26 September 2007

Yet another schizo evening

Gounod ROMEO ET JULIETTE, Met 25.IX.2007; c. Domingo; Netrebko, Alagna, Leonard, Degout, Sigmmundsson.

Anna Netrebko is nothing if not loud. And bosomy. Loud and bosomy. But this time, she was actually good. No matter for Sieglinde, she hears that crow tastes like chicken anyway. I wasn't exactly totally blown away--well, physically blown away by her sheer sonics, yes--but she delivered something mature, nuanced, sensitive: traits one doesn't normally associate with Hooter burgers. In dim lighting, away from the toxic limelight of fame (the day after the overhyped prima), I can see how some thoughtful people can fall in love with Anna: her instrument has a natural glow, a dark sheen, a texture that conveys joy in sorrow (and vice versa)--and when used well, there is magic. But she tends to sing awfully loud (did I mention how loud she was?), and by the end of the evening, my ears were shot (thanks to Domingo too, see below). And her tone sometimes sags like wet towels hung on a clothes line, but this time she was alert to correct much of it, which pleased me. And let me tell you, she inhabited this drab production much better than Natalie Dessay. Two years ago, tiny Dessay looked tinier and so out of place, while Netrebko embraced the kitsch with an abundance of game and spirit. She had what appeared to be a minor mad scene with the potion, energetic and in-the-moment, perhaps feeding off the spirit of Dessay's Lucia lingering in the air. Netrebko was brilliant in this scene and the last act, fully committed, solid in voice ... With these words you'd think Sieglinde's writing about someone else. But when well-behaved, and in the right rep (i.e., lyric) Netrebko can really rise to deserve her pop fame.

Roberto Alagna, on the other hand, performed slightly off the mark. I blame Netrebko's loudness, and Maestro Placido Domingo's utterly vapid and deafening orchestra, for Alagna's hopeless attempts to make his sound bigger. The result was major tone spreading, and what difficulty in the top range he's been experiencing of late was pushed front and center. Also, the desire to be as loud as Netrebko (nearly impossible) made for a monotonous and at times painful delivery, with none of the grace and sweetness that marked his Werther and Faust in my cherished memory. But he looked dashing in the turqouise tights, and moved as a Romeo moved, with a boyish charm and some innocence.

Does the Met get a wholesale discount when they employ Domingo as tenor and conductor in the same season? Because that's the only reason for finding him in the pit that I could think of. His tenor is legend, but his conducting is appalling in its crudeness. He refuses to reign in the dynamics, instead encouraging the orchestra to modulate only between loud and louder. So any trace of sweetness or hushed wonder is erased from the score (except those overtly quiet moments with the string solos and such, which even Domingo can't f*ck up), and the evening felt soooo long. Gounod's love opera ought to come as a nice cool breeze at sunset (with a drink of potion in hand), but Domingo is too muscular, too much of a tenor, not "gay" enough to revel in whispered affections. He is ruining my Bobby, and this opera.

So yeah, weird that Sieglinde would come out of an evening also headlined by Alagna and Domingo nearly raving about Netrebko. Stranger things have happened, certainly, but I'm happy to give credit, and happier to have appreciated her fine performance.

Oh, I almost forgot: the bed scene made everyone blush. Bobby and Anna made out like they were actually doing it prior to the curtain's rise. And then they did some "cowgirl" maneuvers that I never thought I'd see on the Met stage. The top of Anna's white negligee rested just a hair above her nipples, because it was showing ample mammary skin, even this thoroughly gay viewer was noticed gawking. Not so Juliette-ey, but then Anna isn't about such archaic notions anyway. (Another observation: Anna's feet are larger than Bobby's dainty pair. What could it mean?)