Tag: Rossini

Rossini – La Donna del Lago / Metropolitan Opera 3-10-15

I have said it before, but I have yet to leave a performance of anything involving Joyce DiDonato without a big silly grin on my face by the end. This performance resembled the one of La Cenerentola that I saw last spring, in that 1. It also involved Juan Diego “Watch how long I can hold this high note! And now I’m holding it even longer! Did you catch that? No? That’s ok, because I’m still doing it!” Florez and 2. JDD did the usual grin-making JDD thing in the opera’s final big number (here, “tanti affetti”). I enjoy her performances of Baroque material more than the bel-canto reperatoire, but hearing her voice go zooming around in all that ornamentation is still a pretty rip-roaring good time. 

This is not an opera I know well. I’ve never seen it, and I’ve heard only the arias that tend to end up on recital programs, like the aforementioned “tanti affetti.” It is one of those 19th-century history-with-the-politics-taken-out operas – the story centers around a bunch of highlanders who are at war with James V of Scotland for reasons that are apparently unimportant; one of them, Ellen (Elena in Italian), is loved by both a highland chief named Rodrigo and this other guy who turns out to be James V; she prefers a mezzo named Malcolm, and it all turns out fine. I think Rodrigo dies, but that is probably not important either.

Two stray observations about the staging. One, I think they stole the patch of barren heath that represents Little Mankie or wherever the hell this takes place from their production of Parsifal. Either that or the Met has two big movable patches of grayish ground that can split open in the middle.  Two, during the first act when everyone is cheerfully celebrating the betrothal of Elena and Rodrigo that they assume will soon take place, Elena has to just sort of stand there looking agitated and twisting her hands together for quite a while – from the cheap seats, the stage direction gives the impression that Elena definitely doesn’t want to marry Rodrigo, and that additionally she really really has to pee.

Finally, one unexpected bonus was mezzo Daniela Barcellona as Malcolm. She got overpowered by the orchestra now and then, but the solo moments, both early on and in Malcolm’s last aria in Act II were impressive – committed acting and some very smooth and well-executed Rossini singing.

La Cenerentola / Metropolitan Opera 5-10-14

I have yet to attend one of Joyce DiDonato’s concerts or opera performances and not spend some portion of the program with a big stupid grin on my face. It took a while to get to the grin in this case, but it happened by the end.

I had never seen this opera before or heard it the whole way through – there are bits of it, like Cenerentola’s last aria, “Nacqui all’affanno e al pianto . . non più mesta” that are recital staples and which I have heard before, but that’s about it. It’s a bit different from the Cinderella story most of us read as as small children. There’s no fairy godmother or wicked stepmother. Rather, Cenerentola lives with her stepfather and his daughters, and her trip to the ball comes because an angel witnesses her kind-hearted nature and decides to cut her a break. There’s no time limit, no magic carriage, and no glass slipper. Rather, C and her prince have a pair of matching bracelets. Which I will admit is rather sweet. And it’s not the failure of the stepsisters to get their big feet into C’s missing Jimmy Choo that nixes their chances: it’s that they’re obviously not very nice people. In addition, Cenerentola falls for the prince when he is disguised as his own valet (long story) and the story makes clear that she loves him because he’s a nice guy, not because he’s a prince.

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And when it comes to retaliation, you can’t beat Rossini

I just discovered that some of the older music on my computer was ripped (by me) at a terrifyingly low bitrate. So as I do much deleting and reripping, I am getting a little tour of Things I Have Had For A Long Time. Beginning with a recording on Opera Rara of Rossini’s Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra with Jennifer Larmore in the title role.

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Friday Mystery

A friend of mine called to tell me last night that his car had been broken into. A car that is parked around the side of a house and down a sloping driveway, hardly visible from the street. And what did the thief run away with into the frigid Long Island night? Not the car stereo. Not the snow shovel. Not even the raggedy-ass sleeping bag and half-empty bottle of laundry detergent in the trunk. Oh no.

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Wednesday Overtures

I sat down to watch a DVD of Verdi’s Otello last night and got as far as opening up the plastic case before I decided that it was too late for this kind of racket. Shakespeare plays, and operas based on Shakespeare plays, always make me think of teaching, and memories of assigning Shakespeare plays always evoke memories of student questions like “what does ‘tupping’ mean?” or “so, was he like, African, or was he like black black?”

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Una voce poco fa

So, I listened to this this morning.

And I burst into tears. Well, not burst. But they welled up.

It’s not the performance as such, although listening to Teresa Berganza sing Mozart and Rossini is without question a lovely experience. It’s the association I have with this particular recording. I was 22 or 23 when I first heard it. I was listening to baroque vocal music at the time, but mostly chamber music — Handel cantatas, that type of thing. Not opera. I remember reading a review of this here and for some reason it occurred to me that I ought to buy this CD. I can’t remember why.

But I did, and I listened to it over and over. Berganza is an excellent introduction to opera. Her voice is a sort of platonic ideal of a lyric mezzo. (And, somehow, Berganza gives the impression through her singing that she is a thoroughly nice person, a real mensch. I don’t know why I have this impression. But there it is.) It was through this that I got to Mozart’s operas, although that process was very gradual. I listened to a lot of recital CDs before I ever bought a complete recording of anything.

I rarely listen to this CD anymore. There are some recordings that serve a specific purpose in one’s musical education, and once they’ve done so they’re not as useful as they once were. But when I do hear this, I think of being 23 and a first-year graduate student. I had a lot still ahead of me at that point in intellectual terms. I had a better ear for intonation than I did for phrasing, and when I did hear opera performed live, I hadn’t listened to enough of it to know in most cases what I was listening for. As a result, most of what I heard/saw back then I don’t really remember well.

But . . . well, here’s Una voce poco fa.

Snobbery

There are pleasures that are not guilty. Running, for example. Sleep. Being able to say ‘I told you so’ but not saying it, especially if the other person knows you’re thinking it.

Musically, there are pleasures that are not guilty: I do not feel I have to be embarrassed if I’ve listened to, say, the Amadeus Quartet playing Haydn’s Op. 76 string quartets over and over.

I am only mildly embarrassed about basically wearing additional grooves into this. (Seriously. It’s infectious. Try it.)

But some things I am less eager to admit listening to. At least, not without prefacing the admission with an indication that I know it’s silly, and that I am listening to it in part for precisely that reason.

secrets