Thursday, November 15, 2007

Run, don't walk

If you're in the area and haven't already planned to see the latest Met Figaro, do so immediately. The best incarnation yet of Jonathan Miller's production, it is everything a Mozart opera should be: joyous, energizing, moving, and very much an event. The cast is simply terrific from top to bottom, and, unlike some other all-star ensembles, works together marvelously. Although Philippe Jordan's conducting has advanced from poor merely to decent (slow passages still sag and some of the fast are far too rushed), it hardly makes a difference. The musicality of the singers is all.

Most surprising, to me, were the ladies -- not least recent Lindemann graduate Kate Lindsey. She has a well-trained, pretty voice, but not necessarily an obvious star instrument. Yet in every other respect -- phrasing, sense, spirit, and bodily presence, which is to say in being Cherubino -- she may be the finest Cherubino I've seen or heard, outshining the likes of Graham, Mentzer, and DiDonato, in this production and even bigger names before. She has the physicality down without too much exaggeration (dear ladies: a little of the bowlegged thing goes a long way, particularly when it's amplified by the fact that you have hips), and adds a few amusing touches: failing to sing along with the girls in Act III and popping in with Don Giovanni's party music in Act IV.

But the evening's Countess, Anja Harteros, rightly got the biggest ovation. The German soprano made her debut here in the same part four years ago, and somehow I don't recall the ecstatic notices that should have followed a performance like this. With a spacious, full-colored instrument that may be (getting?) a bit large for the part, she sings her arias with amazing control and feeling. But "feeling", for her, is all over -- in the Countess' sorrow she radiates melancholy and hurt sensibility from every part of her body, while simultaneously appearing composed and regal. (She flirts and lets Cherubino get close, but actually rolling around with and making out with him, as Robin Guarino had Hong do in the early-fall revival? No chance.) An ideal Marschallin, perhaps, but also, I think -- if next season's rumor is true -- the one to dispel Maury's Traviata malaise.

I am, of course, kicking myself for missing the chance to see Harteros next to a similarly present, responsive, dark-voiced singing actress (Dorothea Röschmann, her Susanna in 2003) but perhaps that could have been too much of a good thing. Ekaterina Siurina is a bright contrast: shiny in voice, demeanor, and phrase, her efficient if temperamental Susanna (with perfect comic timing, she takes a swing at Marcellina when she thinks she's been had) is a perfect foil to the nuts around her.

Simon Keenlyside is another revelation. He's an entirely different Count from the usual successful sort: not oversexed and overhandsome but mannered, complex, slightly ridiculous, and emotionally volatile in body and phrase in a way that very few male performers are (or allow themselves to be) onstage. He and Harteros are the most high-strung of couples, and it's mesmerizing to watch.

It's almost unfair to have Bryn Terfel on top of all of this, so I won't say much. He's offhandedly casual and doesn't much aim for grace, yes, but these are both part of his amazing charisma and an excellent fit for Figaro, particularly a Figaro among the other characters here present.

Supporting parts were just as impressive, not least the Barbarina of ACB. Not just well-sung (under the lyric surface, she's got the core of steely sound to carry in the Met) but well-played.

*     *     *

The one change I didn't like was the elision of the Act I intermission. Act II of Figaro is one of the high points in all of Mozart and should be heard fresh, not as the back half of a Rheingold-scale marathon. Fortunately, the current cast makes it impossible to tune out or lose the thread.

I can't wait to go back.

UPDATE (4:45PM): I forgot to mention that yesterday was apparently a Gay&Lesbian Singles night. Now I'm neither gay nor a lesbian, but considering that the two events of this sort the Met's done so far have been at this and the best of Mattila's Jenufas, I'm starting to think I should be at that Peter Grimes...

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, you got to hear Keenlyside and Terfel in the same performance? And here I am stuck on the culturally-beleaguered Left Coast.

    Thomas Allen's Count was at the top of my list until I heard Keenlyside on disc ... it's a profoundly human performance, alarming and laughable and verging on tragic.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.