interview (and music) for the night

on the occasion Anja Harteros getting a nice featured article in the New York Times (where P.Gelb essentially offers her any spot and would rearrange all schedule around to fit her in if she ever has a chance to come to NY in the future), it’s time to revisit and getting to know more about her latest plan (and nice discussion on her voice, her preference for traveling by car and not plane <– voice related, her Greek side, any potential future performance in Greece and elsewhere..)

(video is in German, with French subtitles (yay!) though she speaks so fast my French reading comprehension was flailing.. ; it’s wonderful to see how little make-up she cares/needs for an interview.)

She’s also slated to be live on stream 9/Jul in Wagner i think… I must admit after her Leonora (Munich Trovatore) I lost track of following.. because as much as I tried Wagner and Verdi aren’t really my thing (and the fact that every single thing i’ve seen of her had JK drapping all over and fans who are more attached to the “couple” idea than caring much about her voice/vocal expression i’m afraid…)

For music, i know i’m still looking backward… these 2 things are staple diet on my phone, (actually 3, the ENTIRE Wien’s Alcina is on phone, that’s a given.)

the countess, Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, NY MET 2007 (thanks Stray!)

Leonora (her debut in Cologne, 2011)

(this one was from a fan who recorded.. he posted orginally on Parterre’s site.. which i downloaded. Later he also shared with me the rest of the performance, though the first 2 Acts were sadly from very var distance and audio is totally muffled.)

interview for the night

or day, depending on where you are on the globe, it’s still 15min before midnight here! Having been spending the extended weekend in limited internet space, I have dug up again my “Mingardo” folder and re-listening to some of her earlier works.. and stumbled on this really insightful interview.

Though i can digest the French, it’s most clear when piped through the English translator because there are some quite fine details I couldn’t catch otherwise. It’s the most “blunt” or “direct” (honest) interview I’ve ever heard from her, really reminded me of V.Kasarova’s interviews or some of Antonacci’s. Some of the highlights include:
– How she knew she was a contralto even as a kid 🙂
– JE.Gardiner being the first serious conductor who trusted her in a language other than Italian and gave her the first opportunity (something she often mentioned in subsequent inteview)
– How singing Bach is extremely difficult for her
– How the moment she discovered Monteverdi, everything Monteverdi was better than Azucena 😀
– How she made the jump to “professional” , and knowledge of old system which fostered artists such as ACA versus the lack of anything now.
– She had some very sharp words for the Italian art culture (lack thereof) and direction (during the 2006)
– How young singers saw her as a beacon of light in the search for early music possibility (“they call me directly at my home because they didn’t know where to turn!” — paraphrasing..) This provides insight into her recent project, sponsoring 7 young singers in early music:

Very insightful. I’d really love to read her biography if she ever decides to write one. There is still that other also very insightful interview in Polish, which if I find the link I’ll post here. But this was really a nice window into how her career started. Oh yes, she also sung Cesare and Rinaldo!! with C.Rousset.. am on a mission to find audio evidence..

repost: Vesselina Kasarova in concert in Berlin review

click on photo to go to review

Many thanks to Smorgie who hosted her blog to guest review John Carnegie.
A wonderful read on Vesselina Kasarova’s artistry. ❤

Antonacci video broadcast alert

(Edit: just update to the correct link..)
Rai5 HD TV is making their last night broadcast of Anna Caterina Antonacci’s performance of La Voix Humaine in Bologna last month available to all international viewers! Yay! I don’t know for how long…
(now have in my drawer 🙂 ).

Ariodante at Carnegie Hall

View from row G slight right, 3rd balcony, Carnegie Hall

I will start the report with the photo of our view, to give the reader an idea how far up we were, because most of what I discuss will be entirely dependent on it. I once wrote about my experience listening to Bach Matthäuspassion in the large Boston Symphony Hall, and I think much of it is applicable here. I think for Händel music (baroque, early) it is crucial to hear the voice well because these singers are known for their descriptive singing. Thus to assess it as “i can hear her” is not sufficient and would be a dis-service. Based on this, I think the 3rd Balcony in the Carnegie Hall is too far for this type of intimate music, and relately, I think the acoustic is also not the best. Either that or the orchestra needs to be much more quiet if one can hope to hear the singer’s piano lines (can you?) . You can hear the singers quite well, yes. But at the descriptive level befitting their attention/effort, I am not sure.

