Cher Public

Est nunquam molestum lupo quot oves exsistant

Happy birthday to music critic Zachary Woolfe (left).  

Born on this day in 1904 tenor Dinu Badescu

Born on this day in 1915 playwright Arthur Miller

Happy 91st birthday baritone Rolando Panerai

Happy 76th birthday tenor Reiner Goldberg

  • Camille

    Probably the cutest critic, music or otherwise, I’ve laid eyes on.

    Honey, take a tip from Camille—never admit to more than 39 y.o. and felicitations of the day!

  • PCally

    Happy Birthday Zach! Even when I don’t agree with your opinions, the reviews are never less than entertaining, certainly more so than boring Tommasini

  • gustave of montreal

    Whatever happened to THE CRUCIBLE? multi performed in the US for some years, acclaimed then nothingness ??

    • Hippolyte

      It’s being done next summer at Glimmerglass directed by Francesca Zambello and starring Jamie Barton.

      • Krunoslav

        Alert Feldmarschallin so that he can attend wearing a barrel and shout abuse about her figure.

  • DeepSouthSenior

    First thoughts on today’s Live in HD Otello: Bartlett Sher’s production baffled me. OK, so you went literal re Boigo’s “glass prison” comment to Verdi. I get it. I can’t imagine, though, that either librettist or composer wished to begin in deep gloom, and go downhill from there. When even the kiddies singing Desdemona’s praises look downright depressed, something is seriously wrong. It seemed at times that the cast were wandering around looking for a flashlight. As for the singing, I thought everyone acquitted themselves well, if not spectacularly. Lucic seemed a little understated, kind of a “lovable baddie.” Antonenko was better in voice and manner than I was led to expect. Yoncheva was moving in places with some ravishing, aching softness, but today was not the “breakout” star I’d read about. Too bad a premature entrace of the strings after “Ave Maria” ruined her best moment, confused the audience, and muted the applause. A rare slip for Nezet-Seguin. Did I enjoy the performance? Yes, Verdi won the day, even if it was a rare afternoon when the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

    • fletcher

      I don’t think that double bass entrance after the Ave Maria’s morendo was premature. Christopher Corwin’s review here reported that there was no applause there at opening night, and, at least in my view, it makes sense both musically and theatrically to continue without a pause at that point, considering that everyone in the audience knows exactly what’s about to transpire and the dramatic tension is at its absolute peak. I thought the applause was muted because half the audience was on board with the drama moving forward and the other half was like “oh right, that was the big aria, we applaud now, right?” Even if I’d been at the Met and not at some dismal multiplex in Los Angeles, I’d have stayed quiet.

    • actfive

      Agree about the production--truly terrible except for the splendid “stormy sea” projections.Why the hell was the “Si pel ciel…” duet in Othello’s BEDROOM??? Are we trying to imply homoeroticism? I thought Antonenko did very well indeed, both his voice and his acting--very effective death scene at the end. But I was shocked at his appearance. My last experience with him was his quite studly Luigi in a DVD of Tabarro with Westbroek. He has put on a great deal of weight, and it’s affecting his ability to gesture effectively.
      Lucic was fine except for some low notes that he doesn’t have, and I loved Yoncheva--very affecting. Good support from Pittas and the Emilia.

    • I’m always a little relieved when I see others confirming the impressions of my own ears and eyes. It tells me that maybe I have good taste after all and am not a philistine. :)

      I, too, was a little underwhelmed by this, even though it is, first off, a great score, and YNS is wonderful.

      Sher’s bit about building off the “glass prison” remark of the librettist seems downright witless, and it shows in the production.

      As for the principals, I am fond of Lu?i?’s lovely voice, but in this role, he was a shadow of Struckmann’s excellent portrayal in the HD of a few years back. I actually thought that, in the first act at least, Lu?i? may have had an inadequate mic?

      Antonenko seemed to me merely competent at first, though I agree he warmed up.

