Friday, August 30, 2013

Samson et Dalila - It's on YouTube

EDIT/ I forgot two very important things. First, this video in particular has no subtitles, so if you can't understand French I can recommend this wonderful website called Opera Folio. There you can find translations to English, Spanish, Italian, German and French to a LOT of opera's librettos. Second, if you like me, like to keep coming back to these videos and watching them 3275802598 times I'd download the Freemake Video Downloader. It's quite wonderful to have this, you can download anything from YouTube and almost any other video you find online. You can also only download the mp3 of the video and have the audios to put on your Ipod, which is what I do, most of my audios are from YouTube videos.   

I decided to create a little something fun for the blog. I’m calling it “It's on YouTube”. I’m basically going to suggest something I’ve watched via YouTube that I really liked every week. Because it’s thanks to YouTube (also) that I feel in love with opera.

So the first opera I’m going to suggest is Camille Saint-Saens’s most famous opera, Samson et Dalila. I’ve watched this opera for the very first time just this week and feel in love with it.
This production in particular is rather special, we have Placido Domingo as Samson commemorating his 30th anniversary of performances at the Met. And that was like 15 years ago, in 1998! It’s odd seeing these dates because I was a little devil of 8 at that time who couldn’t even in my wildest dreams imagine of becoming an opera singer. Life is crazy, you know. Anyways so we get a pretty cool interview with Placido before the opera begins. He talks about these 30 years at the Met and how his career and voice have developed and about young talent. Plus, after curtain call the Met pays a fantastic homage to Placido, with gifts and speeches. It’s really hard not to cry watching this, it’s rather beautiful, Placido himself cries.
In this production we also have the exquisite Olga Borodina as Dalila. I don’t think there’s anybody else nowadays who can hold a candle to her Dalila. She has a certain spice to her person that I love, and she brings it all on to the table in her performances. I guess I have a thing for Slavic singers, they have a velvety quality to their voices that I just love. But at the same time that there is velvet there’s also point and loads of projection and that for me I think is the perfect combination. If you want to check some of Borodina’s more recent works I’d suggest seeing her in Adriana Lecouvreur as the Principessa at the ROH and in Aida as Amneris at the Met.  
The story is based on the biblical tale that most of us know. Samson frees the Hebrews from slavery with his incredible strength and they take over the city. But along comes Dalila, who at the beginning you think is really smitten with him. But no, she’s really quite a vengeful thing whose sole purpose is to see Samson defeated. But poor Samson totally falls for her and that’s his damnation. I’m not going to expand much because I think you guys should see the opera for yourselves.

What I liked in this production, apart from the fantastic singing for course, was the use of color. We have the Hebrews wearing grays, whites and blues, very simple cut clothing. Of course they are slaves so they don’t have much luxury at hand. But I feel like these colors represent their religion and most importantly Samson’s chastity. Now, I say that because in Samson’s first encounter with Dalila the scenery takes different colors, a great navy blue takes the sky and all the women in hot oranges, pinks and reds. But not as RED as what we have for the Philistines, who have enslaved the Hebrews. They are actually ALL red, head to toe. What the colors are trying to show is that there’s a connection between Dalila and the Philistines but also that her hot colors go against everything Samson believes. She represents sex and carnal sin, that is irresistible, after all, Samson is only human.
I just noticed this, she has the hands print of the Philistines on her dress, Samson is freaking blind!
As we continue the opera in act 2 we are taken to a location that also hints the reds from the Philistines but with Dalila’s hot pink gown we can see seduction is going to take place. But then at act 3 she chooses a vibrant green color to contrast with all the red of the Philistines, as if saying we were together in this but I’m so not one of you.

Another amazing thing in this production is Borodina’s acting. Really, at first I was very confused. In her first scene she’s so convincing that she’s really in love with Samson I totally feel for it. There is only ONE moment on act one where she gives a rather scary evil look when Samson isn’t looking that made me think again. Then at act two the mask really comes off and she reveals her true purposes with such hate and determination it almost doesn’t seem like it’s the same person. And when Samson comes along she’s completely different. Because I think she’s not acting as if someone who is pretending to be in love, I think she approaches this as someone who is REALLY in love. To show how persuasive and fantastic actress Dalila is. Her rendition of “Mon Coeur S’ouvre Á Ta Voix” is so convincing and heartfelt that I think he could fool just about anybody. And damn her, because she wins us over with her beautiful music, voice and gestures, at least she totally won me over!

Well, go watch it people, it’s golden! Cheers!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Love Letter to Anmeris

EDIT; Ok, this was supposed to be a review of the Aida production I saw last week but I got a tad bit overly excited about Amneris so I think the title explains itself, hun?

