For both of the past two weekends, mom and I have gone to Wolf Trap for some classical music. The first weekend, we went to the Barnes to watch the obscure 18th century comic opera L’Opera Seria, which was about a company trying to put on a serious opera that parodied much of the conventions of the genre. Then this last Saturday night, we went to the Filene Center to see the National Symphony Orchestra play a concert, which followed a symphony from Sergei Prokofiev and a suite by Maurice Ravel with the main event: Stravinsky’s The Firebird, accompanied by a show by the South African Handspring Puppet Company telling through puppetry and dance the history of their country over the last twenty years.
We are finally getting some information about Cursed Child! It’s bits and pieces getting released along with the promotional photographs, such as that Ron and Hermione are still married, which is deeply relieving; I think we’ve all had enough of fictional breakups since last December.
Although it does seem settled that the play starts just after the epilogue, since they’re talking about 19 Years Later and also Albus and Scorpius are in what the article about the latter and his father describes as pre-Sorting Hogwarts robes. That raises the question as to whether there will be a twist in what houses they end up in, especially since Rose’s robes hint she might be a Hufflepuff, although given what the article says about her, that would make for a very interesting kind of Hufflepuff. Also, Scorpius might genuinely be a nicer kid than his father was, if Rowling is saying the girls will like him. Unless she’s trolling us.
Then again, if she didn’t certain fans to still crush on Draco, maybe he shouldn’t have been so handsome!
Yesterday mom and I went to our final opera broadcast of the season: that of Gaetano Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, the completion of the Met’s staging and broadcasting of all three of his “Tudor Queen” operas four an a half years after they first aired Anna Bolena in 2011. It was a season of the familiar on the Met’s screen; they had already had Roberto Alagna and Kristine Opalais singing opposite each other in two of the broadcasted operas, and now they had Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien for the second time this season singing two points of a love triangle and seeming to be more in love with each other than with the woman involved! Although despite the title the real star was Sondra Radvanovsky singing Queen Elizabeth I. Throw in Elina Garanca, and some of the most beautiful music Donizetti’s ever written, and one’s in for an afternoon of true beauty-if, that is, you are lucky enough to be a theater where the sound is working.
Unfortunately, my mother and I were not. Instead we were in one that had continual problems with both the image and sound; they both would sometimes go smoothly for a while, then start freezing and stammering, then there would a loud burst of static and sometimes after that things would get better, but not always, and they wouldn’t stay better. During those minutes where everything was working, we could greatly admire the singing, the acting, and the drama especially during the second act, where it had better emotional effect, but then would come that stammering again and we’d be knocked out of it. The climax was intense enough that even with the sound still struggling it was easier to stay engaged with it, and yet one is still aware of how it could have been far better still, had Radvanovsky been the wall of grief and song she’s supposed to be. Also the finale wasn’t quite over when whoever was in charge of the lights thought it was and raised them!
At the intermission, as I read the Wikipedia article on the actual Robert Devereux and noted how ridiculously unlike the opera the true history was(but it’s opera; one should expect that), we also got a list of next year’s operas. Mom wants to see quite a few of them, even some of the reruns of operas we’ve seen already. I’d be for seeing some of them too, but given that apparently the sound issues were even worse when she attended the rerun of Madam Butterfly, perhaps we should look into any other cinemas doing the broadcast, and if there are any that aren’t too far away.
So they’re doing a new Harry Potter play, and they’ve cast a black actress as Hermione. By itself, that’s nice to see, but not necessarily something that means anything off the stage, any more than a white actress playing her in the films necessarily meant anything. Maybe especially so because, what with it being a play, eventually it will be produced and performed in other places, with other actors in the roles.
For yesterday’s cinematic broadcast, the Met presented what they described as a mix of opera and Broadway. Their production of the Austro-Hungarian operetta The Merry Widow was directed by big Broadway director Susan Stroman, had as its two leading ladies Renee Fleming and Broadway singer Kelli O’Hara, and was peformed in English. But after the more straightforward productions of Figaro and Der Meistersinger transmitted earlier this season were such disappointments, I, for one, was hoping the Met broadening its horizons a little might produce something better.
By the end of the first act I was on the verge of despair. The Merry Widow proves a silly farce, not nearly as funny as it thinks it it, and I suspect the English translation made it cornier. Not to mention its portrayal of the battle of the sexes is kind of offensive, even more so than one might even resign oneself to when watching opera. Meanwhile, while O’Hara was sure during her inteerview to talk about how she had studied opera in college, her abilities to sing it remain limited, as became devastating clear once Fleming showed up. And she wasn’t singing nearly enough, making it seem like even she couldn’t save the damn thing. The visuals were gorgeous, but it felt like all dressed up and no place to sing.
Thankfully after the intermission, things improved somewhat. The second act contained a bit more singing for Fleming, and also for leading man Nathan Gunn, a man described his interview as a man equally comfortable in opera and Broadway, and when given the chance did display the best of both. Then in the third act, we finally reached the showgirl dance the opera had wisely advertised itself with before the broadcast of Meistersinger, where O’Hara finally got to do something she was actually really great at, and Stroman’s skillset also showed its strength, I think. The second two acts were also when the best pieces of music in the opera started showing up, including one waltz I was stunned to hear in its original context having grown up with a kiddie birthday version of it, and most of them involved signing by Fleming and/or Gunn, which made them better. Also the comedy even *might* have gotten slightly funnier, especially when it was being carried by stage/screen actor Carson Elrod as the comic manservant.
