White Shirt Monday: The Meaning of Soprano

[Putting things into perspective: Katharina Peetz (Medoro) and Martina Janková (Angelica) in Handel’s “Orlando”, Zurich 2007. – Photo Credit: Susanne Schwiertz/Oper Zurich]

The meaning of “soprano” is akin to the position of La Fúria Roja in world soccer at the moment (sorry, but after that fantastic game last night, I just had to!).

Alo, every time I come across an image of that “Orlando”, I am reminded of how much I miss Marijana Mijanovic. *sigh*

20 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: The Meaning of Soprano”

    1. Is EVERYBODY in Paris at the moment?!
      (Ernman in addition to Graham, DiDonato, Bartoli and Connolly?!)
      thanks for the link, Al – it looks fab; are they revisitng the Theater an der Wien production?

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      1. It was a concert performance (I am not sure if the cast was the same as in Vienna but this one was clearly dominated by Ernman!) There was also Veronica Cangemi with an amazing dress (silver at the top and ending with feathers… ) It was the first time I experienced a live performence with Ernman and her presence on stage is more than striking! Her shoulders were of course displayed, she danced during some of her areas and she had shoes with very high heels she took off during the applauses! On the vocal side, I liked very much the entrance area – Ombra mai fu – and the last – Crude furie. Clearly, she made a strong impression on me.
        In Versailles there is a Haendel festival (8 june – 13 july) with 5 operas performed in concert, oratorios and some recitals with the best artists (you can check the program here http://www.chateauversailles-spectacles.fr/fr/spectacles/2012/versailles-festival)
        The opera house (inaugurated for the marriage of Marie Antoinette) built of wood was recently restored .

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  1. Kudos from a fellow humanities doctorate (English lit), slasher & baby opera dyke! I say baby because I’ve never really listened to opera until the past few weeks – I’ve been to the opera twice (or 1,5 times – one was an operetta) and thought I just happened to like Orfeo ed Euridice, not opera in general. Then, looking for recordings of that one, I came across La Kasarova… The rest is history. I immediately bought 4 DVDs of her in breeches roles and have 2 more and several CDs on the way, I have been spending way too much time on Youtube and Spotify etc. Her chest notes blow me away every time, I just want her to do me, but then, she already does, with her voice. And of course it doesn’t hurt that she’s eye candy – otherwise I could just get the CDs. I also find Röschmann really hot and their Sesto/Vitellia ideal. Not so much chemistry with Eva Mei in that other, more stiff and boring, staging of Tito, but I prefer Annio/Servilia in that one. I love Orphee even more than Sesto but that Eurydice is so annoying and whiny! But then it’s totally Orphee’s show, isn’t it? And I love her Captain Sparrowesque swashbuckler Ruggiero, drunk on pleasure and not very willing to snap out of it (the way he then in Sta’nell ircana tries to get drunk on heroism instead just… rocks. She so rocks that tune – she and the orchestra/conductor.) And I can’t wait to see all of her adorable horny boy Octavian, though musically later opera doesn’t move me so much… Also watched the whole of the recent Capuleti on Youtube and even though that version isn’t as pitch-perfect and angelically beautiful as the clips I’ve seen from the one 15 years ago, the ending still made me cry. I so hope I’ll be able to see her live – preferably in a breeches role of course and not as dramatic matron.
    Anyway, what I really wanted to say was I just found your blog and got hooked on reading it all day – specifically the “hot mezzos in pants” posts – forgetting to eat and all. So great to find a fellow Kasarovian and J/7 fan in one. I think there are strong resonances of Orpheus & Eurydice in some Voyager episodes, notably the grande finale. And don’t you think Kasarova and Janeway are somehow the same “type”? If Voyager was literally a space opera, Kasarova would totally play Janeway. But who would play Seven – Garanca? Ernman? von Otter?
    Too bad I had any early interest in opera ruined by massive stiff Wagner productions and boring star tenors… My recent obsession makes me want to take singing lessons but starting from scratch as an opera singer in one’s thirties isn’t really, well, doable.

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    1. welcome home, Tove. 🙂

      A operatic J/7 – a most interesting proposal. I’d go with Garanca for Seven: cool perfectionism.

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      1. Thank you, I already feel at home in this little haven for opera dykes. Your search statistics crack me up – I had no idea Kasarova was a lesbian icon, though of course one could guess just by looking at (and listening to) her. The most famous Swedish queer scholar (Tiina Rosenberg) is an opera dyke and has written a book on breeches roles (in Swedish, I’m afraid) but it’s from 2000 and only mentions singers like Fassbaender and von Stade, so all I knew before coming here was that there are at least SOME opera dykes among the opera queens and that they are attracted to breeches roles in general (duh). There’s definitely room on the academic book market for a “The Page’s Pants” covering different singers, roles and stagings more extensively! I’d buy it.
        By the way, the latest issue of Swedish GLBTQ magazine “Kom ut” features an interview with Ernman in which she talks about stuffing a sock into her pants and letting it guide her movements when doing breeches roles. Might be worth to Google translate: http://www.tidningenkomut.se/2012/05/man-gor-som-man-vill/
        I have noticed the absence of such stuffing in Kasarova’s pants (even in that steamy “can my hand make you happy?” scene in Tito) and also her absence of breast-binding in most roles. She also never wears a short wig or “masculinising” makeup. A conscious strategy to keep her pretty by straight standards, I wonder? Not that she NEEDS packing, binding or beard to inhabit her breeches roles with ease and swagger though…

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        1. hallo Tove, welcome 🙂 . this was also how i “fully” discover operas.
          ahh, a conversation on Kasarova. Actually am personally glad to see her with just her own hair with no masculine makeups or binding. Her body movements alone speak volume; artificial decors are completely useless and possibly getting in her way of singing. I also never thought it’s straight standard. At least in live action, it works just the way it is, straight or no straight :-).

