alcina @ wiener staatsoper

wow, that was some experience.  i already saw one review from another fellow standing-room opera lover here.  where can i start…


the line:
arrived at Wiener Staatsoper at 15h12 and i was already 24th in line.

in line

the first 30 or so seemed to be standing-tix pros, all with assorted cute folding chairs, books, warm clothes, snacks. this tuesday i’m coming with a folding chair for sure. They opened the standing-tix door at around 16h30 so we were able to stay warm inside while continue to wait… got my ticket at 17h45 and rushed up to the balcony, only to wait some more. loads of explanation in german so i couldn’t quite understand, but it seemed that they were rehearsing even during this time (!), so didn’t get to tie my shirt to the 4th spot on the right balcony until 18h43. Then a mad dash to the WC + managed 1/2 a pear before the bell rang. the inside was very warm, i was down to my t-shirt anxiously waiting.



I love the staging! i’m liking it more and more these bare-bone sets with just chairs. so many colors. the stage got lighted up with candles as we got started. three “ladies” in long skirts appeared, and my eyes instantaneously zoomed in to the hypnotizingly gorgeous and TALL Alcina with lovely puffy hair… that is until I noticed the 2nd “lady” with a sword! why that must be… Frau K indeed!! So charming. Can’t believe I missed that. You could really blame it on Alcina.

I must say there was so many things to look at, so many lovely lovely characters on stage that I didn’t have time to properly pay attention to the beautiful orchestra. But how can you not notice the wonderful exchanges between Alcina and Ruggiero, soft caresses up and down the neck lines, light touches on the shoulders, the arms, the hips, alternate exchanges of lying-down positions on each other’s jambes . Good thing the opera is very long, so you have time for everything: staring, tentative listening, drooling over Anja Harteros’ figure voice.

(update: click here for a slide-show of the premiere from the wiener staatsoper site, thanks Purity for heads up.)

I must start with Anja Harteros. This is my first ever exposure to her. What a drop dead gorgeous dark voice! Her Alcina is rather a compassionate and vulnerable one I thought. I had a very hard time understanding how Ruggiero could have parted with her. I felt sad for her character. This is also my first full exposure to “Alcina” (I’ve listened several times before, but didn’t follow the libretto) so I haven’t a clue how it’s supposed to end. This one ended with a content Alcina who apparently embraced Oberto and his father.

Vesselina Kasarova turned in her standardly excellent performance. I think her standard is always so high, it sounds uncomplimentary my statement above.  I can only say I’m enjoying immensely the opportunity to hear her live.  That sound is just irresistible, and I am bubbling-ly happy to realize I have two more opportunities to hear her sing Mi lusinga il dolce affetto or Sta nell’ Ircana. I enjoyed it much more here than on her selective recordings because these arias flow with the music and story, so you can really understand the emotion as she expressed it and make sense of the libretto.

Harteros (on high heels to fit in her gorgeous dress) with her tall hair appeared towering over Ruggiero.  But it hardly matters because we all know Frau K can have a lady of any stature in her palm.  Her relationship with Bradamante on the other hand is very cute interesting to watch.  With Alcina, (s)he very tentative.  With Bradamante, I almost say (s)he’s dominative (is that a word?) Ruggiero doesn’t just handle his (her) sword, (s)he handles Bradamante‘s as well.  On their first encounter, we see Ruggiero coming oh-so-close cheek-to-cheek with Bradamante, only to draw Bradamante‘s sword and put it to her neck! The next time, (s)he had reconciled with her, so (s)he approached a highly charged sword-in-hand Bradamante, gently took it over to shoo away some bad guys, then came face-touching-face close to Bradamante again to simply put the sword back in place  (you know it’s a white-shirt report, i must provide details which i love love.)  In between Ruggiero handled his (her) sword in style ordering everyone on stage into form while lauching into the highly charged Sta nell’ Ircana.

Kristina Hammarström sang Bradamante.  i LIKE her voice! like like.  But i already liked her voice the first time I discovered her (post dated Sep-28-2010).  She could learn a bit from Frau K to move a bit less abrupt as a white-shirt, but I can’t complain about her singing.  and she can sing very fast as well.

Oberto is sang by a boy-soprano Shintaro Nakajima. WOW.  pure, simple, clear, high, lovely.  It’s my first time hearing a boy-soprano live in opera, but w.o.w w.o.w w.o.w is all i can say.  The crowd reacted the same way everytime he finished his aria or at the curtain call.

There are many occasions when soloists from the orchestra joined the stage to play duet with the voice.  they sounded soooo warm and gorgeous.  And to think I didn’t quite have enough time to pay attention to the whole orchestra… I will this coming wednesday for sure.  There was only 1 occasion i fell asleep (!).  Yes I admit, it’s a 4-hour long piece during which I was quite hungry, but I kind of drifted off for about 4-min during an aria by Oronte (during his argument with Morgana).  “Alcina” is full of little plots where characters storm on stage, sing their respective arias, then strom off-stage.  After a while, drifts bound to happen unless you have drop-dead-gorgeous singing happening during and in between the storms 🙂 .

