Il Ballo delle Ingrate, and so on

good old act one: the dance of the ungrateful woman. and i’m the ingrate. claudio monteverdi, leonard berstein, i’m sorry to report that this was a hellish trip peppered with mildly interesting moments.

moment one:

the cigarette-sucking matriarch, miss thang//venere, coos us into a kind of torpor that only our venus could. several moments of her performance edged into sublimity. twelve points for sublime vocal conduct, venere.

moment two: hello, devil

plutone is a heffalump-like creature, a beautiful bass whose most arresting features are his impressive paunch, swathed in a tightish, violet silken cummerbund (the kind my brothers used to wear to the prom in the mid-nineties) and his voice. sweet mahogany, that voice.  let’s say seven points awarded to plutone for his mildly amusing garb.

initially, the costumes look garishly cheap, a job not quite massacred, but certainly, costumes devised in the middle of america’s great recession. no points to award, no points at all, because half the magic, half the glamour and stun of the opera is luscious creations: sculptural taffeta and trim, deep crimsons, sultry golds, dyes that spellbind. this is what i missed.
more on the devil, the hellishness, the monteverdi:

on with torpor. nothing does it like rope tied tied around the waste of a well-dressed dame. an assortment of dead jangled harmonious dirges, yes. can dig it. five points.

second act. trouble in tahiti. less torpor. kind of lame.

i’m fond of opera, and i think one of the most arresting parts is that they always say exactly what they mean. “i’m not in love with you anymore.”
“you’re doing it with miss brown, am i wrong?”
“i do love going to the movies because it takes my mind of the futility of raising this child who’s addicted to the magical light box.”
part of the issue is that this theme of 1950’s marriage has been sucked dry by storytellers over the past sixty years. true, not dry when the story was written, but i noted no effort to make the issues contemporary.

also, the performance in english seemed, somehow, to be very wrong. i’ve never seen an opera in english before, so i was thrilled by the idea. there’s always been italian or german to veil these straight-belting characters. mmm but not here. why would old bernstein embrace the opera? what’s in it for him?

next to anything i’ve considered Great in the past, we’ve got a pale, nearly joyless fiasco on our hands. certainly, the art director gave cohesion a furious shot, and our friend leonard writes some infectious lines, but the show ultimately went stagnant, and i left irate, an ingrate.

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