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All the world loves a crown

Seventeenth century opera remains the true connoisseur’s delight partly because it’s so rarely done. However, the Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble is doing its best to brighten the doldrums of August with a wonderfully involving production of Monteverdi’s final opera L’Incoronazione di Poppea which began a six-performance run Thursday evening at Classic Stage Company’s theater, just off of Manhattan’s Union Square.  

Despite its being ten years old, Dell’Arte had somehow escaped my notice until I heard about this Poppea. The organization’s admirable mission is to help young singers make the transition from the conservatory to full performing careers—rather like a self-contained Young Artists program where the singers perform leading roles rather than just covering and being in the chorus. Dell’Arte provides extensive language and musical coaching to supplement its long rehearsal process—a system which is clearly bearing fruit based on the mature and confident performances of the large Monteverdi cast.

Supporting these aims, Dell’Arte scored a canny coup for its first opera from the baroque repertoire by inviting the up-and-coming period-instrument ensemble The Sebastians to form the core of the Poppea band. Recent winner of the Audience Prize at the Early Music America Baroque Performance Competition, the Sebastians surely provided a salutary grounding for a crew of singers with little or no experience in this kind of music.

It was a tribute to Jeffrey Grossman, Sebastians harpsichordist and leader of the performance, that everyone sounded so at home in Monteverdi’s challenging signature style of heightened recitative, which was so ably supported by his intrepid continuo group of cellist Ezra Seltzer, harpist Christa Patton and tireless theorbist John Lenti.

Grossman’s work was strongly supported by the spare but inventive staging by Victoria Crutchfield which with no scenery to speak of and just a few props still vividly delineated the roiling world created in Busenello’s supreme libretto of a Roman court thrown into chaos by its emperor Nerone’s obsession with the seductive minx Poppea. That Nerone wishes to make her his empress is complicated both by his unhappy marriage to Ottavia (who is” infrigidita e infeconda”) and her long-suffering former lover Ottone. As the opera ends with an incoronazione (coronation), we know that Poppea–whose ambitions throughout are watched over by the god of love, Cupid–emerges victorious.

Costumes for the production were contemporary with touches of Roman swag, but modernity was not emphasized, other than by lines of cocaine done by Nerone and his crony Lucano and an obligatory cell phone appearance in the final scene, but Ottone still brought a dagger rather than a pistol to kill Poppea.

Nobly abiding by the composer’s prescribed vocal ranges, the production featured a mezzo as Nerone, the brooding and fiery Alison Cheeseman whose bio was unfortunately omitted from the program. Looking remarkably like a young Patti Smith, Cheeseman commanded the role’s wide-ranging vocal and dramatic compass—from raging at the roadblocks Ottavia and Seneca throw in his way to swooning at his lover’s demanding charms.

As Poppea, Greer Davis was a bewitching young seductress on the make, her light soprano warming up after a slightly uneasy beginning. Although they might not have always had the ideal blend for the numerous rapturous duets, their powerful erotic connection held the evening’s focus.

Their chief impediment, Katherine Howell’s Ottavia was more comfortable as the rejected wife mourning her fate than as the spiteful virago demanding Ottone kill her rival; her finely sustained farewell to Rome was one of the evening’s high points. As her advisor Hans Tashjian easily commanded the stage, not only because he was more than a head taller than anyone else. Seneca’s droning pronouncements often rub me the wrong way, but Tashjian’s astonishingly mature bass for once made them compelling and his commanded suicide proved genuinely moving.

Ottone, Poppea’s cast-off lover who becomes Ottavia’s hapless pawn, can sometimes come across as a sap but countertenor Jeffrey Mandelbaum movingly charted his fraught journey to eventual redemption. Although his voice eventually warmed up after a rocky start, it’s not an inviting sound. As the gullible but steadfast Drusilla, Rachel Barker’s appealing vocal and personal warmth made Ottone’s eventual capitulation to her devotion an inevitability.

Doubling Arnalta (often done by a tenor in drag) and Nutrice, Melissa Kelly cannily differentiated the rather similar roles of the two nurses, but too often she seemed underpowered, although Arnalta’s witty final solo of triumph revealed a more forthright (and welcome) comic verve and a punchier vocal style. Of the rest of the large cast, Noelle Arteche stood out for her sparky, street-wise Amore, and Kathleen Jasinskas’s Virtù and Valetto showed glimpses of a promisingly rich soprano.

