Director's Cut #4

End of the Month Missive - 31 October 1999
In which Kent offers Brief Reports on Three Met Performances
and An Editorial Comment on the New York City Opera

Moses und Aron - October 7, 1999 -- On the strength of newspaper reviews, I bought a standing room ticket for one of this season’s few performances of this opera. The work made little impression on me last spring. Little has changed. It was evident that the production is tighter, and the principals much more sure of themselves. Still, I found myself longing for “real” music. Maybe someday I’ll respond to the elusive beauty of this score. But, for now, I was happy to get home and listen to Saint-Saens’ suffering Hebrews. Now, that’s music that grips my viscera and shakes hard.

Otello - October 12, 1999 -- How fortunate I am to have seen two Otellos this season. I had been somewhat reserved in my opinion of Ms. Frittoli after the first Otello of the season but am happy to report that, in her final Desdemona of the season, she demonstrated that she is remarkable in this role. She sang and played the role with a great deal more confidence. I find her voice surprisingly even from top to bottom, it is a warm, generous sound with an impressive dynamic range. Her Desdemona is full of life and emerges as a major “player.” Here we had a battle between the active “goodness” of Desdemona, and the inherent malignance of Iago for claim to Otello’s soul. The result was superb theatre and wonderful music making.

Aida - October 20, 1999 -- I went to this performance hoping that Deborah Voigt would finally convince me that she can sing Verdi, too. But, although there was much vocal beauty and more detail than usual her in acting, I was frustrated that is just didn’t hang together. When she sings Strauss, Wagner and Beethoven there is a synthesis of character, music, voice and artist that is electric. With Verdi, the connection just isn't there and the result was a strange sort of disembodiment at the core of the performance. Olga Borodina’s Amneris was a revelation. She is sexy, smart and confident. (Not to mention that she looks great on stage!). Her singing was lush. As an actor she is in-the-moment through out. Her intentions are clearly played and she truly captures the ambivilence and fustration of this power-house character. Her belief in the given circumstances is so strong that the big moments are relly big, but never awkward. While Carlo Rizzi just barely held things together in the pit, he certainly can get the orchestra to play loudly.

The New York City Opera - A Eulogy
I have been a big fan of the City Opera. As a matter of fact, the most engrossing performances I saw last season were at the State Theater. I am so disturbed, however, by their decision to employ electronic “acoustical engineering” that I’ve not seen any of their performances this year. The reports from those who been range from outrage and complaint that the sound is distorted, to claims that no difference is there to be heard.

I fear that there is no hope that opera will remain free from an electronic process interrupting the line of communication between singer and audience. Eventually - probably in the next few weeks -- I’ll give in and have a listen for myself. But it will be a sad day. Soon, all too soon, I shall be one of the “old fogies” who complains the passing of a Golden Age - the last times when the voice we heard in live performance was the voice of the singer. But while that’s still a possibility - that’s where I’ll spend my opera dollar.

Summary Production Information:
Moses und Aron - Cond.: James Levine; Moses: John Tomlinson; Aron: Philip Langridge; production: Graham Clark.

Otello - Cond.: James Levine; Desdemona: Barbara Frittoli; Otello: Plácido Domingo; Iago: James Morris; production: Elijah Moshinsky

Aida - Cond.: Carolo Rizzi; Aida: D. Voigt; Amneris: Olga Borodina; Radames: Fabio Armiliato; Amonasaro: Nicolai Putilin; production: Sonja Frissel

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