Tag: Kasarova

Music for Hiding from ESPN

I fled campus on Friday afternoon without going to the library for a DVD, because The Big Game is happening this weekend (our football team is playing that of a neighboring state school and ESPN is here) so I ended up watching part of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi from the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2012. It’s a bootleg of a live broadcast, with Netrebko and Kasarova in the two main roles, and I discovered when watching it that rather than the entire opera, I have two copies of Act II. So, I watched Act II. Perhaps someday I will find Act I.

But Act II is pretty good. It begins with Juliet (Netrebko) wandering across the stage on what looks like the back of a half-pipe in a little poofy white dress, agonizing over the fate of Romeo; Lorenzo (here a doctor rather than a friar as in the play – was this a case of the Italian censors being squeamish?) arrives with the Death Roofie, which Juliet takes*, appears to die and is put in the tomb, and then Romeo shows up, etc. etc. we know how this goes. The staging is very simple, just a long set of stairs and a few other open spaces, with one large illuminated circle that evokes the moon for Romeo’s “Deserto è il loco.” At the end, the two characters, having killed themselves, are standing and wandering, dazed, forward as the lights darken. I am not always a super-fan of Anna Netrebko, but I really liked her here. And I always forget how convincing Kasarova is in these trouser roles. I don’t know how she does it, but as ever she’s proof, as if we needed more, that you don’t have to look “boyish” to nail these characters.

You’ve seen those “Sassy gay friend” commentaries on Shakespeare’s plays, right? I personally find the “straight girl’s sassy gay sidekick” trope both tired and annoying, and any series that consistently ends with the girl being referred to (to the viewer, not to the character’s face) as a “stupid bitch” even in fun rubs me the wrong way, but the line in the Romeo and Juliet one about “oh my god, you took a roofie from a priest?!” is spot on. And the bit in the one about Hamlet that’s along the lines of “you’re going to kill yourself over Hamlet? Hamlet?! He stabbed your dad through a curtain!” is also pretty good.)

Listening to Donizetti while a little bit hungry

20140318-232825.jpgSpent the last hour listening to Kasarova’s first (I think?) recital album – the one from 1996 where she’s tangled up in a coffee colored silk sheet on the cover. It made me think of how much I would like some coffee ice cream, which I suspect was probably not the designers’ intention. She’s vocally very recognizably VK but a little lighter in sound, which is used to great effect in some of the earlier numbers, e.g. the delicately rendered selection from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, or “voi che sapete” where she really does sound appropriately pubescent-boyish. (And I just spent longer than I should have figuring out why autocorrect kept trying to capitalize the “che” in “voi che sapete” – I think it was assuming that I meant “voi Che Guevara sapete” which would I suspect make for a profoundly different sort of opera.)

I sometimes say snarky things about bel canto, but even so I thought that the Rossini and Donizetti selections were the best parts of this – Frau K makes this music lyrical and expressive, e.g. the “vedi per tutta Italia” section of “amici, in ogni evento” from L’Italiana in Algeri or Giovanna’s more anguished moments in the selection from Anna Bolena, though I remain committed to my longstanding opinion that the “bump-twiddily-bump-twiddily-bump(twiddily) ba dump dump BUMP-twiddily-bump-twiddily bump” and so on theme that recurs in that opera (you know what I’m talking about?) is both profoundly dumb and at the same time one of the best bits. It’s like a little musical scoop of strawberry ice cream.

And now based on the frequency of sugar references in the above, I believe it is time to leave off the opera and eat some dinner.

23 Minutes of Art Songs

These are the songs and the Program Notes that I sent to my mom as per earlier discussion. WordPress is being weird for some reason about displaying the player widget for the ones that are m4a and not wav files, but I think they all work. I also managed to include one very authentic Liederabend moment: before the Wolf song begins there is great hacking and wheezing from the audience.

read the rest

La Clemenza di Tito / Salzburg 2003 / Kasarova, Röschmann, Schade, et al. (3)

(Previous section here.)

I said earlier that one of the reasons this performance works so well dramatically is that the interpretations of the three central roles fit together so well. We have a mad emperor, a Vitellia who is on the edge of we know not what and/or tearing off her clothes most of the time — and then there is Sesto (Vesselina Kasarova) who seems to be the only sane person in the room.

read the rest

La Clemenza di Tito / Salzburg 2003 / Kasarova, Röschmann, Schade, et al. (2)

(Previous section here.)

