Saturday, October 31, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
All right, all right, you, the impatient ones – go ahead, scroll up the post, see the picture of Joyce and me and come back to read my report.
All right, let’s start.
New York. October 25th, 2009. Sunny, 65 F.
Could it be any better?
It was a fresh, sunny crispy morning. Having not had any desire to bring my thick-n-heavy Rossini book with me and carry it all around Manhattan all day long, I indulged myself in a glossy fashion magazine, which I enjoyed all the way to New York and kindly left on the train upon arrival, apparently supplying the next rider with a free glam read.
It was noon when I arrived and I decided to start my day with an old-fashioned Austrian lunch at Café Sabarsky on 5th Avenue. The place was recommended to me by one my readers at the contest, besides, I heard from a source that it is the place for all the music crowd, especially music critics.
Café Sabarsky is one of the 2 museum cafés at Neue Galerie. The other one is Fledermaus, which according to their website, is closed on Sundays.
So I walked in and there were 2 middle-aged gentlemen in the line before me, waiting to be seated. Then the hostess came out and said that if we were not willing to wait, we could go downstairs to Café Fledermaus (which was obviously open???) where they could accommodate us right away. The gentlemen resisted the invitation, but I thought it would be a good way to save time, which I did not have a whole lot of, besides Fledermaus sounded like an operetta lunch, so I went.
The café happened to be in the basement of the building. The décor was nice and simple, nothing really fancy or expensive. The menu is the same in both cafes. I won’t dwell on the details of my lunch, but I’ll just say that I did not like it at all. It is very subjective of course, because it’s just me not being that much into meat. Everything was so meaty: the soup, the entree…. I confess I almost did not eat anything off my plate. The desert was excellent though and the best proof of it is the picture on the right, which I only remembered to take being half way through the cake!!!
This is the Blackforest Cake (Scwarzwalder Kirschtorte), the traditional Austrian /German treat. Terrible in most places. Divine at Fledermaus. Lots of chocolate and cherries, my friends!
After lunch, I dove into the big city noise and felt alive.
You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl! Never even try to!
I strolled down 5th Avenue, took the long-dreamed-of carriage ride and enjoyed the most pleasant and sunny fall day one could ever wish for.
I took some pictures on the ride and at the trademarks well-known to all of you. I could not help but stop by at the Met, which was closed and dark because it was Sunday
signing on November 3rd.
Everything Joyce sang was incredible. I was very impressed with the Spanish canciones. She put so much Flamenco flame into them. Of course, Rossini’s pieces were absolutely incredible and I am so proud of having the opportunity to hear Joyce sing Rossini live.
The recital was immediately followed by the reception. People from the audience gathered in the hall where red and white wine was served. Many people got themselves busy standing in the wine line. I was thinking about coming up to Joyce to introduce myself, chat a little and maybe ask to take a picture together, but I was not sure how it would all work out and how hard it would be to get through to her. Besides, I had no idea where the artists would be coming from, so I was hanging around in the middle of the room together with many others.
I also thanked her on behalf of my son who, like I said, was her youngest fan.
And then she remembered my comment that I left on her blog 3 months ago [I'll post it in the P.S. section for you to have an idea what I am talking about] and said:
Oh, did you write that? Oh, I was so touched when I read that. I actually sent that comment to my manager.
I said that my son really likes her voice and Crude furie makes him all excited and happy and hoppy.
And she said:
Oh, I am so touched. I hope to meet him one day.
And then I asked if I may take a picture with her and she said “Sure”.
Somebody took the picture, and of course I closed my eyes and did not have the courage to ask for a re-take.
I wished Joyce good luck with the rest of the run of the Barbiere and bid my good-byes.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Taught by a young American composer from NYC, the course offers a lot of interesting information about the life of Puccini, his friends, enemies and opera rivals, his battles, his defeats and his victories. Also, there are a couple of very nice suggested reading choices. I mean it's nice to know what to go for in the ocean of Puccni reads, right?
Besides all that, and most importantly, there is a discussion board - a great way to communicate with fellow students and professor. The professor posts questions about the opera and asks the students to share their thoughts on the discussion board.
Some of you might remember me stating once that I am not that into Puccini's music. It is still true. I mean, of course I like Puccini - it's just that the pathos in his music seems too intense to me, even though I absolutely love Tosca.
