28 April 2006

Spring Cleaning

1. Opera v. Broadway. Difference #12: They got critics ... Ben Brantley of the New York Times (yes, the same one) writes of the new Elton John show Lestat: "A promising new contender has arrived in a crowded pharmaceutical field. Joining the ranks of Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata and other prescription lullaby drugs is 'Lestat,' the musical sleeping pill that opened last night at the Palace Theater." Read the rest of the belt-high criticism here.

2. Dept. of Dumb. Guess who has (thus far) failed to secure a ticket to the grand Bon Volpe Voyage? (File also under Dept. of Poor.) Among the highlights she'll miss: Renee Fleming reconfiguring "Tacea la notte placida ... Di tale amor"; Natalie Dessay showcasing "Glitter and be Gay"; Anna Netrebko & Rolando Villazon going AWOL (hmmm ...); Dolora Zajick, AWOL of late, gracing the glitterati with "O mon Fernand"; Deborah Voigt reprising "Pace, pace"; Placido Domingo clearing his throat for some zarzuela (zay what?); Luciano Pavarotti clearing his throat.

3. Dept. of Backdoor. Check out what kinds of tickets are left for the Volpe Thing. (Yeah, same here: for $2,000 I also expect some real physico-chemical action, preferrably with Rene Pape or Juan Diego Florez, or at least with Susan Graham.) But I'll tell you a little secret: a mere $350 is enough to get you in. Just call the box office directly, tell them websites are for suckers, and they'll quickly offer you an orchestra seat for that bargain price. (Still doesn't help me though. Zigh.)

4. Porn Pasquale. Yeah, Sieglinde went to one of those. While she ain't as pissed as sister MLR (a.k.a. vilaine fille), she comes close: "(Anna) Netrebko also indulged in idiocy such as waves to the house while supposedly in character. It was the most self-serving performance this writer has ever witnessed; nonetheless the audience ate up every last bit of it. The soprano was in lustrous but thick voice, with her pitch tending to sag, her vowels sometimes lugubrious, and her handling of musical intricacies less than fastidious." Martin Bernheimer reports that, on opening night, Netrebko "preened, purred, twitched, gesticulated, cackled, grimaced, beamed, waved to the crowd, wiggled her toes, danced, pranced, twirled, somersaulted (yes, somersaulted), modelled a mock-Tosca costume for comic effect, flashed a lot of bare leg, sang brightly and loudly, forgot to trill, and mushed the Italian text. The fans adored her." Bottom line: mediocre/idiotic/silly but paying audience (incoming impresario Peter "Bottom Line" Gelb's main charge) loved it.

5. Slapbitchshtick. But what did I think of the Don Pasquale? I thought Juan Diego Florez was brilliant to a fault, Simone Alaimo was satisfyingly buffo, and Mariusz Kwiecien is just plain hot. As for Anna Netrebko, well ... she's a good singer (distinctive voice, perhaps cloudy technique), a magnetic stage animal, a fantastic body: I don't mind her. Really. What I do mind are: (1) the overwhelming audience adulation ostensibly disproportionate to her musical artistry, and (2) the Met's happy willingness to sell such glossy stuff. Until recently, opera personalities that cross over to the lucrative pop arena (Pavarotti, Domingo, Fleming, Bartoli, Voigt, et al.) have made more than solid reputations on the operatic stage years before breaking platinum (with the possible exception of Mr. & Mrs. Gheorghiu). Netrebko, star of the new Met, has no time for that.

6. Root of all roots. Nothing intrinsically wrong with the equation Netrebko = capacity audience = money. Especially under severe deficits. On the other hand, nothing pretty happens when one engages the slippery slope while wielding a double-edged sword. (Especially while wearing fishnet pantyhose.)

7. Dean Jimmy. Cheers and applause for the Met Lohengrins were among the loudest I've heard this season. Wagnerians are a grateful bunch, and Wilson has his acolytes, but there seems to be a formidable contingent of Maestro Philippe Auguin fanatics. Despite Wilson, Auguin puts together a dynamic Lohengrin, when James Levine would have created a more celestial, somber thing. Auguin prefers a shore with beautiful waves and a grand sunrise, while Levine goes for an ocean of still water at endless dusk. Love him/hate him, Levine puts you in a lovely trance (or peaceful sleep). Meanwhile, the Don Pasquales would have been a bit more tasteful with Levine at the podium. We shall see about the Parsifals.

8. 26th Mile. Sieglinde ends the season with a bunch of Rodelindas, a couple more of the Lohengrins, two Parsifals, another Voigt Tosca, the Millo Tosca, perhaps a Filianoti Elisir. The Volpe Thing remains a question mark, pending the generosity of the Met or whoever else feeling generous these days.

9. Vox populi. Via Vilaine Fille: Andrea Bocelli comes to within a spit of the Met. Your move, Mr. Gelb.