What a crazy week! Wow, I was practically out of the house for most of it. But now I'm very happy to say that I'm home for at least the weekend. Before I get down to the subject in hand let me just tell you guys that my friend Xenia, who already has ReJoyce in her grasp, tells me that my picture made it to the CD! HUL! I'm very happy about that. I made all sorts of silly ReJoyce marketing this week in college. Wrote “#ReJoyce is Coming” every where chalk would write in. It was fun.

But what I want to talk about is my new found love for Aida. I know what you might be thinking, that I should already love Aida because it´s one of those IT operas, right? Ah well, let me explain myself then. About seven, six years ago an opera company came to Brazil in tour with Aida. I was 16 at the time and absolutely devoted to musical theater and dance. When my grandma invited me I didn't really want to go, but she told me there'd be loads of dancing, so I went. Well, the dancing itself disappointed me thoroughly, but what I think let me down the most was the fact that they were using microphones. Yeah! In opera, heresy! And I also didn't like the fact that Aida and Radames looked like two McDonald's junkies as opposed to fierce Egyptian/Ethiopian lovers. The only thing I liked was Amneris, especially in the final act when in their staging she’d crawl up steps of huge stairs begging for mercy. I LOVED that actually. 

Well back to modern days, last Saturday was the very first time I went to Theatro Municipal, the big opera house here in São Paulo. I have to tell you I was quite taken aback. The place is gorgeous, it really looks like someplace out of a dream or something. Like a palace, just magical! I was actually glad I was alone because then I could explore the whole building and take my time looking at everything. 

Well, I did go to watch this opera twice this week, on that Saturday and last Thursday so I’m going to try and review both performances at once. It was the exact same cast. Aida was played by the Uruguayan soprano  Maria José Siri, Radames was played by the north american tenor Gregory Kunde and Amneris by Tuija Knihtilä who is from Finland.  

On Saturday I sat on an orchestra seat but it was practically by the walls and directly under the boxes so I couldn't see the subtitles. I figured it was a great excuse to practice my Italian so I sat back and relaxed. Now on Thursday I sat on an orchestra level but center seat which was just my piece of cake, 6th row, perfect view of everything.
One good thing about my Saturday location was that I could see the orchestra play, so that was interesting to watch. I find it funny how an opera that is so grand has such a shy overture but I'm not going about to argue with Verdi. Curtain rises and I like what I see, in terms. I’m counting this as my first Aida but even being a newbie to a certain opera I still have historical baggage. The scenery, I think, was appropriate, they were composed by big walls of stone which would move to create different kinds of locations. I found that rather smart and it worked quite well with the lighting design, they were able to create a beautiful atmosphere for the first act finale inside the temple and also a festive and ´grand´ feel to the second act finale.

But, MA, what disappointed me thoroughly in this production was the costume department. I really don't like to criticize especially because I know it's very hard to put up any kind of theatrical performance. But I'm sorry, those costumes looked like something out of a High School production of Aida, the musical. The only costumes that looked the part were Amneris’s. In some cases it seems as if they cut a whole on a piece of eccentric looking fabric and gave it to the chorus to wear. Something that bothered me beyond measure was the fact that the chorus was all dressed in the same costume basically. We had the basses and baritones wearing that said sheet as they were the priests (or something). The tenors wearing clothes that I can't really begin to explain but that were absolutely unflattering to anybodies figure and made them look pregnant. There was a group of about 15 ladies who were wearing a simple blue/greenish dress (the ladies who sang in the second act opening scene). But the other ladies were wearing dresses of the same design in the most horrid khaki color. Egypt must have been in recession and the Princess was the only one who wasn’t informed. The Pharaoh was wearing such simple clothes, I, at first, didn’t realize he was in fact the Pharaoh. I mean it’s Egypt we are talking about, and it’s not nowadays, it’s thousands of years ago, they were in their absolute prime. 

And I know what you might be thinking, who am I to criticize their costumes? Well I’ve worked with the costumes in my theater group for a real long time now and we have a ridiculous budget of $500,00 to buy everything for our plays. From fabrics, to paying the making of the clothes, from scenery to stage objects and let me tell you, some of our costumes are much richer in design and taste than this production's. 

But enough about clothes, the opera itself is so amazing! All of the 3 major singers were in very good shape and I liked what they did with what was given to them. First act with Radames’s opening aria was quite sublime and the audience in both days agreed. One thing I found quite satisfactory was the fact that the house was packed in both days and in both days the applause was absolutely thunderous.

I must admit I'm a big fan of Amneris and also find Aida to be quite dull. Her Ritorna Vincitor was really good but the character never warmed up to me, people on the fence irritate me I guess. And Amneris knows what she wants and is intensively resolute in getting it (aka Radames’s naked body! HA). 

