capuleti montecchi round 3

It’s hard to put into words so much raw emotions. I’ll try to do my best here. This goes down as one of the finest moments in singing I have witnessed. To have seen previous performances, one can really put into perspective the efforts the singers put forth last night for the audience both in-house and worldwide.

I must start with Vesselina Kasarova. This trip was my first time ever hearing her singing Romeo live. Before that, it was all just audio inputs from 10+ years ago, be it her 1997 aria cd, studio recording 1997, Dresden 1998, New York 1999, or Chicago 2001 version. I was stuck on the Dresden 1998 radio broadcast for almost 2 years, couldn’t get past listening to any other take/singer. Somehow, after missing her here in Munich last year but getting to see a live performance of Romeo (with Tara Erraught), I became curious with the characterization. Since then, I’ve been on somewhat of a spree “sampling” Romeo from many other singers as well as other Kasarova’s take. This is not just listening to 1 or 2 arias but to go through the entire journey (opera) in multiple sittings. With that, I arrived here in Munich with high hope, not for the “perfect” voice I’ve heard in Dresden recording, but for the 3-d dynamic Romeo as interpreted by Frau Kasarova. Not all high/low notes are at the same place, but that doesn’t matter because a human-made product should never come in identical shape but rather be filled with warmth, inner feeling and emotion. Every night you don’t know which Romeo will be presented but whoever that is would make sense; that’s what I’ve come to love from Vesselina Kasarova’s performances.

I have said plenty about her voice on the premiere night, and at risk of being repetitive, everything holds true. What was more impressive last night was the effort she put in for the audience worldwide. That was the most powerful take of Romeo I’ve witnessed. It took 3 performances for me to understand Romeo’s “La tremenda ultrice spada“, and i think it does require a mezzo decisively blasting through the male chorus in “Taci! e tal sara!“. At least that’s the only way i can make sense in my head, an irreversible moment, all chances for peace are forever lost. In this version currently presented at the Bavarian opera house, the male chorus are loud but rather unorganized. Adding to that the full-strength orchestra and that requires Romeo’s “scream” sharply to pierce through. She brought her adrenaline last night, along with the attitude befit the scream. I am not saying that Romeo’s entrance aria is make or break  depending entirely on that particular moment. The first part, soft regretful phrasings in “se Romeo t’uccise un figlio” are also goosebumps inducing, that I always understand. But the 2nd half of the aria reflects such a big shift in mentality: the huge shock of an ideal youth arriving with hopes of negotiating peace and marrying Giulietta, only to hear his (her) love is lost and revenge is the only answer.

For the same reason, she brought her power in Romeo/Tebaldo duet as well. Here’s another case where loud orchestra + Tebaldo can make for a weak and indecisive Romeo. She was at her best here. Actually i was a little bit worried if she would have energy and any voice left for the very long solo in the tomb scene as it seemed everything was poured out in the grief for Giulietta’s death in the finale of the duet. A little bit on “Deh tu bell’anima”: the ending of the aria is very high, many of us have noticed her approach to the high notes are not as effortless as 10+ years ago. I wonder if a tiny bit slower tempo here would enable her to caress the phrase more, as twice now it appeared a bit rushed to my ears (and feeling during that moment). Let’s not even mention this comes after 2 hours of duetting + fighting through male chorus + orchestra!

And last but not least, all that powerful singing sometimes means nothing without the soft part of the voice which enable the dynamical characterization. Don’t you love her little self-talk in “Deserto e il luego” ? Another bit which always raises the hair on my back-neck was this in the tomb scene, which coincides with the moment Romeo raised Giulietta up in this staging.

whew, that’s a load of typing!! On to Netrebko! She BROUGHT it to the worldwide audience too!! big time! and paid much much more attention to the fine details in the singing this time around, which really helped bringing Giulietta’s feeling to live. I wonder if I’m getting used to her big voice, or that she softened it a little bit to help bring out so much more details in the dynamical phrasing (which i reallly love). Pair that with Kasarova’s tender phrasing and we have the duet for you dear audience. I really enjoy both their Act I duets, scene III in Giulietta’s room as well as scene IV during the standoff on the staircase. Here we also saw a little adjustments by the singers with Netrebko facing into Kasarova (who was holding her hand and faced out). This offered a much more balanced sound. At the very end though, Giulietta came down the stairs and this balance was lost (as I mentioned before, due to Kasarova being much higher up and in in the set).

