Monday, December 16, 2013

The Rite of Spring on a Summer Night at the beach

Ok, yesterday was probably the coolest most unexpected way for me to close my musical year. When I started this blog, one of my first posts was about a traditional concert held at the beach every year with Brazil’s most prestigious orchestra, OSESP. They've made it their tradition to close their year's season here for the past 7 consecutive years, which is pretty cool. And yesterday it was about that time of year for another concert. I don’t know why, but it wasn’t until yesterday’s afternoon that I took a great big look at the sign of the concert and I almost had a freaking heart attack. MARIN ASLOP was conducting, and I could hear the orchestra rehearse and all I could think of was “Holy mother of God, Marin Aslop is in front of my house”. Insane.

I went to the concert with my mum, as usual, and the beach was insanely packed. I read online that there were about 25 thousand people there, and I believe it because it was really very crammed. People had brought their beach chairs, some sat on the sand but most people stood. What I thought was kind of stupid was the fact that right in front of the stage there were about 100 chairs for VIP people and around those chairs the area was absolutely empty and then everybody had to stand behind a “barricade”. I thought that was SO STUPID. Specially because the people on this VIP area were the closest to the stage and had the nerve to chat like they were in a cocktail during the concert. But that’s just how my shitty country works, I’m not even gonna go there. You guys can see it for yourselves... 

The concert itself was so incredible. I was so thrilled to see Marin in the flesh conducting! I have been a big fan of hers ever since that incredible Last Night at The Proms. But seeing her conduct for the very first time at the beach where I grew up and have gone time and time again for my entire life was really the cherry on the top of a fantastic year!

After some introductions Marin hit the stage and they played Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, the first, third and fourth movements. It’s just electrifying to hear that symphony alone but the whole context made it even more special. It was a very informal kind of concert, since the orchestra was facing the setting Sun I could see some musicians sporting sunglasses (how often does that happen?) and they were all in very light colors, like a light kaki and white.

I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that I know much about Beethoven to expand thoroughly in their playing. But I thought it was real good, very consistent and strong. Those guys know what they are doing. It’s interesting to notice how different this orchestra sounds from the Met’s Orchestra for instance (because I saw them play the 7th symphony back in October) and I’m not pointing fingers and saying this one is better than that one. Just saying it’s so ridiculously different. Why of course it is and that was even more explicitly obvious when they played their second piece of the day, The Rite of Spring.

I know it might sound suicidal but I prefer the Rite of Spring to that 5th Symphony, that’s just my personal taste. Maybe it’s because I know more about this particular piece than Beethoven’s symphony. I have never been much of a symphonic person, I like vocal music too much and most importantly, I like stuff that comes with a story. I feel like I can relate much, much better to the piece if there’s a story behind it, that’s why I liked studying Symphonic Poems  so much (no idea if I translated it right) back in college. 

The guy introducing did a horrible job. Not only did he not tell the story of the piece nor the historic context but he did describe the music as “ALIEN”. ALIEN? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? He said that this music will sound “alien” to our ears. Who does he think he’s talking to? A bunch of people from the Middle Ages? This is not Schoenberg or Berg, come on, you offend my people by saying that. You offend me at least.

But just before they started it there was an ANNOYING dog barking like crazy and Marin just turned to the direction the sound was coming from and people started booing and screaming at the dog. It was quite funny, I screamed too, FUN!

I felt so grateful for most of the concert. Like “I’m so blessed to be here, to be able to hear this in the city where I grew up, with one of the most incredible conductors of this century on the year of The Rite of Spring’s 100th birthday”. And the presenter did say something quite right, I don’t think that this particular piece was ever played in such circumstances, to an opened public in a Brazilian beach on a delicious Summer December evening. The evening was actually quite perfect, the sunset was GORGEOUS and it gave the concert a magical background of all sorts of blues and some reds coming from the setting Sun. The pictures I took were the best my phone's camera could do. 

But down to the Rite itself it was real nice. It’s so interesting to see how different kinds of people conduct the same music in completely different ways. I mean, I saw Valery Gergiev conduct this just last October and his take on it could not be more different from Marin’s. I love to watch her conduct, she quite literally jumps on that podium, over and over again. You can just feel all the excitement emanate from her and how her body responded to all those crazy rhythms, she would sometimes move on their impossible pacings. I loved it! I actually made video to show how many people were there just as the first part ended.

And alien or not, I think that the music managed to touch everybody. I would look around and see people’s expressions, it was a mixture of shock, eagerness and happiness. They were glued to that unusual music, especially after hearing the most “best hits” of symphonic music. When the piece ended the audience roared with cheers and applause. Marin did two calls and they left and so did the 50 million people on that beach. There were a lot of people there.

Overall it was incredible and part of me was so eager to just stand at the “artist exit” to talk to Marin but then I thought it was better not to. Anyways, my friends arrived a little bit after the concert ended and we went to drink coconut water and chat about last night’s party. But I was secretly hoping Marin would decide to get some coconut water for herself. But she didn’t haha

Well guys, that’s it for now. I’m now at my parent’s house in Santos until the end of the year waiting eagerly for the colleges to reply my applications! I’m already working on some other pieces to post later this week so stay tuned! Peace everyone!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Love Letter to NYC

Hello people! Are you annoyed by my alomst daily posts yet? I do hope not! This is gonna be a quick post so don't worry. I just wanted to let you guys know that my grades came out and I freaking did it! I passed which means I now have an official bachelor's degree! JOY TO THE WORLD! I can breathe again! And I also just sent out my three applications to Grad Schools in the US.

But wait, wasn't I applying to 4 schools? Well, yeah, the thing is all of them require audio files of you singing, all of them except MSM that requires a video. I had major problems with the video thing and when I finally got to record the video it was like a billion degrees (because November in Brazil equals hellish temperatures) and I wasn’t singing to my singing teacher’s playing. I didn’t really feel it with the pianist and don’t think I did my best, plus she missed notes, didn’t breath with me and made me altogether uncomfortable and nervous. So I decided not to apply to MSM since the deadline was December first and I didn’t want to send them a so-so video of me sweating through my repertoire. 

Why am I saying this? Well because the essay MSM asks is the following: If you were given a blank airplane ticket to go wherever you wanted, where would you go?

Now this nagged me through and through because the only place on earth I could think of was NYC and it’s ridiculous since MSM IS in NYC. But following my good friends’ advice I wrote about what I loved from the heart and since I’m not sending the application I might as well publish my love letter to NYC somewhere, right?

