Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Met Live

Living in Santa Fe, New Mexico has many advantages, but New York did offer more access to the Arts.  Happily, however, progress in technology includes The Met Live which brings the Metropolitan Opera to millions across the globe.  We get to see it regularly at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.

I must admit to a love hate relationship with opera and, frankly, I am often bored. I find the operas that last 4 hours or more with intermissions are just too long in the theatre.  Sometimes, however, there is an exception which makes me feel it was worth the pain of getting there.

This happened recently when we saw a performance of Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” telecast via satellite from the Met.  To eliminate my only negative of the evening up front let me say that there were more transmission interruptions than ever before. These are short gaps, usually no more than a few seconds, but it can be annoying especially if it occurs during an aria, which is surprisingly rare.  I am convinced the radical weather patterns caused by global warming and resulting effects on the satellites are the source of the interruptions.

Having gotten rid of that nit-picking, the rest was fabulous.  As far as the length of the opera is concerned it was a 3 hour evening including one half hour intermission.  For those who have never seen the Met transmissions you get close ups which gives a more intimate feeling and focus to the evening.  Also, there are interesting interviews during the intermission.

When you go to the Metropolitan Opera and are sitting in the orchestra you might see the conductor from behind, but little of the musicians. If you sit in a loge or balcony you may see the entire orchestra pit but certainly not the expression on the conductor’s face.  In the telecasts, however, you can watch both the conductor and the members of the orchestra in closeups during the overtures.  Enrique Mazzola, the conductor at this performance, made Donizetti’s overture spectacular.  Though Spanish-born he is described as an Italian Conductor since he studied at the Milan Conservatory.  “La Fille du Regiment” is clearly in his bailiwick as his specialty is bel canto opera.  He seemed in seventh heaven as he led his charges who played superbly.

The soprano who was the daughter adopted by the Regiment was Pretty Yende.  She has a beautiful voice and her coloratura is perfectly effortless.  Her life story is what fairy tales are made of.  She grew up in a small town in South Africa where her family spoke Zulu.  Entering the University of Cape Town to study accounting she switched fields to graduate from The South African College of Music at the University.  She promptly gained an apprenticeship at La Scala and went on to graduate from The Accademia Teatro Alla Scala in Milan. Since graduating from the La Scala program in 2011 she has sung in all the major opera houses of Europe. Here is a snippet with Yende in La Filled du Regiment ...

There was, however, a second star, the Mexican tenor, Javier Camarena.  He had made his professional debut, as Tonio in a 2004 staging of “La Fille du RĂ©giment”, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and has obviously perfected this bel canto tour de force.  In his aria, “Ah! Mes amis” the tenor is expected to hit 9 high C’s. At our performance Camarena brought down the house and the audience would not let him go without an encore,--meaning 18 high C’s.  As he mentioned in his interview between the acts that does not include the 30 to 40 high C’s he hit while rehearsing in his dressing room!   Again, thanks to YouTube here is one of his encores ...

The supporting cast was also superb without a sour note and much humor.  Kathleen Turner, the actress, also had a small and very funny role (without singing) as The Dutchess of Krakenthorp.

Over 20 years ago when I took our son to the Metropolitan Opera as a teenager he came home and suggested to his mother that maybe the Met should spend more on training the chorus and less on their complicated sets.  Well, they must have heard him because today the chorus is the best, bar none.  So, as you can tell, we had another great evening enjoying one of the treasures of New York while sitting at the Lensic in Santa Fe.

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