I hope everyone enjoyed Netrebko’s Act II scene 1 take, she was always at her best here taking the time for the phrasing. I don’t like what the director made her do at the very last moment of the scene though: semi lying down while trying to sing the highly dramatic notes through the full-forced orchestra, especially when you can see she continuously trying to get back upright to launch the notes. Ideally i’d prefer that she makes Giulietta’s desperate plea while falling vertically along a post and then collapsing for example :-).

How long is this post already? I did promise a little explanation about the staging. In my opinion, this is a staging that is very very difficult to pull off. Last year i was completely lost. This time around… the brain is still processing… The Romeo/Tebaldo duet: this is an example of staging getting in the way of singing in my opinion. All those moments where Romeo / Tebaldo are supposed to sharply turn to facing each other in the standoff? Even Kasarova with her excellent leg-apart en-garde pose couldn’t quite help i confess. It’s a little too staged, no trust in the singers to do it based on feeling. The leg-together hands up-in-the-air pose was quickly done away by Kasarova to my delight. Oh, i think they should have put the plastic glove on her LEFT hand, don’t they realize she raises her left while singing and not right?

Ok, a last paragraph (however long) to express my “understanding” of the tomb scene. Oh, before that, a little detour if you don’t mind: I LOVE her way of using the wall, both in duet with Giulietta and in the tomb. To some of us, a wall is a non-movable obstacle. To Kasarova, it’s a story-building tool. The young Romeo is quite uncertain, it being the first in a long time seeing his (her) love, (s)he treads lightly hiding behind Lorenzo, staying as close as possible to the wall while peeking at Giulietta in her bedroom. During persuation, (s)he leaned onto the sink for support. At Giulietta’s refusal of his (her) plea, Romeo retrieved back to the wall in sadness and disappointment. I can tell you the difference between this Romeo standing facing wall and last year’s version: that last Romeo was so annoyed with the whiny Giulietta (s)he can’t see eye-to-eye with her any longer and must look away to hide his (her) anger. Yep, i was confused big time last year. This one, dare i jump off the 5th floor balcony into Romeo’s arms??

Ok, tomb scene (<– do click on that link). It took me until the premiere night this year (4th time) to understand the fine line between life and death they asked us to imagine. Something else even more chilling (in bitterness) on the 2nd night finally put the whole thing together for me. Let's start from the beginning. In the theater, it really gives you goosebumps at the first sight on Giulietta lying in the tomb with Romeo shrinking in the little corner. The poor chorus mumbled some in-cohesion to the fast jolly tune, whatever. Romeo mournfully monologuing, looking to Giulietta playfully waving fingers. Haven't we all done that, reciting a fun conversation we once had during good old time with a loved one? The resurrecting part, i have no opinion actually, it didn't bother me at all. Romeo continued to retreat to the corner shrinking further. Giulietta stretched a tiny bit, sadly un-noticed by Romeo. She woke up, chaos ensued. As Giulietta lamented that she had come back to only see Romeo leaving, Romeo turned over to hug her, but no, it is too late. Their hands barely touched and Romeo is already drifting into unconsciousness. It was really chilling to observe the timing of this from way above, the moment where there’s still breathing but sadly (s)he’s no longer there… That split moment is one of the two keys (the fine line is the other) to understand the staging here. When the acting is natural and instinctive, it just works! (or may be i have too much imagination 🙂 ). When just slightly unnatural, it leaves you scratching head.

Anyway, as i said, multiple views can only offer you more insights into this puzzle that is the staging. With the help of Kasarova and Netrebko, I hope to enjoy a couple more to come. I stood and screamed and waved for 20+ minutes. Frau Kasarova looked up, i wonder if she saw. I left the theater deeply moved by her art. Signing off for now as i tour Haar today before heading to Berlin, Bremerhaven, and Hanover (with of course detours back to the Nationaltheater for my beloved Romeo…).

ps0- excuse the shaking, first some annoying people wanted to leave behind me… then i wanted to clap and scream too (yes yes that's my voice :-)).

ps1- oh yes, the camera men/women deserved to be scorned! in this dreamy imaginative staging where not everything is exactly at the right place, zoom-ins are just nuisance, all perspectives lost.

ps2- yes, Dimitri Pittas sang quite well with good dynamic shaping too, Anik, it's not acoustic maneuvering.

