Only a man of Ingmar Bergman's genius could make a movie version of The Magic Flute and begin with a long, beautiful series of close ups of the faces in the audience -- cutting back and forth to a child's eyes, because it's where Mozart's magic really lives.
And how deliciously Bergmanian is the paradox that it took an obsessively private, surly, misanthropic Swede to make the films that have revealed the most secret depths of the human soul.
The original casting for Rossini's Otello, this this 3-tenored opera, was Giuseppe Filanoti making a role debut as Otello; JDF as Roderigo; and Chris Merritt (formerly famous for his interpretations of the role of Otello) in the shorter and much lower role of Iago.
First off, the production can become Iago-less unless Chris Merritt's health returns within the next 2 weeks. Apparently has trouble singing at the moment. JDF isn't scheduled to arrive in Pesaro for more than a week (just a few days before the prima) and so rehearsals have been practically Roderigo-less (rather difficult since Roderigo is a much more important character than Iago in this opera).
But the real drama revolves around the role of Otello. Filanoti has cancelled altogether...apparently due to illness. So, at the last minute, 2 tenors were called in to cover. Gregory Kunde learnt the role as much as one can in the span on one week - and
Otello is not exactly a walk in the park - and arrived for rehearsals
prepared enough to participate in them.
He is to have like 4 performances and other dude at least 1...but
something funky happened last week and GK didn't seem to be perfectly
OK. I met him for the smallest nanosecond on Friday and he seems to be
doing much much better.
Recent Operalia 2nd prize winner Russian Soprano Olga Peretyatko is cast as Desdemona. Olga has many wonderful things about her (she's physically very beautiful and is a dead ringer for Trebs twin sister), but her voice is really that of a soubrette - very light - great coloratura and a very high extension ala Dessay - but the part of Desdemona is really meant for a dramatic coloratura soprano - or at least a mezzo with a decent sized voice and very comfortable high notes.
Apparently the staging of Del Monaco is yet to be completed and he is consistently arguing with everyone - the singers, the stagehands, conductor, anyone and everyone.
It's a big mess. Let's hope they get it all together and fast!!
Tan Dun's 2002 Tea: A Mirror of Soul made its American premiere earlier this evening at The Santa Fe Opera, and although Dun's reputation is still lingering in the shadow of the (sold-out) Metropolitan Opera world premiere of “The First Emperor” last December which was greeted with much disappointment (both by the critics and word-of-mouth), we weren't going to let the skepticism of Dun's already-proven genius stop us from attending. Lucky Opera Chic was fortunate enough to score a ticket to one of the six performances of The Santa Fe Opera's Tea (tonight's performance being the glamorous la prima), and OC is now settled between puffy layers of down, with a gas-lit fireplace roaring at her Chanel-lacquered toes, and the zenerific afterglow of Dun's meditative production practically lulling OC to sleep. So we’re going to keep this one brief and follow-up tomorrow.
All we can say is that it was impressive -- visually, audibly, lyrically -- on all fronts...with the minor exception of the bewildering (but at times vary amusing) libretto. Written by Tan Dun and Xu Ying, and translated by Diana Liao, All ur base R belong 2 us was looping in the darkness of our little rain-soaked heads (it frikkin poured like you can't even imagine for a full hour before the performance, pushing OC's la prima outfit back to the vintage luggage, and instead choosing a more expendable pair of 7 for all Mankind Kate denim, a black James Perse silky tubetop, a black Marc by Marc Jacobs peasant cotton jacket, and the Miu Mius from Friday night...and the LV Speedles 30).
neways..."Tea from whence do you come?" was one of our, um, favorite lines in the libretto. but whatevs. We dug the philosophy behind the libretto, and it was vary vary easy to read into the beautiful, existential, meditative messages. But again, almost all of the many ideas about tradition, patience, legacy, and familial duty were shrouded in quixotic phrasing.
More frustrating is that we know Tan Dun has the highest respect for the great Italian librettists and poets such as Da Ponte and Boito, but the given translations even proved hard for the singers to incorporate naturally into the lyrical arches and ebbs.
The orchestral passages (with conductor Lawrence Renes at the helm) were gorgeous, full, and soared, a welcome change from the familiar, comfortable expanses of yae olde European composers we all know and love. Hints of modern and classical alike, there was something intangible that attracted one to the stage, like a moth to the light (or some of OC's woolly Missoni scarves). OC found herself entranced, focused completely on the unrushed, ellipsis-ridden action, enjoying the overall silence and calm of the on-stage percussionists with their water, paper, and drum-play.
The setting within The Crosby Theatre a handful of miles outside of downtown Santa Fe is one that is aligned with Dun's views: Here you sit before the production and watch the setting sun through the back of the stage, only later to hear a rhythmic cricket faintly chirping in the background, catching the moon out of the corner of your eye through the wings of the outdoor(ish) auditorium, and shuddering from the dry night air around you shoulders. It is perfection...refreshing and exciting, especially after the sweaty recirculated air that greets you at la Scala.
