Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My 3 Opera weekend at the Met!

     I don't get to go to the Met very often since I live in Southern Illinois. It is therefore rather expensive and difficult to get to NYC, even though Lincoln Center is my favorite place on earth. But I made the pilgrimage and binged on Met opera this past weekend. Friday: Roberto Devereaux; Saturday afternoon: Simon Boccanegra; Saturday evening: Madame Butterfly! The last one was a spur of the moment decision as I had not originally planned to see that, but as I found myself free on Saturday evening I thought, well, why not!
     Many folks complain about so-called "modern productions" even though all productions being performed would be modern productions. I have alway had a difficult time understanding the complaint. As an art form opera needs new ideas and a steady flow of re-imaginings. Otherwise it becomes a museum piece and it will die. Of the 3 productions I saw the middle one: SB was the most conservative with opulent period sets and costumes. The Butterfly was a magical production utilizing elements of Japanese theater and the RD was seemingly very traditional yet with an interesting concept of the play within the play. Politics and personal relationships all intertwining and playing out on a public stage where it is all watched and observed by many who hang around. I loved each and every one of these productions.
     Vocally I got to experience some of my favorite singers: Sondra Radvanovsky who I adore; Mariusz Kwiecien who withdrew from the Don Giovanni I had hoped to experience in Chicago; Elina Garanca and Matthew Polenzani; the Great Placido Domingo and Furuccio Furlanetto; Joseph Calleja; Krisina Oppolais; Dwayne Croft, Maria Zifchak and Tony Stevenson. The amazing Met chorus and orchestra. (Beautiful playing from the winds as always BTW) And then James Levine conducting SB! It was fantastic. All the singing was terrific, IMHO. Musically each opera was very strong and the acting was top notch. I found SB to be the most powerful and moving of the 3 operas. Not sure why I wasn't more moved for Butterfly.
     In many ways I think the HD broadcast of Butterfly was more engaging. Seeing the whole stage enabled us to see everything that was going on at once. And at times this was wonderful. But at other times I think this opera is so personal and there is so much interaction of the cast that the close ups were able to bring out details that I simply was too far away to see in the house. I will say however the mirror worked a lot better in the house. The mirror did not read in HD for me but in the house the choreography utilized this reflection and was very effective and moving, the scene with the birds for example.
Much has been said about Domingo's ability to pull of these baritone roles and much had been said by me. I have always been a major fan of his, but he really is not a baritone and the voice is just not right for these baritone roles - I really didn't like his Di Luna and Don Carlos (in Ernani) or papa Germont. And even in SB there are times where his tenor is just not the right voice. However, seeing it live was quite different from listening alone. Domingo was Simone! His command of the stage, his acting and his entire inhabiting of the role was quite remarkable. It was a riveting performance. And when you add Furuccio Furlanetto and Calleja and the rest of the terrific cast it was a remarkable performance and experience. When the curtain rises on the council chamber scene with Domingo sitting on the throne regally costumed surrounded by the council it was a stunning image. And then when the chorus begins the insurrection.... Well, it doesn't get any better than that!
      I have no complaints about RD. I loved every minute. The cast, led by Sondra, was terrific. I personally loved the production. This is not history! The plot of this opera is so far removed from the actual historical events that led to the execution of Essex that there is no correlation at all. (Love and jealousy were not factors! Essex's idiotic and poorly planned and executed insurrection was what led to his execution. E1 was actually pretty magnanimous considering how many others she pardoned!) So it's not historical, so remember that and just take it on its own terms. I loved Sondra as Elizabeth. I do not find her voice harsh, but she has power and she commands the stage, as she needs to in this role! I am looking forward to seeing it in HD this coming weekend.
     I probably will not have the opportunity to go to the Met 3 times in a weekend again for a long time. It was a wonderful weekend and I truly loved every moment! And on top of it I got to meet some wonderful folks for our Met Opera in HD Fans page. This was a wonderful extra. It was great to meet all of you who were in the house and it was great to meet and chat with Will Berger for a little while. All in all a great time.

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