Dear Dr. Repertoire:
I attended the opening night of the Met's new Samson et Dalila and it was very exciting and everything. Denyce was fierce! In the lobby before the opera I heard a couple talking and the man said "I hope this isn't one of those Eurotrash productions." Is there such a thing as Eurotrash any more? You never see those guys with the ponytails and the black turtlenecks any more.
Dear Stevie: I think there is a distinction to be made here. What we call "Eurotrash" direction is, I think, an almost fanatical reworking of both the appearance and the underlying meaning of the work through methods that call attention to the director's cleverness. Eurotrash direction usually involves harsh lighting, steel scaffolding, trendy violence and nudity, leather trenchcoats, mirrored sunglasses, and consumption (onstage, mostly) of drugs and fast food. By that definition, some of the work of Peter Sellars or Graham Vick could be called "Eurotrash"; others (Sellars' Giulio Cesare or Vick's Ermione) could not, because these productions work as exciting and vivid theater. At the Met, we see a lot of what I call "Eurotrash Lite", a half-hearted style that mimics the cliches of Eurotrash, but without the conviction: meaningless eyecandy for that crowd who haven't quite noticed that postmodernism is dead.
Dear Dr. Repertoire: Who is the prima donna in Il trovatore, Leonora or Azucena?
Second Man in Armor
Dear Man #2: Whoever gets the larger paycheck, which mostly means Dolora Zajick.
Dear Dr. Repertoire:
So, what's the deal with Dawn Upshaw?
Baba the IraqiDear Babs: She does seem to rub some people the wrong way, doesn’t she? Her stage demeanor is the diametrical opposite of the "exotic/grand" behavior we expect from our operatic artists. Upshaw is quite direct and earnest to a degree that strikes some as being pretentious, even patronizing. She also sends out confusing sexual signals: as a colleague of Dr. Repertoire’s once bluntly put, "she looks like a boy and smells like a girl." Her androgyny is not the mix of glamour and swagger we associate with, say, Vesselina Kasarova; rather, Upshaw's personality blends gawky schoolboy and prim virgin.
It's unfamiliar, which makes some audiences feel uncomfortable overhearing such direct and unflirtatious communication in her performance. In all fairness, I must add that Upshaw tends to undersing most opera roles, especially at the Met. It's a very lean voice, and she chooses to sing even leaner. Those who like "fat" lusicious voices a la Renee Fleming don't find Upshaw's instrument very satisfying. I think Upshaw sings musical theater better than just about anyone: her Oh, Kay! is as close to perfection as I can imagine. (The supporting cast includes with Kurt Ollman, Patrick Cassidy, Adam Arkin and Susan Lucci, conducted by Eric Stern. It's on Elektra 79361-2).