Monday, September 29, 2008

Stratas report

In what looks to be its second-to-last issue (though in light of the imminent global meltdown, this seems a smaller concern), the New York Sun published Fred Kirshnit's account of Thursday's Town Hall event featuring Teresa Stratas.

It includes this tidbit about something which, like the original Mattila Salome (filmed but unreleased), the Met really should offer for sale despite overlap:
However, Ms. Stratas, who canceled often, did not feel up to the broadcast [of Berg's Lulu] and Levine had to go with a substitute, Julia Migenes-Johnson. For three decades, the general public never saw Ms. Stratas as Lulu, a major missed opportunity.

But the dress rehearsal was taped, and the Guild showed a section of it on Thursday.
I know a number of operabloggers are Stratasphiles -- did any attend?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The silent company et al.

The Met has kicked off its 2008-2009 season, but this year it will be the only opera company at Lincoln Center. New York City Opera, in an interregnum year before the arrival of Euro-mandarin Gerard Mortier, has essentially canceled its entire season while the New York State Theater is renovated. The schedule shows talks and orchestral concerts around the city, but only one actual opera: Barber's Antony and Cleopatra (Flanigan, Rhodes) in concert at Carnegie Hall in January.

This means that OONY -- this season offering The Tsar's Bride (Borodina), a Ferrucio Furlanetto concert, Rienzi (Flanigan), and Medea (Millo) -- will provide more operatic content than NYCO. So, in fact, will the New York Philharmonic, which brings a week of Elektras (Polaski, Schwanewilms) in December.

Unfortunately, the season's most promising and anticipated operatic non-Met event -- mezzo Joyce DiDonato's "Furore" program (Handel mad scenes) with Les Talens Lyriques in January -- was booked for Carnegie's fairly puny Zankel Hall. How did that happen? Given that the event could easily have filled the main hall (Stern Auditorium), it's no surprise that it's already sold out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What they said

OK, I had my fun, but maybe a bit more about last night's Metropolitan Opera actual-season opening Salome is in order.

On the singers, I agree with Maury's post except I'm fairly sure he was there when I heard Bryn Terfel's Jokanaan. I knocked Ildikó Komlósi in the season preview, but she was dead on as Herodias, quite an improvement from 2004's surprisingly too-staid Larissa Diadkova.

On the conducting, Sieglinde's reaction is more or less my own: Mikko Franck couldn't have been worse than this, could he? Patrick Summers certainly isn't Gergiev (conductor of the production's 2004 debut), which on the one hand means no Putin-lionizing embarrassments but also means none of the creepy, febrile energy that saturated the original run.

Karita Mattila's 2004 opening night of this was an unforgettable ecstatic success, but comparisons are useless. Even over a plain orchestral backing, Mattila communicates Salome's perversity to full gross-out levels. Missing it might be more perverse.

UPDATE (5PM): Forgot to mention -- here or in the productions overview -- that I actually like Jürgen Flimm's staging of this Strauss opera. The evocative, cleanly-textured set is an effective base for the goings-on. The weakest part, I'd thought, was Doug Varone's choreography for the dance, but it (though seemingly unchanged) somehow sat better this year.

The Met season ahead, part IV -- productions

Although its most interesting night may involve productions of the distant past, the Met season that began with Monday's gala includes six house production premieres, including one house opera premiere -- John Adams' Doctor Atomic. Of these, only Mary Zimmerman's La Sonnambula is not a co-production, and I believe only it and Doctor Atomic have not (in one form or another) previously bowed on other stages.

The Opening Night moviecast featured preview segments for the first two new productions: Penny Woolcock's staging of Doctor Atomic and Robert Lepage's "reworking" of a Damnation de Faust first done elsewhere.

The staging of Berlioz's Faust piece looked, as in previously released stills, both interesting and visually arresting. The cast looks good but not great, but Levine's presence in the pit makes this a no-brainer.

The Doctor Atomic bits, on the other hand, hardly soothed my concerns. Though one might discount this devastating Doctor Atomic review from the fair-minded Alex at Wellsung for being at least in part a knock on Peter Sellars' world premiere production and not this new Woolcock physicalization, neither Adams nor Woolcock seemed to have a new angle on the piece itself. About the actual bomb neither appear to have anything to say except how awfully horrible it was, which leaves the Oppenheimer ledger something like this:
Minus: Possibly destroyed the world
Plus: Liked poetry, had authentic Native American maid
But of course the Manhattan Project, despite initiating a danger that haunts us to this day, also saved millions of American and Japanese lives and enabled a favorable and relatively bloodless outcome for the Cold War. Telling Oppenheimer's wartime story without engaging these facts -- which perhaps make him more interestingly and operatically tragic, and certainly not less -- is just unserious.

