so, something happened to me in wien, and i’m not yet sure what it was, except i’ve been quite a zombie since arriving back here in los angeles 5 days ago.  it actually started before i left wien, this precise moment when alcina passed out on the floor and rose up with her desperation, i was swept under some kind of spell which i haven’t been able to snap out of

everyday here hasn’t been the same.  i walk on the street feeling very lonely.  people passing me left and right in slow motion. you could even call it an out of body feeling.  there’s an enormous gap.  last week in wien, everyone around me was excited about the same thing that i was.  i spent a total of 85€ in 9 days, attended 5 operas for a net cost of 21€. everything around me was exciting and readily accessible.  then somehow i woke up on a different planet.  no-one cares for what i’m excited about, and more sadly, i’m somehow not interested in what they have to say either…  an absolute disconnection.  except for moments correcting my paper during which i was amazingly focused, i’ve been avoiding all contacts, locking myself in to just listening to alcina over and over again…

it’s definitely the kind of feeling like when you snap out of a relationship.  you were so involved in it to the point of neglecting friends.  then when alone, you realize the need to re-establish contacts again.  except i’m not sure how to re-establish yet.  i guess the pending move to the east coast is not helping.  oh well.  it’s quite an interesting experience for sure.  perhaps a gathering with charming nieces and nephews this weekend will solve my problem.  for now, i’ll continue my dream with alcina…


About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

20 Responses to spin-down

  1. When do you move east? That’s great news — is it Boston, for school?

    Think of it this way: Alcina and Ruggiero returned their costumes and assumed their workaday lives as well! I’m sure all singers are now preparing some other roles, sitting in some drab rehearsal rooms or even drabber hotel rooms and are trying to memorize lines in a language they don’t speak for a role they still don’t understand.

    I’ve also been meaning to ask you if you saw VK in La Belle Helene video (Offenbach, of course) from a few years back (Harnoncourt conducting)? I wonder what VK fans would make of it. It’s the only opera DVD that I gave up on, ever.

    • thả diều says:

      yes, i’m moving back to my beloved city boston mid january. it’s for a job, i’m done with school :-).
      i don’t think it’s the singers that i get hung up on. there’s something about “loss” in that aria, and the visual effect that goes with it that somehow quite got to me, and i haven’t figured out yet what it is.
      But! “La Belle Helene” ! i LOVE it! why did you give up on it? I adore her voice in that dvd. i thought she’s very funny as well. it was after watching that dvd that i was convinced she ia a very good actress. and the voice is so seductive :-). I like also Van der Walt’s voice. overall, it’s a light and funny production.

  2. That is that strangest production I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff. Good singers, but who can ever pay attention to the voices with that STUFF on stage. What was the point of those costumes, what the…? Every single character wore the same kind of sneakers. And were they supposed to be the characters from the cards (the queen, the king, the joker, the silliness)? I am still recovering.

    The set was just a tilted plank floor painted off white, like everything else.

    I’ll be forever scratching my head.

    • thả diều says:

      it took forever for me to get used to seeing VK in a dress. that was my only hurdle. i didn’t think very deep of the set but rather paid more attention to the singing and acting. i think it’s a blessing i don’t normally pay much attention to what i see (unless it’s white shirt!), so i tend to get less bothered. and the good thing about same sneakers is that you can tell how tall everyone is relative to each other 😀 .
      Speaking of strange production, i saw the strangest (of my young opera experience) last wk at theater an der Wien. it was a modern adaptation of mozart “la finta giardiniera” . the surtitle was only in german, so i had absolutely no clue who was what for 3.5 hrs. i paid much of my attention to the fabulous Rene Jacobs and the Freiburger barockorchester. and everytime i looked up, the singers were doing some odd things like stripping down to boxers and getting into a sink…

  3. puritymccall says:

    Oh I know exactly what you mean Thadieu. I think its that thing that happens when you begin to realise that the music means A LOT more than you could ever have imagined. And in my case it’s the whole ‘being there’ thing… I listen and listen to recordings but I only get into exactly that restless state you describe after being at a performance. And then there is the whole being ‘there’ thing, been where this music that means so much was born. Now that’s really special. And being around people who get it, who you don’t need to censor yourself around. It does make ‘re-entry’ into civilian life pretty tough. I find the only way to cope is to set up the next trip asap. Keep focussed “jobs pays the money that makes the trips possible etc etc). Sometimes I think I’ll justgive itball up and get a job as an usher or a cleaner in an opera house… a sort of adult version of the running away to join a circus fantasy.

    Well you know Europe is full of great science labs… and once you are anywhere in the Vienna – Berlin – Zurich triangle you are in easy reach of everything… And now you are making the move East, is a 5 hour flight back home to LA so different from an 11 hour one?

