[What’s better than a mezzo a pants (or kilts, as it were)? – A mezzo in pants getting the mezzo in skirts at the end! – And what’s even better than that? The mezzo in pants trumping not one, but two tenor romantic rivals in the process. Behold Joyce DiDonato (Elena) and Daniela Barcellona (Malcolm) in Rossini’s Sir Walter Scott stravaganza, “La donna del lago”, New York/MET 2015. – Photo Credit: screencaps from the HD telecast; click to enlarge]
As far as White Shirt operas go, “La donna del lago” should be an easy favorite: not one, but two mezzos, with some spectacular mezzo-on-mezzo love-duet-singing.
Fine, there’s a whole lot of tenor singing, too, indicative of the fact that the glorious (if much too short) era of the contralto musico (no more castrato, not yet the tenors: hot contraltos in pants ruled the stud stage) would already coming to a close in the 1840s, but it’s beautiful tenor singing, and in either case, the mezzo goes home with THE OTHER MEZZO. I don’t think there’s much repertory that can compare to that little twist.
It’s like Amneris hitting on Carmen, who then decides to settle down at Luxor. Or Rigoletto‘s Maddalena opening a shady demi-monde business with Ulrica of Un ballo in maschera (they will take on Oscar as a bellhop). Or Fricka dusting off her horns and deciding to take up shop in the souterrain with Erda, cooking potluck and practicing much more primordial beliefs.
Either way, back to Rossini. While the Paul Curran production, to me, was not that much to write home about (blue-painted pseudo-shamans? Really?) and I would have enjoyed a setting that was not “oh, ye olde Scotia, but streamlined”, there were still two points very much worth the watching:
1) The singing. Dear God, the singing. DiDonato and Barcellona and Flórez and Osborn, oh my.
2) Singers who can act being allowed to do their thing (while being set in more-or-less period decor wearing more-or-less period garb). Case in question: most of all, DiDonato. She can cut a very convincing Romeo (am I going to be over that any time soon? Nope. Not a chance.), but she can just as well sell the young girl in love who is simply swooning in the presence of her favorite Scottish warrior.
It’s an age-old adage that any butch is only ever going to look as butch as the femme at her side makes her look, and I was reminded of that during the grand mezzo-mezzo duet here: DiDonato turns Barcellona into a swashbucking hero with nothing but a blink of her eye, with the way her hand curls into a shirtfront, and with just the right tilt of her head.
There’s a shot sequence where she marvels how her hands fits into “his”, and it’s enough to raise the temperature in the house by a few degrees. Viewers of the telecast, you know what I mean (there’s till no YT leak, but I keep looking for a clip of the duet).
So here’s for the mezzo getting the mezzo, which is like having your White Shirt cake and eating it, too. And in the spirit of that, I could – of course – not settle for just one screencap, so have a few more: