Shirley Valentine (Play) by Willy Russell; directed by Roy Surette; starring Nicola Cavendish; Canadian Stage,
Toronto; to April 18
This play isn’t exactly what you’d call cutting edge theatre. After a London West End production in 1988, it
soon became a staple of theatres everywhere, both professional and community-based. A 1989 movie featured Pauline Collins,
the star of the London production. By now, it’s been seen by everybody – except me.
So it seemed that, instead of complaining about Canadian Stage’s foisting recycled material on us, I should check
it out. Besides, given that Nicola Cavendish pleased me so much in Glorious! (Dilettante’s Diary, Dec
11/06), I was curious to see what she’d do with this contemporary chestnut. (This is actually her second outing
for Canadian Stage in this piece, the first being in 1992).
You probably know the story, so there isn’t much point in holding back any plot details. Shirley, a forty-six year-old
Manchester housewife and mother of two, potters around her kitchen while making chips and eggs for her hubby Joe’s tea,
all the while getting pleasantly sloshed on white wine. In her stultifying, house-bound life, she’s accustomed
to directing long monologues at the kitchen wall, so she simply includes us as listeners.
For the first half hour, I wasn’t much impressed by Shirley’s stream of one-liners, although the (mostly) elderly
members of the audience were laughing predictably on cue. It wasn’t until Shirley backed off from the gags and started
to talk about some hurts and defeats in her past life that the play began to grab me. And that’s due in no small measure
to the skill of Nicola Cavendish. She can bring an audience from laughter to the point of tears with lightning-quick speed.
But it’s comedy that rules here and Ms. Cavendish’s prowess in that department eventually overcame my resistance.
The word that keeps coming to mind to describe her approach to the genre is ‘generous’. She gives so much
of herself whether in mime, mugging, clowning, doing voices or simply exhibiting perfect comic timing. This Shirley –
as Ms. Cavendish incarnates her – is fiendishly funny at mimicking people she knows – everybody from Joe to her
feminist friend, her two kids, the lady next door, the snooty headmistress of her old school and an Indian taxi driver. With
the result that, even though this is a one-actor play, we feel the presence in Shirley’s kitchen of many of the people
in her world.
But the danger with a play in which one actor tells us all about her life is that, no matter how skilfull the performer,
the piece might lack forward-moving drama. In this case, though, the thread running through Shirley’s comments about
all and sundry is the fact that a girlfriend has given her a ticket to Greece for a two-week holiday. Shirley imagines
the thrill of such an adventure but quails at the prospect of trying to escape from Joe. We keep wondering what’s going
to happen. (Assuming we can pretend to forget everything we’ve heard about the play.) Is she going to get away? How’s
Joe going to react? Those questions create a tension that carries us through the act.
In the second act, though, there’s no such tension. Shirley’s just relaxing on the beach, telling us how
her holiday has gone so far. It isn’t until the last few minutes of the play that some questions arise about what will
happen next. As a whole, then, this act falls flat as drama. An even greater problem, from the point of view of this audience
member, is that the resolution of the play is trite and sentimental. I don’t believe that repressed women can throw
off their shackles and become new people just by having a fling in an exotic spot. That may have been a pleasant fantasy that
some people in the 1980s entertained – and one that the travel industry still wants to nurture in us – but I think
most of us know that life’s a bit more complicated.
The Magic Flute (Movie of the Opera); by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder; adapted
for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh; English libretto by Stephen Fry; conducted by James Conlon; starring Joseph
Kaiser, Amy Carson, René Pape, Lyubov Petrova, Benjamin Jay Davis, Silvia Moi, Tom Randle,
Tetua Koço, Louise Callinan, Kim-Marie Woodhouse; with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
As you know, I try to avoid reviews of arts events before seeing them. In this case, though, it came to my attention that
NOW Magazine had given this movie a very bad review. But I didn’t let that deter me. I’m willing to take a chance
on almost any production of a Mozart opera; as long as you get the sublime music, it can’t be a complete disaster. Besides,
there was a time when I thought Kenneth Branagh was the most brilliant young genius working in movies. So I wanted to see
what he made of this opera, regardless of the naysayers.
Mr. Branagh’s big idea is to set the opera in the context of trench warfare, as in the Great War. The opposing sides
aren’t clearly identified – unless you take some meaning (but I don't) from the fact that English is being sung,
rather than the German of the original libretto. The opera opens with Tamino, in a trench, reeling from a concussion.
In his dazed state, he seems to imagine the dragon threatening him. The three ladies who rescue him are garbed as nurse-nuns.
When they punish Papageno for lying, the muzzle they slap on him is a gas mask.
Let’s face it, the original libretto of this fantastical, convoluted opera doesn’t make much sense at the best
of times. And this production makes about as much sense of it as any, perhaps more. The free play of imagination teams up
with the marvels of cinematography to create a wonderful spectacle.
We get the Queen of the Night, in a long leather coat, arriving triumphantly on top of an armoured tank. During the fiendish
coloratura of her second big aria, she’s whirling around the sky like a witch. (Why not?) The three boys whisk in and
out like truly magical spirits (up a chimney, for instance). When Pamina decides that she’s going to join Tamino in
his trials, she gallops to him on a steed across a bleak no-man’s-land in a torrential storm.
One of the most delightful imaginative touches comes with Tamino’s falling instantly in love on seeing Pamina’s
picture. It’s a wrinkled, well-worn photo, such as might turn up in the context of trench warfare. As he stares at it,
the Pamina figure begins to turn and move, appearing to invite him into the picture. Gradually, Tamino is drawn into a full-blown
fantasy of himself and Pamina dancing in one of those old black and white movies with the women in billowing gowns and the
men in tails, chandeliers dangling overhead. (Joseph Kaiser has the long, lean jaw and the slicked back hair to suit the Fred
Astaire role.) For me, this filmic elaboration conveys the effect of Tamino’s coup de foudre much better than
any presentation on stage could.
But sometimes, the most striking touches come in ways that play against what the music leads you to expect: Sarastro’s
majestic entrance, for instance. Instead of arriving with the usual grandeur, he appears on the scene almost before
we realize it. He’s that guy strolling through the crowd, shaking people’s hands, slapping friends on the back.
It’s the reception of a well-loved leader, a man of the people, rather than the lofty ruler.
Largely through this character, as played by René Pape, the movie makes a powerful
anti-war statement. A tall, hefty man whose boyish good looks have begun to turn a little fleshy, he radiates kindness and
warmth rather than the formidable solemnity that’s usually conveyed. He even gives Tamino a wink at one point. While
singing to Pamina about healing the afflicted, he’s giving her a tour of a tent hospital, at the end of which, he bends and
kisses a wounded soldier on the forehead. At the beginning of Sarastro's first inspiring, hymn-like aria, he is standing
at a memorial wall where the names of many deceased are inscribed in various languages and alphabets. Gradually, the camera
pulls back and we see mourners in the national costumes of many different peoples among the white grave stones. The camera
keeps pulling back until we see nothing but a vast expanse of white and green – the well-known and sad vista of a war
cemetery – while the heavenly music soars.
I can only think that anybody who doesn’t like this production must be incapable of being moved by Mozart’s
score. Admittedly, it might all look like a lot of nonsense if you weren’t carried away by the music. James Conlon’s
conducting of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe guaranteed that I was.
The singing is consistently excellent, although perhaps not every singer might rank in the absolute top echelon
of the profession. The one that struck me as perfect, from his first phrases, was René Pape. His smooth, resonant bass was exactly right all the way through. I found Amy Carson’s voice (Pamina)
a little thin on top, as was Lyubov Petrova’s (the Queen of the Night), although her coloratura was splendid. Joseph
Kaiser’s voice (Tamino) didn’t strike me as the sweetest of Mozart tenors but he sang the music very well.
Nothing wrong with the singing of Benjamin Jay Davis as Papageno, but he didn’t convey much of the charm of a loveable
doofus. If you don’t have that, I’m not sure what the point of the role is. This Papageno seemed to
be a sort of ‘fraidy cat’ but not one that made you care much about him. On the other hand, Silvia Moi, in her
brief appearance as Papagena, had charm busting out all over.
At some points, the English adaptation of the libretto by Stephen Fry sounded a bit corny, e.g. Papageno’s line,
"Nobody gives a hoot about me." But I must admit, it was nice to be able to follow nearly everything without having to rely
on subtitles. And there certainly were some clever linguistic touches. When Pamina grabs a knife to ward off Papageno, he
cautions her, "That’s for opening messages, not messengers."
Does this production, in the end, make the tangled story coherent? Not in terms of clearly delineated logic. That
would be impossible. But some strong messages come through: the path of true love can be rough but courage and fidelity will
see you through, and remember that it’s better to make love than war.
