stunning Anna Caterina Antonacci in San Francisco

stunning! that was the first word out of my mouth as the light shut and applause rolled in. I don’t get how there are no 3rd and 4th calls.. In any case, I would have loved to linger a bit longer just to soak in the experience, but there was no time to waste thanks to a flight waiting. I have been debating the title of this post, but it’s not just “La Voix humaine” but the *entire* evening was captivating, so it fits this way. Today I showed up alone, which strangely enough I quite prefer. It’s one of those evenings you want to take the time to let things sink in. Something bugged me about the previous outing: ACA sang and phrased and I got lost in the words.  To ensure that wouldn’t happen again, I *studied* the text dear reader. I *memorized* them 🙂 . No no, not word by word, there’s not point to taht. But big picture, small picture, a whole phrase, how it fits in in context to the entire poem / piece. Yep. It helped that it’s in French (and not German), and that I had already sat through the show once, so I knew where i got tripped/entangled with words last time.

First off: as some of you said, especially for art songs, I don’t think everything is in just the music. So I studied more carefully the Berlioz’s and Debussy’s pieces (before my brain got saturated with text 😀 ). Second: the arc of the sentence/story helps tremendously with the brain intake because you know it is not about this word or that or this emphasis or that, but rather where it sits in context and thus where we are along in the journey, and where we’re heading to. I’m a big-picture person! How much does one benefit from it? Ahh, the reward of hearing the fine fine fine details in Antonacci’s phrasing ❤ . The sudden pull into quietness as Ophélie “tombe…” , as an exemplified sample. Thanks to dedicating time studying the text, I can also confess now to loving Berlioz’s “La mort d’Ophélie” the music. Though very short, it’s got several “scenes” to it (like how “La Mort de Cléopâtre” has). I love the middle “Ah!” (very prolonged), and i love the final “Ah!”  It’s so nice to discover this, however short it is.  Yes, it was there last time, but I didn’t catch on to its various mood change so got lost in where the piece starts and ends and what it was about. Let me look if she has sung it elsewhere.. ahhh, voilà! and there’s a version with orchestra! and score.

Onto Debussy! I have it sorted out: I like “La Flûte de Pan” the best, followed by “Le tombeau des Naïdes”, while there’s still too many things sitting uncomfortably in the inner body with “La chevelure”. What do I remember from these? Actually just the small details in her phrasing.. but perhaps I was still under the spell of Berlioz.. I mean, she came out of the gate with this avalanche of gorgeous warm voice coming at you… and Poulenc’s “La fraîcheur et le feu” song cycle, just more phrasing.. though I didn’t study the text as much. But yes, one particular note: the phrasing of the actual poem “La fraîcheur et le feu”, the contrast in her voice intensity between the word “fraîcheur” and “FEU”! There were more fine details, but it’s not useful to list them in a list really, just the joy of *hearing” the shape of the sentence/block.

Intermission rolled around. This time, I purposely stayed off just on own to observe the setting of the stage. As I arrived with my backpack (laptop + clothes + stuff) I chose not to sit front row and possibly distracting ACA. Though in hindsight it would have been quite an experience. No matter, I sat 3rd row, which was *really* close. What is the difference today compared to Saturday? It feels as if we’re *inside* her (“Elle”) apartment. We watched intently as she paced the place, circling her table, kneeling on floor.. Since I spent the weekend listening a few more times to “La Voix humaine” from Wigmore Hall, I noticed a few things: that she (ACA) paused often. There was “space” to the piece. It has moments of pondering, moment of rushing, of climax, of resignation.. I was wondering if by hearing only (no visuals) one could absorb these but in real life it was all a bit too much coming at once? Regardless, it felt like today ACA took much more time. There was quite more prolonged pauses (to hear the other side), of softer singings in moment.. of less desperation during a couple of the interuptions of the line.. There was at one point I myself even lost track of where I was, and wonder what had happened to the flow.. But soon everything came together! It can not climax without moments of pauses: one can not be frantic the entire time because at some point that particular emotion is overused / saturated and we don’t get the difference between *more* intense versus *high* intense moments. Here, because time was slowing down as the conversation got started, I really saw how everything developed slowly. This evening, she (“Elle”) started out almost in a mood of “whatever, i no longer care” . But soon she’s drawn in again to her own desperation and began to repeat the things that got her into this obsessive mess (something about as we keep repeating, we become). It hadn’t occurred to me until tonight that she did indeed hung up the phone after saying “bon soir”, but the other side called her back! One could ask why is the other party kept feeding her this unhealthy cycle. But of course one can see a decent human being perhaps is indeed concerned what the other person might do, feels guilty, and calls back. And yet this is how the cycle continues to no ends.

I must repeat again how much the piano plays such an important role in changing the mood. This whole piece is full of monologues, but there were very few places where there’s a full music line which Antonacci shaped GORGEOUSLY with the piano leading the way. If you listen on the radio link, you can spot them easily.  I might come back and highlight a few to get us all who wants to explore started.  It did occur to me sitting there that I could listen to ACA sings this more than 10 times, and by the 10th I’m sure i’d get the shape of this piece all mapped out. One could feel the pace increasing as the intensity ramped up to its max.. to the final “Je t’aime” in plain deep voice to no music. Elle is left holding the phone as the last note from the piano arrived, lights out.

I also like this ending a lot. Different that 3 nights ago. Almost a different human being. I’m quite sure my determination to skip the translation helped tremendously to feel the flow, experience the pauses (which I think she might have used extensively last time as well, but that I was too busy *trying* to untangle from the text to let the moments took place) and all the fine details. Stunning. And interesting how each night is so different. Made me really want to hear her on the last night as well :-). But that is a wrap this spring already for me and ACA. I’m already home thanks to an 11.45pm flight, very optimal use of time. I was hoping she’d come back to San Francisco next year, but I’m told they don’t have her on the program.. oh well, Vienna then :-). I can’t believe it’s over already. That was some experience.

About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

7 Responses to stunning Anna Caterina Antonacci in San Francisco

  1. Anik LaChev says:

    Thank you, this is beautiful.
    Your descriptions made me hunt don YT clips on the side, and now I have reread the entire thing again just to revel in your amount of detail and contextualization.

  2. Anik LaChev says:

    PS. Had to think of you when I saw this review today:

  3. Anik LaChev says:

    Did you see this tribute to her current appearances? You probably have the broadcast already, but…

    • thả diều says:

      oh thank you thank you!! no i didn’t know about this or the broadcast! just done with a telecon so now i can enjoy my milk tea to this.

    • thả diều says:

      so many thanks again for the link. it’s a reaaalllly great concert. She sang Didon’s last aria! I think she mentioned somewhere she likes this role.. though i think they always cast her for Cassandre. So senstivity, 😥 . Also, Armide! now i should go find her Armide on net. That’s a role perhaps they should cast her in the next outing in Wien with Minkowski! and for the same round bring back a certain Alcina!

      • Anik LaChev says:

        — how amny tiems can I click like?

        (what I also enjoyed about the post with the concert link is the continued appreciation she internationally receives from a more thoughtful clientele. Very much deserved.)

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