Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lion King Awesomeness

So, for days I haven’t had much to write about but this weekend bam, I watched a musical and an opera. So I could write the longest post ever, but I prefer not to, you see I saw The Lion King on Friday night and the Live in HD transmission of Giulio Cesare on Saturday, but Saturday morning I was already up writing the Lion King post but wasn’t able to finish because I had to run to the movie theatre to watch Cesare, so here’s what I wrote yesterday/today.

So I had the most fantastic time. I don’t know if I told this to you guys but I hadn’t been having vocal lessons ever since last year because my teacher is the musical director of the Lion King here in São Paulo and rehearsals took all her time. But the musical has opened and Friday morning was my first lesson back. Now the thing is, here is something about my teacher you guys should know beforehand, she’s freaking awesome. I always say that apart from having to have a really good and intelligent teacher we gotta have a teacher we can fully understand. This might sound a little weird, but sometimes the person is a fantastic professional, but the way they pass their wisdom sounds foggy and confusing to you. This is no one’s fault; everyone has their system and their instrument, all different. But when we are lucky enough to find someone that “speaks the same language” as us, I tell you, it’s magical. That’s why even though it had been months since I’d had a lesson, as soon as we started vocalizing, my voice started going in the right direction, sounding the right way and, before I knew it, I was vocalizing a high E flat without even feeling it (I don’t usually look at the piano to see the notes I’m hitting). It was magical, and my teacher is one of the coolest people I know, apart from being an incredible teacher she’s a wonderful human being.

Well, coincidently I was watching the Lion King that very same day in the evening. So after I left her house I went to college, studied the whole afternoon long and then went to the theatre (that is only about 4 blocks away from my college, yes, I’m surrounded by theatres). I met a friend there from my home town who I was not expecting to see, it was such a coincidence that we bought our tickets on the same day, I mean they are doing 6, 7 performances a week, it was fate. Me and this friend had watched Beauty and the Beast together in that same theatre a couple of years ago, so it was pretty cool.

Me and my surprise friend before the show
All my friends got there and after going across the street to buy some water (the water in the theatre was 5 bucks) we went inside. There was a photo booth where you could take pictures for free, me and my friends made obviously two trips. Big moment coming up, as it is sort of tradition already we bought all our tickets in the front row. But I was pissed because there was row in front of ours! I mean we were row A, there is no letter BEFORE A, well, anyways, my teacher told me they were the best seats in the house, so I was content. After chatting a bit with her and introducing all my 8986 friends to her it was time for some Lion King. I have to confess, I wasn’t expecting to get emotional, but oh God, was I wrong.
me and some of my friends in the photo booth

Even though I went to New York and watched 10 musicals in 10 days I didn’t watch The Lion King, so this was really the first time I saw it. Well, the famous scream from Rafiki opens the show and my two big guy best friends who were sitting beside me started crying. As the song progressed the animals started walking in and you CANT HELP IT, the tears started streaming from my eyes. Then the lights were up on the audience and there were animals walking beside us, at that point I was crying like a baby. It was really so perfect, and since we were so close we could see those flawless costumes up close. The lady leopard WAS a leopard, she was so gracious, and the elephant with his baby elephant holding on to his tail. It was one of the real fantastic moments that you have your mouth hanging opened, tears streaming from your eyes and just a real spectacle in front of you. And then you look at your beloved voice teacher and she’s conducting as if there is no tomorrow. To sum it up, it was awesome.

A picture I took real quick of the curtain
I was ever so impressed by the costumes and the sets and the staging, it was a masterpiece. I had heard that this show is not about the performers, it’s about the music and the sets and costumes, and that couldn’t describe it more accurately. Of course there were our beloved characters Simba, Mufasa, but they live in such a Technicolor world that it also becomes a character, like New York in Sex and the City. After the amazing Circle of Life, we are introduced to Scar, one of my favorite characters in this story. The costume was something out of this world, they look like African clothes with bright color patterns, but then they have a lion wood carved head piece that sort of bends forward in the most exquisite way. What’s nice about this is that they don’t try and make the characters LOOK exactly like animals; they don’t put the actors in a lion costume that zips up in the back. They actually take all sorts of elements from everything you can imagine to create these costumes that are very different but believable.

Ok, I must confess I stopped writing just now because I was listening to Tosca while I wrote and Cavaradosi and Tosca’s duet in the first act came up and I have to watch it, give me 20 minutes. Ok, she left. Good gracious, Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann make such a lovely couple on stage.