The temple scene was quite beautiful, the production was counting with fine dancers. This scene we had about ten ladies dancing together and a wonderful soloist. Many people have criticized the soloist's costume remarking that she looked like something out of the Avatar movie. But I disagree entirely.  Yes, she was painted in blue, but not for a second did I think of Avatar or Smurfs or The Corpse Bride. I actually thought it worked, it made her stand out a lot and in my conception her character was painted in blue because she was like an oracle or spiritually connected with the Gods or something.

The music composed for this ballet in particular is quite beautiful and what I loved about the choreography was the fact that it was molded in the music. This might sound a bit silly since most choreographies are made based on the music, but I find that the dance told the story of the music, which for me is amazing. I also had never seen so many people on stage in one scene live. Little did I know they'd be able to stuff even more people on that stage on act two. 

Well act two begins and the spot is finally on Amneris, about time! I found it odd how much I adored the music composed for this character, in her scenes and her lines, they just vibrated well with my personal vibrations. It's odd, while Aida or Radames would sing solos it was really wonderful and they were wonderful singers but there was something about Amneris that made me utterly drawn to her. 

The introduction of this scene played by the harp transports you from the depths of the ritual place to a sunny, bright environment where everything seems to be sunshine, cool water and bliss. I might be too crazy but with the harp music I can almost see Amneris lying lazily on overly comfortable cushions while eating grapes and being fanned by huge peacock feathered fans. But in this production she was actually standing and being quite amiable to her female chorus while they sang about Radames. Amneris’s lines were delivered with such heartfelt passion and devotion I couldn't help but warm up to her even more. I mean, she's in love with the guy, she would do everything for him. But what I like the most about her is that she never sets aside her personality for him, she doesn't change for him. Aida does and that's supposed to be our hero, a woman who changes for the likes of a guy. The hero should be the strong women who love and stand their ground with their beliefs. No wonder I'm single hun?   

The ballet for this scene was absolutely adorable. They had six young ones doing what you could call a children's playing choreography. Two girls and four boys played with swords and had a blast of a wonderful time under the watch of the powerful princess. Aida arrives and is left alone with Amneris. Now this duet is quite formidable, love the way Verdi composed the music accompanies Amneris and also her lines. Call me crazy again, but that music sounds like a perfectly poised Egyptian serpent slithering her way into Aida's trust. I find it magical when I can actually grasp how exactly the orchestral music is also telling the story. 

I guess I like Amneris because she's a thoroughly intelligent and perceptive woman, she smells there is something between her lady servant and the high captain of their armies. And since it's such a forbidden love, I'm sure they did their best to hide it, they are not THAT stupid. But even though, Amneris sensed it, because she's smart, perfect modern woman. Plus Aida is also a princess, the least she could do is be more cunning.
Well, Io son l'amica tua. Gee, Amneris is such a Slytherin, she plays Aida like the flute! Tricks her into believing that Radames is dead and then has her answer, Aida does love Radames. Of course she's beyond pissed, how dare Aida have feelings for him? Am I an awful person for thinking that this scene is awesome? Well I don't care, I love it. Amneris wants to show Aida her place so she makes her go to the big festivity that is celebrating Radames’s victorious return.

The music here is also first rate, GLORIA ALL'EGGITO. Oh man, I can't believe I didn't watch this opera before. It's so cool! We have the entire chorus and all the characters on stage at the begging of this scene. As the victorious arrive more and more people fill the stage, dancers and actors. The ballet was gorgeous! This time we had couples dancing to a choreography that looked like a dancy fight. There was a soloist couple who danced extremely well to again very well choreographed modern ballet dance.

The Pharaoh gave Amneris’s hand in marriage to Radames as a gift for saving the country, which made her even more smug and confident, gotta love her! They bring in the war prisoners and amongst them is Aida’s father, who is actually the king of the Ethiopians but passes as a simple soldier. Radames urges the Pharaoh to free the prisoners and after some turmoil he does free them but keeps Aida and her father as hostages.    

Well the most loud and amazing end of act I ever saw in a live opera! It was so loud and wonderful that a couple that was sitting in my box on Saturday actually went home because they thought it was over! I'm so not making that up! Well as usual the intermission flew by and before I knew it the lights dimmed and we were back in ancient Egypt.

I must confess that although the music is gorgeous and the singers were spectacular I missed two things in act three. One of them you must have guessed was Amneris and the other was the big chorus numbers with the catchy melodies. Radames has asked Aida to meet him in secret in the middle of the night. Her father reaches her first and asks her to have Radames tell her where he's leading his troupes. When she denies him that, he grows angry and tells her she's no daughter of his, she's an Egyptian slave now. Again, in the fence Aida irritates me, make up your mind with what you want, not what your father or lover tell you to do. Aida does give in into her father's wishes and as he hides, Radames arrives.

