Cher Public

The rite of autumn

Queer Nation claims responsibility for tonight’s political action in Carnegie Hall, chanting “[Valery] Gergiev, Your Silence is Killing Russian Gays!” as the maestro arrived on stage to lead an all-Stravinsky program. According to a press release from the activist group, “The protesters, who were met mostly with applause but also with some boos, were led away by security guards. There were no arrests.”

  • Porpora

    Ah.. I am so glad to see the memory and action of ACT-UP alive and kicking! Gergiev is a grandstanding bully. Will this action take him down a notch? I doubt it. But it’s good press, good action, and a worthy cause.

    • ilpenedelmiocor

      Amen. Well, I don’t actually know for a fact that Gergiev is a grandstanding bully, so I’ll stay out of that one.

      But the real culprit for me in all of this was Gelb (hm, never before thought about what his name means rather appropriately in this context), who didn’t have the decency or balls to enact a truly harmless, benign, and uncontroversial (and therefore “safe”) dedication of opening night to the international LGBT community — which would have demonstrated clear solidarity with the Russian situation without criticizing Netrebko, Gergiev, or, God forbid, Putin directly.

      When I read his demurral in the NYT I decided then and there that I would boycott the HD broadcast (even though Onegin is an opera I love, and I have been wanting to hear Netrebko sing something in Russian for like forever, I haven’t heard one note of this production) because if Gelb can’t find it in his heart to support the LGBT community, then I can’t find it in my heart to shell out hard-earned cash for his big money maker. Tool.

      • operaassport

        Oh, please it’s the blame Gelb for anything and everything brigade. God help us. Do you seriously think making a dedication like that -- something the MET has never done before — was benign and would be perceived as such?

        Gelb made the right decision.

        • ilpenedelmiocor

          No, it’s the blame Gelb for this particular incident brigade, and yes, I do, and no, he didn’t. And what else you got by way of argument?

    • Howling in Tune

      It is good to see the energy of ACT UP and Queer Nation back.

      Unfortunately, not all of their actions back in the heyday were well-targeted (as I’ve seen ACT UP members acknowledge in print). And some of their hyperbole was hyperbolic enough to make some people stop taking them seriously.

      I’m afraid that’s the case here.

      Valery Gergiev’s silence is not killing Russian gays, even indirectly, and his speaking out on this issue (if he’s even on our side, which he might not be) won’t save any.

      Think about the people and country we’re dealing with here.

      Vladimir Putin and his government made a deliberate policy decision to crack down on Russian gays. They have their reasons (however bogus or abhorrent), and those reasons don’t include Valery Gergiev’s opinion.

      The Kremlin is not going to change those policies just because an orchestra conductor announces that he doesn’t approve of them. The Kremlin might, however, retaliate against Gergiev or his family for embarrassing them in front.

      • shoegirl

        I’m all for protesting against against individuals or groups who actively or passively cause harm to the lgbt family. However protesting against a relatively benign organisation like Carnegie or the met is like complaining that google and IBM are not gay enough. There are better targets out there, far more worthy of a picket or two.

        Secondly, Russia is becoming a dangerous place for political dissidents of all kinds, the met forcing artists into a political stance by virtue of association might have placed them and their families in a compromised position.

        But just wait til we get to the Olympics ….. That’s when the real politics starts, because you’re talking about whole nations with real diplomatic muscle.

  • Porgy Amor

    Well, it is Gergiev, so this is sort of on topic…

    I tardily caught the HD of Onegin last night. Here is a post only about the good things:

    Beczala’s Lensky was just about perfect. I had thought he walked away with opening night, based only on the audio stream, and he performed at the same level for the movie broadcast. A classy portrayal; a great voice used in impeccable taste. Not for a moment when I listen to such singing do I pine for the return of this or that deceased or now-teaching singer. I just want this, and I never want it to stop.

    Netrebko acted some scenes very well in close-up (notably the letter and the solo portion of the final scene, the agitated wait for Onegin to arrive), sang everything well, sounded wonderfully clear and easy in her native tongue, and looked better than she has at the Met in almost five years. She had clearly worked hard on connecting with and delineating the character, and while the work sometimes showed in the performance, it ultimately paid off in a success, at a time she needed one. She has slimmed down a bit and — miracle of miracles — they dressed her in a flattering way from the birthday party onward. Anna Bolena, Manon and Elisir had been a triple bill of sabotage by frumpery; she is obviously still a striking woman.

    Kwiecien was intermittently quite fine vocally and dramatically, and a good dancer. He would have come off better in a more focused stage production, but his chemistry with Netrebko salvaged some of their close-range moments.

    The production had some fairly attractive stage pictures once that dreary greenhouse was hauled off (my negative side keeps sneaking in through the back door). I liked Onegin cradling the dead Lensky.

    Once again, the Met fielded a good Larina/Filippyevna duo. Zaremba, the Olga last time around, now has aged into Mother. I knew from some Barcelona videos I have watched in recent years (Ulrica and Polina) that she had gone a bit wobbly, but she left nothing to be desired in this part. Diadkova made a charmingly characterful Nanny.

    I will leave some other major and minor elements uncommented upon.

    I enjoyed the camaraderie of the two Poles, with Kwiecien crashing the end of Beczala’s interview and throwing his arms over PB’s and Voigt’s shoulders.

    It was a goodish performance. If it were someone’s first Onegin, it would do no harm and may even provide a wonderful four-plus hours in the theater…seeing this wonderful two-and-a-half-hour opera. But I’d give it no more than a “B,” whereas I felt the previous HD broadcast of the Carsen, was a solid “A.” That remains, eight seasons into the series, one of the best HDs, and not an easy act to follow.