Back to Lion King, we see the lionesses hunting and it’s another incredible scene, something that is very clear is that there is a singing ensemble and a dancing ensemble. Normally I would say that people should sing and dance, but the dancing in this is so demanding as well as the vocal lines so it’s quite understandable that some do the dancing and others the singing. Because you really get to have really good singers and really good dancers doing what they do best. The dance of the Lioness Hunt is gorgeous and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do in my early musical theatre years, it has ballet elements, they do perfect
atitude pirouettes, and also modern ballet, it’s quite gorgeous to watch. And the chanting they dance to is fantastic.

Simba wants to take Nala to the forbidden lands and they go after his mother sends them off with Zazu. Now the little boy playing Simba was the cutest thing in the world, he was a fantastic actor and a surprisingly good singer, he easily won the audience. Nala was also quite good; they had the most innocent delicious chemistry on stage, which was lovely to watch. He sang I just can’t wait to be king and it was just such a spectacle, the huge colorful animals, the giraffes that at one point lowered their heads down toward the audience and if I reached out I could have touched them. It was again something very magical.

They get rid of Zazu, who also gave a wonderful performance, very good comedy timing, and arrive at the forbidden part of the land. This was quite surprising, because everything is dark, only Nala and Simba on stage, suddenly the stage starts spinning and you start seeing huge bones that most definitely belonged to an elephant. Then come the hyenas, since the show was all in Portuguese there were some changes in text, the female hyena was kind of like a hyena from the hood. It’s quite interesting with a show like this how it differs from opera, that directors can do whatever they like on stage (within reason, or not) but cannot alter one single lyric or note in opera. In this musical they can’t alter ANYTHING that’s staged, the production exactly looks like the one in NY, and London, and any other place this musical has been produced, but they can alter the text as much as they. It’s curious, hun?

Well, the hyenas sing a super rock and roll song, and I see my teacher conducting with such feel, she loves rock, so I figured she’d have a ball conducting this particular song, I wasn’t wrong. Mufasa arrives and saves the day and is super disappointed at Simba and sings one of the most moving songs in the whole musical, They Live in You. At this point I was yet again crying, ‘cause there’s the grass and the sky and the stars and “They live in you, they live in me, they’re watching over”, you know, oh my God! And the guy who played Mufasa was spectacular, in my opinion he was the best one there, lovely voice and amazing acting. One thing I didn’t like was that the lyrics of the songs weren’t the ones from the translation of the movie that everyone knows by heart. It’s like when they say instead of “Can you feel the love tonight” they say “This is a night of love”, you know?

Then enters Scar, who has his big moment singing Be Prepared, he wasn’t the best singer, but a wonderful actor (later I read the playbill and saw absolutely no vocal training in his bio so…). There is a big dance number in this and you see that there are so many people in this cast, Vania, my teacher, told me they were a 54 people cast, but normally they would have to have about a 100. That’s a lot of people, not for opera, but for musical theatre yes it is!

Then comes the part we all hate and wish never happened, Mufasa’s death, the scene is impressive, the music just takes you and you really feel inside that horror. The best part is that they have Simba hanging from the tree branch and Mufasa falling in the middle of the chaos. Then we are left with little Simba and Mufasa’s lifeless body and oh my God here I go again crying like an idiot, by the way my friends followed suit, we cried like, a LOT! Sometimes because of the scene, others because of the majesty of what was being put in front of us, it was quite astounding.  Scar tells Simba it was his fault that Mufasa is dead and that he should run and never return and so he does and meets our favorite characters, Timon and Pumba.

The two really looked like their film versions; Timon was a puppet who was sort of attached to the guy controlling him who was sporting green in his totality, from head to toe, green.  They sing the famous Hakuna Matata and if the lyrics were the original I’m sure the whole audience would have sung along and we end the act.

As are most intermissions for me this one flew by and before we knew it, it was time for the second act. Now I have to tell you, I marveled at the beginning of this second act, out of the blue voices come from the back of the house and when you turn you see about 20 people from the ensemble in the audience singing a capela in gorgeous colorful costumes with those bird stick things I have no idea what name give to them, and oh man, it’s gorgeous. And when they are there in the audience singing right next to you it’s such a wonderful feel, you feel the show really embrace you, there were loads of moments when this would happen and I think that’s marvelous!

But then, Scar has been ruling so they have no water or food because he’s such a lousy king, I don’t need to tell the story, everyone knows it right? He has a quite funny song with first Zazu then Nala when he realizes that in order to become the ultimate king he has to have cubs, then immortality will be his. We are taken to Simba’s retreat with Timon and Pumba where they have been living the life, again amazing sets! Nala is all grown up and goes out into the wild to find food and ends up finding Simba and they sing “CAAAN YOOOU FEEEL THE LOOVE TONIGHT”. The guy playing Simba was really good, super energetic and a nice singer.

But Simba doesn’t want to go back and face what he’s done in the past so he runs and ends up finding Rafiki who tells him his father isn’t dead and he can speak to him. This scene always gets to me in the movie, but the way it’s done in this musical it’s phenomenal. I was in the front row and I didn’t see it coming, Simba was looking at his reflection and suddenly huge Mufasa head appears on stage floating and starts speaking. My mouth just hanged opened in astonishment. Simba decided to return as Scar is mistreating his mother and he shows up and everyone is like “WOW, Mufasa!”and Simba is like “No, it’s me Simba”.

Scar tells everyone Simba killed Mufasa and they have a face off and start fighting and before you know it all the lionesses are fighting the hyenas and Simba Scar. Then we come to that iconic scene where Simba strands Scar in the pride rock peak and makes him confess to being the one who actually killed Mufasa. As Simba lets him go and Scar tries to “stab him in the back” he falls into where the hungry and pissed off hyenas are and there they probably do him over.

Here comes the end when Simba climbs the Pride rock and takes his place as king and there is an enormous amount of dancing and singing and rejoicing. And it ends with the Circle of Life and the presentation of Simba and Nala’s cub. Well, it was quite an evening, and I came to one important conclusion, that was definitely the most beautiful and wonderful, the best really, musical I ever saw, and oh man, have I seen a LOT of musicals.

And here is my wonderful voice teacher taking her bow, she's awesome, needless to say she's a mezzo, like most awesome women :)
So if you have the chance, go watch it, it’s a wonderful evening’s entertainment. Needless to say the audience went wild. Really, wild.  

So I’ll be posting again pretty soon because I want to talk endlessly about the Met’s Giulio Cesare, now I’ve realized that Giulio Cesare might be the opera I most mention and talk about in my posts, funny… Peace everyone! :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Glee Disappointment

These have been pretty busy crazy days. In a couple of hours I’m having a piano lesson and still have to have my sheet music put together in a sort of notebook kind of thing. But I wanna write about something serious, although I already feel like I’m mumbling.
First that, no wonder most young people think opera is lame with fat ladies singing unintelligible words in Italian. I was actually really pissed off (yes that’s the word I want to use, I’m sorry if I’m being impolite) at something I saw this morning. Because as I am a child of musical theatre I have some habits from that other life that are hard to scrub off. And as I watched last week’s episode of the TV series Glee I thought “What the hell am I doing watching this stupid show with a girl talking to her cat? What a waste of time.”. But then there was a shoot gun thing and everything just got really serious and interesting. But, what for? They really screwed the series up for me right in this week’s episode.
A screen cap I took from the episode, the moment she got to her knees
The most irritating and spoiled character in the history of musical theatre TV series, Rachel Berry (Karen Cartwright is neck to neck with her in this one by the way), was auditioning for Funny Girl. And in the audition process they showed another girl auditioning for the same role. A fat, constipated looking girl singing quite horribly the famous “Ebben?... Ne andrò lontana” from Catalani’s La Wally. It was awful, she was completely off, her high notes were screamish and she got down to her knees, really just terrible. The lady auditioning her told her to stop and made snarky comments about her performance.
And that’s what you want to pass on to the thousands of millions of teenagers that watch this show? It’s ok to be yourself, to sing, to be an artist, but God forbid if you want to be an opera singer because that’s what they do. They sing their confusing and dramatic arias in Barbara Streisand musical auditions because they really don’t have a clue.
I felt personally hurt by that, because I’ve watched Glee ever since it began and for me it was such a breath of fresh air to have a series that celebrates people who are different and don’t fit the mold. I once felt like a complete freak in this small town with crazy dreams. That was really outrageous and I stopped watching the episode all together out of disgust. I might be making a fuss over 30 seconds of amazing opera material being ridiculed in national television, but opera is my live and I know for a FACT that it doesn’t go the slightest like that!

I mean it’s been long since big ladies with horns were the rage in opera and I know that writes/producers of Glee know that. So why shoot that incredibly unnecessary bit? To show everyone how pathetic Rachel’s contestants were? To say that it was fabulous for her to sing “Don’t Stop Believing”, a song that has absolutely nothing to do with the style of Funny Girl (the most you could say is that it’s been used in Rock of Ages, but that’s a completely different musical) but it’s unacceptable to sing an aria in an audition?
That’s not reality, I myself know of many musical theatre people who came from opera. My singing teacher herself used to conduct opera in the biggest most important opera house in the country, and now she’s conductor and musical director of the Lion King. Many people in musical theatre have classical training, because it’s the healthiest way to sing there is! So why did they portray a classically trained person so horribly? They owe so much to opera , because I’m pretty sure there would be NO musical theatre without opera. I might be getting too emotional over this but I’m really disappointed.
Plus, they played the ride of Valkyries in a completely idiotic moment when some dumb heads were jumping on a soapy and wet pool in the middle of a college dormitory. But that’s just not even worth commenting, all sorts of vehicles use that song for all sorts of pathetic things.
Well I’m extremely disappointed, and I don’t think I’ll be watching this series ever again, shame. I consider myself to be such an open minded person and I think that was extremely impolite and disrespectful to all the opera community, and specially to the Catalani who had his song trashed, God rest his soul he’s not here to see this. But also to everyone who believes in this wonderful art form and appreciates it with so much passion.
Well done Glee writers, you have just made even bigger the gap between opera and whoever is watching your show. Plus you helped make the whole prejudice from both sides, opera people and musical theatre people even bigger.
Well, that’s it! On a brighter side though, I’m finally getting my apartment so it means I won’t be staying in my cousin’s apartment anymore, therefore won’t have to write my posts in the bathroom. YAY! Have a good one everyone.
One more thing, I kind of really like Angela Gheorghiu now, I saw her as Tosca in that ROH production and she was just so divine, and Jonas Kaufmann, oh don’t get me started on that one because I’ll be finished by next month, I’ll leave it at marvelous. And Bryn Terfel is the best Scarpia EVER! There, shut up Isabela, bye everyone!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cesare Adventure

PS* before I even begin, let me point out that I’m writing this at the sound of Vesselina Kasarova’s
Moscow concert, which is awesome and everyone should watch, it’s on YouTube
I must admit I’ve been postponing writing another post since my “Vesselina Kasarova” adventures were such a tough act of follow. But it’s been more than a week and I’m kind of still under the effects of the concert. Sometimes I start laughing out of joy remembering how she extended her hand to me and how she so magnificently sang. Ok, too much information.
First of all I’d like to say a BIG GIGANT Thank You to everybody who read, commented, sent me messages. And most especially to Rob, SmorgThadieu and The Eyes Have it, , who went the extra mile to recommend my blog in their own blogs, I was extremely touched and very happy you guys enjoyed my writing so much!
Not much has happened this past week in regards to my musical life, no exciting new concerts, or operas (we unfortunately do not get as much of these as we should). But I did do that test I was absolutely terrified of, and believe it or not, it went pretty well. I was petrified as I entered the classroom, so very scared, but I tried to think about the wonderful moments of my past week and I managed to walk in with a warm smile. The teacher was really nice to me, I sang what I had to sing and he told me I had done pretty well. Then I told him I was sorry for the things that had happened between us, and he told me that what’s in the past is in the past and we shouldn’t dwell on that and that, if it depended on him, it was all right between us. I was, I must admit, at first stunned, but then said that I absolutely agreed with him and we ended up having a quite nice chat about the new building.
But back to opera, I’d like to tackle a subject I haven’t talked about before and that I most appreciate that exists. Audio Streams, more specifically the Met’s Live Streams that brighten up a couple of evenings of my week. This past Tuesday we’ve had quite a surprisingly wonderful stream of Giulio Cesare in Egitto. Look, I’m not going to lie, I’m just gonna say it that, in my opinion, it was just so great that Danielle De Niese filled in for Natalie Dessay. Now, some say that she hadn’t rehearsed any of the material of that production in a long time, and yet others say the director had secretly been rehearsing with her just in case something went wrong. Anyway, she did the most amazing job!
Danielle De Niese as Cleopatra
I was actually at the gym when I heard (saw on twitter actually) that Danielle was going in as Cleopatra that day and immediately regretted the class schedule I had prepared for myself that day which would keep me there until 8pm (7pm Eastern Time). The opera started at 6:55 and as I rushed out of my spinning class I desperately tried to get the Met player on my phone. But those guys in my gym are smart, in order for us not to be distracted by our buzzing phones they’ve done something in there and the signal is almost inexistent! So as I showered and changed I tried to listen to the broadcast, without any success, as I left the gym (cursing all involved in the signal shield) my bars went up and I was in, listening just in time to hear Dani sing, Non Disperar, chi sà? Her first aria, there was still hope, but then the obvious happened, since I’m such a lucky person, my phone died.
It was quite obvious that was going to happen, since I spend most of my battery trying to get signal. Well, I had a silent trip home, and as I am crazy, crazy I decided I wanted to only take one bus and one train, instead of having to change trains. So I took the bus to one of the most dangerous places in town, at night, and there I walked, alone. Yes, I’m insane, I’m not doing that again, rest assured, I just really wanted to get home soon! I did have an opera moment then though, a what I call Micaela moment, third act Micaela moment, when she enters the gypsies camp and is scared half to death for her life, that’s exactly what I felt.
David Daniels as Cesare and Danielle De Niese as Cleopatra
Got home and immediately tuned in and the first act had just ended. I was upset, since most of my favorite arias are in the first act. But then we had trivia, a tricky one I could never get: What characters in opera can be played by both men and women? Operas that are less than 150 years old, I must add. Well all my baroque dreams went to the dumps with that 150 years old thing. I had no idea, but my dear friend Melanie Spector did, she’s also known as the queen of trivia, and it was quite funny because when William Berger said the first answer was Melanie’s the presenter, Margareth, said “Why, of course!” and William went on to saying “But wasn’t she watching the Met’s game today?” and I was like, “Holy shot, my friend is famous on the Met Radio!”.
Well, trivia aside, the performance was wonderful, I can attest for the music at least. I was live tweeting with my usual international opera buddies, but to my delight I was also commenting the performance with my new opera bff on facebook in Portuguese. Which is, I think, so good, because there are some things I think about that only are funny and witty when said in Portuguese and I could finally share them with someone who knows what he’s talking about and who is actually also listening.
There was a pretty awesome plus in the whole performance, the fact that one of my favorite mezzo sopranos was singing, Alice Coote. Unfortunately she wasn’t playing Cesare, which I do prefer when is sung by a mezzo instead of a countertenor, she was playing Sesto, but she nailed it.
Alice Coote as Sesto and Patricia Barton as Cornelia
When Da Tempesta was up everyone in their little corner of the world seemed to be doing the Bollywood dance of this production and Danielle sounded so enthusiastic and amazing. And her Piangero La Sorte Mia was heart breaking, I love this aria, it’s one of my favorites of the whole opera! I was so very lucky because my cousin wasn’t home so I could sing along to everything I knew, which was about 60% of the opera so you can imagine it wouldn’t be possible to have my fun with the cousin home.
The opera ended around 1:30 in the morning in my local time and I knew I was doomed the next day, but again, I didn’t care, I somehow had gotten yet another great day at the opera listening to top notch singers, so I was cool. The next day I was a wreck, because I’ve also contracted a flu, but did get a great day of study.
AAAH, and I got today my DON’T SMOKE, SING BAROQUE (OPERA IT’S COOL: YOU CANT HANDEL US) shirt and wore it in college and none of my ‘musician’ friends thought much about it (I say ‘musician’ because you can’t be a real musician and not thing that shirt is FREAKING AWESOME), but what do they know? My cousin liked it!
Gotta go! Peace all!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vesselina Kasarova, no words to describe

Ok, I just arrived home after the most amazing concert of my life! I know what you might be thinking, “Wasn’t it the same as yesterday?”, well, the repertoire might have been the same, but the performance most certainly wasn’t.
Started off my day pretty well, had loads of cool opera lessons, sang some good old Monteverdi repertoire and then I couldn’t resist it. When my teacher asked if I wanted to do anything else, anything at all, I had only one question for her “Do you have a Le Nozze di Figaro score here?”, and I sang the BEST Voi che sapete of my existence! It just travelled right out of my mouth, it was delicious to sing and such joy, and a lot of cheekbones, all thanks to Vesselina.
After quite a stressful day and a stressful getting to the concert hall, there I was Sala São Paulo, alone, as none of my friends had arrived. Thank God for twitter, I bought Vesselina’s Arias cd, I couldn’t resist it! All my friends decided to arrive at the same time, and we chatted enthusiastically about opera.

Then, BAM, big moment, I went to my fabulous center front row seat and the excitement just kept building up! The Camerata came in and played the modern piece just as well as yesterday. They are such an amazing group, and it’s fascinating to see so up close how orchestra players do their craft.
But there is no way to outshine the sun, again, when Vesselina walked in it was as if the whole orchestra disappeared and it was just her! And just as she arrived on her space to sing, she spotted me and mouthed a “Hi!” blinking her eyes in acknowledgment and my person almost died. She did the same for Otávio, and I can say for the both of us that we were in the clouds and she hadn’t even started singing yet. It wasn’t long until we reached the stars when she rocked the Mozart out of us. And yet again those penetrating eyes looked at me at “Voi che sapete che cosa è amor”, but this time it was the opening phrase. And since she already knew who I was her looks towards me changed from ‘I’m looking at the nice girl who’s smiling’ to ‘I’m looking at that girl who came yesterday and was such a sweetie’ or something like that. The thing is most of the times she’d look at me I felt a sort of connection, because she’d look differently, like happily, like ‘Yay, you are here again and I’m glad you are enjoying yourself!

First part of the concert, singing Mozart repertoire, photo by Jaqueline Vilela
I might be totally wrong, but you can say I was under the influence of that magnificent voice and I was seeing things and she was just being nice. In her Sesto arias I didn’t feel like I was breathing, I nearly cried at Parto, Parto remembering the first time I’d ever seen her and said “Wow, this one is GOOD!” . I don’t want to sound repetitive but I must point out again that her interpretations were marvelous! Even though she was wearing a dress you could see Cherubino, young, yearning for what people call love, excited about something he does not truly comprehend, in her eyes, in her movements, in her face, everything. So I couldn’t help but smile, because Cherubino makes me smile, he’s a lovely character and she WAS Cherubino.
Same with Sesto, that’s probably another reason why I almost cried watching her sing Parto, Parto, because it is such a love devoted song, but it’s also a sad song. Her GUARDAMEs were poignant and heart breaking, you could almost see Vitelia there as Vesselina looked with such conviction towards where she’d be.

Non so piu cosa son, caso faccio! Photo by Jaqueline Vilela
One thing that was quite interesting about her in general is that she was wearing rather simple dresses, but she looked like a Goddess. And not because of makeup and hair, those were simple too, but because she glowed! The light that came from within her made her look divine, her joy in singing and her happiness of being able to sing here for a new audience. You could just feel that.
Parto, parto! Photo by Jaqueline Vilela
Well intermission time and all friends come to talk and I’m totally basking at the fact she said “Hi” to me. But something quite annoying happened during intermission, I know we’re all entitled to our opinions, but I don’t think its fit to trash someone’s performance while you are still in it loud and clear for the world to hear. That’s what I heard some girls do and a sentence that had my ears burning was “Well, as singers, we are very disappointed at her performance”. I’m sorry guys if I’m going out of line here but, WHAT? These people were my age. I always say, you are going to say someone sucks you’d better be able to do better than that person; otherwise you’re just bitchy and jealous. There I’ve said it. Sorry if I was rude.
Intermission was over and here she comes again and off we go to the Rossini fireworks. It always gets to me how she can move so much, in all sorts of directions and in so many ways and still keep her voice just right. Plus doing amazing and intelligent dynamics, they were not what you’d normally hear, she’s made them her own, but they still express what they need to express, which I think is the perfect combination for a memorable performance.
And her choice of movement at first might seem strange, but when you come to think of it, all the roles she sang, but Rosina, were pants roles. She’s playing guys, she has to have a different posture if she wants to be true to the character and articulate what the story is telling us. And it still amazes me how she can rock those pants roles arias in a dress. That’s just the thing, some people get so carried away by their clothes, makeup and hair that the clothes normally wear them. It’s the complete opposite with Vesselina, the dresses were pretty, but she was wearing them, she owned them, not the other way round. Her first dress had the sides opened so when she’d walk we could see almost her whole leg. And I’m just gonna say it, she looked hot in that dress, but it was clearly just one little element, because it took me a while to notice her legs.

But away from her legs and back to the performance, it was unbelievable. I’m sensing that this post is getting too personal and I’m afraid to screw things up by being honest, but I’m just going to say what I felt.
The introduction of the first Tancredi aria was quite long, and she looked a bit nervous. She smiled warmly at everyone but somehow I could tell something was off. So I started sending her all the good vibes I could possibly give, thinking of really giving her all the protection she would need. Before I knew it I was asking to God to protect her and make sure she’d have a good time and feel good while singing to us. She sang the aria near to perfection and when she came to bow after the aria she made the cross sign and I really didn’t know what to think. It did help though, I guess. Please don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t want to convert anyone, I’m just saying what happened. Again I could be totally wrong, this is just how I see it.
When her last aria in the program started first I felt like laughing my behind off because there was someone coughing real hard somewhere in the audience and she just looked out for the person and asked the conductor to wait for the person to stop. Me and my friends were laughing at lot at this and she was quite amused, but most of the audience was quiet. And then I felt like crying, I really didn’t want it to end. It was really so bittersweet and one of those moments in which you try to take in as much as you can. The aria ended and almost immediately I was on my feet screaming like crazy BRAVA, BRAVA! I’m gonna tell you my hands never hurt so much because of clapping, but it was worth it, because she was back for that great encore. She looked at me and Otavio quite often during those bows mouthing thank yous.

Second half with amazing Rossini repertoire, photo by Jaqueline Vilela
Encore, encore and since I knew she was only doing one I really had fun with this, especially because, as I’ve said before, she was singing Una Voce Poco Fa. Fun fact, before she actually began the encore she pointed out to some people leaving the hall and looked puzzled at the conductor, making the people leaving extremely uncomfortable. She had the most adorable puzzled look on her face and I just said loud "Ah, o azar é deles!" (which translates to “Ah, it’s their loss”) and then she shrugged her shoulders and PARAM PARAM (that’s the written version of the beginning of the aria). The aria was fun, it was delicious to watch as she literally played with the Rossini lines, and made her fantastic ornamentation together with stellar and funny acting. I couldn’t tear the smile out of my face, again you can feel that she feels such immense joy and fulfillment in doing this, it just comes over in the voice and in the eyes.

Let me talk a bit about the eyes, they are just the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen! I had already noticed she knew how to act so well with her eyes in Carmen when she’d look at José before she seduces him to set her free. Those eyes, wow, just wow!

Me and my opera girlfriends before the concert
And then, the best moment of my ENTIRE LIFE happened. She was bowing, thanking everyone so very much and me and Otavio screaming like good fanboys/fangirls do. Out of the blue she comes to the edge of the stage, lowers down, extends her hand to me, I take her hand hardly believing this is actually happening, and she says like “Thank you so very much for being here” (I don't really remember the exact words, I was too excited), then she lets go, does the same thing with Otavio and we both DIE! I mean, what? I just turned to my friend and said “Did that just really happen? Did I die and go to heaven or something?”.
She did another encore, she sang the final bit of one of the Rossini arias she had done, and the crowd was insane for her. We clapped as if there was no tomorrow, and I myself clapped hoping she’d never stop encoring (does that verb even exist?). After it was over some people came to talk to us because she had reached out for us and been so very amazing. It was really one of the most incredible moments of my entire life!
We got in line to talk to her again, but we were the last ones and since she’s a fantastic human being and wants to chat with everyone, when our turn came we could only exchange a few words, and I kept saying “You are so marvelous, you were terrific, I loved it” damn, I wanted to tell her how much her Master Class had helped me, how much I loved her interpretation of Sesto, how extremely touched and honored I was that she reached out to me, of all people, to thank during the concert. But there was no time, I got my cds signed, she held my hands and said something like “Thank you so much for this” (I don't remember the exact words she used, I was in a state of complete bliss), and then she had to go. But as we were in the parking lot we spotted her and she waved at us quite enthusiastically.
What I came to conclude is the following, do what you love and you will have all the love in the world to give, be generous, help people, give people a shot, and listen to opera because it’s awesome!

Ps; I’m writing this FOUR page post sitting on the floor of the bathroom of my cousin’s apartment, I normally write outside in the balcony when he’s asleep, but it’s kinda chilly out there today, and oh man, it’s 3:50 in the morning, I’m so doomed tomorrow!
Peace peeps!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Vesselina Kasarova, the sweetest opera singer ever!

Ok, this is by far, hands down, THE BEST EFFING DAY OF MY LIFE! Oh Lord, where do I begin? I was actually having a pretty awful day, with a test I was terrified of being cancelled and having to take the elevator with a teacher who detests me (who was giving the test by the way). But it all seems like a long lost memory now.

Vesselina Kasarova and me backstage after the performance
I got in the concert hall about 3 hours before the performance, changed in the ladies room, and let me tell you, that is hard to do when you’ve put on some weight and the skirts isn’t closing so easily. I basically spend most of my time reading and when the house opened I went to the store and got one of Vesselina’s cds, the Rossini Arias and Duets one with Juan Diego Florez. The lady of the store took a liking to me after we chatted about Jonas Kaufmann’s awesomeness and she told there was going to be a pre performance thing, where a specialist talked about the repertoire. I went up stairs and watched a rather nice talk about the composers and arias. It ended at 8:45 and performance started at 9, so I rushed downstairs and got to my FABULOUS front row center seat and then I met my opera BFF.

His name is Otavio and he the man version of moi, we talked about everything time allowed us to talk about. From Massenet to Rossini and all the good things in life. I was so excited, I made a great opera bff who actually speaks my language and can go to these things with me! But enough of that, let’s get down to business.

