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Subject: Charmless Elisir/Glimmerglass
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Date:Fri, 14 Aug 1998 07:29:48 EDT
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To Greg Fitzmaurice and list--

Greg asks if the opera-l members place Simone Alaimo in a class with Bac-
caloni and Corena.  Well, THIS list member surely does and has since he first
heard Alaimo several years ago.  The man is a marvel of musicality and ac-
curacy.  This is a singer who can do the buffo roles and who can also turn
around and handle the staggeringly difficult role of Assur in SEMIRAMIDE with
bravura ease.  I came along just a bit too late to see Baccaloni but I know
his recordings well and Corena was in his glory when I came to opera--he was
in my very first live performance at the MET (BARBIERE) and I must have seen
his Dulcamara at least five times over the years.  Alaimo is something of a
rarity these days: a singer thoroughly "in the tradition" who also has a
good voice and the kind of technique of which his predecessors could only
dream.  I loved Corena dearly and some of what he was has never been ap-
proached, but except for his great ease in the rapid patter, his vocal
agility in fioratura was nowhere compared to Alaimo who also excels in the
patter.

So much has been posted on Glimmerglass that I have held back a bit. However,
a few observations:

TOSCA.  I thought the Fascist era updating worked just fine.  The sung text
was even changed here and there to accomodate the setting except that no
equivalentfor Tosca's running off to the Queen for a pardon for Mario could
be found, so the reference to Maria Carolina remained.  The last
act set was grimly similar to a famous Goya painting of the execution of
Spanish resistance members by Napoleon's forces, and the second act was a
brutal, wonderfully theatrical design by Michael Yeargan.  Vocally, it was
all over the map, from Amy Johnson's super Tosca--slender, elegant as a much
more attractive Wallis Simpson figure, and wonderfully sung--to the painful
Scarpia of Michele Bianchini.

I would disagree with those who have laid the blame on Mr. Bianchini's being
a bass.  Basses (Raimondi, Georg Hann, Justino Diaz and, currently, the ex-
cellent Mark S. Doss) have done Scarpia without problems for a long time.
Mr. Bianchini is one of the most physically tense and conflicted performers
I have ever seen and I felt very badly for him.  The tensions are destructive
both to his acting--negating his height and patrician good looks, which should
have been great advantages--and especially to his singing.  He has little
or no idea how to breathe in ANY part of his voice and when he goes into the
upper middle part of a regular bass range, you can see him pull in his
shoulders, the arms go stiff and his whole body becomes brittle.  He needs
a good six months with a talented and patient movement coach and a lot more
work with the breath to become much more at ease on a stage.

PARTENOPE was glorious, as Alan Savada reiterated this AM.  Even more impres-
sive than David Daniels' bravura singing was his long lined, ravishing tone in
the many contemplative arias he has in this beautiful and inconprehensibly
neglected (in the U. S. any) score.  Boston's much loved Lisa Saffer made
an ideal heroine and the very good news was the tremendous progress David
Walker has made in his countertenor development.  Assured, evenly produced
tone with a well-developed lower register and lots of style and agility; when
he takes over his more famous colleague's role in the New York City Opera
mounting of this production, I think New Yorkers will get a very fine per-
formance.

FALSTAGFF was a gem, the only traditionally designed production this summer
in evocative, flexible John Conklin sets and costumes.  Mark Delavan was a
funny and happy surprise as Falstaff--he even had a "fat voice" for the part
and was an endearing figure throughout.  Stephen Powell's excellent Ford;
Amy Burton's bright, lovely Alice brought back memories of the golden work
of Gabriella Tucci in this part.  A joy, as was THE MOTHER OF US ALL in
Christopher Alden's witty, inventive production.  Joanna Johnston (a mezzo
for my money despite the soprano designation in the program) tired noticeably
in the final monolog but was, overall, right on the money.  Stewart Robertson
conducted the score strongly.

The annual opera-l picnic was another highlight and it was nice to greet some
newcomers among the familiar faces.  A backstage meeting with the gracious
and charming David Daniels was icing on the cake.  Opera in the informal yet
artistically serious atmosphere of of Glimmerglass is a uniquely enjoyable
and rewarding experience.

Bill Fregosi
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