[Met Concert/Gala] CID:350006
A Celebration of Giuseppe Verdi. Evening ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 09/24/2001.

(Opening Night {117}
Joseph Volpe, General Manager
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
September 24, 2001
Opening Night {117}

Joseph Volpe, General Manager


GALA PERFORMANCE

A CELEBRATION OF GIUSEPPE VERDI


The Star Spangled Banner

Remarks:
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Joseph Volpe


Un Ballo in Maschera: Act I

Amelia..................Deborah Voigt
Riccardo................Neil Shicoff
Renato..................Frederick Burchinal
Ulrica..................Larissa Diadkova
Oscar...................Youngok Shin
Samuel..................Paul Plishka
Tom.....................Jeffrey Wells
Silvano.................Mark Oswald
Judge...................Bernard Fitch
Servant.................Tony Stevenson

Conductor...............James Levine


Otello: Act III

Otello..................Plácido Domingo
Desdemona...............Veronica Villarroel
Iago....................Nikolai Putilin
Emilia..................Jane Bunnell
Cassio..................Paul Charles Clarke
Lodovico................Robert Lloyd
Roderigo................Bernard Fitch
Herald..................Rodion Pogossov

Conductor...............James Levine


Rigoletto: Act III

Rigoletto...............Franz Grundheber
Gilda...................Youngok Shin
Duke of Mantua..........Roberto Aronica
Maddalena...............Daniela Barcellona
Sparafucile.............Sergei Koptchak

Conductor...............James Levine


Review of John W. Freeman in the January 2002 issue of OPERA NEWS

The Metropolitan Opera opened the 2001-02 season with a star-studded tribute to Verdi

In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack, the Met decided to offer a benefit preview performance, on Saturday, September 22, of its opening-night program, both in the house and via large-screen television to an audience estimated at 3,000 in Lincoln Center Plaza. On opening night, Monday, September 24, general manager Joseph Volpe, joined onstage by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, announced that the event - with all participants donating their services, and substantial grants from Deutsche Bank and Chevron Texaco - had raised more than $2.5 million for disaster relief. At a moment when some might have judged the arts temporarily irrelevant, the company proved the contrary.

Opening night, billed as a tribute to Verdi, was a trio of isolated acts from his operas, all conducted by artistic director James Levine, an inveterate Verdian. Act I (both scenes) of "Un Ballo in Maschera" began the proceedings, with Neil Shicoff in the lead as Gustavo/Riccardo. This tenor has always been a sort of Glenn Gould of song, risking eccentricity to test his interpretive ideas. In recent years, he has reached a modus vivendi with Romantic/heroic tradition without sacrificing his individuality. There are still grimaces and impulsive gestures, but a sense of grand line imbues enough of his singing to make the details less distracting. He made it clear, for example, that Gustavo's laughing off Ulrica's prophecy was real, not a cover-up for hidden foreboding: this Gustavo was too offhand and self-assured for his own good, as the rest of the opera bears out. An easier, more lyrical delivery would have helped this dramatic concept.

Deborah Voigt, in her brief, anguished turn, floated Amelia's spinto lines with poignancy and arching flight. Youngok Shin, scarcely audible at first, made a shiny if not very brassy Oscar, Larissa Diadkova a powerful but not very mysterious Ulrica, Frederick Burchinal, a firm-voiced, dramatically generic Anckarström/Renato. To some extent, however, everyone onstage was disadvantaged by Piero Faggioni's silly production (staged here by Gina Lapinski). In Scene 1, the problem lay mostly in the deployment of characters - for example, Anckarström confidentially warning Gustavo at a distance of about twenty feet, in full hearing of courtiers advancing from the left rear, or Oscar's yanking off a judge's robe for a prop to dramatize his description of Ulrica's prophecies. Off to the left stood a mysterious object - the backside of a portrait of Gustavo, perhaps? - covered with a dropcloth, serving no dramatic purpose except to arouse perplexity. In Scene 2, the problem shifted to the set, hokey rather than spooky, distracting and irrelevant rather than intimate. When Oscar arrived, dressed like an usher in a 1930s movie palace, there was no hint of the courtiers' being in disguise for this adventure.

Act III of "Otello" had the opposite effect. This production, designed by Michael Yeargan and directed by Elijah Moshinsky (here staged by David Kneuss), isn't without problems, but its Act III, grandest and most crowded of the four, addresses the work's tactical needs resourcefully. The multilevel set works well, opening to the outdoors for the concluding ensemble, with the principals advantageously positioned, both acoustically and dramatically, for their solos and exchanges.

Plácido Domingo, whose timing for the title role is by now instinctive, acted and sang with spontaneity while artfully focusing his strength on the key moments - the monologue "Dio! mi potevi," for example, or the searing outcry "A terra! e piangi," delivered with concentrated power. Veronica Villarroel sang Desdemona with a dramatically effective tension between demure innocence and verismo intensity, while Nikolai Putilin's only difficulty was in making Iago seem agreeable and trustworthy. He was simply too intent on evildoing to hide it, and for this the librettist, Arrigo Boito, must shoulder some of the blame, having added a metaphysical dimension to the character's motivation.

The chief interest of "Rigoletto," Act III, was the thoughtfully judged, well-coached delivery of the title role by Franz Grundheber, who made the words count while paying his dues to the ground rules of bel canto. This was not a Rigoletto intent on stunning the gallery - though he did sing the traditionally interpolated high notes - but a conflicted, suffering father faced with the boomerang effect of his own hubris. As Gilda, Hei-Kyung Hong also made the effort to portray a girl fatally trapped between a rock and a hard place. The soprano's clear tones and soaring lines showed both her torment and her resolution. As her unworthy Duke, Roberto Aronica offered a clear, steady tenor in the "can belto" manner, his pitch fraying at the edges from the stress. Daniela Barcellona (house debut) made a lusty Maddalena, putting some weight into her argument with the thoughtfully nuanced Sparafucile of Sergei Koptchak to spare the Duke. The Otto Schenk production, staged by Sharon Thomas in Zack Brown's ominous set, held no surprises or mysteries, save the appearance from nowhere of silent accomplices to carry Gilda's sack.




Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).