music for saturday evening

From a 3-part concert, with links to the other 2 parts here: 1 & 2. Of course I’ve seen these 3 clips many times before and remember a female conductor (sorry for my ignorance..) but just now realized who she is! Via back channel 🙂 (thanks again!) I’ve just recently learned she was conducting with the Paris Mozart Orchestra (PMO) a concert with Myrtò Papatanasiu singing Mozart arias just 2 days ago (sadly no broadcast, but you can see some photos on the PMO’s facebook site if you can get there). Upon further readings I realize Claire Gibault is not only a fantastic conductor but a musician, an advocate for social justice, women and gender equality. So, this is a proper occasion to enjoy this collaboration once more (since the youtuber disables embedding, click on the image to listen to the music on youtube).

“D’amour l’ardente flamme”
Berlioz “La Damnation de Faust”
Anna Caterina Antonacci
Claire Gibault conducting the Slovak Philharmonic.

click on image to go to youtube video

La damnation de Faust @ Oper Köln

I have an even earlier train to catch tomorrow! but i didn’t like the sloppy post last night as it did absolutely no justice to the wonderful conducting of Nathalie Stutzmann. Will come back and add more comment to that. So, let’s have a proper post here if possible..

This is one of the few works i know by heart (from listening). Usually for these pieces, it’s always great to hear live for the first time as you discover so many things happening in the orchestra and interaction between it and chorus / singers. Roughly you need three good singers for the main characters, a superb chorus, and a conductor’s idea and ability to shape the orchestra. Also, for mezzo-lovers, it’s decisively split into two and a half parts: I=no mezzo, II.1=mezzo , II.2=no mezzo. I’ll discuss the parts in order below.

Let’s start with the best: Samuel Youn as Méphistophélès. I put him above all because he has such a big role, and the moment he stepped on the stage, the ENTIRE concert lit up. Great voice, but most importantly, his phrasing, shaping, and characterization. There’s always a fine line again between over the top (ott!) and just right when it comes to portraying the devil, and he absolutely delivered. Actually while he gestured ordering the chorus to “Amen”, i realize how ironic attending this right after Messiah: small intimate orchestra + chorus versus flamboyant devil with *extravagant* horns + drums + harps and rowdy chorus. No wonder we are all going to hell, such fun!! 😀
If you know this piece at all, it starts with a gorgeous violin line followed by opening line of tenor. Honestly, I would prefer an entirely different Faust. Nothing wrong with the singing, but it’s just singing. I was thinking was it jet-lag again that i don’t digest the start.. which infiltrated into the Hungarian March.. read that again, _into_ the Hungarian March. That’s a third of part I and usually for me one of the most beautiful sections. Luckily the devil arrived just in time!
The chorus is extremely important in this piece, and it’s mixed.. at times they sang like in a flea market completely jumbled up (leading up to Hungarian March), yet at other times very precise and full of power.. While we talk about Hungarian March, this is also a good start to discuss conductor’s take. For the most part, i really like how Markus Poschner shaped the orchestra. At the start somehow everything sounded a bit off (?) in term of sound, could it be that my ears were adjusting to the tent? For the march, I think there’s a “reasonable” tempo somewhere that makes the piece sounds good as opposed to dragging or everyone dropping swords running over others. This version is somewhat a mix-bag, with particularly fast tempo toward the end where i had the feeling the horns + trumpets couldn’t keep up, so they sounded quite out of sync and chaotic. What can I say, everything really came together once Mr. Devil came to the scene :-).
For the orchestra, i need to google the name of the first violinist, an asian, similar haircut to mine, same height, SUPERB!!! 🙂 Again, for this piece, you need a lot of very precise bow movements to accentuate the mood change. The best memory I have is *to* this chorus (which, incidentally is also the best chorus I heard), the precise marching movement of violins are quite eye-opening.

Right, Part II. First, when Vesselina Kasarova is singing, I will always nicely upgrade myself to the best position in the hall if there’s a seat available :-). Already in part I I scanned the scene simply because of a very tall woman sitting right in front blocking my view.. and spotted a smack middle-seat 2 rows in front with absolutely no obstacle (row11seat35 to row9seat29), here’s the view:
My small regret for the evening: that I didn’t book ticket to see her 3 times singing this. But you know the way her schedule is changing by the day, I would go broke switching plane ticket every other day.. Ok, done lamenting. First, a question for the sound in the tent perhaps.. when started she sounded quite truncated. By that I mean you only hear some part of the sound but not the entire word. Second, it’s true her french is a bit strange :-). Marguerite has the opening scene (which if you haven’t heard already i posted almost twenty times here and on my channel) where she made the ascent En songe je l’ai vu… lui… mon futur amant, quite breath taking. I am always so much more in love with “Roi de Thulé” aria than the rest, the music is very melancholy, almost ironic if you realize her fate by the end.. The breathing stopped, for a moment i completely forgot where I was, transported to an external planet, alone to ponder life to the pulsation. Quite an experience. It also occurred to me whoever is discussing about her voice “problems” is not listening to her live singing Marguerite :-). The duet and trio are great, suuuch a pleasure watching her voice piercing through the tenor/bass combo on the side. Their positions in front of the orchestra, with her in the middle, helps greatly with sound balance (clearly after my move).
But I will also admit I don’t always fully digest her “D’amour l’ardente flamme” . For this occasion, again I’m wondering about the “truncation of sound” thing because some of her singing went “missing” even though you can see her movements.. Perhaps this is related to something Anik mentioned once about the timing of some vocal ?? that now takes longer to open and for the sound to come? One striking thing I remember thinking as soon as the opening phrase arrived is “poor Marguerite, she doesn’t know yet what will come..”. That is to say she completely inherited Marguerite you now feel for the character. Just to mention the one part that I love the most in HER version (both here and on weimar radio broadcast): exactly here (you will just have to watch the photos since her singing Marguerite has made it to all my slideshows in 2012)

Absolutely goose-bump inducing, especially in combo with the uplifting violins. Her last part, i will always get, “Il ne vient pas…”, sniff sniff..

So she was gone (no more singing but she remained on stage), the rest was up to Faust (I drifted!) and Méphistophélès (I cheered!). As the male chorus partied to Méphistophélès’ “Je suis vainqueur!” I celebrated! More horns, drums, bells, harps to round out the music. A fantastic evening!
I had the camera setting messed up with only bad photos so decided to switch on the movie function, here it is, the last performance of this run. Big applause. I waited a bit wanting to say hello to Frau K but she bursted out running with this woman-TV interviewer (the show where she sang a Bulgarian folk song as a birthday gift to one of the guests) so I didn’t intrude. That’s about it. I am glad to have made the trip, one which I almost skipped if not for the combo with Stutzmann/Orfeo55/Händel/Mingardo…

music to start the week

hurra, finally a full recording with Anne Sofie von Otter! Actually i’ve listened to some of her recordings but much prefer (as always) live recordings. The same yt-ber also uploaded that full version of mozart mass in c minor with her and Barbara Bonney. anywho, here’s _again_ berlioz’ “La damnation de faust”, picking up at lovely female chorus entrance:

more chance to explore some of those singers a bit before my (opera) time, yay. I quite enjoyed Georg Solti’s take. just barely making it to the Hungarian March, and continuing forward… This is one of the few works I “addicted” to.

(ps- it almost looked like the PROMS, until the german subtitles appear…)

ASvO made her entrance @ 1hr10min07sec, what a voice!!
back after 3rd round, this time with time tag:
@1hr38m45s = entrance to D’amour l’ardente flamme
really like overall tempo + all singers