Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ranking the Simulcasts 2008

Compared to last year we see a trend toward more progressive, up to date productions at the Metropolitan Opera. We will try to assess whether this is a good or a bad thing while ranking the simulcasts. In my opinion nothing this year achieved the perfection of last season's Eugene Onegin.

I'm going to rank a comedy first this year, after saying I wouldn't last year. La Fille du Regiment with Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez was simply a treat. The production is sweet, but could not be imagined with anyone other than Natalie. Juan Diego is beautiful, but it is Natalie's acting that puts this one over the top.

Romeo et Juliette. was utterly charming, but a couple of flubs kept it out of first place. The mask flirtation was a wonderful touch. The production must be criticized for its mystical symbolism. I never want the production to distract me from the action. I never want to be sitting there wondering what the hell all that meant while the opera is going by unnoticed. I ranked this second for Netrebko. Alagna was cute, but I couldn't help wishing for Villazon.

For me Maria Guleghina as Lady Macbeth brought Macbeth into third place. This was Verdi's favorite opera, and she is the first soprano to make me realize why. The modern production didn't bother me.

Fourth is Peter Grimes. I think it was as good as Peter Grimes could possibly be.

Franco Zeffirelli'a La Boheme is a blast from the past. There's nothing exactly wrong with it, but its fussiness and excessive detail make it out of date. It was wonderful to finally see Angela Gheorghiu's Mimi.

I rank Tristan und Isolde next. I'd already seen the production with Heppner and Eaglen and hated it then, too. I especially hated the little hut in the middle of the stage that looks like an elevator cage. Here's an idea--perhaps it is an elevator cage! Deborah Voigt was fabulous, but it wasn't a great Tristan.

For me the food obsessed Hansel and Gretel is pure Regietheater, and Christine Schaefer as Gretel and Alice Coote as Hansel were not able to redeem it. It's dead last.

The quality of opera from the Metropolitan Opera is very high. The big news of the season was casting problems: Ben Heppner, Rolando Villazon, and whoever it was who was supposed to sing Macbeth. The substitutes were all fine if not exactly great.

I did not see Manon Lascaut and cannot rate it. I apologize.

No comments: