Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Preparing for Handel

In my youth Handel was the annual presentation of The Messiah, an aria called "Ombra mai fu" and very little else. Bach was the late Baroque composer of note.

Then when I returned from Europe and moved to San Francisco, I began to hear Handel operas at Donald Pippin's Pocket Opera, starring the incredible Stephanie Friedman. I am going to tell Stephanie's secret. She pretended not to study, was quite coy about the whole thing, saying her spectacular mezzo-soprano technique was simply a gift from God. In the meanwhile she flew to London and studied there each year. Looking back at it, this seems very silly. Technical training is not something to be ashamed of.

Handel was not my cup of tea. I always felt it lay badly in the voice, hung around the passaggio more than I cared for, and was not pleasant to sing. The tessitura for alto was simply not comfortable.

Now Handel is practically the main man. Even Cecilia is rapidly becoming a Handel specialist, though in soprano, not mezzo-soprano roles. I have bought a ticket to see her in Semele in January, so I am boning up to find out what this opera is about. I have bought the recording with Kathleen Battle and Marilyn Horne as Semele and Juno/Ino respectively. It is curious to me how often Cecilia and Kathleen sing the same repertoire.

And tonight I will see Semele presented by the New York City Opera. This is a coincidence. I came to New York to see Klimt and that is what is playing. There is a fun article in the Times this morning about Vivica Genaux who sings the Juno/Ino role, saying that she didn't like Handel until very recently either. Maybe he'll grow on me, too.

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