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You don’t have to be Druids to love it

“The Met’s production, originally directed by John Copley, is still a hideous, confusing mess. But with Ms. Meade and Ms. Barton acting with moving subtlety, singing generously and feeling deeply, it was hard to care.” [New York Times]

44 comments

  • sterlingkay says:

    The MET is definitely playing up the big success of Meade & Barton on their website (including a clip from the performance):

    http://blog.metoperafamily.org/?p=291

    Now if only Ms. Aldrich would somehow end up “indisposed” next week, I would end up with the ideal pairing of Radvanovsky and Barton. :)

    • CwbyLA says:

      How can one listen to the entire performance? I didn’t see anyone uploading clips on youtube.

  • operaassport says:

    I agree with the review. They were terrific, far superior to the opening.

    • la vociaccia says:

      great to hear!! Super, super excited for Monday

    • brooklyndivo says:

      I was in the house on Thursday and I admit I was so moved with Angela Meade’s Casta Diva that I was crying with every arching phase she sang. Jamie Barton, wow, what can I say but major, major, voice. I really like Aleksandrs Antonenko’s voice and what he brought to the role of Pollione.

      As my best friend state “if they had singing like this every night, I’d come to the Met more”. I ditto that.

      I look forward to hearing Angela as Alice Ford in Falstaff in January and look forward to perhaps traveling to Houston to hear Jamie.

  • steveac10 says:

    I’m officially more than a little confused with today. By all accounts there was an exiting night at the Met last night (via Sirius I concur) and all anyone on here is still talking about is Poplavskaya’s health, oversized jaw/undersized mouth and freakish fear of curtain call floral arrangements. It just reinforces my deepest, darkest fear. That many die hard opera fans like to complain more than they like to enjoy. It’s like my crabby Aunt Marie was cloned ad infinitum.

    • operaassport says:

      And how ironic that you just did/said exactly what you claimed to deplore. You can’t make this crap up :)

      • steveac10 says:

        I had the very same thought after I hit enter. Sometimes we create our own irony.

        • operaassport says:

          Self awareness is half the battle, isn’t it? So what did you think about it all? I thoroughly enjoyed it and even managed to forget the inane production for a moment.

          It’s always great when the second cast is far superior to the so-called first cast.

    • antikitschychick says:

      I too was surprised at the lack of posts and/or reports about this performance as it was truly epic from a vocal standpoint but I think its because many mambers of the cher public were not able to listen to it since it was streamed via Sirius.

      Anywho, I posted my thoughts about the performance (as heard on Sirius) on the canard thread; I also posted a couple of reviews, which were just as laudatory as this one here by ZW (and for good reason!). Brava and congratulations to Angela and Jamie for their triumphs. Hopefully a recording will, erm, “surface” soon.

      Also, the photo of Angela and Jamie that’s in the review is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Love it. Whoever was able to capture that moment so elegantly deserves kudos.

      • panache says:

        And count me as another enraptured attendee of Thursday’s performance, who wondered why the impassioned opera folk of parterre were seeming not to notice that a dazzling meteor had struck in our backyards. I purposely got tickets to hear this cast in lieu of the first, being a Meade enthusiast ever since hearing her stand-in for an indisposed soprano--don’t even remember who that was!--in Ernani, many seasons ago. It was a voice in bloom, so rarely heard at the Met (and perhaps rare to begin with), given the protracted scheduling process that occurs in opera today. And what a voice it was!

        I did manage to hear Radvanovsky earlier, thanks to a friend’s invite. Radvanovsky also made a big impression, when I first heard her in that universally-reviled/don’t-even-speak-of-it minimalist new production of Il Trovatore way back, that was sacked for another new production within a year or two! (another drab affair…I rather liked that condemned post-modern production)

        Radvanovsky’s voice was in bloom then too. Not so much anymore, but I do like the throbbing intensity and passion her voice conveys, and she finally won me over as Norma. But I wondered why no critic mentioned that she’s not an easy coloratura anymore. The coloratura aspects, I’d say, were merely “managed”. Everything else about that 1st cast production was woeful. The production itself, of course, something just ridiculous. Adalgisa was woefully lacking. I mean, shockingly inadequate. Polione, OK, the tenor’s got an attractive voice, up to a point. When he goes for the high notes, good lord, who knows what will happen. Is there a pitch there? James Morris was a great Wotan, a great many things. That’s all I’ll say there.

