Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Washington D.C. Abuzz; L.A. Disappointed

[Photos from top to bottom: Markus Werba, Nathan Gunn and Teddy Tahu Rhodes]

Washington D.C. is absolutely abuzz and the excitement is palpable. No, I'm not talking about the January 20th Presidential Inauguration. Washington D.C. was a bit gloomy when they learned that budget realities were forcing the cancellation of the planned Ring Cycle. But opera fanatics cheered up when it was announced that barihunk Teddy Tahu Rhodes would be singing Le Nozze di Figaro as the Count. Even the heralded Washington Post led with the tidbit in their article about the 2009-2010 season.

On the other coast, our Barihunks readers are not too thrilled about the LA Opera's revival of Zauberflote. Barihunks was playing up the fact that this opera was loaded with hunk talent, even on the tenor side. Here is a report from one of readers:

"Nathan Gunn looked like Cyndi Lauper gone mad, with a big blonde wig and a pair of tights that wouldn't have looked good on a ballet dancer. Gunther Groissboeck came out completely unrecognizable in a giant triangle (or whatever). He looked like a reject from the movie "Death to Smoochy." Matthew Polenzani looked like Heath Ledger as the Joker. What a disaster and the second act plodded along FOREVER!"

Then I got this delivered late last night from another reader:

"Is the Los Angeles Opera trying to go out of business? First Rasputin, which was the worst opera I ever saw until LA Opera's The Fly. Now they destroy the standard repertoire with a ridiculous and sometimes ghoulish Magic Flute. If Markus Werba is a barihunk the folks in LA sure didn't want you to know it. I can't wait for the Kenneth Branagh film of the opera so I can see what [tenor] Joe Kaiser really looks like. He was washed in kabuki makeup! DISASTER!"


I was planning to make the quick trek to La La Land for this production, but was sidelined with the flu. Sounds like the flu was more bearable than the opera.

I try to keep this site positive, so if anyone saw this production who liked it, I'd love to hear from you.

This site can be contacted at barihunks@gmail.com

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  1. Visuals and costumes aside, how did they *sound* at LA Opera?

  2. I wrote the second set of comments printed by Barihunks and will add that Werba sounded great. Not a solid voice from top to bottom but fine for this role. His acting was a lot of fun. However, Joseph Kaiser and the Queen of Albina Shagimuratova were the real stars. I agree that LA Opera needs to get their act together.

  3. My biggest problem with LA Opera is their inconsistency. They can put on a terrific Trittico one month and a coma-inducing, boring Carmen the following month. They seem to have a knack for trotting out painfully mediocre productions of the warhorses, with an occasionally brilliant new production of the lesser-knowns here and there. Last year's Otello was embarrassingly bad and weak, but then they did a Manon previously that was gorgeous. It seems hit or miss with them... an expensive gamble for the audience when you consider the price of tickets.

  4. First, a message to Anonymous. Does this site look like it's focused on how singers sound? Second, what a waste of good-looking talent, especially with Gunther Groissboeck. And to Barihunks: When is his clever nickname coming.

  5. Shame about L.A. But it's nice to see "Teddy Bare" burning up the East Coast. I've read that he was the best thing in Peter Grimes at the Met.

  6. A bunch of us in the L.A. Opera Chorus are reading your blogs and we think that most of what you've written is dead on!!! =) it's very entertaining to read your comments when we're waiting to go on stage...we think that some of you should be reviewing for the L.A. Times!!!! Did any of you barihunks miss the huge stuffed cod pieces they were wearing???? the tights were nice though... ;-)

  7. I'm presently living in LA - had lived in NYC for well over a decade, and saw the Magic Flute here twice this season. I'm not disappointed (although do have some constructive criticism :O ), and I have to say the audience was not disappointed (and that matters). The people leaving the opera were clearly entertained and had a cheery air about them, something I wish I could say was a common thing to see after an opera. I mean, we're supposed to be entertained, right? Fortunately, I attend gratis at the generosity of a lady who has season tickets for seats up close and personal. Nathan Gunn was perfection as Papageno - in his singing, his ability to communicate nuances in his acting and he stole the show. And oh those legs!!! I have no problem with hunky men in bright colored tights (heck, I watch football). Nathan lights up the place and his smile with dimples is infectious. I was so enthralled with Nathan that I didn't care that James Spader was seated right next to me. (Nathan - if I didn't respect a family man I'd post my cell # here. I was the lady in the 4th row who couldn't take her eyes off of you.) Papageno's outfit was consistent with the production and I loved the feather tufts on top of his head (reminded me of the portrayal of Mozart in Amadeus). (And if you combined Papageno with Tamino - wouldn't you get Mozart?) Now - for the constructive criticism. Agreed, Tamino's makeup was atrocious and made the singer unrecognizable. I was wondering if I was at the Nutcracker, and the acting wasn't far behind. Let's see, Pamina says she's going to kill herself, and Tamino barely blinks. How credible is that? Of course, everyone loves the pyrotechnics of the Queen of the Night. I sing the Queen of the Night (not professionally) and I have some comments. Pronunciation. What did she say? Is there a second verse I didn't learn??? :) The Queen was not flawless in either production that I saw, and frankly, I'm relieved.

  8. p.s. - bad make-up aside - just a couple of positive words - I thought the production was visually wonderful and the singing was on. An older gentleman sat in the row in front of me and at intermission he was crying. He said it was the 30th time he'd seen the Magic Flute during his (long) life and that this was the best production he'd ever attended.