Mezzo Alert: Seien wir wieder gut! “Ariadne” live from the MET

From trouser role to trouser role: after DiDonato’s Isolier I can’t really imagine her debut as the Composer in Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos” at the MET today will be anything other than good. Or, quite possibly, better than good. She has been cultivating a bit of a dramatic edge and she has the diction (proven in song multiple times), so I’m curious to see what she’ll make of it.

There are no photos floating around the interwebs as of yet, so I’m falling back on another of those Diva/Divo stills – I hope we can rectify that for White Shirt Monday.

Once more, BBC3 proves to be our favorite radio station for broadcasting yet another MET matinee (and I’m already psyched about next week’s “Walküre” – Westbroek as Sieglinde!!).

Next to DiDonato, Violeta Urmana (Ariadne) and Kathleen Kim (Zerbinetta) star as the two opposing models of relationship philosophy. Robert Dean Smith sings Bacchus, Fabio Luisi conducts. As the second female trio, we can count on Audrey Luna (Najade), Tamara Mumford (Dryade) and Lei Xu (Echo).

Tune in for the broadcast at 7 p.m. (GMT+1) here (and you can try whether HD Audio is available in your area here).

11 thoughts on “Mezzo Alert: Seien wir wieder gut! “Ariadne” live from the MET”

  1. Excellent reading by Maestro Luisi today, and a very human (and humane) Composer from Joyce DiDonato. I was a bit concerned that she was pushing her voice at the beginning of the Prologue, but she was wonderful during the more lyrical sections of the piece. I loved her “Musik ist ein helige Kunst”–you could sense that she was caressing the words. During her intermission interview she admitted that the adrenaline was really flowing, and that she gave Luisi quite a workout in keeping up with her. I was impressed by Violetta Urmana (which I hadn’t been before), and even Kathleen Kim, whom I saw as Zerbinetta last season, managed to sing (mostly) in tune and without the vocal fakery she usually uses in the role (Sorry, but I’ve seen Beverly Sills and Natalie Dessay in the role, so my “Ariadne” standards are pretty high). All in all, a delightful afternoon on the radio dial.


  2. Now there’s a game. Heard live: Price, Battle, Mentzer, Lakes, Prey, Levine, at Ravinia (concert version); heard ever: Janowitz, Gruberova, Schmidt, Kollo, Berry, Böhm, from Vienna; seen ever: Polaski, Dessay, Graham, Villars, Dohnanyi, from Salzburg–but haven’t seen the Böhm DVD yet and must do that.
    Of all the great houses, the Met seems to have the worst microphone placement, as if in the prompter’s box. Footsteps were clear, but high notes vanished overhead. Was HD any better? Liked the orchestra very much, and Luisi’s command. He got the jokes right, too.


    1. Great game, Fitz: I started with Claire Watson and Beverly Sills with Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony in a concert presentation of the original version of “Ariadne” (no prologue), in which Zerbinetta’s aria is about 5 minutes longer than the one we hear today. Over the years I’ve heard Johanna Meier, Jessye Norman, Deborah Voight (3x) and Nina Stemme as Ariadne; Troyanos, Mentzer and Connolly as the Composer; Battle, Dessay and Kim, among others, as Zerbinetta. Most of the performances at the Met were conducted by Levine, but in all honesty I preferred Luisi’s reading.

      I agree with you about mike placement at the Met, and you’re correct about their location–right at the lip of the stage. Additional mikes must be used for the HD telecasts because the sound is far better both in placement and depth.


      1. And I see that the Leinsdorf/Sills/Watson is now on DVD, so that’s two DVDs I have to get hold of. (I sound like Count von Count.) Thanks, Chirper!


