White Shirt Monday: Died And Gone To Heaven

[Since calling up the entire opera while sitting on the bus is hell on the data plan: “Se viver non degg’io” as a separate file on YouTube. Once more – still – Mozart’s “Mitridate” with Myrtò Papatanasiu (Sifare) and Patricia Petibon (Aspasia), Paris 2016. – Clip with thanks to thadieu!]

Actually, I meant to talk about the Jommelli “Vologeso” from Stuttgart today, but I still only managed to skim through the performance (Smith and Schneiderman, though. I would watch those two navigate a comlicated seria relationship for the length of an entire “Ring” cycle), so that will have to wait a bit longer.
I did think a lot about “Don Giovanni” and authorship in the past few days, thanks to a lively discussion in the post announcing chapter 15 of “Stages”, and about the fact that the trope of the irresistible seducer is still so very uncontested in scholarship, staging and reception, but none of that really involves hot mezzos in pants or other White Shirt instances.

So instead, have some non-toxic masculinity on a cis female body, and involved performances and beauty (also, hands). A happy week to all of you.

68 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: Died And Gone To Heaven”

  1. mostly paging thadieu and Agathe: we talked about the ending of the production in relation to the central romance before (with a soulful stare screenshot by Dr. T, too) and in rewatching the ending yesterday, I had to think about it some more.
    On a personal level, I am so invested in the portrayals that I want them to ride off into the sunset, OR ELSE.
    The performance does not exclude that, I think, but it is more layered (again): I think the – we called it distant – ending needs to be seen through the lens of Aspasia’s “Pallid’ombre” and then the “Bevasi” accompagnato (the poisoning scene). The way Petibon plays her, it seems to me that she was willing to fulfill her duties until Mitridate tricked her into revealing that she was in love with Sifare, and subsequently condemned them both to death. At this point, I think, this Aspasia is through with adhering to duty (the problem is: Sifare is not.).
    Aspasia was about to kill herself because she thought Sifare was dead or dying. She is still utterly shaken when Sifare walks in, who does not get it and is all “oh, Ismene set me free a while ago, hey, don’t drink that. We’ll be fine, I just need to go off now and risk my life next to the man who just wanted to kill us.”
    And Aspasia cannot fathom that: she is through with Mitridate. In the end, when Mitridate apologizes to her, she keeps her distance, her body language is wary and distanced, and she stands next to the whole dying-father-with-sons family tableau like someone who does not belong (thought there are a few glances between her and Sifare, despite Sifare’s focus being on his father). She does not try to stop Sifare from running off and clearing his name – again with the respect – but, and I think I mentioned that before, you can see how it physically costs her. She has the bewildered, vulnerable line (just a secco line, but it is loaded) of “e mi lasci così? And you leave me like this?” before Sifare, who is completely out of it because he is still trying to reconcile his conflicting father vs. abuser stance, rushes off (and his “Se ‘l rigor d’ingrata sorte” is perfectly desperate and disoriented; he is seemingly unable to connect to anyone at that moment, since he cannot connect to himself. – at this point, it is also very interesting to look at the cuts made here: not only is an Aspasia aria cut here (Secondi il ciel pietoso, which boils down to “he does not deserve you, and if you think you owe him something, remember that you owe me something, too!” – something that would make Sifare’s running off afterwards a rational choice), but – even more interesting – the recits are sharpened, with less reflection space. Sifare in particular is left here without any grand reasoning to frame his reaction, which is, I think, a great choice).
    And at this point, where Aspasia, to put it colloquially, has run out of fucks to give about Mitridate, Sifare worries about being branded a traitor (he did not sleep with Aspasia (yet, anyway) even though he wanted to – so he *is not* a traitor, but he cannot bear being thought of as one, likely also because it intersects with his feelings: loving Aspasia means being close to treason), which is linked back to accepting Mitridate’s authority once more, and Aspasia is So. Done.
    Sifare openly rebels against his father only when Mitridate threatens Aspasia; he still struggles with renouncing paternal authority beyond that, and it may explain the rift between the characters in the end: Sifare has won back Mitridate’s approval when the latter dies and has not challenged him on the horrendous execution plot; he is granted permission to marry Aspasia and inherit the throne (while, at this point, this Aspasia looks ready to elope and forget about royal family ties).
    If one thinks these characters further, that would be something they’d have to work through: Sifare (and it fits with thadieu’s description of him as youthful in this portrayal) would need to stop making excuses for the abuser and distance himself from his father, period. Aspasia, who has arrived in this situation as a stranger, has a headstart there.
    Still, there are looks of connection scattered throughout. We don’t see clearly where Aspasia first glances when the dying Mitridate is walked in, but it seems to be Sifare (which makes sense). They you’ve got the shot of the three men – of Sifare, Mitridate, and one of his goons – when Aspasia steps closer: three faces turn, Sifare’s first, and you see the contrast in whom he sees in comparison to whom the other two see (then the gaze seems to pan out to the side – not sure what is happening?).
    Then, you’ve got Sifare hovering behind Mitridate, who issues his apology, and Sifare keeps darting looks at Aspasia (even before he is given ‘permission’ within the narrative). Then we’ve got that one exchange thadieu captured before, before the focus returns to the dying (there is one exception at 3:18:04 I cannot pinpoint) on Sifare’s part, while Aspasia at a distance seems to alternate between the scene and Sifare, and then the focus of all characters/singers turns outward already.
    So from this reading, I’d say the story within the story may still include a sunset, but it might take some talking things out to fully get there.
    (no, I am not considering “Mitridate” fanfic in Alexandrines. I am NOT.)