However, I think it's super-important for somebody with my aspirations to know as much as possible about every composer, be it their favorite or not. And I have to admit, I do not know enough about Puccini!
Moreover, analyzing opera is probably my favorite thing to do besides listening to the opera of course - that's what I like and that is the reason why I am thinking about musicology as a new career. I feel that I have a lot to say to people about music.
So, the professor asked a couple of very clever questions which involve some listening, comparing and contrasting, as well as exploring the symbolism of different artistic interpretations.
He suggested that we listen to Charles Aznavour's La Boheme and asked the following questions:
- What makes this different from Puccini's musical depiction of, essentially, the same material? Does one capture the romanitc ideal of the Bohemian life in Paris better than the other?
- What is the significance of the white handkerchief? In every performance of the song I've seen on youtube (there are many) he carries one...
I will post my reply here, assumming that my readers may be interested in reading it. If you happen to run into Aznavour's La Boheme on You Tube ( it's beautiful and definitely worth listening to and watching), feel free to post a comment on my blog and share your thoughts with me.
So here is what I posted on the discussion board:
I think that what really makes Puccini's musical depiction of the same material different is where and how the characters are positioned. Charles Aznavour's character stepped out of bohemian life years ago. His song is nostalgia about years of youth and inspiration. Therefore, his memories are so romantic and dreamlike. However, Puccini's characters are right in the middle of bohemian life and are much less romantic about it. Yes, they are young, talented, and in love, but they keep thinking how to get food, money or firewood not to starve or not to freeze. It's very hard to say who captures the romantic ideal of bohemian life better. In Aznavour's interpretation it's all romantic and ideal, because now, many years later he knows that it was probably the best time of his life. Puccini's interpretation is very realistic, very true to life. You listen to the opera and together with its characters you get to personally experience and live through both sides of the coin (poverty, hunger, cold, as well as love, inspiration and friendship).
The white handkerchief... At first sight it's just a painter's rag that the painter uses to wipe his brushes and hands on. However, the more you think about it, the more you realize it's a bigger, more significant symbol. I would say it symbolizes the Paris of his youth, of his bohemian life, that was once alive and real, and now, like those dead lilacs, it's dead and gone.
So I think chances are that my next music talk/movie presentation will be la Boheme - I am thinking about showing la Boheme, the movie with Anna and Rolando.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I am taking liberty of copying the whole comment page from Mr.Smith's blog, so my readers could see how some people just can't wait to accuse, blame, diminish and what not. Why do we need that? What do we know? And what does the family conflict have to do with the amount of talent each of them has? Anyway, there you go. I highlighted my comments in aqua for you all, just in case you get lost in the grandness of human negativism.
Well....So Little Miss Nobody Soprano has decided to call it curtains on Little Mr Nobody Tenor
Angela Gheorghiu has always had far more talent than her husband. He was often crass and arrogant. She is well shot of him. Unfortunately, she pulled out of Carmen at the Met, a production designed for her by Sir Richard Eyre. He should have graciously left instead, but his behavior is expected.
It's hard to say whose fault it is - what do we know about their marriage after all? I have Romeo et Juliette at home and it's particularly precious because they fell in love on the set, so neither was acting.It's nice to have hope that some celebrity couples are stronger than others, but like Dmitri Hvorostovsky once said in his interview: "To save the marriage one of the singing spouses has to quit singing".Or leave?
Yes, Angela is a wonderful singer and the more interesting artist of the two; it's her recordings I buy, not his!
p.s. to Crew Mantle: If Gheorghiu and Alagna are "nobodys", why bother paying any attention to them at all?
Let me stick up for Alagna a little bit here. I readily admit he didn't live up to his potential, but the artistry he displayed on his debut CD back in the '90s was remarkable. His sensitivity and nuance in 'E la storia solita,' for example, set a new standard in my book. TIM
I agree: I also consider Alagna very talented. I love his French Arias CD. He brings that "something" into every aria that makes it sound so unique.I also think he is an unbeatable Romeo. I've heard quite a few, but every time I think Romeo, I think Roberto Alagna.Even in his forties his Romeo is younger than many young Romeos.
Thanks for the comments. TIM
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
So it became an unspoken tradition to do something else with him while he eats. Sometimes I tell him a story or a poem, sometimes I sing. So tonight while Troy was enjoying his oatmeal and prunes dinner, I kept quietly singing whatever popped up in my head. It was not long before I started murmuring Di tanti palpiti from Rossini's Tancredi (which has been one my favorites ever since I heard it on Elina Garanca's CD).
