Monday, October 31, 2016

Mattila Returns to Met, Richard Tucker Gala

Mattila and Dyka, photo @ Ken Howard
Karita Mattila's return to the Met after a five year absence was basically everything a beloved diva (and the audience) could hope for -- a great role (Kostelnicka in Janácek's Jenufa), an adoring audience, and a voice that is intact and needs no apologies. No it's not a young voice and Kostelnicka is a role often associated with sopranos of a certain age but Mattila's voice actually seems to be undergoing an Indian summer. It's remarkably warm, steady, and full of volume and richness. There was no veristic screeching. And no one decided to sprinkle ashes during her curtain calls.

Mattila is one of those rare complete artists. Her voice was just a bigger part of her detailed, charismatic portrayal of this tormented woman. First of all, Mattila is still beautiful, so when Kostelnicka sang about how she was once the most desired woman in the village but frittered away her youth, you believed her. Second of all, the energy she put into her performance lifted the entire evening. She deserved her ovations, and I hope she returns to New York for many more evenings. She's wonderful.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

ABT Fall Season

Blaine Hoven, Calvin Royal, Gabe Stone Shayer in Serenade After Plato's Symposium, @Andrea Mohin

The ABT's fall season is  so different from their overstuffed, predictable spring season. Their brief, eclectic fall season is always interesting, often amazing, sometimes frustrating. You can admire the diversity of their fall repertoire compared to their spring season and still wish that they mastered one style instead of tackling so many. I caught two performances this season. Wanted to catch more, but oh well.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Tell That Doesn't Tell the Tale

Tell's final tableau, photo @Marty Sohl

So last night I went to the Met's new production of Guillaume Tell and it was glorious, fantastic, everything I'd ever want in a staging of Rossini's masterpiece ... eh, who am I kidding? It sucked. Rossini's opera has some of the greatest (if vocally demanding) music ever written, but it needs a production that respects and advocates for the opera as a viable stage vehicle. Pierre Audi's production is terrible in every way. It's a total disaster.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

NYCB's Fall Season Wrap Up

Veyette and Bouder in Stars and Stripes
And so it's a wrap: NYCB ended their fall season with a dispiriting amount of collateral damage: Adrian Danchig-Waring, Tyler Angle, Taylor Stanley, Lauren Lovette, and Brittany Pollack are all out with injuries. In a company with less depth these injuries would be devastating --however, NYCB currently has such talent in all levels of its roster that the flow of the season and the quality of the performances continued uninterrupted.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tristan Hits the Right Chords

Stemme and Skelton, photo @ Ken Howard

There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, that compares to the feeling that washes over the audience when the famous Tristan chord from the very first note five hours ago (!!!) finds its harmonic resolution. For me it's a mixture of relief that it's finally over with euphoria at the beauty of the moment. This is what they mean when they talk about Wagner being a musical genius.

But in between those five hours is an opera that can be challenging to even the most loyal Wagnerian acolyte. The action-packed, fairly condense first act and romantic glow of the second act turn into a long, repetitive dirge in the final act. I'm sick blahblahblah I'm dying blahblahblah loyalty blahblahblah for at least an hour. I don't know how long Tristan actually blathers on about his anguish before he finally expires, but to me it's always an endless wait for Marke and Isolde to arrive and wrap up the show. (In the bad old days, they used to snip large portions of the third act. Legendary heldentenor Lauritz Melchior reportedly never sang an uncut Tristan.)

Tristan und Isolde needs excellent singers who can carry the opera through both its climaxes and frustrating longueurs. The Met's new production of this opera had the singers and musicians to do this opera justice. Nina Stemme, Stuart Skelton, René Pape, Ekaterina Gubanova, and Evgeny Nikitin and conductor Simon Rattle were not perfect, but they all had strong voices that could really sing their roles. There was no shrieking for the moon.

Boris: Do Russian Leaders Ever Change?

  René Pape, photo @ Marty Sohl There's a leader of Russia. He's corrupt and has killed people on his path to power. He only trusts ...