28 December 2006

Sub-provincial evening

Bellini I PURITANI, Met 27.XII.2006; c. Summers; Netrebko, Kunde, Vassallo, Relyea.

For Elvira’s mad scene, Anna Netrebko got one of the most passionate ovations I’ve witnessed at the Met in many years. It wasn’t deserved. Her coloratura is smudged, her top notes are suspect, her middle register is tedious (sounding monoish in a bright stereo world), her stage deportment labored (ain’t even campy). She does give a beautiful turn every now and then, a surprising jeweled phrase, a melting note here and there, but then so can dozens of other sopranos, and with much more limited couture. Bel canto is the comfort food of opera, easy on the ears, open, honest, quiet, radiant. Netrebko, with a jigsaw puzzle instrument glued together with an unattractive ad hoc style, does not have the natural talent for it. Thus the evening became an exhausting affair, and I left the house wondering what all the glossy press and hysterical ovations are about. If it’s a work in progress, then what a luxury to do your progressing at the Met. In other words, where the f*ck is the beef, and can I have my money back. There is no excuse for this one. (And let’s not even get into a dissection of the roadkill named Kunde, or the lifeless conducting of Summers.)