About an hour and a half before “curtain up” of the concert performance Vivaldi’s Orlando Furioso, the BBC Radio 3 producer and the musical director of the Lufthanza Festival of Baroque Music Lindsay Kemp, gave a talk about the work we were about to here in the Barbican Hall later on. He concentrated on Ariosti’s 38,000-line poem and how most of the composers only used one thread, or one plot line as it were. Handel for example made three operas out of it, Alcina, Orlando and Ariodante. Vivaldi used two interweaving plot lines, i.e. Orlando, Angelica, Medoro and Alcina, Ruggiero, Bradamante. The talk was quite informative and educational. Orlando Furioso is apparently an opera that was going towards the new more fashionable form of opera seria of Neapoletan style. In Orlando Furioso, Vivaldi employes combinations of recitativo and arioso to drive the plot forwards as well as giving the characters both short and long arias. Frédéric Delaméa’s essay in the booklet of the recording of this opera gives even more information about the context, the circumstances, etc. I do wonder if there will be a book published with all his writings about Vivaldi’s operatic output.
The main story of Orlando Furioso revolves around the madness of Orlando triggered by the unrequited love of Angelica. I am not even going to attempt to describe what happens in each of the three acts of the opera. When Orlando after trying to fetch the youth-preserving elixir for Angelica (so vain), he sees a tree onto which Angelica’s and Ruggiero’s names are carved, he goes mad. This mad scene is really mad. More about it later. The cast of Orlando Furioso was as follows:
Marie-Nicole Lemieux ORLANDO
Veronica Cangemi ANGELICA
Franziska Gottwald ALCINA
Philippe Jaroussky RUGGIERO
Daniela Pini MEDORO
Christian Senn ASTOLFO
Kristina Hammarström BRADAMANTE
Jean-Christophe Spinosi Conductor
This is second year in a row, I have a chance to see Vivaldi opera at the Barbican. Unfortunately, no Vivaldi opera in 2011/2012 season, which is a shame. The performance was great, full of so much energy, that caused violin strings to break, music stands to be knocked. Spinosi jumps up and down when he conducts and conducts so energetically that at one point he rotated with his right hand the music stand of the celli. The orchestra was a bit strangely arranged on the stage and the back row violins had trouble seeing him. Spinosi had to maneuver the singers all the time so that the orchestra can see him which caused some distraction. It is interesting how in the first ten minutes of the performance one needs to accustom one’s ear to the sound of a period instrument orchestra. There is some controversy around the internet about Spinosi’s approach to Vivaldi, but I will not go into that discussion here. Each instrumentalist plays with lots of passion and their whole body moves whilst phrasing. The second violin of the first, broke a string. He insisted to restring it himself, with a spare one that travelled from the back row. This happened in Act One and was a bit scary to watch.
The last minute replacements (Daniela Prini for Romina Basso and Franziska Gottwald for Jennifer Larmore) had to resort to their scores, which somewhat distracted from the drama and yet both of them sung beautifully. Franziska could have been a bit more dramatic in Act three ending. I love Daniela Prini’s voice and would love to hear her again. Marie-Nicole Lemieux is totally mad Orlando. Even though she is supposed to sing a male character, she didn’t resort to butching it up for the sake of the fact that she is supposed to be male. Wide ranged voice full of resonant bottom. Lemieux produced some almost baritonal sounds and then jumped two octaves up (albeit a tad on the flat side, but I forgive her for that). The way she sings fast coloratura with her whole body shaking makes the tone loose some of its resonance. She made Orlando almost comical in the mad scene. I so wish I saw this fully staged. She manages to bring all sorts of layers from Orlando’s character. Rushes off stage, rushes back again, threatens the conductor… At one point she sits on the floor and sulks like a little boy whose favourite toy has been taken away from him. When Angelica tries to bring him to his senses, kneeling down to his knees, is a very magical moment.
