Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest with Kasarova and Ticciati (Bozar, Brussels, 16-11-14)

I think we all agree that routine is the death of the soul (cue in tuba solo). In spite of all the good stuff I had seen of late I’ve been feeling out of sorts. Maybe too much of a good thing, you’ll say. Maybe. But rationalizing never truly made anyone feel better.

When thadieu said to me on Thursday “yo, VK is singing La mort de Cléopâtre with Concertgebouworkest in Amsterdam, Brussels and Vienna this week and next” I initially said to myself “can’t do it, too short notice”. But then I thought “bollocks to the short notice, I miss bloody VK and Cléopâtre is a badass work.” So I promptly sweet talked the boss into figuring out how he would cope without me today (Sunday) and it was “hello, Brussels!” this morning 😀

Fauré: Pelléas et Mélisande
Berlioz: La mort de Cléopâtre
Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales
Debussy: La mer

Long story short, this was a Concertgebouworkest showcase which initially featured Garanca on Cléopâtre. VK took over when EG dropped out. Unlike some, I’m not usually fussed by straight up orchestral music but I do like some stuff. I was perfectly entertained by what was on the menu, especially the Debussy.

Let’s just say Concertgebouworkest sounds particularly fine. Thadieu, speaking of lovely (and robust) cello and upright bass sounds – oh, yea. I’d say the rhythm section rocked but that would belittle the efforts of the others of which I particularly liked the flute solos. The whole thing is a well oiled machine that produces gorgeous sound from every side.

The winds also got my attention during Cléopâtre, as I think VK’s voice meshes particularly well with them. I really need to see VK more often than once every couple of years. I don’t know exactly what it is but I just love listening to her voice. It’s buttah. At some point (during the mezzo – winds dialogue) I was simply basking in the sound, eyes closed, grin on my face. The woman knows how to work with an orchestra and it was very entertaining hearing their exchange. Wish there was more. There are such cool ideas in this piece, I love the structure. There used to be a time when I didn’t like either Berlioz nor VK. How things change…

Not sure how well young Ticci knows how to take care of his singers, though. I saw him this summer conduct the Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier where he didn’t refrain from drowning his singers, although he did occasionally fish them back. Neither did he go easy on VK. Now VK’s voice size isn’t tremendous but not particularly easy to drown. He still managed to do so during the most dramatic bits. Luckily some pianissme still made it through. But I wouldn’t say it was the most dramatic reading. In fact, the whole concert, aside from sounding beautiful, was rather low on drama (even La mer), though it got noisy enough. But so was Der Rosenkavalier. Pacing and subtlety is good, eh?

Now a snarky word about the Bozar Centre. Not so “beau”, mate. Yo, firstly your site sucks. I could not register for love or money (especially not for money, which I was ready to throw at you). Secondly, dude, €2.5 for a (small) glass of water? Thirdly, are you calling that pitiful stand with 3.5 kinds of drinks in what looks like an empty warehouse (not the Shoreditch kind) a “bar”? Fourth, your exactly 4 toilets, “conveniently” situated at the back of said empty warehouse – get them cleaned sometime, a’right? Fifth, why is the box office across the street? The girl manning it was lovely and very pleasant, though 🙂 And the Chinese kung fu students photo exhibit (between the warehouse space and the toilet area) was weird but rather interesting. The whole thing felt like a ’70s East German Kulturhaus. But the public was laid back and even youngish. Maybe it’s a continental thing. I don’t think I’ll complain about the Barbican ever again… until next time 😉

ps: Brussels is lovely. I’m going to La Monnaie in the morning, maybe I can figure out why February’s Monnaie Alcina and Tamerlano are apparently on stage (with the same cast) at the same time as Amsterdam’s. Who knows, they might have figured out bilocation… (edit 19/11/14): turns out I was seeing things. Their Handel double bill is earlier in the month but goes on sale later than the Amsterdam shows…

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About dehggial

opera lover with a predilection for Mozart and Baroque

Posted on November 17, 2014, in live performances, mezzos & contraltos and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. super happy (and a bit jealous..) you made it to hear VK live! when i first heard this piece with VK on radio i instantly fell in love with it too (and had a nice dream discussing with her about it!), also on list of things i’d like to catch live with her singing. think the trick is to manage when she sings it in her own recital because we might have a chance to hear the entire thing repeated as encore 😀 . But i also notice how loud the orchestra can be. was it a baroque this one? that’d be tremendous!
    Her voice at this stage, i find it particularly warm and different hearing live than when captured on audio. love the detail you mention also exchange between voice and winds.. think time to listen to salzburg version again to start the night..

    (ps- but what’s up with the tagging to casanova?)
    (ps2- i love also how you make me sound cooler too, yo! (with baseball cap backward hands rapping). these last minute things are..arrggh.. coz i was really in europe and did want to extend my stay during planning time if there were any concerts.. and of course there wasn’t at time i bought plane tix.. I thought of trying to get off the plane in Amsterdam, and realized if you’re heading for the US and attempting to get off the plane, it can’t look too good :D)

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    • Thanks again, “yo” 😉 you might appear all academic on your blog, but in reality you’re one tough street punk, eh heh. Nobody mess with da thadieu, word. Related to this and VK I have a funny picture I will post once I get it off my phone tomorrow (had to dash off to work as soon as I got back from Brussels).

      I typed it up on my kindle which was giving me the hardest time with the stupid spellcheck. “Casanova” clearly escaped my eagle eye 😉 but she’s a stage casanova all right, eh.

      Concertgebouworkest is definitely NOT a baroque orkest, I’m pretty sure no baroque one would give VK trouble. It’s a mofo Romantic-type orkest (just love that word, as I had to actually type all that Concertgebouw stuff since I couldn’t figure out how to copy/paste (don’t normally use the kindle for writing posts).

      yea, next up on my list of VK musts is a proper 2hr recital – all VK, all the time 😉 hopefully in a few months. She was definitely in good voice. I think she either comes off brighter live or used her brighter colours this time. And nice silver dress to go with them. The short chap in front of me kept drooping to the side and blocking my view of her but luckily she moves all the time.

      hey, getting off the plane in case of VK emergency is perfectly fine! Trust me, it was stressful planning it for me as well but you did have a poor luck this time.

      what did she tell you about Cleopatre in your dream?

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      • oh it was more about me complaining to her about the lack of orchestra support in a version she sang in Wien (broadcast on radio) where it sounded like the orchestra left her to do all the work and just limping along, whereas the version from salzburg was more the combined work (but JE Gardiner also drowned her out a couple of times..) What can i say, she should really work more with baroque orchestras :-).

        what’s in a few months (in term of recital)? She did say she still sing in concert form handel as well.. i keeping my fingers crossed she will be there for berlioz coz it’s my favorite piece to drown in, and of course once she shows up she’d almost have the whole 1/2 hr of nonstop singing. so excited.

        ps- haha, ok, so i didn’t miss any post, when first saw i thought there was one somewhere you made connection to supernova 😉

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        • I get the feeling VK does what she likes, so if she said she will sing Baroque arias in concert when she feels like she will do just that 😉 I personally don’t think she will ever be a real dramatic mezzo based on how she sounds at this age but of course she should do what she thinks is best for her. I just hope she will hit roles I like within this repertory (la Principessa de Bouillon, of course) so that I can see her in a proper production.

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          • haha, i hope she was not singing to this last sunday? :D.. hmm, not sure i know that princess.. but i can’t wait for her debut to Azucena! next year she’s also singing Mahler, that’d be realllly great i think, someone with deep interpretation..

