January 27th, 2013

On Gun Control (A Lengthy Meditation)

As one might expect, since the horrendous massacre at Newtown, the national debate on gun control, and specifically, access to assault-style firearms, has come back with a vengeance. As a “gun rights” advocate myself, I’ve heard the renewed debate with great disappointment as both sides trot out the same tired old discredited arguments and dance around unpalatable truths. Read moreCollapse )

The Met in HD: “Maria Stuarda”

On January 19th, we went to see the Metropolitan Opera simulcast of “Maria Stuarda,” by Gaetano Donizetti. Since I’ve previously reviewed the University Opera production in these pages a couple of years ago, I won’t detail the plot, save to remind that it is based on Schiller’s largely fictionalized play about Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I.

We were interested in this performance because Joyce DiDonato was singing the title role. We had heard her as “Sycorax” in “The Magic Island,” and were very impressed, and were excited to see what she would make of this bel canto role. We were not disappointed. She was fabulous, and so were the other members of the cast. Elza van den Heever, a new young soprano did marvelously in the role of the aging and insecure Elizabeth, matching DiDonato’s emoting while weighed down with Elizabeth’s heavy wigs, makeup, and gowns. Since she is a tall, broad-shouldered woman, the stage director’s advice to have her adopt a manly stride rather than an elegant glide was spot on, and made her seem very much the daughter of Henry VIII.

The women were well supported by Matthew Polanzani, as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who has strong feelings for both women; Joshua Hopkins as Cecil, the architect of Mary’s doom; and Matthew Rose, as Talbot, Mary’s sympathetic jailor. All five voices blended wonderfully in the quintet that is the climax of the second scene, and ensemble singing was fine throughout. Tenor Polanzani was especially effective in duets with both mezzo DiDonato and soprano van den Heeever.

The Met production was staged as though presented in an Elizabethan theatre and worked well. The Met Opera orchestra, Maestro Maurizio Benini at the podium, was up to its usual standards, and gave us a very enjoyable afternoon at the opera.

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