So I was enjoying my new Vivica Genaux Vivaldi album when I discovered it has not one but two excerpts from Catone in Utica! Remember Utica? Whenever I hear ‘Utica’ in my head it’s always said by someone with a heavy northeastern accent of a specific type (I think Pittsburgh or Jersey or something): YOO-di-cuh. Anyway. The first aria, “come in vano il mare irato” is one of those barnstorming “you know how the sea is angry? but it doesn’t smash the rocks? I AM THE ROCK” arias and the second is an “I am very much like a skewered lion” number in the “I’m wounded but despite how distressing this is, I am not dead yet” sense. There are hunting horns at the beginning.
Do you think there ought to be generator for text for this type of metaphorical aria? Sort of like mad libs?
I am like a/an [animal/plant/mineral/landscape feature/meteorological event] ____________.
Like the aforementioned [animal/plant/mineral/landscape feature/meteorological event]_____________ I am [adjective]_____________.
Even if [noun]___________________ [verb]______________________ and causes [different noun]______________ to [different verb]__________________ I will
[choose one: always / never / categorically refuse to]
A section repeat!
There is an ice storm headed in this direction, which ought to make for an exciting weekend. With luck, the power won’t go out and I’ll be able to watch this new DVD of Tristan und Isolde that I have turned up. (Not from the Met!) Meanwhile I have been amusing myself by going back and listening to all of Paul O’Dette’s solo lute recordings. As far as the five-disc box set of John Dowland’s greatest hits is concerned, the fourth disc is the best one. I am not being facetious, or at least not completely; I really do think it is.
But about this ice storm. I am putting my money on power flickers but no sustained outage; at least one accident involving an icy road surface and either a deer or a large raccoon; and maybe my neighbors will finally stop grilling all their dinners on the effrontery porcupine [does anyone know how to turn autocorrect off? Somehow it will fix misspellings of Tristan, complete lute and Isolde and it apparently knows who Paul O'Dette is, but "front porch" is beyond its powers] fuck it, I’m leaving in the bit about the porcupine – maybe the ice will cause my neighbors to take their food preparation indoors and my front hallway won’t smell like propane and burned grease anymore.
It’s a Brahms-specific sheet music scroller app. I don’t know about you, but to the extent that my faith in humanity was ever wavering, I think it’s back now.
What does that mean vis-a-vis what we are listening to today?
Here’s everyone’s favorite lutenist, Paul O’Dette, playing some John Dowland:
The WordPress snow is back! And it’s supposed to actually snow here on Friday! I have Schumann’s “Die Stille” stuck in my head – the text has the word “snow” in it, and apparently even the most tenuous of connections is enough to set it off! I just sort of walked into a doorframe because I misjudged the distance! I wonder if Robert Schumann ever walked into door frames! If you asked me what composer is most likely to have habitually walked into doorframes I would have to say Sibelius! Wagner was more of a coffee table man! Did you know that there were “bands of unionist Germans” roaming Missouri during the Civil War! I read it in a book! High five unionist Germans!
I’m going to sleep now.
We have already established that the second movement of Schumann’s piano sonata no. 2 has the same theme as his song “Im Herbste,” with certain happy consequences as far as bonus tracks on Mitsuko Uchida recordings are concerned.
But now it’s the first movement that’s driving me nuts. There’s a bit about six seconds in that I could swear sounds oddly familiar, but I’m not sure why. I wonder, if you listen to enough music, does everything start to sound familiar even if it shouldn’t and then you slowly go mad?
No booze in the house, and no prospect of any, but at least there’s a Vivica Genaux album or two. I’m listening to the Arias for Farinelli one right now. It strikes me that there ought to be more Vivica Genaux albums in my house.
Perhaps it is time to purchase recordings. I feel like I’m on a roll as far as shopping goes – I just bought a new winter coat (the last one was purchased from a Goodwill in New Jersey in like 2005; as I discovered in Berlin last December, and again in New York in January, and a third time in New York in March, insulation has a shelf life) and woolly tights and and an opera dress at REI (if you think opera attire cannot be purchased at outdoors/hiking supply stores, you are clearly not thinking outside the box) so a few more odd items can’t hurt. Besides, I pirated a Strauss opera the week before last and I feel guilty.
Also, after re-watching most of the first two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: whoever conducts the
overture orchestral theme music needs to give it a little more room to breathe. It sounds rushed.
Other half: Rage Against the Machine!
Compromise: Joyce DiDonato recital!
Last week, I went looking for recordings of Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten so I could hear a little of it before seeing the actual show. I did find a complete recording in the library, and I also found one of Deborah Voigt’s recital CDs, “Obsessions” that had bits of that opera, some other selections of Strauss, and some Wagner. In the end, I didn’t listen to the complete recording of the Strauss opera at all, because I got distracted by Voigt, both the Strauss and the Wagner, which turned into listening to Kirsten Flagstad singing various selections from Tristan und Isolde which turned into spending today watching a DVD of a performance of Tristan from the Met in 1999, with Ben Heppner as Tristan and Jane Eaglen as Isolde.
