[Met Performance] CID:353483
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Armida {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/12/2010., Sirius and XM Broadcast live
Streamed at metopera.org

(Debut: Graciela Daniele, Yeghishe Manucharyan, Teele Ude

Metropolitan Opera House
April 12, 2010 Broadcast/Streamed

Metropolitan Opera Premiere


Armida..................Renée Fleming
Rinaldo.................Lawrence Brownlee
Goffredo................John Osborn
Gernando................José Manuel Zapata
Ubaldo..................Kobie van Rensburg
Carlo...................Barry Banks
Eustazio................Yeghishe Manucharyan [Debut]
Astarotte...............Keith Miller
Idraote.................Peter Volpe
Love....................Teele Ude [Debut]
Revenge.................Isaac Scranton
Ballet Rinaldo..........Aaron Loux

Violin solo, David Chan
Cello solo, Rafael Figueroa

Conductor...............Riccardo Frizza

Production..............Mary Zimmerman
Designer................Richard Hudson
Lighting Designer.......Brian MacDevitt
Choreographer...........Graciela Daniele [Debut]
Associate Choreographer.Daniel Pelzig

Armida received ten performances this season

Production gift of The Sybil B. Harrington Endowment Fund

Broadcast live on Sirius and XM Metropolitan Opera Radio
Streamed at metopera.org

Production photos of Armida by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of William R. Braun in OPERA NEWS

In the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Rossini's "Armida," director Mary Zimmerman did well by her prima donna, Renée Fleming, but not by the composer. The history of Rossini's serious operas at the Met would make a very brief, embarrassing volume. Amends of a sort were made on April 12, when "Armida" was given its first-ever production. "Ermione" and "Tancredi," never done at the Met, have a better claim on the company's resources, and "Guillaume Tell" not played since 1931, is exactly the kind of work the Met should be doing. But there is some fine music in "Armida," much of it involving the heroine's pleasure palace in Act II. The score was performed uncut: even the full ballet was done. (Aaron Loux, the principal danseur, has a magnetic stage personality.) The music was in the sympathetic hands of conductor Riccardo Frizza, who has an unerring sense of tempo. The many tripartite numbers in the score always built to a conclusion that was musically satisfying and invigorating, but never senselessly fast. Singers could push ahead or linger, and Frizza was also a fine partner in Rafael Figueroa's sleek cello solos. His gestures were clear, but they never had a sharpness that might have caused the plush orchestral tone to harden. Let's hope he'll be invited back some day to do "Semiramide," the only one of Rossini's "opere serie" to appear at the house in recent memory.

Richard Hudson's design placed the action in front of a curved wall - a happy choice acoustically, but one that negated contrasts that the composer expected. At Rossini's glamorous music for the transformation to Armida's realm - a moment that may have inspired "Amami, Alfredo" in "La Traviata," and one for which Rossini, cunningly, reserved the female voices of the chorus for half the evening - a fake ceiling was dropped down, putting us inside rather than outside. It was short measure for the worth of the music.

In a sense, director Mary Zimmerman did well by her prima donna. Renée Fleming's Armida was given a coy is-it-she-or-isn't-it-she entrance, plus a cupid figure who followed her everywhere and did her bidding. The great variations of Act II were sung as a concert piece with a golden music stand, a conductor's baton and an adoring onstage audience. The final scene was placed far downstage, inches from the footlights and in front of the show curtain, for optimal star-gazing. But Zimmerman has not done well by the composer. The thumbprint of her staging is a busyness that trivializes music Rossini intended to be noble and mocks music he intended to be fantastical. During the first few minutes of Act I, a scene of mourning, we had jauntily jogging soldiers, the use of Dudon's tomb as a parade float, the cheerful distribution of black armbands, and some foot-tapping. The start of Act II, with distinctly unmenacing Lycra-clad demons, was indistinguishable from "Cats." The music for the beginning of Act III, a delightful, piccolo-tinged depiction of breezes, became the accompaniment to a pantomime of three nymphs and a bad-boy demon on the morning after. Zimmerman mistook snark for charm, and choreographer Graciela Daniele seconded her. The "vivace" moment of the ballet featured tutu-sporting he-man devils with horns and tails.

"Armida" is known as the opera with six tenor roles, and the Met did not ask anyone to double up. Two of the tenors, Kobie van Rensburg (Ubaldo) and Barry Banks (Carlo), found the idyllic pastorale of Act III to be unexpectedly heavy sledding. Yeghishe Manucharyan (Eustazio), the lone debutant, has a small, but attractive, voice that he wisely did not overtax. John Osborn's solid, straightforward Goffredo blossomed when he led the "Or che faro" section of the quartet, and Jose Manuel Zapata (Gernando), who had the most fluent coloratura, also had sterling intonation. Lawrence Brownlee's Rinaldo offered some of the least unpleasant high Cs in the business, and he tossed in a couple of Ds as well. However, Rinaldo is by far the longest of the tenor roles, and one wanted a greater variety of expression and color as the nearly four-hour evening progressed. Brownlee's stage presence is rudimentary rather than commanding, and he is a diminutive man, so his scene of rage at the end of Act I was not credible.

The logic behind the booing of homegrown new Met productions in recent years has been perplexing, but the first night of "Armida" added two new wrinkles. Two seasons ago, Zimmerman's lightly revisionist "Lucia di Lammermoor" incited a faction of booers. John Doyle's failure to bring a coherent theatrical representation of "Peter Grimes" to the Met stage was given a free pass in 2008, but Zimmerman's 2009 staging of "La Sonnambula" -a slight opera, hardly deserving of the reverence that we give the Dead Sea Scrolls, was booed mercilessly. The Met audience is very protective of Fleming, rewarding her for reliably singing her roles in the way she sings. Fleming's vocalism - the buffing out of any edge or definition, the relentless covering of the tone, the skirting of emotional outbursts - may make her curious casting for a vengeful heroine, or for any bel canto heroine, but it has made her beloved. It's hard to believe that anyone could be booed while holding Renée Fleming's hand, but Zimmerman was. (There was also a scattered bravo or two, and she was smiling.) But the crowd had thinned noticeably by Act III. Perhaps more people chose to show their disapproval in this alternate manner.

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