(above: impromptu promo space outside of the Metropolitan Opera for La Fille du Régiment.)
We were privy to ours in Milan one year & two months ago, Vienna had theirs one year ago, and now it's New York's chance to hear the applause-inducing man-chine that is Juan Diego Flórez perform his vocal-chord-defying bravado by encoring, "Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!" (o hai utubes has the clip from the same production) with the "Pour mon âme" cabaletta. For this Donizetti La Fille du Régiment, Flórez belted eighteen high C’s in the span of mere minutes, and effortlessly attacked, strong-armed, devoured and digested those pesky notes.
Flórez. The man should change his name to singular form like Madonna or Elvis, Beyonce or Liberace. He's the perennial favorite, the undefeated champion of high C's. o lawdy i'm still shaking like a leaf. ok, playin. When he encored "Ah! mes amis" at the end of Act I, OC was all like 'o hai this again?' I mean, it's like kinda how Milan is at any given time 6-hours ahead of NYC, so I guess all those extra hours added up, and you NYers got your high C "Pour mon âme" encore in some weird time warp fourteen months later. :-P~~
For the Metropolitan Opera encore, Flórez hit his high C’s effortlessly and confidently, without breaking a sweat, much less staccato from the dress rehearsal, but with a definitive crystalline punch. It was delivered with a lovely bel canto that warmed and froze the clearly smitten Metropolitan audience simultaneously. After three minutes of applause he stood perfectly still with a bowed head, breaking only once to acknowledge the audience. After his amazing encore, the packed house gave him a standing ovation.
The other Flórez crowd-pleaser was his Act II, “Pour me rapprocher de Marie,” an extraordinarily paced aria that he sung sumptuously, with perfect pitch and a delicate, mature understanding, which provided a lovely contrast from his more aggressive and high-energy "Ah! mes amis". Another Flórez accomplishment of the night is his apparent weight gain, which must account for a delicious wedding cake. He looks amazing, a far cry from a sickly, gaunt, thin tenor we flinched at when we saw just three months ago at la Scala in recital.
Onto the performance: fo’reals, if u want a perfect synopsis of the operatic arc, go here to OC’s La Fille dress rehearsal review from Friday, April 18, 2008.
Not terribly much had changed with the staging, although obvs, cast & crew gave like 125.9%. N e wais...Marco, marco, Marco: tonight's conducting by Maestro Armiliato, an unsung conductor with a passion for strong, driven performances and famous among orchestras for his memory (glancing @ scores is 4 lam3rZ) was elegant, once again...animated, sprite, infectiously joyful, but a few instances were just too muscled and large for la Dessay and the ensemble.
OC noticed that some of the visual gags had been completely cut from Laurent Pelly’s direction, and the comic relief had been overall toned down. This fared well for everyone, audience included, as when the giggling got out of hand, harsh shushing erupted from quite a few patrons. Tiny things were cut, which nevertheless went a long way to create a more seamless drama -- as opposed to the dress rehearsal with the constant vie @ visual gags that gave a disjointed, unhinged, and irritated feel to many of the dramatic moments.
The chorus still needs to spend some extra time doing crunches or drills or whatever will not make them almost drop the entire "Allons, plus d'alarmes!" on the stage floor, a moment at the beginning of Act I when OC truly thought that things were going to quickly fall apart, messy, slimy pits all over the floor. Harrowing.
What killed was the not so analogous props during Act I. Here we have Marie doing her awesomely choreographed ironing routine, "Au bruit de la guerre", and in the background are all the laundry washing tools from WWI…like the wooden slat washboard and big iron tubs...yet la Dessay is hemming away at the ironing board with a white plastic iron, something you'd pick up at Sears. It was lost on me. Is it a statement on feminism? Cuz I ain't no Gloria Steinem.
Although on paper & paychex it was JDF's night, the evening belonged to la Dessay. Flawless dialogue crackled through Act I, along with a gorgeous coloratura that she controlled even as she was carried offstage horizontally or flopped over piles of laundry. She is one of the most musically spirited singers on stage, with excellent control, flawless diction, and face it...she's just frikking kewl. She slays you with a huge voice that betrays her lithe body, unleashed at the most unexpected moments, peeling and flaying the gold leaf off the highest rows in the Family Circle. (While we're at it: Gelb, my man, during your reign, plz rename "Family Circle" to something a little edgier. I mean, what the hell? Family Circus, my Disney a$$. Rename it after one of Dante's Circles of Hell. Anything. Something.)
Dessay gorgeously belted her tireless voice throughout the gigantic armory that they call The Metropolitan Opera house, a feat which is quite a challenge stacked against the smaller, more intimate opera houses in Europe. "Chacum le sait, chacun le dit" started with confident, secure top notes, and ended without straining, filled to the end with gorgeous coloratura, soaring and rich, all the while Dessay acted-off her felty 21st Regiment pants.
Act II's "C'en est donc fait" received one of the highest regards of the evening from the audience, who threw down a chilling tsunami of brava at la Dessay. She was inundated with so much applause, that she sprung forth from the 21st Regiment, motioned for the audience to stop the applause with a decisive cut of her arms, and then leapt back comically and egregiously to her blocked-out position.
This performance, the Marquise of Berkenfield and the Duchess of Krakenthorp had toned-down the interjections of Americanisms, and Krakenthorp seemed a bit detached, less fierce, but both characters still brought the el oh els.
During curtain call, Dessay came out holding Maestro Armiliato's baton, brandishing it at the audience as she took her bows. Between acts, there were too many B-C-D celebrity sightings to relay, but before the opera began, Florez's new father-in-law was front & center on the grand staircase with a posse of fellow blonds, La Trappa looked vary dazzling in Swarovski, and many of the famous faces from the Honorary Committee were in attendance glaming-up the place (check out the names below, click 4 bigger). It was a rilly rilly random mix...Gossip Girl Leighton Meester? hellys naw. Rufus...again with his mother? Yawnz0r. Naomi Campbell in a black jacket and black pants; Stefano Pilati in a weird sparkly YSL cardigan and bedroom slippers; Chuck Close; Olatz Schanbel, designer of US$ 400 plush bathrobes and nice pj's, always a woman of breathtaking beauty, living evidence of her big fat hairy genius of a pajama-wearing husband's impeccable taste, in stunning red; Emmy Rossum in sky-high heels and a sweet black puffy dress; and UFO-like sightings of Anna Wintour, but OC didn't spy her; Susan Graham munching at the first intermission; & most disheartening of the night? JDF colleague Ramón Vargas booking out of the front doors 15 minutes before show time and rushing-off into the approaching dusk. We <3 u Vargas…stay 4 teh show!
We at Team OC are happy that New York City can finally bask in the glow of that same magic we had @ la Scala 14 months ago, when Juan Diego Flórez encored "Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!" We're like the first ones who could sit through Flórez singing a triple-header of Wagner's Ring Cycle without any intermissions, but to be quite honest, tonight's encore felt like sloppy seconds.
(above: Gossip Girl Leighton Meester @ the MET for la Fille)
(above: Rufus Wainwright @ the MET for La Fille with his mam)
(Stefano Pilati and La Naomi)
Olé for Olatz!