Red dress diaries
UPDATE: La Cieca has just received a complete report from her spy at today’s open dress rehearsal of La traviata at the Met, which, as you already know, was sung by Hei-Kyung Hong, replacing Natalie Dessay, who canceled. The debriefing, plus your chance to predict the future of this production, after the jump.
Not a word about the likelihood of Natalie showing up or not on Friday. She is “ill” and is “expected to be here” for the prima. Both of those statements could, as we know, mean anything
The rehearsal went well, I thought, although it was a bit rough here and there. As any conductor can tell you (and some found out too late for their own good) La traviata is not as simple as it might appear, and for every OOM-pah-pah-OOM-pah-pah, there is another very tricky rhythmic modulation, and many a land mine in the choral work. I recall a Sutherland-Bonynge performance 40 years ago where everything just fell apart during the chorus near the end of act 1. One of the worst things I’ve ever seen at the Met. What a “filth” podcast that would make!
Still, it’s not really fair to make too many public pronouncements about a rehearsal, especially when the leading lady is a sub.
Hvorostovsky was quite excellent. (Full disclosure.: I have a thing for him.) He has a spectacular stage presence, and sang with great insight and (mostly) great beauty. He looked stunning in his flawlessly fitted suit, and moved and acted with great intelligence and conviction. He is, of course, immeasurably more attractive visually than Matthew P. But that works out pretty well. Alfredo’s schlubbiness is just one more reason that his father has always been disappointed in him.
Polenzani was a bit rough, he too perhaps thrown off a bit by the new leading lady. Having seen him a number of times in the role last year, I know he can be very fine in the role, especially in the vocal sense. His acting remains a bit of a problem for me, but it may be that he’s just doing what the director told him.
After almost 30 years at the Met, and having performed quite a variety of roles (and well) Hong remains something of a wonder. She pretty much matched Poplavskaya bit-for-bit in this physically demanding production. (She did not, however, attempt Marina’s impressive stunt of running backwars on a twelve inch wide bench in nine-inch high heels while singing. At her age, she can be allowed some leeway. . . ) The voice is not quite what it was in her earliest years, but it’s still damn good. Her acting is very sincere and touching, and she is more than up to the big moments—including the “Amami Alfredo” outburst in act2. She worked very well with both male leads, and they applauded her with smiles and kisses during the curtain calls.
Luisi conducted a fleet and well-calibrated performance, and the orchestra seemed very responsive. It’s a pleasure to look over and watch him conduct from time to time. His movement are clear and beautiful in themselves. He’s a real professional. We’re lucky to have him.
I enjoyed the whole thing, and I look forward to seeing the finished version.