“La Fille”: In Brief, HD

On Sunday Saturday afternoon, we checked out the HD simulcast of The Met’s“La Fille du Regiment” at the Walter Reade Theater. And much to our dismay, we caught a glimpse of high-C-flaunting Juan Diego Florez coming out of the Juilliard School’s Meredith Wilson Residence Hall with fiance wife Julia Trappe in tow at around, oh, 1pm. That’s like 30 minutes before curtain! He was dressed in a nice suit, and she in a gold and pink sleeveless opera gown. They were ducking into an elevator, trying to avoid being recognized by the 30 or so people waiting in the standby line at the box office.

It makes sense that JDF would be strolling into the theater in the nick of time, since, during the post-Act I interview with Renee Flemming, he told her he didn’t warm up his high Cs. He just goes out there and does them. That’s also consistent with various accounts–and our own observation–that the notes for him are oddly effortless.

I’m trying not to disparage his performance simply because I now know that he doesn’t prepare for his performances, but this does ring of the kind of theatrical laziness that opera singers are often accused of practicing. Why should I spend hours getting into character when I know that all I have to do is go out there and sing the 9 high Cs I know I can sing without even warming up. It’s not like his performance was unappealing, but there seemed to be a level of self-satisfaction that annoys people who hope to have a genuinely theatrical experience at the opera. As The Met’s own ad campaign says, “Great Opera is Great Theater.”

Florez, then, stood out as all the more uncommitted when seen next to his partner, Natalie Dessay, whose acting chops are certainly a refreshment to the opera house. And I was quite surprised that I actually enjoyed Natalie Dessay’s vocal performance. (You remember how we felt about Lucia.) The role is perfect for her skill set. I also have feeling, though, that the medium of the electronic simulcast may have smoothed over some of the vocal inconsistencies I noticed in her previous role. But on Sunday Saturday, via lots of technology and the so-so sound system of the Walter Reade Theater, her voice sounded full, and skilled, and pretty even (although there’s still that fuzzy place up top where her ring loses focus).

Over all, though, “La Fille” was enjoyable, with entertaining new dialog and appealing sets designed by Chantal Thomas, and also some great performances by the supporting cast (yay, Felicity Palmer!). I never got bored, or thought my time was being wasted. The very least we should expect from an afternoon at The Met.

[UPDATE: Thanks to Big Sis for linking to us! And will the queens please chill out. When you’re squeezing in a post between your lunch break and your 5 o’clock, some things are bound to go wrong. Yes, we saw the Saturday simulcast. As far as JDF and his girl, we did a quick Google search and came to Opera Chic’s post about him, and that’s the info we used. As far as JDF not warming up his high Cs, yeah, we get that a tenor only gets a few of those per day. But it just made us think that he’s one of those singers that relies on the miracle of his voice to carry his entire performance, which, it didn’t. Finally, in terms of misspelling Flemming’s name, deal with it.]

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9 Comments

  1. There was no live performance on Sunday. He sang on Saturday. I cannot imagine what JDF was doing at the house in the first place. I think your ‘dismay’ was misplaced.

  2. Juan Diego and Julia were married in a civil ceremony last year, and then had the big religious ceremony in Peru last month (it was a national event).

  3. Welcome to the rat race, Counter Critic. Whenever a published critic makes a typo, he gets no mercy at all around here. Why should your readers have a double standard and give you a break when you are so quick to pounce on others’ equally human slips?

  4. Hey Allwissende-

    Thanks for writing in. I appreciate your comment. And you raise a worthwhile question.

    In terms of blogging, and all informal online communication (my blog is informal in the sense that I don’t make money from it, it’s not my full-time situation, and I’m not an incorporated business; it’s something I do purely because I enjoy doing it), it’s irrational to dismiss someone’s idea or opinion because of a typo. I don’t do that to other bloggers. I try to get through to the thought behind the misspellings; the intention behind the grammatical miss hits and errant punctuation.

    When people claim (as they have) that my opinions about this performance are illegitimate because I forgot to add the second M in Flemming, that’s just absurd, petty, and really not a kind of dialog I want to entertain on my site. I have yet to receive a comment from someone with a genuine rebuttal to my opinion that JDF’s performance wasn’t very theatrically engaging.

    I’ve also been vocal about how I treat the medium of the blog. On one hand, I want to hold myself up to factual correctness (so I do appreciate and publish non-bitchy corrections) and presenting well-informed opinions. Yet, on the other hand, bloggers are free to set many of their own standards and ethical practices.

    And being able to click “publish” isn’t the same as “being published.” Most professional magazines and newspapers have at least one or two editors to proof material before it goes to print; The Times and The New Yorker has a whole corps of editors and fact checkers. When I publish something on Counter Critic, I’m doing it A.) completely on my own, and B.) as fast as I can before I have to move no to do the other million things I do. That’s the way of this blog.

    And my readers, that is, the crew that reads my site on a regular basis, generally doesn’t write in with snarky comments about my misspellings or typos. The fact of the matter is that I’ve received a small tsunami of nasty comments from the traffic that’s come through via our beloved Big Sis, La Cieca. A mixed blessing, I suppose. But if that’s the price I must pay for some extra attention, I suppose I’ll deal with it. But I’ll deal with it on my own terms.

    I hope that clarifies some things.

    xoxoC.C.

  5. Well, even if I believe that you went to saturday’s HD broadcast, I dont see what is big fuss about it. It is not like him missing rehearsals. He did this the same production with the same cast twice already. Im sure he knows every single detail of this opera by heart. Besides, I dont understand how you interpreted JDF saying that he doesnt practice on the day of performance as laziness. Most of people including me interpreted as he doesnt practice because it can get into his head and he can mess it up. Im not sure any singers will do a full rehearsal on the day of performance. Maybe, being with his wife and walking around is like his mental preparedness to him. In any case, I only saw and heard perfect singing from him. Comparing to JDF’s acting to Dessay’s is not fair, also. I mean, we are talking about Natalie Dessay, a singing actress, as she claimes.

  6. i have to agree with MJ.
    Many singers do not even talk on the day of a performance. Many singers do not even warm up at all and go on stage “cold.” Each singer needs to find what works for their voice.
    Does Tonio even appear in the first half-hour of Fille? That would give Florez almost an hour to get ready, more than enough time.

  7. That’s all true. But is no one concerned about whether or not he needs time to focus and get into character?

    That was my concern. Some people criticize opera for ignoring that fact that it is an experience of theater. To me, it was less a lack of vocal preparation than of general performance preparation that concerned me.

    And MJ, I assure you, I went to the simulcast. Appologies if errors made in haste has led some new readers to question my credability.

    C.C.

  8. Thanks, C.C. I saw the broadcast from BAM – you can read about it here:: http://www.feastofmusic.com/feast_of_music/2008/04/popcorn-and-ope.html

  9. All I can say is, acting in opera has come a long way since I watched the 1985 La Scala producation of Aïda with Pavarotti on video when I was twelve. Florez may be wooden and disaffected on stage, but at least he doesn’t lick his lips when the camera comes in for a close-up, as I distinctly recall Pavarotti doing. Furthermore, the whole cast of La fille leaned towards more theatrical (as opposed to operatical) blocking, gesturing and body language—although that may be due more to the director than the actors.


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