11 May 2024

Matinee meh

Puccini MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Met Opera 11.V.24; c. Zhang; Grigorian, DeShong, Tetelman, Meachem.

Hopeful anticipation for Asmik Grigorian turned to mush as her Butterfly drooled the touchstone "Ah! m'ha scordata" in a supposed peak of Act II. Does she know that spinto means pushed, the Met is the largest house in the known universe, Sieglinde is perched in her high box with such hopeful anticipation for a soprano who is coming to New York with unusual advance notice, and therefore was expecting hints of blood and acid in "Ah! m'ha scordata"? No one expects a Renata Scotto, for sure, but can we have at least a Cristina Gallardo-Domas this generation? Sieglinde dreamed Grigorian would circle the pantheon (not the Pantheon), but instead saw her flap her cut, undecorative wings to zero effect, like used tissue swirling on the Columbus Avenue sidewalk. Maybe that's too mean. Grigorian did deliver a heartrending "Ei torna e m'ama", which her flappers avidly applauded. But those moments were, uhm, momentary.

So what happened? Everyone can agree that Grigorian has modest sonic power, but that issue never stopped Gallardo-Domas or Veronica Villaroel, two women dear to Sieglinde's heart, both of whom found ways to harness their wares full-force and focus their will to shake the walls. Grigorian also has an muddled middle, at times almost spoken and washed of vibrato. Other Butterflys of Sieglinde's 30 years of opera going include the legend Diana Soviero, femme fatale Catherine Malfitano, Michele Crider, and Particia Racette, ladies who, in their own way, gave the illusion of transcending physics and, in effect, reify the pathos of the role beyond the text. Grigorian sounded like she was saving her voice for something else. Such a soprano has no business singing Butterfly at the Met. Perhaps in smaller houses in Europe she will flourish.

Meanwhile, Maestra Xian Zhang (also debuting this season) led a tumultuous and vitally present orchesta; she should be invited for more. Jonathan Tetelman is handsome as Pinkerton, with a clean voice but lacking that unmistakable ring we've come to expect from our Puccini tenors. As a sorrowful Suzuki, Elizabeth DeShong is the one singer on stage who woke up Sieglinde.The Minghella is aging gracefully, but still aging.

(Just like old times; let's see how long this lasts.)