Ruth Ann, how I've missed you!
Sunday's Met broadcast was the La Bohème starring, yes, the truly lovely Ruth Ann Swenson. Ruth Ann, who hasn't recorded a solo album in five years, who has only ever recorded two operatic roles (Musetta and Juliette), who cancelled the recital I was supposed to see in New York last year. Ruth Ann, whose 'Endless Pleasure' and 'Myself I shall adore' introduced me to the wonders of Handel, whose 'Signore, ascolta' was part of my (proper) introduction to operatic obsession. I've never been head-over-heels for her as I have for Cecilia, Yvonne, Anna, Lucia but I love her to pieces all the same. And until Sunday, I'd never actually heard her in an opera.
She was a wonderful Mimi. I hardly recognised her: her voice has warmed up, and deepened a little, and all to the good. 'Si, mi chiamano Mimi' was excellent: and this is saying something, given that I grew so tired of this aria a few months ago that I hadn't listened lately to anyone singing it. 'Donde lieta' was even better; but my favourite moment (thanks in part to Bridget Paolucci's "The Voice of the Orchestra" intermission feature) was when she sang 'Sono andati? Fingevo di dormire'. Even when you know Puccini's there, carefully and strategically tugging at the heartstrings, it's very hard not to fall for it. Especially with Ruth Ann sounding so irresistible. If this is how she sounds now, I can't help but think that some of those heroines on her CD Con Amore, who were all very pretty but not particularly individualised, must be a good deal more exciting now.
I shouldn't, and won't, however, forget Patricia Racette. She was a fabulous Musetta, starting off pretty and sweet, and heartbreakingly beautiful by the end. I've wanted to hear Patricia Racette for many, many months, ever since I came across her official site and the one very carefully hidden sound clip it contains. The clip is from something recent and American, I don't know what, but the voice intrigued me. So I was very glad to see her listed for this Bohème, and I'm looking forward to her Nedda in a few weeks time. My expectations, after all this anticipation, might have been unfairly high: but in any case she quite soundly outdid them. I like.
As for the boys, well, I hardly had the energy left to pay much attention. Rodolfo was fine, although unremarkable I thought, and at moments a touch too nasal for my liking. Dwayne Croft as Marcello I liked better, and Oren Gradus (Colline) as well. But really there are so many of them in that garrett that with no libretto to follow, and never ever having heard the opera before (it's true) they were all a bit of a blur at times -but a very pleasant sounding blur, to be sure.
So, yes: my first ever Bohème was, I'm happy to say, a success. My suspicion that I might be a Puccini fan in the making looks ever more likely. Next on my to-do list is La Rondine; but Maria Guleghina's Tosca next month should be quite an experience too, by the look of things. Her Abigaille in Nabucco is next week: it stirred up such response I'm almost afraid to hear it..