Friday, January 10, 2014

Four Artists and a Fat Man

Happy New Year everybody and merry Christmas! Long time no see! I’m so sorry about that, I did try to write several posts but they all kind of couldn’t stand for themselves, I’m feeling kinda bitter today so this post might be a little poisonous. And let me just draw your attention to the title of this post, it's supposed to be a derivation of Four Weddings and a Funeral, I'm so witty haha

Today I’m talking about the two operas I saw in December of last year in São Paulo.

Generic Falstaff

Now, everybody went to the live in HD of Falstaff but I wasn’t able to make it. I was really upset about that. BUT only a week before that transmission the opera house just around the corner from my house was actually doing a production of Falstaff. Funny enough, that looking back at that production and of what I saw of the Met’s production they are oddly similar. Set in the same time in history, even the color choice of some sets were very much alike. But no matter. I did like this performance a lot. The guy playing Falstaff was really very good and VERY funny! It’s very difficult for me to warm up to female singers, maybe because being a female singer myself I can spot defects more easily in women. I thought they were all OK, Nanetta was kinda pissing me off, she was odd. The lady I mostly liked was Mistress Quickly, she was real good and her scene with Falstaff in the beginning of the third act was just superb. Another superb moment was Mr. Ford’s aria in the first part of the second act. That guy was good, real good. He got quite a nice ovation for his performance. But I think the part I mostly liked was the end in the woods. Maybe it’s because the chorus was a bunch of people that I knew from a choir I used to be part of and it was real fun to see them all dressed up.

But there lies one big problem with opera in Brazil. Those people, the chorus people, they are great people, such nice, hardworking and fairly good sounding people. BUT they are not singers, this choir is not a professional choir, it consists mostly of retired people who love to sing and although they sound quite nice I don’t think its right for them to do this project. This is supposed to be a professional production of Falstaff and the people who call the shots decided to call these people to sing for a very simple reason. They love to sing, singing for them is a hobby and they will sing for free, because they always sing for free and they did sing this opera for free, all of them. I just think it’s wrong having so many unemployed singers out there to just grab an amateur chorus that consists of people who learn their parts via audio MIDI files made in Finale to sing in a Verdi opera just because they will do it for free. And don’t get me started on “they don’t have enough money to pay for a chorus” because they do. This opera house is founded by the State Government and we pay a hell lot of taxes in this damned State. But that’s just a taste of glorious Brazil politics and lack of interest when it comes to anything that won’t profit billions.

Closing the Year a la Puccini

The last opera I saw last year was La Boheme, I must admit I was very skeptical going to the Theatro Municipal to see this. Last time I’d been there I saw the most horrifying thing ever, the singers managed to kill one of my favorite operas and I grew rather resolute in never getting back there. I did skip a performance of Cavalleria Rusticana and another of Das Rheingold that I had tickets for just because I knew there was a very big chance that I would hate them. And also because those were after I came back from NYC and really nothing I have seen yet has matched or even come close to that experience. But I love Puccini and I had tickets for opening night so I thought I’d give the São Paulo Opera House another chance. 

I actually really liked this production, I went alone, as always, and I had one of the best seats in the house, 9th row orchestra center, quite nice. When the curtain went up the whole audience went “OOOh!”, seriously, that’s exactly what happened. The stage was all covered with white paper and in the center we had some boring looking furniture all pilled up. As Marcello and Rodolfo sang they also organized the furniture and before you know it you have a flat in the middle of all that white paper. I found that even though it was rather different it worked marvelously well. The tenor playing Rodolfo was none other than the Brazilian who’s been singing all over Europe with Angela Gheorghiu, Atalla Ayan. He was just stellar, really fantastic! But for me the best of the night was the baritone playing Marcello. He really had it all, a fantastic, well projected and beautiful voice and refined acting skills. The other artists weren’t far behind and I did love this staging, the stage director had them hoping from one place to the other almost all the time and it gave the first act such incredible lightness as if they were really just chatting and happened to be singing. There was an easiness to their movements and interactions that was really quite nice to watch.

But then came Mimi and at first when her music started playing I felt tears come to my eyes but not because of the singer but because I’m starting to learn this music so it really hits home. And since I’m getting far too familiar with this La Boheme score I almost couldn’t stand this lady playing Mimi. In my opinion her take on the character was almost all wrong, she wasn’t delicate or fragile at all. She was too energetic and bubbly singing “Si mi chiamano Mimi” as if telling a friend of all the fun things she has done which really didn’t work out for me. Plus she was doing something that THOROUGHLY irritated me which was imitating Angela Gheorghiu’s voice. Now, I’ve had my share of listening to Angela Gheorghiu specially in this particular role and I’m telling you this lady would imitate to the last portamento EVERYTHING Angela would do. She even sort of lost her voice in the middle of her first aria, I imagine because singing with a voice that isn’t yours isn’t really healthy, which resulted in her forte moments being transformed into piano which was really a shame. Even the ignorant ladies sitting next to me who knew nearly nothing about opera noticed there was something wrong.

Second act out on the streets was pure fun! The stage was over flowing with people and the choruses were wonderful! Again there was no scenery just various pieces of furniture and everyone was wearing tones of blues and grays. something else that bothered me was the fact that Mimi's hat wasn't pink, it was gray just like all the ladies on stage, boo for that. Again, the other lady of the production did not amuse me not even a drop bit. The lady playing Musetta was very pretty, very thin, blond with quite a nice body a petit body, what was missing was body of voice, that beef a singer must have to sing Puccini. She did not posses that, I’m not saying she was a bad singer, no, but she didn’t have enough size of voice or enough warmth of voice o even enough size for this role that is pure seduction. Her aria came out little and bland to me and after second act we had intermission and everybody seemed to be talking about the lack of Musetta qualities in that Musetta. It’s just sad that people are cast to play a role like this just because they are pretty. 

During intermission I didn’t even bother to get up, since 1 I was wearing very high heels and 2 I wasn’t meeting anybody anyways. Third act was up and it’s not one of my favorite moments in La Boheme, I find it’s all so mushy and melodramatic, Angela… oops I mean Mimi with the cough and Rodolfo being an ass. The only part I do like in this act is Musetta’s and Marcello’s argument, I find it quite funny. Maybe I’ll grow to like these things but for now, na.

We had another short intermission after the third act and as the curtain came up for the last time I understood why. There was again another collective “WOW” from the audience as we saw the whole stage floor covered with neatly placed red roses. The effect was absolutely gorgeous! Really a work of art! The beginning of this act felt like the beginning of the opera with the 4 friends playing around and they did such a fantastic job! Musetta arrives and the mood completely changed, they bring Mimi up and lie her down. It was really very sad but the whole scene was directed very well, you could see that the director took very good care of this work. And quite unexpectedly when Mimi dies and Rodolfo holds her and screams the famous “MIMI!” red rose petals fall from the sky and I could not hold back my tears. It was very beautiful.

Overall I really liked this opera, I left the theater pleased. Well, until next time peeps! Peace!

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