*     *     *

After these only Sonnambula of the "new" productions seems particularly promising for the staging itself. All certainly have worthy casts, however.

Of the revivals, I would say that Lucia di Lammermoor (Zimmerman), Madama Butterfly (Minghella), Tristan und Isolde (Dorn), La Boheme (Zeffirelli), and Eugene Onegin (Carsen -- but only if they undo the lighting changes made for the 2007 moviecast run) have notably good productions, while Don Giovanni (Keller) is notably weak. But much will depend on whomever does stage direction for these revivals: much can be gained or lost from these often-unnoticed contributions.

*     *     *

Of course, much of a show's success is in some unpredictable alchemy -- who inspires (or impedes) whom, who gets sick, who arrives in good form and bad, who adapts and who doesn't to changes and adversity, etc. etc. If a season were just the sum of its forseeable parts, there would be little fun in going. Fortunately, it's not.

Minimalist Salome review

It was gross.

(In a good way.)

UPDATE (5PM): More here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Opening night

Fearing that I wouldn't like a significant portion of the program and being curious about the alternate presentation (my previous reservations thereon being here and here), I watched this year's Met season opener from a Manhattan movie theater. If you missed reading about it, soprano Renee Fleming sang Act II of Traviata, Act III of Massenet's Manon, and the final scene of Capriccio.

Technically, the show was mixed. Epic fail at Traviata's start: it took until halfway through the first scene for subtitles to appear. More jarring, though, was director Gary Halvorson's addiction to the moving footlight-level camera (the technical name of which escapes me), which he used to constant and disorienting -- even woozy-making -- effect during this scene. Unfortunately all camera trickery failed to find an appropriate angle for the second scene's final tableau, which absolutely demands that all three principals be put in the same shot. Instead we got an incoherent mess. Awful.

The next two segments were better-shot, with the low-level moving camera actually being put to good use during Vargas' prayer-aria in the St. Sulpice scene. As for the non-operatic bits, we could have done without the 40-minute Met infomercial (with additional product placements!) before the action, but if it works as marketing, sure... The Martha Stewart drink-mixing demo in the last intermission crossed some line of decency, however.

Still the overall effect was, for the first two acts, hugely successful. The transmitted soundtrack is oddly shaped, and one misses at least some essential 15% of the singers' real sound (particularly the physicality of Fleming's in climaxes), but the singers -- most of all Fleming herself, despite a couple of memory glitches -- seemed energized and inspired by the occasion and, in Traviata, by the presence of James Levine. Both Traviata (with which Fleming and Vargas so memorably opened the 2003-04 season) and Manon were really moving, even framed by infomercial frippery and Lagerfeld's awful Manon dress. (Not to knock hosts Susan Graham and Deborah Voigt, who did well with what they had.) Incidentally: both of the Traviata cabalettas were cut, which was a bit odd considering that at least the first has been done regularly at the Met of late. I assume this was both to keep the focus on Fleming and to protect Vargas who came out cold to his aria.

The Strauss was another matter. He and librettist (and greatest of Strauss conductors) Clemens Krauss crafted a work of art about art -- specifically Strauss' own idiosyncratic notion of opera. They add complication upon complication to the piece's initial poetic-musical seed until, from a comic Octet, they strip all away almost to anticlimax. What's left, by the end, is the prime element of Strauss' art: neither words nor music (the ostensible focus/decision point of the story) but the eternal-feminine -- musing on her own existence.

But Fleming in this place is curiously empty, all too ready to fall into embarrassing tics (the cocktail-party laugh, the thing that looked a bit too much like vogueing) and unironic emotionalizing. The Countess, like Der Rosenkavalier's Marschallin, muses into her mirror, and though I think they (and the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten) are essentially the same person, this opera makes quite clear what sort of character is its star. "You look back at me a bit ironically?" the Countess asks her reflection as she tries to decide, "I want an answer and not your questioning look!"

Smilingly ironic silence as the expression of a heart in love: though Fleming's lush voice isn't built to sound this combination, she could at least enact its phrases and externals. And I believe she tries... but the experience is too far from her own being. The Countess' exterior emptiness (blankness) is a pregnant one, full of (and protecting) the possibilities she holds in balance and does not (cannot, for the Empress, which is her problem) allow love's compulsion to touch -- and full, for Strauss, of the art born therefrom -- but for Fleming it's a vacuum, uncomfortable to put on and quickly filled by whatever comes to hand. The constant close-up perspective of the moviecast highlighted the issue.

