Tag: Florez

Rossini – La Donna del Lago / Metropolitan Opera 3-10-15

I have said it before, but I have yet to leave a performance of anything involving Joyce DiDonato without a big silly grin on my face by the end. This performance resembled the one of La Cenerentola that I saw last spring, in that 1. It also involved Juan Diego “Watch how long I can hold this high note! And now I’m holding it even longer! Did you catch that? No? That’s ok, because I’m still doing it!” Florez and 2. JDD did the usual grin-making JDD thing in the opera’s final big number (here, “tanti affetti”). I enjoy her performances of Baroque material more than the bel-canto reperatoire, but hearing her voice go zooming around in all that ornamentation is still a pretty rip-roaring good time. 

This is not an opera I know well. I’ve never seen it, and I’ve heard only the arias that tend to end up on recital programs, like the aforementioned “tanti affetti.” It is one of those 19th-century history-with-the-politics-taken-out operas – the story centers around a bunch of highlanders who are at war with James V of Scotland for reasons that are apparently unimportant; one of them, Ellen (Elena in Italian), is loved by both a highland chief named Rodrigo and this other guy who turns out to be James V; she prefers a mezzo named Malcolm, and it all turns out fine. I think Rodrigo dies, but that is probably not important either.

Two stray observations about the staging. One, I think they stole the patch of barren heath that represents Little Mankie or wherever the hell this takes place from their production of Parsifal. Either that or the Met has two big movable patches of grayish ground that can split open in the middle.  Two, during the first act when everyone is cheerfully celebrating the betrothal of Elena and Rodrigo that they assume will soon take place, Elena has to just sort of stand there looking agitated and twisting her hands together for quite a while – from the cheap seats, the stage direction gives the impression that Elena definitely doesn’t want to marry Rodrigo, and that additionally she really really has to pee.

Finally, one unexpected bonus was mezzo Daniela Barcellona as Malcolm. She got overpowered by the orchestra now and then, but the solo moments, both early on and in Malcolm’s last aria in Act II were impressive – committed acting and some very smooth and well-executed Rossini singing.

La Cenerentola / Metropolitan Opera 5-10-14

I have yet to attend one of Joyce DiDonato’s concerts or opera performances and not spend some portion of the program with a big stupid grin on my face. It took a while to get to the grin in this case, but it happened by the end.

I had never seen this opera before or heard it the whole way through – there are bits of it, like Cenerentola’s last aria, “Nacqui all’affanno e al pianto . . non più mesta” that are recital staples and which I have heard before, but that’s about it. It’s a bit different from the Cinderella story most of us read as as small children. There’s no fairy godmother or wicked stepmother. Rather, Cenerentola lives with her stepfather and his daughters, and her trip to the ball comes because an angel witnesses her kind-hearted nature and decides to cut her a break. There’s no time limit, no magic carriage, and no glass slipper. Rather, C and her prince have a pair of matching bracelets. Which I will admit is rather sweet. And it’s not the failure of the stepsisters to get their big feet into C’s missing Jimmy Choo that nixes their chances: it’s that they’re obviously not very nice people. In addition, Cenerentola falls for the prince when he is disguised as his own valet (long story) and the story makes clear that she loves him because he’s a nice guy, not because he’s a prince.

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Bellini – I Puritani / Teatro Comunale de Bologna (3)

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So anyway. Murky darkness. In addition to the gloom, great big knives are a recurring motif, looming in place of pillars in the hall of the castle (there are little wreaths of flowers placed around the ends in celebration of the wedding). Some elements of the production, like the knives, and the rows of chorus members dressed in black and gunmetal gray and standing in grim ranks for the “A festa! a festa!” section in Act I, would not be out of place in a rendition of Don Carlos.

