was beautiful. His death was the most poignant moment in the show, and when Liat (played by Li Jun Li) learns he has died I must admit I cried.
Danny Burnstein was hysterical as Luther Billis, the comic figure in the show. He was wonderful, a real joy to watch. As Bloody Mary Loretta Ables Sayre was both spooky and intriguing; "Bali Ha'i" was a highlight of the evening. Both of these - what could be considered - supporting roles were rightfully portrayed as major characters and both actors made their mark on the production.

Being that most of the original cast is still in the production, I say that no one should wash this show right outa their hair, and everyone should go and prepare themselves for some enchanted evening! (Could that be any more cliched?)

Happy Listening!!! =)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Anvil by Anvil, the Met Continues its Search for a Proper Production of "Il Trovatore"

Il Trovatore April 25, 2009

In other words, the Met has not found its definitive Trovatore production.
I won't talk about the singers, even though that's totally sacrilegious, because all the singers were very good, even though it was not the original cast. Right now I just want to talk about the production because the Met has had such problems finding the right Trovatore.

Maybe I was just in a bad mood, but I did not enjoy it at all. The small cut out windows on the wall and the wire crucifix? I didn't quite get the whole thing; it looked rather industrial. The only set I liked was the scene of the Anvil Chorus, that really had life in it. With the pyre and the red aura it stuck out more than any other scene. Well, at least it was the one that stuck out for the right reasons.
I suppose the reason I didn't like it at all, besides the Anvil Scene, was because I had such high expectations for such a beloved opera. I had never seen Il Trovatore, this was my first time ever, and I wasn't as blown away as I expected myself to be. Perhaps the cast didn't suit me? Was it the production? Or a combination of the two?
I will be kind and give it another season before I start calling for a new production. Let's hope that a more invigorating cast can save this almost distressing production next time. =)

I'd also like to add, this is totally random and has nothing to do with anything, that Junior year is not a fun year for a student haha. Yes, this is my excuse for being totally neglectful of this poor blog. After this year it's smooth sailing (besides college applications) so the future looks bright. I just need to get to the end of this year and I will be completely myself again!!!!! =)

Happy Listening!!! =)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Met's Summer Plans (plus: Pictures from London!)

The Metropolitan Opera now has two options for summer opera fun! One is the Summer Recital Series and the other is a Summer HD Festival.

The Summer Recital Series will feature singers such as Paulo Szot (YES), Lisette Oropesa, Alek Shrader (who I noticed specifically during a commercial for The Audition, I would keep my eye on this kid), John Moore, Ashley Emerson, Joyce El-Khoury, and Keith Miller in parks in every borough of New York City. The singers will be accompanied by pianist Vlad Iftinca and the host for four of the six evenings will be Damon Gupton.
The Recital Series looks, if nothing else, to be a good opportunity to scope out what appears to be the future of the Met.
The Summer HD Festival, held in Lincoln Center Plaza, is a ten day extravaganza brimming with all of the best HD broadcasts! From August 29th to September 2nd the Met will show productions from its 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons, namely Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Madama Butterfly, Eugene Onegin, Il Trittico, and Romeo et Juliette. Of course, if you don't like any of those four, there are six more to choose from!!! You must get to the Met early, since there are only 2,800 seats available, totally for free. Expect to see me with my ScoreDesk binder at most, if not all!!!

Just a quick aside: I went to London over spring break and, while I did not have many operatic adventures, I did pass through the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (naturally my favorite section of London) and I took some pictures I thought you all would enjoy.

I hope to be returning to the ROH soon to experience some amazing opera! =)
Happy Listening!!! =) =)
PS. Gotterdamerung AND Il Trovatore this Saturday. Get excited!!! =)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Met's 2009-2010 Subscription Highlights and Lowlights

Dear Metropolitan Opera,

I would like to first introduce some proposed improvements to your recent presentation of subscriptions...Lowlights!

  • Will someone PLEASE make sure that Rolando Villazon gets his life in order before we all get our hopes up about Contes d'Hoffmann????? From recent reports via Parterre and Opera Chic should we get the hint that maybe Rolando isn't going to be appearing at the Met if not after an extended absence, then ever? This whole situation makes me rather depressed.
  • Someone just remind me why we are replacing the Zefferelli Tosca? No, no I shouldn't think like this. I'll be open minded: Will someone reassure me that the new production will be fantastic??
  • Why, for goodness sake, can't the Met fit in a Der Rosenkavalier into any of the Saturday Evening subscriptions? That is one of the few operas that I am absolutely dying to go see and I can't squeeze it in to any of my subscription choices! I will have to buy tickets separately, but can't the Met replace anything with Rosenkavalier?
  • Another little detail they forgot about in the Saturday subscriptions: The Nose. This is another opera I want to see so badly (just for Paulo Szot, but shhhh don't tell anyone!) and it's nowhere to be found on Saturday Evening!
  • I just have this to say about Renee's new production of Armida: Can we trust Mary Zimmerman with another bel canto opera?

Alright, that's all the complaints I have. On a lighter note, here are some events I'm looking forward to this season...Highlights!!!

  • I'm very curious about From the House of the Dead. I have a very funny feeling about it, but a good funny feeling. Something is going to make this opera interesting. I'm intrigued!
  • The new Carmen! I'm usually very conservative when it comes to new productions, especially when they're for such staples as Carmen, but this is another case where I have a good feeling about it. I'm hoping that even if the production turns out eurotrashy or just flat out obnoxious (ie. the recent Sonnambula) the stellar cast will keep it afloat.
  • As I said in the Lowlights, I'm looking forward to the Der Rosenkavalier and The Nose, but for very different reasons. The primary reason in The Nose is, of course, Paulo Szot, but I'm trying to branch out into more contemporary opera to see if I like it. Trying to stay hip and "with it." =) Der Rosenkavalier, on the other hand is a shameless guilty pleasure. Not only does it star my dear Renee Fleming, but oh look! there's Susan Graham and Thomas Allen! Did I mention that this is one of my favorite operas of all time?
  • Maybe this season I'll finally get to see Damnation de Faust or Il Trittico. I wanted to see Damnation this year, but never got around to it. It looked like a strange production!!!! Il Trittico is in support of my darling Patricia Racette. She's got the triple bill going and I wouldn't miss it for the world!!!!!

This is sure to be a season of opportunity. There are so many new operas and genres to try, new productions to explore, and new singers to fall head-over-heels for (namely Paulo Szot). Even if we hate (or love to hate?) every single new production, or if we bash every singer in a revival, we KNOW that this season will NOT be boring. The blogosphere and Angela Gheorghiu will make sure that we will always have something to talk about during the 2009-2010 season!!!

Happy Listening!!! =)

PS. *sighhhhh* I missed posting! =)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bravo Domingo!!!! Audience Overflows at Domingo's Last Maurizio

The audience at the Metropolitan Opera's performance of Adriana Lecouvreur last night was far from its usual loud self. On the contrary, it was perfectly silent the whole evening. The one detected no-no was an overabundance of flash photography during curtain calls, but for once the nazi-ushers (I say that lovingly, of course) didn't cry out for "no photographs in the house!" Instead, they let the audience wallow in the greatness that was the presence of Placido Domingo and to bestow onto him every compliment and gesture of adoration we could muster.
In what was probably his final performance as Maurizio ever, Placido Domingo sang and acted as if he didn't have 40 years under his belt, but was still in his primmest prime. He doesn't put on airs, he does not act as if he is on top of the world (which he is, by the way), but he acts as he has always done: like the character he is playing. Acting like a dashing young prince can be difficult when you're an almost-70 [still dashing] king of opera, but it isn't hard to imagine any woman falling in love with Placido Domingo even when it is hard to imagine him riding into battle.
40 years ago Domingo debuted in this role opposite the illustrious Renata Tebaldi. Last night his final Adriana was Maria Guleghina who, despite what I have heard about her pushing, gave a wonderful vocal and dramatic performance. Olga Borodina was, as usual, the cool mezzo that she is, a worthy Princess to Domingo's probably intimidating Prince of Saxony. Her husband, played by John Del Carlo, was imposing and comic, towering over his colleagues and providing well needed comic relief. Roberto Frontali really stood out as Michonnet, the real tragic character in this opera, his powerful and beautiful voice that became the icing on this already stunning operatic cake.
What could possibly have been going through Domingo's mind last night as he stepped on to the stage? Could he have seen himself, 40 years younger, nerves bouncing off the wall, beside one of the greatest sopranos of all time? Could he have been reliving those glorious moments of his debut at the Met? Or is it possible that he didn't think of his debut at all, thinking only of the performance ahead and going over in his mind his endless knowledge of opera, its characters, and finding exactly what he needed for Maurizio?
Oh, Domingo, the world may never know.
Happy Listening! =)