        I sit in a front row seat at the Met, and I sit there often. I’ve heard many glorious things over the years, and I will forever be grateful, for all of them. But last Thursday’s performance of Norma was a stand-out amongst them. I think Meade’s Norma will be for the history books. It is very very rare, to have a voice of such gleaming beauty and technical perfection. I dare say, Sutherland, who surely had technique to burn, just didn’t possess as beautiful a voice as Meade’s.

        I’m tired of the quibblers, about Meade. I’m not elevating her to deity-status, so sure, one could pick on this or that. But don’t they realize, the astounding thing she’s got, what she brings to the table? I scratch my head over a comment made on the “canard” thread, over how dramatically insipid this production/performance was. I’m a musician, and go to the opera to hear the music realized--thenceforth comes the drama, and everything else. An opera is great because its music is great, and a performance is great when the sublimity of the music is fully realized. That’s what happened at the Met last Thursday.

        Yes, kudos to Jamie Barton. A worthy counterpart to Meade. (It was incredibly uncanny, how much their body-types matched…just a noticeable, insignificant aside.) But I take exception with another thing I read on the “canard” thread, that Barton was pitch-perfect, but Meade tended to go sharp. The only drawback I took away from their duets was that they were not always well in tune. But my ears told me it was the mezzo who faltered here, not the soprano. Need to put that out there, lest the contradictory statement is taken as undisputed fact.

        One more thing relating to the “canard” thread, about perfection and beauty (ooh, I guess it’s gonna be a long one). Technical perfection in music isn’t merely about nailing all the right notes at the right time. Music is a language, and a totally unique one in human experience, in terms of what it can express and how it does so. But fundamentally, it operates in ways analogous to all communication. In human speech, it’s not the words themselves, but rather, how they’re strung together into utterances, sentences, that convey, express, what one is thinking and feeling. In music, notes are analogous to words. The notes also need to be strung together coherently before they can occupy the realm of expressive language. The musical “phrase” is the vehicle here. A great technique in musical execution is one at the service of that art of communication, that can transcend the technical difficulties of the craft and deploy its resources to expressive ends.

        Beauty can be imperfect. In so far as we are imperfect beings, striving always. Perfection can be defined in a host of ways, but not all of them encompass beauty. One person’s “beautiful” need not require perfection. But another person’s conception of “perfect” might require beauty as a prerequisite. I guess the central question here is: what do we mean, how do we define, “beauty”?

        The answer to that required no thinking, no deliberation, last Thursday at the Met. It just was, supremely beautiful and supremely effective, on music’s terms. I love those terms. Endorphins coursed through my body, throughout.

        • antikitschychick says:

          Great post, panache. Thanks for sharing these thoughts :) . Im glad Im not the only enthusiast about Thursday’s performance. I too was actually the one who made the comment about Meade going a little sharp occasionally but I did only hear the performance through Sirius so I may be wrong. Besides this was a very minor quibble in what was an otherwise stellar performance and I agree, for the ages.

          • panache says:

            Hey, thanks antikitsch (oh, it bores me too). Thanks for your original post here; it inspired me to jump on the bandwagon. I’m glad you enjoyed the performance as much as I. You’re a modest soul to fess-up to accusing Meade of a meandering pitch, but your admission warmed me to you, and hey, I could be wrong as well. Main point here is…we were both thrilled by what we heard. I appreciated you putting that out.

            • antikitschychick says:

              here, here :-D .

              Also, thank you for posting the link to that clip sterlingkay! I’m going to try and tune into tomorrow’s performance and see if I can record it.

        • panache says:

          Oh, an addendum to the “beauty can be imperfect” thing. Some of our most transcendent works of musical art derive their profound beauty through their very loving embrace of the imperfections of man. Think Mozart and Verdi, “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Falstaff”. We’re speaking now from the point of view of the creator of music rather than the executioner. I guess “beauty” will forever be defined, in many ways, by individual people, for themselves. But it is, nonetheless, something very real, and an exceedingly significant force in the life of a human being.