Carnegie Hall, 30/Apr/2017
Händel Ariodante
The English Concert, Harry Bicket
Ariodante: Joyce DiDonato
Ginevra: Christiane Karg
Polinesso: Sonia Prina
Dalinda: Mary Bevan
King of Scotland: Matthew Brook
Lurcanio: David Portillo
Odoardo: Tyson Miller


So, with that much pretext, let us have a go at my first ever live Prina-extravaganza and 2nd live JDD (1st was Barber of Seville in LA opera waaaay back in 2008(?) when i didn’t know who she was or what I want). This is also my first experience hearing Christiane Karg live, along with the rest of them. The first Act was a little bit “mild” as heard from waaaay above. It’s as if everyone was testing out the sound of the hall and didn’t want to overdo it? The orchestra was soft (as it should be, for a smaller hall) and detailed. Karg started out with a veeeeeerry nice and warm voice! I really love it! I have been more used to hearing sopranos with quite a bit more “ping” (piercing sound) in this role, which might have worked better this far up? She was singing while looking down into the music sheet quite a bit, which somewhat limited the sound projection. From up there, you can hear the significant difference when a singer is not singing into the music sheet.

To my surprise, Sonia Prina voice came up very well and detailed. I think it’s primarily because she did not look into the music sheet but was “acting” and projecting her voice into the hall. Also her voice has quite a bit of (just the right kind of to make it up) heft. If one is not aware of how well she can be descriptive in her recit, this will convert one on the spot! I’m a biiiiiig fan. But i have been a big fan for a while now, thanks to Agathe and Dehggi who “converted” me. The “conversion” part was really just me hearing more from her, and additionally getting used to her way of doing the coloratura. That and the fact that she is fully 3-D, not just always singing and acting the “same” way. She does it, though with her particular flamboyant way, but completely appropriate (of course 😉 ) to the musical content and not for showing off. And one has to appreciate her approach of doing things without “worrying” about social pressure to behave certain ways. Interestingly, one of my friends said she had a hard time hearing Prina because she (Prina) was “turning away from the mic at times”!! To which i was astonished and reiterated that there were NO amplification!! (to my friend’s complete surprise ?!) And that “fading in and out” is not fading! it is dynamical variation of a phrase instead of shouting at the same intensity. Through more talking I realized my friends are used to seeing things at the MET where LOUD is the prerequisite I believe (?).

Onto Joyce DiDonato! And I have a confession as well: one of my very favorite sections is Ariodante’s melancholy entrance. It highlights very well the singer’s ability to phrase the line to convey the emotion.

Quì d’amor nel suo linguaggio parla il rio, l’erbetta, e’l faggio al mio core innamorato.

One can spot an (subjectively) exceptional Ariodante right at this entrance. If (s)he stops you on track , perks up your ears, draws in your dreamy wide-eyes, you’re set for the next 3 hours! And to confess up until now I have always been very drawn to V. Kasarova’s entrance. And Joyce, she gave the same response: breathing halted, the toothpick (if it were there) falling off the (open) mouth. Ahhhh, I love that entrance ❤ .

“Con l'ali di costanza" came, with the orchestra going at about 50\% volume (which is also nice, i love that light touch), and Joyce going at somewhat also quite under-control volume. The good news is that thanks to the soft orchestra one can hear Joyce's expressions very well up there, though it was going at quite fast speed and I'd say she spent quite a bit of time looking down to the music sheets. This, and Karg's Ginevra's aria just before that, "Volate, amori, di due bei cori“, judging by how fast they were and how much both of them were looking down the music sheets, I was curious if it’s necessary because Bicket was behind their back instead of in front and thus they had to make sure to keep together with the band? In any case, I also got curious if this was Joyce’s dynamical range (quite mild in volume range) and wondered if I have been having a mis-informed opinion about her ff (more later). On the subject of volume, Mary Bevan’s sound came out the the most rounded and apt for this hall 3rd balcony. I’d even put her at a bit on the larger voice side and just a tad less flexible than Karg’s ? Though she had no issues with Dalinda’s arias (and yes, she was at all time under the attention of the Duke 😉 ).

Speaking of attention, the first act, it appeared as if only S.Prina was acting (and abandoning the sheets) while everyone else was gluing to their positions. I became wishful if they could just abandon that approach in favor of a more “semi-staging” take. Pleasantly so, starting with act II :-). Ah right, but before Act II, the tenor’s voice came up just fine. I’m always more picky about the bass for this role, because most of the time I find the voice (all of them to my ears) muddy (blurry). The best King of Scotts so far for me was the one with the clan in Aix.

Now, a quick note about Ariodante in general. This is a very challenging opera for non-Händelian (non early music) fans I have always thought. It’s got this two solid hours of *very* slow music in the middle. Sort of like a symphony with the *very* slow 2nd movement that can cause audience falling by the wayside. Without knowing the music or having some singers to focus on, I think it is too much to ask of anyone’s attention span. As you know, I often bring people to the operas with me, and already had a feeling they were going to drift. Several people left after the 2nd intermissions in fact, with more laments nearby of it being “too long”. One thing i can say though: if we were sitting in a smaller hall, you’d feel much more connected with the singers and can hear well their characters’ anguish, and perhaps can stay connected. At our distance, it’s like hearing someone a mile away lamenting on and on and on: First Ariodante, then more Ariodante, then the king, then Ginevra, then Dalinda, then Ginevra, then the tenor, then the king, then more Ginevra…

In my case, I knew what was coming! So was fully prepared. Sadly, allergy and the AC in Carnegie Hall had robbed me of my nose in the most inopportune moments, namely “scherza infida” and “Il mio crudel martoro” such that I could not hear much except for the constant struggle to breath. Such a shame. I was so hoping to hear these, judging by the receptions from the audience. In any case, the bits that i heard was that goooooorgeous B-section in “Tu preparati a morire” duo with Polinesso (ohhhhh, what a sight!!! aaaaaahhhhhhh, i wish there were more of these throughout the opera… here, have some very blurry short curtain call instead, of their wonderful friendship)

Se la bella m’ha ingannato, disperato io morirò.

aaah the floating notes and long lines Joyce carried… It was also clear that Joyce raised up a notch in volume (and hence dynamical range) starting with the 2nd Act, before letting it ripped in the 3rd. For a voice to be expressive one must allow for these occasions!

Right, let us talked a little bit more about Polinesso! Actually, what is there to talk about except dropping the jaw and enjoying the Sonia Prina live experience? I don’t know what else I could say. She set the stage on fire with her angle-of-sight. The acting was intense and spot on, along with vocal description. She really was the prime example of vocal acting as well as physical (ahem). You know this ABA format? She provides you with so much details nothing is a repeat. In fact I would go as far as saying the contrast between what she and the tenor did was quite clear: in one case you don’t want her to stop 🙂 , in the other, you realize there’s another A-section coming. Again, this is perhaps due to us being so far away as to not seeing / hearing any finer details, so whatever it is needed to transmit the distance was lost, and you do/don’t realize the repeat is coming based on what is presented to you.. I was quite heart-broken the fighting scene was criminally short and instead of being escorted to the chair Prina was removed from the stage (nooooooo). Musically, perhaps she made so much sense of Polinesso there’s not much to discuss because it just works! (and I take it for granted. In fact, sometimes i go on and on only because i can’t wrap my head around it..)

It’s also worth noting that the males carried on celebrating (ohhhhh ja, i was tapping feet majorily in the 3rd Act to Dopo Notte) without anyone bothering to inform Ginevra they have forgiven her for the sh*tty death-warranted crime they accused her of. Thus even after Dopo Notte we still get a bit more lamentation from Ginevra (which I enjoyed, she has such a warm voice!!) This is all before the King performed a memory-erasing moment so that the finale duet can take place. AAAAAHHHHHHH i looooove that duet!! Ariodante and Ginevra voices were sooo wonderfully intertwined to such an addictive tune. Again, the small occasions when Joyce sang low the orchestra covered her. But what music. It would have been nice if Karg was somehow not so “shy”.. she repeatedly thwarted any of Joyce’s come-hither attempt. (in fact she reminded me of myself treating water and warning people to stay clear just so I MYSELF don’t drown, or ice skating just so I myself don’t fall and take them all down..) Then the music to the finale chorus, my ring tone of course. Please call me, i want to hear this tune day and night. It is also my alarm tone for waking up.

So, that summarizes the experience. Hard to go into details about individual voices, or music analyses. A bit more the overall picture. I did occasionally paid attention to the really wonderful and detailed orchestra. Those horns are fabulous! and the occasions when the woodwinds perked up your ears. I also promise myself next time for these kinds of works I’d only go with people who know the music and sit closer (Stray! we would have had great fun! I also spotted several white-shirters in the crowd who knew how to appreciate Händel 😉 ). So, that’s a quick write up. I now have the replay (thanks Brigitte!) to listen to for comparison, as well as reading up on Dehggi’s latest blog post via the Medici.tv experience (and now just saw Anik’s latest screencap extravaganza; while there, also check out our international liveblog of the event). Signing off to let the nose recover, and until the next adventure. I still owe the reader a post on Juditha Triumphans in New York, as well as a Torino’s impression (blending in with 2nd Dario) experience.





random photos

how cool, since getting back from that dream trip in Torino, my computer has decided to take Italy as the center of its universe, along with switching language to Italian.

