New York offered a real panoply of opera this April: Cosi fan Tutte, Lucia di Lammermoor, Turandot, Romeo and Juliette, Luisa Miller, Cendrillon and Tosca at the Met along with Bernstein’s Candide at Carnegie Hall. Ms Netrebko’s Tosca was a high point and the only time we saw the Met actually sold out. Her very fine tenor husband Yusif Eyvazov played Cavaradossi since Marcelo Alvarez had pulled out. We also heard Exteminating Angel, Lucia and Luisa Miller on the Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts while we were in the city.
Our Cosi fan tutte matinee was spoiled by jet-lag so we were fortunate to get ‘rush’ seats a couple of weeks later, getting much more out of the brilliant up-dating to 1960s Coney Island fun fair and adjacent ‘Skyline Motel’ in Brooklyn. The sometimes problematic story line became slightly MORE believable - the girls not recognising their own lovers … some of the audience might have been in the same boat, such was the transformation of handsome uniformed naval officers into boyish Brooklyn denim dandies. Broadway star Kelli O’Hara played the scheming maid Despina while accomplished baritone Christopher Maltman played Don Alfonso, patron to the four lovers.The final season performance of Turandot may well spell the end of the wonderful grand production set in the forbidden city of Beijing. Many of the old productions have been replaced into the ‘close-up’ world of HD telecasts, Aida and La Boheme remaining from the previous Met dynasties. Martina Serafin was stunning at Turadot but Marcelo Alvarez has been having vocal problems after losing some weight, or so we were told, and his Calaf was under-par. Liu was Hei-Kyung Hong a stalwart of the Met for decades and she did not disappoint with a most touching legato display of vocal and dramatic skills.
We attended the first (ever) performance of Massenet’s Cendrillon (Cinderella) at the Met. It had three of the world’s top mezzo-sopranos, Alice Coote, Joyce deDonato and Stephanie Blythe in an absolutely brilliant production … yet the opera fell flat for me just as Don Quichotte and Thais had recently. Perhaps I am not a Massenet person. I just can’t imagine why he chose to put neither a baritone nor a tenor into a serious opera. Others have substituted a male for Prince Charming since, but not at The Met where ‘come scritto’ is the rule. The hen-pecked father was excellent French bass Laurent Nouri. He also plays old Capulet in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliette.Cendrillon dragged on for 4 long acts, each a dream of the following one. All I could think of was Rossini’s Cenerentola which had more glorious melodic invention in its overture than Massenet’s entire piece. A singer friend told me afterwards that it is more a ballet-person’s opera than a singer’s. Are there any well known arias from Cendrillon?
A New York Times critique of Placido Domingo aged about 80 in Luisa Miller is worth reading on its own https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/01/arts/music/review-placido-domingo-met-opera-luisa-miller.html . This brilliant piece of writing likens Domingo’s feat to Federer winning a grand slam ten years hence. As well as performing the father in Luisa Miller, Domingo was also conducting Romeo and Juliette! A phenomenon of operatic history. We enjoyed the performance greatly having first heard Aprile Millo in Rome as Luisa Miller with Alberto Cupido playing the tenor role about 25 years ago (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d92LLNchYc )A fraction of balance was added to our grand opera schedule was Bernstein’s Candide at Carnegie Hall where Erin Morley was a magnificent Gunegonde … she will sing Woodbird next year in the Ring I believe. Her Glitter and Be Gay was like the Queen of the Night on steroids. It was an unexpected privilege by chance to meet sopranos Pretty Yende and Camilla Nyland (quite separately) each in relaxed circumstances far from their costumes, roles, critics, agents, etc in the Met foyers. Only in New York.