Let history note that Tatiana Troyanos brought the house down twice last night, opening night of Don Carlo at the Met. As D said, clearly all that Handel paid off in her "Veil Song" -- the cascading coloratura, those notes -- that note, is it an 'f'? -- hanging in the air in the middle of the theater ... we, her fans, were so proud. The ovations lasted for several minutes. Did not milk her curtain calls. We wouldn't have minded if she did, but she doesn't do stuff like that. We hung around the exit because D wanted to see Shicoff depart ("I want him to have my children"); Troyanos left with her usual car, driver, small amiable entourage, and excessive clothing: mid-calf white fur, large black hat with feather, sensible shoes. A head taller than everyone else. Shicoff left with a couple of shiksas. Margaret Price left with two immaculately groomed queens, two large dogs, and a taxi full of flowers.
We went, with some little reluctance, to the season's last, umpteenth performance of Don Carlo. We had seen them all. I refused to get up early and stand in line for stands, so D picked up tickets in the afternoon at his leisure -- there was no great rush for spots. As we were leaving D decided it would be nice to bring Miss Troyanos flowers, since it was her last Met performance of the year. So we got a beautiful arrangement of blue Japanese Irises and rose-colored roses, and hurried to the theatre.
When we entered, I immediately noticed a large sign with the words "In Tonight's Performance, the role of Princess Eboli will be played by M M , replacing Tatiana Troyanos, who is ill ..." We froze in our tracks. "She's not singing tonight. She cancelled." We stood there blankly in the lobby -- D thrust the bouquet into my arms and said "Happy Valentines Day." We continued towards our stands, but I stopped again. "What the hell are we doing here, anyway? We don't feel that well, we've seen this opera HOW many times, a miserable second-cast Don Carlo, excruciatingly boring, Ermano Mauro, now this?"
Perhaps I never said this much -- D & I think the same thoughts much of the time anyway, and this time our course was clear. We turned around and raced out of the theater, past the others still filing in -- went out to Broadway and began walking -- no, skipping -- uptown, clutching our flowers, in the direction of Tatiana Troyanos' Central Park West penthouse. We rummaged around for an envelope -- D used the ticket envelope, and put our stubs in it. D wrote a note and inserted it in the envelope, with a text we developed along our chilly walk: "This was meant to land at your feet, but I can't throw that high. your fan, D"
When we reached 92nd Street, D entered the lobby alone and gave the flowers to the elevator man to deliver to The Diva. We opted to wait while he took them up to her. I paced outside in the cold, trying not to look sinister.
When D came out, he said he was told that Miss Troyanos was out, but the flowers were given to the housekeeper. This somewhat dampened our spirits, robbing us of the fantasy of the woofy diva in her robe and slippers, reading our clever inscription and laughing. We pondered whether D had been gently lied to -- we thought it was quite possible. Also quite possible that Troyanos was not ill, just sick to death of Don Carlo.
Troyanos gave a spectacular recital for a two-thirds-full house last night. She was really good, esp after she warmed up. Von Ewige Liebe was memorable -- in d minor, hence the heightened tension but it was also her clarity in dilineating the lines -- excellent Brahms conception. Botschaft too fast, the pianist was no help. Wolves were great, Mahler transcendental. She seems to forget everything, relying on music on a stand for each song, even though we've seen her do this same programme at Columbia with no music. She rarely needed it, just for the de Falla. Could be a product of years of prompters, or the rumored substances, which often cause exactly that sort of thing, also the slurred diction. A good time was had by those perspicacious enough to attend.
We send back two bouquets beforehand, to cheer her, we figured she was a nervous wreck. Afterwards tons of bouquets were brought onstage, including ours which were of course unique as they contained no red roses. D went backstage and got some autographs, and he told Troyanos that he was the guy who had sent flowers up with her doorman that night she cancelled; Troyanos had no idea what he was talking about.
Cheered to see Benita Valente hanging around the "Private" door and admitted as a family member, with all the little greeks.
Troyanos is all effort: muscle, lung, heart -- totally physical. She pumps from the ankles. Valente is effortless -- she seems to think the notes. She has a healthier voice -- flawless at 55, where Troyanos is wobbly at 50. The difference is that Valente nurses her voice, protects it, picks and chooses, whereas Troyanos practically pulls 12-wheelers with hers (one more Kundry would terminate her career). Together, their superior musicianship binds them, and they can move the music together as if it were one sound.
They're saying in Chicago that Troyanos was a wonderful Fricka. My admiration for her continues to know no bounds, esp. now taking on such well-known roles late in her career, when most mezzos are doing reprises of their early stints as Azucena ... and after all the problems she's had with her voice, her memory, her inner ear infections, her nerves, three new roles in one year: She premieres a Philip Glass opera here, she goes to Chicago and does her first Fricka, and then she will come here and do Waltraute, we hope. Amazing. She's really going out with a bang. God I wish I had her guts. Listening alot to the new Troyanos/Valente record, just the first three cuts really, esp. the Scherza infida, such a great recording, so evocative of her performance in it in Philadelphia a few years ago -- standing all alone on that stage, melting the air ... It's nice to have something of hers that's not a pirate tape.
When Troyanos died, I thought to place an obituary note in the Times: "these were supposed to land at your feet, but I can't throw that high."
I didn't do it.