We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Iréne Theorin as Turandot
We had a fine time forgetting Sandy at The Metropolitan Opera last night.  All negative thoughts were dispersed by the lavish Franco Zeffirelli production.  Lo, the lavish sets!  Lo, the extravagant costumes!  Lo, the colorful orchestration of Puccini's highly melodic score!  Lo, the unequaled Met orchestra, responding to the stylish conducting of Maestro Dan Ettinger!  Lo, the mostly wonderful singing of Iréne Theorin, Marcello Giordani, Janai Brugger and James Morris!

The frosting on the cake was the brief appearance of young artist Ryan Speedo Green whose large deep bass fills the entire house.  And we are always happy to see Mr. Morris who sounded just fine.

This crowd-pleasing opera relies on Puccini's gorgeous music to make us care about two consummately disagreeable characters.  Calaf is a selfish cad, ready to throw his blind elderly father Timur and the faithful servant Liu to the wolves in the service of his obsession with the titular heroine.  Turandot herself is a bitter angry woman who beheads all her suitors.  Even the blood-thirsty citizens of ancient Peking are nasty; but they are brought around 180 degrees by the tender scene in which Liu instructs Turandot in the art of loving.  As they are softened, so are we in the audience.

Mr. Giordani gave too much in Act I and seemed to lose his lower register by the time he got to "Nessun Dorma".  But he certainly does have a flair for Puccini and flavors his singing with the requisite garlic.  Ms. Theorin, on the other hand, got off to a shaky start in "In questa reggia" but quickly got down to business and did brilliantly in showing the eponymous heroine's transition from icy man-hating Daughter of Heaven to a woman conquered by love.  Frankly, the rough kiss from Calaf seemed to be less effective than Liu's impassioned pleading.  There was a lovely authenticity and tenderness in this portrayal by rising star Ms. Brugger, recently turned out by the excellent Merola Program in San Francisco.  Her "Signor ascolta" only hinted at the lovely lyricism to come in the final act.  This is indeed an artist to watch!

For comic relief there are Ping Pong and Pang.  For visual interest there is alternation of dark scenes and brightly lit ones; the lighting design was by Gil Wechsler.  The audience broke into applause when the curtain rose on the palace scene, all white and gilt. This is Grand Opera at its Grandest.  Every time the Met retires a production like this one we experience a little death.  Shouldn't the grandest opera house do more of this?  Please share your opinions with us!

(c) meche kroop

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