White Shirt Manifesto: Lungi da te

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[This scene. Well, most every scene of that evening, but this scene!
Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia) in Mozart’s “Mitridate”, Paris 2016. – Don’t mind me, I’m just here to embarrass myself further. All caps: click to enlarge.]

 

I’ve been trying to pinpoint why this scene, and why “Mitridate” and Mozart seria get to me so much. I know I’ve been pondering it in relation to “Idomeneo” a while back, and much of it still boils down to the same: The elaborate hierarchies of patriarchal cultures and trying to carve out a space – of visibility, of audibility – in articulating queer desire within those cultures, while at the same time being intricately bound into its systems, resonate strongly with my experiences and my identity as a queer woman.

To see this struggle reflected, narratively rewarded, and given agency both in terms of (stunning!) visibility and audibility, is incredibly moving.

I’ve been out for almost twenty years. I’ve come into my own during the nineties, which were already a far friendlier place than previous decades to realize one’s own gayness, but displays like this still get to me every time.

I read them as representation in a niche where I feel emotionally at home. Opera has always been my go-to haven, a space where even a very confused budding baby dyke could find women to swoon over and characters to identify with, and see couples on stage that – one of them supposed to be a man notwithstanding – made sense on a level that transcended rational approaches.

Early Mozart seria in particular is what I raised myself on as a teenager. This is the kind of masculinity and heroism that still will ring a chord within me as an adult woman (now closing in on forty). Those trouser roles were my role models when it came to the kind of person I was trying to figure out how to be – someone who was good in the narrative, yet ostracized by desiring someone forbidden (not necessarily the father’s fiancée, but you get the point) and perhaps persecuted for it, but vindicated by the music and often also in the storytelling. These operas taught me that there was nothing inherently wrong with me. They were a space where a happy ending existed for me.

Queer people are used to look for themselves in subtexts: in straight love stories, or in stories that are not meant to be romantic at all. Trouser roles are a double space because on a narrative level, you are looking at a male character, while on the performance level, you are – and post 1800s, I claim that we are still unable to do otherwise in Western cultures, Butler nothwithstanding – looking at two women onstage, two women embodying a love story and reflecting back visibility to people who are usually without representation in the maintext.

On a third level, informed by those first two, trouser roles also negotiate masculinity as a concept separate from maleness. In that, it serves as a space for trans, butch and masculine-of-center people, but also for everyone who is struggling with assigned patterns of femininity and/or masculinity. It has a lot to do with relating to space, and to power, and this brings me back to the very specific case of the Paris “Mitridate”, because two things that absolutely get me about it are, for one, the approach of casual sensuality when it comes to the trouser role of Sifare: it stages masculinity as a relational set of patterns to be adapted onto any body and does not try to emulate biological maleness.
And, two, the staging of relating to power that clearly separates Sifare’s masculinity (which, within the narrative, is the heroic one, even though in a patriarchal order, Mitridate and his violence are the dominant model) from chauvinist violence, which is a fallback device for staging trouser roles far too often (“Let’s make him a bit of a jerk, that’s sexy, that’s a real man” – Ugh.) It’s even about more than just masculinity there: in this figure, it’s also about staging (mainstream) desire towards female bodies as unviolent (which should not be a novelty, but that is a rant for another day).

Look at how this Sifare treats Aspasia: never without respect. Staging ‘masculine’ desire as balanced between partners (just check above how those two look at each other, and on a second note, look how Ismene is threatend by Farnace here, but refuses to be victimized) and without inherent domination might be the most beautiful thing about this production, and it happens completely low-key.

Of course it does not hurt that both leads are very compelling in their acting (Petibon in particular is turning into a relevation for me – go rewatch that scene where she contemplates poisoning herself. It is bone-chilling). Or that they are not at all difficult to look at. But that’s just the sugar on top of this production and, yes, while that might be the thing that has launched this avalanche of screencaps, that does not explain why this staging is resonating so strongly with me. That, really, is due to how (female) bodies, how power and how possible masculinities – and the broader landscape of negotiating self in relation to desire – are being staged here.

