As the blogs have been buzzing lately of this wonderful evening of entertainment for opera aficionados, I thought that I would give my take on the event. As to the whole affair, I really enjoyed it, but I still cannot understand why it is called an "Awards Gala" because no awards were presented. In any case my thoughts of the individual performances, that is to say the ones that were so excellent that I still remeber them, are below.
Joyce DiDonato's hosting, first of all, was quite enjoyable. She just may turn into the next Susan Graham, who is hosting a number of events at the Met. I must say that her first performance, that of Una voce poco fa, had me a trifle worried at the beginning; it at first appeared that she would never move during the aria, and I was thinking, "What does everyone see in her portrayal of Rosina?" Of course, I need not have feared for long, for though it was probably not quite so good as her performance of it in the Met's current production, she did not do so bad as I originally thought she might. Her duet with Diana Damrau from Der Rosenkavalier was beautifully sung and acted on both parts. I liked the anecdote that went with the performance as to how Diana had lent Joyce her pants for the duet. I do not think that I shall ever forget that story.
Simon Keenlyside's performance was good. He sang the Prologue of Pagliacci, and after a few tense moments when neither the baritone would make his entrance or the conductor, who was Ascher Fisch, would begin the music because of miscommunication, the music commenced and the baritone made a dramatic entrance singing his way onto the stage. His hat and scarf made his recital feel more like a performance. It was great.
A leve-toi soleil from Charles Gounod's Romeo et Juliet was sung by tenor Eric Cutler, and the audience loved it. The only apparent flaw was in his appearance; I think he ought to trim his hair. Despite this, he is a tenor I would gladly pay to see and hear. His top notes sound effortless.
I was starting to wonder if I had heard wrong when I learned Renee Fleming was going to sing on the broadcast, but she finally came out, and hers is one of the two performances I liked the most. Her and Joyce DiDonato's rendition (has anyone been counting how many times Joyce has made it to the stage?) of Ah, guarda sorella from Cosi fan tutte sounded perfect! I was glad to see Renee make a return to her Mozartean roots (I can hear her singing Dove sono in my mind as I write this). I hope she does more of the standard Italian repertoire soon. I hear that she is to sing Rossini's Armida within the next two years at the Met. Let us pray we get a broadcast of that! Back to the Gala, though, it was a pity that she did not sing again.
Diana Damrau and Eric Cutler sang together with ease in Tornami a dir from Don Pasquale. I think her acting was the most diverse of the evening. Was she not quite humorous and believable in Bernstein's Candide? Her English was entirely understandable, a quality rarely found in opera singers, and it did not sound German. She used the entire stage for that song.
Maria Guleghina gave a most poignant performance of Pace, pace, mio Dio from Verdi's Il Trovatore. It was so moving partly because of the performance itself and Joyce's informing us of the circumstances surrounding the aria. I do not think I have ever heard it sung better.
Finally, and I am sorry that I cannot remember more of the evening's festivities, since I know that DVR's are relatively common even though I do not have one, I expect to see these performances on YouTube and in high quality video with stereo sound!
P.S. The reason we are seeing the 2007 Awards Gala and not the latest one is because of a lack of funding. In an older edition of Opera News magazine, I read an article on the subject of less opera being put on television and even on classical music oriented radio. I can attest to both of these practices. Often I have suspected my local PBS affiliate of putting some local programs on over an opera or musical. I have no proof, however, but I am sure they must because of the infrequency with which these sorts of programs are aired. As for my local classical music radio station, I know that they are using less opera or vocal music to fill their hours, although of late during the Christmas season, they are playing some carols and sacred works by some of the world's great choral institutions. We used to be privileged to two opera broadcasts a week, but since the recent passing of our opera announcer here, who had been on the station for some forty years, we lost one of these, the historic one. Does anyone recall the "old" Viva La Voce internet radio station? I wish it was still with us. They used to play operatic vocal music 24/7. Ah, those were the days...