Friday, December 24, 2010

Pelleas et Melisande

Last night I saw Pelleas et Melisande at the Met. This 1902 Debussy opera is stiflingly atmospheric, grim and ethereal.

The narrative, about an old prince, his young bride, and her romantic attachment to his brother, has an abstract symbolic quality to it that made it difficult to emotionally connect with.

The music was beautiful and complex, and there were many interesting moments where there were no vocals, just stretches of music where the performers froze in a tableau and the set moved in a circle, hauntingly slow, mesmerizing, aesthetically pleasing, (yet still somehow emotionally alienating).

A few scenes of note: this strange extended moment when Melisande leans awkwardly out a window so that her long, somewhat straggly hair can brush against Palleas and they can each fondle themselves.

Then there was another physically awkward and dramatically tense moment when Melisande's husband has his nine year old son on his shoulders peeking into Melisande's bedroom. The young boy, by the way, had a BEAUTIFUL voice, and his performance was the most captivating and satisfying to me.

Simon Rattle conducted, and Stéphane Degout, Magdalena Kožená, and Gerald Finley sang the leads.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Last night Meridita and I saw Tosca in HD outdoors at Lincoln Center.

It was wonderful! We had sandwiches from 'Snice and delicious wine and cookies.

I enjoyed the story, the intensity of Tosca's emotions, and the beauty of the lead singers' voices. But somehow I didn't feel as emotionally drawn is I wanted to be. Gorgeous and tragic, it left me dry-eyed.

This was a new Met production that premiered last season. The set was actually booed! I'm not sure what the audience's issue was. I didn't have a problem with the stark fortress like structure, although the design choices for the interior of the castle seemed off to me, and I couldn't figure out what era the piece was supposed to be taking place in...

Karita Mattila sang Tosca, Marcelo Alvarez was AMAZING as Cavarodossi, and George Gagnidze sang the villainous Scarpia. Joseph Colaneri was the conductor.

New Yorkers (and Tosca in HD at the MET)

"New Yorkers still pride themselves on being a town of gifted shape-shifters whose natives recognize one another by their ability to adopt a cultivated mien or a mad, mute stare, as the situation requires."
Knickerbocher: The Myth behind New York, Elizabeth Bradley

The day began with an hour-long multi-hoop session with Brece and Seth.  Then off to NeroDoro for the best gazpacho ever.

This New Yorker came in for coffee:

Then Diana and I met at the MET for HD screening of Tosca.  All 2,800 seats were filled and there were lots of standing room and lawn chairs along the perimeter.   Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradoss was my favorite of the production.

The evening blossomed into one of those musical NY nights.

These New Yorkers were playing a very jazzy versions of Summertime:

Then we sat down one the bench to wait for the c train and things really got interesting.  Another New Yorker hauling a laundry cart filled with odities (decorated with a bumper sticker that read "There is no sex in the city.") turned to the woman sitting next to us and said.  "I've just come from my first Opera!"

Around that time the folks down by the jazz band had started to dance.

Then the C rolled in filled with New Yorkers in excellent fashions (silver studded, gold lame, leopard print, purple batik, earrings as large as a hamburger bun), elaborate tattoos, rolling luggage, all accompanied by a sound track of live bongo players.

What a day.  What a town.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Beauty, power and scope

Opera on Tap's Amberleigh Aller sings at Figureworks

"For the first time in my life I was treated to Grand Opera where the beauty, power and scope of the music was equally matched by the visual presentation." — Cecil B. DeMille, (Fan letter to Powell and Pressburger about their 1951 film adaptation of Les contes d'Hoffmann)

What a fantastic treat to have opera sung in proximity to my artwork!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Set Design and Rush Opera News

"The result is a sort of scenographic gestalt.  Humans have this great ability to imagine and to convince themselves they see what they imagine."  Arnold Aronson and Harold Prince, American Set Design

Rush Kid Quentin started this set during our first class with Opera on Tap back in October.  Yesterday we finished it off as a group.  After a disagreement as to which opera Quentin was designing for (we never did agree and Quentin was at an PSAT prep class) we decided to sort of mix and match from a variety of operas.

Also opera related:  Following up on Dennis' idea about the Cherry Blossom mural at PS165 being a perfect set for Madame Butterfly, we are going to host a special performance by Opera on Tap at Rush Gallery at PS165 Friday May 28 1-2pm!

And if that weren't enough opera excitement -- Opera on Tap will be doing a cameo aria during both of our Rush Education Exhibition 2010 openings.  Hope you will be able to join us!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Armida MET HD Screening at BAM

The crowd at these BAM HD screenings is unbearable - rude and bitchy.  And I can not fathom why they would design a movie theater where every seat is bad.  

Armida (Gioachino Rossini) seems to have made its way for the first time to the Metropolitan Opera as a vehicle for the incredibly talented Renée Fleming.  Unfortunately, it does not seem to be the best role for her.  Flemming sings the challenging part beautifully enough, but she is an excellent actor and that talent is really underutilized in the rather one-dimensional silly story.

The sets and costumes range from disappointing and dull to ugly and awful.  A real let down after seeing the preview behind-the-scenes bit in the set and prop department at work on Armida.  The large bugs were ridiculous hovering on stage above the enchanted forest that looked like a Pina Bausch set made out of Astro turf and pot scrubbers. The painted scrim used as an outer curtain was rather dramatic but looked like the cover of a Patrick O'Brian novel and did not fit with any other part of the set.  Oh, wait -- perhaps the gigantic bat set in the final scene could compete for drama sake.

There is a bevy of tenors in the production, all of whom are excellent (if a bit short of stature).  I felt the best performance was Lawrence Brownlee as Rinaldo. 

I also enjoyed the performance by the young lady playing Love.  She had the perfect cherubic face and pranced about with a carefree glee.

Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel: Under the Stars

Just watched Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel: Under the Stars, a DVD of their concerts in Wales. The disc has two separate concerts, one of Broadway hits and one of classical hits.

The Broadway is just AWFUL. They both look uncomfortable and their classical singing voices sound weird on the Gershwin and Sondheim. I was very disappointed.

The classical program, however, is amazing. They both look like they are having a blast. Terfel in particular can't seem to suppress a smile. None of the arias were familiar to me, but they were all gorgeous. And I'm now officially in love with Renee Fleming.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Armida (Live in HD at BAM)

I saw Armida this afternoon at BAM (live in HD) with Meridita and Odetta.

As much as I love Renee Fleming, who stars in Armida, I have to say I had mixed feelings about this opera.

All the performances (six tenors and Fleming) were wonderful, and there were some stunningly beautiful moments (particularly at the end), but the story wasn't that interesting and the production (Mary Zimmerman) was rather weird and confusing. Something just seemed off to me about the costumes and the sets and the use of the chorus. For instance, the cat-like demons that the sorceress Armida commands seemed both creepy and comical at the same time. The wood nymphs, played by the chorus, had cheap little wings affixed to their backs that looked like they came off of bumble-bee costumes from Woolworth's.

There was a long and interesting ballet in the second act which I enjoyed a lot, but which didn't seem to fit in stylistically with the rest of the opera. It seemed to have a different tone than the rest of the piece. The ballet was interesting though, and I very much enjoyed watching it.

The lead tenor was sung by Lawrence Brownlee, and he was amazing. Other tenors included Barry Banks, who sang two roles, and who Meridita and I have seen in at least one other Met production this season.

The live HD screening included interviews with the performers that I enjoyed -- they give you a glimpse into the professionalism and artistry of the singers.

All in all, Armida was the weirdest opera I've ever seen.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last night I watched a 1981 opera movie of Rigoletto which was fabulous.

True there was a slight cheesy 80s quality, but other than that... I was pretty riveted and blown away.

The story concerns a bitter hunchback/jester who is mocked at the court of the Duke whom he serves. The Duke is a cad, a remorseless seducer of women, and Rigoletto has hidden his daughter from him. However the court learns that Rigoletto has a "mistress" and they begin to devise a plot to toy with him. In the meantime the Duke has actually met the daughter, Gilda, and they seem to have fallen in love. She at least has fallen madly in love with him. The men of the court abduct her to play a trick on Rigoletto, and it appears that she is ravished by the Duke. When Rigoletto finds out, he vows revenge, and goes to a local low life to set a trap to murder him. When Gilda discovers the trap, she places herself in its way and she ends up murdered. The opera ends with Rigoletto discovering her body.

It's all actually more intense than I have described. Rigoletto is not a completely sympathetic character. On one hand he suffers terribly and loves his daughter utterly. On the other he is bitter and vengeful and a bit maniacal.

In any event, the absolute most amazing part of this opera is the music. I fell in love right away. I think I might like Verdi more than, or at least as much as, Mozart. I really loved it. In fact I'm going to put the DVD in again now just to hear it while I bead.

In this production Ingvar Wixell sang Rigoletto and was marvelous. Edita Gruberova was fucking amazing as Gilda. She had an extraordinary voice. And Luciano Pavarotti was the Duke, and he was pretty fucking awesome as well.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Die Zauberflote

Last night, thanks to the wonderful generosity of a dear friend, I was able to see the Julie Taymor production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote at the Met.

As I've learned this year, I absolutely love Mozart. Le Nozze de Figaro had me hooked. The music in The Magic Flute was just as delightful.

The fantastical fairy story didn't draw me in as much as the more dramatic operas I've seen (ie, Der Rosenkavalier, Madama Butterfly, etc), but the costumes and staging were so wonderfully imaginative and magical. Between the quirky, clever, beautiful visuals, and the delightful, rich, virtuosity of the music, I was thoroughly transported. I felt so privileged to be there last night, and I was pleased to be able to bring my mom. Taymor's production was really very special, with delightful puppetry, such as bears made of giant sheets... I can't quite describe all the visual flourishes...

None of the names of the performers rung a bell for me. My favorites were the two sopranos (Julia Kleiter as Pamina, and Albina Shagimuratova who brought the house down with her Queen of the Night), and the bass (Hans-Peter Konig as Sarastro). The other players were Nathan Gunn as Papageno and Matthew Polenzani as Tamino. Adam Fischer conducted.

Oh, and most fantastic were the three boys who played the angels or spirits that guided Tamino and Papageno. They had the most angelic voices and were so poised and sweet. Their costumes were amazing as well. They were dressed in tidy-whities, with white paint all over their bodies, but with black symbols running up the sides of their legs and arms. Then wore these thin, very long white beards and had spiky white hair. They were truly ethereal..

Also, with Strauss' Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier under my belt, I can now say that I'm fully comfortable with opera sung in German!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Fairy Queen at BAM

One of the stranger pieces of theater I’ve seen lately was the oh-so-talked-about The Fairy Queen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 
Luckily I went with my father who knows all about this stuff and was able to give me some pertinent background information. The Fairy Queen is a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell. First performed in 1692, The Fairy-Queen was composed three years before Purcell's death at the age of 35. The libretto is an anonymous adaptation of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The sets and costumes were an eclectic mix spanning all time periods and well, I suppose you’d say styles – I am thinking about the huge group number with most cast members wearing full-body white furry bunny costumes. I thought the set a bit dull which is rather strange to say about something that included flying clouds and a 20-foot high cabinet of curiosities.

On the other hand, I thought the cast was superb. The singing excellent and the dancers were a delight to watch. My father commented that they sunk a ton of money into the production.

Explosion, velocity, spectacle

E.V. Day, Mimi - Rigor Mortis (La bohem, Puccini)
Installation view, David. H. Koch Theater

Next time they are looking for someone to make art using costumes from the archives I sure do hope they call me!!

Love, Meridita

EV Day at New York City Opera

Earlier this evening Meridita and I had a very special treat: we got to see the EV Day installation at the David H. Koch Theater.

Costumes from the New York City Opera were used as the basis for these suspended pieces, which Day describes as "exploding couture."

Thirteen gorgeous and ghostly works were hung between "hoops" at different levels throughout the theater's promenade. Unfortunately I could not get a decent image of any of these stunning pieces (but I'm sure Meridita will supply some that are more up to par).

In her artist statement Day writes: "I make sculptures that transform familiar icons of women's empowerment and entrapment into new objects that confound conventional readings of these cliches, and constellate meaning in a range of emotions: anxiety, ecstasy, liberation, and release. When City Opera's General Manager and Artistic Director George Steel asked me if I'd be interested in making art using costumes from the archives, I was thrilled because recurring themes in my work -- explosion, velocity, spectacle -- have an energy that might be termed 'operatic.'"

I could completely feel the range of emotions she speaks of, particularly the anxiety and the release. My only criticism is that taken together, the shape of the pieces (suspended in tubular space between hoops) was a little redundant and almost limiting. Still, this is truly a special exhibition. I'm really pleased that I got to see it because this evening was the *only* time that it was open to the general public. -- Thanks to Meridita!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


"Design for theater is not one whit less frustrating than fashion design, and for some of the same reasons; but the long tradition of the stage borrows constant glory from the high arts of music and literature, and some serious painters have gilded the still subfusc métier of costume design by doing sketches for sate productions. Most such works by Chagall or Picasso, say, or Leonardo da Vinci - are rightly admired as pictures by the artist in question..." Anne Hollander, Feeding the Eye

Rush Kids designed, sewed and created costumes and props:

For Opera on Tap:

Papagana & Papagano:

"It was a diminutive yet fearsome two headed dragon!!"
Prince Tamino, Opera on Tap script Magic Flute


Friday, March 12, 2010

OOT at Freddy's!

Last night after delicious fare at Le Gamin, Meridita and I and our opera-lovin' posse headed over to Freddy's for another raucous round of Opera on Tap, the worlds funnest opera troupe.

Last night the theme was dumb-dumbs in opera, and the lovely ladies and lone gentleman sang beautiful arias that nonetheless were penned for stupid characters.

Many of the players wore these OoT t-shirts pictured here (I scooped this image from their website) and I thought it was particularly fitting (ha ha no pun intended) that the board behind them says "I'm with stupid."

The singing was, as always, amazing, and anyone who has not checked out Opera on Tap is even stupider than the stupidest characters in the operatic repertoire!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hopelessly in Love

Meridith McNeal, Giulietta, 2010, sheet music and libretto Les contes d'Hoffmann, velvet ribbon, rhinestones and mannequin

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eugene Onegin

ust watched Eugene Onegin on DVD. This was filmed live at the Met in 2007. The title character was sung by Dmitri Hvorostovsky; Renee Fleming sang Tatiana, and Ramon Vargas (who I saw in the DVD of La Boheme) sang Lensky.

Somehow I was both very drawn into this opera and very unmoved by it. That is, I had no trouble watching the four hours and 18 minutes of the performance. I was sucked in. On the other hand, I didn't respond to it emotionally; it didn't choke me up the way Der Rosenkavalier, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, and Simon Boccanegra did. Part of it might be that it isn't easy to watch an opera on DVD on my computer. It just isn't that comfortable.

Anyway, Renee Fleming was great. Interestingly, she seemed to sing in a slightly lower register. In fact, I think this opera had a lot of mezzos, and maybe even a few contraltos. It was very pleasant to hear these deeper female voices. Eugene Onegin is a cold character who later feels love and remorse, and while Hvorostovsky had no trouble communicating the chilly aspects of Onegin, the warmer, more passionate and more complex emotions didn't really come out. I find it hard to believe that Hvorostovsky isn't cold and arrogant in real life. Ramon Vargas had an exceptionally beautiful aria right before the duel.

The production was very sparse, which accentuated the drama and the emotion, and Tchaikovsky's music was beautiful. There were a lot of long stretches where there wasn't any singing, just the music moving the story along, and those were very effective moments.

Oh, and I didn't mind the Russian at all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Parsons Dance, "Remember Me"

Well folks, the moment has come. It's time to add "rock opera" to our list of labels.

Last night, for my birthday, I went to see Parsons Dance at The Joyce Theater. I've wanted to see them for years, and even have a DVD about them in my Netflix queue.

The evening's program was one long rock-opera piece, except it started with what I believe is one of their signature dances, Caught. This short piece features a solo dancer leaping to pounding music in pitch darkness and a strobe light. The timing is so exact that he is caught in midair leaps for split seconds and the effect is that it appears as if he's flying. It was completely gorgeous and astounding.

The rock-opera piece, however, Remember Me, was not entirely successful. The music was art-rock renditions of opera classics such as the Habanera and Nessum Dorma (both which I now easily recognize), and they were performed by two singers who were on stage the whole time. The large, haunting, dramatic sound reminded me of what I think the Freddie Mercury/Monstserrat Caballe must have been like. The music was very, very cheesy and I found the singers presence to be distracting. I just wanted to see the dance.

The dance was amazing. Yes, it had cheesy narrative elements, sort of a love triangle, but the power of the choreography was fantastic and once I got passed the cheese factor I was thoroughly immersed and am now a big fan of this company. Can't wait to watch the DVD and am looking forward to seeing them again some time.

Oh, one thing I particularly enjoyed about this piece was at the end each dancer took a bow and on a the screen behind them their name appeared. I thought it was a very beautiful way of giving them recognition and it resonated with the piece as a whole (Remember Me)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Opera on Tap at Barbes

Tonight I saw Opera on Tap perform at Barbes. The theme for the evening was "Don't Trust Anyone (Much) Over Thirty."

It featured the work of contemporary young composers which was very interesting for me, although I don't have quite the ear for it.

It made me once again realize how much of classical music one unwittingly absorbs from the culture. Because of this, even though opera was initially unfamiliar to me, there actually was an underlying familiarity with the classic classical material, a sort of vague sense memory.

The contemporary stuff I heard tonight is not quite as comforting. It was also unusual hearing everything sung in English, which was surprisingly unnerving. There's something about not understanding the words that somehow draws me in. Ironically, tonight, even though I could understand what was being sung, I didn't really listen to the words. What's more, all the words were adapted from poetry I was familiar with: Shakespeare's Sonnets, Whitman, Creeley.

I don't mean to sound like I didn't enjoy the night. The performances were fabulous, and I did actually get into the music. In fact I was riveted, literally on the edge of my seat the whole night. It was just a very different kind of opera going experience.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dramatic Dignity

"Mr. Domingo brought vocal charisma, dramatic dignity and a lifetime of experience to his portrayal."

Anthony Tommasini, 'Simon Boccanegra' For Verdi, Masquerading as a Baritone, New York Times Music Review, January 19, 2010

(bathroom at the Metropolitan Opera)

Standing ovation for three curtain calls! Wow.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Simon Boccanegra

Last night I saw Simon Boccanegra at the Met with Meridita.

I had been very intimidated by this opera, as the synopsis was so complicated I was nervous I wouldn't be able to follow the plot. Plus, the story involves a lot of political intrigue, and I was scared this would not engage me.

I couldn't have been more wrong. It was very easy to follow, and very interesting dramatically. But what was most amazing for me was that the way the music combined with the libretto to create a tremendously intense drama. I had the same feeling with Der Rosenkavalier, like the story alone wouldn't have been enough for me, nor the music, but you combine them and something marvelous happens.

