still in a daze

So, i still a bit in a daze with rather very strange feeling after last night performance with accidental seats VERY close to the action and almost 10m from VK… But before that, some acrobatic running + hopping through 1 bus, 2 trains, 1 tram, and yet more running through what seems like the entire country of Switzerland, I made it to the opernhaus 10 min late, frantically running to the first person I saw for help on where to run next…
up the red stair all the way to the top
all the way to the top? (my tix said “Rang 1” = not top)
yes, all the way to the top
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up i skipped across the red carpet… got sent down to check small bag in… then more running back up…
On a “thermal” video screen, we see “images” of VK waiving the stick singing… my improvised german-understanding is quite improved now, lots of hand gesture, but the lady assured me I’d get let in as soon as the singing stops… then quickly door opened, i jumped in… to the royal box!! directly above Octavian and the Marschallin… the only thing to remind me it wasn’t a dream was the constant dripping of sweat.. i LOVE love love these seats, waaay above the orchestra, almost directly above the singers, close enough to process their wonderful nuances and facial expressions, far enough to still have an overall impression. Was soo hoping I could somehow disappear so the lady wouldn’t kick me out at intermission.. but opened the door she did: “now you go back to your seat”. Was quite crying on the inside coz it was suuuuch a perfect spot to hear and view Frau K in action … anyhow, i sat myself on the Zürich Opernhaus steps to reflect on what had just happened.. when a charming young lady came along with her friend, huge VK fan in Zürich… recognizing me as the blogger from Boston! And of course i conveniently cried quite loudly about my seating situation and got invited to their box, which was directly across from the royal box and 1 level lower, 10m away from VK to be precise, with orchestra BOOOOMING on the right ear. I stood the rest of the time absorbing the singing and flow of action… all the while still feeling in a daze. And i’ve partially figured out why:

From way above or far in the distance, the illusion is there, I see Octavian and the Marschallin. In spot 10m away, I see Vesselina Kasarova and Nina Stemme. The contrast is so huge the mind can no longer process this is an opera… but rather singers one has followed all these times now performing the act… still a bit confused but for sure i didn’t really see Octavian last night :-). This is rather self revealing and I’ve now realized in all the operas I’ve been to, I’ve mainly seen the characters and plots unfolding, not so much the actual singers doing the part!

Anyhow, since i was WIIIIDE awake with BIIIG eyes and ears last night, let’s talk a bit about the singing :-). that orchestra is LOUUUD, VERY LOUD, i often had to hide behind the small wall in the box to keep ears from ringing.. So most of the times, the singers were really blasting their lungs out to make it pass orchestra. For this particular opera, sitting too close is not quite rewarding, had myself a splitting headache by evening end. There were only few times when orchestra came to almost a stand still with only solo violin or oboes accompanying.. One of those rare occasions is the Marschallin’s monologue, as heard from my original royal box. This is now the 4th time I’ve put a lot of attention into hearing Nina Stemme’s version of the monologue (2x via careful listening of dvd, 2x live).. not sure why that is, but each time i remained unmoved.. in fact the violin moved me more that her singing, i’m not sure why that is. perhaps the mind absorbs sound quite differently for everyone and there are voices that just melt you into a puddle whereas others that don’t ring true for you. As for the rest of the characters in the first Act, there’s not much sustained singing as one could put it. Most of the times it’s within a conversation, expressing oneself… At the end of the first Act though, the singers came out for a quick bow and, thanks to my seat, i could see inside VK and Nina Stemme exchanging a very warm hug, probably an acknowledgement of each other’s great effort in getting the first Act running wonderfully and smoothly.
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Onto Act II, there’s much improved chemistry between VK and Rachel Harnisch this time, VK with more time to raise her eyebrows as to why Sophie remained inside the cupboard. At closer distance you can hear all the nuances in her voice during the rose presentation. This time they held hands while singing their inner thoughts.. the kiss is more spontaneous, the exchanges more fluid.. but there’s still something not quite 100% convincing about Sophie.. much of it is very subtle movements i believe, a look in the eyes, a wrap of an arm.. and for this Sophie, it’s still… the best image i can think of is Garanca staring into the distance with Barbara Bonney right in front of her.. But singing-wise, I quite like Harnisch’ warrrm voice, quite different in texture compared to Nina Stemme’s. But as Tove S mentioned in her comment box on my last post, this Sophie doesn’t quite express the same details both in movements/action and in the musical phrasing as Marlin Hartelius’. Being soo closed, it’s also highly interesting to see the “illusion” of an action the audience would see. Last time, i was worried how Baron Ochs was “tossing” Octavian off the table (after VK grabbed the knife and climbed it waving high declaring war with him) and thought she could easily break her ankle or sprain knee.. and i thought the knife was not real… but it’s real!! she’s holding a real knife hopping on tables… though luckily she jumped off it by herself with a big “tossing” gesture from the baron.. still, quite dangerous! Can i mention how i admire her walk in that nice long split jacket? and how i adore the hair? and the sharp chin which emphasizes the full feature so wonderfully..

