Author Archives: dehggial

Cosa fan tutta, tutu, tut… vs the cool crowd

Have you noticed how nobody can pronounce this one?

DaPonte: … and the biggest joke of all shall be its title!

One of my colleagues likes to listen to ClassicFM and although the playlist is mostly waltzes, 19th century stuff with cymbals, Mozart piano music, waltzes, film music, Elgar, more waltzes or arias recorded at least 30 years ago, the posh sounding DJs have somehow not managed to learn how to say the opera titles/aria names the composer failed to provide in English for our convenience. I haven’t felt so proud of my Italian opera title proficiency in a good while.

Conclusion: the music selection might be mostly boring, but listening to ClassicFM DJs’ mangled Italian will make you feel good about yourself.

PS: the prize of the current ClassicFM competition is a trip to Maastricht to visit Andre Rieu’s fairy castle. I mean, come on! Who would refuse that?! I did. I went to Maastricht last month, spent more time than strictly necessary and I still failed to visit that wonder of the classical world ūüė¶

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Agrippina stirs some sh…tuff up (Barbican, 31 May 2019)

As a very big fan of Poppea, the prequel causes lots of amusement.

Poppea: Ottone, my boo-boo teddybear!
Ottone: I do not wish for power, all I want it my lovely, sexy and very virtuous Poppea!
Nerone: Poppea, Poppea! Considering I am higher up the totem pole than him, can I have some?
Poppea: Go away, pimply teenager! Now, where is my boo-boo teddybear, whom I will love forever?

Famous. last. words.

Claudio: Nerone, leave alone (ie, to me) virginal patrician women!
Agrippina: Nerone, stick to the plan! Now is not the time to get horny!

And so on.

Joyce DiDonato Agrippina
Elsa Benoit Poppea
Xavier Sabata Ottone
Franco Fagioli Nerone
Luca Pisaroni Claudio
Andrea Mastroni Pallante
Carlo Vistoli Narciso
Biagio Pizzuti Lesbo
Maxim Emelyanychev harpsichord/director | Il Pomo d’Oro

There is an unwritten law that says operas about this imperial family must have really good libretti. This one is funny as hell, there are too many good things to mention. If the music was not as good you would almost want it to be a very silly play about lust for power. For those who do not know, everybody has their own game they pursue to various results.

At this point, Poppea is actually a paragon of virtue compared to her later self. She does not want Nerone at all, no matter how much closer to the throne he is, and she is actually repulsed by Claudio, the emperor:

Poppea:¬†He is like… old.

Although I think Pisaroni is younger than Sabata? Heh, heh. And, well, for once the bass-baritone is less credible age-wise than the soprano.

Poppea sticks with her true love here and fends off the danger (Claudio and Nerone) but also shows us that she can perform her own machinations. Now said schemes are not particularly clever, as she manages to 1) confuse boo-boo teddybear Ottone and 2) her well thought out scheme works in such a way as to lose him his throne. Ooops. Was Arnalta on holiday?

As far as the singers I had two surprises – for once I liked Fagioli’s acting better than his singing and I actually heard Sabata live! Those of you who have read my Disarmonia estravaganza may remember that I have seen him live before. Less with the hearing. It tells you something if you can hear a singer better from the Barbican’s balcony than from Wigg’s 5th row. And that something is

the orchestra and the conductor

I want to put my vote for Emelyanychev as the most singer friendly conductor EVER. OK, ever as in modern times and in Baroque specifically. But, maaaan, can he support a singer or what! Also, his orchestra is butter. When I saw them for Serse last year I was too close to Gal… I mean, to the action, so I actually did not have the best spot for focusing on hearing the work of the instrumentalists. But from my perch in the front row balcony (upgrade! that was a sweet spot for my ¬£15) I could hear it in its multichannel beauty.

Now butter (salted, full fat) is usually a top like from me, but I have to say that, here and there, I could have liked a hint of recklessness (couple of pebbles in that butter?). I know, I know, as that wise man Muddy Waters once said, I can never be satisfied. But I think with me, it is actually high praise if I say it was wonderful butIt means you are on a whole other level from the riff-raff who cannot do a pianissimo to save their life. As I was saying much later, when the conversation turned to whether one has or has not seen that 8 hour tunnel that is the Wagner light – I like my music performed with delicacy and attention to detail.

Now lets go back to Franco. Hey, this man was made for solo shows, dramatically leaving and returning to the stage comedy! First Serse, now this. I think he was even better here, with his Mummy, Mummy, I’m scared schtick. Singingwise, I have already mentioned last year that Im going off him. Even so, it was a bit strange that, of everything that went on last night, Come nube came off the least convincing. Mind you, that was just me – the public loved it. Now, of course they would love it, the music is just so good. I also applauded, because how can you not give this orchestra and its head honcho a bit of clap? Heh heh. PS: first violin, sweet tone all night.

Handel:¬†Hello, all! You may remember me for that wonderfully sparkling work I presented a couple of years ago, Il trionfo del Tempo… No? OK, the subject was a bit finger wagging – but the music! I came up with some of my best ideas back in 1707. I think I shall cannibalise that work for the rest of my life (wistful sigh). Let me remind you.

And reminded we was. In my case, I was reminded of the breathtaking renditions Bonitatibus and Hallenberg, to name but two, do of this aria. I am not entirely sure who or what to fault, but considering maestro was so keen on supporting his singers I shall blame both him and Franco. Emelyanychev chose to support him, so perhaps the lack of clarity or focus came from that. Do not get me wrong, the string section’s sound was as good as ever and the winds were no slouch. The tempo was no problem. What I did not quite feel was the drive. Franco, for his part, made a completely abstract sparkle of coloratura out of it. Like words tossed by the wind, as it were. I know I am asking too much from him, but I love this aria to such a degree that I would like to actually catch a word here and there.

Sabata, on the other hand, when heard, sounds lovely. Stylish as anything plus his recit skills are quite legendary. And whilst we are at other badass 1707 arias I wanted the world to remember, at some point Ottone breaks into Crede l’uom, only about birds and bees or something equally as incongruous. Wait a minute, that’s a cautioning the soprano aria. And whoever sings it, actually gets the soprano (right? Disinganno gets Bellezza in the end? so to speak; it is a morality tale, after all), which is the case here. Short lived victory, Ottone, alas. But Ottone is the character that stays the same through both works.

Agrippina: Whew! Now that I’ve seen my son on throne, I can die happy.
Nerone: Happy to oblige! (ok, not just yet)

This Agrippina provided a unique moment when I actually liked all three countertenors on stage. Even though I am moving on from Franco and the contrast with the warmer tones of Sabata and Vistoli was not flattering as far as I’m concerned, this was still the best possible gaggle of CTs on one stage for me. And though I appreciated Orlinski before, I think we were indeed better off with Vistoli as Narciso, to contrast the bolder Pallante (really fun acting chops from Mastroni) towards Agrippina. He has that hopeless lover tone that would probably do a nice Ottone in the future.

Because I never want my writeups to sound like they are coming from a hopeless Betty (Mary?) Sue, I shall remind you that I have always been indifferent to JDD’s tone. But then comes the rest of the story. JDD is without a doubt one of the smartest singers out there. I have long admired the way she balances her belcanto and her Baroque. She understands style and she can be interesting within the required parameters, without having to borrow skills from another time period. And, as you may know, I have been obsessed with her Barcelona Ogni vento from earlier this month. You sing Baroque, you need to do that kind of precise and inventive coloratura, you have to be able to sing softly, change dynamic gears in an instant, you need to pay attention to details. With her, it is all there and it feels easy to boot.

Her Agrippina did not try to out-Poppea Poppea. She took the role of scheming older woman very seriously and that was a clever move, because it fits her much better. Dramatically, her chiding mother to Franco’s whingy son and the lying through their teeth oh so civil couple she and Pisaroni made were the best moments of the night.

What can I say about Pisaroni? It is always a pleasure to hear him spin Baroque coloratura and, yes, we got his trade mark mezzo-hair sniffing moment. Haha.

I really did not mind Benoit and thought her acting was fine, although the company rather came down on her and thought she was boring. Not the most memorable voice out there but see above.

The evening ended up a lot more animated than I thought it would be. First, Giulia found me in the Barbican shop wihtout us actually making any plans. Then a bunch of Twitter folk she knew joined in for lively conversation. At the intermission I was stuck in an unbelievable loo queue. Barbican… you have so much dead space and so little understanding of how women and loo breaks function. As I was saying to a queue companion, it should not be called intermission any longer, rather it should be women’s loo break.

On the other hand, this may be Barbican’s clever have Londoners mingle plan. I found out that the two most efficient ice breakers in London are 1) complaining about the weather, 2) complaining about the loo queue at a performance venue. The third is admiring pets on the public transport.

You know the joke is Londoners never speak to each other or make eye contact on the tube (not true, I hasten to add). I have met some very interesting people on this very queue and I was a bit sad we could not continue our conversation due to impending return of performers on stage (the gall!). But after the show I joined Giulia and her friends for a pint at the local and that was very fun. We shall do it again!

Agrippina in London, round one (next week)

*Please note that…

NOOO!

Am I the only one who has a sharp intake of breath whenever they have to *please note something regarding casting?

For the much awaited Barbican Agrippina concert performance currently touring I got my tickets last March, that is March 2018 – it was an accident, I am not quite as rabid an early Handel fan, though the amount of Ogni vento I listened to in the past couple of days could have had one fooled. But because of recent I have been known to forget shows I wanted to see (I also forgot to vote today…), I thought checking and rechecking that the show has not happened yet would be a good idea.

What I found out was that the show is still on 31 May BUT now we have to:

*Please note Kathryn Lewek is replaced by Elsa Benoit in the role of Poppea for this performance – well, ok, I guess?

**Please note Marie-Nicole Lemieux is replaced by Xavier Sabata in the role of Ottone for this performance – NOOOOO! …but it could be much worse

***Please note Jakub Jósef Orlinski is replaced by Carlo Vistoli in the role of Narciso for this performance Рwhy, that one could be good!

In case you are wondering, I am not touring along. Round two should be in the Fall, when the Kosky production graces ROH. I guess we are lucky JDD is such a big name and that she likes her Baroque so she can use her influence with the big houses.

With Tito on the Charlemagne (cobblestone) trail

Liege train station – not quite the Valencia Opera House but Liege got a Calatrava designed train station

What better return to regular programming chez dehggi than a Tito trip? This is my first Tito trip in two years and this one comes with a historical side dish, as it were. Tito itself is running in Liege but whilst one is at it, a roadtrip to Aachen, the Carolingian capital, is just the thing to do, opportunities permitting. Plus you get to be in three countries in one day (four, if you count the point of origin). I am doing my bit for the upcoming EU elections.

But back to the main things –

Tito with Bonitatibus and Ciofi and the lovely Opéra royal de Wallonie = excellent, though we were already expecting that. I will, of course, write more about it but I was very pleasantly impressed with the conductor, as well. Your chance to catch it on Culturebox is very good, as it will be broadcast on the 22nd of this month, and will likely stay there for a while. Whether you will like the production or not depends on your level of tolerance for the whimsical.

Aachen Cathedral ceiling artwork – I snuck a picture before the usher explained the house rules.

Aachen Cathedral = gets the dehggi stamp of badass approval. Definitely among my top three cathedrals, with Sagrada Familia and San Marco (though I still need to go inside San Marco). If you ever get in the area, I highly recommend making a stop in Aachen just for the cathedral. It is that good, especially for lovers of Early Gothic slash Romanesque. And also because it is neither of the more famous ones above, you will not need to queue for entrance. They do charge you 1 Euro for taking pictures inside, but I am sure you can google the rest of the artwork. Seeing it for yourself is the thing even if you take no pictures.

