Saturday, December 06, 2008

Here We Go Again!

It's Groundhog Day at The Metropolitan Opera -- all over again.

Illnesses and tenor replacements in the opera Tristan und Isolde have been the norm at the MET for a long time while, at the same time, rock-solid Isoldes have been able to survived whole runs of the opera unscathed. The most famous of these events, of course is when powerhouse soprano Birgit Nilsson sang the role with a different Tristan for each act.

Last year, the broadcast of Tristan und Isolde featured tenor Robert Dean Smith who flew in to New York to replace the ailing Ben Heppner. Smith had been the Tristan in the new production at Bayreuth, and although the American tenor had some problems tackling the monumental role up at the Green Hill, he did a satisfying and creditable job as a replacement here in New York last March. In my own review of the performance on this blog, I called his coming to the rescue a triumph.

Also, I don't think we have forgotten that Mr. Smith debut at the MET was just the tip of the iceberg to another multi-leveled drama that occurred last year. John MacMaster, Heppner's replacement was himself replaced after being boed during one of the Tristan performance. It was after that event that Gary Lehman came in, and he was warmly greeted by the MET audience. Of course, this is the same Gary Lehman who at the next performance clunked his head on the MET's prompter's box when the contraption where he lies on in Act III barelled down the inclined stage of the MET, out of control. He would have gone right into the orchestra pit like an out of control toboggan, had his head not stopped the momentum of the speed at which he was sliding down. Incredibly, he finished the performance, although friends that were there told me that he just wasn't the same after the incident. Despite everything, many people last season believed that Mr. Lehman sang very well and deserved to sing the radio broadcast.

This year he is getting his chance. Peter Seiffert, this season's Tristan is ill. The tenor has only sung the opera's premiere (the evening I attended), and rumors are wild as to whether or not he knows this role well enough: at the premiere he was spotted wearing a prompter's electronic earpiece. At the second performance on December 2nd, Gary Lehman filled in for Sieffert. This afternoon he is scheduled to sing the role of Tristan at the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcast. Let's see how he comes across. This might be the beginning of something big for this rising opera performer.


Anonymous said...

Having just listened to the radio broadcast of Act 3/Tristan, I think Mr. Lehman did quite well. I didn't know of the substitution until the credits at the conclusion, having just discovered this blog with a google search.

I was curious about the brief mention of orchestra re-seating made by the radio commentator and glad you covered that with your posting.

I agree with your earlier post about the MET orchestra. I find it remarkable that it plays so consistently fine, week after week.
I only detected one slight yodel in the one of the horns about 2o minutes into Act 3. And the intonation and blend of the woodwinds and brass in sustained chords always brings out the goosebumps.

The string sound especially seems so luxurious but with precision and all the power one could want.

Top-flight professionals leave me speechless or drooling in useless cliches.

I recommend Barenboim's new book
for the advocacy he makes that classical music is vital to a humanist civilization.

Musically he might have his critics, but for politics I think he right on the mark in that materialism and war are not the signposts we need in a 21st century world.

Thanks for your blog.

SoMG said...

Am I the only one who just can't stand Peter Seiffert?

He was awful in the FREISCHUTZ with Matti Salminen, and he was worse in the videotaped MEISTERSINGER with Jose van Dam. Seiffert looked bored, totally unengaged with the drama and the other characters.

His Act III music-history lesson with Sachs did not sound like a conversation but like two kids duelling for attention.