Don Giovanni at Théâtre des Champs Elysées, 5/Dec/2016

Reporting from the white-shirt flat on 6th floor in the 11th arrondissement in Paris, with Dehggi writing from the other bed. After an excursion to chinatown to my favorite Vietnamese food joint*** and getting stuck in the touristic pre-Noël’s madness near the Ferris wheel, we barely made it to Théâtre des Champs Elysées 4 minutes before lights out. Upon running upstairs huffing and puffing, the usher, to our delight and MUCH more relaxed than the stiff-neck counterpart at the Wiener Staatsoper, were all smiling and telling us we still had time.

I actually don’t know Don Giovanni well at all! and have only recently (as in starting this past May) listening to it, after discovering Myrtò Papatanasiu and sorting out the difference between Donna Elvira and Donna Anna.. Since then I have listened to primarily two live performances to get things started: one for the very intriguing staging from Amsterdam with Papatanasiu as Donna Anna and one with the exceptional singing from the entire cast and of Antonacci as Donna Elvira in the Wien 1999 production. So this “review” will be heavily based on these two roles, and a little bit on Zerlina, whose music I discovered via Kasarova’s existing radio broadcasts. Our seats were up on the 3rd balcony directly above the orchestra for optimal view into the pit and sound from the singers (?). The first impression was the massive sound coming up during the overture and well into the first part of the singing. For me the whole show didn’t settle musically until the scene of in the morgue with Donna Anna in (goooooorgeous) suit recognizing DonG as her father killer and recounting the faithful night

“Non dubitate più: gli ultimi accenti che l’empio proferì tutta la voce richiamar nel cor mio di quell’indegno che nel mio appartamento…”

If I wasn’t a fan of Papatanasiu’s singing before, I would have become one last night. I’m extremely prone to detailed recitative phrasing (and low notes), and to my ears she was *the* star last night in phrasing, starting from every recit. She was already phrasing when on the floor clutching to DonnaA’s father’s dead body, but at that time the orchestra was way too loud and not leaving her space to express. During this passage, however, it was exquisite to hear: Each single sentence was expressed with full dynamics. I really think she was the only one using a full range of soft to loud and shaping/sculpting each sentence to draw us in, regardless of whether we understand Italian (or french surtitle) or not. The voice, again hearing live, this time from way above, I have to say it clicks with my ears very well: quite voluminous and distinctive from everyone else on stage such that it provides very nice contrast in trio/duet or solo (to not so loud orchestration). I would not categorize her voice as “beautiful”, and that’s not what I look for. Rather it’s the texture that works with vocal expression. Her voice, however, seems to not click well for Dehggi’s ears, but that is all good, each of us hear different things :-). Her “Non mi dir” was a show-stopper for me. Not in a “fancy” over decorated way, but in a time-stopping hold-your-breath while transitioning along in time with Donna Anna’s thought and pain. As I said, if I was not a fan before, definitely would become one last night. Also, whoever put her in a suit, that is simply BRILIANT! We’ll discuss how it fits in the staging in a bit.. but JA! (Also, since sitting there, with the orchestra fully visible, i did wish for a time-reversal machine back to February with Emmanuelle Haïm in the pit and Sifare and Aspasia on stage..)

Just an example then, on exactly what I hear when it comes to phrasing of recitative. This is purely a 2 minute passage, but through it, you feel every little note, pain, anguish, defiance in Donna Elvira. I think when recitative are not done in this way, it is “rushed” through and you will simply hear it being “said”, prior to the singer launching or easing into the main aria. By then, one would need to try to sort through what the aria is about, in addition to the musical lines. That is also a summary of what I heard from Donna Elvira last night, that it was singing, though Dehggi said she was very good. The other bit of music i GREATLY enjoyed was the orchestration to “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto”. Absolutely gorgeous flute and cello lines! And the finale trio “Don Giovanni! a cenar teco m’invitasti, e son venuto…” with moments when ALL woodwinds and brass (and all strings) were playing, quite goose-bump inducing.