The trifecta of awesomeness was Rumi Matsui's scenery, Masatomo Ota's costumes, and Rick Fisher's lighting skills, which bathed the audience in every natural element that Tan Dun had initially intended throughout acts I-IV, from cool blue water to glowing red fire, from lavender-colored paper to sparkling gold ceramics.
Amon Miyamoto's excellent direction was subtle and graceful enough to keep the singers grounded during the more intense scenes. We were feeling Kelly Kaduce's Chinese princess Lan, who dies from her brother's sword stroke with more authenticity than what we see on the screen at the ArcLight Hollywood. Haijing Fu's Seikyo was solid, with great stage presence, fitting the chemistry well with his petite princess lover. The rest: Roger Honeywell's Prince, Christian van Horn's Emperor, Nancy Maultsby's Lu, were all on-point, full voices, intonation and inflection. Santa Fe Opera rawks r socks…right out of the new pairs of Lucchesestivali da cow boy that we just splurged on.
More tomorrow...or Opera Chic will look like something found on the bottom of Seikyo’s three-day-old tea cup if she doesn’t get her rest!
Opera Chic was recently listening to L'Europa Riconosciuta, Salieri's totally cool work that was exhumed by Riccardo Muti for the re-opening of la Scala four years ago (that opera had been the one that inaugurated the august theater for the first time so it was only fair that it was performed again to celebrate the re-opening after extensive renovation) and she was thinking about the usual question of blockbusters vs obscure, interesting choices -- one of Opera Chic's fave rhetorical questions is, actually, 'Just How Many Boheme Can You Possibly Listen To, Man'.
The answer, of course, is usually 'not many'. Because, seriously, being the most popular and most widely performed work of musical theater in the world carries a big burden with itself -- in a word, one is all like, b0ring! neXt!
But Opera Chic really wanted to check out the Santa Fe Opera, that jewel of a open-air hall that sits in the New Mexico desert overlooking, of all places, Los Alamos (insert lame jokes about the opera being da bomb here). And La Boheme sounded good anyway -- a young cast, a young Italian conductor, and it was our appetizer anyway waiting for tonight's big exotic cuisine meal, Tan Dun's American premiere of Tea.
So, quickly because Opera Chic has now to get ready for her second big night in a row at the SFO: decked out (to fight the chill of the Monsoon-beaten Santa Fe summah) in a Calypso vanilla T-shirt, two layers of cashmere (again Calypso -- yeah there was a sale both at the NYC and LA boutiques k so what -- and Lucien Pellat-Finet), Adriano Goldschmied gray jeans and Miu Miu pumps, Opera Chic braved the weather and immediately drank a big cup of hawt coffee at the adorable little bar situated on the lateral balcony of the opera house.
The stage is impressively small for a hall with a 2,000 capacity and there is no curtain, so scene changes require some speed and skill. The conductor Corrado Rovaris (music
director of the Opera Company of Philadelphia) was mercifully in perfect white tie attire (o how we hate conductors in black pjs, charcoal T-shirts, Catholic priest robes, anything but the old beautiful classic frac), so thanks for that maestro. Rovaris elicited a fine dark sound from the orchestra, the only possible choice with the sustained pace he chose. And kudos to Paul Curran, the director who set the action at the end of WWI -- talk about the dreams of youth being shattered -- and avoided the usual pitfalls of horrible slapstick Jerry Lewis-style action at the beginning of Acts I and IV, and directed with clarity the usually tricky Cafe Momus scene.
Jennifer Black (in the photo above, courtesy of Ken Howard / Santa Fe Opera) was a sweetly melancholy Mimì, without a huge voice but blessed with beautiful expression and carefully tuned warmth (a Mimi who hits her notes and saves us the schmaltz is a fine Mimi by us after all we have endured in the past with this role thx), Rodolfo was given by Dimitri Pittas
-- o how we liked him! -- a powerful voice with the authority of a much experienced singer and very deeply felt acting; James Westman was a heartfelt, agile Marcello. All those three roles will be performed throughout the Santa Fe Opera festival by six singers; but playing
Musetta throughout will be only Nicole Cabell (in the top photo, right below the post title, courtesy of Ken Howard / Santa Fe Opera). We expected a lot from the winner of the 2005 BBC
Cardiff Singer of the World competition but, besides a cool fierceness in her acting -- oh those glares! -- we are sad to report that the voice, we are sure because of fatigue, was close to inaudible at times -- and poor Rovaris couldn't really tone down the orchestra down enough to help her. But all in all, Opera Chic is happy to report that she really enjoyed this usually disappointing, too popular for its own good work by our Milan neighbor Giacomo Puccini.
Being photographed by Peter Beard in Montauk (note to self: never let Peter dunk another bucket of cow blood on my Miu Mius before the shoot); playing Quarters with Bret Easton Ellis in a Chelsea dive bar (we won; he passed out); housesitting Esa Pekka Salonen's house in the Hollywood Hills while E-Pek and family are back to Finland or somewhere for the summer (note to self: try to cover that huge scratch on the family Infiniti with some black nail polish, get some Urban Decay 'Perversion' at Sephora in Beverly Center like NOW).
