Friday, June 28, 2013

Big Opera Wins

Although we are still going through a lot of manifestations all over Brazil I think I should take a break on the subject here. Anyways I’m not up to speed to what’s actually going on right now because I had a pretty busy weekend, only that on Wednesday they did lower the prices on public transportation here in São Paulo and at Rio but the protests didn’t stop.
First I’d just like to announce that the picture me and ma sista took for Joyce and Me was selected as a finalist! YES! Oh Gods and here comes how I found out. I was on my way to my singing lesson and my teacher’s 14 year old cat had died just the day before so I bought her some flowers. And as I boarded the subway my opera bff called me FREAKING OUT and I just knew it, I just knew that it had happened, that she had chosen my picture. I was so happy and he was also hysterical over the phone and I started crying out of sheer happiness and the people on the subway stared, A LOT. It was quite a sight to see, me holding flowers in one hand and the phone on another with my sunglasses but it was perceptible that I was crying and making the strangest sounds, well that’s me in a nutshell!

Well I was also very happy because Joyce selected pictures from many a number of my twitter friends, so we’ll all be in REJOYCE togetha! Awesome! And as I promised a couple of weeks ago, here is the picture me and Dani took for Joyce. We were going for the Cenerentola/Cendrillon thing.
But now I don’t know what’s going to happen, I mean there are 45 finalists and I’m guessing not all can be in the CD. And Joyce doesn’t say anything, it’s been a week already and I don’t know and I’m nervous!
I had a sort of spending spree madness this week. Everything just looked so cheap to me and I had to buy it. I spend about R$200,00 which would be like a little less than $100,00. But I bought TWO dictionaries, TWO books and THREE cds.
Well, turns out, that some major CD/DVD/Book stores here in Brazil are just like Macy’s after all! If you look superficially everything seems expensive, but when you dig a little deeper, and that might take a few hours, you find a mine of gold. That’s what happened last Sunday to me, I actually went to this Mega Store to buy the sequel to “The Devil Wears Prada” book, “Revenge Wears Prada” and was very disappointed to learn that the book wasn’t in any of their stores yet.
Then I went to the music books section with my expectations hitting the layers of the earth and at first I wasn’t surprised that their so called “music books” consisted mainly of rock stars biographies. But to find the good stuff you have to quite literally get to your knees, and that’s what I did and ended up finding The Eyewitness Opera Guide, which I already have. But then I found a series of books by a Brazilian author called Lauro Machado Coelho (who I just learned is a very good friend of my singing teacher) and each book tacked one type of opera by country, sometimes composer, sometimes period in history! So before I knew it I had Italian Romantic Opera and Italian Baroque Opera in my grasp, but then I found The Operas by Richard Strauss on sale and let everything go.

Then I went to the CDs floor, the so called “Classics” section was filled with Andrea Bocceli, Sarah Brightman, Katherine Jenkins, Il Volo and all that sort of “classical music”, but again I diged and found DIVA DIVO! YAY! For R$30,00 (that would be like $15, Amazon price, hello?) And since I already have it I got it for my best friend as a birthday gift. I also found Anna Netrebko’s Live at the Metropolitan Opera cd for R$9,99! (that’s like $5!) plus her Pergolesi Stabat Mater with Marianna Pizzolato and Tony Pappano!

AND I convinced my good friend Caio (he went with me to watch the Live in HD of Rigoletto) to buy The Art of Renée Fleming. And I went to his place for dinner just last night and he told me he absolutely loved it and we listened to it all night long!
I was very happy with my purchases, apart from the fact that I didn’t get what I went there for in the first place. So today I went to another book store, even bigger, HUGE bookstore, I love this book store. It’s called Livraria Cultura and they have the most impressive books in English department. It’s really big and they have all sorts of books all in English, they didn’t have “The Devil Wears Prada” though, but they did have “Revenge Wears Prada”. But then again, you gotta dig in there to find affordable prices; most of the things I wanted were abusively expensive.

Well then I made a big mistake, I let myself be led to the music department and there I found just what I was looking for: Offenbach’s La Belle Helene the Zurich production with Vesselina Kasarova and Handel’s Alcina the Vienna production with Anja Harteros and Vesselina Kasarova, they were so ridiculously expensive that I don’t even have the courage to post the prices here, but I was very disappointed. But then the language department was having a sale and what do we opera singers wannabes need more than anything in the world? DICTIONARIES! I already have a fantastic dictionary for German but lacked my Italian and French, problem solved, got two from Oxford that I trust is an excellent publisher.  

Lighting Management
On other news, I’m performing much these past couple of weeks but I’ve been in the theatre a LOT. I’m helping my friends in my hometown theatre group by operating the lightings for their fantastic new and completely original play called “The Box”. It’s your typical ridiculous comedy but with very smart humor, I mean by that that we have Harry Potter jokes. It’s a lot of fun, I’m actually quite happy to be working not on stage because if I was on stage I would probably crack up all the time because they keep on making up dialogues and they just get funnier and funnier.
Ah well, I guess that’s it! I’ve been watching a lot of Poirot lately too, you gotta love Agatha Christie. Cheers everyone!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Still on the Subject of Protest

Oh boy, yesterday was quite a day! But let me start from the beginning, on Monday evening there was a new protest that, if I’m not mistaken, gathered more than 70.000 people, my bad for believing the media, they say there were 70.000 but I recently found out there were ONE MILLION PLEOPLE here in São Paulo. My parents had strictly forbidden me and my sister to go to these things because it was dangerous and bla bla bla, and I must admit I was kind of scared of getting shot (who isn’t, right?). But as I accompanied the news of that protest and of the other 40 protests that happened at the same time all over Brazil in 11 states, my legs started hurting. I knew right away why, because I wanted to be there, for me it wasn’t enough just sharing videos and images on Facebook and twitter.

Protests on Monday
The protests on Monday were quite marvelous, I’ll talk about the four I know best, but I won’t extend myself on this.

In Brasilia, our capital city which was in its whole completely designed by the great architect Oscar Niemeyer, thousands of people marched towards the National Congress, one of Niemeyer’s beautiful works of art. There they actually kind of broke into the exterior part of the building and hundreds of protesters climbed the roof. Mind you, they DID NOT use violence; all of these protests are PEACEFUL! It was really a sight to see, the people shouting for justice and better life conditions as one. It brought tears to my eyes, here are some pictures.

In Rio de Janeiro around one million protesters closed the Primeiro de Março Street, which is one of the city’s most important streets and in it they marched towards the Candelária Church. The police officers were nearby but didn’t attack, but I hear that at the end of the evening there was some confrontation between the police and a few protesters. Check out the amazing pictures:


In São Paulo another million people met at the Largo da Batata in Pinheiros and marched towards the famous Paulista Avenue. Also there was no confrontation with the police and the movement was peaceful and legit. I had many friends who were there that will attest to that, no violence, just the smell of change and determination in the air.


And finally in my home town that is not even comparable with the above in size but also has people who are willing to go out on the streets to fight for their rights. Another peaceful protest, they took over the beach avenue that is the most important avenue in the city and finished their march at the seaport where the ferries are. My wicked little sister, against our parents orders went to the manifestation, first I thought “That little bitch!” but then I thought “You damned coward!”.

My experience at the protest on Tuesday
And so I decided to go and see for myself what these protests are really about. So yesterday I went to college in my normal routine, studied all afternoon long and then decided I was going to go there. I walked to the Sé Square where the protesters were meeting, all by myself, I must admit I was very scared mainly because I was alone. On my way I saw helicopters covering the area and as I approached that GORGEOUS cathedral I started hearing the sound of the revolution.
Ok, I’ve NEVER seen so many people in my whole existence! It was literally a sea of people I couldn’t actually believe my eyes. And I mean, I’ve been to New York, London, I live in São Paulo, I’ve already been on a train here at 6:00pm, I’ve seen a lot, but nothing like this. I climbed the stairs of the church to get a better view of the gathering and took some pictures. It was amazing, the only other time I had seen so many people wearing our country's colors and making so much noise was when there was a football match. But even the football matches enthusiasm couldn’t remotely compare to what I saw, it was like game day 100 times more people and belief.

my view from up the stairs of the Se Cathedral

The best moment for me, the most magical actually, was when the cathedral bells started ringing and the people started shouting as one the national anthem. It really brought tears to my eyes, everybody with their hands over their hearts singing, it was really wonderful!

I couldn't help but also take a picture of this beautiful master piece we have in São Paulo

What I found most refreshing was that it was a very peaceful thing, yes, people were screaming and jumping, but no violence whatsoever. Signs were being held up addressing to the most various problems, from the initial bus fare issue to the new “Gay Cure” law that’s about to be approved. From people asking for the immediate arrest of the politicians who for so many years have stolen our tax money to others saying they couldn’t give a flying *uck about the World Cup, what we need is quality of life. From signs that read “The Alkimin Dead” (it’s the name of our governor) to others saying “Goku is with us in this fight” .
I loved this guy's enthusiasm, his sign reads "Fuck the World Cup" 
Another wonderful thing is that I saw of all sorts people in this manifestation, not only young college students, but parents with their children on their shoulders, old ladies with their smart phones taking pictures of everything, people who had just come from work in suit, tie and smart clothes, EVEN SPIDERMAN WAS THERE FOR CHRIST SAKES!
I stayed there from 6:00pm ‘till 7:20pm when they started leaving the square to march up the Brigadeiro Avenue to get to the Paulista Avenue. I swear to God, I stood there watching as the people left the square for 10 solid minutes and the people just kept on showing up. When I finally left there were more people still marching by the place where I was standing in awe for the number of people.

One thing that made me REALLY pissed was the fact that the Sé Subway simply closed its doors, so I had to walk to another subway station to get home. I found it outrageous because there was absolutely no trouble going on there, it was a peaceful movement. Plus I’m pretty sure they don’t close their doors when those retarded football players come to “parade” with their meaningless trophies around the city.

Fun facts about Brazilian Politics
Did you know that our distinguished president is threatening to cut off the internet here in Brazil if the protests go on?

Did you know that the Senate is voting this week on a bill called PEC37 that will let them steal even more of our tax money and get out of a hard situation in a blink of an eye?
Did you know the police had infiltrated people at the protests who vandalized public property to pin it on the protesters? If you saw a crazy human being with a gas mask throwing everything he could find at the door of the City Hall of São Paulo last night, yes, he was a police agent ordered to do so.

Did you know we have a homophobic Senator who is putting through Senate a bill for the “Gay Cure”?
Did you know that the government has spent 1.5 billion reais in building ONE football stadium alone in Brasilia?

Did you know our president spend almost R$400.000,00 of public money alone in a trip she made to Rome in order to meet the Pope?
Did you know the government has already penalized Facebook because it’s where the protests are being organized and has ordered for them to go off the air for an entire day in Brazil?

Did you know that while the government spends billions investing the World Cup and Olympics there are people dying in public hospitals that can be compared to garbage cans?
Did you know that we have projects that give money to poor people for having loads of children? As a result of that there are people who purposely have about 10 children and don’t work at all since they receive an amount of money per child.

Did you know these projects also apply to people who are in prison and that they sometimes surpass the minimum wage that is around R$600,00 per month.
Did you know that the Brazilian army went to Haiti in 2004 to help for 6 months and are still there? This project was to cost us 150 million reais and now is around 2 billion reais.

Did you know that in 2007 the Pan American Games were to cost less than 400 million reais and in the end the check was at 4 billion reais?
Did you know that in Salvador it’s been more than 10 years that the subway is under construction and would cost 300 million reais, now it’s on 600 million reais and still no subway.

Did you know the costs for the World Cup just recently have gone up 1 billion reais?
And finally, did you know there’s a new bill that wants to forbid abortion in case of rape and instead give money to the victim so she can raise the raper’s child?

The reality of Opera in Brazil
Did you know that the two only opera houses here in São Paulo (the most important urban center in the country who recently received Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato and Vesselina Kasarova) are run by the government? The Theatro Municipal (the largest) is run by the city of São Paulo and the Theatro São Pedro is run by the state and the mayor and the governor are from rival parties. So you know what they do to see who wins the people over? They schedule operas for the SAME DATES! In their ENTIRE opera season the Theatro Municipal has 5 productions and so does the Theatro São Pedro and they most curiously picked the very same dates for their recits, out of 365 freaking days of the year!

The government ALWAYS over prices any sort of project it does. So you can imagine the opera is no different. We were actually going through a marvelous time about two years ago, the Theatro São Pedro was hiring young singers for the opera chorus and many of my colleges and friends had a job in opera thanks to that. They did Carmen, Romeo et Juliette, Il Guarani, L’Elisir D’Amore and other operas and it was a real marvelous season. But then it was discovered that the Politian in charge was over pricing the productions and getting the money for himself while others were getting wages that could only be described as “they REALLY LOVE WHAT THEY DO”. The theatre was closed for about 6 months and after that there were no operas with chorus and the productions really decreased in quality.
The Theatro Municipal was closed for 8 YEARS for renovations that were also overpriced.   

The Turn of the Screw
And since we are at the opera subject here, yesterday I watched one (yes, right after the protest). It’s called The Turn of the Screw by the composer Benjamin Britten and I must say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it. It was in English so I expected PERFECT pronunciation and that I did not get and the fact that I had to look at the subtitles because I couldn’t understand what they said annoyed me enormously (and I don’t mean to sound arrogant but I KNOW that my listening skills are not the problem). On the bright side the scenery was beautiful! Although, since it’s a ghost story, they had the opportunity to give the public several frights and they didn’t (again don’t get me wrong but one of best plays I’ve ever watched was Woman in Black, I totally pissed my pants with fear and screamed, IT WAS AMAZING!).

the view from my seat
I really liked the mezzo soprano who was playing Miss Jessel, Luciana Bueno,  I already knew she was good, I saw her as Carmen a couple of years ago and she was just marvelous. Same here, creepy and wonderful ghost she was, I found that that was the coolest role in the opera. Kudos also to the soprano playing Mrs. Grose, Celine Imbert , she had a big big voice which I love, and a lot of stage presence. The kids were lovely and the little boy in particular was very weird (which is good for the story), sort of like a creepy child. The Governess character annoyed me enormously and up until the end I did not like her she was so dramatic and helpless. The music is tonal but different, I really liked it, specally when there were musical themes to each character in each scene, so that was pretty awesome. I particularly liked the theme for Miss Jessel in the bedroom scene she has with the Governess.
Plus I didn’t read the program whatsoever before watching it, I always do this because I want the opera to tell me story, knowing what’s to happen is so irritating. But I didn’t understand some things of the story, specially why it’s called The Turn of the Screw, any ideas?
Well that was it basically, oh and not forgetting my dear ex boyfriend got me a free ticket for this opera! PEACE EVERYONE, ALWAYS AND #CHANGEBRAZIL  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What is really happening in Brazil?

