Thursday, November 10, 2016

What? All of it? part deux

That's the title I gave to the post about Mr. Rossini's Guillaume Tell, which I was delighted to see at Caramoor in 2011 (click here to read it). I was thrilled to see a new production of Guillaume Tell at the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday evening. It's a rather long opera, but I'm happy I saw every last bit of it. Looking at the Met's online calendar, it appears there is only one more performance, on Saturday, November 12. I say go see it if you can!

Janai Brugger as Jemmy and Gerald Finley as Tell
Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
For me it's always about the singing, and I'm happy to report that I wasn't disappointed in anyone on stage. Gerald Finley, in the title role, lived up to the high regard I already had for him. His "Sois immobile", during what I call the apple scene, was a marvel of impassioned and yet legato singing, seamlessly beautiful from top to bottom. One knew the father's heartache Tell was experiencing in the moment. In every scene Mr. Finley was in, his sound and his acting were really admirable.

The role of Arnold, who falls in love with the oppressors' princess Mathilde (of course, because this is opera), is a fiendishly difficult bit of singing and acting. The role lies so high in the voice, for so long, that lighter tenor voices are sometimes erroneously cast in the role. But were it not for the ridiculous number high Cs (and above), and some difficult fast-moving passages, this might resemble a heldentenor role. I'm delighted to say that Bryan Hymel was equal to the many challenges of the role and popped off the high notes as if flicking lint off his costume. His last-act aria, "Asile héréditaire", was intensely passionate and beautiful, and deserved the many shouts of "Bravo!" from the audience. Mr. Hymel usually sings lower-lying roles like Rodolfo, Don Jose, and Pinkerton, and my friends who have heard him live more often than I have longed for the richer sound he employs in those roles.

Bryan Hymel as Arnold and Marina Rebeka as Mathilde
Photo:  Metropolitan Opera
I quite liked Marina Rebeka as Mathilde. Her sound is full and rich and even throughout. My one quibble is the way she sometimes sings pickups--one or more notes leading up to the first strong beat of a phrase--with a less full and vibrant sound. One occasionally wished for a little more graceful singing. I didn't know of Ms. Rebeka before, but her bio lists great roles like Violetta and Fiordiligi in impressive venues. I hope to hear a lot more of her. (My beloved Jennifer Rowley was covering this role, and it would have thrilled me to no end to hear her sing it!)  I also liked Janai Brugger as Jemmy and Maria Zifchak as Hedwige.

Tenor Michele Angelini is no stranger to these pages, and his performance Ruodi, the fisherman, showed the skilled and musical singing we always hear from him. I hope this leads to bigger and better roles at the Met. He's already singing lead roles in prestigious houses all over the world. Ever-reliable bass-baritone John Relyea gave us a well sung and sinister Gesler, the governor of the oppressors' state.

I can't say I'm crazy about the production by Pierre Audi and the Dutch National Opera. Aside from some stunning lighting by Jean Kalman, the whole thing left me cold. Mr. Audi's direction seemed arbitrary, George Tsypin's sets ridiculous, and Andrea Schmidt-Futterer's costumes left the poor cast and chorus looking like either Amish farmers or Israelites--except for the bad guys, who had sparkly black costumes.

As usual, however, I was crazy about the amazing Metropolitan Opera Chorus under Donald Palumbo, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under the baton of Fabio Luisi. Who doesn't love the Guillaume Tell overture, even if you're too young to have watched the Lone Ranger on television.  I'm younger than that, and I wept openly.

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