In case you go to “La Bohème” on the Metropolitan Opera this season and are satisfied that the large snowdrift in Act III appears to be like a bit brisker than ordinary, you’re not hallucinating.
One million-dollar present from a board member just lately paid for the corporate to rebuild some of the sets for Franco Zeffirelli’s deathless 1981 manufacturing of Puccini’s traditional, and the snow that dominates a wintry scene on the outskirts of Paris was one of many targets. It now appears to be like extra newly fallen — although the seam between the set piece and the stage ground was gapingly apparent from the orchestra stage on Saturday night.
Some whiter snow was the information of this “Bohème” — alongside an unusually assertive, fashionable Schaunard from the younger baritone Sean Michael Plumb, in a small half that usually fades into Zeffirelli’s teeming backgrounds.
Federica Lombardi’s targeted soprano created a Mimì extra forthright, even indignant, than the norm, making her deadly Act IV extra tender by comparability. The bass-baritone Christian Van Horn sang a soberly resonant “Vecchia zimmara,” and the soprano Olga Kulchynska was a vibrant Musetta. As Rodolfo, the veteran tenor Matthew Polenzani pushed his voice out at climaxes however in any other case usually sounded pale, and some hairs flat.
The units for David Alden’s 2012 Met staging of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” haven’t been rebuilt — however, solely 11 years outdated, they generally appeared shakily immune to being moved when the opera was revived on Friday.
Right here, the forged was the thrilling half, no less than by the tip of the night. The efficiency appeared to settle in because it went on, with the tenor Charles Castronovo’s tone as Gustavo — pale for a lot of the opera — lastly taking up extra colour, fullness and freedom.
And after an unsure starting, the soprano Angela Meade delivered a memorable Amelia. Her sound is actually cool, however it obtained fuller and extra infected because the bizarre, tragic plot developed, ending up lean but glowing, like a red-hot poker.
One singer required no warming up: the baritone Quinn Kelsey, who appears ever extra a pillar of the Met, notably in Verdi. “Ballo” is the story of a Swedish king, Gustavo, who’s in love with Amelia, the spouse of his closest buddy — and Kelsey performs Renato, the agonized buddy who goes from Gustavo’s confidant to his murderer.
His presence hulking and brooding, Kelsey has that the majority particular of operatic attributes: an immediately recognizable voice, capacious and moody, with a smoky, barely nasal, sneering, sinister edge but additionally a elementary seductive smoothness and nuanced eloquence.
His and Meade’s back-to-back arias within the third act — her plea “Morrò, ma prima in grazia” into his wounded “Eri tu” — have been collectively the musical spotlight on Friday. The mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova sang Ulrica with regular energy, and the soprano Liv Redpath sounded lucid and delicate because the sprightly web page Oscar. Carlo Rizzi, one of many Met’s usually underappreciated maestros within the Italian repertoire, performed each “Ballo” (with regular drive) and “Bohème” (with luxurious readability).
“Ballo,” which premiered in 1859, is from the interval after Verdi’s canonical trio of “Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore” and “La Traviata,” and earlier than his late-stage epics “Don Carlos” and “Aida.” On this center interval — suppose additionally of “Les Vêpres Siciliennes” and “La Forza del Destino,” which the Met is presenting in a brand new manufacturing this winter — he experimented with shades of emotional ambiguity and typically jarring juxtapositions of tone.
In “Ballo,” he mixed parts of Italianate melodrama and champagne-bubbly French excessive spirits in a combination that may be excitingly risky. Alden’s staging is a sort of stylized, largely grayscale Artwork Deco explosion, with a level of unusual extra meant to echo the piece’s personal — like a Busby Berkeley manufacturing quantity on the finish of the primary scene, full with dancing waiters; and, in Act II, a conspirator frantically hurling himself towards a wall.
With severely raked units, sickly floodlighting and surreal touches like cranium masks and angel wings, Alden means that a lot of the opera is Gustavo’s fever dream, or fantasy. However the eerie class of some moments diffuses elsewhere into some awkwardness, with the refrain milling round. When it premiered, the manufacturing appeared like its many concepts hadn’t but gelled. They nonetheless haven’t.