early music bliss

This is more of a picture post in rambling mode, with no grammar check. Thanks to Stray’s multiple posts plus colleague’s interest as well as a case of grounded with no physical activity allowed, i finally caught on to the exciting boston early music festival right here in the back yard. Being a complete new-comer, i just signed on to Handel’s Almira and four “generic” shows of orchestra + dancer/singer type. But the more i listen, the more am toooootally in love with the instruments, and have been spending almost all my free time in the concert hall this past week. In addition, also had a chance to meet up with cool Stray and her charming sister for some nice discussion :-). So, some quick notes:
* Paul O’Dette is great with those plucking instruments, such a pleasure hearing him a whole evening playing solo and accompanying the wonderful voice of Emma Kirkby. I spent whole evening thinking how wonderful it would be to have these kinds of singing just outside my balcony 🙂

* Almira the “story” is downright annoying, 3 gals, 4 guys, typical Handel’s A loves B who loves C who loves A and D while F wants power and used to love C but now wants A… I made a mistake of reading the translation while listening to the singing, this would FAIL MISERABLY the Bechdel Test DtO mentioned in her fabulous interview with Margarethe Von Trotta.  Am planning to come back tomorrow for 4 more hours just because the orchestra was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.  from beginning to end i couldn’t help but smiling widely at the sharp, precise, exciting, fun sound coming from the pit.  wonder how i can get a seat to just get the orchestra pit view :-).  Actually the singing is also very nice.  The sounds carry VERY WELL to the top balcony of Cutler Majestic theater. couldn’t help but reminded of what Andreas Scholl said in his masterclass, that Handel simply highlights the voices and brings out its best.  For wednesday night performance, i liked Amanda Forsythe’s (Edilia) voice the best, followed by Ulrike Hofbauer’s (Almira).  Tyler Duncan’s (Raymondo) voice and arias are also very nice.  The rest of the voices are also great.  My only small complaint is the constant background/foreground “comedy”, much of it seemed forced to somewhat distract you from both singing and music.  Am more a fan of subtle comedy :-).Almira

*Following Almira, i was so psyched to hear the bemf orchestra + dancers the next night at the NEC. Though enjoyed greatly the quality of the band, it was actually a bit too heavy on violins for my taste. The same sort of all strings and early music combo which I confessed to not really understanding well last year. Think i have sorted out what i “hear”: contrast, exchanges, tension + releases. Which is why i love hearing picolo screaming off, or looovely baroque oboe.. but all strings is a bit tough. The dancing was somehow also surprisingly “tamed”, guess i’ve spent so much time on youtube looking at performances in white shirt, so the sort of costumes/make-ups these dancers were wearing seem a bit over-decorated while covering up all their muscles, WANT SHIRTLESS dancers! 🙂

*Next up was an “early” concert, Gli Incogniti led by superb violinist Amandine Beyer, 5pm on friday. Got back my BIIIG smile again, *love* the music, players, instruments, everything. Amandine’s solo is reallllly lovely, you know how well a single baroque violin can express emotion! She’s probably the best violist i’ve heard live so far. I somehow always wary of hearing solo violin playing music i don’t know… but perhaps it’s all in the superb player’s ability to draw you in. The other three players however were more or less accompanying her so you don’t hear their music well coz the violin is like a diva that takes up the entire hall. The double mounting of harpsichord on organ is quite clever.
*Next is the “generic” program i registered for, which turned out VERY NICE coz the orchestra again is AMAZING, to the point i somehow lost track of all singers + dancers (in same generic costumes…) It wasn’t until a female character died and got carried out that i was reminded hey this looks particularly like Orpheus and Euridyce, which of course it was :-). But back to the orchestra, much much more balance as there were only 2 violins, same number as woodwinds, theobo. I’m a bit puzzled though, that the music are quite coinciding: baroque oboes and violins always play together making the merged sound a bit tricky for the ear. This was the exact sound i heard from orchestra pit during Almira and was wondering whole time hmm what kind of horn is this… Similarly, the theobos are always playing at the same time with harpsichord, which essentially mean you can’t hear them at all unless you sit on first floor directly in front of them. Same goes for the single viola da gamba…
*Since i finally realized what a privilege it truly is to hear these superb quality musicians without having to fly to Europe, at this point i was determined to maximize my time with them. So, following the above show, Stray and I met up for a nice chill outside NEC while waiting for the next show at 11pm: more fantastic music with yet more singers. A very very nice show actually, all singers were great. This is the only time I’ve been on 1st floor in front of the singers, so their sound come directly at us instead of orchestra’s. Still, i loooove the single violinist who at one point played soooo softly and beautiful while accompanying 1 soprano. On top of it, finally now in front of the viola da gamba, looove the sound, as well as the body movement of the player. SOO much passion, power, energy, to bring the waaarm sound across.P1050926

So, this week, i’ve experienced some of the highest quality of music here in Boston, and can now conclude: in Jordan Hall, if you don’t hear the orchestra/singer well, it’s their problem, not the hall’s. For the opera, originally i was thinking: if one gets lucky with the orchestra, then the main soprano (in that order…) then one can have a very nice experience. Well, here you have both. The orchestra in particular, is truly top quality, one might even lose track of the singers just because the quality in the pit is so good it demands all your attention. Oh ja, finally, i have now full dosage of harpsichore and am no longer confused between harpsichord and harp :-D.

oh, lastly, so since i was spending alll these times sitting in Jordan Hall, the wandering thoughts creep in again… you know, Vesselina Kasarova and a baroque band… or Nathalie Stutzmann and her band Orfeo-55. Apparently Stray had not heard either of them!! so, here’re some links for her in case she comes by :-). Kasarova and Helsinki Baroque Orchestra last June, and Nathalie and her band playing fantastic baroque/Bach. I gonna send an email to bemf organizer, may be they would consider my request :-).

