Saturday, October 22, 2011

Giudici ad Anna? Ad Anna?!!!!!!!

I was delighted when I first learned the dear Metropolitan Opera was to produce Anna Bolena this season, and indeed Mr. Donizetti's entire Tudor Trilogy of Anna Bolena, Roberto Devereux, and Maria Stuarda over the next three seasons.  Not for nothing do I call myself a bel canto bear.  I love the music of Donizetti--the melodies, the operatic flow, the mad women.  He doesn't disappoint.

Angela Meade as Anna Bolena, 2008
Courtesy Academy of Vocal Arts
I've written about Anna Bolena before.  I've also written about Angela Meade before.  In a nutshell I'm a fan of both, and I was thrilled to be able to see Miss Meade sing this role.  I'd listened to the streaming broadcast of the Met's opening night of Anna Bolena with some other chick.  In all honesty, I think Anna Netrebko is a very fine singer in the right repertoire, but I have my doubts about whether Anna Bolena is the right role for her.  If I'd had any any doubts about Miss Meade and this role, they would have been completely laid to rest after last night's performance.  I wondered whether her singing was a little tentative in her first scene, as there were many floaty high notes but not many high notes of any volume, which can be a sign of trouble in some singers, but from "Giudici ad Anna?!" on I was sure she had her feet underneath her, and I was treated to lots of full-throated high singing and fiery temperament.  I can't compare her performance dramatically to that of Nebs, having only seen this one, but vocally I was not disappointed at all.

A surprise change was hearing the Giovanna Seymour of Katherine Goeldner, in for Ekaterina Gubanova. I thought Miss Goeldner's singing and acting were beautiful.  She has a full mezzo voice of impressive range and power, and I was quite happy she was our Giovanna. I hadn't been very happy with Miss Gubanova in the broadcast on opening night.  In her duets with Enrico and with Anna, Miss Goeldner sang beautifully and gave a powerful performance dramatically, no doubt bringing out the strengths of Miss Meade and Ildar Adrazakov as Enrico.  Although I'd heard and read reports that Mr. Adrazakov lacked dramatic impact as Enrico, I did not find him stiff or lacking in dramatic temperament, particularly when paired with Miss Goeldner.

I can't say I'd heard Stephen Costello very much before recently, and in truth I do think his voice is a little light for the role of Percy, but I also think that most of his singing last night was among the best I've heard of him.  After a tentative start, he soared in the duets and ensembles.

I quite liked Tamara Mumford, graduate of the Met's Lindermann Young Artist Program, as Smeaton.  I see great things for her in the future.  And international shirt-taker-offer and baritone Keith Miller sang beautifully as Rochefort, leaving me wanting more.  Also of his singing.

The Met chorus was predictably amazing, and the orchestra, in spite of one or two glacks and some overpowering moments, shone as well.  Although I usually don't have any complaints with conductor Marco Armiliato, at times it seemed he was mentally following the other cast from the pit.  Were I the soprano, his head would be the one to come off after the way he treated her final cadence, or lack thereof, in "Coppia iniqua".

The McVicar production.  Visually stunning.  I loved the design, the costumes, the moveable set pieces.  I liked how it seemed that Enrico's and Giovanna's costumes became more colorful as their sin, as it were, grew more flagrant.  I liked the proper use of the stage elevator for the sets.  This is the Met doing big stage machinery right, so that one is not distracted wondering what the set is going to do next as in certain other recent productions.  I quite liked the appearance of the executioner in the final moment as the set for Anna's prison chambers descended and he was standing on the floor of the set above.  I liked the sudden drop of the blood-red curtain, and liked having the executioner remain in the very same spot through the extended and appreciative curtain call.

What didn't I like?  I didn't like bits of blocking, notably the repeated unassisted kneeling and rising, that were clearly designed for another soprano, so that the Queen of England was forced to rise unassisted and look a little awkward doing so.  Even if the Queen of England were as lithe as a gymnast, she wouldn't rise unassisted.  I also didn't like the fact that the Met, which is known for not taking even traditional cuts in most operas, shortened Percy's arias and cabalettas considerably.

