Friday, May 04, 2007

New York Philharmonic - Lorin Maazel, Conductor; Anne-Sophie Mutter, Violin. April 28, 2007.

Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. First Tier Center (Seat DD13, $59).

Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b (1806) by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).
Violin Concerto (1935) by Alban Berg (1885-1935).
Andante - Allegretto
Allegro - Adagio
Chant du rossignol: Poeme symphonique (Song of the Nightingale: Symphonic Poem; 1913-14; 1917) by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971).
Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2 (1909-12; 1913) by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
General Dance

A few observations. This is close to the end of the season, and it is the first time we see Maazel conducting. What's going on? He has to take on guest conducting assignments at other orchestras to supplement his generous Philharmonic salary?

The Berg concerto was a bit beyond me. I read that he composed in the 12-tone scale a la Schoenberg. Technically it appears quite challenging, musically I alas don't appreciate.

Mutter's dress was a bit flashy - I'd call the color orange, others may call it peach. I am sure she performed on one of the two Strads she owns, but the tone was uncharacteristically muted.

Leonore eventually evolved into Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera. It sounded very familiar, but I couldn't find it on my iPod. I get that confused with the Egmont overtures, oftentimes.

This concert is reviewed by the New York Times, for those who can't wait ...

New York City Opera – Verdi's La traviata – April 21, 2007.

New York State Theater at Lincoln Center First Ring, Seat B13 ($112.50).

Conductor – George Manahan; Violetta Valery – Anne Sophie Duprels, Flora Bervoix – Heather Johnson, Alfredo Germont – Bruce Sledge, Giorgio Germont – Michael Corvino, Dr. Grenvil – Eric Jordan.

Story: Violetta, a courtesan, falls in love with Alfredo and the two live together. To support themselves, Violetta has to sell off her possessions without telling Alfredo. Alfredo's father Giorgio visits Violetta and asks her to leave his son so he can reclaim his family's reputation. Violetta obliges but Alfredo mistakes her departure as abandonment. Violetta eventually develops consumption. Finally Alfredo realizes his mistakes and asks Violetta for her forgiveness. Violetta forgives and dies in his arms.

Well, that's how the ending goes most of the time – and I have seen this opera many times. In this production Violetta simply falls to the ground.

La traviata and Carmen are two operas I still haven't grown tired of, and heartily recommend to any first time opera listeners. The stories, while predictable, are captivating and simple to follow. The arias are generally well-known and melodic. While they are tragedies, they are not overtly “moral”. You can empathize with the various characters, but you don't feel the need to judge the characters, or the traits they represent. The villain Giorgio redeems himself at the end by trying to reconcile Violetta and Alfredo; and he was not evil as Scarpia in Tosca or Delilah in Samson and Delilah.

The sets for this opera were reasonably elaborate by NYC Opera standards. A couple of years ago we saw the production by the Met, which was quite opulent.

Well, the NYC Opera isn't the Met, and Anne Sophie Duprels isn't Renee Fleming either. Fleming sang the part of Violetta at the Met performance we saw. I am sure Duprels is an excellent soprano, and she reached the high notes comfortably. However, she could only reach those notes by force, rather that the soft pianissimo a great soprano seems to reach effortlessly. The opera rises and falls on the performance of the heroine, so the performance was – adequate.

Alfredo and Giorgio also put in adequate performances. However, at times Giorgio's voice was particularly weak.

The interlude scenes of gypsy dancers and bull fighters are sometimes incongruent with the flow of the story. I found both to be quite enjoyable, even they were not trying to do as much as, say, the Met. The lead Gypsy dancer's performance was especially good.

The Chinese title for this opera is “Lady of Camellia”. Alfredo offers the flower to Violetta when he first meets her, and brings a flower to her at the end. It didn't happen in this one.

Despite my mixed review, I still would recommend this opera to others. And I won't mind seeing it again myself either.

The New York Times reviewer was struggling a bit with what to say about a so-so performance of a great opera also. There is an interesting description of the last New York City production.

We met up with Anna and Kenneth after the opera (it was a matinee) for dinner at Old Homstead Restaurant, famous for its $41 Kobe Beef Hamburger. We were pleasantly surprised that most of their beef dishes are around $40 (exception is the Kobe Steak at $195). The leftover from Anne's prime rib fed the two of us for another two days.

A very pleasant spring day to spend in New York.