It's not that I didn't see La Gioconda -- I've been to the revival, twice in fact, and rather liked it each time. It's that for all the enjoyment there is in the opera -- and with this cast, there's a lot -- I twice felt I'd finished digesting the thing before the performance was actually over. You know, somewhere in the last act, when the whole Romeo-meets-Trovatore-meets-Ballo-meets-Tosca (which, yes, hadn't been written yet, but never mind) plot finishes banging itself out, one's mind starts to drift, and tote up what it all adds up to... which, despite any clever glossing, isn't much.
But that's a silly knock (even on a silly opera) when the evening before that brings more honest opera content than some whole weeks. Bertrand de Billy -- for his willingness to be wholeheartedly serious with iffy material, perhaps the second most valuable conducting asset at the Met -- may exaggerate when he says Gioconda needs six of the best singers in the world, but only a little. (As proverbially with Trovatore, four should suffice.) At any rate, while the men here may just be (pretty good) stand-ins for that title, the women seem actually to deserve it: Borodina typically flawless, Mishura richer than I'd remembered, and Urmana maybe too vocally impressive to ever sound desperate. The piece -- moment-to-moment a succession of great operatic sounds and situations -- gives them all plenty to work with. Isn't that enough?
Judging by the applause, of course, you might actually only need one of the best dancers in the world. But not even the debut of young Danny Tidwell is going to get me to the house next Wednesday to find out...*
(*No knock on White, Machado et al. intended; this is mostly a shout-out to Maury.)
One word about the production: Act 3 features the most blatantly (and amusingly) obscene curtain arrangement I've seen on the Met stage. If anyone can dig up a picture, I'd be grateful.