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Monday, March 23, 2009

LA SONNAMBULA or WHERE WERE YOU 40 YEARS AGO?

....I was twelve, and in the Hynes Civic Auditorium in Boston-the War Memorial in those days-hearing Joan Sutherland (not yet Dame Joan) and Marilyn Horne together in NORMA.* I never forgot it, down to Miss Horne's low cut costume.

Speaking of boobs (remember, I was twelve) I went backstage where I did not belong afterward to see Miss Sutherland. She was very nice and very large and I was chest high to her and she had on a low cut dress, too, with lots of powder down there and I thought I'm meeting Joan Sutherland and all I can do is look at her boobs because they were, well, so...... present.

But I digress.

The Met HD "La sonnambula" with Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Florez and Michele Pertusi
was the greatest singing I've heard since that day back with Dame Joan's boobs in Boston. Go ahead, laugh. I may not get out much anymore. But I know exquisite tuning when I hear it, and the duets between Natalie and JDF were superb. The two ladies 40 years ago sang Norma like nobody's business. I still haven't forgotten it.
Same thrills last Saturday Dessay and Florez in the Sonnamubla duets. Magnificent, great, stunning. Made me forget the staging nonsense going on all around it. Ripped up papers indeed! And the whole "One singular Sensation" dance number back of "Ah, non giunge"! Please.

This made me wonder what Dame Joan Sutherland or Miss Marilyn Horne would have done if, while sing the finale of Tancredi (the sad one) or Orlando Furioso or Norma or La sonnambula some director had decided to have a chorus line dancing waving flowers in back of her.
Go ahead, ask.I dare you!

The best I can say for the staging is that it didn't ruin the music for me.
I've never SEEN La sonnambula and as of today I guess I still haven't, but I certainly did hear a vocal feast.

*It was April 22, 1970. Okay, ALMOST forty years ago. And I was thirteen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

MADAME BUTTERFLY'S PUPPET


Last week the Metropolitan Opera shared its production of Puccini's Madam Butterfly to the world, via a live HD presentation beamed into cinemas. I saw it in Worthington, Ohio. The staging by the late Anthony Minghella's (I've resisted headlining this "Minghella's Butterfly") has been admired except for one point. Butterfly's child, Dolore (Sorrow) is played by a puppet...dressed in a sailor suit, the size of a three year old, manipulated by three onstage puppeteers. The concept was greeted with hoots of dismay on all the opera yakky boards before and after the premiere.

I don't know how the puppet 'reads' in the far spaces of the Met, but I was heartbroken. I thought the puppet was terrific. I focused completely on Butterfly's tragedy. Instead of waiting to see how the diva in question (the intense Patricia Racette)fared with the music, I saw her as a real character having to give up her child. I loved the use of space and color in the production-minimal sets-and felt Minghella kept the drama front and center. And the puppet was haunting. This production of Butterfly is one of the few Met shows now selling to the walls.