Well, I feel it my duty since I have a vehicle such as this blog to communicate with people from all over the world that I should try and inform them what is REALLY happening around here in Brazil. To sum things up, the population has finally awaken from a slumber of complete desregard and ignorance and is finally doing something about it.
Because even though the government tries to put across to the world that this is a wonderful country full of opportunities to thrive and succeed, the awful truth is that it REALLY isn’t. It is very clear that the government is solemnly dedicated to keeping the people in this country as ignorant as ignorant can get. Because the truth is that they STEAL so much money that any person with a bit self awareness can see that there’s something wrong with our taxes. We pay taxes for almost absolutely EVERYTHING and surprisingly, unlike in other countries, we don’t see the money we pay being invested in the well being of the population. 
While the government invests massively in the World Cup and Olympics projects there are people DYING in EVERY state because of insufficient hospital structure. And I’m not talking about supplies, gloves and medicine, that too, but I’m talking about BEDS, there are no places for the sick to be treated in. They have to make do in the reception, emergency cases are treated with total lack of regard and people who are sick and go to the hospital for help sometimes quite literally DIE WAITING. Plus doctors are over worked and under payed, sometimes the emergency room of a hospital has only ONE doctor available, yes, ONE, with ambulances arriving by the second. And this is happening ALL over this gigantic country we call Brasil.
Education has really gone to the dogs. Teachers are told to approve everyone regardless of their performance, which results in people applying to go to university who CAN’T READ OR WRITE. YES! They want to show statistics, so they tell us, for instance, that 87% of the youngsters in Brasil are graduating High School and that 70% of them are getting into college. BUT these people graduating might as well have done absolutely NOTHING! Youngsters are not encouraged to study or read or to do any sort of activity that requires a bit more intellect usage. People in the US are outraged (quite rightly I must say) because the founding for the Arts in public schools is being diminished. Guys, THERE IS NO ‘ARTS IN SCHOOLS’ HERE, REALLY THERE ISN’T. I studied in a good private school and we did not have what you guys call extra credit in Arts, if you want to learn how to dance you have to go to a school of dancing, same with music and languages. I only got in touch with Art in the first place because I danced ballet ever since I was a little girl in a ballet school and because the language school I went to (unlike ANY OTHER SCHOOL IN THIS ENTIRE COUNTRY, at least that I know of) has the arts and culture as one of its founding pillars.
Now I ask you, is a country with this kind of deficiency in BASIC HEALTH and EDUCATION really apt to host this kind of event? Instead of investing in health and education the government prefers to invest in entertainment, it works like Panis et Circensis from ancient Rome, to distract the ever growing ignorant population and send out to the world the message that Brazil is awesome!
This is why the people have had enough of being made complete fools of, the fact that public transportation prices were raised 10% was the last drop. People are finally doing something about it and protesting in various cities all over Brazil every day. Tomorrow there’s going to be a big protest in São Paulo, where I live, that in its Facebook event page has almost 200.000 people who have confirmed that they will be there. And so, after having painted the picture of what it is to live in Brazil, I’ll talk about the protests.
The protests intention is to make some noise and make people listen, that’s why they stop traffic in the most agitated and important parts of town. Its objectives are NEVER to be violent, the REAL protesters do not use violence, yes, there are people who go to these things to solemnly destroy things and be violent. But these people do not represent us, they are simply idiots.
Plus, the action taken by the police in these protests has disgusted me enormously. They are quite literally attacking the protesters even as they all shout out in unison “NO VIOLENCE”. They throw bombs with hurtful gas in the big agglomerations of people, there was actually a case that they missed their target and the bomb hit a car’s window and entered the car where there were two people. The protesters noticed the people from inside the car didn’t get out as the gas spread itself inside so they smashed the windows and took the two passengers out themselves, since the police (who is there to protect us, hun?) was too busy beating up 20 year old female protesters 4 to 1. This sounds ludicrous, right? But I swear I’m not making this up, it happened just last week in the city where I live!
The police are also shooting rubber bullets as if they were playing video games. I’m totally against the use of these weapons, but I know that there are rules to using this weapon in public to “keep the order”. They must shoot from waist down, preferably at the feet, but as you might know that is not what’s happening. Protesters have affirmed that the policeman are aiming for the faces, if you don’t trust their word just look at the picture of the reporter who was hit in the eye by one of these bullets. They are also aiming peppers spray directly in people’s faces, specially their eyes.

Police violence is not exclusive for the protesters, people who work/live/are passing by the places near the protests are being treated like scum. And policeman are also throwing their “toys” and shooting at the press, professionals that even near real war zone locations are never the target.

Well I’m not going to say that’s basically it because there’s a lot more happening. I ask you guys to watch the video above, this guy explains the political situation that we live in that made us stand up and fight much better than me. Please share the video, share the post, post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, whatever, let’s let the whole world know what’s REALLY HAPPENING AROUND HERE IN BRAZIL. And as I always say at the end of my posts, PEACE! ALWAYS!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

All Mixed Up :D

Performance Butterflies
I don’t even have to say that this was yet again a very stressful week. I had all my singing tests this past week and I’m happy to say I did well in all of them. First my Chamber Music one in which I sang Faure’s Cinq Melodies de Venice song Cycle, it’s quite lovely although there are some songs that my voice doesn’t shine as others, because it’s a mezzo cycle, but anyways, it’s gorgeous.  I actually started making my new Chamber Music repertoire with more sopranoish stuff, it only has two songs Shubert’s Die Männer sind méchant and Fauré’s Après Une Rêve.
Well a couple of hours after my Chamber Music test I had my singing test in which I sang both Cherubino’s arias (choice that was utterly inspired by Vesselina Kasarova’s concert). I was kind of pissed off in this one, because the pianist screwed it up BIG time, she probably played everything wrong. I started off with Non So Piu Cosa Son, Cosa Faccio and as she began to play it was so wrong I asked her to stop (there was an audience by the way, it was recitalish kind of test) and start over after giving her the right tempo. No use, she stumbled her way through the aria, made NONE of the dynamics plus continued playing while I was singing the cadenza. Yeah, it was awful, but I just continued to sing, my voice didn’t sound as good as I hoped.

I made this little fun montage with Renée Fleming as Ariadne (I know this is the Strauss one and I did the Monteverdi one), then a pretty picture of Venice to represent the Faure song cycle I did and finally the one and only Jdiddy as Cherubino at the Met

Then Saturday and Sunday I sang the Monteverdi repertoire for the Opera Studio subject, it was also a concert. It was rather fun, we sang the Ariadne Laments, I was singing the second soprano, which I hate because 1- it’s written in a tessitura that is in no way flattering to my voice  2- I DESTEST singing in thirds, especially if I sing the lowest part (I mean, I don’t mind doing a bit of Cosi and Nozze di Figaro thirds). But second act I was the only girl soloist, YAY, we did Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and I was Clorinda. I was very nervous, but I found my singing acceptable (I’m very strict with myself, acceptable is the highest praise I give myself). But I did get flowers and a standing ovation at the end and TOTALLY felt like Gheorghiu/Fleming hahaha
But I must confess that what I felt while I was singing, especially as Clorinda, was utter bliss. Of course there was that nervousness, but there were moments in which I forgot I was singing and I felt I was soaring, magical really. I was only able to ‘soar’ because I had rehearsed and studied that A LOT and felt protected and being taken care of by the conductor, orchestra and colleges. One of my bestest friends in college was playing the second violin and he said he got chills at certain parts when I sang, while he was playing, I think this was the best compliment I ever got.
And Dessay Dropped the Bomb
I think I’m going to babble about several things/news I heard this week then, I don’t have a particular topic in mind. First then, the freshest, Natalie Dessay is quitting opera. WHAT? Yeah, that was my reaction too, but most people weren’t particularly surprised. Maybe I’m slightly misinformed but I liked her Cleopatra so much at the Live in HD of the Met. Her technique might not have been the best in the world but so what? Her acting Marie was my favorite but I prefer Damrau singing wise. I just find it so odd to become “tired” of something that offers you so many possibilities of different roles as opera and different productions resulting in different interpretations of the same character. I mean, she’s 50, she’s technically still at her prime, I hear 50 year old singers like Krassimira Stoyanova rocking every kind of role you can imagine from 17 year old Tatyana to mesmerized Marguerite. But yes, she did have many vocal problems in the past and I hear that she does indeed smoke, which is never good in any level for anybody really.

But I just think it’s darn odd for her to give up on opera, not to be a mother or retire as is what singers usually do when they “give up”, to do live theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I love live theatre, I do live theatre, but I just find it odd. Because when I think of international star and theatre I think of Broadway and since the Tony’s were just the day before yesterday I couldn’t help but imagining Natalie Dessay there. It’s so weird! But as my twitter friends said, she’ll most probably do theatre in France in her mother tongue. Well, the best of luck to her, she will be missed that’s certain.  
Joyce DiDonato is Simply the Coolest person in the world

I just think this picture is simply awesome!

As many of you know Joyce launched Joyce and Me, the coolest project ever, a couple of weeks ago for fans to help her produce her 10th year anniversary double CD. This project is really quite marvelous, just last week she released the dreamy track list that had MANY of my suggested favorites in it. And now our new mission is to take cool creative pictures for her, at first I really didn’t have a clue of what to do and had kind of given up on the idea of sending anything really. But this morning it dawned on me and me and ma sister are taking the coolest picture ever! Since we haven’t taken the picture yet I’m going to keep the suspense up on the subject, but as soon as we send it I promise to post it here! I just really hope she likes it!
Joyce had quite a wonderful night on Sunday at La Scala singing her Venice themed repertoire and some good old Rossini. And something that I thought would never happen there did, a phone started ringing just as Joyce was reaching the top note for the ending of one of her Rossini arias. WOW, I mean, really WOW. The audience was quite revolted shouting stuff (as they customarily do in La Scala) but Joyce, refined and awesome as always, asked if it was Rossini who was calling to know if the aria went well. You can read more about it here ;)
Plus Joyce gave a brief but thought provoking interview to our friend Kevin, you can read it in his blog Non Piu Di Fiori(I love that name I wish I had thought of it first haha) So Joyce DiDonato, you win the trophy for most awesome and incredible person in the universe!
Master Classes from the Gods
And to wrap this crazy post I’m going to talk about some amazing Master Classes I’ve seen last week that have helped me so much in understanding this crazy thing that it is to sing.
I’m starting with the longest that is actually part of a series of Master Classes given by super professionals from all arts areas and the first episode was Placido Domingo Master Classes (what a way to start). This is truly a gift, four young singers win a competition and get to not only sing for Maestro Domingo, but have lunch with him, meet him during intermission of the opera he’s doing and GO TO HIS HOUSE. I mean WHAT? That is so cool, my favorite part of this is when they arrive in his house and there’s a huuuuuge wall filled with opera scores and their mouths are just hanging opened in awe. Mine was too by the way, it’s quite incredible.  

