Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The World Through My Eyes

First, I must apologize that I have neglected to post something for so long as I have without any explanation for my action, but since I finished Children of Eden, life has been hectic. To provide some example of this fact  so that it is not discredited as hearsay, I submit that I am even now, so soon after my last theatrical outing, involved with the technical side of Little Women, the Musical, and it has devoured my spare time of late. Naturally, my work also invades my private life, and there has been more expected of me at the church where I am employed, so I have barely been given the opportunity of listening to the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts which I adore. Add to this the fact that I am presently without the luxury of the Internet at home, I think it is plain to see why I have not posted something in the space of a month. Of course, I could just relenquish posting for the sacred season of Lent, but I have never before observed it, so why should I now choose to begin that tradition?

Thanks to SarahB, I have been coaxed to cease with this period of inactivity, and I am posting. The aforementioned Met broadcasts that I have heard in the interim since my last post, which was in February, have been excellent for the most part. I relished every minute of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment, which starred Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Florez, both of whom had colds that day, and Kiri te Kanawa in a cameo performance. Damrau's French diction was perfect, for I did not hear any sign of her native German tongue in its pronunciation, and her singing was flawless even with that infection. I do not know of many singers who have either the resolve or the stamina to sing as well as she and Florez did with such ailments, and I point to Sondra Radvanovsky and Angela Gheorghiu during the last season and the one prior as evidence of that fact. Florez even hit his nine high C's in Ah, mes amis on a cold, and I would love to see the singer who can perform such a feat, for it is highly impressive to sing them in the most regular of circumstances, but I have never heard them sung with a cold, and if I had not heard that these two singers had succumbed to the virus during the intermission feature, I should never had believed it. If I may utter a final accolade for this broadcast, Dame Kiri te Kanawa sang in this run of performances! Everyone I heard who spoke of this broadcast thought that she would, and she did not disappoint us.

Another broadcast I found that I enjoyed was Barber's Vanessa, and this was rather surprising since I usually loathe American opera, and this was an archival broadcast from the 50's with Eleanor Steber, Nicolai Gedda, Rosalind Elias, and Regina Resnik. Nicolai Gedda is one of my favorite tenors from his era because of his clear diction and his full, rich voice; however, I despise his recording of Bizet's Je crois entendre encore, for it sounds like it is sung without any resonance, and one can automatically detect the change from full voice to head voice, which at times sounds like a countertenor is singing. While I am not a great fan of his, I recommend Rolando Villazon's recording on his Opera Recital album of 2005. If I may return to Gedda, who was the best singer of this broadcast, his diction actually is better than that of most Americans, at least of the ones i have had the opportunity of hearing, and, no, just because I am from Oklahoma that does not mean that I have no idea as to the correct way to speak, and we do not speak with the accent that is typically associated with people from my state.

I also had the immense pleasure of hearing the broadcast of Bizet's Carmen, and it starred Roberto Alagna, Barbara Frittoli, whom I had not heard for far too long a time, and Elina Garanca, who replaced Angela Gheorghiu, who withdrew from the production around the time that her divorce from Alagna was made public knowledge. While the singers performed admirably, the thing that I most joyfully recall from that broadcast was the conducting of Yannick Nezet-Seguin and his philosophy for it. For such a seemingly young conductor, he has an innate knowledge of music and how it should sound, and he did not disappoint the sold-out house or the radio audience. Garanca performed the Habanera with her usual ease, and it was pleasing to hear it done so well.

Verdi's Simon Boccanegra was a performance I shall not soon forget, for I recall that the singers, among them Placido Domingo, Marcello Giordani, Adrienne Pieczonka, and James Morris, did an excellent job of marrying the synopsis to the music. I could hear every emotion of the worried father in Placido Domingo's voice, and Marcello Giordani was the heroic tenor in love with Amelia who would do anything for her, and his voice is a favorite of mine even though he has few recordings to my knowledge.

I would have to admit that my greatest surprise of the season thus far came from Verdi's Attila. I did not expect the story, the music, or the singing to be quite so good as I found them to be. Violetta Urmana, whom I had never before heard, proved to be an excellent voice for the role of Odabella, which is one of the most idiotic names I have ever heard, in opera or otherwise, and I should like to hear her again. One could hear either strain or holding back in her voice when she came to the lyrical passages in the first act, but her aria in the prologue was beautifully sung. Ramon Vargas, whom I had forgotten was to be a part of this broadcast, did not fail to make me wish all the greater to become an operatic tenor, for his is the voice to which I most align mine in description, and he sang with an ease that made his role seem almost effortless. Ildar Abdrazakov did an excellent job in the title role of Atilla the Hun, and Samuel Ramey, who is still singing at the Met after all of these years, had his memorable moments during this broadcast.

As I incessantly do, I enjoyed the broadcast of Puccini's La Boheme. The only regret that I have in hearing it was the cast that I heard, particularly Nicole Cabell. I have no qualm with her as a singer, and she sang Musetta with the abandon with which her voice is characterized, but I should have much preferred to hear Ruth Ann Swenson instead. Anna Netrebko is not my image of an ideal Mimi, but she was in good voice, so I cannot complain too much. Piotr Beczala's Rodolfo was forever marked upon my memory as an excellent portrayor of that role. Marco Armiliato, who is one of my favorite conductors, led the orchestra very well.

In conclusion, if I may say something about myself, I had a most enlightening conversation with a local music director after a rehearsal of Little Women one evening. In a way I caused the discourse we held, but it was not my intention, for I merely asked him if he was aware that Renee Fleming had just won her third Grammy award because I knew that he should be interested to hear such tidings, and he replied that he had not. He then continued our exchange by asking my opinion of Renee's acting, her vocal abilities, and the recent Live in HD presentation of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. I articulated my opinion that I thought it was excellently done, but I was rather disappointed with the second act, particularly the presentation of the Rose between Susan Graham and Christine Schafer. He, desirous to know my reasons for my opinion, for he had heard much the same lament from others he knew who had seen it, asked my me why I said as much, and I said that I had seen another performance of this scene from the 2002 Salzburg Festival with Sophie Koch and Miah Persson where there appeared to be far more chemistry between them. I simply just did not believe that Octavian and Sofie were in love during the presentation of the Rose or the ensuing scene. I thought that Kristinn Sigmundsson carried that act with his comic presence. We digressed to other things, and this eventually turned to his inquiring after my voice, and in the end he encouraged me to persevere and that my voice was developing quite nicely.

I am afraid that this is as much as I can relate for now, but I hope to post again soon. May God continue to bless all of you, and thank youfor reading.


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