“We’re going low-tech,” Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb said in an introduction to the company’s At-Home Gala broadcast on the internet on Saturday afternoon (evening for the many participants sequestered in Europe).
Maybe so, but the vocal results were as high as could be hoped for, from living rooms and kitchens and in some cases with accompaniments as modest as an iPod. To say nothing of the remarkably coordinated players of the Met Orchestra, each pre-recorded and reassembled digitally.
Here are some favourites as selected by La Scena Musicale writers, including performances still available on YouTube.
Many favourites: Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak, for the comedy; Piotr Beczała, because he seemed so far away, in a small house; Diana Damrau and Nicolas Testé, for the family moment; Gunther Groissböck, for his voice and the surprise of singing early; Peter Mattei, for the originality of performing his own accompaniment to Don Giovanni’s “Deh vieni alla finestra” on an accordion; Erin Morley, both singing and playing the piano; René Pape, for his voice in a signature role, Sarastro. But if I must pick only one, make it the Met Orchestra in the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, for the perfect balance of sound that conveys emotion and the technical accomplishment of bringing so many musicians together under Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Wah Keung Chan
The Metropolitan Opera At-Home Gala really hit its stride when the screen passed to soprano Renée Fleming. She spoke about music, Italy and Verdi. As the piano accompaniment began softly in the background, she seamlessly transitioned to singing the first notes of the “Ave Maria” from Verdi’s Otello, and the hair started standing on my forearms. She continued with even tone and pure legato. It was a graceful, touching performance, concluding with a climactic floating high A flat. This set the tone for the excellent performances for the rest of the four-hour presentation.
Hard to name a favourite, but I was impressed by Lisette Oropesa in “En vain j’espère” from Meyerbeer’s once-popular Robert le diable. The tone was brilliant and the ornaments were both dazzling and relaxed. This Cuban-American coloratura can make a forgotten aria sound familiar. Pianist Michael Borowitz, as piped in on a big-screen television, seemed to be playing in the same space. Finally, it was nice to see a singer dressed for the occasion, even though the performance came from her living room in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It would be great to hear Oropesa in Montreal when life returns to normal.
Other Performances available on YouTube: