post capuleti montecchi round 5

i packed, ready to leave Romeo and Munich. The actual round 5, there’s not much more i can really say that I haven’t in the last 4 posts. Having a bad spot, i was alertly looking and, along a big wide smile, moved promptly to a GrEAT spot just vacated by a man (he moved 1 spot left of his original spot 🙂 ). We quickly exchanged smiles knowing these are the some of best spots in the house to view and hear. It turned out he had been to 4 performances compared to my 5, you can say we’re true fans? During the performance, just a load of exchanges of “wow”, “yes, just wow” between the two of us. Also some quick discussion on Eri Nakamura’s voice and how it fits with Romeo and with the staging. I must say I like both Eri Nakamura’s voice and her portrayal of Giulietta. The sink seemed to highlight her desperation even more. The acting has more chemistry today that last wednesday, that duet was quite amazing.

…anyhow, multiple sources informed me that Frau Kasarova would be signing after the performance. I had recently a strange experience during an autograph event (involving a friend) and was wondering if I would end up turning into a stranger who I wouldn’t even recognize while standing in front of someone i adore/admire greatly… while in queue, i managed to buy a great Romeo photo AND her book (in German!!) Fine, I’ll attempt to “read” with the help of google translator. Anyhow, there she was sitting and chatting away very comfortably with the Romeo’s hair i love. The first moment was awkward to say the least, me “hallo” and her exact response “hallo”… But, we did engage in a short conversation, “I want to ask when you’ll be in the USA”, “oooh, USA, I’m not sure….”, “to the east coast perhaps?”, “uhm…”, “I’m from Boston”, “Aahhhh, Boston!”, “and I’ve seen all five performances…”, “five! thank you!” She was quite surprised to hear that apparently. So, some more thanking on my part, great, i got autographs, everyone was happy (white shirts and non white shirt alike) and getting ready to leave…

asking Vesselina when she would come to sing in the US. many thanks to Suzette for the foto.

Something felt so wrong, i couldn’t bring myself to leave. I’ve been spending many many months listening and appreciating Frau Kasarova’s work. And here she was sitting so comfortably just 3 meters away chatting so friendly with her fans, I really needed a moment to just reflect. It’s not so much about being “obsessed” with a person and awestruck in their presence. Not sure what it was, but leaving definitely felt very wrong. So there i was, sitting by myself watching her chatting and signing away. Slowly everyone left and that was the right time. I truly wanted to thank her and it seemed only fit that a personal sincere message be delivered without pen + photos. We exchanged a warm handshake and thanks. She said she hoped to see me again in America, to which I replied I hope to see her sooner in Europe. That felt right. From someone who has been a big influence in my life recently, that’s the right way to send me off with a warm smile.


capuleti montecchi round 4

this will be an unjustly short report because of shortage of time on my part, again sort of in rambling mode. At the end of tonight’s performance, i somehow found myself feeling silently quite sad. sad because this will have to come to an end, that Vesselina Kasarova might be retiring the role after this Saturday. Beauty is a very subjective term. What i experienced in the past 1.5 week and today especially was sublime beauty. One could really say tonight’s performance was the most complete vocally. The orchestra took another day off from blasting (just what I want, stop playing is fine too); Eri Nakamura’s much lighter voice allowed VK to not have to push. The result was a performance at its highest quality, an immense treat for those who came to appreciate her art. In my humble opinion, this is a once in a life-time experience. Admittedly under-sampled, I do not think I/we will come across such a capable and intelligent mezzo anytime soon. Can we really say Bel Canto is written for her voice AND her interpretation?

As you all know, the commotion is gone. Everyone seemed much more relaxed and both singing and acting fit together nicely. I even had time to appreciate Capellio’s voice, a very very nice bass! Tebaldo also seemed more relaxed and resumed some of his goosebumps-induced fine singing without being pushed by the loud orchestra.

I really like Eri Nakamura. She’s my preferred Giulietta if i have to pick between her and Netrebko. Some of the reasons are personal of course, including the fact that she allowed for a much more relaxed VK (i.e., VK didn’t have to push constantly to be heard). I wrote a long post about her voice last year and everything holds true. It’s also interesting to re-realize how many notes Giulietta actually has :-). The whole evening, that orchestra (except for the incredible clarinetist) dragged itself through (entirely conductor’s fault i point finger), but that’s really fine. When Eri Nakamura and Vesselina sing, individually or in duet, the less the orchestra plays/interferes the better.

So, that should sum it up. I could go on and on about how wonderful the singers performed their respectively aria (such as the incredible and powerful Romeo’s entrance aria, heart-breaking tomb scene, Romeo-Giulietta balanced duets, amazingly making-sense and powerful Romeo-Tebaldo duet, breathing-stopped -inducing (?) Giulietta’s Act II scene 1 aria, Giulietta’s desperate cry for help (entrance aria)…) but where do I end? There’s 1 more show, the big-time-seeker “fans” are selling their tickets away. Get yourself one and come to the Bayerische Staatsoper this coming Saturday to experience Vesselina Kasarova singing Bel Canto live. That is my recommendation. Signing off until the last performance as I traverse Germany again the next several days.

ps- The dynamics of the couple has shifted, a tall VK in her handsome white shirt fits nicely the image of a protector to a fragile and desperate Giulietta. The height difference accentuates this feeling even further. a lovely sight.
ps2- i really thought i took a movie of the curtain call which included a wonderful and warm hug VK gave to Eri, but apparently i didn’t! Sorry. Time to pack and self-reflect on the evening…

capuleti montecchi round 3

It’s hard to put into words so much raw emotions. I’ll try to do my best here. This goes down as one of the finest moments in singing I have witnessed. To have seen previous performances, one can really put into perspective the efforts the singers put forth last night for the audience both in-house and worldwide.

I must start with Vesselina Kasarova. This trip was my first time ever hearing her singing Romeo live. Before that, it was all just audio inputs from 10+ years ago, be it her 1997 aria cd, studio recording 1997, Dresden 1998, New York 1999, or Chicago 2001 version. I was stuck on the Dresden 1998 radio broadcast for almost 2 years, couldn’t get past listening to any other take/singer. Somehow, after missing her here in Munich last year but getting to see a live performance of Romeo (with Tara Erraught), I became curious with the characterization. Since then, I’ve been on somewhat of a spree “sampling” Romeo from many other singers as well as other Kasarova’s take. This is not just listening to 1 or 2 arias but to go through the entire journey (opera) in multiple sittings. With that, I arrived here in Munich with high hope, not for the “perfect” voice I’ve heard in Dresden recording, but for the 3-d dynamic Romeo as interpreted by Frau Kasarova. Not all high/low notes are at the same place, but that doesn’t matter because a human-made product should never come in identical shape but rather be filled with warmth, inner feeling and emotion. Every night you don’t know which Romeo will be presented but whoever that is would make sense; that’s what I’ve come to love from Vesselina Kasarova’s performances.

I have said plenty about her voice on the premiere night, and at risk of being repetitive, everything holds true. What was more impressive last night was the effort she put in for the audience worldwide. That was the most powerful take of Romeo I’ve witnessed. It took 3 performances for me to understand Romeo’s “La tremenda ultrice spada“, and i think it does require a mezzo decisively blasting through the male chorus in “Taci! e tal sara!“. At least that’s the only way i can make sense in my head, an irreversible moment, all chances for peace are forever lost. In this version currently presented at the Bavarian opera house, the male chorus are loud but rather unorganized. Adding to that the full-strength orchestra and that requires Romeo’s “scream” sharply to pierce through. She brought her adrenaline last night, along with the attitude befit the scream. I am not saying that Romeo’s entrance aria is make or break  depending entirely on that particular moment. The first part, soft regretful phrasings in “se Romeo t’uccise un figlio” are also goosebumps inducing, that I always understand. But the 2nd half of the aria reflects such a big shift in mentality: the huge shock of an ideal youth arriving with hopes of negotiating peace and marrying Giulietta, only to hear his (her) love is lost and revenge is the only answer.

For the same reason, she brought her power in Romeo/Tebaldo duet as well. Here’s another case where loud orchestra + Tebaldo can make for a weak and indecisive Romeo. She was at her best here. Actually i was a little bit worried if she would have energy and any voice left for the very long solo in the tomb scene as it seemed everything was poured out in the grief for Giulietta’s death in the finale of the duet. A little bit on “Deh tu bell’anima”: the ending of the aria is very high, many of us have noticed her approach to the high notes are not as effortless as 10+ years ago. I wonder if a tiny bit slower tempo here would enable her to caress the phrase more, as twice now it appeared a bit rushed to my ears (and feeling during that moment). Let’s not even mention this comes after 2 hours of duetting + fighting through male chorus + orchestra!