She convinces him to run away and all that jazz, and at first Radames doesn't really want to leave. That's the thing about these epic love stories, people are willing to give up what makes them happy for the sake of being with another person who makes them happy, and at the end of the day they mostly end up dying. I think there's a message there that not many people grasp. It's no use looking for your own happiness in other people, you have to be happy with yourself in order to be able to give happiness to another. I think that's why Radames is so full of love to give to Aida, he's so happy! He just had his life's dream come true, he led the army he had always wanted to command into a glorious victory and saved his patria. It's like working on something you absolutely love and getting that promotion you always dreamed of and thriving beyond your expectations! It's amazing!

Jesus, I'm so getting off topic here! And you guys must think I'm a huge self centered monster, I'm just career driven I guess. Well the plans don't work out very well though. Amneris discovers them and as Aida and her father escape, the guards seize Radames as a traitor.

Now fourth act is AWESOME. You remember that scene I liked way back in 2006 when I first saw this opera? It happened again. Things didn't really go as Amneris had planned, Aida escaped (that bitch) and Radames is to be judged as a traitor. Amneris wants him so bad that she's willing to try and help him in his trial. She calls on him in prison and offers her help and his life, because yeah, he's gonna be sentenced to death if she doesn't intervene. But then comes in love struck tenor who can't think of anybody else but the soprano while the mezzo tries her best to help him. Typical opera! It's so funny I say this since I'm a soprano. 

Radames does irritate me at this point. He's accepted he's going to die and doesn't want any help. While Amneris declares her love to him and tries to spare his life. Heartless prick! But again she's not willing to lower herself or compete with anyone. She tells Radames she will spare him if he NEVER sees Aida again. Something he doesn't agree to do. Something quite awful he says is that he's not afraid of death, he's only afraid of her pity. Ouch, that must have hurt. There was actual fire on Tuija's eyes as she tried to convince him to speak up in his own defense so he wouldn't be sentenced to death. Love, lust, hatred, anger, everything, gee, that woman was out of this world amazing!

As he leaves, Amneris is left alone and we can hear Radames’s trial happening off stage. That, I think is one of my favorite parts in the entire opera. It's quiet and intense, as the high priest asks Radames about his crimes, Amneris listens horrified as Radames remains silent. Her, “Ah pietà... egli è innocente... lo salvate, Numi, pietà!” were so heartfelt and desperate. It seemed as she was being sentenced to death as well. I actually cried watching this scene, it was as if she faded with every accusation and her pleads were in vain. So sad.  As the priests left after giving the death sentence of a traitor to Radames she confronts them, tells them they have thirst for blood and are irrational. But it's no use. The King's justice must be done (isn't that so Game of Thrones).

Radames is in his tiny cell, a tomb actually, where he will be buried alive. Yeah, that sounds pretty awful. But he's quite placid for someone who's going to die like that. Aida finds her way in there, God only knows how, you would think that thing is well guarded but elas, it's not. Stupid in the fence Aida wants to die with him and he wants to die for her and all that, at the end of the day they deserve each other. But their music is quite wonderful and the singers did it justice, I guess I just didn't buy their love story. But I did cry at the end, it's quite mooving when they say the sky is opening up to them to welcome them (A noi si schiude il cielo). It soothes me to think they managed to kill each other quickly or ate some poison so they wouldn't suffer much in that tomb.

Well, the opera ended and the audience was on their feet clapping like crazy! There were loads of young people there which pleased me a lot. I took some pictures of the curtain call, but they aren't really good, I took them with my phone. The applause was crazy, even the veteran singers got emotional with the immense cheer they got. 

On Saturday I ran from the opera house right after the curtain call was over because I was afraid the subway might close. But on Thursday I went to the stage door because I wanted to talk to the singer who played Amneris. Seriously, her performance was so touching I just had to tell her. I didn't know her name or nationality but I was resolute in talking to her. Unfortunately after about 20 minutes she didn't come out and the subway was about to close so I had to rush to get home. The worst part about this was that later as I looked at the program I saw her picture without makeup and she had passed by me and I hadn't recognized her. Yeah, big dumb face I am!

Well, that's basically it! Studying a lot, watching a lot of stuff, singing endlessly! Just how I like it! Peace everyone!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

You'll never forget your first Master Class

As I’m running late for class again I figured I should do something productive with my time, since I hate arriving late at classes. Well, this past weekend was absolutely amazing! Friday I went to Annick Massis’s concert, then on Saturday I watched the Theatro Municipal’s production of Aida (which I am reviewing in the blog later this weekend since I’m watching it again on Thursday), and then on Sunday I went to Annick’s concert again. But I’m talking about those in due time but now I’d like to share with you the amazing experience I had yesterday.
As I told you in my previous post, me and my friend ended up chatting a lot with Annick and her manager after the concert on Friday. It was no different on Sunday and as we chatted about all sorts of things Annick invited me to sing in her Master Class the day after. I was so stunned! I had never sung in a Master Class before so I was kind of terrified too. But I obviously accepted and thanked her and her manager a billion times for the opportunity.
I got home that night with a buzz in my head and I had no idea what I was gonna sing. As I ruffled through my sheet music looking for something to sing I resembled a 16 year old adolescent looking for an outfit to go out in and saying those same words “I don’t have anything!”. I eventually selected 3 songs, Gavotte from Massenet’s Manon, Ach Ich Fulhs from Mozart’s Die Zauberflute, and Delibes’ Le Filles de Cadix. I got slightly calmer after making that decision and decided to make myself some hot tea and watch an episode of Marple to calm down. It helped a bit, but it took me an hour to sleep because I was trembling with anticipation, fear and cold (it was REAL cold that night).
Woke up the next day hardly believing this was really gonna happen. I hadn’t told many people, only my mum and my friends on twitter. I went to college and warmed up my voice and talked to two friends about it, they helped me enormously. I sang Ach Ich Fulhs for one of them and she said it was alright so I went on my way to the theatre for the Master Class which was scheduled for 3:00 pm.
When I got there I was very apprehensive because the only people I knew were Annick and her manager. Plus all the other people seemed to know each other really well in a very friendly way. And there I was, the stranger! Thankfully I sat close to her manager and we chatted until the Master Class began. Two people I did know arrived in that mean time though.
There were about 20 people there and I was just thinking to myself “Oh Lords, is everybody going to sing?”, and the answer was YES, almost all of them, 12 people sang.
I must say that while it was such a wonderful experience to watch her work on everybody, some people were very intimidating. Everybody sang such complicated and complex stuff. Stuff that I had never heard anybody sing in Master Classes before, like Lucia’s first Aria, the Queen of the Night’s First Aria, Micaela’s Thrid Act aria, Adina’s Cabaletta and the Mirror Aria from Thais. And those were the ones that I knew of, the guys also brought their A games, it was very frightening I must say. But I had a tactic to not get nervous about singing. Because there were a lot of people so I would just think to myself “This is gonna take an eternity, she’ll be tired by the end and won’t want to hear anybody else.”. And even though I knew that that wasn’t true at all, it kept me calm and enabled me to pay absolute attention to what she was saying during the 4 hour straight course of the Master Class.
I made notes like a crazy person. I like to make notes a lot, every time I watch a Master Class streamed online and on YouTube, I always make sure to take as many notes as I can. Unfortunately I was the only one who was doing so, which I found quite pitiful really, but I didn’t know any of those people and everybody has their own methods, right?
I’m gonna try and sum up what she said mainly about the Brazilian’s singing in general. One problem that all of us had was the fact that our emission is too horizontal and not vertical enough. Our language is to blame here since it is very horizontal.
The pronunciation wasn’t clear enough, not in any language people sang. in Again I feel like this is our language’s fault again, because in Portuguese we speak with a very lazy mouth and a somewhat compared to other languages a dragged sound not really taking the time to pronounce every inflection right. Plus it’s too much based on vowels, so it’s like a huge AOUIE vocalize, you know? And all these languages that we have to sing in give so much importance to consonants, so there’s the problem.
And since our mouths are sort of lazy we didn’t use lips and our face muscles not nearly enough to help us with our pronunciation. One thing she did to help us with that was making us speak the text and then sing it. She would go as far as to say the words of our next phrase in our ears to help us do it correctly.
Plus the issue of breathing, everywhere I go people tell me that the breath is everything, breathe correctly you are half way through. So true, but it’s easier to say than to actually do it. Because at the end of the day what really works is the abdomen and your breathing muscles. If everything is sunshine and happiness down there, you won’t need to stress your vocal chords ever, meaning you won’t over work them nor hurt them and you can sing an entire opera without worry.
Well, talk, talk, talk but I never say how it went with me right? Well after the 12th person had left the stage all the academy students assumed the Master Class was over and started asking for pictures. But then she turned to me and said “Come on! I wanna hear you sing something”. Holy Christ almighty all eyes were on ME. Because until then I was just someone who had gone there to listen. I latter found out that not even all of the students from that academy were in fact allowed to sing for her, only a select group of that select group that was that academy. And the pressure was on.
I looked at my friend Debora for reassurance and she mouthed, “Just go there and sing, she’s asking you to. You’re gonna be fine”. So as I took that stage that I had never sang in before. I was so nervous I could hardly speak, I gave the pianist the sheet music and thanked him for playing for me. And after 2 little chords I had to open my mouth and let whatever wanted to come out do so.
I really don’t know if I sang well. It’s odd how we can only remember the things we did wrong. I messed up some tempos and didn’t take my eyes from the sheet music. But in the middle of the aria there’s a little instrumental part that gave me time to think and to go “Dude, I’m here, I made it, holy crap. I might as well enjoy this ride while I can”. So I feel like the second part was less tense. The high notes came right, but don’t be fooled I was very nervous. Thank God I had peed just before going on on stage.
The odd thing was, before I thought I’d be so worried about what the others thought of me. I mean, I had Lucia and Thais watching me, and although some might have not liked me because I was getting to sing at their master class, I found it incredible how I really didn’t give a rat’s ass about what they thought. At the end of the aria I did look at Debora who was sitting in the front row and she gave me reassuring thumbs up.
Then as soon as I stopped singing Annick was already heading to the stage to help me. It was surreal. I, like everybody else, have that “too much horizontal, not enough vertical” issue. So she had me do my first phrase in “Bur” and then with the words. Then she held my cheeks with one hand and made me sing like that, also telling me the words before I sang them. And I found out that I wasn’t pronouncing not nearly as much as I should. And she also told me I wasn’t breathing very well. But that’s normal because I was very nervous and the breathing just goes whatever when you are nervous. She worked with me for a while and by the end of it I could hardly believe the sound I was making.
She also told me that that aria was very difficult, just like the others. To that I made little joke which people laughed to. Breaking the ice, lesson number one, make them laugh.
But for me it was a victory to get on stage at all and sing in front of those people. It’s so easy to sing for people who aren’t musicians because most of the time they think you are wonderful. And I don’t mind criticism, but for once in my life I was grateful that I couldn’t read minds. After it was over I stayed around for a while talking to her manager about the bizz, quite scary I must say. Then I chatted a bit with her and she was so gracious and nice, she told me I was very brave to go on stage like that, especially after practically not speaking for 4 hours straight. Also that I should keep on studying and never give up and that I was in the right track and a thousand more advice. I thanked her and her manager a billion times for this wonderful opportunity and for her wanting to hear me at all and took my leave.
I was so electric when I got home. I kept talking to myself like “I can’t believe I just did that”. I couldn’t possibly stay home after that, plus I hadn’t eaten all day thinking I’d puke at the Master Class. So I called my cousin and before he knew it I was in his house and then we went to the mall. I bought a pretty orange floor mop and two colorful glasses that were on sale as a gift for me. Then ate a million things at McDonalds because I was starving and feeling worthy of it.
And that was basically it. The first Master Class you never forget, hun? Cheers!
PS; There's an operarox live stream tonight. It's gonna be awesome, today's topic is "Funny Scenes from Operas" at 6:00 pm EST ;)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Annick Massis, tons of talent and sweetness!

