If you want a starry opening night spectacle, go to New York or Milan. The Covent Garden season began on Monday on, as always, a more subdued note. This year's patchily-cast routine revival was Turandot.
Turandot - Metropolitan Opera New York, 28 October 2009
I caught Lise Lindstrom's Met debut and you didn't. With the house's resident screamer Maria Guleghina out with a cold, 'B' cast Lindstrom was brought in to make her first Met appearance a few days earlier than scheduled. She's played Turandot to great acclaim around Europe recently; this was New York's chance to see what all the fuss was about.
Did she nail it - yes she did! One could quibble whether her voice is the biggest or the best or the most beautiful, but its silvered laser is perfect for the role. And it's accurately pitched without a hint of wobble, indecently flexible and never showed any sign of strain. Within the limits of the ancient Zeffirelli production, which seems to have been choreographed rather than directed, she gave a more than acceptable dramatic performance too, cold and brittle to begin with, melting at the end.
Points must be deducted for her reaction to the warm applause she received at the second act curtain call. In conduct unbecoming a diva, she acted like she'd gone through to the next round of American Idol.
The audience seemed to enjoy the gushing and arm-waving. But then they'd not only applauded the Act 2 scenery (like a gladiator bathhouse from a gay p0rno) but also prematurely ovated on several occasions, ejaculating all over bars and bars of Maestro Nelsons' lovingly detailed score. There was even one knob who yelled out "Viva Puccini" before the Alfano completion started up
What a change from Ed Gardner's rampant decibels at the ENO last week. Nelsons - another Met debutant tonight - never took an extreme path, but subtly highlighted the music's complex layering, teasing out lines I'd never really heard before. And he paced it beautifully, never losing momentum, but not tempted to race either. No conductor is ever remembered for the greatness of their Turandot, but still, it's a tough test. I could see his score from where I was sitting - carefully marked up, and heavily rumpled, as if it had been dropped in the bath then left to dry. Clearly he's been doing his homework.
Vulnerability and determination were convincingly combined in Marina Poplavskaya's Liù. Not easy to pull off but she did it. Pitching issues (worse than usual tonight) and a desperately thin top detract, but not as much as they might with some other singers. Her musicality and conviction and sheer charisma carry her a long way.
Good old reliable Marcello Giordani was the unexciting Calaf. Moving lumpishly as if he'd had no rehearsals whatsoever (which may of course be the case) and mumbling through his lower register, he nevertheless managed to pull together some impressively ringing top notes. Nessun dorma of course brought the house down - some classy Bs the trigger. But for me the effect was diminished by having heard Pavarotti tackle it in the Met shop before the show. There's efficiency and then there's magic.
more photos tomorrow...........maybe.......if I can be........zzzzzzz........