Rating: A (i.e. "Absolutely fabulous")
Playwrights of Spring (New Play Festival, Theatre Aurora, March 19-April 4)
Just three years ago, Theatre Aurora, a community theatre just north of Toronto, conceived the great idea of holding an
annual festival of new plays. Playwrights are invited to submit scripts and the winning plays are given a professional (but
non-Equity) production. Jurors this year were Ron Cameron-Lewis, Solange De Santis and Caroline Smith. Executive Director
of the Festival was Sean Houghton. The following three plays were produced.
[Disclosure: A play of mine was chosen as a finalist for workshop discussion, although not produced. But we all
know that wouldn’t affect my judgement of the winning plays, don’t we?]
Willow Quartet by Joan Burrows; directed by Jessie Fraser; starring Jillian Rees-Brown, Roxann Lee, Joe Mottola,
This touching and poignant full-length play focuses on a woman who has come back to live at the family farm where she grew
up. Her estranged husband, who still lives nearby, keeps dropping by to tinker with the tractor. The woman’s mother,
who has moved to a condo in town, also manages to be on hand much of the time. An element of intrigue is introduced by the
presence a distinguished violinist who is boarding at the farmhouse while appearing in a music festival in town. Eventually,
we find out about some really bad stuff that went down during the marriage of the estranged couple. Some lessons about letting
go of the past are learned.
A quiet, thoughtful play like this (think Chekhov) needs absolutely top-notch acting and directing to show it at its
best. If this production didn’t quite reach that level of sophistication, everyone involved did very good work. As the
senior woman, Jillian Rees-Brown conveyed an attractive mix of wry skepticism and warm good humour. Roxann Lee caught all
aspects of the younger woman’s edgy character. Joe Mottola made a suitably brooding presence as the estranged husband
and Benny Min certainly introduced an element of the wider world of arts and culture.
Horizon by Claire BonEnfant; directed by Jaclyn Scobie; starring Steve Wolfer, Natalie Colalillo, Andrea Lui
In this one-act play, set at a cottage, a divorced, middle-aged man tries to cope with his unhappy adult daughter. She
has never been able to establish a worthwhile career and her relationships always founder. The dad’s relentless cheerfulness
(he has his eye on a new woman) constantly collides with the daughter’s negativity. What makes things especially awkward
is the presence next door of a feisty teenage girl who's a better friend to the man than his daughter is. Steve Wolfer
gave a very solid performance as the dad and Natalie Colalillo effectively spread a gloom that was much lightened by Andrea
Lui’s high spirits.
This slice-of-life play reminded me of those dramas that the BBC used to produce (maybe they still do). You sometimes
catch one on TV Ontario. Not much happens but you get a glimpse into the inner lives of some people. In my opinion, this kind
of thing works better on tv or in a movie than on stage. To establish the mood, you need close-ups of the actors and
lingering views of the scene outside – the kinds of film devices that aren't available to a theatre production. Still,
the company gave a good sense of the essence of the piece.
Just For You by Lynda Martens; directed by Carey Nicholson; starring Kay Valentine and Frank Johnston
This one-act play opens with Grace, a woman in late middle-age, arriving home with her groceries, to find that her husband
Walter has been preparing a surprise for her. To say any more would spoil the effect of this robust comedy for anyone who
might ever have a chance to see it. (And it certainly should be seen again!) Great hilarity ensues but, in the end, the playwright,
with tremendous skill, brings to the fore some important matters about the spousal relationship. Deep truths surface
in spite of all the laughter. Kay Valentine and Frank Johnston made the perfect pair to present this piece. The chemistry
between the two of them – Walter’s ebullience versus Grace’s fussiness – worked splendidly.
One Week (Movie) written and directed by Michael McGowan; starring Joshua Jackson and Liane Balaban;
with Chuck Shamata, Marc Strange, Fiona Reid, Gordon Downie, Emm Gryner, Joel Plaskett, Campbell Scott
Here’s the problem: is my negative reaction to this movie due to its flaws or to the fact that it includes aspects
of movie genres that I simply don’t like?
Road movies, for instance. Somebody should remind me, before I plunk down my cash, that I’m less than enamoured with
movies about somebody who heads out on the open road for a series of random adventures. Assorted characters crop up, provide
an incident or two, then fade out of the picture. Our hero movies on to the next episode. For me, it’s all too open-ended
and unstructured. Call me retentive, but I prefer a movie where somebody stays put and tries to solve some problems through
inter-acting with a limited cast of characters.
