27 February 2007

Keeping up with the Gelbs

a.k.a. Thrilla in Lincoln Plaza.

Gelb responds: "Am I scared of Gerard? I'm not scared of Gerard ...''

Volpe (remember him?) likes the match-up: "He's innovative. I think he'll bring a lot of excitement to City Opera ..."

The New York Times calls it what it is (in an editorial, no less): "... a head-to-head competition between two vigorous personalities."

Round One bell? In two short years (via NYSun): "Because the singers at the Met are booked much further in advance than those at the City Opera, Gelb and Mortier will each present the first season he has fully designed in 2009-2010. 'That both leaders will begin to demonstrate their artistic visions in the same season is going to be tremendously exciting ...'"

26 February 2007

A reason to remain alive till 2011

Forget the AP report, the New York Times has juicier dish:

Mr. Gelb said Robert Wilson would direct Bellini’s “Norma” for Ms. Fleming in 2011.
My work here is done.

Met to announce 2007-08 season tomorrow ...

... but a number of details have already leaked. No real surprise to anyone devoted to Brad Wilber's indispensable Met Future Seasons site. Most interesting is the possibility of a Met tour in China, with Tan Dun's First Emperor, to coincide with the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Speaking of Tan's opera, the AP article plainly states why it's replacing Picker's An American Tragedy in the schedule:

As part of a late change to the 2007-8 schedule ... Met general manager Peter Gelb substituted a revival of "The First Emperor" in place of a revival of Tobias Picker's "An American Tragedy" for the spring part of the season.

"The First Emperor" had its world premiere in December at the Met. While most reviews were mixed to negative, the run sold out.

In other words, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. The other piece of new information concerns the continuing Met simulcasts:
The Met is continuing its program of high-definition simulcasts to movie theaters for the second straight season, with the operas to be televised later on PBS stations. Next year's high-definition schedule includes Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette" (Dec. 15); "Hansel and Gretel" (Jan. 1); Verdi's "Macbeth" (Jan. 12); Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" (Feb. 16); Britten's "Peter Grimes" (March 15); Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" (March 22); Puccini's "La Boheme" (April 5); and "Le Fille du Regiment" (April 26).
Quite a curious list. Some initial observations: (1) Despite doing two major revivals (Otello and Traviata), Fleming doesn't get a movie; (2) Macbeth and Peter Grimes may be tough sells, with less than stellar casts, as compared to the rest (Netrebko/Villazon; Mattila/Giordani; Voigt/Heppner; Gheorghiu/Vargas; Dessay/Florez). It would be interesting to see how Hansel and Gretel will be marketed; (3) A total of eight simulcasts, up from this season's six. A good sign. (4) And wow, a five-hour cinespectacular called Tristan und Isolde. This is also a major step. Looking ahead, the Ring is scheduled for the following season; I will bet half the value of this blog (currently B$17,236.09) that our dear four-part saga will be simulcast too.

My Onegin at the movies ruined by incompetence

I've waited a couple of days to say a few things about the Eugene Onegin world simulcast because I'm still seething in anger at the technical "experts" of the Regal Citrus Park movieplex in Tampa, Florida. During Act I, the surround sound balance was slightly distorted, with the side speakers pumping out slightly higher volumes than the front and back speakers. The effect was to hear significant fluttering of any directional sound, giving greater prominence to the separation of violins (on the left side) and the brass (to the right), as well as exaggerating the relative positions of the singers on stage. The problem, these "experts" diagnosed, was in the "mixing", which they claimed originated from errors on the Met side of the transmission.

