Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Attending the Metropolitan Opera's annual National Council Auditions must be one of the great pleasures of operagoing. From 45 districts of the nation, hopeful young singers compete to advance to 15 regionals, from which they advance to semifinals in New York, and 10 or so become national finalists. Of these, about five become Grand Winners after public performances with the Met's full orchestra. "I sang on the Met stage with their orchestra!" exults Ryan Smith, one of the finalists. "That's enough!"
"The Audition" is a backstage and onstage documentary observing this process as it unfolded two years ago. This is an excellent idea, and a better one by the Met is to sidestep the slippery slopes of indie distribution, and simulcast it via hi-def at 2 p.m. Sunday to 400 screens worldwide. The quality of the sound and the size of the screen will be much more operatic than a home experience, and it's fascinating to see in closeup how some of the singers create characters within a single aria.
A sad element is the fact that Ryan Smith, blessed with a sunny presence and a magnificent tenor voice, died at 31 after the film was made. Chosen for the Lyric's Ryan Opera Center ensemble, he was diagnosed with lymphoma soon after. He speaks briefly about himself; he's older than the other finalists, and actually stopped singing for three years, he says, before telling his parents he was "going to give it two years of my best effort." That was good enough. It doesn't get any better than winning at this level.
I am far from being a music critic, but I am an opera lover; we've had season tickets at Lyric for 20 years, and my love of opera began when I was 20 and drove a rental Vespa to the baths of Caracalla in Rome, where I was delighted to see elephants and camels under the stars and discover that the Italians sold glace during the performance.