Tucker Gala 2019: RBG, High Notes, and Cilea; Orfeo Recovered
|Lisette Oropesa, 2019 Richard Tucker winner|
Because of who happens to be in NY this time of year the lineup was less starry than usual. But there were no cancellations, so there's that.
|Lisette Oropesa at the Tucker Gala|
Oropesa is more of a pure vocalist so those expecting the intense interpretations of, say, Maria Callas will be disappointed. But it's been a long time since I've heard someone sing primo ottocento music this well.
About Angel Blue. Middle Verdi might not be Blue's thing but "Depuis le jour" certainly was: she has a big auditorium-filling voice, shimmering high notes, and a certain charisma. The audience loved her. This is really her year, with her amazing turn as Bess in Porgy and Bess and her livestreamed Tosca from Aix.
What about Cilea? No Tucker Gala can go by without a fix of Andrew Lloyd Cilea. It was represented by Ermanela Jaho's wan rendition of "Io son l'umile ancella." Everyone says what a great dramatic actress/singer Jaho is. I'm sure that’s true. It's just that I hear someone who barely has any core to her voice and whose tone seems squeezed out. I must be missing something.
Jaho sang the Madama Butterfly duet with Stephen Costello, who perfected the thousand-mile stare while gripping the conducting handrails for dear life. Must be a nervous habit. The duet itself however had a gentle, lyrical flavor which isn't how I've heard this duet sung in recent years. Costello also sang the Flower Song from Carmen while gripping those same handrails. Despite the nerves Costello is an appealing tenor with a tasteful musicality.
Let's see who else was there? Michael Fabiano sang a rather subdued rendition of Lensky's aria "Kuda, kuda." Ailyn Pérez looked and sounded very sexy in "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta." She was less at home in the big duet from Thaïs. The exposed D's pushed her voice to its ceiling.
Lucas Meacham was the Athanaël in the Thaïs duet. Meacham tried to make "Largo al factotum" interesting by walking down the aisles and mugging a whole bunch with hand gestures galore. However in the fast patter that is the musically interesting part of the aria, he jumbled his words and was close to inaudible. Next. Oh and Christian van Horn sang maybe the most un-gala like selection ever: Te Deum from Tosca. Why not the Whistle Aria from Mefisotfele?
|Tucker Gala lineup|
|Hong and Barton, photo @ Ken Howard|
There's plenty of reasons to see the Met's revival of Orfeo. Jamie Barton as Orfeo gave an excellent performance in the title role. Her mezzo is a good fit for this surprisingly long part -- Orfeo really is asked to carry the opera. From Orfeo's I Want aria "Chiamo il ben cosi" to the 11 o'clock number "Chè faro senza Euridice" Barton was heartfelt and moving. She decorated the third verse of "Chè faro" with some alternating upwards vocal lines. The ONLY nitpicks: she is fond of using glottal attacks which sound out of place in Gluck's pure melodies. Barton is well worth hearing. One of the most impressive mezzos of this generation.
|Hyesung Park as Amor, photo@ Ken Howard|
Of course the real reason to go to Orfeo is Gluck's music. Orfeo has received so many accolades it doesn't need another one but trust me -- it draws you into a spell and never lets go. The simple but heart wrenching Greek myth works whether it's the musical Hadestown or an opera that premiered in 1762. And Orfeo is short. 90 minutes give and take, no intermission, a perfect weeknight opera. You can be home and in bed before 11.
|The chorus of Orfeo, photo @ Ken Howard|
|Mark Morris's choreography, photo @ Ken Howard|
|More dancing, more swaying, photo @ Ken Howard|
At the end of the evening after "Che faro senza Euridice" and love wins out, we were "treated" to yet another suite of dances from Mark Morris. By that time the dancing had gotten so boring I just tuned it out. One longs for the choreography of the caliber of, say, George Balanchine, who turned his suite of dances for a production of Orfeo into a ballet called Chaconne. (Balanchine choreographed for several productions of Orfeo throughout his lifetime, including a short-lived on at the Met in 1935.)
Wouldn't this have been heavenly?