Weekly Video #21

If I had written this post on the day I was meant to, i.e. this time last week, it would have coincided two events: the anniversary of the premiere of La Wally and the birthday of OT, the teen opera blogger with an awesomeness level that is equal to that of a tram (I realise that this may sound like an insult, but it isn’t). And as it so happens that La Wally is OT’s favourite opera (he has written at length on the subject), I thought it would be nice to celebrate with that aria from La Wally, sung by OT’s least favourite soprano. 😉

Met HD Broadcast – Aïda

Way, way back in December, I went with Little Brother No.1 to see the Met HD Broadcast of Aïda. This was his first time ever seeing an opera, live or in the cinema. So far as I can tell, he enjoyed it (although he wriggled around a lot and was quite noisy during the performance). Personally, I loved the performance from both Olga Borodina as Amneris and Lyudmila Monastyrska in the title role but Roberto Alagna (as Radames) was, quite honestly, disappointing. His voice sounded very thin and a weedy and girly. His high note at the end of Celeste Aïda sounded completely as though it was sung by a countertenor, rather than a tenor. I’m not exactly fond of the character (he is, like Manrico, one of the great Verdi idiotic tenor roles. I mean, surely it would be obvious to anyone that attempting to conquer Ethiopia might not be the best way to please your Ethiopian girlfriend. But then again, this is opera. Maybe I’m just setting my expectations to high) but he still shouldn’t sound like a woman.

Lyudmila Monastyrska, on the other hand, was a revelation. I don’t really know what it is about her voice that makes it good, but it just is good. Very, very much so. Olga Borodina is an established singer and her Amneris was very well sung and well acted (with some deliciously bitchy moments). The production was very good, without being particularly outstanding. Overall, very good everything, let down somewhat by Alagna.

Me and Wagner

So, a few days ago I wrote an excited Tweet that went as follows:

Oh my god, I’ve just realised something. I LOVE WAGNER. #importantlifemoment”

Judging by the fact that this had 7 retweets and 5 favourites, I’m guessing that other people were a bit excited by it as well. It probably seems a bit weird, having the confidence to start a blog exclusively about opera without really appreciating one of the greatest ever opera composers. But the thing is, I knew this moment was going to come soon.

Up until about a year and a half ago, I had the same reaction as most people do when they encounter Wagner – “Ugh. This thing makes no sense.” Maybe part of this common dislike is the fact that you are always told “Now, you probably won’t like this, but it’s actually very good.” It’s true, I know that now, but it doesn’t really help when you’re trying to form your own opinion on something.

But recently I’ve begun to understand Wagner a lot more. This has happened very slowly, only just fast enough for me to notice it happening. Gradually, change has happened. Last year, when the Ring Cycle from the Met was broadcast on the radio, I was listening to it as a kind of background music. It happened to be on the radio, so I turned on the radio and carried on doing stuff. But then occasionally there would be a phrase or chord that would make me just stop what I was doing and listen. And so, I’ve gradually come around to love this music.

I now feel that I ‘understand’ Walküre, in a rather limited meaning of the word ‘understand’. I have, in a way, learned to love the Ring Cycle in particular. The thought of listening to Parsifal, even with Der Jonas in the title role, still provokes that ‘Ugh.’ But the Ring Cycle, I feel, now makes more sense to me. I like love it and I can understand opinions a lot more. And also, I feel almost closer to it than, say, Puccini, because I’ve made this journey of listening, watching and understanding. With Puccini, I love the music and the drama and more often than not it makes me cry. But I don’t feel quite so drawn into it as some pieces of Wagner, simply because there’s been no change. It’s been wonderful music that I love, right from the start. Wagner has changed, for me and with me and that makes it, in some ways, more special.

I think it was this video that was the turning point.

I was one of the few people, it seems, who really enjoyed the Met’s new Ring production. One particular part of it that I loved were the projections. It must have taken a lot of work and it looks magnificent. With this clip, I think the part that makes it wonderful is the orchestration. I’m not overly fond of the tenor here or the role he’s singing. But the part in the orchestra is perfect, although the singing is necessary. It wouldn’t be right or good without the singing.

Weekly Video #20

This video is the soprano Anna Prohaska singing ‘Alma Oppressa’ by Vivaldi. The video is a bit odd but I personally like it (although the woman doing the train announcement in German in the background isn’t great). I think the idea of her being lost and confused and not really knowing what to do fits well with the music. And not forgetting the music itself, I love this song and her voice is wonderful.

Weekly Video #19

This is the film of Rigoletto that stars Pavarotti, Gruberova and Ingvar Wixell. I know I have recently featured another Rigoletto film on this blog, but I still think this deserves a mention because it is really very good. The other reason that I have chosen this film is because of a certain scene, namely the bit that starts around 1:36:20, with Sparafucile and Maddalena. I love this scene, it’s very dramatic and the music is very striking and, in this case, so is the acting. However, having watched this part several times, I have only just found out that Sparafucile in this film is played by Ferruccio Furlanetto. I am shocked. Like literally, actually SHOCKED. Shocked as in ” How did I not notice that before?” and “OMG, he looks like a totally different person!”

This cat appears to have the same emotions as my brain at this particular moment.

In case the reader does not know, this is what Furlanetto normally looks like nowadays:

Photo from Die Oper Kocht Facebook page.

And here is the video: