Four great opera singer-actors triumphed in today’s MET broadcast of Ernani. All were in full voice and convincing dramatic enactment of a rather nasty story. This is opera, so the soprano finds herself loved by the tenor, baritone, and bass. And the four of them bash out the music in this improbable love quartet. You know what is going to happen: this is opera, as I have said. The tenor and soprano die at their own hands singing all the way.
The four who took us all the way through one of Verdi’s early operas with its youthful vigour, pop tunes, and loud chorus were Angela Meade, Marcello Giordani, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Ferrucio Furlanetto.
I have seen and heard the males before. I have every CD Hvorostovsky has made. Angela Meade was new to me and my fellow opera-goers. She is magnificent in the old-fashioned opera mould: beautiful, large, and of commanding voice. As one of our party remarked: “The chorus is singing loud; the male leads are singing loud; yet you can heard her above the din.” And what a beautiful sound she makes with those large lungs. Sit back and be transported.
But before I remark further on the merits of this production, let me pay tribute to Errol. I have been in many opera houses, from Santé Fe, through years of Los Angeles, toVancouver. As we are told in each MET broadcast, “nothing beats live opera, so come to the MET, or go to your local opera house”
Yet I wonder. One of the nice things about going to a small suburban cinema to watch opera, is people like Errol. He is forty or so. He dresses in a conservative jacket and tie. He has that light brown, smooth skin that denotes some ancestors from Africa. And he is in charge of the movie, at least the opera-movie. For two years now, his is the first smiling face and cheery greeting as you give him your ticket to go into the theatre. He herds us into the theatre in time for the start. He comes and gathers us up if we linger at interval in the foyer. He pops into the theatre to ask if we are all seated and happy. He helps the old folk with their walking sticks to their chairs. He carries in food for the hungry ladies who prefer to sit at interval. He warns us that construction next door may interrupt the singing (it never has—but he is concerned.)
On those rare occasions in 2010 when the transmission failed and we missed a key aria, or worse, a whole scene, he gently consoled us and gave us coupons to come free next time. He stands by the door at the end of the performance to say good-by and cheer with us at another great opera and all the emotion that goes with that.
His is the face and personality of small-town opera that I have not seen in the city. He makes the morning more fun and friendly; more intimate and personal. I hope his employers reward him well. I have never asked him if he actually likes opera. Next time!
And so back to final statements on Ernani. For great Saturday morning entertainment, you cannot do better than those early Verdi operas. Lots of great tunes, big choruses, glimmers of that yearning for freedom from oppression, and the nobility of young love set to music. Verdi sublimated all this in his latter operas. So we wait eagerly for next season and Othello which is his greatest, in my opinion. Dick Volpe, MET director, thrilled us listing off next season’s productions. Eleven I do want to see. The twelfth, Parsifal, I am not sure. It is so dull and gloomy. Maybe the MET can liven it up.
So we said good-by to Errol and strolled into the soft sun of Vancouver and to this opinion. It was a great event.
PS. Since posting the above. a number of other bloggers have posted their opinions. Most are fascinating. Although most other comenters concentrate too much on the story, which as I note above, is trashy.
Then the other blogger get entwined in comments about the intermission features. My advice: go get a hot dog if the fun of watching a fat Italian shout at union underworks gets your gaul up.
The only intelligent comment that I found is about the performance of Ferrucio Furlanetto. He was magnificent, in my opinion. Of course, he is the demented villian. He is mad, in short. But what a portrail of evil and madness. And the passions that torment the old. His aria asking why in old age we have the passions of a young man, left me breathless.
I am old and his askings reflect my own: why does desire and lust not leave us when we are old? Why are we still plagued by the passions that bedeviled us when we were young? Why can old age not bring peace and contentment with the current flesh? Why this constant, burning desire for young sopranos, et al.?
That is opera’s role and responsibility. To ask in song the questions we cannot ask in common speech. Ferrucio Furlanetto did it to perfection. The commenters who disparage his performance are obviously young and know not the issues of the old who take refuge in opera in the absence of the real flesh.
Far be it from me to redifine the need for and benefits of opera by extolling on Ferrucio Furlanetto and his aged lust and acts. But he was real, following the score of young men who nevertheless had vision of old age. If you want ot know the real issues of being over sixty-five go wathc Verdi’s latter operas, Othello, Don Carlo, and Falstaff, where it all degenerates into the folly of lustfull stupidity and vanity.