This movie is a classic example of the opposite. Ben (Joshua Jackson), a young Toronto teacher, has learned that there’s
a deadly cancer raging in his body. Doctors want to start aggressive treatment immediately. Instead, Ben abandons his classroom
and his fiancée (at least temporarily) and heads west on a motorcycle.
All of which might be tolerable if it weren’t for an annoying voice-over narration. If I want somebody to read stories
while showing me pictures, I’ll attend the kiddies’ hour on Saturday mornings at our neighbourhood library. In
a movie, I’m willing to put up with voice-over narration for, say, the first ten minutes, provided it’s necessary
to establish some facts and back story. After that, any movie should, if you ask me, be able to go it alone. If the writing
is any good, you should find out everything you need to know from the action and the dialogue, without requiring a tutor at
your shoulder to explain everything.
This tutor (Campbell Scott) is particularly annoying. An arch, pseudo-literary tone is adopted. I think it’s supposed
to be droll and amusing but, to me, it’s a lot of blather. For instance, the narrator tells us that Ben was born in
Toronto on an "unseasonably" cold January day when the temperature was thirteen below zero. What’s "unseasonable" about
that? This is January in Toronto, for godsakes. Later, the narrator notes Ben’s disappointment with a huge structure
of metal poles billed as the World’s Largest Teepee. What person with half a brain wouldn’t be disappointed? Are
we to assume that Ben might actually have been hoping that such a tourist trap would be awesomely inspiring?
Another of the narrator’s fatuous quirks is his tendency to take us down side paths for details about the fates of
people whose lives have intersected with Ben’s. For instance: the couple who, when plagued with problems in
later life, will be helped by the photo that Ben took of them; or the woman ranch owner who found the love of her life after
saying goodbye to Ben. Then there’s the nurse who just missed a train crash because she got out of work early when Ben
skipped his appointment. I suspect this sort of coincidence is meant to have cosmic implications of the "If-a-buttterfly-flaps-its-wings-in-the-Amazon"
variety. Fine, if you’re impressed by that kind of pseudo intellectuality.
For the most part, you’re better off not thinking about what goes down. A lot of it doesn’t bear close
scrutiny. In flashbacks, we get incidents from Ben’s childhood involving a mean baseball coach and a crabby teacher.
Are these incidents supposed to make us sympathetic to Ben? The pathos is exaggerated to the point of being ridiculous. Worried
about his fiancée’s accusation that his feet stink, Ben screws up his courage to
ask a pharmacist he encounters in his travels to sniff his (Ben’s) boots. Guess what? No odour. So what’s the
point? Ben's private moment with the Stanley Cup is apparently supposed to give any red-blooded Canadian guy a visceral
thrill but I found the incident improbable and embarrassingly mawkish.
To the movie’s credit, though, it doesn’t get mawkish about Ben’s impending doom. In fact, little
is said about it. It’s just there in the background (not very plausibly, but never mind). Gradually, it becomes apparent
that the movie isn’t so much about Ben’s running away as it is about unresolved issues in his life. To give the
movie the best possible interpretation, then, you could say that it’s not so much a drama as a meditation, or an
essay, on certain things whirling around in Ben’s mind. For that, I suppose, you’d have to admit that the voice-over
narration is necessary.
The on-going conflict that provides a bit of the drama that I expect in a movie or play is Ben’s relationship
with his fiancée. They’re often in touch by cell phone while he’s away. It’s
only in a scene where she catches up with him on the road that Ben interacts with anybody in any significant way. The rest
of the time, he strolls around with a bland, bemused expression on his mug. It’s not one of those faces in which a camera
can see a lot of emotion or thought. In fact, his pudgy-faced good looks kept making me want to see him in a Mountie’s
dress uniform. That would make him a fine symbol of a Canadian guy.
On the other hand, Liane Balaban, who plays his girlfriend, has a face that a camera reads a lot into. I found every shot
of her interesting. She could be accused, perhaps, of playing the part within a very narrow emotional range: slightly pissed-off
most of the time. (Who wouldn’t be?) With her gaunt face and her long black hair, she can be quite beautiful but she
seems like the kind of person who can’t believe that she is – in other words, a young woman you know, rather
than a movie star.