The next one is really only little snippets of 3 master classes given by the great Joan Sutherland, Ileana Cotrubas and Tom Crause. This is really inspiring and quite funny, it’s delicious to listen to the way they speak about the music, it’s so intimate to them already! Cotrubas is hilarious from her first “Are we singing Charlotte in pants?” to her last “Do you agree? You have to agree because I’m right!”. Also the way Crause describes the ball Don Giovanni throws at the end of the first act as an orgy and that he tells Leporello to pick up some hot chicks on the street is really amazing.

Going now to more current people I looove Renée Fleming’s Master Classes, because she’s a total nerd so she knows A LOT of stuff and I mean A LOT. And most importantly knows how to pass it on in an informative, clear and fun way. The two master classes that I like the most are first one she gave at Harvard for a girl who was singing the Fairy Godmother of Cendrillon. The girl was really good but Renée manages with her suggestions to decorate and make the girl’s performance even better, it’s quite inspiring to watch.

And also, a rather brief one that is also part of the Master Classes Series (just like Placido Domingo’s) that I couldn’t find on YouTube and am very upset because of that. But in this one she’s working with a mezzo who is singing the role of the page boy in Romeo et Juliette. Again she has exquisite good taste to give the finishing touches that make the difference. Just as if she’s decorating a wedding cake, you know? The cake is yummy already, but she is the one who makes the beautiful sugar flowers that make the people go wow, and she places them on the cake in a way that it looks perfect as if it was always there. You guys get the analogy, right?

And finally a snippet of a Master Class I should have watched before my Cheburino test. Susan Graham explains the character and really just shows the right intonation to every single word. Just brilliant stuff, Gosh I really wish I had seen it before my test! Although I did warm up with Vesselina Kasarova’s Master Class that started with Non So Piu also. I can't seem to put the link for the video here, so click here to watch Susan rock that Master Class :)

Well that’s it I guess, you guys have a wonderful week and peace always ;)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Eugene Onegin Revalation

Well, I told you guys I had Eugene Onegin playing in my head nonstop, no surprise at all that I make a post about it. This was the first Russian opera I ever saw, with French subtitles, so I had to have the libretto with me. I really liked the first version I had seen of it, with Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, that very famous production from the Met, 2008 I think. But yesterday, I had an absolute revelation in regards to this piece. I had always loved the music ever since the beginning, the Letter Aria and the ending duet being my absolute favorites. But as I listened to the broadcast of this season’s Royal Opera House’s production on BBC3 yesterday I was taken far away.
I think I ought to start out with the first thing I saw of this production, which was the rehearsal of one of the scenes in that wonderful program the ROH did of 10 hour straight of how life worked in the Opera House.

So we have the director, the fantastic Kasper Holten, one of my favorite baritones who plays Onegin, Simon Keenlyside and Krassimira Stoyanova the soprano who plays Tatyana. So in this video we have a rather warm welcome from the director who makes us feel at home right from the beginning. He introduces the cast and artistic team who will be working that day on the scene where Onegin goes to talk to Tatyana about her letter. (Btw check out the cute conductor!)
Something I really loved about this video is the different languages boiling all over, Kasper does warn us of that, but is just so interesting to see how they speak in English, German and quote in Russian and still work normally, real opera rehearsal atmosphere. It is so fantastic to be able to see the rehearsal and get all the explanations behind the gestures and musical choices, you can almost now see the story how THEY want to tell it through the staging and movements much more clearly in rehearsal and in performance time.

And not to forget this is a highly creative moment so they change some things and find out more about the characters as they rehearse and see what fits better with the production. For me it was such a breath of fresh air to have someone playing Onegin not as a snobbish man, especially in this scene, but as an insecure young man who doesn’t really know much about life and is really afraid. And that he REALLY doesn’t mean to hurt her, that for me is marvelous, even though it is all the same awful for Tatyana. Especially when Holten asks Simon to have a “I wish I had the courage to do this” kind of attitude, then you can see good shinning through the character and that he really means it when he says that he’s not good enough for her, it’s not just an excuse.
Kasper Holten and Simon Keenlyside in reheasal
Kasper Holten is such an attentive and creative director, I absolutely loved the way he works, he guides the singer through the scene underlining little details that in the big picture make such a big difference. He draws a fair image of what he wants for the character (so cool when he says “You go over here and you say ‘Fucking hell’”) but lets the singer paint that image and that I think is a kind of perfect collaboration between director and singer. Plus the discussion about the character of Onegin in that scene that we get to hear is so enlightening, that helps us see the essence of the character and to actually understand them a bit more. The way they discuss about the text and music, you can see the singer sees it in a way, the director another but they try together to bring something genuine to the table, that speaks to both. Plus Simon concluding that “He’s gay!” at the end is priceless!  

First video of the actual performance I saw was of course the ending and then the Letter Scene. But I’m going to talk about the 4 videos I liked the most in chronological order. So the opera begins, before the music starts you know that this is a different kind of production. The conductor comes in and after we are in darkness for about 30 seconds the lights start slowly coming on on stage.  Tatyana comes on stage, no music, just her holding a letter that she reads before throwing on the floor, this is the “old” Tatyana, as you see she’s wearing a rather royal looking dress, and that letter must have been Onegin’s letter to her. I image this is just after the last scene of the opera, their confrontation and her refusal of him, as she’s very distressed. Then she looks rather nostalgic and fetches a book inside which there’s a letter, most probably her letter to Onegin, when she opens the letter to reread it the overture starts.
What I love about this production is that every bit of orchestral music is interpreted in a way on stage to tell the story and show us a little bit more about the characters. Orchestral moments that are normally used for scene or costume changes become a big part of the story thanks to this new staging.  
Krassimira Stoyanova is absolutely fantastic, she hasn’t opened her mouth yet to sing but you can see that she’s a great artist. Reading through Tatyana’s letter she’s recoiling old feelings with that “I was so young and naïve” look. Her acting takes us through a journey, just her gestures and actions together with the music paint (to me at least) what’s going on in her head, after she’s done with the letter I feel like there’s a “what if” moment for her but in a more day dream kind of way. Onegin (Simon Keenlyside)appears and she’s once again alarmed, she closes the doors and so does he, they take their time to stare at each other, him defeated (but I can see one little ray of hope) and her changing from resolute to not so sure anymore. It’s really rather lovely in a weird way, she motions at his direction but then changes her heart as if thinking “No, I can’t do this!”. And then decides to show him how she saw it all happen.

And that’s the big catch of this production; this is not exactly how it happened, but how Tatyana remembers it and how she’s now telling it to him. Another great thing about this production is that there are actually two other actors who play Tatyana’s young self and Onegin’s young self, they are both dancers so Simon and Krassimira still sing all the parts but sometimes share their scenes with their doubles.
The big doors open to reveal now a hay field and young Tatyana reading and Olga, her sister in the swing. Young Tatyana (couldn’t find her name anywhere!) is a wonderful actress, from the very first scene she conveys most of Tatyana’s characteristics, a naïve, passionate, daydreamer who needs nothing more than a book to please herself. Her sister teases her taking away her book and as Tatyana runs in pursuit of her “old” Onegin and Tatyana watch them with a melancholic nostalgic gaze. We hear Tatyana and her sister sing as she and Onegin (he has a “ah, so this is how she sees it” look on his face) leave leaving young Tatyana to her books, the older Larina and Filipyena sing about their youth while Tatyana and Olga sing of spring. Now we have Krassimira as her younger self in the same dress as the dancer with her sister, she goes on and picks up a book to read, Larina takes it away but just as she leaves Tatyana recovers it.

We can hear the voice of the peasant leader in the distance and Tatyana seems to travel far away to the sound of his voice and the chorus’s.  The chorus appears and as they sing the lights dim on them, come right up on Tatyana who is sitting on a chair and there he is, just above the chorus, young Onegin who has just arrived. Right after we see young Tatyana who looks at him and all the pieces seem to fit for her AND THE VIDEO ENDS! This is true torture!
One day I will watch this whole production, but for now these videos are all I have.

Next up is one of my favorites, the letter scene, both Tatyanas on stage, they both are dressed  to be in the same time line, but Krassimira seems to narrate more while her younger self quite literally twists with all that is happening to her. Krassimira lays down pen and paper as she sings the very beginning of her aria and after Everywhere, everywhere I look, I see my fatal tempter! Wherever I look, I see him! (sorry I’m not writing in Russian because I simply can’t haha) her younger self rushes to the pen and paper and starts writing. Krassimira seems to analyze the letter as her younger self writes it and says it’s no good so her younger self throws it away. And it’s interesting how she makes it as if old Tatyana is not only telling the story but also reliving all those feelings.
Now the music written for this aria is so absolutely incredible, the way the theme is played out changing from instrument to instrument is absolutely hypnotizing to me. As the theme starts playing Tatyana starts writing again and older Tatyana takes off her letter, already written and as she sings actually reading it (as opposed to writing it, which is what she does in this aria). She looks at her younger self when she starts off with O yes, I swore to lock within my breast this avowal of a mad and ardent passion.. It is so interesting how she almost consoles her younger self, running her hand over her head in an almost motherly way while she sings “I would have found another, have proved a faithful wife and virtuous mother...

The music changes and so do the actions on stage, what is great about this production is that everything that happens on stage is so unusual but at the same time fits in perfectly with the story. As Tatyana professes her love to Onegin, young Onegin appears to young Tatyana and they exchange at first tender touches and it becomes increasingly more physical but still lovingly. As they continue to hold each other, we see the older Tatyana looking at them as she sings, and you can see that that image of them together is Tatyana’s ultimate day dream of them after he’s accepted her letter and love. When he leaves we are left with a still in dream zone young Tatyana and a sad looking older one and the theme is heard again. The synchronization of music and action in the production are so perfect, this is like the perfect production for me, everything is done just the way I like, shouldn’t change a thing.

The way one Tatyana hugs the other one as she sings those penetrating words of young and aching love is inspired. She decides to bare her soul in that letter, to actually almost give her soul to him in those words she writes. And the explosion, in the orchestra, in Krassimira’s voice and eyes as she repeats “I implore”, and the orchestra parts get so grand, just as grand as her feelings, she’s bursting with feeling, which is masterfully transmitted through the music. Now she knows that she can’t fight it, she has to tell him, and as she finishes with alas, the scorn I have deserved! we have one of the most heartfelt orgasmic orchestra explosions in history (in my opinion haha). Young Tatyana finishes the letter and they are both so overcome with their emotions, it’s too frightening to read it again and Krassimira takes the letter from her younger self’s hand as the aria ends.

