Neither Jeff nor I have been very good lately about blogging our outings. Just for the record, then, this past Friday night we saw A Tuna Christmas. Chortlingly funny in a lowbrow, let’s-make-fun-of-red-staters kind of way (and three days later we’re still quoting lines from the show). The couple next to us–20-something, straight, mixed-race–didn’t seem so sure, though. During the first act, while she clapped politely at the end of each scene, neither of them did so much as laugh or even crack a smile otherwise. I was surprised to see them return after intermission, but during the second act I did see her smile at least once, and they stood during the curtain call ovation, something even we didn’t do (I’m fairly miserly in giving standing ovations).
The previous week we saw Il Trovatore at the Kennedy Center. Unfortunately, with the sole exception of Krassimira Stoyanova’s Leonora, with a beautifully clear voice like the ringing of a bell, the performances were uniformly mediocre and the staging pretty dreadful, which were huge disappointments even given our reduced-price tickets.
Interestingly, after typing the word “mediocre” above, I went in search of the Washington Post‘s review of the show, and critic Tim Page agreed, using the noun “mediocrity,” but going even a little further into the realm of “horror”:
Aside from [the conducting; the score; and Denyce Graves’s performance, though regrettably she wasn’t performing the night Jeff and I were there], the production is a thoroughgoing horror, and Saturday night in particular provided one of the worst performances of any opera I’ve ever seen. Graves aside, the singers strove mightily to pull themselves up onto the lowest rungs of mediocrity (were we really at the Kennedy Center?). …
Harsh reviews often can generate anguished responses. And, yes, I am sure that the singers were doing their best, but the stark fact remains that their best was nowhere near good enough, not for Verdi, not for the Kennedy Center, not at prices that rise to $290 per seat. Right now, our Washington National Opera, the leading such company in the capital city of the United States of America, is offering a production that wouldn’t — and shouldn’t — play in Peoria.
He really was right on the mark, sadly. Normally I cry when opera protagonists die their melodramatic deaths, but this time ironically they were tears of joy and relief that my own suffering was thereby ended.