Memento mori

May 1 was an extraordinarily busy day for me. I went first to the Palace 9 to see the Met in H.D. broadcast of Rossini's Armida starring Renee Fleming in the title role, and the usual cast of hundreds of chorus members.

You have to hear it to believe it-five (not the advertised six, but who's keeping count?) tenors, including Lawrence Brownlee as Rinaldo, the male lead,. In the third act, Borwnlee is joined in a trio with two other tenors; two other tenors, mind you, which brought down the house. His duets with Fleming are models of matching fioriture, and they obviously enjoy working together.

The production was under the direction of Mary Zimmerman, and she and Fleming also apparently get along famously. In one of the act breaks Zimmerman offered anecdotal evidence that indicated clearly that Fleming is not a prima donna in the pejorative sense.

During the Saturday broadcast, however, she was quite vocally exhausted, and although I imagine she had planned the act's ending with her singing the final lines of her final aria in alt for one phrase, and then concluding the opera in lower octaves. The Times reviewer expressed a certain sadness over this loss. Perhaps there is reason to record loss attendant upon the passing of a beautiful voice, but in an interview during one of the intermissions Saturday, Fleming characterized herself as "a Straussian soprano", and she is clearly correct (next year's Capriccio may prove her assessment to be true).

The balance of the cast was on its vocal best behavior, and the orchestra and some of the woodwinds in particular shone under the baton of Maestro Prizza, new to the Met. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon. (Note: Palace 9 will be offering encores of this season throughout the summer, as well as a complete rundown for next year's season. For opera, call 802-660-9300.)

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