This was my third time seeing Veronica Cangemi live. I saw her last year in Ottone in Villa, and recently in Alcina. Her voice is unique, her pianissimi unforgettable. She was in excellent form and played masterfully the manipulating Angelica. What a surprise was Jaroussky for me. Listening to his CDs and watching YouTube videos misled me into thinking that his voice is tiny, too sweet and sickly, but I was so wrong. His voice is full of resonance, his stage presence captivating. When he sang Sol da te, mio dolce amore in Act one, he brought me to tears. Was enough to make my ticket worth. (Shame I found out too late for his Wigmore Hall appearance in a couple of weeks, concert is sold out). Near the end of the opera, he got a bit tired and one could see that he was losing his breath control, and the notes were sounding a tad shallow, still bang in tune.
Christian Senn as Astolfo and Kristina Hammarström as the female warrior Bradamante were no less impressive. Senn is not as good as Lorenzo Regazzo in this role, but still a good voice with a solid technique with great stage presence. Hammarström portraid the fierce Bradamante perfectly. Here are some pictures of the evening and a curtain call.
MORE VIVALDI OPERA IN LONDON PLEASE!!!!!
Music making at 12 degrees Centigrade
The first thing I want to say about this concert is that due to some burst piping the church was not heated and it was bloody freezing. Two larger portable heaters were placed centre stage and two smaller ones on each side of the cold, dark church. Was this going to be a concert for four saxophones and four electric heaters and shivering audience? Alas, it was not. The chilliness of the church did not stop the four musicians to give us the audience a fantastic experience.
And what a programme it was. It spanned a few centuries, from Heinrich Isaac (1450?) to Richard Hames (1993). Two pieces from two fellow Macedonians, Andreevska and Shahov, fitted beautifully in each of the two halves of the concert.
The programme was as follows:
Heinrich Isaac Kyrie
Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa Responsorium II
Jana Andreevska Am I a falcon, a storm or unending song?
Laura Jurd (Short and) Skittish
Richard Hames Rustling
Johann Sebastian Bach Contrapunctus IV
Charles Mingus Canon
Johan Sebastian Bach Fugue in G minor BWV 542
Astor Piazzolla Fugata
Arvo Pärt Psalom (1985)
Pande Shahov Saxophone Quartet
I. Urban Rains
Martin Read Earth Waiting
Christian Raake Geisterwaltzer
Christian Raake Chaser
Astor Piazzola Night Club 1960
Isaac’s Kyrie was performed from the side of church. The saxofonquadrat sounded like real voices singing in a straight, sometimes rough tone. The soprano sax entries were heavenly. Gesualdo’s almost 20th century like harmonic shifts and dissonances lead us to the first contemporary piece in the programme, Andreevska’s Am I a falcon, a storm or an unending song. A piece in which organic structures form, in almost self-organizing way and quickly dissipate in order to form another entity. Saxofonequadrat played it with a great panache and dedication.
After Andreevska came two pieces by young composers Laura Jurd and Richard Hames. Two contrasting pieces that showed the compositional skills of this very young generation of composers.
Saxofonequadrat played Bach’s Contrapunctus IV in the middle of the audience in a circle. With each new entry, each saxophonist rotated around his own axis that produced some very interesting audio effects in the (freezing) church. If you had your eyes closed, you would have definitely noticed the change in how the sound was arriving at your ears. A bit gimmicky but very effective.
Charles Mingus’s Canon involved circular breathing (that lead to exquisite microtonal shaping of the phrases) and walking around the church. A piece very powerful and almost ritualistic in character. (I am still freezing)
Both the first and the second half of the concert finished with Piazzolla. I am not sure that any other ensemble can get away with such multiperiod and multi-stylistic concert programming and without losing any focus.
The central piece in the second half was Pande Shahov’s Saxophone Quartet in three movements. Stunning writing for the saxes. Very evocative, atmospheric. In the first movement the Urban Rains, the painting of the rain is so powerful, one could feel it on their cheeks. Such vivid imagery produced just by four saxes. Extraordinary. Almost cinematic. The quartet finishes with Macedonian Folk music inspired ORO. Compound rhythms a plenty and very, very refined jazzing up! Loved it!
And after the second Piazzolla serving in the evening, what does this sax quartet play you as an encore (in still very cold church)? It plays you BACH! FANTASTIC! Versatile, unpretentious, plays very difficult music with such ease and simplicity. I would definitely want to see another concert of this ensemble.
