We’re now at the dawn of Week 8 in the Met’s free streams of great (and not so great) performances from recent history…and it’s come to the point where they’ve actually started to dig back into the archives and air some standard definition classics, rather than sticking to performances filmed in and for their HD series (previously shown in theatrical simulcast as well as through their own subscription service and live onstage).
But that’s not the only oddity that’s surfaced with the passage of time and the airing of so many operas.
Because you have to gather, as we get this deep into the corona lockdown, that the Met has further been forced to increase the number of strong or interesting operas not (yet?) on Blu for airing…
We’d already reviewed Verdi’s Il Trovatore with Anna Netrebko and Yonghoon Lee from 2015,* which baffles in its absence…now there are two more, albeit admittedly lesser, performances that beg for release, both shown over the last few days(!)
* among many others. Take a gander over here.
First, a modern “opera”, in English and practically twelve tone in its abject modernism musically…but with some of the most stunning costuming and set design, and an approach quite reminiscent of an old favorite, Bela Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle (aired once circa 1989-91 and never seen since): Marnie, by a Nico Muhly.
Some fascinating approaches (multiple Marnies following her about and signing in chorus, for example), plenty of tacky Jackie O fashions, catty, cuss filled lyrics, a leading role for a countertenor, and the gorgeous but oddly drag queenish* Isabel Leonard, possessed of a lovely voice and eminent watchability.
* the severe look, the overuse of makeup, the upswept hairdo, the vintage day-glo and pastel fashions…yeah. Sure to be a hit at drag night.
Apparently critics loved Leonard and the set design but HATED the music…which is admittedly not the standard consonant harmonic fare, but of the classical-modern to minimalist school.
So gay it farts rainbows, but a real stunner that deserves a home video release.
Tonight was Verdi’s Luisa Miller, which just precedes the aforementioned Trovatore, with a Sonya Yoncheva in the lead, against Netrebko’s Lucia de Lammermoor costar Piotr Beczala. Both deliver some powerful performances, with Yoncheva hitting difficult notes hard and with gusto and force.
She lacks the lyricism, subtlety and tone (much less the acting and overall appeal!) of Netrebko, coming across as practically boring by comparison. Moreover, her approach tends to be overly blunt, with little ebb and flow.
That said, she’s hardly the nasty rough edged powerhouse Leontyne Price was (her decidedly unsubtle Aida aired last night, and beggared direct comparisons to the air raid siren vocal assaults of the late Whitney Houston – fuck finesse, just slam that note like you’re crushing a bug!) and by the time we get to Act III, it becomes quite clear just how good Yoncheva really is, subtlety or no. Ultimately it’s not that she’s particularly lacking as a diva, she’s just no Netrebko!
Tag in some amazing sets (particularly one house with a roaring fireplace and expansive ornate stairwell and the final act’s church), and you have the best opera I’ve personally seen outside the four previously discussed Netrebkos…so tell me, folks.
Where’s the Blu Ray already?