My "Twelve Days of Christmas Blogs" were a big hit, my readership went through the roof, and I got a lot of fun comments and emails about them. So I thought this month I'd try something along the same lines:
31 blogs! One for every day of this crazy month. Some will be short, some not. I'll try to tackle some new topics and revisit a few old ones. I'll also do my best to keep everyone informed about the exciting things happening this month in Montreal - namely the grand finale to Opera McGill's Season of Shakespeare which features two performances of Bellini's bel canto masterpiece "I Capuleti e i Montecchi" (conducted by Boris Brott and directed by Nicola Bowie) and a not-to-be-missed special scenes presentation of excerpts from Shakespeare's plays and their respective operatic treatments (music directed by Tyson Deaton and co-directed by Paul Hopkins and little 'ol me) on March 20, 21, and 22, 2014 in Pollack Hall.
Currently I'm in Washington DC for a special concert conducted by Julian Wachner with the National Symphony Orchestra and the amazing Washington Chorus: "Essential Verdi". The performance is tomorrow at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall at 5pm. If you're in the area, you shouldn't miss it. Huge sections of "La Traviata" and "Aida" as well as favorite hits from "Nabucco", "Il trovatore", and the "Requiem" all sung splendidly!
Last night, I attended the Washington National Opera's production of Jake Heggie's latest opera: "Moby Dick". It starred Carl Tanner, Mathew Worth, and Stephen Costello among others. The singing was very solid, and the production was - for the most part - exemplary. The projections were very cool, especially the appearance of the almost three dimensional Pequod and the three whaling boats that the singers "sat" in by sitting on the raked wall (hard to explain, really). Some of the effects, like the Peter Pan effect of swimming and all those ropes going nowhere, were really overdone. Captain Ahab's pegleg was extremely well-executed and I don't know how Carl Tanner sang on, literally, one leg, while tackling some tough vocal writing.
It was the music of Jake Heggie's that I was a bit disappointed in. His songs are filled with dramatic music, yet the score for this opera sounded more like he was auditioning to score a film. Particularly the end of Act One (Starbuck's moment in Captain Ahab's quarters) where, out of nowhere, comes a theme that sounded like it was a morphed combo of the opening of the last act of "Tosca" and the theme from "The Godfather". It was a memorable tune, but perhaps too memorable. I thought most of the men's chorus writing was very poorly done. I never got that sonic boom that all those numbers onstage seemed to promise. Lots of full-throated singing, but not much cut to get through the massive orchestra perhaps? And I really wanted someone to steal a tambourine and throw it into the ocean...
With that said, I think it'd be a great opera for new audiences (except for the length -- just this side of too long) because the story was kept to its essence (and the diction was pretty impeccable!), the projections never stopped, and the set had some cool surprises to it. There were arias and duets and men fighting onstage and lots of pretty moments.
But ultimately, I kept thinking that for all the effort that went into this production, I'd rather be watching "Billy Budd". Particularly given that Matt Worth and Carl Tanner would be a superb start to a great cast of "Budd"!