14 March 2005

Sieglinde's Nabucco Scorecard

a critics' roundtable

Once again, Maria Guleghina's Abigaille steps all over Giuseppe Verdi's score and shreiks out across the Lincoln Center Plaza and up and down Broadway. Meanwhile, our favorite backroom critics are in an uproar. We shall begin our queens' roundtable chat today by looking at a sampling of what the press and bliterati (blog literati) have said about this season's Nabucco run at the Met. Sieglinde shall help you decode them via her exclusive scorecard shorthand. (Scores are out of a perfect 10.0.)

Maria Guleghina's Abigaille is the big moment among many big moments, and she threw her powerful soprano ardently, sometimes recklessly into the opera. Her first extended sequence (Part II, Scene 1) was impressively done. If there were bumps in Part I's opening, they may be due to Verdi's habit of writing first acts with dangerously sudden soprano parts. Like Violetta in ''La Traviata,'' Abigaille has no settling-in period; the part pounces on her from nowhere. There was not much vocal subtlety asked for on Monday, and not much given.
BH/New York Times
VERDI: a human 6.0 (Abigaille, Violetta ... same difference).
GULEGHINA: a superwoman 8.0 for awakening the corpulent queen in me.
MET: a New York Times 10.0, Tomassini-style ... and may I just say that James Levine is an unqualified genius in my book.

Unfortunately, the finest solo singing in this Nabucco came from secondary characters ... While White was a paragon of bel canto elegance, Maria Guleghina as Abigaille was a model of 'can belto' awfulness. Abigaille's music is inhumanly difficult, but sopranos past (Callas, Scotto) and present (Neves, Gruber) have surmounted its challenges. Guleghina's war-whoops, choppy phrasing and strangled plunges into a wan chest-register curdled the blood, with a mostly sensitive and dignified death scene offering scant redemption.
MLR/vilaine fille/Newsday
VERDI: a blameless 10.0, and how dare that witch deface your shrine!
GULEGHINA: a 1.3 for at least making Souliotis look good.
MET: a lukewarm 6.5, redeemed only by casting Cura in this season's Samson ("...it's true: He has the largest one I've ever seen.").

It's beyond my feeble capacity of imagination to comprehend why a premier opera company like the Met would give even a thought to, much less spend hard-come-by funding on, mounting such a piece of organ-grinder trash as Nabucco. And beyond my feeble capacity of understanding why audiences would fork over hard, cold cash to attend performances knowing in advance what to expect, and moreover, remain in their seats rather than make a beeline for the exit doors after being confronted with a cast of wobbly-voiced shriekers such as today.
ACD/sounds & fury
VERDI: an Andrew Lloyd Webber 0.8.
GULEGHINA: a who-the-f*-cares,-I-want-my-money-back, -but-wait,-I've-not-gone-to-the-opera- in-like-decades,-so-I-guess-they-ought-to-just -pay-me-for-wasting-bloglines-on-this-crap 0.2
MET: a diminishing 5.0 for not living up to "our standards" (i.e., less Italian drivel, more of that solid German stuff)

On the last Saturday in February, I turned on the radio—then still programmed to a station that does not deserve mention—and heard opera from the Met. Italian Opera, as became clear within short, painful seconds. ...And what exactly was wrong with it? What made it so excruciatingly bad? Shall I mention the perfectly empty orchestral writing—a collage of one cheap effect after another, the endless galloping runs up to some aria or end of an aria that you can see coming from a mile away, always with the same basic figures—either up the scale, sometimes down, sometimes up and down for extra excitement!? They, of course, last twice as long as even the most forgiving ears could tolerate. Then the big musical signs: Here! Clap. Here! The end of this part.
VERDI/GULEGHINA: a go to hell 0.0, I don't clap on cue, I want quiet, give me my Pelleas.
MET: a generous 7.5, for being a decent radio station most Saturdays.

Overheard on 'The Young and the Restless' today.....When Dru found out that Phyllis found out about the secret paternity test to determine if her husband or Malcolm (her husband's brother) is the father of Dru's teenage daughter, Dru went off and said (of Phyllis): 'That Heifer, You Know She Can't Be Trusted' I can't think of a better one sentence plot synopsis for Nabucco (there's a reason why they are called soap OPERAS).
VERDI: n/a
HEIFER: 10.0.
MET: n/a

I'm giving away a handy Get-Out-of-Heaven-Free card to the first person who can discern which of these three persons does not belong, and why. You may use the comments feature or e-mail me! 1) Maria Guleghina, circa Saturday afternoon's Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Nabucco. 2) Beyoncé, duetting with Josh Groban at the Oscars, in the nominated song 'Believe,' from The Polar Express. 3) The aforementioned 'opera singer,' Josh Groban. On a similar note, be sure to czech out Sieglinde's ode to the odious Guleghina. I can't disagree with much of what she has to say, but then, the ode does lurch at the basest of human instincts while missing all the important points. How apropos, considering the subject!
VERDI: the important point 9.0.
GULEGHINA: an 8.0 for not being Josh Groban but back to 2.2 for not being Beyoncé.
MET: an indignant 1.0 for catering to those who lurch at the basest of human instincts while missing all the important points.

SN/prima la musica
VERDI/GULEGHINA: no comment; still waiting for the Nabucco broadcast reel-to-reel to reach the Misty Mountains of New Zealand.
MET: a 2.0 for being oh so far away.

"Jerusalem via Babylon via Cecil B. DeMille; New York Sun (subscription), NY - Feb 16, 2005... We may criticize Ms. Guleghina, but we would miss her, and her breed. 'Nabucco' has two roles that require low male voices with tremendous authority: These are ..."--From google news
VERDI: f* you, I won't tell you anything until you get a subscription to the New York Sun.
GULEGHINA: a fat 8.0 for her and her breed.
MET: f* you, I won't tell you anything until you get a subscription to the New York Sun.

Maria, oh Maria Guleghina, oceanliner, mountain range, supernova. Maria, more than a freak of nature, you are a freak of opera. Your harsh Abigaille is never easy to bear. It violates good people’s sensibilities and blasphemes the art of singing. You mock the dynamics of sound, ridicule the question of acoustics. Your voice is carnal, erotic, exotic, extraterrestrial. You transform any music into a challenge of physics; pitchwise you will fail but you shall not surrender. Upon every scene’s end, you are often bloodied, yet you still dare the high note option. You pawn the capital every single time. You defy uniformity. You are gutsy, you are dirty, rude, profane. You destroy. You make live live. Queer, you shall never belong.
LD/Sieglinde's Diaries
VERDI: a "Verdi, whodat?" 1.0 for not writing more two-octave plunges in the score.
GULEGHINA: an inexplicable/irrational 9.8, and the residual 0.2 as soon as her check for my medical bills (and for other PR-related expenses) clears.
MET: 10.0, for refusing to succumb to agreed-upon standards of decency by casting the oceanliner in Norma in 2007, 14.5 years away in Abigaille-I-don't-care-for-vocal-health years.