Category Archives: sopranos

The Carmen-Tancredi mystery solved

Last night thadieu and I decided to revisit this precious moment in Viennese Opera Ball history 😉 and then it occurred to us to compare Gritskova’s moves to previous Opera Ball featured singers. What came out was both amusing and illuminating:

As you can see, the moves appear pre-ordained. Now of course, Netrebko was on the verge of fabulousness (already on top of the world?) at the time and she is a natural mover, as opposed to La Grits, who looks like she’s thinking, I will be famousbulous if it kills me!

You didn’t think you’d escape this “scientific experiement” without an incursion into the steely moves of the Ice Mezzo herself, did you? Here she’s singing Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix (brace yourself for some arctic seduction). But, as you can see, she also has to walk and twirl (I mean wowza at the camera movement! That’s some getting down with the debutants for Vienna!).

As thadieu observed whilst we very carefully surveyed a few of her performances (including La tremenda ultrice spada and Non piu mesta), she seems to be thinking I will sing this intense aria, but I will make 100% sure not to trip on the hem of my gown at any time (actually T was more colourful, saying she was careful to avoid stepping into – vocal – mud).

After some big names, prepare for textbook DIVA action:

Aside from the curiously unflattering musical choices, it’s plain to see that Draculette has drafted into her contract if and when she will be moving! Haha! She’s such a veteran, she knows that she will be asked to cover that huge space and wants it in her own terms.

So there you have it, we can be a little less harsh on Gritsy today. After all, her choice of aria was the most… daring?!

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A slice of Lucy Crowe (Wigmore Hall, 4 May 2018)

After a not-quite meeting of minds on the local live scene, I discovered Lucy Crowe in last year’s Madrid Rodelinda, which you may remember as an unusually tender affair from Guth with some formidable singing from the top trio Crowe-Mehta-Prina. Things followed the same exciting path a couple of months later live, with ROH’s resuscitation of their long dormant Mitridate and here we are in 2018.

What the first part of the recital solidifies for me is that Crowe’s voice is best suited to Early-ish mezzoforte to pp detail work rather than sustatined drama shaped by drastic volume gear changes. She’s at a point in her career where she can fire the jets if needs be, but the result, at least to my ears, is acidic and opaque (claustrophobic)1 – nowhere near a challenge for someone whose top volume revels in dramatic colouring like, say, Roschmann.

When she tries something like Wolf’s Philine, on the other hand, it’s a revelation to whoever has not experienced her Handel and early Mozart (like I imagine the chap behind me, who, before the show made some of the most refreshing comments I’ve overheard at Wiggy). Her voice sparkles, full of life and kinetic and she handles the text with the right amount of impishness.

Sadly I can’t comment on the second part of the show, as I had to leave early for an unshakable night shift. I do, however, want to comment on the term “female” when used to describe women in converstation as opposed to in biology books. I hate it. It sounds like how a serial killer would itemize its bludgeoned victims rather than a thoughtful man’s musings on what he makes of women’s experience – as I suppose it’s intended here.

On the other hand, a programme of women’s portraits done by men yet sung and played by women is still a good idea. But I would’ve needed to stay until the end to get a real idea of how this mirrored reinterpretation works out.

Female Portraits

Lucy Crowe soprano
Anna Tilbrook piano

Henry Purcell (c.1659-1695)
Bess of Bedlam Z370

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
An Silvia D891
Gretchen am Spinnrade D118
Marie D658
Suleika I D720

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Ach, um deine feuchten Schwingen Op. 34 No. 4

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister Op. 98a
No. 1 Kennst du das Land?
Myrthen Op. 25
Lied der Suleika

Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Goethe Lieder
Philine

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Drei Lieder der Ophelia Op. 67
Cäcilie Op. 27 No. 2

Interval

Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
A Chloris

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Lydia Op. 4 No. 2
Sylvie Op. 6 No. 3
Nell Op. 18 No. 1

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Jane

Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
Phidylé

Émile Paladilhe (1844-1926)
Psyché

William Walton (1902-1983)
Daphne
Beatriz’s Song

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Sweet Polly Oliver

Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981)
Georgia on my Mind

Cole Porter (1891-1964)
Miss Otis regrets


  1. Though it’s true it freed up quite a bit by the end of ther period. 

Orlando fabuloso (Teatro Malibran, Venice, 19 April 2018)

Remember this post? Let’s see if Canaletto’s account of 18th century Venice stands for truth in April 2018.

That’s a closer picture of what Canaletto has in the background of his: the East side of Piazza San Marco with the Doge’s palace and the tower and the San Marco Cathedral in the back – but crucially, I’m glad I got St Mark’s lion’s bum in the picture 😉 Below we have the very calm waters of the lagoon (a proper puddle!), from the opposite side to Canaletto’s, because we didn’t have the time to boat around it like he did:

Looks just a bit less festive than the Marriage of the Sea, though if you peek closely you see there are plenty of boats going to and fro. Cielo e mar are pretty much a spitting image of their 18th century selves.

Sorge l’irato nembo
e la fatal tempesta
col sussurrar dell’onde,
ed agita e confonde,
e cielo e mar.

Ma fugge in un baleno
l’orrida nube infesta
e il placido sereno
in cielo appar.

Pretty much! Coming from London where you get 5 types of weather in one day, I basked in the eveness of Venice. Every day sunny, breezy and roughly the same temperature. Serenissima and all that. Today’s weather in my neighbourhood: Max 7C, min 4C. Raining steadily. Winds strong enough for the cornices to howl. Tomorrow is Mayday.

I mentioned earlier that Venice is all about history. The fact that it’s not built to include cars and other such vehicles beyond Piazzale Roma (where the buses etc. drop you if you’re arriving from inland), goes a very long way to removing that sense of living today that you don’t even realise until car engines are turned off (comercialism is alive and kicking – perhaps a trading city like Venice was always meant to incorporate – even welcome – that). I felt like stepping into the past – and though I sometimes enjoy fantasising about medieval times etc., I’m not exactly a la-la-la, I’m a princess! type 😉 but in Venice it felt almost wrong to place yourself in 2018. Funny enough, Prina hints to that in her Orlando interview with Mezzo TV.

a quiet backyard. People do live in Venice.

Another thing about Venice that I don’t think I felt so strongly anywhere else (yet?) is how happy everybody is to be here (Agathe pointed this out when we encountered a group of middle aged women whose collective jaw dropped – loudly! and amusingly – upon coming face to face with a carnival item shop). It’s absolutely mobbed with tourists but the general attitude is of wow! and so cool! as well as how cool am I for being here? though, of course, I’ve seen some bemused faces (or perhaps they were tired of seeing so much in one go?).

But as a lover of Vivaldi’s work there’s an extra something about making your way through the narrow streets which sometimes don’t accomodate two people at once and most certainly are winding confusingly in the beginning. He lived here and wrote here (and Orlando premiered here – I swear we accidentally stopped there on our way to finding a bridge to cross back from the San Marco side; whilst we’re on Vivaldi spots, Ospedale della pieta used to be here and yes, we (unknowingly) did pass by it because hello, Tourist Central – told you, it’s the kind of place where you accidentally step into another piece of history).

Back to Teatro Malibran, which is La Fenice’s studio theatre (aka, where the cool stuff happens). The back (the Artists’ Entrance) is apparently located in what used to be Marco Polo’s house. How cool is that?! Or maybe it’s the next building over or across the tiny canal. Even so, how cool!

Teatro Malibran’s artists’ entrance. That’s where Mezzo TV filmed the Orlando interviews 🙂

Look at the below picture and learn as we did: the loggia is nice and airy and gets all the music. The more expensive balcony space below and back of the stalls are all covered. The further back you are, the more you get 1) sound muffle, 2) no view of the surtitles and of the top of the stage (when Orlando climbed the moon, everyone around us was ducking left and right to see what he was doing up there). But the seats are almost twice the price! On the upside, you get a rather eye level view of the stage. Hm. Choose wisely. And, yes, that metal bar holding up the lights all around the venue was as annoying irl as is in this picture.

So just how fabulous was Orlando? By now you’ve probably seen the livestreaming footage, as it’s up online, I’ve jogged your memory with a few pictures of the environment, which I know aren’t everything, because you really have to feel the gentle air in Venice, but, still, the sights can go a long way – I doubt it could’ve been anything but fabulous even before it started.

From up on our perch (second row in the loggia) we had that badass loud sound and we could see much better than on Saturday. The railing occasionally interfered but not to a great extent. The stage was small enough to feel super cosy and the very 18th century informed special effects (the ripples of the sheet-sea, the papier mache hippogriff, the very obviously not real “ruins”) are tongue-in-cheek but also charming and more effective than one would immediately think.

like every theatre in Venice, Teatro Malibran has its own hotel, restaurant and courtyard!

The house is very unpretentious, what you see in that indoors picture is most of the decoration. The staircases are narrow (of course) but bright and simple and the ushers a bit stiff but mostly very friendly. One of them remembered us on the second night! T thought we “looked very specific” and I agree we were more dressed down than most but the rest of the audience (lots of locals) weren’t particularly sporting crown jewels. They were friendly and chatty (even occasionally during singing) and did not boo anyone, on the contrary, were free with their applause (I believe only a couple of arias did not get a response).

It is a bit weird to have the opera called after Orlando but see all this other action taking most of the space, with Orlando himself only having two (very badass) arias and some havoc wreaking at the end. Though, to be fair, that havoc and its respective recits were way worth it. And, again, sort of unusual, because it’s almost regular theatre with these bits and pieces of music to highlight the most important emotions Orlando is experiencing. Prina mentioned Fasolis stripped it even further so you do start to get into the “play” – or I did, at least. It had a stronger emotional impact than usual, because sometimes music can lift a bit of the tension – you get into the pretty sounds, you admire the musical skills…

I really like Orlando the character. He’s in a unique position, of someone who’s physically stronger/more skilled than everyone around him, and everyone fears him and gives him a wide bearth, which impinges on the possibility of developing any sort of real relationships. For her part, I think Angelica does not fear him (for herself) as much as is fed up and wants him gone, because she knows he can crush Medoro, who’s not macho at all.

Though in this production it is brought into question just how much she wants him gone… We have some very explicitly non repellant interaction between her and Orlando in that balloon aria where she bewitches him. There are ways to get rid of someone via wiles that don’t have to involve so much participation from the supposedly unwilling partner.

Then again, this is an opera where women are very 3D, as opposed to men (except for Orlando). And, true, if you can’t match someone for strength you should try to outwit them. We see the damage Orlando causes once he realises he’s been had.

What I also find interesting is Angelica and Medoro’s position at the end, once Alcina is defeated. Up to that point they were quite obviously on her side, what with Alcina concocting the plan to get them happily hitched and away from Orlando and providing the very sophisticated nuptial entertainment. But in the end Angelica’s like “oh, btw, what Alcina did to Orlando is totally uncool (it’s pure coincidence that it worked for us). And let’s not start on the poor hippogriff! Not cool! Prosecco, anyone?” Medoro: “What she said! I love my cutie-coo gf! Teehee!”

Oh, yea, the 19th was apparently Fasolis’ 60th birthday, so the orchestra and the choir did a very nice Baroque improv on Happy Birthday and everyone clapped and congratulated him on a job well done reaching 60 in the pit 😉

We ended up not getting lost and made our way back via the same winding but well signed streets at dusk and then took the commuter bus back into Mestre. You really don’t need the vaporetto, unless you specifically want to (go to the islands). Basically you’re fine with the 3Euro/day roundtrip from Mestre and back. And unless you must dine on the shores of Canal Grande, prices are reasonable even within Venice.

