When they bill it a 'blockbuster,' it had better be good

This is the age of the blockbuster -- blockbuster art exhibits, blockbuster galas, and blockbuster concerts. In the vocal arts, it is these blockbusters that give us evenings of star entertainment that once were found at the Metropolitan Opera.

American was privy to the most recent blockbuster concert, thanks to PBS -- the Sutherland-Horne-Pavarotti concert at Avery Fisher Hall. One can rest assured the artists' fees were blockbusters. The publicity machines were billing it as the concert of the century. The box office did blockbuster business: At $50 top price, two concerts were sold out, the first a dress rehearsal for the actual event.

There is no question it is nice to have three of the finest voices of today performing together. Under the worst of circumstances, it is a treat, and a rare one at that. This particular combination appears mostly on records. Even in the heydey of Met casing during the Bing years, Sir Rudolf could hardly be accused of exploiting the greatest vocal combination of the past few decades --Horne and Sutherland. After their run of "Norma," that was that! Sutherland and Pavarotti appeared on that stage more often.

Perhaps if the trio evening had not been so emphatically billed as the event of a lifetime, there would have been more sheer electric pleasure. As it was, the evening offered a good time, some grand singing, some pretty music (often not ideal for the voices in question), and only one real star vocal turn -- Marilyn Horne's dazzling account of Rossini's "Mura felice" from "La donna del Lago."

At this point in the evening, the concert took on historic proportions, as any celebration of legendary vocalism must. Otherwise, it was three great singers having fun, with music they'd rarely, if ever, sing in an opera house. Caballe and Carreras

Fun is just what was missing from the joint recital by Montserrat Caballe and Jose Carreras at the Metropolitan Opera the preceding week. It was a study in how not to present a program.

Even terrible programming can survive if the singing is of a sufficiently high level. But Miss Caballe was in poor form -- rarely able to sing high notes softly, and infrequently reveling in the sort of vocal feats that have made her so justly celebrated.Carreras forces his lovely voice, pushing it with rupturing force, all out of proportion to its essentially lyric timbre.

The fans were vocal in their response all evening, but it was something of a forced response --an event at all costs .

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