semi public service: bemf @ Jordan Hall

As stray subtly reminded me on my way out of Jordan Hall last sunday… and many thanks to her pointer that i attended the Boston Early Music Festival ensemble and singers for their Thanksgiving concert on 01-dec-2013. I a bit short in time to really compose, so again this is sort of in running-on fashion and more about my reaction. If you’d like to hear my ravings for the orchestra and singers, I refer you to my ramblings 5.5 months ago… here’s a blurry pix from crappy phone, fantastic seats!

boston early music festival concert 01-dec-2013.

It is now established, if they’re playing, i MUST make time! this quality of singing and music making, at such close distance, no excuse. and on second round of Charpentier, i’m now a fan.
Here’s their playlist, a full afternoon of early music goodness. Now onto bullet-format:

* french is a great language to put to music, especially w/ their “sharp” ending (not sure i use right word here, but you know, “vAIN”, “retrAIT”, “douleuR”, works very nicely with music! my favorite of the afternoon was the piece just before intermission: Charpentier’s “Actéon” . On that same note, english and opera… argh!

* my approach has always been to just show up and listen to the music and interaction between voices and instruments if I don’t know anything about the works. For this type of concerts, think i’ve figured out the best approach now, especially after i sat through the entire afternoon having no clue what they were singing about and yet learned all about it in the program note while eating lunch afterward… recently i discovered that to fully appreciate Mahler, it’s good to arrive a bit early, spend all 20+ min reading all description + text + translation to get the background and gist/context. THEN, one can ignore all diction/words/etc and really pay attention to musical phrasing and interaction with orchestra and such. It worked to perfection with “Das Lied von der Erde” and would have been the case here as well i think, especially with so many operas that are all new to me. (But their 3pm concert time = I barely up just before sprinting for bus arriving at hall sweaty and starving.., so no prep time…)

* on that same no-prep note, I was first very happy to see Händel on the agenda, “Acis and Galatea”, no clue what it was about, but it’s Händel! So, 2 stories to report… first, a post-concert nice chat with stray, to which i mentioned it sounded a bit “generic” to my ears while stray-who-had-seen-live-performance-of-this-exact-opera-by-this-exact-ensemble-(and)-cast reported she appreciated it much more this time around… Why “generic”? I must first confess to spending the last 2 weeks listening to 3 full live recordings of “Ariodante” (1,2,3), 2 of “Agrippina”, 2x of “Arianna in Creta”, and 1/2 of “Il pastor fido”… so as soon as Händel music came up (very very distinctively Händel, one can’t miss it), my brain automatically “expected” to hear music from Ariodante or chorus from “Il pastor fido”… all new Händel sounds similar to my ears :-). Only after 50 rounds (or a certain particular performance) that different aspects which make each work unique begin to stand out… so there you have it, generic :-). I did sit their pondering the same regarding Charpentier, whether it sounds all new and fresh now but some time down the line it would fall into this category…

* aaand, the 2nd part of Händel, also related to un-prep… while singing going on, one can see the soprano and the tenor seem to be getting on quite well, but the bass is quite pissed, so pissed.. he scooped up (what i originally thought was sand) something and tossed at the tenor and tenor was DEAD!! I immediately looked forward to some triumphant music and the bass and soprano holding hand and live happily ever after! (the exact way it was in Vietnamese “Cinderella”** story!) Sadly, somber music and sad chorus finished off with all staring into distance..

so, to recap, super nice concert, very high quality of singing and playing, fantastic distribution of early works. I quite like the full scene settings instead of just selective arias. set the mood much better, especially if you know the work a bit more, as i hope to become.

** we vietnamese train our kids rigorously not to do mean things to other. in our folk story, “cinderella” suffered greatly, died and was reincarnated multiple times.. and it only ended after she boiled her step-sister alive, made her into a traditional vietnamese paste, put in jar and sent to step-mother who enjoyed eating everyday until the last when she saw her daughter’s skull and dropped dead of a heart attack, only THEN cinderella and the prince married and lived happily ever after8

About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

5 Responses to semi public service: bemf @ Jordan Hall

  1. yvette says:

    Very proud of your liking to French in arias… Gustave Charpentier and Rameau are really good in putting the language under musical stresses and melodic curves.Althpugh the reputation of sung French is “difficult” …

    • thả diều says:

      :-). thanks Yvette putting it into words, musical stresses and melodic curves! which is why a piece written in french shouldn’t be translated to italian.. i can see why singing French is difficult, esp. if you dont get the emphasis correct and end up modifying the sound and soften the stresses as well as blurring the phrases.

  2. stray says:

    lol The giant Polyphemus has the hots for Galatea and in a jealous fury squishes Acis with a big rock. Then there’s a really awesome final chorus where Galatea turns dead Acis into a river — which they left out, which was the only down-side to this concert, apart from the fact that they really needed to supertitle all of the material, not just the bits in French.

    Sorry, I was under a time constraint or I would have suggested a post-game analysis over dinner. Next time! 🙂

    **your folk stories are a lot like our folk stories before Disney gets their hands on them.

    • thả diều says:

      tada, back after surviving a whole night w/o internet..
      i did read that story afterward while swallowing my lunch at the nearby thai cafe. re. folk stories, i was shocked people here didn’t know how the little mermaid died a painful and lonely death! but i’ve now verified, disney invaded germany too, my poor german friends also thought she married and lived happily with the price, tsk tsk :-).

      and how was the drive in the rain to beat traffic and end of holiday crowd?

      • stray says:

        Yes, well, we can’t have stories that tell little girls that extreme and unilateral personal sacrifice in the name of some bogus notion of marital bliss is a really dumb idea. There’s no marketing angle in it, and what passes for our civilization would crumble.

        By the time I actually left Boston, the end of holiday horde was sweeping east. Glad I wasn’t on that side of the pike, it was pretty much a parking lot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s