Nor was she helped, this time, by conductor Patrick Summers, who led a literal and seemingly underrehearsed account of Strauss' orchestral part. Sometimes I think a really strong Straussian hand -- these days Thielemann, or perhaps Luisi -- could do something remarkable with and for Fleming in these roles, but Summers is far from that ideal.

On the whole, it was a worthwhile evening -- even in transmitted form -- with excellent stretches of performance. It's hard to imagine better promotion for Thaïs and the Levine-conducted shows.

[Related past posts: Fleming in Traviata (2007); Fleming in Manon (2005); school-of-Fleming soprano Pamela Armstrong in Capriccio (City Opera 2005)]

Season five

This post indexes the blog's commentary on the 2008-2009 Metropolitan Opera season. It will be updated as new reviews are posted.

Season preview: conductors, female singers, male singers, productions

Opening Night
Salome, short and long; and more; and more
Don Giovanni, a later cast, the spring cast, and more
La Traviata, and more
La Damnation de Faust
Madama Butterfly
Queen of Spades
Tristan und Isolde
La Boheme and its later tenor
La Rondine
Orfeo ed Euridice, without Blythe, with Blythe, and without Levine
Rigoletto, and a later cast
Eugene Onegin
Il Trovatore, and more, and a later cast
La Sonnambula, and more
Die Walküre, and a later cast, and the last performance
L'elisir d'amore

125th Anniversary Gala

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Met season ahead, part III -- the men

(Part I - Part II)

While -- with some exceptions -- the female half of this current Met roster is dominated by the talent of the (later) 1990s, the men's portion is more newly arrived. The most prolific lead (by production -- I haven't had the patience to count actual evenings) this season will be tenor Piotr Beczala, who made his debut less than two years ago as the Duke in Rigoletto. (I only caught that run's other tenor, but Maury was impressed.) Beczala stars in Lucia, Onegin, and Rigoletto again (though this one just for one evening), making it quite likely that I and a whole bunch of other Metgoers will see him this time around.

Now some of these performances may have been substituting for Gelb favorite Rolando Villazon -- who returns from a long hiatus in January -- but he himself didn't debut here until 2003, becoming ubiquitous on his return two years later (also in Rigoletto). Villazon's is certainly one of the stories of the season: whatever you make of his vocal chops, it's hard not to like the man, and the personal-vocal crisis (from which he may or may not have emerged) that felled him last year is a terrifying thing indeed. Whether or not some drama with her contributed to the crisis, the January performances of Lucia -- in which Villazon sings Edgardo -- will be not only his first since at the Met but his first since with Anna Netrebko. Afterwards he's scheduled for L'Elisir d'Amore.

Also scheduled for Elisir (though only one performance) is another young tenor who may already be the man to watch: Joseph Calleja. Calleja, who debuted here in 2006 in -- what else -- Rigoletto, will have turned 31 by the time he reappears in Rigoletto -- and that one Elisir -- next April. His instrument's combination of easy spaciousness, bel canto control, and a throwback vibrato-bearing timbre must be heard -- in person! -- to be believed: I don't want to jinx him, but to my ears Calleja seems by far the most talented Italian-rep singer since Pavarotti.

Last of the doubly-engaged young tenors is Giuseppe Filianoti, who shares Rigoletto with Beczala and Calleja before singing in La Rondine. He impressed in his 2005 debut as Edgardo, but a medical crisis and consequent surgery left his singing somewhat forced and unbalanced on his return in the same part in last season's new Lucia production. With luck, he will return to his debut form, though the increasing heaviness of his repertoire is a worry.

Incidentally, Villazon, Calleja, and Filianoti were all winners in the same year at Placido Domingo's Operalia competition: 1999. They were then 27, 21, and 25 respectively.

*     *     *

Of course, more veteran stars haven't all been put out to pasture. Domingo himself sings two roles -- Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur (his debut role four decades ago) and Siegmund in Ring Cycles 2 and 3, as well as having some presumed part in the company's 125th Anniversary Gala that also honors his 40th season. Ramon Vargas, whose performances last season were among its highlights, sings two-thirds of opening night and an entire run of La Boheme. The workmanlike Marcello Giordani seems no longer to be the Official Tenor of the Metropolitan Opera, but does star in the new production of the Damnation of Faust and part of the Madama Butterfly revival. And, rounding out the tenors, Roberto Alagna sings some of his wife's performances of La Rondine before returning for the tenor leads in Cav and Pag.