About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

20 Responses to early music bliss

  1. What a breathless account! I was wondering what Stray and you were up to during your radio silence.

  2. Eyesometric says:

    Excellent stuff, Dr T – making up for lost time? I love the organ/harpsichord arrangement & I will be the first to support a petition to bemf to get the bands you want – complete with shirtless dancers 😉

    • thả diều says:

      indeed making up for lost time :-). but Eyes, i had a dream! quite a while ago actually, during dormant time under heavy antihistamine, that you came for a visit and we were discussing clemenza di tito the zurich 2007 production over tea!! 🙂 🙂

      • Eyesometric says:

        I believe drug induced dreams can be very interesting! My tea of choice is Earl Grey but, if I recall correctly, yours is a little more exotic? And I wonder why we chose the Zurich production to discuss!

        • thả diều says:

          i knew why i chose it, but can’t remember why it was our decision. i finally got around to listen to it. my first hurdle of course was the spoken dialogue, followed by… hmm, how shall i say… sometimes it’s hard to overcome the 2003 version ;-). but i’m really reaching a point now of listening to a different recording as a whole independent of comparison, and therefore enjoying a different interpretation… Can’t remember what we were discussing, but it was over the “parto” scene 🙂

  3. stray says:

    You were right, Dr T, it was a whole new thing the second time around. Heard a lot more of the orchestra, even though they were short one harpsichord. And the Mahaiwe let me swap tickets for a balcony seat with a great view of the lute section. 🙂

    • thả diều says:

      oh? how nice! 1 less harpsichord = more hearing lute, we can all vote for that :-). though in the opera setting, i remember liking the harpsichord quite a bit when setting-rhythm was needed. 2nd time around i also loved a lot more the duets between the singers and solo instruments, love the one with lute + recorder + male voice… and i wanted to write up about the nice Edilla singing tooo :-). How did you find the singing 2nd time around? Also, the low note of Almira, did you hear her this time from balcony? I now recalled i actually heard her low notes quite well, just the transition was somehow a bit “loose” at the beginning.

      Did you have time to sample more things too? They had more event than just the opera right?

      was so happy i caught on to your posting coz the music was so refreshing, renewing my spirit :-).

      • stray says:

        I found myself getting caught up in bass gamba and cello parts a lot, and, indeed, lute was perfectly audible with that second harpsichord out of the picture. And yes, Hofbauer’s low notes didn’t disappear this time (though she was in good company with that problem, the Cutler did that to Jaroussky as well). Everybody sounded great.

        It was just the opera this time — three performances, last one this afternoon. Hope they stream it one of these days soon.

  4. dehggial says:

    that interview was very cool, cheers for pointing it out (I’m getting the film about Hildegard von Bingen). Also shirtless dancers 😉 and the Zurich Tito has lots of merits (the best Deh per

  5. dehggial says:

    … questo instante solo ever). Don’t quite know what I pressed there…

    • thả diều says:

      i back to VK’s schwetzinger’s parto.. and it reminds me.. i never finished the Zürich’s performance! just really had a hard time w/ the spoken dialogue for some reason.. but now that i back on VK’s track for a bit perhaps time to really investigate it! (that, and the Paris 1996 Capuleti that i never listened to before..)

      • dehggial says:

        You never listened to that Capuleti? It’s lovely and Claycomb is a very good Giulietta :-).

        the spoken dialogue is just comedy 😉 I don’t know what to say, I ended up liking it because it’s so different and because VK is so much fun to watch/hear as Sesto. It doesn’t even matter what’s going on around her, she makes it fun regardless.

        • thả diều says:

          given my tube profile photo is with L.Claycomb and my intro to VK was that bio w/ VK making debut as Romeo with LC you’d think i have that version memorized! but i haven’t listened to the “latest” version which i got… may be 1.5 yr ago via tube.. coz when i first started it all there was a really terrible version full of noise = headache.. more so that then Alcina one w/ VK + Genaux + Orgonášová in Paris.. so i quickly caught on to Dresden.. then LOC, then NY, then Munich.. and i know LC is very good as i’ve heard clip of her Giulietta posted on tube even before L.Aliberti..
          And then back to Zürich.. i once sat through 2/3 of it!! then had to stop for other reason and somehow never catch on again.. but i really know why: coz i listen to the music (as i often repeat myself saying) and the speaking thing is just.. how shall we say.. :-).. then before i had time to catch up again there was dreadlocks! (still obsessed.. not posting as much.. that and the SM phenomenon..)

          • dehggial says:

            Btw, Stutzmann will be in London on 2 July (with Orfeo 55), conducting and singing.

            The more you think about the speaking the more you resist it 😉 in that case just skip to that great Deh, per questo… or to the very hilarious Del piu sublime soglio, where JK just starts singing over VK’s weird speaking 😉 actually, that bit of speaking is rather decent.

            So do you have a Paris Capuleti with decent sound now?

          • thả diều says:

            there’re many reasons i want to escape to London/France in July! (and just got informed Arctic also happens 3-18Jul, hark!)

          • dehggial says:

            I keep thinking I posted about that Paris Capuleti but it turns out I didn’t yet. It’s mostly written though. For this start of the year without snow I’ve been listening to / watching Der Rosenkavalier, which I also intend to write about.

          • thả diều says:

            more later.. (bed time..) but must have this bando! (she looked suuuuper handsome with it in the split jacket!!)

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