Pasquale has never been so cool--and this Pasquale had a ballet.
The Met Live in HD Pasquale gave us such fabulous backstage access that we were able to watch the details of every scene change. It was a Ballet Mécanique and absolutely seemed part of the plot.
It was amazing to learn that this run was the first time that James Levine has conducted Pasquale, and the shots of him conducting during the opening sinfonia were expressive. Camera angles that highlighted individual musicians from within the Met orchestra were also welcome; particularly in the tasteful angles shot within the orchestra during the scene 2 trumpet solo.
We first saw soprano Anna Netrebko backstage. She blew kisses to the Met Live in HD audience as the camera panned past her while she reclined on a fainting couch. It was just before her Act One aria.
The scrim rose and Netrebko began her introduction in G major reading from a book. Norina's cavatina gave Netrebko room for devilishness and established that she could still sizzle scales. She was charming and witty, as always, and made impeccable musicianship fun.
John Del Carlo sang a convincing Pasquale. Known particularly for his work in comic roles by Rossini, he was ever-entertaining. His ability to articulate lightening fast patter boggles the mind. The act three patter duet with Mariusz Kwiecien came across with perfectly coordinated consonants--clean and articulate. To our delight it was encored before the scene change.
Met regular Kwiecien was the common denominator as Dr. Malatesta. He was the master of plot machinery and had strong chemistry with everyone. His powerful, rich voice added significantly to ensembles and made Maletesta's music dance.
Lyric tenor Matthew Polenzani brought richness to the role of Ernesto. He projected a sense of sadness and isolation that felt genuine as he delivered effortless power in his act two aria "Cercherò lontana terra."
The live in HD audience became omni-opera when we were given backstage access to the serenade ensemble that performed Ernesto's act III serenade. A live feed of Levine conducting was projected onto a monitor where a cover conductor led the guitars, percussion and chorus that supported Polenzani. Polenzani then came onstage for the da capo of his aria. This brightened the sound and moved the action forward as Netrebko appeared on the balcony.
Polenzani and Netrebko balanced well in their Notturno duet "Tornami a dir che m'ami." Though this duet between lovers appears late in the opera, Polenzani and Netrebko had an onstage chemistry that kicked in long before this moment and they made this duet seem a continuation rather than a new starting point.
In the end, Pasquale gave his blessing to the wedding of Norina and Ernesto. The moral was simple: “Any man has lost his senses who would marry when he is old.”
This experience was light, colorful, and full of blazing musicianship. The interviews, backstage access, and clever camera angles have created Omni-opera.
Hail mighty Live in HD! Hail, Hail, Hail!