Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Broken ankle? No, thanks, just had one
I was stunned and went into shock--for the next twenty minutes or so, I was trembling uncontrolably. I managed to get myself up and into the house where Fritz got me covered for warmth and we assessed the situation. The pain was severe and I decided we had to get into Emergency at the hospital in Manchester.
The response there was excellent; I was given a pain killer, got x-rayed and the doctor molded a fiberglass splint onto the foot and ankle, all in a relatively short amount of time. I began thinking about how much the next six weeks are going to change for me. As it's my right ankle I won't be able to drive, for example, and that's just for starters. Things you don't need in your life!
I hadn’t meant to be away so long, but things have been incredibly busy with the house and in other areas of our life. The best part of it all was meeting and getting time to spend with Lewis of The Spirit of Saint Lewis. He’d written a week or so ago with news that on Saturday he’d be on the crew of a flight from Portland, Oregon to Boston—a rare occurrence for him. We made arrangements for me to drive down to Boston to get him, bring him up here for dinner, have him spend the night, see the new house on Sunday morning, go out to brunch and then deliver him back in time for the return flight.
I’ve been reading Lewis’s blog for a while, enjoying his sweet perspective on things, his impish sense of humor, and his very good photography; Fritz was caught by his comments to my blog entries and started reading The Spirit of Saint Lewis also. We were very up for meeting him in person and had an absolutely delightful time. Lewis is not only great fun to be with and filled with good talk and insights, but also a very real and a lovely person. We’re hoping he’ll be able to come east again, and this time bring his partner Steven.
We also know that we’ll be flying out to Portland in the not too distant future to visit my older daughter and son-in-law who recently moved to Salem. With luck we’ll be able to get together with them out there and learn some of their city that we’re very anxious to get to know. Lewis, thanks so much for coming out here and giving us a chance to meet you at last!
I subscribed to both offerings of Granite State Opera this year (they’ll present Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte in May) because I think you have to see more than one production by a company to get an idea of what they can really do. I came away pretty happy last Friday night about GSO’s musical standards, rather less so concerning their approach to opera as theater.
One of their self-imposed limitations is that they perform each opera twice, once in Portsmouth at the Music Hall and two nights later in Manchester. So productions have to be lightweight and built to travel quickly. In the case of Lucia di Lamermoor, this also meant old-fashioned painted drops and wings rented from the Anthony Stivanello company in New York City. I went to the company’s site but found that it doesn’t feature pictures of what they rent out, which may be a very good idea. The old tromp l’oeil painted scenery can be quite wonderful depending on the skill level of the painter; when it’s done badly, when the muslin on which it’s painted has been folded numerous times so that the crease lines are glaringly visible, or when one setting uses pieces done by several painters with different styles and radically different talents (all of which was the case on Friday) the results can be less than satisfactory.
Also--and this has been my deeply held belief since I began going to opera as a child--opera is theater, not a concert in costume. There didn’t seem t be much evidence of a director’s hand in the Lucia production. Singers generally entered and gravitated downstage, more or less center, and stayed there singing out to the audience. I don’t blame the cast. I suspect that the company doesn’t get a lot of rehearsal time, a common problem for regional and smaller opera companies.
There was one interesting directorial choice: Lord Arturo, the man Lucia is forced to marry against her will, was cast as a much older man instead of the young nobleman one usually sees. Further, when he entered telling everyone in the castle how lucky they are that he’s come along to bail them out of their financial and political difficulties, he made it obvious that he had a wandering eye and wandering hands for the ladies. So when Lucia first saw him, she was confronted not only with a marriage she didn’t want, but by a groom who was the worst possible match under any circumstances. Had there been more thinking like this applied to the production, or some basic character work done with the singers, the results might have looked more like dramatic action and less like traffic management.
Musically, things were on a higher plane. The small orchestra played well with particularly nice work from the two French horns. Horns are treacherous, even the modern kind with valves. Lucia (1835), like many Romantic era operas, is full of exposed horn passages exploiting the instrument’s mournful, deep colors. The two young women who played on Friday night came through the evening without any mishaps and provided a lot of pleasure. Philip Lauriat was far more at home as conductor than as stage director, supporting his singers well while also shaping a propulsive performance of the beautiful score.
The class of the cast was unquestionably Barbara Kilduff, formerly of the Metropolitan and major opera houses throughout Europe, now teaching and singing in places that allow her to raise her children and have a family life. Petite, pretty and in superb vocal shape, she was simply dazzling. The other standout was Jimi James as Lucia’s manipulative brother. James has a dark, virile baritone and good stage instincts, which he needed.
Tenor Eric Fennell is tall and lanky and needs direction. As the star-crossed lover Lucia wants to marry, he spent far too much time holding his head in his hands, slumped over and staggering around the stage in a manner that was supposed to suggest despair, but that was uncomfortably close to Quasimodo instead. Nobody in the supporting roles gave offence.
The Mozart next May stars Theresa Cincione, also of the Metropolitan Opera, but Cosi Fan Tutte is an ensemble opera and all six roles need to be cast very well to do it justice. I had a reasonably good time at Lucia but am hoping for something better visually and dramatically from the company next time.
Latest pictures from the construction site—it’s all about windows today:
I really enjoyed reading Lewis' account of his visit with you and Fritz. His description affirmed much of what I had imagined.
The house is looking great!
Teresa was across the hall from me at Tanglewood - a very lovely person and very talented singer - she should be good as Fiordiligi ...
quick note -- just curious - i sent an email re Old JOhn's earlier this week to you - just checking that i was using the correct address...I did try it and very much enjoyed my meal and will add it to my Lincoln Center list of restaurants (but not to tell TOO many folks). thanks for writing about it.
Hope you were given sufficient pain pills!! ANd of course the house looks grand!
The house if looking great!
I hope that the Mozart is a better experience than the Donizetti was. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season for Opera Boston and am actually thinking about tickets for L'Elisir so I can go with one of our student workers who is an opera fan as well as a wonderful young woman.
Feel better and I hope that you set a record for recovery time.
your house is coming along splendidly
never fret about the ankle.