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Opera on the big screen

In today's Washington Post: Domingo goes baritone with Boccanegra, by Anne Midgette.

I really enjoyed the HD broadcast of the Met's "Simon Boccanegra," and I hadn't necessarily expected to. I adore the opera, and I thought that the tenor range of Domingo's voice -- which has a strong tenor cast, for all of the much-vaunted darkness of his sound -- would be distracting in the role. I know many people did find it so; but, as I said in the review linked above, I thought he was able to use it for dramatic effect while doing a really credible job in the lower reaches of the part. Domingo is also a credit to opera acting: that is, what he does isn't naturalistic, or even as vocally expressive as some greats of the past, but it is honest and committed so that quite a bit comes through despite slightly stock gestures. The last two times I've heard him sing -- at the Met gala and at this Boccanegra -- have been among the best things I've ever heard him do.

Meanwhile, the movie-theater setting casts opera in movie-star mode. I found myself musing on the resemblances between the opera singers and various pop-culture figures.

Adrianne Pieczonka could be played... Catherine O'Hara. Or vice versa.
(read more after the jump)

James Morris and Harrison Ford, at least for their slightly lopsided deliveries. (Though Ford's uneven eyes are more like Domingo's.)

This one speaks for itself.

And Plácido Domingo (here in a different "Boccanegra" production) looks a lot like Plácido Domingo.

By Anne Midgette  |  February 8, 2010; 6:03 AM ET
Categories:  opera , random musings  
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Next: Met "Carmen," at last


So, what do you think? Is this also maybe a good idea for Classical music? And Jazz?

Posted by: mitrich | February 8, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Domingo is so accomplished and scrupulous an artist, and his instrument so seductive, that hearing him sing can only be a great pleasure.

I consider his performances as Simon Boccanegra to be thought experiments generated by the end of the opera. Gabriele Adorno is declared Doge; how would it be, therefore, to hear a tenor Doge sing?

Rewarding as the experience is, though, aesthetic honesty demands we acknowledge that a tenor is an ersatz is this baritone role. Verdi masterfully developed the characterization of Boccanegra by means of a rather full palette of specifically baritonal colors and timbres. A tenor, no matter how outstanding, can no more put it across fully than an 18-year-old could portray King Lear.

Speaking of which, I found James Morris's assumption of Fiesco theatrically effective. True, his voice is not as opulent as it was in his prime, but he gave us that standard of measurement. It still sounds like a voice of stature. He consistently enunciated with meaning and point, and his dynamic nuancing of the melodic lines was not neglegible. I would rather hear Morris delivering this portrayal of stature than a younger but less experienced singer just pumping out the notes.

Posted by: ScottRose | February 8, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

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