        • MontyNostry says:

          Wasn’t the soprano that Meade replaced in Ernani a certain Sondra Radvanovsky?

          • panache says:

            Was it? I thought it was someone well more established at the time. Will have to check the archives, or find my old Playbill (hah!)…who was the lead singer in Ernani that season?

            • MontyNostry says:

              From the WQXR website:

              “Meade, who won the Met’s seventh annual Beverly Sills Award this week, had made her professional debut as Elvira on the second night of the Met’s 2008 revival of Ernani after Sondra Radvanovsky became ill.”

        • fanofzinka says:

          Thanks to panache for an insightful post. I consider myself fortunate to have been at the Met on Thursday and again on Monday for the follow-up performance.

          What I heard in Miss Meade was a liquidity and ease in negotiating the demands of the music; richness in tone; and a breathtaking facility for pianissimi. Miss Barton was also highly impressive. Both singers employed their vocalism in a dramatically incisive manner and their duets were overwhelmingly powerful.

          I saw Norma during two earlier seasons at the Met; but I can honestly say that I never saw Norma until the perfomance Miss Meade gave a few years ago at Caramoor.

          The privilege of watching Miss Meade’s growth as an artist--from her “Casta Diva” at the National Council auditions in 2007 to her latest triumphs at the Met--has been one of the highlights of my operagoing lifetime. I only wish that the Met would grant more publicity
          to an emergent artist such as Meade and grant her full runs in title roles. I know that opera casting is scheduled years in advance; but here’s hoping that the Met will catch up soon with a star who has already had such historic triumphs on its stage.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Great to see “second casts” getting reviews!
    I like Druids too!
    http://tinyurl.com/lcws6kd

  • kashania says:

    Here’s the final section of the “Mira O Norma” duet.

    http://blog.metoperafamily.org/?p=291

  • Ilka Saro says:

    I can’t wait for Monday! Got my tix!

    Re: the Met’s lousy production. One longs for the elegant, dignified days of La Puma. Though I never saw it, I am told that the universally admired Dame Olive Middleton sang Casta Diva with a stuffed owl strapped to her wrist. Sounds positively apollonian.

    • Bianca Castafiore says:

      Me too! I have to say, I saw Meade’s Bolena in the house, which I liked better than Netrebko’s (on video only). But I agree with those that say Meade needs a bit more individual and developed persona. The concert Lombardi (OONY) was a prime example of that, rather careful and studied singing, with not much passion and abandon.

      • Ilka Saro says:

        I saw Meade sing Casta Diva at the Nat Auditions. Impressive, but not mind boggling. And then I’ve hears clips and snips. Hope springs eternal.

        Norma is an opera I’ve only seen performed a handful of times (with Olivia Stapp at NYCO in the 80s, and then again with Jane Eaglen at the Met right around 911). In both cases, the only really exciting part was simply getting to see the opera done onstage. It’s an opera I know almost entirely from classic recordings. Hard to get a good measure of it that way.

      • Bianca Castafiore says:

        (Well, Queler’s routine, by-the-numbes conducting didn’t help either.)

  • Amnerees says:

    Very belated entry:

    I found Panache’s comment that Sutherland’s voice was not as beautiful as Meade’s provocative. Surely these comments reflect only one person’s taste.
    I attended what I think was Sutherland’s first American performance of Norma in Philadelphia. I went backstage with Terry McEwen after the performance. When he complimented Sutherland on her performance, she said, “Well, it’s getting better.” I was really surprised by this. At her debut as Norma at the Met, she was overshadowed by Marilyn Horne, who was at the time a sensational Adalgisa. I think that Norma was one of Sutherland’s least successful efforts. She always seemed to be preparing for the next vocal challenge--which was very uncharacteristic of her. With Bonynge’s help, she invariably rushed through the cantilena of Casta Diva. Those repeated high B naturals were passed over as quickly as possible. (This always an unfair comparison, but listen to what Callas did with them.) Sutherland’s cabaletta was brilliant but dramatically inert. Like many sopranos who have tackled Norma, Sutherland improved as the opera progressed, but still, it wasn’t one of her great roles.
    As for the relative beauty of Sutherland’s and Meade’s voice, so far I think Sutherland easily wins the prize. (I’m speaking here ONLY of live performances I’ve attended, not recordings or wretched Internet sound.)

