Sonia Prina contralto
Vivica Genaux mezzo
Lars Ulrik Mortensen director
The ladies and assorted gents sang/played this show the night before in Copenhagen and the next day their special Baroque papier mache helicopter dropped them on the Wigmore Hall stage.
opera performance? Can you blame me? 😉
This is going to be short and sweet: a blast! Best thing: it was on the Danish radio so this will surface, as some of the arias/duets were nowhere to be found on YT and as such I couldn’t remember what was what aside from: a blast! With endless trills taken in stride by Genaux (she can trill! And she can laugh about it, too) and Attitude from Prina (who knew?! heh heh) and a lot of good humour from Mortensen as well. The orchestra does a very sweet job as well, I wouldn’t mind hearing them again, can do a delicate ending if necessary. So soon after the Barbican Rinaldo concert performance we had Venti, turbini done just the way I like it – with a bassoon-voice on the spot battle that the bassoonist adapted quite quickly and did I mention Attitude? Happy camper in the house.
The house was packed, so I thought I was toast in my backseat next to the wall on the right aisle1. But then this weird thing happened – the ladies at the sweet end of my row got up and walked out just as the show was about to start. Then an usher came over and demanded (in a nice way) to see my ticket (like I would’ve upgraded there?!) saying something to the effect that maybe they had printed doubles and would I like a different seat but if I was fine with where I was sitting that was perfectly ok. Uh, what? This wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t the second time in two weeks (!) that this happened to me. With the same seat. I have one more show in that seat and I’m curious if someone rambles at me again about it. Stay tuned.
But since the subject was broached, I mentioned to the gent next to me that, if the ladies weren’t coming back, maybe we could scoot over. He looked at me in a jolly way as if “gosh, what a very funny thing to say, ha ha!” When I saw the doors had closed and the ladies were definitely not coming back I said I was going to sit on the end if he wasn’t moving. He did oblige. I then noticed another seat on the end a few rows up and I escaped from under the overhang. Hurrah!
Then Genaux came out in her black/silver trouser role frock and Prina in unisex black bra-frock, aka, the tattoo showcase frock, and went on frocking for the rest of the evening, with giggles and hand kisses and cheek kisses and hand holding and Attitude – and quite a bit of emotion. Plus these Ba-frock things that are very funny to look at. The countertenors love them too. I think they go with the trills. Their vocal mix was interesting, with Genaux doing a bright thing that did not cover the solid colour of Prina’s lows.
This was my first time hearing Genaux live. Like I said, the trills are beautifully detailed and fast – plus her da capos always lovely – and her Baroque style is superb but I don’t think I’ll ever warm up to her 5 greens of the day tone, especially in the highs, for which she was on duty during this performance. To Prina’s natural manner (she came out bowing to Genaux’ mad display of technique in the aria she brought out to match Prina’s Venti, turbini) she played the girly sidekick, with demure gestures and hands clasped on her chest at the (very, very) warm reception they got.
It was the most Pavarotti’s in the house atmosphere I’ve seen this side of the countertenor fangirling-machine and the JDD superstardom mayhem. Case in point: the applause started even before they sang one note! Haha. Steady, steady, we’re in England. Then again, the day had been much nicer than the wrist-slashers that preceeded it. Leave it to contraltos and mezzos to bring out the sunshine.