Here is a video of the curtain call as usual
A note to myself for future reference: Don’t book in the front row on the side, your neck will hurt and most of the sound gets above you……
Luca Pisaroni baritone, Wigmore Hall Recital Debut
Wolfram Rieger piano
Il modo di prender moglie D902 No. 3 (1827)
L’incanto degli occhi D902 No. 1 (1827)
Il traditor deluso D902 No. 2 (1827)
Im Rhein, im schönen Strome S272
Vergieftet sing meine Lieder S289
O Lieb, so lang du lieben kannst S298
Die Vätergruft S281
Tre sonetti di Petrarca S270
What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon (its a bit cliche phrase, but it was wonderful). Luca Pisaroni, a young Venezuelan born, Parma bread bariton, according to the Wiki article, started studying singing with Carlo Bergonzi in Parma….
This concert was his Wigmore Hall debut, and I do hope, he will be invited and coming back for more. He presented the solo songs all in one breath, no interval, with only very small pauses between the each set of songs. Over an hour of non stop singing is not an easy task.
Luca’s voice is fresh, full of resonance from very beefy low fs to top gs (or roundabout there). He has a large palate of colours, is not afraid to use full and healthy fortissimi and has hushed, yet resonant pianissimi.
He opened the recital with a set of posthumously published in 1827 “Three Songs for a Bass Voice”. Originally written in Italian. Il modo di prender moglie (How to choose a wife, hilarious title) is a lively in a buffo style aria. The last song from the three has a recitativo and an aria section. (The programme notes writer, Richard Stokes, notes that it is astonishing how Schubert wrote these songs in the same year when he wrote Winterrise, in such a pure operatic manner). Luca performed this set superbly. After a slightly non resonant U vowel on the first opening phrase O Su, he was in a top form. His diction in the very fast passages was superb! Double consonants a plenty, every syllable spat out! Il traditor deluso was very good. Wolfram offered more than just support for Luca’s voice with his superb piano playing. One felt no need for all the instruments of the orchestra to feel the full drama of the pieces.
After the première of Guillaume Tell at the Paris Opéra in 1829, Rossini wrote no more operas until the end of his life in 1868. Before he moved to Bologna in 1836, it became a tradition to hold weekly soirées in his Parisian home. The music sang at these “wild parties” were to be published in 1835 with the title Les Soirées musicales. La promessa and L’orgia are two pieces from this set. Luca offered some pretty amazing singing in these three songs.
After Rossini came Liszt. Liszt has written 80 songs in six languages, no more no less. And these are bloody difficult. They demand stamina. Concentrated in the upper register, they can tire a singer very quickly. Beautiful diction, some very sensitive phrasing. It must have been difficult to sing this repertoire in front of your father in law, who happens to be Thomas Hampson. Still, Luca went for it and won the audience. I am not so sure, if I like the Italian Petrarca songs. After the four songs in German, signs of vocal tiredness started to creep up. I was not too sure if the Tre Sonetti di Petrarca were needed. At one point in one of the songs, there is a descending phrase starting from a high note in piano on the vowel A, where the resonance equilibrium was lost and the sound was quite white and without stability in the tuning. But this is nit picking really. Overall, Luca Pisaroni is one very fine artist who is yet to show us what he can do. He is down to sing Argante (some fierce coloratura) in this year’s Glyndebourne production of Handel’s Rinaldo. This will be his second time in this opera house, after the fantastic Leporello in last year’s Don Giovanni. Hope there are tickets left…..
Here are two curtain call videos
The last concert of the Brian Ferneyhough Total Immersion Day was introduced on the Barbican website as spanning the broad gamut of Ferneyhough’s invention, from the Missa brevis for 12 solo singers of 1969 to the UK premiere of Plötzlichkei , a 20-minute masterpiece for large orchestra. “The programme also included a rare chance to hear the third part of his Carceri d’Invenzione cycle, a seminal work of the 1980s inspired by Piranesi’s etchings of imagined dungeons and infernal places of imprisonment. Discover the multiform artistic influences and ideas behind the work of a composer who represents the antithesis of the predictable, the enemy of the routine.”