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            • gah, Azucena, babies in the fire, a role for matronly voiced mezzos… Although of all people she might actually do something interesting with it. Principessa de Bouillon is the great villain from Adriana Lecouvreur. She sings this badass aria: Acerba voluta. She’s already sung this role in 1994! Can you imagine? My vote it something like Harteros in the title role and her as the villain. But what do I know, eh?

              but yea, I think she was singing to that. And they were dressed just like that, too 😉

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        • I’m going to make that supernova connection from now on! It’s so funny what the predictive text throws at you (if you’re in the mood for it – which I wasn’t because the battery was running out and I didn’t have a Belgian plug).

          What orchestra was that in Wien that acted so wishy-washy?

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          • oh, it’s actually in Graz, not Wien (at least i got the country right :D) back in 25,27 nov 2012. actually when it comes to support, i assume it’s the conductor’s task, not orchestra’s.. i found out about it from a link someone posted discovering her after listening live. Conductor was Patrick Lange… It’ll be very interesting to listen to her again this sunday!

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            • oh, yea, the orchestra does as it’s conducted, that’s why I blamed Ticci, too. You want the whole thing to work optimal, so you adjust the orchestral volume instead of expecting the singer to blow their voice.

              somebody in the comments of that link said he(?) couldn’t understand a word she sang – that’s actually true, I could barely understand a word here and there at the show but that’s her French 😉 at some point she goes “Alexandrie, Alexandrie, Alexandrie…” and I was like, blimey, I actually got a word 😀

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              • but her French has changed significantly! (at least to my ears.. in the latest Carmen or the latest Marguerite you can hear a significant change in the french pronunciation) I still think she purposely doesn’t sing the words clearly in order to get the music across, except in Lied.. For example a German friend of mine said he couldn’t understand her in DerR, but she has no problem with German..

                In the case of Graz, it was tempo, whimpy, just no support, annoying :D.

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                • don’t know about the latest Carmen (in fact I don’t know any of her Carmens but seems like lots of people are talking about it all of a sudden so I might investigate) or Marguerite but I’m telling you what I heard. Doesn’t really bother me and I have the same feeling you have about her doing it on purpose. I care more about the sound anyway and I had no complaints whatsoever about that.

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                  • a friend i made in zürich told me she attended ALL of VK’s carmen, 8 performances or something! and that the reception in Zürich was quite poor because it’s not a traditional carmen.. i also read when she performed in Wien there was booing.. anyhow, too bad i discovered too late, else i’d also be camping in Zürich and Munich as well when she last sung Carmen in both houses.. It’s still in the plan, just need proper timing.. I have the impression she’s now telling opera houses she will only sing 1 or 2 during a production or something..

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                    • I’m surprised, I always thought Zurich had quite interesting productions so I thought people were more open minded there (unlike here). I actually barely know Carmen (aside from the obvious bits) but I’m game for a modern production.

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                    • you could say her take is very different. in fact i have not seen anything even close… and probably due to how popular this particular opera is, everyone is “expecting” to see the version they had impression in head.. that’s my only guess. Luckily, i never listened/watched a full version before i discovered opera, except for 1 except from Callas(!), so newbies=more “open-minded” simply coz we know nothing :D.

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                    • you’re VK-brainwashed 😉 to be fair, all her takes on characters are different from everybody else’s. I mentioned I didn’t always like her (for the first 2min of my opera-loving life) but as soon as things clicked I felt very privileged to be one of those who “got” her.

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                    • i take that as a compliment 😉 . in fact i did mention i made the friend in Zürich after she “recognized” me across the hall nearly falling off the balcony trying to catch a better view of VK…

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                    • oh, you’re famous! I’ve known “of” you for years 😀

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      • ps- there’ll be also a broadcast of same program this sunday!

        Liked by 1 person

    • ok, here’s the picture I meant which goes with all the street talk:

      Who knew she was popular with the kids, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An you are cool, of course you are (and you don’t need a baseball cap for that)…

    Love this write up thanks so much, sick with envy naturally…

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