I went to not an opera yesterday, but a play – Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I am not competent to judge theater performances (I liked it? The characterizations made sense, and the set was appropriately – but not obviously – dollhouse like and claustrophobic? My spouse got all teary-eyed at the end, too) but I’m so used to the conventions of classical music concerts that it did throw me off to hear recorded music intermixed with live action. Also, I never really thought about this before, but it seems that musical performances – at least ones with soloists – often involve more extended applause, elaborate curtain calls and/or yelling and hollering at the end.
I may amuse myself this week by re-reading the play, though. I read it in college a few times, but not since then.
Also, one interesting thing: in addition to crediting the English translation of the play, there’s also a reference in the program to the person who made the “literal translation.” Is this so that non-Norwegian speakers among the cast can follow every twist and turn of the original text, so as to get the nuances right? Do they do this for operas too?
This recording is not as exciting as Genaux’s Vivaldi CD, but that’s probably because it’s mostly Hasse and Hasse is not as exciting as Vivaldi. That said, it definitely has its moments. The Handel selections are some of the high points (e. g. “ti pentirai crudel”) but I am not anti-Hasse by any means. the second track, “Qual di voi… piange quel fonte” from Numa Pompilio has some beautiful writing for the oboe and voice parts – the section near the end where it’s just mezzo and oboe alone is really nice. I always enjoy the sound of Genaux’s voice – you would never mistake her for anyone else – and the way she slides so effortlessly through all the coloratura that you hear not “ornament” but rather simple, direct expression. The oboe player is no slouch either – that is some elegant and expressive oboeing. Also noteworthy were the smaller, more intimate interludes of the overture to Didone Abbandonata. Like I said, I am unlikely to go on a Hasse bender independently of Genaux, but it has a certain amount of charm.
My last baroque blitz involved Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco, and I admit I found the lively but never brow-furrow-inducing orchestral stylings of Cappella Gabetta restful. (I have enough forehead lines already, thanks.) I noticed this in both the aforementioned excerpt from Didone as well as the overture to Zenobia.
Finally, the circumstances under which this recording was acquired had the effect of confirming me in an opinion. I bought a cd out of necessity rather than downloading it, and because I usually leave my laptop at work I ended up listening to the recording via the actual disc. I was struck by how resonant it sounded. Low notes of harpsichords! Harmonics! Lute strings! I may be thirty-four years old and therefore on the youngish side as far as these things go (at least in the opera world) but you will pry my stereo from my cold dead hands.
(Addendum: imagine being named Faustina. “Hi! I’m Tina.” “Oh, is that short for Christina?” “No.”)
(I think in order to carry off being named Faustina you have to be either an epic Goth or Zsa Zsa Gabor.)
I have been enjoying Vivica Genaux’s “Tribute to Faustina Bordoni” recording, which the following is from. It caused me to get sucked down a YouTube hole of Genaux singing Hasse arias. Fortunately, I am out from under my massive work rock and can cheerfully spend some time messing around on YouTube with no twinges of conscience. (Though, re: that unbroken succession of ten hour days for two weeks: I have always imagined that there are Real Academics out there who are Truly Dedicated, and that they work like that all the time – to those people: it’s great to be you, but I can’t. I’ll settle for being second rate and watching opera on the weekends.)
I think I’ve been listening to too much 1) Europa Galante and/or 2) Complesso barocco, in that other ensembles’ general vibe, when different, strikes me as – oh, wait, what’s this? Time to mix things up a little.
And it is apparently almost spring – the buds on this tree will explode into bright pink little pollen factories in a week or two! (haha, people with allergies!)
Shows precisely the last time I cracked this book
Still buried under that rock. However, by dint of setting my iPod on shuffle by album, I have inadvertently been listening to a lot of things I haven’t heard in a while. Some of them were things I made myself sick of and am still kind of sick of; others were of the “I see why I used to like this; that’s sort of sweet on the part of Past Me, but I wouldn’t necessarily endorse it now” variety; still others were the sort of thing you can always hear something more in. (This is why I no longer get rid of stuff. It spoils the archaeological quality of my music collection.)
I will be under a rock for about a week for work-related reasons.
Dietrich Henschel’s imitation of the donkey in “Lob des hohen Verstands” leaves much to be desired. Dude, you’re a baritone – I know you can sound more like a donkey than that. You gotta let that shit rip, you know?
For any given piece of music, I seem to encounter Sarah Connolly’s performance of it only after I have someone else’s in my head, and I end up comparing the two whether I want to or not. I’m going to see if I can avoid it here. Not because any comparison I can think of would be unflattering to Connolly (it wouldn’t) but because that kind of thing can get annoying after a while.
This is one of those recital recordings that ends far too soon. When I had heard the first half of it, my thought was that the parts I was enjoying the most were the selections I hadn’t heard before, e.g. the orchestral “arrival of the queen of Sheba” from Solomon (with some very sprightly woodwind interludes from The Symphony of Harmony and Invention) or “will the sun forget to streak” which sounds like it ought to be the ultimate operatic fraternity party anthem but is actually nice in a different, not-going-to-get-the-ensemble-arrested-for-public-indecency way; Connolly’s performance of it is one to lost in. Maybe it’s because the text is in English and thus I hear it differently than I would if it were Italian, but Handel’s setting of the words and Connolly’s take on how the lines should go seemed to mesh with one another and the orchestral parts perfectly – it’s one of those performances that is hard to take apart. (I find I have that reaction to her singing quite often. It resists my urge to take it to pieces, and just remains there being beautiful. I don’t mind. Puzzling, though.)
Not that I wasn’t enjoying the things that I had heard many times before – by the A section repeat of the first track, “sta nell’ircana” from Alcina, I was completely on board. But the developing sense I mentioned of particularly liking the things that were less familiar was overturned decisively by Connolly’s rendition of “scherza infida.” The tempo is slow, but both singer and ensemble know exactly what to do with the long phrases – you can hear every detail of the lute part for example (there’s a bit right at I think the transition to one of the later repeats that’s fantastic) and Connolly does some amazing things with dynamic contrast in the second half. I wish there was a recording of her singing the whole role.
The Claremont Trio were supposed to perform here last night, but they couldn’t make it due to weather further north. I don’t mind, one because the concert has been rescheduled for May, and the likelihood of snowstorms then is
vanishingly small (I hate to make any grand assumptions at all about weather, lately) smaller than in February, at least. And two because I have one of those colds that give you a persistent dry noisy cough. So I didn’t spend the evening alternately suffocating from holding in coughs and getting fixed with death glares from the rest of the audience. Death glares that I would have wholly deserved. (Actually, I would have probably doped myself up with Robitussin and a big pocketful of Ricola – Ricolae? If it’s derived from ‘agricola’ which I think it is, a bunch of them ought to be Ricolae – and hoped for the best.)
Other things. I have learned today that iTunes does not support .ogg files. So if you are not thinking particularly hard and chop up a long .wav file of a concert into a bunch of individual tracks and you happen to leave the setting on ‘.ogg’ for some stupid reason, they won’t go into iTunes. But they will go into Google Play, which as it turns out will helpfully save them as .mp3 files, which you can then download and put into iTunes. This is a roundabout way of reiterating that ancient adage: Pay Attention to Thy Defaults.
You know Vivica Genaux’s ‘Tribute to Faustina Bordoni’ album? You can buy it in the UK version of iTunes for £8 (or rather, maybe you can, but I sure can’t) but not from the US iTunes store, or Google music, or etc. I could buy the CD used for $30 (eBay) or $50 (Amazon) but why can’t it just be available as a normal download like everything else? This is both bizarre and annoying.
It has been a Vivaldi-ish week. Post Bajazet I enjoyed Andrew Manze & Romanesca playing a passel of chamber works (I find Manze’s playing very good for post-work recuperation – it has a precision that would be of the cold steel variety if he wasn’t also so lively and expressive: it’s warm and cool at the same time) and then today 74 minutes of flautino concertos, which in retrospect seems like one of those manic things one does for what seem like reasons and then afterwards one is both acutely embarrassed and mildly surprised one did not die.
If I was a composer of art songs, I would write one not about small birds, but about really, really large birds. Megafauna is perhaps the great underutilized category in this type of composition.
read the rest
I have tried with this set of songs. I really have. I have listened to Miah Persson sing them beautifully; I have listened to Sarah Connolly sing them beautifully. I have done due diligence. But I confess I do not like them. Something about these things rubs me the wrong way.
There are several recordings of Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis, studio and otherwise, that are very close to my heart. Having heard Sarah Connolly singing Handel last week I was curious what her interpretation of this song cycle would be like.
The version of this that I’m most used to is Röschmann’s, in various bootleg formats. She performs this cycle with her characteristic drama and intensity. Connolly’s version is less visceral but very beautiful.
read the rest
I am going to need a very large cup of coffee and some Schumann to regain my composure.
I had this brilliant plan that I was going to listen to two new albums and say something amusing about Schumann’s Mary Stuart songs, but all I did was listen to Vivaldi’s Bajazet twice and teeter dangerously on the brink of having Cheetos for dinner.