On the subject of the orchestra, it started very loud to our ears. I was quite worried because throughout the first part, Donna Anna’s voice was quite masked out, DonG and Leporello were singing very loud, and Donna Elvira, with a quite large voice, was the only one making it above the orchestra to our ears unscathed. It was a huge relief for me when suddenly the orchestra quiet down as Leporello started “Madamina, il catalogo è questo”, and completely was cleared out for Donna Anna’s phrasing. Al told us that the orchestra is entirely composed of baroque instruments (the woodwinds and brass we could see, but violins we were not sure until being informed). This the the largest orchestra I have seen of my 3 times here (2x Tancredi, then N.Stutzmann’s own orchestra). I can’t remember if they were using baroque bows in 2014 because at that time i thought the orchestra was great with fine details. Last night they were using modern bows, which we assume because they needed a more robust sound for Don Giovanni ? In any case, it was blasting at the start and took a bit of time to let the singers express freely.

Some quick notes on the staging. The opening scene already featured 2 young women in very short skirts draping themselves over DonG and Leporello. As the stage rotated, we were first provided a visual of Donna Anna expressing pleasure while receiving oral treatment from DonG. She then “woke” up and being coerced by him in various poses on the bed… This theme continues with Donna Elvira touching self in bed to “Ah! chi mi dice mai” . Leporello then revealed a doll puppet to which he undressed and fantasizing over. This continued onto the next Masetto & Zerlina wedding scene with full draping of the female chorus in wedding gown on their male counterparts. Yes, the opera is disturbing. On top of it, I think much of the staging is feasting on it to provide eye-candies and further treat female bodies as fantasizing tools being put on display. Perhaps that’s why the whole show also didn’t settle for me until Donna Anna appeared in a black (very fine) suit! It’s an unusual move, and actually put into perspective the independence of Donna Anna’s. Al also mentioned it captures her entrapment in formality (or something like that, I did not get this point though and would love to hear more). What I do like is that she is often discussing and keeping herself balanced, and Don Ottavio is often seen as the one approaching her space and constantly wanting to keep the pair “appearance”. I’m still trying to understand Donna Elvira’s mindset. We first saw her fantasizing on bed, while often I had the vision of Cecilia Bartoli’s fist clenching and seething approach. Either is fine I think as long as we could see how she evolves.. in this case I can not quite tell anything about her. She is seen smoking through the windows while DonG is scheming and switching with Leporello during “Deh, vieni alla finestra” (the mandolin is sooooo cute!!!), then proceeded to sleep with DonG double without even knowing so.. She can been seen defiant at times, such as during the trio with DonnaA and DonO, or when pointing fingers at Leporello after “Mi tradì, quell’alma ingrata” , or when she arrived to snatch Zerlina away from DonG, or intruding into his conversation with DonnaA+DonO (which led to the trio). Surprisingly her duet with DonnaA at the end was omitted! But all in all, I am not sure what personality or resolve she has, and whether she’s simply running after DonG for the flesh. Even Leporello is a bit quick to switch, so he’s as much enjoying doing what DonG does when given the chance, given how quickly he embodied the seducer’s move without any hint of conflict/struggle. I really enjoyed Zerlina’s last aria, something neither Dehggi nor I have ever heard before! She was in a scene with only Leporello (and with a shaving knife), but her phrasing to start was just gorgeous. I did get her confused at that point with DonnaE simply because of the context (even though their voices are quite different). DonO is really seen as a needy guy constantly trying to close the space between him and DonnaA. Finally, the Commendatore, I’m sorry, but we really need a bass! His clear “high” notes in the final showdown “Don Giovanni” was floating ABOVE the orchestra! (while i was expecting it to line the base and providing rumble). His thin voice was completely masked out when the orchestra went full strength during the final passage, so the famous duet/trio because a solo with DonG singing to the orchestra prior to being pushed into the furnace.

