Lo, the Legend of Luciano increases. Not content with packing 17,000 souls into sports arenas across the land for operatic soupcons and Italian songlets, he has now brought Verdi's shattering, operatic--and, lest we forget, sacred--Requiem Mass into the arena.
Viewers will get to see the spectacle tonight at 9 on Channels 24 and 50. (L.A. viewers will have to wait until Friday at 9 p.m., which is when KCET Channel 28 has deigned to broadcast the match.)
This time, the lions pretty much win the battle. Basketball echo chambers are hardly the place for megawatt pop concerts, no less a classical work whose model is a mass for the recently departed. It's incredibly insensitive to bring any mass into a sports arena--Billy Graham or no--and the sonic problems (echoes, screechy violins and trumpets, miked singers) are merely the icing on the cake.
Thanks for this cultural horror are due the Opera Company of Philadelphia--which arranged the date and provided the orchestra and choruses--and the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, who gave up their venue, the Spectrum, to the Pavarottiphiles.
Still, the legions will press in to witness Il Tenore, whatever the reason, and Pavarotti doesn't disappoint--this time. He is in decent fettle here: The "Ingemisco," while sentimentalized, is grippingly sung, and--to his credit--he doesn't try to dominate his less stellar colleagues.
Among these colleagues--all winners of the opera company's Pavarotti Prize--American soprano Susan Dunn, a young singer to watch, fares best. Her "Libera Me," while rather coolly sung, is highly musical and evinces a solid musical background in the young singer; the treacherous octave leap to high B-flat is precise and almost pianissimo. Her ensemble work is unfailingly sensitive as well.
But Soviet Georgian bass Paata Burchuladze seems unsure where or how to aim his substantial voice, and his contributions are as often crooned as sung. Hungarian mezzo Ildiko Komlosi tries vainly to push her medium-sized instrument into a heroic Italian mode, with generally unsatisfactory results.
Lorin Maazel conducts the Olympian-sized forces with admirable restraint, good taste and a clear head. The camerawork, directed by Kirk Browning, is adequate, but too many adoring close-ups of Signor Pavarotti break up the work's mammoth scale.