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  2. There are so many different ways to embody masculinity, props or no props – as far as Kasarova goes, I think it perfectly fits her style and attitude towards her craft – with great earnestness in an art that depends on stylization, never trying for naturalism – that she would construct masculine opera personalities (and male ones) via attitude.
    It may be precisely this approach that gains her trouser role interpretations such wide recognition among the opera dyke faction.

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    1. Well, I obviously agree with all of you that Kasarova’s variety of stage masculinity works really well and might even appear more obviously lesbian/butch than a more “naturalistic” approach. I’m just a bit curious about the reasoning behind it – is she just considered too pretty to ruin her looks with ugly wigs and stubble? Or too big a star to mess with her recognisable trademark look? It’s not just the plain absence of masculine props – she definitely wears more makeup than the male singers!
      Before I knew much about opera I always assumed trouser roles were not naturalistic at all – I pictured something more like a large diva in feminine makeup and a toga or something. I didn’t think any singers went as far as packing (obscene!) and binding (how to breathe?). But then I found this site which actually discusses varieties of binding that work for singing: http://pantsroles.weebly.com/ I also realised that sopranos sometimes have to sing in corsets so why not? I think a variety of looks from adorable pageboy over butch to drag king or even ftm might work for different singers, though I’m personally not a fan of short wigs – long hair can be really macho if carried off rocker style!
      Oh, and an up-and-coming Swedish mezzo who’s really hot in pants: Karolina Blixt. I saw her as Orphee in that one opera I’ve been to (not the Berlioz version, it was a “true” 18th century performance) and fell in love. She also got rave reviews for her Sesto (in Händel’s Sesto). There are a few clips on Youtube featuring her but none in breeches roles, sadly. She’s the tall dark and handsome type and perfect for it, but reluctant to get typecast in male roles I think.
      Re the fantasised space opera I’d really like to see at least a fanvid of J/7 as Orpheus & Eurydice – clips of Vesselina in white shirt could be discreetly mingled with Janeway in white tux… yum… sadly I can’t edit videos.
      And hi thadieu, I’ll be watching your blog as well!

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    2. I’m not sure how the other WHite Shirts perceive it, but according to my knowledge, Kasarova does not ride on the “pretty” ticket (she doesn’t do the glamour thing, at least not the unsublte one), but on the “brainy” ticket. But that’s just what I’ve seen in performances, marketing, recordings (plus marketing/artwork) and DVDs over the years. Somebody else might see it differently. I guess we’ll have to ask our President.

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      1. A different kind of pretty than glamorous-pretty perhaps? More “adorable and passionate” than “perfect pageant queen”? I saw an old documentary from 98 or something that definitely made much of her looks, lots of slo-mo, close-ups and weird angles! But it’s true I’ve rarely seen her all dolled-up – perhaps because she somehow, despite lack of obvious “masculine” physique, tends to look a bit like a drag queen when she is, and that’s not the kind of glamorous femininity they’re going for, at least not offstage? I’ve seen nasty comments on Youtube about the faces she makes when she sings etc but to me – us – the passion she conveys of course only increases her allure! Anyway, regardless of “pretty”, I guess when you reach a certain height nobody’s going to mess with you and make you unrecognisable on stage – people want the star and not just the role? While for new singers it might be considered interesting to experiment with transformations for maximum effect (like ye old hyper-masculine on stage, hyper-feminine off)?

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        1. then again, Garanca (inarguably arrived at super star level) in the recent Vienna Tito was fitted with a hideous wig – Eyes (over at Eyesometric) had a post on it.

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        2. Kasarova is definitely a “brainy” singer who reflects on her art (see her book in which all aspects of this profession are embraced). It would be interesting to have an interview of her from a LGBT magazine. As all other singers she does not have the opportunity to tackle such issues in mainstream (or musical) publications. She says in the book that she finds more natural to play love scenes with female partner

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        3. I’d love to read her book, unfortunately I don’t speak German, though I almost feel like I’m slowly beginning to learn just by watching interviews with her… Speaking of which, her tiny, girly speaking voice really shocked me before I got used to it.
          She always does seem very naturally loving and tender with her female stage partners. There’s this scene from the recent Capuleti, I think just after Romeo & Giulietta’s first duet, Garanca and Netrebko embrace and hold hands – that’s acting of course, but then after they’ve finished singing Kasarova starts stroking Netrebko’s hand with her thumb in what seems like a spontaneous and almost compulsive gesture, like she’s overwhelmed and thanking her for the duet. That really touched me. Straight or not, she’s definitely a “gynophile” singer, as Terry Castle would put it.

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  3. Kasarova said also that she means to bring the feminine side of masculine characters (Romeo). And some of the roles of these very young men are intended by the composers to be played by women who are identified as such by the audience (Octavian).

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