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It happened in Boston

UPDATE: It’s official.

EARLIER: La Cieca hears from a generally reliable source that James Levine has resigned from his post as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Expect an official announcement later today.

94 comments

  • parpignol says:

    OT: Eve Queler looks healthy at 75, conducted a very enjoyable concert performance of L’Africaine this evening at Avery Fisher, with Giordani and mostly impressive performers in the other parts; and what a wild and crazy opera!

    • brooklynpunk says:

      parpignol:

      Who did you find ” less impressive”?-- I thought the performers were all pretty good..

      • parpignol says:

        brooklynpunk, I thought Taigi was very uneven, for some of the reasons noted below by Lucky Pierre, but especially because her top turns very harsh at full voice; though I thought she had saved enough to make something quite good out of the death scene; I thought Giordani was heroic and almost always came through on top, but missed some sweetness of tone in the more lyrical passages; I loved Dehn (who also seemed to be the only person on stage who knew she was singing in French) and loved the baritone Mvinjelwa; hope we’ll be hearing more of them; and I totally disagree with LP below about the opera as a whole: very often gorgeous or thrilling and sometimes both at once, I think it dramatically achieves greatness-through-weirdness, left me thinking about Meyerbeer’s relation to Verdi and Berlioz, and I would happily sit through it again if there was to be a another performance in my lifetime!

        • Lucky Pierre says:

          parpginol, there wasn’t even a ballet!!!

          i think matos would have made a fantastic selika.

          yes, the nelusko was quite good. south africa seems to be producing a lot of young promising singers.

          • brooklynpunk says:

            ..but…

            There was Ballet music, at the begining off the fifth(?) Act-nu?

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            bp, you are right… i think it was act 4. i must have dozed off then and drooled on you at the time.

          • parpignol says:

            ballet music which Queler conducted quite poorly, as if she didn’t really care about it at all. . .

        • manou says:

          The baritone Mvinjelwa would score very highly with me if capitalized names were allowed in Scrabble.

    • Lucky Pierre says:

      parpignol,

      i was there too, and what a freaking tacky mess this meyerbeer is. someone here, i think brooklynpunk, owes me dinner for making me sit through this 3.5 hours of this filth. chiara taigi started out promising, but what a mess, she’s a wild and uneven performer. her registers were uneven and she had some trouble with dynamics. her berceuse in act 2 had lots of potential, her histrionics were fascinating to watch (it looked like she was doing elektra’s monologue), but in the 2nd half (acts 4 and 5), her middle register turned to filth — she was channeling leyla gencer by then — and by the death scene, she was also running out of steam. well, one thing she’s not, bland and boring, but someone please bring back the young grace bumbry!!!!!

      ellie dehn sang great — she even outsang taigi in their duet. i can see why this opera should be called “vasco da gama”, the tenor does all the heavy lifting. giordani did pump out lots of volume and high notes, but as usual, sounded whiny to me.

      i was familiar with this work from recordings… and hearing it live did not change my opinion of this bloody mess.

      • Pelleas says:

        Well, I disagree about Meyerbeer--I think of him as a sort of operatic Cecil B. DeMille, and there seems to be plenty of room for that, particularly if all we’re going to get is the occasional concert performance.

        From my section of the orchestra, Ellie Dehn did NOT always sing “great”--she sounded exhausted at the beginning of the duet with Taigi. I realize this is more or less a voice crank’s version of 4chan at this point, but honestly--the Speaking of Objective Truth About Subjective Aesthetic Experience around here is wearying (cf. Farhad Manjoo’s new Slate article about NPR fans).

    • Evenhanded says:

      Well.

      I think Parpignol’s original comment is probably the most charitable so far, and so I will respond here. Yes -- it was very enjoyable. As has almost always been the case with OONY events, it was a mixture of sublime, absurd, and plenty of mediocre.

      Giordani started in husky, raspy voice, but warmed up, made some sensational sounds in his upper register, and looked horribly uncomfortable for most of the evening: he didn’t know the opera. He was GLUED to the score and made loads of mistakes (including an accidental exit from the stage at one point). Taigi had temperament and stage presence to burn. Wow -- I haven’t seen a singer with so much sense of Italian ‘style’ in many years. (Yes, I said Italian, despite this being French Grand opera.) She could give masterclasses in the use of hands alone. Her vocal technique is excellent -- unfortunately, she has clearly overworked her voice and there are now flaws that cannot be concealed, including an incipient wobble and plenty of harshness on top. Still, hers was a remarkable performance in many ways. Dehn is typical of the younger American singers: poor French pronunciation, generic in style, and no clue whatsoever about effective stage presence. Her dress was gorgeous, but her character was blank. And the voice isn’t particularly special either. Mvinjelwa was solid throughout, and offered robust, stylish singing and lots of charisma. Daniel Mobbs looked ridiculous, but sang very well. Too bad he always seems 100% disinterested in what he’s singing about.

