Last night the Met presented its first performance of its revival of Bellini’s I Puritani. This show was much anticipated mainly because of Javier Camarena’s first appearance in New York as Arturo, one of opera’s most challenging roles. I listened to the Sirius broadcast of the opera and thus can only comment on the music and singing. Alas, the whole performance was a big disappointment.
Camarena has enjoyed several huge success over the past few seasons at the Met. Last night his voice sounded tentative, rough, hoarse, and sometimes seemed about to fail altogether. There was nothing of the smooth and golden tone that he has previously offered. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t the great tenor that we had heard previously. You can make up your own mind by listening to Credeasi misera from the last act. This number should have received an ovation, but instead got 20 seconds of tepid applause if you discount the claque that was out in full force. They applauded any molecule that moved. The Met must have sensed that the production had a problem and one way or another encouraged the attendance of screamers. I hope Mr Camarena’s indisposition is temporary. The opera will be broadcast again next Saturday as part of the Met’s regular Saturday afternoon series. Hopefully he will be in better voice by then.
The rest of the production was also lackluster. The best singing came from Diana Damrau; but she is not the same singer she was a few years ago. All the notes are there, but her sound is a little rougher. She does not realize Bellini’s beautiful line.
Baritone Alexey Markov tends to hoot. He too seemed in vocal distress. Luca Pisaroni who has a lovely bass voice, also was not at his best. Conductor Maurizio Benini seemed to think he was the title character of another Bellini opera. Asleep at the baton is the best description of his role. He tripped over Ms Damrau’s dress when he took his curtain call and fell. This summed up the entire dreary performance.
As soon as I left the Sirius browser I read the news that Nicolai Gedda had died on February 8 at the age of 91. Gedda was one to the last century’s great tenors. His repetoire was vast and he probably made more recordings than any other tenor. He was a mainstay at the Met where he gave 367 performances between 1957 and 1983. He deserves an article all to himself which I’ll write later. In the meanwhile here is his singing of Credeasi misera from a 1973 performance with Beverly Sills. Gedda actually sings the high F that’s in the piece. It’s a strange sound that’s a mixture of falsetto and head tone. The role of Arturo was written for the legendary tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini (1794-1954) who likely sang the note entirely falsetto. Gedda’s singing as Arturo displays the rich and secure sound that characterized his work. Gedda’s silvery tone, mastery of language, and versatility made him a unique artist. RIP.