Three operas in three nights for 2013. DBH drove over from Tucson and picked me at the Albuquerque airport on Monday. We've done Santa Fe and the opera three year running, so we know this drill. And because we're only here four nights and three days, it's the cheap and cheerful motel for us, not a lovely rented home like 2012. Actually though our room is small, there is a nice, tiny but deep pool where I can exercise alone at 7 am and a comfy lobby with cushy chairs where we go to read and chill.
First opera, operetta really, was The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein by Offenbach. Glad we saw it, would not pay to see it again. Like other Offenbach operettas, it's played broadly for comic effect. In the first act, since this is about the Duchess' regiment, the word "privates" is bantered about. Susan Graham, mezzo, is the Duchess. For such a star, the only reason you would give her an extra ovation is for the way she wore the gorgeous costumes. Not her fault, but there just wasn't music for her to sing. The stars was the chorus.
But like a good production of The Mikado , it was fun to laugh along. All the leads had good comic instincts and were not afraid to take it over the top. How can you not love a tap-dancing regiment and camp-followers who are can-can dancers?
It's Wednesday night, and this is Oscar. Oscar Wilde, that is. A world premier that focuses on the several years of Wilde's trial, imprisonment and release - all rather grim. But the first act, which begins with the criminal case against Wilde for indecent acts and ends with his sentence to two years in Reading Goal, is good opera. The second act, Wilde in prison and then released after two years, is strong in the first half and weak in the second. And the act ends with the apotheosis of Wilde to his place among the literary Immortals. All told, not bad for a premier. It remains to be seen if they will rework the second act.
Threaded throughout the opera is a solo ballet performer, Bosie, Wilde's lover. He never sings because he fled to France to escape the wrath of his father, the Marquis of Queensbury (yes, that Marquis of Queensbury) when Wilde was tried. When a fellow opera tourist, who had already seen Oscar, described this ethereal sprite to me, I steeled myself not to like it. Think same use of ethereal muse in Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice, which leaves you wanting to strangle the little twerp to get him off stage. But Bosie works and illustrates how consumed Wilde was with this homosexual relationship. And Reed Luplau danced his heart out. The hints of Stravinsky's Afternoon of a Faun, were in keeping with the late 19th century period of the opera.
Wilde is sung by countertenor, David Daniels. Not much is written for this high, high tenor voice, so we felt privileged to experience the vocal and dramatic talents of this endowed artist. My one criticism is that the role is written in the bel canto style, with lots of flourishes on a single syllable. None of the other roles were written with this affected manor. Yes, it showed off Daniels' vocal chops, but it interfered with the telling of the story.
Rossini's La Donna Del Lago, a co-production with the Met, completed our trio. This is bel canto to the max - tough roles for all the stars. Joyce DiDonato owned the starring role of Elena. We will likely not hear again soprano pyrotechnics like hers that climaxed the second act. Elena has three "lovers"; King Giocomo, who falls madly in love with her (even tries to molest her) under the assumed name Umberto; Rodrigo, Chief of the Highlanders, who is mercifully killed in battle, and her true love, Malcom, a Highland warrior, who wins Elena in the end. So, Elena is a soprano, Umberto a tenor, Rodrigo a tenor and Malcom a mezzo (trouser role). Throw in Elena's father, Duglas, a bass, and you have beautiful music - even if the story is preposterous.
For me, opera is all about duets, trios, quartets and excellent choral music. Rossini provided them all. The duets between Malcom and Elena were heavenly, even though Malcom looked remarkably like Momma Cass in a kilt.
In between operas, Ed and I wandered up and down Canyon Road, visiting art galleries. Though there were some magnificent pieces, nothing we wanted to take home with us. We ate at our Santa Fe favorite, the Bumble Bee Baja Grill and discovered a new vegan restaurant, Body, which was delicious and will be visited again in the future. We're already planning next year. Possibly three or four operas in a row and maybe back to the big house if my southern cousins join us.