So, I did not write about 3 of the operas I saw in New York. Or, for that matter, the operas I saw in Australia last year. (more anon) But I do need to look back and describe some stuff, because it feels a bit undone, as I approach my first opera of the year, to have not written about some of the best things I have seen, that happened last year.
So first, I did see some operas here. Love for 3 Oranges, which was amazing, and the Pearlfishers, which was less so.
So, for those that do not know, Love... is a farcical tale of fantasy and true love triumphing over evil, and features Prokofiev's challenging music Its a light hearted romp full of fun and craziness, with a cast that showcased just how good Opera Australia can be, when they trust in their own performers, and work as a team. It also featured the best performances I have seen from most of the leads featured (Rosario, being funny and singing beautifully, Kanen Breen showing that however good he is in other things, he is an amazing physical comic). It was so good, I actually saw I twice. Because, the first time, Kanen (and a few others) were sick, and there was a bunch of roles shuffled around to cover. It was fun, but the second time, with the leads as planned, it was stunning.
Pearlfishers, on the other hand... Well, yes, it was sung beautifully. The cast worked well together. The imported star (Pavol Breslik) did not stand head and shoulders above everyone, but fitted in with the standard of the rest quite well (Jose Carbo, Daniel Sumegi and Ekaterina Siurina) But, in this case, the director tried to work around the problematic tale by changing some of the characters to try make it less "white men judging the foreigns". The problem is, I think he made it worse, by making the two male leads ex pats. Well, that was the way it felt to me.
So, to the rest of my fabulous stint in New York. Yes, I got to see the Nina Stemme and Stuart Skelton show, and yes, it was every bit as amazing live as I expected. Possibly more so than I expected, because the modernisation of the production worked better than I feared. Yes, if I knew Tristan better, I might think otherwise, but for me, it worked. It was the first time seeing the opera and, as an introduction, it was pretty amazing. And yes, if the cast was not so fabulous, it would have been quite tiring at times. But Nina, Stuart, Rene Pape, Evgeny Nikitin and Neal Cooper, all were amazing. Not to mention the surprise of Ekaterina Gubanova as Brangaene, who left me wondering why had I never heard of her before. She should go straight to the top of the list of mezzos to sing Wagner, her voice fitted right in alongside the starry names and staked a claim for similar recognition. I will also say, seeing those performers up close and hearing THAT ORCHESTRA from the third row, well, it really is astonishing. Talk about wallowing in sound!
Then there was the tragedy that is Jenufa, Janaczek's tale of woe in a small village. Once again with an astonishing cast, singing the snot out of their roles. Karita Mattila, having recently given up singing Jenufa, now sings the Kostelnicka. And how! Oksana Dyka proving once again, that she is great in Eastern European roles, as the tragic title role. Not to mention, Joseph Kaiser and Daniel Brenna as the competing tenors, and Hanna Schwartz (!) as the grandmother, Maria Zifchak as the Old Shepherdess and Elizabeth Bishop as the Mayor's wife. I mean, seriously! That is a cast!!! And yes, this was seen from the cheap seats, but, again, such great voices, and performers, there was no doubting the intensity..
Then we had Don Giovanni, the matinee that was used for the "Live in HD at The Met" performance. To be honest, I am not sure that DonG works well in such a barn of a theatre. Yes, the leads sang well, yes the set was quite clever in how it worked. But... Trying to make what is an intimate opera work to the back of the Met? Yeah, I am not convinced. Maybe it was just let down by a comparison with some of the other shows? But, despite the great cast (especially Paul Appleby as a non wimpy Don Ottavio) I was still left thinking this is something that needs to feel intimate, you need to be able to almost feel the heat of the flames licking at DonG's feet as his fate is realised. And that is something you will never feel from the balcony at the Met. Not, that I regret going, just it was a good reminder that opera works better in smaller theatres, and that big barns of theatres are an aberation, born of a bigger is better mentality in the USA. Which, while it can work well with somethings, will never work well with the many small scaled works that make up much of the repertoire.