Who is your favorite baritone and your favorite baritone role? Once upon a time in opera, the heroes were always tenor. I’m still not quite sure why, but it is annoying. We’re living in the Golden Age of Baritones, thanks, I do believe, to the tenacity and mentoring of the greatest baritone of them all, Sherrill Milnes. There are those who say Leonard Warren was greater. I don’t think so. My mother is still quite adamant that Robert Merrill was the best. I have a soft spot for the late Cornell MacNeil. Simon Keenlyside is elegant when it comes to Mozart. Gerald Finley is a very good baritone. I think Canadian baritone Jonathan Estabrooks is going to be a force to be reckoned with when his career finally takes off. But, let’s face it, today’s ruling baritone is Dmitri Hvorostovsky. I think, in my humble and entirely non-prejudical opinion, next to Milnes, he is the greatest baritone ever.
With the advent of April comes the baseball season. September brings the opening of the Met. This year, though, the season is going to be mediocre at best. Evidently Peter Gelb would rather cut corners by using als0-rans and wannabes instead of presenting a power-house of stars that the Met has always fielded. Here in the US, there are so darn many good, young singers out there, a person can go to just about any regional production and see what is nearly world-class opera. If this is the case, then the Met should be fielding only all-stars. I’ll go locally to hear an up and coming singer with promise. To pay Gelb’s outlandish ticket prices for someone who should be in Double-A ball, let alone Triple-A, is a recipe for ongoing disaster.
On stage, at the Met, I’ve seen Sherrill Milnes, Cornell MacNeil, and Leo Nucci do Rigoletto. It’s too bad Hvorostovsky’s last season’s Rigoletto at the Met was not televised, but in Peter Gelb’s infinite wisdom, unpalatable, modern opera is much more important. It’s the primary reason the Met is not selling tickets like it did when when Levine was in charge.