Flashback Friday - - *Vanessa,* Nov 2007
The divine Diane Schoff just sang the role of The Baroness in *Vanessa* a few weeks ago, so in her honor I'm resurrecting my review of the NYCO production from ten years ago, one of my most hilarious reviews (if I may say so myself).
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My mom’s sister Kat, aka my Crazy Aunt Kathy, aka The High Priestess of the Chinchilla Bikini, got my review of *Lucia* a few weeks ago and was reminded of the time she and I went to see *La Gioconda* in Chicago, and other trips to the opera:
“This old feminist, super-cranky boomer, aka, senior citizen just can't put up with the pathetic women of opera. I get such a queasiness from my head to my cushioned seat. I have to bite my tongue so I can't shout out ‘Run Forrest!’ or, ‘Kick him in the nuts!’ to the female actress…At least in your newest opera, Lucia, she gets to kill someone. Oh, but, alas.... she is CRAZY. The only reason a woman in opera can do anything sensible... like kill the guy?? Oh, please!...How any woman can sit through watching the masochistic or helpless, obviously brain-dead heroine being MANipulated, tortured, having her mother blinded, her sister killed, her dog drowned, or her family estate burned to the ground – it’s just too much for an old bag to handle. I've tried.”
Is she a piece of work, or what? Do I hear an “Ay-men”? I warned her that the next opera on my schedule, *Vanessa*, won’t be any more palatable to the NOW set. Here’s my synopsis - - though my tone is rather snarky, so maybe it’s a snarkopsis?
Samuel Barber's *Vanessa* was written for the Met in 1958. It takes place in 19th century Northern Europe, on a remote country estate. Vanessa, "a lady of considerable beauty" (aka a rich middle-aged broad) has spent the last twenty years or so waiting for the return of her lover, Anatol. She covered all the mirrors, so she could be spared the sight of her aging self (very *Sunset Boulevard*). At some point she acquired a niece, Erika. Also in the house is Vanessa's mother, The Baroness, a spooky old crone who doesn't say much. She stopped speaking to Vanessa when Anatol left the scene, I guess she thought that was unbecoming for a lady.
When the opera starts, Vanessa's lover is on his way back to her. He arrives, and she goes into a dither. He's standing there, shadowy in the doorway (always a good look for a tenor), and she stands with her back to him and delivers a stunning aria, "Do not utter a word". She basically says, "I'm an old broad now. Take it or leave it." He says, "I think that I shall love you." Vanessa is horror-struck, turns around - - it's NOT HIM! "Oh God! Oh God! Impostor! Cheat!" Etc. This guy is Anatol's SON, also named Anatol. Vanessa swoons offstage, Erika takes over as hostess, and spends the night with him. Why not?
Vanessa and Anatol are lovey-dovey for the rest of the opera, with Erika seething off on the side. There's a big ball announcing their engagement, and Erika decides it’s the perfect time for her to bring on a miscarriage! We didn't even know she was expecting! <<Scan-DALE!>> She recovers, a