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Subject: Re: Andrew Byrne's take on Met Gala - "and no-one's anybody!"
From: John Rahbeck <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 11 May 2017 07:48:31 -0400

text/plain (200 lines)

It never seems to amaze me that so many people report differently who the  
audience favorites at the gala were, and what is often reported is not what  
actually happened, but reflects rather the opinion of the ones writing the 
posts  and who they felt should have gotten the most applause. However that 
being  said, I will agree with certain things. The overall gala was a 
success, it was  the the passing of the torch to charismatic and extremely  
capable Yannick  Neget-Seguin, There was a moderate  imbalance between the new and 
the old. The imbalance seemed not  to be with more remote old, but stars 
who have recently  transitioned out of the limelight, and should have been 
included in some way  such as being asked to take a bow with the performers or 
something similar.  After all they gave and were part of the best of the Met 
as well. There was  some great singing from veterans nearing the end to the 
new and young,  and few singers who you wonder why they were on the  stage.
 There were some telling details not mentioned, like for instance who  the 
audinece applauded before they even opened their mouths, who's  hand 
Nezet-Seguin first took when the singers did their bows, Who got the  biggest 
response after they sang. 
 If they were celebrating the last 50 years, they needed to include  the 
whole 50 years. That would be my only complaint.
John Rahbeck
In a message dated 5/10/2017 10:54:05 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
[log in to unmask] writes:

Sensational Met Opera 50 Year Anniversary concert.  6pm Sunday  7th May 

Dear Colleagues, 

There was electricity in the  air before this night of nights – some of the 
singers were still in the  foyers before the concert, mingling with 
donors and invited  guests.  There was a red carpet and photographers.  
The program  had been kept secret but 30 of the Met’s named singers 
would be giving  their own, along with the chorus, orchestra and three 
conductors for the  home crowd in Manhattan.  There were lots of men in 
tuxedoes and  women’s fashions were very much on show.  

The sentimental  favourite would have to be Renee Fleming while old-
timers’ prizes went to  James Morris and Placido Domingo.  Morris sang the 
Grand Inquisitor  as well as Ramfis in the Triumphal March – and there was 
no need for any  allowances for age as both men held their own with others 
half their  age.   

The carefully chosen operatic excerpts were  interspersed with brief 
interviews and old newsreels related to the  Lincoln Center.  In B&W we saw 
President Eisenhower turn the  first sod for construction; Leonard 
conducted an open-air  ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus on the building site; we heard 
recent interview with  90 year old Leontyne Price whose regal photograph 
as Cleopatra’s adorns  the Met programs during May.  We also learned how 
an accidental paint  spill on the foyer plans indirectly caused the design 
the unique  ‘galaxy’ light fittings, contrary to the wishes of Rudolf Bing 
management who had wanted traditional chandeliers.  Mr Chagall asked  for 
his murals to be lowered (!). Too late! 

The stage setting for  each item was a re-creation using projections onto 
moving curtains, scrims  and giant flats sliding in from the wings.  The 
manner by which this  was done was like rapid painting with an invisible 
brush causing columns,  walls, arches, wall-paper, etc to appear before our 
eyes - each time to  reveal a familiar Met scena.  Most impressive for me 
was the classic  Act I Boheme attic garret, doors, balcony, chimneys, roofs 
of Paris, etc,  all a projected illusion apart from a small raised 
student table  and two chairs from which Ms Yoncheva and Mr Calleja 
performed.  It  was trompe l’oeil after a fashion.  Some settings even got 
their own  applause such as for Tosca (interiors of Palazzo Farnese), Aida 
(Nile  colossi, etc) and Boris Godunov (gilt arched chambers).  The program 
stated that there were representations of 59 different production scenes  
the evening, put together brilliantly by Julian Crouch.  Costumes  were 
either original from the production or tasteful gowns, etc.   

In the middle of the second half there was a projected bio of James  Levine 
from his student years right through his very long association with  The 
Metropolitan Opera.  Then the spotlights moved to the podium  where 
Maestro himself appeared in his chair, waving to an adoring  
crowd.  “Jimmy” then conducted the remainder of the concert.   

I mention the evening’s wonderful selections in no particular order …  
item could have been a perfect music lesson.  Inevitably there  were some 
crowd-pleasers: Un bel di (Anna Netrebko); E lucevan le stelle  (Vittorio 
Grigolo); Vissi d'arte (Kristine Opelais); Sempre libera (Diana  Damrau); 
Che gelida manina, Mi chiamano Mimi, O suave fanciulla, (Joseph  Calleja, 
Sonya Yoncheva).  

Mozart: Papagano's aria (Michael  Volle); Porgi amor (Renee Fleming); 
Count's Aria Nozze di Figaro (Volle);  

And from left field: Overture from West Side Story (started  proceedings); 
Chorus from Antony and Cleopatra (Samuel Barber’s opera was  
commissioned to open the Met); Bess, you is my woman now (Eric Owens,  
Pretty Yende); The Tempest (by Ades) love scene (Isobel Leonard, Ben  
Bliss with Dwayne Croft); Julius Caesar 'Sempre piangero' (David Daniels,  
Stephanie Blythe).  

For the serious consumer: Nemico della  patria (Domingo – the French 
election result had just been announced);  Iago's credo (Zeljko Lucic); 
toi soleil (Grigolo standing in for  Florez); Mon coeur s'ouvre (Elena 
as Dalila); Guests' Entrance,  Tannhauser (with trumpets on stage); Quando 
le sere al placido (Piotr  Beczala); Don Carlo: Grand Inquisitor's scene 
Phillip V (Groissbock /  Morris).   

For the connoisseur: Boris's Mad Scene (Rene  Pape); Troyens duet (Susan 
Graham, Matthew Polenzani); Thais duet with  Fleming and Domingo; 
Charlotte’s aria from Werther (DiDonato).    

For the Guinness record book: Bel raggio lusinghier (Joyce DiDonato);  Ah 
mes amis (Javier Camarena) with 9 high C’s!  All pitch perfect,  
staccato and sustained – and all with ease and a Mexican  smile!!  Lady 
Macbeth’s scene, Act I (Netrebko in amazing  form).  

Just for fun: Don Pasquale duet (Pretty Yende, Mariusz  Kwiecien); 
Triumphal March, Aida with full chorus (but no final 'Mexican'  E flat as 
heard on Sydney Harbour last year with the same wonderful  soprano, 
Latonia Moore).  

About 7pm to our great surprise Mr  Gelb announced that ‘a very brave 
Dimitry Hvorostovsky’ would sing  Corteggiani vil razza – which he did, 
brilliantly.  The popular  baritone received a standing ovation even before 
he opened his mouth –  still recovering after brain surgery.  He seemed 
delighted with the  reception, even shedding a tear as did many in the 
audience I  suspect.  I noted many Russian accents in the foyers during the 
single intermission.  

Just after the Thais excerpt the  orchestra started playing a violin 
which I thought momentarily to  be the Meditation.  It was actually the 
scene of I Lombardi in  which the violin features as a solo instrument just 
the ‘cello does in  I Masnadieri.  It is hard to know if Verdi was simply 
showing off his  orchestral skills or showcasing a particular 
or  both.  Yet in this scene the melding of the strings, vocal and dramatic 
lines indeed shows his unique genius and was highly appropriate to show it  
off again.  Like numerous items, it heralds the newly announced  season for 
2017/8.  Here we heard Michael Fabiano, Angela Mead and  Gunther 
Groissbock sing the trio.  The fiddle was played by David  Chan with great 
virtuosity, showing off the most difficult manoeuvres of  that instrument.  
was sorry Mr Fabiano did not sing La mia letizia  infondere from Act I … 
was one of Pavarotti’s favourite show  pieces.  I heard Luciano Pavarotti, 
Lauren Flanagan and Samuel Ramey  in this scene on this stage many years 
ago, reminding me that I have been  attending this house for half of its 
(since 1992).  

The  quality of the singing goes without saying.  Each singer put their 
and soul into each piece and adrenalin levels were high, despite most  
performing familiar pieces.  Just as people were starting to  seriously 
look at 
their watches near 11pm we had the selection from Aida  and it was all 
over, barring the huge curtain calls which were also very  emotional.  I 
pinched myself yet again.  What can one  say?!  “Thank you”, say I.  

Notes by Andrew Byrne  ..

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