Stuff has happened in the meantime, of course. From the predictable -- as we had told you already, before the fact, Angela Gheorghiu left Milan before her disastrous Traviata engagement was over, even if you wouldn't know it by surfing the Scala official website that chose neither to report the news nor to change the Traviata schedule and cast listing on their website, but that's why you read us and not them lol -- to the even more predictable -- Alan Gilbert getting his dream job at the NY Phil, in bocca al lupo, while our beloved Maestro Muti will appear for six weeks a year with the Phil in what amounts to an unofficial Principal Guest Conductor spot, that leaves him thankfully free of administrative duties and finally gives New York audiences the chance to hear on a regular basis some bada$$ music that is not conducted by Jimmy Levine for a change -- to the crushingly sad -- Jerry Hadley's passing.
All in all our Montauk - NYC - Los Angeles bicoastal vacation was pretty good and even if Opera Chic still has some business to attend (meetings with our agent, our editors, auditioning for interns) and will also take some additional time off later on this summer, she is now back to her reportorial duties.
Tonight, for example, Opera Chic has made her Santa Fe Opera debut, ignoring the Monsoon desert weather that turned the Santa Fe desert night into a much gloomier, chillier event that she expected, and had to dress accordingly.
La Boheme had moments of brilliance, esp. thanks to a very engaging young Rodolfo, a Mimi that did not try to convince us she was dying by loudly coughing up massive amounts of imaginary phlegm (say, like Gheorghiu did in her unfortunate nights as another terminally ill opera heroine a couple weeks ago at la Scala), and a conductor that wisely avoided the schmaltzy sentimental manipulation that really kills so many Puccini productions worldwide (and kudos to the director who managed not to milk the slapstick of the beginning of acts I and IV). And extra bonus points to a cast of furriners that had very, very good Italian diction -- better than most non-Italians one hears nowadays and better even than some native Italian speaking singers.
Full review (with pictures, thanks to the awesome staff at Santa Fe Opera press office) later tonight or tomorrow -- Opera Chic spake and she is now tired.
As our readers might have noticed, Opera Chic has left the madness of Milan, La Scala, et al. and has come back to the USA for a well-deserved vacation. Montauk is blissfully free of opera drama and we like it really a lot.
A few more days, and we'll go back to our reporting duties: summer festivals don't really leave us a choice. Stay tuned for a few surprises coming soon.
This just in: tonight's performance of Traviata at la Scala has been thankfully drama-free.
Many were worried because after the other night's reprieve, tonight marked the return of all the three principal of this past Tuesday's disaster of a premiere -- Angela Gheorghiu, Ramon Vargas, and Roberto "Maazel Is A Lamer" Frontali.
But Maestro Maazel was, finally, into actually conducting that fun bunch of orchestrali and Angela Gheorghiu gained confidence (even if the catarrhal acting in Act III proudly remained); and even her frowny worried costar, Ramon Vargas, retained the confidence that he had but had also quickly lost (about Act II !!!) during la prima.
Applause was had by all.
Unless someone goes insane -- and frankly, why not -- nothing particularly interesting will happen until the 14, when Vargas is replaced by that hawt curly muscly man that is Jonas Kaufmann, Angela's favorite tenor.
Now Opera Chic needs to go to baed. And frankly, she kind of needs to finally go back to the US for the summah now that the drama llama seems to be slowly going back to his little stable.
Traviata baritone Roberto Frontali (he sang the role of Giorgio Germont this past Tuesday at la prima, last night it was Leo Nucci's turn in the role) attacks conductor Lorin Maazel in today's Repubblica:
"I haven't been booed, I only received applause (ed: more or less, yes, he's about right oc), the audience complained about the cuts and about the musical choices (ie, about Maazel: remember that Maazel decided to cut a few choice sections of the score to try to make things move along faster, ah the irony). Before general rehersal, the maestro told me that he had chosen to cut my cabaletta from act II. I told him that audiences at la Scala are accustomed to hear that cabaletta but he replied that no, opera is theatre and you cannot stop the action in its tracks. He told me he'd think it over some more, then he went ahead and cut it anyway. I think that whether or not that cabaletta is good, it has been written by Verdi. I don't see the reason for such a radical choice. I'm a singer and I don't have the power to overrule such a decision, just like a member of the orchestra cannot refuse to play a certain piece. But make no mistake: I'm not responsible. Leo Nucci didn't sing the cabaletta either, had he done that I'd have gotten seriously angry. Musical choices must be defended. I was ready to do like Alagna did: I was ready to show up in front of the theatre and sing the cabaletta, twice".
It's impressive that a veteran such as Frontali chose to attack the maestro after just one performance, and make a thinly veiled threat in form of a joke, esp. indirectly dragging the admirably calm Leo Nucci into this. And Alagna jokes? Maazel has made a lot of mistakes that first night, but such jokes are really a faux pas, come on. It's already a trainwreck, this Traviata: the more seasoned artists should try to make things easier for everybody, this isn't helping la Scala. Our humble suggestion: no more interviews or anonymous leaks to friendly journalists until the show's over. It's just a couple of weeks, come on. You're hurting la Scala at this point, no matter how sloppy Maazel has been at la prima or how small and frankly unimpressive Gheorghiu's voice sounds on that big stage in that big hall.
but then, it sure is a lot of fun for us: omg teh circus! stay tuned!
