screencaps for the weekend

I was doing some chrono-charting in head at 4am this morning the evolution of my opera interest and how I arrive at watching this opera. It’s safe to say for now a screencap like this would fully catch my attention on several levels (through the evolution).

Anna Caterina Antonacci as Medea, Sara Mingardo as Neris, in Cherubini ”Medea”, 2008, Turin

The charting of S.Mingardo is much easier, i “heard” mentions of her singing many times on Anik’s blog but didn’t know the repertoire.. until 2 years ago when first “discovering” her on the 2006 Barcelona’s Ariodante, followed by intro via Brahms’ alto rhapsody and Händel’s “Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno”.. and before long it was heavy-duty “obsession” with everything Mingardo-related on/off tube.. Naturally one arrives at “solo un pianto” with the gorgeous bassoon. And while busy “listening” ACA suddenly emerged from below the sinking ship..

"snap out of it!!"

“snap out of it!!”

The charting of ACA is much more winding, and dated back to true-WS-infancy when Purity posted a fun snip of a mature lady entering a bath (with the fun accompanied “interview“).. Given my history of liking Berlioz’ “La damnation de Faust”, followed by love for Roméo and Vitellia and Händel, it’s inevitable. In fact my very first post on her “D’Amour l’ardente flamme” was on “how strange” the tone was but after re-arranging brain to adjust it became and exploration of “phrasing”. Even then, it was not that easy to follow her for some reason. My 2nd exposure was actually the other Berlioz, Les Troyens, from London, with heightened discussions on Eyes’ + Anik’s blogs. Put it down as perhaps not quite the right time yet?

"an appreciation of hands, and intensity"

“an appreciation of hands, eyes, and intensity”

Around the same time of Cassandra was the discovery of her Vitellia. Then, thanks to the live “Agrippina” with BLO (Boston Lyric Opera) in 2011 (a live one is a great way to finally have a full feel for the flow of an opera!), it was the discovery (on tube) of her Agrippina and Rodelinda. How to say it, it’s not really “full” obsession per-se, but her characterizations, i’d say, is so intuitive in body language and matching phrasing that it (minus the flailing) works right out of the box for me most of the time. (I’m guessing biased-ly i simply ignore the ones which i don’t get).

content of Medea's suitcase!!!

the content of Medea’s suitcase!!!

I saw this Medea already exactly 1 year ago, and remember instantly liking it.. but perhaps not as deep as now. Generally speaking, deadlines are great for obsession-building projects, as i would be working 14-20hr for 2+ weeks with repeated music as “background” to get a “feel” for it. This year’s obsession time-slot coincided with Dehggi’s report from Wigmore Hall live concert with ACA. This was the right trigger, the same way S.Mingardo’s Brahm Alto Rhapsody was: something completely different from the usual repetoire I listen to.. and yet one way or another I’m motivated to listen; that is how one (I) get properly introduced: one’s mind is fresh for new ideas with nothing to “compare” to. The *very*-late-to-the-party discovery of her Monteverdi is then the icing on the cake (I’m using this to comply with its general meaning… though if up to me i’d say it’s the cake! because i always scrape out and throw away the icing and enjoy the fluffy american cake instead–the texture is interesting and it’s got much less sugar 😀 )..

The French repetoire is still quite a foreign concept though.. and it might still need some more time, as it’s not out-of-the-box working like Händel, Vivaldi or Monteverdi. Haven’t seen Les Troyens from Châtelet 2003, and as much as I’m obsessed with her Nerone, it is in this production of Medea I feel one can truly appreciate ACA the compelling/magnetic-singing-actress. The entire 3rd Act with both her and S.Mingardo. I was struck by how spontaneous they can be, very intense, you feel nervous every time Medea is alone with her own thoughts.. but before that, you already feel on edge as she laughed hysterically while Neris *sprang* to feet violently grabbing her head to try to knock some senses into her.

So, this is a long winded post of appreciation for ACA. I would have come to every single performance of this run, every time she sang it (she debuted in 2005, and finally this was taped in 2008). The production also benefited greatly from Evelino Pidò’s very brisk and accentuated conducting. Not knowing much, one usually can only get a feeling from what one has at hand. This one, on its own, is quite a rare production for the intensity ACA provided both vocally and through acting. While watching I was processing some thoughts that it would not be easy to find someone else who can do this better. There seems to be 2 camps, one with those who attended the performances live, and one who clings to Maria Callas (i’m guessing if you’re in the latter camp everyone else’s “attempt” (on anything M.Callas ever sang) is trash?). There was some comment on the staging.. It didn’t bother me at all, ACA made use of every piece of space + lighting. The 2nd act with the these two surrounded by all men painted quite a picture of how dangerous the situation they could have found themselves in (given I’ve just read the synopsis of “La Ciociara” from SF opera). The music flowed nicely (not sure which period, works well for the ears during working.) Here are a couple of reviews from 1st camp, which also contain comments on both of these singers’ acting skills.
review1, review2.

Back in 2007 she gave this very extensive 5-part(!) interview detailing her choice of music (though sadly you can read there that she abandoned Händel, citing the technique being too different than the direction she was heading which was toward the French rep). One interesting thing she discussed there (or might have been somewhere else 🙂 ) was her choice to “re-classify” herself as a soprano because the mezzo roles were getting diminish-ly small (which got me thinking of VK and her “strange” disappearance recently from the opera scene…) I don’t imagine at all she meant that the limelight is lacking, but rather, for such an intense artist a significant level of challenge is desired. Medea was a clear challenge, one in which she triumphed. (Screen caps are from this production.)