Cher Public

Carl who?

bounty_hunterNo programs for last night’s Fanciulla, just someone had worked overtime on the copier to give us a cast list and plot summary. If no delivery for the glossy, fully 3k people there, just slight slip and slide on the Plaza enough to keep me gripping the alpenstock. (A weapon of Individual Destruction, permitted by the Met, if not airlines outside of Chehnya.) 

I had been to the first iteration of this run, perspectives somewhat dulled by the aftereffects of a heavy date with a surgeon, AND by the muddled staging that made it ever so diff. to see who was singing from the FC even with glasses (praise for Rance’s J. Peterman white dust coat). However, since almost all the action of the first two acts is stage right my seats are on audience left. Ha! One up. But why have Debbie stuck behind a bar beneath an overhang even further stage right??—but this has been treated eloquently and well in this space. (Yes, the Volpe era, but I am sure there would be wigs on the green after all the hammering we heard before the last act as the scaffold, audibly if not visually, was being prepared.)

Back to all those men in dark suits in act 1. We awaited the desperado/Carl Tanner (debut) whose name La Cieca had alerted us to in connection with the incumbent’s sciatica attack. Most desperadoes don’t wear long black coats—at least in my imagination—but Carl entered in a long one amplifying a moderately full figure, maybe like a Neapolitan carriage driver in our first gilded Age—but Giancarlo’s fault, not Carl’s. (Happy the storm prevented the appearance of Monday’s NYT where the term “teddy bear” was used—and at an interview in Upper West Side diner at that.)

Not prepossessing he seemed, and a bit tentative vocally at first, but only then. Then, dear friends, a strong, reliable, tenor with a heroic ring/ping to it, even up and down, musical (not just the high notes). The cabin scene was terrific. Debbie threw herself into it, agile, tempted but careful with her guest, longing but maybe should not, and finally heroic. “Johnson’s” outburst of longing and hurt before going out the door into the snowfall (yes, and smoke from the wood fire in the chimney, and Rance with his rifle in his Peterman coat amid the spruce) was splendid.

It evoked and honored what must have been 100 years ago on the 39th street stage. Ditto the piece before the scaffold which Puccini—not another Cavaradossi here—refused to make an aria but made into a dramatic outburst that showed what he was picking up from north of the Alps. It was thrilling. So was the show, for the darkness and clutter of set and direction, glorious in the pit under Luisotti, everyone on sage and off had a fine time. The 3k gave Carl Tanner the ovation he deserved.

Carl who? The sturdy woman who unseen leaves the newspaper of record outside my door each morning couldn’t make it in the blizzard and left Monday’s with today’s, and, lo, there was Tanner, photo, “teddy bear” like at the diner, one time truck driver, bounty hunter. And, oh yes, the Canio in that fine Pagliacci in the halcyon pre-Mortier-initiative NYCO. Hope you are her for longer, Carl Tanner!

  • bassoprofundo

    >>Not prepossessing he seemed, and a bit tentative vocally at first, but only then.


    Where does LC dig people up who write like this?

    • mandryka

      Sounds like yoda.

    • mandryka

      Sounds like yoda.

    • Nerva Nelli

      From the Albanian who was it that translated?

  • justanothertenor

    According to the NYT article, he lives with his partner and child. Is this a male partner? Could this teddy-bear be gay?

    • quoth the maven

      yes, this is a male partner.

      • Tristan_und

        I wondered that too. If so, as quoth the maven says, it is not on his personal website’s biographical note. Semi-closeted? Of course, it doesn’t really go with all that butch truck-driving and bounty-hunting, does it??

        • quoth the maven

          Telling the Times about your “partner” would be an odd way to stay “semi-closeted.” In fact, I’ve always heard that Tanner is gay, with no sense that it was not-for-publication. I think the only problem here is the Times‘s slight awkwardness in presenting the fact.

          • balabanov11

            And making it clear that your “partner” was a cute little Asian twink guy (I’m assuming; that’s always been Tanner’s preference)would have completely screwed up this publicist dream puff-piece about the ‘big brawny, truck-drivin’ bounty hunter he-man opry sanger!’
            This was hardly “coming out” -- this was typical covering up -- can you imagine a married straight man NOT mentioning at least the first name of his wife in a similar puff piece?

