Cher Public


It shouldn’t take you but a moment to find the great huge clunking error of fact in this Vanity Fair profile of Joyce DiDonato. And that publication is usually at its best when discussing dead rich people!

  • blanchette

    -- thank you batty and manou — I see all that nipple stuff too. that whole nurses without borders Carthage design- what?????? and poor Susan with the purple mary-janes- don’t get me started. I wanted everyone to just stand still and sing- I mean Dido and Aeneas get a room! what are you -out in the fields at Woodstock ? directors and their “concepts”.

  • CwbyLA

    I went to the HD without having heard a single bar from the opera. I also had no time to do research beforehand about it so I was a Troyens virgin until this morning. My general reaction was that it is unnecessarily long. I kept thinking that Verdi would have told the story more efficiently in half an hour! I thought the first two acts are unnecessary and the opera can stand on its own with acts 3-5. The ballet scenes are boring although accompanied by very nice music. I don’t go to the opera to watch an hour of ballet. I absolutely loved Susan Graham. She really showed great emotional investment in her character and did a fantastic job. Hymmel was riveting. What a wonderful way to make a debut. He really has a great voice and used it to wonderful effect. It is so comforting to watch such a young man go at it fiercely. The love duet was a highlight. Those two did a fantastic job. I found Deb Voigt less successful like the most of you. She was not a disaster but she did not have much impact either. I also found Croft to be stiff. I think the rest of the cast and the chorus were truly great. I very much liked the production but I don’t have anything else to compare to. For me several stage pictures were breathtaking and the lighting was very effective. I loved JDD as the host. She actually pays attention to what people are saying and asks relevant questions. All in all, I had a very good experience but I probably would not attend a Troyens performance for another ten years. It is too long.

    • If Verdi is your frame of reference, then yes Les Troyens will seem long and flaccid. There will be too much dancing, too many choral scenes, and not enough melodramatic turning points. If Berlioz is your frame of reference, then Verdi will seem garishly melodramatic, under-composed and lacking in nobility. The challenge is to develop a feeling for what each type of art has to offer and to avoid judging art in one style by criteria more appropriate for art in another style.

      • And one other thought: if you abandon the first two acts of Troyens, you lose all the parallels between the Fall of Troy and the Fall of Dido. The two halves of the opera reflect on one another. Each half by itself might simply constitute an anecdote. The two halves together show patterns in stories repeat themselves. In doing so, the opera moves beyond telling stories and towards presenting history, at least as history would have been understood in the classical world.

        • Er, “show patterns in the stories repeating themselves.”

          • CwbyLA

            Thank you m. croche. It makes much more sense now, that’s the parallels between first and second half.

      • armerjacquino

        So there’s no room for comparison between different artists? I’m not sure that the mild observation that a Verdi treatment of the fall of Troy would have been more fast-moving is one that it’s so very philistine to have made.

        • Well, I don’t think you’re characterizing either CowboyLAs original post or my response accurately. C-LA was not merely making a “mild observation”, but criticizing Berlioz more not being more like Verdi. And I wasn’t calling anybody philistine -- C-LA is perfectly within his rights to prefer Verdi to Les Troyens (Verdi did, after all). But I think it’s useful (not necessary, but useful) to be just in one’s criticism, and in this case I felt that C-LA was being a bit unfair to Berlioz.

          • armerjacquino

            Ta for the clarification, croche- and apologies if my post was an unfair simplification.

    • grimoaldo

      I think the reason you found it too long is probably because as QPF said “Luisi totally pedestrian.”
      A newcomer to the piece would not necessarily recognise that the conducting was poor. When I saw Colin Davis conduct Les Troyens, the time sped by. He was not very good as a conductor of some of my other favourite composers but as a Berlioz conductor he was superb.
      I did not listen or see the Met show, I have reached a point where I don’t really want to hear things I feel I will find mediocre any more.

  • oedipe

    I didn’t fall in love with the opera but the singing certainly elevated it above the bombast.

    I kept thinking that Verdi would have told the story more efficiently in half an hour!

    Indeed, what a waste of local talent and resources on such a lousy opera!

    • oedipe

      How does one know the cast was “truly great” when one knows absolutely nothing about the opera and what it should sound like?

      • CwbyLA

        Just gut feeling oedipe. No intellect was involved.

        • Belfagor

          What struck me, seeing it this time in a good in parts, but not great, performance was how the piece is a strange amalgam of French Grand Opera structure, Gluck -- with all those frozen stage moments, and moments of assorted musical madness, which takes over pace and everything, which is echt Berlioz. I personally wouldn’t cut a note, as I find it an extraordinary inventive score. But, Berlioz, in many ways, works better in a concert hall, his timing is not strictly theatrical timing, and even though every work he ever wrote was ‘dramatic’ -- most of them are not cut out for the stage… most obviously ‘Damnation of Faust’, which, though there is a vogue to stage it at the moment, really has problems when you see it clumpingly acted out, rather than in the realm of the imagination. I found yesterday, whenever it got slow, I disengaged from the stage and let the musical logic transport me -- it worked for me. Of course Act 4 seems impossibly discursive, with all those numbers (ballet, Iopas) that one might feel should be cut, but, by the time you get to the septet and the gorgeous duet, I always feel that time has indeed stopped, in the most ravishing way.

          I remember always hating the Act 4 ballet (thought it was boring and unnecessary) until I saw Colin Davis conduct it in a concert performance in London, and he lavished such care on it, and obviously relished its sprung rhythms so much, and all those varied, sensual textures, that I was captivated and have been ever since.

          Was in two minds about the production -- I did think it was quite cunning in trying to minimize the narrative illogic in places (the return from the battle instead of a Royal Hunt and Storm -- though that did create other logical problems), and the general fluidity between scene changes. But it did look a bit cut price at times, notably the final pyre. And yes, the chorus was intrusive in the intimate moments. But the ghosts were compelling.

          What I REALLY don’t understand, is why Deborah Voigt EVER went near the role of Cassandre -- even in her prime it is in totally in the wrong place for her. Why would she want to do it? She wouldn’t do Eboli or Gluck’s Alceste would she? Yesterday I found the first two acts hard work -- she was a still void at the centre, and I needed to conjure up aural memories of Verrett, Norman, Crespin to remember how fabulously intense and claustrophobic the fall of Troy should be. Conducting was lightweight too, which didn’t help.

          • MontyNostry

            Funnily enough, Belfy, Voigt did challenge Dame Janet by singing Alceste in concert in NYC in 2009.
            I don’t think she got raves, if I remember rightly. She didn’t reference it in her interview last night, either …

          • Belfagor

            So, is she then deluded, or just optimistic?

          • MontyNostry

            A single girl needs to work.

          • Belfagor

            I just found a review -- she sang it with a severe cold……!

            The other thing about the production that was annoying was that I did get the sense that Zambello did not trust those massive frozen moments at all -- hence the hyper-active chorus activity, really distracting in the big concertato that follows Laocoon’s death -- re-enacting it with waves and children really killed the moment.

            Would love to see a Tcherniakov take on this opera. But there’ll be enough scope for frozen immobile moments in the granite masses of ‘Prince Igor’ next season…….

          • MontyNostry

            You know my views on Cesca’a attempts at making dull old operas more interesting and animated. Her vaguely feminist, totally hideous ROH Don Giovanni, with its gas fires and Monty Python-style Big Finger for the Commendatore, is one of the shoddiest productions I’ve ever seen. She did a good job with Show Boat at the Albert Hall, though, it has to be said.

          • shoegirl

            The chorus stole the show in the first two acts, I think much of the weaknesses of Voight are partly to do with the part. Last 2 acts really were Susan Graham’s moment and she grabbed with both hands. I think the music is better written in acts 3 and 4, it’s like Berlioz cared more. Agreed the ballets were boring. I’d have made judicious cuts there.

            I have to as the cute little mezzo playing Aneas’ son caught my eye and ear. Grand head of curls, as my late grandmother would have said.

  • ilpenedelmiocor

    First off, thanks to all the previous posters for the many late-night Troyens-related LOLs.

    My two cents:

    Now I truly understand what “grand opera” means: a cast of thousands milling around for five hours, changing nationality every half hour, inconveniently interrupted periodically by half a dozen ballets.

    On which topic, I am with Batty: shoot the choreographer. Martha Graham goes to Troy/Carthage. Gah.

    DV is not (or perhaps just no longer — I wasn’t there the first time around) capable of carrying the first two acts, so they sink like a stone. She can sing all the notes; that’s about it. No dramatic intensity whatsoever. Like Batty, I was baffled by the disconnect between her facial expressions and the words she was singing — to the extent that I began to wonder if she even understands French. I honestly don’t think that’s Zambello’s fault — she can hardly be expected to rush out on stage mid-performance to manually manipulate the lead soprano’s facial muscles for her. So in the end I decided it’s either a case of too much botox, or Voigt simply has zero thespian chops. Or both. That she claimed in her interview that she had added “layers” (cf. louannd’s comment) to her characterization over the past ten years made me grateful I had missed her more superficial take on the character during her first assay of the role.

    My favorite quote of the day was unfortunately my own.
    DV: “Ma voix se perd!”
    Moi: That’s for sure.

    After that was over with, I thought the singing was simply glorious all around: Graham was captivating, Hymel stunning, I am dying to hear Karen Cargill in a featured role, and all the one-aria more minor characters were just really, really good (Kwanchul Youn was cheated of a well-deserved ovation IMO).

    I was so happy to hear unmitigated, consistently topnotch singing for several hours that I was willing to overlook how alternately boring or irritating a lot of this production was.

    • ilpenedelmiocor

      Sorry. Kwangchul.

      Oh, and thanks to manou for pointing out the more nippletastic features of the broadcast, which I would have otherwise completely missed.

      I was myself more concerned with trying to figure out whether JDD’s dress was just riding up around her hips and upper thighs or if that was an intentional design element. Never did figure it out.

    • ilpenedelmiocor

      Sorry. Kwangchul Youn.

      Oh, and thanks to manou for pointing out the more nippletastic features of the broadcast, which I would have otherwise completely missed.

      I was myself more concerned with trying to figure out whether JDD’s dress was just riding up around her hips and upper thighs or if that was an intentional design element. Never did figure it out.

  • Nerva Nelli

    Karen Cargill was also excellent in her Met debut role of Waltraute last year: a most welcome British import!

    CwbyLA, you really do need to experience LA PRISE DE TROIE with a qualified Cassandre to get why it’s so necessary. May I suggest the Gardiner DVD with Antonacci? Having horrible choreography for the Laocoon narration and ensemble and an Andromache grunting and power hugging the crowds did not help convey that work’s power, either: sensitively directed, that Andromache episode is one of the most heart-rending things in the whole operatic canon.

    I think it’s as with SIEGFRIED-- harder to grasp at first than the rest. Even though my first live PRISE DE TROIE was the night of Jessye Norman’s excellent Met debut, I didn’t appreciate quite how wonderful that part of the opera was for some years. Horne and Robert Massard on the RAI set w/Gedda also deliver the goods.

    As for Verdi, remember that his work for the Paris Opera (Berlioz’ intended destination for TROYENS) also has lots of ballet music-- even for OTELLO!-- which is mercifully cut. Berlioz’ ballets here do go on but are at least better music, and can certainly be better staged than Varone’s realization would let one know at first encounter.

    • Loge

      The ROH Troyens with Antonacci is showing on HD in theaters on Feb 24 and 26. I don’t know how convenient that is for most people. In Atlanta one has to travel to distant suburbs or exurbs to find a theater carrying the broadcasts.

    • armerjacquino

      Cargill’s welcome NOW, but when she was cast I seem to remember *someone* saying

      “-Karen Cargill debuts as Anna in TROYENS.

      No North American singers (say, Vinson Cole or Elizabeth Bishop) could POSSIBLY have filled these roles..
      on October 18, 2010 at 10:28 AM”

      That’s why it’s sometimes a little dangerous to protest someone on the basis of nationality, before you’ve actually heard them.

      *wanders off whistling and maybe even giggling a bit*

      • Nerva Nelli

        Giggling Whistler: point taken, but Bishop would have been a fine Waltraute and Anna, and-- note in passing--your boy the irreplaceable, visa expenses-worthy David Soar (in all credible accounts) laid a big egg on the Met stage as Masetto, unrivaled since the momentous local Lemalu bow.


        • CwbyLA

          Nerva, thank you for the suggestions. I will look out for Antonacci’s performance. I wish we had a better Cassandra yesterday. Also the opera started at 9 am for me. Perhaps I was not as awake for the first part as the latter parts :-) i very much appreciate the discussion from everyone though especially since this was my first Troyens and I was completely unprepared for it. Mine were initial thoughts,

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Cwby, although I have not seen this one in particular, it is quite intriguing as well, a Fura del Baus production. This is just a preview, but at least, the Cassandre is far superior to the one at the Met (although the Enee is not):

            Has anyone seen Barcellona in this role?

  • MontyNostry

    At least ENO, if not the ROH, has returned the favour by picking up on some (outstanding, as it happens) US talent in the form of Corinne Winters for the forthcoming Violetta. Georgia Jarman was pretty damn good in Hoffmann too, though I think Melody Moore was less inspiring, if solid, as Marguerite.