Don Giovanni at the Met x 2

Mozart is my favorite composer. I’m lucky enough to be able to sing Mozart fairly often, and when I sing Tchaikovsky, or even Rachmaninoff, Mozart is there too. Needless to say, I was delighted when the editor asked me to fill in for him at the final performance of Don Giovanni this season. On the other hand, if you approach an opera performance as a singer, you will always be aware of style, and what you have learned is appropriate for a particular composer or a particular work. For that reason, if a singer does something that doesn’t fit Mozart’s classical style, or if something doesn’t work technically, it comes between the opera and me, and the result will be unsatisfying or wrong. Fortunately the result of this performance—a very special one, because it marked Samuel Ramey’s 25th anniversary at the Met, and he was presented with a c. 1824 score of Don Giovanni and a fragment of the Met curtain after the first act—was nothing less than a fine show. On the level of spectacle and drama this performance was very strong. The entire cast acted well, and most of them sang very well, but there were a few disappointments.

Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin, Tanglewood, 2008

One can only say that Tanglewood was incredibly lucky in landing James Levine’s distinguished counterpart at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Sir Andrew Davis, to replace him for the annual TMC opera concert performance. No conductor could have managed the performance with a keener appreciation of its drama, the melancholy lyricism of its music, the lucidity of Tchaikovsky’s score, and the energy and bite of its climaxes. Sir Andrew has always shown an extraordinary ability to respond to many sides of complex works, and this past Saturday, relatively fresh from conducting Onegin at the Lyric this spring, he produced a rich and balanced reading of the score as well as astonishing playing from the TMC Orchestra. His insight and musicianship were not the only reasons that this was one of the truly unforgettable nights at Tanglewood—or nights of opera anywhere—but it is fitting to honor this extraordinary conductor and musician who is heard all too seldom on the East Coast.

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