About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

6 Responses to capuleti montecchi round 3

  1. yvette says:

    You are giving life to my very boring solitary sunday! (quote:Sunday,Bloody sunday a very good film beyond your time )
    I am relieved you did not jump from the 5th balcony onto Vesselina’s arms… good gracious you do live dangerously!
    As for your lighting of the last scene, I felt right from the beginning, probably during their first love scene that the ‘parti pri’ of this production was interacting worlds of dream and reality, which came from watching the fantasic reflected characters, hand- shadows on the screen… I know I might not see these artistic delicatessen on the 26th… what you explain between the passage from alive to dead is smashing, can be followed on the picts. The importance of the wall for both; as well. Giulietta is a prisoner from the start, she cannot escape these walls, even if her lover is coming to free her… it is well done here! (some friends did not like this production, feeling no emotion out of it.) Vesselina gives a stunning approach of this role in this kind of very poetical background far from the face value of things!
    I will come back to read more and listen again and again…Thanks and have a nice tour … do not wear you out

  2. Eyesometric says:

    This is such a wonderful read, Dr T, and so much to absorb. I shall be back many times to savour what you have provided for us.
    And Yvette – “artistic delicatessen” …. beautiful!

  3. Anik LaChev says:

    many, many thanks for your impressions, for taking the time to describe in detail and for shading some more light onto the staging! A great read, definitely more than once. It puts last night’s online viewing experiences very nicely into another perspective.

    What productions are awaiting in Bremerhaven, Berlin and Hannover? (hm, you might pass right by my place in some train or other as I type this!) I hope you’ll be having a great “tour”.

    Back to last night, I thought Pittas was a really nice match during the duel duet, but he, too had to struggle a bit with the orchestra and his voice lost a bit of its charm when he had to strain it.

    Kasarova, to my eyes and ears, was at her best in the duet sequences (with Netrebko, but the take with Pittas was also rather nice) and in the solo tomb scene before the final duet. She may not have the flexibility and power from 14 years ago, but she has gained so much in painting nuances – fantastic chiaroscuro effects!! And (I already commented to Eyes this morning) just take that finale “Ahh” – how effortless the voice is there when she is given time and and orchestral background that allows her to work with subtle shading. In that sense, it was a great belcanto night, also from Netrebko – when she has to focus on a more slender tone (perhaps for Giulietta’s youth, perhaps to match VK better), I’m always surprised how good she is with belcanto repertory. I liked last night more than her (heavier) Bolena in Vienna.

    Also, like the staging or not: they both acted the hell out of it!

  4. yvette says:

    Dear Dr T, are you covering all the productions… it seems the case… I thought I was pushing a blt for Robert Devereux (3 out of 4 productions), but you are right, this is the only way to get into acting, singing, the setting and more! The embrace (your photo) is so good, how did you manage this from the 5th balcony? perfect close up … no flash of course and ZOOM….( tell us about it, I am interested).

    • thả diều says:

      hi Yvette, i just took the HD movie and extracted the frame :-). that seems to work best as they (the singers) kept moving too fast (esp. VK, she NEVER stands still just for a moment for me to snap pix, always a very quick bow and disappears 🙂 ).
      ps- re. Eri, as i said in my message to Murielle, i reallly liked Eri’s voice last year, so i’m quite looking forward to today’s performance.

  5. Cat says:

    I told myself I would skip the YT clips having missed the broadcast – and wait till Wednesday when I get to see it live. But after reading this I couldn’t resist. I feel like I kid who sneaked a peak at the Christmas presents early. Excited, thrilled, but having to keep a lid on emotions. Oh. My. God. The duets are breathtaking. Actually breath taking.

    I am not sure I can quite contain myself – to see the two living singers I adore more than any other (yes, I’ll come out off the closet, I adore AN and always have) singing the only Belcanto opera I truly adore, in my beloved Munich, well it’s almost too much to bear. It’s so sweet that I know that house so well now that though a recording of the curtain call can never replicate what it feels like to be there when the audience go crazy, I can really “hear” it. Oh I pray to the Goddess of White Shirts that they and the audience are as good on Wednesday and Saturday!

    Thanks Dr T = a fantastically evocative and passionate account of what was clearly one of those nights! Safe travels and see you Wednesday at the interval (I’m cutting it fine to get there, flight gets in at 5!).

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