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    1. am eavesdropping while attempting to focus on arctic stuff.. and occasionally swinging by to catch the captures again.. yes the ending has been on my mind, esp. it was done with such a deliberate rush.. but as you said, i think (in my mind at least) it really reflects the youth in Sifare.. and that now that Mitridate is gone it will flush out of his young system rather quickly.. though one does have to think twice about his priority given how quickly he abandoned Aspasia to rush off to what his mind thinks was idealized (fighting with father).. i’ll ponder more and get back here soon.. but i remember his youth during the duet somehow reminded me of VK’s portrayal of youth in Oktavian. Aparently the absolutely gorgeous weather here in Bergen (along with the onslaugh of arctic sound talks) have gotten me sufficiently distracted.. but i managed to get a team of scientists who will join me for tomorrow Nathalie Stutzmann’s concert :-).

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      1. If there were toaster ovens handed out for converting people to Stutzmann, Mingardo, VK and/or Baroque opera, you would be able to open a hardware store by now!

        Sifare’s rushing off (especially rushing off not in control, but completely distraught, with no deciding power at all – moving all over the place, unable to look at Aspasia) is a pointed comment on his being torn between duty and affection, between paternal authority and coming into his own, and I would say, looking at this staging, that he is at a breaking point here. He still manages to tie it together (probably because Mitridate dies because we have seen before that he will absolutely not accept Aspasia being disrespected), but barely – he will have to mend rushing off and leaving Aspasia behind, but my take would be that his extreme conflictedness, his NOT walking off calmly and saying “this is my duty, and I’ve got to put it first”, is already an indicator that he is moving beyond the paternal authority and abuse (largely prompted by Aspasia, but the last push, as in all these cases, will have to come from himself). IN that light, I also find it interesting that he is already distancing himself from Mitridate as a father figure – the emotional tie is loosening, while the structural one still holds: he still has trouble questioning the system of authority, even though he is moving beyond it emotionally. He does not want to be branded a traitor, but those are the words he chooses: he is not talking about fearing not to be a good son. It is already about Mitridate, the ruler, and no longer – as in Act I with “Parto…” about Mitridate as a father figure.
        I’ve got two more small observations on the produciton that I will put in separate comments below, just to keep them in one place and so that we may continue to talk about it. 🙂

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      1. Damn – I hate it when that happens. Thank you for rewriting! I’ve been thinking in the last two days whether I should add something here and thought, better not make everyone annoyed at it because I cannot shut up about it, but now I will continue as soon as I reach the office. The office, where I am heading on holiday weekend because I want/need to finish one of my papers today, but now before I open that file, I will permit myself to have a tea and think some more about Mitridate first. 🙂

        >

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    2. I was searching for something last night and had the maus hovering over a cap to realize the descriptions!! brilliant and hillarious! now i have various tabs opened just for hovering 😀

      ok, let me try to remember the super long thought i had prior to losing the comment.. now that i’m in non-traveling/writing/debuging mode, Mitridate is again on repeat.. it’s like drug, I’m simply not yet capable of moving on! and on that note, i now have gotten around to have more concrete thoughts regarding your first comment of this post and my comment on Sifare being able to “flush it out of his system” quickly and more on his “youthfulness”:

      Throughout my many rewatches i somehow didn’t feel the same level of “abuse” that you have observed.. I think we all have our own life experience and thus relate it in our own way to this particular staging. In this sense, I see Sifare as, like us (me and my sisters), being under a sort of authoritative system where one simply does not dare to take a challenge. I can not tell if you call/consider that abusive. In Vietnam we grew up under the sort of authoritative / borderline-dictatorship environment where one simply obeyed. Of course it’s training because starting already at age 3-5 yr old if you question you’d get disciplined to various degrees, from either being slapped around to truely getting beat down (not us, but our friends). So after a few (or many) of those episodes you quickly settled in to just “do as told” and “remain quiet”. To highlight the effect of this “obeying” behavior, i always remember our first trip abroad (with my younger sister), when we were already in our mid-late 20s and living in the US for more than 12 yrs, we simply did NOT dare to ask for food at a friend’s place in Germany even though we were very hungry for several consecutive days! That’s how I see Sifare: a very young and caring person, one who knows right from wrong but whose background/mindset involves being exposed to this sort of authoritative system since the begining of his existence.

      After my rewatch last night i was striked again in the scene when Mitridate was singing and everyone was acting in response (just before “Lungi da te” which in my head is now forever “Lungi da chill”). There we see (as you have pointed out) three times Sifare was very spontaneous in trying to defend Aspasia (I don’t see it as being “rebelious” as you mentioned but rather it’s in his nature). Each time he spontaneously reacted and retreated at the various rebuff/threat (it’s very fascinating to see the 2nd attempt when he grabbed Mitridate’s arm and quickly withdrew the hand when being swiped at, almost like when we put hand in the fire and immediately realize it’s not good, her facial expression and acting is GREAT! very believable). In fact in this staging we could even interpret that Sifare is still too young to physically capable of defending himself against Mitridate. A thought came to my head: if Mitridate indeed grew enraged and beat Aspasia (to a pulp, to death?), how far would Sifare go to defend her? would he dare? with his life in jeopardy? (I find this a very interesting question, even can relate it to self: how far would I go when life is on the line? It doesn’t sound very reliable but we all react quite differently in life threatening situation, it’s always worth questioning 🙂 ). So given that i see Sifare through this lense (based on my intake of his actions), it explains why i thought that (like us) he would be able to quickly flush it out of his system once the authoritative figure is gone or once he grew to the point of being able to defend himself physically/mentally, which is a very different case than if he remains incapable of geting past the abusive mindset heading into the unforeseeable future. (oh, now I remember: my younger sister once wrote about it in fact! because she was amazed how we all grew up in this environment and yet none of us turned out messed up: her reasoning is that it has to do with being beat up but in a rather “random” manner related to how adults thought they should teach kids, which is extremely different than in a case of being purposely abused and being exposed to mind-games to the point of being psychologically damaged. That’s it, I see Sifare as like us (based on his actions in this staging) instead of being on the damaged side! though one does question when someone is actively denying being damaged 😀 )

      Related to youth, in addtion to what I said above: just before “Lungi da te”, we see Sifare as quite short-sighted not able to see the big picture / Aspasia’s suffering but immediately getting jealous (seeing himself as the victim) when he thought it was Farnace that Aspasia loves. Again, i somehow immediately associate this with youth (though i’m not a guy, perhaps with all their adrenaline they do react like this regardless of age? 😀 )

      A last unrelated point then: while Sifare was all getting jealous as well as in the scene when he rushed out not looking at Aspasia ready to go off to war, I notice PP having a couple of looks (she is SOOOOOO expressive with her subtle looks!!! as you have noted in several cases) as if she was ready to explode / move on from this “kid”. I myself in fact got pissed at Sifare! but that is how MP wanted to portray the character. In fact the particular scene just before “Lungi da te” is sooo reflective of what she said in that super informative interview! it’s quite fascinating as she just barely walked off “Lungi da te” and likely still had Sifare in the mindset. I’m simply more and more amazed/impressed with every rewatch at the level of acting / layering we get to see in the character! (esp. after i sat through a couple more productions on tube and realized how special this Mitridate really is).

