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!)


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.


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?

About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

6 Responses to monday earworm

  1. Anik LaChev says:

    I’d kind of grin at my own arms, too, if those were my guns. 😉

    Thank you for sharing your discoveries. It’s like getting to meet old favorites all over again through your eyes!
    Rossini voice types are tricky; You need coloratura, period, but also some solid core. Semiramide was originally written for Colbran, who would today likely be classified as a mezzo, but the type of singer popular at that point had a mezzo core and a “seperate”, lighter soprano-ish top with agility.
    In a nutshell, that is a voice type we don’t have at the moment because we tend to educate voices in a dramatic/bigger way and we also don’t educate those types of voices with audibly different colors/timbres and a gap between middle an top register, it’s frowned upon (Marilyn Horne has spoken about it, also Stendhal writing about Giuditta Pasta gives a good impression, or the critique VK keeps getting for her use of a distinct chest register).
    IN recent years – look at Florez in the tenor range – there is a rediscovery of agile, lighter, but still penetrating voices as a type, so perhaps the future bodes well for Rossini?

    • thả diều says:

      oh, thanks for the explanation! Not sure i understand all of it.. but with the current crop wouldn’t you say JDD + ACA voice/range fit the description? (and to my ear MP is in there in range but less in flexibility, she has the heft it seems)
      Florez, who’s dat? 😉 (no i haven’t listened to him since a long time i must admit..)

      ps- those arms…, i did say i got past the blond wig rather quickly 😉
      ps2- it’s rather interesting the choice of singers for this taping. Sure it’s a small company and they could not afford to hire too many big names perhaps.. but i find it nice that they picked those who can express music and the conductor really accomodated them very nicely as well as carrying the orchestral music along great (to my ears). I have tried listening to Semiramide a few times in the past but never quite caught on.. so it’s either the Greek Soprano Syndrome or in fact it does take a different way of singing for one (me) to catch on..

  2. Anik LaChev says:

    JDD and ACA fit the bill, a bit (both have also sung soprano roles – JDD recorded Alcina, at least), but even they are educated in the “modern” sense of having more weight/size in the voice, more honed for belcanto upwards repertory, and more uniform in timbre/color.
    I still need to listen to more MP to make up my mind there – oh, the sacrifices we make. 😉 I found it interesting in the “Semiramide” to see what of her gesture repertoire is a fixed one, and what she seems to have developed specifically for Sifare. The former is larger than I thought, and it makes my watching her in female roles now very itnerestingly jarring because I always read those gestures against hteir having been employed within a framework of masculinity.
    As for the arms… most distracting. I thought this morning that there has to be some designation around for those affected by this particular subtype of Greek Soprano Syndrome, perhaps something along the line of the “Papatacci” in Rossini’s “italiana in Algieri”, as in “Papatasi(s)” or some such thing. 😀 Clearly, too much Rossini this past week!

    • thả diều says:

      I have a “gesture developed specifically for P.Petibon” for you 😉

      But yes, the gesture bag, i first noticed after that Alcina clip, the wide arm angles.. which i thought fit better in the male role.. But beyond that, yes I think this Semiramide offers a much wider bag than Rusalka and there were moments I thought the gestures were transported directly from Traviata (as in the experience there works every well here..) e.g., the bit singing with Asur i know, i did have to watch that, but I thought it was quite well done.. on the injection, she could pick up some tips from M.Ernmann..) Then the playful/flirting bag (entire scene during opening of piccolo to entrance aria), the slight head-tilt and look of desire, the not-wanting-to-let-go of hands, the anxious (s)he-is-twirling-around-my-back-i-cant-contain-myself.. in fact the *entire* first scene with Arsace.. which I thought was a pleasant portion of the “female-role repertoire” (thinking ahead to Alcina..).

      Then there’s the “backing-up-when-being-come-at-at-fast-speed”, the “you’re-angry-but-i’m-intently-listening’, the switch from “being grabbed at” under-arm to “taking-control-grabbing” over-arm, the “there but can’t go further” bit (such symmetry compared to your fav posture of PP upright vs MP on knee) (the ENTIRE 2nd scene with Arsace): I don’t see them in Traviata context nor in Donna Elvira/Ana context so i worked them into the working-with-(lovely)-mezzo/soprano context, esp. in the sense of being a powerful female role.. in any case, it’s early here, i need to start the calculations for the telecon later.. but yes, uhm, we should have a conference on gesture repertoire..
      (oh yes, the height difference context.. which i didn’t think too much until this Semiramide.. the organic adjustment to female partners.. i can go on at a later time.. because i’m quite enjoying her subtle acting.. [adding: oh jes, acting, the bit with the arms in opening aria, very convincing, i’m impressed!])

      • Anik LaChev says:

        Oh, thank you for all this, now I need to rewatch both with your caps and notes on the side!
        I want to write a looooong reply here, but I’ve got to write my lecture – I know what I will be doing next week on Tue/Wed, though 😉

        Just in brief: yes, the wide arm angles were the first thing I noticed, which I had coded as masculine (and not just as tension/elevated tension). Alcina will likely fry my encoding mechanisms – can’t wait! 😉

        And also YES on Ernman (I thought about it earlier) — now pair up those two and call it “Four Guns for a Hallelujah”, or something like that. Of course they embody different types – MP has Pilates shoulders, definition/structure with no accent on added mass: the “feminine” version (re: Traviata dresses one needs to wear, etc). Ernman, and in that I find her spectacular, actually has that “one-handed-pull-up” kind of muscular mass to work with, and she definitely did not get that from doing pilates or sports catered as specifically feminized.

        I always found that “women with muscles are not attractive” reasoning so, so stupid, but it is still very much a pattern that is used to police women’s bodies. You see it in gyms, in gym classes “for women”, in women being afraid of losing bust shape when doing chest presses, etc. I’m not saying “bulk up!”, but I find the cultural concept of judging physical strength on women as unattractive (hello, heteronormative framework of gendered power dispersion) really stifling and unsavory.

        • thả diều says:

          ps- “bulk up”, “what women supposed to look like” , “what is beautiful”, “make-ups”, etc., yes, they start the society “training” from very young unfortunately.. another long long rant..

          on a slightly related topic, i have been observing those two ballet dancers in the “il combattimento di tancredi e clorinda” with ACA to notice their different physics, skipping the bit about the female dancers have to be starving.. but more the shapes/tones of a dancer for a purpose rather than for the look

          ps2- don’t watch too closely 😉 , either that or you jsut have to get used to it.. i got over the hurdle through Rusalka re. the “fixed gesture” part.. For this i found it was most interesting to watch with the french subtitles on, something between just understanding enough of the context in those duets and seeing the acting apparently brought all those observations out for me.. but i don’t think it’s a reach to say singing “Semiramide” seems to be taxing for her physically.. hence my wondering about how she produces those sound.. (which i occasionally saw also in Mitridate but stronger in Alcina and very prominent here).. and hence my extraction of audio only so as to not get distracted by visual intakes..

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