Sunday, October 2, 2011

Turandot at the San Fransisco Opera

Tonight I saw Turandot at the San Francisco Opera. I got $30 tickets through work, and, as I don't really know any opera lovers out here (yet), I went by myself.

I have to say, going to the opera alone really does take a fair amount of the fun out of the experience. (An opera just isn't an opera without Meridita) But I did my best. I got there early and enjoyed a plate of prawns and lentils in the house's downstairs restaurant, with a glass of wine, of course.

This was my second Turandot, and although I appreciated the story much more the second time around, I think I prefer the Met's production. The set tonight was designed by David Hockney and it had bold, flat colors -- fire engine red against black or Mattise-blue. It just had a cut out cartoony feeling to me, at least compared to the Met's lavish set. Also, at the Met I've almost always had orchestra seats, and these were grand tier and were farther away. It was actually a little difficult to hear the singers at some point.

Calif (Marco Berti) sang well but I wasn't drawn by his performance and he really does need to carry the whole opera. Although the Nessum Dorma totally sucked me in. It's just such stirring music; you can feel the whole audience holding its breath. As in the Met production, I preferred the singing and the role of Liu (Leah Crocetto) to Turandot (Irene Theorin). All in all, I enjoyed Puccini's lush and romantic music, and am glad I went.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rigoletto at the Met (encore)

I won tickets to the Met AGAIN. This time was for Rigoletto, which I had seen earlier this year with Meridita. It is such a powerful opera with such great music that I was very excited to see it again.

And I'm very glad I did! It was wonderful! Possibly one of my favorite operas. The characters are very interesting (though none quite likable). I thought last night's Rigoletto, played by Zeljko Lucic was incredible. His emotion was so strong, and his singing powerful in this dreadfully good intense way. Also amazing was Nino Machaidze who sang Gilda. Her voice was just incredible, and, as my friend Leah pointed out, the duets with Lucic had a terrific musical and artistic chemistry. The entire second act was a delight, with one terrific musical moment after another.

I was also very taken by Giuseppe Filianoti as the Duke, and Stefan Kocan as Sparafucile, the assassin (I think I've seen Kocan perform before).

Okay, confession time: Friday nights are hard for me after a long day of work, and the glass of wine at Tout Va Bien in Hell's kitchen didn't help: I fell asleep! During the scene in the inn in the third act; it wasn't that I was bored, it was just that I was so tired. And the long intermissions really drain your steam. It was embarrassing though. I snored and Leah had to jab me!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Capriccio at the Met

The good news: I won Varis orchestra seats at the Met for the FOURTH time (last row in the orchestra, but still).

The amazing news: it was an opera starring Renee Fleming.

The bad, bad news: The opera, Capriccio, totally blew.

When I described the story to Meridita, who was so good as to accompany me, saying it's about a dinner time conversation about art, she laughed and said, "So it's like My Dinner with Andre as an opera?"

Yes, and let me tell you a CONVERSATION (particularly a 2 and half hour conversation) does not make a good "plot" for an opera. It was so fucking wordy. And nothing happened. To make it worse, there was no intermission (Meridita said they do that on purpose knowing no one would come back if you let us out).

The audience was having a tough time. In addition to general fidgeting, coughing, and candy wrapper rustling, people actually kept getting up an leaving. There were many, many times where I had to force myself not to look at Meridita out of fear that we would start laughing uncontrollably. The two women next to me were having a similar problem.

The music was very enjoyable. Sometimes (ironically since the "debate" was about poetry versus music), I stopped reading and just watched and listened. Renee Fleming sang beautifully, in warm, rich voice. But my favorite was Peter Rose as La Roche, a commanding bass who sang dramatically and lovingly.

Oh, and there were many points in the last forty minutes where it seemed like it was about to end. At one point everyone left the parlor, and the servants came out commenting on the action. I couldn't help during that scene to be reminded of the Oompa Loompas... And don't let me forget the scene where Renee Fleming seemed to be having a very private moment with a rose...

