As I mentioned earlier, a really weird, awkward film adaptation of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” starring Anna Moffo. Questions: Why is Lucia’s wedding taking place in the mid-afternoon? Why is Lucia going balls out crazy in front of her house? And why doesn’t she have any guests at her own wedding? It looks like Lucia woke up from a brief siesta and decided to go dancing on the front lawn. But, as always, exquisitely beautiful singing by Moffo.
O Rolando, Rolando! Wherefore art thou Rolando?
A few years ago the soprano Anna Netrebko and the tenor Rolando Villazón were the opera world’s hottest package. The two were a guaranteed box-office draw, capable of selling out whole runs of performances just days after being announced. Cut to the disastrous 2009 performance of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” where the two stars opened to mixed reviews, with Mr. Villazón delivering the most troublesome vocal performance of his career.
Vocal connoisseurs are a particularly unforgiving group. Even in sports, when an athlete gets injured, sympathetic fans expect to see him back on his feet, eventually. But the slightest vocal glitch can send a damning wave of tremors throughout the opera world; often seen as some sepulchral omen that a career is ending. Sometimes opera can seem more like a blood sport rather than an art form.
Singers often have to hide the fact that they’ve ever suffered any sort of injury to their vocal chords for fear of shame. In some cases, it can mean fewer bookings at opera houses.
Such is the unfortunate case of Mr. Villazón, who, after a long series of cancellations, announced in May 2009 that he would undergo surgery for a congenital cyst on one of his chords. He has since recovered, and is making regular appearances in Europe where he remains a huge star.
But at the Met, Mr. Villazón has been all but declared persona non grata for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. This is especially dismaying when one considers that, not long ago, Mr. Villazón was being groomed to become the house’s next star tenor.
How sad it would be to think that Mr. Villazón’s career was cut short over the mere speculation of his vocal health. He is a truly remarkable performer with a wonderful instrument, and he has much more to give. Opera audiences could stand to be a bit more supportive. Vocal troubles are more common than people realize, and can be caused by any number of factors. As Natalie Dessay said, “Many many singers have operations on their chords. But they are ashamed of that, and they shouldn’t, because it may happen. It’s not a shame.”
The Met Player is finally streaming its March 19th broadcast of “Lucia di Lammermoor” starring Natalie Dessay. If you want to have a near perfect opera viewing experience: watch this. The production was originally mounted for Dessay to open the 07-08 season, and she’s even better in it the second time around.
The cast is uniformly excellent, particularly Ludovic Tézier; one of my favorite baritones, delivering the most nuanced, complex portrait of Enrico I’ve ever seen. The Maltese tenor, Joseph Calleja, has a bright, penetrating tenor that has only gained size and richness since his appearance in “Tales of Hoffmann” last season. He is a wonderful Edgardo.
I seem to be in the small minority of people who feel that the HD broadcasts diminish a lot of truly great performances. Opera critics have been accusing Peter Gelb of catering to the HD broadcasts by hiring singers that look great and give small scale performances best suited to the movie screen. But this ”Lucia” was more thrilling in the opera house (however it did translate, more or less, faithfully to film.) Along with “Capriccio” and “Don Pasquale” this is one of the best, nigh perfect, HD offerings from last season.
In response to goofin’s latest post…