music and musings to cap 2016

Edit: did i hear it right, she will be singing Britten in Vienna! (starting minute 32mn20s, David McVicar stage director)
Currently listening: Another interview with Anna Caterina Antonacci on francemusique, on 19/Dec/2016, including many fantastic samples of her singing (Barbara Strozzi, Berlioz, Hahn)

Ok, my French listening comprehension is improving, but her French is a bit more difficult to understand 🙂 . hehe, she’s discussing which roles she likes (Didon , not sure from Berlioz which she hasn’t sung, or Purcell). If my comprehension works ok, She enjoys singing Elletra, Vitelia, Cassandra and *detests* Dorabella 😀 . There’s also discussion on Sancta Susanna, which is also available on francemusique The piece starts at 1hr20min20sec. Before that is Cavalleria rusticana:

I think one can try to compare how the singing is delivered here versus the intimate recording linked 2 posts ago, to get an idea the difference between a huge orchestra in a gigantic hall versus a smaller setting.

This caps a year of super fun internet gathering over at Anik’s to discover new operas/singers/opera-buddies as well as the few live performances I managed to see and greatly enjoyed. Oh, and on the subject of French comprehension, I was highly impressed with myself 😀 , this past trip to Paris, i was able to *communicate* !! sure, the vocabulary is lacking as ever, but wow, suddenly it was simple to use the 1% available bit and pronunciation wasn’t an issue at all! all thanks to Mitridate and extensive listening to French radio and broadcasts this whole year. Onto some musings on the road.

March 2016, “Ariodante” in London

thadieu: (jetlagged, falling hopelessly asleep..)
Dehggi: “whore!”
thadieu: huh?
Dehggi: the translation is rather blunt
(on stage: Genievra whining nonstop and isolated on an island)
thadieu: (thinking in head: what’s wrong with her? why is she whining nonstop?! aohhhhhh, i got it! she’s being wrongly accused of being a slut!)

(while stopping to admire Ariodante’s jaw)
thadieu: my bubble is popped! i’ve always thought Ariodante a courageous handsome knight! but he’s a total dweeb! i so sad!

October 2016, “Alcina” in Wien, in standing-room waiting line

Anik: in “Verdi Prati” she (Ruggiero) was just standing there and she (Bradamante) didn’t act at all!
thadieu: did they roll around?
Anik: what rolling around?
thadieu: , what do you mean?! Kasarova and Hammarström were on top of each other! i was confused for some 6 years**!
Anik: (?)
thadieu: wait a minute, (googling on phone), here.
Anik: nooo, they didn’t do that! just standing.

December 2016, “Don Giovanni” in Paris,

1 min before curtain raised
thadieu: they put Donna Anna in a suit!! Anik showed me a curtain call video
Dehggi: (ignoring..)

post opera, while Dehggi taking touristic photos of the venue
thadieu: he’s so whiny. no wonder she delays the marriage for 10 years!
Dehggi: 10? i thought it’s only 1 year
thadieu: oh, it’s our liveblog! and every time the statue showed up, i heard your voice in my head “its mouth is moving!”

So, that wraps up 2016. Not as many live performances as I would have liked, but the rare fews were true fun, and the summer festival liveblog, as well as discovery of Mitridate (and a certain soprano) were true gems. Rolling on to 2017 🙂 .

** though we settled that perhaps it’s like the green grapes.

baroque tuesday

Romina Basso as Nicodemo, Sara Mingardo as Maria, Anna Simboli as San Giovanni, Alessandro Scarlatti "La vergine dei dolori" © Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski

Romina Basso as Nicodemo, Sara Mingardo as Maria, Anna Simboli as San Giovanni, Alessandro Scarlatti “La vergine dei dolori”
© Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski

After drooling over at Anik’s site reading up on Romina Basso, I went digging a bit and found this above photo. There’s an official album from the production site! and a live recording! How about a contralto to trumpet to continue Tuesday (or start Wednesday, depending on where you are globally):

Part 2.

music for the working fighting-with-printer sunday

woke up with Poppea’s creamy tune in my head! and in anticipation of fighting with the big printer in a couple of hours… if successful, I’ll be happy with a gigantic 1,1m x 1,5m poster in hand, else will be doing some scrambling tomorrow in Berkeley, fingers crossed…

But yes, Poppea, creamy…

poor Ottone.

Don Giovanni at Théâtre des Champs Elysées, 5/Dec/2016

Reporting from the white-shirt flat on 6th floor in the 11th arrondissement in Paris, with Dehggi writing from the other bed. After an excursion to chinatown to my favorite Vietnamese food joint*** and getting stuck in the touristic pre-Noël’s madness near the Ferris wheel, we barely made it to Théâtre des Champs Elysées 4 minutes before lights out. Upon running upstairs huffing and puffing, the usher, to our delight and MUCH more relaxed than the stiff-neck counterpart at the Wiener Staatsoper, were all smiling and telling us we still had time.

I actually don’t know Don Giovanni well at all! and have only recently (as in starting this past May) listening to it, after discovering Myrtò Papatanasiu and sorting out the difference between Donna Elvira and Donna Anna.. Since then I have listened to primarily two live performances to get things started: one for the very intriguing staging from Amsterdam with Papatanasiu as Donna Anna and one with the exceptional singing from the entire cast and of Antonacci as Donna Elvira in the Wien 1999 production. So this “review” will be heavily based on these two roles, and a little bit on Zerlina, whose music I discovered via Kasarova’s existing radio broadcasts. Our seats were up on the 3rd balcony directly above the orchestra for optimal view into the pit and sound from the singers (?). The first impression was the massive sound coming up during the overture and well into the first part of the singing. For me the whole show didn’t settle musically until the scene of in the morgue with Donna Anna in (goooooorgeous) suit recognizing DonG as her father killer and recounting the faithful night

“Non dubitate più: gli ultimi accenti che l’empio proferì tutta la voce richiamar nel cor mio di quell’indegno che nel mio appartamento…”

If I wasn’t a fan of Papatanasiu’s singing before, I would have become one last night. I’m extremely prone to detailed recitative phrasing (and low notes), and to my ears she was *the* star last night in phrasing, starting from every recit. She was already phrasing when on the floor clutching to DonnaA’s father’s dead body, but at that time the orchestra was way too loud and not leaving her space to express. During this passage, however, it was exquisite to hear: Each single sentence was expressed with full dynamics. I really think she was the only one using a full range of soft to loud and shaping/sculpting each sentence to draw us in, regardless of whether we understand Italian (or french surtitle) or not. The voice, again hearing live, this time from way above, I have to say it clicks with my ears very well: quite voluminous and distinctive from everyone else on stage such that it provides very nice contrast in trio/duet or solo (to not so loud orchestration). I would not categorize her voice as “beautiful”, and that’s not what I look for. Rather it’s the texture that works with vocal expression. Her voice, however, seems to not click well for Dehggi’s ears, but that is all good, each of us hear different things :-). Her “Non mi dir” was a show-stopper for me. Not in a “fancy” over decorated way, but in a time-stopping hold-your-breath while transitioning along in time with Donna Anna’s thought and pain. As I said, if I was not a fan before, definitely would become one last night. Also, whoever put her in a suit, that is simply BRILIANT! We’ll discuss how it fits in the staging in a bit.. but JA! (Also, since sitting there, with the orchestra fully visible, i did wish for a time-reversal machine back to February with Emmanuelle Haïm in the pit and Sifare and Aspasia on stage..)

Just an example then, on exactly what I hear when it comes to phrasing of recitative. This is purely a 2 minute passage, but through it, you feel every little note, pain, anguish, defiance in Donna Elvira. I think when recitative are not done in this way, it is “rushed” through and you will simply hear it being “said”, prior to the singer launching or easing into the main aria. By then, one would need to try to sort through what the aria is about, in addition to the musical lines. That is also a summary of what I heard from Donna Elvira last night, that it was singing, though Dehggi said she was very good. The other bit of music i GREATLY enjoyed was the orchestration to “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto”. Absolutely gorgeous flute and cello lines! And the finale trio “Don Giovanni! a cenar teco m’invitasti, e son venuto…” with moments when ALL woodwinds and brass (and all strings) were playing, quite goose-bump inducing.

On the subject of the orchestra, it started very loud to our ears. I was quite worried because throughout the first part, Donna Anna’s voice was quite masked out, DonG and Leporello were singing very loud, and Donna Elvira, with a quite large voice, was the only one making it above the orchestra to our ears unscathed. It was a huge relief for me when suddenly the orchestra quiet down as Leporello started “Madamina, il catalogo è questo”, and completely was cleared out for Donna Anna’s phrasing. Al told us that the orchestra is entirely composed of baroque instruments (the woodwinds and brass we could see, but violins we were not sure until being informed). This the the largest orchestra I have seen of my 3 times here (2x Tancredi, then N.Stutzmann’s own orchestra). I can’t remember if they were using baroque bows in 2014 because at that time i thought the orchestra was great with fine details. Last night they were using modern bows, which we assume because they needed a more robust sound for Don Giovanni ? In any case, it was blasting at the start and took a bit of time to let the singers express freely.

Some quick notes on the staging. The opening scene already featured 2 young women in very short skirts draping themselves over DonG and Leporello. As the stage rotated, we were first provided a visual of Donna Anna expressing pleasure while receiving oral treatment from DonG. She then “woke” up and being coerced by him in various poses on the bed… This theme continues with Donna Elvira touching self in bed to “Ah! chi mi dice mai” . Leporello then revealed a doll puppet to which he undressed and fantasizing over. This continued onto the next Masetto & Zerlina wedding scene with full draping of the female chorus in wedding gown on their male counterparts. Yes, the opera is disturbing. On top of it, I think much of the staging is feasting on it to provide eye-candies and further treat female bodies as fantasizing tools being put on display. Perhaps that’s why the whole show also didn’t settle for me until Donna Anna appeared in a black (very fine) suit! It’s an unusual move, and actually put into perspective the independence of Donna Anna’s. Al also mentioned it captures her entrapment in formality (or something like that, I did not get this point though and would love to hear more). What I do like is that she is often discussing and keeping herself balanced, and Don Ottavio is often seen as the one approaching her space and constantly wanting to keep the pair “appearance”. I’m still trying to understand Donna Elvira’s mindset. We first saw her fantasizing on bed, while often I had the vision of Cecilia Bartoli’s fist clenching and seething approach. Either is fine I think as long as we could see how she evolves.. in this case I can not quite tell anything about her. She is seen smoking through the windows while DonG is scheming and switching with Leporello during “Deh, vieni alla finestra” (the mandolin is sooooo cute!!!), then proceeded to sleep with DonG double without even knowing so.. She can been seen defiant at times, such as during the trio with DonnaA and DonO, or when pointing fingers at Leporello after “Mi tradì, quell’alma ingrata” , or when she arrived to snatch Zerlina away from DonG, or intruding into his conversation with DonnaA+DonO (which led to the trio). Surprisingly her duet with DonnaA at the end was omitted! But all in all, I am not sure what personality or resolve she has, and whether she’s simply running after DonG for the flesh. Even Leporello is a bit quick to switch, so he’s as much enjoying doing what DonG does when given the chance, given how quickly he embodied the seducer’s move without any hint of conflict/struggle. I really enjoyed Zerlina’s last aria, something neither Dehggi nor I have ever heard before! She was in a scene with only Leporello (and with a shaving knife), but her phrasing to start was just gorgeous. I did get her confused at that point with DonnaE simply because of the context (even though their voices are quite different). DonO is really seen as a needy guy constantly trying to close the space between him and DonnaA. Finally, the Commendatore, I’m sorry, but we really need a bass! His clear “high” notes in the final showdown “Don Giovanni” was floating ABOVE the orchestra! (while i was expecting it to line the base and providing rumble). His thin voice was completely masked out when the orchestra went full strength during the final passage, so the famous duet/trio because a solo with DonG singing to the orchestra prior to being pushed into the furnace.

Staging-wise, aside from all the eye-candies and not quite developed characters above, I really like the usage of the stage space, to narrow things, efficiently shifts between scenes, and the use of the morgue bed. To me Papatanasiu’s singing (and subtle body balance) stood out because she gave a layer to DonnaA’s character. We had glimpses into her mindset, her struggle with her father’s loss, and perhaps what appeared to be her independence. She made decision on her own, using her own head, and body angles / postures / gestures. Interestingly Al made a note that her body gestures are quite similar to Anja Harteros’! Which got me thinking when i first saw her coming up on the grass field in Alcina half of the time i had the image of Harteros’ in head!

So that’s a wrap up, in extreme rambling fashion, of an opera I don’t know much about, but highlighting what draws my attention the most. Here’s the curtain call of the opening night, and more chance to see that fine fine suit! Off to Antonacci we go for my last night here!

first impression, sancta susanna at opéra Bastille, 3/dec/2016

Yesterday I met up with the charming Al at Jardin du Luxembourg for a nice stroll in the sun-shinining early afternoon. After an initial kiss and greet (we haven’t seen each other in nearly 2 years!) we immediately were drawn to “what was your impression of last night at Opéra Bastille?”, Al’s being on the opening night and mine on the 3rd of December’s performance.

thadieu: the first piece is too long!
Al: and the 2nd piece is too short?!
thadieu: YES!!!

