Tonight Opera Chic (wearing black & blue & masculine in deference to the new Campioni d'Italia: black Tod's ballerina shoes, black Costume National slacks, blue Gentry Comini blouse, black Miyake silky cotton jacket, red/white/emerald vintage Balenciaga silk scarf, Zenitissimo vintage watch, and swag in my vintage midollino Gucci black bag) has witnessed an event of extraordinary importance...a magic trick: Rome's unlucky Violetta, Angela Gheorghiu, has been srsly long-distance pwz0rd by Mariella Devia.
Devia's recital tonight at Teato alla Scala, until the last aria, had been a textbook case of jarring contrast: the frumpiest, lamest style (circa 1988 long red silk junior prom dress with sheer red sleeves like a figure-sk8ing outfit, bad reddish dye-job ...and no costume change during intermission omg), and very limited acting, almost constant stiff delivery, back-brace posture but with the cleanest, most flawless singing one is likely to hear in any opera house in this decade.
The decidedly uncharismatic Devia sang as if her sound had already been equalized, corrected, and digitally cleaned-up & amped in a studio: her delivery was so inhumanly flawless that, closing your eyes, you'd think that somebody had turned on the sound system and the lady (accompanied by a pretty plodding, uninspired pianist, Ms. Rosetta Cucchi) was just lip-synching.
It was a master class for the public, an overt "hay guys *this* is how you're supposed to sing opera" moment that would put most singers to shame -- a singing lesson for contemporaries and, if anybody had the good sense to record this evening, for posterity.
Somewhat cold? Yeah, the way a Kubrick film can be cold -- the coldness of the "I'm so good at this I can do it blindfolded" master, or, in Devia's case, "I can do it with a bad case of laryngitis like what3vs".
After she tore through Rossini's Pensées Musicales as if they were a stick of half-melted buttah, she then proceeded to kill the second part of the recital as if simply singing the notes was the easiest thing in the world, without breaking a sweat or flashing a nervous smile. She enjoyed the monster ovation from the crowd, and it was the time for encores (keep in mind, she's been singing for almost one hour and 45 minutes at this point).
The piano lady (which btw, OC thinks is pretty kicka$$ to have female accompaniment...especially dressed in "screw-u-&-ur-dresscode" slack,s nonetheless) started playing a bare-bones Casta Diva, and you're like, no frkking way, kip, back it up. But it's on!! and Devia blows-up that soprano-killing-aria like it's a videogame and she's playing the L4MER level just for practice.
More cheering, clapping, people going insane, bis bis bis, elderly gentlemen yelling until they dropped their programs, society ladies clapping so hard the many pounds of gold and (blood) diamonds they're wearing around their wrists and their malnourished bones clash like bells.
And then -- around 10:15 pm Milan time -- Devia, who must have read lately how Opera di Roma has been selling Gheorghiu's Traviata as if the twin fighting ghosts of Callas and Tebaldi have been finally put to rest -- decided to send Angela a little txt message, something like, "cara angela listen 2 h0w violetta is s'posed 2 sound kthxbi xoxoxo to roburto".
So she starts "Addio del passato", and she (after almost two hours of singing) starts acting, and even if the pianist is plodding like mad, she attaches little pieces of lead to every note so that Verdi becomes Black Sabbath slowed down 10x and played backwards to try to evoke Satan or Rene Pape or something, and now she's acting, and she's getting all emo on us, and she's dying alone on that stage, it's almost unbearable -- Non croce col nome che copra quest'ossa -- and it becomes clear once again (like it does only when the very best ones are on the stage) Verdi is Shakespeare, inventor of the human, and you're all like, holy f4ck, Gheorghiu has been pwnd. Once again.
Angela -- the most hyped soprano in the last 20 years with the exception of younger, prettier (not necessarily more talented) Netrebko got served, twice in three days; first, live on-stage by a 71-year-old gramps who's as spent as William Holden in the last five minutes of The Wild Bunch. Then, 400 miles away, by a frumpster whose sublime technique and gilded voice managed to make a Steinway concert grand sound in comparison like the most garish, discordant instrument evar, and leaves the La Scala audience clamoring for encore after encore, which Devia gladly delivered.