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Subject: Pique Dame - 24 November Met
From: "Volpe, Russell" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Volpe, Russell
Date:Tue, 25 Nov 2008 01:37:12 -0500

text/plain (25 lines)

Having just returned from the house, I am pleased to report to the list that for Mr. Heppner what a difference a weekend makes!  After all that I read about Friday night's opening performance on this list, I was quite surprised to see no cover announced as Ghermann for tonight's second performance of Pique Dame.  Well, you would never know that Friday night's train wreck had occurred based on his performance tonight.  It was remarkable and encouraging to see that Friday's difficulties appear to have been from a transient malady and not a vocal crisis. He sang confidently, ardently and with ringing high notes throughout the evening.  I heard virtually no strain in his voice and barely a hint of even the residual effects of the cold that seemed to have laid him so low on Friday.  Only in his final death scene did I hear a brief croak and that was only on one or two notes and the remainder of his final scene was up to the high level of the rest of this second outing in the run.
As for the rest of the cast, Guleghina was loud and broad, yet idiomatic and passionate.  Stoyanov was wooden as Yeletsky; I would have preferred Delavan's ripe baritone, tonight's Tomsky, singing Yeletsky's aria .  Palmer's was a finely etched, vocally secure Countess that made its mark with insinuation without erasing the memory of the volcanic Rysanek in her American farewell role.  Shemenchuk seconded Lisa well in their duet and sang solidly in her subsequent aria.
The score positively shimmered in Mr. Ozawa and the Met Orchestra's hands.  The strings were plush all night and we were reminded again of that old adage that everything Tchaikovsky wrote was dance music.
And one note about Elijah Moshinsky's striking production.  It restored ones depth perception after the Lepage Damnation of Faust whatever its virtues.  This Pique Dame with its box set takes full advantage of the depth of the Met stage with action reaching far to the back and several scenes that unfold in deep, narrow tableaux
The big news tonight was Ben Heppner's redemptive performance as Ghermann just three days after the opening, earning him a deserved ovation from an appreciative audience.  Perhaps the biggest mistake on Friday was the decision not to announce his indisposition if he was going to soldier on, which might have dampened the ensuing mud sling.
Russ Volpe

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