Opera 6

Posted by: Kay

Opera 6 - 01/19/13 10:07 PM

Wow....just wow...Di Donato blew me away and Elza van den Heever as Elisabetta was, well, wow again.

And the music! Why on earth isn't this one performed more often...it is SO much better than that loopy Lucia...
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 01/19/13 10:08 PM

Should have mentioned it was the simulcast of Maria Stuarda, I guess...
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 6 - 01/20/13 02:48 AM

I was so stunned by Elisabetta's appearance that I really had to concentrate to listen to her. I understand she was made up to look like an aging kewpie doll to make Maria in her pilgrim-like dress look good by contrast, but the result was just too grotesque for words. And van der Heever walks like a hippopotamus.

DiDonato was superb, wasn't she? That was a very special kind of singing, and I loved every note of it. But I can't agree Maria Stuarda is a better opera than Lucia.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 01/20/13 03:30 AM

Elisabetta's walk was weird...although I think the makeup was probably on target...the aging Elizabeth did look pretty grotesque I think...Glenda Jackson's portrayal in the miniseries was grotesque too.

At the time of her death, Mary was 42 and Elizabeth was 10 years older...and in those days that was a lot older than we'd think of it now.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 01/20/13 08:58 AM

Elizabeth's make-up and costumes were clownish. Too much, over the top, bizarre. I think one reason the set had only open exits and entrances was that Elizabeth's extra-wide dresses could never get through a doorway. Did you know Elza van den Heever actually shaved her head for the role?! She's a brave woman, letting herself be seen looking so freakish. But none of that explains her gallumphing walk.

The opera itself was just melody after melody after melody -- it never stopped. And all of it was paired with downright ridiculous words. I know it's easy to make fun of opera libretti, but this libretto was just cornball melodrama. Enter Joyce DiDonato to the rescue: she sang every phrase with such nuance that she gave dignity to the whole production. Long sustained phrases, delicate precision...she was wonderful. I'm glad I didn't miss this.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 6 - 01/20/13 05:52 PM

Originally Posted By: Lorna
And van der Heever walks like a hippopotamus.

How does a hippopotamus walk?
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 6 - 01/20/13 06:35 PM

Shifting weight from side to side with every step. It's not exactly regal.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 6 - 01/20/13 09:16 PM

A waddle, then. A waddling queen. Nope, doesn't sound right.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 01/22/13 03:28 AM

Definitely a waddle...and they discussed the shaven head during intermission...

But,oh, the music was glorious. My opera buddy and I were wondering why this one, which neither of us had heard before, doesn't get the play that Lucia does...maybe not quite as showy as the Mad Scene, but such beautiful and dramatic arias.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 6 - 01/24/13 06:04 PM

Reading between the lines (from interviews, her intermission feature at Les Troyens, her past reviews, etc.), I'm surmising that Elza van den Heever found this Elizabeth a stretch dramatically, having generally played "nice girls" in her still-young career ("sweet," as she said), and ultimately resorted to extreme measures (no doubt with the director's collusion or suggestion): the shaved head, the imitation-Bette-Davis swagger in the walk. And it sounds like she didn't succeed in making the latter her own.

Kay, as I'm sure you know as a longtime operagoer, for the first half of the 20th century the "serious Donizetti" was an ignored repertory. Lucia was the sole exception as certain star sopranos found it (after some adaptations) a congenial vehicle, but otherwise the common "wisdom" was that Donizetti's style was suited only to comedy; I remember reading exactly this in a midcentury history of opera. The exploration of this literature that gained force in the 1950s changed this situation, but operas like this one are still laboring to gain some familiarty.
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 6 - 01/24/13 10:02 PM

I've seen 14 different operas by Donizetti, mostly thanks to the Wexford and Buxton Festivals. The four comedies were L'Elisir d'Amore, Don Pasquale, La Fille du Régiment and Gianni di Parigi. The ten serious ones were Lucia di Lammermoor, Maria Stuarda, L'Assedio di Calais, La Favorite, Parisina, Maria Padilla, Maria di Rohan, Roberto Devereux, Anna Bolena, Lucrezia Borgia, plus a concert performance of the semi-serio opera Linda di Chamounix. Only about another 50 to go!
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 01/25/13 01:36 AM

Wow. I've seen only six of those, and I've never even heard of a couple of others. Hurray for Wexford and Buxton. I've heard La Favorite (wearing its Italian clothes) a number of times and would dearly love to see a production of that one.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 01/25/13 01:41 AM

Prolific little rascal, wasn't he? wink.

Sills did quite a few of those Andrew listed way back when she was queen of the New York City opera...we don't get them very much in the Colonies any more...

I was pleasantly surprised to see a very good turnout for Stuarda, given that we were blanked with snow on Friday (although Saturday was sunny and not too cold) AND it wasn't one of the A B C trio...

Rigoletto will pack the place, of course, although the Las Vegas background should give some people a turn...

And I am wondering how many Parsifal will pull in. Run time 5 hours and 40 minutes...
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 6 - 02/15/13 10:53 PM

I'll be there tomorrow for Rigoletto. It has a couple of the premiere voices of the day in it, and the new mise en scene looks at least colorful and lively. We'll see.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 6 - 02/17/13 03:22 AM

Waitresses in skimpy costumes and blue tights...just what Verdi wanted. Ever since these simulcasts started, I've been waiting for Rigoletto. And when it finally does come, what do we get? The Rat Pack. Bleaggh.

But Lucic was fantastic...oh, he was good! It was well worth putting up with the Las Vegas glitz just to hear him. Beczala had a rocky start but quickly settled into the role. Diana Damrau sings real purty but she can't act worth a hoot. All of which is just IMO, of course.
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 6 - 02/17/13 02:49 PM

I watched a Parsifal on TV once. Never again. I bed the libretto could be read aloud in half an hour. Drone, drone, drone. . . .
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 02/18/13 05:01 AM

Rita pretty well nailed it...one of the people I was with, however, questioned if Nevada had vanity plates during the ratpack era...or pole dancers for that matter...

And another problem with moving the time frame...I began to wonder why, instead of singing and sobbing, he didn't just drive her to the ER...
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 6 - 02/18/13 02:57 PM

My local showing was sold out so I haven't seen the Rigoletto. I would offer the thought, though, that "what Verdi wanted" isn't really an applicable standard to apply to any production. I am pretty sure he would be horrified by ANY production of the last century or thereabouts, even those we regard as "traditional." He would not recognize the assumptions about instruments, conducting, voices, scenic design, venue, language, acting that we regard as normal now.

That doesn't mean that there can't be productions that are just bad on their own terms, of course, or that are an unacceptable mismatch to the text.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 02/18/13 10:53 PM

Jon, there's an Encore showing on March 6th.

Rita, your IMO is pretty good, methinks. There were some clever touches in the production. Rigoletto wore an Argyle sweater suggestive of a jester's motley. "Pari siamo" was not sung on an empty stage but to a barman, because everybody tells his troubles to the bartender. But such touches were superficial and insufficient to justify the setting, which fit neither the story nor the music. If someone in the 60s cursed another man, he'd either get a punch in the mouth for his trouble or the curse would be shrugged off as petulant foolishness. It would not cause the absolute terror that Rigoletto feels. While the opera has a lot of jaunty music in it, it's not the brassy, simple stuff we associate with Las Vegas. It just wasn't a fit.

In his interview, Lucic indicated without dwelling on it that he was just going along with this present production while his preference was for the traditional approach, no matter how many Rat Pack apologists were interviewed. (The last time I saw Lucic, he was singing Macbeth in another "updated" production.) All three leads were great, once "Questa o quella" had been conquered, but Lucic was greater than great. He was exciting to listen to, and I'm glad I didn't miss this misproduced performance.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 02/19/13 08:46 PM

And if you think Rigoletto in Vegas was a misfit, how about the previews for Guilio Cesare?
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 6 - 02/19/13 09:49 PM

I'll probably get rotten eggs thrown at me for saying this, but I had a problem with Diana Damrau's appearance. I just couldn't pretend that so matronly a woman was a naive teenager. Yes, I know, the music matters more than anything else. So during the "Cara Nome" I closed my eyes and just listened...and it was beautiful. Maybe if I hadn't had to expend so much energy on ignoring the set with its "evolving neon" (gad!), I could have accepted her as Gilda.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 6 - 02/20/13 01:36 AM

What amazed me was how completely it was Rigoletto's opera. The Duke has three big arias, two of them pretty high-voltage, and Piotr Beczala is a good actor, throwing himself into the role with just the right amount of flair. Still, it's Zucic you talk about afterwards. I know we did. He was really impressive.

