Tag: Coote

Just when you think you don’t need another Handel recital . . .

It turns out that you do. I went through an intensive Handel buying phase between about 2003 and 2005, so I have a lot of CDs that came out then or a few years before. I haven’t bought many Handel recitals (as opposed to complete operas) in a while, because after a certain point you realize that you have on your shelf fifteen different people singing “scherza, infida” and a different fifteen singing “se pietà” and in at least one case the same person singing each of those but on different CDs, and after a certain point you begin to experience diminishing returns.

IMG_0558On the other hand, there is this recital CD by Alice Coote, with the English Concert and Harry Bicket, that is really very arrestingly good. I particuarly liked the excerpts from Alcina  – “mi lusinga il dolce affetto” has the same delicacy and intimacy that I remember from hearing Coote in that concert performance of this opera last fall, and in “verdi prati” she has this way of stretching out the phrases but in such a way that there is a sort of springy energy holding them together. You know how sometimes singers are criticized for “limp” phrasing? Well, this is the opposite of that. Every moment expresses Ruggiero’s sense of vanishing beauty.

The sections from Hercules are also a highlight – I always find myself thinking it kind of a bonus that Handel ended up in England and thus wrote several oratorios to English texts. With “Cease ruler of the day to rise” the contrast in my head was DiDonato, whose renditions of this express a kind of beautiful anguish; Coote’s offers a deeply felt sadness and regret. Different, but I am more than happy to have both.

Handel – Alcina / Carnegie Hall 10-26-14

Today was, as they say, a good day. No barking from the dog; no smog; I went to see Alcina and the ensemble went whole hog.

But enough of that. (Someone was playing Ice-Cube from their car as I was walking home from the subway, and one thing kind of led to another in my head.) I am not sure where to start, this performance was so much fun. Perhaps the obvious. How much do we love Joyce DiDonato? We love her plenty, including her fabulous dress and knee-high boots. I heard some people behind me commenting that they didn’t like her hair. These people are clearly without any taste in haircuts whatsoever. Fauxhawks are AWESOME. (I love writing about opera. I can have crushes and get squealy and indulge my inner fourteen-year-old and just GO ON AND ON IN ALL CAPS ABOUT HOW AWESOME THINGS ARE and I feel not a bit ashamed.)

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Massenet – Cendrillon / ROH 2011 (2)

(Previous section here.)

Cendrillon3Visually there is a gesture or two at Perrault’s seventeenth-century France – the ministers at court are dressed in wigs and suits that evoke the late 1600s. Some of the imagery is vaguely Victorian. In Act III, for instance, the prince and Cendrillon wander in search of one another not in a forest of trees but through a forest of rooftops and glowing chimneys. When she’s in her grimy rags, Cendrillon’s black boots and stripey tights are also imaginary-Victorian-urchin like.

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Massenet – Cendrillon / ROH 2011 (1)

Are there any head-banging Massenet fans left in the world? Or maybe that’s the wrong question. My experience of Massenet has been primarily as vehicle for mezzos – in this case, two of them, Joyce DiDonato (Cendrillon) and Alice Coote (Prince Charming). But a few others too. I encountered Massenet for the first time twice, once on Magdalena Kožená’s French Arias recording in about 2003, which contains selections from Cléopatre, Don Quichotte and Cendrillon. It was not until some time later that I realized that Massenet was also responsible for the “Meditation from Thaïs” that my violin teacher and I had mutually inflicted on one another ten years previously. I say mutually because she assigned it to me – but then she also had to sit there and listen while I played it. I didn’t know then what it was about, and since there was no such thing as the internet in 1993 I didn’t find out until later. This is not one of those anecdotes that goes anywhere.

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