And last but not least, all that powerful singing sometimes means nothing without the soft part of the voice which enable the dynamical characterization. Don’t you love her little self-talk in “Deserto e il luego” ? Another bit which always raises the hair on my back-neck was this in the tomb scene, which coincides with the moment Romeo raised Giulietta up in this staging.

whew, that’s a load of typing!! On to Netrebko! She BROUGHT it to the worldwide audience too!! big time! and paid much much more attention to the fine details in the singing this time around, which really helped bringing Giulietta’s feeling to live. I wonder if I’m getting used to her big voice, or that she softened it a little bit to help bring out so much more details in the dynamical phrasing (which i reallly love). Pair that with Kasarova’s tender phrasing and we have the duet for you dear audience. I really enjoy both their Act I duets, scene III in Giulietta’s room as well as scene IV during the standoff on the staircase. Here we also saw a little adjustments by the singers with Netrebko facing into Kasarova (who was holding her hand and faced out). This offered a much more balanced sound. At the very end though, Giulietta came down the stairs and this balance was lost (as I mentioned before, due to Kasarova being much higher up and in in the set).

I hope everyone enjoyed Netrebko’s Act II scene 1 take, she was always at her best here taking the time for the phrasing. I don’t like what the director made her do at the very last moment of the scene though: semi lying down while trying to sing the highly dramatic notes through the full-forced orchestra, especially when you can see she continuously trying to get back upright to launch the notes. Ideally i’d prefer that she makes Giulietta’s desperate plea while falling vertically along a post and then collapsing for example :-).

How long is this post already? I did promise a little explanation about the staging. In my opinion, this is a staging that is very very difficult to pull off. Last year i was completely lost. This time around… the brain is still processing… The Romeo/Tebaldo duet: this is an example of staging getting in the way of singing in my opinion. All those moments where Romeo / Tebaldo are supposed to sharply turn to facing each other in the standoff? Even Kasarova with her excellent leg-apart en-garde pose couldn’t quite help i confess. It’s a little too staged, no trust in the singers to do it based on feeling. The leg-together hands up-in-the-air pose was quickly done away by Kasarova to my delight. Oh, i think they should have put the plastic glove on her LEFT hand, don’t they realize she raises her left while singing and not right?

Ok, a last paragraph (however long) to express my “understanding” of the tomb scene. Oh, before that, a little detour if you don’t mind: I LOVE her way of using the wall, both in duet with Giulietta and in the tomb. To some of us, a wall is a non-movable obstacle. To Kasarova, it’s a story-building tool. The young Romeo is quite uncertain, it being the first in a long time seeing his (her) love, (s)he treads lightly hiding behind Lorenzo, staying as close as possible to the wall while peeking at Giulietta in her bedroom. During persuation, (s)he leaned onto the sink for support. At Giulietta’s refusal of his (her) plea, Romeo retrieved back to the wall in sadness and disappointment. I can tell you the difference between this Romeo standing facing wall and last year’s version: that last Romeo was so annoyed with the whiny Giulietta (s)he can’t see eye-to-eye with her any longer and must look away to hide his (her) anger. Yep, i was confused big time last year. This one, dare i jump off the 5th floor balcony into Romeo’s arms??

Ok, tomb scene (<– do click on that link). It took me until the premiere night this year (4th time) to understand the fine line between life and death they asked us to imagine. Something else even more chilling (in bitterness) on the 2nd night finally put the whole thing together for me. Let's start from the beginning. In the theater, it really gives you goosebumps at the first sight on Giulietta lying in the tomb with Romeo shrinking in the little corner. The poor chorus mumbled some in-cohesion to the fast jolly tune, whatever. Romeo mournfully monologuing, looking to Giulietta playfully waving fingers. Haven't we all done that, reciting a fun conversation we once had during good old time with a loved one? The resurrecting part, i have no opinion actually, it didn't bother me at all. Romeo continued to retreat to the corner shrinking further. Giulietta stretched a tiny bit, sadly un-noticed by Romeo. She woke up, chaos ensued. As Giulietta lamented that she had come back to only see Romeo leaving, Romeo turned over to hug her, but no, it is too late. Their hands barely touched and Romeo is already drifting into unconsciousness. It was really chilling to observe the timing of this from way above, the moment where there’s still breathing but sadly (s)he’s no longer there… That split moment is one of the two keys (the fine line is the other) to understand the staging here. When the acting is natural and instinctive, it just works! (or may be i have too much imagination 🙂 ). When just slightly unnatural, it leaves you scratching head.

Anyway, as i said, multiple views can only offer you more insights into this puzzle that is the staging. With the help of Kasarova and Netrebko, I hope to enjoy a couple more to come. I stood and screamed and waved for 20+ minutes. Frau Kasarova looked up, i wonder if she saw. I left the theater deeply moved by her art. Signing off for now as i tour Haar today before heading to Berlin, Bremerhaven, and Hanover (with of course detours back to the Nationaltheater for my beloved Romeo…).

ps0- excuse the shaking, first some annoying people wanted to leave behind me… then i wanted to clap and scream too (yes yes that's my voice :-)).

ps1- oh yes, the camera men/women deserved to be scorned! in this dreamy imaginative staging where not everything is exactly at the right place, zoom-ins are just nuisance, all perspectives lost.

ps2- yes, Dimitri Pittas sang quite well with good dynamic shaping too, Anik, it's not acoustic maneuvering.

capuleti montecchi round 2

back, from climbing off the rail to a free seat in front for the last 2 scenes (with Kasarova singing in full swing, yayyyy).  Tonight’s standing spot was severely limited in view (I knew that the moment they sent me the tix).  The staging is highly anti-symmetric, so a ticket on extreme left side (round 1) offers 60-65% view whereas on right gives only ~20%.  The other 20% (Act 1 scene 4, quintet on stairs) can only be viewd if you’re either sitting in the middle or at a lower level.  Anywho, this report is more in rambling mode…

Some details to report: Kasarova’s voice and musicianship are in top form! *love* , reallly *love*.  Without climbing, i wouldn’t have managed to see her in the tomb scene, which was why i was so adamant and decisive, apparently to the surprise of many upscaled opera-goers in the vicinity.  She breaks my heart everytime.  pooor Romeo.   Deh tu, bell anima was no longer rushed this night.  I’m really in awe, she pays so much attention to the fine detail in the singing.  And i spotted a really nice pianissimo just before the duet with Tebaldo too.

Anna Netrebko has a HUUUGE voice, she blasted above the all-male chorus plus full-strength orchestra at the end of Act II scene 1 without any problem.  Actually her singing was in top form this whole scene (though i saw only 20% of it, she migrated to the corner where the entire right standing side couldn’t see).  Unfortunately, because of the big voice, she also masked out Kasarova in their duet on the stairs (Act I, last scene), mainly because she’s standing directly in front of the audience and VK much higher up and in. My ears might be going south, but i have a feeling her voice is so big that it’s not the most flexible (and is once in a while off-pitched (?))

Anyhow, I have a few open questions for the readers, given that you will see the staging in 3 days!!  I don’t quite get the staging of Romeo / Tebaldo duet (hence the lack of discussion for it in last post as well.)  So, a hand-made version of it is to the left (black sloping asymmetric triangle + the “moon”).  Romeo started out standing on the apex, which one can easily interprets as standing on top of a hill to the rising moon in the far field, waiting for Lorenzo.  After mumbling (in very very nice piano and pianissimo bits), (s)he descended to the left… just in time for Tebaldo to arrive from the right climbing up to the apex.  Then they started singing to each other while exchanging positions around the corners (while showing off their plastic gloves, that’s just really strange.)  At one point, Tebaldo grabbed Romeo’s glove, only to see him (her) shaking it off and they faced off again.

Then Giulietta’s funeral came and gone, Tebaldo took off his plastic glove while Romeo stood legs together hands apart to finish off the most energetic part of their duet. I guess both actions symbolize them giving up in different manner, but why is Romeo using that stand? It looks quite strange every single time i’ve seen it. At the end, Romeo walked off (just that, not quietly, not forcefully, just off) leaving Tebaldo looking quite lost on the “hill”. Somehow i just can’t connect the storyline together in this scene at all. To make the matter more “confusing”, I can not understand the tempo set here by Yves Abel. It seems he wants high drama by making it exceedingly slow. I know Kasarova is one of the few singers who can sustain the audience’s attention just from her singing (e.g., the beautiful monologue in the tomb), but here, it seems both Romeo and Tebaldo were pushing to their limits trying to sustain the drama… and yet when they were done singing each elaborate phrase, the music was still not up and running. So, twice now (and every single time last year) it sounded, at least to me, quite dragging. That really irks me, especially when we know this duet can really generate high charges (and here’s another reason i really wish Marcello Viotti has the baton).

On that same tempo note, I really don’t understand the jolly tune to start the tomb scene. First, it’s sped up very fast, then slowed down to epic tempo (many of us noticed that last year). But why speeding it up?? I can’t envision a scenario that makes sense of the tempo, argh. At least the “typical” tempo like that set by Eve Queler, it implies a sense of bitterness; i always have the image in the head of chill wind blowing the leaves outside the tomb, with the next phrase in the music taking us to the inside…

Anyhow, now that i’ve seen VK’s 2nd take on Romeo’s entrance aria, i’m still a bit puzzled by the mood of Romeo as well. In this 2nd take, she acted a bit less, so that didn’t quite help… (The singing is top notch, just trying in my head to get it fit with what’s going on on stage 🙂 ).

Dear Bayerische Staatsoper, may i have this wall-sized poster when you’re done?

Lastly, we’ve all seen the trailer with VK spectacularly executing the “fall” on top of Giulietta next to the sink. (Oh, first, she ditched the leather, might have been too hot? ;-), tux, even tux shirt are gone, it’s all white shirt now.) I quite curious which version of that “fall” we’ll see on broadcast night. Round 1, might have been Netrebko forgetting to get to the sink (?), they somehow made the fall happened in the middle of the stage but it didn’t look very convincing. Tonight, Netrebko was still working on falling, but VK was spectacular ;-). very very nice. Sadly, i missed seeing the entire first part of the duet as they sang/caressed each other in the corner that was invisible to all standing-tix on right side… Anyhow, i now have the luxury to sample each night various parts to try to make sense of this entire staging + conductor… but wow, singing is top notch. Even Tebaldo is great! I really like his singing tonight.

So there you have it. hopefully i can also see the broadcast at some point down the line, as it might provide the most complete picture… Below is the curtain call, note the fabulous view from climbed-down seat! (still uploading, 60min to go…)

ps- At least now i understand why my tix are so off at extreme points in the theater: the darn double-tix prices. I was very specific with my price range to end up on door 2 on either side (1 = middle, 3 = extreme left/right), but thanks to that nice tix jump, i end up 4/5 times at doors 3…

Anna Netrebko & Vesselina Kasarova brought the house down

wow. just wow.
i’ll be back much later todaz-tomorrow after jetlag and hopefullz with an adjusted kezboard… but ja. uhm, also in love with Romeo.

Back. So, my friends got a 40-min very animated version of the description of last night, one which left them amazed at my enthusiasm for the music and at ability to describe the shaping of phrases in the voice (loads of hand waving). Let’s see if i can duplicate the act here with written words…

I left the National theater in a daze. If one leaves the opera house last night not impressed, i don’t know why they would go to opera. At some point after the duet, i realized _this_ is exactly why I fly here in hope to see this _five_ times.

The evening started a bit rough as i got up quite late from an afternoon nap and ran frantically to the subway/theater. Got there 2 min before starting time, sweating profusely while still heavily jetlagged, the whole thing was a bit unreal, had to remind myself who were set to appear *live* in 20min… With so much discussion on the internet about Kasarova’s voice, register break, heading toward heavier repertoire, some how i found myself worried a bit… what if she is singing very different from what _you_ expected? How will the audience receive her? Will the acting make sense or will it look artificial? This is the problem when you fly 1/3 way around the world to see something you have been so looking forward to for so long. Would it be a set up for disappointment? I even laugh at myself a bit while reminding what I heard in her masterclass, the voice is still there i self-mumbled, just relax and enjoy the show, take it as is!

Let me state that I’m a Kasarova “worshiper”, in case it’s not clear. She blew me away! Beyond all my expectation.  It’s (self) unanimous, if I hadn’t heard her before, I would have become an instant fan last night, NO DOUBT. First, there’s the voice. WOW!! i found myself drowning in it, unbelievably warm and full (and you know Bellini wrote it so the singers can keep singing for loooong time, to the pleasure of the audience (me!)). Haven’t heard her live in such a long time, i really forgot how happy the inner body feels listen to Kasarova live. It’s not just the beautiful voice, but what she does with it, varying intensity, shaping the word, the phrase, creating 3-D visions (a vase of warm fluid instead of a vase image), tighting knots in one’s stomach, tingling one’s spine. truly blew me away. The acting is so subtly accurate, and such great fine details vocally (little piano trills here and there to convey uncertainties). It’s all in the timing of the phrase when/what she does with the hands + body. The duet, all that to slowly arrive chest-to-back behind Giulietta, Romeo, take me… The tomb scene, how hopelessly unfortunate, why couldn’t she wait 2 minutes, Giulietta would have woken up!!! Poor poor Romeo.