Enters on stage the strings section of the Camerata Berg and majestically play Fabian Müller’s Maden, Motten und Muotathal. It is a group made by soloists, and that becomes so clear, they ARE the music, they breathe together but have absolutely unique and wonderful individual interpretations. I must sing my praise to the spala who was terrific, Florian Donderer.
Then enters the queen, yes, queen, because she has such a strong presence and demands all eyes on her. You know the orchestra was extraordinary but when Vesselina walked on stage I couldn’t tear my eyes off of her! And then she starts destroying my heart singing Cherubino, first Non So Piu Cosa Son Cosa Faccio. Reason number one I love sitting in the front row, you are so close to the singer, so close, you can see and hear everything, and I love that. Reason number two, the performer can actually see you, and she did see me and Otavio alright, we were looking at her smiling like too idiots and then she did it, she smiled back and I nearly died. The best thing about it was that she kept looking at us quite often, she sang Voi che sapette, and I nearly broke down. When she goes back to “Voi che sapette, che cosa è amor” she did it looking right at us, it was INSANE. All the Mozart feelings I was freaking out, happiness emanated from every pore in my body! And her voice, oh God, what a voice, so powerful, so strong and yet she is a master in dynamic, what she does with her voice and the interpretations were truly inspiring. Plus her dress was GORGEOUS!
Then the Camerata played the opening of Haydn’s opera “L’Isola Desabitata”, it was fantastic, but I must admit I was trying to recover from what Vesselina had just done. Then she came back and broke me to pieces again this time with another Mozart favorite of mine, Sesto. She started off with Parto, ma tu ben mio which is hands down my favorite aria from the whole opera. And she kept looking at us, and it was so cool, sometimes I’d feel she was singing just for us two! I smiled at her when she did those flawless coloraturas and she smiled back, it was really just like a dream come true! Then she sang “Deh, per questo instante solo” and I was gone, it was magnificent. I already had elected her the best Sesto ever in my opinion, but now it is so much more than official. Just MAGNIFICENT, and the looking at us, I had just met Otavio and I was squeezing his leg with excitement. Then comes intermission and I can hardly speak! I didn’t even move from my precious little best seat in da house! Intermission flew with one of the most sincere and awesome conversations I’ve ever had.
My actual distance from the stage, that was my view, SO CLOSE!
Then she comes back to rock some Rossini into our hearts, and oh she does, first with Tancredi the opera that literally launched her in the international opera business. I can’t even explain what that was, it was so incredible, maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to describe it more accurately. But it was something out of this world, her whole body sang, and oh yes, she was still looking at us. I’d love it when she’d sing whole phrases looking at me, or an awesome coloratura bit fixating those penetrating eyes in my dumb face. Because, yes, I looked like an idiot, I had to keep reminding myself to close my mouth. Just so much dynamic and those effortless high notes that seemed impossible since she was singing low notes and then BAM! She’d rock those high notes as if it was the easiest thing in the world.

Then the Camerata played Mozart’s 40th Symphony, oh I love that symphony, one of my favorites. That’s when I thought my friends from college should totally be here, these people are masters of their art, each and every one of them. Something quite unpleasant happened during that though, a mobile phone started ringing. The conductor immediately stopped and kinda danced to the rhythm of it until the person turned it off. I found that quite funny, but the audience in general didn’t.

Then she came back for her last aria, ah, so sad! Again Rossini, this time from the opera Semiramide, “Ah quel giorno ognor rammento”. I was also taken to another dimension when she sang this one, I remember she kept also looking at us, and smiling. At one point she actually spit quite a lot and made an apology face with that sweet, sweet smile of hers to us and I was like “Spit all you want, I love you!”. Again flawless effortless coloraturas, inspiring crescendos and pianos, pianissimos! She is like a super hero of the voice, she can do anything she wants, and the interpretation told a story and I never wanted to leave.

People, she was so close, it’s like, really, really close, like imagine you are sitting in the movie theatre, my distance to hers when she came near the edge of the stage would be the distance between the rows in the movie theatre. You could feel the music emanating (I like this word a lot) from her, and she was completely given to give us her best.

Encore time, we cheered like crazy Backstreet Boys fans and she came back! And what was the encore? UNA FREAKING VOCE POCO FA, just my all time favorite Rossini aria EVER. When the music started you could feel the audience go, “Ah yes!” and I let out a quite out “YES!”. I can’t begin to describe this woman’s ability with coloratura and ornamentation; she totally made it her own, with her unique “MA” and her witty interpretation of the amazing Rosina. Then we obviously wanted more, but then after taking some bows the orchestra quickly left and so did Vesselina.

So Otávio was smart and got in touch with her management before hand, therefore he got us a backstage pass. After waiting a bit there she was, again only a few feet away from me! I was freaking out, and she was being so cool to everyone, hugging and talking, truly amazing! After a few minutes me and my friend were up to talk to her, Otavio made a BIG love declaration and she nearly cried, it was a very emotional moment, I myself was almost crying at her crying. She took her time to talk to us about the concert, about the repertoire, it was almost as if I was talking to a friend, she was so open and friendly, it was truly a blessed evening indeed! Then I talked to her, the girl before me (a singer also) said to her “Oh you are such an inspiration to me” and I was like "Holy crap, I was gonna say that!" And that was exactly my opening line to her "You know I was going to tell you you are such a great inspiration to me as a singer but then that girl before me just did it and ruined my line!", she laughed, I make opera singers laugh, that’s my thing! I told her I adored her and worshiped her performance tonight and that every time she’d look at me during the performance I felt immense joy. She was touched and so very grateful that we went to talk to her. I got my pictures and I’m VERY happy now.
Vesselina and my new bff Otavio, she was so touched it was truly amazing!
I came back home giggling like an idiot, but I don’t care because Vesselina Kasarova just totally rocked my world and I feel like a million bucks! There will be another post on this concert since I’m watching the concert again tomorrow.

Peace people, live, love, laugh and listen to opera!