Il Trittico Shows Which Voices Have Staying Power; Netflix's Dogs
|50 years at the Met, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
Domingo was onstage with colleagues decades younger than him. Some had great voices (Stephanie Blythe) and some had very good voices (Amber Wagner's firm, rich soprano as Giorgetta, George Gagnidze as Michele). And Domingo is not a natural baritone. He's not a natural comic either -- I remember seeing Alessandro Corbelli do this role and he had everyone in stitches. But not a single voice had as much sense of maximizing one's potential as Domingo. When you take away the sentimentality, the audience attachment, what you have is a singer who still has much to offer.
|Il Tabarro, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
|Blythe and Opolais, photo @ Metopera|
Opolais's wrecked voice was a painful contrast to Stephanie Blythe's Principessa. Blythe's voice is a miracle. She's a real contralto with that kind of earthy, cavernous chest register that is always a thrill to hear. Her acting is also nuanced for such a brief role -- it's easy to make Principessa an irredeemable monster but Blythe's monologue was subtle enough to convey the fact that Principessa is one of those people who confuses moral rigidity with godliness. The various nuns were all very well-sung. But a Suor Angelica without a good Angelica is a non-starter.
|Domingo as the wily Gianni Schicchi, photo @ Sara Krulwich|
Atalla Ayan (Rinuccio) had a sweet, ringing tenor and (this is tricky) a nebbish enough stage persona for us to believe that this was a young man just waiting around for his inheritance. Maurizio Muraro (Simone) is always a joy to hear. I also enjoyed the officious notary of Philip Cokorinos.
I mean, compare these two renditions. Scotto's voice by 1981 was unsteady and often wiry and harsh. But look at how much she lives and breathes this music.
Jack O'Brien's production has its charms. Maybe the best is Gianni Schicchi. The opera is updated from Dante Alghieri's era to 1959, and has a cinematic appeal. Suor Angelica is the worst -- the convent is more of a palace, and the overstuffed production threatens to overwhelm the simple, from-the-heart-to-the-heart libretto and music. The overly detailed sets that meant the evening ran for over four hours. Perhaps to compensate Bertrand de Billy kept things at an extremely fast clip. The audience was shockingly out of step with the music -- they kept laughing during Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica, and then in Gianni Schicchi stayed oddly silent during many of the opera's funniest bits. The worst was when they cut off the final phrase of "O mio babbino caro" with premature applause before de Billy picked up the baton again and let poor Mktitaryan finish her aria. Maybe in this day and age the raw emotional melodrama of Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica simply make people uncomfortable.
At the end of the evening Domingo received a well-deserved standing ovation. He's outlasted nearly all his contemporary colleagues. For a voice that even in its prime was problematic (not much of an upper register, lack of the squillo that many opera fans crave, a Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none approach to his roles) it was awe-inspiring to see a singer with a voice still so well-projected, a stage persona that had so much gravitas and likability, to realize that Domingo has earned all the accolades he's received not because of sheer talent but because of determination, grit, and hard work.
The real heartbreaker of the episode is the people Zeus left behind. Zeus is staying with Ayham's best friend Amer in Damascus, and the love between Amer and Zeus is beautiful to watch. Amer says that Zeus is a great source of comfort to him but admits that "this isn't the right place for Zeus" as Zeus is frightened by the constant bullets and gunfire. In Damascus Zeus is also a beloved neighborhood fixture. Children play with him. Some play ball with him but one girl simply snuggles with him. He's obviously a source of therapy for a traumatized, warn-torn people. As Zeus happily plays in a dog park in Germany with Ayham at the end of the film one thinks of how Zeus's neighborhood children are suffering as yet another loving figure has left. The cliffhanger of the movie is whether Amer is successful in leaving Syria.
Although this film focuses on Zeus it's also a quietly powerful indictment of the callous attitude and prejudice people around the world think is acceptable when talking about refugees. This film will up-end everything you thought you knew about refugees. Overall you will be amazed at the resilience of people who have risked everything just for a chance to start all over again in another country.