Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Placido Domingo is the worst conductor ever to lead a Met performance. He is general director of two American houses, with an acceptable if lackluster record. And he can no longer sing high notes: transpositions and rumors thereof follow him everywhere, including into this production.

That said, he still may be the most reliable, consistent, and pleasing-to-hear tenor active in the heavier repertory. Besides the high notes (which were always on-and-off for him), about the only thing different now from twenty or thirty years ago is that he tires more easily. Oh, yes, and he's outlasted all his then-brighter competitors of the time -- the sort of situation for which Bill James made his seminal distinction between peak value and career value.

He was in his typically good form for this Met premiere on Friday, transpositions or no. The not-yet-as-heralded Sondra Radvanovsky sounded as good as I've ever heard her, stopping the show with her third-act aria -- and getting people's notice. Both got huge ovations. The rest of the cast filled their parts well, as did the orchestra under Armiliato.

Meanwhile, Francesca Zambello's production is quite in line with the interview she gave to the Met patrons' newsletter earlier this spring. As it doesn't seem to be online, I'll quote the key bit here:
I have had a change of heart in the last decade and have evolved into a strong populist and narrative-driven storyteller, no matter what the work. My goal is to present something engaging, enlightening, and entertaining for the artists involved and for the public.
Seriously? No more stupid production conceits? It does seem like it. This staging of Cyrano is detailed, more-or-less realistic, and quite successful apart from Roxane's unfortunately large wig.

*     *     *

That's half the story of the new Met Cyrano. The rest is another post.

UPDATE (5/23): Added link to the other Cyrano post.


  1. Since you brought Bill James into the discussion, have you given any thought as to whether Domingo may have taken steroids or other performance enhancing drugs?

  2. Ha! We'll see if he goes down with some mysterious ailment.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.