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      1. First of all, another thank you for continuing the discussion!
        The cap descriptions really are just a gimmick – at times, I forget to rename caps to something respectable when I upload them, and at times, I’m just having fun with it and put in names in case someone should end up hovering and get a smile out of it, too. Seems it is working 😉 On a side note, I think with some the many more caps that I have, I will do a little weekly “x days to Brussels viewing” countdown. So we can keep talking about it, too.

        So, yes, “abuse” – I think we observe the same dynamics, but my word choices are different (and perhaps too stark, or not precise enough). I don’t mean “abuse” as intentional, sadistic mistreatment. It starts, to me, with neglect, simply with selfishness at the hand of someone in a position of more power, with a lack of patience and with a lack to consciously and responsibly handle that power with respect towards others. In my understanding, a paternalist, authoritative system, while people may move within it without horrible lasting damage, is already a system of ingrained abuse (like in many 18th century works, Sifare and Farnace are not shown relating to a mother figure, but only to their father, and it’s a play on authority. In a matriarchy, I would be complaining about a maternalist power system here).
        When I first brought up the issue of abuse here, I was thinking more of Farnace and Sifare as two strategies to cope with such ‘abuse’ (as being subjected to paternal, authoritative structures): one as opposing the authority, but repeating its patterns (he approaches Aspasia like a property to be had and threatens violence, he tries to push around Ismene, who will have none of that), and one as molding himself to the authority, but then, when push comes to shove (quite literally), choosing to leave the cycle of abuse and behaving differently.
        This leads to a related issue that I find important here, the way people are exposed to patterns through their parents and automatically continue those patterns in their own grown-up lives. Those patterns and behaviors need not be abusive, but we copy so much without thinking about it from our parents, and I am always interested in what makes us be conscious of this repetition, what makes us question it, and how we can leave some of it behind. I see in my own children how much of their behavior is shaped by how my wife and I treat them, treat each other, and treat others.
        I come from a liberal Western context, though my particular family set was more on the conservative side. I grew up afraid of my parents, particularly of my father, and to this day, I need to work against reflexes when I have to ask something of him: more often than not, I am still afraid, even though it is irrational. He was never outwardly violent (though he does have a temper, and I am trying very hard not to repeat that pattern with my own children), but he exploded sometimes and it was an unquestioned authoritative, paternalist system. – Should children be afraid of their parents? (It is one thing to respect an authority figure, but being afraid?!) Curiously enough, I remember a similar instance of not daring to ask for food.

        Back to “our” Mitridate: I maintain that both Sifare and Farnace have been exposed to ‘abuse’ as now hopefully detailed more precisely above. I don’t think that precludes them from loving their father, or their father from loving them (though, I would say, not enough – if you’re so ready to kill them over undermining your authority and conquests, your years in war have pretty much f*cked you up). I see Farnace’s conscious distancing as an awareness of what happened, just like I see Sifare’s hesitancy and fear as a result of having been exposed to at least threats of violence. He cowers (also physically, as you pointed out, and I think that is important: that this Mitridate could physically push this Sifare aside) away from him. What taught him to do that? And here I think Michael Spyres nails it, with blending royal and paternal power (which pretty much are the same thing in opera seria): he always exudes a thread of menace, as if Mitridate, no matter how kind he may also be abel to be, is someone prone to violence and impatience. When he wants to hit Aspasia, Sifare allows himself to be batted away the first time, but he is not surprised by the outburst. It is “don’t do this thing, because I know what this thing is, and I do not want it to happen to her” rather than “uh, what the hell are you doing? Are you out of your mind? What is this?”.
        I would reason that Sifare also recognizes it in the very beginning of “Tu che fidel mi sei”: Mitridate does nothing actually harmful. He just steps closer to a kneeling Aspasia (she is kneeling, she is rigid in her posture – those may be additional alarm signatures), he towers over her, invades her personal space, and reaches out as if to play with her hair – and suddenly Sifare rushes close and barely catches himself (before stepping in, before asking Aspasia whether she is alright, perhaps?). What kind of a threat has he recognized there? What makes him lose his calm?

        Then the second instance that you pointed out, and I, too, commend Papatanasiu for her acting choice here: Mitridate swipes him away and he retreats without Mitridate having to actually hit him, or shove him very hard. To use your analogy: Sifare does not put his hand into fire, he just has it near fire, and he only needs a reminder to move away. (so he has been burned before. What makes him recognize fire in a mere spark? He must have learned to fear it.)

