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Subject: La damnation de Faust - Mett on HD in Parsippany, NJ
From: Robert White <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Robert White <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 22 Nov 2008 18:08:24 -0500
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Friends,

Because Paramus was sold out, I went to Parsippany for the live Met moviecast.
I had been to this theatre once before for the La Scala Aida, but the picture and
sound seemed MUCH better than the La Scala effort.  This was a large theatre (my guess
was about 300-350) and it was 90% full.  At 62, I was one of the 10 youngest there,
but as always with the Met presentations, the audience is extremely well behaved and
this group gets to the Met (some ladies down the row were STILL talking about the
Mattila Salome, and one chimed in that she had seen it when done originally 4 years
ago AT the house, and still found the video overpowering.)  I predict the Salome
may well be a major catalyst for the Met mediaplayer (I havent subscribed yet, but
will in the next few weeks).  As for Blu Ray, there was an article in the NYTimes
yesterday.
The jury is still out on its economic viability.  PBS (though marginal in too many
areas) is still free to thousands, and that's important.  Hampson did most of the
intermission
duty (brief intro by Graham and smaller part at intermission); mini-documentary on
LePage's approach to Damnation.

Now on to Damnation.  For starters, it's not an opera, and honestly not even a
theatre piece.  That said, orchestra and chorus were on very good form (my usual
qualm about chorus capture on digital mics  less tinny and congested today, and much
less so than a Sirius broadcast).  There is a quote from Levine that it is a
masterpiece from the first note to the last.  I beg to disagree, even though I count
myself very much a lover of Berlioz.  The high points-- D'amour l'ardente flamme and
the Ride to the Abyss, are full of wonderful Berlioz magic  that alone are worth the
price of admission.  Susan Graham is well suited to Berlioz (superb with ANtonacci
in the Troyens from the Chatelet as well as her Nuits d'ete CD) and she did not
disappoint today.  Giordani has music often more ungrateful than Cellini (Berlioz
could give R. Strauss a run for awkward tenor lines) and  coped reasonably well. 
The surprise for me was Relyea, who was really ON with a lot of character work, and
very very solid singing.  Some other posters have mentioned that he
seems better suited to French than Italian repertoire.  Today was honestly the best
thing I've seen/heard him do. The costume which had looked unimpressive in stills is
eye-catching-- feathers, fur, and leather.

As for LePage (esp. as he has the forthcoming Ring).  I happened to have seen his
Cirque de Soleil show  Ka a few years ago, and was NOT impressed.  While I thought
some of the
Damnation video was marginal in interest (and the cubes could be annoying)  he also
had some lovely blends with the "virtual" scenery.  I do hope when he gets to the
Ring that he will take advantage of the Met's enormous stage depth as well as the
height and not be so full face out which makes things 2 dimensional.  Based on his
work with the 3 principals I thought he worked very hard to have them act as
characters not as props.

I was lucky enough to see the Chereau Ring in its 3d season (1978) and despite
variable singing, I have never seen such fantastic interaction  between characters
as he managed.  The scandal was about the power station and the giants, but as you
can well
see on the DVDs,  the direction of the performers is still the best I've ever seen
(not just RIng).  I thought LePage showed some of that today, esp. for someone who
still has
limited operatic experience.  One poster recently mentioned LePage's Rake's Progress
(not a favorite work of mine), but I wish we could see a more standard work before
he goes off the deep end with the whole RIng.  I think his musical instincts are
very good.
He visualized a lot of the music today with interesting stage pictures (choreography
is definitely a dramatic element for him) and the settings despite their flatness
had some color (I liked the church tableaux) and again several of the transitions
were extremely deft.  I wold like to see a performance of the 2nd act in the theatre
(I find too much of the first part uninteresting musically) to get the full impact
of the chorus, but that may not happen.  These are busy times for me.

On to Thais, which I saw in Chicago  5(?) years ago with Fleming and Hampson, both
of them very fine.  Massenet is a much surer man of the theatre than Berlioz, and I
have seen the work 3 other times-- 1962 in Dallas with Denise Duval (unmemorable
except for Jacques d'Amboise tipping over a GIANT urn during a ballet
divertissement), Carol Neblett in Baltimore (Ryan Edwards the Athanael?) and
Sills/Milnes at the Met .  Fleming/Hampson should make for quality work.

rww
-- 
Robert W. White
Executive Director
Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS)
810 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
201- 489-1904
www.bccls.org
[log in to unmask]

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