19 February 2007

New Year in China: good time to go AWOL

In Saturday evening's Eugene Onegin (my third), a cryptic substitution, announced by the old paper insert:

This evening's performance of Eugene Onegin will be conducted by Paul Nadler, replacing Valery Gergiev.
OK, not so cryptic, but annoying nonetheless. No illness, no whatever, just one of those things, and all you out-of-towners who travelled a few time zones be damned. Understandably, the orchestra was tentative in some parts, as were the singers. Nadler plowed through the score without stopping at a couple of applause points, which nicked the balance a bit. It may have been my mind's ear interpolating, but I thought the pit played a tad louder than for Gergiev. Given the physical void on stage nearly as cavernous as the auditorium itself, there is a real danger of drowning singers. I thought Renee Fleming was a bit underpowered during the evening's Letter Scene. With a less restrained pit, I had a not-so-pleasant time sifting through the mass of sound for the much-needed Ready Whip. By the end, however, she put more than enough together to pierce the fragrant air. Hvorostovsky was consistent in magnificence, while Vargas seems to be growing more lyrical by the bar. But back to Gergiev (whom I love in this): how can he just drop out like that? Pissed me off a bit.