Tag: The Met

Iphigénie en Tauride

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Events, Music

Sadly, I missed the big Winter’s Eve festivities in my neighborhood last night, which kicked off with the Lincoln Center Holiday Tree Lighting. It was such fun last year, but with the holiday season officially now in full swing, there just isn’t time enough for everything.

Lincoln Center tree

Tonight was to be something of an event: the gala premiere of Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck‘s Iphigénie en Tauride. This new, much-celebrated Metropolitan Opera co-production with Seattle Opera is directed by Stephen Wadsworth (recently named the first Director of Opera Studies for the Juilliard Opera Center) and conducted by Mostly Mozart musical director Louis Langrée, in his Met debut. Americans mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and tenor Paul Groves, who opened London’s Royal Opera House season, took up the roles of Iphigénie and Pylade again tonight with the incomparable Plácido Domingo starring as Iphigénie’s brother, Oreste. (This Met production was also broadcast live on December 8.)

I knew nothing about Iphigénie en Tauride going in to the evening, though I had vague recollections of the Euripides’ drama that inspired it. Gluck’s opera premiered in Paris on May 18, 1779, but did not have its United States debut at the Met (in German) until 137 years later, on November 25, 1916. Since then it has only been staged five times, the last in 1917, so tonight was an occasion indeed.

Iphigénie en Tauride intermission

We had planned on a special evening: the tuxes, furs and glittering jewels were out on display tonight, and how many opportunities do I get to don an evening gown, after all? Unfortunately, the lack of sleep these past couple of days finally took its toll tonight, and I ended up in the upper balcony, exhausted before curtain, and passed out in my seat by Act II. Now that’s embarrassing. No fault of the performances, though, which from what I recall were quite beautiful… and apparently very soothing.

As I slipped out during intermission, I passed Tyne Daly on the spiral staircase, whom depending on your reference point, is best remembered as Detective Mary Beth Lacey from 80’s cop show Cagney & Lacey or Maxine Gray from the 90s judicial drama Judging Amy. Did anyone else besides me have trouble distinguishing that latter show from Providence?

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Die Zauberflöte

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Music

At the Metropolitan Opera House tonight with HYB for Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). Mozart’s final opera is the tenth most frequently performed opera in North America. I’d seen a fairy-tale-like production (with Andrew Porter’s English translation) at the New York City Opera across the plaza a few years ago; this season, the Met brought back Broadway and film director Julie Taymor’s 2004 production.

Set in an imaginary Egypt, the action revolves around a prince and princess overcoming adversity to unite. Along the way, there is a bird-catcher, a high priest, a moor, serpents, beasts, assorted royal attendants and genii and perfunctory ordeals by water and fire. No ninjas, though. It’s all fairly ridiculous, but the music remains sublime. Taymor’s staging features an incredible variety of figures swirling the stage; I especially liked the flying birds, giant kite-like dancing bears and the magnificent star-shimmering Königin der Nacht (Queen of the Night). The puppet animals were created with the input of Michael Curry, who also designed the award-winning creatures for The Lion King on Broadway, adding to the feel of spectacle on the kaleidoscopic, mirror-lined stage.

Not everyone’s a fan, though. Three years ago, New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini found Taymor’s production to be a mishmash of imagery, so cluttered with puppets, flying objects and fire-breathing statues that it overwhelmed Mozart’s music. His review this year focused on 36-year old German soprano Diana Damrau‘s impressive turns in her dual roles as the Queen of the Night and Pamina during the Met’s Die Zauberflöte run–a feat never before attempted at the opera house in a single season. This night Damrau inhabited the ingénue role; after this season, she will be retiring her Queen, one of the most difficult roles in the standard coloratura repertoire, with its two relatively short, but flashy arias O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn” (Oh, tremble not, my beloved son) and the famously treacherous Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (The vengeance of Hell boils within my heart). The role, which amounts to just about twelve minutes of stage time, demands five staggeringly high F6’s–a fourth above “Soprano C,” and the highest note in the standard operatic range.

The Magic Flute

Intermission in the Eleanor Belmont Room, a club used by members of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. We were there courtesy of SYB’s guest passes; the private lounge is otherwise only made available for pre-performance dining and intermission coffee and cocktail service for Contributing Level (or higher) Met Guild donors.

Belmont Room

On the Plaza, “it’s sew time”: the launch party for Season 4 of Bravo’s Project Runway. Ever since Top Chef ended its run last month, Project Runway has become my favorite reality show on television right now. The Daily News breaks down the reasons for Runway’s superiority, including “Contestants actually have to do things that take – gasp! – talent,” (the “talent” being something other than, say, “knowing how to snag a man” or “losing 80 pounds“), “It’s just so incredibly gay,” and finally “Who are we kidding? Can there ever really be a full explanation for love?

Project Runway tent

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