Tuesday, March 3, 2009

La Sonnambula-- Booing, NYC, Booing? Really?

La Sonnambula
Originally uploaded by Alta Marie
Drake and I have gone to see two operas this week at the Met and couldn't be happier. We would love to be able to go once a week all the time.

On Saturday we saw Adriana Lecouvreur grace of the Met Weekend Ticket Drawing wherein you can enter to win the right to purchast two orchestra level seats for $25. Such a deal. Then last night we waited to buy rush tickets for the premiere of La Sonnambula.

This is the second time that I've encountered booing at the Met. The first (I thought) was an entirely warranted after a very bad (flat, and poorly sung) aria in last years Macbeth. This time it caught me totally off guard.

Since the moment Sonnambula was announced last winter I've been psyched to see it, mainly because of Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez in the leading roles. The music is beautiful, and they are at the top of their game. I had no idea that this was a "concept" production, and I'll admit that I rolled my eyes as much as eyes could possible be rolled when I read the Director's note in the program as the lights dimmed last night. I rolled my eyes, but I kept watching...

It's not that horrible a concept, actually. It was diverting, only *occasionally* distracting (as in while sleepwalking Dessay dreamily scrolls "ARIA...." across the blackboard.) Critics are saying that director Mary Zimmerman is insensitive and has done the opera a great disservice. I suppose I have a more theatrical bent than many bel canto fans, but if you're not open to new interpretations, why not just buy a recording? If you didn't know it was a concept interpretation (I didn't) I can perhaps see why you might be upset, but at the same time, you've just heard two really great artists give really great performances. Their singing sure didn't suffer.

Maybe it's because I very distinctly feel that we're in the process of defining the landscape of the next 10 years of opera that I resent the fact that this production was booed. The financial stakes have changed. The past 10 years have seen many new productions, and companies have been able to take chances on more 20th century work, and less "popular" work. We can already see that for the 2009-2010 seasons many opera houses are streamlining their seasons, and bringing back the classics. I bet that in addition to less focus on 20th Century opera, we'll also see a whole lot less Handel, and a whole lot less of whatever people run around booing.

Was it that awful? If you go to the opera to hear the voices, the answer is clearly no. Both Florez and Dessay received rapturous applause and standing ovations. If you go to the opera to see compelling theater, then don't boo new productions, or we'll never get to see them. I love Zeferelli as much as the next girl, but give the 21st century a chance! This is nothing in terms of modern updates... I mean have you not seen what happens in Germany???

Maybe that's what people are afraid of. Maybe that's why they booed. I acknowledge that there is a big difference between a "modern updated production" and a "good production." But, there is also a difference between a production worth seeing and a production worth booing.

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