Cher Public

“The unfed mind devours itself”

Born on this day in 1925 author Gore Vidal

Born on this day in 1807 composer and voice teacher Heinrich Panofka.

Happy 76th birthday bass Ruggero Raimondi.

Happy 81st birthday composer Steven Reich.

On this day in 1962 the Leslie BricuseAnthony Newley musical Stop the World— I Want to Get Off opened at the Shubert Theatre, to run 555 performances.

  • Camille

    This morning I had a dreadful and onerous chore to perform but, I swear to you, after viewing “Gore Vidal’s CALIGULA” then followed by a chaser of Lily’s Panofka Tarantella Chase, I was off and running, with bells on my toes. Good times!

    Mr Windy City OperaGuy—I think I LUVS U!!!

  • Delmonaco

    In Gore Vidal’s memoir ” Palimpsest” he remembers attending a performance of Andrea Chenier at the Met with Rose Kennedy ( who lectured him on the opera) and being greeted by Bing at the door…I wonder who was singing that night?

  • Armerjacquino

    Saw Latonia Moore as Aida last night and wow, you lot weren’t kidding, were you? She’s spectacular. I know there have been a lot of slightly lazy critical comparisons to Price, L- and when she does call Leontyne to mind it’s the late 50s/early 60s incarnation with that simultaneously rich and girlish sound. There’s more than a touch of Price, M, too, and Felicia Weathers and at times there was even a hint of what *ducks and covers* Fleming would have sounded like in this music. Not that Moore isn’t very much her own artist, but all those comparisons really come because I’d almost forgotten how much Aida needs a purely beautiful voice. We’ve gotten so used to viewing it as a kind of assault course, something sopranos need to prove they can endure, that the idea that it should contain lovely sounds has been on the back burner a little. We’ve got Harteros and Netrebko too now of course, but in her command of the role I’d place Moore ahead of both of them.

    She can act, too. I really don’t get this idea among critics and singers that Aida is a dramatically thankless role. I’ve said it before, but there is barely a moment she is on stage where she isn’t either making a decision or realising the consequences of her last one, and that kind of tension is the essence of drama. She’s not passive, either- she always has agency, even bearing in mind her status in the Egyptian court; everything that happens to her in the opera is the result of an action she herself has taken. Moore has acres of the pride, passion and dignity the part requires- Moore Grace, if you will- and my god she can sing it. Her Act 3 was time-stoppingly good (even if I accidentally put a hex on her: I was just thinking how singing the word ‘ecstasy’ in the English translation was dangerously close to ‘estasi’ for someone who’d sung it in Italian so many times, and lo and behold the next moment she was singing ‘beato’ which she then had to aaaaaah back into English). She came off the C Of Nightmares pretty quick- my husband said it was like someone swimming down to prove they could touch the bottom of the pool, putting their hand down and immediately resurfacing- but it was there and rich and full. And that’s really the only tiny caveat I’d have about her singing, and it’s not much of one.

    Physically shorter, she was artistically head and shoulders above her colleagues. I’m not going to dwell too much on Michelle de Young because Something Has Happened to that voice- the tone is plummy and occluded, and there’s no real bottom to the voice at all any more. She’s a sufferer from Irritating Vowel Syndrome, too: ‘I’ became ‘Oy-ee’, something like ‘plan’ would come out as ‘plaughan’ or ‘plain’. She gave a tantalising glimpse of what could have been in the duet with Radames, when the repeated phrase on ‘or dal ciel’ was just utterly, utterly huge and thrilling, but two notes do not an Amneris make. As is the current fashion, she was costumed like someone playing a one-episode trade delegate in a Star Trek spinoff.

    Gwyn Hughes Jones is a highly musical singer who has everything Radames needs except the right tone. He sings the part with ease and delicacy and none of its terrors seem to faze him- a very confident ‘Celeste Aida’, diminuendo on the last note for days, all the power needed for the end of act three without bleating, it’s all there- but the voice is… choral. It’s a lovely sound, but it isn’t an Italian tenor. No matter how good the singing, it’s not a great thing to listen to a Radames and find yourself thinking how brilliant he’d be as Captain Vere.

