Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Portrait of the poet as a deer in the headlights

For those who are interested (and search engine hits show that some are):

Tenor Massimo Giordano, who's taken over the January 6 and 10 Met performances of La Boheme from Ramon Vargas, has all the notes -- including through the passaggio, where Vargas this fall sounded a bit recessed even at his best. So he can and does sit confidently on the big single notes in Rodolfo's part (except for top Cs) to nice effect. Unfortunately Giordano is flummoxed by having to put notes together into any sort of phrase or line. For a native Italian tenor singing his third principal part at the Metropolitan Opera, his musical instincts are at best raw, and definitely disappointing. Shouldn't he have mustered up some grace and ideas for at least "Che gelida manina" by now?

On stage, he -- as in Traviata -- has the near-constant look of a likeable young guy in way out of his emotional and experiential depth. This has the virtue of being at least true to an element of Rodolfo, but it pretty much cuts off any engagement with his Mimi (Maija Kovalevska again, of course), who might as well be interacting with a wall. (Yes, this was the first night of a mid-revival cast change, but Giordano never got more interesting as La Traviata's Alfredo either.) Kovalevska's death scene last night was nevertheless remarkable, with Mimi this time suddenly playful in the course of her happy remembrances and conductor Frédéric Chaslin (who's gotten better and better during the revival) drawing out an exquisite final thread of strings before the big final crash...

I don't know whether this substitution for the originally scheduled Vargas was a case of Vargas having to be elsewhere or the house wanting to show Giordano off. If it was the latter, that's unfortunate: he's not ready for prime time.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.