White Shirt Heart Eyes – A Racine Guide To No Chill



[Ways to address your future stepmother or “a page I took from Don Carlos, but while the tenor dies, I’ll walk away with the princess, seria 1: Verdi 0”. Also, can we talk about hands again? – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016 – all caps in this post: click to enlarge]

While measured composure (“to have chill”, as current colloquialism has it) is an important factor in negotiating romance within a framework of hegemonic masculinity, it is utterly refreshing to see how even Racine, for all the worth of the Doctrine Classique and its emphasis on propriety, is barreling right past that. Scroll forward to Mozart’s take on his “Mithridates”, and you’ve got the soprano besting the tenor (and the mezzo) on top when it comes to gaining the affection of the soprano lead.

No, measured composure only plays a limited part in this and,  bringing it back to the Paris “Mitridate” under Haïm,  it does definitely not apply to how these two characters look at each other (and I really just needed  an excuse to post more screencaps).


[When Sifare is settling into his costume – and the wartime actress into his character – this is the first look (s)he gives Aspasia. Whatever concept of measured composure you may have: it probably does not look like this. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

bro you've got to town it down a notch, read the guide.png

[“Bro, you have absolutely no chill. There’s a  guide. Read up on it.” –  A conversation that might have happened between Christophe Dumaux (Farnace) and Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016.]


[Who says classicist tragedy has no moments of ‘casual morning coffee and the paper’?  “So… the guide says no shared breakfasts?” – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

guide 2.png

[“Of course you may have the sports section first.” – “What’s the guide’s stance on casual touching?” – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

guide 3 ohlooktheresfanfic.png

[“Wait a moment, there’s fanfic?” – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

you will likely have to read it again.png

[Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Read that guide again because this is not anywhere near measured composure.  –  Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]


[Casual gazing at love interest: this is not it. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]


[…not AT ALL. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]



[Not that Aspasia would do much better here: If I looked at my cooled and forgotten morning coffee like that, it would be steaming anew. – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

aspasia please.png

[Perhaps not coffee, but there are definitely plans at play here that involve devouring something. (also, damn, Petibon. Can we please redo the Aix “Alcina” with this look and a mezzo Ruggiero?)- Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]


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

guide 4 and we are back wth no chill.png

[No chill whatsoever at having to send away the attractive soprano in shirtsleeves: Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

guide 5 olympic levels of no chill.png

[No chill whatsoever and also I-will-die-if-you-take-one-step-further-away. Please give Petibon all the conflicted seria love stories. – Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

pillars of handholding.png

[Even the casual handholding is far from casual. Somewhere, there is a Preraphaelite painting depicting this exact scene. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

uncasual slipping past bienseance levels.png

[Back with the no-chill-at-all gazing. Oh, Racine. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

lungi da chill.png

[I call this one, “Lungi da chill”. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

hopeless hands.png

[I swear, at this point I am one inch (or one candle) away from making “The 100” references. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]


[Note to Racine: Kneeling does not really heighten the level of casualness. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]


[Dear God, the gazes. If anyone has even less chill at this point, it is the blogger. – Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016]

49 thoughts on “White Shirt Heart Eyes – A Racine Guide To No Chill”

  1. Thanks Anik, you are brilliant! Opera houses around the world should always play your subtitles on top of the official ones.
    Certainly no chill to find with Patricia Petibon, she can even make the Queen of the night seem a charming person as seen here in an informal video of recordings with Daniel Harding:

    (and she has no reason to roll her eyes the way she does, I have never heard this sung more perfectly, without rushing through the high notes) There is nothing particularly queer about it, however, unless the sweater jacket counts, not sure.


    1. professional alternative subtitler? 🙂 I would do that in a heartbeat. (I should pitch that somewhere if I never make tenure)


  2. Ups, didn’t mean to take this much space with this video, just wanted to share the link, but don’t know how to change it now.


    1. Links usually embed themselves – and that’s fine. When would Petibon ever not be okay? Thank you for the clip. (I don’t have a policy of only posting queer content. It just happens that a lot of what I post echoes queer lady interests.)


  3. Wahoo! as Racine did not say, although he did say, L’amour n’est pas un feu qu’on renferme en une âme: – Tout nous trahit, la voix, le silence, les yeux, – Et les feux mal couverts n’en éclatent que mieux. Not too chilly. Anik, this is frabjous. You should be surtitling, and as dehggial suggests you should be in program books, and you should be doing those pre-performance play-throughs that were popular until Anna Russell finished them off, so that people can go to operas in a state of Anik consciousness. Even the titles of your screencaps are delights. Le bonheur semble fait pour être partagé — thanks for the happiness.


    1. partager, c’est half the pleasure.
      New Life Goal: be the queer Anna Russell (though I don’t play the piano and “my quartet singing isn’t as good as it used to be”).
      The screencap titles are a bit of a gimmick (and I figured hardly anyone would take note of them).


  4. I love two-part arias, and love this, but I can never get over Damrau’s version.
    Does YT have a good version of Mitridate with French,Spanish, English or italian subs? I hate having to watch a video and follow a libretto on the side, particularly since they don’t always match. I am trying to reform myself and be a little bit more open to seria.


      1. you have no idea how much am enjoying these caps, they’ve been hurling in head whole week amid theories and posters.. can’t wait for the next installment!
        (ps- may i mention also neckline! and how resemblance to steffi graf’s nose line..)


        1. God, yes, that open collar. And I may have far too many profile shots, too (is it cultural stereotyping if we talk about the chiseled profile line of a Greek singer? – so true, though) I actually watched Traviata clips to get an idea of her regular range – she did Donna Anna with Wieler in 2006 (Amsterdam), that stuck with me the most, although I would really like to see the whole staging to see how the character fits into it.


          Liked by 1 person

          1. let me recheck those 10 caps. Make sure they are in order, and all that. *cough* *tumbletumble* *cough*


      2. ps- the whole 2006 Amsterdam mozart is here. she also has a whole one in italy that i tried a week ago but had to quit due to the music being too high :D, will try again today w/ 2006. I think she’s slated to sing Donna Elvira this coming season with TCE.


        1. Thank you for the link!
          I saw the Donna Elvira annoucnement and found it odd, she is such a good fit for Anna (much harder to find than a good Elvira, actually) and Elvira really sits lower, and the energy and vocal line is so different. Should be interesting!


          1. i’m having this 2006 running “in background w/o visuals” and find her voice so much warmer than the fancy-packaged version from Sferisterio 2015. also found that she’s been singing both roles since a while including Elvira new york in 2011 and most recent san diego last yr. (actually i don’t know the music very well either.. and kept getting the 2 characters confused :D, but muuuuch prefer the warmth [from all singers] in 2006. ) . just for fun, here’s the gesture imported from Sifare for Donna Elvira.


          2. I didn’t know she had done Elvira already! Are there soundbytes?

            The gesture – 😀 😀 😀 Dear God.
            well, yes, clearly Sifare has had some practice (also, Anna should definitely take home Elvira in the end because that swagger should not go to waste!)


          3. yes, the two of them should come home together! that photo is from staging in San Diego last year, though i admit seeing it reminded of a very similar one with ACA!

            no i haven’t come across any sound clip yet.. but she sang with Ivan Fischer during some mozart festival with the budapest orchestra in NY, w/ mixed reviews.

            (ps- am currently really loving her Donna Anna in 2006, in term of warmth. )


          4. Apropos that 2006 Amsterdam “Don Giovanni”: There is clearly an academic suffering from Greek Soprano Syndrome preceding us:

            “Which returns us to the Don Giovanni of Wieler, Morabito, and the television director Vermeiren, with its self-consciousness about the medium and built-in commentary on the visual. Other productions show better how singers and the technology may undermine the camera’s gaze; witness Sutherland’s “Non mi [End Page 57] dir,” where the heroizing of the diva combines with excessive zooming to distance the viewer (Table 5). Sutherland evinces too much power and the editing too much agency for there to be any illusion that she is passive and we active—if anything, after four big zooms in only seven shots, we may ourselves feel like the passive ones, riders strapped into a visual roller coaster. Filmed in a subtler style, the Netherlands production puts viewers in an ambiguous position more characteristic of televised opera as a whole. As one might expect given the directors’ pessimism about visuality, “Non mi dir” looks a little like the classic Hollywood films that inspired the original critique of the gaze. Donna Anna (Myrtò Papatanasiu) sits alone in her bedroom writing a letter to Don Ottavio, looking cinematically sensual with satin sheets and a dress accenting her figure and legs, all in lilac. Tight camera framing and a luxuriantly slow Larghetto tempo enhance the impression of sexualized femininity being put on display. Shots of other characters show that she is indeed the object of one man’s thoughts—Don Ottavio (Marcel Reijans), seen writing his own letter—and another man’s sight: Don Giovanni (Pietro Spagnoli), who watches her through his menacing spectacles. He also approaches her near the end of the stretta (m. 93), at which point a camera positioned close to the stage gives an approximation of his point of view. More than just capturing a woman as beautiful image, television here invites us to identify with a character as he performs that very act onstage. We look through the eyes of Don Giovanni as they fix a feminine object with an unmistakably objectifying gaze.

            Yet the scene also resists objectification, visually, vocally, and dramatically. Less conducive of vertigo than the Sutherland example, a series of zooms still compromises whatever illusion we might have of seeing Donna Anna revealed. Our insight is conditioned by the mechanical regularity and perspectival distortion of the lens, and also by the editorial agency that aligns each zoom with an important point of division, rather like a formal analysis: beginning, B section, and reprise (i.e., mm. 20, 36, and 48). Just when the camera has us look through Don Giovanni’s eyes, moreover, two further events dispel whatever trace may remain of Donna Anna’s vulnerability—or of Papatanasiu’s. First, she launches into the final cadences, whose broken phrases and spectacular leaps make her vocal finesse visible and impressive. Second, she literally gazes back at Don Giovanni, her eyes meeting his in a gesture both supplicatory and defiant: if you really wish to know me, stop staring and engage (fig. 5). The gambit fails, Don Giovanni shaking his head and Donna Anna sinking back onto her bed. Yet no sooner does she do so than the soundtrack fills with audience applause, confirming the agency of the singer just as the challenge to Don Giovanni’s gaze (and by extension, to ours) does that of the character.”

            Richard Will: “Zooming In, Gazing Back: Don Giovanni on Television.”
            in: The Opera Quarterly, 27/1 (2011), pp.32-67; cit. pp. 56-57

            (the whole read gives me a bit of an icky feel – similarly analyzing the voyeuristic and reveling in it – but it made Opery Quarterly, which is kind of the “Science” of Opera Studies, I gather?)

            Liked by 1 person

          5. 34 pages! i currently scanning… we can discuss more next week 😉 as this is really outside my territory and i don’t know enough.. but based on what i know so far the opera itself is problematic (for me) in content… and on a very basic level of understanding i already have issues with that staging in Italy that MP was part of (she made the front cover of the dvd too).. For this 2006 one I was really not watching so i can’t tell yet.. but the article indeed would be very interesting to read along.. I found her phrasing of that last aria with the letter *very* moving (still have no idea yet of context..)
            ps- here‘s the much higher res version of that posture/gesture photo ;-), screencap from SD’s photo site..


          6. PS. That photo should eventually make it to White Skirts Wednesday. I really need to make that into a series. Thank you!!


          7. a little bit off the topic you posted, but in same article, something that has been in the back of my mind since seeing capuleti in theater + zoomed-in broadcast.. and in fact through Semiramide.. being bothered somewhat by the thought perhaps she’s being filmed b/c of her look (i suspect part of it) and that really took away her asset as a very skilled musician..
            “The virtuosity displayed by singers compounds the effect, lending them, if anything, even more agency than the stars of live television enjoy. Seen close-up, their physical efforts already suggest a fine disregard for media sensibilities; however balanced by manly biceps or billowing breasts, sweaty faces and gaping mouths are not the stuff of entertainment magazines. Nor can singers remain still simply to please the cameras, the “silent arias” of Ponnelle notwithstanding; in the great majority of televised opera, the ethic of liveness requires that they work on-screen. Combined with even barely adequate audio, cameras highlight just how extraordinary that work is, how improbable that anyone can produce a magnificent sound while also remembering the part, coordinating with other singers and the orchestra, and acting. The remarkable people who do this make poor objects for voyeuristic appropriation, and in rendering their abilities more obvious, television does not contain so much as empower them.”


          8. That opera singers, because they physically work, distort any “naturalistic” film aesthetic is one side to it – and, yes, subverting that passivity can be read as empowering. But the other side of the medal is that the heightened physicality of singing also is something easily fetishized: we do not just look at a body, but a breathing, vibrating, laboring body and that can be a very sexualized objectification, too.

            Singers being uncomfortable with being filmed could, I imagine, not just be about being aesthetically objectified, or “caught at work”, but being objectified THROUGH their work.



          9. While I’m not as totally “brainwashed” by the Greek Soprano Syndrome as you two, may I add that I can imagine MP as Elvira quite well, she has a beautiful and warm lower register. Didn’t you say her high notes were giving you a headache, thadieu so what about her Donna Anna?


          10. I had the 2006 running at the office today and a decade may make a difference, or perhaps it’s Metzmacher’s very slender, eboning take on things, but she has a lyric top without strains there – vey much that kind of lyric coloratura that you use for a Traviata (think Cotrubas, e.g.), but really more of a lyric in phrasing, or it may just be how she does Mozart. So I could hear no strain to cause a headache, but I only made it unto the sextet, so I’ll have to report back tomorrow. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          11. “brainwashed” ? me? never! 😉
            i was also having the 2006 Donna Anna running this morning: I was amazed how warm her voice was in that tv broadcast! She has another Donna Anna from this run that i had to give up 1/4 way in <– but this is not just her, i generally have splitting headaches with soprano voices, even E.Haïm's version of La finta giardiniera i had to quit 1/3 of the way in.. , MP also has a clip singing in this opera that i couldn't handel.. But i realize it's really how the sound is recorded / comes through speakers / headsets and might not be the case in real life–i've read quite a few reviews of how warm her voice is.. so i'm really curious.
            (oh, even the shirt aria, i can't run it for too long due to headaches, ack! on the other hand PP's voice works just fine for me…)


