monday earworm

(otherwise known as more Semiramide and a certain soprano obsession…)
I spent the weekend (listening to Semiramide and) flipping the schedule since waking up at 6pm is just not very productive.. and currently sporting wake-up time of 2am (very proper for listening to music in europe!) Not sure if i want to move it since I found waking up between 11pm – 2am to be the _most_ productive of all schedule variations. Second most productive is up-time = 2pm. (Absolute-worst is up at 8am, what a waste of 24hr!)

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Semiramide occupied with own imagination

In any case, unlike with Mayr, Semiramide has been stuck in my head at various parts.. You could say Rossini is indeed the expert at planting earworms! Especially those arias with chorus joining in (Perché turba la calma!) As referred to in the previous post (even though at that time I was very unfamiliar with the opera), the thing to notice between this performance and any previous is the “details”. So I’ve gotten around to somewhat figure out what I mean, hence the earworm: Semiramide’s entrance aria “Bel raggio lusinghier”. Between not knowing the music and the pace, it didn’t quite appear to my ears orginally as a typical “Rossini’s entrance aria”. But it does contain some really sticky (to the ear) passages that makes one (<– me) return repeatly. So I finally went ytubing and discovered almost all other versions I've heard are within 8m20s±20s and 1 version with the same conductor at 9m55s .
This one clocks in at just under 11min: 00:00-01:55 orchestra; 01:55-03:43 chorus; 03:43-05:35 recit; 05:35-07:20 slow; 07:20-10:50 fast.

M.Papatanasiu–Bel raggio lusinghier

That’s a difference of nearly 150 (1 case 60) seconds extra! There were a couple of moments in the fast secion where I thought M.Papatanasiu ran short of breath (? also because of the heft she put on) and wondered whether because of the tempo. Yet there’s also a question as to whether the tempo was deliberately set to let the singers express the music to very thinned-out orchestration (which I quite like)? This was what giving me the impression of a baroque version of Rossini last week, e.g., great detailed singings to much less robust orchestration and show-stopper coloratura runs (Vivaldi+Händel have plenty of those but they’re very different than Rossini, as i finally now hear the difference). I haven’t clocked A.Hallenberg’s Arsace’s entrance aria but it sounded to me she also has PLENTY of time to express, and she absolutely rocks it, again not in the powerhouse Rossini sense but in letting you pause to understand feeling and individual phrase.

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with the chorus looking on

Back to the earworm, I/Anik/theinkbrain have also found out this morning co-dependently that this version is available in full on tube at this channel, so you can sample if would like. But while watching M.Papatanasiu I thought perhaps I was distracted by the visuals, hence the vocal extraction here only, to gorgeous all-female chorus, to carefully hear her phrasing. And this is one of the examples I’d give for the way she expresses the music which I really enjoy. I keep thinking of her as a musician, not just a singer, in term of having a feeling for the music flow and carrying of a phrase. Some of the ornamentations are a bit disruptive.. but wait until you hear some of the powerhouse links below :-). Also, the screencaps! As I have also mentioned how I enjoyed her acting: this is a visual to the picolo in the opening orchestral music of the aria, each with Semiramide smiling by herself. It’s not a simple smile, as noticed by the chorus in the zoom out. If there’s a way to softly smile and yet reveal a troubled mind, this is it. Very nicely acted. (Until she started singing, then I thought after 5 rounds I better extract the audio to “hear” more properly 🙂 ).

So, who are my the powerhouses? Let’s start with La Antonacci (8m25s)! follows by the ninja Nelly Miricioiu (8m20s), one of my favorite Amenaides Darina Takova (9m55s), and ends with Joyce DiDonato (<8m30s)! This last one has the music so one can really see the "so many notes in such a short time-span" as one of the reviewers put it. The comment section also confirms what I suspected: that the music is indeed lower than for a typical coloratura soprano. I think when the aria is fast you hear it as an aria rather than hearing what it's about? Yet I can't imagine hearing Romeo's entrance aria 60-150sec slower! I guess it's a "blessing" to start with a "weird" one first! I also read somewhere that this role demands both a flexible (coloratura) and "dramatic" voice. No idea why the 2nd requirement or what it means, but I guess there is a reason it is not often sung?

Oh, one last note: it seems the singers had mic running up their sleeves (or back..) This was taped for dvd/blue-something so I guess that's more valid than having the camera + audio recording in the back of the hall like Alcina in Wien? In in-haus reviews there were no complaining at all regarding (lack-of) hearing from the singers.. And I remember also noticing mic running up ACA's back-neck in that Maria Stuarda's recording with her and M.Devia, so it happens sometimes? a lot of times?