White Shirt Monday: Buttons Down

oh HOLY GOD[Same, Aspasia. Same. –
When I teach classes related to gender, I do at times joke that to 80% of all questions, the answer is “patriarchy”. When it comes to opera, the answer to 80% of all questions should clearly be “trouser roles”, or a certain related Margaret Reynolds quote.  – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) and Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate, Rè di Ponto”, Paris 2016. – Photo Credit: screenshot. One of many (seriously, Dr. T., how did you manage to restrain yourself to only a hundred?). Click to enlarge.]

Good morning, and this will save your Monday. Scratch that, it will save your week. Thank you, tha dieu, and how could I have missed this?! It’s available on Arte Concert (and on YT) and I am screaming like a ‘1960s teen in line for a Beatles concert. Or an 1860s teen lining up for a Viardot-Garcia concert. Or a 1760s teen about to see the original “Mitridate”.

Emanuelle Haïm did Mozart’s “Mitridate” at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

You had me at Haïm.

But! But!! There’s so much more. The laisser-faire Verdun-Centenary-meets-1940-Résistance aesthetic with army coats and a battered Napolitana is far sexier than it probably should be (staging: Clément Hervieu-Léger). The oh-look-we’re-all-just-actors-slowly-slipping-into-seria-roles with the stage on the stage does not interfere much. I’m not yet convinced that it’s adding much, either, but hey, it entails putting women in army coats and trousers and have them make eyes at each other (actually, is Sifare supposed to be an actress who then takes on the trouser role of Sifare? It appears to be the case in the beginning. Not that it matters. But it looks damn appealing).

There is Patricia Petibon. There is Sabine Devieilhe. Between both of them, you could redefine the term “stratosphere” and really, how could anyone call coloratura empty decor after hearing those two sing their hearts out? Also, Petibon really acts the hell out of even the tiniest bit she’s given. There is Christophe Dumaux (codename: If I Had To Pick A Counter). And prepare to swoon over Myrtò Papatanasiu as Sifare. And the “it’s 2016, we don’t need bindings or stuffings or mustaches or wigs to have a female singer embody masculinity convincingly” approach to staging trouser roles.

Oh dear, the amount of swaggering. Oh, the amount of open shirt buttons! *whimpers*

I’ve always loved “Mitridate” because it is a rare opportunity for a female soprano to portray heroic masculinity (note to self and intendants worldwide: we could do with more soprano castrato repertory in that regard) and some sopranos do it exceptionally well. Remember the M22 2006 production with Miah Persson as Sifare? I still remember that “Lungi da te” fondly, but even that pales in comparison to this take.

I don’t foresee myself being over this particular “Lungi da te” for quite a while. (Or ever.) Or over the Ernman Approach with double guns to action in a tanktop passmethesmellingsaltsplease.

HHNNNNNG[I’ll just let this one speak for themselves. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016. (Exhibit B on the floor: oh, that’s just the blogger trying to gather her bearings)]

Bildschirmfoto 2016-02-22 um 11.57.41[“Clearly, the lesbians are unimpressed with the tenor.” Michael Spyres (Mitridate), Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare), marvelously queer slouching Jaël Azzaretti (Arbate), Sabine Devieilhe (Ismene), Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

why early Mozart seria is the best exhibit A[Why opera seria was invented for queer ladies: Exhibit C – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) and Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare). Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

I'm cruuuucifiiiied cruuucifiiiiied[Oh, don’t we all remember that 1991 ditty by the so befittingly called Army of Lovers. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

for the love of lapels could you just. not. unnf.[Eternal Fidelity. Sure. Where do I sign? Also, if Harteros ever does Arabella, I know whom I would visually cast as Zdenka (although that Zdenka would SO outbutch Matteo). – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

WELP[Girls without dresses, but long flowing tresses
Singers with smoldering stares and eyelashes,
Silver-toned girls into whose arms they sink,
These are a few of my favorite things.

…wasn’t that how that verse went? Paging Julie Andrews!

Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) and Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

Hands! Hands![The only appropriate answer is likely “I do”. – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) and Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

mais OUI mais OUI[Do you know that famous Bernini statue, Il ratto di Proserpina? It is breathtaking, and the most breathtaking detail of all is Pluto’s hand curling into Proserpina’s thigh. It’s also a deeply disturbing elevation of rape culture, so I’ve always been conflicted about it. But that hand! But the context! But that hand! – I think I may finally have found a way to work around that. I’ll just refer to the above hand against green velvet from now on. – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) and Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

hands be the death of me yet[All kidding, and all marvelous singing, aside, both Papatanasiu and Petibon do some amazing work with their hands when it comes to the narration. I don’t know whether it was the director seeing two pairs of hands and going with it, or whether it was a conscious decision against any other kind of making out, or whether it is completely incidental, but they way these two characters put their hands on each other really does tell half the story. The other half is how they sing it, and if Arte Concert does not work for you, try YT. – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) and Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

mine may have just stopped working[Quite differently from my own heart, but I am not complaining. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

sorry my brain just stopped functioning[this blogger’s sexuality in one image: handsome trouser roles with a few missing buttons, wearing a suit jacket just so. Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]

36 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: Buttons Down”

  1. “et tu sais bien quel est mon cœur”
    i have an identical screen cap… And indeed while re-watching the whole thing on 3rd consecutive round the night of slide-prep i was impressed with several things… that one does not need the “gears” to play the proper role when one is so natural at it! and that perhaps *some* soprano is very natural… and how their hands and matching phrasings were so flowing *and* natural! and hands… yes.. i have to attend the annoying conference now but itching for re-gazing these caps.. sigh..
    (ps- the unbuttoned shirt is so brilliant..)