Having impeccable and intuitive timing for acting, these are the words one would use to describe both Kasarova and Netrebko. Anna Netrebko has a HUGE and beautiful voice!! In fact the voice was so big, it took a lot of self convincing on my part at the beginning to believe this is a very young Giulietta (the voice really gave a first image of a very mature and lustrous woman.) Her ability to shape the words/phrase through voice intensity is also on display and complement the acting well. The scene dueting with Kasarova is truly the vocal highlight. For acting, i have to say the final minute was amazing. I’m sure previous singers had tried to get this idea across but i didn’t see it until last night. Romeo has taken the poison and is now slowly drifting away from Giulietta to the brink of death–an imaginary line on the stage. Giulietta quickly caught up, only to catch Romeo at his(her) last breath, CLICK, Romeo crossed the line. Their timing of this catch (CLICK) was incredibly accurate, you really understand the fine line separating life and death. Giulietta let out her final cry, and CLICK, she is reunited with Romeo. As the lovers slowly drifted away, the capulets rushed out to the empty Giulietta dress in the bright tomb, light shut down, total darkness, the end! amazing!

“Some duets should never end” (c) Wilfried Hösl (clik on image for review in German)

Tebaldo sung very well, though i admit didn’t really quite pay close attention to his first aria (still in daze due to sweating and such). The other characters are fine too with their small parts. I’m still not a big fan of the chorus, i supposed the staging doesn’t help, putting them behind the walls altogether in the tomb scene. I don’t know why it doesn’t sound “sharp”? Is it the distance? the number of singers? the timing? no idea. The conducting was very sharp, though tempo is still dragging a bit (more later). I’m sure my seat has everything to do with how well i heard the orchestra (way on top, a bit way to the left).  Big applause also to the solo clarinetist, cellist, and harpsichord player! In fact i was busy looking at her and missed Netrebko climbing up the sink.

So, some more words about staging + acting. It almost completely makes sense to me now!! If you have read my post from last year’s performance, surely you remember my VERY loud complaints for tempo + acting + staging. Romeo and Giulietta are not allowed to touch each other very much in this production. I was VERY confused last year of the reason, mainly because the acting suggested that they were practically strangers or distant lovers at times. But here, it seemed they actually touched each other a lot more, and the time they were singing apart, it still made sense. How? hmm, not sure, though i attribute it undoubtedly to mainly Vesselina Kasarova’s (and some of Netrebko’s) ability to make sense of any staging idea tossed at them.

This being Netrebko’s first run, i wonder if she was still adjusting to some of the “crazy” things she has to do. “Oh! quante volte” started a little bit shaky, which i entirely attributed to her trying to adjust balance standing on 1 leg facing the wall on that sink. The stretch of the hand still didn’t quite fit yet… It took her at least 3 phrases in to reorient herself on 2 legs facing out (I really thought she was going to fall off that sink!) before the rest of the aria was given full attention and delivered with great emotion. During her scene before taking the poison, she literally sat down (though with legs hanging, great legs btw) and sang through the entire scene. Hanging legs mentioned because i don’t think it gave her all the support she needed, hence various moments of legs tensing up as she caressed the phrase. Huge applause resulted there.

There were 2 places Kasarova’s voice was masked out: (1) in duet with Giulietta in the last scene of Act I where the Capulets and Montegues met each other on the stairs ready for battle and (2) toward the end of duet with Tebaldo. (1) was mainly due to my seat, she was completely invisible at the top of the stair (hence singing behind the stage ceiling) while Netrebko was in full view with a large voice. (2) was probably because i was directly above the orchestra, and by the end of that duet, orchestra was blasting in full strength, only Tebaldo’s voice managed to get out on top.

© Wilfried Hösl . Clik on image for link to Bayerische Staatsoper photo album on facebook.