Upon arrival at the Barbican Hall, I learned that for technical stage management reasons, the order of the advertised programme is changed.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Singers by James Morgan and the programme run like this:
Plötzlichkeit (UK premiere) (2006) Scored for three high female voices soli – 3(2Picc).3(Ca).2.B-cl.3(Cbsn) – 6.3.2Soptbn.B-tpt.Cimbasso – 3Perc – Pf – 2Hp – Str
20 minute interval
Carceri d’Invenzione III (1986) scored for 2Fl (I=Picc, II=Picc, A-fl), 2Ob (II=Ca), 2Cl (II=C lEb), B-cl, Bsn (Cbsn), 2Hn, 2Tpt, 2Tbn, B-tba, 3Perc
Missa Brevis for SATB SATB SATB solo voices
20 minute interval
La Terre est un homme scored for 4Fl (III=Picc, A-fl; IV=Picc), 2Ob, 2Ca, ClEb, Cl, B-cl, Cb-cl, 2Bsn, Cbsn, 4Hn, 4Tpt, 2Tbn, T-tba, B-tba, 4Perc, Timp (Claves), Pf, 2 Amplified Hp, Cel (Claves), amplified Hpd (Claves), Cimbalom, Gtr, 22Vln, 10Vla, 10Vc, 8Db
After the members of the orchestra, including the leader and the conductor Martyn Brabbins assembled, miked up Julian Anderson and Brian Ferneyhough came on stage. Brian was being probed about the compositional process of the piece Plötzlichkeit of which an UK premiere was about to happen. The orchestra played examples of the usage of various specific instruments, like bass trumpet, Cimbasso and two harps one of which is tuned to the 7th flat overtone of the of the 1st horn. There is also microtonal tuning of the horns and the trumpets. The score (check out the Edition Peters Brian Ferneyhough Total Immersion microsite that includes flash animations of the full scores in the link at the end of the post) does not explain the tuning of the harps, but does include an explanation for the tuning of the trumpets and horns.
Brian explained that the Plötzlichkeit is like a set of hundred and so little movements all separated by silences of different length or by a sound of single instrument or a set of instruments, or even of the three female voices, that are like an echo of what was happening in the previous minute or two. The presence of the three members of the BBC Singers, was not mentioned in the introductory interview and Brian did not explain how he treated the voice parts of the score. Ferneyhough calls these as “locally defined musical units” which are not miniatures, because they never assume their own identity. There are also so called, inserts in the piece, which are longer, continuous unbroken extended movements. It seems he was “inspired” by Stockausen’s Gruppen.
For some reason, I thought that overall, that Plötzlichkeit was a very even composition, which lacked direction and momentum. Even though each individual micromovement was exciting, somehow the little echoes made the piece sort off reset itself. All the little details one just heard, instantly were erased by the echo. Or was it the fact that one the first violinists in the second row, manage to break one of the strings on her violin whilst playing and was replacing it with a new one, so my brain paid less attention to the music than to what was going on in the orchestra? After a while she restrung the violin and without tuning it continued playing. That was quite funny!
During the first 20-minute interval the stage was reset for the second piece of the programme, Carceri d’Invenzione III written in 1986. The piece is scored for wind instruments only and three percussionists. That piece, I really liked. According to the programme notes by Ivan Hewett, the work is inspired by the famous Carceri series of etchings by the Italian artist Piranesi, originally published in 1750 that contain horribly inventive imaginary prisons. Floor piled upon floor and stairway piled upon a stairway that causes a nightmarish sense of being buried alive.
Ferneyhough arranges the 18 instruments in three layers with trumpets, horns, flutes and oboes on the left; trombones, clarinets and the bassoon to the right, while behind them are the percussionists. The piece starts with an amazing dance like horrifying “tune” that is being interrupted by the loud outbursts (Ivan Hewett calls them rightly “signals”) by the percussion. They sound like they are indicating the time until ones death. And they are precise, like clockwork. Frightening! This performance of the Dungeons of Invention (Inventive Dungeons?) was striking, intense, brutal, and all in one breath. It seems like the music is fighting with itself, complex rhythmical structures and segments of varying proportions and increasing entanglement, measured by the percussion outbursts. I enjoyed this piece immensely. Each of the BBC SO players, played their part with such authority and conviction. The ensemble was fantastic. Brabbins does not only indicate the time and at which measure of the time, the piece is currently, he actually performs it.