    Solid but unremarkable work from the Ramfis, the King, and the Amonasro (who must have annoyed the conductor, Keri-Lynn Wilson, because she gave him precisely no time at all on ‘Non sei mia figlia’ before hammering the brass on him like she was pressing a coin). There was also some very notably gorgeous singing from Eleanor Dennis as the Priestess, a really really lovely sound, although it would be insanity to claim, as one critic did, that she was the highlight of the evening. The aforementioned Ms Wilson delivered a beautifully crafted Prelude and some moments of real excitement, but the Amonasro Altercation wasn’t the only time she and the singers seemed to have different ideas on tempi.

    The production, as usual with Phelim McDermott and Improbable, looks spectacular but, less typically, only does a decent job. There is a sense that the way it looks has used up all the creative energy: as far as blocking and personenregie are concerned, it’s a production that Fiorenza Cossotto might worry was too generalised. It’s not a production that is in any way offensive, unless being inoffensive is the most… no, on second thoughts I won’t lose myself in that kind of sixth-form paradox. It looks great and it gets the job done, but if you’re looking for insight and illumination, you’ll go home empty-handed.

    Frustratingly enough, when the production did have truly innovative ideas they backfired a little. Paying tribute to the coffins of the Egyptian fallen during the Grand March was interesting dramatically- especially as there were only four coffins, making it very clear that the war had been an utter mismatch. The problem is, the music is not saying ‘funeral procession’. Not even at all. Nor is the dance music that follows saying ‘rolling up flags slowly and portentously’. I’m not someone who is wedded to the idea that stage action should always follow a Route One interpretation of what’s on stage- the cheery C-major conclusion of COSI is an obvious example of how well a good director can bring in a dramatic subtext and ironise the music- but this was just too dissonant with what we were hearing.

    And I’m afraid there’s some Jon Shouting About Logic coming up, but keeping Radames caged and onstage throughout the Judgement Scene is one of those moments when someone should have interrupted the rehearsal room excitement with a ‘hang on, though…’. Amneris changes her mind the *second* Radames leaves the room. If he stays there all through ‘Ohime, morir mi sento’, before we hear from any priests, we have the absurd picture of Amneris saying ‘Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that, now it’s too late’ two feet away from him in an otherwise empty room, twenty seconds after she said ‘I hope you die’. It can only be his absence that changes her mind, and we need to see that her decision is irrevocable. There was a nice camp touch here, however- she burnt the key to the cage he was imprisoned in in one of two large flaming pillars (note to the designer- I bet they look lovely from the stalls, but it’s all a bit painful and do-not-look-directly-into-the-eclipse from the balcony: I was blinking negatives of those flames for a good ten minutes after the scene.

    Oh, and there was a beautiful shaft of light in the tomb, by the way. I can only assume it came from some kind of plexiglass viewing gallery because COME ON.

    tl:dr? I saw Aida. It was ok, most of it was good, bits of it were great, Latonia Moore is currently unrivalled in this part. Yes, even by *them*.

    • Resitopiu

      Thanks for that review Armer I have been a fan of Latonia Moore since I saw her Aida at the ROH a good few years ago and have been desperate to see her again. I was there last night and my memory of how fantastic she was at the ROH was not wrong, she is sensational.

    • Rowna Sutin

      She was spectacular in the Pittsburgh Aida a few years back. Her tone was gleaming and pointed. She filled the cavernous hall which sometimes is cruel to singers, and like all her fans, I would love to see her in sometimes else. Butterfly? Tosca? More Verdi? Thanks for the detailed account, dear Armer :)

      • Armerjacquino

        Yes, the Coliseum is cruel to singers too, and it was the two sopranos, Dennis and Moore* who handled its acoustic best.

        *apologies to Monty Python fans

      • Damianjb1

        I heard her in Sydney two years ago in Don Carlos and she was fabulous. I thought the role was a little low for her and I would love to hear her as the Forza Leonora. All those soaring Verdi phrases.

    • AJ: Thanks very much for your review. Very glad to hear of Moore’s success. I do wish she’d get some non-Aida assignments.

