Saturday, April 07, 2007

Giulio Cesare in Egitto opens at the Met; Jessye Norman in Paris; Robert Wilson's staging of Bach's Le passion selon Saint Jean

The big news last night was, of course, Ruth Ann Swenson, who so publicly expressed her discontent with Peter Gelb, and his beef with her, here. Sieglinde, once again, provides insightful commentary. It's all a bunch of drama, and, really, I find myself not caring one way or the other. It's showbusiness. Last night, though, it was clear that the audience was with her all the way. Huge cheers greeted the end of her arias, and the entire house rose to its feet when she emerged for her curtain call. Confetti (well, these people didn't bother to shred the pages, they just dropped them whole) rained down and bravas were shouted. She was moved to tears. She pointed at the whole audience and at the confetti-throwers.

She sang very well last night, though her top often sounded pinched. She was a lively, engaging presence on stage, and she evoked pathos during the laments.

Alice Coote, as was the case in Paris, was a revelation as Sesto. Her ornaments in this production are very different. They are subdued and less organic.

I didn't know that Michael Maniaci had been cast as Nireno for his Met debut! What a gorgeous voice and magnetic stage presence!

Patricia Bardon (Cordelia) and Lawrence Zazzo (Tolomeo) also made their Met debuts.

David Daniels was in top form last night. I heard him in this role in Miami seven years ago. His timbre has darkened, but it remains beautiful. His powerful voice and solid technique make an excellent case for the countertenor voice in general, and for a countertenor in this role specifically. Also, he's quite a flamboyant Caesar, and I enjoy watching him flip his cape. I preferred Andreas Scholl's Bertarido, but Daniels is a far superior Cesare.

On March 30, I attended Jessye Norman's stunning all-French program at Salle Pleyel in Paris. This took place couple night after the Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon concert, and I remember thinking, "Man, Jessye is the real thing." It doesn't matter that she doesn't wear Dior or Westwood, or that her gold flat shoes (with a royal blue dress?) suspiciously resemble some of the merchandise at Payless. Or that she wipes the sweat from her nose. Every note was in place, every word perfect. And I have never witnessed a brighter, more inviting smile. The audience went absolutely crazy for her. I'll never forget her "I Love Paris" (last encore) which she began softly, sitting on a piano stool. Midsong she rose and moved stage left while increasing the weight and volume, and she ended on a loud, gleaming, climactic high note, held for an eternity, that threated to blow off the roof. A hundred or two ecstatic audience members remained in the hall long after she had taken her final curtain call. They cheered, "Jessye! Jessye!", hoping she would return. After about ten minutes, a staff member emerged to say that, um, she ain't coming back.

If you ever have a chance to hear Norman, don't miss it for anything.

I also attended two performances of Robert Wilson's staging of Bach's Saint John's Passion at the Châtelet. It looks pretty much like the Met Lohengrin, to be honest. The lighting is really cool. And it was priceless to see Andreas Scholl in in a purple toga and geisha-like wig, wearing black eyeliner and purple eyeshadow. As I noticed last fall at his Paris performances as Giulio Cesare and his Bach concert in London, his voice sounds considerably underpowered. I'm not sure what happened, because his Bertarido at the Met last spring was nothing short of stunning.

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