We caught the fabulous Renee Fleming singing the title role in Rusalka at the Met on Tuesday – two days out from her Superbowl triumph. The woodland set was gorgeous, and the diaphanous pond brilliant. The cool blue dresses of the title character were perfect as were the hot hues of her princess rival. This should look stunning in the HD which is tomorrow, so if you don’t have tickets yet and can’t get to the Met get some.

Fleming looked great and gave a beautiful rendition of the opera’s most well-known aria, “Song to the Moon” in Act I. However, she seemed less vocally robust in other places. Not sure if that was the effect of time or just post-game fatigue. Piotr Bezcala sang the Prince. This is the fourth role I’ve seen him in and he just gets better and better. I continue to be impressed not only by his voice, but by his acting. There’s more than a costume change involved in the varied roles he takes on. John Relyea as the Water Gnome also gave an impressive performance, managing to bring out a bit of the libretto’s humor and irony, even if the production seemed to otherwise ignore it. Mezzo-soprano, Mary Phillips was replacing Dolora Zajick as Jezibaba, the witch. Like Relyea. She seemed to be having a good time and gave the character some comic moments. Not sure if she’s in for the run, but we enjoyed her performance. Vocally, Emily Magee was great as the Foreign Princess, but as the libretto keeps bringing up her “passion” in contrast to Rusulka’s “paleness,” a little more heat could have been added.

The conductor was Yannick Nezet-Seguin. I know this mini-review has gone way over the adjective quotient, but being a musical idiot I’m not sure how I’d describe Dvorak’s score other than shimmery, creamy, playful and lush. Does that make sense?

As for the story, the better-half and I are fans of verismo – give us your soldiers gone wrong over gypsy girls, your young men in love with dying prostitutes etc. We’ll take the occasional comic romp, or history, but too much magic leaves us cold. However, this worked. The story borrows heavily from Anderson’s Little Mermaid (not, thankfully, Disney’s).but with an even bleaker ending. That may be why we liked it. When supernatural beings decide to transform for love, things shouldn’t go well.

There are three performances left, including the HD. If you’re unfamiliar with Met ticketing, you can go here for the scoop on cheap seats.

Here’s a clip for your listening pleasure:

Also want to briefly mention Falstaff. We caught the last night of the Met’s much-praised production. It was a hoot. The setting, costumes, everything worked. Ambrogio Maestri, singing the title role, seemed to be channelling Zero Mostel – and I mean that in the best possible way. Angela Meade as Alice Ford and Stephanie Blyth as Mistress Quickly were sublime. Well worth a look and listen if there’s a DVD out there.

(Find any of these posts helpful? There’s no tip jar, but nothing says thank-you like buying a novella or novel for less than a latte.)

Tags: , ,

Marion on February 3rd, 2014

The Season Three finale of Sherlock has been legally shown in the US. Why does Britain torture us by holding it back? (Question: Is it still wrong to stream from dubious sources, even if you are a paying member of PBS? Answer: Probably not wrong, but still illegal.) My episode  recap is up over at Happy Nice Time People and the gist is — WOW as John Watson might put it on his blog. It was totally awesome and I say that despite some minor criticisms of the first two — like the time the screen went white when the tube-bomb was about to go off and suddenly we’re in a flash forward? sideways? back? — who knows with  Sherlock was explaining to Anderson how he faked his death (Was that a shout out to Lost?) and also the rest of the tube-bomb scene with John saying some very unJohn like words and Sherlock turning the off switch (spoiler) — that was pretty lame,  and then the cold open first minutes of The Sign of the Three, when we got Greg and Sally running around on a case that had absolutely nothing to do with anything and was all an elaborate set up for a lame joke about Sherlock’s being best man. But there was nothing like that in the finale. Just non-stop surprises, shout-outs, and some of the best and funniest lines and dialogues on either side of the pond.  [SPOILER ALERT:]Some haters critics will complain that Sherlock forgave Mary too easily for shooting him, that even if her intent had been to stop him and she was an excellent shot, he still could have died and seemed to have a pretty long recovery, but that’s Sherlock. This is a man who would have taken a pill offered him by a serial killer just to prove a point. He got that she’d done it to protect John and anyone who’d go to such lengths to protect John is worth protecting or at least forgiving.

So go over to HNTP and read the recap, or go to PBS and watch it now — free and legal — on your favorite electronic device.

(Marion doesn’t spend all her time watching television. She also writes novels and novellas. You can buy her entire oeuvre for less than a grande fancy coffee drink at Starbucks.)

Tags: , , ,

Marion on January 29th, 2014

I didn’t know Pete Seeger personally although he knew so many people that I’m one-degree separated via about a dozen folks I can think of off-hand if you count knowing on a scale from actual neighbors and colleagues in arms, to people active enough in various causes that he knew them and greeted them by name.

This little love letter is not being written for Americans – we know what we lost, but for readers in other places whose picture of America and its people has been distorted, for those who see the worst of us on television and other media and mistake that for the majority.

Pete was a beacon in the darkest times – by which I don’t just mean the War in Vietnam and the struggle for Civil Rights – but Mourning in America – the lost years that began even before Ronald Rayguns and continued after him. A time when it seemed to some of us that many had given up, when the southern strategy was fully adopted by a Republican party that had decided divide and conquer was a legitimate way to win elections, when urban America was no longer considered “real” America by the rural heartland and city-folk were equally dismissive of their country brethren, when our government continued both clandestinely and overtly to fight the cold war (which Reagan did not “win” by the way) through proxies in the mountains and jungles of Guatemala, El Salvador and various other places in the world where right-wing juntas declared war on their own people in the name of free-markets.

Pete was there. And by there I mean ubiquitous. He seemed to show up at every single demonstration, always buoying our spirits and bringing together crowds whose agendas were to say the least disparate. He’d not only sing a few songs, he’d sing the right songs – the ones we needed to hear and he’d make us all sing along and even harmonize. He might not have held the stage the longest, but he was a leader. There was patter and anecdote as well, and overall an amazingly American can-do spirit, that wasn’t so much soppy optimism, as a simple faith that MLK Jr got it right about the arch of history, but we also had within each of us the power to speed justice along a little bit, especially when we raised our voices together.

I still remember something he said between songs at some DC march – was it Nicaragua or El Salvador? Maybe it was nuclear freeze or something else. He talked about how certain right-wing types thought if you let Nicaragua go socialist then the next thing to go would be Guatemala and El Salvador and they called this the domino theory and it was why we lost so many for nothing in Vietnam, and who knows after Central America it would spread to Mexico and then to Texas and even Washington DC. Pete paused for a moment, and then said slyly, “if only it were that easy.”

Of course it isn’t, but he taught us if you keep marching year after year and long after it’s no longer in fashion, and you keep speaking out at injustice, signing petitions, talking to your neighbors, and dredging the garbage in your river, and you never stop singing, you’ll get there eventually and you won’t be alone.

(And btw, over at Facebook there’s a page asking for Governor Cuomo to name the new Tappan Zee Bridge after Seeger. This would be both awesome and appropriate as the bridge is just a bit south of Beacon, NY where Seeger lived, and it’s over the Hudson river which he spent many years trying (mostly successfully) to clean. So why don’t you go over there now and “like.” What’s not to like?)

Tags: , ,