a different kind of grasp

Yes, still at it, and this one might set the record for screencaps dear readers, be warn 😉 . Since I talk occasionally about my love for subtle body languagues and subtle acting in general (and this in Semiramide the last couple of posts), let’s have some fun with the screencaps today to the theme “The first encounter”, or as it also occurred to me, ” a different kind of grasp”.

Thanks to Dehggi who patiently explained to me the plot, I sort of blocked out the libretto and was just listening in the first couple of rounds… But then I managed to download that tube version of Semiramide *with* the french subtitle, suddenly everything came together: This Semiramide didn’t just desire Arsace out of randomness.. Yes, she was already dreaming (a subject for another post! very lovely the acting too! with her women!), but let us set the stage for the first encounter:

Semiramide with wandering thoughts, waiting for Arsace
duet1_00 Read more of this post

monday earworm

(otherwise known as more Semiramide and a certain soprano obsession…)
I spent the weekend (listening to Semiramide and) flipping the schedule since waking up at 6pm is just not very productive.. and currently sporting wake-up time of 2am (very proper for listening to music in europe!) Not sure if i want to move it since I found waking up between 11pm – 2am to be the _most_ productive of all schedule variations. Second most productive is up-time = 2pm. (Absolute-worst is up at 8am, what a waste of 24hr!)


Semiramide occupied with own imagination

In any case, unlike with Mayr, Semiramide has been stuck in my head at various parts.. You could say Rossini is indeed the expert at planting earworms! Especially those arias with chorus joining in (Perché turba la calma!) As referred to in the previous post (even though at that time I was very unfamiliar with the opera), the thing to notice between this performance and any previous is the “details”. So I’ve gotten around to somewhat figure out what I mean, hence the earworm: Semiramide’s entrance aria “Bel raggio lusinghier”. Between not knowing the music and the pace, it didn’t quite appear to my ears orginally as a typical “Rossini’s entrance aria”. But it does contain some really sticky (to the ear) passages that makes one (<– me) return repeatly. So I finally went ytubing and discovered almost all other versions I've heard are within 8m20s±20s and 1 version with the same conductor at 9m55s .
This one clocks in at just under 11min: 00:00-01:55 orchestra; 01:55-03:43 chorus; 03:43-05:35 recit; 05:35-07:20 slow; 07:20-10:50 fast.

M.Papatanasiu–Bel raggio lusinghier

That’s a difference of nearly 150 (1 case 60) seconds extra! There were a couple of moments in the fast secion where I thought M.Papatanasiu ran short of breath (? also because of the heft she put on) and wondered whether because of the tempo. Yet there’s also a question as to whether the tempo was deliberately set to let the singers express the music to very thinned-out orchestration (which I quite like)? This was what giving me the impression of a baroque version of Rossini last week, e.g., great detailed singings to much less robust orchestration and show-stopper coloratura runs (Vivaldi+Händel have plenty of those but they’re very different than Rossini, as i finally now hear the difference). I haven’t clocked A.Hallenberg’s Arsace’s entrance aria but it sounded to me she also has PLENTY of time to express, and she absolutely rocks it, again not in the powerhouse Rossini sense but in letting you pause to understand feeling and individual phrase.


with the chorus looking on

Back to the earworm, I/Anik/theinkbrain have also found out this morning co-dependently that this version is available in full on tube at this channel, so you can sample if would like. But while watching M.Papatanasiu I thought perhaps I was distracted by the visuals, hence the vocal extraction here only, to gorgeous all-female chorus, to carefully hear her phrasing. And this is one of the examples I’d give for the way she expresses the music which I really enjoy. I keep thinking of her as a musician, not just a singer, in term of having a feeling for the music flow and carrying of a phrase. Some of the ornamentations are a bit disruptive.. but wait until you hear some of the powerhouse links below :-). Also, the screencaps! As I have also mentioned how I enjoyed her acting: this is a visual to the picolo in the opening orchestral music of the aria, each with Semiramide smiling by herself. It’s not a simple smile, as noticed by the chorus in the zoom out. If there’s a way to softly smile and yet reveal a troubled mind, this is it. Very nicely acted. (Until she started singing, then I thought after 5 rounds I better extract the audio to “hear” more properly 🙂 ).

