Kate Royal and David Daniels Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera 2011
One would think that after Saturday’s matinee of Die Walküre at The Metropolitan Opera
, there wouldn’t be much more to say for the season. But there was. And a mere three hours after one of the most thrilling performances of the Met season, I was back for the final show before the break, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice
. Gluck’s masterpiece couldn’t be any more different from the Wagner in terms of length or tenor, so it provided a nice contrast. The evening got off to a humorous start when celebratory cheers went up behind the curtain as the audience awaited the arrival of conductor Antony Walker to the pit. I couldn’t help but wonder if the cheer wasn’t from the stage crew as the 40 minute delay in the start time of that afternoon’s Die Walküre
matinee had, in essence, erased the extra hour of time built into the day's schedule to allow for the set to be changed for the evening’s performance, which had been assigned a 9 PM start time. Orfeo
got started a little late as well, and was permeated by the sense of relief by a company that had just gotten through a very big afternoon and a very challenging season.
The revival of Mark Morris’ 2007 production with its original star David Daniels is still a smart looking affair. The dance elements are very engaging and the chorus of dead historical figures is still a clever touch. The cast was completed this time by Lisette Oropesa as Amore and British mezzo Kate Royal as Euridice. Daniels gave one of his consistently enjoyable performances and he was well matched with Royal, who was more certain in tone than the last vocalist to take on the role here, Danielle de Niese. Royal has a bright pleasing voice and is more than a little attractive. Oddly enough the weakest part of the show was Walker’s haphazard guidance in the pit. While the vocalists always seemed coordinated, the orchestra was rushed at times and very scrappy sounding early on as if some of them were still feeling peevish from having performed earlier in the day. Orfeo ed Euridice
is one of the most beautiful scores around and this was not a performance that luxuriated in those qualities as much as one that was intent on getting its business done. But it is also difficult to complain about a work that celebrates the triumph of love over everything, particularly as the concluding gesture of the Met Opera season.
And an interesting season it was. The company seemed cursed with artistic failures that grew in inverse proportion to the amount of effort the company put into them. While it wasn't Spider-Man: Turn on your Heart Light
, the Robert Lepage imagined Ring operas seemed plagued with technical issues, while the company couldn't get the press to stop talking about James Levine's health. Angela Gheorghiu may have made her final appearance with the company for awhile after some last-minute cancellations and Marina Poplavskaya appears all too ready to fill those shoes with ease. John Adams got a second opera on the Met stage, and Simon Rattle made his company debut. Jonas Kaufmann dazzled everyone. I caught 14 of the company's productions this year not including two others I saw in the season's HD broadcast series. These are the five best things about The Metropolitan Opera's 2010/2011 season from my vantage point:
1) James Levine's conducting: With all the hand wringing about health-related cancellations, when Levine was in the pit this year, his conducting surpassed even his own high standard. The supremely exciting Die Walküre
this past weekend and an incredible orchestral performance of Wozzeck
stood out over everything even when the other elements of the performance were not always up to snuff.
2) Simon Rattle's debut with the company in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande
. A long overdue debut was worth the wait with the devastating beauty of this impressionistic masterpiece brought to life with an excellent cast.
3) Willy Decker's production of La Traviata
: Although it was technically an import from somewhere else, this aggressively modern production was still a shocker even after being available on DVD from its Salzburg premiere. It made me rethink my views of Matthew Polenzani and Poplavskaya for the better given their total commitment to a staging that required some real work and physicality.
4) René Pape's performance as Boris Godunov
5) Lucia di Lammermoor with Nathalie Dessay
. Another artist who is overly derided as past her prime who showed up to prove what was what in the revival of Mary Zimmerman's production originally created for her. Probably the single most enjoyable performance all around I saw in New York last year. Yes, it surprises me too.
Labels: Met opera reviews 10/11