Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Idomeneo, Los Angeles Opera

The opera season finally started in LA. We saw Idomeneo on Friday night. It was OK; I didn’t not like it. The clusterfuck reviewer for the LA Times said that the set looked like the cover of a 1960 Joseph Campbell paperback, but I thought it was pretty good, in that it was simple and not filled with supernumeraries wearing papier-mâché heads. The only kind of stupid staging choice was the ballet at the end. It was completely pointless and could have been cut. Normally, I’m against cutting operas (though my butt may suffer for it), but they had already trimmed several of Idomeneo’s scenes, so why not scrap the ballet, which served no purpose? During part of it, the dancers got into sexually suggestive positions and dragged themselves across the floor, like pairs of coupling dogs who have gotten stuck together and who both have worms. I think the resident choreographer must give some of the higher-ups some killer blowjobs, because her work is just silly most of the time. I thought the dancers were good in parts where they represented something, like when they were miming the ocean waves during a storm at sea. At one point, they encircled Idomeneo, pointing swords at him, and I immediately thought, “Oh no! They’re creating a funnel of drama!” Thank you, Al Trautwig, you bastard. The costumes were kind of all over the place too. I’d like to know who decided that ancient Greeks had dreadlocks? The Greeks in Idomeneo did, and apparently the Greeks in Troy had braids too. Stupid. Ilia, the Trojan princess, had on a combination of a Regency dress and a nightgown, and Elettra wore a full-skirted red dress with mesh panels over her cleavage. So very Greek.

The singing was pretty good too. Placido Domingo’s voice is starting to suffer; he doesn’t sound all trumpety and heroic anymore, but his acting was wonderful. He doesn’t act much with his voice, but his physical acting is very good. We were supposed to see Angelika Kirschlager as Idamante or Anna Netrebko as Ilia, but they both cancelled, so we didn’t see either one. I think opera contracts need to be a little more strict. Kirschlager didn’t sing because she was “exhausted” (watch me play the world’s tiniest violin). Netrebko had an even more ridiculous excuse—she couldn't sing because it conflicted with her recording schedule. Um, these operas are planned years in advance, so why book a recording schedule that conflicts with something you already know you’re doing? Whatever. The Ilia we did see was fine. Kate Aldrich, who played Idamante, was good too, and was sufficiently boyish. Veronica Villaroel, who played Elettra, has an ugly, Droopy-the-Doggish voice that she doesn’t do anything with. It’s very loud, but it sounds kind of muffled and phlegmy, and she doesn’t color it at all. She did play crazy pretty well, though I’m not sure why opera directors think that “crazy” means “squats a lot.” Elettra was always standing around with her legs really wide apart, like she was going to have a wee right there on stage. I also think it’s funny how in opera, your mental state is reflected by how dishevelled your hair is. At the beginning of the opera, Elettra had a neat, dark red bun, but as she got progressively crazier, her hair started to fall, until finally she had a wild brush of Magenta-from-Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show curls.

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