04 December 2004

Maybe the Third Time's a Charm?

Unfortunately, it may never come

Over-all, a decently sung Met Vespri this evening; diva Nelly Miricioiu wasn't the complete disaster I feared: she did some admirable work early in the evening, but her Achilles heel remained the treacherous Merce dilette amiche, reportedly the same point of failure at her first try Monday; this time, however, she began the aria on the wrong "foot," entering a full bar before Verdi intended. I felt the whole auditorium gasp quietly. The consequences were severe: the maestro Frederic Chaslin had to scramble; Miricioiu spent the first minute of the aria visibly off-balanced (terror written all over her face), and her singing was understandably tentative (imagine the joy completely drained out of a supposedly joyous bolero); she regained some of her confidence for the repeat, only to squeak a high note of the glissando at least a full tone lower. It is sad that this performance will be remembered this way (if at all), for she did some very emotionally charged work elsewhere (though the polish was never present). But such a verdict is probably a fair one, as (1) the aria is the most famous portion of Vespri, (2) its construction is eminently danceable, engaging all but those asleep (like the guy in front of me), and (3) this is the point of the opera where Sondra Radvanovsky becomes diva. But Sondra could still learn a thing or two from her, e.g. the way Miricioiu composed Elena's electrifying entrance music: from the haunting "O mio fratel," through a defiant "Si, cantero," then an "In alto mare" that sent shivers up and down my spine, an "in vostra man" that was half-sung, half-declared, all building up to a very meaningful "corraggio" cabaletta.

Further impressions/observations: (1) Miricioiu's lower-middle to low register is shot; chest is possible only when willed, but anything in the passaggio is mimed; (2) her upper middle to top pianos, while not laser-accurate, are nonetheless floated heartrendingly; (3) the lachrymose quality of her tone is touching, and effective during her Act II duet with Arrigo; (4) she moved on stage so naturally despite the inane/nonexistent direction; (5) she had glitter in her eye shadow, and her nails were kick-*ss long, such that the black Sicilian garb looked less for mourning and more for cocktails (dumpy, yes, but with those nails, she can pull it off).

During the curtain calls, the conductor Chaslin was boo'ed (by a couple of really loud guys), possibly due to the Merce mishap: clearly wasn't his fault, but the conductor was the easy target for the diehards, unless they're boo'ing him for his bizarre tempi choices (e.g., I've never heard the Bolero done this way) and other stylistic decisions, but no one's that bold for such queeny reasons.

A friend of mine attended Miricioiu's "reception" at the Met stage door with Lois K. & Co.. She has juicy tidbits to share; we'll get to those later.