37 thoughts on “White Shirt Manifesto: Lungi da te

  1. I don’t know if this makes sense, but I’ll try it out here. Finding – or creating one’s place in a world designed to exclude one is always a tricky business. We lost so many histories, and so much truth because our lesbian ancestors couldn’t pass on their life experience to us, except occasionally in coded form. We had no alternative but to find our own place and way alone. But as you point out, opera has been making the way visible all along, and giving it a voice as well. The shimmering way in which gender in operas like this both looks and sounds to us makes us at the same time both know and doubt . I think the potency comes from seeing and feeling but not quite grasping what we are to make of what we see and hear. Perhaps that is how a moment of stillness free of internal chatter can be created – and it could be that it is in this moment of knowing/not knowing that one’s place can be gently and intuitively found. I see it better in some pairings than in others.

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  2. Same to you Anik. I love being given a different view of the world, because that creates the world anew. I’m watching these two on Youtube – just uploaded today I think. I can’t believe I am committing to Mithridate again in less than two days. But this time I am thinking of the little wooden Pinocchio turning into a real girl (in pants?) who likes other little girls.

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    1. Thank you both, your blogs gave me a lot to think about! Inkbrain, you said .”it could be that it is in this moment of knowing/not knowing that one’s place can be gently and intuitively found”. This describes my own feelings very well because I often find it very difficult to pinpoint my own emotions and find a clear role for myself within a story. Although, similarly to you, Anik, I have been fascinated with opera since my teens, when it comes to singers and especially same sex couples, I still get quite confused about identification versus desire, versus sheer admiration for voice and singing technique, (probably it’s usually a mixture of all three). I don’t know if my uncertainties here are related to the fact that I am also attracted to men, but I don’t think so, because, strangely, this is only in in real life, while I rarely fall for male singers in opera (why is that?). But, as you said in much better words than I can, the beautiful thing about opera is that we don’t have to fully understand to form a strong emotional connection to the characters, the music and the story. (although, when it comes to Paris Mitridate, „obsession“ would probably be the better word :-)).

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      1. Perhaps not that strange? If we talk about that oscillating place not really between, but combining (forgive me for putting it in crude terms) “I want to be that” and “i want to do that”, mixed with a healthy dose of admiration, then it is a level that – if you see yourself as a woman – can only work for you in relation to female performers. It is a magical place, and I don’t think of it as arbitrary like much of postmodern art stance. I don’t think of it as an evasive plurality. To me, it stands as a space not of either/or, but of AND. Is it narcissist? It can be, but I do not think it has to be. If there is a place where identity and desire can collapse into one another for the blink of an eye, or the duration of an aria: that is arriving at peace, I imagine, and how much more for a demography whose narrative is still predominantly written through the lens of ostracism? More food for thought. Thank you!

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  3. I love the story of Pinocchio and see it as a parable of the ‘becoming’ process. Simply put, we start out as ‘puppets’ – creatures of our parents and our culture, and have many adventures while following our puppet whims and fancies, sometimes even becoming donkeys. But then at some point the strings controlling us loosen and we begin to feel our own authentic impulses. That is when we begin to be our complex, and often confusing ‘real’ selves. It is often an imperceptible process and it goes on throughout our lives. Opera with its lavish feast for the senses, scintillating spectacle, ravishing sound, unambiguous plots and ambiguous roles, (which are often at odds with each other) gives us hints that the real is hidden in the unreal and vice versa! The truth might be that we are all those things too!

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    1. Certainly much more food for thought and I need some time to process this, but I think , Anik, what you say with regard to my personal “case” does make a lot of sense, thank you! It also fits in with everything you said about the too common staging of trouser roles as chauvinist and artificially masculinized, something that has never worked for me.

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  4. comment of thả diều (originally posted with “Riddle Me This”), copied here because it relates more to Mitridate than to Carmen:

    “but it would be really interesting to see whether it works just as well with casting changes”
    i had this experience in Munich with Capuleti, hugely difference!🙂
    i really think you need just the right feeling for acting — i know you gave a detailed explanation for “natural”.. but i always think there are those who are just a bit more intuitive and are dynamically adjustive (as you say, “physical focus (where does a gaze go, how does it propel a response, a movement of body) that looks very well directed, but also bespeaks stage intelligence beyond that” ). In fact i mention Capuleti here because it was one of the 2 times (the other is ACA as Nerone) I paid that close attention to acting and being very impressed.. on that Capuleti run, several other singers (including N.Cabell & JDD and E.Nakamura + T.Erraugh) all got similar directions/pointers on where to look and how to act and none of them look “natural” (non-flowing) to me.

    For this case I wonder also whether because they’re working with E.Haïm that we also get such a wonderful vocal treat: there was one video i heard of S.Graham explaining what it was like to work with her and how she encouraged the singers to explore ways to express.. ( i’m impressed with both Petibon and S.Devieilhe’s singing, but most importantly i’m really impressed w/ Papatanasiu’s phrasing as she is doing a lot of acting and running that she could slip easily into the pouting / over-emoting..) . I went forward this time to her acting during Mitridate’s angry aria which transitioned beautifully into “Lungi da te”, very impressive!

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    1. I believe, as you do, that the changed casting will lead to a different evening, especially in this case, since so much of the movement seems to be developed organically out of the singers’ bodies, with a lot of detail work to boot. most of the time, it shows to whom a production was tailored, and then it depends in the director whether they adapt to the physicality and instincts of a new singer (and there is usually no time (=money) for that).

      There a different acting styles, and some are more intellectual in approach. I think what you name with “intuitive” has a very, very good example in Antonacci. On one side, there is the element of physically channeling a phrase/mood, but on the other side (which is a discussion more closley linked to film, and we have it in filmed opera with the close-ups) there is the way of working with micro-expressions, either through consciously controlling them, or through having worked out a system on how to call upon them on a more intuitive level. Opera singers, who need to be very aware of facial muscle structure one way or another, usually don’t get trained in that and have to mind sound focus first, but there are some who have a good grasp of it regardless.

      Haïm is exceptional, I think, and exceptionally gifted when it comes to phrasing and expressiveness. She has a grasp of Baroque as an affect culture that is not necessarily stilted, but very contemporary. She really makes it emotionally available, and I would say both singers and audiences connect to that. Haïm and Petibon are long-time collaborators, they share perhaps a similar approach in looking at Baroque rhetoric (of phrase, of sound, of words)? It makes so much sense in Petibon, and it is immediately available. She has two more overt moments in the “Mitridate” where she works with verismo-like sound closer to wailing, and she makes it (in collaboration with Haïm, who helms it) be a natural progression, or the only possible progression: listen how Haïm stretches the build-up, the upwards push in harmony, how she understands structure in “Nel cor mi palpita” (32:30 in the video) and how Petibon channels that pulse into that first “umido il ciglio”: that is someone desperately crying, not talking about imaginery of crying desperately, someone who is literally unable to remain standing.
      Or the bit before the love duet: there is a perceding recit phrase where Aspasia tells Sifare that she cannot give her hand to someone whose hand is covered in the still-warm blood of her murdered lover (Come accopiar la destra a una destra potrei tutta fumante del sangue, aimè, del trucidato amante?, 2:28:30), and it’s a similar progression. And again, Petibon inhabits it seamlessly, over a those suddenly sharper high strings carpet, courtesy of Haïm.
      It corresponds to what we talked about regarding the Papatanasiu interview a few days ago, of taking a role’s emotions seriously and starting the development o portrayal from the inside out (without putting things and people into boxes beforehand, if you will). Incidentally, I just read an interview bit of Sarah Paulson approaching her role in 12 Years A Slave that way: by not judging from the outside first.

      The acting during “Tu, che fedel mi sei” (the Mitridate aria before “Lungi da te”) by those not singing is really good, especially as they act off Mitridate’s singing!

      Another scene I got stuck on yesterday was the final, very agitated aria of Sifare, Se il rigor d’ingrata sorte (again: STELLAR work in the pit) where it’s simply Papatanasiu adjusting the length of her stride to build the unrest. I don’t know if it’s a conscious move, or a directed move, but it works.
      And again, looks: making Sifare refuse to look at Aspasia there results in a much more compelling farewell to me, because what I see is “if I look at you now, I will crumble and stay”. And you have Aspasia, in Petibon’s take, looking so desperately at Sifare (there are two caps in my “no chill” post) – you can still see the shakenness (she just was about to poison herself), and now it’s “I don’t want you to leave, but your impulse to leave is integral to what you are and why I love you, so I will let you go, but it is killing me”, and she is clawing into a chair to keep herself from reaching out.

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      1. Re. Aspasias “wailing” etc.: There’s a short interview on YT with Daniel Harding on Petibon where he states: “She puts her voice and herself totally in the service of what she is trying to say with the music, we never have the feeling that she puts the comfort of her voice or the beauty of sound before the emotion”.
        https://youtu.be/YHYNzw5cd50 (hope this stays a link :-))
        I personally feel literally blown away by her expressiveness which, although so intense, never feels put-on or exaggerated, and thanks for pointing out the way in which Petibon and Haïm complement each other here in mutual understanding, very impressive.

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      2. oh, thanks for more pointers for the studying session today . This is a cool occasion where the more we watch the more we discover the nuances, so please keep it coming Anik😉 . I usually have my ignorant way of following = working and listening with occasional glancing.. but that has grown now into detailed distraction with the right monitor being ignored.. (hence the North Atlantic just got assigned -90deg Lat) .. but i’m very glad for the extra hints so as to know where to zoom in (and perhaps time to dig up the libretto..)

        I’m beginning to catch on to what you’re referring now as rehearsed pointers on where to look + how to proceed from there.. I somehow always associated it with intuition but you’re correct that such points can definitely be suggested to (and when combined with experience, practice, and a bit of intuition🙂, can go a very long way). But to touch up a bit on the point regarding

        “by dancers who memorize the exact angles and energy for very lenghty parts”

        I always think in term of martial arts: there is a very specific reason why one takes a certain stance (balance, protection, etc) and it might be the only way to protect oneself. Thus if you understand the principle you automatically do it this way every time (and it wouldn’t make sense any other stance). Thus i think in the general sense (dancers, actors, singers, etc.) if they see the point of why then the movements would be intuitive (yes you’re told to look this way, then act such and such, but if you see why you do all that in the first place then you’d get it everytime) as opposed to rehearsed (arms at 70deg, feet at 40deg.. which wouldn’t make sense in reality and can look awkard)..

        So, to bring it together with Agathe’s comment re. Petibon’s acting + expressing music, this one really offers us (me for sure) a full display of her talent (and similar few singers like her who “feels” the drama and music). I know i use these words “feel”, “intuitive”, etc. a lot, which are very subjective and can not be communicated/taught effectively.. For these things i’m very happy to hear descriptions from you both as they’re much more objective and one can “hear” and “try to follow” . In fact i use to hate teachers who kept babbling regarding getting a “feel for it” and yet since I operate almost exclusively within this realm it can be frustrating to explain to others🙂.

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        1. Now that it is official that this production can move oceans…

          Thank you for the Martial Arts analogy, that makes a lot of sense here. My go-to example is usually ballet because I do not speak the code there and often have problems with grasping it (I keep seeing numbers of degrees and angles). Truly mastering the craft, in dancing, or Martial Arts, or singing, is internalizing those 70, thos 40 degrees and realize on a level of gut and core that they are the only angles that make sense, that they are not a contrived notion, but the logical point of where the energy is going, where it is supposed to go – so at that point, you just look for the energy, and when you connect to it, you will find automatically that you are in a position of those 40 and 70 degrees, to stick with the example. It is NOT putting your body in that position and assuming it to flow because of that. Of course you need to bring your body into that position countless times to get a feel for it, to get closer to its very basic logic, but it does not automatically work. There still needs to be a connection, and when you reach that level, where those angles, or those rhetorical leaps, turn into ‘natural’ (uncontrieved?) modes of expression, then you truly have mastered your craft.
          The opposition is not, as so often touted, going for the energy, which then overrides any angle vs. assuming an angle and expecting it to carry the moment – both are incomplete. It would have to be the energy and the angle collapsing into one another, one being the logical echo of the other.

          (I know I am very picky when it comes to using words like “natural”, “feeling” or “intuition” – it is an occupational hazard. Just like they pay you to move oceans, they, inexplicably, pay me to think about the history of affects and its rhetorics, so that tends to bleed into my blogging😉 )

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          1. yes, be the master of the techniques, so that you can have it at the tip of your fingers for use in *any* situations and be “natural” (=2nd nature) at it. which is the opposite of simply rely raw “feeling” for it. In fact that wouldn’t get one far due to lack of intensive training / techniques. I used to say to the dance partner: “i feel it’s wrong but i don’t know what’s wrong”, that’s the sort of hazard of overrelying on those subjective terms / abilities to start with instead of grasping on the basis / measureable / expressable quantities to evaluate improvement.

            yes, i’m very glad for your detailed explanations! ( holds true for any friend who can explain things in words to me rather than resorting to “well you just feel it”). many thanks!

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      3. ps- i tried to Anik, but haven’t made it past the first 2 arias… and now got the shirt tucking + (un)buttoning aria extracted and on repeat… (it’s not on tube.. i might have to do the honor myself down the line… feeling very compelled..)

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        1. Yes, that one (along with the first Aspasia aria) should definitely be in the leaflet that we hand to the newcomers (along with the classics of the VK Tito & Orfeo and the Connolly Cesare). I am already conflicted about WSM tomorrow: I could find a photo from another production, but why?

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          1. here, i couldn’t resist.. “Lungi da te” was already up by someone else.. the first Aspasia’s aria is also up i know it but can’t find (it’s visible as fb vid…)
            7 hours later… i was trying to figure out how to move on from those 2 arias… and decided to check out the salzburg 2006 .. i’m sorry, the conducting and singing are both waaaay too sterile for me! in fact now i remember coming across those videos waaay before but nooo way i’d have noticed Sifare or the opera! But those clips gave me motivation to go forward… i love so much also how “organic” the conducting is.. in any case while searching for her Sifare/Alcina i came across this interesting interview in english. In any case, her voice has a bit of strain and rough edge to it but i do like very much her commitment to phrasing as Sifare and would have loved to catch her take on Alcina!

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          2. yes, the Salzburg 2006 – I still like that one (there is some good singing, and it is an interesting concept pulled off well), but… BUT. On a level of personal connection, it does not hold a candle to this. Not even a meager little match. Which is not the fault of the 2006 crew and cast – I want to stress that fact -, it is just that the Paris production is… well, everything I could ever hope for in staging this opera, and then some.
            It is, I suppose, like meeting someone and only in meeting them your realize that this was missing from your life, and you did not even know it. You realize your entire critera for judging things has been missing half the scale, and the upwards half at that, because you did not know that THIS existed, and you could not even think it before you saw it, but afterwards, there is no going back.
            It is rare to find a production that adds to one’s perceptions, one’s sense of self, one’s responses like that and I fully intent to celebrate it until the cows come home (I have no cows, so this might take a while).
            Thank you for uploading the clip! I’m not really around the FB/interview/backstage crowd – really, one has to manhandle me to a stage entrance after a show, I always see myself as a bother there – so I will have to find away around for the first Aspasia aria. THe Shirt Aria (is it now dubbed that?) will then turn into tomorrow’s WSM – which nobody but you and perhaps Agathe will even look at any longer…😉
            The Paris “Alcina” Papatanasiu speaks of is the Carsen setting tht premerien in the early 2000s with Graham and Fleming and Dessay, right? Or did they have a new one since then? Her take on Alcina would be interesting to compare now, between serias – I don’t mind a bit of edge and strain (if it is too perfect, I remain unmoved – it has to be human), particularly when it is pulled into the performance as an essential aprt of the portrayal. Listen to Naglestad’s Alcina: she is (was, at that point – she’s gone on to really heavy dramatic repertory since, last I know she did “Salome”) not an Early Music soprano at all, she came, at that point, already from lirico spinto with more Verdi and the occasional Mozart under her belt (not as much the lyric as the dramatic Mozart), so her voice was heavier, opened slower, had a heft to it that was entirely non-Early Music, but she brought it into the role in a way that was absolutely gripping (and very hot, but that’s another point), because despite being a different voice type, she took the seria rhetoric as a starting point (or that’s my impression).
            Alcina, in my experience, is a role that works for a variety of soprano voices rooted in 19th century if they put their material into the logic of seria affect.

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          3. what i meant to say re. the 2006 is that i apologize to all singers and orchestra involved but it would fail to catch my attention everytime… I think you’d notice it *if* you know the opera already.. but for a beginner like me it has to be something to draws in.. (that first Aspasia’s action is really the right way to bring me/us all in!! , and full credit to Sifare for amazing acting + singing that keeps me listening.. before i started noticing the rest in many rounds (the gorgeous PP, everything else.., am getting around to memorizing this whole thing now!)

            ja, it’s that same staging by R.Carsen.. in fact there’s a tiny clip one hears her singing it.. which got me entrigued.. though C.Rousset tends to always take things a bit too fast for my taste..