    Meantime, let’s plan on that Munchen gathering being full of excited chatter in cafes and a real live authentic German autograph queue experience for you 😉

    On La Belle Helene. Ah folks… I think this is a case or ‘early stage regie…’ (not that that particular production was regie but teetering on). It takes a while and I think perhaps there is a a slightly odd thing that happens with what often gets referred to as Eurotrash opera – in Europe opera is a bit more for everyone, bit more art of the backdrop, especially in Germany where they are bursting at the seams with opera houses. I think it is in USA and to a lesser extent UK still seen as rather ‘sacred’ and special. There is a sense that it shouldn’t be mucked about with or made fun of or made too contemporary. Personaly, I love a bit of regie…. well I would wouldn’t I have an alter to Christof Loy in my room 🙂 And I love a bit of something more ‘opera-ish’ (like Alcina the other night). I guess it’s all a matter of (large part) taste and (smaller part) familiarity.

    OK back to dreaming of Alcina… Good luck recoonecting, go easy on yourself, it takes time (course you could always hop on a plane Friday night… ;-))

    PS My youngest has been *asking* me to replay Alcina… think Handel got another recruit…

    • thả diều says:

      you know this is the first time ever i feel the difference between “being there” vs recording. i think it has to do with being in a deeply musically rooted city and experiencing profound music live three times in a row. that’s now probably a requirement for listening to handel 😉 (or anything as emotional). i always thought listening alone should determine everything. but now i see the point of being there. Besides the live sound (which is a REQUIREMENT for listening to Harteros and Kasarova), it’s an inseparable process: what singers express on stage dynamically does effect your intake. i was quite puzzled why i was so touched by Frau Harteros’ singing, much more than Frau Kasarova’s! i think i’ve figured it out. Frau Harteros’ singing is about love and loss between Alcina and Ruggiero, and since that relationship was sooo well expressed visually, my brain “gets” it when i hear the emotion Alcina expresses. On the other hand, Frau K’s arias are mostly about her relationship w/ Bradamante, which hardly ever existed in this production. so when she sings about deeply missing Bradamante or lost love or something, even though it’s very beautiful and emotional, i clearly didn’t get it (because she’s not missing Bradamante, could she be lying??? arghhh).
      Anyhow, who knows how many times i’ve re-listened to the broadcast now and re-lived the memories. the orchestra and Marc Minkowski are just simply magnificient. i must personally thank you though, because without your blog, i would have NOT yet discovered Handel! More specifically, it was your review of Agrippina (and VK’s Handel recital in Munich) that got me decisively flying to Wien (and we all know how that turns out 😉 ). Handel music has somehow crept into my blood, quite an intereting feeling. looks like handel got more than 1 recruit…
      i thought hard about london, but i think i’ll spend that saturday listening to the other piece of music which i love dearly (mozart sinfonia concertante for violin & viola, otherwise known as the perfect gay marriage in my mind). hopefully *someone* will write a report about the Barbican’s performance *somewhere* 😉

      • puritymccall says:

        Well we all just pass it forward don’t we? But then, how could one not – Handel IS amazing. And I bet your blog is doing same for someone else right now. It does creep into your bones doesn’t it? And the older I get the more being in the same room as people making music just fills me with life.

        Spread the love 😉 Be thinking of you tomorrow… roll on Easter and Munich!

        PS Thanks love your thoughts on the Ruggerio ‘problem’ – you are right, and actually I found myself being most touched by VK’s acting in her Alcina oriented scenes…

  4. puritymccall says:

    Harteros is amazing isn’t she. Simply amazing.

  5. I love experimentation and regie. I do! But that La Belle Helene was pointless, no matter what way I tried to read it. Unless, of course, somebody convinces me of its brilliance. Right now, I don’t see it had a Konzept other than ‘taking the piss’. (Which is sometimes a good Konzept, mind you. Not in this case.)

    There is also the not negligible problem of staging Offenbach’s operettas today… They are generally difficult to stage without a radical rethink, which is where things can easily go out of whack into the gratuitous and the arbitrary. I’ve been meaning to write something about Cristoph Marthaler’s Duchess of Gerolstein with von Otter as Camilla Parker-Bowles lookalike… I will eventually…

  6. eyesometric says:

    Hello Thadieu! I’m a newby here but have enjoyed your opera thoughts for a while. Particular thanks for the amazing work you did for Vienna Alcina. Those of us not able to be there were a) very envious b) really grateful for your reports! I have my ticket for the Barbican on Saturday and can hardly contain my excitement although I am slightly wary that the concert staging will give nowhere near the impact of Vienna……… in a White Shirt sort of way !! I have just set up my own blog and would love to report Saturday ( that’s if I do get there, what with this ridiculous snow in November in UK ! ) However, I am bogged down in blog technicalities and I’m not sure yet what is happening…. fingers crossed on all counts.

    • thả diều says:

      hello eyesometric! thanks so much for stopping by! i’m really looking forward to reading your report! if i can survive standing 9 hours everyday to catch alcina in wien, trekking across snow should be within reach for you i hope :-D. regarding technicalities, it took me TWO days to get the white-shirt button on my blog, then almost 2 more weeks before i learned how to incorporate pictures properly… there’re still things i don’t like/manage about wordpress, but i’m learning to have fun with it rather than let it beats me :-). Shoot me an email if you need any help with wordpress.