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Overture from Rinaldo HWV7
Nicola Porpora (1686-1768)
Vado o caro con la speranza from Elisa
George Frideric Handel
Più d’una tigre altero from Tamerlano
Geminiano Giacomelli (c.1692-1740)
Parti dal core, lasciami in pace from Scipione in Cartagine nuova
George Frideric Handel
Overture from Tamerlano HWV18
Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747)
La costanza, il timore, l’affetto from Astarto
Mai non potrei goder from Astarto
Attilio Ariosti (1666-1729)
Overture from Vespasiano
Placide a miglior vita from Gianguir
Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783)
Parto con l’alma in pene from Siroe, re di Persia
Antonio Lotti (1666-1740)
Sinfonia from Ascanio
Quella destra sì mi porgi from Giove in Argo
Pietro Torri (c.1650-1737)
Vo’ che in mezzo del furore from Nicomede
George Frideric Handel
Venti turbini from Rinaldo
Francesco Gasparini (1661-1727)
Se non temi il mio furore from Eumene
Son nata a lagrimar from Giulio Cesare
(reprise of) Ma non potrei goder? a cute as hell duet, the replay of the Danish radio performance will tell
- sometimes I sacrifice the quality of the seat for the quantity of shows attended… ↩
Sonia Prina contralto
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Concerto Grosso in F major
Giovanni Ferrandini (1710-1791)
Cantata: Il pianto di Maria
This was a very well attended concert but in contrast to the JDD estravaganza, the mood was mostly relaxed. There was a certain buzz in the air, as if people had just started to catch on to Prina. Without a doubt her recent excursions in London have raised her status among Wiggy regulars.
A bit strangely, then, Prina showed up in a dress. I was caught unawares – she can dress however she wants but I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen her dressed so formally. But, you may say, how appropriate is it to sing Mary’s lament other than formally dressed?
Perhaps to fit that mood and the fact that the show was broadcast live on BBC3, the Akademie sounded on the formal side of excellent. No doubt about their technical prowess and Baroque-ness.
Ferrandini’s Pianto di Maria seems popular among mezzos and contraltos but not so much with me. Prina decided on a very operatic take, with the dramatic turns energetically emphasised and the recit parts done with lots of fervour. I felt a bit of sameness of sound on the low end in spite of it all, so I think I prefer a higher or brighter tone if I have to listen to this piece at all.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Cantata: Widerstehe doch der Sünde BWV54
Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764)
Concerto Grosso in E flat ‘Il Pianto d’Arianna’ Op. 7 No. 6
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Longe mala, umbrae, terrores RV629
But who may abide (Messiah)
Longe mala, umbrae, terrores RV629
After the interval we had the rather unusual chance to hear Prina sing in German. At least to my ears she did a very good job and I finally perked up.
Unsurprisingly my favourite moment of the night was Vivaldi’s Longe mala…, where I think Prina sounded most comfortable. Perhaps that was the reason why she also capped the night with it, much to my delight. The Akademie let their hair down a bit and matched her to perfection in the endless runs, which she of course took with much gusto. During the intermission I overheard a wry attendee do an uncanny and amusing impression of Prina’s very personal way with coloratura, so the above-mentioned runs brought a smile to my face in spite of the rough patch I went through the week before.
She returned to much applause with a “belated Christmas gift”, which turned out ot be But who may abide. It once again gave her the opportunity to shake the stage up during the energetic b-section. So a more sober encounter than usual but a Prina show is always warm and full of life and the public feels it and responds accordingly.
In contralto news, you can tune in tonight (and most likely listen to later on as well) for some Baroque from Prina and Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin at 19:30 GMT. This is, of course, from Wiggy.
Sonia Prina contralto
Paolo Spadaro Munitto piano
Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Voglio di vita uscir
Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Three Hungarian Folksongs from Csík BB45b
Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
Au pays où se fait la guerre
L’invitation au voyage
A piece from Feuilles volantes Op. 1
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
7 canciones populares españolas
Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960)
4 French Folk Songs
Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
Chanson lithuanienne Op. 74 No. 16
Lamento Op. 74 No. 9
Madrigal Op. 74 No. 12
La jeune fille et le fleuve Op. 74 No. 3
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
The Man I Love
No. 2 Prelude in C sharp minor
Erroll Garner (1923-1977)
Bella Asteria Tamerlano
Don’t we all want to hear our favourite singers occasionally step out of the same old, same old?
Regardless of what we want, they sometimes do. In this case Prina put on a dress and spent most of the evening crooning. One’s personality comes out well rounded in recitals and so there were still enough fist pumping moments as well as humour (the Bartók songs). Mostly, though, it was an evening that quite naturally lead into Bella Asteria.
Perhaps it was a logical response to unfamiliar sounds (though the songs in themselves were entertaining), but I’ve never heard a more beautiful rendition of Andronico’s serenata. This isn’t an aria that normally makes me purr, plus when she was in London for Ariodante she’d sung it in her BBC interview and I was quite unconvinced. But though she herself admitted she was tired, this time it came out really pretty. Her ppps were on fire all night, as was her phrasing.
The Duparc set seemed to me the most suited to her voice – she did it very low and velvety so now that I heard the songs that way I don’t want to hear them any other way. Her “vocal meandering” in L’invitation au voyage was exquisite.
The least suited was the de Falla stuff, which seemed to me like, in spite of her dramatic involvement, never quite bloomed. I kept thinking it needs ping, but aside from the tartness her voice gets at the very top when she’s loud, there’s no ping in her voice.
Baroque Bird joined me at the show at least in part because I managed to misplace all my Autumn Wiggy tickets and needed a reprint :o! She knows more about music than I do and she gave me some pointers regarding the piano, which is an instrument I don’t quite get (as in, I don’t normally know what I’m supposed to be looking for).
According to her, Spadaro has a particular feel for jazz so the second part came out more naturally to him. I was seated on his side and all I could say was that he was too loud in general. After she mentioned it, I could follow that he tends to finish songs quite abruptly, which on occasion I thought hampered Prina when was going for a dreamy atmosphere. But she likes him and she obviously teamed up with him for that jazzy feel she was after all night.
The jazz stuff sounded very well – Baroque Bird had come especially for that and was so happy with the result she said she’s all for Prina singing/recording more of that – and it got me thinking that Baroque specialists have the advantage of that more relaxed style of singing when it comes to song in general. It never felt like there was a break in styles, the show just flowed very naturally, though Prina did get into the spirit of things (I can tell you she had the right temper and timing for the Bartók stuff).
It left me in a very mellow mood, basking in her pps and tangy frutti di bosco gelato tone and wondering how things would’ve been if she went the jazz route instead.
😀 look at those moves1! What formidable Ottavia can play this space-conquering Ottone?
ps: ever tried having your Ottone duet with himself on this? I accidentally opened two similar windows a few seconds apart and let me tell you = twice the fun.
- on second thought, forget Nerone, that’s Space Cesare right there! ↩
All you’ve heard about the Halle Handel Fest atmosphere is true. Now I’m not your best witness, seeing as how I only had time/funds1 for one performance in one venue but the feel in and around Konzerthalle Ulrichskirche was relaxed and congenial, complete with “cheerleader” thumping.
Going to a not very large town at the weekend (long weekend at that) makes said town appear deader than perhaps it is. So you shouldn’t be surprised we saw Prina strolling again or that we ran into other “opera travellers” (this time Leander and Baroque Bird’s Twitter friends Meri from Barcelona and Jutta from… Germany) – it’s probably because the only people out and about were musicians and opera fans. After the show we joined them for some general opera chat (often from opposite sides of the argument! keeping it intellectually stimulating into the night 😉 ).
Konzerthalle Ulrichskirche is on Leipzigerstrasse across from shops and has a fountain and stone benches where you can wait (feverishly) for the doors to open. We were there super early because Agathe was convinced the show was starting at 7pm (eager 😉 ). It paid off!
I scouted the area (as it was on my path) before meeting Agathe and then we went there together. There was no movement that early on (3pm) and little at 6pm. Then a few old ladies dressed for church showed up and still the door stayed shut. Eventually Prina herself (+ fiance) skipped by (proper spring in her step) to the artists’ entrance. “Our” door = nada.
Finally we were allowed in at 7pm on the dot (I imagine) but not in-in, just in the boxoffice area and in the inner courtyard. Prina and team were doing warmups on the other side of the wall, as if our fire needed stoking 😉 As we were chatting, Meri from Barcelona showed up. We had met at Stutzmann’s 2 July show at the Wiggy last year, when she said “I know you from from Giulia on Twitter!” The Giulia she meant is the Giulia we know and love (so thank you, Giulia, for mentioning me, even though I’m not on Twitter 🙂 ). Small Baroque world, small Baroque fan world. To illustrate just how small, Meri and I met again the next day at Schönefeld Airport.
Finally we got in. We hoped the seat next to me would still be free and Agathe could upgrade but sadly no dice. I had two gents dressed in suits on each side; how they coped with the heat is a mystery to me but then they probably haven’t spent the last decade at an average temperature of 19C like yours truly.
Ombra cara (with Vivaldi instrumental greatest hits and the Hasse one from the Rokoko CD because everyone likes it)
Sonia Prina contralto
George Petrou director | Armonia Atenea
i. Concert in A minor RV522 (Vivaldi)
Bella Asteria Tamerlano
Agitato da fiere tempeste Ricardo primo
i. La follia (Vivaldi)
Ombra cara Radamisto
Furibundo spira il vento Partenope
i. Concert in G major for mandolin and orchestra Op.3 Nr.11 (JA Hasse)
Pena, tiranna Amadigi
Se fiera belva ha cinto Rodelinda (what is this one ripping off? I can’t figure out!)
i. Concert in E minor RV484 (Vivaldi)
Qual nave smarrita Radamisto
Venti, turbini Rinaldo
Già l’ebro mio ciglio (? I’m pretty sure it was this one…) Orlando
Fammi combatere Orlando
Prina beamed through the evening and infected everyone on stage and most beyond with her liveliness. Even Meri’s friend Jutta, who’s hardly a Prina fan, noted with surprise that she’d never seen Petrou smile before.
She started with Bella Asteria which was all gentle lovey-doveness; a good easing into the mood. I’d heard it in that interview she did for the BBC last month and wasn’t quite convinced. Again, live everything sounds better; it’s probably easier to feed off a roomful of people than to sound exciting in a studio with an audience of technicians at work and a (good) accompanist on the harpsichord, especially when no one asks you how it is to play a man on stage 😉
It’s true she can make you swoon with her sudden drops to seductive ppps and her lightly smoked tone sounded as smooth as ever but I first and foremost love her for the stomp. I can’t think of anyone else on the
Baroque opera stage today who’s more effective when it comes to the heroic stance. Certainly no one looks like they have more fun with it.
That fun goes a very long way. I might just be speaking for myself but forget about aced high notes and ringing chest ones, smooth coloratura and beautiful legato – if the performance is bland and detached you might just as well stay home and listen to a polished recording. The truth is I’m going through the trouble of organising a trip abroad because I want to be seduced. I want that electricity in the room (even the occasional palpitations that come with it) that can only be communicated directly by a very involved performer.
After a triple dose of Prina within the span of three weeks it’s perhaps hard to write anything new. She was happy and in great form. She “delivered” to the standards those who like her would appreciate. In fact, having seen her 6 times now I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t “on”. Quite the work rate.
A recital is a different beast from an operatic performance, even a concert one. The performer mainly feeds off you, the audience, as opposed to other performers on stage. Baroque Bird was curious if there had been any costume changes. I was surprised to note that I hadn’t even thought about that and that I actually didn’t remember any in previous recitals. But apparently there had been (at Wiggy). So you see, perhaps it’s not that kind of venue, as Baroque Bird later mused. Perhaps a regular recital is different from a festival recital.
Though the atmosphere was relaxed, it was so in a different manner than at Wiggy. Generally, as you can tell, the setlist was very structured – now a slow and sexy aria, now a furious one, and this structure was not strayed from, for better or worse, even in the encores, where performers usually loosen up and may even sing an aria by a (gasp) different composer (what? we had so much Vivaldi already!). I wonder how much say the conductor has, since I saw some material overlap with the following day’s Cencic recital in Salzburg. I was happy with the choices, quite a few of which I had not heard her sing before. But you can see what I mean when it comes to the feel of the thing. If I were to compare the three recent performances I’ve seen, the TADW one was lively and free, the Barbican a bit toned down and the Halle one lively but a tad too neatly organised.
