music list for long weekend

i love the night after deadlines, absolute silence, the mailbox is dead, they have all gone to bed, and i just woke up.
the last piece of music before total shut down was c.c.catch “heartbreak hotel”… and now that i show up in the office and realize it’s friday night, some music is in order. But “getting the feet wet” again is always a bit of a hurdle for some reason, so perhaps let’s start the night with that great bulgarian folk-song interview over at Eyes’? I understood only 1/2 of what she said (primarily due to failing anatomy) but hearing the difference is quite amazing. Also interesting is that the male voices don’t seem to vary as much as female’s.

So, on the list for tonight:
1. la forza del destino with A.Harteros
2. L’incoronazione di Poppea with S.Connolly and M.Persson

but think I need something less heavy duty to re-introduce the ears to music, so how about this?


the contraltos’ duet, simply because it’s so rare!


trip report

some random thing, i had a dream last night staying at my dear friend’s place in Munich, saw Frau Harteros in the exact Leonora dress walking down the street to the place *next door*!!!, then bid goodbye to another good friend who i missed seeing last month due to snow storm.. she’s moving back to Moscow at the end of the month so seems to be entering sub-conciously..

Munich was a very very nice and special trip for many reasons, especially the opportunity to see those who make me happy. Also had an opportunity to visit an art museum which i must admit to really enjoy, it’s always nice to have someone explaining a bit what you’re looking at. This past weekend I spent de-bugging time listening and sending this around to introduce friends to Frau Harteros.

year-2014 report

year-2014 report

If one has a long-lasting memory of a certain event in life, for me it was the jet-lagged afternoon stumbling in sweat into the Bayerische Staatsoper in May 2012 and experiencing VK live singing Romeo. (In case you are curious, a related life-long memory was the moment Frau Harteros opened her phrase in Wien.) Waaaaay back when first discovered opera, I left what must be my first ever comment on dame Purity’s site proclaiming i’d come anytime VK sing in trouser, to which Purity replied the VK-Händel effect on her is such that she would come to *any* VK performance. At the time i thought that was a bit extreme, surely would i care at all if VK sings Helene in a dress… Fast-forward to 2012, witnessing her sing Romeo, and subsequently hearing radio broadcast of la Mort de Cleopatre from Salzburg, followed by video stream of Il pianto di Maria in Helsinki, I reached the same conclusion: when she sings, but especially in baroque, I clear my schedule.
I have the feeling now talking to a few people that there are 2 group-of-opinions, one that relies mostly on her recordings and one that attends many of her live concerts/performances. One of the most rewarding conversations I had this trip in Munich was with S, a devout VK’s fan 🙂 . Of course since we’re devout worshipers, one could say we agree with each other ;-). We talked about everything VK-related, her voice, her repertoire, her schedule, differences between performances 1-day apart, especially why one day it didn’t work and yet suddenly the next it was magic. That is the nature of “live” i supposed. But i really understand her and Purity well, in that we hear deeply what we internally search for when listening to VK live. There are roles we never understand the meaning until when she takes over, arias we never manage to connect until suddenly we hear the point in her expression. My flight back to boston was surprisingly *very* long so i let the playlist flushed without picking/choosing, and inevitably am deeply touched again by the “simple” thing such as this, which really makes you pause and gain the deeper understanding of the phrasing. For me, I don’t know what each of her live performance will be like, hit or miss, who knows, but this feeling is worth searching for (for myself).

(the whole thing is here).
VK is singing a veeeery niiiiice and long list of Händel’s arias at a festival in Karlsruhe this coming 2/March, and i very sad to not be able to attend. Technically i could still attempt to jet from somewhere in middle of the US in middle of a meeting for just 1-day to hear her live singing Händel, perhaps I should.. in the meantime, i thought it’s interesting to have these two in parallel, primarily because when first heard her sing in Helsinki, I thought the section around min 1.20 (1.35 in 2nd clip) was rather strange and self-wondered how other singers would maneuver it. Here, for your entertainment, i quite enjoy both, especially when they took the note and ascend at around minute 02.24 (02.54 in 2nd clip).

Helsinki, 6/jun/2012, radio broadcast, Vesselina Kasarova

Misteria Paschalia Festival, 25/mar/2013, radio broadcast, Sara Mingardo

il trovatore in munich


anja harteros


the program

Ever since missing out on the chance to hear Anja Harteros singing Leonora two summers ago I’ve been plotting my way and naturally cleared all schedule to show up here in Munich. A little bit of background: the live radio broadcast of this two years ago was the first time i listened to Il Trovatore. It was re-listened repeatedly in addition to me combing tube watching all available full versions there. So coming in to a first live experience, one has some “preferences” in mind, first being Anja Harteros. Based on radio recording, I had trouble with the constant loudness of JK’s (more later) and the vibration of Azucena, thus was quite ready for a fresh take of the two characters. Also due tendency to skip to loudness + vibration, for me the opera was “Tacea la notte placida”, then some long stuff in between, then Act 4 scene 1, then more loudness plus everyone dies, the end. Live experience then is an opportunity to fill in all those gaps :-).

To jog your memory, here’s a screen-shot of the staging, which also serves as the starting point of discussion:
More precisely, let’s start here:


view from seat “Galerie rechts, türe 2, reihe 1, platz 48”

Compared to that radio recording, the live experience was superbly effective, with perfection in sound balance, precision, and dramatic effect (for my jet-lagged brain). It’s a sequence of music + imagery, single burning cross in the center of endless darkness, Leonora searching for way with her arms extended with dark shaddow watching, distant chorus, sudden change of mood with woodwinds + horns, striking + short violin, Leonora, single plucking string, distant Manrico, distant chorus again. In the radio recording, somehow this balance was lost with Ms. Harteros voice + blurry horn dominating. Last night version, the sound balance was perfect (see positioning in picture as seen from my seat) and most importantly the entrance of horns (green oval) exceptionally precise such that it created then entire scene. Desperately sleepy from jet-lag, i immediately on edge of seat anxiously waiting for the dark unknowns of Leonora’s. Even the dragging chorus worked very well into the darkness here, sort of a whispering voice. Leonora is perfect! Her phrasing is simply exceptional. The funny thing about describing phrasing is that you just have to listen to many other versions to get an idea what works for the mood, and how a singer can capture that, intuition + talent i guess. So, I have no other words to describe except to leave you the the entire scene below to ponder her fate. What a privilege hearing such a voice live.
Ok, now the rest of the performance:

Anna Smirnova as Azucena is *very* good. I was amazed actually the contrast between hearing her live and on radio/video recordings (on 2 different occasions there). In theater one simply doesn’t hear the dominant vibration (what i call it, not sure terminology), but rather a replacement of highly effective phrasing + musical expression. You can follow the character based on her singing alone. Very much like. This helps tremendously in the “filling-in the gap” part. Given how loud she has to sing with orchestra (she didn’t have problem), i was wondering how VK would cope with such a character actually (and more VK’s ref below 😉 ).

Yonghoon Lee as Manrico: I heard him once before as Don Jose in Carmen at Hollywood Bowl, which doesn’t say a whole lot since the sound was blasting out of speakers. Inevitably he reminded me of why JK was so good in musical expression, at least at the beginning where I just didn’t like his phrasing at all (in my poorly musical ear, the emphasis of the phrases was somehow always on the wrong point..) Then came this scene
snap_manrico and magically his phrasing suddenly all aligned with my head! and i reminded of this interview where VK said along the line: (paraphrasing) “we’re singers, thus we take in breath, sing a phrase, then act” , and yet somehow it works just like that in this scene and beyond. quite cool! His dynamic range is also quite nicely displayed, not all the time “loud”, though I’m now suspecting where the mic are during recording has a lot to do w/ sound balance we get on audio vs live experience. Character-wise, he was sort of a passive mother-boy trying to act more macho than who he was at the beginning, some of which was mainly Lee’s a-bit-rigid-acting, but it worked well into the character.
Vitaliy Bilyy as The Count: audibly i think he’s just a tiny bit on the weak side but there are some very nice passages, including the prolonged duet with Leonora. Again the inevitable comparison: I preferred the one radio based on sound balance.

Staging: I really like the scene above, much much more simple compared to all other scenes, darkness where music + singers shine :-). The bed scene with Azucena + Manrico, totally a scene out of “law and order, SVU” if you follow that show. At times things are way too busy, but the luxury of seeing live is you get to pick where your focus is.
Conductor: Paolo Carignani: super like his take, so much more sound balance compared to radio recording, i think again it has to do with locations of mic versus my position. As a result, simply fataaaastic orchestra playing, no complaint!
Clarinetist: BEAUTIFUL!!! (the playing part, i was too far to see her face 😉 ). She has some realllllly nice duet with Leonora and the Count, the first part always gives me goosebumps, the way Anja Harteros took and lifted the note with clarinet providing the bed (to the Alps beautiful scenery 😉 ).

Think i missed a few more points somewhere.. such as attention-demanding Harteros whenever she’s on stage even when not singing. I’ve concluded it’s completely justified to pay the higher price to also “see” her well in addition to hearing ;-). I didn’t dear readers, rather opted for my usual “cheaper” seats up in galerie where the sound was perfect with a clear view of the orchestra, will I ever self-negotiate to come closer and miss orchestra?
signing off until the next performance. Oh ja, totally absent-minded of me to miss Lucia di Lammermoor with DIANA DAMRAU!!! (and Breslik!!) I’m here during all 3 performances as well but they’re all sold out, so like many of you I’ll be watching the live broadcast this coming sunday evening. Last point: they’re advertising their prized boy Breslik + Damrau EVERYWHERE, and not a single promo-photo of Harteros in sight. tsk tsk tsk. Here she is, from radio recording, the entire Act 4 scene 1 for re-listening (note clarinet + horn starting!)

euro summer2014 part2

Finally i got some free time to put together the pix from that trip, only 6 months late, but given that the Lunar New Year is not here yet, it’s still 2014, all is saved 🙂

Many many thanks again to Stray for the faaaantaastic music. If you’ve frequented here you’ve already heard, but it won’t hurt hearing again. I *so* excited for next week, fingers crossed she’ll be in good health (premiere was last night i believe..)

music for night owl


© Ken Howard/MET

Radio broadcast, nov 2007 (thanks Stray!)