Holy BeJesus. It’s been a month since my last post. Shame on moi. But you know I started like 6 different posts over the last month and wasn’t able to finish any of them. One about Glyndebourne's Don Pasquale, another about Munich's Il Trovatore, another about a Strauss/Wagner concert I watched 2 weeks ago, another about my opera anniversary, another about Manon, those are the ones I can remember. I'll probably finish them all, plus I want to write about the Don Carlo stream that happened yesterday. Time? Where did you go?
These past few weeks have been really busy. I'm back in São Paulo living alone in my tiny but adorable apartment and back to college which is always stressing. Plus I designed a study routine in which I’m not at home a lot, I wake up early make my lunch that has to consist on things that I can eat cold since we don’t have anything in my college to warm up food (ps; yes, that's outrageous). Then I go to college and have classes in the morning. Right after class I run to one of the practice rooms which I have the key for and lock myself in and have lunch ALL BY MYSELF (don’t wanna be), I actually don’t mind. And then study all afternoon long, ‘till about 5:30 when the guy kicks me out. Then I come back home and to make the story short have little time to write. Hence, this is Saturday and there’s no class. Plus I was working really intensively on an article for Opera21 magazine about the musical education in Brazil so that ate up a lot of my time. I’ll post it here when it comes out in the magazine.

