…and perhaps the Met will put on a good Turandot production.
1/7 Turandot @ The Metropolitan Opera
1. Why would a tenor who cannot be heard over the orchestra, especially up in the Family Circle, be allowed to perform? At the beginning of the opera I thought that the orchestra had perhaps decided to play really loudly. I’ve never had a problem hearing vocalists at the Met, even way up in the balcony, but Philip Webb, who played Calaf, was mostly inaudible for the entire opera. By the time Act II rolled around, I had pretty much resigned myself to enjoying the playing of the orchestra and mentally substituting Franco Corelli’s voice. When Webb went to strike the gong 3 times at the end of Act 1 to declare Calaf’s intent to pursue the princess Turandot, he missed the first time. Seemed fitting. Surprisingly, his version of “Nessun Dorma” was pretty decent (and audible), and given a nice round of applause by the audience, but turned into an awkward moment when conductor Andris Nelsons decided to pause the music and then realized the audience wasn’t THAT enthusiastic and silence reigned. The other vocalists were bearable, though not standouts. Maria Guleghina as Turandot was stronger than Webb, but sounded as if she had swallowed her upper register and was all over the place with some of her pitches. Maija Kovalevska sang well as Liu, but her character sounded distant, and I did not feel particularly empathetic towards her. The chorus and the orchestra provided a bright spot, but certainly not enough to overcome the disappointment of the leads.
2. 35 minutes of music and 25 minutes of intermission? Really? I understand that the magnificent set by Zefferelli probably requires a large amount of time to change. And I gasped like many in the audience when the imperial, gaudy scene of the second act was revealed. But almost as much time chilling in my seat as watching the opera? Wonderful as the visual effect may be, I don’t think it justifies 25 minutes of intermission. As a director once told me, people come to the theater to watch acting and singing, not scene changes.
3. Speaking of the set, why did the designers choose to leave a black drape hanging down that blocked the back of the set for most of the balcony? Does no one bother to go up to Family Circle and realize that all anyone can see of the emperor is his feet? I understand that I paid less for my ticket, but I did not purchase a discounted “limited view” seat, so why block my view with a black drape that served no observable purpose? If the Met wants to attract a younger crowd, most of whom can’t afford a 100$ orchestra seat (and don’t have time to wait in line for 20$ ones) and will likely be sitting in the Family Circle, they should try and make a good impression. Or just take the time to look at a production from the point of view of everyone. Common courtesy?
Perhaps I’ve overblown the significance of the failures of the production, but I walked away disapointed at the sloppiness and plain lack of care. I know that the performance wasn’t a gala opening night or the run of a new production, and there probably wasn’t anyone “important” there, but an impressionable young student who can advertise the Met to other impressionable young students (who I’m sure the Met hopes will attend when they can afford it) was there. I have the potential (like many others in the audience) to be a potent marketing tool, but after an experience like that I had on Thursday, I don’t feel like recommending the Met to anyone. What if that had been my first opera experience? I would likely not go back. And the Met should realize that perhaps the most important audience member is not in row E, but is in G116, way up in the balcony, and treat each production as a chance to impress that blossoming young opera fan.