Verdi RIGOLETTO, Met 01.02.2006; c. Domingo; Netrebko, Villazon, Burchinal, Herrera, Kowaljow.
I wasn't planning on blogging much the next couple of weeks (crisis of purpose), but a particular wrong can't wait for Sieglinde to finish sorting out her existential confusions, and needs to be addressed immediately. Singers have off-nights, but there's never been such a dramatic conversion since Damascus: Anna Netrebko, much maligned in recent weeks (here and here), was such an entirely different singer last evening it was like seeing Transamerica but with better hair. AWOL high e-flats notwithstanding, Anna had complete command of notes and dynamics, character and stage. It was ostensibly a bad week in December for her, and it's unfortunate the radio broadcast occurred then: the lazy attack, the tonal inaccuracy, the dry bulk of sound all gone, miraculous--honey, last night's performance is the one pirate recording to trade your cherished Gencer-in-the-loo recordings for. Her timbre of black pearl is still not the Gilda you'll find on Noah's ark, but she makes a one hell of a case. She looked up to Sieglinde's perch and said to her "f* you, f* the top notes, f* that virginal Gilda crap, I'll show you what ravish means!" and then proceeded to shade and caress the Verdi out of her lines with an uncommon elegant passion. All I can say is, I can't believe it's not butter! Meanwhile, Rolando Villazon must stop the practice of French kissing chorus members (not to mention the Gildas and Maddalenas). That's how bugs are spread. But what a voice. Last night his tenor had none of that straddling the limits of physics quality: because his sustained top notes were technically magnificent, he had lots of leftover calories to deal with pumping out grace. His searing "Parmi veder le lagrime" won some heartfelt applause from Maestro Placido Domingo, who led a limpid and human reading of Verdi's lush score, and who, in my opinion, may be better (in standard repertory) than many on the Met's current list of conductors. Frederick Burchinal, of adequate voice and average acting skills, was a royal upgrade from the Carlo Guelfi (though even Lois Kirschenbaum would have been an upgrade): but at the very least, he held his own during the duets and quartets, thereby allowing greater attention to the real stars of the evening. It has been proven: both Netrebko and Villazon are capable of churning out magnificent evenings. The challenges now are consistency and longevity. (For this, they must take courses at the Anja Silja School of Age Is Just a State of Hair.) Brava Anna! Bravo Rolando!