Staging-wise, aside from all the eye-candies and not quite developed characters above, I really like the usage of the stage space, to narrow things, efficiently shifts between scenes, and the use of the morgue bed. To me Papatanasiu’s singing (and subtle body balance) stood out because she gave a layer to DonnaA’s character. We had glimpses into her mindset, her struggle with her father’s loss, and perhaps what appeared to be her independence. She made decision on her own, using her own head, and body angles / postures / gestures. Interestingly Al made a note that her body gestures are quite similar to Anja Harteros’! Which got me thinking when i first saw her coming up on the grass field in Alcina half of the time i had the image of Harteros’ in head!

So that’s a wrap up, in extreme rambling fashion, of an opera I don’t know much about, but highlighting what draws my attention the most. Here’s the curtain call of the opening night, and more chance to see that fine fine suit! Off to Antonacci we go for my last night here!

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radio alert

Edit: Here is the radio broadcast of the Mozart Mass in C-minor for re-listening.

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Today, 16.Sep.2016, at 1900h GMT, Laurence Equilbey conducting her orchestra and chorus, with soloist Sandrine Piau, Renata Pokupic, and other, with a Mozart program, link from ARTE here or from worldconcerthall here.

Tomorrow, 17.Sep.2016, at 1900h GMT, Natalie Stutzmann conducting the Sao Paolo symphonie orchestra and ? chorus, with soloist Emoke Barath and Ekaterina Siurina and others, Mozart Mass in C minor. link here or here at the world concert hall.

Edit: new interview from Sao Paolo, N.Stutzmann discusses her work with the Orchestra, Mozart Mass, etc. AND!! E.Siurina’s voice is soooooo much more agreeable with my ears (and her phrasing is much better in my opinion) to the version I heard in Bergen. Very much looking forward!

More later if I find things in the schedule from the worldconcerthall site.

kasarova radio alert

edit: here’s the unedited version:

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today, Sun 31/Jul/2016, 1700GMT , 1900CET, 1300EST , Vesselina is singing in duet with Ricarda Merbeth, here’s the program and link from worldconcerthall. Here’s the direct link at BRKlassik, though i don’t see the “play” button anywhere… (is it my flash block? but i do see the option for “live” so I’m guessing you can click there once it’s time.) I think one of the links on here will work directly from an mp3 player, though i’m not sure if “1” or “2” is what we need..

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(oh, now that i see this, it was from an event on 17/jul/2016). She’s singing Mozart!!! and some Strauss, though surprisingly nothing for the role Der Komponist which she’s slated to sing in Japan this October.

I’ll be deeeep in my sleep, and might just barely have 1 eye open to manage the capturing machine… but am quite looking forward! I think she also has enough fans on the fb fansite who hopefully will capture in case my alarm fails… (oh, i know, let me go bribe Stray 😉 )

opera dream/wish list

First, the dream-list as it probably will *never* happen.. but you never know..
1. Emmanuelle Haïm conducding (with her orchestra) Monteverdi L’Orfeo *with* Anna Caterina Antonacci singing the title role!! (or I’ll take anybody conducting with La Antonacci singing Orfeo, even in concert version, but as usual with her stage is a must! She has given interviews saying she wanted to sing it, please, some innovative conductors (E.Haïm!) to take on her ideas!)

[One day she would like to sing the male title-role in Monteverdi’s Orfeo. “Why not? This is music that can be interpreted in so many ways. But when I mention the idea to conductors, they don’t like it. They’re just annoyed because they didn’t think of it first.”] Excerpt from this interview


2. Emmanuelle Haïm re-does the entire 2016 Mitridate *but* with Vesselina Kasarova as Farnace!
3. Vesselina Kasarova sings Agrippina, Ariodante, Orphée, and Sesto again (extreme bonus if E.Haïm conducting!)
4. the pairing of Antonacci and Kasarova as Nerone and Poppea (whichever order!!) in Monteverdi’s “L’incoronazione di Poppea”, extreme bonus if Sara Mingardo is Ottone! (hey, it’s a dream list!)
5. The same pair as Sesto and Vitellia! (I’m fine with transposing the music all down to whoever’s range so we can have switches!!)
6. Anja Harteros sings the countess again in Mozart’s Figaro.

