Opera Warhorses

An appreciation and analysis of the 'Standard Repertory' of opera

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Tom Journeys to the Met (“Parsifal”) and Philly (“Barbiere”) – 2006

September 26th, 2006

Hi Bill

I apologize for not sending my impressions of the operas seen at the MET in NYC, but I must confess, what more can be said after seeing the best there is in the USA? That observation should not be in controversy, especially with the two Parsifal performances seen in May with the now-customary, sensational sets, costumes and unfortunately the last time we are to see this wondrous (glittering Grail Hall, flowered meadows) very traditional production according to outgoing opera-boss Joseph Volpe. From now on, he noted, it’s gonna look “quite different”. Gulp!!

Thomas Hampson quite literally stole the show as Amfortas, making that usually dull role into a major focal-point, with goose-pimple rousing singing!! We’ve all seen controversial presentations of Parsifal, some bizarre. This was anything but bizarre, but the future at the Met may hold surprises (unpleasant?) for Parsifal lovers . . . .

Indeed, the only time I’ve ever walked out during a Wagner opera was during LA’s hideous, soul-less Robert Wilson production last Fall (I was joined by phallanxes of other malcontented patrons). And, yes, I’ve boooed and jeered when Seattle’s first “God Tower” showed up years ago in Die Walkure, the same production when a Rose Parade float featuring Bambi rolled across the stage in Act I, and in which the Forest Bird appears atop a tall broomstick marched about by some sort of Zombie.

And, I might add, in this same production, the Rhinemaidens in the opening scene of Das Rheingold wore white bloomers of the 1890s cavorting across a set of gigantic blue shower curtains relieved by zip, no nothing other than shower curtains . . . .

I also enormously enjoyed Opera Philly’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Richard Bernstein’s knock-your-socks-off rendition in the title role. In this the most elegant small European-style opera house in America (looks like some of the more glitterati Italian houses), intimate in scale but big in sound, this was a very professional, well rehearsed reading with terrific sets in a house not groaning with Big Bucks, the plague of most smaller American houses!!


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