Friday, November 12, 2010

More Mak Misc

Yes, indeed, left a couple of things out.

The Met premier of this great opera waited until 1996, amazingly. They'd managed to stage Jenufa in the 1920s, with the glamorous Maria Jeritza in the title role. What an EM she would have been!

But the Met premier of Makropulos was dogged by fate. At the first performance, tenor Richard Versailles, singing Vitek, climbed the ladder in Kolanaty's office, sang a few lines, then fell to the stage, dead of a heart attack. The second performance got snowed out. The performances after that were a triumph for Jessye Norman and the rest of the cast.

The Met performed Makropulos in English, and I have to say, it's a tough choice. The opera is mighty talky, to the point where the supertitles are really a distraction from what's on stage. But the opera is firmly tied to the rhythm and snap of Czech, and there would be losses going either way.

Another surprise about this opera, or maybe I shouldn't be surprised: there is only one video available. It is a well conducted production from Glyndbourne, led by Andrew Davis in non-sluggish mode. The cast is extremely strong, with Kim Begley a superb Gregor, Victor Braun a suave and smooth Prus, Andrew Shore as Kolanaty, and the young Christopher Ventris as Janek. But...and this is a big but...it's the theatrically-vivid, vocally-threadbare Anja Silja as EM. She is a trial to the ears.

So I see an opportunity for San Francisco Opera: put out a competing DVD with the magnificent Mattila.


sfmike said...

Jesus, I saw Anja Silja sing this at the San Francisco Opera in the 1970s. When was the Glyndebourne performance from? That Silja production was also in English and it doesn't even begin to work. If ever there was an opera composer who needs to be sung in their native language, it is Janacek. Particularly in this opera and his final one, "The House of the Dead," he was trying to transcribe the music of actual speech somewhere between natural talk, expressionist sprechstimme, and operatic singing. It was an amazing accomplishment we're still just beginning to absorb.

Lisa Hirsch said...

It's from 1995, far as I can tell, and she is...ah....stretched and clearly trying to hold it together.