Blasts from the past: Nabucco (ROH, 1 April 2013)

If you ever wondered how things were before this blog started, the answer is I still occasionally jotted down thoughts about shows. I thought I should bring these mini writeups here for the sake of completism. This one marks my very first time at the ROH – the rep may make stray smile 😉

Monday evening I went to see Nabucco here in freezing London (seriously, it’s April! whatever happened to the weather?! – exactly what could be said of 1 April 2018). Now I have mentioned before that I started liking Verdi only about 2 months ago and so far Nabucco is my favourite (unsurprisingly, as one of the most straight-up belcanto operas from the green one). I didn’t want to spoil my fun so I didn’t read anything about the production before going. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but apparently the production has mixed reviews. True enough, it is as static as they come – minimal acting, lots of singing to the public. But gorgeous singing for my balcony seat money! I also enjoyed the Berlin Holocaust Museum/monolith sets – intelligently making the link across time – as well as the wire sculptures of Baal and heads (Nabucco & daughters, as I read them). Add a sand pit and that’s it as far as sets go. Teensy bit more than the Noah’s Ark from Verona.

Singing: I’ve a fondness for badass, tough-as-nails, tough to sing roles and, good lord, how about that Abigaille? Whew! What a range on all levels and how wonderful to witness live when the singer can pull it off. Monastyrska did a hell of a job: yea, she projected, she dominated, in short, she chewed scenery but my favourite part was the way she managed the lyrical bits with that hefty voice (I found her top notes surprisingly pretty). Some control! Nucci also rocked the lyrical side, although I thought he didn’t let loose quite as much. But gorgeous voice acting, brought tears to my eyes. Everybody else (including Pizzolato (Fenena), whom I’ve enjoyed in other belcanto roles) sounded excellent.

Since my babbling was way shorter back then, you can read R. Christiansen’s take on the production (he, of course, saw one of the Domingo performances).

The French Connection 6: Nash Ensemble feat. Rebecca Evans (Wigmore Hall, 20 March 2018)

Since last October, The Nash Ensemble has been the ensemble in residence at Wigmore Hall. Most of their shows have featured French music of the past roughly 100 years, some of which I am now sad I missed, having just discovered an insuficiently tapped affinity for it. But let this be a start!

Nash Ensemble / Ian Brown piano
Rebecca Evans soprano

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Caprice sur des airs danois et russes Op. 79

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Cinq mélodies populaires grecques
Chants populaires (selection)

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
String Quartet in G minor Op. 10

Interval

Maurice Delage (1879-1961)
Quatre poèmes hindous

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor Op. 45

This show was supposed to feature Christine Rice, who cancelled. I hope everything is good in her camp, given she had to pull out of the entire run of Ulisse this past January.

I only became aware of the change of artist the day of the show and, for a moment, I considered not attending. But then I thought, hey, why not? It turned out to be the right decision.

First off, it has started to become clear to me that I really enjoy French song – as well as the instrumental output. The way the French handle chord progressions is quite different from everyone else and at this point I still find it surprising and refreshing for the ear (though Rameau remains hit and miss…).

I’d seen Evans twice before as Countess Almaviva and then Rodelinda (just a few months ago) and those didn’t turn me into a fan – though her Rodelinda was properly frightening, so it came pretty close. This, however, showcased her intelligence when it comes to phrasing. I’d say she likes singing this stuff perhaps more than the other things I’d seen her in, as what I sensed was a good deal of spontaneity and even playfulness, neither of which is easy to achieve. There were some limitations to her voice which her obvious feeling for style and well honed stage experience (particularly in the sense of tackling things head on) couldn’t quite overcome and in turn made me think this would be/is fabulous rep for Antonacci. That being said, I would come see Evans again in more of the same.

As far as instrumentals, I loved the Saint-Saëns, but then I normally like what I’ve heard from him. Such fun and playful writing for the winds! That is the right approach in getting yours truly interested, because later on came a lot of string shredding, which for me can be rather much (no fault of the ensemble, they sounded gorgeous). This rep was unusually heavy on the viola (ended with a broken string, too) but our violist’s tone sounded superb even for this wind instrument fan. The other piece I loved (not just liked) was Delage’s Quatre poèmes hindous, where vocals and orchestra fed off each other optimally, plus who knew cello does such a good job doubling up as sitar?! Clearly not me, but I was once again (very) pleasantly surprised.

Conclusion: taking a chance can pay off big time.

Rinaldo: a story of love, battle and colonialism (Barbican, 13 March 2018)

Almost a year after Ariodante, the London public has returned to the Barbican for Handel’s first local smash hit, 1711’s Rinaldo. Set during the First Crusade, Rinaldo manages the feat to be both unapologetically silly and decidedly un-PC. Goffredo’s army has come very close to liberating Sion from the Saracens when Argante’s top scheming ally, the witch Armida, has nonchalantly plucked Rinaldo’s beloved from under his nose.

Armida: sorry, stud, I need your fiance for a moment. poof!
Rinaldo: … what just happened? … and where is Almirena? [aka, Cara sposa]

Goffredo: you can get my daughter back after we conquer Sion.
Rinaldo: no! Almirena first, battle next.

He might be young and relatively unexperienced but things fall into place the way he wants them to. Super bonus: the baddies, Argante and Armida, willingly (narrow miss) convert to Christianity! All in a day’s work.

The English Concert
Harry Bicket conductor
Iestyn Davies Rinaldo
Jane Archibald Armida
Sasha Cooke Goffredo
Joelle Harvey Almirena
Luca Pisaroni Argante
Jakub Józef Orliński Eustazio
Owen Willetts Mago

As far as concert performances go, this was a mixed bag. The English Concert was in its usual high form, very disciplined, at best in the muscular parts of the score, with just minimal desynchs in the wind section and some – I guess inevitable – trumpet clarity trouble in the trills of Or la tromba. To the trumpets’ credit, they absolutely rocked Sibilar gli angui d’Aletto, which was the highlight of the night for me (surprise, surprise). They did such a good job as far as I’m concerned that they very narrowly upstaged Pisaroni.

Everybody before him (and some after) started a bit cautiously but he took this massive entrance aria with the right aplomb and confidence (and sang without a score through the night). It didn’t hurt that his voice was 2 sizes larger than everyone else’s. However he didn’t show this off for the sake of muscle flexing and resized back for the rest of his interventions. Even here he played with volume dynamics in the coloratura – perhaps foreshadowing Argante’s weakness? Now if you have volume and you’re called to sing an aria such as this I’m all for you firing on all cylinders 😀 and if you can play with it, that’s even better.

Pisaroni was also the most committed acting-wise, showing softeness when Argante falls for Almirena, (almost comical) caution and passion with lover/ally Armida and a very smooth U-turn at the end, when the baddies admit deafeat. This on top of the right amount of boastfulness of a “feared enemy”. It’s a silly role but a more nuanced one that you’d immediately give credit.

As Armida, Archibald was her usual self, I guess. I’m not a fan (for me she’s a soprano who has a very ringing but rather unpleasant top and little of interest elsewhere) but I will allow that, dramatically, her interactions with Pisaroni were rather fun. Vocally she was one of the most cautious ones, so Furie terribili was a bust – at least for me. Let us not forget that Handel wrote for virtuosi, who cherished the challenge to make a grand entrance, whereas I felt that she was still guaging how far her voice could go. If you have a voice large and sonorous enough to sing Strauss I’d say you could blast through a 2min Handel bravura aria (ok, ok, different style and all – but still; also as far as style went I thought she did well). But aside from a not entirely style-appropriate reach to the top of her voice later on, you wouldn’t have known what volume she has at her disposal. The coloratura was correct, if rather robotic (as Baroque Bird noted) but the moments when she cruelly played with Rinaldo by manhandling Almirena weren’t bad dramatically.