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Bellini – I Puritani / Teatro Comunale de Bologna (2)

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vlcsnap-2014-04-12-12h54m24s41This production, by Pier’ Alli, is literally quite dark. In Act II in particular the gloom never lifts – much of the action occurs in a sort of murky twilight. When Elvira, who has evidently not been trained to stop and ask questions when something unusual occurs – like one’s boyfriend suddenly vanishing – has gone mad and is wandering around making everyone feel bad, she carries a little spherical lamp the glow of which is too feeble to illuminate anything. Which of course is entirely logical, given that she’s nuts. I will say this in terms of drama. Most of the sopranos whose performances of this role I have enjoyed have done what Nino Machaizde does here, which is imply in that very first scene with Giorgio that Elvira is not the most stable or even-keeled young person in the world. Actually, now that I think about it, this may be one of those places where the music is better than I think it is – this impression is not the creation of good acting alone. I had never heard Machiazde before; I am beginning to suspect that there is a long list of singers who do a lot of 19th-century Italian opera, often in Italy, that I never hear about because it’s normally not the kind of thing I go looking for. And it doesn’t get broadcast or recorded with the same degree of regularity and ease of access as things from New York or the Bavarian State Opera or whatever. But anyway. Machiazde’s voice loses a little bit of shine on those very loud top notes that Elvira has to belt out occasionally – but it’s only a little shine that gets lost, and the rest of it has that solid, creamy sort of sound that is pretty hard to object to.

And apparently I am inadvertently on a Juan Diego Florez bender. Or possibly whoever it is that buys DVDs for the library is on a Juan Diego Florez bender. Either way, here he is again as Arturo Talbo. I may have said this before, but there is something funny about the Italianization of Talbot to Talbo. I am not sure why it is funny, but it is. It happens in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda too. ‘Talbo’ strikes me as somewhere between a good name for a puppy and a character in a Rudyard Kipling story. But anyway. Arturo Talbo, a young Englishman who has mislaid several of his consonants decided to place love above political loyalty, sort of, is sung by Juan Diego Florez who is probably exactly the sort of tenor you want for this. As I mentioned in the context of the Donizetti opera last week, this is his element. He knows the style, he can reach all those tortuous high notes, and he looks the part. This is not specific to him, really, but on the subject of style, I did notice that at one point he rendered “regina” as “re – ina”. I remember hearing Joan Sutherland do this too when singing Alcina, and at the time I figured that since people say she had terrible diction, maybe that was an example of it. As far as I know, “regina” is the standard Italian word for queen. Does skipping the ‘g’ make the vowels easier to sing under some circumstances? Or is this just a weird coincidence?

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Bellini – I Puritani / Teatro Comunale de Bologna (1)

vlcsnap-2014-04-12-13h12m38s229I have difficulty getting too excited about Bellini. This particular opera, I Puritani, can be a crowd pleaser – certainly the audience in Bologna does its fair share of yelling and stamping – but I admit, my attention sometimes wandered. It’s challenging music, and part of the fun is watching everyone nail the hard parts, but I don’t get sucked in the way I do with, say, Strauss. (I wonder if that’s the key to the popularity of some operas – it’s not that they tend to result in profound or deeply moving music-making, but that it’s genuinely a kick when someone can manage “rendetemi la speme” convincingly. Sort of like watching the Olympics, you know? I’ve never been moved to tears even by, say, really ace pole-vaulting, but it’s entertaining seeing humans launch themselves into the air like that.)

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Donizetti – La Fille du Régiment / ROH 2008

This is cute. vlcsnap-2014-04-04-23h59m33s21Donizetti’s opera about a little girl raised by a regiment (alternate title: Eight Hundred Men and a Baby) who discovers that she is the natural daughter of a noblewoman and ultimately marries the young Tyrolean lad that she had fallen in love with in Act I is not necessarily what you would call deep, but it’s entertaining enough.  Having Natalie Dessay in the title role doesn’t hurt either. I know she has recently said she is giving up opera, but I am not sure that I really believe this. I hope it’s not so. At the same time, watching her antics in this production led me to think about things French and antics in a general sort of way, and I had to wonder what would be like if you put in Patricia Petibon as Marie? I bet that would be entertaining too.

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Booze and Dumb Luck Will Solve All Your Problems: L’Elisir d’Amore / Metropolitan Opera 3-5-12

I took no notes during the performance, but a series of things did occur to me afterward. They are merely impressions, not analytical points in any meaningful sense, so I think I’m still in bounds on this one.

L’Elisir d’Amore is new to me. I’ve heard a few other of Donizetti’s operas, and they’ve struck me as terrific fun but not always deeply moving. Donizetti’s music at its worst can be somewhat repetitive. But when he’s on his game, you can have yourself a real good time.

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