My last opera was "Tosca" last fall and I enjoyed it. Despite the fact that the singer playing Scarpia could barely be heard over the orchestra.
Well, little did I know!
Today I saw Met's "Le Nozze di Figaro" filled with almost the WHOLE cast who couldn't be heard over the orchestra. Almost the WHOLE CAST! How disgusting and outrageous is this? Doesn't the MET hire anyone who can sing anymore? Opera is more than sounding pretty. These singers must be able to achieve a ringing tone that can cut through the orchestra. Otherwise voices are lost like shouting into heavy wind. The epitome of this ringing tone was Maria Callas. Even so, some claim that her voice sometimes had a metallic quality. Yes, the piercing ring in singing can sound unworldly but we also have to remember that the singers are also a part of the orchestra. It is the orchestra's job to mix and temper these voices.
At first I thought it was my hearing that was going bad or that it was because I was sitting in nosebleed heaven. But then I had confirmation when only TWO, count them TWO, singers were able to sing with, through and above the orchestra. Those two were Amanda Majeski who played Countess Almaviva and Robert McPherson as Don Basilio.
It wasn't only a problem of tone either. There were problems with off key singing and rushing through the recitatives. It was to the point where I felt really bad for the harpsichordist who had a thankless job trying to ascertain the timing of each singer. Isabel Leonard really goofed on Voi Che Sapete. She hesitated midway through the aria and lost the key. Luckily for her a flautist took pity on her and played a quick snippet of the vocal line to help her out. Also, unfortunately, there were extreme problems with the pronunciation of the Italian by the whole cast.
Believe me, it was a long 3 and half hours of rolling my eyes.
I will say that everyone was very a good actor. I could believe all of them as the characters. But I didn't pay to see them act, I paid to hear them sing. Also all of the female singers were very beautiful. But you know what? All I care about is the singing. I don't care what the women look like. They could be wall eyed ugly or as big as holstein cows, but if they can sing...that is all I need. So bring back the big women. The women who can actually sing and support big sound. Show the supermodels out the backstage door.
Oh yes, and the sets were gorgeous. But again, I didn't pay money to look at beautiful stage scenery, I paid to hear big, beautiful voices. And that wasn't what I was offered.
All I can say is, if I go back to the MET next year, I will definitely avoid all the singers I've seen today.
Labels: commentary, culture, metropolitan opera, music, opera, reviews