      Of the three, Yoncheva is clearly the star, though through most of it I was left thinking that my expectations had been too high. She eventually brought real beauty and pathos to the Willow Song and Ave Maria, but in that scene, the soprano is always working with the very best music that Verdi ever wrote. She does have a beautiful voice, but I have to say that for the first three acts I found her dramatically inert, both in vocal and acting terms. Maybe she was nervous since this was her first HD? I don’t want to be too harsh about this, because if my expectations had not been so damn high to begin with, I would probably be scoring her performance an excellent one, if not a great one. But this is the first full performance of hers that I’ve seen, and I found her vocally beautiful but lacking in charisma.

  • actfive

    …and Eric Owens is not host material. Stick to singing.

    • Ilka Saro

      Ain’t that the oddest thing? Here is a man who can blow the walls apart with dark ringing tones of sublime villainy as Alberich, but when he hosted the HD of Parsifal, he was as stiff and nervous as Ralph Kramden playing the Chef of the Future.

      • kennedet

        Surprised and sorry to hear this. Eric Owens was a delight during his duo recital with Lawrence Brownlee this past summer at Glimmerglass, not to mention he sang like a “God”. He had the personality and humor of a major show host.

  • none

    I find it hard to believe the above contributors saw the same Otello I did. I and my friends thought it was excellent and very moving. A wonderful production where the singers, production and orchestra under Yannick Nezet-Seguin all came together for a great show. The audience in the cinema actually applauded at the end. The audience at the opera house held the applauce after Willow Willow and Ave Maria because the singing was so beautiful and touching -- like holding one’s breath. And yes, Verdi’s music is extraordinary!

    • Evenhanded

      Well.

      I totally agree with you, “none” -- I loved the HD, despite a few reservations. I could type a list of what I consider to be directorial missteps, but overall the production works well enough. I thought the glass walls were an interesting angle and have no idea why others seem so bent on hating them.

      Antonenko may be a bit stiff, and he did take some time to warm up, but I thought he was pretty fantastic, all things considered. There was tremendous heart in his performance. As others have pointed out -- exhaustively -- Lucic doesn’t have much “snarl” in the voice, but his experience in the role paid off handsomely and it was nice to dispense with the sort of mugging and indicating other singers have offered as Iago. And personally, I like it best when Iago, Otello, and Desdemona are portrayed in dramatic balance, rather than Iago trying to constantly take the spotlight (even if the latter is perfectly in keeping with the character’s motives). Yoncheva has a very rare talent: she seems utterly still, calm, and focused. Rarely have I witnessed a singer combine such sterling technique with an intensely emotive stage presence all while keeping such stillness at the center of her portrayal. Gorgeous.

      The applause after her big scene was not the fault of our wonderful conductor, but rather an extremely ill-advised attempt to appreciate the soprano that rather diluted the incredible dramatic tension she had worked so hard to build. All in all, a wonderful afternoon at the theater. Many, many of the patrons could be seen walking toward the exits with tears still fresh on their cheeks.

      • Lohenfal

        Evenhanded, the experience of seeing an HD and of being in the Met aren’t exactly the same. I watch the HD’s when they show up on PBS months later and generally find them more satisfactory than the live versions that I see, especially as regards the productions. The many close-ups tend to make the backgrounds less prominent. The glass walls in Otello were incredibly distracting and annoying from my seat. No doubt the HD minimized their negative effect on the proceedings. I remember that, when the HD’s started to come out, there were accusations that Gelb deliberately had the productions designed for them, rather than for the viewers in the house. Whether or not those accusations are valid, I sometimes have the feeling that the HD’s are a better deal.

        • Evenhanded

          Well.

          Lohenfal -- excellent point. Having attended the Met far more often than the HDs, I agree completely. What I thought was strange about the glass walls was the fact that so little was done with lighting. It could have been immensely visually interesting with inventive lighting effects. In any case, point well taken. Thanks for responding.

