Oh chickens, this is OPERA! with all its glory and all its faults. The sad truth is that I tend to check out pretty fast when the story makes me yawn (or giggle), which I know is operatic blasphemy, because Sally is always telling me the story doesn't matter. But then I say, why bother having a story at all? Why bother with characters and costumes and wigs and million-dollar sets? Why not just let them stand up there in their bluejeans and curlers and sing about crickets or French fries? And then Sally usually just laughs and moves closer to Sarah.
And here we have, for me, what should be a classically overwrought bore: a troubadour and a count, two brothers separated as infants when one of them was kidnapped by a gypsy and raised as her own son, after—by mistake—she tossed her own real son onto the same pile of burning logs at which her mother—another gypsy—had just been burned at the stake by the stolen child's father, for placing a curse on that same stolen child. Got it? So the troubadour and the count grow up to be mortal enemies fighting for the love of the same woman (who is something of a dishrag) and spend approximately 2.25 hours trying to kill each other without ever even knowing that they're brothers. And at the end, one of them succeeds! I won't tell you which one, because: spoiler alert! but let's just say the one who died was the one who totally bored me in the first place, and thus all my tears were for the dishrag, Leonora, who ended up poisoning herself in order to free him. Oops: spoiler alert! failed. It doesn't matter; nobody ends up happy. It's opera!
Anyway, the miracle of it all is that in spite of the preposterousness, I was never bored, and never even giggling. Because the music—grazie, Mr. Verdi—was over-the-top gorgeous, the sets were as simple and practical as one could hope for, and the cast was uniformly excellent. Dmitri Hvorostovsky, please be in everything. Marcelo Alvarez, it's not your fault your character was a dope. Dolora Zajick, that drop into your lower register pierced my poor, befuddled heart strings. Acting with the voice: that's why I go to the opera; it doesn't always have to be beautiful, but it better sound true.
And Sondra Radvanovsky? One of the most amazing performances I've ever heard, a singular testament to the power of the human voice, when you can sit at the top of the house—Family Circle, Row H ($16.50!), literally almost high enough to lick the ceiling—and feel that voice coming up at you, unamplified, through the soles of your feet. And if what I've been told is true, that Radvanovsky's contract with the Met is up after this season, I will have to start thinking that Peter Gelb is an idiot. Because this role right here oughta make her a big huge enormous star, and you should be grateful for that. She was dazzling.