Golden Age of Tenors?

Today I decided to round out the season by seeing the final La Cenerentola in HD. I had already seen this production twice in the house, but with Javier Camarena as Don Ramiro. The HD performance had Juan Diego Florez. I can't really say who was better, when both are A+ singers. Camarena's voice is bigger, rounder, with a more ringing top, but he doesn't have the extraordinary facility with coloratura that Florez has. Florez's voice can sound slightly hard and nasal when pushed, but he can sing all the 1/64 micro-notes like nothing.

They play two very different Don Ramiros. Camarena had a lot of fun playing the valet, his eyes twinkling with mischief. He was little and sneaky, and he had wonderful chemistry with Pietro Spagnoli's Dandini. Florez was more the traditional leading man. More princely, if you will.

This Cenerentola is one of the strongest productions the Met has mounted this year -- true ensemble singing, with Pietro Spagnoli in particular making a wonderful impression as Dandini, and Alessandro Corbelli and Luca Pisaroni hamming it up in true opera buffa style. I know Joyce DiDonato is dropping the role of Angelina but it's not because she can't sing it anymore -- she can still sing the hell out of it. Lovely ornaments in "Non piu mesta." The chemistry between the cast was evident, as I saw three performances and each one had different ad-libbed comedy. And Fabio Luisi is my wtf-crush. I think he's adorable. I can't explain why. But just seeing him in the pit gives me a happy vibe.

Since January (first half of the season, don't ask, but let's just say I wasn't in any mood to see anything) I've seen just about everything. The only things I took a pass on were Die Fledermaus, Enchanted Island, Prince Igor (well I didn't take a pass on it, I just somehow never got the energy to go see it for one reason or another), and Andrea Chenier. Otherwise I'm looking at my programs and I saw:

Rusalka -
Werther (three times, twice with Kaufmann, once with Borras!)
Boheme (three times, with three different casts!)
La Sonnambula -
Puritani (twice)
Madama Butterfly
Cosi fan tutte
La Cenerentola (twice in the house, and then the HD)

A running theme through all these shows is how great the tenors were. In fact, only two performances had what I'd consider to be sub-par tenors. In Arabella, Roberto Sacca bleated and shrieked his way through the punishing role of Matteo. But to be fair, I think he was sick, because he cancelled a good part of his run. And in Madama Butterfly, James Valenti did his usual D-list "why does he get hired" thing.

Otherwise, it's time to gush. Piotr Beczala - GREAT!!! Joseph Calleja - GREAT!!! Jonas Kaufmann - OH.MY.GOD. Jean Francois Borras (Kaufman's cover) - GREAT!!! (And he's being brought back next year for La Boheme). Vittorio Grigolo - GREAT!!! Lawrence Brownlee - GREAT!!! Matthew Polenzani - GREAT!!! Javier Camarena - BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!!! Juan Diego Florez - GREAT!!!

This is getting tiresome. But it drives home the fact that great tenors are just everywhere nowadays. I mean, I didn't even count Aleksandrs Antonenko, Ramon Vargas, Michael Fabiano, Roberto Alagna, Bryan Hymel, tenors I didn't have a chance to hear this season. Or Klaus Florian Vogt, John Osborn and Michael Spyres, three tenors I haven't had a chance to hear in the U.S. but I've heard wonderful things about. And then there are tenors who really aren't my cup of tea but I can't deny that they have talent (Johan Botha, Stephen Costello).

I mean, it's just a sign of the times that Lawrence Brownlee can hit a high F in I Puritani and that's not even the most talked-about event of the season:

But that's because everyone was talking about this:

As I said, embarrassment of riches.

But for tenors, the new rule seems to be: do not call in sick. Your cover/replacement will be just as good. Management will send the replacement onstage and he will get to encore. The thing is, most of these tenors are not young. Most of them are in the late-30's/early 40's range. They're all just peaking at the same time. It must be stressful for them, but for the audiences, it's like watching the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones at the same time. No one is irreplaceable. All men must die, and hit a blazing high C on the way out.


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