Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rance's Revenge; Review of the Met Live in HD Fanciulla

"La Fanciulla del West," broadcast as part of the Met Live in HD Series, seemed at home in the movie theater. The opera has always carried a kind of silver screen sensibility even though it debuted one hundred years ago, well ahead of the silver screen.

This production had a hot second act. Deborah Voigt as Minnie was able to open a can of vocal kickass as she interacted with both Marcello Giordani as Johnson and Lucio Gallo as Rance. Conductor Nicola Luisotti made the music rhythmically visceral and drove the action forward.

But the staging of the first act seemed tired in this 1992 Giancarlo del Monaco production. It was also hard to hear the ensemble--even with the magic of HD transmission.

Peter Sellars was interviewed during an intermission in advance of Nixon in China, but we needed his help with the Act One set. I could imagine Sellars setting Act One set in Cheers: "Hello Norm!....I mean Nick!"

The highlight of the first act was Gallo. He shaded Rance with seasoning from Scarpia. This boost of evil broadened the impact of the Sheriff, who was left alone on stage after act three with a pistol that he held menacingly. Yeah, this opera ended without bloodshed--but after a hundred years perhaps Rance is getting his revenge as we speak.

Gallo already had his revenge. "Minnie," he sang in Act One, "dalla mia casa son partito” (Nothing has ever given me pleasure). Translated from baritone-speak this passage becomes Bono singing, "I Still haven’t found what I’m Looking for."

Gallo made Rance believable.

The supporting cast also had some stand-outs: Ginger Costa-Jackson was fabulous as Wowkle. The ever present Dwayne Croft was memorable as Sonora, particularly in act three where his solid singing was critical in making the transformation of the community seem plausible.

This production was hosted by Sondra Radvanovsky. She was likable. The interviews were wide-ranging and creative. Coverage of these transmissions allowed us access into the process that was both educational and entertaining.

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