Wow, I never meant to go silent for so long. Things just kept getting in the way of writing.
Last weekend I attended the one of the last performances of the MET season. At first I was a little leery because the operas I attended this year were very hit or miss. But Die Entführung aus dem Serail was good. The singers were adept and James Levine was the conductor.
I was very happy to hear everyone over the orchestra. Albina Shagimuratova had a lovely, clear tone that wasn't too reedy for a coloratura. My only reservation was that some of her breathing choices were a bit messy. I shouldn't have been able to notice her gasping for breath in between ornamental trills and runs. This led to some of her top notes to sound a little wild and open. However by the end of the performance, she had her body under control. Kathleen Kim fared better as Blondchen displaying a beautiful honey voice with gorgeous top notes and full low notes. She was also a good actress and held her own against powerhouse Hans-Peter König.
König was by far the most accomplished singer on the stage. He had a perfectly controlled voice and a great comical flair for Osmin. It also didn't hurt that he was German and his pronunciation was clear. The rest of the cast were not German and their attempt at the language was questionable many times. Paul Appleby and Brenton Ryan rounded out the lead cast very well.
The sets were simple yet very pretty. Although I still think the MET carries on intermissions way too long, it was nice to not hear the backstage crew laboring to pull apart elaborate sets. I think all productions should look more towards simplicity rather than over the top ostentation. But then again, considering that some of the singers I heard this year were not top notch, maybe the fancy sets are there to hide the weakness.
Despite some disappointments this year, my experience with MET opera has been enjoyable. And I would like to go back next season. They are performing some interesting productions that I would love to see...Strauss' Salome being one of them. But I will say that becoming totally dependent on the guest star strategy has ruined the MET's character and consistency in performance. Singers who fly in and out for performances don't have the same attitude as in-house talent who are supporting a company. However spotty guest stars are cheaper and easier then developing/supporting talent. So the highs and the lowest of the dregs will continue into the future.