Lucrezia Borgia--WYSWIG? Not!
Recently-old tags like babelicious, studly, and racy are the words that come to the Dresser's tongue about John Pascoe's new production of Lucrezia Borgia, a bel canto opera that first premiered in 1833 by composer Gaetano Donizetti with a libretto by Felice Romani based on Victor Hugo's play by the same name. On November 1, 2008, the Dresser attended Washington National Opera's packed opening night performance with Plácido Domingo conducting.
The story involves a ruthless, beautiful woman who encounters her grown up illegitimate son and thinks he could redeem all her evil doings. The trouble is her jealous husband believes this young man is his wife's lover and therefore wants the other man dead.
LUCREZIA, THE HOTTIE
In the starring role, Renée Fleming made a spectacular WNO singing debut though not because she is a master or mistress of the challenges presented by bel canto. With her décolleté and not-quite-spiky pixie haircut that is a new look not matching her publicity shots for this show, she proved to be the sexually alluring blonde even a lost son would rise or fall for. And initially Gennaro, Lucrezia's unacknowledged son, could tentpole over the magically babelicious woman who wakes him from a nap al fresco with a kiss.
Before you, Dear Reader, cry not, the Dresser must hurry on to say that although the spiky-haired blond, dishy, and full-throated tenor Vittorio Grigolo playing Gennaro (and you ask how is it possible with the same hairdresser that no one told him about Lucrezia, the Hottie?) was aroused by his poisonous mother, he really had the hots for his sword buddy Maffio Orsini. Whoa, Dude! Here's where things got heated up and were sooo not what they appeared.
EX-SQUEEZE ME--WHO'S KISSING WHO?
Lusty mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich in a pants role plays Maffio Orsini. When Gennaro and Maffio kiss passionately, the Dresser lit up like a Vegas slot machine when all the lights and horns flash and blare. What exactly was happening on stage? That excellent young tenor Vittorio Grigolo (reputed to carry Pavarotti's torch sang the role of Rodolfo in the 2007 WNO production of La bohème), who surely most women and some men in the Kennedy Center were panting for, was kissing who? Oh, mezzo Kate Aldrich--a guy kissing a gal--but No! This was Gennaro kissing his male friend Maffio. Forget incest between two pieces of ear-and-eye candy, in this case, same-sex interaction was much more racy because it was so confusing.
ORGIA LIKE NO OTHER
And what happens when the boys party on? Well, Mistress Borgia, whose name Gennaro defiles by kicking off the "B" from "Borgia" which was mounted on a family monument, shows up looking for revenge at the Negroni palace for what is, in fact, an "orgia" (Italian for orgy). Wearing a suit of armor that mirrors her son's, she suspects the culprit is one of Gennaro's friends. Surprise! All the men who are friends of Maffio and Gennaro have been poisoned by the wine and ditto the lover boys. Gennaro goes after Lucrezia with a sword, but stops when she reveals that she is his mother. This is Gennaro's second time around at being poisoned that day by his mom's lethal wine. He knows Lucrezia can save him, but he refuses the antidote because she doesn't have enough to save Maffio.