Troyens

Troyens

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Change of Voice

From the Met:
Andrey Nemzer will sing the role of Orlofsky in this evening’s performance of Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus, replacing Susan Graham, who is ill.
A winner of the 2012 National Council Auditions, Nemzer made his Met debut in 2013 as the Guardian in Richard Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten. His other recent performances have included Don Alfonso and Il Sole in Cavalli’s Veremonda at the Spoleto Festival; Agnes the Digger in Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox at Opera San Antonio; and two Mozart roles, Ramiro in La Finta Giardiniera and Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte, with Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh.
 Tonight’s performance of Die Fledermaus, conducted by Met Music Director James Levine, also stars Susanna Phillips as Rosalinde, Lucy Crowe as Adele, Toby Spence as Eisenstein, Dimitri Pittas as Alfred, Paulo Szot as Dr. Falke, Alan Opie as Frank, and Christopher Fitzgerald as Frosch.
Some people are going to complain that Orlofsky has to be a mezzo, and I would have to say that while the role works best with a mezzo, I wouldn't pass up a chance to hear Andrey Nemzer in anything. (Okay, Aida, that wouldn't be so good.) He has an amazing voice, which I've heard only in Frau, where the Guardian of the Threshold of the Temple (to give the character his or her full name) is on stage for about five minutes in Act III.

8 comments:

Robert Gordon said...

Most of these alternative ways of casting Orlofsky seem to me to miss the joke. The point of trouser roles was that they were a way of representing very young men, voice metaphorically not changed yet. Cherubino is 14, Octavian is 17. Orlofsky has seen and done so much, he's bored with everything -- by implication this includes sex. And he's a teenager. The joke is actually daring (also politically: only an aristocrat could lead such a debauched life at such a tender age) and a little sick.

Having him played by a countertenor, an adult male with a beard, completely loses this, and instead associates him with the heroic treble roles in baroque opera. Having him played by a woman, especially a slender, young-looking woman, associates him with Cherubino, with notes of sexual ambiguity and perversity. Why can't people see this?

Lisa Hirsch said...

You're completely right, and switching Baba the Turk from a bearded lady to a countertenor also defeats part of the joke in The Rake's Progress.

I have to admit that Nemzer has such an astounding voice that I'd go hear his Orlofsky anyway.

Robert Gordon said...

I know I've heard of performances, possibly at the Met, with Orlofsky sung an octave down by a baritone. How wrong-headed can you get!

If you really want an alternative approach, why not use an actual boy? You would need someone with an unusually strong voice, and in a relatively small theater. Of course, this would change a sly sex joke into something truly creepy -- Orlofsky as an avatar, not of Cherubino, but of Miles in The Turn of the Screw.

Still, someone somewhere in Germany must have thought of this, wouldn't you think?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Baritone is completely totally wrong! In every way!

I once saw Cherubino sung by a teen-age girl. I think she was about 15 or 16, and she could really sing. This was in a small house, the 850-seat Lesher Theater in Walnut Creek.

Um, yes, Orlovsky sung by boy would be weird! And yes re Germany.

Robert Gordon said...

The first Barbarina, Anna Gottlieb, was 12 at the time. Five years later she was also the first Pamina. She must have been quite precocious. There is a Wikipedia article about her.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is truly remarkable, up there with Supervia's debut at 15, which seems to have really happened.

Lisa Hirsch said...

So poignant: "She was the last singer alive in Vienna who had known Mozart."

Robert Gordon said...

Just checking the Fledermaus libretto, Orlofsky is 18:

"Ich habe in meinen achtzehn Jahren vierzig durchlebt, Doktor Falke. Alles langweilt mich; ich kann nicht mehr lachen. Ja, meine Millionen sind mein Unglück."

And many of his lines are faintly lewd:

"In meiner Villa hat jede Dame das Recht, sich zu verhüllen oder zu enthüllen, so weit es ihr beliebt."