      I completely agree about Aida not being a thankless role. Perhaps its reputation is due to the fact that it doesn’t provide opportunity for campy displays of temperament (and I love those when done well). It requires a sensitive actress, who is responsive to all the character’s reactions. I suppose it is easy to play the role as a victim to whom things happen but that would miss a lot of the character’s depth and nuance.

      The tenor is intriguing. Any tenor who can sing Radames with ease is intriguing, but one who has the kind of vocal colour you describe and can still provide the power when needed is fascinating. Any similarities to Vogt?

      • Armerjacquino

        I don’t know Vogt’s work well enough to answer, but yes, he is an intriguing singer. He’s done some Manricos at the Met which I don’t think went down too well hereabouts. I had previously seen him as Pinkerton, which suited the voice a lot better than either of the Verdi roles did. I can’t really describe it- it’s like a powerful tenore di grazia voice, but not as Italianate as that makes it sound.

      • Camille

        No, not really. I heard Mr Gwyn Hughes in Butterfly and, sorry to say, he didn’t exactly bowl me over there and my imagination is taxed to the utmost in trying to conjure him up as the heroic Radames. He IS a good singer and he comports himself all right on stage, it’s just that, as armer says above, one may EASILY hear and imagine him as a Captain Vere.

        Whereas Mr Vogt is a special case, all his own, who fits into a Fach all his own. I am sorry, but don’t know how else to describe him, other than to say he is best heard in German operas and within a specific sphere. At least, that is my VERY limited experience of having heard him, FWIW, and that’s not too much!

      • Camille

        yeah, Amneris is def the Campground Leader in this, and was likely intended as such. Aïda is such a tough sing and has to contend with so much musically speaking that perhaps the primedonne just throw up there collective hands and say ‘basta!’?

        I did think Mme Netrebko made a quite convincing character and draw out the emotional aspects of the role in a clear, convincing, and not to mention, uncommon manner. For a first attempt, it was one of her best and I’ll really look forward to her coming essays in the role, even if that necessitates going once AGAIN to the current installation, mutter, mutter, mutter under my breath, where I have seen so many attempt to skate the perilous waters of the Nile, only to sink far below them….

      • CKurwenal

        With Hughes Jones, he sort of has the heft without the vocal colour -- it’s loud, it feels substantial, but it’s sort of 1 dimensional and rather white toned. There is no real increase in intensity at any point, no matter what his intentions are, because the voice just doesn’t pick up any extra complexity or convey emotion very well. There’s no question that he can sing these roles from a technical point of view and be easily heard, but I think that’s the reason he isn’t better known or celebrated, and why the Met hasn’t asked him back (that we know of).

    • Camille

      Never too long to read when written so intelligently and cogently with such an informed eye as to the stage action. Armerjacquino, would it be too much to ask of you to haunt these pages more frequently with such informed reviews? A person who reports in with actual stagecraft and experience holds a great deal more weight for me than one with crap tonnes of specious speculations. I know parterre cannot provide you with press tix and they are expensive there, but whenever you DO—please phone in your accountings. I note you had your husband there so am hoping you are managing to convert him some to the opera world?

      Wonderful news to hear she is back on form! Since those Aïdas last November were not so successful—due in full measure probably to her pregnancy—I’d hoped this to be the case and your evaluation makes it likely so.

      According to Operabase, among other roles she will be singing in the future besides Aïda (Poland), are a Norwegian Desdemona and an Austrailian Floria Tosca.

      From the Future Met Wiki pages I have gleaned the factoid of her presence in our upcoming Opening Night of Porgy and Bess, as Selena, which delights me jo end as she will slay as Selena with her “My Man’s Gone Now”, of that I can be certain.

      A really beautiful voice and one I hope will be featured far more prominently in seasons to come here at the Metropolitan. I hope to g-d she doesn’t end up being one of those that is ‘a prophet in their own country…’. A nice Leonora, in either of the two Verdi works, e.g., would be more than welcome or another Butterfly——

      Thank you so much armerjacquino — I expected due parole, but didn’t dare hope you would be moved to extend yourself so generously in this fashion!

      • Armerjacquino

        That’s hugely kind, thank you!

        Randomly, one part I’d love to hear her in that popped into my mind was Nedda.

        And yes, Stephen came along. It’ll be a slow process though, I think…