Cher Public

Broadcast: Thaïs

“C’est Thais, l’idole fragile qui vient pour la première fois.”  And you, the cher public can listen and comment this afternoon starting at 12:55 PM. (Photo: Chris Lee/Metropolitan Opera)

  • manou

    One of my favourite operas

  • Batty Masetto

    Two less-than-ideal high Ds have no net impact at all on what was a very very good rendition of the role

    • Camille

      Exactement! They’ll come around with practice and she sang a very long continuous phrase on it. Brava la divetta!

    • southerndoc1

      It’s like doing two O patria mia high Cs, but even more difficult.

  • Rowna Sutin

    I must be behind everyone . . . argh!!!

    • Batty Masetto

      Were you listening on the Met site? Sirius always lags behind

      • Rowna Sutin

        Had to switch to sirius on iPhone -- yes very behind.

  • fletcher

    Oh wow Finley’s doing Scarpia? Hmm!

  • Herb Fontecilla

    She could bring Thais back into the repertoire.

    • fletcher

      I think everyone made a very good case for this opera today.

      • Camille

        OUI!

      • Herb Fontecilla

        Yes but very hard to get a Thai to love. Sills and Fleming failed with me.

  • fletcher

    Lovely chatting, this more than made up for that atrocious Hoffmann a bit back -- now for lunch.

    • Rowna Sutin

      Ciao Fletcher. Nice to be in your company again.

  • Leontiny

    Was anyone else following the score? I was using Heugel 1894 and trying to glance at some of the revisions from 1898. Too busy crossing my eyes to comment. I’d be interested in any score comments. Finley was gorgeous, and such beautiful French. She was a revelation. They made a real case for revivals of this work, and with that orchestra, chorus, and the superb conducting the audience sure had a treat on its hands. I wonder why they were so reluctant to respond. Maybe not an opera for an afternoon, or just unfamiliar.

    • Camille

      Yes, Leontiny, I had this newer Editions Alphonse LeDuc reprint of the old Heugel. The Copyright is 1899 and newer one is 1988, if that is any help. I am very tired and must go to bed but shall return to this tomorrow. Also, I was having a devil of a time as my connection went out a couple times and was constantly interrupted. I am hauling my score and my tired old ass to the Wednesday performance so will know more then. Beautifully performed. In fact, the best live Thaïs I’ve yet listened to, since the Bev Sills days.

      Oh, I would conjecture they just didn’t know it very well and would not know where and when to respond. I am having a hunch this may become a hit, and am hoping so because of the beautiful work done. I’ll know after Wednesday. till then!

  • Antikitschychick

    Good afternoon all, I was in the house for the premiere of this opera yesterday and here is my review:

    Overall I really enjoyed the performance, mostly for the beautiful music. I’m not sure if it was a full house yesterday but the orchestra section was pretty full. I thought Ailyn Perez and Gerald Finley sang passionately and were both convincing in their respective roles. I’d never heard either live before and I came away thinking they’re both great singers. She especially sounds much better live than on recordings and they both sing with lots of energy and project really well. I definitely think this revival was a success.

    Ailyn has a very full lyric soprano voice that sounds like it can really fill the theater. It’s also very thick and brassy and therefore ideally suited for heavier Verdi, Puccini and Strauss roles imho. She says that French repertoire really suits her voice and although she indeed sang very well, I would have liked a bit more gleam and softness in the tone, especially the upper register, and those ending high Ds were a bit strained but the high C she hit after her entrance and the D she interpolated during the mirror scene were full and secure so props to her. She did also sing some nice pianos and lovely crescendos and diminuendos throughout the opera though again, what was missing was that plush, glamorous timbre, but she was still very enjoyable to listen and watch.

    Her interpretation of the role was very straightforward and sincere and it was obvious she knew every word of what she was singing, plus she looked absolutely gorgeous in all of her costumes.
    Gerald Finley as Athanael was pretty perfect casting. He has a very mellifluous, almost sweet sounding baritone voice with a solid, even range and a fast vibrato that is ideally suited for French repertoire. His and Ailyn’s voice also blended well. He actually reminds me a lot of Peter Mattei. They have a similar color to their voices and sing in a similar style, plus they’re both tall and energetic onstage. Acting-wise Finley was every bit the devoted yet tortured disciple and it helped that they cast someone who can at least portray that youthful vigor that makes the character’s emotional struggle believable. His torment over his growing infatuation with Thais was certainly heart-wrenching, and you really feel for the guy when she dies right by his side. Also, his entrance at the end of Act II has to be one of the best entrances in opera I’ve ever seen. After Thais decides to convert to Christianity and leave Alexandria, she and Athanael start making preparations to leave to the convent. Meanwhile a crowd that is brought by Nicias builds outside her home, (which is supposed to be burning inside since Athanael tells her she has to burn it along with all of her material possessions) the two large doors open towards the crowd and Finley/Athanael comes waltzing out shrouded in a huge buildup of smoke with his arms stretched out like he’s the Stormborn Jesus. (Insert Daenerys side eye here). It was campy as all hell and I loved it ????.