  • Donna Anna

    None, the singing was wonderful and the production wasn’t, not to me nor to il mio Don Ricardo. Antonenko struggled in the first act but was on point for the rest of the opera and I thought his acting quite convincing. Yoncheva was glorious and Lucic was very good. Bart Sher perplexes me--he gets Broadway so right but when it comes to opera, he doesn’t know the territory. The opening choral scene could have done in the dark--no movement at all and he’s not good at crowd scenes. And yes, the projections interfered with the rest of the production, particularly at the beginning of Act IV. Sher doesn’t appear to understand the value of visual silence--he sure as hell didn’t get that (and a lot more) in Hoffmann and it carried forward here. The sliding glass partitions were intrusive and didn’t give me any insight into the opera. I was never convinced that Otello was an outsider. The third act trio verged on Noises Off and again, movement interfered. But Gelb is in thrall to him and so on he goes.
    YNZ is a treasure and did a superb job leading the orchestra. I have to laugh at the promo for upcoming HD broadcasts: “Led by James Levine and others.” More like, led by others with a single anticipated appearance by James Levine.

    • Porgy Amor

      Totally agree — I thought that that blaring of Levine’s name in the promo was a bit much even when I saw the clip the first time at the end of last season, at a time he was down for two HD broadcasts. But they’re always singing his praises in the HDs. Maestro Levine, Maestro Levine, Maestro Levine. The nadir may have come in February, when Voigt was scripted to ask Erin Morley what it was like to sing Les contes d’Hoffmann with Maestro Levine…years earlier. At no point was Ms. Morley asked what it was like to sing the opera with the conductor of that day’s performance, Yves Abel. I don’t even think Abel’s name came up in any of the interviews. Had his conducting been anything special, it would have been outrageous; as it was, it was still discourteous.

      But Gelb is in thrall to him and so on he goes.

      My suspicion is that Sher is a “good director” in the other way, the way that doesn’t show up on the stage. He’s probably efficient and stays within budget and works well with all the various factions at the Met. They put that together with his name from his Broadway work and throw important work his way every season, even though he’s taken brickbats for most of his productions.

      • I think actually that Sher just happens to be the sort of director Peter Gelb likes. Not very flashy, a bit staid, with a very “clean” (or dull, depending on your POV) aesthetic. I’ve seen Sher’s Broadway productions and they are non-interventionist and give the audience what it wants in terms of a straightforward, well-sung show. But in Broadway he’s working with a built-in audience and popular market.

        • steveac10

          “But in Broadway he’s working with a built-in audience and popular market.”

          He also has sometimes months of workshops and rehearsals, plus weeks of previews (often out of town) when he works on Broadway. Critics don’t weigh in until the show has had dozens of performances and extra rehearsals to change and fine tune. It’s a very different world.

          • DerLeiermann

            I wonder if Broadway productions have a much bigger budget compared to Opera, I mean, it makes sense they would ’cause they’re expected to run for longer so you’d have time to recover the investment and actually make a profit. Does anyone know?

            • Henry Holland

              It’s just one example but the recent Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark was a financial mess. From the Wikipedia entry, bold mine:

              By April 2011 the capitalization was reported to have grown to $70 million, and as of the opening, it was reported as $75 million, compared to the typical $5 to $15 million for a Broadway musical. It included $9.7 million for sets and costumes, $4.4 million to rent the Foxwoods Theatre for two years before performances began, and $2.2 million for flying equipment. The weekly production budget was $1.3 million.

              As that article notes, the show would have had to run for five years of sold-out performances to make its money back. Obviously, a play with four or five characters and not that many set changes would cost a lot less. For what it’s worth, I did a quick search for “LA Opera budget” and for 2012 it was $37 million.

          • Krunoslav

            Good points but haven’t

            “weeks of previews (often out of town) when he works on Broadway”

            become a distant memory, unless we’re talking about shows developed at regional theaters? Which of Sher’s productions git tried out on the road?

            • steveac10

              I was speaking more about Broadway musicals in general than Sher’s particular schedule -- but just to take the current King & I as an example, there were 39 preview performances before a critic wrote a word (although the critics these days often write their reviews based on the final preview). This Otello would have to be revived two or three times before it has had that many performances.

              A Broadway director is also working with a cast, crew and orchestra that are solely focused on one show. That’s even true in a opera house that is on a strict one opera at a time stagione system like most American regional companies. But at the Met, all but the principal singers and conductor are likely rehearsing and performing 3 or 4 other shows. And those principal singers are already looking ahead to their next gig.

              I think any director who takes a job at the Met has to be slightly masochistic.