        I think that makes the following two instances, where he purposefully, with the aid of his father’s goons (who look more like “Boss… not again. Don’t make a mess here. The PR will be hell”), throws himself in the way to protect Aspasia, more poignant.

        Two things on that: one, I think he would absolutely step in (which is a thing we do not know about ourselves, and hopefully will never have to know) – we see that he steps in, without thought – when Aspasia is threatened: not even choosing it, but simply doing it. He is intimidated by Mitridate the first time, but the second and third, he is not. So I read it as the system that at first still works, but then his impulses win out over it.
        Two, my choice of the word “rebellious” was wrong, I think. If rebellion is a conscious turn against authority, and perhaps even an action motivated primarily by moving against that authority/system, no matter what the action actually does beyond proving defiance, then Sifare is not a rebel. Farnace is.
        Sifare, particularly in “Tu che fidel mi sei” is not defying paternal (and, I would add again, ‘abusive’, because simply ‘paternal’ does not have to be violent or harmful) authority because he chooses to do so, but because he is pushed past the breaking point and cannot help himself – which I why I said he would have to work through his baggage once Mitridate is gone and realize that, yes, it should also be a conscious choice to renounce that kind of violence and anger, not just something that he could not help doing yet didn’t think about. If we see him as someone who would still gain in physical strength and confidence, it would probably be even more important to consciously make that choice. I agree that the fear would vanish, but I would want him to not repeat that cycle in his own life. But given how he is treating Aspasia, I think he is breaking that cycle already. Also taking into account his immaturity in some instances: none of that is about repeating a cycle of violence, at least not as an aggressor (when he storms out to battle in the end instead of staying with Aspasia who has just, for the first and only time, admitted to needing him, he puts the system first again, and in the progress, hurts both her and himself).

        But yes, that bit about “What, are you in love with Farnace?” (Young love and drama… I remember that kind of argument) I find it amusing that after Mitridate calling him in with “come closer, son, your father has been betrayed!!” (and Sifare’s first thought has to be “Oh God, did he find out that I’m in love with Aspasia and that she seems to like me, too?”), after then physically standing up for Aspasia against Mitridate, the first thing he says to Aspasia when they are alone is not “Are you all right?”, but “Are you really in love with Farnace? Is this what this was about?” (and it should not matter: it reeks of the toxic “but I love you, so you should love me back” thing. Or, a bit less toxic: “I thought we had a connection – but we don’t because you want someone else? My brother, and I do not want to be like my brother, so I do not want you to want someone like my brother”. – The moment is also interesting because it shows Mitridate’s authoritative influence: Mitridate says Aspasia is in love with Farnace, and Sifare is prone to accept what he says: he is suddenly insecure about Aspasia’s feelings).

        That is immature. As you said: he is young (and somewhat insecure, which may also stem from the parenting style he was exposed to?). And Aspasia seems more mature here. She thinks ahead. Perhaps she has had to learn early on that that is important? Her father is dead, but she has perhaps ruled on her own for a while, even though her father set up her marriage to Mitridate? I had to think yesterday about how she is always addressed as “Queen”, not as “Princess”. (Although to someone more mature, immaturity can be appealing, too: Aspasia may be much more focused on “my future husband would just have beaten me up, how will I ever raise children with that man”, and rightfully tells Sifare that it is not the time to worry about his or their romantic feelings, but then again: how endearing to have someone, in a moment where there is no time or place for it, do precisely that – think about their feelings, and validate them that way).
        And, God, yes, Petibon’s looks. Particularly in the “Lungi da te” sequence, and at the end in “Se ‘l rigor d’ingrata sorte“. She gets me every. Damn. Time. And it is, to me, the blend of things. Petibon’s Aspasia is annoyed, she is, to the point of physical manifestation (it makes me think back on the interview now, on „vertical architeture“ in her music and character), assaulted by her feelings, by the situation, by what Sifare does (both good and bad), yet even when she has to pull him back onto the ground („Get a grip“, she basically tells him when he insists he should have died before telling her that he is in love with her, as to not cause her and his father pain. It’s „Don’t be stupid, things are as they are, and we have to deal with them.“ – and he listens and says „Okay, I’ll take responsibility. Also, I put you first.“, and then she looks at him as if thinking „still stupid, but also adorable“), she still looks at him as if he hung the moon. Whatever else, she is also – by those looks – completely gone over him. I don’t know how Petibon does it, but that level of despair and abandon is amazing.

