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.

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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…

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.

missing Kasarova romeo in munich

please excuse this post. i’m somehow in a complaining mood for the whole 2 nights now… so not so many pictures, just loads of words. you can even ignore everything after the endless praises for Nakamura below…

as you know, i bought several tickets to hear Frau Kasarova sing Romeo here in Munich. Before and since my arrival here, people have asked me if i was sad that my singer is not able to sing. i tried to keep an open mind and appreciate what is available to me. We all heard the premiere, it was very nice, the orchestra was sharp, tempo lively, Romeo emotionally delivered by Erraught, Giulietta breath-takingly delivered by Eri Nakamura, it’s bel canto, i was looking forward to it.

many things are easier said than done. This includes having impartial ears when you know what _your_ singer are capable of delivering in term of emotion. it also includes resisting the temptation to “compare” new performances to what you have set as standard. i’d say for the most part, i’m able to do that. when a character is delivered convincingly by any singer, i enjoy the experience and appreciate greatly the effort.

So, to cut to the point, i left yesterday’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi at the Bayerische Staatsoper with impressed mixed in with highly frustrating feelings. Let’s first focus on the best thing of the night: Eri Nakamura. When she sang, i forgot to breath. all emotions are laid out note by note. all phrasings have their purpose. She sang very often without the orchestra so you get totally un-disruptive emotional rides. Normally i skip the first scene of Act II when the soprano whines and drags, but even on my poor mp3 capture i found myself continuously going back to that (and scene 3 & 4 of Act I) just to listen to her. Hearing live, she was even more impressive. The voice is rich and expressive. You don’t need to care for her movements (I didn’t notice) because everything you need is already expressed in the voice. If you saw the production trailer, then you would have seen the ridiculous thing they made her do climbing up a sink-like thing and standing at the edge on 1 leg while singing “O qualte volte”. I was very glad on this night, she only briefly posed in this crazy form, then stood back on 2 legs to sing the aria. i don’t care at all for such stunts, not at the expense of her beautiful delivery. just simply exquisite. Also, her high notes are very beautiful, not forced, unlike the mp3 capture which i heard loads of ringing. I’m soo much looking forward to hear her again. soooo looking forward.

Back to the rest, as I mentioned before in Rene Jacobs’ Tancredi post, in these bel canto works by Bellini and Rossini, I listen much more to the orchestra and the chorus. To me, a “perfect” (for my ears) Romeo with uninspiring orchestra and chorus and headache inducing Giulietta is not a performance i go back to often. That is to say it’s a whole package, i don’t exclusively listen to Romeo. If that’s the case I’d go to my singer’s recital instead of the whole opera. which is why i somehow felt bothered last night. On the premiere night, the orchestra was very lively (not sure about sharp), playing full of energy. I already heard on the radio broadcast the chorus a little bit muddled and was hoping in the live performance they’d be more clear. On this night, the overture left me already quite uninspired. In my limited language: they’re not sharp, they were going through the motions, there was not enough contrast. The tempo was dragging majorly. As my friend (who attends the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks weekly) put it: they sound too blend, everything moving together. The chorus: they sound like they can’t speak Italian and are afraid to sing. Everything is smeared, like when you take off your glasses while looking at a dot. Friend’s take: you should listen to the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks (or something like that, my german is not good enough to catch everything she said), they’re much better. And since the opera starts with the overture followed by the opening chorus, i felt the energy was squeezed out of me and that it would be a trying night.

As for Romeo, let me be honest: I MISS Frau Kasarova VERY MUCH. I wasn’t sure what to tell people prior to this performance. I don’t know how Romeo was sung several nights ago, but this night I don’t feel connected at all to this Romeo. All the notes were there but not necessarily the emotion. Friend’s take: “I don’t feel this Romeo. I really feel the torn in Giulietta, but not in the other singer.” I left the opernhaus with a gap as big as a meteorite crater. don’t know why i was irritated, and might it be the same had Romeo been emotionally charged but Giulietta not well delivered? who knows. As was, i felt quite empty in feeling, this inability to connect. Which brings me to the point of missing deeply Frau K: I don’t really know what to expect from her, but i’m sure i would not be left out cold like this. This clip is not helping since she showed me the exact emotion I missed in last night performance, wooooah .

So, while i’m on complaining mode (which i dislike very much, it’s as if I pay the money therefore I feel entitled to complain 😦 ), but let’s talk about tempo and staging ideas! I think tempo should be set with specific purposes in mind. Several of us commenting on the swift conducting on opening night. I think it would suite very well with this Romeo. When you have slow tempo with the right singer who is able to communicate the emotion and capture the audience’ attention (think Salzburg 2003’s Sesto or this Scherza Infida), it works to perfection. When not able to, the whole thing drags. that’s what it felt like to me, major dragging every time Giulietta is not involved. dragging, on one of my favorite operas, can you believe i’d say such thing?? arrggh.

Onto the staging. Romeo and Giulietta are avoiding each other like avoiding leprosy! They are allowed to touch 3 or 4 times in the entire opera. It got more and more obvious in the tomb scene. If my lover is dying, i’d be all over hugging her in panic may be? can’t imagine i’d be standing behind / in front singing like i don’t dare to touch. When Romeo sings the final lines of “talk to me, i can’t see you anymore, etc”, she’s walking away from Giulietta. Then Romeo died, and Giulietta slowly walking behind and catching up just when she died. That’s when they finally touch as they continue their walk. Conceptually, this might work when carried out as envisioned (by whomever). On this night, they were already avoiding touching during the duet, it just made it that much harder for me to see the point.

argh, please excuse me. i was just simply frustrated. hic. hopefully things will be different on Wednesday…

clips from bellini’s i capuleti in Munich

update2: have you seen this trailer??? oh my, i nearly fainted

update: the leathers are out: 2 more clips at bottom, still working slowly, a white shirt assistant is urgently needed.

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I’ve gotten to only 2 so far, hopefully more to come on this same post demain.

Here’s Eri Nakamura’s take on Giulietta’s entrance aria, better sound than her Cardiff post on youtube:

Read more of this post

first glimpse of Eri Nakamura

, our Giulietta for spring 2011 international white shirt opera event coming up in 1 week. Incidentally i did watch this entire program (on YT) back in 2009

Eri Nakamura talks about expressing emotions in different languages.

Eri Nakamura sings Giulietta (i think she’s not being well recorded here, i can hear sound saturation and ringing everywhere in my headset…)

Part 3

edit: more bel canto since that’s what she’ll be singing the next month:
singing donizetti at Cardiff

“I’m competing with myself”, what a greeeeeat attitude

it’s only monday, can you tell i anxious… t-6 and counting. hope VK is in good health in time.