|John del Carlo in the title role|
(c) Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
I presumed that the ominous front-of-curtain appearance of a man in a suit was merely to echo the slips in our programs which said Anna Netrebko was indisposed. No: Joseph Colaneri would be conducting; James Levine was ill. Colaneri's reading of the score was bright and sprightly; there were a few issues of balance at the outset, but the orchestra was allowed to shine, and they performed with their customary excellence (I love you, cellos!) The chorus didn't have a great deal to do, but they milled, tidied, and pronounced dolefully on the topsy-turvy household with great aplomb. Regarding the principals, I have to add my voice to the universal acclaim they've garnered.
I suspect that John Del Carlo, in the title role, may have been slightly fatigued, as he was frequently drowned by the orchestra in the first scene. Whether he needed to warm up, or Colaneri needed to adjust his forces, things were soon improved. His navigation of rapid patter was impressive, diction clear and vocally secure enough to be really communicative and not merely a matter of getting through the notes. Del Carlo's characterization was assured, avoiding caricature in the portrayal of "an aging bachelor in the old style, frugal, credulous, obstinate, but fundamentally a good man." His fussy manners and use of falsetto both drew abundant laughter from the audience. His attitude towards Ernesto, and even towards the havoc of luxury purchases created by Norina, established Don Pasquale as having a healthy sense of humor which made the finale credible. Mariusz Kwiecien might have, by a slight margin, my vote for best all-around performance. He was warm and mellifluous of voice, and sang stylishly throughout, navigating comic patter and persuasive lyricism with equal aplomb. He also cut a very dapper figure, complete with dandy's cane and covetable cape, his suave confidence and amiability perfect for Malatesta. Here the Pasquale/Malatesta duet, "Cheti, cheti immantinente":
Matthew Polenzani seems to finally be enjoying the breakthrough into leading roles that edda at Dich, Teure Halle has long argued that he deserves. I enjoyed his elegant Alfredo last month, but he seemed more comfortable in the role of Ernesto, and the music displayed his lovely tone and gift for lyric line to excellent effect. Go here for "Sogno soave e casto" from the November run. His characterization of Ernesto may not have been particularly subtle, but it was likable. Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin, substituting for the indisposed Netrebko, did a remarkable job. Her lyric soprano is clean, clear, and focused, and she used it well. At the outset of her first scene she sounded ever so slightly strained, but the sound soon warmed up and relaxed. Durkin displayed great vocal agility, but also sweetness in the irresistible "Tornami a dir." Especially praiseworthy under the circumstances was how comfortable she seemed on stage, using space fearlessly, whether dancing around her rooftop garden or throwing a tantrum. She also played the comic possibilities of the role to the hilt. Plaudits to her and her colleagues for her successful integration into a production dependent for much of its delight on the excellent chemistry among all the principals, who appeared to be having as good a time as the audience.