    • antikitschychick

      Dear Porgy,

      As of late, its like you are reading into my thoughts and seamlessly transferring them onto this here blog :-P

      I just wanted to add a few more comments to complement your lovely post…

      I already expressed my opinions about the production in another thread so I won’t re-hash them here except to say I enjoyed it more than the Carsen production.

      Re: Netrebko’s acting: it was obvious she was trying very hard to town down the antics and there were some great moments via closeups as you mentioned, but during others it seemed like she didn’t quite know what to do and so just resorted to remaining completely still, which I thought made her look a bit stiff at times. This did, on the other hand allow her to focus more on her facial expression but there was too much angst rather than pain and sorrow. Overall she gave a very good performance though and she indeed looked very regal and sexy during the last Act and omg that last scene was to die for. So much intense chemistry between her and Mariusz (who is just utterly cute and compelling onstage). I re-watched that list bit several times. It was sheer operatic awesomeness.

      Bezcala’s performance was a pleasant surprise for me because in the past I was not particularly enthralled with his performances. This role suited him to a t though and he gave a very dignified yet honest potrayal of Lensky. I don’t care too much for the voice because it lacks squillo but that’s not such a big deal in a role like this. So yeah, bravo to him.

      I liked all the backstage interviews and features this time around, including AN’s interview with Deborah, which some ppl were complaining seemed “off.” I didn’t get that at all; she was engaging like she always is and answered the questions honestly. The stuff about her Verdi singing being a work in progress was honest to a fault actually. She was a bit more serious than usual because she was in the midst of playing a serious character so her attitude is perfectly understandable in that sense.

      As an aside, Paul Szot looked very dashing and was very eloquent during his interview. The questions don’t seem to trite if the performer makes something of them.

      Oh and also, re: the bass who sang Gremlin: its no wonder they picked him for the role. The dude is tall, handsome and gives good Russian. The voice, especially the vibrato (which borders on the bleaty in the middle register) needs work but he’s got a very sizable range and ample upper and lower extensions to the voice. There’s def potential there; its just not finished.

      I won’t comment on the french dude because when you’ve got nothing nice or pleasant to say, as the rule goes…

      The camera work was also much better than previous broadcasts because they are FINALLY experimenting with new angles and things. That was a treat.

      Finally, Deborah Voigt did a great job with the hosting. She is charming and courteous to the performers yet asks the questions with verve and command but is professional enough not to embellish ppl’s answers, unlike some other hosts (*cough, Renee, cough*).

      Oh and LOL @ Peter Gelb saying that “anything can happen” and a millisecond later the sound from the microphones going haywire :-P.

      • skoc211

        Speaking of the bass who sang Gremlin:

        I saw the production this past Wednesday -- everyone has said all there needs to be said, though I was absolutely enthralled by Netrebko’s performance -- and I sat next to an elderly German couple. I chatted with the wife during the intermissions, but I got the impression that the husband didn’t speak English. After Gremlin’s aria the husband started to boo (I’ve actually never witnessed any booing at the Met in person, so it was a strange thrill) and the wife quickly shushed him. Unfortunately all I could understand in her quiet and hurried admonishment was “Nein!” I got the sense that the disagreement was over the decorum of booing at the Met and not the particulars of the singing.

        • bluecabochon

          It’s “Gremin”….but GremLin made me chuckle.

          I was there on Wednesday night too, and thought the bass had a strange mannerism of opening his mouth wide as if to stretch muscles before singing the first word of a phrase. I found his voice unappealing but after his aria people bravo’d and cheered, and he got a nice ovation at the end. The Triquet was very odd visually with his leg in a brace, Ichabod-Crane-like build and height and reedy singing. The only reason I can think of to support this character’s appearing so ridiculous is that Olga and Onegin needed to bond over something as they watched him, making faces and laughing at him. Lenski was watching them, feeling excluded, his anger building.

          Neither of these supporting singers belonged in such company as the rest, but otherwise it was an evening of exceptionally good singing.

          As a fan of the Carsen production, I was surprised that I didn’t hate this production, but there some elements that didn’t work and that inhibited staging and drama that I hope could be tinkered with over the seasons, if they plan to bring it back again.

          • skoc211

            Whoops! My bad!

            I wasn’t impressed with the bass, but I didn’t find him boo worthy. And Triquet was indeed quite odd. The only explanation I came up with was perhaps the singer actually was injured and tried to make the best of it. Otherwise it really didn’t make any sense.

            While I never saw the Carsen production live, I have seen it on DVD before and thought it was absolutely beautiful. I didn’t hate this new production, I just found it problematic. There was a disconnect between the detailed and realistic sets of the Larin Estate in Act I and Act II, Scene I and the minimalist, somewhat stylized sets of the rest of the opera. It worked for the duel, but not in Act III. I expected opulence and we got….columns. Which the audience applauded? And I wanted more than a light flurry of snow in the finale.

            Oh well. At least the singing by the leads was lovely.

        • antikitschychick

          Interesting experience! Lol and I agree with you about booing at the Met. There’s definitely a stigma towards that because the assumption is, its The Met, which should be featuring the world’s best Opera singers…but this isn’t always the case. I myself would probably just refrain from clapping, unless the performer did something really disrespectful or egregious like flip off the audience or mark the performance lolol

  • pasavant

    If their demands are not met, they are threatening to throw themselves under the Metropolitan Opera Company’s corps de ballet.

    • Ilka Saro

      I’m signing up for that action!

  • operaassport

    I can’t help but like Kwiecien, vocal issues and all. He’s a very engaging personality. I’d happily volunteer to throw myself under him anytime.

    • alejandro

      I agree. I just found that production did him no favors. I miss the vignettes from the Carson production which allowed us to see each act through the lens of Onegin’s POV.

      • operaassport

        Well, the Carsen Onegin makes my top ten opera productions of all time. It’s just brilliant.

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