        1. Enjoy the bubble hairdos, Fitz! I think this was taped in Boston–the performance I saw was at Carnegie Hall.


  3. Alas, there was no HD, but i was in the house. My sister and i agreed Joyce was – all in all – the best composer we’d seen (of 6 or 7 in my past, INCLUDING the divine Troyanos). Luisi was very good, as he’s been in the past. The Met and its audiences will be lucky if he is offered – and takes – the job as successor of some sort to James Levine. Levine’s continuing physical problems are not likely to go away at his age (+weight+lifestyle), so the sooner Peter Gelb deals with the situation (Levine surely will NOT), the better for EVERYONE. Levine officially cancelled all his coming engagements yesterday; he should be named Artistic and Musical Director Emeritus before 2011-23 starts. PLEASE!


    1. Jeep, I couldn’t agree with you more about the Luisi/Levine situation. I think Levine’s physical ails are not confined to his back, and that he’s a lot sicker than we’ve been told–he looks like a frail old man. Logically the end of next season would be a good time for him to bow out–the new Ring will be complete, and he’s already got his 40 years in.

      I also suspect negotiations have been going on for at least a year to free Luisi up as Levine’s permanent replacement. Luisi’s stepping up to the podium on a moment’s notice to conduct “Lulu” last year was a big fat signpost as to where the Met was going. The problem is political–don’t forget, Gelb answers to a Board of Directors, and Levine’s die-hards may still outnumber Gelb’s at this point. However, this latest string of cancellations may be the tipping point. My guess is if Levine does not tender his resignation by the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, the Met management will push him out by the end of this year.


  4. Dear Chirper:
    Indeed Gelb has a board to answer to, but Luisi had conveniently stepped down from Dresden last season JUST before he took on the Met’s Lulu (he was SUPER!) – this was after Dresden had rudely brought in some other maestro for a gala or something like that without consulting him (I’ve forgoten details). He’s already Chief Guest Conductor, and NY would be lucky to get him as MD.
    Except in appearance, Luisi keeps reminding me of Böhm (the Ariadne a case in point)! I remember telling a friend at the NY Times when GELB’s appointment was announced (years ago), that Gelb’s first job would be to deal with Levine – give him an exalted title and one new production a year, keep working with young singers, and start edging him out. One big problem is that Gelb and Levine have the same “Godfather”, the waning management Power Dog Ronald Wilford. Ronald, however, is kind of like Wotan in his chat with Fricka in Walküre (“Daass Ennnnnde!”), so we can only hope he can’t continue his emotional blackmail…
    I love Levine, and indeed both Walküre and Rheingold this spring had that old spark, but it’s time, gentlemen, it’s time. Sad.


    1. Shouldn’t a diva always know when to bow out? 🙂 It’s really sad. I hope I’ll still get to hear his take on the Valkyrie on Saturday, at this point I’m not relying on it. The situation should have been addressed long ago already, preferably in the diplomatic way you mention, Jeep.

      The Luisi/Dresden controversy was, if I remember correctly, about Thieleman having been asked for New Year’s Gala. Interesting comparison between Luisi and Böhm.

      My Ariadnes: in recent productions, Magee (who topped Mosuc and Breedt for me) in the Zurich production by Claus Guth, with Roberto Saccá as Bacchus.
      My current favorite remains the Munich production with Pieczonka, Sindram and Damrau.
      On disc, I remember seeing out the Levine reading with Battle and Norman, whocm I both enjoyed, though the real reason was Troyanos (which I do not have to explain on this blog).
      The first one, either Tomowa-Sintow/Baltsa/Battle (Again Levine) which I got as a gift for some birthday or Christmas, and there was of course Janowitz/Gruberova/Schmidt, of which Gruberova still kills me in teh best sense.
      Oh, and of course there was the wonderful Salzburg (Wieler/Morabito) production on summer festival TV a few years back, with Dessay and Graham and Polaski.

      I don’t have to pick one single favorite, do I?


      1. You don’t even have to offer a defense of your preferences.

        While Levine is under the lens: his refusal to cast Ewing as Carmen at the Met, rumor had it, led to her refusal to sing the Composer at Ravinia. Good for Mentzer, but otherwise a disappointment–and Ewing’s Carmen!


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