My favorite aria of the opera is just before the end, “Non_è_amor_nè_gelosia” .  If someone could pleeeeease capture it on the 20th, i owe you a niiice drink (please see Anik’s post for details on the radio broadcast via ORF1).  I truly love the mixing of the voices.  Even though Harteros’ voice is dark, her line is high enough that you can distinguish all voices when they merge together.  Ms. Hammarström’s voice is a bit more difficult to catch because she entered so late and low, later and lower than Kasarova’s voice.  In between we have Alcina courting, persuading, and getting jealous while Ruggiero and Bradamante embracing (both visually and vocally). love love love

All in all, I was extremely happy to arrive 4 hours early for ticket and to attend this premiere.  No photos were taken during the performance.  Below are some and a short clip of the curtain call.  i apologize for turning on the camera a bit too late to capture Ms. Hammarström and the roar for Nakajima. click on images for full-res.

Anja Harteros

Anja Harteros, Vesselina Kasarova, Kristina Hammarström


Shintaro Nakajima, Veronica Cangemi, Anja Harteros

Vesselina Kasarova, Kristina Hammarström


Vesselina Kasarova, Kristina Hammarström

Anja Harteros, Vesselina Kasarova


Anja Harteros, Vesselina Kasarova


signing off, until the next performance on Tues Nov 16:


|Giuseppe Verdi

  • Ramón Vargas | Der Herzog von Mantua
  • Dmitri Hvorostovsky | Rigoletto, sein Hofnarr
  • Patrizia Ciofi | Gilda, dessen Tochter
  • Kurt Rydl | Sparafucile
  • Nadia Krasteva | Maddalena
  • Donna Ellen | Giovanna
  • Janusz Monarcha | Il Conte di Monterone
  • Tae Joong Yang | Marullo
  • Peter Jelosits | Borsa
  • Hans Peter Kammerer | Il Conte di Ceprano
  • Lydia Rathkolb | La Contessa di Ceprano
  • Wolfgang Equiluz | Ein Huissier
  • Daniela Fally | Page der Herzogin

About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

11 Responses to alcina @ wiener staatsoper

  1. puritymccall says:

    Oh my god. Drooling. THANKS you are a white shirt goddess for getting this out so fast. And that second from bottom image…. wow!!!

  2. Pingback: Is it Saturday Yet? « Se Vuoi Pace

  3. Anik LaChev says:

    many thanks for the impressions (and for posting them so quickly!)

    I just set the link back here… the entire White Shirt crowd needs to see this!

    (also, Ciofi on Tuesday? Lucky you, again!)

  4. Styx says:

    Thank you for the review

  5. “With Alcina, (s)he very tentative. With Bradamante, I almost say (s)he’s dominative (is that a word?).”

    It’s called tops and bottoms, darling. Nice to see that Ruggiero is a versatile switch, ahem.

    Fantastic photos, & thanks for the mad excitement! I can even feel it here, in a public library, an ocean away.

  6. Zerbinetta says:

    Hey, nice review! I’m going to be at Rigoletto tomorrow too, drop me an email if you want to chat… company always makes the time go faster. 🙂 I want to know how you took such wonderful pictures for one thing, my bows photos always turn out terribly.

  7. Smorg says:

    Awesome! Glad to hear you got the ticket ok and enjoyed the show! 😀 I can’t wait to hear Frau Harteros as Die Marschallin here next year (and hope to hear Frau Kasarova live again sooner rather than later!). Have a great stay in Vienna, my friend. Thanks a bunch for keeping us posted! 🙂

  8. puritymccall says:

    *Really* looking forward to hearing Hammarström live… and my she seems to be continuing the Northern singer tradition of fine arms… 😉 Enjoy Ciofi tonight, see tx are selling out for Wednesday Alcina, guess you might need to get in that line even earlier!

  9. thả diều says:

    just got back from soprano goddess Ciofi performance, super nice 🙂 . Thanks to Zerbinetta, i found out the Freiburger Barockorchester with Rene Jacobs at Theater an der Wien this thursday! guess where i’ll be 🙂 . tomorrow, i’m gonna arrive at 2.30pm to get first floor standing room tickets for better white-shirt view 😉

    @Purity: yes i was going to say about her arms 😀 . now that you mention sold-out, may be i’ll should be there at 1.30pm for first floor view…

  10. puritymccall says:

    You have no idea how jealous I am… still only one more sleep till I’m on my way!

    ps you see the Donna Leon book singing thing near opera house on Saturday? not really a fan of her books but guess it might shake out a few more white shirts 😉

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