Monday, March 05, 2007

In brief

Nietzsche's praise of Wagner as "our greatest miniaturist in music" was not, of course, entirely a compliment. But there's something to it. Meistersinger, for example, begins to climax at its finest, most intimate point, as all private strands between the principals harmonize in the quintet "Selig, wie die Sonne". And it's this singular private kernel of perfection that makes the following public scene the greatest in opera: the rightness of the world quietly achieved doesn't break or slip, but radiates out -- methodically, over orchestra, stage, scene, and public until, with the most ecstatic trill in the canon (at which Hei-Kyung Hong makes a decent stab), Eva crowns Walther and all in creation is well...

Almost. Hans-Joachim Ketelson's effectively cartoonish Beckmesser may be true to Wagner's intended caricature of a critic, but the piece was much richer with Thomas Allen (the 2001 Beckmesser, seen on the DVD of that revival). Allen's character felt as understandably and deeply as his young rival -- if in a prickly, ineloquent, inappropriate way -- and his spite was full of an old man's fear. Beckmesser's loss, here a bit of derision, becomes with Allen a sad (and funny) necessity. (In fact I'd have liked even more humaneness: at San Francisco's last Meistersinger, director Hans-Peter Lehmann had Beckmesser and Sachs -- Allen and Morris, in fact -- actually together at the end. This sort of thing is often a cheap and horrible idea -- Ariadne is worst abused by such license -- but I think it improves Wagner's comedy.)

But never mind that caveat: there is no substitute for seeing Act III well-sung and well-conducted in the house. Go.

*     *     *

Simon Boccanegra is, like Oedipus, the story of a usurper. (Simon does get into office through the process, it's true, but it's quite clearly tainted.) This explains -- or rather stands for -- why the story ends with his undoing, but it also made me more receptive to Thomas Hampson in the title part. He's far from the classic "Verdi baritone", but the Hampsonisms for which he's taken much stick over the decades have, with the accretion of grit and a hint of hoarseness, aged into interesting versions of themselves. It sounds both right and a bit out of place -- much as an old pirate might seem, even after twenty-five years as Doge.

This was a terrifically effective show all around, not least Fabio Luisi in the pit. Many seemed moved to tears. I have no idea how Maury could have walked out on it, unless it was post-Jenufa hangover.


  1. Well, I'm going to Boccanegra tonight--since I have to husband my resources in a way that you...closer residents don't, I'm going to miss this Meistersinger. Sigh.

  2. So... don't leave us hanging, how was it?

  3. I love Opera!!! I found this video on the web. It's very funny.. a different way to listen at Mozart's "Magic Flute".. maybe with this video also people who don't lovs Opera will understant what they lose!! What do you think?

  4. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, but some of that was the thrill of getting cheaply into the neatest seats I've ever been in. Loved the conducting; supple, attentive, careful, fluid. That gives me hope for Helena, which is such a beast to try to control.

    Sorry to be short--must finish some work...


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.