Friday, March 15, 2019

Juditha Triumphans


Conductor: Andrea Marcon
Orchestra: La Cetra Barockorchester Basel 
Director: Floris Visser

Juditha, contralto, a Bethulian widow: Gaëlle Arquez
Holofernes, contralto, Assyrian general: Teresa Iervolino
Vagaus, soprano, eunuch, Holofernes's squire: Vasilisa Berzhanskaya
Ozias, contralto, high priest of Bethulia: Francesca Ascioti
Abra, soprano, Juditha's handmaid: Polly Leech
Jewish virgin: Gloria Giurgola

Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans (Judith Triumphs) was streamed from the Dutch National Opera on Operavision.  My usual source book says this was an oratorio in Latin, here performed in Italian and staged as an opera.  Interesting.  The story is from the book of Judith from the apocrypha, as it is called by protestants.  All of the singers are female, including the chorus, because Vivaldi taught at a girls' school.  There do seem to be quite a few male supers, many in NAZI uniforms, and occasionally they sing with the chorus of soldiers.  Holofernes and his troops are Assyrian while the people in mufti are Jews from Bethulia.  The timing of the original performance in Venice suggests that it is translated into an oratorio about the Turks invading Corfu in 1716.  So 3 time periods.
  • Book of Judith old testament era
  • Oratorio by Vivaldi 1716 not staged.
  • WWII Nazis 1940s for the staging.
The orchestration is astounding.  The same reference says: "The string orchestra is augmented by timpani, 2 trumpets, mandolino, 4 theorbos, 5 lyra viols (viols), 1 viola d'amore, 2 recorders, 2 chalumeaux (soprano) [ancestor of the clarinet], 2 oboes, organ."   I am hearing harpsichord.  Impressive.  It sounds much thicker than your average Baroque Italian orchestra.  In general Baroque scores don't show full orchestration, but to know more about these things, I would have to consult a Vivaldi specialist.

To begin we have the famous painting of Judith Beheading Holofernes (oops.  spoiler alert) by Caravaggio c. 1598.  People are shot.  Judith tries to persuade Holofernes that his power would be enhanced by clemency.

Structurally this is a Neapolitan opera with one florid da capo aria after another.  Maybe an opera would have more recitative.  The Assyrians are a bit creepy.  At about 1:40 the above painting is unveiled.  They are Nazis, so perhaps they are looting it.  This gives her the idea?  Yes.  She chops off his head.  At the end we are transported back to Venice, Judith regrets her deed and tears up the Caravaggio painting.

Musically this is a triumph.  The sounds are varied and fascinating.  We are hearing the real thing.  Vivaldi vocal music is seriously neglected by everyone except Cecilia Bartoli.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens


Lawrence Brownlee and Eric Owens came to visit at Mondavi to perform arias, spirituals, pop songs and whatever else they wanted.  They brought Myra Huang to accompany them on the piano.  She skillfully navigated the range of musical styles on this concert.  The whole concert was performed with the lid all the way up which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't.

The program was divided into two parts:  the operatic repertoire they are famous for and spirituals, pop songs, and gospel songs.  We'll begin with the classical.  The house lights remained up for this part.

Larry and Eric are at opposite ends of the male operatic voices.  Eric is a bass-baritone while Larry soars high above almost everyone in the coloratura tenor category.  Eric does Wagner and Gershwin while Larry does Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti.  There isn't a lot of overlap in their repertoire.

To represent his usual stuff Larry brought us:
  • Il mio tesoro from Mozart's Don Giovanni
  • Una furtiva lagrima from Donizetti's Elixir of love
  • Ah mes amis from Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment
This pretty much covers it.  The Donizetti arias are the main ones that receive encores these days, and he gave encore worthy performances.

"Una furtiva lagrima" came after they sang a duet from the same opera where the baritone conman sells the tenor a bottle of wine as a supposed love potion, "Voglio dire."  This is more fun when it's acted.

Eric sang
  • Se vuol ballare from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro
  • Infelice! E tuo crevedi from Verdi's Ernani
  • Le veau d'or from Gounod's Faust
They finished with "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Pearl Fishers, one of the greatest male duets in the repertoire.  I enjoyed all of this, but Larry in his high tessitura more successfully soared over the piano.

The lights went down for part 2.  The rest of the program started with spirituals such as Marian Anderson used to sing.  I thought of her when they performed a duet of "He's got the whole world in his hands."  This was her trademark song.  Eric excelled in "Deep River."

I didn't know all of the pop songs, but Eric Owens singing "Some enchanted evening" was wonderful.  The selection was puzzling.

They finished with two gospel songs.
  • I don't feel no ways tired
  • Every time I feel the spirit
It seemed like a concert as co-biography.  There was an encore but my memory has failed me.

It was a pleasure.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Monday, March 04, 2019

Joyce on medici.tv

This is sort of bizarre.  Who would think of such a thing?  We all started out with a small blue book called Classic Italian Songs.  It came in different keys.  I got my first copy in a high school voice class where we sang, yes, "Caro mio ben."  I very quickly graduated to choir.

I haven't wandered too far off the subject.  Joyce DiDonato is singing them with a jazz ensemble backup.  They are originally scored for figured bass.  You knew that.  So why can't a jazz ensemble realize a figured bass as well as the next person?  This is in New York.

Now she's added one of those tango accordions to her ensemble.  She wanders off to other songs after a while.  It's fun.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

La Fille du Regiment


Conductor..................Enrique Mazzola
Production.................Laurent Pelly

Marie......................Pretty Yende
Tonio......................Javier Camarena
Marquise of Berkenfield....Stephanie Blythe
Sergeant Sulpice...........Maurizio Muraro
Hortentius.................Paul Corona
Duchesse of Krakentorp.....Kathleen Turner

Today's HD from the Met is La Fille du Regiment, a revival of the Laurent Pelly production.  I didn't think this was possible, but it was even more fun than with Natalie Dessay.

Tonio is a Tyrolean, and Marie is a found child raised by a regiment of the French army invading Tyrol.  Marie does laundry and peels potatoes.  She also wanders off into a neighboring village where she meets Tonio.  Pretty Yende does the best job ever of seeming to be a young woman raised by a troop of soldiers.  She swears, though I noticed they didn't translate this.

This was also an historic occasion:  we had the first bis (encore) in any HD performance.   Of course this was for Javier Camarena's performance of "Ah mes amis" with the famous 9 high Cs.  So with a bis that makes 18 high Cs.  Dare we say it?  He is the new king of the high Cs.

This is such a marvelous cast with gorgeous singing and lively acting that swept us along.  We laughed and cried and rejoiced when aunt/mother allows Marie and Tonio to wed.  Wonderful.

I missed the sprouted potato found with Marie's souvenirs in previous performances.