A perusal of coast-to-coast reviews on opera-l the day after, including posts from ears I trust, indicated NO systemic problem with the surround sound feed outside Tampa. If the story ended here, I probably would have been OK more or less. A bit pissed, yes, but I could have lived with the odd "mixing", you really can't win it all, and there are far more pressing problems like global warming and Justin Davidson Boccanegra reviews. But it didn't. Apparently, according to the manager we spoke to afterwards, "80% of the audience members came up to her and complained" about the side speakers. (I did some 2nd grade math in front of her, and said, bitch, 320 people could not have come up to you individually during the half-hour intermission, bitch you lie!) And so therefore ... therefore ... to address the "near-unanimous" complaints, in their collective wisdom ... *breathe deeply* ... the management decided to drastically turn down (more accurately, practically turn off) the volume of the side speakers that provide the 3D depth and excitement of modern movie houses, to favor the dull front speakers, which carry your standard flat left-right sound. The result: the second part of the opera was like being in front of a really really big TV with faded color, nonexistent color contrast, and circa 1970s speakers. More than a few times, I had to lean forward to hear the opera during the quiet moments. Also since the woman parked beside me enjoyed scratching her scaly dry white skin every few bars of music, and the sound was so muted I could sooo f*cking hear her scratching her scaly dry white skin. It was that bad. (I'm still so upset, I could cry again.)

These theaters should not be allowed to tinker with the sound signal they receive from the Met. I imagine that the sound balance for every opera transmission is carefully calibrated and optimized by Met technicians to deliver the best possible sonic atmosphere-- therefore local managers can't be permitted to play with any aspect of it at whim, except perhaps to lower the over-all volume to accommodate the special needs of senior citizens (this being Florida). The Met should clarify these issues with their local partners before the next simulcast. It's been two days, but I'm still seething. (I'm not even going into a discussion of the huge greenish blob that hovered in the center of the screen throughout the opera, further distorting its already cheerless color palette and prehistoric color contrast, don't get me started.)

25 February 2007

Angela Gheorghiu: air freshener

Justin Davidson's Newsday review of the Met premiere of Simon Boccanegra contains just a single line about Angela Gheorghiu's performance as Amelia:

This is an opera full of rumbling males, even though Angela Gheorghiu let some fresh soprano air into the testosterone fug.
That's it.

Diva dissected

For those who live conveniently in the upper Upper West Side and neighboring hoods, there will be a two-day interdisciplinary conference on opera at Columbia, free and open to the public, entitled "Technologies of the Diva". The conference will feature academic papers with provocative titles, such as: "Of the Properties of Gems and Voice," "Why Look Down a Diva's Throat?", "Sex and the Sound Test," and "Cathy Berberian: or, the Absent Diva". I'm near certain there will be pastries and lots and lots of coffee. But bring your own jargon.

23 February 2007

News to break all breaking news

Initial paternity tests reveal that legendary pianist Joyce Hatto is the father of Dannielynn Smith. I know, it doesn't make sense, is this another hoax, but leave me alone. I'm in Florida, U.S.A. where excessive sun lowers I.Q.'s a few precious notches.

First stop: beach. Second stop: Eugene Onegin. Last stop: rehab.

The Druid Times, breaking news

Khaleem reports that Diva Renee Fleming has been persuaded to do the "impossible," and closer to home too!! The founding partners, board of directors, the executive board, the production and creative teams, the legal department, rank-and-file employees, interns and migrant workers of the Diaries have campaigned vigorously for these developments from the very outset. Now her priestess (slated also for Zurich) will be but a short Amtrak ride away from the Met, where current plans to resurrect the opera need a savior. (OMFG Jimmy, we love you!!)

[For extra credit, read the funny Renee quote over at litwit about singing in La Scala.]

22 February 2007

Round One: Angela 4, Renee 1

Here's one ad from good old newyork.craigslist.org:

in the mood for opera and perhaps more? (38): my opera buddy is ill, so i am looking for somebody who might join me to the opera (Simon Boccanegra) tonite (7.30). vgl gwm here, looking for a nice and attractive guy (25-45). we will see if there is more after the opera (and in case there is much more, i am a top).
And another:
Anyone going to the Met's Simon Boccanegra tomorrow? (42): Let's catch a drink before/during/or after. I'm driving up from DC. I love this opera. I'm 42 6ft 175 lean inshape nerdy/cute fun bright but just LOVE opera. Anyone up for a drink?
And another:
The opera Monday night(Verdi-Simon Boccanegra) (52): Have an extra, inexpensive ticket for Monday.
Prefer someone who might be interested in dating as well as the opera, my age
or younger.
Successful,5'11", 182lbs
And yet another:
Drink during Met Intermission Monday 2/19????? (42): Ice storm, plague, or alien invasion couldn't keep me from driving up to NY from DC for Monday's performance at the Met of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. I'm 42 6ft 175 lean inshape kind, funny, bright, nerdy/cute and an opera lover who would love to share Monday's performance with someone. Anyone going? I'm driving back afterwards. Let me know.
But Renee only gets the one:
Met Opera: Eugene Onegin last night - m4m (29): I was walking down the aisle in front of you last night.... did you notice me?
Round One goes resoundingly to Angela. Round Two happens this weekend. Stay tuned. Anyway, I hope everyone got to have their cake (Angela) and eat it too (ahem). And if you're that guy walking down the aisle in front of the other guy ... there are three more performances of Eugene Onegin to rekindle the moment.

Addio, senza encore

Amidst an intercontinental encore competition between La Scala and OONY at Carnegie Hall, the Met should get in the game and perhaps force Angela Gheorghiu to bis her opening aria "Come in quest'ora bruna," but slower and with more open-air sweep. Why does she like to rush things, I'd really like to know. To get paid quicker? (And don't tell me that Gheorghiu is breath-challenged: elsewhere in the opera, she displays master command of her sound during score-enforced long phrases, from the top of the breath to the bottom.)

Meanwhile: enough of the wet and the cold. I'm flying to Florida in order to catch the simulcast of Eugene Onegin this weekend at a proper venue: a shiny exurban mall with a full-service Dairy Queen at the food court.

Addendum: There's a charming opera-l post by Marco Daverio about the La Scala event. He says most convincingly:

If now I ask you which was the best moment in La Scala or Met history to deserve a bis everybody will give a different answer. Well... it happened on a silly aria in a silly opera of a silly role. So what...? For the rest Florez sung even better. The aria in act two was a masterpiece.

21 February 2007


In this blog, I make fun of Renee Fleming's cream of corn of a voice, but the same way a son makes fun of his mother's idiosyncratic cream of corn. Not reluctantly, the son eats the cream of corn, and years from now, away from home he would look around his own kitchen and recognize only a few things, and look back to the first hearth he knew, and say, oh what I'd give for one more taste. Last night, during Tatiana's Letter Scene, I felt a premonition of the same kind of yearning. What gets press is her embarrassingly lovely sound, borne undoubtedly of singular dedication, sometimes well sufficient to quench my thirst for some divine connection. But what lies underneath the Beautiful Voice, as I see it, is a yearning for true and simple things that long formed the heart of the son. My mother never made cream of corn, but she made other simple meals, mostly fried stuff, which I blame for my deadly devotion to trans-fatted fries, and anything dripping in fat. Perhaps many years from now, I'll look back, as I did last night, and say how wonderful it was to have been at countless Fleming performances because she always made me feel utterly happy and loved, and also reminded me of love. I'd say, at one point she was all I knew, and I've never been more content.

20 February 2007

Angela Gheorghiu

Verdi SIMON BOCCANEGRA, Met 19.II.2007; c. Luisi; Gheorghiu, Hampson, Giordani, Furlanetto, Gerello.

I enjoy watching Angela Gheorghiu's neck veins and musculature appear and tense up as she holds a piano note up in the air. Spinning perfect sound is a difficult physical feat, and nothing is more beautiful than the sight of a diva deforming for that beauty. Gheorgiu's voice, a mesmerizing mosaic of oriental semi-precious stones, is both lush and expressive at every moment. With less dramatic amplitude than Violetta, Amelia thrives instead on those long arching lines, among Verdi's most devastating (approaching the floating soprano lines in the Requiem), that hover sweetly over other voices. Amelia is squarely Gheorghiu's domain. Her voice is rich without being cloying (cf. Fleming), expressive and soft-spoken, displaying agility and mature technique (cf. Netrebko). Her duets with Boccanegra and Adorno were magnificent, as was her memorable council chamber scene.

Her only problem this time is tempo. (I did a dissertation on her Violetta last season, concentrating on three flaws.) Maestro Fabio Luisi, fast becoming a favorite, has grand ideas about this opera, setting up Amelia's Act I entrance with a spring-air freshness that can rival Abbado's reading. Then the curtain rises, applause, and she commences "Come in quest'ora bruna" on a more aggressive pulse, ruining Luisi's finely crafted sketch and balance. Does she hear any other sound but herself when she's singing? Luisi had to switch gears mid-thought, it wasn't pretty. Oddly enough, during the repeat verse, Luisi found himself slightly ahead of the Diva. Grace meter falls further. It may seem like a minor point, but these things are what you sense when perfection is within reach. Someone take Gheorghiu to the shop: her metronome needs a tune-up. Speaking of Luisi: despite the momentary tempobattle, his brilliance is palpable at every turn. (Vilaine fille sister MLR has an apropos feature about the Maestro here.) Luisi refutes the Boccanegra reputation for being an overbearingly dark, foreboding piece by splashing the active parts of the opera with some extra tabasco and cilantro. In the house, it comes alive, and more balanced than I expected (this being my first live performance of the work).

The men? Let's see. Marcello Giordani was suave and full-bodied. Thomas Hampson applied his customary lieder style to lyrical moments, a lighter than usual Simone, but during his slow death he became a formidable Amfortas, easily grabbing the spotlight. Actually not easy when you're sparring with Ferruccio Furlanetto, who is such a massive sonic presence. The Met is so much greater when he's on its storied stage.

19 February 2007

New Year in China: good time to go AWOL

In Saturday evening's Eugene Onegin (my third), a cryptic substitution, announced by the old paper insert:

This evening's performance of Eugene Onegin will be conducted by Paul Nadler, replacing Valery Gergiev.
OK, not so cryptic, but annoying nonetheless. No illness, no whatever, just one of those things, and all you out-of-towners who travelled a few time zones be damned. Understandably, the orchestra was tentative in some parts, as were the singers. Nadler plowed through the score without stopping at a couple of applause points, which nicked the balance a bit. It may have been my mind's ear interpolating, but I thought the pit played a tad louder than for Gergiev. Given the physical void on stage nearly as cavernous as the auditorium itself, there is a real danger of drowning singers. I thought Renee Fleming was a bit underpowered during the evening's Letter Scene. With a less restrained pit, I had a not-so-pleasant time sifting through the mass of sound for the much-needed Ready Whip. By the end, however, she put more than enough together to pierce the fragrant air. Hvorostovsky was consistent in magnificence, while Vargas seems to be growing more lyrical by the bar. But back to Gergiev (whom I love in this): how can he just drop out like that? Pissed me off a bit.

Golden Pig

Day of pork. At NY Noodletown, some roast pig and salt-baked pork chops (and a few other nice things). Then, after a couple of hours at Urge, some late night food at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, with steamed buns of pork belly and grilled rice cakes with pork sausage and kimchi (and a few other nice things). An auspicious beginning. In a few hours, Angela Gheorghiu.

18 February 2007

Sunday morning talk

So wait, saying we think we don't have a good plan, that the decider has to come up with a better one, and that we'd like to force his hand to, uhm, recognize reality and pull out of the mess is unsupportive of the troops ... while sending more of them out there to get maimed and perhaps even die is? I mean, who are these soulless f*cks who continue to propagate this f*cked up logic, why do the media allow this kind of in(s)anity to spread, and why the f*ck do some people routinely fall for that sh*t. (Not me, thankfully La Gioconda occupies whatever brainspace is set aside for dumb.)

