22 November 2004

Pilates Redemption

18 November 2004
Metropolitan Opera
(posted on Opera-L)

This morning's headline: Deb Drops Weight, Keeps Voice Intact.

The rich magnificence of the voice survived whatever medical and/or psychological intervention Deborah Voigt underwent the past few months--and the professionals who worked to keep her instrument essentially untouched while she melted all the excess weight around it ought to really be 2004's Opera-L Men and Women of the Year. La Voigt must feel super wonderful and hot/sexy now with her new physique and the improved health that accompanies it: it showed in the way she moved about the stage and during her pseudo-bashful but evidently *proud* curtain calls. In Act III, while sitting in prayer to the Virgin Mary, she sang the aria as she rocked back and forth and gyrated all around, as if doing Pilates sit-ups: this would have been simply impossible (on so many levels) before the extreme makeover. From the balcony, my cheap opera glasses are guessing (don't quote me) she must have lost maybe 80 lbs or so (at least from her peak, I imagine)?? I find it hard to discern medieval ladies' weights when they're always hidden under layers of medieval garb. But the last time I saw her was on her Carnegie Hall debut:

and back then, from any vantage point even her corpulence was corpulent; but now wait till you see! Anyway, the squires carrying Elisabeth's body at the finale funeral procession couldn't be more pleased. In Act II, Elisabeth turns her back to the audience as she receives a choral procession of her knights, princes, and pages: the view from the back reveals that Voigt appeared to have lost much of her shoulders and arms, and her medieval cloak fell so naturally down her back without any lipid interference from her hips and gluteus. This "biggest loser" simply looks gorgeous. I could go on. I would have gone to wait outside the stage door to do a real close-up inspection, but was discouraged by those that read memos who know there's always a reception after each opera's season premiere. (Even Boheme??)

As for what really mattered: the entire Voigt sound remained intact, from the rich pseudo-chest through the passaggio, the upper middle, and up to her colossal screaming top, all on display last night. Among the current batch of singers, no one can shreik ON PITCH like Voigt, and so her Act III "Haltet ein!" (Elisabeth's first line following half an hour of no music) stunned anyone who wasn't expecting it, and easily overloaded everyone else's hidden recording devices. Elisabeth is a cruise vacation compared to Voigt's other roles-- why not do the Venus as well next time? Anyway, Michelle DeYoung, a very competent singer who held her own as Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's Troyens Dido caretaker a couple of seasons ago, created a compelling Venus, but last night was easily overlooked amidst the buzz. So excuse me for also overlooking her for now (as I have a plane to catch). I closed my eyes for a minute here and there during Elisabeth's music, to try to discern any difference, and I just couldn't,because there is none, and I'm relieved.

I'm suspending the rest of this review till later (or maybe even after my next Tannhaeuser following Thanksgiving), except to say that Peter Seiffert's debut in the title role was an unqualified success in my view (I heard shades of Peter Hofmann, very virile), and after the forgettable Don Giovannis from earlier this year, Thomas Hampson (the Wolfram) is happily back on everyone's A-list.