With many scenic wonders of Canada on display, this movie attracted lots of Canadian backing. (But we could have done without
a German tourist’s offering the platitude that Ben lives in "von of the most beautiful countries in the vorld".) I’m
glad that this project has provided work for lots of Canadian actors and others involved in the film business. And good on
Michael McGowan for pulling off the remarkable coup of getting his self-written and self-directed project up there on the
screen. For all the Canadian chauvinism in the air, however, I have a problem with the fact that Ben travels only from Toronto
to Vancouver Island. How can we celebrate this movie as a great tribute to our home and native land when the eastern third
of the country is ignored?
Rating: E (as in the Canadian "eh?" i.e. "iffy")
I Love You, Man (Movie) written by John Hamburg and Larry Levin; directed by John Hamburg; starring Paul
Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones; with Sarah Burns, Rob Huebel, Jaime Pressly, Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons, Andy Samberg
Peter (Paul Rudd) works for a glitzy real estate company. When he makes an ultra-romantic proposal to his live-in sweetheart,
wedding bells start tuning up. Only trouble is, Peter doesn’t have any buddies to act as groomsmen. Realizing how pathetic
that is, he sets out to do something about it.
The main trouble with the first part of this movie is that most of the people act like they learned how to be human from
tv. The women have scrubbed, shiny faces, frozen in perpetual smiles to show off their million-dollar teeth. The guys that
Peter tries to bond with over poker games look like leftovers from an old episode of The Odd Couple. Worst
of all, the two sweethearts have one of those relationships which requires them to end every conversation, no matter how trivial,
with a cloying, "I love you".
No wonder Jason Segel makes such a strong impression when he arrives on the scene as Sidney. This guy is jaw-droppingly
real, compared to the others. He and the Rudd character first meet at a real estate open house. The Segel character attends
such events for the free food and the chance of meeting a divorcée. As he becomes
friends with the Rudd character, the chemistry between them works wonders. It’s great fun watching Sidney teach Peter
how to loosen up, to talk about sex, to express anger and aggression. The teens sitting near me were hysterical with laughter
at Peter’s geeky attempts to be cool.
Of course, the theme of a repressed character getting liberated by a wild and free spirit is hardly original. What
makes it fresh here is Jason Segel. He seems like someone you’ve never seen on screen before, except for his appearance
in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Mr. Segal has a laid-back emotional honesty that you don’t often see in male stars
of Hollywood movies. His exposed, let-it-all-hang-out quality disarms you. He’s intelligent and sensitive, but he comes
off as something of a boor most of the time because he cuts through much of the crap that people accept as normal in human
And yet, when forced to behave nicely, he can – as, for instance, when he says that a movie he previously dissed
as artsty-fartsy fluff is a "delightful film". He says it with a smile that tells you he’s lying but makes you admire
him for doing it. That’s one of the most impressive of an actor’s skills: to be able to show you that what he’s
thinking and what he’s saying don’t match. You recognize somebody who’s as complex – and duplicitous
– as yourself.
But the script-writers let Mr. Segal down at one point. We’re willing to accept his character as a slob, maybe even
a jerk in some ways, but one who is basically honourable. Most of his faux pas are forgivable. In my view, however, he makes
a serious mis-step at one point. It’s hard work for the actor to win back our trust in the character – with
the result that Mr. Segel’s performance isn’t as secure as in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Working with his
own writing in that case, he obviously had a better handle on the character than the script-writers of this movie have
Intriguing though the relationship between Peter and Sidney is, it doesn’t ultimately get developed as much as the
movie’s edgy title might lead you to expect. You come away with a somewhat empty feeling because things have worked out
in the superficial way of most Hollywood comedies.
Rating: D+ (Where D = "Divided" i.e. some good, some bad)
La Sonnambula (Opera) by Vincenzo Bellini; conducted by Evelino Pidò;
production by Mary Zimmerman; starring Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Florez, Michele Pertusi, Jennifer Black, Jane Bunnell and
Jeremy Galyon; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus. (Met Opera HD Live Broadcast to Theatres, March 21)
According to the scuttlebutt, something rare happened at the Met on the opening night of this production: boos were
heard during the curtain calls. Apparently, the disapproval was aimed at the production team. Seems some of
the patrons didn’t like Mary Zimmerman’s concept for the staging of this opera as a rehearsal in a cavernous rehearsal
It’s beyond me how anybody with enough smarts to want to attend the Met (and with the money to turn that wish into
reality) could be so lacking in good taste as regards this production. For me, it’s one of the best opera productions
Granted, we’ve all seen too many productions where the director seems to be trying to prove his or her cleverness,
distorting the piece according to wild imaginings, as if the work wasn’t good enough to stand on its own. But that’s exactly
the case with this opera. We’ve got this dorky story about an innocent girl who’s found in a stranger’s
bedroom on the night before her wedding. Her fiancé goes ballistic. But guess what? Turns
out she’s afflicted with this disease nobody ever heard of: sleepwalking! Makes Naughty Marietta look like Strindberg.
