Estivation at high elevation

La Cieca’s Gal-pal del Golden West, Laura Hope Cruisey, sounds off on Santa Fe, 2007.

Can we talk like this? Has Carl Rove turned off the reel-to-reel, before he turned out the lights? Well, since the New York Times seemingly did not cover the Santa Fe Opera Festival 2007, somebody’s got to say what happened (“Ah got plenty o’nuttin…”), just for the record.

No! I am not going to say, “Not my cup of tea.” I shall not exclaim, “Weak tea!” Both have been done. How about: “No tea?” That’s more like it, anyway. Yep, this Tan Dun musical hooligan is at it again, pushing off something called Tea: A Mirror of Soul, on those innocents in Santa Fe (having swept through Europe and New York), causing them to hire a bunch of Chinese stage folk and even some singers from Over There to make it all seem genuine oriental opera. I guess y’all know about The First Emperor hoo-hah at the high-cost, high-end Met last year.

Well, more of same this summer out in the lovely New Mexico mountains. Lots of color, lots of people singing high and low, lots of Mysterious East touches with round doors and peony decor and water and stones and paper, and Asian ladies and gentlemen wandering thru the countryside looking for “The Book of Tea.” They find it but the girl reader dies and the male reader goes home and drinks from an empty bowl of tea.

This is true! I mean that is actually what happened. It was accompanied by lots of tinkly-thwacky-gurgly noise and stuff, and a big orchestra pumping out yards of movie music background, and that was all she wrote. Or he, Tan Dun wrote. You know, who is the more foolish? The opera company that pays to do this stuff or the people who give the opera company money? Exactly the same question they are asking about Miss Kitty Wagner in Bayreuth right now. End of non-opera. Next.

Così fan tutte. This is not going to take long. It was the 2004 production by Colorado’s Big Star, Jim Robinson, but with a lesser cast, a far worse conductor and much-much-much more shtick. Boys come on stage during the overture, you know by Mozart, and they are in their boxer shorts. They are all young and handsome (of course, they are Santa Fe Apprentices), and they are having their physical exam in order to enroll in “The School for Lovers!” Get it? As the overture ends, the lads are gone and Big Jim Robinson’s “take” on what was once Mozart’s Così fan tutte begins. Three long hours later it is over. An evening of vaudeville and slapstick.

The tenor is cute, has no top voice; the soprano has a luscious voice, little personality, no direction; the Dorabella is a doll and she needs to go right back to the Met whence she came; she’s wasted here! The Despina was an old bat who probably did the best opera performance of the evening, including at one boggy moment setting the tempo by waving her arms when the maestro seemed to have gone to sleep. I could go on, but I wont. I vowed when undertaking (pun intended), this assignment I would not name names, but this one time I shall: William Lacey conducted and I hope I never hear him again, ever. Pfui!

It was Fat Tenor Summer. Well, OK, I will name names: Dimitri Pittas sang Rodolfo in the Puccini show; some say he has gained 40 lbs over the last two years; I think it is only twenty. Well, last summer as Narraboth he was tending toward the porcine, but wore an old-timey Biblical gown. This summer he was wearing 1920s clothes and he truly looked like a sack of potatoes (as one noted critic described him). Not a bad face; nice black Greek hair. And a truly lovely tenor voice; tad short on top but he handles it well. What is he, 30? Time for that upper extension to grow, and if he can manage to reduce down below and get his act together he could have a good career. He is well schooled, good with text and seems smart. But since when does smart mean that tenors keep their weight under control? Listen, Bud, if Debbie can do it, so can you!

Let’s not ask Gary Sorenson, however, who essayed the role of Leukippos in Richard Strauss’s longueur known as Daphne. I guess Santa Fe is sort of stuck with Daphne; they did the American debut many years ago, so in place of Ariadne or Capriccio – two really good shows – they do this one-act turkey. The music IS lush, you all know that, but no hit tunes or leitmotivs. The tenor writing is impossible; poor Sorenson – nice small light voice, very pretty for Bach or maybe Haydn. When he could be heard the sound was lovely and he has a sweet face; he is otherwise a Chrysler 300.

Another tenor, not quite so hefty and some years senior to Gary, named Scott MacAllister, as Apollo, operative largely in Europe (as in the Venice Daphne two years ago with June Anderson, seeable on DVD), saved his voice for the moments when the orchestra was not so loud (canny guy, this!), and we got some idea of sound and words. Not a lot. Boring performance, did not look his part. Ditto the costumes; no color, no nothing.

In the “June Anderson” role was a sweet young thing born in Calgary, Alberta named Erin Wall. Big voice, kind of English-sounding, you know, very forward and a little “hard,” but lots of top. Monochromatic bright; worked hard on piano tones, did not always make it, but I’m sure she’ll get it all right one day very soon. A remarkable young woman named Meredith Arwady sang Gaea, Daphne’s mother, one of the lowest-lying roles in the repertory, and she boomed out the bottom octave like the lady-bass he is. Remarkable. She is the Erda of tomorrow. I guess there were others; I don’t remember. Unit set. Tree. Curtain. I know, you think I am dismissive. It’s true. — LHC

Miss Cruisey will be back later this week with her take on La boheme and Platée.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: