Sunday, November 23, 2008

In which Youtube redeems the intertubes

This is one of my things in any medium ever, and I had hoped I'd eventually find it on youtube.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'll have the veal bastarda

Really there's hardly anything better than that kind of surprise: a singer or two you don't particularly care about cranking out something riveting. I have always found Gruberova's voice hard on the ear and Baltsa I just never gave much thought to (her O Dawn Fatale takes things juuuust around the bend.) But check this:

Friday, November 14, 2008


Nick von Trrill writes:

It's a shame that Trrill's is just now getting off the ground again. I fear that since La Cieca and Maury and all those queens haven't posted it, it may not get noticed!

[ETA: Oh, I thought he meant that he was blogging. He means the silent Callas-Norma footage he posted.]

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Reader and Friend of the Blog Christopher T.* has beaten me to the milk punch, if you will, suggesting a cleverer recipe for a Sabbatini than any I was going to come up with. It's one part gin to one part Manischewitz (though we are told Mr. Sabbatini's voice is in fact on the dry side, something nobody has ever said about Manischewitz.) Garnish with a slice of hard-boiled egg and serve with a sigh.

*Spotted at last night's depressingly polite collective huff at the Mormons. My protest sign, thanks for asking, said: I Can't Get a Date But I Demand the Right to Get Married.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Hamlet Gonashvili, surely one of the great voices of the last century. For no other reason than I was bumbling around on youtube. Well and the video is hilarious. Fire. Bunnies.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

The World's Shortest Epistolary Novel

Quoth the Foreign Correspondent:

I saw Magdalena Kozena last night from my stage side seat at the Mozart Saal. Fortunately she withstands close scrutiny. She's really rather tall and elegant, like one of the Redgrave ladies, I thought, not the wispy fairy nixie thing she sometimes seems to be in publicity shots. The programme was all Czech, folk poetry set by Dvorak, Martinu, Janecek, Schulhoff u.a., and though there were no English translations, I can't say I minded, for it was a two hour stream of beautiful voice, and in this repertoire that little Popp-ish tang in her voice really pops, so... uh... irresistable!

Hoffmann in Geneva was fun the other night. It was the sort of production where in the middle of the Antonia scene the stage revolves and Hoffmann briefly finds himself in the middle of a street where a naked woman wearing a skeleton mask walks by followed by a donkey wearing an alter of votive candles, and then things shift and the story continues. A lot of bits were effective otherwise and there was a cumulative thrust to the whole thing for a change and the big finale really had some emotional impact. Still, I think for a newcomer to the work it might have been a bit overwhelming and that might explain this conversation overheard in the intermission after the Olympia act. A girl was expressing her general enthusiasm to an older woman who clarified a few points about what had just happened and then:

Woman: The next act is my favorite though. In this one, he falls in love with an artist.

Girl: After that is the courtesan, right?

Woman: That's correct.

Girl: And they're robots too?

Woman: No. They aren't.

Tonight I'm seeing a recital by Jessye Norman. I've no idea what to expect really,at least with regard to her vocal state, but I can't imagine it not being a fascinating experience.

Did you attend last evening's Damnation?

[Well, did I ever! So I spake, spake I:]

I attend every evening's Damnation in some rather obvious sense, but yes. More on that in a moment.

It's just such a relief to hear you confirm that Kozena is excellent because she's so pretty I'm afraid she can't be any good and I'm just suckered by her nice head of hair or something. Did we already discuss that she's doing Damnation at Carnegie Hall, and how much better I think it's going to be than Graham? It's with Quasthoff who is excellent on record but I've never heard live (admittedly I find him a little more irritating having listened to some of his jazz improvisations on youtube) and someone named Sabbatini. I assume he took this name during the few years when people were dreaming up highly emetic cocktails called appletinis and chocolatinis and stuff like that, to be more popular with the Sex & the City crowd. (Not for nothing there is no drop of gin in these cocktails and they need to learn that just because you are served in a martini glass doesn't mean you are anything more than a common sorority house shot.)

Once I've heard him sing I will attempt a clever remark about what's in a Sabbatini.

Someone I tried to convince to be romantically interested in me earlier this year heard Jessye Norman do a benefit concert with Rufus Wainwright. Unless I'm misremembering that in order to have gotten something out of another amorous failure.

Sometimes it's hard to keep straight who's a robot. I'll let you in on a secret: Rigoletto makes much more sense if you admit that they're robots, all robots.

Oh so yes. The opera that Sarah Palin might call the Darnation of Faust. I'm still figuring out what to think of the production, but the singing was all very good, and none of it brilliant. Bad idea of mine: listening to the Pretre recording A LOT in the weeks before. I am not a die-hard Janet Baker fan but must admit she's heavenly in that, and Gedda is the foundation of my understanding of French operatic style, so...

So Graham as you know I mostly don't care for, though I loved her in Iphigenie. She was here what I think she most always is: proficient and even very stylish without the spark of art/genius/whatever the thing we go for is. Due to the insanity of the production, though, I got to see her on fire, so that was kind of nice revenge for her Komponist. Giordani sang with some passion, had the right weight for it, and maybe (predictably) not quite the mastery of the style, but again, possibly Gedda's fault for singing it directly into my ear for a few weeks. The crazy thing is he sang the high notes in [what is the name of the duet?], firmly, solidly, not crooned, not even voix mixe, but in some kind of crazy soft ut-en-poitrine-of-the-damned I had no idea he (or anyone) had. It didn't sound quite like anything else I'd ever heard from a tenor.

Relyea I like a lot, and I think he gets taken for granted. He may have been the best of them. I'd like him to have sung Satan just a little more as if he were freshly laid, but it was very good. I think I saw him on the subway once and now I'm fixated on the idea he lives near me.

Later note on the production itself: MADNESS! MADNESS!!! But in a way that bodes very well indeed for The Ring. Because honestly, The Damnation of Faust was clearly written on laudanum or at least during a series of very bad hangovers, so not-right-in-the-head is it. So you might as well run with that, right?

Notes from Twitter: fanciful, incoherent, lovely, ostentatious, lyrical, and then there's the 5 story head of Susan Graham.

Ok probably only three stories, anyway it was only one of plenty of unforgettable images, some of them awkward; others, ingenious. The thing is, it does what the piece does; it lurches around dramatically, is unafraid to be meditative one moment and violently over-the-top the next. The obvious thing to get excited about a few years early would be things like the Tarnhelm and the big barbecue.

But think for a minute, too, about what happens in the end of Walkuere when James Morris just stands there singing (or sometimes not singing, as the orchestra takes over) on the big rock with the illuminated smoke. It has a kind of grandeur, sure--the music itself can carry plenty of dramatic weight, and Morris on a good night has some drama in him--but it can't help but be mostly static as a Thing Happening. I am quite itchy now to see what goes on behind, uh, presumably Rene Pape in a few years. God, and the "schlafst du, Hagen mein Sohn" scene. It's really rather exciting to imagine what that's going to be like.

So, that happened. And I may go back but I think it's selling like those crazy Palin glasses frames probably really aren't anymore. So who knows what's next, maybe Peek Damn.

Also, in case you have the Sunday night blues and need another dose of this:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Our very glamorous foreign correspondent...


"I'm just back from The Damnation of Faust at the Grand Theatre du Geneve, and thought you should know that when Paul Groves came out for his bow, he flung open his jacket and revealed an Obama t-shirt. Geneva roared its approval very lustily indeed."

So we've got

1) Fine singin'
2) Slightly cubby cuteness
3) Good politics

aaaaand it's a crush, yep.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Say what?

Probably my favorite artifact of the first youtube-intensive presidential election. Vote tomorrow for, well, a future that doesn't make us wake up screaming!

Don't watch at work or you'll totally cry and people will call you names. If you're in CA, vote No on 8 and call your friends to make sure they're voting, too.

I know there are a lot of other important races and propositions, but I don't want anyone calling me Preachy D'Annato so I'll leave it at that.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Traviata Pizza

I don't think it's there anymore but there was this little pizza place on maybe Columbus back when I first went to the Met called Traviata Pizza, which was very funny to think about. I am going to open a chain of theme restaurants: Enchilada Desdichada, maybe, or The Fallen Pot Roast.

Little known fact about Traviata: if the stars are lined up right, the scene at Flora's hoe-down plus one Met intermission add up to exactly as much time as you need to get to PJ O'Rourke's, which is not what that place is called but I'm blanking, get your food, not even wolf it down so very wolfishly, pay your check, and get back to your seat. I'm not kidding. And really who likes that scene anyway, especially in the Zeff production. As our new favorite "get back in free"-pass-passer-outer guy said to us on our way out, "the cows get a little old, right?" Oh also hey great new Halloween costume idea inspired by aforemisnamed restaurant: douchebag. It's more about the attitude than the clothes.

So that's my current favorite thing about Traviata, an opera I have overlistened but will one day love again. No, I jest. My current favorite thing about it is Anja Harteros! I had heard and read all manner of praise for her, and am happy to find it was not exaggerated. It's mainly about the voice, unless it isn't--this is the kind of singing that doesn't make you feel like keeping separate scorecards. But, and the more accomplished listeners will correct me if I'm wrong here, it seems to be a real Verdi voice in the way Fleming isn't, and Hong isn't, and so on, no matter what these other singers' strengths.

Technically I find it a little hard to track what's going on. The top of the role is ...well it never isn't there, and if she has time to settle into a C, it tends to be a beaut. And the fioratura's diligently executed. Something better I can say, though, is that Harteros is the first singer I've heard live who convinced me that "Ah, fors'e lui" is the interesting part of Act I. Which it is, no? It's like how you might never have realized how much more to be savored is "Ah, si, ben mio" than the big bad pira if you'd never heard Bjorling.

The interesting converse effect was that the emotive integrity of her singing popped "amami, Alfredo" back into context, for me at least; not that it didn't hit hard, but it felt like part of what was going on instead of one in a series of trials, hole #4 on the Verdian miniature golf course, the one with the windmill. This scene was aided, I am surprised but happy to add, by Zeljko Lucic, vastly better used here than in Macbeth or Gioconda. I'm not sure if it's about temperament or tessitura, but his Germont is kind of dead on, with a kind of vocal gravity I haven't felt from Croft or Hampson, singers who do more but don't seem to me really to unpack G-Daddy's baggage. Did that sound like a sexual euphemism of some sort? Well never mind.

Giordano: a mixed bag with a positive enough overall impact that one can't really go through with the "Minimo Giordano" joke, about which one was in any case ambivalent. There's stuff in his Alfredo that doesn't work, like I have to remain on the fence about the pretty but sometime almost inaudible crooning he strews about the role, most notably in "Parigi, o cara." It suggests an inability to find a healthy mix between that and his reasonably beefy non-croon, but it may be nothing more than a suggestion. He needs a haircut something awful, but otherwise cuts a fine figure onstage, animated and responsive. So yeah, for the most part a success. High note fanciers (I cast no shade, I'm just sayin') will want to know that there was neither an e-flat in S.L. nor a C in Alfredo's cadenza. You win some, you lose some, you have your brother steal some for you if he happens to be governor of Florida.

Next up: Damnation of Faust. October was a slow month. Also I scribbled some stuff about Podles so I guess I'll post that.