Grossman’s spare but gratifyingly full musical edition (which added only a pair of violins to the continuo group) had relatively few cuts–one lost only a few minor gods: Pallade, Mercurio and Venere. I was surprised at the inclusion of two rarely heard scenes: a long monologue for Ottone before his confrontation with Ottavia which I believe is included in the recent Les Arts Florissants production, as well as an extended version of the scene between Poppea and Arnalta before Ottone’s entrance disguised as Drusilla. The latter conversation provides some interesting insights into their relationship, but it ends with Arnalta making a jolly exit rather than gradually falling asleep during her ravishing lullaby; I think I prefer the traditional version.

I particularly admired that Dell’Arte staged the opera in the three acts as Monteverdi-Busenello intended instead of dividing it into two parts and putting the single intermission after Seneca’s suicide which unduly emphasizes that event. Instead, the first act ended properly with Ottone’s crushing admission that he knows he is only playing with Drusilla’s feelings since he is still obsessed with Poppea.

I took a friend to the performance had never before heard, much less seen a 17th century opera, and she was as consistently enthralled as I. The remarkable intimacy of Dell’Arte’s production was a boon—the singers and the musicians (not hidden in a pit) were so close that every musical and dramatic detail of each confrontation was absolutely immediate.

We felt ourselves returning to origins of opera as heightened speech—a goal which reached its most perfect embodiment in Poppea in 1643, the same year Monteverdi died; soon after, the primacy of showing off a singer’s virtuosity would begin to take over Italian opera. But here Monteverdi’s musical mastery makes the yards of recitative compulsively fascinating unlike in, for example, Landi’s 1631 Il Sant’Alessio. I remember squirming through the production of it brought to New York in 2007 by Les Arts Florissants—hoping in vain for a melody to appear, I thought it would never end.

Happily, five performances remain of this excellent Poppea, four with this first-night cast and a show on August 20 featuring instead a number of the covers performing the leading roles. This run presents an excellent and affordable opportunity to experience up-close one of opera’s greatest works. Just be warned: the show lasts nearly 3 and one-half hours.

And, please, Dell’Arte and the Sebastians: more 17th century works! I could imagine Cavalli’s La Calisto, for example, being a delightful choice for these young and enterprising artists.

In the meantime, Opera Omnia steps up to perform Monteverdi’s other late masterwork Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria at the Baryshnikov Arts Center from September 10 to 12.

Photographs: Brian Long

62 comments

  • 1
    mountmccabe says:

    I am glad to hear you liked the production; I am seeing it tonight and have been looking forward to it.

  • 2

    @ DeCaffarrelli

    Seventeenth century opera remains the true connoisseur’s delight partly because it’s so rarely done

    The true connoisseur’s delight?

    Ok, go ahead… Please list a few truly great operas from the 17 century (besides Poppea of course) that you’d rank alongside the masterworks of Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Strauss, Debussy, Busoni, Janacek, Berg et al.

    • 2.1
      RobNYNY1957 says:

      Debussy? Surely you can’t mean a boring three-hour play that is stretched to five hours with boring music? Nothing happens for five hours, and then the girl dies. I defy anyone to hum 30 seconds of this, or even know one act from another when they hear a recording.

      • 2.1.1

        @ Rob

        Debussy? Surely you can’t mean a boring three-hour play that is stretched to five hours with boring music? Nothing happens for five hours, and then the girl dies. I defy anyone to hum 30 seconds of this, or even know one act from another when they hear a recording.

        OH. MY. GAWD.

        Are you serious? Really?

        I am absolutely positive your comment elicited a collective cringe from the Parterriat (and all opera lovers) two seconds after you posted it.

        • 2.1.1.1
          E-news says:

          1) Why aren’t people allowed to like what they like? You like Pelleas. That’s great! Other people like Poppea. Whee! Why does one have to be “better” than the other? (I would listen to Purcell over Debussy every time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel the opposite).

          2) Who on earth is Busoni and what masterwork of his would you rank alongside works as great at Dido, Armide, Orfeo, Die schöne und getreue Ariadne, or Calisto?

  • 3
    DeCaffarrelli says:

    I’m curious why you seem to feel the need to repeatedly make contentious challenges simply because opinions are expressed that doesn’t conform to your personal view of the art form?

    Off the top of my head, I would name Monteverdi’s two other operas, L’Orfeo and Ritorno d’Ulisse, Cavalli’s L’Egisto and La Calisto, perhaps Cesti’s Orontea, Lully’s Atys and Armide, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and The Fairy Queen and Charpentier’s Medee.

    • 3.1

      @ DeCaffarrelli

      I’m curious why you seem to feel the need to repeatedly make contentious challenges simply because opinions are expressed that doesn’t conform to your personal view of the art form?

      My apologies. But you know how I get when I see the words ‘opera’ and ‘connoisseur’ in the same sentence. My operatic radar immediately goes off first in search of… ”exquisite harmonic and instrumental trellis-work”

      I’m familiar with all those works (except for Cesti’s Orontea and Cavalli’s L’Egisto) and I’m afraid this list is no match for the subtlety and sophistication we find in, say, Debussy.

      because opinions are expressed that doesn’t conform to your personal view of the art form?

      You are absolutely right. It’s just that sometimes I find it very difficult to quietly accept the maxim ‘De gustibus non est disputandum’

      • 3.1.1
        bluecabochon says:

        “You are absolutely right. It’s just that sometimes I find it very difficult to quietly accept the maxim ‘De gustibus non est disputandum’”

        Try harder.

        • 3.1.1.1
          • bluecabochon says:

            I know, Manou. It’s not likely to happen even though the lady seems to have half a molecule of awareness of how silly she appears. Personally, I believe that she is in a manic phase, evidenced by the combative tone and the multitude of quotation marks, capital letters, quotation blocks, and, especially….bold type. I no longer read her Sunday morning screeds as they don’t contain any original thoughts. Perhaps she should blog more, since she has gone to the trouble of linking to her (tellingly) empty internet outpost.

            I eagerly await this week’s menu, though.

            • @ Bluecabochon

              It’s not likely to happen even though the lady seems to have half a molecule of awareness of how silly she appears.

              Silly?

              I reassert my opinion that Claude Debussy was a superior opera composer when placed besides the mostly infant gropers of the 17th century.

              Do you have any idea what a landmark opera is?

            • @ Bluecabochon

              Wait a minute, I forgot that I’m probably not conversing with a real opera sophisticate.

              You’re the one who said The Queen of Spades is closest to your heart, right?

              Never mind.

            • bluecabochon says:

              Yes, you’re a real sophisticate, aren’t you? I remember that we found out that you’d been lurking incognito in the Parterre chat room at the time, hoping to be mentioned, so that you could copy and paste our comments into your weekly post. That was just plain WEIRD.

              I find your baiting really sad. Notice that I don’t ridicule your love of your music -- you are as free to worship your gods as I am to worship mine. No one here argues that you have the “wrong” preferences, but you belittling anyone whose taste varies from your own. I’ve seen the same thing over at Opera-L and your posts. Once in awhile someone is kind enough to consider your hijack of someone else’s ideas and respond, but apparently that’s not enough for you. You DEMAND to be acknowledged every week like a child pulling on mom’s skirt when she’s trying to talk to her friends. If you’re older than seven, it’s unseemly. You seem to think that now that we know what you’re like, it’s okay and you can just carry on as usual in front of your internet “family” who will continue to humor you and play along. If you were at all respectful of others, you wouldn’t have to be put on moderation, but you’re not, and the grownups here are over it. Some of the sharpest Parterrians have engaged you and anyone else would have actually learned something from their opinions and postings and widened their narrow view of what is interesting and enjoyable. I come here to learn and have fun, not to hector others as you do.

              I envision your castle room to be quite small and dark with only the tiniest of barred windows. Interesting, friendly people come to the door and entreat you to come outside to enjoy the sunshine, go to the carnival and watch the pantomime, but you refuse. You only like what you already know and you’re not interested in them and their lowly entertainments; you’d rather fester in the gloom with your stuffy, joyless self-limitations and pure ideals.

            • armerjacquino says:

              That’s the most lyrical smackdown I’ve ever read. Bravo.

            • damekenneth says:

              Blue,

              I found your response here oddly moving. It is direct yet thoughtful, humane. Well said.

            • oedipe says:

              Well, since so many people are jumping into the sandbox, I figured I’ll join in and, as usual, will take the side of the underdog, at least a little bit.

              Yes, all this craving for attention and these temper tantrums show immaturity and are nagging. But it’s unfair to say that (s)he is not learning anything and that her/his “narrow view of what is interesting and enjoyable” has stayed the same over time. I was pleasantly surprised a while ago to see Genevieve post a relatively extensive and eclectic list of favorite operas, having come a long way from the initial “Pelléas or nothing”.

              Genevieve needs to grow up and learn to communicate effectively, by going beyond quotes and/or fits of rage when (s)he is not getting what (s)he wants. But it’s a little simplistic to focus exclusively on communication failures and behavioral issues. Genevieve is yearning for absolute certainties about what’s good and what’s beautiful. Aren’t we all? (S)he thinks (s)he has nailed them and finds it incomprehensible and frustrating that others don’t share her/his views. The fact that (s)he is constantly looking for confirmation shows that the certainties are not entirely certain, after all. Like Rapunzel, Genevieve is dreaming of being rescued from the isolation of her castle room, but on her own terms only:

              http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Fxf2MsuHlys/THcYAkwKuPI/AAAAAAAAADM/-OryeVzO5NY/s400/Tangled+Rapunzel.jpg

            • armerjacquino says:

              It’s Cognitive Dissonance night here on parterre!

              oedipe talks of ‘taking the side of the underdog’. Betsy says that blue ‘could give GCR a bit of credit’, that there is a ‘subtle softening of (GCR’s) rhetoric’ and that there is a ‘kneejerk reaction’ against GCR.

              Let’s remind ourselves what blue was responding to, shall we?

              ” the mostly infant gropers of the 17th century.”

              “Do you have any idea what a landmark opera is?”

              “Wait a minute, I forgot that I’m probably not conversing with a real opera sophisticate.”

              “You’re the one who said The Queen of Spades is closest to your heart, right? Never mind.”

              Blue should be praised for restraint, not- however gently- admonished. If GCR were genuinely interested in exchanging views on the aesthetics of opera, there would be plenty of people happy to have that debate. For as long as his attitude is ‘the music I like is definitively superior and anyone who disagrees is an idiot’ there will be people who will, quite rightly, call him on his kindergarten debating style.

              I will say one thing in his defence: since coming back from moderation he does seem to have dropped the insulting, borderline-homophobic stuff about ‘opera queens’ and ‘diva worship’. Long may that continue.

            • bluecabochon says:

              Gentlemen all, I attempted in the past to be generous in my thinking but I don’t agree that Genevieve is trying to change. In fact, I think that her postings have taken on an aggressive and even more condescending tone of late. If she is looking for absolutes, there are none, (agreed) especially in matters of tase, which has been pointed out to her weekly since her first appearance -- last year or even earlier, I have lost track.

              For me, the personality stuff gets in the way of what she is saying, even though the message is usually the same, but I haven’t read any of her posts in weeks and don’t intend to. I applaud anyone who takes the time to weed through The Rant of the Week in the hopes of finding something to comment on.

            • bluecabochon says:

              Well, TY Armerj (and Dame Kenneth!).

            • grimoaldo says:

              Yeah, the “you’re the one who said Queen of Spades is closest to your heart, right?” comment is really objectionable if you ask me. There is absolutely not a thing in this world wrong with loving the Queen of Spades, or Mignon, or L’Egisto, or whatever, more than Pelleas or any other opera ever written. It sort of reminds me of when I was still reading opera-l and that bore A C Douglas ran a little game “If you could only save one work in the history of lyric theatre from being obliterated and vanishing forever, what would it be?” and I answered “The Mikado”. You could hear him snorting with indignation and disdain from here to Albuquerque.

            • oedipe says:

              Clarification:

              The Genevieve-versus-Parterrians little game takes place week in and week out along the exact same lines: a series of quotes alternating with imprecations, followed by a number of mocking replies, interspersed with occasional pieces of advice.

              I almost never participate in these (quite predictable on both sides, I must say) exchanges. So this time I DID say something. I tried (but obviously failed) to make it clear from the beginning that I wasn’t merely talking about Blue’s remark, but about those of all the participants in this ever recurring template of (non)communication. And yea, when I see a general and copiously expressed consensus against one isolated individual, no matter how bad this individual’s manners may be, I call him/her an underdog.

            • bluecabochon says:

              Oedipe, the “individual” is proud of her self-professed “isolation”. This person claims that anyone not agreeing with her is an idiot sans taste, intelligence and (horrors!) sophistication. This is not underdog behavior. This person goes out of her way to copy and paste offending posts before ridiculing the person who wrote them.

              I laughed when GCR scoffed at Tchaikovsky. For me there was no other reaction possible. :)

            • grimoaldo says:

              “The Queen of Spades” absolutely is a tremendous masterpiece imo, my favourite Tchaikovsky opera.
              I think you have excellent taste blue.

            • Hello Blue,

              I laughed when GCR scoffed at Tchaikovsky. For me there was no other reaction possible

              Scoffed?

              Nope. I adore Tchaikovsky: the symphonies, the ballets, the chamber music. The operas are fine but not truly mind-blowing, IMO. I teased you because I expected an operagoer as experienced as you would recognize that there are so many finer works to pick from. But if you really love this piece so intensely and get so much out of it then… all the best to you. :-)

              (Later in the week when I have more time I’ll respond to everybody else)

            • scifisci says:

              GCR, you prefer Tchaikovsky’s symphonies really? Compared to his writing in queen of spades, iolanta, and Eugene onegin, most of the symphonies are frankly uninspired. I thought you were a true sophisticate?

            • bluecabochon says:

              “I teased you because I expected an operagoer as experienced as you would recognize that there are so many finer works to pick from. But if you really love this piece so intensely and get so much out of it then… all the best to you.”

              You’re still at it, you can’t help yourself, but you probably think that this is a huge step outside of your comfort zone.

              What a relief that GCR can live with my preference of an opera, but is quick to advise that it’s not the finest one that I could have chosen!

              You have a nice life, too.

              (Obviously I don’t know how to do the quote box thingy. Are there instructions somewhere?)

            • Blue,

              (Obviously I don’t know how to do the quote box thingy. Are there instructions somewhere?)

              Very simple.

              Type the following:

              insert your text

            • Blue,

              (Obviously I don’t know how to do the quote box thingy. Are there instructions somewhere?)

              Oops. One more time:

              (blockquote) Insert your text here. (/blockquote)

              But instead of the parentheses above use the angle bracket:

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Another vote here for Queen of Spades -- one of my favourite operas too.

            • Porgy Amor says:

              You know, I always had liked Tchaikovsky well enough on the strength of my instrumental favorites — the piano trio, the 4th and 6th symphonies, the variations for cello and orchestra, the 2nd piano concerto, some of his neglected solo piano music — but the two most frequently performed operas pushed me over the line to being a fan. When I heard Eugen Onegin and thereafter Queen of Spades, I “got” him in a way I never quite had before. I loved and still love all of that other stuff I named, but I felt as though in opera, he found a canvas big and expansive enough to take the oils he was flinging at all of his music. I like what I’ve heard of the lesser-known operas too.

              Queen of Spades is harder to get right than Onegin, though. Not worse or better (I’d put them about even, based on what is in the scores and libretti), but a great Onegin performance is easier to come by.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              I absolutely agree Porgy that Queen of Spades suffers quite badly from a sub-par performance, in a way that Onegin can resist.

            • bluecabochon says:

              Let’s not forget Tchaikovsky’s ballets. I’m particularly fond of Romeo and Juliet. It’s as rich a listening experience for me as it is to sit in a theater and watch a lavish performance (danced).

            • manou says:

              Hello Blue -- I don’t think there is a Romeo & Juliet Tchaikovsky ballet score -- there is the Fantasy Overture but that’s different.

              Are you thinking of the Prokofiev?

              Or I might be wrong and I am sure somebody will let me know post haste.

            • bluecabochon says:

              OMFG Manou, you are right. Prokifiev. Can i blame the fact that i hadnt had morning coffee before i posted? I am an unsophisticated mess for sure now with zero cred.

              Many years ago i was in Toronto and went to the ballet to see the Onegin Ballet -- how disappointed i was that the music was like, TOTALLY different. LOL.

            • SF Guy says:

              Antony Tudor choreographed a one-act ballet to the Fantasy Overture that ABT used to do before they imported MacMillan’s version (I remember seeing it here with Natalia Makarova and Ivan Nagy in the early ’70’s), but it’s seldom revived anymore, and not particularly lavish compared to most of the Prokofiev versions.

