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!


  1. Hi Bela, Thanks for sharing your experiences. I love that you are so bold to approach these stars, and so charming that they want to spend more time chatting with you.

    I have to admit I was unfamiliar with Annick Massis until she appeared as the First Lady in the Baden-Baden Zauberflote. Given the big-name attractions of the other two, I figured she was a bigger name than I realized. Then I saw her singing several role in a Berlin Philharmonic concert performance of "L'enfant et les sortilèges"

    I enjoy reading about you meeting these wonderful artists, as well as learning more about your life as an opera student. I wish I could make it to New York to meet you; maybe next year.

    Thanks for your great blog posts!

  2. and i knew about her because she was Giulietta to VK's romeo in New York, and it must have been one of her many big fans who recorded the whole concert; that same concert has been on my #1 list on my channel too :-), i did write once a post about her Giulietta, my fav of all the sopranos i've heard singing the role.