Kasarova Handel recital (Karlsruhe Handel Fest, 2 March 2015)

Does your local train station advertise Baroque recitals?

Does your local train station advertise Baroque recitals?

Why do people fix what ain’t broken? In this case, why’d VK ever decide to sing in another rep? I enjoyed both times I’d seen her before but this one was a whole other level of fun. No wonder she likes singing in Germany: these people love her like she’s their own child. It was like an old folk’s rave 😉

Serse overture
„Frondi tenere“ (Serse)
„Ombra mai fù“ (Serse)
„Se bramate d’amar chi vi sdegna“ (Serse)

Ballet from Rodrigo (Act III)

Rinaldo overture
„Cara sposa, amante cara, dove sei? “ (Rinaldo)
Battaglia from Act III (Rinaldo)
„Or la tromba in suon festante mi richiamo a trionfar“ (Rinaldo)


Rodelinda overture
„Con rauco mormorio piangono al pianto mio“ (Bertarido)
„Vivi, tiranno!“ (Bertarido)

Ballet from Alcina (Act I)
„Mi lusinga il dolce affetto“ (Ruggiero)
„Sta nell’Ircana, pietrosa tana“ (Ruggiero)


Verdi prati
Ombra mai fu

Conductor: Paul Goodwin | Badische Staatskapelle

I guess once you’ve admitted to yourself that you’re on opera fan you have to also get used to the fact that you’re going to cheer for the same things people your grandparents’ age and habits do. I’m not saying there were no young people – there are always some – more that the feel of the Badisches Staatstheater was very old school opera-like, complete with pearls and plastic roses on coffee tables. But to my surprise this stuffy audience really could cheer and support a singer who’s dubbed rather unusual (especially in this rep). Obviously not unusual enough for German audiences (but then they eat regie for breakfast so I guess nothing can faze them).

When I said it was another level of fun I meant you could tell right away that she was having fun. I don’t know that I felt that specifically when I saw her before. Of course, singing to your own fans is bound to relax you. She even talked to the public in her soft and girly voice, which I took as a bonus. It never fails to crack me up – it’s so incongruous with her “you talkin’ to me” stage persona. Speaking of which, sometimes I think she can come off as serious and perhaps a bit remote but last night she was downright playful. As a consequence she specifically rocked the bravura arias. Yours truly still teared up almost as soon as Mi lusinga il dolce affetto started.

dehggi’s first take: OMG, we’re already there! Noooooo, more!
dehggi’s second take: OMG, Mi lusinga sung live by VK! Like OMG totallyewyruhfjsdbfsdgfusfw384hf.

Seriously, I am that crazy about her version. Listen to it; how can you not desintegrate emotionally? Jesus. In fact, every time in the past two weeks I had doubts about attending the concert it was always the thought of Mi lusinga that refocused me:

dehggi’s inner lazy arse: More international travel hassle (ie, £££), I just saw her in November…
dehggi’s inner Mi lusinga fan: But Mi lusinga…
dehggi’s inner lazy arse: It’s cold…
dehggi’s inner Mi lusinga fan: ooooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh…
dehggi’s inner lazy arse: Shift swapping madness…
dehggi’s inner Mi lusinga fan: …che m’inga(ah ah-ah-ah-AH-AH…)nni amando ancor.

Yea, I love it how Ruggiero gets thoughtful and gentle and worried all of a sudden. Except that’s how he should’ve felt about Alcina. Anyway.

Remember I said the bravura arias were the hot diggity and I think the reason for that was her own cheerful mood. Let me set this straight: no mezzo does bravura like VK. I was convinced Rinaldo, Bertarido and Ruggiero were going to kick major arse specifically in those high heels and no other way could have possibly worked (Serse simply would wear high heels). It’s the menacing prowl (the woman doesn’t just “walk” on stage). Somewhere in the middle of all the showing off in Or la tromba I started cracking myself up with images of VK wielding a giant sword. You know the vocals go along with the trumpets so naturally VK worked her ornaments to mimic those because her colours allow her to do just that kind of stuff. VK + winds = the enemy has no chance.

Ok, not everybody was mesmerised. These two ladies sat next to me sniggered through VK’s mad stage antics and left at the interval. It’s true that she’s a very impatient person. From my spot I could see her right off the bat (Serse overture) just barely inside the wing, obviously itching to get on stage and kick some arse. Eventually, as she felt the crowd firmly on her side, she just prowled in whenever it suited her 😉 I’m not complaining, in fact I’d rather have the singers there throughout but I guess others like a bit of a break or something. Impatience aside, she’s very chivalrous (shook the first violin’s hand repeatedly and in the end gave him her bouquet – then the conductor gave her his and she hugged him in a cute manner. She can do cute right after wielding that huge sword…).

Most of the crowd were fans and weren’t satisfied and clapped madly until she came back with Verdi prati (I kinda had a feeling and was very glad for it; Zen Ruggiero = ftw) then a reprise of Ombra mai fu. She went (very cutely) something like Ok, you guys, we’ve run out of arias, you say what you want to hear. I was thinking how about the other 5 Ruggiero arias? but the adoring fans went easy on her and only asked for the short Ombra. Or I think they did. I was sat too far to properly hear her speak and it was in German. My German stretches only as far as Der Zug nur bei bitten halt – which itself might be wrong but at least I know what it means (and I heartily approve! We need that kind of thinking for our overground trains). Anyway, whatever the dialogue, Ombra returned. I’m not a fan of this one no matter who’s singing it but I wasn’t going to complain. She did a bit of messa di voce on the long note at the beginning but didn’t go oveboard, just enough for a nice ring, which I appreciated. It’s a simple aria and should stay that way.

You might ask yourself ok, she fronted like she meant to scare the bad guys but was she any good vocally?She sounded like she sounds in Baroque (which you either like or you don’t, especially if her iffy passaggio bothers you too much) and was up for some daring moves (like her nunchuk squillo which just about seared my ears in Sta nell’Ircana; I hope those in the first rows were insured) and also for a number of striking ornaments. Now her ornaments aren’t the elaborate kind Baroque specialists do, they are more about the mood of the text or in response to the orchestra, as I mentioned above. Organic, perhaps. I have long been intrigued by her very personal take on Baroque and by her always intense and interesting interpretations. I didn’t go there to hear a canary string pretty notes on air and it certainly wasn’t that. But I was surprised by just how much good natured fun it turned out to be.

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on March 3, 2015, in baroque, live performances, mezzos & contraltos and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 72 Comments.

  1. i still remember well my reaction hearing VK’s Mi lusinga il dolce affetto live for the first time in Wien, and still remember how well it followed after Vorrei vendicarmi.. heart breaking.. visually and vocally and emotionally

  2. Can we add “nunchuk squillo” to the official critical lexicon right now?

  3. What a fun write up! I’m delighted that you had a great time at the concert. 😀 VK does have quite a distinct stage prowl indeed. When she came to New York to do Dom Sebastien many years ago everyone else were already on the stage and singing… then half a number before Zayda first note was schedule she came slow prowling out of stage left… In the middle of the scene (this was a concert performance), and you couldn’t take your eye off her to save your life. There’s something about the deliberate slow pace and the way she kept her head turned a bit downward that just holds you… like something is about to happen and you’ve better not look away or you’ll miss it.

    I’m afraid she didn’t get to do any messa di voce in that show, but she did shake Carnegie Hall with a few really well judged forzando’s and I distinctly remember a most amazing floated last note that seemed to detach itself from her, hung over the stage for a second before flying overhead out the back of the hall. If I wasn’t too busy goosebumping in the next to last row I’d have hopped off my seat and tried to catch it. 🙂

    • I think you caught that last floated note 😉 I like how her voice is warmer on stage so the very top notes come off friendlier than on recordings. Glad you enjoyed my thoughts on it, I could’ve written on individual arias but I was really tired last night. Like I could’ve said how well the spoiled brat Serse came off in Se bramar and the audience called her back twice afterwards or how much fun it was to see Bertarido get progressively annoyed in Vivi, tiranno.