Next up is right after Onegin has killed his best and only friend Lensky, he takes his friend’s pistol and almost shoots himself with it but decides otherwise. As he takes a little bottle of, what I imagine is vodka, and drinks it all up, just as he it gets to his mouth the waltz starts; this is another musical acting moment where it is so synchronized. Now this orchestral music is usually used for the setting of the ball, or something merely superficial, and what they’ve done here is absolutely amazing. We have about 8 good looking slim dancers passing by him and of course he soon forgets about his dead best friend who remains there down stage until the very end of the opera as a ghost of what he’s done I think.

And as the music progresses, he flirts with each dancer and they dance (meaning that they engage in some sort of relationship) and at first the girls are happy, then they start to run away from him, but then there’s always another. Some of them cling to Lensky’s dead body or lie beside him, he’s momentarily upset but then another one comes to distract him. As he gets hold of a rather flirtatious and playful one she immediately grows weak and falls, he’s shocked, but on comes another one who embraces him ever so lovingly. At first he doesn’t understand, but just as when he’s surrendering to her she also falls, crumbles into nothing. And then another one the same thing, and it’s so amazing how fantastically choreographed this was, it was choreographed on the music so it flows and tells a story of how everything he touched turned to dust.

The big theme comes back as all of the girls approach him and he decides to change strategy. To enjoy them as best while he can and then just dispose of them when they crumble, but some of them come back to fall to pieces right in front of him, reminding him ultimately of what he’s done to his best friend. The girls continue to flirt but he doesn’t want any of that anymore, he avoids them, they leave as the scene ends leaving behind a rather beaten up Onegin.
And the last scene I’m talking about is of course the last scene of the opera that had me pulling my hairs by the end (I’m serious). Both Tatyana and Onegin on stage, she’s just profaning how she felt when she saw him, I’m not sure if he can hear or not, he seems nervous, very much like young Tatyana when it was her heart on the line. They see each other, it’s explosive almost, as she rushes in his direction he gets down to his knees and starts kissing her hands most desperately. This is really getting me nervous, at points I’m like “Jesus, what’s going to happen?” even though I’ve seen this opera a million times and I know how it ends, it’s just more powerful than me!

I’m like how can she NOT forgive him after that his heartfelt “O spare me, have pity! I was so mistaken; I have been cruelly punished” . But how I adored the fact she takes out HIS letter to HER when he sees it he probably feels the exact same feeling she felt when he returned HER letter to HIM. Now it’s time for her to give him a piece of her mind on the matter, and it’s nice how he reacts quite ardently to her accusations, there’s a real exchange going on, not just a bunch of bitter words she throws his way. He finally gets to respond with words almost mirroring a young Tatyana in depth of feeling. Tatyana herself can’t really believe that he’s come around and starts weeping, he closes the distance between them telling her her tears are more precious to him than anything in the world.
Now, at this moment when I was listening to the broadcast I was like “Who the hell has the audacity of laughing at this moment” because I heard a giggle. Little did I know that it was actually young Tatyana coming on on stage with young Onegin as an image of could have been for them as Tatyana sings her heart aching “Ah! Happiness was within our reach, so close! So close!”. And this is truly a gift because she regards the happy couple with sadness and wish and Onegin regards them as something they could still become. As he takes her hand and joins her in singing that very same line he tries to show her they can still be together.
But Tatyana is an honorable lady, and since she’s married for her there is no way she and Onegin can be together, and so as she asks him to leave he pours out yet again the most heartfelt bucket of devoted words to her. This gets my blood running faster and faster, because we know they love each other, so for me it’s infuriating that they can’t be together. He grabs her from behind in an almost desperate move to change her heart and she confesses that she still loves him in music that is dignified for this moment (yet another explosion).

And after the explosion comes a calmer Onegin thinking that everything is settled now, but how could it be? Just as Tatyana is refusing to be with Onegin uttering “I shall always be true to him.” BAM her husband appears, I was very shocked at that, I got a little desperate you know, thinking “What is he doing here? He’s not supposed to be in this scene! Oh my God, what’s going to happen now?”. And to makes things worst his finding out everything is so depressing, the look of disappointment on his face is absolutely awful and makes me feel so bad for him! And as Onegin professes how she must be with him it gets even worst and Tatyana is in the worst position ever!

She fights firm to maintain her dignity even though she’s listening to the only words she longed to hear, I admire her immensely, I would have never had the strength to do what she does. He pleads and pleads and I’m turning into a puddle of nothing, almost shouting “Just give in, for Christ sakes!”. But we should never forget her husband is there, and now he’s distraught with what he has seen and heard. But Onegin is shouting he loves her, but she’s resolute about what she’s to do and sinks to her knees as she sings her last line “Farewell for ever!”. And this, I think, is the saddest moment in the entire opera; after her high note dies out she grabs a book and starts reading it and weeping. Oh my God that is so awful and depressing, as Onegin sings his last bit he sees that even though she’s there a breath away from him she can never be his, he’s lost his chance. THE END, nobody dies but everyone in the audience of depression.  
Throughout the whole process of watching all this and reading the libretto I feel like I understand a bit more this master piece that Tchaikovsky created.
Now this post I liked, I can go to bed with a clean conscience hahaha