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Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 29 Jan 2017, 16:49
by Jim
I was listening to Rossini's 'Barber of Seville' last night on the internet from the Met. I nearly turned it off part way through but listened to the bitter end. I am particularly fond of this work but what came across to me over the broadband was a performance which was ponderous and with a lot of inaccurate singing. I fully acknowledge that this is a world away from actually being at the performance. The impression I got was of singers bellowing to be heard, with the exception of Pretty Yende who seemed to be the most comfortable of the performers. I do, I must say, have a prejudice for Rosina to be a mezzo not a soprano even though this is historically valid, as Rossini did also adjust for soprano.
If I was to judge Peter Mattei on this performance I would say he is not a Rossinian baritone. Or at least not in the Met, probably doing him an injustice. The Bartolo the same.

This is a long winded way of asking the question; are houses such as the Met suitable venues for sparkling works such as 'Barber...'?

Houses that are so big that only a singer with significant vocal heft can perform comfortably in them. Other singers bellowing to perform there with the consequent risks of reduced accuracy, flexibility and to vocal health.
Mozart is sung successfully there but then we do not sing Mozart the way he would have heard it.
I suppose the real answer is I need something better to be doing on Saturday nights.

Jim

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 31 Jan 2017, 11:19
by Japie
Would you accept microphones as compensation for venue size?

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 31 Jan 2017, 14:34
by antfreire
Of course not. If a singer regardless of the quality of his/her sound lacks the volume to fill an opera theater, let them be a concert singer, but let's not degrade the real operatic art.

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 01 Feb 2017, 23:37
by Geoff
Extraordinary ! So it's OK for a concert pianist to use microphones or a solo violinist to use microphones, but not opera singers ? After years of hard work and study, that most fragile of instruments, the human voice, has to receive no help whatever in what is a relatively short career ? The question of acoustics and how the world of opera deals with it is indeed a thorny one and things are not always what they may at first seem.

These days, voice amplification is extremely efficient and I would hazard a guess that in most opera houses there are state of the art microphones and amplification systems which give that little bit of assistance without audiences being particularly aware of it. I hardly think that opera houses shun modern audio technology but what do I know ?

It has been many years since I've been backstage anywhere, but such a tour is a real eye opener, believe me.

Regards,
Geoff.

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 05 Feb 2017, 17:18
by CVAULT1
I THINK IT HAS TO DO WITH THE VOICES...SOME CARRY WELL IN A LARGE HOUSE, SOME DON'T. YEARS AGO, WE HAD LARGE VOICES, BUT STILL THE STYLE. NOW WE HAVE SMALLER VOICES AND A LOSS OF STYLE.

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 09 Feb 2017, 10:47
by Geoff
I think that your are right. What annoys me is that for whatever reason, opera directors/producers insist on pushing outrageous productions where the music remains the same ( one thing which cannot be meddled with) while lighting, sets and staging - if any - go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Not for me. I should stop here.
Regards,
Geoff.

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 14 Feb 2017, 14:28
by Jim
I had a feeling that the question of the microphone would arise. It is happening whether we like it or not and not happening when on occasion it might help.

My problem with this has nothing to do with the performance in theatre (the american spell checker is driving me nuts). Some sound engineers and systems are so good we don't notice it unless something unusual happens.

At the moment classical singers are taught to project their voices to the full capability of their voice. With the endemic use of microphones this will no longer be a requirement and over a long period operatic singing could descend to crooning. This would be disastrous for operatic voices. Al Jolson was perhaps the last of the popular singers who could project. Bing Crosby, the first of the popular microphone singers, and Frank Sinatra were crooners and did not project. The materiel they sang was written for that, and therefore was appropriate. The operas were not.

Darksoprano in Opera Pub, on this site has a video up of 'Una voce poco fa' which may foretell where we are headed. It is worth your while going an looking at it. Let me give fair warning, to me it is unpleasant listening.

In the Met now, if smaller voiced singers wish to sing in it without injury, amplification would be required. This of course opens the doors to Katherine Jenkins, Andrea Bocelli and Michael Bublé singing there... in opera?

To get back to the question of staging I was recently at a performance of Don Giovanni sung in english with translation by Roddy Doyle. Contrary to my expectation it was a very good translation which respected the singers and, as used to be the case, helped them enunciate on tone instead of hindering. However the staging, set in a gym, was a disgrace and bore virtually no relationship to the story and to my mind was not helpful to Roddy Doyle's translation. Opera is in enough trouble with out this form of idiocy. I spoke to some of the chorus afterwards and I was not the only one of that opinion.

Jim

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 15 Jul 2017, 17:52
by Orestes
This is an interesting question. Barbiere is very intimate and looses something when given in too large theatres.

I think the same is true of many Mozart works, which really suffers when they are performed on to large venues. A good example of this Don Giovanni conducted by Daniel Barenboim at La Scala a couple of years ago.


It is almost conducted like it could have been Aida.

I think Metropolitan and other large scenes are more suitable for grand works than more imitate opera.

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 19 Jul 2017, 14:17
by Jim
Your conducting comment Orestes is, I think, significant. However in the larger houses these type of works often seem to sound ponderous so that the singers can at least get through it.

The weight of the voice should not, in theory, make any difference to the flexibility of the singing. This was true for singers such as Joan Sutherland, Hermann Jadlowker and Samuel Ramay. Nowadays however it does. Is this due to developing singers too rapidly, laziness, poor teaching, money, pushing singers to inapropriate venues too quickly etc?

Cosi Fan Tutti in the Met sounding, as it should; like an intimate ensemble piece, anyone?

Jim

Re: Is the Met a suitable venue

Posted: 19 Jul 2017, 20:15
by Orestes
Jim wrote:
19 Jul 2017, 14:17
Your conducting comment Orestes is, I think, significant. However in the larger houses these type of works often seem to sound ponderous so that the singers can at least get through it.

The weight of the voice should not, in theory, make any difference to the flexibility of the singing. This was true for singers such as Joan Sutherland, Hermann Jadlowker and Samuel Ramay. Nowadays however it does. Is this due to developing singers too rapidly, laziness, poor teaching, money, pushing singers to inapropriate venues too quickly etc?

Cosi Fan Tutti in the Met sounding, as it should; like an intimate ensemble piece, anyone?

Jim
I think several of those aspects are correct.

One important thing, especially when it comes to Mozart, is the conducting.

Some Mozart roles are really tricky as well. So casting can be a problem. Often young lyric baritones is used, when Guglielmo in Cosi for instance should be cast with a bass baritone.