So, who are my the powerhouses? Let’s start with La Antonacci (8m25s)! follows by the ninja Nelly Miricioiu (8m20s), one of my favorite Amenaides Darina Takova (9m55s), and ends with Joyce DiDonato (<8m30s)! This last one has the music so one can really see the "so many notes in such a short time-span" as one of the reviewers put it. The comment section also confirms what I suspected: that the music is indeed lower than for a typical coloratura soprano. I think when the aria is fast you hear it as an aria rather than hearing what it's about? Yet I can't imagine hearing Romeo's entrance aria 60-150sec slower! I guess it's a "blessing" to start with a "weird" one first! I also read somewhere that this role demands both a flexible (coloratura) and "dramatic" voice. No idea why the 2nd requirement or what it means, but I guess there is a reason it is not often sung?

Oh, one last note: it seems the singers had mic running up their sleeves (or back..) This was taped for dvd/blue-something so I guess that's more valid than having the camera + audio recording in the back of the hall like Alcina in Wien? In in-haus reviews there were no complaining at all regarding (lack-of) hearing from the singers.. And I remember also noticing mic running up ACA's back-neck in that Maria Stuarda's recording with her and M.Devia, so it happens sometimes? a lot of times?

screencaps for the weekend

Ann Hallenberg (Arsace), Myrtò Papatanasiu (Semiramide), Vlaamse Opera, Dec 2010--Jan 2011

Ann Hallenberg (Arsace), Myrtò Papatanasiu (Semiramide), Vlaamse Opera, Dec 2010–Jan 2011

There are reasons to not know the story when listening to operas! Now that my (dreaming) bubbles have been bursted, I’m quite pissed at the ridiculous storyline that prevents these caps from having meaningful effect.. you can check out the story of Rossini’s Semiramide if desire.. or just go with the flow here.. I must admit i’m very impressed with M.Papatanasiu’s phrasing in this, as well as her acting. After scanning the first round a few days ago I thought it was the proper time to re-acquaint the ears with the power-house. WOW! talk about bringing the haus down! Ewa Podles! But while I have been a (secret) admirer of Darina Takova’s singing since that gorgeous Amenaide in Tancredi, here i thought somehow she left me out cold… (i even re-listened a couple of times to make sure i didn’t miss it…) and that brings us to this duet! The difference in this live recording (A.Hallenberg and MP) compared to that one with Takova and Podles (same conductor, same haus!) I think, among other things, is the pace: with the power-house singing the music was significantly more robust. In this one it’s very interesting to hear how much more details but much less showcasing of the voice: one would be tempted to just ignore the “Rossini’s (flashy) effect” because it’s more about the drama (it is showcasing but in a different way, here, see if you can hear the difference both in the orchestra and in the singing details in A.Hallenberg’s version of the same aria E.Podles sang). I must admit I came in quite skeptical of MP’s singing of this role (not that I know it at all, but I was not sure if she has the heft, the high sustained notes exposed to little orchestration, the coloratura…). What is most pleasant to discover is that Semiramide’s music is quite low (I think! compared to Mozart) and thus she shines with her strong low notes as well as with some impressive long legato lines where her musical phrasing came through wonderfully. On 2nd round of listening I also enjoyed A.Hallenberg’s detailed singing much more (after blocking out the powerhouse Rossini’s aspect…), and their voices mesh very lovely in this duet (ahh.. one can only dream..madre=[step-]mother)


In any case, here’s one last cap for “my” night. And a review that really says it much clearer than what I wrote here. Too bad A.Hallenberg was not present for that reviewed performance. So there, Semiramide, I’ll listen again when up. Oh, and I’m still searching for her Iphigénie, and accidentally ran into this fb post instead: that’s what it takes to achieve “diva” status in the US, by simply asking for the most basic thing 😀 . I’m impressed she managed it though, and I’d have come to hear her Traviata just because the AC was off! It’s not easy to pull that off in the US!