17 February 2007

I think I'm gonna be sick

No, I didn't go. I didn't even tune in to the Sirius broadcast. I tuned in to channel 13 for a few minutes, saw things, then allowed myself to drift into sleep. I needed the rest, it's too damn cold, where is global warming, I finally started a lit survey for a new project for work (snoozer), there's Jenufa and Onegin and Simon Boccanegra (next week, Angela OMFG I'm there for you!) to savor, ingest, and digest. But sh*t I think I missed a definite keeper. Steven Smith writes of Elizabeth Futral's Elvira in his blog called Marginalia:

This is how bel canto should sound: the voice light but not without substance, agile but not trivial. It was surefire singing. Futral gave the impression of a musico-dramatic artist who is in complete control of her bejeweled instrument. While the coloratura runs didn’t have the stupendous exactitude of, say, Sutherland (!), they still hit their mark. And Futral can trill with the best of them; I mean it: it seems effortless. The high notes? Let’s just say that my mind was set at ease from the beginning: none of the sitting-on-the-edge-of-my-seat, can-she-pull-it-off angst induced by another singer in the same role. This is the way it’s supposed to be.
I knew it. I knew she was capable of all these wretched things, but I allowed my loser (ageing not gracefully these days) self to dictate the sched. I so knew it. (Probably why I didn't even tune in to the Sirius.) OK, so here's a new axiom for you: Futral on stage, Sieglinde in box, f*ck be the rest of the universe.

16 February 2007

iTunes: your personal Nancy Drew

It now appears that at least some recordings attibuted to "legendary" pianist Joyce Hatto (1928-2006), and released by her husband under his small label Concert Artist, are digital derivations of published works by other well-known pianists. How it was first discovered was equally bizarre: when composer Jed Distler, a fan of Hatto, tried uploading her Liszt 12 Transcendental Studies CD to his computer, iTunes (via the miraculous Gracenotes program) ID'ed the disc as Lazslo Simon's. Other Hatto CDs have now been exposed as frauds.

That's royally f*cked up. But here's something more bizarre. This afternoon, I put Renee Fleming's new CD "Homage: The Age of the Diva" into my CD drive (I was so excited OMG) but my iTunes insisted it was her jazz CD "Haunted Heart." I then tried her Grammy Award winning "Bel Canto" CD, and strangely enough, iTunes declared it to also be "Haunted Heart." At this point, I was delirious with rage, you wouldn't believe. Next I tried her "Rosmonda d'Inghilterra" complete recording, my personal favorite among her recorded works, and sure enough, it's also a digital fake of "Haunted Heart." WTF is going on.

Netrebko "phenomenon"

ACD, no fan of bel canto, says of last night's PBS Great Performances broadcast of the Anna Netrebko I Puritani at the Met:

Does Netrebko have a beautiful voice? Indeed she does: velvety plush, quite beautiful, and up to handling the vocal requirements of the role. Is she vocally on a par technically with a Sutherland or a Sills in this rep? She most decidedly is not. But, then, few are.

My point is that Netrebko was riveting in a role which is anything but riveting, and that, boys and girls, requires a native genius impossible to acquire. Anna Netrebko. Not just a drop-dead gorgeous babe with a voice, but an opera phenomenon.
I would nominally agree with this view if I saw this I Puritani only on TV. Moreover, I would have gone way overboard, go insane, fly immediately to Krasnodar and worship the hospital bed in which she was born, if I saw it only at the movies during the live simulcast last month. Which I did. In Florida, in an exurb, at a mall. (Via a Saab convertible, through newly minted highways, in the generous embrace of the southern sun!) On the big screen, her face embodied Hollywood: embarrassingly gorgeous, wondrously expressive, thoroughly involved. Regarding the beautiful voice: the high-tech surroundsound flattered all the voices including Netrebko's, immersing you in multidimensional music. It appeared the "echo" dial was turned to max, for every phrase seemed like it was descended from the heavens. In the dark theater, I said to myself, this is probably how it feels like to be IN her throat. I was surrounded by Anna. It was such an enjoyable afternoon. We had Johnny Rockets afterwards, and I was beside myself in acknowledging the genius of Peter Gelb and his sleek machine for doing all this, as I downed the burger and fries and milkshake.

