(above: Stuart Neill or Giuseppe Filianoti.......hmmmmm?)
A few choice slices of opera sashimi for OC's readers to munch on as OC -- who just got back from opening night at la Scala, the paparazzi frenzy, the following festivities and the final paparazzi chase scene before getting home -- takes a well-deserved shower.
As you already know thanks to our off-the-cuff Blackjack post from la Scala, conductor Daniele Gatti got seriously booed by part of the audience -- not hundreds of people, because the applause was there, too, but certainly the nay-sayers were not just a few lone crazies -- after the first intermission. The booing somehow got less nasty after the second intermission; and at curtain call, Gatti got ovations but also some pretty sharp boos and whistles; thankfully, for Gatti and the Scala management, the director Stephane Braunschweig and his design/costume team got massive boos, much much worse than Gatti; and the Grande Inquisitore who replaced "indisposed" (yeah, right) Matti Salminen, the Russian Anatoly Kotscherga, was probably as badly treated as the director. Most of the cast got a pretty warm reception, except Kotscherga, even Giuseppe Filianoti's last-minute replacement Stuart Neill (who got some boos, too). But the only singer to really get a big, big ovation was Dolora Zajick (probably the wildest cheering, and with good reason, was enjoyed by the Maestro del Coro, Bruno Casoni, for the reasons we'll explain in a sec).
OC's ideas of this wildly uneven night, of this awful mess of Piazza della Scala?
Very quickly, before OC writes her actual review post later (or tomorrow if she's too sleepybonZ): Gatti got booed in part because some people clearly didn't like the way Giuseppe Filianoti was replaced 24 hours before opening night -- a night televised worldwide -- by Gatti and GM Stéphane Lissner. Some, clearly didn't appreciate the somewhat untraditional way Gatti shaped the score, with some very deliberate, thoughtful tempi and some impressive accelerations -- this was not your grandmother's Don Carlo, nor was it Abbado's or Giulini's. It's a DC for the present time, with ideas, with the patience to shape slow tempi and the audacity to crank that big orchestra when needed. OC really liked Gatti's ideas -- she liked his pacing, the sheer beauty of the orchestral sound, the creamy, heartbreaking strings, the precisely calibrated brass. It's Verdi Grand Opera brilliantly analyzed through the lens of Meyerbeer and Wagner -- Gatti is a Bayreuth conductor and you're not, by0tch. Detractors think he got "too German", whatever that means, "too brash". Look, whatever. Rent Karajan's. Gatti created a lot of moments of great beauty. Probably not a general theory of Don Carlo as a whole, the way very few others did in the past, but a very worthy effort nonetheless. OC defends his work, musically.
Because it was a musically brilliant night, wrapped in the unique sound of maestro Bruno Casoni's chorus, clearly the best in the world when it comes to Verdi, certainly a top 3 (in the world) chorus for most of the rest of the repertoire. Seriously, it doesn't even translate to recordings, that magic; you hear the Scala chorus live, singing Verdi, and you get the feeling that's the sound Verdi heard in his own head as he was writing the score.
What really didn't work, and the blame is shared by Gatti and director Stephane Braunschweig for this, was the disconnect between that fantastic sound, those daring choices made by the conductor, and the singers interpretation.
It pains Opera Chic's heart that even Ferruccio Furlanetto, that maestro of unlimited powah and great charisma, only sporadically focused enough to go beyond his singing -- that was obviously very good, mostly, even it wasn't Furlanetto's best night either -- to actually create a character on that stage, to give life to Filippo II. The night's best singer, Dolora as Eboli, fighting off sharp pain in an arm she injured earlier during rehearsals, who really blessed us in the audience, created gorgeous sounds -- with truly uninspiring diction -- but again she lacked focus. Same for the flat delivery of Fiorenza Cedolins, Elisabetta, who didn't really make mistakes, good solid -- if limited -- singer that she is. The Grande Inquisitore was just bad, essentially speaking loudly, in an unclean manner also, through his part, totally killing the sense of dread that permeates this most awesome of Verdi stories -- that way, OC considers Don Carlo, far from being her favorite Verdi musically, to be the opposite of Trovatore. DC is a wonderful, touching, elaborately crafted scary story that shows like few others atheist Verdi's desperate search for meaning, while Trovatore presents a ridiculous, shallow, almost comically trashy piece of pulp that's nevertheless chock-full of fantastic, memorable tunes (try writing something as simply, genuinely touching and beautiful as "Il Balen del Suo Sorriso," Dick Wagner, you old douchebag you, OC double dares you with sugar on top).
Filianoti's replacement Stuart Neill? He actually looked like he hadn't simply replaced Filianoti -- he looked like he had eaten him. Neill, unfortunately, is a Mack truck of a man that the clueless director unmercifully forced to lie on that tomb with frankly comical results. If what you want for Scala's opening night of a major Verdi work is a tenor who actually hits the notes, probably all of them -- we didn't have a score in our Alexander McQueen purse sorry -- without charisma or sense of character, without showing that he cares about getting the girl, without really making you care for the way Destiny continually puts him in check until the final checkmate, well, if you don't care about any of that -- if you don't care about a warm, clean sound either -- then Neill did a good job as Don Carlo. This was la Scala's opening night, and he was the lead. Not enough, really. He's not bad at all, he's probably a solid singer, but not "Dec 7th at la Scala good" either.
ok shower time now later thx bi