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Do keep in mind that while Sutherland, at least to begin with (and I don’t know how long this continued in her live performances) was singing repeated high bs, while Callas was singing as.

    • antikitschychick says:

      well, I’m probably not qualified to address this since I unfortunately did not have the chance to hear Sutherland live as she was way before my time and I have no yet heard Angela live either, but I did like your post so I shall try my damnedest to relay my 4 cents eloquently.

      Based on what I’ve heard on recordings, I think both Angela and Joan have a similar ‘brightness’ in certain regions of the voice. The difference is that Angela does not have the heftiness that Joan had, nor does she cover as much as Joan did, thus Angela’s enunciation is somewhat better and the tone is more direct/prevalent and pristine. So to me, her voice has more immediacy than Joan’s. I guess this can be perceived as a form of beauty in the broader sense of emotional receptivity (i.e. the more direct something is the easier it is for us to be receptive to it). But ultimately its a matter of personal taste.

      I will also say that Angela’s singing sounded simply beautiful in certain places whereas I don’t think beautiful is often used to describe Joan’s singing. We tend to think of her singing as clean, virtuous, ethereal, voluptuous, etc. Beautiful for me denotes a simplicity that doesn’t capture the full scope of everything that she does with/in her singing because she was just on another level, technically speaking. I’m not sure if this is what panache meant but this is at least one way of looking at it.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I think the covering you refer to with Dame Joan was a feature and a problem, but not to any significant extent until c.1970, which OK still means a big chunk of her career was afflicted by it, but similarly there was a decade between her hitting the big time and this really becoming an issue, during which she was a much more straight forward communicator. But in a way I think the Sutherland covering and the slight lack of body or core in Meade’s sound leads to a pretty similar result when it comes to a lack of specificity, bite and clear dramatic intention from these ladies.

        Similarly, although I know what you mean about Sutherland being ‘on another level, technically speaking’ I think that only applies to certain aspects of her singing, at least in that c.1970 onwards phase of her career. When it came to singing a straight forward lyrical piece from this point, say something along the lines of Addio del passato, I think there were an awful lot of people who could outshine her in purely vocal terms, and that’s without addressing interpretative considerations. I think she got to a point earlier than people think where the singing was only really distinguished if it involved high notes and coloratura (though the voice itself was always unusually complex, IMO).

    • alejandro says:

      I find Sutherland’s voice a bit mushy and stiff upper lipped. It’s just very corseted and spinterish to me. Meade has a gorgeous voice, but she’s lacking in serious fire for me. I heard her Norma at Caramoor and it didn’t really blow me away (I suppose it’s unfair I listened to Callas’s later recording of Norma for the first time just before I saw Meade and that performance is all fire).

      It’s one of the things I love about Netrebko, despite her shortcomings (particularly in bel canto) . . . she brings the fire. Her Anna Bolena was regal and dramatic. I don’t know if she’s vocally perfect for Norma, but cast her with an Adalgisa and a Polione that are her dramatic equals and you have the potential for something really intense (also keep Bart Sher away from this opera, please)

      • antikitschychick says:

        you know after having heard Norma all the way through twice by two very different yet equally formidable artists (and after hearing various other clips on yt), I’m a little on the the fence about AN taking on the role of Norma. At first I was like, yes this is an enticing prospect as it would be a challenge worthy of her talents, so why not let her take stab at it.

        But man, those florid runs are NO JOKE.

        I agree with you that dramatically speaking she would bring it, but Norma requires a level of coloratura virtuosity that, by her own admission she lacks. However, I’m like 99% sure that she could do it if she would take time off from other engagements and spend a few months practicing her scale-work but at this point I doubt this is something she would be willing to do.