Second to lastly, Romeo’s entrance was portrayed quite interesting. Based on recordings only, i’ve always imagined a Romeo coming up full of youth’s arrogance sword swinging. This Romeo was somewhere between being afraid and i still not quite get the part during “La tremenda ultrice spada”, not sure what his (her) feeling was. Can’t wait to see the next version :-). “Deh tu bel anima” was surprisingly rushed. The last bit of that is soo high, and Kasarova (from various recordings) always seemed to take time to caress the phrase to convey Romeo’s anguish. Yet last night, it sounded somehow rushed through, i almost thought she was short of breath. It might have been that she was a bit overcome by the emotion (as she once mentioned in her interview!) Will be looking forward to hear that again too.

So, last bit, white shirt related: I LOVE Romeo’s hair!!!! They’re probably tuning everything for the stream broadcast this coming Saturday. I wouldn’t be surprised if they taped this entire run so the singers can smooth out any kinks in the acting… And they must have gone through that last few interviews preparing Kasarova’s hair and settled with her lovely masterclass’ version? anyhow, i decisively love this much better than the previous edition of hair down by the shoulder :-). The boots during the first duet were LOVELY. Too bad she switched out for a different pair for the rest.

Anyhow, altogether, much much to discuss. Not too many photos, but here’s another curtain call. We stood there and clapped for a good 15min! Moments during scene-change, where it was dragging last year, felt short this time as the time were fully occupied with spontaneous applause. Oh, i was overwhelmingly surprised when Netrebko didn’t receive the loudest applause during curtain call! They LOVE Kasarova here in Munich!! Another blogger posted some VERY lovely photos including one of the two of them hugging immediately after the end. And as some readers might have noticed, that was a very nice exchange to decide who should go get the conductor too :-). In my opinion, if you didn’t leave last night show with much much to discuss and praises, I don’t know why you go to operas!

coming out…

of spring hibernation! yes yes, i already out of dat closet long time ago, though every “spring” recently has the tendency to send me directly back in just to avoid them *flowers*.  Anywho, i declare hibernation over! the air is buzzing with chirps of live streams, weeeee.  All info can be found either at Anik‘s place, Smorgy‘s place, Intermezzo‘s, email (via sharp Eyes), Bayerische Staatsoper’s website, or their facebook site.  mark yo calendar, don’t miss May 19th’s live stream of I capuleti e i montecchi.  come gather at Anik’s place for chit chat along the way.  i will try to sneak out a curtain call photo / clip, though i can be a bit shy when it comes to hollering (especially when that last time resulted in a voice crak!)

So, allow me, music to celebrate _end_ of dormation (?)

If i have my way, i’d ship out Yves Abel and send in Marcello Viotti pronto for this production.  To me, the most important moment of this opera is really the overture (!) and opening chorus.  The whole stage is set.  And to me, this above overture is _it_. To start, you get a little thunder at 0.16 in the form of drum. I’ve read somewhere comments about how jolly the overture is that it doesn’t give hint to the dark drama that soon unfolds. But no, it’s because you don’t hear the right instrument(s) at the right time passage!  How does it work that some conductors get that out and others don’t?  We have this expression in vietnamese “xé ngang bầu trời”, when a dark sky is ripped apart with a blade of lighting (if you grow up like us without electricity, this image can be very vivid).  That’s what it feels like having the piccolo interject sharply announcing looming disturbances.  But actually the piccolo already enters subtly mingling with strings before that, as well as ~02.50 along with strings, drums, horns.  It does remind me a lot of the black swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake: You’re not sure yet why she’s there, but you smell trouble! By 3.22, she’s now the main attraction, making her entrance to the announcement (and resignation) of the horn. Also, this is the only overture i heard where the strings, brass, and piccolo have equal intensity (balance) beginning at 3.31.  In fact, so many times, the brass+drums just overpowers everyone and you get the feeling you’re in a completely different opera altogether.

Do loop back to the beginning of the overture. rolling up sleeves. hija!
Edit: while we’re at it, here’s my opening chorus of choice, from that same live performance. listen for that piccolo infiltrating, eagerly stirring up turmoil amongst men.