The stage gets very quickly reset, chairs are moved away and twelve music stands are arranged in a semicircle for the twelve solo voices of the BBC Singers to perform Ferneyhough’s 1969 work, Missa Brevis. Together with Xenakis’ Nuits, Messiaens Cinq Rechants and Holliger’s Dona Nobis Pacem, this is one of my favourite contemporary vocal ensemble pieces. I have the score; have two recordings (BBC Singers and Attelier Schola Cantorum Stuttgart), heard Exaudi sing it live (to a mind blowing effect). Like Xenakis’ Nuits, the Missa Brevis requires virtuosic singing, huge interval and fast pitch jumps, quick fork actions, and extremely high notes from the sopranos. This is not Palestrina. Rhythmically difficult, requires stamina, has to grab you by the throat and must not let go until the end.
The BBC Singers conducted by James Morgan, unfortunately did not grab me by the throat. The performance did not have the required angst and intensity throughout. The twelve singers are arranged in three SATB quartets starting from stage left (audience perspective). I must give credit to the sopranos in each quartet, their top e flats and top es were bang in the groove. The alto from the second quartet has an amazing voice colour; I loved her. The fixing for this gig of the BBC Singers was not even, the tenor and the bass in choir one were not as committed and intense in their singing as the rest of the men. Most of the speaking bits in the Piu Agitato from bar 16 and Piu Forza section until bar 31 in the Gloria (Laudamus te, Benedicimus te, Adoramus te, Glorificamus te, etc) were not together. And this was not helped by not very engaged conducting by James Morgan, who I thought, did not show confidence in leading the singers and had very little contact with them. Missa Brevis is one of those pieces, which must be performed as exactly as possible. There were sections this evening, that were quite sloppy and one does not need to know the score to feel it.
The last piece in the evening was the massive La terre est un homme. Its first performance in Glasgow in 1979 was close to being scandalous. The players apparently hated it, parts were defaced, vandalised, some cello (or double bass) parts were missing. There was near mutiny at rehearsals and the critics hated it too. Thirty-two years later and the BBC SO gives a performance that the piece needs. It was, as someone I follow on Twitter, said, HELL YEA! Astonishing! Agonising! Loud! Ferocious! Superb piece of contemporary music! It must be performed more often! I do not want to wait 32 years to hear it again!
The score is massive. Literally (see pictures and the video below) it is huge. The score has something like 70 staves with multiple voices on each stave all fighting individually and yet creating this massive sound that speaks to you. Each part with its own right trying to find any possible mean to express itself and trying to get away from the dense pile up. If you look at the score, you will see that almost each voice goes up and down, up and down, trying to get to the surface.
Does it have to be accurately performed? Can one hear a mistake in all that density? But it has to be! The sheer mental energy that each player releases while performing his or her part creates an unforgettable feeling. You can’t escape it! It fires at you from all angles. To me it was like the man does become Earth or the Earth does become alive in a violent fashion. It is not important to distinguish which instrument produced which sound and can you hear if an instrument actually played.
It was a correct move by the Total Immersion Day organisers to put this piece at the end. Not just for technical reasons. After one hears La terre est un home, he or she would not want to hear anything else for a while. I wanted the high to stay for a while and not get overridden by anything else.
A link to the Total Immersion Day microsite on Edition Peters
And a video from the curtain call
I am sitting here and thinking where do I start? Anna Nicole Smith, subject for an opera? Someone I know, stated that she is not worth writing an opera for. And he is so wrong, more wrong he can’t be!!!! It is a fantastic subject for an opera (don’t tell me Violetta Valery’s was worth it more). A character who does not have it easy, not really! A character from today, a real person. Richard Thomas’ libretto is excellent! Explicit, in your face, but certainly not vulgar. It has moments of musical theatre, but musical it is not. This is a score here to stay, order your copies now. Some very demanding singing there. OK, it is not Thomas Ades’ Ariel with the impossible stratospheric coloratura, but it is very demanding. The part of Anna Nicole is more difficult than Traviata. Lyric, dramatic, large range. The cast list is quite long and there are characters such as The Four Lap Dancers, The Meat Rack Quartet, Trucker, Larry King, etc. Eva Maria Westbroek sings the role of Anna (just back in December she sang Elisabeth in Tanhauser!!!!), Anna’s mother is Susan Bickley, her lawyer Stern is Gerald Finley and J Howard Marshall, the old billionaire is Alan Oke.
From the moment you walk in the theatre, she is everywhere. Absolutely everywhere.
Richard Jones’ production is superb! The costumes and the sets work quite well. Most of the female characters get fake boobs and so does Eva Maria Westbroek. Even a fat suite for the second half of act two. Richard directs every single character with great precision. Even the cameras that follow Anna Nicole everywhere are alive. They walk like predators, they are in every corner, every shadow. She goes to the toilet on camera, gives birth to her baby girl in front of the camera. Totally exploited, constantly manipulated.
The opera opens with the choir lined up, sopranos and altos stage left (from audience perspective), tenors and basses stage right. They all look the same! Really, like clones! (Basses are a tad too loud, sops maybe not warmed up yet). Anna is introduced. She is from this town, no one cares how it is supposed to be pronounced. She blows kisses to everyone. Her mother does not approve. She gets married and gives birth to Daniel, who grows up with his grandma.
“To cut the short story short”, Anna wants out, wants to conquer America, leaves things behind and becomes a lap dancer. Then comes Dr YES who persuades her to have size double F, double FABULOUS! Singing: “This is my mantra, this is my chant, Fight time and NATURE with a silicon IMPLANT!” Very high and quite difficult tenor part, sung quite well by Andrew Rees. From this point onwards, she suffers agonising backaches and has to take these pills so many times a day, for the rest of her life…..
Anna Nicole now is the most popular lap dancer in the club. And than comes her best client! On a chair from the gods, glides from stage left to stage right and down. They fall in love! The oil billionaire J Howard Marshall II gives her diamonds, dresses, Jimmy Choos! She wants a ranch, but there is no such thing as a free ranch. She blows him in front of everyone. They get married! Ann’s mother does not approve again! Stern appears! He knows that she may need him one day sooner or later. Alan Oke was borne to sing the part of J H Marshall II! I believe he was slightly amplified (so was everyone in the party scene at least. The guitars and drums were quite loud, as they ought to be!) Marshall could hardly walk, needed to be in a wheelchair pushed by muscly body guards. Anna is in agony! Her size Fs are killing her slowly! Daniel, now a 6 years old, brings her pills. He just does that, brings her pills, the poor kid.
The second act shows the married couple living quite a famous life. Anna sings how she loves being famous and the sound of her Choos on the red carpet. Stern comes back and completely falls for Anna. A party is thrown. Drums, guitars come on stage, large disco ball. Marshall dies! Anna’s mom tells the audience that there is no will. Marshall’s family (quartet that demonstrates some quite good ensemble singing) refuse to give Anna a dime!
Ten year court case! Curtain down with a huge fab photo of Anna Nicole! And then another curtain unrolls! Big, red, with photos of all the burgers she has eaten in these 10 years and new photo appears bit by bit! Anna is supersized! Has put on huge weight (great job by the Royal Opera’s costume dept).
Anna’s addiction to pain killers is taking its toll. Wants Stern to give her more drugs! Daniel is now a teenager who does not say a thing, just gives his mum a backrubb. They are on TV, Larry King interviews them. The stage boy, fabulous barytone Zhengzhong Zhou (Jette Parker Young Artists Programme participant) wants an autograph.
Stern is in total control over Anna’s life. The crowds seem to hate him, call him all the names of the devil. Anna announces that she is with child. Stern has an evil genius moment: ANNA WILL GIVE BIRTH LIVE ON PAY PER VIEW TV! “BE FABULOUS BABY! BE SAD! LOOK CLEVER BABY! NOW LOOK MAD! DO THE MONEY SHOT, DON’T FORGET THE MONEY SHOT! WE NEED MORE MONEY SHOTS!” The EVIL STERN utters!
She has it all for a moment! …. Daniel comes to visit! For some reason, he dies! Ann’s mother says, it is not how it happened. Does anyone know? Care?
They bring in a bag to bag the dying body of Daniel. And then, like a voice from heaven! He sings! He recounts all the names of the drugs he has taken… Who gave him the drugs????!!!! Anna is heartbroken. For a moment, I thought this is it! I am bursting into tears! The music becomes so emotional and yet no pathos, no Puccini is this. Turnage does not allow here for a big Chio Chio San moment, just a glimpse of Anna’s naked soul! One brief fortissimo top note in full Wagnerian weight almost! Heart breaking moment! And then Stern takes a picture!!!!!
Anna just can’t go on living any longer. Camera’s keep rolling, and they seem to multiply. Predators! Let the world see how Anna goes in a bag and zips herself to death! But just before that: she wants to blow… a kiss to everyone!
THE PARTY MUST END!
Here is a video of the curtain call
Ravel and Berlioz with London Philharmonic Orchestra, Anna Caterina Antonacci, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Royal Festival Hall, 16/02/2011
Note to myself: I must update my blog in a timely fashion……..
This was one of the very rare occasions, when after the concert, I was literally shaking from excitement. Everything was absolutely perfect! Whatever I say about each piece will not do the justice to the performance. One had to be there to experience it.
The concert started with Ravel’s Mother Goose was followed by Berlioz’s Le Mort du Cleopatre and after the interval finished with Berlioz’s Simphony Fantastique. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted the Ravel and the Fantastic Symphony, from memory. No score, not even a music stand in front of him. I guess he had to have the score of Cleopatra…
Ravel’s Mother Goose was played exquisitely by LPO. Every single detail in the orchestration was made crystal clear, like one turned up the resolution of the acoustics of the Festival Hall all of a sudden. Maestro Nézet-Séguin lead the orchestra with such finesse, his baton-less hand shaping the beautiful phrases seamlessly one by one. This was like a calm see just before the storm that was to follow.
After Ravel, the stage was reset, some space made for the soprano soloist, Anna Caterina Antonacci and a music stand with the maestro’s score was brought. Anna Caterina Antonacci was amazing as Cleopatra. Her voice, perfectly measured in volume. Even when one thought the orchestra was too loud, one could clearly hear the notes and the words she was uttering. Her range of emotional expression in her voice is quite vide. Every single pair of ears and eyes was glued to her during the 20 odd minutes or Cleopatra’s Death. In the prayer to the Pharaohs, there was so much pain… I wish I have a recording of this piece with her.
Video of Anna Caterina Antonacci curtain call
After the interval, LPO and Yannick exhibited what I can summarise with two words SUPERNOVA EXPLOSION, or A COLLECTIVE ORGASM. There were moments I thought I had an out of body experience. If one wondered what hyperspace feels like, when one gets knocked in a different dimension, it was like that. I wish I have the full score and describe to you page by page what it felt like (maybe the next time). Yannick managed to produce this fenomenal sound world, violins creating this vibrating mesh and the flute overtones making the mesh sparkle. The dialogue between the cor anglais and the oboe that was somewhere in the last box auditorium right, was love making. The finale of the Symphony made me feel like my body was being ripped apart. This is a concert I will remember for a long time.
I must admit at the outset of this post, that I have never seen The Magic Flute live. There, I came clean. Have seen a few DVDs, have the CDs (including the most talked about Jacobs’ new recording with no cuts whatsoever), watched the YouTube clips, but never live. When I found out that McVicar’s production will be on again this season, I had to see it. Had many expectations, since this Magic Flute is on DVD for ages. Let’s get over with the admin first.
