Friday, May 23, 2008

Stop and start

The 2007-2008 season, like most at the Met, ended uneventfully: a series of good performances, yes, but no climactic closing event. But after last Saturday evening's Macbeth -- the end of the season at the house -- were two Met Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. It was hard to feel the season over with these after-events remaining.

Both -- an all-Mussorgsky concert with Gergiev and Rene Pape and last night's mix of Carter, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky with Levine and Jonathan Biss -- turned out to be successes, though neither soloist entirely satisfied. Pape has, of course, an Important Voice, but doesn't always deliver much more: in this case, his reliance on prompters in the house turned into a rather homogenizing outing-with-a-music-stand at Carnegie. I've seen Matthias Goerne interpret brilliantly while staring at reference material, but the Songs & Dances of Death were fairly heavy going here. The Boris Godunov monologue fared better, but I was surprised to see Pape singing from a score to a part he's already done complete.

Biss, too, is a terrific pianist of his type, but I've always found him too much Eusebius and not enough Florestan -- even (rare) violence comes out tasteful and refined.

At any rate, the orchestra responded quite well to Gergiev (in his last outing as Principal Guest Conductor) and Levine, though I haven't entirely warmed up to new oboist Nathan Hughes, and Elaine Douvas -- for whatever reason -- hasn't been the same since about two seasons ago. It was a good -- if non-operatic -- close to to a successful season.

*     *     *

I've contemplated moving from New York (both more and less seriously) several times over this blog's history. Each time I wondered what I would do with the blog, which from the first has focused on the actual experience of opera in the flesh. There's actually much to say about the (mediated) experience of opera far from its performance centers, and it's occurred to me that, without actually leaving New York (and -- to be clear -- I don't currently intend to move), I might mine this vein during summers, when the city is as operatically provincial and distant as any other you might name.

So expect in this space an inaugural "offseason edition" of An Unamplified Voice, different in flavor and content. It's a first try, though, so please bear with me.


  1. Sorry for the OT, JSU, and in my return post to your blog too!

    But I was wondering if you had more pertinent insight into the planned opera, about Al Gore's Incovenient Truth?

    I just blogged, tongue-in-cheek as ever, about it.


  2. Honestly, I'm speechless. Wasn't April Fool's a couple of months ago?


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.