Monday, September 25, 2006

A second Paris Lucia

I was in the first row at the Bastille tonight for my second Lucia. Natalie Dessay gave another powerful performance. This time, there was less perfection and more vulnerability. And also this time, since I was prepared for Dessay's tour de force, I was able to pay more attention to the men in the cast, and to admire their excellent voices.

More later. (More pictures and ovations videos too.)

UPDATE (9/26/06, 12:51pm):

By the way, I haven't figured out how to adjust the time on this thing--that last post was actually posted six hours later than whatever it says there. Well, it displays EDT, and I'm on Paris time.

So, I was thinking. Last night was the Met's opening night. And last night in Paris, we had Dessay in Lucia. At opening night next year the Met will have Dessay in Lucia. People have been celebrating the apparently stunning new Madama Butterfly production (I hope to see it in a revival at some point), but I've heard little about the voices. Dessay is a total package artist.

Last night I mentioned that I noticed the men this time. The bass Kwangchul Youn as Raimondo was solid. It's a small role--I don't think he really has an aria--but he made it memorable, and he deserved the large ovations he received. There wasn't anything special in Ludovic Tezier's dramatic portrayal of Enrico, but vocally he was outstanding. It's not a beautiful voice, but it's a solid (yeah, that's the word of the day) lyric sound and his support never fails.

I'm not sure what to make of Matthew Polenzani. As an actor he has his moments (his final lines drew tears from a certain audience member), but he's not consistently convincing. The stage director clearly showed him to play up the rage in Act I, when Lucia urges him to keep their love secret. In the second act's love duet, he cradles her more like a father than a lover. Vocally, I'm even more confused about Polenzani. Part of me wants to say that he's miscast. His light Mozartean tenor would seem suited to bel canto, but his singing lacks the requisite sexiness. He sounds sexy in Mozart and Verdi, but this role does nothing for him. On the other hand, the way he caresses a phrase can often be quite breaktaking. And he certainly has enough vocal weight to pull off the declamatory passages in Act III. Still, his Edgardo is a mixed bag.

As for the production, the emphasis on men oppressing this woman is on point. (A brochure reads--I translate: "the story of a woman manipulated and pushed to despair by a militant and arrogant world of men"). I think it's a smart reading of the opera. Certainly an interesting one. And it works. Boy do we feel sorry for Lucia at the end. The scariest aspect of the mad scene is set up by Raimondo, who tells the people that Lucia, covered in blood and completely disoriented, was smiling. Natalie emerged slowly from under a collapsed tent, first her bloody arms, then her face with those large smiling eyes. She played with a balloon, referring to it as Edgardo. She washed off, water flying across the stage. She played in the hay. Found a hatchet. Hacked in the air as she ferociously attacked coloratura. One of the most convincing portrayals I have ever seen.

Also wanted to add--sitting in the first row, to the left, I was lucky to have a good view of the large instrument made of glass that uses water. (I have no idea what it's called, but I'll try to find out.) It was fascinating to watch the musician lightly dip his hand in water, and pass his hand over the tops of glass cylinders to make those haunting sounds.

No comments: