Thanks to the frighteningly comprehensive site MetManiac, here's a list of the Met 2004-2005 broadcast season: it comprises 22 operas and begins with I Vespri Siciliani so I think we can safely assume that this is the series of operas Concert FM is lavishing upon us. Looking at the line-up, I think I can probably forgive any of their announcers for any of the below-mentioned atrocities... how could I hold a grudge against anyone who'll supply us with all of this. Included in the upcoming treats: Renée Fleming's - I mean Handel's - Rodelinda; Ruth Ann Swenson in La Bohème, along with Patricia Racette, who I've been interested in hearing for a while; Karita Mattila and Magdalena Kozena in Katya Kabanova (which by itself is unbearably exciting; Deborah Voight singing Wagner, Susan Graham's Octavian; Maria Guleghina, David Daniels, Peter Seiffert (Mr Lucia Popp II), Kurt Moll, Jose Cura, Barbara Frittoli, Dorothea Roeschmann, Salvatore Licitra, Roberto Alagna, Denyce Graves... and we're only just beginning.
I suppose the thing to do with all these wonderful pieces of Metropolitan glory is to try to forget that New York is full of people who either saw or had, in theory, the opportunity to see these operas performed live. And that New York is just the biggest, most star-studded example of a country where major (and not so major) cities have proper opera houses with grown-up sized seasons. You see? It's not just Europe we have to envy, not just Germany with an opera company (supposedly) in every village. I bit the bullet and paid for a year's subscription to The Opera Critic: but for my own mental health I have to ration my visits- spend too long and I find myself wallowing in pointless longing for performances already in the past. There's so much of it and none of it is here. Yes, we have a couple of proper opera companies. But they're limited to seasons which consist of three operas a year. Inconceivable to your average Met patron, i'm sure.
That's the plan, anyway: forget all this for a few hours every Sunday for the next 22 weeks and just enjoy what is there, rather than feeling frustrated by all the stuff that isn't. Besides, it's not as if this country is entirely devoid of operatic attractions. I mean, on the 29th of January, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa- one of the most important and adored sopranos to walk the earth- is giving her first piano recital in decades, in Christchurch. I'm certain there are fans worldwide who at that moment will feel towards Cantabrians what I feel towards New Yorkers and the Milanese most of the time. And it only costs about $100, which- considering who it is- is pretty reasonable. Although that's partly because all the more expensive tickets have sold out. I thought I might go. I've never been Kiri's most ardent admirer but she is Kiri. Patriotism is neither here nor there: I'd like to see any soprano of her stature, from anywhere in the world, if she was singing in Christchurch, regardless of my personal opinion of her: it's what you do in a country where, unlike other places, a 'choice' between upcoming operatic events doesn't exist.
Except that on this particular occasion, a choice does exist and I'm choosing against Kiri. Not for me the love of Bernard Levin's life- I'm going to Nelson for the Adam New Zealand Festival of Chamber Music, to see this:
Packed With Power
Bach-Arias for Soprano Oboe Violin and Continuo
Vaughan Williams-Blake Songs for Soprano and Oboe
Brahms-Viola Quintet in G Op.111
Bach-Brandenburg Concerto No.3
New Zealand String Quartet, Nobuko Imai - viola, Christoph Richter - cello, Robert Ingliss - oboe, Patricia Wright - soprano, Martin Jaenecke - violin, Victoria Jaenecke - viola, Douglas Mews - fortepiano, Euan Murdoch - cello
There's not much in this world I'd rather hear Patricia Wright singing than Bach. I mean, Patricia Wright singing anything would probably win out over Kiri's recital; the fact that it's Bach leaves me utterly powerless to resist. It's quite possible I'll just turn to mush in the Nelson Cathedral and never be heard from again, but that's a chance I'm willing to take. And besides, there's a reason for me to steel my nerves and survive the performance: she's singing Donna Anna with the NZ Opera in June and July. Patricia singing Mozart.. how could I ever have said those mean and sulky things about the state of opera in New Zealand? I won't take them back- but for a few hours in June I think I shall probably forget all about them.
Speaking of Mozart: Visions of Love. I'm still not entirely comfortable with the title, but it transpires that, after my initial course of Renée-reconsideration, her Mozart CD does a great deal more for me now than it did the first time I borrowed it. I more or less liked it then, with reservations. Now I'd like to eat it, I think. We could do without the 'creative' 'Deh vieni', some of the very highest notes aren't really quite there, and 'Ach ich fühl's' is taken at a ridiculously galloping pace. But guess what? I Don't Care. It's heartbreakingly, life-sustaingly gorgeous singing. I didn't appreciate that the first time I had this CD out: it all sounded like Renée Fleming, and I wasn't very good at listening to Renée Fleming them. But my recent efforts have changed that and now... this CD is indescribable. Wanting to love Renée has forced me to accustom myself to a new kind of sound, and to taking pleasure in different things- and the journey isn't over yet. But Visions of Love doesn't require any conscious effort or deliberacy on my part: its wondrousness is inescapable and I love it unreservedly.