“Were I handed a blank ticket at this very minute, where would I go? I can’t help but think of any place but New York City. I know it sounds very ‘been there done that’ but I’ve always felt a very special connection to NYC. I’ve been there twice before and I must admit I never felt so much like I belonged anywhere else. I love how walking down the street I can see all kinds of people from all over the world, all sorts of different languages popping out in every corner. The city has an infinite number of completely different things to offer and every hour that I spend in that city I feel I’m learning and experiencing something new. I can’t help but think of NYC as a huge opera house.  That’s probably why I love it so much. You have many languages going on constantly and as many sorts of different types of people as you have different kinds of opera, modern, romantic, classical…

Something I adore in New York City is the people in it. Every single person I’ve met in the city has a special something about them. It’s like a special spice that everyone who lives there possesses and it comes out in the most amazing ways. From talking to restaurant waitresses who speak 4 different languages to extremely lovely old ladies who have worked as extras at the Met just for fun, I found a place where my words and ideas were finally understood. A place where being different is normal and I felt I could finally be myself and stop apologizing for having such a different taste for things. 

I think that the first thing I’d do when I got there is definitely go to the Metropolitan Opera to see about everything I can watch: performances and the opera guild talks and such. And I can say that if I were to spend a short period of time in the city, I would gladly go watch something at the Metropolitan Opera every night. After all it was thanks to their Live in HD program that I was able to see opera in a light I’d never seen it before and fall hopelessly in love with it, so that opera house in particular holds a very dear place in my heart.

But one thing I’ve always wanted to do and never could is explore the city fearlessly and with no rush. To walk through the streets of Little Italy and be able to go to their fantastic Italian festivals which have a ridiculous abundance in fantastic food and good mood. I’d like to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art several times so I can take my time looking at each work of art. Because even though I already feel incredible about seeing a Monet painting in the flesh I would have liked to have taken my time admiring it as opposed to having to tear my eyes off the canvas to look at my watch every five minutes. But I feel the thing I most want to do in NYC is have an everyday life and with time discover little by little what the city has to offer.

I cannot say how long I’d stay, I feel if I had the chance I’d never leave, at least not for a good five years. But if I had to spend a shorter period of time there, and I was able to call the shots, which I never am, I would stay at least a month. Then I think I’d be able to accomplish a little bit of what I desire to do in this amazing and embracing city.”

that's me in Central park and no, I wasn't planning on sending the picture attached to this

Cute, right? Never-ending thanks to Kim who edited it and corrected my grammar mistakes!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Best Recordings and Books of 2013

So I’ve decided to continue the “best of 2013” lists, so here are the best CDs and books that I have acquired in 2013. Mind you, these were not all out in 2013, some of them are as old as 10, 15 years, but I bought them this year so there you go! I’m also organizing these in alphabetical order because I can’t choose which one is best. I’m also going to give the places and prices I paid should anybody be interested in getting any of them.

Best CDs

Angela Gheorghiu – My Puccini (2008)
I got this CD in my last trip to NYC at the Met shop for about $20, but it’s not on the website so here’s the Amazon link. I love Puccini with every fiber of my being and I think Angela does a great job in this Verismo repertoire. This is a two disc set, the first disc is a CD with some of Angela’s Puccini signature roles like Mimi (La Boheme) and Magda (La Rondine), as well as Angelica (Suor Angelica), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Manon (Manon Lescaut) and Tosca (Tosca, duh!). The second disc is actually a DVD of clips of her singing and her reflections about Puccini. The tenor in this CD is Roberto Alagna which at the time was fine but now I find kind of odd. My favorite tracks in this are Magda’s part, specially the two arias and the end duet which is absolutely heartbreaking. I also liked her “Mario, Mario!”, it’s sweet and it sounds like they are having a wonderful time singing this piece.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky & Sondra Radvanovsky – Verdi Opera Scenes (2009)

This one I also got in my last trip to NYC at the MetShop ($19) plus this one is totally autographed by none other than Sondra Radvanovsky. These tracks were taken from a live concert they did together in The Great Hall of Moscow with conductor Constantine Orbelian. Now I’ve listened to this CD from back to back about a billion times I love absolutely everything in this CD. First it’s Verdi Opera Scenes with two of the BEST Verdian singers in the world. You have that GREAT scene of the beginning of act 3 of Un Ballo in Maschera, Amelia’s desperate plea “Morró, ma prima in grazia” followed by Renato’s “Eri tu” that is also so incredible, and it’s fun to hear the audience roar like CRAZY while clapping. Another scene that just drives me over the edge is the Confrontation Scene from Il Trovatore. HOLY. MOTHER. OF. GOD. They just ROCK this scene like no other! This is probably one of my favorite parts of this opera. Plus there are some neat solos like “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s Rusalka, “Deh vieni alla finestra” (PLEASE COME TO MY WINDOW!) from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca. It’s a great CD, buy it! And fun-fact, the trousers Dima is wearing in the cover are actually Sondra's, it does not get any cooler than that! Just for you guys to get a little taste of that Trovatore scene, here it is!

Jonas Kaufmann – Romantic Arias (2008)

This is yet another one I got in my last trip to NYC and also got it at the Met Shop for $17. Jonas has to be one of my favorite tenors and in this recording in particular he’s sounding quite dreamy. With the use of the most varied repertoire that ranges from Wagner to Massenet and from Gounod to Verdi and from Puccini to Berlioz he sings all those songs that makes us sigh for the tenor. His brilliant rendition of Carmen’s “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée” is golden and his Werther is so passionate and heartbroken. Just as well as his De Griex from Massenet’s Manon, the hero blinded by love and his Cavaradissi from Puccini’s Tosca with his last words of love to his beloved. He makes you basically want to put him in a bag and take him home. And I think this is such a great recording because it has such a varied repertoire and you get a little taste of everything that Jonas does, which is great!

Joyce DiDonato – Drama Queens (2012)

I bought this CD on Amazon in February for about $16 (but now it’s $21) and it is also super signed! (all my Jdiddy CDs are signed) This is probably my favorite CD by Joyce DiDonato because I love every single aria in it and almost know all of them by heart (and that’s saying something when it comes to baroque repertoire). This CD is basically all baroque queen arias (which I thought was such a great idea!) with Alan Curtis conducting and Il Compresso Barocco accompanying. I wish I could have seen one of the concerts she did with Il Compresso Barocco with this repertoire, I have some friends who did go and said it was beyond incredible. If I have to choose some favorites in this recording they would have to be “Madre diletta, abbracciami” by Porta, “Lasciami piangere” by Keiser, “Da torbida procella” by Orlandini and “Mort ecol fiero aspetto” by Hasse.

Joyce DiDonato – ReJoyce – The best of Joyce DiDonato (2013)

I couldn’t possibly leave this one out. This was the very first CD I bought at the Met Store last October and it was about $19. As the name explains this is the best of the last 10 years of Joyce’s recordings but it’s so much more than that since Joyce let her dear fans choose most of the things about this CD. The title, the tracks, the cover picture was taken during a concert by a friend of mine, and also she filled the booklet with pictures of her fans (including me and some of my friends) and also quotes from fans (including mine), so it’s a real special thing and I’m so honored to be part of it. But on to the CD itself, this one is also a two disc set, first CD filled with mainly baroque repertoire (most of my suggestions made the cut!) and also some Mozart. Some of my favorites are “Crude furie degl’ orridi abissi” “Where shall I fly” “Scherza infida” by Handel and “Voi che sapette” by Mozart. The second CD is filled with belcanto specially Rossini and also some contemporary work she’s done. My highlights would be “Una voce poco fa” “Tanti affetti in tal momento” by Rossini, Strauss’ “Seien wir wieder gut!”, Jake Heggie’s “He will gather us around” and of course “Over the Rainbow”.

Olga Borodina & Dmitri Hvorostovsky – Arias/Duets (1997) 

This one was a difficult one to get, I got it at Amazon from a random person for $7 but now they apparently have one left in store. I love these collaboration between singers CDs, they turn out so great and fun because you don’t get only one voice all the time but two alternating. I adore these two Russian jewels that are called Dmitri Hvostovsky and Olga Borodina and I think their voices sound incredible together. Both have that Slavic depth and darkness (not too much but some) that I absolutely ADORE. This is a fun recording with my favorite parts being the Il Barbieri di Siviglia exerpts that include “Una voce poco fa” “Largo al factotum” and “Dunque io son… Tu non m’inganni”. I also love it that they get to sing in Russian as well in this CD, the excerpts from Tsar’s Bride couldn’t be more beautiful. And finally to close the CD wonderfully they sing the act 2 duet from Saint-Saens Samson et Dalila “J’ai gravi la montagne”

Renée Fleming – Strauss Four Last Songs / Signature Roles at the Met Opera (2008)

I got this CD on Amazon for $12, great deal, specially because this is a double CD set! This is like all the best from Renée Fleming, she’s so amazing in the repertoire she chose for these CDs. First all Strauss bliss starting out with the Four Last Songs that are hands down one of the most beautiful things I ever heard followed by selections from Ariadne auf Naxos and Die ägypische Helena. And then we have the 5 things I mostly love Renée in. First the letter scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin that I think she gets so fantastically well and her characterization of Tatyana is probably my favorite! Then we have her signature aria from Dvorak’s Rusalka “Song to the Moon”, fun fact about this aria in particular, the first time I heard Renée sing it was when I saw her concert live, yeah, PRETTY COOL. Then we have her heartfelt rendition of the “Willow Song” and Ave Maria from Verdi’s Otello and the mirror aria from Massenet’s Thäis. And to close we have the last scene from Strauss’ last opera Capriccio. This is a wonderful recording to have!

Sarah Connolly – Heroes and Heroines – Handel (2004)

This one I also got on Amazon for $17. Mezzos are awesome, they get such great ideas for different kinds of CDs! This one is awesome, Sarah Connolly is famous for her baroque repertoire and even more for her incredible performances in pants roles. So I guess this was what inspired Joyce’s Diva/Divo. In this CD Sarah sings Handel ladies and lords. She sings a lot of Ruggiero (Alcina) my personal favorite is, of course, “Verdi prati” and also the hero Ariodante, my favorite piece is obviously “Dopo notte”. She also sings Dejanira which is one of my favorite opera characters, she’s so insane! Her “Where Shall I fly?” is priceless and incredible! Plus this cover couldn't be more awesome, her lady self looking at her lord reflection! 

Sondra Radvanovsky – Verdi Arias (2010)

I also got this CD at Amazon for about $16. This is another one of those CDs that I listen back to back a billion times. Because A- Verdi is awesome and B- for me, there is nobody who can do more justice to these pieces than Sondra. Her voice was made to sing this repertoire so there is really no weak track in this CD. I love all of these arias but if I had to choose the ones I listen to more often I would have to say Il Trovatore’s “Tacea la notte”, Un Ballo in Maschera’s “Ecco l’orrido campo… Ma dall’arido stelo divulsa”, La Forza del destino “Pace, pace, mio Dio”, Ernani’s “Ernani, Ernani involami”, Aida’s “O patria mia” and Il Vespri Siciliani’s “Bolero”. Basically all of them, seriously, I left like, 3 songs out of that list. The coolest thing is that I got to tell Sondra how much I loved this recording and she was so thrilled, she even drew a little heart in her autograph. It was awesome.

Best Books
I’m listing here first my favorite opera related books of the year with the long notes I always make and after some other books I read this year that I also liked. Everything in alphabetical order.

As Óperas de Richard Strauss (The Operas of Richard Strauss) – Lauro Machado Coelho (2007)

This book is actually by a Brazilian writer and it’s only available in Brazil and I’m pretty sure I bought one of their last copies back in July. This book is part of a great (and expensive) collection that talks about all kinds of operas, Baroque, Romantic Italian, French, Wagner Opera so on. And this in particular speaks only of Richard Strauss and it’s such a wonderful guideline to travel through Strauss’ operas and also to understand his compositional methods. The writing is filled with knowledge but it’s not stuck up and quite a pleasant read.

Contos de Óperas e Cantos (Stories of Operas and Singing) – Sergio Casoy (2009)

Another Brazilian author, I’ve had the great pleasure to actually watch two talks he did about voice types. He’s an opera history professor and an opera critic. This book is so delicious to read and I actually read it in various ends of afternoons at the beach. It’s a compilation of texts Sergio Casoy wrote for opera programs here in Brazil over the years. They usually tell a little bit of the story of the opera but also of the back story in the making of these operas which are always super cool and sometimes funny. How did Verdi decide he would write Otello? How long did Donizetti take to write L’elisir d’amore? Plus, this book is dedicated to my vocal coach! How cool is that?

Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger – Jay Hunter Morris (2013)

I got this on Amazon but you can also get it at the Met Store. The funniest opera book I’ve ever read! This book is like a compilation of the best emails he’s sent to his family and friends while pursuing the career of an opera singer. Jay is such a sincere writer and his take on situations are absolutely hilarious. There are all sorts of words written the way a Texan would say them which really adds to the reading because you imagine a Texan with a real strong accent narrating these situations to you. Like the time a crazy lady asked him to keep in his freezer a dead frozen dog sized bird. Or the time when he ripped his pants right in the butt area in the middle of the last scene of a concert version of Carmen and the audience roared with laughed. Or the time when he saw some people slip in orange vomit just out of stage door. Or when he finally got his big break as Siegfried only 2 years ago at the Met. This book is GOLDEN!

The Inner Voice – the making of an opera singer – Renée Fleming

I got it on Amazon in the beginning of the year for about $16. This is the best opera singer guidance book I’ve ever read. I love it! I think I read it 3 times already and would gladly read it again, I’ve underlined and copied my favorite passages. I’m actually quite self conscious about asking Renée to sign it because it’s kind of worn out! I translated the introduction to Portuguese for my repertoire teacher to give to her students but those people are so clueless they barely read it. There was ONE (out of twenty people who say they want to be opera singers) girl who asked me if I could lend her the book and I did and she loved it, most of the others don’t even know who Renée Fleming is which is both sad and utterly unacceptable. But on to the book, Renée tells the story of her voice and about all her difficulties and insecurities growing up to become the absolute success that she is. This book is a MUST for anybody who wants to pursue a career in singing classical music, specially opera, it’s so great!

True Tales from the mad, mad, mad world of Opera – Lotfi Mansouri

This isn't the cover of the book, although I would totally buy a book with this cover, but the thing is, Lofti wrote such a beautiful message to Joan Sutherland right at the very end of this book that drove me to tears so I though I'd be nice to have a pic of them together here
I also bought this book on Amazon for $15. First of all, the foreword is by Carol Burnett, I mean, come on! How cool is that? These are the memories of stage director Lofti Mansouri, of all the absolutely insane things he’s been through in this truly crazy business. Plus he worked with big legends of opera like Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Renata Scotto, Maria Callas, Jesse Norman and many, many others. This book is the literally proof that we do this out of love, because there is no money that can pay being put through the situations Lofti was. Like having a patron from an opera house tell him that a certain young soprano had to play the role of the Duchess in La Fille du Regiment. Or have a Russian mezzo sing a role she barely even learned in an English version of Der Fledermaus, ah, and the singer didn’t speak English, like at all. It’s funny now, but it must have been hell back then!  

Other titles that I read this year I thoroughly enjoyed that have absolutely nothing to do with opera are:

A Pocket Full of Rye (Agatha Christie) – Miss Marple’s case of various murders happening in the same house, you gotta love that old bird watcher!

Curtain (Agatha Christie) – Poirot’s last case, it’s just freaking GENIUS! And I was so glad I got to read it before the episode came out!

Death on the Nile (Agatha Christie) – ok, you noticed I love Agatha Christie novels, this is particularly amazing and with always such a surprising ending!

Eugene Onegin (Alexander Pushkin) – This is sort of opera related since it was because of the opera that I bought it. It’s such a wonderful work of art and even though it’s an English translation it captures some of the amazing essence of Pushkin’s words. Plus it’s written like poetry but it has a very narration feel to it.

The Big Four (Agatha Christie) – another master piece of mystery featuring my dear Poirot

The House of Hades (Rick Riordan) – Book 4 from the Heroes of Olympus Series which I absolutely love! It’s fun, easy to read and I read all the 600 pages in exactly 5 days.

The links for these last books are all from Amazon because if you live in the US the best deal is always to get it from Amazon! Well, I guess that's it! I might come up with another crazy list idea until the end of the week, I actually already have, so stay tuned. I'm watching La Boheme here in São Paulo tonight and I do hope I'm not enraged by what I see, my last experience in that theater was horrid to say the least. Ah well, my grade hasn't come out yet, so I'm suffering, so I appreciate any positive energy heading my way! Peace everyone!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The best of my musical 2013

The end of the year is near! And so I thought it would be fun to do some “best of 2013” lists! I might do this in more than one post, depending on the amount of stuff I write.

Best Operas
It’s in alphabetical order because I really don’t wanna choose which I liked best than the other, so those are the highlights of the year of operas I’ve seen live in 2013

Aida (Theatro Municipal de Sao Paulo)

This was my first time seeing Aida and it was really love at first sight! The music is just so incredible, the chorus parts are exhilarating and the solos, duets and trios just swept me off my feet! The staging was simple but dignified and Radames and Amneris were particularly wonderful. I saw this production of Aida twice at the Theatro Municipal in the city where I live, Sao Paulo, it was my very first time going there.

Eugene Onegin (Metropolitan Opera)

I felt so privileged to be able to see this opera live not only once but twice! Before I even saw this production I already loved this opera thoroughly. And then having such a stellar cast under the musical direction of none other than Valery Gergiev was just an absolute delight. The staging was beautiful and the interpretation of the characters was slightly different but it worked incredibly well for that particular set of performers.

La Cenerentola (Theatro Sao Pedro)

This opera I also saw more than once, if you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that I actually watched some rehearsals of this opera. The cast was adorable, the staging slightly bleh but the performers totally made up for it! Special spotlight for the ladies who played the evil step sisters who are sisters in real life and totally stole the show!

Norma (Metropolitan Opera)

I had never seen this opera and let me tell you, even though the staging was as dull as it gets, I loved it! It was my first night at the Met and I was alone and it couldn’t have been more perfect! I remember my eyes filling up with tears seeing Sondra come out for the first time and feel the tears roll down my cheeks when she started singing. Again, I saw this opera twice when I was there and feel so fortunate!

Best Concerts
Again in alphabetical order because they were all such different kinds of concerts and I really can’t choose, each had a very different kind of special meaning

Annick Massis Concert (Theatro Sao Pedro)

Two incredible nights. Annick is such a fine artist and with such an impressive repertoire. I remember that in her very last encore I nearly cried at her rendition of “Chi bel sogno di Doretta”. And also her reading of Papa Germont’s letter and “Addio a del passato” was heart breaking and inspired. I was SO lucky to sit in the front row for this concert in both days!

Maryinsky Theater Orchestra plays Stravinsky led by Valery Gergiev (Carnegie Hall)

I’m such a grateful person to have seen this! I guess that’s why I wanna live in NYC, I mean, come on! I stayed there 10 days and was able to watch so many top notch musical performances, like with the absolute best in DA WORLD! Ah well, this concert was incredible. I mean, it’s not every day that I get to see an entire all Russian orchestra play Stravinsky. I was particularly moved when they played “The Rite of Spring” because my history teacher back in college dedicated quite a lot of time to this piece in particular. So to be able to see an orchestra like that play it was something I will never forget! Plus this concert was on the very DAY of Verdi’s 200th anniversary so as a present to the audience maestro Gergiev led the overture of La Forza del Destino that was composed for the Maryinsky theater! By the end I was in tears, tears, tears!

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Joyce DiDonato led by James Levine (Carnegie Hall)

This was one of those things that is on one’s bucket list, again I felt very blessed to have been able to attend this one night only sold out event! First of all y’all know Joyce is one of my personal heroes, so just to get to see her perform was already such a thrill for me. And let me tell you, she was everything I had ever dreamed of and more, such an amazing artist. Then you add the Met Orchestra led by none other than the legendry James Levine and it’s heaven! Seriously, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony was just impossibly gorgeous and the overture of Il Vespri Siciliani being played the WEEK of Verdi’s 200th anniversary was just a marvelous slap of my musically drugged face.

Vesselina Kasarova and the Camerata Berg (Sala Sao Paulo)

Two magical nights in a row! I was already a great fan of Vesselina’s work but to actually see her live right in front of me was so incredible. Plus, as you guys have read in my posts about this concert, she kept looking and smiling at me and my bff for almost half of the concert which was just impossible and insane and wonderful. She did her Mozart and Rossini repertoire which I love and I got to fall in love with her Sesto once again! *sighs*

Best Opera Singer Meetups
Now this is where I get overly emotional like a good Brazilian always does and start crying. I can’t help it though, these are also in alphabetical order because they were all equally awesome.

Annick Massis

Annick is such a generous person and I knew that from the moment she walked on stage she gave it her all to that performance. I will never forget the kindness she showed towards me, looking in my eyes and being sincerely interested in what I had to say. She showed such interest in me I was a bit shocked and even gave me my very first opportunity to sing in a real life masterclass, her masterclass. I look back at those two amazing evenings that I chatted for a while with her after her performances with always a smile on my face.

Joyce DiDonato

I think this was one of the best moments of my life, getting to meet Joyce the way it happened. It was so surreal, first to walk in that room and see her SO DAMN CLOSE and just wait a few minutes that felt like 974298734 hours. Then to get to have her first words uttered to me be my own freaking name, I mean, how cool is that? She’s like one of my heroes and she actually knows who I am and plus was so thrilled that we had finally met and that I went to see her. I mean, that’s daydream material, that’s fanfiction material and it happened to me in real life. I got several hugs and even more kind and amazing words from her. Plus I got to walk around the Carnegie Hall backstage area WITH HER and talk.

Sondra Radvanovsky

Now Sondra is someone who inspires me SO MUCH to pursue this career. She’s also one of my personal heroes and ultimate role model. And I got to see her twice! First time I met her it was in the Met’s stage door area and I was terrified because A- it was my first time stage dooring at the Met B- she walks out and she’s like SUPER TALL C- I’m afraid I won’t be able to speak because of nervousness and/or unexpected tears. So I just stood there like an idiot with my mouth probably hanging opened looking her while she sighed stuff feeling my heart beat in my throat (Lord help me I might choke in my own heart!). She saw me there and walked up to me, took my hand and shook it and said “Hi! I’m Sondra! But you probably know that, right?”, for the first 3 seconds I was frozen but then I regained consciousness and was able to speak fluently and well and we hit it off quite well. After talking to her for a while I told her I’d be watching Norma again on Monday and she proceeded to invite me to go to her dressing room to talk to her after the show on Monday. I nearly had a heart attack then. Monday we met again, in the dressing rooms area backstage at the Met and she was again, SO SWEET and SUPER KIND. Seriously, I wanna be like this lady when I grow up, she’s fabulous and all kinds of wonderful!

Vesselina Kasarova

Vesselina’s heart is the size of a house. And it’s funny because she has such a strong stage presence that me and my bff were a bit apprehensive about going up and talking to her. But she was a bucket of sugar, so sweet I couldn’t believe it. She was particularly fond of us because she saw us in the front row smiling at her every 5 seconds. We both quickly connected with her and had a lovely time talking to her. The second day she waved at us from the stage when she walked in and actually took my hand during one of her last ovations to thank me. That was SO SURREAL!

Well, I guess that’s it for now. In other news I’m NEARLY graduating, I have one grade to come out yet. I pray to God everyday to help me pass, so help me God I WILL!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Un Ballo in Maschera at the Met

Wow, it’s gonna be almost a year since I started blogging again! And with that thought in mind I would like to write about an opera I saw just before I started this blog. The Met’s Live in HD transmission of Un Ballo in Maschera. Now, this was over a year ago, to be more precise it was on December 8. I remember I went to São Paulo just to see this opera because the Live in HD was about one of the only real links I had with the Met. At the time I didn’t notice but this was the first time I saw two singers who are today two of my all time favorite singers, Sondra Radvanovsky and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. 

But why am I talking about something I saw over a year ago? Well, a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to catch the very last day of an irresistible deal made by the Met Opera. Their Met Opera on Demand yearly subscription for only $99 as opposed to the original price, $149. I got the credit out and bought it and don’t regret not even a bit because what I got was so rewarding! Loads and loads of entire operas from the HD broadcasts with incredible sound and image quality and subtitles in all the main languages, all that for me to watch as many times as I wanted! Plus other tv broadcast videos and a bunch of audio streams! 

And guess what I watched again in this ridiculously amazing quality? Un Ballo in Maschera! So I wanted to leave here my thoughts on the production and the singers and all that thing I always do. I actually took 2 weeks to write this entire post and it is 9 pages long, I get too overly excited talking about my favorite singers. 

First of all, Deb Voigt is THE best HD presenter! She’s so witty and fun! I remember a year ago being so glad she was presenting this! Well on to the opera, over this past year I’ve grown to acquiring quite a great taste for Verdi opera which I did not posses when I first saw this. So the music instantly drew me and I was in heaven. I’ve heard many people criticizing this stagingfor this new production of Ballo for the Met. But I found it was clean and classy and it didn’t stay in the way of telling the story and most importantly it didn’t upstage the performers. Although it’s pretty difficult to upstage Sondra Radvanovsky, Marcelo Alvarez, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Stephanie Blythe. I particularly liked the enormous painting of Icarus falling from the skies and the whole staging for me was the perfect vessel to bring forward the story.

We start the opera with king Gustavo hearing a chorus of sometimes tender words and words of revenge which are perfectly put together by the brilliance of Verdi. I think Marcelo Alvarez does a spectacular job with this Verdi repertoire, I feel like his voice is just right for these roles and he’s got so much charisma. Gustavo is that kind of Tito king, the good guy through and through. I like the way Marcelo portrays him, very light hearted but also with a twinge of ‘I’m kind of tired of doing this, just let them have what they want’ which is, I think, the essence of the character.

Something that did not strike any powerful meaning to me was the lady playing Oscar. I think that was partially to the fact that, as she says in the interview, she’s playing him in an androgynous kind of way so you really don’t know if it’s a guy or girl. I think that’s a very risky thing to do when you play pants roles, especially if you are half the size of the tenor and a coloratura soprano. And the fact that she was holding a cigarette most of the time kind of bugged me. To be completely sincere I don’t usually warm up to light/coloratura sopranos (Diana Damrau and Joan Sutherland being a total exception to that rule, they got spice!), I’m not really fond of that type of voice actually, so that’s also why I didn’t like Oscar.

