Hi guys, Susan Peters here reporting from Frederick MD. My friend Lynne
and I went to the D.C. Opera last night to see Sam Ramey in MEFISTOFELE.
But first, we met with Alain Letort, his friend from the chorus (Mike
Blaney), Wendy Fuller-Mora and her husband Jeff Mora, and two other
friends of Lynne's. We met at a place in the lower section of the
Watergate, Cuppa Cuppa, which is a good place to go for sandwiches, some
fantastic brownies, and various kinds of coffees. As we all know, it's
great fun putting faces to the e-mail signatures. It was a particular
pleasure for me meeting Mike because it turns out he studied voice with
one of my most favorite singers, Eleanor Steber. So I got to rave about
"my lady" and hear some Steber stories. Today, Wendy and Jeff are on the
way to Boston for the opera.
Well, I hate to say "me too" but this performance was WONDERFUL!
Naturally there were some faults (aren't there always?), but in the overall
scheme of things, I'd go see this again tomorrow if I could.
There were 3 BIG stars: Samuel Ramey, the chorus, and the production
itself. Ramey sounded wonderful -- perfect control, phrasing, tone,
everything. He probably could have started singing the telephone book
and I would have loved it. And he has truly the made the part believable
and interesting, as well as natural --his movements, gestures, the way he
would stand and react, were all so believable that it didn't seem like he
The down side of this is that he showed up the formulaic
reactions of the tenor who sang Faust, William Joyner. I found myself
thinking that if he puts his hand over his heart one more time, I'm going
to smack him! Vocally, Joyner is very promising. He has a strong voice
with a very nice tone (quite lovely most of the time) with only one
funny little vocal mannerism which began to annoy -- he has a funny
little "cry" or hiccup or something (I'm having a difficult time
describing it) that appears while he's singing. I think it's his way of
showing emotion when he sings but I found it artificial and grating.
However, that aside, I think he has good stuff to work with. Now if
he'll only take some acting lessons and watch Ramey! He's better in his
stage mannerisms than Lando, but he has a lo-o-ong way to go.
The Chorus --it DID sound like a chorus of angels. I think I can speak
for the whole audience when I say we were blown off out of our chairs
with awe. There were 200 choral members on stage (according to the
usher, anyway; they sure sounded like 200!) and the Prologue was
unbelievably thrilling. The witches coven scene was trilling, and the
closing was thrilling. Sorry to use that word over and over but I can't
think of another one right now that can say it better. WOW.
The Production: wonderful! A visual delight, filled with humor,
grandeur, spiritual sustenance, sly surprises. Several touches I'll not
easily forget: Mefistofele sitting in his dressing room with all his
devil clothes hanging on a portable closet rack with little red devil
outfits scattered on the floor!; Mefistofele's adorable red shoes and
matching gloves; the all male chorus (a 100 guys?) dressed in "black tie"
going on bended knee and each offering Helen of Troy a bouquet of red
flowers; Helen of Troy's dress (drop dead gorgeous -- I want one); and
the absolutely incredible witches coven number: wild costumes (which I
understand were "toned down" for the D.C. audience, sucks boo), wild
dancing, and Ramey "conducting."
I could go on and on but I won't. I'm told the San Francisco performance
is availble on tape (and LD, I hope) and if it's "shows" half as well as
it plays live, get it -- you won't be disappointed.
The only disappointment of the evening was Nelly Miricioiu. Her voice
has deteriorated since I heard here 6 years ago in "Manon" and I was
saddened by that. Oddly, it was the lower register that gave her the
most trouble. The higher she went, the better she got! And she still
looks wonderful and is an excellent actress. Her mad scene was quite
poignant and beautiful.
Gotta run. Tonight we're seeing "Cosi ..." with a terrific cast: Pamela
Coburn, Dolores Ziegler, and Jan Grissom. Don't know the others yet;
will post on Monday when I get back to Atlanta.
Stay warm! I'm freezing by treble notes off up here in the blistery
North-- regards, Susan