Saturday, December 8, 2018

Being a nobleman's daughter can really suck.

Just imagine.  In the first place, is "noblewoman" a word?  In the second place, much more than the daughters of commoners and of that annoying middle class merchant and tradesman lot, you are considered property. You are traded off like a piece of jewelry for money, for commercial and political connections, possibly to ensure the peace of your homeland.

Elisabetta comforts Don Carlo at his death
Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Consider the story of poor Elisabetta di Valois in Mr. Verdi's Don Carlo. She accepts her role as goods and chattel, a tool in political negotiations. She accepts her promised marriage to Don Carlo, son of the king of a foreign land, in exchange for a promise of peace. She actually meets the prince to whom she is promised and finds he's a nice fellow, and sort of easy on the eyes. Then she finds those in power have changed their minds, and she is now promised to Don Carlo's father, King Philip. She must accept for the sake of her homeland.

That's just the beginning of Mr. Verdi's revered Don Carlo, considered by many to be his finest opera. (I sort of think choosing Verdi's finest opera is like trying to choose the best flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream--not really possible, and in the end, who the heck cares? They're all amazing!)  There is further political and romantic intrigue, pageantry, and some of the best music you will ever hear. Of that I am sure.

Simon Keenlyside and the amazing Feruccio Furlanetto
Photo: Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera
Mr. Enrico Caruso is said to have opined that all you needed for a production of Il Trovatore is the four finest singers in the world. That is also true of Don Carlo, but you need six of them! In the Metropolitan Opera's 2010 production that is available to watch on the Metropolitan Opera On Demand streaming channel, there are a great number of amazing singers. Don Carlo himself is portrayed by Roberto Alagna, and his chum Don Rodrigo is sung by the amazing Simon Keenlyside. Elisabetta is sung by Marina Poplavskaya, and King Philip is sung and acted with a ridiculous amount of skill and artistry by Feruccio Furlanetto. Conductor was Yannick Nézet-Séguin and director was Nicholas Hytner, both of whom deserve accolades unending. 

I've reviewed a 2015 revival of this 2010 production before (hyperlink). But I never tire of Verdi, and I need something to write about, so there you are. On the Metropolitan Opera's excellent On Demand streaming service is a performance from the original 2010 production.  The primary differences between this performance and the one I reviewed are Roberto Alagna, the original Don Carlo; Marina Poplavskaya, the original Elisabetta; and Anna Smirnova, the original Eboli.  So, in effect, it is the same production I saw but with a substantially different cast.

I have no complaints about this cast.  Although I'm not always sure of the roles Mr. Alagna essays, he is fully equal to Don Carlo. He is passionate, sounds glorious, and is believable with all of Don Carlo's tumultuous emotions. Ms. Poplavskaya is a lovely and conflicted Elisabetta. And we are quite in favor of Ms. Smirnova as Eboli, who must appear faithful, vengeful, and full of regret at different points in the opera. (Just as Mr. Verdi's Aida was originally to have been named for Amneris, we think some of his other dramatic mezzo roles deserve much more attention than they get!)

Photo:  Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera

Those who have access to Metropolitan Opera On Demand, I say watch this video!  Those who don't, I say seek out any live or video performance of Don Carlo you can find!  You won't be sorry. 




Friday, December 7, 2018

I should toot my own horn more.

Here is the introductory paragraph of an email I just wrote to an arts organization in Wilmington, my new city.  I sound pretty grand, don't I?

I've just moved to Wilmington, and I'd like to introduce myself.  As a former singer, I found myself writing, producing, and taking part in other ways behind the scenes with musical organizations run by friends when I was in the NYC area.  Here (hypertext link) is a link to a profile written about me during my brief run as General Manager of a now-defunct small opera group in NYC. As an amateur blogger and occasional writer for other sites and for publication, I've been granted access to wonderful performances by organizations at every professional level, from opera groups featuring young professionals--one of my favorites--to the Glimmerglass Festival, Opera Philadelphia, and even the Metropolitan Opera.  I've written in the same terms about performances I paid to see and performances for which I was given complimentary tickets as a writer.  I've profiled Lawrence Brownlee, Ian Bostridge, and Talise Trevigne, among others, for Classical Singer magazine.  There is a link below to my blog, and the sidebar links there will direct you to other sites I've written for.


Some would say I'm far too modest. Some would say this isn't an impressive list of accomplishments at all. What do you say?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Taminogasm of opera and Anglophilia

I am a huge fan of Lucy Worsley, presenter of many a BBC historical documentary. 

I have just discovered these two documentaries about opera and how it reflects history and society, and I am just spent.  I can't even think of anything to compare it to--even hyperbole seems insufficient.  Please, please, please watch!




and








You may thank me at your leisure.