It started at 5:30 pm in the house, and it ended about six hours later. On the radio, WQXR started at 8:00 pm in the East Coast and the broadcast ended around 12:30 am. I am not sure what was on tape and what, if anything, was heard live, but I do know that it was a very special event at the Metropolitan Opera.
Not everybody that was due to appear did, but at this kind of event that's to be expected. It would have been fun to have had Luciano Pavarotti serenade the General Director, but he didn't even show up, unlike Mirella Freni, to bid adieu to his former boss.
Plácido Domingo was there conducting and singing. His conducting was secure and pleasant, his singing was not. It was the first time that I have ever heard Domingo give a mediocre performance at a gala like this. Time waits for no man, and Domingo seems to have held its march well. It might have caught with him that evening. His zarzuela aria "No Puede Ser" sounded tight, and the staple "Granada" even tighter. He didn't even attempt to hit the climactic high B flat. However, I still think that Domingo is the operatic man of steel. I can totally see him rebounding and singing a great performance of something (operatic, I hope) in the near future.
Over the radio, the singer that came off sounding the best was baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Posa's aria from the last act of Verdi's Don Carlo. And while we are at it, the second best singer of the evening was bass René Pape, who sang an amazing rendition of "Ella Giammai M'amo" from the same opera. I can't wait for Pape to sing the role of King Philip after hearing this aria, and I can't wait to hear Dmitri in the role of Posa again. Their fresh young voices made veterans like Domingo, James Morris, and Samuel Ramey sound really old.
By the way, where was Bryn Terfel? I would have loved to have heard some Wagner or Mozart from him.
I hope that there are plans to issue highlights from the evening in DVD. The show will be broadcast on PBS June 1st, so I am sure that the DVD can't be far behind.
When Sir Rudolf Bing retired from the MET in 1972, DG issued an LP of the event featuring the greatest stars of that era. In some ways, the Volpe Gala tried to mimic that incredible event, even to the extend of having a funny song composed just for the occasion (and sung by Deborah Voigt) in the same vein as when Regina Resnik serenaded Sir Rudolf with new words to "Chacon a Son Gout," from Die Fledermaus. Needless to say, the new song just could not compare to the re-worded Strauss composition.
It was a memorable event, but not a perfect one, not by a long shot. Still, I would like to see the video, and I will most likely purchase the DVD of the event when it is issued.