          12. :-), thanks, i haven’t thought of that angle yet until now.. but generally speaking the filming should be from the view of the audience i believe, or as Cat once put it: operas are meant from the audience perspective, not the zoomed-in.. (she said something of that nature, right after seeing the broadcast of capuleti as well..)
            (but then from that angle i wouldn’t have managed my last post with the arms! 😉 )


          13. ideally, we should get a version of the full stage with 2-3 optional zooms at all times. 🙂 For those arm posts. For research purposes….
            But yes, much a I enjoy the close ups for the micro expressions, at times I simply want to look elsewhere. Some parts of the gaze staging in Mitridate I still have not figured out because of the zooms and cuts.


          14. Oh yes, it sometimes annoys me to no end when the camera just zooms on something they think you should be interested in at that moment but I would really like to decide that for myself. (example: In the Glyndebourne Rinaldo you have Rinaldo and Almirena making out while the camera view moves to Armida in the background… yes, I see that it makes sense for the storyline but still…)


  5. And she has done Alcina, in what looks–white shirt, little black dress, hold my horn–like an interesting production. Her Ruggiero, Marilley, will perform another trousers role in Jomelli’s Berenice, up tomorrow on Arte LiveWeb.


    1. OH MY GOD, that is the Wieler production (Naglestad). Excuse me while I hyperventilate.

      Thank you for the photo and it’s probably better for my continued health if there is no video of it. Jokes aside, I would be intrigued to see her take on it. I saw one of the retakes still with Naglestad in Stuttgart, and it was so much tailored to her brand of no-apologies physicality that I imagine other singers stepping into that production having to develop a personal take on it. Papatanasiu talked about Alcina, in the interview tha dieu pointed out, as if having sung it various times, and, as it turns out, in the two signature production of the past 15 years!

      Thank you for the Berenice link (and for turning me onto GBopera!). Somehow, the Tito always brings the queerness to the yard… More Jommelli is much welcome. Looking forward to a first impression of Marilley!

      PS. I just realized that this is not the Tito Berenice. It is, though, a Wieler production from Stuttgart in Viebrock sets. Consider me sold!


      1. oh wow, that photo is pretty big and impressive in this new setting…
        I saw that too, along with a few other where she’s sitting down.. but frustratingly couldn’t find a single clip…


        1. Getting rid of the sidebar is truly paying off 🙂

          Feel free to point us toward more of those photos!

          The production toured, I believe? Because I don’t think Papatanasiu sang it in Stuttgart, although Stuttgart saw quite a few castings in this one, as well (especially after Naglestad went independent).



          1. (ps- in case you’d like to tune in the other Greek soprano Harteros is singing live today from Bayerische Staatsoper (BK Klassik radio) starting at 6pm GMT (i think..), some Verdi thing i don’t know 🙂 , and possibly can’t wake up for given i still awake now..)


          2. I was wondering when you actually sleep and thought I had miscalculated the time difference. I am also wondering whether we are developing a thing for Greek sopranos? 😉

            Thanks for the link! Clearly, I should have attended that one in Stuttgart more often! (now I realized from the photo-naming that it’s from a 2011 re-opening – probably why I missed it, I was living in Southern Europe then)

            also, regarding THAT particular photo: OH. MY. (though i will never be able to unsee Naglestand there)


          3. PS. that “Some Verdi thing” is Ballo in maschera – definitely a Verdi favorite. From the casting, it should be fab (Bezcala annoys me when he talks, but this is one thing he sings extremely well, for Harteros, it’s another step into more dramatic Verdi) – thanks, I will put it on in the background (tonight is opening night, it seems).


    1. yes, exactly!
      the ones that are the same, and the ones that are not… a truly fascinating look into stage-persona bulding, and also in physically building gender embodiment.


    2. Jonathan Miller points out that Mozart’s characters (and his music for them) are very closely connected to their time and place. Situations, emotions, expressions, gestures — all grow out of the context and social expectations: The Performance of Self in 18th Century Aristocratic Ideals. There is a code of behavior that they all understand, behavior meaning physical expression as well as moral choice, the first rendering the second visible. Later on, that agreed, comprehensive vocabulary broke apart, so gestures get bigger, like Rossini’s or Verdi’s, to be sure of making themselves understood. Within the subtler etiquette, tiny details of posture, glance, are much more powerful.

      Liked by 1 person

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