I'll tell the truth. When it came to 3 o'clock Sunday afternoon it was a struggle to make myself sit down and listen to Rigoletto. I really didn't think I was in the mood. However I recovered from that nice and quickly and enjoyed myself. I'd forgotten a little how lovely it is to have the Met broadcasts, delayed though they may be. Besides which, they're good for me, they educate me - or at least, they introduce me to the sort of standard repertory that I really ought to have heard already. This was my first ever Rigoletto and it made a good impression. I mean, I am and remain a Handel/Mozart/Strauss girl at heart, and there's really no Italian can do anything to change that. But I'm open to loving everybody, at least a little, and in fact there a lot in Verdi for me to love. I've already gone on about La traviata. I've been steadily falling for Falstaff this year. And though I'm too lazy and too miserly to go out and do something about myself, I'd certainly enjoy the chance to hear Otello and Macbeth again. Rigoletto didn't excite me to great passions, exactly, but all the same was quite wonderful.
I liked Anna Netrebko far, far better than I expected to. This is the longest I've ever spent listening to Anna. I've never really been able to get my head around her, or at least around the sound she makes. I could hear that she was doing fabulous things but nevertheless couldn't quite feel that fabulousness - if that makes any sense at all. There was a weak moment at a Borders listening post, when I almost bought her Opera Arias purely on account of her 'r' sound, but I resisted. In addition, of course, there's my natural skepticism concerning fiercely marketed gorgeous sopranos. All that glamorous packaging is offputting; it just makes me feel even less like giving somebody a shot. Magdalena Kozena's pretty pretty publicity shots were, I'm ashamed to admit, part of the reason I took my time in appreciating her wondrous talent. Likewise, I've never felt particularly inclined towards testing the Netrebko waters. All of this begins to sound like a set-up for the description of an epiphany: but no. I have not been turned, overnight, into Anna Netrebko's #1 or even #10 fan. But her Gilda elicited a reaction from me which nothing else I've heard her sing (and I admit, I haven't heard very much) has. I responded to her, I liked her, I enjoyed the sounds she was making: for once I didn't feel like I was testing her, or trying to like her, or failing to like her: I was just listening to a very pretty singer - and I do mean vocally pretty. I still don't think I've got my head around that sound, but it's a start.
I always do this. I did it with just about every broadcast in the last season. On and on and on about the soprano, then just a line or two for the men in the cast. Partly because I don't want to end up with a preposterously long post; partly because I'm generally just not very good at talking about tenors and baritones. I'm afraid it's the case here, too. I did like the dark shades of Rolando Villazon's Duke. He and Anna do make a good pair: I begin to understand all the fuss. Carlo Guelfi was fine, I suppose, as Rigoletto. I've no doubt that as I continue in life I will hear far better assumptions of the role than his but it wasn't without its appeal. I did think he conveyed all that conflicted paternal anguish quite nicely, there was a gravity to his singing which I liked; there was also times, though, when I wished he'd sing his words rather than bark them. This is about as much as I can manage on the performance. I'm also wary these days of the considerable gap between what's heard in the theatre and how it translates to radio, and so I think it's not the place to be making concrete decisions about singers.
The intermission features, however, deserve a word or three. I blushed for Joe Volpe. I think those thoughts about Renée Fleming were best left in his mind. Honestly: calm down. Melting eyes? And though I've no great emotional attachment to Maria Callas, praising Renée by sideswiping Maria seemed rather unnecessary. Is it an autobiography he's written, or just a feast of fawning? But I've missed the quiz, it was a joy to hear it again. Though I have a terrible confession to make: in the question about mute/invisible opera characters, I utterly failed to pick up on the clues about the man on the other end of the phone in Poulenc's La voix humaine. I mean, of all operas, they pick the one I've obsessed over for months: and it goes right over my head. I hate to think what this suggests about my operatic IQ.