        There are a few other things that occured to me, but I’ll put them into a new comment (is there actually a character limit on comments? I guess I am about to find out).

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      2. okay – reply, part II (she says, as she sips her third tea and *really* should be working on her paper).

        Another detail I only noticed yesterday (and at this point, we don’t name anymore just how many times I have watched this production already. Also, I’ve lost count): during Mitridate’s entrance and first aria, “Se di lauri i crine adori”, in the da capo, Aspasia appears on the balcony above (together with her lady-in-waiting), unseen by anyone else: she is looking down at the entire family, at Mitridate.

        it is the east and someone is the sun (or the moon)

        And I was wondering again whether she has actually *met* him before, or whether she was just shipped over to Pontus after an engagement by proxy, and now is taking a look at the man she will have to marry (that is contradicted by her later describing Sifare to Mitridate as so like his father – but, well, she is pretty much buttering him up at that point to soften the blow of having been in love with Sifare for quite some time). She is trying not to look at Sifare, which, as an acting choice, works really well: not looking at something when you know you must not have it is, at times, easier (but it is very difficult, too).
        There is a moment, shortly after Aspasia appears on the balcony, where the kneeling Sifare is nervously looking back and forth, and at first I thought he had discovered her, but then I realized he is looking at Marzio in the background. Sifare then turns to Farnace as if to say “Get that Roman out of here, or Dad will throw a fit!”

        get your Roman boyfriend out of here!

        I don’t necessarily read Farnace as queer/bi in this production, but this moment made me think of it – Farnace is dominant and borderline abusive also with Marzio, but he also clearly shows comraderie and a history and a lot of familiarity around him, so that could be a closer bond, be it homosocial or something else.
        Just this moment, to me, looked so much like Sifare saying, „Get your Roman boyfriend out of here!“ against Farnace’s rebel stance of „But I want him to acknowledge Marzio, and I if I rile him up by the fact that they’re Roman, well, good!“ But it’s just a second, then Farnace cedes to Sifare and sends Marzio away with a shake of his head, but he makes faces at Sifare afterwards. Dumaux is fabulous here with the brother dynamic.

        Another thing: After talking a lot about Sifare and balance, and then about Aspasia and balance, and after listening to the Petibon interview where she describes the vertical architecture of Aspasia’s music and role, I looked more closely at Aspasia’s balance yesterday and it surprised me just how much this Aspasia constantly allows her balance to slip around Sifare, as if trusting him (who stumbles to keep himself upright) to keep her steady. It happens already at the very beginning, with Aspasia already pretty much in character and Sifare still tentative: she leans back against him, and he adjusts his stance to balance her (00:16:04). (we all know the moment I am talking about, but here, have a gratuitious reminder of that scene)

        a grasp of things

        This continues throughout much of the evening, from the prominent „umido il ciglio“ to her twisting her axis out of balance in the recit before „Lungi da te“, to allowing herself to simply sink to the ground in „Se viver non degg’io“, to the reactions during Sifare’s “Se ‘l rigor d’ingrata sorte“. It’s a nice meta level: she can let her guard down with him, they both balance each other, perhaps?

        And then, in all that, look at that outburst Sifare has before „Lungi da te“, and what leads up to it.
        In a nutshell, he says here (and there are cuts in this recit, too, so the meaning shifts a bit compared to the original libretto, where there is basically a lot more composure and reflection) „Why do you tell me that you love me, now?“
        She says, more or less „so that you understand why I have to send you away (and perhaps also that you will have this knowledge, away from me: that I do love you) because if you don’t leave, I may not be able to control myself.“ So Sifare says – and this ist he point where he falls to his knees and puts his arms around her – „if you want me to obey your command, don’t say things like that to me.“ (I paraphrase)

        the classic stop please stop but never stop conundrum

        So here, Aspasia stands tall. It’s one my favorite Petibon acting moments of the entire night, not just from a balance point of view. She stands very still (but there is a tiny bend to her axis that absolutely slays it) and maintains decorum, while he is losing it at her feet (check as of 01:24:20).
        Petibon does two more things: one, there is that shaky intake of breath and then that kind of flushed (just how does she *do* that?), nervous look around that looks like „OH GOD“, as in: „you absolutely cannot do do this, what if anybody sees us, also I am very aware that you are touching me and that I do not dislike it. At all“. And two, she stretches out her hand, just a bit, and hovers close as if to touch him (his hair), but ultimately does not do it: another instance of I-want-but-I-must-not. She is much better than he is at impulse control.

        hands. the answer is always 'hands'.

        And now I will exercise some impulse control and return to my paper, on Tea #4.

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        1. Thank you both for continuing the discussion, I appreciate your thoughts very much, although I don’t have time to take part in the discussion in length, so just some short remarks:
          Both of you pointed out the scene where Sifare gets jealous, believing Aspasia loves Farnace. I think you are a bit to hard on him here. He has probably been in love with Aspasia for some time but I don’t think they know each other very well at this point and, while she gave him quite obvious hints about her feelings they haven’t really openly spoken about it. So it’s understandable if he couldn’t yet build up much trust in her feelings. Then, he is probably quite insecure in generaly (never been good enough in his father’s eyes?) and very ready to believe himself as not good enough for Aspasia. So, I think his father hit a tender spot here, and he just can’t help himself doubtign her love for him. And, of course, as you pointed his readiness to believe Mitridate shows the huge impact of Mitridate’s authority on him. But, to expect from a person in love with someone (other then own children, and perhaps not only there) to only have the other persons’s happyness in mind, regardless from own feelings of rejection, is a high expectation in my opinion.
          Other point: Aspasia being adressed as ‘Regina’ by both brothers: I also wondered about this and I would see it in the sense, that they don’t question her position as Mitridate’s bride, seeing her as the future queen. In the end, they are only openly getting interested in her when they think Mitridate dead. Which brings me to qualities of abuse in Mitridate of which there are plenty: First, he is extremely manipulative, bringing about rumours of his own death to test his sons, as well as tricking Aspasia into revealing her feelings for Sifare. Second, as you described in detail, he is impulsive (and probably physically violent) and not only unable to control his outbursts but probably enjoying them and using them deliberately to strenghten his autority (and yes, very interesting to see how Sifare also displays this impulsivity but channeling it in a much more bening way). Third, and that may be the most common form of abuse: He expects everyone to function exactly the way he wants them too and they do, not because they fear being directly punished but because they fear to dissapoint him, who apparently is seen as a celebrated hero etc. by everyone, so acting as a model that no one, not even Aspasia (although she might only pretend here), (openly) questions. I find quite impressive on his return, when he arrives and starts to sing and the two younger children (I think they are supposed to be his children, too?) just stand there in frightened expectation, until he hints them to come to him and then they run into his arms, displaying a joy of seeing him, which cannot be spontaneous anymore, but rather is expected of them to be displayed in this exact moment.

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          1. Oh, that observation on Mitridate’s younger children (I would agree that they are supposed to be his children). Wow. That is eye-opening. Also the “regina” stemming from her expected position in the family. And I didn’t really think about Mitridate in terms of how he manipulates, but with the constant “testing” he does (both his sons, and Aspasia) – yes, absolutely. Thank you for ICD-10ing it for us in such a succinct fashion!

            Point also taken on Sifare being immature/dramatic, or not. I still think he is immature there, but, yes, it is – as you describe – what happens when you are newly in love and still not sure about the other person and their feelings. I think you raise a very good point about self-doubt, too, also as a result of his upbringing. And something else: if Sifare is used to manipulation, this situation may feel like another mindgame to him, perhaps? In the beginning, Aspasia asks him to help him against Farnace, and now it looks to him for a moment as if Aspasia would want Farnace instead: if he has been toyed with like that at other points in his life, he may think that he is being toyed with, again? Because that is what usually happens? Look at that confused relief and and very quiet joy, more than outward happiness, when Aspasia tells him that no, it is him, of course. I think something like that would make his question more relatable to me (not that it has to be).

            (and now off to bed over here. We get an hour less tonight, and I guess I’m not the only one who’ll have to be up early and hide Easter Eggs?)

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          2. Finally, all easter eggs found and a quiet moment again…. What I hadn’t thought about when regarding the situation with Sifare believing in Aspasia having feelings for Farnace is that this would actually require quite a degree of manipulation form Aspasia’s side, given that she had asked for Sifare’s help against Farnace before, thanks for pointing that out! So, yes, him thinking her capable of that is immature and shows that his trust in her at this point is very easily shaken, but as you say, he is used to being toyed with. And I really like the moment you described afterwards when she has reassured him of his feelings and he still can barely believe his luck.