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I had a chance to go to the Met’s highly reflective production of Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten on Saturday afternoon.* I’m not sure going to see a massive Strauss opera with a headcold and sitting in the back row of the Family Circle is necessarily a winning combination. Due most likely to a combination of the size of the orchestra and the amount of fluid in my ears, the sound – by the time it reached the inside of my head, at least – was tilted heavily towards the orchestra rather than the singers. I could hear them just fine most of the time, but I had moments where I started to panic and wonder if I hadn’t ruptured an eardrum or something. (But then again, if that were the case, I wouldn’t be able to hear the orchestra or the singers, would I. Certainly there is nothing on the internet about eardrum ruptures about operatic sound balance. And my other half who went with me and is in perfect health noticed the same thing. Possibly this is some sort of Tylenol-induced paranoia.)
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Sick as a dog, but off to the Met for the afternoon performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten. (I have no noisy cough, so my fellow opera-goers will be spared that, and I will endeavor not to touch anything so as to avoid spreading germs.)
Spending the evening metabolizing decongestants and microwaving a wet washcloth and lying on the couch with said washcloth over face breathing steam and attempting to clear blocked Eustachian tubes before having to get on plane tomorrow (and also wondering when it was that I last laundered that particular washcloth). And meanwhile listening to Kristin Flagstad singing Wagner. That is a voice that will penetrate through any amount of accumulated mucus, although I completely understand why she never marketed herself that way.
Specifically, I’m listening to her sing bits of Tristan und Isolde. I keep listening to this opera every so often, but I never seem to really absorb it, somehow. Maybe I need to watch my DVD of it again.
(Update after further listening:
Me: where have you been all my life, Kirsten Flagstad?
Kirsten Flagstad: Dead, sweetie. I’ve been dead. But I’m glad you’re enjoying those digitally remastered reissues of my famous records.)
(Previous section here.)
But how does it sound? Over all, not bad. Veronique Gens’s Vitellia is
very tall very seductive. The way she handles the repetitions of “alletta” at the end of “deh, se piacer me vuoi” leave no doubt as to why Sesto finds her fascinating, and the series of silky-looking slip dresses she slinks around in don’t hurt either. Vitellia has flashes of anger – she tips over a chair at one point, but quickly dials it back when Sesto comes in – and the odd moment of vulnerability, but she’s neither supremely ambitious nor supremely nuts. The general emotional color of the performance is consistent with that domestic drama vibe I mentioned before.
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(Previous section here.)
A point about the overture, and the orchestral playing in general. The conductor is Ludovic Morlot, and he has things to say with this music. The overture felt measured, precise and clear, and there was a similar kind of mellowness or ease in the solo clarinet during “parto, parto.” At several points I was hearing things that I hadn’t heard or at least hadn’t focused on before, like the attacks in the lower string parts during the “vengo – aspettate – Sesto!” trio or the way the flute part follows Servilia in her first lines of the duet with Annio in Act I. Whoever was operating the basset horn during “non più di fiori” also got in the odd moment of pretty phrasing, although there was a bit of a “toot toot toot” quality to it at the beginning.
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Normally I would switch the question around, and ask something like “How did Marcus Spiegel’s views on slavery change during the war, and why is this important?” but it’s a bonus, so it’s intended to be fairly easy if one has done the reading.
I have heard La Clemenza di Tito so many times that listening to it feels like a variety of introspection – my reaction to any given performance is not simply a reaction to that performance, but also to all the other performances that I have heard. Also, it strikes me that either the advantage or the disadvantage to constant access to high-quality performances via DVD and the internet, like this one from Brussels, is that you rarely hear a truly bad rendition of anything. Sometimes one (by ‘one’ I mean ‘me’) picks nits about the interpretation, or takes issue with tempos, but I don’t actually think I’ve ever seen what I would call a truly sub-par performance of this opera.
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I had never listened to Verdi’s Requiem mass before. But a local symphony orchestra (yes, there is one – no laughing in the back there) and our university chorus and some outside soloists they must’ve either threatened or bribed performed it on campus yesterday afternoon, and, well, I guess you go, right?
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I was looking at notes I had taken about La Clemenza di Tito and for a minute I could not for the life of me figure out why I had mentioned herpes.
Turns out that I was talking about Vitellia’s hopes.
It’s a real pain when the “continue from where I left off” button, say, unplugs your crockpot or launches a nuclear strike on Turkmenistan.
(From La Monnaie’s website where I was watching La Clemenza di Tito.)