As for the production...that was just the director and the designer showing off.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 6 - 02/20/13 02:15 AM

I liked it.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 6 - 02/20/13 03:17 PM

Ho ho ho ho ho...Lorna liked it! You do mean the production, don't you?
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 6 - 02/20/13 04:59 PM

Yes, the production. I know it was a misfit, but I liked it anyway. I don't really know why.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 02/21/13 03:29 AM

Then you ought to love Guilio Cesare, based on the clips they showed during intermission smile
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 02/23/13 07:17 PM

Why is everyone making such a fuss over Anita Rachvelishvili? (Today's Carmen.) Terrific voice, but she sings everything alike.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 6 - 02/23/13 09:03 PM

First two acts seemed kind of lifeless, but the third act picked up a bit. I like the Jose but not the Escamillo.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 6 - 02/23/13 09:20 PM

Hmm. I like the Escamillo but not the Jose.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 6 - 02/23/13 09:37 PM

I didn't like any of 'em.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 02/23/13 11:24 PM

Ha! Lorna, that's your cue to say you liked all of them.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 6 - 02/24/13 12:33 AM

I didn't listen.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 02/24/13 02:34 AM

I listened, but my radio reception is not that great...and I've gotten spoiled by the simulcasts...I want to "see" it...I was not wildly impressed by any of them but I was delighted to learn that the first Carmen I ever saw on stage, Rise Stevens, is going strong as she nears 100 in June...
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 6 - 02/24/13 06:32 AM

Originally Posted By: Lorna
I didn't listen.

OHO! I guess that means Micaëla wins by default.

Kay, why don't you put Risë Stevens on our "Happy Birthday" list?
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 02/25/13 12:13 AM

Somebody should do that in June....June 11 to be exact.

I was in college when I saw her perform Carmen in New Orleans with some clod of a tenor...in the final scene, she walked upstage and turned her back on him and before she could turn around he had planted his foot in the middle of the train of her dress...he didn't budge. She just stood there and outsang him until he stabbed her. But her "Laisse-moi" seemed to have a little added pizzazz.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 03/09/13 10:51 PM

Don Carlo is one long opera...and while listening I started fact checking.

Of course, the whole family was kind of goofy, but Carlos sounds like a real prize.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 6 - 03/09/13 11:47 PM

The Eboli today was terrible. The Elisabetta wasn't much better.
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 6 - 03/10/13 12:25 AM

And the audience started applauding at the end of Act 2, before the music had stopped. I presume that the curtain came down too soon.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 03/10/13 02:30 AM

What a gentlemanly position to take, Andrew!

I was surprised to learn Lorin Maazel was still conducting. He's past 80. Toscanini and Stokowski were still conducting in their 80s, but still, it's kind of remarkable.
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 6 - 03/10/13 10:46 AM

I gather that Maazel was booed on the first night (apparently this is unusual for a Met audience) and he didn't appear on stage at the end of yesterday's performance.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 03/10/13 07:08 PM

Yes, that is unusual for a Met audience; usually they applaud everything indiscriminately. This morning I read a few reviews, and most of them said the orchestra and the singers were out of sync. One reviewer said Maazel needed a metronome. eek
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 03/12/13 12:43 AM

Note my comment on the LENGTH of the opera. Don Carlo(s) is one of my favorite Verdi works...after Otello and Falstaff and maybe Forza, but it seemed unusually long and unexciting this time around.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 03/16/13 03:25 AM

A treat tomorrow...Francesca di Rimini...one you don't get to hear or see very often.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 03/16/13 08:20 PM

Ok...I just saw Francesca....I got in my car to drive home and the intermission was still going on and I am now at home listening to the last act of an opera of which I saw what I thought was a LIVE telecast...??????

Was the radio broadcast delayed or something?
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 03/16/13 08:36 PM

It was tape delayed but no reason given: Today’s METROPOLITAN OPERA is “Francesca da Rimini” by Riccardo Zandonai. Eva-Maria Westbroek and Marcello Giordani star in the melodic gem inspired by Dante's Inferno. Francesca da Rimini will be sung in Italian and is expected to run just under 4 hours. Our (delayed) broadcast on WVTF will begin at 1 o’clock.

The live telecast started at noon Eastern Time...

Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 03/16/13 08:41 PM

Aha...they had Car Talk scheduled in the noon slot...reminds me that when I first moved to Roanoke I got enlisted in a protest that eventually got the PD fired. Over something very similar, except that he refused to air the Met broadcasts at all...what actually got him fired was when he called the protesters "Opera Nazis" in an interview.

Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 6 - 03/17/13 01:29 PM

Car Talk is a staple of public radio, even after the brothers Magliozzi have retired. It may outlast them, just as My Word! has outlasted Frank Muir by nearly two decades (Denis Norden, however, is still alive, in his 90s).

Four hour operas are somewhat excessive. They ought to break them up into two hour segments and present them on successive evenings--unless they are Wagner operas, in which case they ought to just stop presenting them at all, especially when they do something silly with them, as at the Met this year.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 03/17/13 05:20 PM

Re Francesca da Rimini -- I don't think I've ever said this before, but I LOVED the production but didn't care much for the opera. (Usually it's the other way around.) It's a Glyndebourne design, first used by the Met in the 80s and revived for the current production. Stunning, imposing sets and gorgeous costumes -- just what you want to see in grand opera. Unfortunately, this particular opera isn't grand at all; it must be difficult for singers to memorize such forgettable music. It seemed to me the opera didn't really come alive until the last act. Beginning in the scene in which Malatestino tells Giovanni that Francesca has been cheating on him with Paolo, there was an energy and a forward momentum that was well sustained right up to the abrupt ending (stab, stab, they're dead, close the curtain).

Eva-Maria Westbroek had to screech a couple of her high notes early in the opera, but later on she was hitting them with no trouble at all. Marcello Giordani has added even more poundage to his ever-expanding girth (which somewhat detracted from everyone's description of Paolo as a dreamboat), but it didn't interfere with his voice, fortunately. I loved Mark Delavan as Giovanni; his rich, colorful voice was the best sound coming from that stage.

But in spite of the good things, I was still left wondering why such care was lavished on this opera.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 03/18/13 02:14 AM

It is rarely performed, so it was a treat to see it...it's not Boheme or Carmen, but then what is?
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 6 - 03/18/13 06:08 PM

I tried listening to it on the radio, but I fell asleep.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 6 - 03/18/13 08:12 PM

Ka-POW! Lorna, I think that's the best one-sentence critique I've ever read. Perhaps that's why Francesca is so rarely done?
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 6 - 03/18/13 09:44 PM

I heard several bits of Francesca on Saturday (BBC Radio 3) and wasn't wowed by it. I'm not a great fan of verismo (with a few exceptions), and the only operas by Zandonai that I've previously seen were "I cavalieri di Ekebù" (OK) and "Conchita" (boring), both at Wexford. On the other hand, I enjoyed Rachmaninov's one-act "Francesca da Rimini" a few years ago.

Interesting to see that Zandonai's "Francesca" has been performed 41 times by the Met - 11 performances from 1916-1918, then 16 in NYC and on tour in 1984, then 10 in 1986, then 4 so far this year.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 03/19/13 06:19 AM

41 times over a 97-year span? Hm. I wonder how many times Faust was performed during that same period. The old Met was once nicknamed the Faustspielhaus because they did it so often.

During one of the intermissions Saturday we were given a glimpse of next season's simulcasts:
Oct. 5 -- Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin

Oct. 26 -- Shostakovich's The Nose

Nov. 9 -- Puccini's Tosca

Dec. 14 -- Verdi's Falstaff

Feb. 8 -- Dvořák's Rusalka

Mar. 1 -- Borodin's Prince Igor

Mar. 15 -- Massenet's Werther

Apr. 5 -- Puccini's La Bohème

Apr. 25 -- Mozart's Così fan tutte

May 10 -- Rossini's La Cenerentola
The Met's web site doesn't have all the details listed yet, and the glimpses we got of the upcoming season were very brief, but I'm fairly sure the four repeat operas are using the same productions that were used the first time we saw them. Eugene Onegin has that weird outdoor bedroom. The still from Tosca showed the second-act set, which is supposed to be Scarpia's luxurious offices but instead looks like a 1930s bus station. Only a tiny glimpse of the Bohème set, but it looked like the Zefferelli production. And the Cenerentola still showed that same horrid blue and white striped wallpaper that made me cringe the first time I saw it. Joyce Di Donato gets to be Cinderella this time.

Is it possible that the Met dug out parts of the old sets just to get some early publicity pictures? And new productions are in the works? Or is that wishful thinking on my part?

As I have so tiresomely mentioned before, I'm no fan of Massenet; so when I saw Werther on the schedule, I thought "There's one I'll skip." The last Werther I saw had Franco Corelli singing the title role -- it's been that long. But then I saw the name "Elena Garanca" on the screen, so now I'm going to have to sit through an opera I don't like just to hear her sing. But two "new" operas for me, Rusalka and Prince Igor. Yippee!

Andrew, have you seen The Nose? Is it all atonal? Is it funny, really?

Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 6 - 03/19/13 06:07 PM

FOUR repeats? Have there been any repeats before?
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 6 - 03/19/13 06:08 PM

I've seen two productions of The Nose, one at English National Opera some years ago and the other, much more recently, at the Buxton Festival.

I don't regard anything by Shostakovich as atonal (Jon may perhaps wish to correct me). He was a bit of a chameleon and wrote a lot of film music, 15 (I think) symphonies, lots of string quartets. Coincidentally, I'll be going to Manchester next Sunday to see his Paradise Moscow at the Royal Northern College of Music. Opera North put it on some years ago and I bought the recording - it's more or less an operetta with lots of good tunes. One scene, very reminiscent of the Marx Brothers' Monkey Business has the neighbours all crowding in to admire a young couple's new apartment to a tune that sounds to me like a polka.

I've also seen his Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk three times. It's a real opera which gets darker and darker but has a number of comedy turns in between.

As for The Nose, well, it's an absurdist work based on Gogol (I think) and has lots of short scenes. The music isn't particularly memorable but it's well worth seeing. The protagonist's nose is accidentally cut off by his barber and it takes on a life of its own - at one point it becomes a councillor and turns up in church. The chief of police (high tenor, countertenor or soprano!) is on the trail and eventually the nose is returned to its owner. You can read the libretto here: http://web.archive.org/web/20080215065304/http://www.mrichter.com/opera/files/nose.htm
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 6 - 03/19/13 06:52 PM

Originally Posted By: Barbara
41 times over a 97-year span? Hm. I wonder how many times Faust was performed during that same period. The old Met was once nicknamed the Faustspielhaus because they did it so often.

Faust has been performed 747 times by the Met, according to their online archives. Some of these performances took place away from NYC, e.g. Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, St Louis, Cincinnati, Washington D.C., Baltimore, etc., up to about 1972.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 03/21/13 03:44 AM

747 performances, wow. Figuring from when the Met opened in 1883 up to 1972, that averages out to a little over 8 performances every season. I saw only one of those 747 performances (Nicolai Gedda and Jerome Hines).

I'd read about The Nose earlier, and I couldn't figure out from the skimpy plot descriptions exactly what it was satirizing. But "councillor" and "church" answers that question. Since it's Shostakovich, I should have known it would be political satire. Since you say the music isn't particularly memorable, that throws more weight on the story. Frankly, the story sounds unpleasant...starting with the barber's discovery of someone's nose in his beard.

Austin, there's been one repeat so far -- Lucia. But they were different productions as well as different casts.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 6 - 03/22/13 01:23 AM

He found someone's nose in his beard? Yuck.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 03/22/13 02:27 PM

Rise Stevens, just shy of her 100th birthday.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 03/30/13 05:41 PM

Diana Damrau really took her time with the "Ah! fors'è lui". I liked it. grin
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 6 - 03/30/13 07:46 PM

As far as I'm concerned, Domingo stole the show.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 04/27/13 04:36 AM

Tomorrow, the last simulcast of the season, Giulio Cesare. Well, make that "today" for everyone east of here.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 04/27/13 11:46 PM

The live cast from the Met was to say the least interesting....the Handel score was well performed, the production couldn't quite decide what century it was (but definitely not the first B.C.)...but I really enjoyed it even so. Once I got used to the fact that Caesar looked incredibly like Commander Riker from Star Trek Next Gen....
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Opera 6 - 04/28/13 10:38 AM

I saw this production at Glyndebourne a few years ago - David Daniels was Caesar and Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra wearing lots of different dresses - very enjoyable and a sort of cross between high camp and Bollywood.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 6 - 04/29/13 12:49 AM

Yes, a large serving of Bollywood, I'd say. Egyptian, Indian -- what's the dif, right? Everyone was obviously having fun. A friend and I agreed that the right word for this production was "cute". And it WAS cute -- cute scenes, cute hijinks going on during the arias. I liked it. grin

David Daniels repeated as Caesar, a role he's evidently known for, but I thought a lot of his runs were kind of muddy-sounding. Natalie Dessay took on Cleo and her many costume changes, two of which revealed a lot of skin, and I mean a LOT. But I have to say I don't remember ever hearing her sound better -- just beautiful.

I did weary of the excessive repeats, but that's a gripe I have against all baroque operas, not just this one. If you missed this one, you missed a good show.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 6 - 04/29/13 12:53 AM

Well put, Barbara, although I did get a little tired of the rolling waves, which I think are leftover from some earlier production....sure didn't look like the Nile to me smile