The Metropolitan Opera tonight performed a theater piece devised by the
aptly named Stephen Lawless. The title of this piece is "Dr. G and the
Women." This is a bawdy comedy about a gruff but dedicated Spanish
gynecologist named Dr. G (Bryn Terfel) who despite constant distraction is
always ready to perform pelvic exams on his female patients.
Not for Dr. G the cold sterility of stirrups and an examination table. No,
he is ready to reach under the skirts of his patients on the flagstones of a
courtyard (Donna Anna); at an al fresco picnic in the presence of the fiance
of the patient (Zerlina) and finally he even interrupts his dinner to
examine Donna Elvira on the banquet table.
Dr. G's assistant Leporello (Ferruccio Furlanetto) also gets into the act,
manually examining Donna Elvira in a public street.
Zerlina herself is a trained nurse, offering Masetto an examination for
testiclular cancer and then ripping her petticoat into bandages. (I assume
she learned to do this in imitation of the "Touch-a-touch-a-touch me" number
from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, as performed by Susan Sarandon.)
The opera takes place in a curious never-never Spain where daughters of
murdered noblemen wear deep mourning for precisely one day before going into
half-mourning (purple), then changing back to black on the second day after
Oh, and did I mention that Dr. G effects his escape from an armed mob of at
least 30 by lowering a parachute from the ceiling? Whew, I guess the sight
of all that slowly descending lightweight silk is enough to terrify anyone.
Okay, enough. Musically, Hei-Kyung Hong and Ferruccio Furlanetto were
excellent, warm-voiced and idiomatic, with clear diction and vivid,
enjoyable stage presence. I wish this revival had included the "shaving"
Solveig Kringelborn has a lovely voice with not quite the agility for the
trickiest bits of "Mi tradi," but the upper-middle and top ring out
brilliantly. James Levine screwed her and Paul Groves over by having them
take the da capo sections of their arias at an inhumanly soft pianissimo;
Ms. Kringelborn's voice cracked and Mr. Groves sounded liked a girl. Which
is a pity, because except for 3 or 4 over-refined finessed phrases, this is
some of the best singing I have heard from him, virile and energetic. Will
someone please tell this young man just to *sing* and stop with the voix
John Relyea's (Masetto's) singing is not up to his voluptuous image, as
revealed in that photo spread in OPERA NEWS, but he's not bad. I have no
clue why he was dressed as a successful young tradesman instead of a
Bryn Terfel sang the first half of Act One with elegance and impressive
reserve of vocal power, then he ran off the track during the Champagne Aria
(at Levine's hell-for-leather tempo) and barked the rest of the act like a
bear. Some lovely singing in Act Two (until, yes, he attempted to croon
the second verse of the Serenade), then a whole lot of yelling in the
finale. Mr. Lawless apparently encouraged Mr. Terfel to play a Spanish
nobleman as a coked-up ex-con whom even the Sopranos would find offensive.
(Did I mention that he forces Leporello to vomit out the stolen bite of
And Miss Fleming. Well, what a lovely and well-judged (if *intimate*) "Non
mi dir," with hardly a scoop or a droop to mar the line! Now, if someone
could convince her to sing the other 90% of the role with this much care, I
will admit she has business singing Donna Anna. The trick, you see, is to
be able to sing *both* "Non mi dir" and "Or sai chi l'onore" in the same
evening. Yelling and whooping the first act aria (and throwing away most of
the ensembles) is no solution to the problem. Donna Anna is not a long
role. Can't Fleming sing the whole thing in one night?
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