Should I keep it? and use google translate to figure out how to get form the airport to Carnegie hall? 🙂

L’incoronazione di Dario, Torino

I can’t remember the last time i bursted giggling out of control at the opera before. This production is just hilarious. Or you could say the storyline is, in combination with good acting. I’d refer the reader to three posts for the background plot and thoughts: (1) by Anik from 2013, _the_ introduction to this work for me, (2) Giulia’s review from several days ago, and (3) Dehggi’s review (whenever it comes in, she’s writing next to me.). This is a quick write-up on the staging idea and acting (and singing). (please excuse the grammar issues, run-on sentences, blah blah.. no time to check, we’re off for some more city touring 🙂 .)

Vivaldi L’incoronazione di Dario
Teatro Regio di Torino
Sara Mingardo: Statira
Delphine Galou: Argene
Lucia Cirillo: Oronte
Roberta Mameli: Alinda
Riccardo Novaro: Niceno
Carlo Allemano: Dario
Veronica Cangemi: Arpago
Ottavio Dantone conducting

I have to start with a short summary of the plot, because everything revolves around Statira, who is gullible and slow, to say gently, and yet by birth right seems to have everything going for her in term of (fake and true) love toward and title (princess, soon to be queen). Some samples of her reasoning include: “He was mean to me, but now he said he’s sorry, i believe him”, “you want my lips and hands? no thanks, that’s not love if you want to cut these off from me”, “your heart aches for me? how can it be that a heart can talk and ache?” All five other characters revolves around her, with the exception of the strong-minded and insistent Alinda. And all five of them have agenda, either the throne or to be the queen. With such a storyline, it can get a bit silly, have too much cariature or forced comedy. Not so in this production where they manage to keep everything light and fun with superb acting, especially from Mingardo and Galou.

Some of the most memorable scenes definitely involve Statira and Argene, Statira for being just out there in her la-la-la land (superbly acted) and Argene in her frustration and all the rebuff and failed schemes (also very well acted). Their comic timings are just off the chart. For Sara Mingardo in particular, her acting and on-point phrasing simply brings out the best in the character and the music. A prime example is in this scene, to the aria “Sentirò fra ramo e ramo”, pictured below, where yours truly risked giggling beyond control and disturbing the surrounding (which was also filled with giggling):

Sara Mingardo (Statira), Novaro (Niceno), Delphine Galou (Argene), Romina Tomasoni (Flora). © Ramella&Giannese


After many failed attempts, Argene (Delphine Galou) has decided it’s time to get rid of the sister (Statira, Mingardo), with the help of the two co-conspirators Niceno (Novaro) and Flora (Tomasoni). Statira, however, is “overwhelmed” with nature and the birds and repeatedly broke off her forced-exit, running back toward the audience to express how beaaautiful it is to hear the birds singing. S.Mingardo must be having a ball playing this role, mimicking the bird, returning the sound, listening, echoing, dancing, exchanging with the solo violin. One doesn’t want her to stop! (I was so (wrongly) disappointed when the B section ended and Niceno and Flora seemed to have dragged her off, but nope, you could hear her frantic footsteps as she waged the blue flowing dress running full semicircle round the staging back to the front to pick up the second A, just out there in staging idea and fun). Many other scenes worth mentioning including her recital of Niceno’s love poem (all touchy, then blurted out: this makes no sense, how can a heart speak?), or when she offered her hands to both Arpago and Oronte. Vocally, it was pure joy listening to Sara Mingardo in this work. Her solo aria to the solo viola da gamba aches with beauty. Her “L’occhio, il labbro, il seno, il core” was a nice mix of (honest yet nonsense) anger and great rhythm/tune, along with the wagging finger “na na na na, non fa per me”.

Carlo Allemano (Dario), Delphine Galou (Argene). ©Ramella&Giannese


In parallel with the “innocent” and slow Statira is Argene and her plots to take over. In a way, her character is a little bit more 1-dimensional. But perhaps during her time (whichever time this is) clever women were reduced to such? because it’s nearly impossible to understand how *EVERYBODY* was chasing after Statira. Sure, there’s the power hunger crowd, though we were unsure if, for example, Niceno was also after the throne? Being completely overlooked, she’s reduced to “draping” herself over Dario to seduce him (D.Galou is having a ball acting this, and Carlo Allemano is doing a great job being somehow “not” getting it), or when things go awry to pull out the gun and getting the whole army behind ready to shoot the whole kingdom into submission. In this staging, the ending did her a dis-service by reducing her great aria to an afterthought it feels. I would have liked it to be staged in a stronger scene than simply her pointed gun being disarmed very easily (Dario just walked up and took it, pfff), then everyone walked away as she collapsed “speaking” angrily to herself. There was an anouncement that Galou was sick yesterday, and probably it was this aria we felt it the most. Not in her very flexible coloratura run but in the power, as she was quite overpowered by the orchestra.

