La Cieca’s spy reports on the Met’s pre-season: 

Lucky me! I won tickets to the Verdi Requiem in memory of Luciano Pavarotti, and then I was given tickets to the dress rehearsal for Opening Night. One of the things I really love about going to the Met at the beginning of the season is that the orchestra is rested and energetic, and they did not disappoint at either of these events. Levine was almost super human in the way he pulled the fire and passion from the orchestra and chorus during the “Dies Irae”. It was a sonic boom that I could feel on my face, every word crisp, every line in the orchestra bright and clear. Judging from the amount of physicality he put into the piece it seems Levine is back operating at full force. The singing of the principals, specifically Frittoli and Giordani, was not up to the same level. While I’m not a big fan of Frittoli I did admire her work in Suor Angelicalast season, but the Requiem requires a more classical line and freedom at the top of the voice than she is able to offer. Beginning at her passaggio the upper voice constricts similarly to Callas on her Puccini album, and the coloration in the middle and lower voice, at least in this piece, mimicked the bottled, covered quality of Callas too. When Giordani doesn’t push his voice for power I find it to be a beautiful instrument, but he was all ham here – swooping, bellowing, and declaiming with little subtlety. He did find tenderness and nuance nearly at the end in “Lux aeterna” that would have benefited him through the entire piece. Abdrazakov sang nice enough but didn’t register much feeling for the piece. Borodina was in luscious voice. Scrupulous musciality, velvet tone, glamorous phrasing – absolutely in top form.

For those who will be watching, attending, or listening to what is being termed “The Fleming Fashion Show” on Monday night here are a few observations about La traviata Act 2. The “What was he thinking”” Zeffirelli production is enhanced by special lighting for the broadcast, and scene 1 does look more like a French country house than the set for Martha Stewart than it did originally. Scene 2 remains a tacky, inexplicable horror with the massive Gypsy Rose shawls festooning the ceiling. As for Ms. Fleming…well…she sang well. For her. Considering the ability she has to suspend time in moments like “Dite alla giovine” with fine, pure singing, it remains a mystery her habit of stopping the vibrato on a note in mid phrase and then sliding off the pitch to the next note. This annoying habit, coupled with her typical “word value caresses” do not mask her lack of ability to convey Violetta’s passion and despair in this, one of Verdi’s most tender dramatic scenes. I would imagine even a conservatory soprano would attempt to define its glorious musical ebb and flow, but it simply is not well differentiated by Fleming. She appears to not possess the ability to convey it.

And now for the fun part – THE FASHION. Scene 1: In it’s own inappropriate way this gown fits in perfectly with the “What was he thinking” production around it. Pink, lime green, and turquoise floral pattern… crepe flowers in similar hues, many of them, lining the decolletage and train… this “designer” gown was more akin to the type of tacky, crazy, Southern socialite that would have been played by Karen Blackin the 80’s than it is to Violetta in the country. Think Scarlett O’Hara’s great, great, great grand daughter drunk on a gallon of Mint Juleps, wallowing in her luxury yet out of touch with how to spend her money on good clothes. The gown for scene 2 was relatively more tasteful – made of black/red taffeta, fitted torso falling into a large skirt and train, yet again the decolletage featured giant red poppies, presumably added to mimic the scrims that opened the scene. I kept hearing Tim Gunn in my head saying “EDIT IT, EDIT IT”. So as not to take away entirely from the attempt at glamour, Renee’s figure looked fantastic. I may regret the gowns that were chosen, but she wore them well and they were tailored to her perfectly. She appears to be in the best physical shape I’ve seen her in, but last I heard Jenny Craig wasn’t giving lessons in good taste.