Monday, October 16, 2006

3/4 of Les Troyens and Bryn Terfel

Yesterday I had to leave during the second intermission of Les Troyens (I missed Act V), but I did catch this production in its entirety at the premiere last Wednesday. This opera is very trying on the audience. There are few rewards for a lot of pain. What was especially painful about this production was the awful singing. Jon Villars (Enee), even at his best, has a terribly unattractive sound. He has what seems to be a pushed-up baritone. It's a loud, weird voice. Elena Zaremba (Anna), beautiful on stage, ruined her character's beautiful lines with a garbled, extremely hooty sound. Neither was in command of pitch.

But there were some good things. Deborah Polaski has a powerful voice that cuts through the hall with astonishing clarity, but she also sounds lovely singing softly. Polaski has a formidable stage presence. She is not a subtle actress, however. And though I can see there might be reasons for this production to have her sing both Cassandre and Didon, I'm ambivalent about the results.

The best thing about the production, as I mentioned previously, was Eric Cutler's lovely Iopas. Cutler seems a little awkward on stage, but his tiny, beautiful voice is assured. On opening night the audience erupted in ovations after his solo, but this didn't happen yesterday. He delicately caressed the long phrases, sighing beautiful pianissimi and rising up to a loud, ringing high C. He reminds me of Matthew Polenzani, who may well be my favorite tenor, although Polenzani's voice is larger and has a lot more weight.

The Opera posted a video from the sublime Act IV love duet, which is probably the high point of Troyens. This may be from the DVD of the production, which was filmed at Salzburg. I think you'll "hear" my points about Villars and Polaski.

I'll write on Bryn Terfel later today. He rocked Salle Pleyel last night; I believe they're repairing the roof as I write this.

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