Thinking about Verdi’s Otello made me think of Rossini’s opera of the same name. (The libretti were written by different guys too.)
I had to sweat blood not to, but in talking about the Glyndebourne version of Rodelinda I avoided comparisons to the Bayerische Staatsoper one because I wanted to talk about what I was seeing/hearing rather than what I wasn’t. However, so as not to let all that blood go to waste, I figured I’d get this out of my system. Besides, these are the only two DVD versions of this opera that are easily available (they’re the only two I know of, at least) so why not?
I was thinking about this aria because seeing it performed within the actual opera it’s from made me like it more than I had previously. The last time I heard it was on this recital CD of Anna Netrebko’s. This is not a CD I listen to a lot. No particular reason – I just rarely find myself thinking about it, I suppose. Also the photos in the booklet make me roll my eyes a little. They verge on parody of ‘sexy recital CD photography!’ which I do not think was the intention.
This is more apples to kumquats than apples and apples, as far as comparisons go, but I thought I would try it just to see if it worked. (Please note that I do not have a position on apples versus kumquats. They are both very lovely fruits.)
So, this is “O welch ein Schmerz!” / “Oh, leave me be!” from Act III. The first version is Stratas singing it in English at the Met in 1978 and the second is Röschmann singing it in German in Graz in 2011.
Someone googled this question the other day and ended up here. It caught my attention because I saw it and thought, well, of course Alcina sings “ah, mio cor” because — wait, why does she?
The audio below is two performances of ‘Dove sono’. The first is Elisabeth Schwarzkopf from the late 1950s and the second is Veronique Gens, in the René Jacobs recording of Figaro on Harmonia Mundi (1999).
So, more about Alcina. Again. And Renée Fleming, who has this tendency to turn up fairly often as far as certain Handel roles are concerned. Perhaps some day we should talk about Rodelinda again.
Anyway. Here are two performances of “Mi restano le lagrime.” The first is Fleming, and the second, beginning at 8.18, is Joyce DiDonato.
I am about to engage in a fairly bizarre analytical exercise in the service of what I hope is a slightly less bizarre one later.
There are things that you do not in the normal course of things expect to hear very often. Such as German sopranos singing de Falla’s Siete canciones populares españolas:
This is another bootleg recital CD, and when I saw what was on it my reaction was: Beethoven – fine; Schumann – obviously; Brahms – oh, yes; Wolf – duh; De Falla – what? But it works. And in the context of this particular recital, it’s completely straightforward as a program choice. (The songs cluster around the theme of love and getting fucked over or otherwise disappointed by love. And she ends with Wolf’s Wie schon war immer mein Verlangen which is pretty much a perfect choice. Then again, if you listen to the BBC intros to each set and to the recital itself, you may come to suspect, as the BBC evidently does, that the pianist, Graham Johnson, is not only entirely responsible for the success of the program but is in fact the main attraction.)
Here are two versions of a song by Henry Purcell, “When first Amintas sued for a kiss.” I believe it is theater music, of which Purcell composed a lot, but I can’t recall right now. The first one is Emma Kirkby and the second, beginning at 1.58, is Christine Brandes.
I both enjoy and detest Emma Kirkby’s voice, but that is not the issue right now. Both she and Brandes are native English speakers (Kirkby is English and Brandes is American) and so there is none of the odd inflection or difficulties with ‘th’ or ‘wh’ that you sometimes hear when non-Anglophones perform this type of music. I bring this up because these are both singers who can be expected to work with the details of the text very easily.
“Per pieta” is one of those arias that doesn’t have an immediately recognizable melody like, say, “Dove sono” or “Martern aller Arten”. There are large stretches of it where the effectiveness really depends on how it’s phrased (and on the singer having very good intonation). With the eternal caveat that I know jack shit about singing, I have the impression that a performer is a little more exposed singing this than she would be with some other things.
Here are two versions of it. This is Malin Hartelius and this is Miah Persson from that Salzburg/Guth Cosi. In terms of quality of sound, I prefer Persson’s voice to Hartelius’s. It’s slightly more rounded and golden. (These are terrible descriptors, but it’s the best I can do.)
Handel’s Rodelinda is one of my favorite operas. For me, it began with this DVD about which I should write some day, because I have basically memorized the thing, and I’d hate for all that obsessive listening to go to waste (It’s Roeschmann, Palmer, Chance et al. at the Munich opera in 2004).
Anyway. I went looking this past summer for additional recordings of Rodelinda. There is this one conducted by Alan Curtis with Il Complesso Barocco with Simone Kermes as Rodelinda, which is nice although sort of chilly (but I like Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s Unulfo). I like live recordings, though, and other than the Munich DVD referenced above there aren’t many really good ones.
Except the one I got from these nice people at the Goettingen International Handel Festival. It’s of a performance from 2000, conducted by Nicholas McGegan with Robin Blaze as Bertarido and Dominique Labelle as Rodelinda. It took about two months for them to send it because the person who ran their shop was on holiday when I submitted the order and by the time she got back my one Europe-friendly credit card had expired so it didn’t work, and we had several very polite emails about that, and then I gave her the new expiration date and paid for the thing and she sent it to me. Anyway. I liked it.
For those whose boats are floated by this type of thing, here are the points about it that stood out to me:
Two versions of one of my favorite parts of Don Giovanni, “Ah, chi mi dice mai . . .Madamina, il catalogo e questo.” The first is Dorothea Roschmann (Donna Elvira) and Erwin Schrott (Leporello) at Salzburg in 2008. The second is Joyce DiDonato and Kyle Ketelsen at the Royal Opera also in 2008.
I watched a slightly old (1991) and somewhat bizarre production of La Clemenza di Tito a while back. It’s one of those ones where I’m not sure it’s odd because it’s twenty years old or odd because it’s odd. Probably a combination of the two. Anyway, I watched it because I was told that Ashley Putnam’s Vitellia was worth hearing, and this turns out to be true.
There are different flavors of Vitellia, if you will. There is the vamping, stalking, dress-tearing and ultimately having-a-meltdown sort of Vitellia, of which I am a great fan, and then there is the snarky, bitchy, ironic-detachment sort of Vitellia, which I also like, although not as much. Putnam’s is of the second variety. I figured apples to apples is better than apples to oranges, so Vitellia number one is Putnam, and Vitellia number two is Catherine Naglestad, who plays it in a similar style, but not identically. “Ecco il punto . . . . non piu di fiori” in both cases. (For anyone who 1) cares but 2) doesn’t know the story, which I imagine is approximately zero people, this is the part of the opera where Vitellia is betrothed to the emperor Tito who her lover Sesto, at her instigation, tried to depose; she believes that Sesto is going to go to his death for her, without revealing her complicity, and, well, the lady is not made of stone, after all . . . )
Putnam’s Vitellia is excruciatingly self-conscious. Vitellia is, I mean, not Putnam. The constant shifting eyes and self-enclosing gestures emphasize it, and the part to watch is “chi vedesse il mio dolore” / “anyone who saw my sorrow” – Vitellia gives the impression that she thinks she is being watched, or she has grown so used to watching herself that she can’t tell the difference. The tempo is quite slow throughout – this is Vitellia looking at herself in the mirror, as it were, and seeing death. Putnam has a voice of marginally better quality than Naglestad’s, and she’s definitely got those low notes, even the G (I think it’s a G, anyway), towards the end.
Naglestad’s voice has at times what I would call a kind of clarinetty-type nasal sound, particularly at the bottom. (That G below middle C is just. barely. there.) However. That is not the end of the story here. The first section of ‘non piu di fiore’ is wonderfully phrased. It lilts and floats and touches down right where it should (see “discenda Imene ad intrecciar” at 4.38) – this is Vitellia’s own detachment in musical form, and it’s perfect. The drops to piano are really pretty exquisite, e.g. at 7.59. This is Vitellia performing her own regret, and being aware of performing it, and yet feeling it anyhow, with a certain amount of self-indulgent self-pity (“chi vedesse” at 7.30) that is entirely appropriate to the character. The guy in the audience who yells “brava!” at the end? Yes.