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Susan

Hi Philip! I saw La Gioconda last night. Not at all familiar with opera so I read your post with great interest last week, curious to see if I'd feel the same way about the performances. With respect to the 2 lead ladies - I thought that they both had lots of lovely individual moments but neither of them really wowed me. Urmana's voice sounded kind of deep for my conception of a soprano, so going back & reading your comment that she switched from mezzo to soprano recently was interesting. The one singer who really impressed me right off the bat was the guy in the role of Enzo. I have absolutely no grasp of technical vocabulary for opera - but his voice just sounded beautiful. Since you were not too enthusiastic about Machado I figured I must just like the sound of a tenor voice. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my program this morning & realized that it was Marcello Giordani singing last night!

I wasn't completely sold on Wheeldon's ballet at the start, but I thought it improved greatly towards the midddle and ended with a real bang. Angel looked great, he seemed very relaxed and looked like he may have dropped a couple of pounds. There was no sign of the over-reaching I saw from him in Corsaire last season. I also liked the Italtian ballerina. The crowd gave them a really huge ovation.

As for the opera as a whole - I'm afraid it was a bit too melodramatic for me. I think the biggest problem I had with it was that I really didn't find any of the characters particularly likable - not even Gioconda - so it was hard to be emotionally involved or devestated by the tragedy like I would have been with something like Giselle or Swan Lake. I still may go see it again next week. I just love Danny Tidwell and rarely have the opportunity to see him dance anymore. Also curious to see what Millo's like in the title role, so I may try to take advantage of those last minute $20 seats.

philip

Yes, Giordani and Machado are very different animals.

I guess the big appeal of GIOCONDA for me is that all emotions are in play at every moment. These people all love in a big way: jealous and posessive is putting is mildly. Love means everything to them: they will kill for it, and die for it. No holding back.

Gioconda sacrifices all for love - for love of her mother, that is. Because Laura saves her mother's life in Act I, Gioconda finds she cannot kill Laura (her rival for Enzo's love) because she is in debt to her. And she goes so far as to save Laura again, when Laura's furiously jealous husband orders her to take poison for betraying their marriage. Gioconda gives Laura a sleeping potion instead. Seeing her rival asleep, Gioconda says: "O mother, I had this woman in my power last night and could have killed her but I made the sacrifice because of you. And now I have saved her again - saved her for the man that I love!"

Ironically, Gioconda (the Joyful One) only has one moment of joyous music. In the end, having restored Laura to Enzo and helped them escape, she must pay her own debt to Barnaba who has rescued Enzo from prison. As she adorns herself with make-up and jewels before giving herself to Barnaba, Gioconda suddenly bursts into an almost coloratura tune of playful enticement. And then she plunges a dagger into her own heart.

I think that Gioconda is the only really interesting character in the piece. In the course of the opera she loses everything; she gives up her own hope of happiness and the only reward for her sacrifice is: death.

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