Like any self respecting city with a long history, Aachen has legends, in this case regarding the (not very bright) devil. Here is the paw of the she wolf used by the clever citizen to thwart his evil scheme of collecting human souls –

…And back to Liege –

the breathtaking Montagne de Bueren steps – yes, the joke is old but too true

PS – yes, cobblestones… they are a thing on the Charlemagne trail (ie, also in Aachen). For Liege, I do recommend the Montagne de Bueren steps, however, you might get your yearly feel of cobblestones on the way back, especially if you are taking the alternative route down after (or during) light rain. It is a very picturesque route, though, so I do recommend it. But I have never seen more unruly cobblestones in my life. They just do their thing as far as roads go, sort of like if the Loch Ness monster had hidden underneath.

slowly, slowly, back to the city

Benevolent dictator vs Megastar

I don’t know if anyone who reads this blog is into true crime documentaries, but I was watching Leaving Neverland earlier this week. For whoever doesn’t know, it’s a recent documentary regarding sexual misconduct allegations against the late Michael Jackson.

I found it clearly told and the testimonials from the protagonists were compelling to watch. I doubt it’s my place to judge if this all is true or not; it’s not why I’m writing about it. I don’t know that I would recommend it to parents either but I think it’s well worth watching for anyone interested in pshychology, especially manipulative behaviour and the complex perspective of the manipulated, both of which are grippingly described. You will learn something about people’s interactions by watching this.

You will wonder what this has to do with anything. You won’t be surprised to hear that I found a Tito connection. You might be rolling your eyes but if you’re around my age or possibly older than me, cast your mind back to the ’80s and ’90s. Read the rest of this entry

Handel for harpsichord and sorceress

You know how after you haven’t listened to music for a good while there’s that one thing you know you want to listen to? For some reason this was it.

Orgonasova was a very fine Handelian, was she not? Wish I caught her career.

2019 Met La clemenza di Tito audio broadcast tonight

Hello, Tito fans! Long time no talk and even longer no Tito talk. Here‘s the first Tito broadcast of the year that I can think of, audio stream of the resilient 1792 Ponnelle production, with Met Sesto-in-chief JDD and others. Hope you enjoy! I hope I don’t fall asleep, there are 2 hours to go until kick-off. (This paragraph refers to 3 April 2019; if you got here after that date, the link is no longer of help, unless you want to know the future Met audio broadcast dates).

ps:¬†the RAI broadcast of the Florence Tito last month was the first of the year. I’m going to talk about it, as well, in a while. Sorry for all the delays; such is life.

ps2: I did fall asleep.

Akhnaten moonlapse

If you’re wondering what happened to my 2019 ENO Akhnaten reviews I will have to disappoint you. They are not going to happen. One day I will probably want to publicly write/talk about Akhnaten again in one context or another but the two shows I saw last week have brutally become part of my personal mythology so the door is closed on them.

Son rubini amorosi…

I may have fallen into the Poppea well again… but can you blame me? It’s the month of love and lust. For how tongue in cheek cynical the libretto is, Poppea has a high ratio of very romantic passages. Perhaps the most romantic of all is this bit Nerone sings whilst fantasising about Poppea’s beauty. I simply love it. I thought it was the best thing Lindsey sang all night that night (and I already thought she was at her best in this role) but now it’s Mameli that has stolen my heart. Try not to be seduced (close you eyes, the visuals alone might do the trick):

Vivaldi, not to be outdone:

Staying with Basso, how exquisite is this?! I’m not even a fan of laments but the sophistication on display here is something else:

Someone in the comments says it’s organic – very apt. It’s got it all – style, technique, emotion, imagination. Just ‚̧

ps: it’s recorded with my favourite Baroque outfit in the world ūüėÄ