the water cooler

Opening Night at the Met: Natalie Dessay Falls on Her Ass, the ‘Times’ Applauds

Photo: AP

The New York Times, and the opera blog world, had a grand old time at the Met’s grand opening last night, whether inside the theater or out on Times Square. Anthony Tommasini at the Times is the most over-the-top in his praise, calling Natalie Dessay’s performance in Lucia de Lammermoor “glorious” and “intuitive” and offering measured praise to Mary Zimmerman’s staging. Hilariously, even the night’s biggest fiasco — Dessay’s ass-over-teakettle fall on the raked stage in the middle of her first scene — is presented as a triumph for the “born actress”:

She just kept singing, shrugging her shoulders as if to say, “What are you going to do?,” then finished the aria in triumph. Her response was actually in character for a young woman all giddy in love.

Out in the operasphere, though, reviews were … more measured.

Most bloggers also enjoyed Dessay, and her goofy curtain-call gag — pantomiming the fall again, then breaking out in a bunch of other hand gestures — had blogger Opera Chic swooning: “I <3 this woman. Opera would be so freaking boring without her." But The New Yorker’s Alex Ross called Zimmerman’s direction “cold” and “inert,” and Steve Smith at Night After Night is even more damning:

No doubt some of the patchier spots in the performance will settle down as the run progresses. The same can’t be said for Mary Zimmerman’s staging: it is what it is, and what it is offers no real improvement on the Met’s previous production. The sets were drab, and spare to no apparent effect; special effects seemed obvious at best and laughable at worst. Direction of crowd scenes sometimes lapsed into parody, a pity since the chorus was in good voice.

Maury D’Annatto at My Favorite Intermissions has a novel suggestion: Cut the entire first act, which is “approximately as dramatic as clipping your nails”:

You’ll never hear Normanno over the choir, the fountain scene is like an Anna Russell skit making fun of what bel canto operas are like, and okay, it’s probably just me, but “veranno a te” has always seemed ideally suited to olympic skating.

A Grand Opening at the Opera [NYT]
Met Madness: Lucia di Lammermoor Season Premiere [Opera Chic]
Lucia on the plaza (Met opening) [The Rest Is Noise]
Exit stage left. [Night After Night]
I hardly know ‘er more [My Favorite Intermission]

Opening Night at the Met: Natalie Dessay Falls on Her Ass, the ‘Times’ Applauds