Ah well, that’s about the only thing I did not like in this opera. Now after being super nice to everybody Gustavo sends his peeps away and his right hand arrives. Dmitri Hvorostovsky is such a great singer and as well as an actor, he’s got that placid Verdi baritone thing all worked out. Even in roles like DeLuna in private moments he’s able to maintain a steadiness and control that are absolutely admirable, especially because with roles like that it’s easy to go too crazy and overdo it. 

In this scene Gustavo is daydreaming about Amelia, the woman she loves, when Renato, his bestie and Amelia’s husband, arrives. Renato tries to reason with the king, telling him that there are people who wish to see him dead and he should take action for his own safety, but he won’t listen. Then Renato sings an aria I enjoy thoroughly “Alla vita che t’arride”, I like this aria because it shows that Renato is not a bad guy, he’s actually a very good person who always thinks of the well being of others before his own.

After a great ovation for Dmitri the plot moves on to reveal the government wants to exile a gypsy, Ulrica, who can see the future. Gustavo is quite excited about an idea of someone who can see the future and does not want to punish the woman. He actually wants to see it for himself so he makes it his business to go there himself to judge the woman. Even though Renato tells him not to go because it’s dangerous the king is resolute and decides to disguise himself as a fisherman.

This scene builds up to a great stravaganza! I loved this music, Gustavo is singing enthusiastically, Renato is singing mournfully and Oscar’s melody is like a skipping delight! Then the chorus comes in and before you know it everybody has a hat and cane and they are dancing as if they are in a Broadway musical and seriously, I LOVED THAT! It’s a real fun scene to watch!

Then the scene and the music COMPLETELY change and we have Ulrica alone on stage. Stephanie Blythe is such a fine artist! First of all I think her voice is warm dark chocolate with some pepper. And even though this is a relatively small role that only has one scene she makes her character quite memorable and even likable. And I must only imagine her voice is gigantic, that’s someone I would LOVE to hear sing live! She masters Ulrica’s aria with easiness that allows us to see deep within the character she created.

A sailor arrives and she predicts he’s going to have a promotion and Gustavo is so delighted to be there that he actually makes her prediction come true. A page arrives, Gustavo recognizes him, he works for Amelia. Amelia would like to speak to the gypsy but privately so Ulrica sends everybody away but Gustavo stays in to listen. 

Sondra comes out in a fabulous burgundy coat with fur around it and I’m like “she’s got the best costumes in this opera” and yes, she indeed does! I’m a diehard fan of Sondra, I adore her, and she’s definitely one of my favorite singers and my favorite soprano for sure. That voice of hers is something out of this world, I have never heard anything like it, and I remember quite clearly that when I first saw this opera I was so amazed with her voice. It was different but it sounded SO right!

I’ll praise a little more of Sondra’s artistry in just a bit, but back to the plot, Amelia tells the gypsy she’s in love with the king. The king who is listening in is absolutely delighted but Amelia wants to rid herself of this feeling, after all she’s a married woman, married to the king’s bestie of all people! Ulrica tells her that there is a plant she must pick in a dark part of town at midnight that will wash away her love and give her peace but it’s a very dangerous road. 

A fantastic trio starts, Ulrica doubts Amelia’s will power, Amelia is terrified but resolute in going and Gustavo is determined in following Amelia to the dreadful place to persuade her not to give up on her love. Absolutely wonderful trio, tense and all kinds of awesome! But let me just talk about Sondra’s costume just a little bit more. In the middle of this scene she opens her coat and you can see she’s wearing a velvet GORGEOUS dress with peacock feather drawn on it in beautiful golden/burgundy/black colors! And I think all the costumes that Sondra wears are just the right color for her complexion and figure, they make her look even more gorgeous than she already is naturally. I have a sneaky feeling the colors, cuts and types of clothes were chosen with her as model always, especially because this is a new production and she’s the first person to do it.  

An awesome thing about this opera is that it changes from water to wine in a matter of seconds! One minute you have the tense trio and the next you have the whole male chorus on stage (the disguised court people) asking for Ulrica to foretell their future.

Gustavo is having a blast asking Ulrica to foresee his fate pretending to be a fisherman. This music reminds me of old amusement parks music, the way the scales are put together is as if Gustavo is playing in a park. And also Marcelo’s carefree interpretation adds to that feel of absolute fun. Ulrica is kind of terrified, because she indeed has powers and what this man is saying makes no sense with what she’s foreseeing. 

She actually sees that he is a great man but she also sees his fate marked in his hands. At first she won’t tell him what she saw, and I love Blythe’s take on this character, she is perturbed by what she’s seen. He commands her to speak and she tells him he’ll soon die by a hand of a friend and at this very moment the orchestra comes in like a thunder! TUM DAAAAAM!

And as you would imagine Gustavo does not believe her and sings “è scherzo od é follia” mocking Ulrica’s prediction. When I first saw this opera I didn’t particularly like Gustavo, I thought it was so very rude and inconsiderate of him to mock Ulrica like this, and his whole silly and impulsive attitudes did not amuse me. But then watching it again I noticed that he took her prediction very seriously indeed and now is scared to death that a friend of his will murder him. This is a way to distract his companions (because, after all, one of them could be his murderer) and make them forget about the whole thing. He even throws around her cards and I remember first seeing this and my jaw slowly opening incredulous of what he was doing.

Gustavo asks who is going to be his assassin and when Ulrica tells him that it is the next man who shakes his hand Gustavo tries to shake everybody’s hand to prove her wrong. But none of his loyal servants warm up to the idea of shaking his hand just now. Hence arrives the bestie and hottie (what? ha) Renato and without question shakes his hand revealing Gustavo’s identity to Ulrica’s horror. Gustavo pardons and pays Ulrica and a mob of people who have heard that the king was there invades the stage. Everybody loves him and wants a little piece of him. The act ends with a huge ensemble where nobody can really understand a thing anybody is saying because they are all expressing different opinions and feelings all at the same time with an orchestra. But it’s glorious!

We have the interviews also in this On Demand deal! So first Deb spoke to Stephanie Blythe about the role and it really did help clear out her character’s true identity in this interview and Steph is such a lovely lady!

Then we got to hear what Marcelo Alvarez and Dmitri Hvorostovsky have to say about Ballo. I think it’s so cute that the three leading singers have such a fantastic relationship because it does show on stage. The way the two of them spoke of Sondra was downright adorable. It’s such a pity that these interviews are like 3, 2 minutes long! They should be longer! I know that the singers need to rest but they are just so much fun!

But my favorite pieces of music start in act 2! The amazing introduction to the second act to me tells the story of the opera until this point, there’s love, betrayal, fun and hate, all those things we love in a Verdi opera.

Amelia has arrived in the dreadful horrible place to pickup her forgetfulness plant thing. She looks so fabulous for someone who is going to a dark horrid place. With a lightish green velvet dress and coat and covered with gorgeous jewelry, maybe she was at a dinner or something…  I didn’t like the piece of white see-through fabric she had over her head, they could have come up with a better looking fabric, it looked kind of cheap and didn’t agree with her costume. But anyway, it must be for sound or image reasons, not that I think that a mere piece of fabric can affect in any way Sondra’s insanely gigantic voice and perfect projection but I’m no fabric sound specialist, I was actually quite bad at Physics in school.

She starts out singing and I’m absolutely transported, I feel such a deep connection to this woman’s voice! Don’t ask me why, I really don’t know but her artistry draws me in and I could watch her sing something over and over again and never tire! Her introduction of the aria is so heartfelt and emotional it makes up for the fact that the stage is absolutely bare and you can’t tell why Amelia is so terrified.

This role is very heavy and that’s one of the reasons I love it so, I’m actually more inclined to like heaver Verdian soprano roles like this as opposed to the Gilda kind of roles. This aria is so gorgeous, Amelia is thorn between doing the right thing by getting the ‘forget me’ plant and her love which is begging her not to forget him. It’s so very sad and Sondra brings to the table just the right amount of emotion, so it isn’t over the top dramatic but authentic and believable. That’s another thing about Sondra’s characterizations in general that I think is superb, her characters are all believable, made of fresh and blood.

But back to the piece during the aria, that she sings for a while on the floor which I think is such an incredible feat especially with this difficult repertoire, she picks up the plant at midnight and some sort of specter comes to haunt her. She’s desperate and throws the plant away and begs to God that she may be spared with the most amazing vocal lines. Her pianos which grow into enormous sounds of awesome are my personal favorites. She got quite an ovation for this aria.

Gustavo arrives and Amelia is like “Are you kidding me God?” , no she isn’t, but I would be. It is at this moment that you see why Amelia and Renato got together, they are both people of their word and extremely honorable. Even though she’s so in love with him and he is practically throwing himself on her, Amelia is resolute in doing the right thing and tries to send him away. But of course Gustavo is the king and is never told what to do by anybody so he lingers on declaring his love while Amelia’s strong ice wall begins to melt. It’s so sad to see her expressions of “oh God that’s all I wanted to hear but I can’t”, after all, who can resist such brilliantly composed love music such as this?

This was the first time I experienced the Sondra/Marcelo pairing super chemistry. Do they have an insane amount of stage chemistry or what? Because in this moment Amelia finds out that her love is actually corresponded which makes her decision even more difficult. One part I particularly love is when Gustavo asks her to say she loves him and her struggle to actually say the words is so poignant, you can see her going through a whole roller coaster of feelings in 15 seconds while she says it.

Gustavo is so happy and but Amelia still pleads him to protect her from her own heart. And when Gustavo says a rather too excited “M’AMI!” Amelia looks at him like “have you even heard any other word I’ve said but that?” to which he replies a quiet “M’ami” and makes the decision that seals his fate ignoring all friendship ties.

We get to a love duet that culminates in such an explosive beautiful way at the end it brings tears o my eyes! And when he asks her again “Amelia, tu m’ami?” her reply is full of joy and passion “Si! T’amo!” she opens up her arms loosening up for the very first time in the opera. They finally approach and end the duet and in each other’s arms and it’s just so romantic! The crowd went absolutely wild with this duet, more than 30 seconds of nonstop applause. And it’s funny to look at the performers because they are truly SO HAPPY, they are laughing and kissing all ‘YAY this duet is so difficult I can’t believe we did it!’

The couple has about those moments of applause of happiness because Renato arrives. And of course he has to be the best friend ever and warn Gustavo that the conspirators are on his heels, furthermore he trades coats with Gustavo to pretend to be him so the king can escape. While this happens Amelia has put her ‘invisibility cloak’ (aka white weird fabric) on and even her own husband can’t recognize her, well, it’s dark. They agree that Gustavo will flee while Renato will escort Amelia back into town, but Renato is not to utter a word to her or remove her veil. What an awesome friend you have, hun Renato?

As he leaves all the conspirators arrive and are very disappointed to see Renato instead of the king. They want to see the face of the beautiful girl they believe Renato was ‘making out’ with. And even though he struggles to protect her Amelia takes off her veil to everybody’s surprise ESPECIALLY Renato’s. He screams “AMELIA!” and she says “Oh ciel pieta” that could easily be substituted by “Oh God I’m fucked”. As Renato repeats her name slowly she knows she’s doomed! This is probably one of my favorite moments, don’t ask me why, maybe it’s because of the lighthearted “Ha, ha, ha” music with the tense situation. Because for the conspirators it’s really no big deal, they find it rather pathetic actually that a man would go out of his way to come cuddle with his own wife in the moon light. And Renato is fuming! 

We get an insight into what Amelia and Renato are thinking and come on, Renato has a reason to be totally pissed off! Since from what he’s heard the ‘mystery lady’ was having major relations with the king, the king he tirelessly was trying to protect. And you can see with these amazing close ups that Renato is upset almost in the verge of tears, it’s really very sad. Could you imagine the disappointment? Your best friend and your wife.

Renato makes a date with the head conspirators and they all leave amused with their lighthearted “ha, ha, has”. But all you can really look at is Hvorostovsky’s expression of anger, hurt and hate. As the voices fade he approaches her, she faces him bravely, he grabs her by her coat collar and kisses her neck in such a possessive mad way that if that man ever did that to me I would faint on the spot! And then proceeds to lead her quite brutally off stage holding her by her coat collar and the act ends.

Curtain comes and interview time! Such a lovely interview with Sondra, she’s really a sweetheart, she is just like that in real life. Oh God she was so nice to me I wanna see her again! Then we get a quite nice talk with the director David Alden where he explains the production and his views on Gustavo’s personality and true purposes. And then another interview with Katheleen Kim and Keith Miller, Keith was actually a football player! Wow! 

One think I also remember from that day a year ago when I saw this in the movie theater was that I had a nice chat with an old lady sitting next to me. She was with a friend and they were talking in English and I don’t really remember how but we got to talking. She was also Brazilian but we spoke in English after all neither of us knew the other was Brazilian, weird, I know. I remember she told me she actually saw this opera live only the week before at the Met and that after the opera she was talking to Fabio Luisi and Sondra Radvanovsky and she had told Sondra that she had been born to sing Verdi. I was so dazzled! I mean that lady actually knew that GODDESS who was singing so heavenly on that movie screen! I guess that I myself wouldn’t believe it if I learned than less than a year after that I would be going to Sondra’s dressing room to chat with her myself on her invite. Bottom-line, THANK YOU GOD! 

Third act, I know I’ve already said that this or that scene is my favorite,  this is one of my favorite operas so I love most of it, but this first part of the third act holds a very special place in my heart. Renato arrives back home with Amelia and throws her violently on the floor. Hit, why does he do this? Because he’s mad, yes. But also because, and this I noticed because of an interview Sondra gave at Classic Talk, Dmitri has to rip out her dress and as Sondra herself said he does get a bit carried away when he’s on stage. And we can see that he is a pretty strong man, so if you look at Sondra’s back right in the beginning you will notice that her dress is already opened so no accidents will happen at the HD. Smart Metropolitan Opera!

But man I love this scene, Sondra and Dmitri also have an insane amount of stage chemistry together and if you haven’t seen the video of how Sondra met him, please DO! I honestly do not know how she can keep her cool or even remember her words with that gloriously perfect barihunk all over her! Kudos for Sondra, one of the many reasons why she’s one of my heroes! I mean come on, they are embracing and he says his last “e tu morrai” in her shoulder, it resonates on her skin, that has got to give MAJOR goose pups at the very least!

I love it that this scene is kind of confusing, because even though he’s saying harsh words to her and she’s pleading they are also almost making out! It’s kinda hot, and Sondra pulls off an incredible kind of seductive thing at the intro of her AMAZING aria!

This aria is like, out of this world, the first thing I did after I got home the day I saw this on HD was download the audio of Sondra singing it. It’s so absolutely still but also desperate. A woman of honor pleading for so little and not pleading for her life, but just for a moment. Again, that’s why they are together in the first place, she’s putting her son’s well being before her own just like her husband did for the king. I don’t think it would have worked out for Gustavo and Amelia, the flame would have burned out for sure. Again an insane explosion of sound and emotion I have never seen anybody bring to the table quite like Sondra does. She is really one of those people that was born, destined to do this and furthermore she has the most down-to-earth attitude ever which I think is paramount and makes her acting even better. 

Because for me the singer’s personality does shine through when they are performing and I can see the ones who are humbled and grateful to be able to sing this glorious music and the ones who merely make use of the music to put themselves in a pedestal. Something Jdiddy always says and I totally back is that the performance has everything and nothing to do with the singer. Of course it has a lot to do with the singer, he has to be in good shape, well rested and prepared, but when the curtain rises it’s all about the music and the public who paid good money (people that have economized for weeks) to watch the opera.

Getting very off track here! The aria ends to an explosion of applause. Renato lets her see her son and Amelia picks up her dress and leaves in shame. Now another aria I love, Renato does not have the strength to actually kill her because he blames Gustavo for seducing her into cheating on him. This aria is magnificent because you can clearly see both sides of Renato, his vengeful hateful side that only thinks of vendetta and also the tender and soft side that is still in love with Amelia. The music changes with the words and it’s like magic on a baritone’s throat! The orchestral music alone is glorious and being paired with one of the best Verdian baritones in the world is just heaven! I particularly like the bit when you see his both sides “Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima, la delizia dell’anima mia” it’s so sad how he adores his wife so much, to call her “the delight of my soul”. Harp and flute come in as he remembers the sweet times he had with his wife, this is so heartbreaking and beautiful. Dmitri has real tears in his eyes and I’m like ‘Oh God how could she!’ even though I know she tried so hard to resist. Seriously this man ROCKS this aria! It’s also a roller coaster of emotions that he masters and conveys in the most heart drenching way, bravo, bravo, bravo!

I always talk endlessly about my favorite singers, I think that’s a trade mark of mine! After a good ovation the conspirators arrive and Renato tells them he wants to join forces with them to kill the king. At first they don’t really believe him but Renato even offers his own child as a hostage to his word, clearly blinded by hate and jealousy. They all want to be the actual person to kill the king so they decide to write each their own name in a piece of paper and draw one, the name drawn will be the one who will kill the king. Amelia has perfect timing and arrives just as they are finishing and Renato tells her to draw a name. She’s terrified, of course, but also looks stellar, is it just me or Sondra looks extremely pretty in this production like, in every scene? 

As everybody by now must have guessed she draws her husband’s name and hence begins more glorious music! Oscar comes in all bright as the sunshine and invites the couple to a Masked Ball, Renato is delighted and no more has a grim expression. Even though Amelia says she can’t go Renato informs Oscar that they are both going. The scene ends and Amelia I resolute on preventing Gustavo’s death.

Now Gustavo is back at his chambers doing the right thing for once, pity it’s already too late. He’s to send Renato and Amelia their homeland, Renato in a higher rank so that they can both live in peace being apart. Oscar comes in and gives the king a note written by Amelia warning him that if he comes to the ball he will be killed. But as Gustavo does not want to seem cowardly plus he wants to see Amelia once more so he goes to the ball.

The out of nowhere a bunch of masked people come in beautifully dressed all in black and the stage becomes a huge ball room all done with mirrors. Renato arrives with the conspirators and followed by the angels of death. Renato tries to persuade Oscar to tell him which one is the king but he does a rather weird Olympia dance thing while he sings that kinda irritated me as much as it irritated Renato. Maybe Oscar irritates me because he’s the sole essence of the part of Gustavo that irritates me. Ah well...

I found it rather funny when Dima simply picked up Oscar and carried him/her effortlessly around the stage while he sang. Renato does get something out of Oscar as to how the king is dressed that is quite enough. There’s a dance and I love to see the singers dance!

When all of a sudden sad violin solo and the lights dim and we see our lovers come on stage. Sondra is again wearing a GORGEOUS dress, she’s the only lady in the ball who isn’t wearing black but rather a burned light scarlet pink dress that looks like it was designed for her (which probably was). Amelia sees Gustavo and tells him to run away, they do this in hushed voices and incredibly intimate piano. Gustavo recognizes her and the most exquisite exchange happens, a very melancholy goodbye. As Gustavo says goodbye for the last time Renato appears and stabs him in front of everybody. The guards seize Renato and are ready to execute him when the nearly dead king stops everybody. He asks that Renato is pardoned and also tells him that Amelia is pure and innocent that he never touched her and the veil of hate that blinded Renato’s judgment falls off. He is now horrified at what he’s done, he’s killed his best friend who is with his very last breaths apologizing to him. Gustavo gets up and walks his very last steps to the sound of his mourning friends and Amelia’s beautiful soaring lines. He falls and dies and there’s a huge BANG moment and the opera ends with Renato on the floor crying for his friend and Amelia getting to her knees beside Gustavo.

Well that was gigantic enough! I'm worn out, I can barely keep my eyes opened! If you wanna see more funny videos of Sondra and Dima, which you should because they are hilarious, there are also this, this and this. I'm off to bed because tomorrow I'm going to head back to São Paulo! Peace everybody!