Drama Club: Capriccio at the Metropolitan Opera

Diana won tickets to Capriccio at the Metropolitan Opera. 

The singers were really good, but oh my goodness, the opera itself was like a really long bad drama club idea --  "Which is more important: words or music?".   And that went on for 3 hours with no intermission.  We had to make a concerted effort not to look at each other or we would have burst out laughing. 

Poor Renee Flemming had to haul around 2 dresses with such ridiculous trains they actually thudded as she walked.

Shockingly nothing strange happened on the train ride home. 

Tosca and Wild Things back to back

Tosca at the MET on Friday night was a gazzilion times more riviting than it can been at the HD summer movie.

A few hours later I was back at Lincoln Center with the Rush Kids.  

The animated drawings buy Rush Kids and Teens drawings were projected as the set for the New York City Opera's production of "Where The Wild Things Are".  The original drawings were on display in the lobby.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where the Wild Things Are at New York City Opera

This afternoon I saw a special benefit performance of Where the Wild Things Are at New York City Opera.

It wasn't a full production, but a concert performance. The orchestra was on stage, and the singers performed on platforms in the back. Most fantastic, however, were the projections of wonderful, vibrant art by Rush Kids and Teens. These fantastical, whimsical, and surprisingly complex images made the whole event really come alive.

Samples of their art work was on display in the promenade, and I snapped this photo, which unfortunately does not do justice to the rich colors the artist used.

The music was great, and Danya Katok, who sang Max was delightful. The orchestra was conducted by Julien Kuerti.

Tosca at the Met!

Wow, what an incredible opera: Last night Meridita and I saw Tosca at the Met. I had won tickets (once again!) through the Weekend Ticket Drawing program they have. True, our seats were second to last row of the orchestra, but they weren't nosebleeders and it was just fine. The opera blew me away. Meridita and I had seen it in HD outdoors at Lincoln Center last year, but I wasn't that taken by it. This was a whole different story. Both Meridita and I were totally sucked in by the drama and completely caught up in the action. There was just something about it that was dramatically more riveting. The singing was incredible. I was particularly blown away by the beauty of Violeta Urmana's voice as Tosca, and Salvatore Licitra's aching Carvaradossi. Marco Armiliato conducted and James Morris sang Scarpia.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Simon Boccanegra (encore)

The second night in a row at the Met; the second night in a row of Verdi -- last night I saw Simon Boccanegra! These were orchestra tickets which I won for $25 in their weekly drawing.

Meridita and I saw Simon Boccanegra last year with Placido, and loved it. This evening featured Dmitri Hvorostovksy in the title role and he was amazing.

However, I had two glasses of sparkling rose before the performance, and it was a Friday night, which is tough for me because I am so wiped out at the end of the week. All this to say I was horribly tired, and actually slept through the powerful 4th act.

In spite of that, I deeply appreciated the awesome singing, and this remains a favorite opera of mine.

The conductor was the great James Levine. Richard Berstein sang Pietro; Ferruccia Furlanetto sang Fiesco; Ramon Vargas was amazing as Adorno; and Barbara Frittoli sang Amelia/Maria.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rigoletto at the Met!

What an incredible evening! Last night Meridita and I saw Rigoletto at the Met!

It was a powerful, rich, full-bodied, muscular opera and I loved every minute of it.

The performance included a wildly charismatic Piotr Beczala who was replacing Joseph Calleja as the Duke of Mantua. Beczala lit up the stage with his charming and arrogant persona, and he had an incredibly beautiful voice.

I was also utterly captivated by Nino Machaidze's singing in the role of Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter. Her voice was incredible and the duets she sang with Giovanni Meoni (Rigoletto) were stunning. She was also adorable and charming during her curtain calls.

The evening was conducted by Paolo Arrivabeni. Stefan Kocan sang Sparafucile.

Il Travatore at the MET

Jenn and I stumbled upon am unexpected and beautiful Fireworks display at Central Park on our way to see Il Travatore at the Metropolitan Opera.

Giuseppe Verdi 's Il Travatore has one of those confusing opera plots with gypsies and soldiers, love triangles and mysterious family trees.  But all in all it was really fantastic.  The music and singing was alluring and engaging.

Only the sets were a lack luster in my opinion.

But as Diana mentioned while we were grumbling about the sets for Rigoletto (yes, these are a reverse order catching up of Opera Chronicles.  I got in trouble tonight for not being up to date) perhaps everything just pales when we compare it to the Franco Zeffirelli sets for Turandot

Oh and while I am catching up I might as well put in a plug for the film Tea with Mussolini  semi-autobiographical tale from the early life of director Franco Zeffirelli.   Very enjoyable, humorous, heartfelt, well acted (other than Cher who is dreadful) and sweet. 

I Musici Venezia

After over a day of commuting, mostly via plan B at every turn, I made it to Venice.

The ticket area for Alilaguan airport (bus)boat has an air of the Boardwalk to it.  Making me feel instantly at home.

Catherine secured oh-so-hard-to-get tickets for La Traviata the night of my arrival.  It was wonderful, if a bit chilly to see an opera in a cavernous palazzo.  The sets were not much of anything, but with a room that grand not much was needed.  The musicians and most of the singers were superb.  Although I Musici Venezia could use the help of the Rush Kids when it comes to costuming.

A magical Venetian midnight walk is the perfect antidote to the exhaustion of 24 hours of travel.

New Year's Eve in Venice

The party was fanstastico!  With a 7-decade age spanning, multi-lingual, cross-cultural crowd which included renown countertenor Russell Oberlin, along with a diplomat, a retired soccer player, someone who swaps language lessons in a tattoo parlor and a host of other fascinating people.  If I had my Hoop, I think I could have started a Venetian Hoop craze.

For hours before and after the sparklers we ripped up the dance floor. 

But back to Russell Oberlin...  He is a dear dear friend of my new friend Deborah King Melina.

On New Years Morning Catherine and I went to Deborah and Berto's beautiful apartmento for Panatone and cafe.  The view is superb and the whole experience was made more magical when Deborah put on a CD of Russell singing.

Meridith McNeal, Venetian Windows, 2011, ink and watercolor on paper, 55x111

It seems strange that the proper and charming man I met the night before could sound so utterly angelic and feminine.  But I suppose that is what a countertenor does!

There are some interesting performance clips and interviews where he talks about his work on youtube.

Wellies and sequins: Rigoletto at the MET

Wellies and sequins were in abundance tonight for Rigoletto.

Diana and I agree with Plotkin that Rigoletto would make for an excellent first opera.

In tonight's performance at the Metropolitan Opera the cast was fantastic. Including the understudy for the Duke of Mantua who was a terrific singer and actor, handsome and amazingly tall for a tenor. I can't tell you his name as I tore that bit of the understudy notice off to throw away my gum.

Gilda (Nino Machaidze) , Rigoletto (Giovanni Meoni) & Sparafucile (Stefan Kocán) were all superb. Maddalena (Kirsten Chávez) while bodacious was not a strong singer.

Many times through out the night I thought the orchestra was not in sync with the singing. That was an odd first for the MET. But my biggest complaint were the dark and grim sets. To give you an idea the picture above was of the brightest of all the sets. At times it was really hard to see the performers. And we were in the fourth row!

I think "La donna è mobile" is so catchy a song must have been the precursor to a solid gold single. Everyone was humming on my walk to the subway.

And because it's the subway after the opera, my ride home was not uneventful. I ended up sitting next to a guy with a ventriloquists dummy who was doing a full routine with multiple voices.

Addio... vivrà immutabile
L'affetto mio per te.