            I’m no fan of her singing, but at least Patti Racette is open and up front about being a lesbian.

            Somebody needs to out Carl to the public, now that he, or the publicist, or the Met has made him a public figure.

          • NYCOQ

            What doess his sexuality have to do with his singing? and as for outing him…ummm he mentioned his partner in the NYT article. I think that he has officially come out. What do you want Balabanov? Details about who’s the top and who’s the biottom?

  • atalaya

    Having seen a couple of other performances, I thought Tanner was better suited for this role than Giordani. A Matos-Tanner combination one night would have been nice.

    Rance did a cheesy, unfortunately comic drop-to-one-knee pose at the conclusion of the 2nd performance I saw. (It was right before the curtain falls.) Thankfully, that was not repeated last night.

    One reviewer (JJ at MusicalAmerica ) was quite critical of this production. While I agree with his points -- particularly the “advisability of attempting naturalism in so essentially unrealistic a form as opera” -- I think overall it is decent, enjoyable, and not nearly the abomination that one might think after reading his review.

    One small touch that serves the story nicely is in Act 2 before Dick Johnson goes outside the cabin and gets shot, the shooter perches himself on a rock. He is not extremely visible -- and there’s a chance one will miss him if one is focusing on Dick and Minnie. Del Monaco has the shooter light up a cigarette. One sees the lit cigarette out of the corner of one’s eyes and it draws attention in a subtle fashion that Dick is about to run into trouble.

    There are many faults in this production -- the miners all disappearing at the end of Act 3 -- as JJ noted -- really struck me as odd last night. Having Minnie’s back to the audience during the poker scene might not have been the best decision either. (For the HD broadcast maybe they should stick a camera in the back of the cabin. I’m only half-joking…) But if one looks for the good points in the production -- there is some fun and there is some beauty -- one will find and enjoy them. It is possible to overlook the faults.

    Having said that, JJ’s review was excellent. I wish this was the level of criticism in national publications as it would help to better inform the opera and theater going public what to look for and raise their expectations accordingly. It would also be read by directors who need to know that there are some who have a critical eye and don’t like seeing not fully thought out ideas implemented based on their theatrical effect. JJ’s review (for those who missed it) is here

    Unfortunately, the general public -- reading a review like that -- might think Fanciulla should be skipped. (Which is why it’s great that there’s a site dedicated to opera fans and not the public.) If you haven’t seen Fanciulla, realize that JJ is completely right in his criticism, but this Fanciulla is still worth seeing anyways.

    • quoth the maven

      I would have to disagree about the “small touch,” which I found risible. If the opera is staged as intended, the shooting occurs offstage. Dick has obviously been hit by a shot fired from a distance. But here, we see “the shooter”—aka Rance—stand 20 feet above Dick and plug him. If the subsequent action followed the logic of the stage picture, Rance, with his prey in sight, would now either shoot again or descend to capture the bandit. The problem is that there’s about five minutes of opera to stage before Rance reappears in Minnie’s cabin. To mark time during this gap, Rance simply heads offstage. For what? To smoke a ciggie? Take a leak?

      When Bondy’s Tosca debuted, everybody started screaming about “the composer’s original intentions.” The problem is that productions like Zeffirelli’s Tosca or Del Monaco’s Fanciulla are no closer to any “original intentions” than any the most bizarre Eurotrashy reinterpretations. In fact, it’s unimaginable that either Puccini or Belasco would ever have countenanced so absurdly untheatrical a staging detail as this shooting.

      • armerjacquino

        Dead right. This reminds me of the moment in the Zef Turandot I’ve mentioned a few times on here, when Calaf sings ‘Lasciatemi passare!’ to Ping, Pang and Pong, who are standing behind him and to the right- not blocking his way in the slightest.

      • Nerva Nelli

        Agree absolutely. It also leaves no doubt in Rance;s mind of EXACTLY where Johnson is, a stupid mistake-- one among several of this kind that GDM made.

        And yes, the laughter-inducing pose that Gallo made at the end of the Matos performance was outrageously ill-advised.

        • quoth the maven

          Obviously GDM was pretty much married to that final image, unworkable as it may have been. I simply couldn’t figure out why the miners, weeping at the loss of their Golden Girl, leave the stage before she does, until I realized that they were setting up a final tableau. Luckily, I missed the drop-to-the-knees bit. But it was pretty silly nonetheless.

    • Lucky Pierre

      lucio gallo drops to one knee at the end of the opera, doing a “WTF” look at the audience, as the lovers exit singing “addio, dolce terra, addio, california…” on sat. (dec. 18), there was no laughter from the audience, but on wed. (dec. 22), it did cause some in the audience to laugh, and it’s a terrible reaction, ruining a rather quiet moment. i guess they decided to drop that gesture.

      • Camille

        Yes, there was tittering in the orchestra on the 22nd, when the Jack Rance dropped to his knees. The ending was already lame enough and with that gesture it was effectively annhilated.

        Why could they not have employed that lovely setting (Redwood forest)used in the Met Gala? I so much preferred the sets used in the San Francisco Opera production, which were lovely and appropriate.

        This ending sucked.

  • MirtoP

    I’m confused by this review. Where’s the de rigueur note-by-note description, delivered with devilish delight, about how horrible Debbie “surely” was? There’s even -- gasp! -- *praise* for her acting in Act 2. Was the reviewer actually at this performance?

  • Bill

    Carl Tanner has a strong enough voice, all the high notes were on pitch with more than sufficient
    volume -- they sometimes rang out (almost exploded out) as though they were separated from the line of the music. He did received more applause than the other leading singers at the solo bows at the end. I would venture though that his voice is more suitable for Janacek operas than for Puccini.

    Voigt’s voice was very scratchy sounding in the earlier part of the evening when the role frequently stays in the middle register and her earlier top notes
    were not those of the old Voigt we remember but rather screechy. She did warm up somewhat later and was more on pitch than last year in her disappointing and lamentable Sentas. Applause for her at the end
    was somewhat limited, but with the snow storm,
    audience attendance was hardly “full house” (spots of empty seats all around) and many left after the second act. The conductor took his solo bow with approximately 9 orchestra members remaining in the pit.

  • Camille

    What I’d like to know more about is the audience’s reaction to Wowkle’s line, “Ugh, neve!”. Did they laugh last night, or did it pass on by…?

  • I’ve seen Tanner’s Manrico in the Robert Carsen Bregenz Trovatore. It’s a heroic sound with not a lot of nuance. But you can tell he tries to show some elegance; he doesn’t mindlessly blast through the music.


    • quoth the maven

      Well you might ask, since Fanciulla is a “conductor’s opera” if ever there was one. (Let us not forget who led the premiere.) I was quite impressed by Luisotti, who reveled in the score’s sheer lusciousness. I only felt disappointed that he was prevented by the principals from achieving the opera’s full rhapsodic potential.

      • Belfagor

        Well, I was there last night, and thought there were some beautiful nuances, and some quite exaggerated rubatos, which made musical points, but the orchestral sound was a bit too soft-grained and blended for my taste -- surely the opening of the prelude should knock your socks off -- and it didn’t -- and the big ‘Ugh Neve’ clinch in Act 2 with snowstorm, gunshots and bells didn’t feel orgasmic enough -- and the fabulous Act 3 arrival of Minnie did not punch home. Many strangenesses in the orchestral writing were passed over. Maybe playing Pelleas in tandem didn’t help -- too much Debussy, not enough Strauss and Italianita in the alloy. I was sitting in the front of the dress circle, so was expecting to be blown away a bit more at the big moments.

        Thought Debbie tired -- most top notes in the latter part sounded under, and the piece doesn’t seem right for her timbre to me -- the outbursts on top not quite lightning high enough, and the middle a bit occluded, though not as formless as I’d been led to believe reading comments on this site. The new tenor was creditable enough -- i’ve heard worse, but having seen Jose Cura in the role, for me, however wayward his singing, Dick becomes him like no other role. They were matched in girth and their ‘business’ seemed well attuned.

        I wasn’t expecting horses! But then none in the last act -- that seemed perverse……..But, for me, the detailed stage pictures were very evocative, particularly the last act.

        • MontyNostry

          Caro Belfagor, interesting about the Debussy comment. What do you think St Simon of Rattle would have made of the score? Or do you think he probably doesn’t approve of Puccini? Maybe his missus could sing Wowkle.

          • Camille

            HA!HA!HA!!!!!!!! Mr. Monty N. — I would give my first born to hear Lady Rattle lend her voix d’or to “UGH, NEVE!”!!!!!!!

            Actually, she was pretty good as Mel. So was Susanne Mentzer, though.

            Thanks for the grand guffaw!

          • Belfagor

            St Simon of Rattle is on record saying that Italian opera is vulgar -- I don’t think he’s ever gone near any.

            He has pronounced the same with Tchaikovsky -- and the hype and naivete of his statements that has surrounded his new recording of the complete ‘Nutcracker’ -- a Tchaikovsky first for him -- and there is a gushing interview in which he goes on about how original it is, and unexpected. Really?? How fascinating -- no-one ever noticed that before -- presumably there are other reasons it is performed a zillion times, especially at this time of year.

            However, notwithstanding his extraordinary talents in his select repertoire (he is a great Debussyian, among many other things) -- he did opine publicly that Maw’s ‘Sophie’s Choice’ was the most significant opera since ‘Peter Grimes’.

            Which leads me to conclude that conductors, or glorified band leaders should be confined to pits -- and allowed to speak only through their batons.

            And back to Fanciulla, blizzards, and ‘Ugh’ -- it seemed that Billy Jackrabbit had the loudest voice onstage -- or was my hearing aid playing up? I’ve lost my home made stencilled programme……

          • MontyNostry

            Let’s face it Belfagor, what would a Scouser know about vulgarity?

  • whiskey per tutti

    Off topic.

    Does anyone have an explanation why there are no listings on the Met channel on Sirius? Another casualty of the blizzard?

    • taminosboyfriend

      It must be. Last night they played a 1981 broadcast of “L´italiana in Algeri” with Blake, Horne and Bruscantini they have never played before. Let´s hope they fix that soon.

      • quoth the maven

        I’ve only gotten intermittent Sirius reception since the blizzard. Anyone else?

  • Erdgeist

    The incumbent’s sciatica did not prevent him from attending last night’s performance (he was sitting a few seats away from mine), so it may be subsiding. But yeah, Tanner was the best thing about the evening.

  • Carl Tanner is long overdue for his MET debut. I’m glad they finally got him. He was a truck driver before he was in opera,you know. Maybe Marcello will still be sick for the HD production and we can enjoy a good singer. Congrats Carl.

  • La Valkyrietta

    I’ve been to the Anvil, the Mine Shaft, the Toilet and the International Stud, but I’m here! I saw Corelli, Bergonzi, Gedda and Kraus, and I’m here!

    Last night I was at Fanciulla. I loved the production. Loved the horses in the second act. Loved the sets, no sick reggie imposing his neurores, none of that. Giordani is Sicilian and knows what he says, but he could have sang it better. Voigt was in great voice at times, but what was she singing about? I loved the chorus. Levine 54, where are you? Stage director, did you read a Caruso biography? Wonderful melodies. Fanciulla will survive. Honeys, in my time I must have screamed loudly, full lungs, “Brava Tebaldi!” maybe two hundred times. I should have screamed louder five hundred times. She was something.

    Well, I will go the twentieth to Boccanegra. Levine, Dima, Furlanetto, as good as it gets these days. But Fanciulla! Dear Renata who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name!

    Still, I enjoyed Fanciulla last night. I’m glad I went. I just can imagine how it could have been. The same production. Conducting it a little differently, acting it a little differently, different stage directions…and singers who, how can I explain it?…Deliver!

    I’ve been to the Anvil, the Mine Shaft, the Toilet and the International Stud, and I’m here. I’m still here, on the High Line, lunching at the Standard Grill, having that sinful Deal Closer, but dears, I’m still here. But please! Italy! Give us another Renata while I’m here!

    Too much Cristal, too much Comtes de Champagne, too much Grande Dame. Pardonez moi. I wish you all, dear, dear Parterre posters, and particularly to the incredible and wonderful La Cieca, a very happy New Year.

  • Capriccio

    This is completely OT, but is there an opera blog as good as this for the London scene? I just discovered this site yesterday and am devouring it -- such committed and knowledgable people writing and commenting here!

    • Capriccio

      How completely stupid that I didn’t post this on the latest post…