04 May 2005

Guess who's (not) at the Met Millo Ballo

Sieglinde misses another one

--UPDATED, 2:00pm (scroll down)--

[9:00pm, Tuesday] It's alright, boys and girls. Hush. Sieglinde may not be at the Met tonight (Un Ballo in Maschera), but her moles are. Here are the initial reports, hot off the cell:

[9:35pm] Aprile Millo enters Act I, Scene 2, the audience applauds; she begins somewhat underpowered; during the Campo Scene (Act II), some uncertainty in her vocal production, marked stridency in the top register; "you can't tell if something's gonna come out OK or not"; her pianissimi are spectacular, especially under thin orchestration, but as soon as Verdi engages the full orchestra, one notices the now limited size of Millo's voice vs. the Met space; beautiful, idiomatic Italian phrasing we've come to expect from her, exceptionally elegant in the middle range; her forte top is another story: not quite a wobble, but the voice becomes hard-edged; she achieves loudness only at the expense of timbre (i.e., sounds obviously forced); Millo fanatics came out in full force, giving the Diva a huge, grateful ovation after her Act II aria; Deborah Voigt outscores Millo in all aspects of technique and voice, except in the style department. In short, Millo is all style.

[9:50pm] Let's see if my mole calls back after the opera; Millo may be saving all the fireworks for "Morro, ma prima in grazia," among her better calling card arias. The thin orchestration will surely help display the authentic diva pose amidst limited resources.

[10:45pm] NYCOF leaves after Act II, posts an enigmatic "ballo busters all." Hmmm .....

[11:50pm] My mole calls to report from the doors of the Met stage. Regarding the rest of the opera: as I suspected, her "Morro, ma prima in grazia" is her one unqualified success of the evening; with only a cello to battle through most of the aria, her sotto voce is breathtaking, the phrasing in full color; the house is hushed through the quietness, and then Millo ends the aria with a melodramatic long high note, beats her chest, falls to the floor; the auditorium erupts. Millo's curtain call was OK: no flowers thrown, no confetti from the rafters, nothing compared to the ovation after the Andrea Chenier from two seasons ago (her last appearance on the Met stage prior to this evening; that curtain call was immense, continuing even after the house lights were turned on). During the meet and greet by the stage door, she declines every request for photographs; Lois Kirschenbaum, dean of fanatics, offers the diva a bottle of vino; flowers surround an exhausted Millo as she signs her admirers' programs; someone asks her when (or if) she'll ever sing at the City Opera, to which she responds with a chuckle and "not yet, but who knows"; also there, Maestro James Conlon is gracious, inviting everyone to come see him next season in An American Tragedy (u-huh, ok).

[12:20am, Wednesday] So in conclusion: the Millo Maddalena from two seasons ago was an insane (and unexpected) success; the Millo Amelia this evening turned out to be a test of survival. That she is on her way out is not news; how dignified the exit is the remaining question. The concluding act to the Millo saga occurs at the Tosca in two weeks. Sieglinde shall be there.

[1:10pm] News from Opera-L regarding last night's "golden age" event trickles slowly. The pseudonymous Gualtier Maldé, a poster whose assessments I generally agree with, provides us with a starkly different view. In particular, regarding Millo's top register: "The voice has changed this season and not all for the worse. In fact, her top is better than ever. The voice seems naturally to be larger - in fact it seems to be a true italianate spinto-dramatic now rather than the fragile, artificially darkened lirico-spinto it once was. There is more metal in the tone. As I stated, her top is now her glory - it is secure and very large." We're all waiting for NYCOF to break the tie.

[1:53pm] Private comments from other trusted sources: "You didn't miss much." and "Millo performance of the season remains the OONY Fanciulla del West."