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With apologies to DK'er Demi Moaned for filching his past diary series title and mashing it up with my regular series tonight (explanation to be given in the tip jar), it's opera time for this SNLC, where I begin with the question that Demi Moaned would ask:

Anyone see the Met Die Walküre today?

If you didn't, please feel free to skip to the next diary :) .  But if you did, you'll know why I chose this topic for this SNLC.  More below the flip....

First, though, some linky goodness for background on Die Walküre, the "First Day of The Ring of the Nibelungen":

(a) Synopsis from the Wagner Operas page
(b) wikipedia page on the opera
(c) Metropolitan Opera page on their production this season

In fact, come to think of it about this opera, loserness abounds among the characters and the plot twists.  Examples:
(1) Sieglinde is stuck in an unhappy forced marriage with Hunding, and the only amorous happiness she ever has in life proves to be with.....well, just read the synopsis.
(2) Wotan, the head god, is totally caught in a situation where he has to sanction the death of his own son in single combat with Hunding.
(3) Hunding, after striking down Siegmund, gets his from Wotan, without being struck with any weapon.
(4) Brünnhilde, "Daddy's little girl" (as one of the Valkyries, she's one of Wotan's 9 warrior maiden daughters - not to mention half-sister to Sieglinde), by defying Wotan's command not to help Siegmund, pays for it at the end with the loss of her godhead (hence the "Magic Fire" scene).

In this particular production, the director is Robert Lepage, known for productions with Cirque du Soleil, for example.  The main sticking point (well, one of two, the other being James Levine's health) is the massive stage set on which various projections and such can be incorporated, known to one and all as "the machine" (past SNLC on it here).

In fact, "the machine" is apparently the cause of this choice of topic for tonight's SNLC.  I quoted in the earlier SNLC about the machine almost catching a mezzo-soprano during a rehearsal and then not working at the end of Das Rheingold on opening night of that opera back in October.  Apparently the gremlins in "the machine" were back at work again today, because the performance began 40 minutes late.  Daniel Wakin noted this on the NYT's ArtsBeat blog here.  So at least at the movie house where I was, we were not quite twiddling our thumbs, but partly speculating about the reason(s) for the delay, such as:

(a) a malfunction in "the machine"
(b) James Levine having to bail (and probably bringing in Fabio Luisi, the Met's principal guest conductor)
(c) one of the singers getting sick

Well, if we accept the official explanation given in the first intermission feature that mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato (co-host with Placido Domingo for this HD-cast) had with the Met Opera's technical director John Sellars, then (a) was the answer.  (An acquaintance snarkily remarked that the reason was more likely time needed for whatever medication Levine might be on to start working, but never mind.)

Fortunately, once the snafu in "the machine" was worked out, things went pretty well.  Not note-perfect, with the very occcasional obvious brass mini-blooper, but for $22, I'm not complaining.  When I saw the HD-cast of Das Rheingold back in October, knowing of all the $ that had been spent on "the machine" and the Met stage to be able to handle it, after seeing that not a lot seemed to be done with visual imagery, a thought in the back of my head went:  "Is that all that you can do with that ginormous toy?".  This time, however, maybe because I was just used to it being there, that didn't quite bug me as much this time.

Other things differed, happily, compared to the first night, namely:

1. In the HD-cast, Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie of the title) did not lose her footing in her first scene, playing off Bryn Terfel (Wotan, her dad).
2. Perhaps more importantly, the Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek, as Sieglinde, did not fall prey to illness at the HD-cast as she did on opening night.  From my not-very-opera-voice-aficionado POV, I thought that E-MW came through with flying colors.

However, if one singer took home the prize, I would have to go with tenor Jonas Kaufmann, as Siegmund.  I'd never actually heard him in any format whatsoever, but I knew of his strong reputation.  From this performance, his reputation is completely justified.  Excellent, intense singing and fine acting.  He's also a very charismatic interviewee, during the first intermission chat with Placido Domingo with both JK and E-WM (although the former pretty much did most of the talking of the two).  Admittedly, some of his appeal may not be purely musical, if you look at his picture from his webpage.

In addition, given James Levine's health problems (briefly alluded to in this SNLC), he took his bows from the orchestra pit, since he's obviously not in shape to trudge on stage.  That did, however, have the salutary effect of putting the orchestra musicians in the spotlight at the end.