        • Lohenfal

          Ivy, once again compliments on your Otello review. I was at the Met today and found that the performance exactly matched what you said about it last week, both in terms of music and direction. Some of the people around me liked it--perhaps they’ve never seen or heard this piece. To me, this was another of Gelb’s failures. Yannick and Yoncheva weren’t quite enough to make up for all the negatives. I was glad when it ended.

          • Lohenfal, thanks for the kind words. I do think Peter Gelb was right in fast tracking Yoncheva for this debut. Her future really seems limitless.

          • Uncle Kvetch

            Some of the people around me liked it--perhaps they’ve never seen or heard this piece.

            Or perhaps they were totally familiar with the opera, and liked this performance anyway. Crazy, I know, but stranger things have happened…

            I was in the house on Saturday, and I liked it. Didn’t love it, but I liked it. My partner, who doesn’t have much of a musical background but spent many years toiling away in the theatre, actually LIKED Sher’s production quite a lot.

            Like I said…crazy, right?

            • Lohenfal

              Well, Kvetch, we all have our different viewpoints and backgrounds. I wouldn’t automatically consider someone “nuts” for not agreeing with me. When I saw Voigt’s Brünnhilde in 2012, the people around me were quite enthused about her singing while I was having a meltdown over her Wagner disaster. I can only comment based on my own experience of these operas. Of all the Otello performances I’ve seen, this was to me the weakest, both musically and visually. Vickers, Domingo, Heppner--they were all a lot better than Antonenko. I could say the same for the 2 previous Met productions versus Sher’s. And, without trying to be “superior,” I’ve met many Met patrons who aren’t exactly well informed about what they’re listening to and seeing. Certainly, the ovation at the end of Saturday’s Otello seemed to me unjustified. How much applause would that audience have given to Martinelli/Tibbett/Rethberg, if they thought that this performance was so wonderful?

            • Uncle Kvetch

              Fair enough, Lohenfal — just to be clear, I don’t mean to start a slinging match, and of course I defer to your greater experience. (And as someone who’s only found his way into opera in the last 10 years, I can’t help but be wildly envious… my god, to have heard the likes of Vickers, Domingo, or Heppner singing the role live…)

              As for Antonenko, while I’ve listened to recordings with far superior tenors as Otello, my only “live” frame of reference was Botha’s singularly awful performance in the HD from a few years ago. Not a very high bar, granted, but at least he managed to top it.

              And it’s interesting how much our perceptions of the audience response differ — from where I sat I thought the response was pretty tepid overall. The Turandot we saw last month got a far more enthusiastic ovation. The bows seemed to go on for much longer than was warranted by the crowd’s response (“wow, they’re really milking it,” as my partner put it). By the time the curtain finally came down, about two-thirds of the Family Circle were already well on their way to the exits.

            • Batty Masetto

              Lohenfal & Kvetch -- Well, I do know the work rather well, and while I’d agree Antonenko isn’t in Domingo’s league, still less Vickers’, I’ve heard and seen worse. I found it a flawed but ultimately affecting performance.

              What I can’t understand are all the compliments for Lucic, whom I find a very dull performer. But just because I didn’t like him, I don’t assume that those who did are ignorant.

        • armerjacquino

          I think it’s also worth mentioning that for some people, seeing Sher’s name on a production guarantees they’ll hate it. Ever since this OTELLO was announced all I’ve seen here are pronouncements about how terrible it was going to be.

          • quoth the maven

            Whatever assumptions anyone might have made about Sher’s unsuitability for Otello would only have been borne out by seeing the final product. Meanwhile, you could well have viewed it with no previous assumptions and still found it dull, uncomprehending and astoundingly untheatrical.

            • armerjacquino

              Oh, I don’t doubt it. But people are always likelier to hate things they think they’re going to hate.

