I'm fairly sure the Met saw me coming and quickly hid all the repertoire I'd most like to see. They've hidden it in plain sight (it's right there in the calendar after April 13th) but nevertheless I feel a little conspired against. When I leave, they bring out the Janacek and the Britten; while I'm here, there's Manon. There's also Die Walküre, of course, which is super-hyper-number-one priority and beside which nothing else really matters anyway – thus spake your objective narrator – but I still need my Met fix. We're living almost literally across the road from stage door and her siren song taunts me if I don't visit.
Add my withdrawal symptoms to the extreme adorability of Diana Damrau and you start to see why I was so determined to see L'elisir d'amore. If I had been spoilt for choice, and if the Adina had been less lovely, I might have given up hope when I saw how full the houses were – particularly when I realised I'd been hopeless once again and had only two chances left to see the show anyway – but this time I persisted. Or rather, my Friend At The Met (one guess who that is) persisted on my behalf and managed to snag for me what may well have been the very last space in the house: a Grand Tier standing room place.
This was the first time I'd done standing room for anything, and I think I'd need to build up my stamina before standing for anything much longer than L'elisir, but all in all it wasn't too uncomfortable – particularly in the second half, by which time half the occupants of my section had disappeared, along with their chronic need to talk. I couldn't see all of the set, but I could see enough of it; I could hear everything, and that's what mattered.
Diana Damrau was the darling of my heart from start to finish and my favourite voice of the afternoon. The silver and sweetness and exceptional dynamic control of her singing come across wonderfully on disc (which is how I get most of my Diana) but in person she reaches another dazzling level, and I loved her house filling notes just as much as her floatiest fairy floss pianissimi. She also plays "charmingly flustered" better than anyone. I would happily have heard her sing everything twice but as it was, the only person who had that chance was Nemorino.
Yes, Juan Diego Florez encored "Una furtiva lagrima". I don't know whether he'd done it already during the run – he didn't look particularly surprised or hesistant about it – but in any case, when the tumultuous applause had finally died down, somebody high above shouted "encore" and JDF duly obliged, even throwing a few new ornaments in the second time around. It wasn't a great moment for suspension of disbelief: he broke character to take bows before and after and then, when an awkward bit of staging meant the applause kept breaking out again, actually spoke to the audience – "Miss Damrau is waiting" – so that the show could continue. It was, however, a great moment for old fashioned operatic fun.
In fact, even as he sang the aria the first time, I felt like I'd entered a bit of a time warp, in the best sense. Juan Diego down there in his breeches, singing his beautifully shaped and oh-so-ardent rendition of one of the most familiar arias in the repertoire, set against the colourful flats of John Copley's pastel rainbow production, was like some sort of wonderful throwback. This, along with the all-encompassing Diananess, was one of the highlights of the afternoon for me; JDF's encore was just a bonus. As were his dance moves while "tra-la-la"-ing.
Forgive me if I say less about Alessandro Corbelli's gleeful Dulcamara or Mariusz Kwiecien's macho Belcore, who could have passed for Escamillo's slightly goofier brother. Both were admirable, and enthusiastically received. Corbelli was funnier and funnier as the show went on – his duets with Diana's Adina went down particularly well. Poor Belcore doesn't really get much time to preen, once "Come Paride" is out of the way, but Kwiecien certainly does an excellent line in macho bluster. I was also curious to hear Layla Claire, a Met Young Artist whose name kept coming up as one of the best things about The Enchanted Island. Like all good Giannettas ought, she made me wish Donizetti had given her a bit of a subplot. And it was great to hear the Met Orchestra again. Can't wait till they're let loose on Walküre.
It took me ten days to arrange this first fix but I think they'll be closer together now. At least one Traviata, two if I can swing it; the same for Rheingold; two Walküren including the dress; and I've just remembered there's Anna Caterina Antonacci at Alice Tully Hall to think about. Plus Porgy and Bess on Broadway, which sort of counts. The only Met production I'll miss is the Manon. I was curious to hear Anna Netrebko in person, but tickets are not to be had; at least, not for any sensible price. And Manon is far from my favourite opera, so I'm not inclined to fight. If only I'd been here for her Anna Bolena. But such is life: and in the midst of all the other diva goodness on offer here, it really would be churlish to complain.