Of course that doesn’t mean the fury arias didn’t punch. I had already hinted at almost passing out from the sheer drama in Furibundo spira il vento (that knack for timing I keep mentioning when it comes to Prina) and the mad stomp that Venti, turbini turned out to be. I’ll forever be let down now if the next performances of it I see don’t include kicks and stomping 😀 The urgent way she phrases the words venti, turbini! in the repeats is unique, too. Some people go soft on turbini and rush with the command, but let me tell you: it’s wrong.
After her impressive stint earlier this Spring in Rodelinda it was good to hear her sing a Bertarido aria for a change (and the damn thing got properly stuck in my head for days!). Same with Agitato da fiere tempeste and Fammi combatere, which were interesting to hear with a thicker kick, as in my mind it’s always Ann Hallenberg singing them and although I love her too, I don’t quite see her as a mad (anti)hero.
…I think I have to leave the comments on the swoony-seductive arias to Agathe 🙂
The day started with downpours so I spent the morning in a heavy session of thumb twiddling at the temporary dehggi residence in Halle. The sun came out with a vengeance once Agathe and I met by Handel’s statue. We decided to stroll, which was very pleasant (let’s walk this way!) on a now warm and quiet summer afternoon. I’m a big fan of the winding street thing and I also appreciate the unassuming, such as Handel House; those two terms sum up the Old Town.
Our conversation extended from opera to the past 30 post-communist years, because it’s quite obvious Eastern Germany hasn’t yet shaken the spirit. Halle is an interesting mixture of said pretty winding medieval streets with goodlooking architecture in the Old Town and communist vestiges popping up elsewhere (like the train/bus station area, which gave me flashbacks to the ’80s; even the customer service did2). Leipzigerstrasse, the street linking the train/bus station area with the venue and Marktplatz in the Old Town, is a curious narrow, old building-lined shopping strip with a persistent ex-communist feel (the shops) which feel was not aided by the super deadness on a Sunday/church holiday.
I felt the venue a bit wonky from the getgo, as it’s very narrow for how tall it is, with barely two aisles of seats and some more tucked away on the left side. I do get it, continental Gothic churches and all, but hot on a Summer day3 with all windows closed. At the front it was even hotter due to stage lights. Jutta later joked there was ventilation at the back – at foot level 😉 The staff was indeed very nice – the coat checker even suggested Agathe and I leave our stuff on the same hanger. The toilets were likewise good. So though I’m being critical I don’t want it to come off as all around negativity.
Baroque Bird informed me since that Jutta had slammed the band on Twitter and I will admit I too had some issues with the sound, though to me it wasn’t clear who or what was the biggest culprit. Either way, it’s not natural to have problems hearing properly from the second row. Namely at the beginning (Concert in A minor) I couldn’t make out the low strings. Later I did notice a significant improvement in balance but a sense of muddled sound persisted; after several times at St George’s Hanover Sq I know that sound in churches often gets lost vertically, so it might have well been the case. Jutta said later the band is usually very unbalanced but I had not heard them before live, and since I know even less about instruments than about voices, I’ll refrain from further comments. Suffice it to say I wasn’t convinced – though when I could hear the low strings I did rather enjoy them. It helped that Prina’s voice has a cello-like consistency.