Of the other characters, Roberta Mameli’s Alinda has a couple of slow moving aria, with the last one while being hand-cuffed to be killed off was quite moving. Her tone is quite focused, and yet the voice is warm and quite expressive. I already remembered her well from Dalinda in Bucharest’s Ariodante and Nerone in L’incolorazione di Poppea. Pairing with her is Lucia Cirillo’s Oronte whose voice is also focused and descriptive. The two of them worked well together as a torn couple, all the way to the part when Oronte simply could not go through with killing her even if it means a (false) promise of the throne with/by Argene. Here L.Cirillo also did a nice job showing the human side of Oronte rather than flip/flopping on switch command.

Lucia Cirillo (Oronte), Roberta Mameli (Alinda). © Ramella&Giannese

Riccardo Novaro seemed to have a ball with the acting as well, love the little details of him running his fingers on the ground trying to touch Statira as the two of them sitting nearly side-by-side and Statira reciting his love poem to her
There was also some inconsistencies in his character: First he professed love to Statira, then was quick to join Argene’s team to break up the Dario-Statira couple (which makes sense if he’s really after Statira), and yet he was strangely quick to turn monster (attempted rape and kill?, he was growling while forcefully jumping on top of Statira) once finding himself alone with her in the woods. The character Flora, sung by Romina Tomasoni, is also a little bit 1-D, tilting where the wind blows. But one can understand her: if you don’t have power, better align yourself with those who you think can, especially if the one you’re serving is that slow and clueless. Dario played along well. One almost wonders who is slower between him and Statira. How did these people find each other in the first place?! The character that has the least thing to say seems to be Arpago, who, i would say even vocally, is not as strong, and scenically, even though supposed to be the head of the army, was quite quick to be kicked to the side and disarmed/dismissed.

Riccardo Novaro (Niceno), Sara Mingardo (Statira), © Ramella&Giannese

Vocally, since i was drooling at Sara Mingardo’s sound, we’ll keep it at that for now. Dehggi and I had a discussion, on how if we were talking about light, Sara Mingardo’s voice would warm a whole room whereas D.Galou’s would be along narrow beams. She has a really lovely tone but it is quite tight and most prone to being overpowered by the light orchestration Dantone ran. Though to be fair, she was also under the weather, so I can’t tell how she would sound in the house at full strength. I can really see why I love R. Mameli as Nerone in Poppea and remember her very well as Dalinda. Here she really had room to express on the rare single slow-burning aria. Dantone kept the orchestra very soft, never overpowering the singers (we experienced something in the complete opposite just 2 nights before in London so it was very pleasant to see how a knowledgeable conductor can take care of the singers while also carrying the music.) I can’t figure out if I didn’t pay as much attention to the orchestra, whether because the singers were superb, or whether the orchestra was playing its detailed way but not standing out to the point of taking away one’s attention. Either way, it was light, at times descriptive, but you spend more time enjoying the beautiful vocal lines and funny as hell silly staging.

Oh, a few last notes. As Giulia mentioned in her review, it is a warm touch in how Sara Mingardo portrayed Statira, in that she’s slow but has a good-heart nature. “Hit him but don’t hurt him too much” toward Niceno even though he nearly killed her just moment before, “he seems honest, is his offer a good deal? i’ll take it” to both Arpago and Oronte, putting Oronte and Alinda back together (it’s against her nature to see people sad it seems), or “let me handle it my way, he seems remorseful and seems to love me” to Dario. These flip/flops can be a bit too 1-D if you don’t take care to give the character a bit more depth. Was simply a joy to watch and listen. Honorable mention is the all-female entourage in trousers, and their various poses. Altogether, a greaat outing at the opera, and we can’t wait for a second round coming up in a few hours!

All-female entourage, exhibit #1. © Ramella&Giannese


All-female entourage, exhibit #2. © Ramella&Giannese

——————–
ps– oh a complaint! the staging is too deep! there’s no point putting baroque singers that deep in when you have nearly 2 meter extra at the front before the orchestra!
ps2– but , the opera house staff is really sweat and relaxed.. we printed the wrong form for the tickets, but no problem, they printed the tix for you with a smile. ❤ .
ps3– oh, we saw two VERY HIGH TECH cameras filming it!!! fingers crossed for a TV broadcast or DVD!