A few of Cleopatra’s deaths
After my last month’s flash trip to Brussels I’ve been predictably going through a ‘Cleopatre phase -> youtube was combed for various interpretations and here are some I felt compelled to say something about1:
Janet Baker – not my favourite voice (especially in the top register) but a very intelligent and emotionally vivid interpretation. It stayed with me after the music stopped. Great job on the ending.
Ketevan Kemoklidze – here’s a singer who valiantly fights the orchestra and wins. I still want a blending of the two, it shouldn’t be a contest. BF2 was saying “so what if the orchestra overpowers you for a couple of minutes?” (after a bit of thinking, I agreed – unless your aria is a couple of minutes long. But in cases where the orchestra is actually loud it’s through composed).
Yvonne Minton – this version has a good pace, nice blending of voice and orchestra and lovely voice across the registers; a good example of a regal Cleopatre. But should she be regal in this instance? I don’t think she should. Luckily, I snatched it before it was taken down…
VK – as you can imagine I listened to all three VK versions I found on youtube. My favourite is the Salzburg one with JEG. Rather in constrast with YM and along the lines of JB, the mortal side of Cleopatre is emphasized here. I also like the strings a lot.
Olga Borodina – as usual, Borodina’s rendition is power-heavy but devoid of interpretation. This one seems MIA as well. But hearing Borodina once is all you need, she sounds the same every time.
Gwyneth Jones – along the lines of Borodina, although with some attention to interpretation. Still, the ending falls flat.
Jessye Norman – I was pleasantly surprised by the restraint displayed by JN with Barenboim. It reaches the right balance between outbursts of anger and inward looking intensity. The piece showcases JN’s voice beautifully.
- I also liked Veronique Gens’ version but wasn’t too sure what else to say just yet. Except yay for a native speaker’s French! ↩
- BF = Brigitte Fassbaender, of course, not “boyfriend”. I do get carried away with abbreviating long names, I know. So, moment of pedantry: VK = Vesselina Kasarova, JEG = John Eliot Gardiner. ↩