Onto the growing wish-list
1. TV broadcast of Agrippina Paris 2003 . The full 2000 Bruxelles version is just made available on tube last September but I find Antonacci singing/portrayal much different and really love the 2003 version more (also by then she was really rocking those lovely shoulders 😉 )
2. Zürich in-haus recording of Agrippina 2009
3. Munich in-haus recording of Alcina 2007 . We have heard so many rumors they *taped* the video but then only released the cd, boo! Here’s a review.
4. Paris in-haus recording of I Capuleti e i montecchi 1996
5. the entire pocket-recording of La Clemenza di Tito Paris 2006
6. Emmanuelle Haïm’s Une Fête Baroque, the 2.5hr TV version, not the extracts with only French singers
7. TV broadcast of Händel’s “Orest” from Komische Oper Berlin 2006 (primarily because i’m absolutely in love with the ending chorus, and i’d like to see Charlotte Hellekant in the white trench coat swinging to the fan and home-made airplane wing again to the tune (sung in German!) of “Bella sorge la speranza”.)
8. Paris Dec 2014 in-haus recording of Nathalie Stutzmann conducting Händel Messiah with Orfeo55 and Sara Mingardo.
9. radio Ö1 broadcast of Gluck Iphigénie en Aulide Nov 2012 from Theater an der Wien (this is more in-line with the recent soprano obsession; not to be confused with “Iphigénie en Tauride” for which there’s a full ARTE HD broadcast in 2015 with Antonacci that i have!)

Iphegenie01Iphegenie02

More to come…
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I just recently re-listened to the Wien 2010 Alcina again and realized how really luckly we are that they taped it! Because when I was there there was no talk of any planning… then all of the sudden huge comotion while we lined up during the 3rd performance (btw, the standing-room wait line is fantastic, pure Wiener opera fans of all ages knowing all about the arts and lining and chatting up) and we overheard that they decided at the very last minute to bring in the cameras because of the huuuuuge success the performance was generating! As I didn’t get to see the Munich Alcina this is indeed a rare and very lucky souvenir. And of all the very rare things I’ve managed to scavenge, 3 stood out that i’m extremely glad to have: the Liceu 2006 “Ariodante”, the Paris 2003 “L’incoronazione di Poppea”, and the Dresden 1998 radio broadcast of “I capuleti e i montecchi”.

mozart to start April

Edit: so i’ve discovered she sang Sifare to P.Petibon’s Aspasia in Munich in Jul 2011! here’s a sample. with the entire radio broadcast available here: Act1, Act2. (I left the audio in aac because the sound is good and I don’t want to disturb it, you can use vlc to play.)
“Lungi da te” Anna Bonitatibus

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I’ve been camping over at Anik‘s the last 1.5 month discovering Mozart 😉 . Funny how 6 years after the first Sesto experience I finally get around to understand his music and the whole repetoire.. Given the current line-up of deadlines it’s a great time to dig up the backlog of all her Mozart posts (esp. now that I finally follow *some* sopranos…). I also have a backlog of posts and if ever get around to it I would like to put up at least one on the fabulous live Ariodante experience in London last month (and fabulous jaw-line! jeah!) In any case, here’s an appreciation of Anna Bonitatibus. Can’t believe it has taken me this long to “really” appreciate her phrasing and gorgeous tone.

music for the weekend

another set of music to “start” an ambitious weekend at work wrestling with “imaginary” signals 🙂

I must thank Smorgie and S. from munich for providing the absolutely fantastic material. I have had it for a long time and most of it was posted on YT.. until last week when *the* one and only fantastic Smorgie channel with 70% or so of VK clips was wiped out by yt.. which gave a chance to address this the dvd again. Please feel free to translate in the 2nd part where she discusses things in between singing :-).

