May Madness Mix 2: Cléopâtre take two (Basel, 6 May 2015)


random wall in Basel

I discovered I can never have enough Cléopâtre, and they all must be experienced in countries known for their chocolate. As you might have gleaned from my Akhnaten post(s), Ancient Egypt related stuff scores high with me (except for Aida, but we’ll talk about Sr Verdi soon enough). Then there’s the music. Throw in a bit of faux-Egyptian sound and I’m yours. What can I say? Neoclassic Berlioz rocks. And how badass are the lyrics:

Grands Pharaons, nobles Lagides,
Verrez-vous entrer sans courroux,
Pour dormir dans vos pyramides,
Une reine indigne de vous?
Non, j’ai d’un époux déshonoré la vie.
Sa cendre est sous mes yeux, son ombre me poursuit.
C’est par moi qu’aux Romains l’Égypte est asservie.
Par moi nos dieux ont fui les murs d’Alexandrie

After the two Röschmann/Uchida shows, thadieu and I embarked for Europe, to, as I explained to my opera-virgin ex-in-laws, “see some women sing some stuff”. You might wonder what my ex-in-laws have to do with anything. We met them because I needed the good camera, of which l’ex and I have joint custody. Here’s what I mean:


a few bits of Basel thanks to the good camera

As you can see we had excellent weather if a bit treacherous to some. Never having been to Basel (or to Switzerland for that matter) I suddenly became picture crazy and pointed the camera at everything under the sun but I won’t bore you, gentle reader, with all those ivy-covered walls or with Rhein’s fast currents that I just had to capture for posterity the harddrive. Suffice to say we had a lovely stroll through the centre of Basel at the end of which we went around in circles a bit before being told the venue was just around the corner. I took pictures of everything except for the venue. But it was quite small and felt relaxed and comfy.

György Ligeti (1923-2006)
Concert Românesc (1951)

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
La mort de Cléopâtre – Scène lyrique für Sopran und Orchester (1829)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Sinfonie Nr. 3 F-Dur, op. 90 (1883)

Conductor: Enrique Mazzola | Sinfonieorchester Basel

Concert românesc. This turns out to be an extremely fun piece that makes me want to go on a mad Ligeti binge though I know better (?). Familiarity with the subject matter brings mischieviousness: does the orchestra sound Romanian enough? Does Ligeti know what that means? I think Ligeti did a good job at compiling a medley of traditional Romanian themes which doesn’t sound tossed together. The orchestra, I think, could’ve been even more playful in the fun bits, it felt a bit this-is-classical-music earnest. The Romanian spirit, I’d say, is rather glib and rubato is always a good idea, except you should know where to use it 😉 There’s a lot of chillin’n’gigglin’ and not that much darkness (in spite of what good ol’ Dracula would have the world think). But still fun, especially when the intruments had their solo moments. No one could envy the first violin’s job at the very end. That little finger got a hell of a workout. But she was deteremined, oh yes!

Cléopâtre. Familiarity with a piece also comes in handy when dealing with an unexpectedly mushy brain. By which I mean I could still (kinda) follow the music and appreciate that the conductor went gentler than usual and less dark too from the getgo. We were strategically placed right at the front, just to the left of the conductor (so very clever, I thought, with little concern for the perils ahead…). VK came in, moved the music stand out of the way and got her mad moves going under above our noses. A few days before, thadieu and I had this short convo:

thadieu: maybe she’ll wear the red dress from Mannheim. Have I shown you the pictures?
dehggi (appreciative but confident): chill, I can cope.

Famous last words. On the one hand woohoo, the red dress from Mannheim! On the other dude… front row view = pictures X 1000. Foggy brain for the rest of the performance:


foggy brain, shaky hands… you know I’m a rational person 😉 and that bouquet is so modestly placed…

thadieu: blahblahblah.
dehggi: don’t talk to me right now, can’t process words.
thadieu: 😀 what did I tell you!

Much later:

dehggi: so how was the singing?
thadieu: intense.

So, there you go. It was intense. At some point VK suddenly stepped towards us, did the finger-pointy thing and went OSIRIS! That cleared the brain a bit. Me: whoa! Osiris is in this one too?! I must check the damn lyrics if I like it as much as I claim, because left to VK there are precious few words to understand.

dehggi: this time I understood more than usual!
thadieu: I got maybe three words.
dehggi: exactly 😀

You know what she needs to do? Pair this thing up with Ô ma lyre immortelle and another couple of pieces of that sort and we’ve got a consistent recital in this repertoire. The red dress must be part of it.

