Just finished listening to that CD of baroque laments by Haïm and company. It’s a series of little pieces for solo voice and chamber accompaniment, with one or two ensembles, performed by a variety of singers with Le Concert d’Astrée It begins and ends with Rolando Villazón, which strikes me as unfair, since if someone is going to get two solo turns, I’d rather it be Jaroussky, or DiDonato, or Lemieux or Gens or Lehtipuu. I have no quarrel in any deep way with Rolando Villazón. I am merely pointing out that even within the constraints of this particular recording there are other options.
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About the music. This is not a production that appears to be attempting much more with the opera than what is on the surface. Patricia Schumann sings Poppea’s music with accuracy and a nice sound and enough personality that the character makes sense, although it doesn’t feel like a deep or subtle interpretation. Poppea is pretty much what she appears to be, see-thru dress and all. I guess that’s kind of the point, though, isn’t it.
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Humorous countertenors ought to be shot. I don’t mean ‘countertenors who can be funny’ because this includes rather a lot of countertenors who I would in fact not like to see shot. I mean countertenors playing “unattractive/old/ridiculous woman” roles in 1990s productions of early baroque operas who go squawking back and forth between countertenor voice and tenor, who do not sound nice, and who are not actually funny. There are several of these persons in this opera. I am not going to name names.
Well, I think I could have done without seeing this. It’s not awful – don’t get me wrong. But it’s not fantastic enough to spend two and a half hours on given that there are several other newer and I think much better DVDs of this opera out there.
I was listening to a live recording of Monteverdi’s l’Incoronazione di Poppea this afternoon. There is a part in Act II where Ottone is convincing Drusilla to give him her clothes, so that he can disguise himself as her and murder Poppea (it’s not a phenomenally good plan), and in this recording there is a part of this scene where Drusilla gives a little squeak or yelp and the audience laughs and applauds. I think it was some clever way in which the two characters switched outfits, but wish I knew what the joke actually was. The audience at this performance was German, and based on my experiences with live recordings German audiences don’t usually make much noise.
Also, I had a conversation with a friend of mine last night about the meaning of “deh”. As in the little interjection in a lot of Italian opera dialogue. It seems to mean “oh”, but “O” also appears fairly frequently. I think there is actually a slight difference in meaning: “O” is reserved for vocatives – “O numi” or “O don fatale” and so on, where the speaker is addressing some one or thing directly. “Deh” is more of an all-purpose “oh” or “ah”. It also seems to be confined to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. You get a lot of “deh” in Mozart and earlier material, but if memory serves you pretty much never hear it in Verdi.
1) I have not confirmed this conjecture by, you know, actually looking it up or anything like that.
2) I have days when I am convinced that whatever intelligence I have is pretty much a waste.