              I had an interesting chat at SF Ballet last year after a pre-performance Onegin lecture, with a woman who “clearly remembered” the original waltz being used in the ballroom scene. We should have been so lucky…

            • grimoaldo says:

              I feel sure I saw Makarova years ago in a “Onegin” ballet that used the music of Tchaikovsky’s “Francesca da Rimini”, didn’t I?

            • grimoaldo says:

              I have answered my own question, I saw the Cranko ballet of “Onegin” that uses various Tchaikovsky pieces. I remember thinking it was tremendous, I don’t really like the classic choreography they use in Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty very much, it just doesn’t seem to go with the fantastic music very well, I like those old ballets like Le Corsaire or La Bayadere better.

            • @ bluecabochon

              Tell us again why you decide to post the same numbingly dull drivel week after week?

              I was replying to scifisi only.

              Time to go to the Health Food store and stock up on some gingko biloba.

              My memory is fine. Please reread my post. All I said was that in terms of beauty, sophistication and greatness there are so many operas I’d place before The Queen of Spades.

              This does not mean I have dismissed Tchaikovsky’s operas.

  • 4
    bergbag says:

    I knew not of this production.

    I shall go! The girls is one my favorite composers and Monteverdi look pretty.

  • 5
    mountmccabe says:

    I loved this production so much. I mostly agree with the review posted here, with highlights for me being Greer Davis, Hans Tashjian and the Sebastians.

    This was my first time seeing the opera so I am not sure if various choices (Love acting the puppeteer early on but then dropping that conceit even though there were other times it would have worked (for Fortune and Virtue as well); directing the actors to touch each other as if they’ve never touched another human before) were part of the production or part of the opera and its traditions. I was confused by some of the double casting but costume distinctions were made and it is understandable as they had 15 singers as it was.

    “the production featured a mezzo as Nerone, the brooding and fiery Alison Cheeseman whose bio was unfortunately omitted from the program”

    There appears to have been a new printing of the program insert as my copy listed her (though my wife’s did not).

    Alison Taylor Cheeseman has sung in opera, theater, orchestral and dance performances wtih organizations including Pocket Opera of New York, American Lyric Theater, Amato Opera, Amore Opera, Yard Arts! Opera, Liederkranz Opera Theatre, Bronx Opera, Human Company, the New York State Early Music Association, Big Apple Baroque, and the Christopher Caines Dance Company. She has performed a wide variety of roles, from page boy to prince to gypsy girl to poodle/robot, and her repertoire ranges from the baroque to the brand-new.Learn more and follow her latest exploits at alisontaylorcheeseman.com

  • 6
    damekenneth says:

    Mr. Decafferelli,

    I just wanted to pass along that I thought this was a beautiful review. If I were in New York right now, this review would have had me in a seat for one of the next performances. Thank you!

  • 7

    @ scifisci

    GCR, you prefer Tchaikovsky’s symphonies really?

    No, I said I prefer the ballets, symphonies and some of the chamber music.

    Compared to his writing in queen of spades, iolanta, and Eugene onegin, most of the symphonies are frankly uninspired.

    Ok fine…. And I can’t tell you how much pleasure I’ve gotten from this music over the years.

    http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/8229/aeef9d0fc9cf4bb7a1c4a4d.jpg

    I thought you were a true sophisticate?

    Sorry, when you examine the entire operatic canon I just don’t see how any of Tchaikovsky’s operas could make it even into the top 10.

    • 7.1
      scifisci says:

      Queen of spades is a greater work than any of his symphonies, you need just ask any musician or conductor that has done it. And this is judging it by your hoity-toity standards of ”exquisite harmonic and instrumental trellis-work”. Seriously, crack open a score sometime.

      • 7.1.1

        @ scifisci

        Queen of Spades is a greater work than any of his symphonies, you need just ask any musician or conductor that has done it. And this is judging it by your hoity-toity standards of ”exquisite harmonic and instrumental trellis-work”.

        Nah, I think the Pathetique can more than hold its own in the company of his operas.

        • 7.1.1.1
          scifisci says:

          I’m glad that’s your opinion but it’s wrong. Tchaikovsky is arguably at his most inspired in his operas, especially pikovaya dama.

