When this flimmsy production premiered four years (?) ago, it wasn’t much to write home about to begin with (other than: “Those wigs? Really? REALLY?).
Last night, I was mad. I had taken a fledgling fan to their first night out at a “big” opera, and to have seen their face light up as they walked into the foyer before, and to then see them walk along quietly, silently, with the spark gone from their eyes as we walked out again, made me mad.
This is not about bad-mouthing singers, you know I don’t do that. If I don’t have anything nice to say, I simply will not say anything at all. But this is venting at the “2nd row” attitude when it comes to core repertory beyond the big names, or when it comes to the fixation on big names that creates nights like last one, nights already set up as “lesser than” in the first place. Not because singers would necessarily be less qualified, but because singers are treated as less important.
Last night, the acting level on stage made me have to revert to negative numbers in description (and it’s hard generally hard to make me drift off in boredom me when there are two mezzos in pants on a stage. Even when the wigs are godawful).
It was a lot of “Now walk left”, if there was walking at all beyond ramp-lining, but I did not see a single “this is why I walk here.”
In my impression, there has not been any serious scenic rehearsal for this series of performances, and the in the majority very young colleagues were left hung out to dry. If the devoted neophyte cannot figure out neither by the acting nor by the singing who is in love with whom, that’s not really a recommendation for the stage work.
A system that hires young voices as B-casts for productions and repertory that they are hardly every trained for scenically, and that they are then supposed to fill on their own with an experience which they simply don’t have, is a recipe for disengaging desaster. Pour some lackluster sauce from the pit onto it (my Bosch kitchenmaker has more passion and a deeper sense of rubato), and you just want to curl up and cry for nearly everyone involved, with the exception of your heart because that has gone to sleep before “Come ti piace imponi” already.
I heard two very young mezzo-sopranos last night, who would both deserve smaller-to-medium house contracts with productions developed with them.
Miriam Albano (*1991, if I did my math right) as Annio has a lovely, light voice, it sits well, there is no strain on it. Someone should hire her for a Cherubino and give her seven weeks of scenic rehearsals because you cannot expect someone who is barely 25 to figure out a big stage in a very uninvolved production on their own. It’s unfair. (to everyone, really)
Margarita Gritskova (*1987) is an intriguing case. In sound, she is – perhaps only in this Sesto? – the blithest Kasarova echo I have ever heard (of course, only Kasarova is Kasarova). It might be the Eastern European school of singing (she hails from St. Petersburg), which explains certain stylistic uses of color, especially when it comes to producing a darkened sound throughout the middle range, but it extends to timbre. She does not have Kasarova’s richness in color at the top or the vibrant, engaging chest register (again, no one does), but there were moments where I sat there blinking.
Again, this is singer who is still very young, and who certainly has beautiful material, even as I remained uncertain whether the timbre, in part, is ‘fabricated’ at the expense of a more natural flow. She does not – and, again, it might be an age thing – have an innate grasp of stage energy.
If, on a house level, you want gripping and committed performances, you don’t send out the youngings to fend for themselves on a battlefield that they have neither had the training nor the experience to brave on their own (of course, sometimes age is not a factor, and training and experience are not much of a help, either, but at least they *could* be).
PS. “S’altro che lacrime” was actually lovely – Hila Fahima’s sound is gently gleaming and sweet on top, and her phrasing sounded, as far as I could tell, sane and organic. Lyric soubretta who could mature into actual lyric, but again: a singer to young to tell.