Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Your Music Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad! – The 2006 Phlegming Awards

Ah, now this is the fun part for me, because I’m all about tearing down. I’m like Shiva or something. Also, it allows me to crack open a bottle of tasty, tasty Schadenfreude. Mmm…more shameful joy and less filling.

Worst Performance by a Male Singer in a Supporting Role: Lado Ataneli as Rodrigo in LA Opera’s Don Carlo. Yeah, he didn’t hit any bad notes or anything, but he made me not give a rat’s ass about a character I usually love, and he didn’t even make up for it by running around like he had shitty drawers. Runner-up: John Relyea (or the person who constructed and programmed the Relyea-Bot) as Garibaldo in the Met’s Rodelinda. Like Ataneli, Relyea was technically fine, but he didn’t change his performance at all in the three shows I saw, and he sang at an unmodulated, unrelieved forte volume all the time. Also, flared nostrils and pointy eyebrows do not a villain make. If they did, then Mr. Spock would’ve turned evil every time Scotty ate too much haggis and started popping them off.

Worst Costumes: I would choose Robert Wilson for his costumes in the Met’s Lohengrin (though he didn’t design them, one of his lackeys did), simply because I’m convinced he’s embezzling money by charging opera companies for the costumes and then re-using old ones. He also deserves a slap on the wrist for not giving Karita Mattila a bra. No, the worst costumes of the year were without a doubt the horrendously ugly Ashes to Ashes, funk to funky, we know Optimus Prime's a junkie, strung out in Munchkinland, hitting an all-time low Pierrot costumes from the Salzburg Festival’s production of Pelléas et Mélisande. They made the cast look like the Widettes. Awful.

Worst Cancellation of the Year, aka The Dwaynie: Simon Keenlyside pulling out of Chicago’s Iphigénie en Tauride, opening the door for that little smacktalker Mucus Leechem, er, Lucas Meachem. Now, I talk as much shit as anyone about opera singers, but I don’t think I can actually sing or anything, and I’ll never have to work with any of them the way he will. Here’s some shit-talk now: Lucas Meachem is a self-important, potato-faced little weasel. Runner-up: Gerald Finley cancelling his Golaud in Salzburg. Laurent Naouri was a decent replacement, but with Finley, it would’ve been good enough for me to overlook those butt-ugly costumes, which is saying something.

Worst Performance by a Female Singer in a Supporting Role: Luana DeVol’s Ortrud at the Met would’ve been a contender in this category, since her voice started coming apart during the opera, but it actually seemed to fit the character and the situation, so she’s not even a runner-up. The clear winner in this category is Frederica von Stade as Ottavia in LA’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea. She sounded like a cow being raped by a goose. I think Our Friend Flicka needs to ride off into the sunset.

Most Self-Satisfied Performer: It seems kind of counterproductive to give an award to someone who clearly already thinks very much of himself, but I just had to give this one to Dmitri Hvorostovsky. As I said last year in my review of his LA recital: “The man is so full of himself that I fear he'll soon collapse under the weight of his own self-importance and become some sort of extremely smug white dwarf. If cities could be run on an overinflated sense of self-satisfaction, I'd say hook Hvorostovsky up to a generator by his nipples and let him power the entire West Coast.”

Worst Audience: No question, the audience at LA Opera’s Manon. They arrived late, they clomped around and talked during the music, they ate, and they got as giddy as little schoolgirls when Anna Netrebko pole-danced or put things on her crotch. Grow up and shut up!

Worst Stage-Kiss: Most opera kisses are fairly unconvincing, but the kisses shared by Rodelinda and Bertarido in the Met’s Rodelinda were particularly bad. It looked like he was kissing his mommy. Also, to quote Blackadder, Renée Fleming is wetter than a haddock’s bathing costume (in the weak, too-effeminate sense of the word), so I expected her to squish a bit like an over-filled sponge.

Worst Death: Again, I find myself torn between the moronic direction of Robert Wilson and that of Stanislas Nordey. Telramund’s slow-motion crumple to the floor after being “struck” with an invisible sword in Lohengrin was ridiculous, but at least it was clear what had happened. In Pelléas, the only sign the audience had that Mélisande had died (until the singers told us) was that she slowly raised her arm and then drew it down in front of her face. Yes, I think that is the universal symbol for death, now that I think of it [/sarcasm]. Runner-up: Lado Ataneli’s “Ow, my back is going out!” Herky-Jerky Dance of Impending Death in Don Carlo.

Worst Note: Or should I say “notes”, for there were several. Renée Fleming’s botched run of coloratura in her last aria of Rodelinda wins this category easily. She hit one clunker and instead of cutting her losses and leaving it at that, she went on and followed one bad note up with another and crowned the whole thing with a screeched high note that was like the snot syrup on the poo sundae. Runner-up: Anna Netrebko’s horribly missed note in Manon, which she inexplicably held and held. It was like a rectal thermometer were being jammed into my ear canal and then tapped even further into my head with a ballpeen hammer.

The “winners” in the last category segue nicely into the next two:

Worst Performance by a Female Singer in a Lead Role: Renée Fleming as Rodelinda at the Met. Aside from that bungled bit of coloratura, her voice was just not at all suited to the Baroque music. The much talked-of “creaminess” in her voice seemed more like phlegminess; it had a cottony, sock-in-the-throat thickness to it. She also scooped and swooped up to most of her notes. To make matters worse, Fleming’s acting was, well, short of saying “shitastic”, lackluster. She didn’t have any of the fire that a good Rodelinda should have, and she just wandered around the stage like a kicked dog looking for someone to scratch its ears.

Most Overrated Singer: Anna Netrebko. She’s a fine singer, even though I don’t think she’s very good in some of the roles she chooses, but far too much fuss is made over her. The reason? Have you seen how pretty she is?! OMGSQUEE! A pretty, skinny girl in opera!! It’s like seeing a unicorn! Who cares if she can’t sing bel canto and makes very little effort to change that fact? She’s so pretty!

Worst Set: Stanislas Nordey’s Pelléas production strikes again. His rotating box-with-a-surprise-inside concept was tiresome almost immediately, and only got worse after the items in the box had less and less connection the opera. Then, bafflingly, he ditched the boxes completely in the second half (three acts too late, if you ask me). Also, he used lifelike mannequins *shudder*.

Biggest Douchebag: Robert Wilson. A thousand times Robert Wilson. In defiance of natural law, he both sucks and blows. I sat out his Madama Butterfly at LA Opera, after being sickened and annoyed by it in 2004, and I almost inserted a red-hot skewer into my eye after finding out that Lohengrin at the Met was going to be his production. True to form, it was utter crap. He's destroyed every opera he's directed. He is the least creative person in the world, or else he's the most delusionally self-confident one, if he thinks his ridiculous vision can encompass everything from Mozart to Tom Waits.

Worst Opera Show Host: I should probably feel lucky that LA even has an opera show, but it’s difficult to count my blessings in that respect when that opera show is tainted by the verbal diarrhea of the loathsome Duff Murphy. He is the biggest moron that ever moroned. He often screws up the names and plots of the operas as he explains them, and he insists on saying that Athanael in Thais is Thais’s father, completely oblivious to the fact that Athanael wants to get into Thais’s pants at the end of the opera and that Thais is calling him “Père” because he’s a monk. Well, in true Duffesque style, I’m probably not explaining that right, but Athanael definitely isn’t Thais’s dad. Murphy also has his little pet singers that he always plays. Part of their allure for him appears to be in the pronunciation of their names, which he clearly relishes: “Bryn TAIR-vel” and “Dmitri VOHR-o-stovsky.” Another one of his many gaffes came in a show devoted to his favorites in which he proclaimed that they’re both lyric baritones with a dramatic quality in their voices or something. Wrong and wrong, assclown.

My Duff Murphy rage is mostly inspired by his insistence on overlooking three of the best singers in the world. During his last show (on the penultimate day of the year—that means “second to last”, as Murphy will inform his listeners), he played a block of Schubert lieder. But did he play two of the best lieder interpreters in the world, i.e. Simon Keenlyside and Gerald Finley? Of course not. When he plays excerpts from Billy Budd, does he ever use the Keenlyside recording? Don’t be silly. Playing the best Billy Budd in the last twenty-five years, now that’s just crazy talk.

Worst Performance by a Male Singer in a Lead Role: No one really stands out to me as being particularly awful, since I didn’t see Franco “I have the biggest man-boobies here” Farina this year. I guess I’ll go with Licitra in Don Carlo, simply because he didn’t act much and he didn’t sing very well, and he looked like a wombat with a mullet.

Sadly, there is no Phlegming Award for Worst Overall Production of the Year. The closest I can come would be LA’s La Traviata for being so utterly stupid and forgettable. Even Robert Wilson’s production of Lohengrin had redeeming qualities—the singers, of course. And really, isn’t mediocrity the worst sin of all?

Happy New Year!

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home