Friday, March 25, 2011

Our reviewers are the best!

One of our most ardent supporters, Paulo Montoya is a young opera-lover living in Sydney. He's gaining quite a reputation there and abroad as a creative reviewer. Here's his latest piece on a concert by Cecilia Bartoli:

Also our die-hard-see-everything-in-New-York Meche Kroop sent her thoughts on "The Elixir of Love" at City Opera:

OK, so I didn’t fall in love with Nemorino. The last time I recall the New York City Opera taking a chance on a then-unknown Mexican tenor it was Rolando Villazón singing Rodolfo; I was hoping the lightning would strike twice but at this point I don’t think David Lomeli can ring my bell in the same way. That being said, he put in a charming and vocally sound performance; his voice is small but very attractive and he is a master of diminuendo with perfect breath control. Just as in the long ago La Bohème, there was also a Mexican baritone-- José Adan Perez singing Sergeant Belcore with a fine lyrical voice.

What we have here by way of plot comprises two oafs fighting over a fickle girl. Nemorino is the sincere shy oaf. Belcore is the pompous arrogant oaf. A snake oil salesman by the name of Dulcamara offers help to Nemorino, at a price--namely a bottle of alcohol which he passes off as the love potion Tristan used to snare Isolde. (HUH? I always thought it was the other way round.) Anyway, the love potion that gets all the women in town to chase after Nemorino (resulting in Adina’s appreciation of his charms) is actually a large inheritance. One of the funniest moments in the evening is when Dulcamara (well-played by Marco Nisticò) witnesses Nemorino’s sudden popularity and thinks that maybe his snake oil really works.

Cute story. An attractive young cast with pleasing voices is all it takes to provide an entertaining evening which is just what we have here. Stefania Dovhan was a fine Adina. The audience always goes wild for “Una Furtiva Lagrima” but there are many fine arias and duets in one of Donizetti’s most delightful operas. But what are we to make of updating this very 19th c. story to the 1950’s? Although there is surely a place in purgatory for the felonies committed by those who trash the great tragedies of the 19th c., updating a piece of fluff is only a misdemeanor. One just asks “WHY?” The English translation has to be distorted and characters’ actions are often just plain peculiar. For example, landowner Adina reading aloud to illiterate peasants in the 19th c. makes sense, but diner-proprietor Adina reading a magazine aloud to waitresses in her diner is just silly. Situating the diner in the middle of a desert in the American Southwest makes one wonder just which Army base the Sergeant comes from and which battle they are marching to or from. And how does a sergeant just happen to be authorized to enlist a new recruit and hand him $20? So, we cannot take these infractions seriously. Just go with the flow and enjoy the singing.

The effective revolving set conveniently shows the interior of the diner and also the rear of said establishment where there is a restroom that women line up to use. Now THAT’S funny! There are two gas pumps in front to justify Dulcamara pulling up in a very old car. Costumes appear authentic to the period, no more flattering than the wiggy hairstyles of the day. I am not sure why directors seem so eager to set their operas in that time period. I am recalling a perfectly awful updating of Carmen seen in Santa Fe in which Lillas Pastia’s tavern became a sock hop with a coke machine. Never mind. That’s another story!

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