Monday, February 15, 2010

Hopelessly in Love

Meridith McNeal, Giulietta, 2010, sheet music and libretto Les contes d'Hoffmann, velvet ribbon, rhinestones and mannequin

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eugene Onegin

ust watched Eugene Onegin on DVD. This was filmed live at the Met in 2007. The title character was sung by Dmitri Hvorostovsky; Renee Fleming sang Tatiana, and Ramon Vargas (who I saw in the DVD of La Boheme) sang Lensky.

Somehow I was both very drawn into this opera and very unmoved by it. That is, I had no trouble watching the four hours and 18 minutes of the performance. I was sucked in. On the other hand, I didn't respond to it emotionally; it didn't choke me up the way Der Rosenkavalier, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, and Simon Boccanegra did. Part of it might be that it isn't easy to watch an opera on DVD on my computer. It just isn't that comfortable.

Anyway, Renee Fleming was great. Interestingly, she seemed to sing in a slightly lower register. In fact, I think this opera had a lot of mezzos, and maybe even a few contraltos. It was very pleasant to hear these deeper female voices. Eugene Onegin is a cold character who later feels love and remorse, and while Hvorostovsky had no trouble communicating the chilly aspects of Onegin, the warmer, more passionate and more complex emotions didn't really come out. I find it hard to believe that Hvorostovsky isn't cold and arrogant in real life. Ramon Vargas had an exceptionally beautiful aria right before the duel.

The production was very sparse, which accentuated the drama and the emotion, and Tchaikovsky's music was beautiful. There were a lot of long stretches where there wasn't any singing, just the music moving the story along, and those were very effective moments.

Oh, and I didn't mind the Russian at all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Parsons Dance, "Remember Me"

Well folks, the moment has come. It's time to add "rock opera" to our list of labels.

Last night, for my birthday, I went to see Parsons Dance at The Joyce Theater. I've wanted to see them for years, and even have a DVD about them in my Netflix queue.

The evening's program was one long rock-opera piece, except it started with what I believe is one of their signature dances, Caught. This short piece features a solo dancer leaping to pounding music in pitch darkness and a strobe light. The timing is so exact that he is caught in midair leaps for split seconds and the effect is that it appears as if he's flying. It was completely gorgeous and astounding.

The rock-opera piece, however, Remember Me, was not entirely successful. The music was art-rock renditions of opera classics such as the Habanera and Nessum Dorma (both which I now easily recognize), and they were performed by two singers who were on stage the whole time. The large, haunting, dramatic sound reminded me of what I think the Freddie Mercury/Monstserrat Caballe must have been like. The music was very, very cheesy and I found the singers presence to be distracting. I just wanted to see the dance.

The dance was amazing. Yes, it had cheesy narrative elements, sort of a love triangle, but the power of the choreography was fantastic and once I got passed the cheese factor I was thoroughly immersed and am now a big fan of this company. Can't wait to watch the DVD and am looking forward to seeing them again some time.

Oh, one thing I particularly enjoyed about this piece was at the end each dancer took a bow and on a the screen behind them their name appeared. I thought it was a very beautiful way of giving them recognition and it resonated with the piece as a whole (Remember Me)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Opera on Tap at Barbes

Tonight I saw Opera on Tap perform at Barbes. The theme for the evening was "Don't Trust Anyone (Much) Over Thirty."

It featured the work of contemporary young composers which was very interesting for me, although I don't have quite the ear for it.

It made me once again realize how much of classical music one unwittingly absorbs from the culture. Because of this, even though opera was initially unfamiliar to me, there actually was an underlying familiarity with the classic classical material, a sort of vague sense memory.

The contemporary stuff I heard tonight is not quite as comforting. It was also unusual hearing everything sung in English, which was surprisingly unnerving. There's something about not understanding the words that somehow draws me in. Ironically, tonight, even though I could understand what was being sung, I didn't really listen to the words. What's more, all the words were adapted from poetry I was familiar with: Shakespeare's Sonnets, Whitman, Creeley.

I don't mean to sound like I didn't enjoy the night. The performances were fabulous, and I did actually get into the music. In fact I was riveted, literally on the edge of my seat the whole night. It was just a very different kind of opera going experience.