Friday, September 23, 2011

Anna Bolena rehearsal reactions

Yesterday September 22 I attended the dress rehearsal to the new production of Anna Bolena. I must say I thoroughly impressed by the cast and their commitment to the work.

This is in no way a review as I will be reviewing the opera on October 6th. However I want to share my thoughts on what i saw today. The first thing I want to address is the production as I promised. David McVicar's new production is an uneven traditional production made up of  two ornate walls that resemble the palaces and dungeons of England. Both of these walls move around throughout the production to help change the scene. However these scene changes eventually become monotonous and repetitive. Its important to add that like previous Met productions such as the New Ring, McVicar's latest production malfunctioned as they were shifting to the mad scene. The elevator stopped mid way and they had to go to a third intermission to fix the problem. Hopefully this does not happen on opening night. McVicar who I considered a risk taker and who usually adds dark textures to the opera seemed to being playing it safe as he gave very little direction to his actors and most of the time they were standing and singing (parking and barking). In addition as the opera traversed McVicar seemed to be less and less interested in the opera. For example the last scene of the opera, Netrebko's costume was exactly that of the Vienna Production and she was directed in the exact way with the same gestures and direction (or maybe she because of lack of direction, she reverted to what she did in Vienna). However there are some positives out of this productions. Jenny Tiramani's costumes are both simple but luxurious as well as gorgeous to look at. Like in the Vienna production, Netrebko is given five costume changes that show off her elegance and beauty. In addition to the costumes, McVicar was clever in dividing the stage into two levels for the final scene. One recalls Aida's final scene. When Netrebko finishes singing she goes to black and the guillotine is revealed on the top level. Finally when the music stops a red curtain falls representing the beheading. Whether it may be an obvious or overdone trick it was definitely the most effective if not the best direction on McVicar's part. Overall the production is too safe, repetitive and lacks concise direction. However Met audiences will most likely enjoy it.

As for the singers. Anna Netrebko repeated her success in the role. Like in Vienna she sounded nervous and uncomfortable at the beginning. However as she continued throughout she got more comfortable and climaxed with a memorable mad scene. Netrebko sang with beautiful phrasing, pure legatos and impressive high notes. Her acting was impressive especially in the mad scene. However at times I felt like she wanted to do more but was restricted by McVicar's direction. Like critics stated Netrebko needs a director who is willing to take risks and help her discover the role to the full extent so she can fully develop the role. McVicar's is definitely not that director.

Ildar Abdrazakov was an impressively dashing Enrico. Like Netrebko, he sang with warmth and beautiful phrasing. His presence was imposing as he convinced that he was truly an unscrupulous king.

Stephen Costello was okay in the role of Percy. He was neither impressive nor bad. He sang with a warm tone at times but at other times with a nervous shrill and uneven tone. His high notes at times sounded wonderful and at other times sounded strained. Costello has a lot to work on before Monday nights opening.

Tamara Mumford was in my opinion the surprise of the afternoon. Known for singing secondary roles at the Met, Mumford finally had the pleasure of singing a key role. Her Smenton was sung with purity as the character himself. Mumford convinced in this short but crucial role.

Ekaterina Gubanova however was a mess in the role of Seymour. Known for her dramatic repertoire Gubanova showed that she is uncomfortable with the bel canto repertoire. From the beginining to the end of the opera she sounded shrill and stilted. Her voice was uneven and lacked balance. Her low point came in the act 1 finale as she was unable to reach her high register.Gubanova sang an acceptable second act if only tolerable.
 Marco Armiliato conducted with charisma but the orchestra seemed uncomfortable with a lot of the music. One of their iffy moments was the finale "Coppia Iniqua". The orchestra did not follow Netrebko and as a result it felt as if there were two different pieces being performed.. In addition there were some very awkward cuts that are not part of the standard cuts that sounded messy and contrived.

Overall because this a dress rehearsal there can still be work done before opening night.

For more information go to my Anna Bolena Preview

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