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Subject: Re: La damnation de Faust - Mett on HD in Parsippany, NJ [Scanned]
From: "Volpe, Russell" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Volpe, Russell
Date:Sun, 23 Nov 2008 10:53:06 -0500
Content-Type:text/plain
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  Responding to Robert's thoughtful post on yesterdays HD Damnation.  I saw it yesterday here on Long Island in the Westbury Stadium and I wanted to share a few thoughts.
 
   First, I've seen I think seven HD's now between last season and this one and I generally agree that the audience is extremely well behaved - with one exception.  I went to the HD transmission of opening night in Sept at the Port Washington theatre and you would have thought you were at a ball game.  The chatter was incessant and a fight nearly broke out with people barking back when I told them to shhh.  Yesterdays audience behaved impeccably and skewed heavily toward the retired.  I'm 50 and attended with a 50 year old friend and we joked that the mean age was 75 with a tight standard deviation.  Interestingly, I saw the Doctor Atomic HD repeat Wednesday night and though there were only about a dozen people in the audience most of those were under 60.
 
  I've seen the Lepage Damnation in the house already and the impact of the choral work and the second act is even greater in the house.  I have many of the same reservation about his flattening of the stage and some of his work but found your comments about how he got the characters to interact very true and much more apparent to me in the HD than from my balcony seat in the house.  Giordani coped reasonably well with the punishing tenor role (better yesterday than in the house at the second performance - and that while singing Pinkerton twice the day after a Faust)) and Graham was fine both times.  And you are absolutely right about Relyea.  Some of his best work yesterday and much more so than he was live in the house.  I don't know how much of it was the close-up views of his acting but even vocally he seemed much more on yesterday than he did when I saw him live.
 
  And while "masterpiece from beginning to end is hyperbole" , much of the second act is great music and I can't seem to get enough of it (I've heard most of all 5 performances so far - the others on Sirius).
 
   And finally, as I have often found with other HD performances I liked the production more on the screen (I've seen all those I've seen both live and on the screen) and find the comparison of the performance in the house and on the close-up screen to be a fascinating opportunity to experience a performance in very different ways.  In the Lepage, you do lose some of the wide-view on the screen which made for some striking images in the house like the view of Marguerite's house in the opening of Act II live .  Also, the acrobat scenes were more effective live when your eye could move around to the various movements going on simultaneously.  The close-ups and the screen shrunk those moments to a net loss of effect.  On the other hand, the underwater scene looked like floating anemones live from the balcony but was more effective and balletic with the benefit of the cameras.  Different venues, different virtues.
 
Best wishes to all for the Thanksgiving holiday,
 
Russ Volpe

________________________________

From: Discussion of opera and related issues on behalf of Robert White
Sent: Sat 11/22/2008 6:08 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: La damnation de Faust - Mett on HD in Parsippany, NJ [Scanned]



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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