But before I get down to the subject of the post, let me share some EXCITING news! I’m going New York in 48 days! YEES! This time it will work out! And I bought my Met tickets last Sunday so if anybody wants to meet there here are my dates:

Cosi Fan Tutte – 05/10
Norma – 07/10
The Nose – 08/10
Eugene Onegin – 09/10
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 11/10
Eugene Onegin – 12/10

But, now I’m full of inspiration. Why? Guess! Inspiration strikes me when I see something wonderful live, hun? And last night I went to a wonderful concert that definitely stroke inspiration. It was of a French soprano called Annick Massis, now she’s sung all over the world, at the Met, in Paris, Munich, London you name it. She’s actually playing the Fairy Godmother in the Barcelona production of Cendrillon with Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote in the new years. Well she performed in the opera house just around the corner, so the performance was at 20:30 I left my apartment at 20:15 with ASSASSIN shoes that I will NEVER EVER wear again.
I got there and my opera bff was already there sitting in the front row as per usual I sat next to him. I took a look at the program and it was daring, exciting, versatile and awesome. They managed to get a little piece of every kind of opera and jammed it into a concert. Lights came down and here we go.
First enters the São Pedro Theatre entire orchestra and the guest conductor Jamil Maluf. They played one of, probably my favorite really, symphonies from opera openings, DON GIOVANNI. That music does something to me. Mozart is my everything really, so I was quite pumped right from the beginning. This orchestra is quite good and man, they can play anything, I was quite surprised. Because I have just recently seen them play Strauss and Wagner really well and now they are playing Mozart. It’s a real good orchestra.
Then Annick enters wearing a beautiful red dress with a red scarf matching. One problem here, from where I was sitting and from where she stood I COULDN’T SEE HER FACE. But how, I was sitting in the front row, right? Yes! But her sheet music holder was standing in the way. So as she sang Lascia Ch’io Pianga I was leaning in every direction I knew possible so I could see her face, very frustrating. I eventually gave up in the beginning of the B section and just sat back and enjoyed the sound of her voice. And what was interesting was that the color of the voice was a tad different from the videos I had seen on YouTube, it was a bit darker, which I like very much. I loved what she did with the variations of the A section. So many people take this aria for granted just because it’s Top Hits from opera (like Babbino Caro and Libiamo), but it is baroque and people forget it. And baroque is a bitch to get right, just a freaking bitch, and she nailed it.
Next she sang Norma’s Casta Diva, now I don’t know that much about Bellini and I must confess that I never watched Norma. My first experience watching Norma is going to be on the 7th of October at the Met. I had just heard Renée Fleming and Anna Netrebko singing this aria, I personally think it’s so gorgeous but I don’t know much else, nor do I know it by heart. But by then I had changed my seat so I could see her face and I did. And let me tell you, she acted her ass off! This aria is so gorgeous and full of feeling and you could see that she was totally feeling it!
Then she left and the orchestra played the opening of the opera Vespri Siciliani by Verdi, which I never heard of but I really liked, can’t expand much on this one as well, sorry. She came back and sang an aria called “Egli non riede ancora… Non so le tetre immagini” from the opera Il Corsaro which is also Verdi and which I also didn’t know.
But then if I didn’t know the next one they could send me back to Santos to sell hamburgers at McDonalds. One of the coolest and most difficult arias ever, “È strano… Sempre Libera”. Ah gee I love this aria and even though it was written in the program that she would be closing the first part with this aria when she started I gasped. Again, she was acting wonderfully with every word every nuance of the music. I love it when artists are not afraid to really use up the music and words to convey the story. Especially in a concert situation where some people might say that it is ok to not act as much as you would on stage of a full length opera production. She started with the turbulence of the doubt Violetta’s feeling getting her high notes always in piano which was quite nice. Then for follia, follia she changed, laughed, it was such a treat. When that little Sempre Libera melody started playing she laughed out loud and it was real, she was Violetta, ya know? And then at the end, against all odds and that damned air conditioning that was getting not only in her way but ours, she delivered that high E strong and sustained and the crowd went wild. She got a solid 2 minute standing ovation for that.
Then at intermission I decided to just sit back and tweet a little bit as opposed to talking to the people I knew in the audience. Why? Because after the whole Vesselina experience with the bitchy girls trashing her I didn’t want to ruin my mood hearing that kind of stuff. But as per usual intermission flew by and before I knew it the lights dimmed and the orchestra took the stage.
The conductor came in and after taking his place at the podium he turned around and addressed to the audience. It was so sweet, he told us how amazingly honored he was to be there conducting in that stage for the very first time. That he had always been a big fan of that theatre and that now he was going to conduct one of his favorite pieces of music, the prelude of the third act of La Traviata. He thanked us for being there and rocked that prelude out. It is interesting and inspiring to see really fantastic professionals doing a certain piece of music they TRULY adore. At that time I couldn’t take my eyes off Jamil Maluf and the prelude was heart breaking but beautiful (as it is supposed to be).