So there we are for a Saturday night, and time for the usual SNLC protocol below, namely your loser stories for the week, which may or may not involve opera or 45-ton pieces of equipment....


Did you see the Met's HD

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Comment Preferences

  •  well, as you can obviously infer.... (9+ / 0-) reason for this choice of topic was that I hadn't actually written this weekend's SNLC in advance, i.e. I had no obvious topic in mind.  This is one of the relatively few "panic", last minute SNLC's that I've written.  I'm sure it shows.

    Besides that, in week 1 of bowling here, didn't win any games. In fact, in one game, we tied with the other team.

    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

    by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 14, 2011 at 07:50:34 PM PDT

  •  greetings! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, chingchongchinaman

    plenty of drama here with the kids today ;-)

    see you all later . . .

  •  A wonderful performance. Except for the very (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, chingchongchinaman

    delayed start (luckily I arrived 15 minutes after the scheduled start time) and trouble hearing the intermission features (I'll go to a different venue next time; I wasn't the only person complaining about the sound), I thought this was top notch.  Definitely the finest, most reasonable performance I've experienced of this opera.  Sorry I missed HD of "Das Rheingold."  "The Machine" added a lot to this performance, as did the costumes, lighting, and most of the special effects.  And the voices!  Terfel is a very persuasive Wotan.  No wonder Deborah Voigt sd. she had to struggle to be noticed when he is on stage.  Kaufmann, in recital, has a rather gentle voice.  Didn't really see how he could sing over full Met orchestra.  No problem.  

    Must research.  Assuming the mother of Sieglinde and Siegmund is Erde, is the latter of the earth, as opposed to the gods?  Assume so, given her name.  

  •  I always thought that fat lady (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in the viking helmet was singing "Toyota!  Toyota!"  However, I recently discovered that Toyotas didn't even exist back then.

    •  seeing the "Ride of the Valkyries" at the start... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, oculus

      ....of Act III, in the closest to "live" I've experienced, I can understand more so than just from a recording what a visceral thrill that scene must be in a live theater.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 14, 2011 at 08:40:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  we saw die walkure at the met last week (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        i'm so glad for this diary, as i've been trying to find out more about "the machine" since then;

        seeing it live was thrilling; i can't begin to imagine how the thing can look so very different, as the various settings require; it's so massive, yet it changes for the different scenes

        mr. levine was supposed to conduct but didn't; the audience was full (scalia and ginsburg and the secret service were there; mr. hayes saw them) and very appreciative of the conductor and orchestra, as well as the singers

        there were a few glitches:  when the thing was in motion, creaks and squeaks were audible; when the valkyrie were astride it for that powerful ride, one of them slid down a bit; not surprising as it is then at quite a sharp angle and high off the stage

        thanks for all the links, i've finally found all the info i craved


        •  was the performance you saw...... (0+ / 0-)

          .....this one alluded to in that NYT ArtsBeat blog post?  Glad you enjoyed the performance.  I guess the best use of "the machine" came with the Ride of the Valkyries at the start of Act III, IMHO.  In fact, during the 2nd intermission feature, when Placido Domingo was chatting with 4 of the Valkyries (lucky guy), one of the ladies mentioned that she had to tie up her costume because at a rehearsal, it got caught up in the machine, or something to that effect.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 15, 2011 at 08:50:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yes it was (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            and even though there were moments when the machine distracted, i thought its affect was consonant with the music: majestic, dramatique, awesome

            •  have you seen a lot of other operas..... (0+ / 0-)

              .....@ the Met?  I know someone who was actually at opening night of Das Rheingold, when "the machine" failed at the end.

              Speaking of notable personages at the opera. Justice Ginsburg has been known to attend Santa Fe Opera (and I've seen her and her husband's names on the donor list in the program), as well as Janet Napolitano.  A friend who plays in the orchestra posts on FB occasionally about the presence of such high-profile folks causing delays in leaving that evening.  However, I think in reply that it's at least good that such higher-ups go to the opera.