Because I was singing in just a quarter of my voice, I was not "using" my throat at all ( if you know what I mean) and it all came together pretty smoothly. I even flatter myself by thinking that I got to demonstrate some kitchen-level coloratura, which was probably sufficient for my son to be absolutely delighted. He got really excited: he laughed, waved his arms in the air and called out in the happiest of voices and with the happiest of faces: Mom, mom, mom! (like in go, mom, go!)
I read once that kids respond to coloratura very well, because of those special air waves that it creates.
Apparently, my coloratura worked too.
Oh well, before she started singing in an opera theater, Rossini's mom was a laundress!!! and sang while doing laundry!
So you never really know what you are going to end up doing, right?
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
It was a wonderful night - 33 people were in attendance.
A special music cake with music clef and notes (white icing on chocolate) was served.
Not many were knowledgeable about Tchaikovsky or classical music in general, but most people were very interested to learn. My husband, who also came there to support me, said that I was very clear, assertive, confident and interesting and that I did very good.
Don’t want to sound like a brag, or anything, but during my presentation, I kind of felt that I was doing good. I literally flew through the talk. Well, almost literally. I felt light, liberated, inspired, and very confident. If I can’t be confident about music (that I love so much and understand so well), then what can I be confident about?
I thought my audience really liked my talk, because a couple of people assumed that I was a professional musician. When asked if I was a professional musician, I said : “ More in my heart than on paper”. Hmm…. Some looked puzzled.
This morning more people approached me with compliments and words of gratitude and asked if we could make it a tradition to learn more about lives of classical composers through music lectures and movies.
Can't tell you how happy I am to have made this first tiny, but very important step towards... maybe a new career???
The more I think about it, the more anxious I get to eventually change my career and teach Musicology or History of Music.
Of course, taking multiple music courses and exams will be involved, but hei - if that is my passion, it's worth pursuing, right? And so far, I have a great chance to accumulate experience, my first musicology teaching experience.
It's kind of funny that having given myself the liberty of speaking about music, I now feel more free and empowered to do it. What a feeling... I 've got wings behind my shoulders today!
Because it all finished at 9:15 p.m last night, I got the luxury of going late to work today. So I spent some morning time in the kitchen flipping around Troy, who was sitting in his high chair with a bib around his neck, and singing (no idea why) La calunnia. It was a lot of fun and we both laughed.
Oh, and before I completely forget, the picture of that Music Cake:
What do y'all think?
Sunday, October 4, 2009
- My husband for babysitting Troy while I was enjoying my night at the opera.
- Generation O for selling me a great orchestra seat for just $25.00!!!
- The person who did not buy his/her ticket and thus gave me a chance to scoot a few rows forward and take that great seat!
- Parents who brought their 8-10 year olds with them - from the bottom of my heart -thank you!
- Italians for creating Cheese and Seafood Tortellini that I happened to have for dinner at the Kennedy Center Cafe. ( It was divine, creamy sauce and all... - why does Italian food go so well with opera anyway?)
- Glinka, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Rachmaninov, Ponchielli, Verdi, Cilea, Rossini and Saint-Saens for writing all that beautiful music that filled up the theater last night.
- GPS for existing and bringing me home by 10:30 p.m. I swear to God, Washington is the most confusing city in the world!
I enjoyed the evening, even though I admit(and I hate myself for that) I am the most critical opera listener I know. Unfortunately, I can't change that. If it's not 10 out of 10 - it's just not. Can't change that either.
Both artists were fine, but if I could grade their performances from 1-5 ( 5 being the highest), I would give Olga 4+ and Ildar 4-.
Olga is very technical. She is a nice professional mezzo and she sings nicely. However, there are no shooting stars in that singing, no fireworks, no sparkles. And no deepness. You know what I am saying, right?
She did a very nice job singing the encore aria of Dalila Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix. It was not deep but vocally it was sung very beautifully. I did enjoy that piece. And the music... ah, I have to thank Saint-Saens again and again.
This encore aria made me a little proud of myself. The aria was not announced - it just started, and I complimet myself for recognizing it from the first notes. I was happy to see that I was not the only one! I looked around, and saw that many people knew. Loved that!
Ildar... What can I say? He is very handsome, much more handsome than in any picture of him anywhere. His voice... I would call him an average baritone, even though he does qualify as a bass as well, for his ability to sing in the low range. Technically, he was fine too. He hit every note well. However, there was not enough elasticity, liquidness in his voice and absolutely no deepness in his interpretation of the deep characters that he sang.
His aria of Philip II, Ella giammai m'amo, one of the best and deepest Verdi's arias in my opinion missed the point completely. It was very disappointing. This is the aria that is supposed to well your eyes up with tears and get goosebumps onto your skin. It's about the weakness of the power. The king is helpless before the power of love. He can make the whole country obey him, but the heart of his beloved is closed for him. Ildar's face expression was very serious when he sang the aria, but that was about it - didn't go any deeper than that.
La calunnia was not sung well either. Don Basilio is the King and God when it comes to intrigue - and this is what the finale of the aria is for - to show it. His voice should be like thunder, and the character himself should be like a huge eagle who spreads his powerful wings over the whole house (just for a second, but long enough to show the power of slander). No, it was not there.
His encore aria of Don Giovanni was not good. It was very lightweight and not beautifully sung.
Apparently, it's hard to be a bass. Hitting all the right notes is not enough.
As for Mr.Domingo who was conducting...I have recently read quite a bit about him being over the top as a conductor, and yesterday I saw what they were talking about. There are different kinds of conductors: some jump out of their tuxes, others conduct with a tiny lift of an eyebrow.
I respect Mr. Domingo too much for everything he has done for the world opera while he was a tenor, or should I say the Tenor (not a baritone or a conductor)to dwell further on. Therefore, I will keep my mouth shut.
There was one more thing that struck me. Ildar is 33 and Olga is 46. They are married. I'll say no more.
All in all, it was fun. I opened my opera season after ...um, almost a year-long- having- a-baby-related break. Oh, how I missed live opera...
Friday, October 2, 2009
My son shocked me this week by demonstrating how much he enjoys art!
First, I have to say that my mom is a professional artist and an art historian, and she also gives private art lessons. So, no wonder, he has been surrounded by a lot of different art since Day 1.
This week I discovered that Troy loves Matisse!!!
His response to Matisse’s paintings is misleadingly mature. He looks at some of them seriously, cocking his head to one side, and at others with the biggest smile and so much joy in his eyes.
He is your typical 8-month-old boy, so whenever he is not eating or sleeping, he likes to grab, bend, bite, twist and throw anything within his reach. However, when he looks at art books he gets really quiet and immerses himself in the process completely.
My readers probably think that he likes Matisse’s bright colors. I agree – he does like bright colors. However, he loves Matisse’s black and white portraits too, such as this one.
Here are some more paintings that my son really enjoys - they are lovely, aren't they?
This past Tuesday, September 29th my husband and I went toFedEx Field in Washington DC to see U-2!
Yes, I am a fan, even though some of you might be surprised to hear that, because the group is not even among my non-opera favorites on my blog. Having said that, hmmm…why not? To me they are huge. The Legends. The Heroes.
I remember the time when I was thirteen, and Bono looked like this.
I think I was a tiny bit in love with the guy and his (speaking U-2 language) mysterious ways. With or Without You just came out, and was so avant-garde.
To my opera loving readers I would like to explain why I, an opera lover, like U-2.
Firstly and most importantly, when I hear their music, it makes me realize that something other than opera is actually worth listening to.
That said, to my reasons now.
Bono’s Voice is amazing. It did not change a bit since the 80-s, at least not for the worse. It fills up the whole space, be it your car, your living room or a huge stadium. It’s like one of the forces of nature: majestic and overpowering.
Intoxication Effect. My favorite Russian rock singer, the legendary BG ( Boris Grebenschikov) once said that where there is good music, there is shamanism.
He was probably referring to hypnotizing and intoxicating energy of shaman music that drugs the listener and makes him/her addicted to it. Such is the music of BG (go ahead, listen to Garcon #2 on you tube), such is the music of U-2. You just feel like that special energy is being IV-ed into your blood, you can't do anything about it and love it!
Diversity. Unlike most groups, whose songs sound almost exactly the same, U-2’s music is very diverse. I mean, seriously, all their songs are different songs that do not sound like one another.
That special something. Even though all U-2 songs are different, they are all united with that special touch, that something…which I don’t have the right words to describe. But whenever you listen to those songs, you know it’s U-2 and you hear that special something. There is some kind of windiness.... If you don’t know what I am talking about, listen again – most songs have it.
Music is there! I actually don’t care how hard the song is, as long as there is music in it. And with U-2 it’s always the case. The song might be pretty hard, but music is there and you hear it.
Class and Taste. It’s hard to imagine Bono and his guys cursing and/or drinking on the stage. They respect themselves and the public enough to be classy and tasteful. Unfortunately, not many artists can boast this kind of on-stage behavior.
I was so happy to hear the group play all my favorite songs: Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Where the Streets Have No Name and of course, With or Without You.
Plus, there were more songs that were not my favorite when I came to the concert, but now they are. The song One is a real masterpiece.
I could not believe I was there listening to the legendary, the talented, the inspired and inspiring Bono. To me, it was almost like listening to Juan Diego Florez live again. Even though the music genre was different, the power of talent was the same, and being there and experiencing it live made it all the more special.
He sang With or Without You differently than in the version that we are all used to, but the first familiar chords brought back the same kind of excitement that I experienced when I saw Juan Diego Florez marching onto the Met stage to the first sounds of Ah, mes amis.
I have to admit, knowing that you are just seconds away from hearing the legend singing a legendary piece is an experience of a lifetime, be it opera or rock.
The stage looked great. They built a huge piece, called the Claw which looked like a monstrous spaceship. During the course of the concert it was illuminated and flashing with all different colors.
I have a picture of the Claw that I took at the concert, which might be even better than this one, so stay tuned, I'll upload it tonight. The concert was under the open night sky and Bono’s voice only emphasized the whole idea of interaction and connection between humans and space. It was a very good show.
On the way back, we happened to have a U-2 CD in. Imagine cutting through the pitch black highway, completely empty because it’s 1 a.m. to the sounds of that husky voice singing:
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law...
There you go – you know what it's like.
Added on 10/06/2009, the promised picture of the Claw (not bad for a pic taken with a cell phone, right?)
Thursday, October 1, 2009
An Evening with Olga and Ildar.
If you know anything about opera, you certainly won’t ask Olga who and Ildar who? You know who they are, right?
A while ago I signed up for this wonderful program with WNO, called Generation O, which allows anybody between ages 18-35 to buy orchestra level seats for $25.00 each. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for so many young people to enjoy opera without breaking the bank.
Unfortunately, so far I have had a chance to use this program only once, when I celebrated my birthday at WNO by going to Cavalleria Rusticana.
After that I did not go for quite a while because none of the offers really interested me (I go for the artists these days, not for the operas – I just saw everything so many times already. So if there are not enough interesting names in the offer, I just delete it and move on).
So this time, when I saw Olga and Ildar on a general WNO e-mail reminder, I thought:
" They are both great, and I would go if they were on Generation O, but since they are not – forget it.
Then yesterday, all of a sudden, I received a Generation O e-mail offering orchestra seats for $25.00 each.
When my wonderful husband saw me thinking about it, he said he would be happy to babysit Troy and that I should use the program at least once before I grow out of it.
So, without further delay, I bought my Olga and Ildar ticket for Orchestra Center Row EE Seat 113. Actually, it's not the best seat, it's the 23rd row, but maybe if there are empty seats somewhere closer to the stage, I will be able to scoot forward.
I am going all by myself, because all my people are 36 or older, and I can’t bring any of them with me (they do check your ID at the box office).
I think it will be a wonderful evening at the opera! She is a mezzo, he is a baritone – sounds like a lot of lovely arias and duets.
Look what the WNO website says about it:
Last seen in WNO’s 2007 production of Don Giovanni, Ildar Abdrazakov makes a triumphant return to Washington with his wife Olga Borodina for this special one-night performance. Known for her portrayal of Eboli, Amneris, Carmen and Dalila, Borodina is one of the most sought after mezzo-sopranos performing at all major opera houses. Plácido Domingo conducts the Russian superstar duo in an intimate evening of Italian, French and Russian opera arias at The Kennedy Center Opera House.
"...to watch Borodina is to see the masterful emergence of a truly human, fully formed character, in all its vicissitudes and foibles, buttressed by some of the most luxurious, thrilling vocalism that one can hope to encounter in an opera house." ~ Opera News
So my opera card (or should I say, opera recital card) is really filling up this season.
October 3rd: Olga and Ildar
October 25th : Joyce
December 17th : Renee