Anna Netrebko & Vesselina Kasarova brought the house down

wow. just wow.
i’ll be back much later todaz-tomorrow after jetlag and hopefullz with an adjusted kezboard… but ja. uhm, also in love with Romeo.

Back. So, my friends got a 40-min very animated version of the description of last night, one which left them amazed at my enthusiasm for the music and at ability to describe the shaping of phrases in the voice (loads of hand waving). Let’s see if i can duplicate the act here with written words…

I left the National theater in a daze. If one leaves the opera house last night not impressed, i don’t know why they would go to opera. At some point after the duet, i realized _this_ is exactly why I fly here in hope to see this _five_ times.

The evening started a bit rough as i got up quite late from an afternoon nap and ran frantically to the subway/theater. Got there 2 min before starting time, sweating profusely while still heavily jetlagged, the whole thing was a bit unreal, had to remind myself who were set to appear *live* in 20min… With so much discussion on the internet about Kasarova’s voice, register break, heading toward heavier repertoire, some how i found myself worried a bit… what if she is singing very different from what _you_ expected? How will the audience receive her? Will the acting make sense or will it look artificial? This is the problem when you fly 1/3 way around the world to see something you have been so looking forward to for so long. Would it be a set up for disappointment? I even laugh at myself a bit while reminding what I heard in her masterclass, the voice is still there i self-mumbled, just relax and enjoy the show, take it as is!

Let me state that I’m a Kasarova “worshiper”, in case it’s not clear. She blew me away! Beyond all my expectation.  It’s (self) unanimous, if I hadn’t heard her before, I would have become an instant fan last night, NO DOUBT. First, there’s the voice. WOW!! i found myself drowning in it, unbelievably warm and full (and you know Bellini wrote it so the singers can keep singing for loooong time, to the pleasure of the audience (me!)). Haven’t heard her live in such a long time, i really forgot how happy the inner body feels listen to Kasarova live. It’s not just the beautiful voice, but what she does with it, varying intensity, shaping the word, the phrase, creating 3-D visions (a vase of warm fluid instead of a vase image), tighting knots in one’s stomach, tingling one’s spine. truly blew me away. The acting is so subtly accurate, and such great fine details vocally (little piano trills here and there to convey uncertainties). It’s all in the timing of the phrase when/what she does with the hands + body. The duet, all that to slowly arrive chest-to-back behind Giulietta, Romeo, take me… The tomb scene, how hopelessly unfortunate, why couldn’t she wait 2 minutes, Giulietta would have woken up!!! Poor poor Romeo.

Having impeccable and intuitive timing for acting, these are the words one would use to describe both Kasarova and Netrebko. Anna Netrebko has a HUGE and beautiful voice!! In fact the voice was so big, it took a lot of self convincing on my part at the beginning to believe this is a very young Giulietta (the voice really gave a first image of a very mature and lustrous woman.) Her ability to shape the words/phrase through voice intensity is also on display and complement the acting well. The scene dueting with Kasarova is truly the vocal highlight. For acting, i have to say the final minute was amazing. I’m sure previous singers had tried to get this idea across but i didn’t see it until last night. Romeo has taken the poison and is now slowly drifting away from Giulietta to the brink of death–an imaginary line on the stage. Giulietta quickly caught up, only to catch Romeo at his(her) last breath, CLICK, Romeo crossed the line. Their timing of this catch (CLICK) was incredibly accurate, you really understand the fine line separating life and death. Giulietta let out her final cry, and CLICK, she is reunited with Romeo. As the lovers slowly drifted away, the capulets rushed out to the empty Giulietta dress in the bright tomb, light shut down, total darkness, the end! amazing!

“Some duets should never end” (c) Wilfried Hösl (clik on image for review in German)

Tebaldo sung very well, though i admit didn’t really quite pay close attention to his first aria (still in daze due to sweating and such). The other characters are fine too with their small parts. I’m still not a big fan of the chorus, i supposed the staging doesn’t help, putting them behind the walls altogether in the tomb scene. I don’t know why it doesn’t sound “sharp”? Is it the distance? the number of singers? the timing? no idea. The conducting was very sharp, though tempo is still dragging a bit (more later). I’m sure my seat has everything to do with how well i heard the orchestra (way on top, a bit way to the left).  Big applause also to the solo clarinetist, cellist, and harpsichord player! In fact i was busy looking at her and missed Netrebko climbing up the sink.

