We caught last night’s “double-bill” performance from the cheap seats – or rather standing room. We “won” the rush ticket draw for the premiere on January 26 what got cancelled due to the subway closings in preparation for the blizzard that wasn’t. We were really looking forward to a romantic walk home, maybe stopping at every open bar, diner and Dunkin Donuts on the way, but it was not to be. We tried rush a couple more times but didn’t win, so we went with the next best thing. And while we really don’t mind standing – the better half wants a standing desk at work – when a well-heeled couple asked if they could trade with us at half-time because they were leaving early, we didn’t refuse.
So what did we think?
First Iolanta: When a humongous holographic deer was projected onto the stage it looked like a great start. But the setting and stage direction, which at first seemed beautiful, began to grate. Iolanta lives in a house within a secluded garden. The house has a wall with a door. but otherwise it’s only a framed room. It seemed in the beginning there was a rule, and characters could only enter or exit through the door, so I “imagined” the clear walls were glass, as other characters could see through them, but Iolanta couldn’t hear through them – unless they were speaking to her directly. But then about halfway through people could walk in and out through the frame. As in many operas, conversations take place in front of a character on stage who is not supposed to be able to hear what the Continue reading Are You Afraid of the Dark? — Iolanta/Bluebeard’s Castle at the Met Opera →
Sure, I know the name of the opera is Macbeth, but last night it might as well have been Lady Macbeth because Anna Netrebko was the show.
Her voice sounded weightier, smokier, harsher at times but no less beautiful than in those bel canto roles she is famous for. Her body too has changed. She might not fit that red dress in Willy Decker’s production of La Traviata so well, but she was super voluptuous – ogle-worthy.
When she sings her first aria, in a neglige on her bed, it was thrilling not only to listen to the sound of her voice, but also to anticipate a wardrobe malfunction as she writhed and wriggled. I caught no accidental boobage, but don’t ask me for details about the libretto, I never took my Continue reading Anna on Fire – Lady Macbeth at the Met – Idiots at the Opera →
I’m old enough to remember when people used to talk about Soviet Jewry. Religion, all religions were suppressed in the old Soviet Union. The Soviet Union while fervently anti-zionist, recognized Jews as a nationality – that is they weren’t Russians; Ukrainians, Kazakhs, or anything else no matter where they lived or how they long they lived there. They were Jews, but they weren’t really allowed to express any kind of Jewish identity. In addition to historic anti-semitism, there was institutional anti-semitism and discrimination throughout the Soviet era. I’m sure it’s still no picnic for Jews in Russia now. But back in the 1970’s when Jews were desperately trying to leave but weren’t allowed to, it was a really big deal. There were massive demonstrations in the United States in support of Soviet Jewry, primarily with the message of allowing immigration, as well as ending the policies that led so many Jews to seek it.
In those days, Soviet artists and performers no matter what their nationality were not allowed to freely travel. It was huge when they managed to escape their handlers and “defect” to the West. Imagine that. Leaving your country was “defecting,” proof positive of dissidence. It was historic when dancers like Nureyev or Baryshnikov sought refuge in the West. Sometimes defectors left behind their spouses, even children when they “escaped.” When Soviet performers form official companies made sanctioned visits to the United States, sometimes they were met with protests. But generally when visiting cultural ambassadors were performing in the US, we didn’t expect these captive artists to speak out against any of the heinous policies of their government. We didn’t hold it against them if they seemed to at least tacitly support the regime. What choice did they have?
However, let’s stretch our imagination for a moment. What if if back then, the Soviet Union had allowed some conductor and singer to travel freely, to even reside in another country without losing the right to return to Mother Russia? And what if those “free artists” had made statements in the past supporting their leaders? Now imagine a new “crackdown” on the Jews, new laws being passed that make it a crime to even speak about a Jewish identity, new semi-sanctioned pogroms. What if these artists didn’t even speak against that? Didn’t announce that they could not support those policies? What if one of them made a statement saying she did not personally discriminate against anyone including Jews, a statement in which she didn’t directly reference the crackdown or the specific Continue reading Please Don’t Make Me Burn My Tickets, Mr. Gelb →