            I know we discussed staging already but this kind of staging is perfect for me, the sort that the singers’ acting + our imagination can take over regardless of surroundings (reminds me a lot of childhood where we made believe all adventures in an empty room with exception of 2 chairs.. even my younger sister wrote about it once). and as both you and Agathe said it makes the slipping into character much more convincing.. (starting with the expert grab of the hands, PP deserves the WS medal!)

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          4. True, we should be desgning some kind of medal for that – “The Petibon Award for The Right Grasp Of Things”?

            I don’t if Petibon has had any schooling Baroque gestures (she might have, with her repertory, and she has been in productions who employed it), but she (and the director) are very much aware of communcation via hands. It’s also a detail in the trouser role for Sofare: notice in that first Aspasia aria (and I apologize for sounding like an obsessive creep, but I get paid to notice things like that), how “Sifare’s” hands are staged to be softer, more ‘feminine’ (that back graze of fingers along an upper arm), while later on, once (s)he is on costume, the gestures are bigger and always started with a notable outward tension in the wrist.

            The Carsen “Alcina” seems to be immortal – thanks for the clip!

            “Mitridate” should be the next big Mozart redisccovery. It may not have a steady 135 beat it works as a workout soundtrack, as well. I managed a set of heavy shoulder curls to “Quel ribelle e quell’ingrato”.😀

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          5. no worries, i notice the *exact* same thing (soft back fingers brush as she got pulled in vs the shirt aria, and i don’t even get paid for it!! I’m sorry this talent is natural for me😉 , i did spend *days* noticing VK’s hands, backs, shoulders, in relation to her sopranos, etc…)

            right, workouts! i’ve been thinking of installing the pull-up bar after being inspired by the shoulder lines…

            (ps- you know i actually first notice that i wanted to watch PP way back when she sang Susanna in that Figaro with K.Lindsay.. but there’s a Baroque gesture set? I didn’t know, thought it’s only for vocal.. but i can see why given the music is quite different , esp. tempo..)

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          6. oh yes, I plan on revisitng that Figaro soon, too! (need to compare acting notes. And possibly shoulders).

            (Mrs. Anik actually DID install a pull-up bar a few weeks back, and whenever the kids are not playing moneky with it, I do now have a new goal to aspire to😉 )

            Rhetoric Gestures: oh yes, there is a HUGE catalogue of hand language, much linked to dance, too. There are two productions I can think of off the top of my head which try to work with that (it never works seamlessly, current body stance is very far away from it): the Lully “Persée” as seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZycerjSPLHQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq-B0-DtSXA, and the Karlsruhe “Radamisto” with Galu, as seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1-PYf7GW7I (there are a few more clips of that floating around).

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  5. comment of thả diều (originally posted with “Riddle Me This”), copied here because it relates more to Mitridate than to Carmen:

    oh, and yesterday while watching “Carol”, which was quite a gear shift, i was thinking how much we take for granted that these opera singers can act and sing live compared to the very rehearsed ways movies are made! (and am a huuuge fan of Cate Blanchett’s subtle acting skills..)
    (ps- agree with shoulders! esp the side-view of the muscle line when she walked the shirt over toward Aspasia!)

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    1. agreed, agreed, agreed. Both regarding Blanchett’s management of small expressions and movements, and Papatanasiu’s shoulders!

      The live action is a gift, the continuous take on a role – perhaps it does not automatically connect easier to an audience (think of mainstream immersion cinema, that is pretty easy), but I do believe that it connects on a different level.
      It still surprises me how easy it is to remember a huge amount of small physical details in a three-hour-evening, but when it’s a new production that has seen 6-7 weeks rehearsal time, it works (in my experience): your body remembers (that said, it is still a difference HOW your body will move into them). I also tend to be stupefied also by dancers who memorize the exact angles and energy for very lenghty parts, and can call upon them again, even though I know from the singing/acting side that it is entire possible.

