10 November 2007

Preferable to writing an NIH grant proposal

Verdi AIDA, Met 8.XI.2007; c. Ono; Brown, D'Intino, Farina, Delavan, Kowalkow.

I'm sneaking in this post--in the midst of absolute chaos in my work--the same way I snuck in the Aida a couple of evenings ago just to hear the Amneris of Luciana D'Intino, who only three seasons ago debuted at the Met with a phenomenal Eboli despite already enjoying a full career across the Atlantic. It was a strange evening. D'Intino's cabernet mezzo billowed, powered by what seemed to be a team of four or five distinct singers hiding in her Amneris costume. She ain't a big girl (in the traditional manner), so I can't be sure where they were hiding. For instance, her top notes, genuine and attractive, had the security that Angela Brown could only dream of. Her middle range was typical; proceeding lower still, I heard what must have been three general kinds of chest tones: a normal soprano chest (the one that disappears as it descends down the scale); a chest in the speaking mode (a la Broadway); and a gigantic mother-in-law chest (the Zajickian kind that takes the opera to an entirely different, lavatory direction--which we queens enjoy). The luck of the draw, I suppose, was what determined which sound would materialize for a given phrase. I didn't mind that her register breaks were as definitive as the US-Mexico border. It made for a totally fun and interesting evening. (A question to the oldtimers who are all hailing D'Intino as Simionato's second coming: was Simionato that bad?)

This was also my first Angela Brown this season. Aside from the tragic sinking in the high C, she did a nice job with the Aida. Apparently (according to friends who have seen many more Aidas this season than toes in your left foot--don't ask me why) she was horrid in her first couple of outings, but has since improved measureably to deliver her best yet. If it's a case of illness, then she ought to be given a second (or third) chance, but I suspect it's more than that. The consistent fraying of her voice in the upper registers is alarming. Should she pull back now and undergo some vocal bootcamp, before it's too late? Brown has a gorgeous, multifaceted voice, warm and endearing, full of character and charisma, so to hear her fail miserably in the fundamentals is saddening. Even Maestro Kazushi Ono and his orchestra surprised me, making me sound like a big liar in my earlier review-- because he led a vigorous, vivid reading of the score, with exciting dynamics and total synchronicity with the singers. Many reasons for the discrepancy, some of which include: (a) a different set of principals, this time more immersed in the drama; (b) the last evening of the run, when everything pretty much gels nicely; (c) Sieglinde is just full of BS. All of the above? I report, you decide.

Back to work for me. (But I have a Vanessa ticket for this afternoon, so there lies the quandary: to rid the world of disease, or to go see Lauren Flanigan? Stay tuned.)