Still, I’m really hoping Cav & Pag at the end of the season is better.
It was quite a week for Renee Fleming. Starting with her singing for probably her biggest audience ever Sunday, and finishing yesterday with her singing for moviehouse audiences around the world in the Met production of Rusalka that was very much revived sheerly so she could star in a role now extremely closely associated with her, ever since during her young years she won the Met’s National Council auditions singing its famous “Song to the Moon.” Which is all very well and good, especially since she’s great enough to make anything starring her worth seeing, except that Rusalka isn’t the most ideal showcase for such things for a couple of reasons.
For one thing, Rusalka isn’t that good an opera. In terms of music, “Song of the Moon” is nice and so is the general feel of it, but it still doesn’t have anything that carries itself the way the greater operas do. Combine that with the plot not really making sense at the time, and though it’s stronger at the ending it still leaves the singers with a lot of work to do. And then, on top of that, said plot also mutes the title character for much of the second act. One can argue that gives Fleming a chance to really show her acting ability, but her real talent is still her singing, and when the opera’s weak anyway, you spend much of the second act waiting impatiently for her to start singing again.
The cast made it worth it enough, though, with Fleming getting a good amount of help from Dolora Zajick in the first act, John Relyea getting our interest in the opera back during his long aria in the second, and Piotr Beczala holding his own during the end. The set was impressive too, especially the atmospheric first/third act set.
Taking a look at the list of ten Met Opera performances being showed at the movies next season, I’m afraid I’m rather disappointed. Anna Netrebko will likely be hopelessly miscast as Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, not only are to retransmitting multiple productions they’ve done already, but the shows getting shown again aren’t even their best, and to be honest I have limited interest in seeing a couple of the other operas; Cosi fan tutte in particular I think I’ll care to skip. Though it is amusing to have Robert Alagna doing one of the reruns again. Perhaps their advertisement for seeing these productions is that they’ve got Alagna in them this time(except George Gagnidze did not make the best Scarpia, and now for some inexplicable reason they’ve failed to replace him). One wonders why they didn’t get him for them the first time around, but never mind. Similar is La Cenerentola with its all-star cast, except they have a newbie as Dandini, which is silly of them, since that’s the guy who’s supposed to steal the show, and without a reliable guy there DiDonato is not enough to lure one in, perhaps.
After the Verdi anniversary fest that was this year in opera(the Met wasn’t the only one participating), it seems next year they want to do Russian-themed operas, with three of them being so themed. And being a skating fan, of course I’ll be interested in seeing Prince Igor, and Ildar Abdrazakov is more of a singer to look forward to than Netrebko, thankfully. Though the real cast to look forward to is for this Massenet opera; since I’m skipping the Wagner tomorrow, it’ll be far too long since I’ve seen Jonas Kaufman, and I’ve seen Elina Garanca make bad opera good and good opera better, so whichever Werther happens to be that should be all right. And for holdover Verdi, Falstaff should be interesting as well.
The Met’s broadcast season is now well underway, and I have finally managed to get through one of their operas without getting too strong a headache to write about it afterwards(happening way too much to me at the movies lately; I had one after Skyfall too), but there’s really not much to say about La Clamenza di Tito.
It would take Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue to lure me into a wooden “tent” structure cooled only by fans on a hot DC July weeknight; this is the third show by them I’ve seen at the Fringe. We didn’t see them last year, though, and I think since then they’ve had some personnel change, and maybe gotten a little tired, because I didn’t absolutely love their presentation of the Bronte siblings and their lives the way I had the first two shows I’d seen.
It was still good. They know how to be lively even in the heat, which they even made references to in the show, I enjoyed the music, with the occasional borrowed line or so from the Beatles, and they showed they certainly don’t stick to the usual fare; instead of doing the story of Jane Eyre, as one would expect, they combine a send-up of Wuthering Heights with a circus rendition of Anne Bronte’s life(with a joke they aren’t talking about her books because noone’s read them; when my mom indicated she was the only person the audience who had Anne actually ran over and hugged us for it!), and letting us learn about the existence of her and even of their brother Branwell, whom even I hadn’t heard of before, mostly because he never had anything published. In fact, more than anything else, they draw attention to how sad and short the lives of all four Brontes really were(though that resulted in one joke my parents didn’t get, since they didn’t know the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper”).
But the splitting of the show up into multiple stories I don’t think quite suited the style that way; in the end one was left with way too little of Charlotte, certainly, and a couple of the musical numbers ended up being repetitive of each other. I was left feeling there could have been more from it. Or maybe I was just overheated?
It was arguably a little risky for the Met, broadcasting two tragic operas about two fallen women, both advertised on the star power of their prima donna, only a week apart from each other; they broadcast Jules Massenet’s Manon last weekend and La Traviata this weekend. Though as characters Manon & Violetta are actually pretty different, and the productions were almost opposite in approaches.