  • pasavant

    Was at the Otello today, and wish I had been at the production others have raved about. The one I heard was sub par. Sets looks cheap and flapped about . The Japanese business with the stage hands pushing sets in full view has gotten old. Tenor off pitch much of the time, although got better as the show progressed. No acting ability all . Looks like Ralph Cramden. Most of the time he just stands there like a lox . Iago sings well, but no snarl, monochromatic, no bottom notes. Yoncheva underwhelmed. Piercing British soprano sound at the top? White sound , no vibrato. The amen did not float . Orchestra and stage out of synch. Droopy tempi. No attention at all to inner voices in Orchestra but plenty of shimmer. And what’s with the off and on wind machine during the show? My 2 cents.

    • Gualtier M

      Who has been raving about this Sher production? If anything they have been raving in agony over how bad it is.

    • DerLeiermann

      Did you like anything? I know you’re in your right to express your feelings for the production, but your comments give me the impression that you went to the theater ,notebook in hand to write down everything that didn’t fit your conception of an ideal Otello .

  • LT

    At the HD there were two women that can be described as low-class big Edie and little Edie with coughs so loud and sputum-productive that they must be consistent only with terminal stages of turberculosis. I wish someone would have thrown them out…

    • damianjb1

      At least Big Edie didn’t sing along. Or did she?

      • LT

        No, she was not in the right vocal condition, however, when Otello entered the bedroom in Act 4 she did exclaim out loud “He’s got a knife!!”

  • DerLeiermann

    I didn’t like this Otello production very much. Many complained that the ambience was too dark, gloomy and depressing I agree with them. The buildings made of U-Glass were awful and they will age horribly. I thought Antonenko was a competent singer, though I too wished for more acting from him. Sonya Yonchenko is a beautiful woman with a very pretty instrument. You couldn’t hear a pin drop during the Willow Song and Ave Maria. Her singing cured the cough queens. I heard the strings play right after the scene, but the audience burst into applause (understandably, I just wish they hadn’t so the drama would not have been interrumpted). The final scenes were beautiful but felt just a bit flat dramatically. Zeljko Lucic is a good singer, a good actor and knows the role well, but I found his Iago laughable during his first act aria. He squinted and shifted his eyes to let us know he’s gone into villain mode. Here’s what it reminded me of:

    The orchestra and the directors were the stand out for me, they played very nicely as you would expect them to. Were they rehearsing the trio during the intermission? I missed that part. And wow is YNZ short or what? When he took his bows with the principals at the end of the performance he had to be the shortest one in the bunch! It was kind of adorable.

  • Batty Masetto

    Hubby and I ultimately liked the Otello a good deal better than we expected from the reviews. The conducting was exciting and Yoncheva was excellent – we thought she sang beautifully and delivered a complex, touching characterization. Antonenko turned in honorable work, more in the last two acts than earlier. The “esultate” was firm and commanding, “Dio mi potevi” was affecting, and the unlovely vocalism at the end that was so alarming in audio-only made much more sense with the acting, although Venere non splendeva. There were several points of interesting characterization: I especially liked his grimly cavalier “O mentitrice” from the bedroom chair. So props to him for that, and also to Sher for those moments, even if a lot of the directing elsewhere seemed klunky and even unmusical.

    Lucic was the weak link for us both. It’s true that he can sing the notes. He moves around, seems to know what the words mean, and doesn’t engage in any facial expressions or movements that conflict with them. So I suppose he’s a “good” actor for certain values of “act.” But there’s nothing there that I would really call acting, nothing surprising or enlightening, still less really exciting, about the characterization. It was the histrionic equivalent of a musical drone, and as far as we were concerned DerLeiermann above could be describing the whole performance. Now that I’ve seen him as Rigoletto, Macbeth, Gérard and Iago, I think I can say with some certainty that he has exactly one character in his acting repertory – a rather glum chap without much imagination, intellect, eros, power or humor.

    Still, possibly because Iago is less of a presence in the second half, the performance packed a satisfying wallop by the end and we weren’t sad we went.

    Also, Gary Halvorson has a very cute assistant. One of the perks of the position, I guess.

  • k0000

    Leiermann:

    “You couldn’t hear a pin drop during the Willow Song and Ave Maria.”

    Just to get the idiom right: “You COULD hear a pin drop . . .”

    • DerLeiermann

      k0000, you ‘re absolutely right. I was mistaken. Thanks for the correction.

    • blansac

      I could care less.