A Look in the Met’s 2012-2013 Rear-View Mirror

The end of another opera season has arrived. In my house, there are mixed feelings. My mother, who is in the orchestra, is very happy that the season is over because for her, it has been a long year. I, on the other hand, am very sad that the season has come to an end. However, my being sad is a good thing because that means that this Metropolitan Opera season was so great, that I did not want it to end! Here were some of my highlights of the Met’s 2012-13 season, including my performances.

In my last season in the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus I performed in two operas: Turandot and Parsifal. If you’re asking yourself, “Well, why didn’t I see her on stage?”, that is a good question. I sang backstage in both operas.

Turandot includes offstage children’s chorus in all three acts, as we represent the voices floating around in Turandot’s mind. We sing directly off stage right, just barely missing sight of the audience and the red velvet of the Met’s seats. There were 11 scheduled performances of Turandot, but one performance was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy. All 10 performances were a blast, as my colleagues and I played multiple games of cards between the acts, and seeing the Zeffirelli Act II set of Turandot up close is something to behold. Just because it was backstage with no costumes did not mean that it was boring. Backstage operas can be the most fun!

Turandot was going on at the same time as Otello, so here is a photo of me pretending to be Desdemona on a rehearsal set of Act IV in the 5th Floor Studio at the Met, during one of the breaks…

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I also had the honor of singing in Wagner’s Parsifalin a new production with an HD telecast and an amazing cast. This opera also had a children’s chorus offstage, but in a different way. We did not sing off Stage-Right, we sang six floors above that in the “Domes” of the Met. We were so high up from the stage, that our voices sounded as if they were coming from the heavens. It was a life-changing, heavenly experience to be part of that Wagnerian masterpiece, along with a cast combination that may never be found again: Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape, Peter Mattei, and Katarina Dalayman.

During that time, I had the chance to meet Jonas Kaufmann, my favorite opera singer of today, during the Parsifal rehearsal and performance period. I also had the opportunity to talk to Katarina Dalayman, Peter Mattei, and other Wagnerian rock-stars involved in the production. Here are Jonas Kaufmann and me at a C-Level rehearsal of Parsifal in late January.

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Parsifal was also my last opera of my career in the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus. It was a bitter-sweet goodbye with tears, but also hugs and support from my colleagues. It was an experience that I am thankful for having, and one that I will never forget. I am also thankful for my leaving the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus, because that is why I started my blog. By, getting my feelings out through writing and receiving encouragement, my sadness was cured.

Now, I did not just perform during the Metropolitan Opera’s 2012-13 Season, I also attended several performances. MetOpera Radio encouraged its fans to write in their votes for their “Three Favorites” of the Met’s season. The top three broadcasts that were voted for were: 1. Parsifal, 2. Maria Stuarda, and 3. Les Troyens. I got 2/3, as I voted La Clemenza di Tito in place of Les Troyens. Here is why these were my three favorites:

Parsifal

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Parsifal was my #1 pick because everything about it was perfect. Jonas Kaufmann’s debut of his role as Parsifal was perfect. It was focused, clear, and his “Amfortas! Die Wunde!” was heart-wrenching. Katarina Dalayman’s high notes as Kundry were like bullets, so solid and clear. She handled so well the jumpiness of the role of Kundry. Above all: René Pape and Peter Mattei as Gurnemanz and Amfortas. Pape returned to the role better than ever, and Mattei did not leave a dry eye in the 4,000 seat theater in his portrayal as Amfortas. I even had some tears way up in the Domes when he uncovered the grail.

The production was also interesting, something new. It took place in a Post-Apocolyptic world, where there was much suffering including on the part of Amfortas and his men. The second act took place in the actual wound of Amfortas with blood everywhere. As scary, creepy, and disgusting as it sounds, it really worked! My favorite part ended up being the 1600 gallons of blood on the stage in Act II, with the flower maidens and Parsifal dancing around in it. It was dramatic and also intriguing.

 

Maria Stuarda

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My #2 pick was Maria Stuarda because of the incredible singing from Joyce DiDonato and Elza van den Heever. I attended the dress rehearsal of Maria Stuarda and I remember leaving Act I saying that it was like “Diva Demolition Derby”. The best scene in the opera was the confrontation between Queen Elizabeth and Maria Stuarda. Joyce rattling off “Vil Bastarda” was worth the price of admission. Joyce’s interpretation of “Deh! Tu di un emile preghiera” also brought tears to my eyes. She really made the audience feel sorry for her, and that Queen Elizabeth was being too harsh. The audience did not want Joyce to walk to the chopper because they wanted her to keep singing! Joyce DiDonato and the debut of Elza van den Heever made Maria Stuarda a season favorite.

 

La Clemenza di Tito

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La Clemenza di Tito was my #3 pick because of Elīna Garanča, Kate Lindsey, and the debut of Lucy Crowe. The Mozart of the 2012-13 season at the Met seems so distant, because it was all done in the Fall: Clemenza, Nozze, and Don Giovanni. Garanča’s portrayal of Sesto was so moving, and her “Parto, parto” was the cherry on top. Kate Lindsey succeeded in yet another pants role, as the comrade of Sesto. Lucy Crowe’s debut as Servilla was marvelous. A lush voice with a bloom at the top, her duet with Lindsey in Act I gave me the chills. Of all the Verdi and Wagner this season, this Mozart opera came out at #3.

The 2012-13 Metropolitan Opera season was a success. I finished my career in the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus. It celebrated the 200th birthdays of Verdi and Wagner, while it also brought back regulars like Mozart, and also uncovered more rare operas like Maria Stuarda. The opera season will be missed, but the Met will open its 2013-14 season four months from now with a new production of Eugene Onegin.

Have a great Summer!

Mysteries of the Ring Cycle

For the past month the Met has held Richard Wagner’s epic Der Ring des Nibelungen on its stage. I have attended an entire cycle (Ring Cycle 2), along with one extra of Das RheingoldDie Walküre, and Siegfried. As I watched those Wagnerian rock-stars perform on the stage of the Met, it occurred to me that the Ring has several unanswered questions. Either Wagner did not include detailed text about how characters completed certain tasks, or he simply made up if and how characters could complete tasks to make the four operas flow more easily. For example: How does Brünnhilde know that Sieglinde is pregnant? Some of the other unanswered questions can simply be due to stage direction. For example: The Rhinemaidens are unable to stop Alberich from taking the gold, and yet he walks right by the Rhinemaidens when he leaves the stage (at least in the Lepage production).

Yes, I know that the Ring is based on Norse mythology and that none of the characters are actually real people. Because of this, Wagner was able to play around with his characters, and tell the audience certain details, while he left some behind. Here are some unanswered questions:

Why do the Gods look alive when Wotan and Loge return from Nibelheim?

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This question first occurred to me just last night when I was watching Das Rheingold. The Giants have taken Freia and they still have her in their grasp. Wotan and Loge let Alberich go back down to Nibelheim when they gain all the gold, and the other Gods: Fricka, Donner, and Froh come out to greet Wotan and Loge. When Wotan and Loge left earlier in Scene 2, Fricka, Donner, and Froh were all lying down and aging due to the lack of Freia’s golden apples. The apples give the Gods youth and life, thus, they felt weak when Freia was taken away. However, when Wotan and Loge return, they all walk around, healthy as ever, and gleefully welcome them back. Froh launches one of his few lines excitedly and with energy, “Sie kehrten zurück!”, or “They have returned!”. Froh could not have hit that high G when he was lying on the rocks moaning because of his lack of golden apples, likewise for the others.

Why doesn’t Wotan know what Valhalla means?

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(The Rainbow Bridge in the Lepage production of Das Rheingold)

After Donner has stormed the sky and Froh has made his Rainbow bridge, Wotan sings his monologue and the Gods are ready to enter their new palace: Valhalla. Before they cross the Rainbow, Fricka asks: “Was deutet der Name? Nie dünkt mich, hört’ich ihn nennen”, meaning approximately “What does that name mean? I have never heard of it before”. Wotan responds saying, “Was mächtig der Furcht mein Muth mir erfand wenn siegend es lent, leg’ es den Sinn dir dar”, meaning “What my spirit has found to conquer my dread, when triumph is won, making the meaning clear”. Does that really answer Fricka’s question? Has Wotan even “triumphed” yet? He barely gave up the Ring to save Freia, making Fricka very upset. Fricka doesn’t even think that Wotan has triumphed, thus, confusion exists when Wotan replies confusingly about the name of Valhalla…and 14 hours later we still don’t know what Valhalla means.

Who is the mother of the Wälsungs?

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(My family tree that I drew depicting the characters in the Ring. Notice the Question Mark as the mother of Siegmund and Sieglinde.)

The mother of the Wälsungs is never mentioned in any of the Ring operas. The only relatives of the Wälsungs that we know are Wotan being the father, and Hunding being the husband of Sieglinde. When Fricka rides up the mountain to confront Wotan about the incest between Siegmund and Sieglinde, she refers to their mother as a “she-wolf”, based on my sub-titles, and also a mortal. If Fricka can mention those two characteristics, why can’t she say the name so we can know who the Wälsungs’ mother is?”. The lack of a name or face does not affect the story, however.