As the lyrical waxing above may remind you, I’m a singer’s fan so as long as the singer sounds good to me the accompaniment comes second. But having heard some orchestras with enough personality to make me pay attention I’m not denying the experience is more pleasurable when the singer has a solid “cushion” to spring off. In conclusion:
ps: as usual, sorry about any typos etc., just finished a batch of nights but I know I’ve taken long enough with this post 🙂
- I actually did have time but it does get complicated when there are only so many days (budget) planes fly from London to Leipzig and back and you have to look at other options for departing the land of music. ↩
- lady selling me the flixbus ticket somehow understood my “Berlin” as “Hamburg”; I know my German doesn’t rate but seriously. ↩
- if that Salzburg thing works out I think I need to bring ice packs along. ↩
- Have some sort of ventilation at the front of Konzerthalle Ulrichskirche
Just get a better (less tall?) venue (acoustics)
Not charge €35 for worldwide ticket shipping (Agathe = ❤ )
Things Sonia Prina could do better:
But because of the lack of ventilation, which she herself complained about after the first aria (a lovely rendition of Bella Asteria), I thought I was going to have a heart attack towards the end of Furibundo spira il vento – I love that aria and it’s also in her company that I first heard it – live! – so I have a particular attachment to it especially when sung by her. You can imagine my pulse rose again to alarming levels, living every high and low of the anguished coloratura… It really works better as a recital aria than it its Partenope context (too dramatic for it).
And in spite of the short (?) intermission, the juice, and the also stagnant air in the otherwise neat venue garden, I was this close to leaving the show during Pena tiranna, which was the first aria after the intermission.
But I kept thinking you can’t possibly miss Venti, turbini! and somehow made it through a few terrifying moments when I thought I was about to pass out and the drama that would cause. It was a good thing I got ahold of myself, because man, she rocked Venti, turbini like you wouldn’t believe. Or you would, if you enjoy her. Her timing! The sheer joy of singing that is so infectious about her ❤ the way she simply owns the stage – VENTI! (stomp) TURBINI! (kick)… That Rinaldo would so kick Armida’s arse right back to where she’s from 😀
But this is just a teaser 😉 a more detailed account when I get back to London… if there is still a London left?!
ps: yes, she did walk by us. Just once 🙂
😀 😀 😀 yes, that’s exactly what Anik and and I did tonight at the best Baroque venue in the world, aka Theater an der Wien (did I mention how in love I am with this venue? It’s been so good to me so far!). And there is pictorial evidence of Polinesso in our clutches, which I will post after a bit of doctoring to preserve Anik’s dignity.
In case you were wondering, the show per se was [ insert your superlative of choice here; hell, insert more than one ] too. Truly a wonderful night of opera and tandem perving 😉 (shoulders…! And Polinesso at work). There will also be civilised posts about this, fear not. Well, mostly civilised…
ps: I was in Vienna and it did not rain. Clearly I did something very, very special to deserve this mini holiday. Or I will have to pay dearly one day. But for everything to fall in place like this… aaaah. And to have someone likeminded to share it with 🙂 Belinda freakin Carlisle was right.
edit 14/05/17: there are surprisingly still tickets on sale for the Barbican show on Tuesday. If you’re in London do yourself a favour and book!
How fitting for the Handel season – I found myself in the right place at the right time for this webcast (we used the medici.tv channel) and ended up having a very enjoyable watching party “with” thadieu and Agathe, based on Giulia’s report from the house (which you can read here if you haven’t yet; it’ll help make sense of what I’m only mentioning in passing). I’m not going into the whole thing because I don’t know Rodelinda enough but I wanted to share a few impressions:
- what a (musically) wonderful opera! The perils of being exposed to the wrong singers/etc. come to mind when I think I’ve deprived myself of it for so long; lovely work from Bolton et all balancing the sweet mournfulness with the action
- yes to the 5 countertenors but can Bejun Mehta spin a dulcet line or what? I was floored by Bertarido’s entrance aria. Looking forward to Gia dagli occhi… in 3 months’ time!
- Eduige: more reasons to love Prina; seriously, the role works so well for her. Wish she had more to sing. She had some really fun things to do here, quite surprisingly considering it was a Guth production
- speaking of Guth, I agree he doesn’t quite get the Baroque ethos, but I did enjoy the whole kid + nightmares part and the unexpected humour; the Personnenregie is always paid attention to in his work and it was here as well
- I was further surprised how much I liked Lucy Crowe considering I’m not usually a fan. This was easily the best performance I’ve seen/heard from her.