Tamino – Joseph Kaiser
First Lady – Elisabeth Meister, Second Lady – Kai Rüütel, Third Lady – Gaynor Keeble
Papageno – Christopher Maltman
Queen of the Night – Jessica Pratt
Monostatos – Alasdair Eliott
Pamina – Kate Royal
First Boy – Jason Panagiotopoulos, Second Boy – Freddie Macbruce, Third Boy – Camilo Sanchez-Vallejo
Speaker of the Temple – Matthew Best
Sarastro – Franz-Josef Selig
First Priest – Harry Nicol
Second Priest – Donald Maxwell
Papagena – Anna Devin
First man in armour – Stephen Rooke
nSecond man in armour – Lukas Jakobski
The production team:
Original Director – David McVicar
Revival Director – Lee Blakeley
Designs – John Macfarlane
Light design – Paule Constable
Movement – Leah Hausman
Conducted by David Syrus
I am sure the papers and other blogs already have covered this particular production of The Magic Flute at great length and I will not spend much time in trying to repeat what was already said. In general, I liked it. There are a few aspects of this production that looked pointless, like the bunch of actors who appeared before curtain up with the little spherical lights? (For some reason they reminded me of the OOD in Doctor Who). Also thank good for the noiseless smoke making machines. Why did Tamino have to appear from the box stage left (from audience perspective) and then walk through a door in the curtain? (The curtain on the picture at the start of this post). Mystery? Going into the unknown? Where was Tamino before, and what is this youth doing in this land where giant snakes are about to kill you? Coming of age, enlightenment, becoming a man by not speaking to women? This Tamino is no Siegfried and certainly not Harry Potter!
Some patrons in the audience did not like the announcement for the replacement of Colin Davies with David Syrus. There was some commotion in the auditorium. David lead the orchestra and the action on stage perfectly.
What I did like about this production very much is blatantly obvious Tom and Jerry like direction of this fragmentary dramaturgy. But even more obvious than that: flute, glockenspiel, chair, brace, dagger do not just appear from thin air, they are brought in perfect time from the actors from underneath, from the left right and centre.
Lets talk about the singing: Tamino took time to warm up. Dies Bieldnis ist bezaubern schön took time to settle in the groove. Singing wise it was plain sailing for him. And here comes Papageno the fabulous bird catcher. Christopher Maltman is great Papageno. Almost child like naive and innocent and yet naughty. Fully resonant voice throughout the range, excellent German diction in both the singing and the speaking parts. I can safely say that he was the best of the main characters this evening. And him and Papagena on the huge bed were quite a pair. Papagena was excellent as well.
Jessica Pratt seemed not very comfortable in the Queen of the Night’s shoes this evening. Appearing for the third time in week must have taken its toll. It was not sharp, tough and in the groove enough. The mother daughter dialog before she bursts into Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem herzen, did not have the intensity and drama I anticipated.
Pamina was not very consistent vocally. At moment there was magical pianissimi, but also some not very pleasant sounds. The scene with the boys was ruined by their not very good tuning. (Reminds me of the boy in Tanhaüser who was very very out of tune. Why can’t the Royal Opera book some really good trebles for these parts?)
Franz-Josef Selig was one very boring Sarastro. Why don’t I feel anything towards this character in this singspiel? One would think that he is this evil person, and then we all find that he is the opposite (is he?). But I didn’t care. The bottom f resonated fully, but I can’t say the same for the rest of the notes. Was expecting to hear this velvety cloak like cloud of overtones and warmth in the voice, but there was none. And he was very wooden Sarastro. The relationship between him and Pamina seemed not worked on enough, or was that the maximum Lee could get out of Franz-Joseph?
The speaker of the Temple, and the Two Priests were great. Such dignity (?!) and poise and some very fine singing from these three. Monostatos is a hilarous part! Why on earth is this character there at all? However, the two armed men, were just awful. Their voices did not blend, their tuning was bad. (They also appeared from underneath at the moment when they were required and disappeared in the same way when they finished).
Why at the end the sun needed to be rolled onto the stage, as if it is this object that humans can manipulate? (and it so overexposed my pictures, so there you go I am annoyed).
The choir singing from the edge of the stage at the end was strikingly good.
The Queen of the night and her three ladies dead? Where are boys? Do they disappear too, because Tamino is now a man after he passed all the tests? And the magical instruments? I loved the pan pipe Papageno played, especially when he started playing Non piu andrai farfalone amoroso! Cliche, but still got me laughing!
Here is a video from the curtain call