01 January 2005

LiveBlogging by the Beach

Metropolitan Opera's Rodelinda, New Year's Day radio broadcast

[1:00pm] Limited resources: 31 kbps phone line connection, portable receiver; so this would be a macro type liveblog, with updates limited by poor technology. But the weather! Florida-sunny, 75 degrees, slight gulf breeze. My pores are happy.

[1:05pm] Good to hear Bejun Mehta is present. Now the music begins. In my mind, I picture Reneéééée in bed in chains, but the hetero in me doesn't stir even slightly. Now she moans, and strangely the homo in me is awakened.

[1:12pm] Renée sashays through the entrance "Ho pertudo". Her voice spreads richly around notes, doesn't cut cleanly. Gradually, we learn to love the Beautiful Voice, buttery warts and all. But WOW, the diva's bravura aria "L'empio rigor del fato" sounds fabulous on the radio! (In the house, it's somewhat weak and straining to keep up with the harpsichord metronome.)

[1:25pm] Even Kobie van Rensburg's "Io gia t'amai" sounds crisp. (The poor quality of recent broadcasts may indeed be WQXR's fault-- more on this later, but WUSF in Tampa is giving me gorgeous love right now!)

[1:27pm] Stephanie Blythe's "Lo faro" takes my breath away. I have no words.

[1:31pm] John Relyea sounds nice, but viewing him enhances the whole Garibaldo experience, in my humble opinion. OK, I expect the "divine" Margaret Juntwait to describe his physique in detail during his curtain call.

[1:38pm] My favorite part of the opera so far: Bertarido's entrance aria ... Oh no,my worst fear: David Daniels is the radio's first casualty. In the house, his "Dove sei, amato bene" is among the most serene things I've heard on that stage (trust me), but the radio turns him back into a mere mortal. Every time he utters "vieni l'alma," he silences every countertenor critic in the auditorium; right now he sounds like he's crooning Leontyne Price badly.

[1:52pm] My partner is serving lunch, and the appetizer of grilled teriyaki shrimp wrapped in bacon is just in time for Renée's "Morrai si l'empia," which the diva dips in rich teriyaki sauce and wraps with the same amount of bacon.

[1:59pm] Welcome back, Bejun. A few rough patches during his Act I Aria di Unulfo: you have to rely on the pirates of his performances earlier in the run to get a better feel of his, uhm, tasty talents.

[2:03pm] Daniels ends the act with a cloudy "Confusa si miri." The broadcast makes him sound like a bad falsetto without much body and support. The radio lies.

[2:10pm] Intermission feature, something about Renée crying over Joan Sutherland CD recordings of Rodelinda ... an inane discussion of large-house acoustics, without acknowledging the obvious ... now there's a Wadsworth lovefest ... vibrato as mere tool for effect? isn't it a natural affect of the pushed/sustained voice? I'm puzzled ... maybe I need more baconed shrimp.

[2:28pm] Renée: Handel is sexy. Now she's talking about agreeing to the slaying of her son. She is wonderfully insightful.

[2:42pm] Enough of that cute intermission ditty. Now we begin Act II with applause for the richly appointed set.

[2:45pm] Whenever Blythe sings "cangero" down there, I tingle down there.

[2:52pm] Renée earns her afternoon pay with the fireworks of "Spietati, io vi giurai." This aria justifies her choice to bring Rodelinda (among a number of deserving Handel works) to New York. The high note (was it a D-natural?) startles the blue jays in our bird bath.

[3:09pm] Unulfo's reclining "Fra tempeste funeste" is among my fave parts of the opera. Isn't it yours too??

[3:15pm] Daniels redeems some honor during his "Con rauco mormorio," but still his hooty sound is emphasized by the close miking. He is today's unquestioned loser on radio.

[3:27pm] "Ritorna o caro": Renée's ice cream trills are probably the lone authentic trilling in existence today. The orchestra is magnificent, and the conductor Harry Bicket is a treasure.

[3:33pm] While the radio doesn't do Daniels any favors, it flatters van Rensburg significantly. His "Tuo drudo e mio rivale," while competent in the house, is exquisite this afternoon. His dry patches are evened out, his accuracy is exaggerated.

[3:37pm] It's "Io t'abbraccio" time. Can't type now, sorry.

[3:44pm] During some of the "dal mio divide," Daniels and Fleming's timbre become indistinguishable. This is some historic singing. The curtain falls on Act II.

[3:49pm] Opera Quiz. Zzzzzzz. Nothing more boring than boring opera queens. Except maybe opera-queen-wannabe women.

[4:10pm] Act III begins. With "Un zeffiro spiro," Bejun completes Unulfo's three sweet arias beautifully.

[4:14pm] Handel must have hated the bitch who first sang Eduige--"Quanto piu fiera" is the lamest aria in this opera by far.

[4:16pm] Was that applause for the horse?? In the five Rodelindas that I saw, we never once applauded any animal.

[4:24pm] Two grown men singing like girls being broadcast live worldwide: oh how far we've come in our struggle for equality.

[4:26pm] Renée sobs through "Se'l mio duol non e si forte." In other news, no significant matches in a google search for "Renée Fleming" and "subtle."

[4:40pm] I suggest a bathroom break before we all **** in the proverbial pants for the "Vivi, tiranno" extravaganza to happen in minutes. (Don't worry, Grimoaldo's doing "pur dorme contento" about a zillion times in this aria.) I'm going myself.

[4:42pm] In a real swordfight between Daniels and Relyea, who'd you think'll win??

[4:44pm] The "Vivi, tiranno" show rolls into town. Daniels is magnificent.

[4:51pm] Not to be outdone in the primadonna department, Renée plows through "Mio caro bene!" with much élan and an exuberant top note (a high Z-sharp?).

[4:56pm] The ensemble ends a wonderful afternoon of grand baroque. Kisses to dear Renée for bringing this treat to the Met. Next I want her to flex her gluteus maxima for Vanessa. Now wouldn't that be a glorious counterpunch?