    Jean Francois Borras was also excellent as Nicias with a vibrant, ringing and clear tenor voice that was a pleasure to listen to. not to mention that his French is idiomatic. The rest of the cast was also very good, especially the soprano who sang La Charmeuse. The program says it was played by Deanna Breiwick who was making her debut. The short number featuring her and the solo dancer, Syrena Nikole, was cute and nicely choreographed. And I think their little kiss at the end was pretty much the only kiss in the opera, if you don’t count Athanael’s second, racier dream about Thais, which was sexy but still pretty PG-13ish. With the current cast I think they could’ve heated things up a bit more, though imho it was still sexier than the 2009 Thais. Of course the music and singing are where the sensuality in this opera really lie, and the Met audience tends to be conservative, but it’s not everyday when you have leads that sound great AND are also attractive. Just sayin.

    Last but not least, the conductor, Emmanuelle Villaume did a great job. The beginning did feel a bit rushed but overall he kept a good, lively pace and provided good support for the singers. This wasn’t the most romantic reading of the score you’ll hear but it was nevertheless captivating, elegant and precise. The Meditation violin solo was exquisite though. There was dead silence in the theater; everyone seemed to be enraptured by the music. Props to David Chang and the orchestra. They did a terrific job. Unfortunately people did start to clap before it was over but that didn’t bother me as much as the two phones that went off in the beginning of the opera where I was initially sitting. My original seat was under the overhang where the sound isn’t great but fortunately after the first Act I was able to move up a few rows and it made a world of difference. The pauses for the scene changes were also a bit lengthy but at least everything ran smoothly and there were no major interruptions.

    Something else I enjoyed in this performance was the lighting. The color palette that was used set a nice ambiance with soft hues of purple and gold pastels. It was lovely. The costumes were also very beautiful. The set, however, I thought was too simplistic and the desert scene in particular was one dimensional and looked like a cardboard cutout since there was no actual sand. The set pieces were also too small; they didn’t fill up the entire stage so it kind of looked like a show within a show which I don’t think was the intended effect.

    Despite a few quibbles here and there this was a very enjoyable performance. The story is simple and seems kind of arcane in a way but it’s actually also kind of relevant, in that it’s sort of about a clash of world views and personalities: one character, Thais ultimately finds love and solace through faith, conquers her fear of death and transcends the vain lifestyle she was accustomed to, while the other is actually trapped by his dogmatic beliefs and self-denial. Ultimately I think that’ what this opera is about: the difference between faith and religious dogma and how there’s such a fine line between the two, and how there’s beauty and pain in both. I’d definitely see this again with another cast, especially since it didn’t feel long at all. Nothing drags or feels superfluous and the libretto is poetic but not to the point of being non-nonsensical. As a side note I did see that Rufus Wainwright was in the audience, in of the first few rows. He was wearing a really cute winter sweater and looked like he was enjoying the show. I’m a fan of his and his sister Martha’s music so I thought about going up to him and saying hi but I didn’t want to bother him.

    Finally, I did manage to record a few videos, but I idk how to post those here. If any of you are interested in seeing them email me or go to my IG page and I’ll share them. I hope everyone else that plans on attending this enjoys it.

  • Antikitschychick

    Hey everyone, I was in the house for this yesterday and here are some thoughts/observations:

    Overall I really enjoyed the performance, mostly for the beautiful music, but this was definitely a successful revival in every aspect. I’m not sure if it was a full house yesterday but the orchestra section was pretty full. I thought Ailyn Perez and Gerald Finley sang passionately and were both convincing in their respective roles. I’d never heard either live before and I came away thinking they’re both great singers. She especially sounds much better live than on recordings and they both sing with lots of energy and project really well. I definitely think they succeed in their respective roles.

    Ailyn has a very full lyric soprano voice that sounds like it can really fill the theater. It’s also very thick and brassy and therefore ideally suited for heavier Verdi, Puccini and Strauss roles imho. She says that French repertoire really suits her voice and although she indeed sang very well, I would have liked a bit more gleam and softness in the tone, especially the upper register, and those ending high Ds were a bit strained but the high C she hit after her entrance and the D during the mirror scene were full and secure. She did sing some nice pianos and lovely crescendos and decrescendos throughout the opera though again what was missing was that plush, glamorous timbre. I do think this will be a success for her though.

    Her interpretation of the role was very straightforward and sincere and it was obvious she knew every word of what she was singing, plus she looked absolutely gorgeous in all of her costumes to boot.
    Gerald Finley as Athanael was pretty perfect casting. He has a very mellifluous, almost sweet sounding baritone voice with a solid, even range and a fast vibrato that is ideally suited for French repertoire. His and Ailyn’s voice also blended well. He actually reminds me a lot of Peter Mattei. They have a similar color to their voices and sing in a similar style, plus they’re both tall and energetic onstage. Acting-wise Finley was every bit the devoted yet tortured disciple and it helped that they cast someone who can at least portray that youthful vigor that makes the character’s emotional struggle believable. His torment over his growing infatuation with Thais was certainly heart-wrenching, and you really feel for the guy when she dies right by his side. Also, his entrance at the end of Act II has to be one of the best entrances in opera I’ve ever seen. After Thais decides to convert to Christianity and leave Alexandria, she and Athanael start making preparations to leave to the convent. Meanwhile a crowd that is brought by Nicias builds outside her home, (which is supposed to be burning inside since Athanael tells her she has to burn it along with all of her material possessions) the two large doors open towards the crowd and Finley/Athanael comes waltzing out shrouded in a huge buildup of smoke with his arms stretched out like he’s the Stormborn Jesus. (Insert Daenerys side eye here). It was campy as all hell and I loved it ????.

    Jean Francois Borras was also excellent as Nicias with a vibrant, ringing and clear tenor voice that was a pleasure to listen to. Not to mention that his French is idiomatic. The rest of the cast was also very good, especially the soprano who sang La Charmeuse. The program says it was played by Deanna Breiwick who was making her debut. The short number featuring her and the solo dancer, Syrena Nikole, was cute and nicely choreographed. And I think their little kiss at the end was pretty much the only kiss in the opera, if you don’t count Athanael’s second, racier dream about Thais, which was sexy but still pretty PG-13ish. With the current cast I think they could’ve heated things up a bit more, though imho it was still sexier than the 2009 Thais. Of course the music and singing are where the sensuality in this opera really lie, and the Met audience tends to be conservative, but it’s not everyday when you have leads that sound great AND are also attractive. Just sayin.

    Last but not least, the conductor, Emmanuelle Villaume did a great job. The beginning did feel a bit rushed but overall he kept a good, lively pace and provided good support for the singers. This wasn’t the most romantic reading of the score you’ll hear but it was nevertheless captivating and elegant. The Meditation violin solo was exquisite though. There was dead silence in the theater; everyone seemed to be enraptured by the music. Props to David Chang and the orchestra. They did a terrific job. Unfortunately people did start to clap before it was over but that didn’t bother me as much as the two phones that went off in the beginning of the opera where I was initially sitting. My seat was under the overhang where the sound isn’t great but after the first Act was able to move up a few rows and it made a world of difference. The pauses for the scene changes were also a bit lengthy but at least everything ran smoothly and there were no major interruptions.

    Something else I enjoyed in this performance was the lighting. The color palette that was used set a nice ambiance with soft hues of purple and gold pastels. It was lovely. The costumes were also very beautiful. The set, however, I thought was too simplistic and the desert scene in particular was one dimensional and looked like a cardboard cutout since it was just one giant floor piece with no actual sand. The set pieces were also generally too small for the Met; they didn’t fill up the entire stage so it kind of looked like that a show within a show conceit which I don’t think was the intended effect.

    But despite a few quibbles here and there this was a very enjoyable performance. The story is simple and seems kind of arcane but it’s actually also relevant, in that it’s sort of about a clash of world views and personalities: one character, Thais, ultimately finds love and solace through faith, conquers her fear of death and transcends the vain lifestyle she was accustomed to, while the other is actually trapped by his dogmatic beliefs and self-denial. I think that’s what this opera is ultimately about: the difference between faith and religious dogma and how there’s such a fine line between the two, and how there’s beauty and pain in both. I’d definitely see this again with another cast, especially since it didn’t feel long at all. Nothing drags or feels superfluous and the libretto is poetic but not to the point of being too esoteric or non-nonsensical. I’d definitely see this again with another cast, especially since it didn’t feel long at all. As a side note I did see that Rufus Wainwright was in the audience, sitting in one of the first few rows. He was wearing a really cute winter sweater and looked like he was enjoying the show. I’m a fan of his and his sister Martha’s music so I thought about going up to him and saying hi but I didn’t want to bother him.