        Not that it matters either way because in the end she is going to sing whatever she wants regardless of what anyone says as she has now reached the zenith of her career, but I do think she should venture more toward verismo roles and away from Bel Canto roles like Norma. JMHO.

        • alejandro says:

          It’s a shame, because I wish we had a Callas who was singing/performing today who could do Norma. Netrebko comes closest in terms of charisma/dramatic chops.

          I wish Natalie Dessay’s voice had developed to the point where she could have done Norma. But I think she pushed it as far as she could (and paid . . . but damn, I am happy she’s such a well-documented singer because she’s pretty much one of the best singing actors I’ve ever seen).

          • alejandro says:

            Actually, I forgot about Ceci’s mezzo version of Norma and I really loved her take on that. I don’t know if I could WATCH her in a production, but she did bring some bite and fire to the music . . . which is always appreciated by me.

            • antikitschychick says:

              YES and YES. Totally agree about Dessay and Cecilia (Devia was also pretty good even though she is past her prime) and I would only like to add that I’m pretty sure we will be having an awesome Norma that is up there with all the rest of ‘em sometime in the near future. At least I hope so!!!…otherwise Cieca might kick me off of parterre box for false propagandizing :-P .

              But my gut tells me she will be glorious.

              Racette sounds like an interesting prospect for Norma as well. Can’t think of anyone else off the top of my head. Touch cookie la tal Norma esa ;-) .

            • oedipe says:

              Carmen Giannattasio was supposed to sing Norma in November, but cancelled. I suppose she will do it at a later date.

            • Archaeopteryx says:

              Oh what a pity -- I would have loved Carmen’s Norma. Hope she’ll be able to do that one at a later stage of her career. Elena Mosuc is now in for her.

  • Amnerees says:

    Cocky Kurvenal: Wait a minute! Where is my pitch pipe? I always knew the Mira o Norma was pitched down (to accommodate Ebe Stignani), but I thought Callas sang the Casta Diva up to pitch. I’ll certainly check this … and thanks.

    Antikitchynick: Not having heard Sutherland in person you can’t judge. Her Antonia at the Met was the most extraordinary and beautiful piece of vocalism I’ve ever heard; her Olympia was merely amazing (full-voiced trills on high C, etc.). Fortunately there is a recording, but it does not capture the SOUND of her voice.

    Alejandro: What does Netrebko have to do with all this? Bel Canto? Fortunately she seems to be returning to the Russian soprano repertory, in which she reigns supreme.

    • alejandro says:

      I brought up Netrebko as an example to counter Meade and Sutherland who have bigger bel canto chops than she does and yet Netrebko excites me more as a singer. She did just sing Bolena and she will be singing Norma in the future, so she’s not ENTIRELY done with bel canto . . . just the ina roles.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Callas sang Casta diva throughout her career in F major, as seems to be the case with most 20th and 21st century sopranos.

      I know Sutherland recorded it in the original G major and sang it in G for at least some of her earlier attempts at the whole role, but she too was singing it in F later on.

  • Amnerees says:

    Alejandro: Netrebko can have any role she wants at this point in her career. She has such a beautiful voice and she has great looks--even with the added avoir du pois. The adulation she enjoys here is even greater in Europe. However, I find her bel canto efforts wanting, and her new Verdi album reveals that she is not quite up to the mark there either. She does have a nice trill in that recording, though, that I haven’t heard in the house. (I’m told you have to sit up close to hear it.) I wish the Met would do The Tsar’s Bride for her before she attempts more Italian roles. Also, I can certainly imagine her as Elsa or in any number of German or Russian roles.

    • alejandro says:

      Oh I don’t disagree with you. Her rep choices are really baffling. Why Lady Mac instead of Manon Lescaut or more Russian rep? And don’t get me started on her refusal to sing Desdemona. Her Ave Maria is really gorgeous.

      • Porgy Amor says:

        She is doing Manon Lescaut in February-March with Muti in Rome. I agree on Desdemona, but she does not like the character.

        • Porgy Amor says:

          Hmm. With “Mutis” plural. The production will be by Riccardo’s daughter, Chiara.