We feel for Scala General Manager Stéphane Lissner. Really. He found himself in a hell of a bad spot these last few days, and we don't really how that could be his fault.
He opened the season last December with a new big-budget staging of Aida, and Franco Zeffirelli cooked up a boring extravaganza of golden paint and the star, tenor Roberto Alagna, was booed off the stage during his second performance and left the theatre, never to return.
The result? Gheorghiu's voice comes across as weak and her acting is nothing to write home about and her diction's bad and Maazel (who had cut deeply into the score) conducted a sleepy, leaden Traviata: hence Loggionisti savage la prima, occasionally booing Gheorghiu but yelling and jeering at Maazel who leaves the theatre in his tux, furious, without even appearing on stage for the curtain calls.
Lissner has to chase after him and try to woo him back -- apparently Maazel threatened to leave the city. The newspapers pan the performance, demolish Maazel and about Gheorghiu they basically say "is this all?". All in all, the worst reviews and the worst night of Lissner's two years in Milan -- yes, including the infamous Alagna walkout, because that night at least Violeta Urmana and conductor Riccardo Chailly performed well. And dancer Roberto Bolle, with his great dancing talent and his naked steely glutes made a lot of people very happy.
Then, after talking to Lissner, Maazel gives a very canny, diplomatic quote to daily paper La Repubblica: "I love la Scala, I work very well with the orchestra. This is the tradition here. I was in Milan many years ago, Moffo and Karajan were booed as well in Traviata. Here the cultural life is important, there's passion. Indifference would be much worse".
Finally tonight, the second performance.
Maybe mollified by Maazel's classy refusal to attack or undermine his critics and the audience -- a lesson to the Angelas and the Robertos of the opera world: never claim there's a conspiracy of bad people against you, esp if you sucked, you'll make it worse, just tough it out, it will make them respect you -- the loggionisti tonight left him alone, and his conducting performance -- not brilliant -- was more swift and lively, certainly more focused.
It was Gheorghiu's night off, and understudy Irina Lungu went well, projecting more power than AG, even if diction and the darker colors don't seem to be that great.
Leo Nucci, replacing Roberto Frontali for the night (he'll be on stage on the 17th as well, with Gheorghiu, and that might a problem) was his usual powerful, clear-sounding self -- a maestro with experience and the calm demeanor necessary to project grace under pressure.
Anyway, la Scala avoided a second disaster.
Next stop: Saturday night. Gheorghiu-Kaufmann. And we'll see how the loggione welcomes back the diva who had the bad idea to badmouth Callas with the Italian press right before her first opera at La Scala.
Live Txt messaging from bloodthirsty loggione and elsewhere in la Scala allows Opera Chic (and her readers) learn that Lorin Maazel has sensibly accelerated his sleepwalking tempi from the other night and is conducting a definitely faster, edgier, more tense Traviata.
Angela Gheorghiu's understudy Irina Lungu is actually doing very good, and we're happy for her.
As of now, it seems that a Gheorghiu-less Traviata is going much better than the trainwreck-y prima of Tuesday night.
A portent of things to come? We'll see the curtain calls...
Going from Wagner (Elisabeth, Elsa, Kundry) to Fauré and back to Verdi (Leonora, Desdemona, Amelia, Lady Macbeth!!!) and then on to Duparc, back and forth, AND Tosca, and have people go nuts all over the world, the Met, la Scala, Covent Garden, Salzburg, Bayreuth, and have "Scary Hans" Knappertsbusch say you're the best Kundry evar, and then you kill in Richard Strauss, too, and Poulenc, despite a horrifyingly sad and tragic personal life, full of loneliness and heartbreak and -- come on, what can you say when someone like Régine Crespin passes away, besides that, for once, when record companies print "LEGEND" on CD covers, in her case it is actually an understamenent?
Opera Chic, thank you very much, is not going to la Scala tonight because Tuesday night's trainwreck was more than enough and she is not into the Marquis De Sade anyway. Angela's resting and Irina Lungu is on as Violetta, but Lorin Maazel will be on the podium, and Opera Chic hears that more than a few Scalagoers tonight will not be willing to remain silent if Maestro Maazel conducts Traviata the way he did conduct it the other night.
And they may, like, make some noize like their fellow loggionisti did the other night.
Except Leo Nucci is on as Germont sr., and we think he'll get the cheering he so richly deserves /fangirl.
But not even the greatest Verdi baritone alive can drag us there tonight, sorry.
We're so not going because it's a nice, surprisingly not-clammy evening (for Milan's standards) and we have better options than watching all over again poor Violetta die on stage in that underwhelming tenor's chubby arms. But later on we'll keep our dear readers pawsted on what's shakin' in the craziest opera house in the world. Stay Tuned for more -- possibly breaking -- news around 11PM Milan time, or 5PM New York time.
Anyway. Full disclosure: Opera Chic is a known Nucci fangirl. Ok thx.