    1. good luck with the conference (in case of doubt, show hands slides in between – surely there is is something about melting polar caps in there?!)!
      I am cheering for the matching screencaps. Clearly, there is a queer opera aesthetic…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. (just swing by to mention how distracting this couple has been, i showed up at the conference thinking all along it was a different meeing! 10000 attendees! that was a shock. Thanks for yt link so i don’t have to try to save it.. now in treasure box for re-watching while suffering from extra dose of coffee and prepping slides)


        1. 10,000? Well, nothing quite like having an audience!
          (my office is gearing up for another rewatch as we speak, and another round of screencaps… this could feeld WSM for the rest of the year! There are definitely some more moments I would like to celebrate, like the early reading of the libretto side-by-side. Lovely moments!)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. cool! i’m super looking forward in case there’s any more screen caps! (and you’d be happy to hear a lesbian scientist today received one of the most prestigious awards in oceanography and gave a great talk to some 5000 scientists!)


  2. One of my favourite moments is minute 33+ (you mentioned the hands already).
    Btw. there is a nice video on Théâtre des Champs-Elysées’ website showing the “Premières répétitions” and it’s fun to watch director Clément Hervieu-Léger demonstrate all the characters, male and female, just as convincing.
    https://youtu.be/gig01WFRgNE (sorry, don’t know how to link this)


  3. Oh yes, that second video is also very nice.
    Handholding and informal reading: very cute, and just rewatched “Lungi di te”… (who designed the shirt, can I buy one?) Would love to be here all day but have to go now…


    1. Welcome, thadieu’s host! So glad you asked, we may have a wee bit of discussion and material accumulated on this particular production. (We also have a Petibon liveblog coming up on Sunday.)

      (thadieu, the TCE/GSS press relations should start passing you press tickets, at this rate)



  4. going back to where we started. and am camping here basking on the first batch of glory.
    I don’t know whether it was the director seeing two pairs of hands and going with it, or whether it was a conscious decision against any other kind of making out, or whether it is completely incidental, but they way these two characters put their hands on each other really does tell half the story.

    1-year worth of analyses later, could we conclude it starts with direction, then the magic combo MP + PP. I still can’t believe how “innocent” (un-explored) we sounded here. I think on the anniversary of the first live broadcast we should get together to celebrate. 19/feb or something like that?


    1. A full year – we were so overcome in the beginning, we barely dared to believe our eyes and ears. Look at all that breathless enthusiasm! We didn’t know the voices and the careers behind them very well, or not at all, or in any case not well enough, and it was a cornerstone for so many other experiences over the past year.
      And it is so lovely to see that even a year of picking it apart (and celebrating it…) and trying to find words and explanations for just WHY and HOW this production clicks so much with us, it has lost nothing of its pull and magic (well, I can only speak for myself).
      And hey, I did end up willingly watching a “Traviata” (hadn’t done that in more than a decade) last year and even enjoying it, which is probably on a level with Agathe and tolerating jeans vests when it comes to a particular contralto.

      Feb 19th – a Sunday, should work!
      What should we do? A best-of rewatch? Having an open thread for everyone to share their favorite screencaps and discussing why? Listen to the audio broadcast and sigh along? Figure out how much it would cost to commission a tailored shirt from Caroline de Vivaise?
      (and on the issue of meeting up – what’s next on our liveblog list? The Ariodweebo from Aix with PP…? How are your afternoons scheduled this month?)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Listen to the audio broadcast and sing along

    Tentatively let’s put it 18th Feb which is a Saturday? i have a week-long meeting in SD the week after and might have to travel on that sunday.. I was thinking perhaps some watching would also be needed! It’s funny how we were watching on our own for so long without even thinking of watching together this one during the discovery phase! But in a way, that helps a lot because we were able to dissect in writing, then go back and watch, then back to commenting. THis month, i’m going to slowly go through the posts again, for reasons.

    This month (and likely upcoming months?) I’m always open on Saturday if that day works for you both. It’s the best day for me because I still have buffered Sunday to work and not pressed… This particular month, I might be also able to do other days during the week. This particular week, Saturday is still best. Just had a Russian scientist visiting who invites me on a 50-days cruise to the Arctic! and now we’re working on 1 proposal hence i’d like to spend the week writing and saturday for relaxation. I’m all for PP and jean vest!


    1. We return to our firsts…? And it’s the first post I ever wrote on this production, and on a singer heretofore unknown to me. Guess it’s pushing all the right buttons?! 😉


      Liked by 1 person

      1. as i was explaining in my Alcina post: she demands our attention, and this is before she sings a single note.
        (I still remember so well the *booming* sound as the aria started… then drowning happily in PP’s singing, then…)


          1. you know, i remember, that night, i was just sitting alone in the office.. in the end i only made 5 caps.. #2 you’ve seen already, #1 is identical to the front one here, and let me share #3.. which you also have above, but the time-tag is making me quite nostalgic.. of how shaken i was by the scene..


            1. trying to remember that first night – sitting in bed with the laptop on my knees, receiving your mail, the second one, with that screenshot, and then heading over to ARTE to open the file… and, yes, falling head first into everything, the color scheme of it all, Petibon launching into Al destin, that moment above – and that incredibly rare and overwhelming and bone-marrow deep sensation when something simply CLICKS with you in so many aspects, and you cannot believe your luck as there is layer upon layer you respond to and try to find words to clothe at least a bit of it, to share back – as you did with me – that incredulous “Did you SEE/HEAR This and how wonderful this is?!”

              Liked by 1 person

            1. No Shirt! That is a Moral Dilemma…
              Do we need to accept the tank top, or move on to Se viver non degg’io, or to “Nel sen mi palpita”?

              Liked by 1 person

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