So, some more words about staging + acting. It almost completely makes sense to me now!! If you have read my post from last year’s performance, surely you remember my VERY loud complaints for tempo + acting + staging. Romeo and Giulietta are not allowed to touch each other very much in this production. I was VERY confused last year of the reason, mainly because the acting suggested that they were practically strangers or distant lovers at times. But here, it seemed they actually touched each other a lot more, and the time they were singing apart, it still made sense. How? hmm, not sure, though i attribute it undoubtedly to mainly Vesselina Kasarova’s (and some of Netrebko’s) ability to make sense of any staging idea tossed at them.

This being Netrebko’s first run, i wonder if she was still adjusting to some of the “crazy” things she has to do. “Oh! quante volte” started a little bit shaky, which i entirely attributed to her trying to adjust balance standing on 1 leg facing the wall on that sink. The stretch of the hand still didn’t quite fit yet… It took her at least 3 phrases in to reorient herself on 2 legs facing out (I really thought she was going to fall off that sink!) before the rest of the aria was given full attention and delivered with great emotion. During her scene before taking the poison, she literally sat down (though with legs hanging, great legs btw) and sang through the entire scene. Hanging legs mentioned because i don’t think it gave her all the support she needed, hence various moments of legs tensing up as she caressed the phrase. Huge applause resulted there.

There were 2 places Kasarova’s voice was masked out: (1) in duet with Giulietta in the last scene of Act I where the Capulets and Montegues met each other on the stairs ready for battle and (2) toward the end of duet with Tebaldo. (1) was mainly due to my seat, she was completely invisible at the top of the stair (hence singing behind the stage ceiling) while Netrebko was in full view with a large voice. (2) was probably because i was directly above the orchestra, and by the end of that duet, orchestra was blasting in full strength, only Tebaldo’s voice managed to get out on top.

© Wilfried Hösl . Clik on image for link to Bayerische Staatsoper photo album on facebook.

Second to lastly, Romeo’s entrance was portrayed quite interesting. Based on recordings only, i’ve always imagined a Romeo coming up full of youth’s arrogance sword swinging. This Romeo was somewhere between being afraid and i still not quite get the part during “La tremenda ultrice spada”, not sure what his (her) feeling was. Can’t wait to see the next version :-). “Deh tu bel anima” was surprisingly rushed. The last bit of that is soo high, and Kasarova (from various recordings) always seemed to take time to caress the phrase to convey Romeo’s anguish. Yet last night, it sounded somehow rushed through, i almost thought she was short of breath. It might have been that she was a bit overcome by the emotion (as she once mentioned in her interview!) Will be looking forward to hear that again too.

So, last bit, white shirt related: I LOVE Romeo’s hair!!!! They’re probably tuning everything for the stream broadcast this coming Saturday. I wouldn’t be surprised if they taped this entire run so the singers can smooth out any kinks in the acting… And they must have gone through that last few interviews preparing Kasarova’s hair and settled with her lovely masterclass’ version? anyhow, i decisively love this much better than the previous edition of hair down by the shoulder :-). The boots during the first duet were LOVELY. Too bad she switched out for a different pair for the rest.

Anyhow, altogether, much much to discuss. Not too many photos, but here’s another curtain call. We stood there and clapped for a good 15min! Moments during scene-change, where it was dragging last year, felt short this time as the time were fully occupied with spontaneous applause. Oh, i was overwhelmingly surprised when Netrebko didn’t receive the loudest applause during curtain call! They LOVE Kasarova here in Munich!! Another blogger posted some VERY lovely photos including one of the two of them hugging immediately after the end. And as some readers might have noticed, that was a very nice exchange to decide who should go get the conductor too :-). In my opinion, if you didn’t leave last night show with much much to discuss and praises, I don’t know why you go to operas!