Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Die Agyptische Helena

I purposely avoided listening to any recordings of Die Agyptische Helena before seeing the Met's new production, their first in eighty years. David Fielding's staging recalls a David Lynch fever dream, with tilted sets, ensemble members painted different colors, and lots of cheeky brightness. I spent much of the performance trying to figure out what he was going for, and concluded that the piece is set here on a sinking ship. Apt, since most of Fielding's theatrics are ridiculous, and take away from the beauty of the score. And there is a ton of beauty there, and in Deborah Voigt's singing of the title role. Voigt has never been a favorite of mine, but she has found the role she was born to play. I was on cloud nine when she tore through the Act Two opening showpiece, "Zweite Brautnacht". (Peter Gelb announced from the stage that she has been under the weather, but I never noticed any semblance of it in her singing.) She is matched with the thrilling Diana Damrau, who stole the show as the gorgeous enchantress Aithra. Brava to both. The evening's only low point was Torsten Kerl, making a less than stellar Met debut as Menalas. He was underpowering, and could rarely sing over the orchestra. Luckily, the focus was never really on him; I pity the man that has to stand next to these two divas on stage.

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