She was also unfairly hampered by the harpischord in that aria that features the keyboard at length, I wouldn’t know what to tell you about her interpreation, thank you overbearing harpsi. Imagine your concert performance is going well, with the various instruments having their moments, when an aria comes where you detect more prominent than usual harsichord involvement. At first I thought “how cool! There harpsi comes to the forefront to loudly let us know what it thinks, not just to whisper as it normally does – it’s ok if all the others (including the soprano) have to stop, turn around and pay attention.” It was ok and interesting even the second time. Then the third time came. Ok, I thought, Tom Foster is a very skilled player, why not? Oh, and this is actually an aria and the soprano is trying to convey something or another. What was that again? Nevermind, the harpsi will return for a fourth time. So all in all in that aria, the harpsi had centre stage for about 15min and the sorpano for 3. Classic(al) drum solo moment if I’ve ever seen one!

It was only upon further researching that I realised that was Vo far guerra (Archibald’s Italian diction isn’t anything to write home about…) and the harpsichord part is nowhere near as verbose, though it’s there and it’s definitely fun [edit: well, I’m proven kinda wrong. In the sense you can improv the hell out of it – according to your taste. It’s better if it’s at the end, though]. You’ll ask yourself, “come on, dehggi, you didn’t know Vo far guerra?!” Dear reader, I thought I did (kinda; that being said I totally forgot about Or la tromba until it started). One of the problems with the Barbican’s open plan hall is that if you’re seated on the Balcony and have my eyesight you can’t read the surtitles (I used the opera glasses to keep up with the plot but you can’t do it all the time or chance a headache).

Now of course I know Baroque is all about excess and if the singers can do their shtick, why not the instruments? Right, but it’s still an opera and not a keyboard concerto with bonus singing. Nevermind, judged by the ovations, this was the crowd’s favourite moment of the night, so there you go.

Iestyn Davies has been our local Rinaldo for a while now but I have to say he wasn’t in top form the other night. He came off a bit pale, both vocally and dramatically (most alive as a lover in his interactions with Harvey’s Almirena) and, hate to say it, his Rinaldo was upstaged in both stage presence and vocal shine by Orliński’s Eustazio – who has already sung his own Rinaldo in Frankfurt and I could see why.

I noticed some physical struggle with Davies’ coloratura in the massive bravura arias, which took his attention away from the drama. Especially in Or la tromba one needs to look like a very hopeful hero, ready to take on the last challenge in battle, and all I got from him was careful singing. I know it comes very late in the game but, you know, tough luck. In defense of the trumpets, aside from some tonal blur in the trills, the rest was great, beautiful sound, very good synch. I feel like I need to reiterate this because the trumpets were a pleasure and I know this is very difficult (impossible?) to do spotless with those valveless Baroque instruments.

To illustrate what I missed here dramatically, I’ll leave you with this concert performance (don’t be deterred by the low quality audio):

Harvey continues to baffle me. Though a singer of pleasant tone, vocal commitment and good technical skills, her stage presence is nonexistant. Glyndebourne is mere months away, I wager she needs to do something, because at this point, dramatically I have very low expectations from her Cleopatra. That being said, Almirena’s second aria was beautiful singing, my favourite from hers so far. The Augelletti aria not so much, though the piccolo was the bigger culprit (I didn’t like the tone, though I won’t argue if you call me nitpicky).

Like I mentioned earlier, I liked Orliński a lot. He and Pisaroni had the best stage presence and enthusiasm by far and he showed a very beautiful tone and nuanced phrasing. I’m going to see him in concert soonish, so expect to read something more in depth here once I hear more from him.

Cooke as Goffredo wasn’t bad, perhaps one needs to hear more before making a definitive call (I hadn’t heard her before). I couldn’t make my mind up if she was a low mezzo or a contralto but that wasn’t a problem. She came off as a good Goffredo, who’s supposed to be older and wiser – with unhurried gestures and a fairly authoritative vocal presence. She is one of those singers whose chest register sounds very different from her top. The chest is pretty solid though not particularly resonant whilst she can get a very strong ring out of her top. It’s quite metallic but rather intriguing, so I’d like to hear more of it. As an aside, hairwise she sported the curl of joy 😉 so there is a little extra bonus there.