Having said that, Maestro Nucci is scheduled to appear at la Scala tomorrow night (alongside Vargas and Lungu) and on the 17. On the 17 Alfredo will be that hottie Jonas Kaufmann; Violetta will be la Gheorghiu.
What does it mean? The consensus here -- oh the txt messages & emails we've received today from our well-informed friends and neighbors -- is that putting la Gheorghiu on the same night as Nucci (beloved by so many here at la Scala) is very likely a recipe for disaster.
a) it's realistic to assume that Maestro Maazel will from now on concentrate more on the job at hand, thus avoiding more unpleasant reactions from the loggione (he's not their favorite but he had a pretty civil relationship with them until last night, and he had even received from the loggionisti WILD cheering for his conducting a beautifully fierce and elegantly tense Tosca last year -- ed. Opera Chic was also mightily impressed by Tosca/Dessì's beWbs)
b) Kaufmann has recently sung here in a recital and has left a very good impression. And frankly, he's sexier and more confident than his colleague Vargas.
But why would Angela's Violetta risk being upstaged by Giorgio Germont? Why would a global secksystar risk having a 65-year-old gentleman steal the show, and maybe get the boos while Nucci gets flowers and bunnies and standing ovations and jus primae noctis over nubile young women?
We've seen Nucci drive la Scala insane with joy -- we've heard the wild cheering, the screams of "Sei come Cappuccilli" -- la Scala's greatest compliment for a baritone --, we've seen the usually stern gentlemen in bespoke suits all misty-eyed after Nucci's "Il Balen del Suo Sorriso". We've heard the thundering noise of the happy feet of the overjoyed gallerie audiences going all thudthudthudthud on the gallerie's glorious wooden floors, sending little echoes all around the hall for Nucci.
Now, Angela has given the cameras here already enough material between the prova generale and last night's show to compose a decent DVD that will come out next year. Why would anyone -- any soprano, not just Angela -- risk being a spectator of somebody else's success like that? Why should she be there getting the occasional boo while impotently watching Nucci bring teh haus down?
That's why so many of the good ones here are betting against Gheorghiu being still here on the 17th. Fool me once (in Rome), OK.
Tired of trying to project enough power to reach the deeper regions of the cavernous opera house last night, Angela Gheorghiu will rest her tonsils tomorrow night and Violetta, as scheduled, will be Irina Lungu. La Gheorghiu -- who, as we have already written, has to thank the heavens that Maestro Maazel sucked so bad that he distracted the loggionisti from Angela's limitations and took by far the most part of the boos -- la Gheorghiu is supposed to be back on stage Saturday night, at 8PM sharp, hair and makeup and costume ready. Possibly. But more of that later.
Anyway: Angela's understudy (the third soprano booked for this already unfortunate production is Elena Mosuc) has already appeared at la Scala in 2004 and she rawked Rome this past April with her Violetta. She's been apparently so good during rehersals that Irina really surprised many people around Scala, we have been told, with fine acting, clear diction, good power and a beautiful intonazione -- a tasty 27-year old brunette from Moldova, she is 15 years younger than Angela (or even 17, if you listen to the gossip that indicates a little of creative PR tinkering with Gheorghiu's actual birthdate.
She is scheduled to appear alongside Ramon Vargas (again) and Germont pére will be the awesome Leo Nucci, replacing last night's Roberto Frontali, a seasoned pro who has all of Opera Chic rezpect but whose baritone, last night, came across as simply too flat -- on the stony side especially when more warmth was needed, for example in "Di Provenza" -- and we really hope it was simply a bit of fatigue.
OK, Italy's leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, goes nuclear in so many ways on the Scala production of Traviata that Opera Chic had the misfortune to attend last night (and she missed a very nice Southampton 4th of July barbecue for this!).
Among the praise for Sills, "queen of technique and of pathos", kudos to her "unique vibrato technique", "a musicality of the highest order", her chilling death scenes, and she "will forever have a unique place in music history". Then the critic admits that in her arias of deepest sorrow, she had the power to literally move to tears.
What a beautiful hommage.
And the duty to review the Traviata fell on the shoulders of the other Corriere critic, a urbane scholar who's usually polite and moderate in his pans. But he made an exception last night.
Let's see, and remember that we're talking about the review of a usually quiet musicologist and college professor who's on the record as being that rare creature, a critic who usually likes Maazel:
... Angela Gheorghiu, Romanian soprano who has the habit of acting as a ridiculous diva in an era that does not allow such behavior anymore...
... to see today this 1990 staging means to see all the dust, all the wear and tear, all the problems that make it much weaker than its actual age suggests. It's a Traviata completely without ideas, a staging that does not say anything on the mystery of this woman, one of the most fascinating creatures ever imagined by an artist's mind...
(Maazel), formidable French-American musician, is a capricious man: can conduct divinely, as in the recent Rachmaninov concert here at la Scala and can give useless and lazy performances such as this one... the music sticks to the skin like humidity in these clammy Milan days, heavy, dead, unless Maazel occasionally remembers to be the artist he is... slow tempi, washed-out sound...