1. händel alcina: mi lusinga il dolce affetto
2. händel solomon, overture
3. händel alcina: sta nell’ircana
4. mozart la clemenza di dito, parto parto, ma tu ben mio
5. rossini tancredi, o patria.. di tanti palpiti
6. gluck ophée et euridyce, amour, viens rendre a mon âme
7. händel ariodante, scherza infida
8. mozart la clemenza di tito, deh per questo instanto solo
9. händel alcina, verdi prati
10.rossini tancredi, Perchè turbar la calma

Some running commentary:
– her voice was realllly in top form during this period!
– i *love* the “B” section in Sta nel’ircana, just *love* it.
– would have muuuch preferred a proper baroque orchestra with a conductor who can really bring out the vivid characters in the music. This one is moving like a mass…
– this is still by far my favorite “scherza infida”… just absolutely heartbreaking..
– i looove her hair 😀 (note resistance on discussion about *the* suit ;-))
– WAAAOO, that “deh per questo..” is great, forgot for a moment i was watching! spent all time thinking of the pooor Sesto… these lingering soft notes she carries… waaaaooo

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Some technical details: you might hear *several* (probably 4-6) split-second interuptions.. this is due to what am given, most importantly the fact that it is in dvd format: this format chops up sections according to 1GB cut-off without any regard for what it cuts (middle of aria..) . That and the combination of original video which somehow was rendered differently in dvd-1 vs dvd-2… just took forever to put together hence I’ve been sitting on for a long time.. ANYHOW, IF you hear the interuption and can put down the exact time, i can attempt to fix (cut off 1/10sec perhaps) at a later time and repost…

music to start the weekend

my headset broke again last week.. so i picked up this cool thing which arrived last night ready for some testing + new music:


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So, I’ve sat through 6+ hours of Cecilia Bartoli and have come to a conclusion: she can do _anything_ she wants with her voice! and she does EVERYTHING she wants with a purpose! the phrasing is absolutely intuitive! (from the listening point-of-view, haven’t watched any of these clips in details). Actually it sort of started when i sat through 3 of her albums 2 weeks ago. Think i’ve figured out, for her singing i really want a non-stop run instead of piece by piece to hear the entire range of emotions she can cover. Last night the new headset got the first test-drive with this piece** actually, which i and dehggial had a short conversation a bit back regarding “over the top” vs “not doing enough“. There’s always something in a clip that makes me wanting less or more, think it’s toward the end of this one.. which prompted me to search everything she sung in “Juditha Triumphans” (not much!!! WHY NOT???) and promptly listening to the ENTIRE recital in Paris <—- ABSOLUTELY GREAT, very much like!! afterward was “live in Italy” with “Mozart” (above) lurking in corner of eye, and here we are. VERY MUCH like her mozart here. 40-minute is too SHORT! Have some serious fighting with “eddies” and “tides” this weekend, superb conditions for long hours of listening on gorgeous headset (very clear + crisp sound) with lots to catch up.

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(ps- oh Stray, many thanks for clip from last saturday! i sat through Act 1 too, GReAT singing!!)

** to aide interpretation of “over-the-top” vs “not enough”, here’s the context of the aria:

The mood switches to renewed militancy as the Bethulians are called to renewed vigilance in Vagaus’s aria “Armatae face et anguibus,” a “rage” piece summoning images of snakes, “dread companions”, and violent death.

What did she do differently than Roberta Invernizzi? i can’t really tell except somehow it just *felt* right and that it works! 🙂 (how’s that for subjective + vague explanations, i once had a math prof who wrote an equation on the board and a solution! 1/2 of the 100-student class, myself included, raised our hands asking “how do you get that solution”?? he looked completely perplexed: “i just know it! if you don’t know… you’re not an engineer!”)

Edit: felt like this poor guy everytime this piece ends 😀 (was flying in my apartment night before, then some vicious wrestling from the cat overnight and outcome, poor thing)
IMG002_29sep2009