Saturday, April 04, 2009

Passion Punch

Sam Shirakawa was at the Met on Tuesday evening for the season premiere of L'elisir d'amore. Here's his squib:


MARCH 31,2009

When the Metropolitan Opera mounts a good production, new or old, there’s nothing like it.

On Tuesday night, the delightful setting of Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore by John Copley and Beni Montresor returned to the schedule with Angela Gheorghiu as the village belle Adina and Massimo Giordano stepping in for the ailing Ramon Villazon as Nemorino.

There was little doubt beforehand, that Gheorghiu would succeed. What I found surprising was how well she succeeded. If the reports that she can be a vixen are true, she certainly has channeled that penchant into an irresistibly coquettish Adina. She moves about the stage as if she owns it, interacts both musically and dramatically with her colleagues, as though she’s known them forever, all the while making flawless runs up and down the scale. Thinking back on her glamorous but somehow vague portrayal of Magda in La Rondine earlier this season, she seems infinitely more comfortable as Adina. I for one am dreading her Carmen, set for next season. Don’t do it, love! Don't! If you must do it, have them replace the Card Scene number with “Dunque io son...?” You know-- that thing from The Barber of Seville?

While some critics seemed to miss Villazon on Tuesday -- he’s supposed to be back for future performances -- Giordano proved to be an able deputy. His voice is big bright and flexible, and he too has comedic talent. But a peculiarity in his coloratura technique is worth mentioning: Certain notable sopranos of the past, Leyla Gencer, for instance, may have gotten away with aspirating vowels --- instead of ah-ah-ah-ah (correct), ha-ha-ha-ha. But Giordano sounds as though he’s just hyperventilating. Otherwise, he has the right stuff and delivered an unusually impassioned “Una furtiva lagrima.”

Simone Alaimo meanwhile aspirates a quantum of fun with every word he utters as Dulcamara and with every move he makes. Franco Vassallo embodies an attractive pre-nuptial foil as Sergeant Belcore. Ying Huang sounds like an aspiring big-league Adina.

It’s easy to dismiss any conductor leading L’Elisir as a timekeeper, but Maurizio Benini’s light touch with tempi laced the passion punch with plenty of Asti.

Hard as it may be to believe, the lovely storybook sets by the late Beni Montresor (1926-2001) date from 1991. Some sets at the Met, thankfully, never look outdated.

© Sam H Shirakawa

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