There is another question mark in the paternal spot of the Norns. We know that the mother of the Norns is Erda, but we do not know who fathered them. Their father is never referred to in any of the operas. When the rope breaks, they say “Zu Mutter”, and not, “Zu Mutter und Vater”.

How does Brünnhilde know that Sieglinde is pregnant?

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This one has stumped me for a long time. There is no evidence in the four operas that Brünnhilde has a doctoral degree, or has X-Ray vision to see if Sieglinde is really pregnant. She simply says to Sieglinde: “Rette das Pfand das von ihm du empfing’st: ein Wälsung wächst dir im Schoos!”, meaning “Save the pledge you got from him [Siegmund], you bear a Wälsung’s life”! Brünnhilde knew that Sieglinde was sick and delusional because of seeing her lying on the ground during the “Todesverkündigung” in the second act, and also when she carries her aback Grane when fleeing from Wotan. Brünnhilde sees that she is sick, but how does she know that she is pregnant? We may not know how Brünnhilde diagnosed Sieglinde’s pregnancy, but at least we leave Die Walküre looking forward to Siegfried’s arrival.

How does Brünnhilde know what has happened while she has been asleep?

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Wagner did not make it clear whether Brünnhilde was psychic or not, but it seems that she is when she wakes up in Act III of Siegfried. She states two things that do not make sense due to her lack of being awake. First, she says to Siegfried: “O wüsstest du Lust der Welt, wie ich dich je geliebt” meaning “I know you, joy of the world, I have always loved you!”. How can you love someone if the last time you saw them, never really, was in a woman’s womb? This is the first time they have ever met, and she is only about six pages ahead of “Heil dir Sonne”. Slow down, Brünnhilde. Slow down. The second strange thing that she says is in response to Siegfried’s question about his mother. Siegfried asks: “So starb nicht meine Mutter?”, meaning “So my mother did not die?”. Brünnhilde responds with, “Du wonniges Kind! Deine Mutter kehrt dir nicht wieder”, meaning approximately, “You wonderous child, your mother no longer lives”. How does Brünnhilde know that Sieglinde died in childbirth? She has been asleep! She should be the one asking him, “How is Sieglinde doing? Are you two getting on well?”.  Wagner must have forgotten to tell us that Brünnhilde is psychic.

Why does Siegfried go to the Gibichung Hall?

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Siegfried journeys down the Rhine and arrives at the Gibichung Palace, why? Brünnhilde just let him go on a journey and let him take Grane, she never told him to go there and he never said he was going there. When he arrives, Siegfried asks who Gibich’s son is, and says that his fame has spread down the Rhine. Siegfried has obviously heard of the Gibichungs, but we have not. In Die Walküre, Wotan says that Alberich found himself a woman and planted a Nibelung seed of evil in her womb, but he did not say that the woman was a Gibichung. Maybe Siegfried just stopped at the Gibichung Palace because he thought it was a nice looking rest-stop?

Vice-versa, it is never said how the Gibichungs, or Hagen really, know about Siegfried. Hagen tells Gunther and Gutrune that Siegfried is the strongest of men and that he is the son of the Wälsung twins: Siegmund and Sieglinde. Most likely, Hagen knows about Siegfried because his father Alberich told him about him. However, Wagner never tells the audience how the Gibichungs know Siegfried’s history so well.

Those are some questions that I have been pondering over for the last month when I’ve watched the Ring. Wagner wrote a magnificent epic, but some parts are missing, none of which are key to the outcome of the story. If you can answer my questions, go ahead and try (If you can, you’re psychic). If you have any questions that I have possible answers to, please ask and comment away! Hojotoho!

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Melanie Spector sings “Lydia” by Gabriel Fauré

I had the pleasure of singing at my school’s World Language National Honors Society Induction Ceremony on Wednesday night. My French teacher invited me to perform, so I chose a French art song to represent the French language. The four languages being represented were French, Spanish, Chinese, and Latin. I had a wonderful time! My French teacher said she had tears in her eyes. It was an honor to perform, and it was fun to perform in front of such a large audience.

Traduit en français:

Avec plaisirs, j’ai chanté à la langue nationale honore la cérémonie d’intronisation Société mondiale de mon école, mercredi soir. Mon professeur de français m’a invité à chanter, j’ai donc choisi une chanson de l’art français pour représenter la langue française. Les quatre langues sont représentées étaient français, espagnol, chinois et latin. J’ai passé un moment merveilleux! Mon professeur de français a dit qu’elle avait les larmes aux yeux. Il a été un honneur d’accomplir, et c’était amusant de chanter devant un grand public aussi.