Tag: Domingo

Verdi’s Otello

Ever have one of those moments where an opera you never paid an unusual amount of attention to before suddenly becomes more interesting? I had one of those this week with Verdi’s Otello. I have a ticket to see it on the 10th, and though I own both CD and DVD versions of this opera, it never really transfixed me. But I listened the other day to the CD version that I have (Domingo, Ricciarelli, Diaz at La Scala) and it became apparent that there was a lot of it that I somehow failed to really register before – most of the ensembles, for instance.

This impression was reinforced by a library DVD of a Met performance from 1995 with the ubiquitous Mr. Domingo in the title role, looking like he was dipped in deck stain beforehand – which has the effect not of making him look African, but of making him look like a white guy who was dipped in deck stain – and Renée Fleming singing Desdemona and James Morris as Iago (also: I kept registering the unusual mellifluousness of the tenor singing Cassio and I just looked to see who it was – Richard Croft! no wonder. The wig disguised him.) I am not a fan of the visual aspects of Fleming’s acting in this case – there is much cocking of her head in sweet puzzlement early on, and a lot of whimpering and cringing later – but if you shut your eyes, she’s pretty fantastic. I was listening with headphones instead of on the speakers, and this may be an artifact of my headphones or it may be the audio on the DVD, but the orchestra was more forward than on my CD recording, and this made a real difference for me. The whole thing jumped into focus.

Verdi – Simon Boccanegra / Metropolitan Opera 2011 (2)

(Previous section here.)

I don’t know what it is, but costumes and sets from productions after about 2000 always look so much nicer, and more realistic in terms of fabric and lighting and such than older ones. Perhaps it’s the increase in the video quality? Or are they making opera costumes out of different things now? I really have no idea.

read the rest

Verdi – Simon Boccanegra / Metropolitan Opera 2011 (1)

This is one of those operas that Verdi revised decades after writing it, so there are two versions. The Met’s performance is of the later one, from 1881. As I understand it, the opera was revised because it was a repeated flop and everyone agreed there was something wrong with the plot. I am not exactly leaping up and down and shrieking with excitement as far as the plot is concerned even in this version, so I really do wonder what the first version was like.

read the rest

Verdi – Otello / Domingo, Te Kanawa / ROH 1992 (2)

(Previous section here.)

The person whose face is on the front of the DVD box is Plácido Domingo, and he certainly deserves to be there. He’s definitely operating in the ‘conventional heroic/tragic Romantic tenor’ mode, but whether one likes that style or not it’s hard to have too strong an opinion about it because the guy sounds so damn good. (This is completely irrelevant, but you know how there was some discussion a while back of how tall a certain soprano is? Well, Domingo’s fans are apparently all over that question as far as he is concerned – when I googled him just now, one of the things that pops up in the info from Wikipedia is that he is 6’2″/ 1.87 meters tall, which would put him at about 1.09 VKs. For the record.)

read the rest

Verdi – Otello / Domingo, Te Kanawa / ROH 1992 (1)

It’s probably a good thing that I am writing this at home and not at my office, because my copy of Shakespeare’s tragedies is at my office, and thus I cannot indulge my impulse to look the important bits up in the original text and then complain about the libretto of the opera. Besides, what you get with this DVD is no-options English subtitles – a translation of an adaptation. So it’s probably best not to may much attention to the words in this one. (Cassio at one point has to sing “I vibrate like a harmonious lute” which may be less cringeworthy in Italian than it is in English – I am not sure.) And in general, adaptations and originals are best dealt with separately.

read the rest

Bellini / Norma “Va, crudele” / Troyanos & Domingo

I just finished watching this DVD of opera recitals from the Met in the early 1980s. The clip below is the point at which the Troyanos/Domingo part of the recital got going for me, at least. In the track listing for the DVD it is noted as simply “Duet, Act I” from Bellini’s Norma and I think the idea is that you’re supposed to know what that is already and what all the words mean, because there aren’t any subtitles.

read the rest

The Enchanted Island / Metropolitan Opera 1-28-12

The Met’s Enchanted Island is both very charming and sort of insubstantial. The impression one gets is that they are trying to give the audience the experience of what it would have been like to attend an opera in the eighteenth century, with the text in a familiar language, and the plot fairly contrived, and the whole thing not taken particularly seriously.

The overture is from Alcina, which makes perfect sense. Alcina is also an opera about an enchanted island. In an odd way, though, this choice undercuts what the Met is doing here, because one of the things about Alcina is that the music functions as a kind of metaphor for Alcina’s magic. The plot is creaky, but the music holds it together. In the case of The Enchanted Island, it doesn’t quite hold together. The magic hasn’t worked. The whole thing looks very pretty, and there are some nice moments in terms of music and singing, but it’s hard to care about it one way or the other. And it seems as if the production is out to charm the audience, or make us laugh, even at the expense of the emotions making sense. Ariel’s last aria, one of those baroque tour-de-forces, is followed by Ariel stopping short, plucking a little suitcase from the floor, and prancing off stage. It’s more about Danielle De Niese being cute than it is about whatever it was that she just sang.

read the rest

Don Carlos (again)

Don Carlos is my favorite Verdi opera. It is difficult to put my finger on why – certainly Falstaff and Othello are also up there in terms of operas by Verdi that I enjoy. Also Traviata, sometimes. Then there is Macbeth, certain parts of which always make me either smile or cringe. There is something not quite right about Macbeth, but that is perhaps another subject for another day.

On the face of it, it is hard to explain why I find Don Carlos so compelling. But I think I can work out the reason, most of which is in the music, but part of which is the work of Friedrich Schiller, on whose play the story is based.

read the rest