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April 7th, 2007

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11:42 pm - Tenors in tartan and the clash of claymores
Went to see Rossini's "La donna del lago" with my friend Misha this evening. After a dinner of tofu with mushrooms, veggie-duck and assorted vegetarian dumplings and soup, I ended up being the filling in an opera singer sandwich as I made a new friend of the lady sitting next to me. She and Misha were trading stories back and forth (he does mostly Gilbert and Sullivan, she more of the standard repertoire) and singing snippets back and forth to one another before the show and during intermission.

The opera itself is one of Rossini's lesser-known works and is based on Sir Walter Scott's poem "The Lady of the Lake". I'm not that familiar with Rossini's oeuvre, so getting to see one of his rarities as well as his classics is good for my musical education. One of the best things about City Opera is that they program quite a few unfamiliar operas in between the warhorses.

On the whole, it was a nice show.


There were some issues.

Like the dorky costumes. Pick a period. Any period. And stick with it. Duglas had on an 18th century waistcoat and overcoat, while the soldiers were in outfits that looked as though they were from the American Civil War, with the hats being Confederate and the jackets Union, from the colors chosen. The women were in vaguely early 19th century dresses (but post-Jane Austen/Napoleonic Wars era). All the men were in kilts -- or what the costume designer tried to pass off as kilts, being rather ill-fitting-looking on the whole, which takes talent, considering that a kilt (especially a Great Kilt) is basically just a really long piece of cloth one wraps around oneself.

The singers were mostly pretty good, although as usual some were better than others. Alexandrina Pendatchanska's Elena was regularly steamrollered by the two tenors of the production, Barry Banks as Uberto and a substitute tenor in the role of Rodrigo. (The announcement of the substitute's name was rather garbled -- I believe it was Robert McPherson, based on photos from online sources for the production, but it's possible that I am mistaken.) She was generally fine when singing by herself, but the male leads completely drowned her out when they sang together with her, even though I'm sure that was not their intent. She did manage to hold her own though against the lush voice of Laura Vlasak Nolen (in the "pants role" of Malcolm) when they had an amazing first act duet. Nolen's vocals were a delight to listen to, as were those of Banks, whose rich voice filled the space effortlessly. The substitute tenor was generally OK, although he managed to muff one of his high notes really badly in the first act. (He wasn't as bad though as that never-to-be-named Queen of the Night who managed to bungle all of her high notes in a production I saw a few years ago -- he got better later on and the part is on the high side for a modern tenor, after all.) He did a pretty good job of acting too, for the most part.

As for the staging, I thought the director could have done more with the sword fight, but it was mostly waving them about a bit, clash-clank-clash, then exeunt alia stage right. The sets were pretty dull too -- gray walls of stone, a few chairs and a large dead tree. And snow. Lots and lots of snow. Very loud snow. My new friend joked that it was hail, not snow -- and I tend to agree with her, since its fall could be heard even over the full orchestra playing.

Still, despite the annoyances it was a pleasant evening all in all, with my operatic knowledge and experience increased and a new friend made.
Current Mood: contentcontent
Current Music: "Tanti affetti in tal momento" by Rossini

(2 seeds eaten | Eat a pomegranate)


[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
Sounds lovely on the whole ...

*is jealous* :)
[User Picture]
Date:April 17th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)
It was nice, although the loudness of the hail snow was distracting, albeit amusing. Some of the singing was quite fine, in fact. Nolen did a lovely job, as did Banks -- I'd be happy to see them again at some future performance. (One with quiet snow.)


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