All in all, a good, if not great evening. I’m way less familiar with Rinaldo than with Ariodante and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the music Handel produced before his 26th birthday (it premiered the day after). The number of arias that have become Handel classics is impressive and the lesser known ones ain’t bad either.

The conversations around me were way amusing (how many times have we seen Davies? Three? No, many! Even when Farinelli transfered to the West End! He was also in something else here, though in a secondary role [dehggi: he was Ottone in Poppea a couple almost 4 years back, which is known as not having lesser roles – actually his E pur io torno qui is very nice]), though Mr. Twitter with fascist hair’s constant leaning directly in my line of view, especially during Cara sposa, wasn’t. I know not everyone suffers as much as I do if I can’t see the singers but I hate the disconnect. I have to say this was the first time I had “restricted view” at the Barbican. Moral of the story: never get second row Balcony seats, try higher.

Anyway! the next Handel opera concert performance at the Barbican is Serse this coming October, with Pomo d’Oro and a starry cast, including a certain contralto referenced in this very post 😀 I coughed up £40 for a second row Stalls seat so let’s hope all is good by then.

(as usual, sorry for the possible typos)

Golda Schultz’s bright sunshine in the dead of winter (Wigmore Hall, 5 February 2018)

Sometimes you have an idea about a singer that is so far off the mark that you (I) discreetly check your ticket to see if you’re at the right performance 😉 I exaggerate but only so much.

Golda Schultz soprano
Jonathan Ware piano

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
An Chloe K524
Das Lied der Trennung K519

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Heimliches Lieben D922
Romanze zum Drama Rosamunde D797 No. 3b
Suleika I D720
Suleika II D717

Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Three Browning Songs Op. 44

John Carter (1929-1991)
Cantata

Encore:
Somewhere over the Rainbow
South African Song

I know thadieu will remind me that she was also in that ‘trovatore in Munich with Harteros but to me she has so far been Vitellia in this past Summer’s Curretzology in Salzburg. That time I had to use a mental shovel and push away quite a bit of currentz-balast but in the end I liked her and upon seeing that she’d be coming to Wiggy I seized a ticket.

Well! This was a very good opportunity to be reminded that singers play roles in opera productions and whatever you think you can glean about them during the performance might be very little of or very different than how they are like in real life.

I don’t know that I’ve seen such a cute singer before (Petibon, perhaps, but that’s different kind of cute; cute with a lot of life experience; Schultz is young-cute – somebody giddy-positive that all is right with the world and happy to be doing what they’re doing). I don’t want to detract from her artistry; with me cute is a very high recommendation indeed. So much for Vitellia!

Schultz has sung the Countess, I hear, but I think Susanna or Adina are emotionally more up her alley. Or Rosina (I know she’s way past Serpetta career-wise, but she would be a hoot! Or how about the witty serva in Pergolesi’s La serva padrona? Does anyone sing that anymore? I wish someone (her) did in London!). I mean I’m all for getting ahead in life but there was such a brightness and liveliness to her in this recital, I think (and it might just be me) would be a shame to waste on more serious roles at this time. Anyway!

It was fresh and bright and happy and it flowed seamlessly from Mozart to John Carter then I teared up during Somewhere over the Rainbow – but in a good way – happy for her that she’s made it.

I wrote this immediately after and thought it was too short a writeup, but, really, this is how the performance was: short and sweet.

How to be cheerful about love and death in Venice (Wigmore Hall, 26 February 2018)

This was the first performance I attended in 3 weeks and that musical starvation added quite a bit to my enjoyment. If you look at the programme you can see it’s very attractive and interesting, though my favourite bit was, predictibly, the Poppea part. As we reached the interval I thought to myself “I could listen to the Poppea duets for hours!”

Love and death in Venice
Les Talens Lyriques
Christophe Rousset director, harpsichord
Gilone Gaubert-Jacques violin
Gabriel Grosbard violin
Emmanuel Jacques cello

Jodie Devos soprano
Judith van Wanroij soprano

This is the pared down team Rousset usually brings along to recitals and, also as usual, it did a great job. The violins stepped in and out, showing virtousity when taking centre stage, with Rousset himself and Jacques carrying most of the voice-supporting work. Rousset can, on occasion, come off a bit lacklustre in opera, but his very laid-back, rhythmically solid but non-intrusive keyboard style is always strong in recitals. His singers have room to shine and they did here, too.

