Showing posts from January, 2023

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