Everyone remember Anne Midgette's nifty December 4, 2005 Times article about Met cover artists? I sure do... and even if I didn't, I was reminded of it this afternoon, when a publicist sent me a press release that pertained to one of the artists Anne profiled.
From Anne's piece:
Jeff Mattsey, a baritone, has had cover contracts with the Met for the last 10 seasons. Yet in all that time, he said, "I have never, ever gone on as a cover at the Met." The closest he came was when Mariusz Kwiecien was sick during two performances of the recent "Così Fan Tutte." ... But Mr. Kwiecien soldiered through.
Not tonight, Kwiecien wouldn't, which was what the press release was sent to tell me. It trumpeted Anne's piece prominently, in fact. I started to wonder: Is it me? Mine, after all, were the Roméo with Maureen O'Flynn, the Rigoletto with Raúl Melo. (That's all this season, mind you; my overall track record is far better.)
But as opposed to the mixed results of those particular nights, this one was a remarkable success. Regarding the overall contours of the Met's current Così, I have little to add to Maury D'annato's original post from late last year; it was his comments there and elsewhere, more than anything, that urged me to catch tonight's performance.
As Maury indicated, the foremost attraction of this production is the ensemble work. Still, individual highlights were many: Hearing Thomas Allen is always a privilege; the same has held true each time I've caught Magdalena Kožená so far, and did tonight. I apparently have a far greater tolerance of Nuccia Focile's cuteness than Maury did; for me, she was utterly charming and very much in sync with the general air of mugging that pervaded this cast's performance (Allen aside).
Regarding cast not covered in Maury's review: Alexandra Deshorties didn't boast Barbara Frittoli's sheer magnetism, but delivered a solid performance that drew some of the loudest applause at the curtain. Paul Groves was a tremendously sweet-sounding Ferrando. And as Guglielmo, Mattsey was right on the money. There was nothing remotely tentative about his performance: his presence, both physical and vocal, was everything one could want in the role, and he bounded about the stage as if the gig had been his all along. I'd gladly welcome more prominent casting, were it to come his way. (Meanwhile, apparently he'll next be covering Stéphane Degout's Mercutio in the Met's Roméo in February and March.)
One final note regarding the seeming correlation of my presence to last-minute cancellations: I'm not going to be at the Met's Cyrano tomorrow night, so if this comes to pass, don't blame me.
By the way, for those who remember my December post about the free-of-charge "Movado Hour" concert series at New York City's 37 Arts complex, another e-mail I received today revealed that the next program will be an intimate recital by the abovementioned Paul Groves. The concert is a few weeks away; I didn't have the presence of mind to bring the details home with me tonight, but I'll add them tomorrow.
(Update: Groves's recital with pianist Pedja Muzijevic is Thursday, February 16, at 7pm. He'll be singing Schubert, Liszt and Richard Strauss. The concert is free, but space is limited and reservations are required; you can make one by calling 212-218-7540.)
Charles Gounod - Faust - Victoria de los Angeles, Richard Tucker, Nicola Moscona; New Orleans Symphony Orchestra/Walter Herbert (Parterre Box podcast)
Johannes Brahms - Cello Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2; Klavierstücke, Op. 118 - David Finckel and Wu Han (ArtistLed)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Arie & Duetti - Isabel Bayrakdarian, Michael Schade, Russell Braun, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra/Richard Bradshaw (CBC Records)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concertos Nos. 20 & 27 - Clifford Curzon, English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten (Decca)