Jeff was a little hesitant when I told him we were going to watch a Handel opera. The last time we caught his Hercules at the Lyric, we left at intermission, bored senseless by the endless repetition and glacial moving plot. We’d better order coffee, he said worriedly, when we placed our dessert orders at Cafe Boulud.
But we needn’t have worried much. As expected, there was a ton of reiterations of sentiments. But the story line was tight and moved along at a good pace. We wished there was more than one duet though – it was lovely hearing the blending of the voices of the soprano and countertenor in Io t’Abbraccio. I guess duets (and trios and quartets and choruses) are a rare thing in Baroque opera. It’s definitely interesting to see the development of the operatic styles through the ages. In Rodelinda, all actions completely grind to a stop while the character sings his/her aria vs. in Wagner’s operas where the music is conceived as a “continuous melody” and the arias drive the story along.
That evening we caught the opera, the Lyric released an announcement stating that it had appointed Renee Fleming’s personal manager into the newly created position of Director of Public Relations. My initial reaction – she’s not secure enough as Creative Director? Or is she trying to maneuver her way into the top job at the Lyric? She definitely has a ton of influence, not only at the Lyric, but at the Met, where she convinced the company to produce the Rodelinda opera for her back in 2004. The opera is not that much a soprano showcase however – all characters had long and demanding parts.
We had a solid cast to watch that evening. We greatly enjoyed Fleming’s singing, especially in the duet aria with tenor Joseph Kaiser. Stephanie Blythe, with her powerful voice, is always a delight to listen to. The two countertenors were great too, and we were very impressed with Iestyn Davies – his voice seemed stronger at times than Andreas Scholl. The Classical Review has a great review here.
Oh, and I love, love, love the seats at the Met. I’ve only been there two other times before. The first, I bought a standing ticket to the double bill, Rusticana and Pagliacci; the second, I had orchestra-level seats at the back. This time, we bought tickets in the front center of the family circle, and had excellent views. The seats were spaced generously apart, so we didn’t have to squash our knees into the backs of the seats in front of us, nor had to lean forward to peer over the heads of the people in front of us. I’ve greatly enjoyed watching the close-up live in HD performances at the Met, but it’s something special to sit and take in the entire wide stage at a glance. Oh for another weekend trip to catch another opera live!