(ps- during dormant time, this was running round the clock…)

(ps2- the ladies of 1.FFC Frankfurt is playing in the women’s championship league final on May 17 in the same town, guess where i’ll be :-D)

alles ist gut in münchen

all is very well indeed! Tonight is the best so far. It felt like premiere night. I got the best seat with a full top view of the orchestra and clear sound from all singers. I still think it’s a combination of sound and off-balance night the other day, but let me start by discussing about seating arrangement at the Nationaltheater so we can understand better (perhaps?) my complaints last sunday and praises today:

Nationaltheater — Bayerische Staatsoper

The arrows are where I and friend stood/sat on sunday night. Hers on the 1st balcony was quite expensive, mine standing tix for 16.50 EUR on 4th level. At both arrows, we were under low ceiling cover, orchestra sound arrived sluggish, Romeo audible but lacking vocal expression, Giulietta superb sound the entire time. The difference between upper and lower arrows (besides the enormous ticket price gap): orchestra louder (but still sluggish) and at near eye level with Giulietta on balcony level.

I was at the very top level, at blue circle (standing) for Gruberova last saturday and at yellow rectangle (sitting, first row) tonight. (Equivalence of blue circle on right side is yellow oval on left side.)  Especially tonight, I got absolutely fantastic view and sound from the orchestra. At both operas, all singers were very well heard. Romeo today was full of vocal colors which we heard during the premiere (which were drowned out by orchestra if you sit anywhere in middle and far away from stage). One thing about Giulietta though: I am hearing much more loud singing from Nakamura, the same way she was recorded on premiere night that got me wonder why she doesn’t sing piano + pianissimo more often… It seems that when the orchestra is not heard, her sound is exquisite with all levels of intensity expressed. But because I was on top of the orchestra today, my guess is that her subtleties are drowned out by any orchestra sound which came directly up to my ears, and which got me wishing if the orchestra could just take a break and let dear Nakamura expresses her feelings.

So there you have it. A much better night in term of sound. i happy again. Now onto white shirt details which also contain some spoilers. So if you (Purity) are going to see this later this week and want some surprises, you should skip the rest of this post.

I counted, Romeo is allowed to touch Giulietta 8 times in this entire opera: (1) at the end of the first duet, a “kiss” on the cheek, about 5 sec, (2) when she buttons the wedding dress for Giulietta at beginning of “Vieni a me riposa”, took Frau K a while, Ms Erraught achieved it in 2 sec, (3) pulling Giulietta’s hand to leave just before “cedi ah cedi un sol momento”, 1 sec, (4) catching Giulietta when she’s falling toward the end of “Vieni in me riposa” which ended up with her being on top of Giulietta (for a proper demonstration finish the clip with frau K, i’ll explain just a second what i mean by proper), < 30sec, (5) barely touching the underarm of Giulietta with her wrist while carrying a sword with gloves and staring blankly forward during scene 4 Act 1, ~30sec (there was a pix w/ frau K which is now removed), (6) pulling Giulietta from horizontal to vertical position just before “Deh tu bell anima”, 4 sec, (7) looking away while Giulietta pries her hand for poison, 3 sec, and finally (8) holding hand as they walk off to happy-land, 10sec. I don’t need to time how long the two sing together in the 3-hr opera but that’s a total of less than 1.5 min of touching and not all of it is willingly or to a conscious Giulietta. I think with the right level of acting, we might see that Romeo actually loves Giulietta. Here it seems at times she’s annoyed and ready to drop this Juliet the sooner the better.

On a (fun) related note, I’d like to suggest we put together a white-shirt tutorial for Tara Erraught. It seems the direction is for her to stand with 1 leg straight, 1 leg bent, 2 legs apart, guy-like. So, for every scene where bent-leg is required, we get this:

romeo waiting for giulietta to stop whining

whether she’s waiting for Giulietta or Tebaldo to stop singing, we get the same pose, same facial expression. I, myself a white shirt, would really have preferred something that channels a little bit more emotion, like this perhaps:

blurry Kasarova, demonstrating how to bend everything

May be it’s really true the direction is to show Romeo is annoyed during the duet (I hope not), but that’s the feeling I got watching her twice now. the tomb scene is even more difficult to watch… But before we get there, finally Romeo is allowed to catch a falling Giulietta and proceeded to get herself nicely on top, yay! well, let me see if I can find an image of what it kind of looks like 😉 …

All jokes aside, it was a very beautiful night of singing. I’m looking forward now to this saturday performance. good thing all my tickets now are up on the gallerie, so no more low covers. so, alles ist gut. even i now able to understand about 5 sentences at the opernhaus per night, generally along the line of “where are you? what i see?…” can’t seem to get a good shot though, probably because i’m too far up. So, here’s an HD curtain call of the night.