(Gheorghiu) the "diva" is truly an average soprano, small-voiced, wrong diction, but she does have colors, intonazione, and even beautiful expressive moments. The problem? She acts on stage like the diva she believes herself to be, with hysteria... not even young Pavarotti could get away with this stuff...
The critic for il Giornale goes nuclear as well. Just read his first two words:
"Ouch. Ouch." ("Ahi. Ahi" in Italian).
And then the barrage begins, mentioning how "Gheorghiu sings the way they used to sing in provincial opera houses a long time ago... irregular emissione... the shabby vowels of her Italian diction... the speed changes meant to create cheap effects. If she hadn't announced her presence here as some sort of Messiah the audience would have greeted her cordially, because she's a singer who deserves respect in her repertoire... Maazel's inertia is very different from his great days on the podium... the booing upset him in the finale... only rarely a conductor abandons his singer they way Maazel did by refusing the curtain calls".
Critics savage last night's Traviata at La Scala, question the management's judgement, cut Gheorghiu down to size, scold Maazel and zero in on director Cavani; show-stealing Leo Nucci lurks in the wings; an All About Eve scenario begins to develop; the "when is Angela leaving Milan" countdown begins among Scala insiders; and more.
Teh Drama Llama is back in full force at la Scala; Opera Chic has delayed her flight home indefinitely; stay tuned for wall-to-wall coverage according to this website's shameful tradition when it comes to classical music drama developing at la Scala.
This just in: Opera Chic has just come home from la Scala's Traviata, Angela Gheorghiu's opera debut in the theatre where her husband Roberto Alagna got booed off the stage last December in Aida.
More later, very soon, but for now: Angela Gheorghiu got sporadically booed by loggionisti but was lucky enough to be saved by the lameness of Maestro Maazel's conducting -- it was poor Maazel who ended up taking one for the team, a bit like the dude who went hunting with Dick Cheney and got shot in the face and then apologized to the VP.
Anyway: in the audience we were all bracing for a skewering of la Gheorghiu but we got instead an anti-Maazel torrent of boos right before the start of the third act. Maazel actually had to wait a full 90 seconds until all the booing had died down, because it would have drowned out the pianissimo of the Scala orchestra.
It went downhill from there. And Angela was home free.
Stay tuned for more...Opera Chic needs to showah
VVVV UPDATE VVVV
The drama llama that is the Alagna-Gheorghiu couple keeps on giving, but sometimes in a weird way: as I said, everybody thought Gheorghiu was going to get a brisk a$$kicking by loggionisti tonight (the sad truth is that they mostly hate her for having uttered some slightly flippant remarks about Callas -- something like "I don't imitate any other sopranos, Callas included", or words to that effect -- more than for her, frankly, too-small voice).
OC had only heard Gheorghiu live once before tonight's trainwreck -- a recital at la Scala, and it's unfair to judge a soprano's power from a recital like that one. But in that big house, tonight, Gheorghiu's voice REALLY sounded small. And her acting, well, she has charisma but not really tons of it.
Instead, she did get some booing -- mostly concentrated on the left side of the second galleria where a small team of loud Angela-haterz vocalized some nasty BOOOOOOOOOOOs after her big arias of the first and second act. They were clearly there, but they were kinda drowned-out with the general applause anyways.
The surprise, though, was Lorin Maazel's conducting: OC is on the record as being a fan of the maestro's knowledge and his competence, but this is the night where he embodied all the limitations his haterz keep talking about -- that he just goes thru the motions like a high-priced hack.
It was a very bad night for the maestro, a night that smelled of lack of preparation with the orchestra (because come on, these people have been subjected to Muti's Verdi drills for 20 years, and in the last two years they have delivered two perfectly fine Verdi performances for Maestro Chailly, a muscularly hot Rigoletto and a correct if uninspiring Aida, it can't be the orchestra's fault; and Maazel is a man who knows his scores. Tonight's debacle just reeked of laziness on the maestro's part).
What happened? Well, he tried to flesh out the first act doing that "elegantly aloof" thing that he sometimes does very well, only it collapsed on him: very stilted phrasing, overlong tempi, a sense of shallowness. Act II is where things really fell apart, never to recover.
And the loggionisti's impatience cost him a nice round of boos and nasty catcalls ("Poor Verdi", "Poor Italy", "Conduct a band of amateurs instead" among the finest examples).
He had to wait for the insults to stop coming, he just couldn''t give the downbeat to begin Act III, they'd have drowned the music out.
This is a small clip taken from the Rai radio feed, keep in mind the applause has been pumped up by the mics, at la Scala the boos and catcalls sounded much stronger than you hear in the clip below -- but they came from up on high in the second Galleria, basically from the roof, and the performance was being filmed for a DVD and broadcast live on radio and via Internet. The file's here:
Irritated by the sneering loggionisti (his Italian is amazing, so he understood every nuance of sarcasm), Maazel refused to join the rest of the cast for the curtain calls (very sporadic boos, mostly applause for the cast, even an attempt of a standing ovation in the middle of the platea). Not an Alagna-style tantrum, OK, but Maazel's a big boy, he can take the abuse. Just show up and face the loggione, your career speaks for itself -- to OC he demonstrated lack of sportsmanship. If you show up for the cheeering you have to show up for the abuse too -- to show leadership.
