Kiri is rather lovely, isn't she? Opera Stories on the Arts Channel tonight was Manon Lescaut with Kiri and Placido Domingo. I think perhaps that when I'm feeling a little more safe and secure in my efforts with Renée, I might try a similar project with Kiri.
Dear me, it's going to be nice having these Met broadcasts for the next six months or so. I have to say, I rather enjoyed I Vespri Siciliani. I'll admit, I had a book to read, but I put it down surprisingly frequently to give the opera my undivided attention. Verdi's never going to be my number one composer, but it is rather lovely sometimes to just bask in all that big Italian music. Even if this one is something of a French Grand Opera. Apparently the Italian translation is diabolical, but it's not as if that really matters much, is it? The plot being what it is, I don't think all the expertly-written dialogue in the world could make it a great story. But it gives all the excuses it needs to for gorgeous singing and big spectacular crowd scenes (the latter being rather a requirement of the Paris Opera, who commissioned Les vêpres siciliens).
I was all ready to be totally blown away by Sondra Radvanovsky as Elena, having read about the huge ovation she received. It wasn't quite like that; she was excellent all the way through, but really it wasn't until the last two acts that I thought she really started strutting her stuff. Her huge long let's-run-the-gamut-of-emotions aria in Act IV was quite breathtaking; and kudos to the audience member who managed to let out a sort of hillbilly shout just before all the applause and 'brava'-ing began. The other singer who impressed me was Mr Leo Nucci (Montforte). When I saw him in Angela Gheorghiu's Covent Garden Traviata I more or less liked him, as much as I ever can like Giorgio Germont. But I really did think he was wonderful in Vespri. Listening on radio to a stage performance, you wonder what visual aspects you're missing out on which might make someone's performance mean more, but in the case of Signor Nucci, the visuals would only have been an added bonus: it was all there in his singing. Samuel Ramey (Procida) on the other hand... I don't have much to say about his performance as a whole. Maybe he's a miracle to watch on stage; and clearly there a lot of people to whom his voice appeals. But that huge vibrato of his got on my nerves from the word go. He reminded me of nothing so much as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, when he sings 'If I Were King' in mock-operatic style. His first aria garnered an unbelievably enthusiastic response so I'm apparently in the minority. So be it.
And- thank God- the broadcast ran in its entirety. I was slightly afraid that the introduction and the quiz at interval might be replaced by mispronounced banalities from Concert FM's own announcers but it wasn't. We had Margaret Juntwait, hosting her very first broadcast, Peter Allen having retired after 29 years hosting. We had Joseph Volpe's beginning of the season greeting. We had 'A Word or Two from Peter Allen' (I can see how he became so beloved). And best of all, we had the quiz! My first taste of the quiz was the Barbiere broadcast I listened to in Melbourne a year ago and ever since it's been one of the main reasons I wanted Met broadcasts so much. I just love hearing all these people who know so much talking about opera: no poseurs, no pretentiousness, just some very intelligent people saying fascinating things. Fascinating to me anyway. The next 21 weeks will fly by, I'm sure. Next up is Tannhäuser. I, who have never listened to more than 10 minutes of Wagner in one go, am genuinely looking forward to it. After all, it's Deborah Voigt! It's about time I heard her sing. Ariadne auf Naxos or Rosenkavalier might have been good but this is a woman whose performance in I forget which Wagner opera once earned her a 15 or 20 minute standing ovation. Who knows: perhaps the Met Tannhäuser is destined to make a Wagner-nut of me. Or not. In any case, I'm listening to it and to every single other opera in the series. Which is the way I should have been treating the Sunday opera for years- it's only laziness which has prevented it, so hopefully even once this series has finished, I'll have formed an unbreakable habit.