These are small quibbles.  Overall, I think the Met has a fine production on its hands, and I hope we see it enter the repertory for many seasons to come.  I look forward to seeing many more fine performances from Angela Meade and Katherine Goeldner at the Met and elsewhere.

And I'm happy to see Mr. Donizetti getting his due more and more.  How long before we see La Favorita at the Met?  Belisario? Poliuto? Dom Sébastien?  OK, I have a car and can go to other, more adventurous opera companies and fantasize about a more adventurous Met.


Gale Martin said...

Well done, bel canto bear. Love the wry humor, too. I listened to the opening night from the website, and I was blown away by Costello. I saw him in R&J in Philly and was left more than a little underwhelmed. But would love to see him in this show. Since that is not to be, glad I had the next best thing--your review.

GBliss said...

Excellent write up of a great evening. I was there -- a few rows higher, alas, but still appreciated the performance by Angela Meade which got stronger and stronger as the evening went on. She saved her best for it should be. She had a different take on the role, the character of Anna. Netrebko (I take it you are not a fan?) plays her as a QUEEN all the way through. Meade shows a vulnerable side where Netrebko was defiant. It was easy to see Netrebko as the one who ousted Wife #1, and was now facing the same fate but defiantly. But Meade captured the powerless reality of a those in a King's court, no matter what rank. F

For me, though THE best part was Costello. As Gale Martin said...blown away. And the ease and grace with which he sang. And the naturalness of his acting. More, please!

Dr.B said...

I want to ask your opinion. Anna Netrebko said that she listened to and adopted ideas from Maria Callas. How do you feel about this? I sort of think she may have veered off course doing this. People may aspire to Callas but not really manage it. I went back and played the video of Netrebko and DiDonato doing I Capuletti together in Paris and was stunned by the difference. Of course, I have no way of seeing Meade.

Taminophile said...

Well, Dr. B., I have a Callas recording, and I've heard the streaming broadcasts from the Vienna and Met openings with Nebs. I haven't yet done a critical comparison of them all. I think Nebs is a very fine singer in some other roles, and there are some moments in Anna Bolena that are perfectly beautiful. I really love how she can sing a beautiful line and make it seem like an endless thread of spun gold. But Anna Bolena requires more than fine legato singing.

I have no doubt that Nebs is one of those singers who is magic on stage and makes you forget about any vocal imperfecton. (I haven't seen her in the house and had to miss the HD broadcast.) Callas surely was one of those as well. (I have experience of that sort in seeing Gruberova live--simply amazing, whereas in recordings I've always found her singing like fingernails on a chalkboard, even in her prime.) In the end, however, I want the magic to be there vocally as well as dramatically. Fiery temperament isn't enough for me.

Dr.B said...

Thanks for the comment. Interesting about Gruberova. I've never seen her live, but I know they love her in Munich. Couldn't make it through the Roberto Devereaux video.

GBliss said...

Excellent point about the impact of evaluating "Nebs" based on seeing her. I confess: My evaluation is colored by having seen her in HD. She has a real stage/screen presence, and she marries her particular stage presence to her interpretation of Anna very well. When she first entered through the double doors it gave new meaning to "she took the stage."
Now, back to Siegfried on Sirrius.

Taminophile said...

You know, Dr. B., I wouldn't have been able to make it through the Roberto Devereux video either before I saw the very same production in Munich. After having seen it, not only can I watch her Roberto Devereux, I can also watch her Norma. She is magic on stage. Instead of sounding like the air brakes on a city bus, she gave the appearance of an aged diva using her vocal flaws to great dramatic effect. And let me say there was a lot of dramatic effect! (I can't think what the mental scenario inflicted on her fans in the 80s was!) If you click on the link to the right for Roberto Devereux you'll see the post I wrote about seeing it. Just before the post entitled "Dear Lord, not another concept Don Giovanni!:"

Ed Beveridge said...

Netrebko is definitely a singer you have to see live - when she's good she's mesmerising in spite of any vocal imperfections. I think Anna is a good part for her as it's not too florid (ditto Giulietta). Am seeing her in one of the Feb Met performances so I shall report back ;-)