May Madness Mix 5: Sara Mingardo (Wigmore Hall, 11 May 2015)
A contralto singing plaintively about lost loves with only a harpsichord and a theorbo as accompniment is best experienced in a smallish setting such as the Wigmore Hall. Misleadingly, SM started with a short and playful Monteverdi tune and ended with a witty one. But it wasn’t long until things turned quiet and heartbreaking. It’s thanks to her vivid vocal delivery that things were kept interesting for the duration.
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643)
Quel sguardo sdegnosetto
Voglio di vita uscir, voglio che cadano
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583 – 1643) harpsichord
Toccata seconda (da “Primo libro di toccate e partite d’intavolatura di cimbalo”)
Andrea Falconieri (1585/6 – 1656)
Vezzosette e care pupillette
Non più d’amore
Giacomo Carissimi (1605 – 1674)
Deh, memoria e che più chiedi?
Alessandro Piccinini (1566 – c. 1638) theorbo
Aria di sarabanda in varie partite
Giovanni Salvatore (early 17th century – ? 1688)
All’hor che Tirsi udia
Barbara Strozzi (1619 – 1677)
La, sol, fa, mi, re, do
Sara Mingardo, contralto
Ivano Zanenghi, theorbo
Giorgio Dal Monte, harpsichord
The centre piece was Deh, memoria, a song about the way memories of a dead loved one torment the still living lover, which she built in an very moving way. Her delivery seemed simple and direct but there were a lot of details in her phrasing – dramatic twists and turns – which signalled that a lot of thought and preparation went into producing that simplicity. Admirable. The more cheerful tunes benefited from her directness and I for one would’ve liked a couple of more. SM has quite a roomy vocal range, well expressed/inhabited by the chosen songs. But the reason why we like contraltos is their lower notes and hers were quietly heroic live, strong and clear yet tender and affecting.
For whatever reason I found the Frescobaldi piece grating. I thought Dal Monte did a choppy job (where dynamics were concerned) but since it appeared intentional I chalk it up to a difference in taste. The theorbo pieces, on the other hand, were very enjoyable, especially Zanenghi’s cheerful take on Aria di sarabanda, reason for which I looked Piccinini up (two hours of lute and chitarrone).
The house was surprisingly full for the early time of the day. These kind old ladies befriended by thadieu took us with them backstage to the Green Room, where I had never been before. For those who hadn’t either, it’s not exactly green but it’s fairly large and very pleasant. The walls are predictibly covered in autographed pictures of singers who have sung at Wigmore Hall. SM was tiny and very relaxed, already changed in “something more comfortable”. She chatted with everybody without rushing and was very kind to smile for a picture which I’m sure thadieu will keep under her pillow 😉
This performance was part of Radio 3’s Lunch Concert Series and as such only about an hour long, without intermission. Over by 2pm, for us late risers it was a breakfast concert, an unusually pleasant start for a Monday. We were left with things to do on a bright day and so we walked from Wigmore Hall to ROH and then to ENO; from there on to Camden Lock, which is hardly operatic but sitting by the water has been a theme with this trip and it was nice to wrap it up the same way. Indeed, gentle reader, this was the last event of the 2015 May Madness, the event that in fact initiated it all. Gentle and low key (like noodle soup 😉 ).