    Finally I did manage to record a few videos, but idk how to post them here. If anyone is interested in seeing them email me or go to my IG page. I hope everyone else that plans on attending this enjoys it.

    • rapt

      Thanks, AKC!

      • Antikitschychick

        you’re welcome :-).

    • manou

      So glad the conductor no longer does those soft porn films…

      • Antikitschychick

        lol is there a French porn star named Emmanuelle Villaume or something? In any case I fixed it.

        • manou

          No -- there was an actress called Sylvia Kristel who used to star in a series of Emmanuelle French porn films. It is always Emmanuel in the masculine -- cf Macron.

          • Antikitschychick

            ???? thanks for the clarification.

    • KarenMrsLloydRichards

      There, too. I was all aswoon. The Med is done with curtain closed, but you can peer into the pit, if you are above it with your opera glasses, while the lovely and fragrant Emmanuel Ceysson plucks the harp.

      • Antikitschychick

        Yes it was lovely. I liked it that it was done with the curtain closed and I was kind of hoping for an encore, although the melody/theme repeats at the end and it sounds just as beautiful on the flute.

    • Lohenfal

      I was also at yesterday’s performance. Thanks for the detailed review, which agrees with most of the comments here concerning the quality of singing and conducting.

      I’ve seen Finley several times: Doctor Atomic, Rake’s Progress, Guillaume Tell. He hasn’t disappointed me yet in either his singing or acting. I wouldn’t have automatically thought of comparing him to Mattei, but there are similarities.

      I had only seen Pérez on TV before this. She’s much more impressive seen in person. The voice is large and opulent, far more than Fleming’s, and she proved a revelation in the part. I thought she was also quite voluptuous in the earlier scenes, without overdoing the naughtiness associated with this opera (I was thinking of Mary Garden, Farrar, etc.). The few strained high notes in no way detracted from her work.

      The other singers were fine, especially Borras with his excellent diction. Villaume was idiomatic as well, and David Chan excelled in that certain violin solo which we all know and hopefully love. All in all, a fine Massenet outing.

      BTW, it wasn’t a full house. There were many empty seats in the Grand Tier, and looking down I could see some parts of the Orchestra which seemed sparse. Still, it was a decent showing, compared with what I think will happen with the evening performances. If the website is to be believed, some of them will be half-empty, literally. Perhaps if the reviews are positive, which they should be, some opera-lovers will be tempted to experience this. It might also help if the Met advertised this a little more than it has up to now.

      • Antikitschychick

        Thanks for your detailed response Lohenfal. I’m glad you enjoyed the performance too. Voluptuous is exactly the word I’d use to describe Ailyn, and in fact I had originally written how wonderful I think it is that here we have a Latina who looks beautiful and curvy, with an opulent and muscular voice to match yet is also physically fit. She’s a great role model in that sense and I hope to see her again in the near future. I ultimately left that comment out since my review was already long but thanks for giving me the opportunity to echo your sentiments.

        The fact that there were student tickets available (I snagged one thanks to my friend) for the premier was surprising to me, and I was afraid it might mean the performance didn’t sell well. But, although it wasn’t a full house I’m glad you thought it was a decent showing. I have seen ads for this on Facebook but I agree they should step it up with an NY Times piece and promote it more on IG and Snapchat. Thus far I’ve only seen this review, which is also very positive and describes Finley’s performance very well, though I don’t agree with the reviewer that Finley and Perez lacked chemistry until Act III. I thought they had chemistry throughout the entire performance, and were absolutely convincing in their roles, hence my entreat that they take advantage of that:

        http://newyorkclassicalreview.com/2017/11/with-lustrous-singing-by-perez-mets-thais-eventually-sees-the-light/

        • Lohenfal

          This review definitely is positive, but I also feel that Finley did have chemistry with Pérez from the start. I also feel, unlike the reviewer, that Finley did show elements of his character’s weakness from the very beginning, but not in an obvious way.

          As for the Met taking advantage of the erotic aspects of this piece, that’s something that will probably be unlikely in my lifetime. The audiences there are generally conservative, and any action onstage that’s too daring would create some opposition. It’s noteworthy that the Bondy Tosca created an uproar not primarily because of artistic values, but rather because some of Scarpia’s actions were found to be too outrageous by some members of the Board. The fact that this particular character is outrageous made no difference. Thus, courtesans at the Met will have to remain relatively well-behaved for the foreseeable future.