Roberto Alagna and Nuccia Focile
Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera 2009
At first, I was upset with the good folks at American Airlines and Newark Liberty Airport for screwing up my arrival and first night on this most recent trip to New York. A multi- hour delay resulted in my missing the opening curtain on a performance of Cavalleria Rusticana
in its current revival at the Metropolitan Opera. Now as much as I appreciated getting to see Madagascar 2
and Four Christmases
, I was a little bitter as I arrived about 10 minutes late only to be relegated to the penalty box of List Hall. Of course, after what I did see, the airline may have been acting in my best interest. I will withhold any full judgment about the Cavalleria
considering that I neither saw nor heard it completely. But it did strike me that as much as I love Waltraud Meier, she lacked a certain warmth in her portrayal of Santuzza. Or it least it felt like that on the big screen.
However, it is clear that this horrific production is as worn and thread bare as carpet in a filthy nursing home. Even Roberto Alagna’s chest hair in the climactic scene of the evening failed to completely remove that odor of stale cat urine one senses in their Grandmother's home. Filling up a large empty stage with a multitude of choristers in period costumes does not make a worthwhile production. But the orchestra sounded great, as usual, under the leadership of Pietro
Rizzo, a new young face making his house debut. In fact there was another significant debut from Alberto Mastromarino who sang Tonio in Pagliacci
and also filled in for an ailing Charles Taylor as Alfio before the intermission. He was strong and his performance was easily the vocal highlight of the evening in both a rueful and sly fashion. The big star though was Alagna, but chest hair aside, what he’s doing in this role is not clear to me. He sang Canio in Los Angeles a number of years ago and at the time I thought he was kind of light for this part, although he clearly can sing it. My opinion hasn’t really changed much on a second take years later. It’s hard to believe Nedda has lost affection for this seemingly pretty young man since it’s not clear how she would have ever cared for him in the first place. Speaking of Nedda, sung here by Nuccia Focile, she never seemed all that engaged. That on top of a minor wig mishap led to a less than stellar performance. When the whole opera revolves around people drmatically removing wigs at key points, it can be a bit of a drag when they tenaciously hold on to one's scalp. There are five more performances in the run with the last three featuring Jose Cura instead of Alagna.
Labels: Met opera reviews 08/09