Annick came in and sang Teneste la promesa… Addio del Passato. This particular piece of music does something to me. I already sang it once, before I had a sensible teacher that hacked it away from me (quite rightly, I’m too young for anything Verdi, simple rule, just because you can read it doesn’t be you can sing it), plus Traviata is one of my favorite operas, so I was quite in heaven. Her reading of the letter was so heartfelt and then coming to the aria itself it was really gorgeous. Her voice boomed in this aria, it took a different strength to it and it was gorgeous. She acted so well and when she sang her second Ah della traviata soride a del sio she pointed out at the audience and had a fierce look like “Who are you to judge me” that was INCREDIBLE. The hairs in my arms and left leg were all up! The audience went WILD after every aria she sang.
The orchestra played the symphony from Norma that again, I know nothing of so can’t help ya. Annick came back and sang the famous aria from La Sonnambula “Oh, se una volta sola… Ah, non credea mirarti, Ah non giunge” again I’m no Bellini expert. But I do admire anybody who sings his music, because it’s just difficult, it seems to never end and has so many complex lines, at least my ears. This aria had everything, a bit of coloratura, high exiting notes, most especially a high E (I think) that for me came out of nowhere and was just right! She finished the aria to thunderous applause, the audience was really excited and for a good reason.
She came back to do her first encore, Je veux vivre! I love that aria and it was a breath of fresh air to be able to hear her sing in her own language. It was high spirited and brilliant, such an absolute delight really. It actually helped me to see someone sing it live to help me with those damned little notes before “Je” “Veux” “Vivre” which are really hard to do and that I could never really hear in recorded versions. I could hear them, but it was nice to see someone actually do them right in front of you, you know?
People were crazy with applause and she came back for a second encore when she sang La Rondine’s Chi Il Bel sogno di Doretta. I LOVE this aria, it’s one of those things that I crave to one day sing. I got shivers all over with her interpretation and voice. Her pianissimo high notes were just what the doctor prescribed, precise, bittersweet and full of feeling. That almost drove me to tears, my eyes were literally filling up. Had she sung another encore I would have broken down for sure.
Well the concert was over and we (me and the bff) decided to linger in the audience area. Then out of the blue Otávio said “Oh my God! It’s Odete Roitman!”. Now let me explain something, Odete Roitman is one of the most famous soap operas characters in the whole soap opera history in Brazil. The character was a vile, rich, stuck up woman who disdained everyone and was a huge success. I actually found quite comic that the actress who played her was there in the small opera house because there is a scene in the soap opera where Odete says that she never goes to opera houses in Brazil, she only goes to the Met, La Scala and The Royal Opera House. Well Otavio went to talk to her and took a picture but to me she looked a bit scary, she did have a very diva posture.
Another sneaky work of mine, I took a quick pic of her talking, in French, with the actress who played Odete Roitman
Annick arrived not long after and everybody formed a line to talk to her. I felt slightly stupid because everybody was speaking French and although I could understand them I couldn’t bring myself to speak in the language. Well our turn came and as usual Otavio couldn’t stop talking and the other people in line were getting impatient. But then her manager, who was so very nice, asked us to sit and wait a bit while the others took their pictures and exchanged a few words with her and then we’d be able to talk with more tranquility.
Everyone got their pictures and autographs and as soon as they left Otavio was talking non stop again. I chatted a bit with her manager about many a number of things, from the production of a Debussy opera she had just done (he showed us some lovely pictures on his phone) to the crazy weather in São Paulo. Then as she sat down in one of the audience chairs to autograph programs I got to my knees (not kidding) and we chatted.
I told her I was studying to be an opera singer and she was immediately very interested in knowing more about me. I really wasn’t ready for that conversation, I was very nervous and on my knees wearing a dress I might add. She asked what repertoire I was singing, we chatted about maturing voices and he gave me tons of advice and inspiring words. It was really wonderful, I felt like a million bucks. She stood up and said “I want a picture with this girl, she’s a singing student”. We took a lovely picture together and then Otavio said “Another” and I said “Let’s change sides!” and she said “I just gonna say that!”.

It was really a delight! Her words will be with me until the day I die. She told me never to doubt myself and to just do the job. We only parted when one of the staff members told us to leave because they were closing up the theatre. We hugged and she told me again to believe in myself that I was bound to do great things. Man, I almost cried, it was SO surreal! Then we left through the artists exit, so we got to go by the stage wings, and of course I took a pic!
Tonight I’m watching the Theatro Municipal’s production of Aida, I’m excited! Review will probably come out tomorrow, and then tomorrow I’m watching Annick’s concert again! HUL! Fun! Peace everyone!