August 19, 2013

A survey of the Met's 2013-2014 "Live in HD" season

Seeing live performances from the Metropolitan Opera at my local cineplex? I'm on board. I'm a fan.

Yes, the experience isn't without little niggling annoyances: close-ups when I'd prefer to see a more panoramic view; too many reaction shots from silent characters during another's big aria, close-ups of heavily-breathing "corpses", and the like. But c'mon: it's star-studded live opera for very little moolah. It's great!

The upcoming season looks pretty good to me; a nice balance of the popular masters, namely Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and Rossini, along with three Russians (I love Russian opera!), French, and Czech. No German, but last season was heavily larded with Wagner's Ring cycle, so that's okay. Also missing are works by Donizetti or Bellini, but if that means no more Lucia's for, oh, maybe a decade, well, FINE BY ME!! (The Met has really wallowed in Ms. Ashton and her mental states in the past several seasons. Basta! Enough!)

I thought I'd go through the list for 2013-2014 and rate them according to my personal interest in them, with little thumbnail assessments. My ratings will fall into three categories: MS (must see); WS (want to see) or MEH (meh). And here we go!

  • October 5: Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin Rating: WS. I really, really enjoyed the previous Met HD version of this opera, which is in my list of Top 10 favorites, mostly due to Renee Fleming's endearing performance as Tatiana and the fine Lensky delivered by Ramon Vargas, who looked like a bespectacled Franz Schubert. But there were audio problems in Act 1 and I hate, hate, HATED the minimalist look of the stage at times: the bare set with leaves strewn about during the "Letter Aria" almost ruined the moment for me. The upcoming production has the agenda of providing Anna Netrebko, the opera world's current "Golden Girl", with a star turn. I'm sure she'll be fine, but I'm never as impressed with her as everyone else appears to be. That's why it's not a MS for moi.
  • October 26: Shostakovich's The Nose Rating: MS. Listening to snatches of a radio broadcast a couple of seasons ago, I quickly concluded that this is an opera that surely must be seen to be appreciated, particularly if one is unfamiliar with the work. And that would be me. So I really have to see this; when and where else would I have the opportunity?
  • November 9: Puccini's Tosca Rating: MEH. Look, I'm second to none in my fondness for this so-called "shabby little shocker"; it's a masterpiece. But the cast pales in comparison to others I've seen (all due props to Patricia Racette), and I was SO not a fan of the Met's latest production, the first to depart from the classic staging of Franco Zeffirelli. I understand that many of the cheap vulgarisms of the previous HD transmission, including Scarpia french-kissing a statue of the Virgin Mary, have been eliminated. But the drab set and overall concept fail to sway.
  • December 14: Verdi's Falstaff  Rating: MS! MS! MS! As you Faithful Readers will discover in September's blog posts, Falstaff is not only my favorite opera, it's my Favorite Thing In This World. I am truly grateful that Dec. 14 occurs during Virginia Opera's "semester break" (i.e. a lengthy period between productions), allowing me to attend and savor. And Stephanie Blythe will make a splendid Mistress Quickly! I will also be interested to see James Levine back in action following his recovery from multiple physical boo-boos and ouches. Has he still got it? 
  • February 8: Dvořák's Rusalka Rating: MS. An A-1 cast of Fleming, Beczala and Zajick; an unfamiliar opera I'd love to know; and a luscious aria sung by a voice that will squeeze every bit of juice out of it.  Should be great!
    Composer Borodin. So - where IS Polovtsia??
  • March 1: Borodin's Prince Igor MS. Russian epics are fab-fab-fabulous on a big ol' movie screen. I have a permanent weakness for Russian music - my doctoral dissertation was on piano music of Rachmaninov - and I've enjoyed every bit of Borodin I've ever heard, including the famous "Polovtsian Dances". Who knows - maybe after seeing this I'll finally learn what "Polovtsian" means! Maybe I'll move to Polovtsia and start life anew.
  • March 15: Massenet's Werther MS. This "must-see" status is due entirely to the casting of Jonas Kaufmann (the opera world's current "Golden Boy") in the title role. Question: in the interests of science and the Future of Opera, shouldn't we compel Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann to mate and produce several children? Just think of the amazing singers they might beget! "Platinum Boys and Girls", I betcha.
  • April 5: Puccini's La Bohème Rating: MEH. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than re-visiting Puccini's Bohemian fantasy, which even Debussy and Stravinsky admired, as counter-intuitive as that may seem. But if I had a nickel for every Bohème I've seen, I could buy you lunch and leave a tip. (Maybe - don't hold me to that...) Nothing about the cast screams MS to me (though to be fair, I have no idea who Anita Hartig, the show's Mimi, is. I'll probably Google her right after finishing this post.
  • April 26: Mozart's Cosi fan tutte Rating: WS. As Faithful Readers who know my history with this opera will understand, I have a deep and abiding love for Cosi and will be happy to spend the rest of my days defending it in the face of its many detractors. Another chance to check out Maestro Levine in a piece for which he's well known, though I sometimes find his tempos in Mozart to be a bit relentlessly fast. Plus, it'll be fun to see Susanna Phillips as Fiordiligi; I'm interested in her ever since we interacted a bit on Twitter. (She read one of my posts about Previn's Streetcar when she was preparing the role of Stella, don't you know. Yes, I'm that powerful a force in the opera world. Kneel before me, varlots. Hi, Susanna! *wink wink*)  (Feel free to vomit...) And finally,
  • May 10: Rossini's La Cenerentola Rating: WS. Good cast, good opera, good conductor. I should probably go ahead and give it a MS, because while I usually don't feel burning desires to attend Rossini operas, the truth is that I always end up enjoying them more than I expected to. 
Agree with me? Or not so much? Let me know what YOU look forward to in the comments section. Happy hi-deffing, peeps!

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Opera: How to connect with the Met's Live in HD performances here in Fairfax, VA? I've often wondered, but never see any advertisements. Help! SV