L'Elisir d'Amore, Met, NYC, NY 01-02-2014Review and Photos by
Okay, I know this is a much belated review, but I feel it necessary to still give one. Better late than never—after all, I will not have another chance to report a performance of L’Elisir d’Amore with Anya.
Let us admit it that voice of Anna Netrebko is no longer for Adina in the traditional sense. Though she was fully capable to light up her voice to meet the requirement of MUSIC, her voice is larger, darker and meatier than one would expect from this CHARACTER. And clearly, she knows it, too, which makes this her farewell Adina. I do not mean this was not a good Adina, however, it was DIFFERENT. Compared to her now-classical portray of this role in the Otto Schenk production in Vienna in 2005 released by Virgin Records, in which she created a very girlish character, driven by the kind of pride one could expect from a beautiful girl in love, her Adina here was a much mature person. Her treatment on Nemorino, whom she has clearly loved from the very beginning, was driven by fear of losing control of herself. And this makes the uneven balance of soprano and tenor not a problem as it could be in a normal production (since Anya’s voice is bigger than the usual lyric tenor that would be casted as Nemorino). She is a strong woman, and he is a boy. The Bartlett Sher production tailored for Anya, with all the problems being discussed by many, was, however, right on spot for this.
There are many great singers I appreciate, while Anya always holds a very special position in my heart. I am not sure it is just she is special, or I am among the special lucky group of people who have some “resonance” with her. Her performance always gave me the feeling of trueness. When it is a tragedy, it could be painful, as I suffer with the person onstage (Anya or the character, I am just too silly to tell) even AFTER performance. But when it is a comic one, oh, what joy! Anya was not trying to be funny and pleasing you. She was simply being happy playing all the tricks and she was such inspiring and open that made the audience feel with her. When coming to the romantic and lyric part, it was simply touching. She colored her voice with such sympathy that I had never gotten it from anyone else. And, she even made stiffness an effective expression. At the end of Act 1, when Adina asked people coming to her wedding, she began with a stiff sound then turned it into a kind of fake and forceful happiness—indeed, how could she be really happy about her wedding right after showing such deep sympathy toward Nemorino? And yet, the best part had not come until Adina bringing back the contract for Nemorino. Even then, she began with unsureness in singing and hided back the contract she brought with at the beginning (which leaded audience to smile). Later, she finally got emotionally released and bloomed into full passion—something belongs to a fuller persona than the usual girlish little Adina.
Anya’s co-star, Mr. Vargas was not in his best voice that night. In fact, before Act 2, it was announced that he was still suffering the sickness which forced him cancelling the previous two performances. Interestingly, his singing for the second part was actually better than the first part. I guess maybe the announcement released him from pressure? Still, he had enough interaction with Anya, made it a better performance than the one a week ago—in which, Mr. Cordella, the cover, who had the cover rehearsal though, never did a rehearsal with Anya nor performed with her before was put onto stage in short notice. The pressure to sing opposite the most beloved soprano is understandable, especially when it was broadcasted. I felt the (over-)carefulness of Mr. Cordella when he was interacting (I mean both sing- and acting-wise) with Anya. So did I feel that Anya was trying her best to ease and inspire him. I am not blaming anyone. Quite the opposite, I appreciate everyone’s effort. But under this situation, obviously, some spontaneity was missing. When with Netrebko and Vargas, two much familiar colleagues to each other, the spontaneity was restored.
Mr. Alaimo gave a believable reading for Belcore. With both larger voice and body than Mariusz Kwiecien in this production last season, he (or Mr. Sher, the director) cleverly chose to make the character more a buffo role, with silly self-confidence. And Anya rightly made Adina’s flirting with him less serious, more like a game.
As Doctor Dulcamara, Mr. Schrott was overacting. Though he clearly knows that one should not trying to be funny in a comic as he stated during the interview of the broadcast last season, this was exactly what he was doing. Adding a lot of whispers into his singing did make some funny moments, but also broke the music line—something a serious musician should always avoid (Just compare it to what Mr. Maestri did in this role last season, who treated the music line with detailed care). Unsurprisingly, these tricks worked on most audience. However, this kind of cheapness should never be encouraged.
Overall, this was a satisfying performance for my taste. Whether one would like it or not depends heavily (or even, should I say, solely) on his/her opinion on this Adina. Though it is clearly not a standard/typical Adina, and I am pretty confident saying this could not be an Adina “the composer intended”, the humanistic touch Anya put into this role is irresistible. Honestly, I even like it more than how “it should be”. While we praise those (sometimes criticized as over-)romantic approach of Bach’s masterpiece for keyboard on piano (which was obviously not the composer’s intention), why we could not embrace a “heavy voiced” Adina?
Still, Anya decided to drop this role and devote her time to those more challenge new roles that her voice has developed to be capable to sing just in recent years. I could only wish her the very best on her new adventures. Meanwhile, I will always miss all those joyful singing and dancing and jumping onstage. I could not expect she doing everything in the given time. With all her exciting future roles, I guess missing Adina is the price we should pay for. Well, that is life.