Tuesday, April 19, 2011

James Levine and Diana Damrau

Over the past two weeks, two artists, in their respective engagements at the Met, have stood out for their brilliance. Ms. Damrau stared as the Countess in Rossini's Le Comte Ory, opposite Juan Diego Flórez and Joyce Di Donato. Mr. Levine ran Wozzeck, like nothing less than a king, in the pit.
To have a Rossini cast with these three singers is an impressive feat by itself. Mr. Flórez is as best as Rossini tenors come. His high notes are packed with precise energy that resonates unhinged throughout the house. Ms. Donato is a power-house bel-canto mezzo, whos tone is really close to shinny gold. Ms. Damrau, on the other hand, has all these vocal highlights required of a star (for years, her calling card was the Queen of the Night, okay?), but she also combines them with a nuanced and outrageous stage performance. It is almost as if she takes the stage directions only as a starting point, and then just luxuriates them to the point of ridiculous entertainment. In a comic opera like Le Comte Ory, she consistently reminds us why the opera buffa tradition had the same purpose as contemporary Broadway musicals do- it is approachable by just about anyone and it is hilarious when done right. Last season I saw her in La Fille du Régiment, and have never laughed harder at an opera. She consistently shines, bounces around, resonates, and is never ever stagnant.
Maestro Levine, despite his recent ailments and cut-back schedule, still brings enough punch to the orchestra and the singers to shut up the critics who say he's old. In everything I've ever seen him conduct, his fresh energy and tender humanity would make anyone listening to the recording think he was 25. There is a reason he attracts to much respect in the opera world- the affect just doesn't get better than when he is in the pit. A while ago I wrote that the deep level of connection he makes with his musicians must be something magical. With Wozzeck, this shit just became divine.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wozzeck- less than 24 hours

"Wozzeck is an authentic renewal of the German tradition of symphonic drama. The five scenes in each act play continuously, linked by interludes, and organized by leitmotifs and recurrent harmonies. And while Berg perfected the hypermodern idea of symbolic characterization ('Captain', 'Doctor', 'Drum-Major', etc.), his musical portraiture is as fine and precise as anything in German opera since Mozart. The humanizing of the potentially subhuman Wozzeck and Marie through the music they sing is one of the great miracles of 20th-century theatre."
-New Penguin Opera Guide

Oh my freekin' GOD. I can't wait for tomorrow's performance...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Awesome Sound of Dorothea Röschmann

This past Sunday I bought a last minute ticket to see the soprano, Dorothea Röschmann in concert with the countertenor, David Daniels. The program was all Handel, and they sang it beautifully, touching the audience with outpours of emotion and clarity. Their level of musicianship seemed to take the audience by surprise - the level of applause and cheers steadily roze with each aria or duet, and no one wanted to let them leave after the third encore. I have been in love with Ms. Röschmann's voice for a while now, as I practically made a pilgrimage to Salzburg this summer to see her in Don Giovanni. She has the emotional fragility of Maria Callas, as she fully embodies her characters. This is somebody who touches that place deep down inside you, (sorry, Ms. Fleming). On Sunday I seemed to be pulled out of consciousness every time she sang, not simply marveling at her astonishing technique and full voice, but believing for a second that she was the goddess she looked like.
Ms. Röschmann has had an entirely Mozart run thus far at the Met, starting in 2003 with the Countess in Figaro, the following year as Pamina in Julie Taymour's new Magic Flute of 2004, Ilia from Idomeneo in 2006, and as a last minute step-in as Donna Elvira in Gon Giovanni in 2008. I hope somebody from the Met was at the concert this past Sunday. She reminded New Yorkers that Mozart is not her only calling card, and that her career shows no signs of waning. Anyone who can mesmerize an audience like she did deserves to have the opera world at her feet.