We were very fortunate to see Placido Domingo in the lead role. Although he is a tenor and the role is a baritone, he wanted to do it, and it was the first time in his professional career that he sang in that range. He was fantastic! The house went crazy for him at the end, the applause was stupendous, and it was thrilling to be in that audience.

The entire cast was superb. The soprano was sung by Adrianne Pieczonka, whose voice was strong and clear throughout, although her acting was kind of not there. Marcello Giordani played the lover, and although he seemed to fub a note or two, he belted out some beautiful, beautiful arias. He is the performer who played Pinkerton in the Mme. Butterfly we saw in HD at Lincoln Center, and he was also the Calaf in Turandot who brought the house down with his Nessum Dorma.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Caballe Beyond Music

Wow! This woman has an incredibly beautiful voice. Almost freakishly beautiful. It's just otherworldly.

Caballe Beyond Music is a documentary about the operatic soprano Montserrat Caballe who was born in Spain to a very poor family. The documentary chronicles her career and includes much footage of her singing exquisite arias.

I was very moved by her singing, as well as by her person. Although some people made comments about her being a bit diva-ish, it was pretty clear that she is a warm, happy, loving woman. (On the other hand, she deposited her children with her parents for them to raise so she and her husband could pursue their careers; not the *most* loving things to do. But whatev.)

This is the best opera documentary I've seen yet. I really loved it. Now to amazon to buy some Caballe CDs!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Hysteria of the Night

“The musical drama may, in fact, have drawn into action innocent spectators who might otherwise have remained aloof from the hysteria of the night.” Slatin, Opera and Revolution

Plotkin talks about Musical Theater as the continuation of the operatic tradition. (I am sorry not to be able to provide a quote on this. I only have the audio book and one big down side is the inability to reference the text.)

Diana and I went to see South Pacific at Lincoln Center on Thursday night, then to Pirates of Penzance at City Center on Friday night. I’ve been thinking about these productions in comparison to all of the opera we’ve seen and, well, I think I may have fallen in love with the opera!

I grew up back stage. I am familiar with musical theater. Even still, I was surprised to find I know every song in South Pacific. Some Enchanted Evening as sung by Paulo Szot is a showstopper. But measuring many of the singers up to the operatic standards they seemed pedestrian. The female cast was particularly lack luster and without sex appeal. That said, we had a great time and I loved the painted cloud back drop!

Pirates of Penzance had stronger singers, but more than that, the audience made it a joyous experience. The French granny sitting next to me sang along (quite well), there were whoops and hollers and full out belly laughs throughout the performance. I really enjoyed the smart broad comedy. I left thinking I need to put Topsy Turvey on my Netflix list!

Pirates of Penzance

Last night Meridita took me to see The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players' production of The Pirates of Penzance at City Center.

It was wonderful! Completely joyous and exuberant. Witty and smart, but silly and irreverent. The singing was wonderful (although I thought the soprano had trouble with a couple of the high notes).

The audience was amazing too, thoroughly there with the players, ready to laugh, practically singing along.

I had actually seen this play before, in 1980 at the Delacorte Theater with Linda Ronstadt. But I don't remember a thing about it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Der Rosenkavalier (Live HD screening at BAM)

Jenn and I found an agitated Diana sitting in the lobby at BAM. “I tried to save us seats. We’ll be craning our necks but I did the best I could do. It’s packed. Oh, and by the way, we are by far the youngest people here.“

Thank goodness for Diana’s early arrival and seat saving. It got ugly – a near brawl erupted right behind us over seats just as the curtains were about to open.

Couple 1 (in the isle): “What do you mean you had no idea we were sitting there?"
Couple 2 (in the seats behind us): “Well, there was no one here.”
Couple 1: “Why do you think we left our things on the chair? We were in the restroom.”
Couple 2: “We didn’t know.”
Couple 1 (with increasing volume and agitation): “Just give us our coats…”
Down parkas handed down the isle.
Couple 1 (louder): “And hats.”
“And gloves…”
“And purse…”
“And scarf.”
Man beside couple 2 (with deep disgust): “You aught to be ashamed.”
Couple 2: “We didn’t know.”
Man beside: “Well, you do NOW.”

Yeah, and so does everyone else!

And now -- Der Rosenkavalier (Composer: Richard Strauss
Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal)

I was more than a bit hesitant about a 5 hour German opera experience. And while this production has done nothing to increase my appreciation of the sound of German, I really loved this opera! The story was complex, relevant and deeply moving.

Renée Fleming was superb. Her singing is elegant and powerful, but what most compelled me was her evocative and complex acting. The rest of the cast was top notch but for me it was all about Ms. Fleming.

Fleming, who is renowned for her interpretations of the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, elaborates on the role: “She’s endlessly fascinating. And I think I’m performing it now with more strength, less sentimentality, and I think that enables the audience to feel more.”

A really great part of the HD experience is that during intermission they film back stage. Watching the sets go up, interviews with the stars and staff as well as a tour and interview in the set/props department (my favorite part) really deepens ones appreciation for the level of the production and craft at The Metropolitan Opera.

Der Rosenkavalier (Live HD at BAM)

OMG, yesterday I saw the live HD screening of Der Rosenkavalier at BAM and it was fucking awesome.

I was blown away.

I was pretty wary of it after watching the DVD with Te Kanawa a couple of weeks ago. There were parts of it I liked okay, but basically I thought it was "tough" and I was worried about sitting through four hours and forty five minutes of it again. Yes, I said FOUR HOURS AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES.

That's a lot.

But it didn't matter. This Met Opera production with Renee Fleming and Susan Graham pretty much flew by. I was completely engrossed the whole time and deeply, deeply moved by Renee Fleming's portrayal of the Marchaline. She had a lovely and subtle emotional range that just brought tears to my eyes practically every time she opened her mouth. She also had the best words of the opera, all the dramatic depth came from her character. After the opera I had my ladies poker group and I ended up quoting her a few times. She says at one point that you live oblivious to time and then suddenly it's everywhere and all you think about. She is hands down my favorite character in opera so far.

Kristinn Sigmundsson played Baron Ochs with a wonderful maniacal intensity.

I can't remember the soprano who played Sophie, but her performance was the least compelling.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sacrificium (Decca, 2009)

Roman born mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, specializes in bringing notice to the neglected composers and forgotten repertoires. I discovered her thanks to my recommendation list at Amazon.

Sacrificium is Bertoli’s most recent album, in collaboration with the Orchestra Il Giardino Armonico, conducted by Giovanni Antonini. It is a compellation of arias written for Castrati drawn from the works of Nicola Porpora (1686-1768), Antonio Caldara (c. 1670-1736), Francesco Araia (1709-1770), Carl Heinrich Graun (c. 1703-1759), Leonardo Leo (1694-1744), Leonardo Vinci (1696-1730), Riccardo Brosc hi (c. 1658-1756) and Geminiano Giacomello (c. 1692- 1740).

The singing is haunting, and often sad but also light and energetic. To my ear it is acrobatically sung with lots of feeling!

"The age of the castratos was one of the most dazzling and remarkable in European music history. Seldom has there ever been such a complete fusion of sensuousness and splendor, form and content, poetry and music, and, above all, such a perfection of vocal virtuosity, as was achieved in the glory days of the Baroque era. The legendary art of the castratos continues to exert its fascination even today, and despite the great human sacrifice it exacted, a new assessment of this extraordinary period is surely justified."
- Cecilia Bartoli

Cecilia Bartoli has been endowed with the Italian Knighthood and is an "Accademico effettivo" of Santa Cecilia, Rome, a French "Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres" and an "Honorary Member" of the Royal Academy of Music, London.

There is an interesting short video on Amazon of Bartoli talking about the album. It is worth watching. I hope to be able to see her in person some time and will definitely give her other records a listen soon!