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Madrigals, Book 7
Chiome d’oro
O come sei gentile
Ahi sciocco mondo e cieco

Dario Castello (c.1600)
Sonate Concertate in Stil Moderno, Libro I
Seconda Sonata

Claudio Monteverdi
L’incoronazione di Poppea
Prologue and Sinfonia
Signor, deh, non partire
Signor oggi rinasco
Pur ti miro, pur ti godo

Interval

Luigi Rossi (c.1597-1653)
Orfeo
A che tanto spavento
Che può far Citherea
Vi renda Amor mercè
Lasciate, Averno

Johann Rosenmüller (c.1619-1684)
Sonata Sesta a3

Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Didone
Lamento di Cassandra
Lamento di Didone

The singers took a bit to achieve optimal blend, what with Devos’ very bright top occasionally covering Wanroij more middle placed voice but as far as aural mix they worked very well and they looked like they were having fun singing together. Seeing two women in dresses (pink and bright red) sing the Poppea-Nerone duets also brought on a smile for yours truly.

As you know, I’m not exactly a fan of laments, and I learned Leander shares this feeling. Baroque Bird pointed out that Cassandra’s lament was rather interesting (quite chromatic, I guess? my vocabulary is a bit iffy – angular and “stabby” is what I felt) and while I agree it was memorable writing it was still a lament… Anyway, they did encore with another duet, and although Rousset mentioned its title/composer, they now completely escape me (but Leander got it, as well as Damigella and Valletto’s duet which I, uh, didn’t know was there 😉 d’oh!).

The performance was very well attended and the laidback feel permeated the hall, though London has been going through a most peculiar weather moment (dark clouds and snow/clear sky and bright sun chasing each other several times a day). Leander and Baroque Bird mentioned mezzo Emilie Renard was in attendence but sadly I spotted her at the opposite end of the hall so no hello from me though I would have liked to chat a bit. Hope to see her on stage at some point in the near future 🙂

Oscara in maschera

Nobody1 quite knows why, but for Un ballo in maschera Verdi concocted a trouser role. It’s written for a high soprano (or at least that’s what I always heard it as – always meaning the 2-3 times I listened). Every one of those times I rolled my eyes at the perky soprano prancing around rather like a cheerleader (they were all way girly, too) than what I would normally imagine as the king’s secretary (someone like Annio, I guess?). But here comes Tim Albery with a slammed production for Opera North:

having the king’s secretary, Oscar (Tereza Gevorgyan) change from his suit into an evening dress for the final scene is hard to rationalise and rather undermines Verdi’s idea of making it a trousers role for a coloratura soprano in the first place. – Andrew Clements for The Guardian

That’s kind of interesting for a change. Maybe Albery felt like me. Maybe he just wanted to highlight the ambivalence of trouser roles. If the king’s secretary is going to be a chirping coloratura soprano, what does that mean? To me it means he’s quicksilver gender-wise, so why not go full circle? I mean trouser-role wise I rate Verdi very low (I’m still bitter he changed Ernani the bandit from trouser mezzo to tenor) but he did make an (ill-conceived?) effort here and must’ve wanted something with it.


  1. I learned today Ballo is supposed to be a bit comedic, so maybe that’s one of the reasons. I don’t really get Verdi humour, so it had to be spelled out to me. But it’s progress! 

Golda Schultz recital on BBC3’s Lunchtime Concert 5 February 2018

If you, like me, enjoyed Schultz’s turn as Vitellia in last Summer’s new Salzburg Tito production – I mean as much as one could, given the new and improved context – here’s a chance to tune in to BBC3 tomorrow at 1pm GMT for some song. I’m sure we’ll all miss the riveting choreography from Sellars’ team but we’ll still have the voice.