Even for a critic who attends performances as a lifestyle, there have been various similarities to “Groundhog Day” in seeing 4 reveals over 48 hours at the Metropolitan Opera this weekend.
I used to be getting off the subway at Columbus Circle — once more. Strolling up the broad steps to Lincoln Heart — once more. Shuffling into the will name line; exhibiting proof of vaccination; elevating my arms for a steel detector wand; holding out tickets to be scanned; getting into the gilded, purple velvet auditorium; drifting down the aisle to the similar seat — once more, and once more, and once more.
Solely the music modified, an assemblage of best hits by Mozart, Verdi and Puccini. These performances felt particularly treasured amid a coronavirus surge that has shuttered Broadway productions, ballets, concert events and festivals. But the mighty Met — by strict well being protocols, a deep bench of substitute artists and sheer luck — has managed not to cancel once.
The corporate, America’s largest performing arts establishment, isn’t merely staying open by Omicron. It’s doing so with an exclamation level, glorying in the repertory system enabled by its monumental funds and backstage forces, by which it may, astonishingly, current 4 titles in a single weekend.
A marathon like mine, which started Friday night, has been potential occasionally since fall 2019, when the Met added its first regular matinees on Sundays in addition to its normal Saturdays, lastly bowing to altering attendance patterns. It was an achievement to be reckoned with, even earlier than the pandemic: There are different massive repertory firms, however they don’t do that.
Inside the grand but cozily heat theater, the freezing climate exterior is being greeted with the most traditional of requirements. That wasn’t the case at the Met this fall, when audiences received not one however two latest American operas, “Fireplace Shut Up in My Bones” and “Eurydice,” and “Porgy and Bess” alongside the newcomers. There have been the first Met performances of the unique model of “Boris Godunov,” in addition to a family-friendly adaptation of Massenet’s uncommon “Cendrillon.” Wagner’s sprawling “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” returned for the first time in seven years.
Now, although, the core repertory is solidly again. This January at the Met is the operatic equal of grilled cheese dipped into tomato soup on a snowy afternoon. The month’s schedule is stuffed fully by Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Puccini’s “Tosca” and “La Bohème,” 4 works which have been at the middle of the firm’s operations for over a century.
All have been basic to my earliest training in the artwork kind, and seeing them in shut quarters introduced out surprising resonances. It was audible how a lot Puccini’s crosscutting of the quotidian and elegant — when the bohemians’ chuckling fades, for instance, into the love-duet surge of “O soave fanciulla” — owes to moments in “Figaro” like the one when a bubbly ensemble is abruptly, briefly struck by with hovering longing.
Regardless of masking reminders and the singers being discouraged from becoming a member of palms at the curtain calls, the performances felt largely regular. Nothing was near offered out, however the home was by no means startlingly empty. And apart from the (appreciable) lack of the baritone singing Rigoletto, there have been no last-minute cancellations amongst the soloists, virus-related or in any other case — a tribute to the Met’s precautions.
That baritone, Quinn Kelsey, is anticipated to be again on Saturday; filling in for him as the tortured courtroom jester on Friday was Michael Chioldi, solidly resonant and credible in the function. Piotr Beczala was a grinning Duke, however each males paled for curiosity subsequent to Rosa Feola’s Gilda. This soprano’s efficiency in the first act was the glory of the weekend, together with her unusually assertive tackle the aria “Caro nome,” extra womanly than girlish.
However much more outstanding was the glassy shimmer her voice took on a couple of minutes earlier, singing “Lassù in cielo” so that you simply heard a premonition of the character’s grim destiny. Feola lacked a remaining measure of fullness and amplitude in the final-act trio with Sparafucile and Maddalena, however she was persuasive all through in creating (with the director, Bartlett Sher) a extra mature — and subsequently extra disturbing — Gilda than the norm.
Daniele Rustioni’s conducting was average in tempo and influence, simply because it was the following afternoon in a lightweight, mild “Figaro.” Golda Schultz’s soprano isn’t the lushest or largest, however as the Countess she delivered a poised, silky “Porgi amor.” (Her awkward interpolating in “Dove sono” was a mistake, although, as was the blustery Adam Plachetka’s pointless additions to Rely Almaviva’s “Vedro mentr’io sospiro.”)
Isabel Leonard, Cinderella at the Met final month, sounded contemporary as Cherubino — floating the line “E se non ho chi m’oda” with haunting softness in “Non so più” and delivering a chocolaty “Voi che sapete.” Lucy Crowe’s reedy soprano and cheerfully understated presence as Susanna paired properly with the bass-baritone Ryan McKinny’s easygoing Figaro.
Even in this frivolously rehearsed revival, there was ensemble spirit, as there was amongst the youthful solid of “La Bohème” on Sunday afternoon. The tenor Charles Castronovo sang a gallant Rodolfo, the baritone Lucas Meachem a forceful Marcello. As the dying Mimì, the soprano Maria Agresta’s tone was a bit wiry, her presence a bit stiff. The bass Peter Kellner, making his Met debut as Colline, sang a full-bodied “Vecchia zimarra,” sober with out trudging.
The conductor Carlo Rizzi, who appeared with the firm for the first time in “Bohème” in 1993 and has since led greater than 200 performances right here, paced the music beautifully, as he had in an satisfying “Tosca” the evening earlier than. The soprano Elena Stikhina has a booming worldwide profession however has barely appeared at the Met, so there was appreciable anticipation of her interpretation of that opera’s title function, a traditional diva showcase.
She had a soft-grained, seductive tone, even in crusing excessive notes, in addition to the confidence to sing sure passages very quietly — notably the begin of “Vissi d’arte,” which she nearly murmured; her jealousy and fury have been underplayed and patiently felt, not frantic. Her Tosca was earnestly sung and acted, and I hope her visits to the Met develop extra frequent.
As Cavaradossi, the tenor Joseph Calleja has lengthy had an appealingly plangent, nearly sobbing high quality to his voice; on Saturday, although, that sob expanded right into a pulsing beat in his sound, disrupting the musical line and turning excessive notes into croaks. The baritone George Gagnidze was a practical somewhat than luxurious Scarpia, however he projected convincing menace.
Nothing over the weekend was unmissable, however there was one thing greater than the sum of their components — one thing genuinely inspiring — in seeing all of them collectively throughout this robust season. And there may be one other alternative, Jan. 21-23, to re-enact my marathon. Certainly, you are able to do me one higher: That Sunday, the afternoon “Figaro” shall be adopted in the night by a solo recital that includes the star soprano Sonya Yoncheva.
A week after that, having gorged on operatic rooster noodle soup and macaroni and cheese all January, the firm takes a (lengthy deliberate) month off from performances. It is going to be richly earned.
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