Sunday, October 28, 2007

Madama Butterfly at the Met

Cio-Cio-San- Patricia Racette
Pinkerton- Roberto Alagna
Suzuki- Maria Zifchak
Sharpless- Luca Salsi
Production- Anthony Minghella
Conductor- Mark Elder

Before the overture even started, all the lights went dark. Even the orchestra pit was dark. The curtain come up and a woman comes over the "hill" and the back of the stage. She has two fans and when she reaches the middle of the stage you see that there are two long red scarves flowing from the back of her dress. The orchestra lights come on and the music begins. The audience sits there gaping at the dancing before the action even begins.

That's what an opera performance is all about. There is an awe in the audience before anyone even sings a note. Gorgeoussssssss!!!!!!
Although, as many of you know, Roberto Alagna is not my favorite singer I enjoyed his performance. His singing was good and so was his acting. He moved very comfortably, despite his very unlikable character. He succeeded in making Pinkerton more likable than most tenors do. I'm not quite sure how he did it, but I didn't find myself screaming "Jerk!" like I do with most Pinkertons. Maybe that's a good quality of Mr. Alagna??
Patricia Racette was really fantastic. Her "Un Bel Di" had tears in my eyes, at least. It's just so heartbreaking that she has so much hope and then... well, you know. Patricia Racette is a powerhouse! No wonder everyone speaks so highly of her. That final scene was so haunting. The puppet (we'll get to that...) has the blindfold on and she stabs herself. The lights turn red and the people in black come on and take long red scarves from her dress. They spread it out as Pinkerton runs up the hill screaming "Butterfly!" Oh, so effective! Puccini was brilliant! My friend and I both had the sniffles during that part.
So, the puppet. Yes, Butterfly and Pinkerton's child was played by a wooden puppet. It was distracting at first, and I would never quite forget that there were three people dressed in black maneuvering it, but it was interesting. After a while it didn't really make a difference whether it was a puppet or not, in my opinion.
I'm sorry that this production is completely sold out, because I wanted to tell you all to go out and get tickets! Maybe next season? Well, if they revive it in future seasons, which I'm sure they will, everyone must go see it. It's magnificent!

Happy Listening! =)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lucia Di Lammermoor at the Met

Lucia- Annick Massis
Edgardo- Marcello Giordani
Lord Enrico Ashton- Mariusz Kweicien
Raimondo- John Relyea
Arturo- Stephen Costello
Alisa- Michaela Martens
Conductor- James Levine
Production- Mary Zimmerman

Okay, the sets weren't bad. I particularly enjoyed the mad scene staircase and the wedding ceremony. Both were very beautiful. The rest of the sets were a little "eh." It's better than some other Lucia's I've seen come from the Met (=O). The stage direction is what really got to me. Every minute Enrico puts his hand on another singers shoulder and after a while I wanted to yell "just stand in place!" There was some unnecessary movement during arias. It looked too forced, the acting was fine, but the direction looked like they didn't know what else to do. When Edgardo crashes the wedding he goes around kicking down all the chairs. For a minute it looks like he's just doing it for fun. Don't get me wrong, Marcello Giordani was ferocious in that scene. WOOF was he ferocious.
I really did like Annick Massis, although I think that some people's reviews of her were too praising. She was very good and her high notes were ringing and shining brightly and her coloratura is like nothing else, but it just lacked some special quality that, say, Beverly Sills or Joan Sutherland had. Her chest voice was booming and delicious, but like I said it lacked a "je ne sais quoi" that I like so much in particular singers. Her mad scene was amazing and the glass armonica was totally creepy. Her high notes and coloratura were, like I said, amazing and really gleamed in the mad scene. Marcello Giordani was brilliant as usual. He sounded so much better last night than he had in the opening night broadcast. He was just beautiful, acting and singing. Mariusz Kweicien and John Relyea were vocally outstanding and played their parts well. Kweicien as malicious as his character needed and Relyea as compassionate.
Two minor roles that really stole the show were Arturo and Alisa. Stephen Costello's 5 second part was stunning. He opened his mouth and we all leaned forward in our seats. It was incredible, I've never heard anything like it! I'm happy he is Edgardo for part of the run because he deserves it! Another stunning performance was Michaela Martens as Alisa. She's another one where she opened her mouth and we shot awake. Okay, that first scene is not exactly the most exciting, but when she came in the second scene her mezzo voice filled the house. During the sextet and the finale of the wedding scene she was the only female voice you could hear. I kept watching Annick Massis's mouth and then realized that it wasn't Lucia who was pounding out those gorgeous notes, it was her maid!
James Levine's conducting was flawless as can be expected. It took him a little while to make his entrance, which caused some nervous shuffling and giggles. Once he was out there he had total control, and he was workin it!!!!! Go Levine, go Levine, it's your birthday, it's your birthday. =)
My advice to Mary Zimmerman: You are very energetic, next time don't direct (let's be frank) an opera with only two exciting scenes. This opera doesn't require much movement, don't force it and next time maybe do something like Le Nozze di Figaro which is non-stop action!!

Happy Listening! =)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Giordani-miester strikes again!!!!!!

The WONDERFUL and OVERWORKED Marcello Giordani again covered a role he wasn't supposed to be singing this season. Peter Gelb was booed last night when he came out to announce that Roberto Alagna would not be singing Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. Thankfully Marcello Giordani was ready in the wings!!!! Twice in one month, oh my goodness! Bravo, Marcello!!!!! Not only is he one of my favorite tenors of today, but he's one of the most reliable tenors.

Marcello Giordani: He will play your role, too!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Have a VERDI Happy Birthday!!!

In honor of, you guessed it, Giussepe Verdi's birthday I am going to give to all of you a few of my personal favorite selections from his many wonderful operas.

First up is Joan Sutherland as Violetta in La Traviata

Then we have the Brindisi from La Traviata featuring Carlo Bergonzi and Joan Sutherland

And here we have the famous "Va, Pensiero" from Nabucco at the Arena di Verona

And even though Edita Gruberova looks "other worldly" Luciano Pavarotti still rocks the socks off of this quartet from Rigoletto

And of course, the "La Donna e Mobile" with the master

"Ah si ben mio-Di quella pira" from Il Trovatore as sung by Carlo Bergonzi (because Pavarotti can't dominate all Verdi roles!! Oh... wait... too late!!!!)

One of my favorite Amelia's (but not looking her best) is Katia Ricciarelli! Here alongside Placido Domingo in "Teco io sto" from Ballo

The glorious Eva Marton singing "Ritorna Vincitor" from Aida

The famous yell during Renata Scotto's Luisa Miller

The "Lacrimosa" from Verdi's Requiem

The finale of Falstaff

"Gia nella notte" from Otello with Renee Fleming and Placido Domingo (of course)

And finally, a little parody from our friend Vera Galupe Borszh

I'm sorry this is so long, Verdi just wrote too many operas!!!!!!

Happy Listening!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Tenor Earns His Brownie Points and an Audience Member Converts!

Romeo and Juliette
by Charles Gounod
The Metropolitan Opera

Romeo- Joseph Kaiser ********
Juliette- Anna Netrebko
Mercutio- Stephane Degout
Gertrude (nurse)- Jane Bunnell
Tybalt- Marc Heller
Stephano (page)- Isabel Leonard

Let's start with the convert. I have officially converted to the other side of the Anna Netrebko train tracks. Sure, she had that train wreck "Casta Diva", but you all have to see this woman live! Yes she trashed herself around in her skimpy costumes on stage, but her voice was absolutely beautiful! Those recordings you hear and the videos you watch of her really don't mean anything! The real voice is heard in the house! Some singers sound better on recordings, but Anna sounds better in person. MUCH better in person. Go buy tickets! You won't be disappointed! Sure, she will never have my favorite voice and she will never be my favorite singer, but suddenly she has really proved herself. Brava, Anna!

********So, last night the lights go down and we see the ominous spotlight go to the left side of the stage. A man in a suit comes out and the tension builds. We know that man...
"Hello, I'm Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera." *applause* (I'm thinking "O God, who cancelled?? ANNA?????")
"Anna Netrebko is FINE."
*laughs from the audience*
"In fact, every member of our cast is fine," ("Oh my God, Domingo?!?!?") "except for our tenor, Joseph Kaiser." *groans and chattering*
"He woke up with a cold this morning, so we got the fantastic tenor, MARCELLO GIORDANI!!" *cheers and applause*

Wow, does Peter Gelb loooooove Giordani now! My question is, where was Alagna? He sang this role a few nights ago and he's still in New York for Butterfly!! Oh well, I'm glad we got Giordani, I don't like Alagna. Marcello Giordani sounded absolutely gorgeous last night. He sounded much better than he did in the opening night broadcast. His high notes were mind blowing and even though he only had a few hours to learn the staging, he didn't seem that uncomfortable. The prompter was heard at least twice before the first intermission, but he hasn't performed this role in years, so it's understandable. Bravo, Marcello! I'm so glad he stepped in. (PS. His high C's were louder than Anna's. No other Romeo so far has accomplished that!)
Anna Netrebko sounded so fantastic. I realized why I didn't like her voice. Some of her vowels sound funny sometimes, but I didn't notice half the time. Especially during the balcony scene (in my opinion) she sang so wonderfully that my fellow audience members sank into the background and all it was was her and Romeo on stage. It was so cool! Her acting is also incredible. I don't even have to go on about that, everyone already knows she's a stage animal. =)

Here cooooooomes the new kid in town! Isabel Leonard as the page knocked my socks off! She's a graduate of the Juilliard School and this role is her Met debut. She received a huge ovation at the curtain calls and she totally deserved it! This hotsy-totsy new mezzo might just be the new big star, so watch out for her. That's I-S-A-B-E-L-L-E-O-N-A-R-D who grew up right here in New York. Brava, girlfriend!
Now for Maestro Domingo's conducting. I think I passed out for a moment when he first came out into the orchestra pit. I started shaking I was so overwhelmed. Think about it, I was just 100 feet from one of the greatest tenors on the face of the earth. =0 Boggles my mind. His conducting was good. I just felt that he separated the orchestra from the singers. He kind of made a pillow for the singers so they could sing on top of the orchestra. There was no blending of strings and voice, you either noticed only the singing or only the orchestra. Which was okay at some points, because some of those musical interludes are so amazing (Go Gounod!) and some of those vocal lines are outstanding!

Finally, the technical glitch. GASP! A technical glitch at the Met? Is that possible? Well, let's just say that by the end of the performance some poor schmo was cleaning out his desk. During the balcony scene the backdrop is the night sky with a galaxy (or something that looks like a galaxy...) in the center. Apparently the galaxy was supposed to change into another pretty space picture... but instead we got a blank white light, distracting us from the singers for a moment, and then the new space picture. My mom and I looked at each other saying "Are we seeing a slide show? Oops, Peter Gelb just fired someone!"

Happy Listening! =)