Gheorghiu started a bit tentative, but got better in Act II and finished pretty strong even if I could have cared less for the OMFGLOOKATMEMYLUNGZARECOLLAPSING shtick, that gets old really quick. Her voice is small, even for la Scala. Her acting -- bah. She looked great, tho -- she has lost weight and she is now a tall(ish) really slender (think Atkins-style, with arms even too thin for her frame) 40-something with big b00bs. Not enuff to make OC go gay (Netrebko is our honorary "Soprano I'd Go Gay For") but not bad ma'am, not bad at all.
Ramon Vargas instead started pretty strong and ran out of steam pretty quick, and by the time he slapped her around throwing cash all over the stage like a drunken sailor who just won a poker game in a Thai bordello, poor Ramon was really gasping for air, his lungs more damaged than the TBC lady's. His diction is also pretty bad when it comes to Cs and Zs -- it's easy to fix for a Spanish speaker and OC is surprised he hasn't done that already. But we like Ramon so we're biased.
Wanna know more: (like, how sucky was Liliana Cavani's staging? We liked the Pescucci costumes tho, exquisite)?
Among the many paradoxes of Carlos Kleiber's not-particularly-happy life -- chief among them the horrible, crippling inferiority complex towards a conductor, his father, whose talent was actually inferior to Carlos's -- is that the only Traviata he recorded officially -- with Cotrubas as Violetta -- is also his worst. It's by far his worst record, and it's a pretty bad Traviata even compared to other not-so-stellar versions by other conductors.
Luckily, there have always been alternate versions, bewtleg recordings of Traviata conducted by CK that not only don't suXor but are actually beautiful, Kleiberian wonders of phrasing and clarity.
Among them -- the P2P networks (OperaShare too) are lousy with'em, may Zeus bless'em -- there's this delicious 1985 version @ Munich, Gruberova/Shicoff rawking the haus, Carlos conducting.
But if Angela's voice doesn't sound as small as it apparently did during rehearsals (la Scala is a huge theatre esp. after the renovations that enlarged the backstage area ginormously, and maybe she wasn't completely singing in voce to save her vocal chords for the big night, who knows) and nobody boos her -- the loggionisti don't seem to have a beef with her, just with her hubby, but you never know -- OC should be in for a nice night.
We'll report back, deep in the Milanese night (late afternoon for you East Coast types, teatime in San Francisco).
There's too much death around today, way too much.
One can spend hours arguing the finer points of Beverly Sills's art, but the fact that Belle Miriam Silverman, a tough Brooklyn kid, managed to become the greatest coloratura soprano of her generation AND a director of an opera company AND a worldwide celebrity AND in the process managed never to take any sh*t from anybody, like evar, esp from antisemites, and was so smart that she wasn't afraid to appear alongside a bunch of lovely silly puppets, because, you know, true art does not need to take herself too seriously, leave it to mediocrities to act as if they own classical music, well, all of that is a very worthy life lesson, even if you don't like classical music that much. Such a mix of talent, humor will and downright ball$iness makes us fear -- assume? -- that we'll probably never see the likes of her again.
And since we're a Milan-based blog, here's la signora Beverly talking about her Lucia shenanigans at la Scala.
Exactly one year ago, on July 3, 2006, we learned from the Internet, that famously unreliable news source (after all, we wouldn't be a part of it if it were otherwise), the frankly unbelievable news of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's death, at the scandalously young age of 52.
What in fact happened, of course, is simply that the spaceship that had left her here with the precise assignment to show everybody on this silly planet what singing is really, really about, well, that spaceship came back -- Hunt Lieberson left this irredeemably vulgar planet from Santa Fe, by the way, and how close to Roswell is that, come on, it's just so evident -- and took her away, to where she had come from. Because celestial beings can only inhabit a place as mean and disorganized as this world only for a short little while -- just like Mozart, Dinu Lipatti, Jimi Hendrix, those other envoys coming from the same place of pure music and beauty as LHL came from, right?
This is not to say that the sadness is diminished by this fact -- to the contrary, we can only imagine the crushing sorrow that her absence has created in her splendid husband's life, and in everybody who had the monstruous luck to get to know her -- Stelle barbare, stelle spietate / Perché mai tanto rigor?, for reals.
And there's huge sadness for Opera Chic, too, who has always considered Lorraine Hunt Lieberson not just the greatest mezzo to ever appear on this planet but also her cool, cool incredibly smart and funny New Age aunt, even if OC never had the honor to meet LHL in person.
The digital coolness of CD sound will never have the magic of her voice -- digital music is after all just a very long sequence of numbers, and there's nothing mathematical about that otherworldly sound, no way.
But it's all we're left with, and we're priviliged enough because it's a lot. Just don't believe she's dead -- she's about as dead as Mozart, who was here blasting La Clemenza in Opera Chic's house just a few minutes ago (and he ate all our chocolate, too).
She's unable to take any more roles, yes. But dead? Don't be silly.
