I despair. I really do. Yesterday’s MetHD broadcast of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera had so much going for it. The singing was brilliant and David Alden’s production seemed to have plenty of interesting ideas. I say “seemed” because we only got the briefest of brief glimpses of it in between the succession of close ups served up by video director Matthew Diamond. On the odd occasions we got to see more than a head or a body it was usually from a weird angle. It’s particularly irritating because the two elements of the production that seemed to be most important were the ones most ruthlessly undermined. Alden’s movement of chorus, supers and dancers and the contrast between what they do and what the principals do seems to be important but who knows? Similarly his use of contrasting spaces, especially in Act 3, is obviously important but when the viewer gets only a couple of seconds to establish the context before the camera moves in and loses it the effect is fatally weakened.
Even as a “concert in costume” though, which is pretty much what we saw in the cinema, this was pretty enjoyable. Sondra Radvanovsky, Stephanie Blythe, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Marcelo Alvarez and Stephanie Blythe all lived up to their considerable reputations and diminutive Kathleen Kim showed she’s almost as agile of foot as of voice. Fabio Luisi and the Met orchestra and chorus is also pretty much a can’t lose bet for Verdi.
Ballo itself is a bit of a daft “the king thinks with his dick” melodrama but it’s got some good music and at least for once it’s not the soprano who dies.