Low-voiced men's maturation cycles make it unsurprising that familiar names recur in that part of the roster. Thomas Hampson, for example, appears in opening night, a new production of one of the few operas where the baritone is the leading man (Thaïs), and perhaps the most promising of the season's revivals (Onegin with Karita Mattila and conductor Jiři Bělohlávek): one can as well say the season is to be his as anyone else's. (As I rather like his current grittified incarnation, I think this is a good thing. Others seem to disagree.) Elsewhere one can hear Dwayne Croft twice (opening night, Butterfly), John Relyea twice (Damnation of Faust, Cenerentola), Rene Pape as King Marke (Tristan) and two different Ring roles, Mariusz Kwiecien twice (Boheme, Lucia), and basses Kwangchul Youn and James Morris in seemingly everything under the sun. Ring Cycles 1 and 3 feature what may be Morris' house farewells to a signature part he's sung for decades -- Wotan/the Wanderer.

But even among the low-voiced one sees new blood multiply engaged. Bass Ildar Abdrazakov, a.k.a. Mr. Olga Borodina, has shown himself a fine singer since his little-noted 2004 debut and will, after subbing for James Morris in last Thursday's Verdi Requiem, sing one performance of Leporello in Don Giovanni along with a bunch of Raimondos in Lucia. Even more prominent is baritone Željko Lucic (a debutant two years ago in Gioconda), who will accomplish a Verdi trifecta by singing Germont (Traviata), Rigoletto, and di Luna (Trovatore).

*     *     *

Actual debuts are to be made by quite a few leading men. Perhaps most momentous is tenor Christian Franz as Siegfried in Ring Cycles 1 and 2, though tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko's debut opposite Renee Fleming in Rusalka won't be small. Other debuting men, in more or less substantial parts: Finnish bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo plays Jokanaan opposite his countrywoman's Salome; Don Giovanni brings the debut of not only Australian bass-baritone Joshua Bloom (Masetto), but later tenor Pavol Breslik (Ottavio) and golden-voiced Lindemann bass-baritone Shenyang (also Masetto); baritone Vladimir Stoyanov sings Enrico in the early Lucias before returning for a smaller part in Queen of Spades; Eric Owens debuts as General Groves in Doctor Atomic and then sings Sarastro in the kids' Magic Flute; baritone Gerd Grochowski sings Kurwenal in the Barenboim-led Tristan; veteran Italian baritone Alberto Mastromarino comes to the Met as Tonio in Pagliacci; and the Ring cycle concludes with another debut in Götterdämmerung -- bass-baritone Iain Paterson as Gunther.

*     *     *

Despite this litany of names, some true established stars only appear once and thus have yet to be mentioned -- Matthew Polenzani (Don Giovanni), Ben Heppner (Queen of Spades), Juan Diego Florez (Sonnambula), Bryn Terfel (only appearing, bizarrely enough, as Dulcamara in Elisir), and too many others to list.

A contrasting pair is at the center of Don Giovanni, which besides a weak production (its Zeffirelli predecessor was much better) and a slew of big names in the supporting parts features two rather different singers in the title role. First is Erwin Schrott, whom we -- thanks to his association with Anna Netrebko -- are bound to see more of, for good or for ill. Sonically, as last year's Figaro showed, there's little reason to complain, but he seems inclined enough to character-busting overacting that following her example any further could make him just unwatchable. On the other hand, Don Giovanni is a narcissistic, sociopathic cad, so a lack of humanity might work. To a point.

The other Giovanni -- Swedish baritone Peter Mattei -- is something like the platonic ideal of the traditional Don previously embodied by, e.g., Ezio Pinza. His charisma and vocal command are as seemingly effortless as his handsome appearance: for this Don Giovanni seduction is natural, and villainy is something he occasionally deigns to indulge. It's a conception perhaps closer to the heart of a more Romantic age, when Don Giovanni was almost (or more than almost) a hero... (These days one's more likely to squirm at his abuse of position and the unwillingness of his peers to think badly of one of their own.) But with Mattei the embodiment rings strongly true in any context, and every operagoer should see him in the role at least once.

*     *     *

In a sense it's not a huge surprise, given this season's repertory, but the absence for a third full season of the singer who had the most astounding and successful house debut of the age -- receiving the endless shouts, floor- and wall-pounding, and thunderous applause of those who knew they'd seen a glorious, paradigm-shattering event that "success" barely even describes -- is little short of disgraceful.

Where on earth is Klaus Florian Vogt?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Classical Domain, dead

While trying to pin down where in New York City this supposed March 15 Joseph Calleja recital might be, I discovered that Classical Domain, a long-time staple of my sidebar, has folded for lack of funds. (There's a full explanation at the link.)

The city really needs this sort of far-in-advance collation of its many venues' schedules. Too bad.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Not a review

It doesn't feel right to review a free commemorative event like Thursday's Verdi Requiem, so I'll just say this: it was an affecting thing, if not one to efface memories of April 2001. The performers too seemed afterwards quite moved.

But the shiny black ties on the chorus men have to go.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Met season ahead, part II -- the women

(Part I)

Most of this blog's readers probably already know whom they want to see and hear onstage, and therefore the multiple appearances of (say) Susan Graham in the 2008-2009 season will be self-recommending (or the opposite). Peter Gelb's star-driven casting policy -- by which each of his favored stars seem set for at least two lead roles -- is meant to encourage this sort of easy decision.

For those who aren't so sure, a full advance examination of each leading singer is unfortunately beyond the scope of this blog. Still, a glance at the roster should be fruitful.

Repeat offenders

Of the women featured in more than one show of the 2008-2009 season, Renee Fleming is probably most prominent. She headlines opening night -- three acts from three productions, each featuring her soprano instrument -- as well as one new production (Thaïs) and one revival (Rusalka). All the parts would seem to suit her, except for the bit of Capriccio (her temperament's as far from the Strauss heroine's poise as can be) opening night: the essentially undramatic Rusalka, in particular, is one of Fleming's better -- and, perhaps because the Song to the Moon was her worst part last time, more underappreciated -- vehicles.

Karita Mattila starts the season proper with one of her previous triumphs, Salome, before returning early next year as Tatyana in Onegin. All of her appearances this past decade have been events, but given the conducting issues of the former show (Patrick Summers is now conducting all performances, in place of scheduled debutant Mikko Franck) and the importance of Gergiev's nervous intensity in its original run, the latter revival might be the better bet this season.

Also reprising recent success is Olga Borodina in La Gioconda (as Laura), which per Maury may be changed more than a little by Ewa Podles being this time included. Borodina returns in February in Adriana Lecouvreur.

The first week of the season concludes (after Opening Night, two Salomes, and two Giocondas) with the appearance of another dual-role pillar of the current Met: mezzo Susan Graham, last seen bringing the house down as Sesto in Clemenza. This time, in Marthe Keller's disappointing production of Don Giovanni, Graham makes a house role debut in the more soprano-associated part of Donna Elvira. (Unfortunately, this superior early-season pairing of women -- Krassimira Stoyanova is Anna -- is marred by unbearable ham Erwin Schrott in the title role. More on this in Part III.) In November she returns as Marguerite in a Damnation of Faust that may be the most promising new production of the season.

The following weeks bring yet more double appearances. Diana Damrau's cool virtuosity tries to deal with the vulnerabilities of Lucia and Gilda (in Rigoletto); unsubtle soprano Maria Guleghina sings in Russian for the Queen of Spades (most notable, on the female side, for Felicity Palmer's Countess) and veristic Italian as Adriana Lecouvreur; spotlight-hogger Angela Gheorghiu brings her touring La Rondine and reprises her surprisingly affecting -- at least, it was so nine years ago -- Adina (in Elisir); and mezzo Stephanie Blythe brings a major voice to Gluck's Orfeo and Rusalka's Ježibaba. (Nicole Cabell also sings twice: see below.)

Finally, substitutions have, since the season announcement, put two more women into this category and taken one out. The erratic Andrea Gruber, scheduled to sing Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, was replaced by two already-scheduled mezzos: the great Waltraud Meier (who sang Santuzza's part in the Volpe Gala performance of the Easter Hymn), also appearing as Sieglinde in Ring Cycle 1; and Ildikó Komlósi, last seen as a too-light-voiced Preziosilla, who'll first appear as Herodias in Salome.

The absence, of course, is Anna Netrebko, who was originally supposed to sing all the season's Lucias and a full run of (Massenet's) Manon. When she became pregnant, Manon was replaced by Boheme and Netrebko was replaced by Damrau for the first Lucias and Maija Kovalevska for the first Bohemes. Now Netrebko is out of Boheme entirely, and her only Met appearances will be in a bel canto test not unlike the one she recently bombed. This is partly to be regretted: in Romantic parts her singing's really effective, and the irresistible narcissism of Manon would've been a natural fit. But Kovalevska began here as a natural Mimi, and if her recent Micaela is any sign, she may now be near-ideal. No one should avoid Boheme because Netrebko is out -- quite the opposite.


The number of new faces scheduled in major roles this season is quite small: only two women, in fact, unless one counts Victoria Vizin (unknown to me) as Maddalena. Met Council Finals winner Susanna Phillips is Musetta in a terrifically-cast Boheme, while Cardiff winner Nicole Cabell actually appears twice, first as Pamina in the kids' Magic Flute, and later as the second-cast Adina in Elisir, though only she gets to sing with Joseph Calleja in that show.

Other Notables

Of course one could talk about almost all the other sopranos, mezzos, and contraltos as notable. Some (Podles, Palmer) have already been mentioned. Others (e.g. Petra-Maria Schnitzer and Isabel Leonard in Don Giovanni, Sasha Cooke in Doctor Atomic, Elīna Garanča in Cenerentola) are recent debutantes making important return appearances (with Garanča's seemingly wedged into the schedule at more or less the last minute, perhaps signaling the house's favor).

But to my own personal taste, the most notable (in advance) single appearances of this coming season are, among the women, Anja Harteros as Violetta (La Traviata), Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora (Il Trovatore), and (of course) Natalie Dessay as Amina (La Sonnambula). All are, more or less, new here (Radvanovsky's previous Leonora was nearly a decade back, when she was fresh out of the Lindemann Young Artists Program). Each of the singers has shown glimpses of what we might hear, Harteros in (of all things) Figaro, Radvanovsky in recent Ernanis and a mind-boggling 2005 "D'amor sull'ali rosee", and Dessay... well, see for yourself.

The Missing

One could also go on at endless length about all the singers not, for whatever reason, singing at the Met this season. But of those who've sung here recently, the most glaring absences may be lyric soprano Dorothea Röschmann and mezzo Joyce DiDonato. Röschmann, who doesn't appear in the future seasons rumors and whose only New York appearances appear to be in Carnegie Hall's May Mahler cycle, seems elsewhere to be signing the sort of heavier roles that might not work for her at the Met -- though she'd be a terrific Eva when Meistersinger next comes around. Her ever-communicated spirit and depth of feeling will be missed while she's absent.

DiDonato isn't quite so absent, set for numerous big parts in upcoming years and starring in January's Met Orchestra concert (along with other New York events). But I do wonder why that Cenerentola isn't hers.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lights out? -- addendum

I don't intend to follow the NY Sun in printing stories each day about its own importance and how unfortunate its demise would be, but this letter from Rachel Moore, Executive Director of ABT, seemed noteworthy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What lies beneath

Beneath the patina of stability and safety that allows us to live are the facts of change (good and bad), violence, death, evil, and not least heroism.

Lest we forget:

And next time...?

UPDATE: Via Editor & Publisher's blog, a full (and otherwise unreleased here) documentary on that day, and the wish to tidy our memories thereof: The Falling Man.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Burying the lede

Ronald Blum's review of Woody Allen's opera directing debut -- in LA Opera's Gianni Schicchi -- is full of praise, leaving this key fact about the "hilarious and memorable" production hidden in the middle:
An unexpected ending is added when Buoso's cousin Zita (Jill Grove) returns to the stage and stabs Schicchi as he sings his final notes
What!? Was no one at the company able to warn Allen that changing the ending like this is a cheap, tired trick?

As for the rest of Trittico, I'm impressed: Los Angeles -- with Mark Delavan as Michele, Sondra Radvanovsky as Angelica, and Thomas Allen as Schicci -- got a much better cast than we did.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lights out?

Today's New York Sun leads with a story that should depress anyone interested in high culture in the city and elsewhere: the paper itself may go under in a month unless it can find additional financial backers.

Although perhaps not the concentrated blow to opera coverage that was Peter Davis' firing by New York Magazine last summer, the Sun's end would be a dismal result. Its Arts+ section has, on the whole, the best cultural coverage in the city (and probably the country) -- a context that adds value to each individual piece. Its attempt to buck the trend of less high-cultural content rather than more is wholly commendable.

So if any of you happen to know any centimillionaires interested in supporting this sort of thing...