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  6. Oh, please go on celebrating this, it’a so much fun! Similarly to you two, I am not getting very far with the work I am supposed to do, in this case a paper on maladaptive schemata in childhood, but I just convince myself that it’s all connected (probably a strategy that doesn’t work so well with the north atlantic :-)).
    No need to bring up something new for WSM, I couldn’t handle much more input (and have not watched Carol so far for this reason, love the book though).
    Something that still puzzles me with the Paris Mitridate is the ending; it seems somewhat unsatisfactory, with Sifare and Aspasia not even looking at each other. Would love to know your thoughts on that!

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    1. So, there will be more Sifare on Monday.😉
      (and my paper on early modern concepts of privacy is waving at yours on maladaptive schemata in childhood!)

      The ending: with Mitridate standing back up, I read it as the “perfomrance” being over and the actors/actresses slowly returning, still dazed, to their offstages personas that are stuck in this theatre during the war, wounded or tending to the wounded: leaving the fiction.
      The ending within the fiction is organized around Mitridate’s death and redemption, so it’s not heavy on the romance due to that, I think. There is one longer look from Sifare to Aspasia (we do not see the reaction because of the editing) when Mitriate gives htem his blessing, but the scene was probably organized along the lines of “if a close relative is dying (even if he is an abuser, he still is a moral authority Sifare has trouble questioning), the focus is on the relation to that person”.

      I guess we have to dream up the sequel there😉
      (as a teenager, I wrote an elaborate celestial sequel to Don Carlos, which was my first Verdi experience. Of course, back then I still did not realize that it would be much more interesting to let Carlos shuffle around in the cloister froever and have the Queen end up with Eboli instead, but hey, I did evolve)

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      1. Oh, this overlapped with my previous post. I also noticed Sifares look in this scene and what a shame we can’t see Aspasias reaction. A propos dreaming up the sequel: What about some fan fiction, here?🙂

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      2. i’m very determined to be productive today (was yesterday too, sigh…) as there’s another slide-prep with 12 more slides in demand.. but as the day must start right, here it is, the accompanied Petibon’s “Grasp of Things” video, for me to play on repeat..

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        1. Thank you for the link! Not sure it will help my productivity, but I will to get a grasp on it… We can commiserate on slides today, I’ve got a research presentation tomorrow and a dozen slide to match yours on the plate, though in my case, I don’t have to worry about latitudes.

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        2. “Al destin, che la minaccia” is my favourite at the moment, too! Apart from “the grasp” it’s also fun to see how she draws all the other actors into the performance they are about to start. (And the pullover thing in the end is not bad either…). But I really wonder how you are able to concentrate on our work with this running in the background!

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      3. “how you are able to concentrate on our work with this running in the background”
        i am from the old “if you can’t fight her, embrace her” school.. and instead of wasting time rewinding on the flimpsy vlc player, i now save a lot of time to “focus on work” via playing the extracts on repeats in 2nd monitor.. i finally paid attention to the recit prior to “Lungi da te” last night though, and have to say i quite like how Papanasiu portrayed a very young (but caring) Sifare.. even the “lack of expression” on Sifare’s face during the duet (when Aspasia was singing when both on their knees) also reflected it a bit: he noticed the danger quickly but didn’t quite seem to grasp the same level of desperation that Aspasia expressed. Here and throughout their scenes together one gets the visual impression that Aspasia is a bit more mature in thinking (she also showed her youth so not quite as mature as the Maschallin).

        So, a last bit on my new obsession then🙂, i was curious of Papatanasiu’s singing in general given how much she has treated us here.. so I went searching on tube last night.. and sat through a chunk of her Violetta (Traviata).. Can i say she has so much more room to express her talent as Sifare?🙂 But I’m also thinking perhaps that is the advantage of working with E.Haïm again in that she (EM) shaped the music to completely support Papatanasiu’s on-the-small-size voice so that she doesn’t have to shout over the loud orchestra (+chorus) as seems to be the case with Violetta.. That, along with working with P.Petibon who is an expert in great (hand) movements and vocal acting surely provided a greater feedbacks than a typical shouting Alfredo.. In fact she gave a short interesting interview in Montreal mentioning being “natural” and going with her “instinct” instead of “doing too much” because that would tune out the singing partner (though now with our discussion Anik, i intepret her “natural” comment as adjusting to the situation but basing on her built-up training.