      About concert vs. full staged versions, i think you will still get the essentials because Frau K and Frau H’s seem truly comfortable and appreciative of each other regardless of whether they’re “acting” or not. i was once at a concert version (with Vivica Genaux) and it felt like i attended the full opera minus the wigs + costumes. very much looking forward to reading your blog!

      ps- it’s the 8-hr difference that caused your comment to pop up so late, i can only approve new comments when i’m awake :-).

  7. Ania (from standind-place queue for Alcina :) says:

    Really nice blog! Congratulations. Don’t be sad! Music is above everything:)
    As I promised I send you few links.
    These are to my favourite arias from the amazing staging of Julius Casear:

    Next is to opera festival in glyndebourne:

    Next time I’ll send you more links!
    All the best
    Ania (Stehplatz Schlange Alcina 2010)

    • thả diều says:

      hello Ania!! i was hoping you’d comment at some point with the links :-). Thanks! just saw the first 2 from Julius Cesear. I’ll definitely check out the dvd. did you attend “alcina” on the 23 and 26? and did you try parterre? and Rene Jacobs and the Freiburger barockorchester? let’s keep in touch! there can never be enough young generation music lovers 🙂

  8. puritymccall says:

    A new blog – yippee! Hang in there the annoying techie bits get easier.

    Re the Barbican, well I attended the Agripinna concert last year by Minkowski and the gang and starring VK. It was anything but a static stand and sing, lots of great stage business to help move things along. I would imagine next week will be the same (assuming the country manages to stop reacting like babies to a wee bit of snow!). But you kow they could make us all wear blindfolds and it would still be incredible. It was truly amazing.

  9. eyesometric says:

    @purity. I’m purchasing snowshoes on Amazon as we speak! Thank you for the reassurance re concert version…. the excitement grows.

  10. idlehouse says:

    i know what you mean! you feel like there’s nothing to look forward to anymore. Last week your life was hdtv and this week it’s a dull shade. It’s the ups and down of euphoria 🙂 I used to feel like that mucho during my Chinese learning phrase. Back then I totally floated in a bubble of my own, and everyone and everything outside of my sphere were just dull grey, while inside, it was fireworks and magic and rainbows. The good news is, you will bounce back and find something to look forward to again, really soon. Assuming that you are a psychologically sane adult with normal brain functions. I still get similar ups and downs about books, mostly thick ass books.

  11. Murielle says:

    Paris November 29th : Under the spell of Alcina

    Yes, it was a wonderful evening and a fabulous Alcina in Paris too.
    Concert version but some elements of staging during the recitatives.
    The same distribution as in Vienna and there was a real chemistry between singers and orchestra

    Awesome voices:

    Amazing Anja Harteros in her Alcina’s dress and the delight “ oh il mio core”.. Oh mon coeur
    Terrific VK in black : bustier, big necklace, heels .. her voice oscillate between mezzo and contralto.
    With alcina, she’s “at home” : Mi lusinga, verdi parti, sta nell ’ircana … I love !!
    To Feel the notion of “incarnation”.

    The mermaid’s backless dress (peas like scales ..) of V. Cangemi : her voice with a such sensibility
    The surprise discovery of the young boy soprano Shintaro Nakajima…
    Minkowski and his orchestra: only just and perfect, with a real complicity with a musicians.
    It’s obvious.

    The opera ‘live” is emotionnal but also a physical experience. And for me, the body doesn’t lie : my “small cells” thrilled in that beauty bath. The body expands ; cells in unison : inner reconciliation
    Allegria !
    I forgot l missed it so much.
    And yes, the music, the voice cure.
    And from “live” to “love”: just a transformation of a vowel

    4 hours like a dream

    So thank you for the photos, thank you for yours reports: they open the door of the waiting and desire.

    France Musique December 18 th : I will be ready to relive that magical moment

    Note : Next time, attend also the staged version !!!.

    • thả diều says:

      hi Murielle! thank you so much for your impression! i’m so happy to hear you share the joy 🙂 and that the Paris performance leaves the same effect on your small cells as vienna’s did on mine. And i might even borrow your quote from now on: “live to love, just a ‘transformation’ of a vowel”, couldn’t be more true! That boy soprano is so amazing indeed!! I only get to hear him once, during the premiere. The reemission on radiofrance will feature the other boy soprano instead of him. Who sang Bradamante?

      • Murielle says:

        Bradamante was Kristina Hammarström. But I found her less “involved” but bravery’s arias have been assumed.
        Truly a special moment to discover fantastic singers
        The same excitement than in february : Giulio Cesare de Handel with Bartoli, Bonitatibus, Stutzmann, Scholl …
        Outburst of joy, vocal enchantment !

        “Handel is as big as the world,” said Franz Lizst !

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