Cher Public

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is the alter-ego of Ivy Lin, who in her day job teaches biology at an alternative transfer high school. Ivy’s love of opera began when her father decreed that Mozart, Beethoven and other symphonic and instrumental works were superior to opera. Naturally, Ivy rebelled and began to secretly listen to Met broadcasts on Saturday afternoons on WQXR. In her spare time Ivy runs her own performance arts blog, brags about her cat, and obsesses over Game of Thrones. If Ivy were to sing opera she’d be typecast as Despina until she was in a wheelchair.



The devil is in the details

Certain operas are better in theory than practice. Boito’s Mefistofele has some undoubtedly fine tunes, and is perhaps neck-and-neck with Boris Godunov as a top bass star vehicle. But as an opera, it only works in fits and starts. For one, the fidelity to Goethe’s Faust gives the libretto a rather episodic, detached feel.

Gounod’s Faust might be a lot cheesier but it’s also more tightly focused and thus better theater. Boito’s opera has some some stunning choral work in the Prologue and Epilogue, a famous tune in Margherita’s lament “La altra notte” and an extremely enjoyable “Walpurgis Nacht” act but also a lot of filler. It’s not a long opera but it feels endless.   Read more »

Star, crossed

The key to enjoying Bellini’s I Capuleti e Montechi is to do a hard factory reset and reformat your brain to forget all other works based on Romeo and Juliet. Forget Tchaikovsky’s fantasy overture. Forget Prokofiev’s ballet score. Most importantly, forget Shakespeare’s play. If you can do all those things, you can enjoy Bellini’s opera for what it is—a primo ottocento relic with some very beautiful music.

Romani’s libretto makes the “star-crossed” lovers story less a tale of missed chances and senseless violence than a very conventional love triangle. There’s Romeo who is in love with Giulietta, daughter of Capellio. Giulietta is of course bethrothed to another (Tebaldo). And Romeo and his Montechi family are responsible for killing Capellio’s son. Much singing and sadness results. Romeo does indeed die of poison in the tomb but Giulietta expires from the same Unexplained Operatic Death that afflicts her Wagnerian sisters Elisabeth, Elsa, and Isolde. As I said, forget the Bard and it will all make sense.   Read more »

Table bodied

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This can be illustrated by two opposing kinds of opera fans: the kind who thinks that if it doesn’t happen in his backyard, it didn’t happen at all, and the other kind of fan for whom the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

The very small, very rich and very tax-free Opernhaus Zürich is often considered the Greenest Other Side of the Fence by opera aficionados who, well, don’t live in Zürich. They get the big stars before they become Big Stars (for everyone who heard Quinn Kelsey as Germont this fall/winter at the Met and thought he would be a wonderful Rigoletto, that was so two years ago in Zürich). They get the Big Stars who decide to only sing in Zürich (Cecilia Bartoli). And those tax breaks! It’s enough to make anyone mad with envy. Read more »

Door to door

The Met’s planned premiere of Iolanta/Bluebeard’s Castle was cancelled due to the Great Blizzard That Wasn’t.

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A wasted time

Vittorio Grigolo in the title role of the Met’s revival of Les Contes d’Hoffman is the opera version of the charming homeless drunk.

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The year in Ivy

2014 was a year of lemons into lemonade.

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Lost and found

Verdi must have gotten tired of tossing and turning by now and has gone back to resting in peace.

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Moon and stars

One of the major complaints about the five year casting system (as well as the shared productions by different companies) is that operatic events are rarely surprises anymore.

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Snow business

Every year I say I’m not going to another La Bohème because I’ve seen this too many times.

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Levee duty

If you are of the belief that Show Boat can stand on its own as a classic score and thus doesn’t need the trappings of musical production, you’ll love the New York Philharmonic’s “semi-staged” production.

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