Friday, December 08, 2006

Don Carlo quickly revisited

On the one hand, it is a performance where even the tenor and baritone break out trills as needed.

On the other hand, Johan Botha's acute legato deficiency really is a deal-breaker. And so, discouragingly, is Levine's below-par conducting: last night was all generalized, impenetrable urgency, in which even the phrases of usual solo notables Steve (now "Stephen") Williamson (clarinet) and Rafael Figueroa (cello) sounded undistinguished.


  1. I dunno, maybe the conductor justs works too hard and/or too damn much, or maybe it's you, or maybe the orchestra's tired too (rehearsing a complicated world premiere, Meistersinger, Brahms, Wuorinen on top of all these Idomeneos and Don Carlos and Bohemes and Toscas and Barbers).

    Or maybe a cast with more (or, in some cases, any) experience in these roles would help share the workload a little. (Minus 5 points for neglecting to mention the transposition last night, by the way.)

    I ususally love reading your blog, but you seem in an unusual negative state of mind these days. Stay at home maybe and listen to a perfect recording?

  2. I've really liked the recent Idomeneo performances. Have meant to write more about that, but Don Carlo evenings -- and I really *wanted* to like those -- eat time and attention like crazy.

    One reason I may be more disappointed in DC is that there *isn't* a "perfect" recording: between cuts and casting issues, every new revival (particularly as the names pile up) seems an opportunity to produce a less flawed realization than has yet been done. I've found it almost impossible to listen to recordings of late, anyway.

    I don't think I'm blaming the orchestra or even Levine, who like everyone has ups and downs. But as a listener I am disappointed that this fall hasn't hit the heights of the last (including *that* world premiere). Maybe I'm channeling some of the negativity floating around blogland, with others actually dropping off or going silent. But where, then, did that come from?

  3. I was just realizing the Idomeneo recording problem. None of them looks particularly appealing, and the ones that do have good casts sometimes have a tenor Idamante, which seems ruinous. Is it fair to assume you have the one with della Casa? A review I read online as I was just about to order a used copy said she was past prime.

  4. Oh whoops, I had a blond moment. You're talking about DC recordings and I'm on Idomeneo. How about one of the old Met b'casts with like Corelli and Caballe or something? The Horst Stein recording would be perfect if it weren't for, well, Horst Stein.

  5. When I was learning Don Carlo 30 years ago (how time flies, yikes), I was very happy, as I recall, with the old Santini/EMI (not the Santini/DG) recording, the one with Christoff and Gobbi et al. I haven't listened to it in a long long time now, though. And, of course, it's in four acts.

  6. I hope this isn't taken as flogging a dead horse, as I mean this second and last posting on this subject with all due respect to a writer whose knowledge and judgment I have come to admire greatly. Your post today about Idomeneo is beautifully phrased, spot on, and inarguable. And your response to me was equally polite, well-considered and very appreciated.

    I think what bothered me so much in your first post about Don Carlo is the following:

    "(He was on a terrific run of form before his March injury, but maybe it's not coincidence that he's not led a great Levine performance since?)"

    Here is a list of what the man conducted (or, in three instances, played) since Tanglewood opening five months ago:

    Schoenberg Chamber Symphony Op. 9b, Piano Concerto, ?Verklaerte Nacht,? ?Moses und Aron,? Violin Concerto
    Beethoven Symphony No. 9 (twice, with BSO and Verbier Festival Orchestra), Quintet for Piano and Winds, Op. 16, Piano Concerto No. 4, Violin Concerto, ?Grosse Fuge?
    Schoenberg ?Gurrelieder?
    Strauss ?Elektra?
    Mozart ?Don Giovanni,? ?Posthorn? serenade, Requiem, ?Ch?io mi scordi di te??, Piano Concerto No. 27, Symphony No. 41, ?Idomeneo,? Piano Quartet in G minor
    Gershwin A Cuban Overture, two arias from ?Porgy and Bess?
    Carter ?What Next?? (American stage premiere with Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra), ?In the Distances of Sleep? (world premiere with MET Chamber Ensemble)
    Verdi ?Simon Boccanegra? (with Verbier Festival Orchestra), ?Don Carlo?
    Puccini ?Madama Butterfly?
    Barber ?Knoxville, Summer of 1915?
    Bolcom ?Lyric? Concerto for Flute
    Dvorak Symphony No. 9
    Harbison ?Darkbloom?
    Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2
    Schumann Symphony No. 2
    Bartok ?Bluebeard?s Castle?

    (It's no mystery how to put together such a list, as it's all sitting on the BSO and Verbier websites and we all don't have to look at the Met's to know the Met repertoire.)

    The obvious question, then, is ?how much of this did you personally hear??

    So, what you probably actually meant to write was "I have not yet heard a great Levine performance since." No one could possibly argue with that, since ? presumably -- no one else is inside your head (even if you are, in reality, one John Malkovich of Cambridge, Mass., which you're not likely to be anyway).

  7. Oh, well, your software clearly finds my point as cut-and-pasted-from-Word highly "questionable" as I quietly slip back to Lurkdom...


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.