          (Can I beat GCR at her own game??)

          • @ scifisci

            Can I beat Genevieve Castle Room at her own game??

            Well, the composer is on my side:

            “I certainly regard it [The Sixth] as easily the best — and especially the most ‘sincere’ — of all my works…. Without exaggeration, I have put my whole soul into this work.”

            --Tchaikovsky’s letter to his brother

          • @ scifisci

            GCR, you prefer Tchaikovsky’s symphonies really? Compared to his writing in queen of spades, iolanta, and Eugene onegin, most of the symphonies are frankly uninspired. I thought you were a true sophisticate?

            Queen of Spades is a greater work than any of his symphonies, you need just ask any musician or conductor that has done it. And this is judging it by your hoity-toity standards of ”exquisite harmonic and instrumental trellis-work”.

            Right, since all composers have always been spot-on when it comes to judging their own work.

            Tell me again why you decided to interject yourself into this discussion?

            Look, I’m not the biggest fan of Tchaikovsky’s operas. So what? Have I disparaged these fine pieces in any way. Of course not. But for you to call into question my sophistication over this is ridiculous… You are looking at a guy whose idea of an ‘operatic feast’ would be comprised firstly of Pelleas et Melisande, Falstaff, From The House of The Dead, Mathis der Maler, Billy Budd, Capriccio, Moses and Aron, Palestrina, The Mask of Orpheus, De Temporum Fine Comoedia, Doktor Faust.

            You are in no position to criticize my sensitivity to opera.

            • bluecabochon says:

              What, are you now the forum police?

              Tell us again why you decide to post the same numbingly dull drivel week after week?

              “You are in no position to criticize my sensitivity to opera.”

              I think that you need to write this on your bathroom mirror in something waterproof, like nail polish or a wax crayon

              a) to remind yourself that you thought it and then wrote it in this forum

              b) because you have NO SENSE OF IRONY about yourself, or self-awareness

              “Look, I’m not the biggest fan of Tchaikovsky’s operas. So what? Have I disparaged these fine pieces in any way. Of course not.”

              Time to go to the Heath Food store and stock up on some gingko biloba.

  • 8
    Hippolyte says:

    Damn. I hate it when that happens. I go to pull a CD off the shelves to listen to and I realize it’s not in the top 10 so I have to put it back.

  • 9

    @ Grimoaldo

    There is absolutely not a thing in this world wrong with loving the Queen of Spades, or Mignon, or L’Egisto, or whatever, more than Pelleas or any other opera ever written

    Yikes!

    Yes, everyone has a set of personal preferences in listening and nobody should try to invalidate them but I’d say this individual still needs some guidance…. Really, it is inexplicable to me how any longtime opera lover could say such a thing if we are evaluating these works in terms of musical invention / substance.

    • 9.1
      armerjacquino says:

      Tell us again what “musical invention and substance” actually are? People keep asking you and you keep ignoring them.

      And ‘guidance’? Seriously?

    • 9.2
      la vociaccia says:

      It’s not inexplicable if you aren’t devoid of personal empathy. Blue said “closest to my heart;” try and meditate on what that means

      • 9.2.1
        grimoaldo says:

        Love is a very inexplicable thing. “Why do you love that skinny guy with no money instead of that rich hunk?” Dunno, just do. (Hypothetical example.)

  • 10

    Hi Grimoaldo,

    I have heard them all as well and make no apologies for loving every single note Verdi ever wrote with all my heart, all my mind and all my soul. I mean, call me crazy, but I think you ought to be able to be an opera fan on an opera site, and yes I am a Verdi fan (adorer?)

    Really? All of Verdi’s operas are that good? Well, this is your concern entirely and none of anyone else’s.

    There is absolutely not a thing in this world wrong with loving Mignon or L’Egisto, or whatever, more than Pelleas

    Mignon by Ambroise Thomas?

    Sorry Grimoaldo, this is getting silly. Someone who prefers Mignon over Pelleas is either a very poor listener or lacking in the basics of refined aesthetic taste. And this has nothing to do with snobbery.

  • 11
    parpignol says:

    beautiful performance of Poppea, lovely young voices, very engaging performance, did not seem long! conveyed better than other performances I’ve seen the conviction that this is, ultimately, comedy! costume: maybe there were too many capes? very fine instrumental ensemble!