Brahms as come down drug. Don’t ask me how things went before the slow movement. That one came out extremely warm and lyrical and surprisingly (or not?) that brought my attention back into focus. Then the allegro ending worked as a re-grouping agent and my hands dried and I was able to grin and think again. The both of us agreed the orchestra sounded tight. We were too low to see the winds but they sounded well. Thadieu liked the first violin a lot, I appreciated the upright bass though he was called to play quite gently throughout. The conductor jumped around a lot – between him and VK it felt like a capoeira convention 😉 I jest. You catch my drift, it was a fun evening though way less coherent than usual for me. Remember, I’m a rational person… most of the time. When low cut dresses and bare shoulders aren’t quite as close. Next time it’s back to the upper slips for me.

Who am I kidding? 😀


About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on May 15, 2015, in live performances, mezzos & contraltos and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. this brought back some memory.. 😀
    that Brahms piece was totally a blur.. except for that nice valse 3rd movement i think.
    I was really hoping to see her black dress, hopefully more chance to come 😉
    Thinking back it was such a pleasant afternoon :-).
    (for the innocent readers i’ll look over my photos for the dress, Dehggial was just not talking to me for a long time 😉 )

    • it was pleasant, wasn’t it? the river, the back streets, the relaxed atmosphere.

      the way you’re predicting these dresses the black one is showing up next 😉

      speaking of which, I just checked my schedule and it appears I was given 4 days off right around the time Bluebeard’s Castle is on.

      • it’s meant to be!
        i’ve been thinking how these trips can be arranged to reduce running/tumbling but i think it’s part of the package, this one was great thanks to good opera buddy 😉 (though minus the cold would have been welcome..)

  2. Hehehe, I leave it to you to mention the tumbling, spectacular as it was. But I think I should’ve fit in somewhere the WS who tripped during intermission 😉 having a partner in crime is ace indeed! I think we didn’t stop talking from the time we left my house until we took a nap in Basel 😉

  3. Saved up these T and D posts for a marathon tonight – laughing my head off at the thought if the two of you tumbling around after VK 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  4. This made me laugh so much. Glad you had such a great time – it is so much more fun doing this kind of stuff with other people, isn’t it? – although to be fair you don’t really seem to have taken in much of the music. Giggles Well, it certainly makes me feel much better about my shameless fangirling over Valer Sabadus, anyway… 😉

    • 😀 luckily I had already seen her sing this live so I can fill in the blanks 😉 but, yeah, forget about shame, the world knows we’re in this for the music! (They do know, right?)

      • I kept saying that when we were in Düsseldorf to see Xerxes – “Guys, honestly, I’m only here for the music.” You know what? Nobody seemed to believe me. Most odd. 😉

        And a bloody good thing I did go to Düsseldorf too, because he’s now dropped out of Catone at Versailles, the little heartbreaker… Still. C’est la vie… At least I get to listen to him being rather brilliant on the CD.

      • He’s apparently ill and so isn’t able to join in the rehearsals for the staged versions… That’s the official line anyway.

      • Ha ha. Rumbled. (Sorry Valer) The funniest thing was that when I broke the news to my parents, whom I’m taking with me to Versailles, my dad’s immediate reaction was: “Hmph. Needn’t have paid for you to have your own room after all.” The cheek. How many times do I have to say, “I just like his voice!”? Everyone knows I’m only in it for the music.

        • I know your pain 😉 though “just” liking a voice can carry quite a bit of weight… for instance I think a beautiful voice is one of the most attractive things in a person.

    • …and yes, going to shows with buddies is extra special 🙂

  5. i listening to vk singing this now and remember this trip, so fun 😀

    • more specifically since i suddenly switched from ACA to VK’s french , hence our convo 😀

    • good times! It’s 1 year tomorrow since I saw her sing that the first time. I listened to the whole Schwetzingen show last night as it’s been so busy at work for the past couple of weeks and I wanted something “soothing”.

      • those sprinkled lingering notes! hope it’s recharging 🙂 . that’s normally the case (busy-ness) after a long break? you’re right though about the bit of clicking to hear one thing and end up sitting through that whole show, as i’ve ended up doing several times this past week! (now searching for something… might end up taking a short break from purcell + ACA and revert back to dario (l’incoronazione..) to push through 5 slides — haate making slides, urgh)

        • my recent projects were probably the equivalent of slides 😉

          I started with Parto but I had a pretty good idea from the getgo that I’d let it play through (the speaking bits included, I learn a new word with each listen 😉 ).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s