Macbeth 1-1

A wonderfully written defense at PARTERRE… 

I’d like to admit a guilty pleasure of mine: I’ve secretly been waiting with a lot of anticipation for Maria Guleghina to sing in Macbeth and Norma this year. I have not told this to many people because it seems that the common expectation has been that she would be just short of a train wreck in both roles. Many of my wise opera buddies have commented on her wild/out-of-control/harsh/shrill/screamy/erratic voice and technique, and her inability to execute coloratura work. Yet anyone who saw Trittico or Cavalleria last season must have realized she’s in prime mid-late career voice at the moment. Many who already commented on the Sirius broadcast from tonight (10/26) heard it right – she had a GREAT night in Macbeth.

I am an advocate of giving artists the benefit of the doubt when they have an off night because I am aware of the pressures and intricate details that can affect the voice at any given performance. I hate to be present when it occurs (who does at these prices) but it happens. I refused to comment in depth about the singing in the Lucia two weeks ago for just that reason. My return visit to that opera last night unfortunately confirmed most of my initial impressions (excepting of course the pleasure of Stephen Costello’s debut as Edgardo and the secure high acrobatic singing of Annick Massis), however my impression of Macbeth, especially in regard to Guleghina couldn’t be further from the negative reviews I read in major publications.Most of the press fell over themselves in praise for Dessay in Lucia, yet claim the new Macbeth is “flawed”, “lacking”, and “sub-par” due to the performance of Maria Guleghina. To put Dessay on such a pedestal and then savage Guleghina just isn’t right. As told to me by a Met employee Mme. Guleghina was very hurt and upset by the press reaction to her performance. Tonight she took the opportunity of being in voice to prove them wrong.

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And an apposite view at MY FAVORITE INTERMISSIONS…

Oh, antes de nada, if you were going to ask, it’s pronounced LU-chich,where the first “ch” is pronounced on the, hmmm, I guess alveolar ridge, like the first c in “Lučić” and the second one is further back, like the second c in “Lučić.” What, I’d give you examples in English but it’s not phonemic in English, so I can’t.

Well, if I were cursed, you know, I think I’d want it to be a big, awful curse. A totally terrifying curse, yessiree Bob. What I mean is imagine you invited your whole family over and the clock struck midnight and some rather apologetic ghost sidled up to your Aunt Chayudis and muttered, “oh yeah. Boo or something,” and then just helped itself to the artichoke dip, nobody would really talk about it the next day, and pretty soon you’d have to serve better hors d’oeuvres to get people to come over. So in a certain way, it’s a pity the Met’s new Macbeth isn’t a full-fledged disaster. I say that sincerely: disaster is something you can sink your teeth into. This was just a disappointment, and like Royal Tenenbaum, I’m not very good with disappointment.

Your first question might, I’m thinking, be: did Guleghina take a shot at the C# in the sleepwalking scene? And I think what actually happened is she took a shot at the C# in another work altogether, perhaps one by Luigi Nono. Or, hell, La Sonnambula. It’s confusing. No-one can blame her. What she actually hit with that shot was…well it was a high C#, right where it should be, but it wasn’t something you’d ever ask to hear again. (I’m imagining Guleghina auditioning for the part, if that’s how things happened. Thank you, Ms. Guleghina. Please don’t do that again. Did you bring any Mozart?) It came from the wrong side of the tracks, that C#, and it brought its friends C and B, thugs, the lot of them. I have started with the bad news, because I’m like that. The
good news is if she could walk around with maybe Elizabeth Schwarzkopf behind her, she would be a certain kind of fascinating in this role.

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