Posts Tagged ‘the met’

Then is now

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

By James Jorden

With one of my favorite opera productions returning to the Met tonight, I’ve been considering lately what makes Willy Decker’s Traviata so fine, so satisfying, and so worth a return visit. (more…)

Leading lady

Monday, January 7th, 2013

By James Jorden

One thing you can’t call David McVicar is inept. His productions always work with precision, every movement landing everyone in the right place at the right time, every “still” moment photo-ready. Reportedly he brings shows in on budget and on time, and there’s never a last-minute scramble to improvise some kind of action for the fourth act. (more…)


Sunday, September 30th, 2012

By James Jorden

Of hundreds of juicy anecdotes in Ken Mandelbaum’s indispensable volume Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Broadway Flops, one stands out perhaps a little more than the others. It’s about a show called Reuben Reuben which closed out of town in 1955. This was a through-composed absurdist piece by Mark Blitzstein, and Mandelbaum reports that on the opening night of the show over 300 audience members walked out of the Shubert Theater in Boston. (more…)

Water works

Friday, April 6th, 2012

By James Jorden

Most arts-related technology is at least slightly Jekyll-and-Hyde in its implementation, no matter how optimistic the intentions of its creator. For an example of the phenomenon, you need look no farther thafn Robert Lepage‘s Ring, clanking its way back to the stage of the Met this week. Amazing tech, that: all those motion-controlled computer animations and theoretically an almost infinite variety of stage configurations. Of course, the down side is, it often doesn’t work, and it’s not exactly singer-friendly. (more…)

Charles Anthony, No Unsung Hero

Monday, February 27th, 2012

by James Conlon

On February 15, one of the great men of opera passed away. Charles Anthony will be long remembered for the stunning statistics of his career at the Metropolitan Opera: 2,928 performances of 111 roles in 69 operas in 57 years. He appeared there more than any other artist in the Met’s history. For those who love facts and figures, his accomplishments are staggering. They can earn him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley’s Believe It or Not. But for those of us who knew him, worked with him, and loved him, however extraordinary the numerical data, it only tells part of the story.

Charlie, as he was almost universally called, brought sunshine into the theater and the lives of his colleagues every day he went to work. He loved opera, he loved his work, and he loved his colleagues. This coming June would have marked 40 years since I first worked with him. I met him the first day of rehearsals for a production of Falstaff, which was in fact my first professional engagement to conduct an opera.

Any singing artist who holds the stage for over a half century into an advanced age is noteworthy. But it is not the quantity of performances but the quality of his shining gifts that is the essence of Charlie’s greatness. His devotion to a single institution belongs to the values another era. It is almost unheard of today among opera singers. He could have had a career singing leading roles all over the world, but chose not to. He incarnated the ideal of an ensemble singer, whose loyalty was to the team as much as, or more than, to himself.

We live in an increasingly celebrity-obsessed culture. Evolving technologies have vastly multiplied the means of distribution that promote latter-day stars. It is increasingly difficult for the public, given these means, to differentiate between notoriety and quality. At the altar of personality, we celebrate superstar singers, instrumentalists, directors, and conductors. As it is easy to overlook the fact that symphonic orchestras are made up of very accomplished individual musicians who are not in the limelight, we must remind ourselves that the core of an opera house is to be found in its orchestra, chorus, resident singers, stage and technical staff, and in the countless individuals who work behind the scenes, literally and figuratively. “Star” singers, guest soloists and conductors are rented for the duration of their visit to an institution, but do not represent its spirit. The true spirit a musical ensemble is defined by its permanent members and constituent parts.

There are many persons, not celebrities, who have devoted their lives to music and the performing arts. Their role needs to be brought back to our attention, lest we forget how essential they are. Just as it easy to overlook the importance of general practitioners, schoolteachers and team players, it is tempting to be distracted by the glamor and glitter “at the top.”

Those of us who are able to practice our art, and earn a living thereby, are among the most privileged eople on this earth. I think Charlie knew that in a very special way, and he communicated it to all around him on daily basis for over half a century. The radiance and warmth he brought to work with him every day won him universal admiration and a special place in the hearts of all of his colleagues. I never heard a bad word spoken by him, nor about him. He reminded all of us how lucky we are.

There are many others in our symphony orchestras and opera houses around the country who, like him, deserve our admiration. But for those of us who knew him, we recognize that there was only one Charles Anthony, and he is irreplaceable.

What went wrong?

Friday, December 9th, 2011

By James Jorden

After putting off for a week trying to make some sense of the horrific mess that is the Met’s new Faust, I’m finally just going to give up. There are some disasters that bear writing about as what you might call teaching opportunities: this season’s Don Giovanni, for example, as a cautionary tale about the perils of timid conservatism. But there’s nothing to be learned from this Faust besides, perhaps, “never hire Des McAnuff to direct another opera under any circumstances.”  (more…)

Ring Recycle

Friday, November 18th, 2011

By James Jorden

Now that it has become apparent that Robert Lepage’s production of the Ring at the Met is a fiasco (too soon? Nah.)… well, anyway, since arguably the production is a dreary, unworkable, overpriced mess whose primary (perhaps only) virtue is that it actually hasn’t killed anyone yet, and since, let’s face it, the Machinecentric show turned out to be so mind-bogglingly expensive (all those Sunday tech rehearsals with stagehands being paid, no doubt, in solid platinum ingots!), something has to be done. In this article, I intend to propose that “something.”  (more…)

Peter’s Principles

Friday, November 4th, 2011

by James Jorden

“I’ve almost come to the conclusion that this Mr. Hitler isn’t a Christian,” muses merry murderess Abby Brewster early in the first act of Arsenic and Old Lace, and to tell the truth I’m beginning to think I’m almost as far behind the curve as she was. Recent new productions at the Met suggest strongly that Peter Gelb either doesn’t quite know what he’s doing or else, if he does know, has some wildly inappropriate ideas about what music drama is supposed to be.  (more…)

Horse play

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

By James Jorden

The critics’ reaction to Robert Lepage’s new production of Die Walküre at the Met leaves this contrarian reviewer in something of a quandary. Not only was pretty much everybody underwhelmed, but there was a consensus about what (they thought) was wrong: the clunkiness of The Machine, the lack of poetry in the latter part of the first act, the clumsy path to the final tableau.  No, one doesn’t want to just heap on the contempt, but at the same time it’s not easy to build a case for Lepage’s invention thus far in the Ring(more…)

She sees dead people

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

It’s fortunate that Lulu at Den Norske Opera was the last stop on the “Regietournee,” because honestly anything after that would have amounted to an anticlimax. If there is a more brilliant director working in opera today than Stefan Herheim, well, maybe I shouldn’t see any of his work, because it might be too much for the human brain to absorb. (more…)