And that pretty much summarized our impression of the opera night(s). Apparently the two pieces have similar duration(?)***. That the first made me edgy, a tad angry, bored, feeling my jetlag, amongst other things should say something. Very briefly: I find the music and especially the story not particularly interesting (girl loves boy who loves other girl who was married, big drama scene (in the music) and apparently boy died at the end, not sure who killed him, likely other girl’s husband.). Likely due to the size of the hall, the tension is peaked in the music right from the start, along with the “show-down” in the opening scene in the church on who gets to sit where. Given the set up (and perhaps all the adrenaline in anticipation of finally hearing ACA for the first time, in Hindemith), the body and brain are ready for some life-altering event.. Things quickly fizzled as soon as the story unfolded, all via very loud singing and big posturing (to keep up with the drama in the music, and) to fill up the gigantic stage. As to why this piece is revolutionary/famous I am quite puzzled. As for the lead singers, my only impression is that I’d like to hear Elina Garanca singing Romeo in this huge hall and perhaps I’d have more interesting observations :-). Her character slowly revealed that she has been shunned by the town, but we don’t know why or how. In the initial showdown she was already seen as an outcast, and yet still talking to the boy’s mother. Is she responsible for him not talking to his mother? All this we don’t know, except that the tension is very highly built in the music, and yet reduced to “you love me?”, “you don’t love me?”, “how dare you?”, “no you lie to me”. This is the 4th time I have “accidentally” seen Yonghoon Lee live, I think he is singing louder than ever before, which I heard is what’s required for this piece, while the acting remains “do this to appear over-macho, do this to appear sad”, similar to in Il Trovatore in Munich. Oh, the chorus has some nice sections and the overture was interesting though! Let us leave it at that. Perhaps this is also the feeling when you come for Hindemith and its compelling storyline and intriguing music and got greeted by 1 hour of something totally its opposite.

Onto Hindemith! criminally too short! we need more time! more time to hear Anna Caterina Antonacci sing, and definitely more time to hear the music!

The first welcoming sight was the influx of woodwinds to the orchestra pit as the Cavallieri Rusticana’s cast taking a bow. As the curtain opened, it’s a also a huge relief that the infinite stage was reduced to 1/20th of its depth and approximately 1/16th of its cross-sectional area, with Susanna’s chamber at the center just above the orchestra pit. The first bar of music and one is ready to grab on the the seat preparing for the journey. This will be a first impression on the entire show how everything fits. I find the staging quite effective: a dark and simple room with a small-sized cross and tiny window above-head level where moon light comes through. The scene gives the feeling of entrapment in a tight and defined (regularized) space with freedom in the form of flower scent, moon light, and breezes traverse unconstrained on the outside. The burying ground underneath reveals the existence of condemned desire. When Susanna finally undressed herself to feel the flesh, a larger than life cross descended from “heaven”. She descended with it into the underground, hugging the human-sized figure of Jesus on the cross as the “mob” arrived for condemnation and shutting the tomb sealing her on the inside, the same way they had done forty years ago. Musically it remained intriguing and engaging and tense throughout, and before you could breath a sigh, any sign, it was over! ARGH!!
Singing-wise, ACA’s voice is everything I’ve anticipating. My first impression: omg, i would like to hear her singing non-stop for the next 3 hours. My second impression: she can not be thinking of retiring any time soon!!! not with this voice, must keep track of what she’s singing for the next few years!! For this piece, I will have to admit Susanna is part of a “whole” in the music. She sings about equal amount as Klementia, so one would have to give equal credit to both in the ability to carry along the narrative. The acting is highly compelling (and offered a good contrast to that during the first piece). That said, I strongly believe Opera Bastille is too big for this piece, such that it loses its intimacy in the communication between these two characters. Some part of the conversation can even be “heard” as internalized process and as such the ability to sing softer would be welcomed. However, because the orchestra (modern) was quite loud, likely to fill the entire house, the singers can not really afford to reduce the volume. I had a very good seat on the first balcony, and all sound came without any hinderance. Thus I wonder if the orchestra played softer one could ever achieve a more intimate feeling; likely not because I am told this is probably one of the biggest houses if not the biggest in France, and perhaps even Europe? It draws comparison only to the MET (the MET is bigger, but if you’re in the same conversation… I’d also mention LA opera, or San Diego auditorium.. *huge*..) . From a recent interview ACA mentions she might also sing Sancta Susanna in New York (Carnegie hall? isnt’ that also very big? but I’ll come to that for a more “chamber-like” feeling). We are coming back tomorrow for another round, this time I’ll be on the 2nd balcony. Will report how sound will come from there.

My discussion with Al did evolve around the point of what Susanna is expressing desire to (I am still unsure), whether it is spiritually offering both her flesh body and soul to the higher divine, or whether it is a deviation from her devoted spirit and unwavering physical desire of the flesh. In addition, we are still pondering the symbolic meaning of Jesus on the cross, whether it is a relation to the divine figure or a male figure or both..

Also, similar to Dehggi’s and her “enter-the-shrine” feeling in Munich, Opéra Bastille is that glorious hall for me where V.Kasarova debuted her Roméo. All these years, and finally here we are :-). Oh, Al also informed me C.Bartoli is singing the title role of “Ariodante” in Händel’s opera this 2/Jun and the Salzburg festival!! I better sort out my schedule.

This is a report of the double-billed of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Hindemith’s Sancta Susanna on Saturday 3/Dec/2016. For a less biased opinion on the first piece, please check this review out. If that is true that Sancta Susanna was only ***20min long, i’m indeed *very* miffed!