      As for Queler, she conducted well enough, and held the considerable forces together calmly and gave the singers every bit of help they might need. She has had a great career for one so untalented as a conductor. He gift to the musical community over the last 40 years cannot be underestimated. The prolonged ovations she received from the audience were richly deserved. Brava, maestra. Enjoy your retirement.

      • brooklynpunk says:

        Was it only MY “Playbill” that seemed to omit a bio for Daniel Mobbs (Don Pedro)?

        • Lucky Pierre says:

          no, bp, it’s not a conspiracy. i noticed that too…

          • brooklynpunk says:

            Lucky:

            I’d be glad to take you out to dinner--Dutch treat??

            You can drool all you want..

            I did doze on and off, during the first 45 minutes ( but still thank Agnes V. for the opportunity to snooze in such great seats)

            I can’t say that I’m rushing out for a recording , but still glad to hear a work I’ve heard so much about, but hadn’t heard in in it entirety before

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            which seats did you have, BP? i was in the back, not the absolute last rows, but close to the back. i spent part of the time watching the poor german shepherd guide dog, who laid there on the floor, really better behaved than many in the audience.

          • brooklynpunk says:

            Lucky:

            The audience was unbearably rude, I thought..and sort of clue-less ( it was very clearly noted that the intermission would be after Act III-which didn’t stop an exodus after the SECOND ACT..

            I was sitting next to the dawg’s master— sorta sheparding him….’

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            oh, i thought you were his husband…

      • viper says:

        I feel like it’s not impossible that Giordani was, well, maybe a little drunk…

        That said, I completely enjoyed the whole crazy performance.

        • Gualtier M says:

          I was sitting pretty close and Marcello didn’t seem drunk. However, he was singing very loud and at one point got a frog or some cracky/husky break in his voice at the end of a dramatic phrase. He went offstage I think to get a glass of water.

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            i thought he started out “oh paradis” rather hoarse but soldiered on gamely. i too didn’t think he made a false exit, i thought he was just going to get water.

            but the weird thing was, they obviously did not rehearse the bows at the end. there was a huge delay before the offstage singers came out to join mvinjelwa and taigi. then when ellie dehn came out, she took a solo bow, and she didn’t know that no one else had taken on, so it was odd that the 2nd donna got one but not the prima donna.

        • brooklynpunk says:

          Lucky:

          I ain’t “the marrying kind”--AND--

          The dog is a girl--not my type….!

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            well, the girl is too adorable for words. i just wanted to go pet her during the boring moments in the perf.

          • brooklynpunk says:

            she loves that— and she is usually one of the better-behaved members of the audience

            (her only draw-back is a lack of appreciation for 20th cent. music)

  • Those who do not know who Chiara Taigi is, take a look and you will understand:

    • thenoctambulist says:

      I don’t know what you guys are talking about. From that clip, I would she’s a very promising singer. This is a better senza mamma than Sondra Radvanovsky. By the way, this singer has already sung Medea!

      • I have to disagree, strongly with this assertion.

        Tiagi is not a “promising singer”. This is how it gets with her: Squally top, ugly bottom and a strident middle; and the wobble in the middle and bottom registers is not what I would call healthy either.

        Actually, it sounds like she is not supporting through the middle and that is giving the impression that she is running out of breath often, specially at the end of long phrases.

        This lady is not just starting, not an advanced student and certainly not about to break into the business. This woman is seen as the soprano taking the mantle from Dessi, basically.

        I think the scene is painful to listen, there are too many ugly notes and there is no high C or B to speak of. Even the final A in Senza mamma is wobbly and flat. How could this be considered better than anyone is surprising, but to each his own. 90 year old Magda sounded better in the Adriana Monologue.

        Her advantage over la Rad is the fact that she is a native speaker, so she has a deeper connection to the language and the style.

        The incredible part is that 10 years ago she was singing just like this and she was not laughed out of the stage:

        • Lucky Pierre says:

          the thing that is puzzling is that, at least last night, once in a while she made some lovely sounds, particularly in the top register, why she can’t consistently maintain that, i don’t know.

          • Hippolyte says:

            If I’ve ever sat through a worse opera than L’Africaine, I can’t imagine what it would be. I truly never understand what people are always on about when they yammer “wouldn’t it be wonderful if they revived Meyerbeer”? After seeing Huguenots at Bard and now L’Africaine, I can’t think of a worst waste of time and money than spending it on him. I remember feeling nearly the same about Huguenots but at least there were a few moments that weren’t excruciating empty (and I’m just about to listen to some of the Madrid broadcast of it from the other day to hear its impressive female line-up: Massis, DiGiacomo & Deshayes). But I didn’t hear ANY in L’Africaine and it actually drove the friend I went with home at intermission (and he’s usually game for anything!).

            Was this Queler’s farewell? It seemed so given her over-enthusiastic applause throughout (certainly more for her 40-year legacy than her actual “talent”) but her ever-plodding conducting didn’t help Meyerbeer’s cause, not that the greatest conductor in the world could have. (I can’t imagine what Muti made of this piece back in the day with Norman and Luchetti--and, yes, I know that recording is easily available but no, thank you!)

            Frankly, the terms “filth” and “demented” etc. don’t register for me--it’s not my taste and they’re not qualities I relish or seek out-- but I sort of had the feeling while watching Taigi last evening that that’s what I was getting. It was kind of dramatically compelling, but not always in a good way and not that anyone else was even trying, which made it all the more bizarre. And the singing of course was all over the place. When I read Taigi was hired, I sought out a broadcast of her as the Cherubini Medea and it too was all over the place, the top a particular mess. It’s always been a very “provincial” career, in both senses of the word and based on what I saw and heard last night, rightly so. On the other hand, without her wildness and unpredictability to (sort of) keep my interest, I, too, might have fled at intermission. Let’s hope that Veronesi will make some better choices for OONY in the coming years!

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            haven’t listened to her clips above yet, but here she’s in a bit more lovely moment, why she can replicate it more often is puzzling:

            here she’s not too bad either (now i’m trying to think who the tenor sounds like but i can’t place it for sure):

            don’t you just love the costumes and design?

          • Paulo says:

            Lucky Pierre,
            The tenor in Ballo seems to be Aquiles Machado.

    • tinney says:

      I can honestly say that I agree with everyone when they say she was vocally uneven BUT she was the most entertaining singer on stage last night. She had moments that were brilliant and then she had moments where I was sitting there confused, “was this the same voice that just produced that gorgeous dimenuendo?”

      I think in the above video it demonstrates for me what I believe her main vocal issue to be; she has a huge break in her lower middle voice that forces her to go into chest VERY high like around an f above middle c. For a soprano, even a dramatic soprano, that is not smart and very dangerous. You can hear how she uses a sort of chesty mix as opposed to a head mix to make the sounds. I am not entirely sure of why she is doing this; perhaps the rep is too big, perhaps she never learned how to mix correctly, perhaps she’s trying to be louder, or who knows BUT it has certainly shaved off notes from her top.

      Having said all of that, I still find her entertaining but I do not wish to hear her in anything heavier than this and according to her bio in last night’s program she’s going full force!!

      • Lucky Pierre says:

        i don’t know how many of you were there (i wasn’t) but i find the recorded l’africaine from london in 1978 with bumbry the best of all the recordings i’ve come across. she had the agility for the part, the rich tone, and certainly the temperament… it’s about the only one i’ve enjoyed. not that there are many versions out there…

  • Pelleas says:

    That anyone could complain about extremely infrequent performances of Meyerbeer in the face of the continual scheduling of Gounod around the world boggles my mind.

    • richard says:

      Yeah, really. the Meyerbeer pieces are very uneven but they are done soooo infrequently, I don’t really see the point in complaining about them compared to the Gounod pieces which aren’t all THAT much better. And the Gounod revivals DO take up a lot of resources.

      I suspect a part of the problem a lot of the attendees had with L’Africaine was 1)concert opera format and 2)OONY quality, both of which could take a piece that is marginal and sink it.

      I saw the first OONY L’Africaine and it was sort of dreary, a typically messy Queller, an aging Tucker and Stella, a clueless second soprano. I don’t remember who did Nelusko but he wasn’t that hot. I thought the thing was a bore.

      Much later, in the late 80s, I saw it staged at SFO and the piece with exotic, evocative sets and some very good singing ( really, Swenson brought the house down) made a much better case for the piece. Yeah it was still an uneven mess, but it had moments that were thrilling and I got a glimpse of why this very old fashioned opera was once very popular.

      • Pelleas says:

        I found the Tucker memorial last night…strange; saying this performance was “honoring” (rather than “commemorating”) Tucker’s struck me as the worst sort of over the top worship of the past that gives the audience a bad name. To actually play a recording of Tucker singing the tenor’s Vasco’s big aria seemed, however unintentionally, a rather shabby way to treat Giordani.

        • brooklynpunk says:

          …especially as the recording of Tucker was in awful sound quality….!!

          I , too, found it odd that they would play it, in Giordani’s presence..but at least Marcello sounded so much better , live..

        • La Cieca says:

          It did seem they did Marcello a “Kathy Lee.”

  • Hippolyte says:

    Yeah I hate Faust pretty much too, and find the MET scheduling yet another new production of it pretty inexplicable and a total waste of Kaufmann and Pape (whom I spotted standing in front of the Empire Hotel last evening after L’Africaine on my way to the subway--the high point of the evening, needless to say). Romeo I like better but not enough to bring myself to sit through another evening of Hong whom I’ve always found extremely dull.

    • poisonivy says:

      I think R&J done with the right singers can be an absolutely beautiful opera. Beautiful arias and duets. Lots of filler, but still, the highs are very high. Faust otoh I have less and less tolerance for, it’s one of the most banal operas still in the popular rep.

  • BillyBoy says:

    This is why I am less than fully sympathetic. Levine has long been known in the medical community as a bad patient:

    “Volpe added that Levine – who has long been plagued by back problems and complications from a viral infection – was self-medicating… and the drugs had begun to take a toll on his facilities.”