I did something a little different this time. A while back, I ripped the audio from this DVD so that I could put it on my iPod. So, rather than watching the DVD over again to write this, I merely listened to it. There isn’t anything distracting about the way this is staged or anything like that, but sometimes a change of approach is worthwhile.

read the rest

La Clemenza di Tito / Salzburg 2003 / Kasarova, Röschmann, Schade et al. (1)

I realized the other day that I had never sat down and collected my thoughts about this production of La Clemenza di Tito. I’ve seen it many times. And I am fairly sure that I am not the only one. Some of us love this production because we love Dorothea Röschmann’s voice and think that Kasarova is kind of awesome too. Others of us love this production because Vesselina Kasarova is the best thing ever and hey, the soprano ain’t bad neither. Still others of us are made of stone and like it merely because it’s a very good production of one of the finest operas ever written.

So, I will attempt to explain this production as if to someone who had never seen it.

read the rest

Der Rosenkavalier / Stemme, Kasarova, Hartelius et al. / Zurich Opera 2004 (2)

[part one and discussion of the production here.]

The Marschallin in this production is Nina Stemme, who I had heard before on DVD as Aida. Aida is not my favorite opera by a long shot, and this may have caused me not to register how nice Stemme sounded. But she has what I would call the perfect sort of voice for the Marschallin.

read the rest

Kasarova / Mitridate, Rè Di Ponto, K. 87

This aria, “Già dagli occhi il velo è tolto” / “Now the veil is lifted from my eyes,” caught my attention when I first heard this CD. I had never heard anything from Mozart’s Mitridate, Rè Di Ponto before, and I did read the liner notes to see what the aria was about, but I forget what they said. (I am not feeling phenomenally helpful today. I exhausted all of this week’s ‘helpful’ allotment on undergraduates.)

read the rest

Alcina (last time, I promise)

The best parts of Alcina, to my mind, are the parts where the characters are disillusioned, deceived, lying or regretting/worrying about things that are not or might not be real. One can argue quite reasonably that this is an opera about love; I think the claim can also be made that this is an opera about lies.

And the music does not come down one hundred percent on the side of truth. The idea that music was a kind of sweet deception, sometimes a dangerously sweet deception, was a truism in Handel’s day. I mean, it’s there – but it isn’t, right? It makes you feel things, but sometimes it’s not at all clear why. Words like chant, chanson and enchantment are all related to one another; the idea clearly goes back even further than the eighteenth century. (The analytical move made in the previous sentence operates more smoothly in Romance languages — and the bits of English, like chant and enchant, that derive from French — than it does in say, German, but since this opera is in Italian I suspect I am going to get away with it.)

Some of the most haunting music in Alcina is about lies and illusions. ‘Verdi prati,’ for example. There is also Ruggiero’s aria ‘mio bel tesoro’ from Act II, which is one of the parts of this opera that I always forget how much I like. I think it’s the two recorders. Ever notice how recorders tend to turn up in baroque operas at fairly well-defined times? It’s death, or it’s love/death/sex, or it’s ‘someone’s getting fucked with’. Here it’s the last. The recorders double and echo Ruggiero’s melodic line – just as Ruggiero is being double with Alcina.

And it may be that Handel is messing with us a little bit. My attention never flagged during this production of Alcina. The tension is never high, but it’s always there. The music is what is holding all this together, and the fact that music is holding together this rather creaky story about a gal with a fragile urn and some serious control issues vis-a-vis personal relationships — this is Handel showing us how clever he actually is.


I bought the CD from which this is taken a while back. I like the recording, but the first time I heard this track, which is Zerlina’s aria ‘vedrai, carino’ from Don Giovanni my reaction to the concept of Kasarova as Zerlina was somewhere between absolutely not and I would like to see this attempted. I don’t know why I found it so odd. I think it’s because I associate her with trouser roles and this would be very different. (And also, she’s a mezzo, and it’s a soprano role — but this often doesn’t make as much difference as you’d think.) But mainly it is because I have seen DVDs of her performing and her stage presence can be downright peculiar.

But there is “bizarre but it ultimately works” and “you think it would work just fine but no one ever wants to talk about it ever again.” I’m still not sure which this concept would be, but since it’s never going to happen it’s kind of a moot point.

Intriguingly weird

I was thinking about Kasarova’s voice and whether I like it or not, so I watched that Salzburg 03 Clemenza di Tito again and attempted not to look at the screen. Listening to a DVD without looking at it is surprisingly hard. Her voice is not as odd as it sounds on the DVD of Alcina, although some of the same acting quirks are in evidence (she does this sort of pointing thing during “Parto, parto” that happens repeatedly in Alcina but there’s less of it and it’s less distracting). Although the lowest part of her range is sort of hooty sounding.

(Caveat: I have twelve years of musical training in my past, but it was on the violin. I know jack shit about singing.)