|foto: latinospost.com - Ken Howard/MET|
Mientras hoy tendrá lugar la cuarta y penúltima función de Eugene Onegin en el MET, con Rolando Villazón como Lenski, contamos con la magnífica crónica del día 2, envíada por Janet. Great, thank you very much!
Monday, December 2, was my turn at last to experience Rolando’s conquest of the Metropolitan Opera. I have to admit that I had my worries before this sequence of “Eugene Onegin” performances began. The Met is so huge, and for American audiences too often the LOUDER the singer’s voice, the better. And that’s not Rolando’s strength at all. Many other singers have bigger voices - what sets Rolando apart, aside from his beautiful and fascinating tone quality, is that he can create a rainbow of emotional colors with his voice and transmit those emotions straight into your heart. And also he was battling the memories of January 2009 and March 2009 - just before he went out for surgery. It must have been hell for him at the Met struggling with all that anxiety back then. And now he was trying to get back on the horse that threw him.
But I needn’t have worried so much. For Rolando is in a very different place now than he was in 2009, and he is riding that horse into battle with flags flying!
My seat was in the third row, which I think in retrospect was not the best place to be. Yes, I could see every detail of Rolando’s exquisite acting: how he made Lensky sick with nerves before the duel, dropping things, taking his glasses off and then struggling to set them back on his nose again. I had never seen anything like that from a Lensky, and it made you sick at heart for the character and his suffering. I ask Rolando about this afterwards, and he said that he thought Lensky was in way over his head and didn’t know how to handle himself in such a situation. Brilliantly portrayed! And how he slowly lost his composure in the fatal party scene: first embarrassed and slightly annoyed at Onegin’s flirting with Olga, then gradually simmering to a boil until he exploded. And how he treasured his note book for writing his poetry - here I think Rolando was borrowing something out of his own life as a writer.
But I was so close to the stage that I couldn’t hear any of the voices soaring in the auditorium. And I was too caught up in the technique of producing that marvelous voice, and I kept worrying that something might go wrong. But it never did. He rose to the high climaxes beautifully, he floated quiet notes beautifully, he molded phrases with superb imagination, shadings, and colors. My husband, who is a vocal coach, was simply amazed about his sensitivity to words and the shapes of lines and said he could never predict what Rolando would do next, but that it was always wonderfully sensitive and right. We know that Rolando’s physical acting is remarkable, but my husband said that what impressed him most was how Rolando can act with his voice.
Of course, “Ya lyublyu vas” was gorgeous - how could Olga resist?! And “Kuda, Kuda” was spectacular - I couldn’t believe how Rolando was sustaining those long lines at such a slow tempo, filling them with such anguish. The House became totally hushed as if everyone had stopped breathing. And the audience response afterwards was MASSIVE, much louder and more filled with cries of bravo then you can hear in the radio broadcast. And if that damn conductor hadn’t come back in with the orchestra, it would have gone on much longer! It was the biggest ovation of the evening until the curtain calls.
But a quieter moment particularly grabbed me: Lensky and Onegin’s “Nyet, nyet” duet just before the duel. I’ve never heard it sung so well as Rolando and Mattei did it; their voices here - and throughout the opera -blended so perfectly. There is such mutual admiration and sympathy between these two GREAT singers. Once again, at the curtain calls, they embraced, though this time Mattei ran over to where Rolando was and they had an even bigger hug.
I haven’t talked about the other singers. As many have said, this is an absolutely terrific cast - miles beyond the first cast in expressiveness and dramatic power. Peter Mattei was a superb Onegin: his voice smooth and beautiful, but also full of expressive colors. He and Rolando seemed to catch fire from each other whenever they were together. I also liked Marina Poplavskaya VERY much as Tatiana; she really became the character as unfortunately, for me, Anna Netrebko never did. She caught the flavor of an obsessed teenager buried in her books and dreams perfectly; then she became a regal, utterly beautiful, but still troubled lady in the last act. And Prince Gremin was wonderfully sung by Stefan Kocan, with his deep-black bass. Olga was better -and much prettier- too.
Surely, after these triumphant performances, Rolando will be back at the Met again very soon. I’ve heard that he will be Ottavio in “Don Giovanni” next season, but we’ll know for sure in February. He has certainly re-ignited a Villazón fan club at the Met - as the Met Orchestra’s Twitter account said last week: “It’s good to have you back, Rolando!!!!” The orchestra musicians don’t say that for many singers.
Also, Rolando told us backstage that he is especially proud of the new Mozart Arias CD that’s coming out next month, and that it gives the chance to discover some wonderful rare arias that nobody knows.