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Subject: Re: Met Broadcasts We Wish We NEVER Had
From: Sue Harrison <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Sue Harrison <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 13 Sep 2017 22:19:03 +0000

text/plain (80 lines)

 Paul Padillo, thanks for setting the record straight on who directed which T und I Live at the Met. 
But after that, I'll vote YES and NO to the director's singlehandedly ruining the March 22, 2008 experience at the movies. But first, the background . . . 

The "revolving door meets musical chairs" production of Tristan und Isolde in March 2008 was snakebit from several other directions. It was a brief run of 6 performances with Ben Heppner and Deborah Voigt contracted, presumably, years in advance. Heppner bowed out in the rehearsal process, stopped by a persistent respiratory virus. Deborah Voigt opened opposite Tristan cover Gary Lehman in his role debut. Voigt ran offstage in the love duet of Act 2, another victim of a virus, and was quickly replaced by Janice Bird.
The audience cheered their final curtain calls. Gary Lehman made a strong impression in his new role, and audience members suggested Gary Lehman had earned the Saturday video matinee to movie theaters. Perhaps, but Gelb got heldentenor Robert Dean Smith released from rehearsals in Berlin instead. Smith flew to New York overnight, arriving in just enough time to be costumed, made up, and walked through the set before the Tristan chord opened his Met debut.

In the final performance of the run a few nights later, Ben Heppner rejoined the cast with Deborah Voigt, singing at least once with a familiar partner, and the performance was well-attended by curious fans and was suddenly streamed to audiences from The Met website. 
The Live in HD telecast on Saturday, March 22, 2008 was one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen. The magic for me was in Robert Dean Smith's voice, its beauty, its dynamic range, and the stamina he needed to fly overseas and sing all of Tristan und Isolde. Smith already had a thriving European career. He had already sung Tristan to high acclaim, whereas Gary Lehman had never sung it in public. Since they couldn't be without a cover, it makes no sense to give the worldwide video role to the newcomer and have the seasoned pro standing by as cover backstage. Besides, would the forces in Berlin even release their star heldentenor from rehearsal to fly overseas to be a neophyte's cover? Not likely.
Back to the question of who did what singlehandedly to ruin that Tristan und Isolde on that Saturday afternoon, YES, the video director with those jaw-dropping cameo shots dropped onto the wide screen was culpable. We wanted to scurry out to the trailer behind the building and whack her upside the head -- tough to pull off when you're half a continent away in a Texas movie theater. And did she hijack a lot of the impact for us? Yes, she did. But in the face of such a glorious opera and singing, I'll be damned if I'll let the visuals mess with this transcendent music. I forced my attention back to where it belonged lest I miss another moment of magic.

The other fly in the ointment was Debbie Voigt whom we appreciate and like enormously, but . . . please God let someone else who isn't in vocal distress sing the Liebestod. My prayers were not answered as both Heppner and Voigt had experienced vocal difficulties in recent years; Heppner was missing in action, and Debbie was having that kind of afternoon. Even so that performance was one of the most moving performances I've seen from Met Opera Live in HD.

Sue HarrisonDallas, TX

    On Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 2:29:26 PM CDT, G. Paul Padillo <[log in to unmask]> wrote: [log in to unmask] wrote (in part):

"IMHO-only The video broadcast of Jane Eaglen and Ben Heppner Tristan from
from the Met perhaps is an example. (for Ms. Barbara Willis Sweete's video 
direction alone)"

It was Brian Large who directed that Tristan telecast.  Ms. Willis Sweete 
directed the 2008 "Tristan" HD cinecast with Deborah Voigt and Robert 
Dean Smith.  Mr. Smith was the third in a rotating cast of doomed tenors 
singing Tristan that season, flown in from Europe as a last minute 
replacement and making his debut. While Pape sang King Marke 
(gloriously, as noted by Mr. Rideout) in the premiere season for this 
production, Matti Salminen played the cuckolded monarch for this HD.  

Back to Ms. Sweete - while she's grown to be one of my favorites for 
Tristan she was a one woman wrecking crew.  The movie house audience 
even BOOED her!  

Here's a couple of paragraphs from my review for anyone who wants to 
relive that particular horror show.

"I can in all honesty say I have never enjoyed a performance less than this 
afternoon's Tristan.  Barbara Willis Sweete single handedly destroyed the 
experience not just for me, but for nearly everyone I spoke to during the 
intermissions and following the performance.  This new technology of 
having multiple  screens was the most jarring effect I've ever witnessed, 
forcing one to  visually scramble from box to box in postcard sized images 
across the screen.  During the great Act II love duet, the screen showed 
four different angles of the couple in four separate boxes.  Often when 
singers were performing each singer would be in a separate box, an effect I 
overheard someone mention made it seem like they were all in different 
opera houses.  During Tristan's great mad scene in Act III, the largest 
image on screen for almost 10 minutes was Kurwenal's back, while a fuller 
shot reducing the size of Robert Dean Smith's marvelously sung Tristan 
was a smaller image of him for a short while or an enormous close up of 
only his face. 

There was truly ludicrous moments that defied all logic.  At one point in 
Act I, the singers were all in separate boxes (and the boxes were framed 
with stupid white margins) with a lot of black space and as Brangane walks 
stage right towards Isolde . . . the box with DeYoung slowly slid across the 
screen right to left as if to tell us "Brangane is walking towards Isolde," an 
incredibly cheesy effect provoking no end of mumbling from people around 
me: "Oh, shit!"  and "Jesus Christ!"  with a sea of heads shaking in 
disbelief every few minutes."

I still shudder recalling it!



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