Showing posts from 2023

Camelot: Knight Errors

  It's always tricky reviewing musicals or plays in the early-preview time frame. You realize that many of the acting and directing choices might be adjusted and even completely changed before opening night.  saw the Lincoln Center Theater's revival of Camelot on March 15, about one week into previews. So for the purposes of fairness, I'm not going to criticize some of the acting or directing choices that I think need improvement. They could improve ... or not. However, the biggest issue with this revival is something I don't see improving. That would be Aaron Sorkin's new book for the Lerner and Loewe musical. It was so wrong-headed, so ill-conceived, that a few days later I'm still in shock at how bad it was. By the way, as a disclaimer: I love Sorkin's work. I loved The Social Network and To Kill a Mockingbird . I also enjoy Bart Sher's revivals of classic musicals. My Fair Lady was mostly wonderful, South Pacific was all wonderful. This is why the

Lohengrin: Swan Dive ... or Not?

  White Knight, photo @ Marty Sohl On March 5, 2023, one of my lifelong musical goals was finally fulfilled: I saw Wagner's Lohengrin live, in the flesh. An opera I had loved so much on recordings and videos I had somehow never seen live. Sometimes with these types of situations, expectations can be so overwhelming that the reality falls short. I'm happy to report that this was not the case -- Lohengrin live was everything I expected it to be and more. This easily jumps to the top of the list of favorite operatic performances post-pandemic. For one, the sound of the chorus and the shimmering orchestra is so much more potent live. Second of all, this is maybe Wagner's best-paced opera -- there are no down or redundant moments. Each act is a bladder-friendly 65-to-70-ish minutes. The drama zips along to its inevitable conclusion without characters telling and retelling the same story. Third of all, the musical performances were all very strong. Not perfect, but no one was u

Dialogues of the Carmélites - A Good Opera Habit

  Dialogues opening, photo @ Marty Sohl Dialogues des Carmélites made one of its fairly infrequent returns to the Met in the classic John Dexter production. As a rule, it's always a good to watch Dialogues whenever you get the opportunity. Poulenc's opera has a way of bringing out the best in both singers and audiences. There's no showboating, there's no silly focus on high notes, it's just one of the purest, most compelling opera dramas ever created. My schedule kept getting in the way of seeing this latest revival, until today when I could finally make it to the final performance. Overall, it's one of the best things I've seen at the Met this season. It wasn't a perfect performance, and there was an unfortunate performance from one of the leads. But the impact of this opera was undiminished. Constance and Blanche, photo @ Marty Sohl The standout performance for me was Sabine Devielhe as Constance. This was my first time hearing Devielhe live, but I h

L'Elisir d'amore: When Bad Productions Happen to Good Singers

Camarena and Schultz, photo @ Marty Sohl On paper, the Metropolitan Opera's revival of Donizetti's  L'elisir d'amore should have been a wonderful night at the opera. The cast should have been perfect for their parts, and L'elisir d'amore is one of opera's sunniest, most surefire comedies. You don't really need to work for this opera to work. It's a sweet romantic comedy and the dim country bumpkin Nemorino is one of opera's most lovable characters. Belcore is actually terrifying, photo @ Marty Sohl Instead, the performance was dragged down by Bartlett Sher's misguided production. Sher's production is misleading -- the sets and costumes make it look extremely traditional. But the actual dramaturgy is bizarre. Sher seems to think this is actually an opera about toxic masculinity. Belcore is a stuffed shirt army sergeant. He's a well-known opera buffa type. In Sher's production Belcore is actually a terrifying presence. His army br

Fedora: A Good Bad Opera

One critic wrote about Sarah Bernhardt's portrayal of Fedora: "Sardou's Fedora , the strongest drama written in recent years, with Sarah Bernhardt as the heroine--a character unquestionably suggested by the eccentric French actress's remarkable skill in the simulation of conflicting passions--presents a combination of ingenuity, constructive and dramatic eloquence that is not likely to be equaled on the stage within the knowledge of playgoers now living." Act 2 of Fedora, photo @Ken Howard Last night I saw the Met's new production of Umberto Giordano's Fedora and reread this critic and wondered what got lost in transit between the play (by Victorien Sardou) and the operatic adaptation (libretto by Arturo Colautti). Because the opera comes across as a fun, intermittently entertaining soap opera but nothing more.  There's no emotional buy-in for the opera's melodramatic plot. Characters are dropped onstage, and their backstory and motivations are of