view from seat

view from seat


Act III: that dress fits her so well, and now up close, i looove that cresent-moon bando! looks particularly great with the split jacket :-). Again, lots and lots of acting until the arrival of the Feldmarschallin. The whole mood change, the dark solo clarinet (or was it oboe? i tend to get these 2 confused…) tune is back.. the Feldmarschallin’s soft touch on Octavian’s face a split second before the trio is soo heart-breaking, woaaahhhh. Time stopped. just magnificent… only managed 1 photograph of curtain call… and i still in a daze..

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About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

8 Responses to still in a daze

  1. Tove S says:

    Lucky you to be in a box! I was quite close to the stage too but since the orchestra pit was so huge, not quite as close as I’d imagined I’d be. Interesting observation about the difference between seeing the singers or the characters. I’m pretty nearsighted and prefer to sit as close as I can to pick up the details. Once in a rather small old theatre I sat in the back and the stage was more like a tableaux or film screen – I don’t think it improved the illusion for me, only created a feeling of distance, of not being immersed in it in the same way. I think I tend to see the singers and characters at the same time – it depends more on the quality of the acting than the distance to the stage for me. Kasarova is a great actor but of course also very present as a personality for us fans. It doesn’t distract me in a negative way, rather the opposite I think. It’s part of the charm of breeches roles – the both/and, the he/she.
    I agree different voices (and singers and actors and faces and bodies and personalities) affect us differently. There are some voices I hear as “fakey”, as just “emoting” as something separate from the singing, the musicality. Stemme’s is not one of them though. She’s not one of my favourite singers (mostly due to wrong repertoire I think – too big, dramatic, Wagnerian) but I find her portrayal of the Feldmarschallin very touching and true.
    Wish I could have stayed on in Zürich to watch the rest of the performances! But we had other plans and only stayed for a night, they’re scheduled pretty far apart so it would have been a long stay…

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    • thả diều says:

      thanks a lot for your comments, they’re very insightful! and quite nice the different impression we all perceive. This being my first time ever this close to her is probably why it’s a shock to the system :-). might you (or any VK) fans be free this coming friday? there might be some changes in our plan with potential free tickets…

      ps- i think with Nina Stemme one has to sit a bit farther away because her voice is quite voluminous… I really like the tone, but somehow the emotion wasn’t quite as strong as i expected… will report more next round.

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      • Tove S says:

        Free tickets sound very tempting but unfortunately the expensive airfares to Zürich are the biggest obstacle for me – I should have stayed on to get better value…. Looking forward to your next post!

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  2. Eyesometric says:

    I always love reading your accounts – it’s almost like being there. Thank you!

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  3. earwormopera says:

    Seconding what Eyes said. What an experience that must have been!

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  4. jcmwee says:

    Amazing. Thanks for the vicarious night at the opera.

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  5. operasmorg says:

    Can’t be there, so like others I’m eating up your posts on the experience. 😀 Thanks so much for coming out of your daze long enough to write about it and for the fotos, too. How cool that you got invited into the box! It’d probably cost an arm and two legs to rent a box… unless you can impersonate a royalty or something. 😉 Have fun at the next show, Dr T! (And, hey, VK’s Bday is coming up in just over a week!)

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  6. yvette says:

    Thanks so much for this spendid report with smashing photos! It rings lots of bells!!!
    Why isn’t VK coming to us here? she is also feeling at home in Zurich.a pity I could not make it because She looks smashing and I know how she sounds in this role.Enjoy your Alpine trip !

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