Problem is, I also attend things in the actual opera house. Often, more than once each. And there, Anna's problems take a more prominent role. Without technological assistance, parts of her voice don't shine through the distance, and when jagged lines appear in her music, the sound is muddled and gray. Her technique isn't up to par with other singers of the same stature, and therefore some lines sag like wet towel, especially in this repertory. The only "authentic" reproduction is the full bloom of her voice during long, monotonic lines, especially in crescendo, which takes my breath away. From afar, one can still discern her uncommon physical beauty, but much less so than when aided with a camera. (Or if sitting in the first few rows of the orchestra, which is where drooling print critics are usually stationed.) Her stage histrionics can either be called brilliant or contrived, depending on taste.

In short, she is probably an average to above-average vocal artist. But because she has a gorgeous, magnetic face and packageable personality and story (scrubbing the Mariinsky floors, oh how 60 Minutes is that), she is where she is, debuting while learning roles at the grand stage of the Met. Imagine that kind of voice and that kind of technique on another body: no amount of glossy PR can achieve the same kind of "phenomenon."

15 February 2007

Stay the course, or cut and run?

I have a ticket to tonight's I Puritani, bought back when Olga Makarina was listed as Elvira. Elizabeth Futral is exciting, but perhaps not the kind of antidote I need right now. Makarina would have put the bel back into this bel canto masterpiece, for sure. Futral may just clear out old ear wax, which has its merits; but perhaps more? Meanwhile, I have a ton of work that's not getting done when I'm at the old box, but when is that ever going to change. Yawn. My ticket's been paid for, so perhaps I should just stick to the plan? On the other hand, the mere thought of hearing Gregory Kunde again may finally tip the scale.

[5:23pm] Still anguished. La Cieca provides a third, combined option.


Janacek JENUFA, Met 14.II.2007; c. Belohlavek; Mattila, Silja, Silvasti, Morris (d), Dever.

Magnificent Anja Silja. Her voice has an unusual light mass, cool, cutting, startingly youthful (barely a wobble), and her stage deportment never overblown. Even from afar, I could make out the emotional contours of her face. She can be motionless on stage, amidst other singers' music, and I find that I can't take my eyes off her. What a grand achievement, to be able to match luminous Karita Mattila's physical vigor and vocal stamina. And she can't be 66, no way.

Mattila is a phenomenal artist. She is a tall, striking woman, always looking like she won't take sh*t from anyone, and so Act I may have been a stretch for her. (Indeed she can act, but acting was what it looked like.) Things change for Jenufa in Act II, right into Mattila's comfort zone. Jenufa's phrases begin to reach for the stratosphere, which is also where Mattila's strength lies. Our soprano's middle range is relatively colorless and amorphous, but her voice finds focus once it's pushed upward, piano or forte (in her case, ffff), jagged or drawn out (her screams are chilling, but her serene Hail Holy Queen beats any Desdemona's Ave Maria any day). In these upper regions, she is luxurious splendor. (This is why her Salome and her Elsa are her best achievements to date.)

Jay Hunter Morris debuts successfully as Steva. With a big but sweet and naturally expressive voice, he may have a fine career as a heldentenor, if stars line up. A name to watch.

