Opera Chic had quite a day today buzzing around Lincoln Center, while sampling all the delish treats of the Gelb Revolution. Btw, the Gelb Revolution will
not be televised (and y'all know you're gonna watch it!) I'll get to the auxiliaries tomorrow, including the "Maestro's Secret Music" (Arturo Toscanini artworks collection in Avery Fisher Hall), and the dazzling "Maria Callas & Swarovski: Jewels on Stage" exhibition from the subterranean dungeon of the MET Opera house.
Although it is cold as balls in New York City, that didn't stop Opera Chic from braving the razor-sharp winds to support Maestro Muti, who appeared earlier this evening with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall.
Since I hate traveling with my vintage pieces, and I prefer to pack my luggage lightly, I had to fall back partially on my cache of clothes and accessories that I had left behind with family when I moved to Italy. Therefore, I set out for my adventures today in a curious mélange, wearing nothing terribly exciting save a high collar, black cashmere lady coat from Armani, and a Loro Piana gray cashmere winter cape.
Tonight’s program at Avery Fisher Hall at first seemed disjointed, curated from composers Giuseppe Martucci, Giuseppe Verdi, and Ottorino Respighi. Aside from the fact that they are all Italians, they actually are all linked tenuously through Martucci, which was explained in the program notes from the evening.
The concert opened with Martucci's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat", with the brilliant Gerhard Oppitz flawlessly playing the cadenzas. The grand piano was situated stage center, flanked by the orchestra, which stood between Muti and the audience. A Muti sandwich, if you will. But the positioning was teh suck for me (as I was in orchestra front) because Muti was blocked behind the giant hull of the piano lid. But the awesomeness of that proximity paid-off, and I was able to hear Muti sigh and wheeze, and fret about the music, stomping his feet across the podium during the crescendi. Pretty f**king sweet!
The first movement of the Martucci piano concerto, Allegro giusto, was lol giusto lol. No. It was actually a very symphonic, big sound. The second, Larghetto, was astonishingly lyrical. The finale was adequately bright. Gerhard Oppitz played blithely, and had no problem keeping up with Muti's tempi. Fun fact: The New York Philharmonic's previous performance of this work was only twice: February 21 & 24 in 1911. Go Muti Go…with your obscure and esoteric snobbery!
Muti was suited in delicate eyeglasses, frac, and that lovely shade of dark grey that he is currently rawking on top. Muti unfortunately seemed distant and a bit aloof. This was a different Muti that I had seen in Ravenna just last month conducting Don Pasquale. He was detached and somber, a little lethargic. And the overall sound was a bit on the muddied spectrum. Of course, he still conducted flawlessly (as always).
Then intervallo: *reads program* *checks mobile phone* *txts Italian friends: OMG MUTI IS ALL UP IN THIS PIECE*
During the intermission, the piano was wheeled away. Yay! Muti's podium was pulled shallow, leaving il maestro in plain view. The first work after intervallo was Verdi's "Ballet Music" from Macbeth. As the story goes, Verdi had written the opera in 1864 without any sort of ballet. However, the French publisher Léon Escudier, in anticipation of the April 21, 1865 la prima at the Théâtre-Lyrique in Paris, asked the Italian composer to add a ballet. The playbill goes on to say, "In 1865 the composer revised the opera to include a ballet — de rigueur for anyone who had aspirations of producing an opera in Paris. The members of the infamous Jockey Club who attended the ballet called the shots: they wanted to see their favorite dancers on stage—and backstage after the performance as well." Well, Verdi obliged, and we now find the ballet early in Act III. Fun fact: The New York Philharmonic only played this once before—on April 3, 1957 with Mitropoulos conducting.
Now onto the final work: Respighi's Feste romane, a quirky highlight of the evening. A colorful story evolves through the music, which is easily followed via the personification of the instruments. There’s the drunk guy, the witch, the lions, etc. This work is just so much fun, and a complete orgy of brass. It's a dirty, ugly, brash sound, which begins in the visceral first movement, Circus Maximus. Brass-heavy composition, this work is more like a trumpet concerto (three trumpet players were stationed up in the second tier balcony, which were supposed to be an ancient Roman brass/horn instrument called buccine.) Through the next three movements (The Jubilee, Oktoberfest, and Epiphany), there was a dizzying array of instruments, including sleigh bells, a glockenspiel, two pianos, and a mandolin. It was insane. Muti was very deft at weaving it all into a coherent pallet. He took away the sappiness and sentimentality of the composition, and gave it dignity and grace. He suffused it with depth. Muti rawks my socks. Fun fact: The world premiere was with the New York Philharmonic on February 21, 1929 in NYC, conducted by Toscanini.
The reception after the finale was lukewarm. Is it the Carlo Fontana fall-out? The Muti backlash? A standing ovation…but really what doesn’t get a standing ovation these days? The New York audience can suck it. WTF NYC? This is pandemic! First Darfur, now Muti. I fear what is next!
Well, whatevs. I dosed on Muti cowbell, suckas!