I almost wish that had been the case Friday night, Nov. 30, with Un Ballo in Maschera.
|Sara Krulwich/The New York Times|
A very important part of the confusing scenery was a large painting of Icarus. An uncredited program article about the production compares the fate of Icarus, when the joy of flight caused him to ignore his father's warnings to stay away from the sun, for his wings were made of wax, to Gustavo/Riccardo's hedonistic plight. I'm not buying it. Icarus and his Dad-alus were fleeing Crete, not out for a joy ride. I don't quite understand why Oskar (well sung by Kathleen Kim) is wearing the wings, both at beginning and end. Is he supposed to be a little Gustavo?
As I have said in other reviews, it's really hard to ruin Verdi for me, try as you might. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi led a quite lovely performance vocally and musically. Ensembles were well paced and tight, and of course the Met orchestra and chorus met their usual high standard.
|Marcelo Álvarez - Picture © Sasha Gusov|
Dmitri Hvorostovsky is the reigning Verdi baritone at the Met nowadays. He's quite handsome, he sings well, and he knows his repertoire. But I can't think it's coincidence that it was during his scenes as Renato (I'm sorry, but I am not going to the trouble of typing Angkarström every time) that the weariness of the day found the evening's least resistance from excitement and passion. Having said that, I will say that he, like everyone else in the cast, was on fire in the last act. Renato's Act IV aria "Eri tu" brought my opera-going companion to tears. Considering my friend's wealth of knowledge and experience is easily twice my own, I take that as very high praise indeed of Mr. Hvorostovsky's performance.
Sandra Radvanovsky. I have stated publicly I'm not a big fan of hers, and my opinion hasn't changed. However, having on Friday evening much better seats than I'm accustomed to, I could see some of the passion that thrills audiences so. I still find her singing a little harsh at times, particularly in the upper middle voice. (What I call the Straits of Hell in my own feeble attempts to sing.) I know this is ungentlemanly to say, but to me she doesn't sound like a first-string soprano. I don't consider her the equal of Álvarez and Hvorostovsky. Still, there were moments of beauty, and one believed her as Amelia.
|Stephanie Blythe in an earlier, saner production of Ballo|
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
My overall impressions of the evening? Verdi sure knew what he was doing, didn't he?! For any opera to defy the Met's attempts at complete destruction and yet allow me to leave humming its beautiful melodies instead of fuming about the production is remarkable. I left thinking "I should pull out that score and look at it!" rather than "Make it stop! Make it stop!"