Edit: in response to larks’ and owls’ mutually inclusive interest, 2 more clips are added to round out Act3. I really like the conductor’s take, as someone put it on the internet: “very fresh”.

don carlos live

now, on

(Foto: Monika Rittershaus)

(Foto: Monika Rittershaus)

* i don’t know this opera very well.. thought fontainebleau was skipped… but here it comes…
* scene done, Harteros gone… may be time to head back to bed…
* male bonding… libertà!
* princess Eboli has arrived, along with the all female chorus.. let me check who’s in trouser…
Maria Celeng (Tebaldo) , Ekaterina Semenchuk (La Principessa Eboli)
* eeks, the king has arrived to catch vulnerable Elisabetta alone… and her best pal is kicked back to Spain…
* heart breaking scene on the floor, Elisabetta and her best friend… though whenever this scene hits i always think of Marina Poplavskaya at covent garden.

* back, wow how long is this opera?? but just in time for Harteros’ big aria…
* a secret… he gives me a headache… but time to run again… let’s hope this thing remains on net for re-watch…
Edit: rewatch
* making it slowly through the performance, quite like Harteros in first scene, like princess Eboli too. I currently on the floor:

* there’s way too much male singing! who are all these guys? no wonder the opera is 5hr long. on same note, i not really fan of king Phillip, or whoever he is that Elisabeth married to…

* YESSSSSS, patience has paid off. finally got to Elisabetta’s aria… dead quiet, heavenly soft singing, shaken-ly heart breaking when the flute re-introduced fontainebleau tune, followed by Elisabetta’s wide sparkling eyes + soft smile recalling happy times, *sniff*. absolutely gorgeous singing. right about here (that must be the clarinet accompanying flute?):

Tu che le vanità

Tu che le vanità

* So, that’s a wrap, i really made it to the end, all 6 parts of capture. REALLY like princess Eboli too. For Harteros, I love her singing, the last aria and duet were perfect. In other places sometimes i felt the singing occasionally a bit pushed (too loud singing?) . In all cases, i like her much more as Leonora, may be coz i like that music better :-). I’m quite fine without all the male characters :-D. A thadieu’s guide starts with Fontainebleau, then the Veil Song, then poor Elisabetta on floor coping with parting forever with her best friend (Non pianger, mia compagna), then princess Eboli’s regret (o don fatale), then to Elisabetta’s last aria and duet with Carlo. Oh, wait, there’s also a very short section (~1min?) with duet of some male voice and cello, very nice! The last duet also has Harteros singing to the harp! It’s also the bit i enjoyed JK’s singing the most, lots of soft singing and emotional expressiveness.

ps- the staging was meh. i quite like staging of trovatore in Munich actually, with that masked shadow following Leonora handing her the cup of death… now any staging without dark creepy shadow is too tamed for me 😀

music for the day

and new year too, yay.

Read more of this post

live stream don carlo

from the Bayerische Staatsoper. Here’s link.
ps- with subtitles in English!!! this is quite new from last time, hurray! now let me go look for libretto + synopsis (very timely alarm to wake up!)

libretto – English , Italian


you know i frustrated when screen is frozen like this!!!

back to finish up, that was beyond frustration, missed the entire 2nd half, not sure vhat the heck was causing disruption on my part, esp. because i was able to watch the first hour comletely uninterupted, grrr. let’s hope it pops up somewhere on internet so i can see again…
and while we’re at it, how much is tix to fly to Munich NOW to see Anja Harteros (and Kaufmann) for the rest of this run? 😀

mark your calendar

everyone, Frau Harteros can be seen live from the Bavarian State Opera on Jan 22, 2012:

Jan 7th will be tough, but i hope to be able to tune in… will have to see. but waw, can only hope there won’t be any flu attack to that cast on Jan 22. ahhh i happy.

blu-ray or no blu-ray?

guess i have to go look at what a blu-ray player look like…

may be i can get a DVD and a blu-ray, DVD for now, blu-ray for future.

on a side note, i reallly really hope they use the radio recording for sound, because in case you didn’t notice, the sound is much more crisp on the radio than the video recording (as Eyes can confirm since we can all now establish my ears are shot).  and radio rec doesn’t have that annoying clap 1/2 way through Ah mio cor!  What it has instead is the curtain shutting down “BANG”, forever separating me from Alcina as i remained floored for months…