Ponchielli, LA GIOCANDA, Met, 11.10.2006; de Billy; Urmana, Borodina, Mishura, Giordani, Lucic, Burchuladze. With a spy, a blind mother, attempted rape, rosaries, praying, a cat fight, a burning ship, a love triangle, adultery, attempted murder, a faked death, a ballet and a suicide, all that La Giocanda really needed was a dwarf and a dragon to be even more wonderfully cliché. While the Met dragged out another old set, typically huge and beautiful, and the costumes were as rich with color and lushness as ever, the staging was reserved, a bit boring even. But it's the voices that I was really there for - and they did not disappoint. My mother asked me yesterday, "Who's in it? Anybody important?" When I didn't respond, she said, "I know, they are all important." Yes Mom, you got it. This was my second time to hear Giordani. His tenor is big and beautiful, but I don't hear anything that really distinguishes him from other tenors. He is adequate and satisfactory, but not thrilling. Lucic and Burchuladze brought power to their arias and were also adequate and satisfactory. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted with Mishura's performance. Her aria in the first act was gorgeous and her duets lovely. The program noted that this was a contralto role, but it sounded higher than that to me. I think she threw out the best acting of the evening as blind La Cieca. I was excited to hear Borodina since I enjoyed her so much at the Volpe Gala. I love her deep mezzo - it is beautifully thick and creamy. I was mostly there last night for Violetta Urmana. I loved her Ariadne last season. Her soprano sounded a bit strained in the opening acts, but by the fourth act, her voice was open and soaring, just as I had hoped. Her high notes were full and beautiful. The bonus of the evening was the brief ballet "The Dance of the Hours". I rarely see the ballet because it just is sort of boring...but oh my, Angel Corella performed feats of strength with his beautiful leaps and spins and the ballerinas were pretty too...who wouldn't enjoy a ballet set to such recognizable music that has become sort of pop culture in commercials about kids and dogs at camp and Disney movies(Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah...and Fantasia).
We had a delightful backstage visit with Violetta and I got to use the one Lithuanian word that I know - "Labas" which means hello. She was melting from the costume and wig, but was glowing in triumph. I asked her when she knew she wanted to be a singer, and she said that when she was sixteen she discovered Callas and opera became a complete passion to her. The fascinating thing is that Violetta did not begin studying voice until she was twenty-six.