              "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

              by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 15, 2011 at 05:51:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  yes, we go three times a year (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                have been doing that for 20+ years;

                it's a big deal because we live a hundred miles away

                but the live performance and being in such a crowd is very special; judith kaye, the recently retired chief judge of the nys court of appeals, was there last month; i went up and said hello, as i have been seated next to her at a bar association function, and our conversation revealed much in common

                the idea that ginsburg would want to spend time with scalia is disconcerting, but he's probably very interesting if you keep away from the principle stuff

                •  well, apparently, out of the courtroom.... (0+ / 0-)

                  .....even diametrically opposed SCOTUS justices have been known to get along well on a personal level.

                  Understandable that traveling 100 miles for the opera is a relatively rare treat.  Do you have favorite eateries near the Met?  I keep having to walk farther away to try to find places that I haven't been before, to the point where I've had to break that rule when in a hurry.  Granted, it's been some time since I've been to NYC.

                  "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                  by chingchongchinaman on Mon May 16, 2011 at 09:31:18 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  eateries around lincoln center (0+ / 0-)

                    telepan is excellent and there's a good indian restaurant nearby

                    i was under the impression that you lived in the city

                    •  haven't heard of Telepan (0+ / 0-)

                      I do remember some Indian place on Broadway due south of Lincoln Center, with very fancy decor.  Have you been to Cafe Fiorello's across Broadway from Lincoln Center?

                      No, don't live in NYC (used to, though, long time back).  If  you feel inclined to peruse my past SNLC's, you'll glean where I live.

                      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                      by chingchongchinaman on Wed May 18, 2011 at 06:29:47 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

    •  There were a couple men at the Met today who (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chingchongchinaman, Dumbo

      were filmed wearing viking horns--maybe stuffed.  I wondered how the people seated behind them felt about that headgear.  Bruennhilde's headgear was most subdued.  Could hardly see the tiny horns, which were silver and nestled in her red wig.

      •  that was a surprise, that "traditional" element... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dumbo, oculus

        ....of the shield, though thankfully that didn't extend to the helmet horns, which would have made that a joke.

        "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

        by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 14, 2011 at 08:42:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Just saying hi and then off to bed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    not much sleep here and sorry to be so late.

    "Hi"  :)

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sun May 15, 2011 at 02:18:45 AM PDT

    •  no worries, hope things are well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Could be better with me, but then lots of things could be better (well, one in particular, but that's old news).

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 15, 2011 at 08:51:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Missed this diary the first time around :-( (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Didn't watch the HD, but I listened on radio and then chased down still photos and video clips to see what I'd missed. I'm ambivalent about that behemoth Machine, especially if it's going to malfunction every few performances. It really shouldn't be taking attention away from the cast.

    As Wagnerian ensembles go, this was a pretty good one. Jonas Kaufmann has an unusually "dark" voice for a tenor, even a Wagnerian tenor, but in a role like Siegmund (the ultimate hard-luck kid) this is no bad thing. He's still expanding his repertoire, and we'll see where he goes from here. I've heard better Sieglindes, but Eva-Maria Westbroek wasn't a bad one - and at least she and Kaufmann look like they might possibly be related (I never could get my head around Jessye Norman and what's-his-white-face as "twins"). Stephanie Blythe bodily stole her one scene as Fricka. Deborah Voigt seemed a little lightweight vocally, but good enough, as Brunnhilde. Bryn Terfel really got into his role as Wotan, and if he wasn't the best one ever, he was a long way from the worst. Even Hans-Peter König brought some dignity to the usually throwaway role of Hunding - who does after all have a point, though he would probably not have won in divorce court.

    After hearing him moderate the Opera Quiz, the person I'm most interested in catching up with next season is Eric Owens. If he sings half as well as he talks--!!!

    If it's
    Not your body
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    AND it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Tue May 17, 2011 at 07:22:46 PM PDT

    •  thanks for stopping by (0+ / 0-)

      Do you think you might catch the encore showing?  At least presumably for that, they'll edit out the 40 minute delay.  If nothing else, the HD is worth it for the "Ride of the Valkyries" to watch the Rhinemaidens "ride".  

      Levine did tend to drag things out, it seemed, in the slower parts, so that Act II ran something 1 hour 45 minutes (i.e. he ain't Solti).  But with Kaufmann and Westbroek, no worries there, as you said.  Bryn Terfel certainly made Wotan an angry, tormented fellow.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Wed May 18, 2011 at 06:36:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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