Nevermind that OC has thus given up her invitation to Katy and Andy Spade's Fourth of July barbecue in Southampton, with pastel-colored veg hawt dogs and pinwheels galore. Angela's behavior has so far been reasonably manageable, even if director Liliana Cavani has quite loudly complained with la Scala -- and also thru the press this morning -- that "she hasn't shown up a lot for the rehearsals".
But despite some Maazel choice cuts to the score, and despite some apparent truce declared by the loggione, tension remains high. Violetta here is "Maria's role", and bigger singers than Gheorghiu (for example, Mirella Freni) have been savagely booed in the past.
Finally came the music for “The Tempest,” commissioned by the Danish Royal Theatre, in 1925. Perhaps Sibelius felt some conscious or unconscious identification with the figure of Prospero, who, at the end of the play, decides to set aside his magic powers and resume a semblance of normal life:
But this rough magic I here abjure. And when I have required Some heavenly music—which even now I do— To work mine end upon their senses that This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, And deeper than did ever plummet sound I’ll drown my book.
An oppressively humid afternoon, everyone arrived at the theater 20 minutes before a torrential rain hit (how appropriate a greeting for Mahler's 5th), which thankfully chased away the hot grody polluted winds that greeted us walking down to the theater. In an Ann Demeulemeester cream cotton wife-beater tank, a Paul Smith printed cotton cardigan (green and olive mini diamonds), a pair of lightweight stretch & cropped denim Seven capris, sage alligator Tod's driving shoes, and trusty LV speedles bag (and a black metro Burberry compact umbrella inside), OC arrived just as the first big drops were beginning to fall.
Barenboim was in modified summer frac, and instead of white shirt and tie, he wore a plain black nehru shirt beneath his tails. Thankfully, there was no scolding of the audience this time, and the evening unfolded without incident. The audience was mostly seniors, with full loggione intact.
Ultimately, from the trumpet to the gigantic climax, I wasn't moved. But it was nevertheless brilliant, and I was duly impressed. Barenboim led a bright, moody, and very Mahlerian orchestra. They were immense, from the bassoons to the violas with a giant and dynamic sound.
The first two movements (Trauermarsch and Stürmisch bewegt), about 15 minutes each, were constant conflicts between light and dark, turbulence and calm. The Adagietto was angst-ridden like a surly teen, and the Rondo-Finale was well-paced for the awesome climax. At the end of the concerto, the applause was insane, with constant shouts of bravi. Barenboim must have come out to acknowledge his fans like 8x. But he gave no encore, despite the audience breaking-out in hisses of ‘bis’ for his final curtain call.
On the way to the theater, there were two giant transport buses on Via Verdi from Gerhard Kanitz Orchester und Theatertransporte, stamped with line drawing representations of the Skaatskapelle that would make any fanboy cry.
Wir fahren die Gastspielreise der Skaatskapelle Berlin!!! Maybe they were transporting mountains of Eisbein and Berliner Weiße...
We always thought the protocol was that if you own something terribly precious, you aren't really supposed to tell anyone about it. Oh that Matisse hanging to the right of the Chagall? Elmyr de Hory. My Rolex? No, no...It’s a Rolax. That LV bag? 20 bucks on Canal Street. This axiom doesn't hold true for 35-year-old Italian violinist Matteo Fedeli and his fetish for Stradivari violins, who says: "I arm myself with a gun when I play in public with my legendary violins that are worth millions of euros." Gimmick? Shenanigans? We're unsure, but we had to post it...
From the 25/27 giugno 2007 edition of Chi magazine, we found an entertaining interview with the renegade musician (there was also an interview with Katia Ricciarelli -- but priorities, people, priorities!). Fedeli first speaks about why the Stradivari violins are so unique and have such a beautiful sound, musing about the enchanted wood, the luscious lacquers, and the culmination of secrets from the Stradivari workshop.
His first encounter with a Stradivarius was when he played a 1731 Stradivari Rubinoff, which he recounts as an ecstatic, almost orgasmic trip, 'mi sentivo al settimo cielo', and realized immediately that he was destined to play the one-of-a-kind violins. His preferredinstrument? A "Franciscus Stradivarius Cremonensis Filius Antonii faciebat Anno 1713" from a private collection.
The fire-arm happy violinist takes the responsibility to carry a hand gun seriously (specifically a 357 Magnum), and by enrolling in handgun classes, now considers himself to be 'un buon tiratore'. (an excellent marksman). Ideally, the gun is implemented only as a deterrent, and he jokingly refers to himself as "Inspector Callaghan", in reference to Clint Eastwood's character from the 1971 film Dirty Harry.
Of course, his violins are insured, but he says you can never be too careful or take too many precautions. To him, it's not about the money, as he considers each violin a priceless, sentimental instrument and an irreplaceable piece of history. The emotional state he reaches when he plays one of his violins is the motivation behind keeping them so safe, and he sometimes moves between venues with one or two additionally armed bodyguards.
dees violins wont git stolen...not if i got nething 2 do with it. *polishes gun* *spits wad of tobaccy* Seriously, how gangsta is that? omg I want to rip on him so badly, but he'll prolly come after me with a rifle. He should be warned tho: I was a sureshot @ Duck Hunt.