Saturday, March 22, 2008

Come for the Isolde, stay for the Tristan

Of course I tuned in this morning (!) to hear Deborah Voigt's first broadcast Isolde from the Met, and of course she is thrilling, bringing a vulnerability to the role that Nilsson, for all her splendor, just didn't possess. I'm a little saddened that Michelle DeYoung's voice has roughened since she recorded Didon on the LSO's Les Troyens, but this is still impressive casting for Brangaene. But who is this Robert Dean Smith (Dean being the middle name of choice for tenors, it seems)? If he's as good "in the house" as he is on the radio, he's the best thing to come out of Kansas since Samuel Ramey. And this is his debut, replacing Ben Heppner! A keeper. Get out the long-term contract, Mr. Gelb. James Levine and the Met orchestra keep finding diamonds in this score that others just don't mine, and I don't want to hear any nattering about how slow it is. Opera time is not supposed to be like clock time.

I still hate the improvements to the intermissions, I hate the bells in the quiz, I hate the very idea of interviewing the singers between acts when they should be resting or snapping at their personal assistants, "I asked for decaf!" Juntwait or Siff, pick one. Their chatter reminds me of why I watch baseball with the sound off.

My enthusiasm for opera comes and goes, and right now it seems to be on the boil. I watched the New York City Opera Madama Butterfly this week on PBS, and came away more impressed than ever with Puccini's surefire music. Decently sung and attractively staged, it works even without memorably stellar performances and even with the pedestrian time-beating of George Manahan, and by "works" I mean it moves us to tears at all the usual places. (For the first time, I had time to wonder why, if Butterfly can't read Pinkerton's letter, she can read the name "Abraham Lincoln" on the ship. Never mind. And don't let your mind wander to the present ship of the same name, where Bush staged his "Mission Accomplished" show. If I'm in the mood for farce, I prefer Don Pasquale.)

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home