  4. Ah I’ve been waiting for this one. 😉 Obviously I knew you would love this to bits; it’s always fun when you’re waiting for a post that you just know is going to be full of enthusiasm. So glad that Kasarova lived up to expectations; I shall have to keep an ear / eye out on YouTube to see if there are any examples of her doing Handel. So far, as you know, I’ve seen her in a grand total of One Thing (with Gluck still waiting in the wings) and so it would be fun to hear her go for something more Baroque. What a great programme, too. (‘Se bramate’: another of my favourites) Hope to hear about it all in much more detail on the 19th!

    (Still can’t believe you went all that way and didn’t bother with Teseo / Riccardo Primo though. Clearly I need to work on you a bit more…) 😛

    • i could aide w/ some clips if needed 😉 , but that recital she did in Schwetzingen 2005 is a wonderful start (i like how it’s linked here as well as on my last post on hearing her Scherza infida live); she must have sung all ruggiero + ariodante arias plus sesto + orphée ‘s arias in that one!

      • Thank you very much! I will investigate soon and will give you a nudge if I need further directions. There’s quite a lot of Handel coming up over the next few weeks as it is, thanks to the festival, so maybe when all that has calmed down a bit 😀

        • no rush, it’s not going anywhere (if it’s not on ze tube someone will hook you up with it 😉 ). What are you seeing during the festival? I hope I can see Catone, Erica Eloff is in it and she rocks 😀 I just noticed I missed her recital, boohoo.

    • well, you should see her Alcina then, because with your love of Handel it’s not right that you don’t know Alcina yet! It’s a lovely production with – gasp! – costumes you might actually like.

      Yes, I would’ve liked to see those and it could’ve been done but what with mum (her flight was on 1 March) and other stuff…

      • (I’m teasing you about Karlsruhe, right, you do know that? Just checking…)

        Yes! Would love to see Alcina. Will definitely look into it, especially if there are my kind of costumes. I have to smile at you commenting on “my love of Handel” as have just got back from Hercules which in some ways was awesome – I’m just going to say three words “Alice. Coote. Wow” – but in other ways was very challenging. I’m so used to sparkly flashy opera seria that this rather took me aback; for something written only six years after Serse I had no idea it was going to be so different. In the greater scheme of things I guess it isn’t massively different but I’ve been so attuned to all the traditions of full-on Baroque bling that parts of this felt much more modern, much more intense. Fantastic performance by all involved, but the music itself certainly demands more concentration. Interesting for a first foray out of Handel’s pure opera though. Have to get my brain in order about it.

        You will approve on hearing that it was the ladies who completely blew me away in this one, even though there was a countertenor – he was good, but oh my goodness, all three men were put rather in the shade. 😉

        • I can lend you that Alcina if you’d like. I couldn’t watch it anyway for like 2 years due to lack of equipment… And since you’ve enjoyed La Coote, you should make time somewhere for her Alcina as well (on ze tube). Maybe slot it somewhere in April when all this Handel madness dies down a bit 😉

          I know you’re teasing 😉 but I would certainly love a whole week of Handel with excellent singers.

          I get what you’re saying about Hercules, let’s say I wasn’t exactly heartbroken about missing it 😉

  5. Belatedly: the Handel Festival! So… there was Hercules last night; I’m off to Semele on Tuesday; a soprano friend’s recital on Monday 16th at lunchtime; Catone on Tuesday 17th (further preparation for Versailles, obvs.); a countertenor recital at Handel House on 22 March; Giove in Argo on Thursday 26th; another lunchtime concert involving the friend of a friend on Friday 27th; and then that, I think, is it, and I’ll be sick of Handel and never want to hear him again. Oh, until 2 May in Dusseldorf, of course. And then early June in Halle.

    • How did you get tix for Catone? I am confused. I can do Semele as well if there are decent (cheap) tix left.

      Sick of Handel? There’s no such thing 😀

      • Uh…. my opera buddy bought them! So I don’t know. With the Festival I just agreed to go to things and the tickets magically appeared. And then cash was handed over in a suitcase round the back of King’s Cross, etc. etc. 😉 It’s great. There’s a telephone booking link on the website and a link to another website. Maybe give that a go?

        Oh do come to Semele. I’ve been promised (by my long-suffering opera buddy) that it’s a bit more lively than Hercules. (I think she saw me settling down to part 2 of Hercules, after the interval, with my Determined Wagner Face on, muttering to myself, “I can do this. I can do this.” Fortunately part 2 was brilliant.) Apparently Semele is an Italian opera masquerading as an oratorio “with intrigue and stuff.” She knows how to capture my attention. And it better had be good because we managed to double book ourselves and we gave up Sarah Connolly at the Wigmore for this. So, no pressure, Mr Handel, but it had better be bloody damn brilliant.

        • Was it a suitcase or rather a pirate’s casket? I bet there’s also a Baroque-fan secret handshake involved 😉 Semele should be a lot more lively.

          I’ll try calling, I just thought there was an easier way…

      • I forgot one! Strada and Carestini at the Wigmore, 14th April. I wanted to go because Daniel Taylor was meant to be singing in it and I’m always keen on hearing new countertenors, clearly; but just now, looking up the date to tell you, I find that he and Sophie Bevan (of Idomeneo fame) have both dropped out (Grrrrrr) and now there’s a soprano and mezzo whom I don’t know taking over. But sure they will be good anyway. And the programme has lots of Alcina, you’ll be happy to hear!

      • You know me too well. Clearly a pirate’s casket – only to be handed over after a complicated process of exchanged passwords taken from the recitativo of Vinci’s Artaserse.

    • I’m getting my info from the Festival Website. http://www.london-handel-festival.com/event/2015/04/strada-and-carestini/96/ Trust me, if Taylor’s still in I’ll be deeply happy, but it looks unlikely.

      • Oh, but Renata Pokupic rocks!

      • I’m very glad to hear that. I’m really trying not to hold it against her that she isn’t a countertenor. Believe me. 🙂 And seriously, I’m just looking forward to hearing more of this music live.

        • I bought the last £20 ticket for Semele 😀 so see you there next week!

          Hehe, you know, the same way I’ve warmed up to countertenors you will find that quite a few mezzos are much fun in this rep. It’s great having the kind of variety of sound (not to mention of visuals) that one couldn’t imagine with tenors and sopranos.

      • Oh good-o. That’ll be fun! 😀

  6. Great write up of a great night (even if I am spiralling into a gin soaked depression as I realise I am no longer one of the young things in the audience and instead one of the (getting too quickly) white hairs 🙂 ) I was right in front and yes indeed there were a couple points the eyebrows were scorched. last time I saw her as good as that was a concert in Munich a few years ago where again she had an adoring audience that brought out the best in her. The lovely thing you missed in the encores when she spoke was her saying ‘Danke Handel’ just before Ombra Mai Fu … Well indeed 🙂

  7. Patrick Ussher

    I travelled from Ireland to hear this concert, Ms Kasarova was outstanding, she is in my opinion the best in the world. Never have I heard anyone interpret and perform music as she can, what a wonderful performance.
    Podge from Ireland

  8. every time i listen to ‘mi lusinga il dolce affetto’ i remember this post!

  9. “how about the other 5 Ruggiero arias?”
    I up 1/2 way thru sleep last night and suddenly thinking about this q., would have been really fun to ask 😀

  10. sobbing. now that i’ve watched Rhodelinda and Serse.. well.. you were there. and her other fans..

  11. to calm my anger, “WP suggestion” has brought me here, so such soothing effect and happiness 🙂

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