14 February 2007

Box Office Meter

Snow decisively drifting at this hour. Regarding this current Jenufa, which I adore and am seeing again this evening, Alex Ross asks:

Why do Janácek's operas still fail to sell strongly at the Met?
I have here list of a dozen factors that can boost ticket sales: (1) singer with extra-opera popularity in cast (e.g., Renee and Anna, Angela and Placido); (2) international singer from country with large tri-state representation (Anna and Dmitri pull in the Russians, Hong and Kim's just concluded Traviata well-attended by Korean population); (3) entry level opera (Aida, Boheme, Carmen vs. Ariadne, Bartered Bride, Clemenza di Tito); (4) composer popularity (Puccini and Verdi); (5) operas of some extra-musical cultural importance (Onegin is popular with Russian New Yorkers; Turandot and Butterfly pull in Asians, and the Chinese came out for Tan Dun's First Emperor); (6) novelty factor (Met premiere, world premiere, new production premiere, rare opera); (7) cults (i.e., Wagner); (8) extraordinary press, unanimous acclaim, mercurial buzz (Mattila's Salome, Minghella's Butterfly); (9) debut of a major artist (Bartoli sold out the Cosi, Taymor sold out the first couple of years of her Zauberflote, and watch how Audra McDonald and Kristin Chenoweth will do the same); (10) rarity of local engagements of singer (Millo, Gheorghiu, Bartoli); (11) an ardent, sometimes inexplicable, following of a singer among rabid opera fans (Filianoti, Domingo, Netrebko, Mattila, Fleming, Florez, Hvorostovsky, Voigt, Pape, et al.); (12) star conductor (Levine, Gergiev, Thielemann; Gelb's strategy to bring in Barenboim and Muti will pay off handsomely).

So, for the Jenufa, here's the scorecard: (1) Karita and Anja are popular only within knowledgeable classical music fans; (2) Finns aren't really a big bunch of folks anywhere, even in their own country (only 7 million); perhaps the Germans are coming to see Anja? or not?; (3) not an entry level work by any measure; (4) Janacek isn't familiar; (5) Czech population in New York probably isn't sizeable, I'm guessing; (6) Jenufa is a rarely performed opera, so that's one positive factor; (7) unfortunately, it wasn't written by Wagner; (8) enthusiastic press but not infectious, no buzz beyond Anja Silja's incredible age; (9) no one major is debuting; (10) clearly, Anja is a rare sighting in these shores, so that's another point; (11) Mattila has a strong fan base in New York; (12) Belohlavek. However, the aggregate "score" of this current run of Jenufa is barely average, not strong enough to fill such a large house for six nights.

Working out the scorecard for the current Eugene Onegin, on the other hand, explains why all its evenings are sold out. (Same with Netrebko's just-concluded Puritani and, I predict, Gheorghiu's Simon Boccanegra.)

Cold Heart

Sandwiched between Eugene Onegin and Jenufa, snow and ice in New York City. In Onegin, Yevgeny and Tanya don't even get a few bars of music together in love's bliss. Cruel. Tonight, further tragedy.

13 February 2007


"Alone, again" among published reviews, the NYSun's Nordlinger says of Gergiev's work:

Our conductor for the evening was Valery Gergiev, music director to the world, it seems. And he did not have his best outing — far from it. Much of the performance was sloppy and awkward, and the choruses were a particular surprise: They should be compact, stirring, and even thrilling. Instead, they were more like perfunctory.

Mr. Gergiev can be the most exciting conductor around, as he has proven over and over. On a certain night last season, he made a lesser Tchaikovsky opera, "Mazeppa," absolutely gripping. But a curious indifference marred "Onegin." The dances were at one and the same time humdrum and super-fast.
Oh, nu-uh. Agree that he's inconsistent, but this Onegin is among his best outings at the Met, in my opinion. I didn't care for his Parsifal (heavy-handed) and Walküre (showy, superficial), and his Traviata varied from evening to evening; however, his Mazeppa and War and Peace were distinguished, and his Salome was appropriately crude and bombastic. Now he creates an intensely personal and nuanced Eugene Onegin with an epic arch. The Letter Scene is particularly surprising: at times slower and more quiet than any I've heard on records, it worked to bring another dramatic focal point to balance the larger darkness (Onegin's internal turmoil). The deeply romantic phrases that echo throughout the rest of the opera take you back to this luminous scene. It helped immeasurably to have a committed singer like Renee Fleming (effective chest, buttery top notes, huge lungs, accomplished stage deportment) and an austere, semi-abstract production, whose magnificent depth and volume reminded me of that feeling from many years ago, alone in my room and the immense universe, in first love.