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        1. Yes, the youthfulness! From the looks of it, it was a central issue in the Carsen production, so Papatanasiu might have had more staging experience when it comes to that? I did not find it that central here, but of course in the seria operas where you have sons vs. a father figure, you always have a system of hegemonic masculinity, you have the dominant model vs. the less dominant ones, and the story hinges on it – I see it here in how Sifare has trouble to distance himself from his father (a good moment is that helpless hug in Tu che fedel mi sei. Traviata – I hear you. Violetta is set so much into a set of misogynist 19th century fetishization of the virgin/prostitute line (as if there would be nothing in between) and I am often frustrated at her lack of agency within the story. It is a structural problem, apart from the oppressive heteronormativity, that makes much of the 19th century mainstay repertory hard to watch for me. It is build so much around punishing female desire and agency, and it is hard to find a position towards it that can deal with the level of misogyny, no matter how compelling the drama. I think part of my issue with “natural” is a 19th century reading of “natural” that implies that this is the given and only correct approach, without taking into consideration that any set of patterns we experience as “natural” is always a cultural conglomerate of negotiated and internalized patterns that exist at the exclusion of others. Singers do not have to be aware of that, necessarily, but I cannot shake my distrust of the word in analyzing.

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  7. To step in on your discussion about the internalization of “moves” to master a techniques: I think this absolutely applies to singing as well, as you said Anik, (although, here it’s of course more about the reaction to kinaesthetic sensations then actual “moves”), and it’s very hard because it’s often counterintuitive, i.e. you want to give more volume to the tone to express an emotion but must not simply push more air which will result in switching to breast register, making the tone uneven and actually less carrying, but instead focus on your positioning. Also, what you hear yourself differs from what arrives at your audience, which is why recording yourself it so beneficial. I am not a professional of course but have struggled for years with not being able to technically produce what I want to express on a level that meets my own standards (haven’t given up hope, though :-)). Very talented singers should all possess a very good sense of kinaesthetics, so this may be related to the “stage instinct” you mentioned.
    Re. rhetorics: please forgive my certainly sometimes clumsy way of expression in English (I would do better in German here), but, as a medic, I am not so exprerienced with discussions on humanistic topics in English. Another thing I can learn here…🙂

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    1. Your English is not clumsy AT ALL (I had not realized you were not a native speaker).
      oh, singing and kinaesthetics, exactly! (I almost did go into singing professionally, but decided against it (and, really, I wasn’t good enough). I still miss it every day – at the time, it seemed easier to stop completely to deal with it, but GOD do I still miss it. I never dared to start again – by now, it would probably hurt just as much: hear all that I have lost)
      The curious thing with singers is that the can have a very good grasp of it, in a physical sense of where things “sit”, without ever thinking about it in scientific terms (so much of what you learn on sound production relies on being given images that work with sensations and emotion). At times (in what I have seen) the science aspects even result in blocks for the voice. You school yourself in physical pointers, but the imagery you use to reach those points is not scientific, most of the time.
      I had an Early Music singing teacher, so I was turned onto rhetoric from the start, but I clearly remember training “counterintuitive” movements: thinking up when going down and vice versa, and trying to let that become second nature, the same way speed changes in upwards and downward coloratura, etc. But I’m not sure that’s such a focus beyond Early Music, and things may have changed in the meantime. You are probably much more involved in current happenings (and a lot more advanced than I ever got to be).

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      1. I guessed you had been singing yourself from the way you write about in in “Stages” and I absolutely comprehend your approach of better not doing it at all than doing it on a level you are not yourself satisfied with. I have been to this point myself but then I changed teachers a while ago after having moved to another town and her teaching approach brought me forward enormously (although I didn’t like her classifying me a Soprano at first, while having sung Mezzo-Repertoire for years, but now I have to say, she is right about that, and, as with so many things, you just have to accept your voice fach the way it is). It’s also true that a scientific approach is rather counterproductive in singing and that’s hard when you are otherwise used to approaching things analytically. But, if you love singing and miss it, do try and take it up again, we could be duetting :-)!
        Oh, and thanks a lot for your compliment about my English, 3 years at home with the kids have not been beneficial to my self-esteem.

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