Saturday, April 05, 2014

Where Was the Understudy (I Spy a Koch!)?

Okay, I get it--high drama and a break into legend for Kristine    who died twice at the Metropolitan Opera in 24 hours.  If you follow opera you know all about this by now. Opalais sang Butterfly on the big stage last night; she fell asleep about 5 am and about 8am got a phone call--could she sing Mimi in in Bohème in the same place this afternoon, as stand-in for Anita Hartig who had the flu?  Well, no I'm sleeping.  I mean maybe; I mean--and there she was as the afternoon unfolded, looking a little grey and bewildered which was actually just fine for poor consumptive Mimi,  For the curtain call, she knelt and bowed her head.

Brava, brava and all that Kritine, and best wishes to ailing Anita.  But wait.  There's one guest conspicuously absent from this feast.  And that would be?  And that would be the understudy--the one retained and trained to be ready go at a moment's notice in exchange for her big break (on desultory search, I haven't been able to find her name but I know she's out there somewhere).  Look, very likely Opalais is a better singer--that's why the other is the understudy. But she's also bone-tired.  And even though she knows the part (she has sung it before,  and recently) she doesn't know the blocking, the directorial conception nor any of the rest of the stuff that would have made the understudy a more suitable and reliable choice.

So why not the understudy?  I bet I know the answer, or answers.  Start with the house: 3,800 seats, many, even most, occupied by customers who paid retail. Move onto the HD performance in umpty ump theaters world wide. And wasn't this also a radio day?

All of which puts ineluctable pressure on Met General Manager Peter Gelb to put on a rully big show.  And by "pressure," I mean the bank, the donors, the big money who fill the gap between the stiffs in retail and the full budget.  I'm not saying "the bankers told him to do it."  I'm saying they hired him because they knew he was a guy who wouldn't have to be told, because he was understood it.  So, curse you, David Koch! And I hope someone is buying the understudy a beer. 

Update:  Oh, so that's it (maybe).  Evidently Hartig's scheduled understudy cover was Hei-Kyung Hong who has sung the role some 60 times before: see the interesting comment thread here.  So  it was not a case of depriving the unknown beginner.  Still an odd decision, though.

No comments: