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RIP Jessye Norman
Norman and Obama. Ah, a time when a president could do these things
The great American soprano Jessye Norman passed away yesterday. My own story about Jessye is small but here goes: after a very bad period in which I gained a lot of weight I took up running a few years ago and quickly learned that the miles went by quicker if I listened to beautiful music. Jessye's album of the Four Last Songs quickly became my favorite workout recording: at 40 minutes the album was perfect for my route, and Norman's lush gorgeous voice somehow made the miles and sweat easier. I listened to it over and over again on my workouts. I recently came down with a bad ankle sprain and have to stay off the ankle for awhile. When I'm able to work out again the first thing I'll do is put 4LL back on.
Meanwhile, here is a wonderful live video of her singing this:
Ah, remember when the Met audiences was mildly scandalized over Michael Mayer's Rat-Pack/Vegas Rigoletto ? I do. Bartlett Sher's Weimar Republic Rigoletto was supposed to right those wrongs. Instead, the new production makes absolute nonsense of the libretto. Nice double doors? Photo @ Ken Howard Victor Hugo's play is set in Francis I's court. Francesco Maria Piave's libretto had to move the action to Mantua. The Vegas Rigoletto did one thing right -- it made the Duke of Mantua's and Rigoletto's relationship very vivid. The Duke was the Dean Martin-esque playboy, Rigoletto was the Sammy Davis Jr.-esque sidekick. It made sense, in a way. Sher's Rigoletto transplants the opera to the Weimar Republic. From the moment the curtain rose, one was overwhelmed by Michael Yeargan's huge rotating set that gave us the opera's main locales -- the Duke's court, Rigoletto's house, and Sparafucile's inn. But you had no clue who the Duke of Mant
Benko as Fanny It's been a busy week. I ended up seeing three shows in a short amount of time: Funny Girl , How I Learned to Drive , and Rigoletto . Two of the shows were wonderful. Of course, it's the not-so-wonderful show I'll focus on the most. I deliberately avoided Beanie Feldstein in Funny Girl , but when Beanie came down with covid , I decided to buy a ticket. I'd heard nothing but glowing reviews about Beanie's understudy Julie Benko. The good news: Benko deserves all the accolades. Her voice is AMAZING. No, she doesn't sound anything like Barbra Streisand, but she has a classic Broadway belt. She also has a surprisingly sweet sound when she's not belting. She is a decent dancer and numbers like "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" and "Rat Tat-Tat-Tat" were fun and funny. Her portrayal is on point too -- she mixes naivete and moxie, all in a tiny, pretty package. She has good chemistry with Ramin Karimloo (Nicky). There are other at
Opening of Serenade, photo @ Caitlin Ochs On September 21, 2021, it seemed as if every single balletomane was stuffed into every last corner of the David Koch Theater. NYCB was making its comeback onstage after going dark for nearly 18 months. When the opening chords of Serenade started and the 17 girls held up their hands, the audience burst into ecstatic applause. I had a lump in my throat. Emotions ran so high that the actual quality of the performance barely mattered. But once the endorphins died down and the program progressed to Symphony in C , one had to admit that the company looked a bit ragged. Pandemic rustiness was not limited to us plebes -- ballet dancers also had difficulty getting their arabesque to 90 degrees, difficulty getting off the floor in jumps, difficulty dancing with the freedom and expansiveness that the repertory required.