But it so happens that Donizetti’s score is sublime. So why not give us the glorious music, while showing that you
don’t take the story too seriously?
That’s what this production does. You get the impression that everybody’s having fun with the piece. Nobody’s
trying to pretend it’s real. Not at first, anyway. Gradually, they do seem to get caught up in the emotions being stirred
up but the initial casualness on the part of the cast helps to get us sucked in too.
As the overture plays, people stroll in wearing jeans and sweaters, carrying bicycle helmets and coffee. The prima donna
arrives wearing sun glasses and chatting on her cell phone. During a love scene between the two stars, one of the chorus members
can be glimpsed in the background reading the New Yorker. When an objectionable suitor grabs the hand of a soprano,
she goes for a gob of hand-sanitizer from a dispenser that happens to be sitting on the table. A reluctant stagehand gets
pressed into service to stand in for the Count in a scene where the chorus is rehearsing their song to him.
One of the great benefits of this approach is that this production works as an ensemble much better than most operas
do. For a change, we get to see the chorus members as real, individual people. That's because, instead of
posing in some fakey tableau, they mill around, watching the proceedings, looking like people we know. They're expressing
reactions very like the ones we ourselves would probably feel in similar situations.
The production’s crowning moment – and its justification, should any be needed – comes at the climax
of the first act. Things are spinning out of control, so the chorus members decide to trash the place. They start throwing
props around and ripping up their music. The prompter climbs out of the prompt box and runs around trying to save pages of
the score. Meanwhile, the two stars are singing their hearts out at each other while standing on a bed that a couple of chorus
members are spinning around and around. A true coup de theatre!
Just one thing might have improved on the concept for me. I wish we had seen a little more of the two sides of the
prima donna. For the most part, Natalie Dessay plays along with the role of the sweet ingenue in a kind of
bemused way but I would have liked to see her occasionally revert to her other role – as the opera singer who might
be in quite another mood. We did get a bit of that when she was seen rejecting various shoes and wigs offered by the costumes
department but I would like to have seen more role-switching on her part.
The only aspect of the rehearsal concept that didn’t quite work for me was the casting of the Lisa character (Jennifer
Black) as a kind of stage manager. This didn’t make sense to me, given that none of the other principals was required
to play a member of the support staff. Maybe the intention was to show that the person playing Liza wasn’t a real
star and was jealous of the prima donna but that could have been done without putting Liza in the implausible role of –
literally, at one point – a broom-pusher.
Ms. Black did, however, look lovely and sang accordingly. Jane Burrell, in the role of the mother, and Jeremy Galyon,
as the rejected suitor, also sang splendidly. I particularly liked the singing and performance of Michele Pertusi as the Count.
He has a glorious bass voice and he conveyed the impression of a very contemporary person: a VIP who’s somewhat full
of himself but a decent guy all the same.
And what can we say of the two stars – Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez – except that they were perfection?
Their pianissimo farewell to each other at the end of the first scene was some of the most beautiful singing I’ve ever
More specifically about Ms. Dessay’s performance, it can be reported that she stopped me from thinking about Joan
Sutherland in the role, so I won’t even mention Dame Joan here. Ms. Dessay made all the beautiful melodies float just
as they should and she has a genuine trill, something you don’t always get from sopranos these days. On top of which,
the self-deprecating humour of her acting is irresistible.
Signor Florez is nothing short of a phenomenon. It defies belief the way he keeps pumping out the ringing, clear high notes
as if there’s no end to them. We can only hope that, thanks to some supernatural prowess in his constitution, there
never will be.
This was the last HD Live broadcast that we had tickets for this year. I had been wondering whether or not to bother next
season. Between the time you buy the tickets in the fall and the time the individual operas come around, so many other things
crop up that you want to do. Plus, it can be such a schlepp having to get to the theatre an hour and a half before curtain
time in order to get a decent spot in the non-reserved seats.
But if the Met can promise us more productions like this, I’ll be first in line when the tickets come on sale and
I’ll camp on the street outside the theatre on the nights before the performances.