In Memoriam

Sieglinde 1.0 (11/2004 - 1/2007)

12 February 2007

I thought it's what you do with it ...

La Cieca, size queen (not opera queen)

Meanwhile, she reports that is likely to be OONY's last season. Troubling news. Though I haven't been as faithful as I once was, I've always looked forward to the possibility of being at a once-in-a-lifetime evening, and OONY delivered quite a few times: among them, Marcello Giordani's "Asile hereditaire" encore during William Tell, the golden age spitting contest between Aprile Millo and Dolora Zajick in Adriana Lecouvreur, Renee Fleming's dulce de leche drool in Armida and Lucrezia Borgia, and getting Shirley Verrett's autograph on my program just before she exited the Carnegie stage door after a so-so La Favorita.

But back to topic A. The "size" ad pictured above, for gay.com, appears occasionally on parterre.com. I haven't seriously entertained adding ads on this blog. But perhaps it would help pay for a box seat every now and then? I don't know how much money is generated by those ads, but I do know that many of them don't generate $$$ till they get clicked on, and really, when was the last time you did ... So I suggest that everyone follow my little personal netpolicy, and click on ads in blogs and pages you like. Meanwhile, the Diaries will remain ad-free.

Update: It seems reports have been greatly exaggerated. OONY sleepwalks to another season, with a La Sonnambula. (Suggestion to the powers that be: put more established stars in the roster, or if that's too expensive, how about semi-retired divas. For instance, an Elektra with Sharon Sweet in the title role, Catherine Malfitano as Chrysothemis, and Renata Scotto as Klytamnestra. That would sell a few more tickets, I think.)

11 February 2007

A first

Maria Callas was just on prime time TV. Apparently she just won her first Grammy Award.

Update: Alas, she only won the one (a lifetime achievement award), though I suspect the odd honor was for what her megarecordings continue to accomplish long after her death. But the big winners of the evening were the Dixie Chicks. Now midmorning, and their "Not Ready to Make Nice" has been on auto-repeat in my mind's 24-hr jukebox.

Protein Folding Problem

1. Tagged by TSR, I write belatedly: "Useful complementary techniques have been developed to fold given secondary structures by energy minimization procedures. By holding helices and strands rigid in the course of the simulation, the problem is transformed into how best to fold secondary stucture elements into compact forms. This procedure, essentially the non-trivial 'coil' folding problem, can be thought of as an intermediate step in the ab initio folding of the amino acid sequence." --bound dissertation (it's a book alright) of someone who shall remain nameless

2. Such sentences are also the reason for Sieglinde's relative silence. (I'm still negotiating terms of my return.)

3. I tag Khaleem, JFL, either/both of the Wellsungs.

10 February 2007

Out from the depths of winter

Tchaikovsky EUGEN ONEGIN, Met 09.II.2007; c. Gergiev, Fleming, Vargas, Hvorostovsky, Zaremba, Aleksashkin, Shevchenko.

This Eugene Onegin takes my breath away. Valery Gergiev makes love with Tchaikovsky’s music, the startling kind that happens in middle age when you think you’ve seen/felt/tasted it all before, but no. Dear Renee Fleming ravishes Tanya with the standard-issue Renee Fleming ravishment that is poisonous as refined sugar, and I ate it all up and was licking my fingers. Dmitri Hvorostovsky, with silk silver hair, more porn than porn to me, has not sung a more perfect role: brooding eyes, dagger baritone, complex turmoil, true incomplete love. The lyrical Ramon Vargas is back, with an endearing, naive tenor, a correct counterpoint. But my memory goes back to Maestro Gergiev, unravelling the evening with the pace and wonder of a timeless poem. And his deeply cutting strings, the heavy pauses, the care, and concertmaster David Chan’s yearning violin, all conjuring perhaps the most wounding gay-closet music in the repertory.