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      3. I hope this comment lands at the bottom of this whole thread to include all of Agathe’s and your replies up until your tea #4.. and I have been on a “strict” self-imposed curfew again to deal with the proposal.. and so the line of thoughts here might be quite scattered.. But after reading both of your comments I decided to sit through the whole show again a couple more times (on left monitor) and would like to jot down these thoughts before they become obsolete 🙂
        striked by Agathe’s comment that I/we might be too hard on Sifare for his reaction when thinking that Aspasia might have loved Farnace, then by your comment that he has likely been manipulated before and now having thoughts that that’s what Aspasia might have done to him too, one can really see how devastated he could have been… But i realized i wasn’t even thinking that deep, i was really thinking along the line of his “youth”, and finally realized where I wanted to go with this: when I think of “youth”, i’m really thinking in the purest sense of innocence, where reactions are pure and impulsive with no “intention” or “manipulation” behind. We talked about him being not quite himself when he rushed to fight with his father, it is also in this scene just before “Lungi da te” where we saw a similar sense of “panic” and not being able to control himself with mindset going all over the place, particularly starting from the last cap you had in “reply II” to the precise moment when Aspasia begged him to return to his senses (which i found absolutely heart breaking, both in how EM shaped the music and how PP phrased the line to her facial expression while Sifare with his arms wide open ready to die.

        So, in a way, i wanted to say i wasn’t being hard on Sifare in the sense of pointing out his immaturity or anything, but rather i find being youthful as something quite endearing because we see his raw + honest rather than planned reactions.

        On that same note of raw reactions, I now have notes on [non]violent movements. Mitridate’s actions are either outright or calculated violence, e.g., look at his the way he darted his glances at Sifare, then Aspasia, *just* before he sang the first note of “Tu che fidele mi sei”, or how he spreads + closes his fingers when grabbing Aspasia’s arm when decieving her, to show us the audience (because Aspasia was looking away) that he’s capable of breaking it anytime. Then we go to Farnace who seems to have a bit more self control: he is grabbing Ismene’s arms and invading her space at times, but he’s very in control and (perhaps surprising to me) that he’s actually not that prone to violent actions either. I have the impression an mpulsively violent Farnace would have raise his hands as threat, but throughout he was always only catching and releasing. Even toward Sifare he was never quite outrightly violent. So one could also see goodness in him and in fact, as you both said (somewhere 🙂 ), he’s more fed up with the dad than with younger bro). Now we go to Sifare: I notice the most violent he gets was (a) when he flipped Farnace when Farnace threatened/invaded Aspasia’s space; nice flip by the way, along with the curled up fist that really gives the right impression of a youngster trying to fight with big dudes, (b) when he lost his edge before “Lungi da te” and threw the chair to the center. So as far as raw/impulsive reactions go, we see him indeed a youngster who’s not not violent in his blood but rather even inwardly containing his emotions most of the time (including that soft smile you mention Anik when Aspasia found out it was he who has seduced her hear.. <– i finally typed the whole convo into google translate because before i was doing a lot of free interpretation..)

        Finally, unrelatedly, i mentioned "dynamical" rather than "identical" before.. and I'm convinced of 2 things from watching this on repeat: (1) that P.Petibon is very spontaneous and she will let the emotion guided her actions: yes, stage direction is so and so, but depending on how the feeling "flows" on any particular night she would, in details, have the appropriate actions/expressions to have it fit, and (2) MP is very good at reacting to her. The prime example being the duet, how she slipped and looked up and the reaction MP gave her back (in looks + balance), then as she was down on knee Sifare put out the left hand to which she repulsed (in the magnetic sense) to when she lied down: I enjoyed greatly their dynamics here, but mostly I enjoyed MP's sort of doing something, then "surprised" by PP's reactions, then malleable-ly acted around it. Even on the way standing back up, she paused to wait for PP's to sort out the tangled dress.. I know it's a bit obsessive watching, but it is this kind of "paying attention to your partner" is what separates a dynamically evolving and believable story and allow us (me 🙂 ) to feel Sifare-Aspasia dynamics instead of being brought back to reality to realize it's acting.. which happens a lot and breaks the flow..

        and no, i haven't had time yet to really investigate in details other characters.. but i agree on a whole as you both have pointed out that the subtle acting is amazing. OH, right, i remember 1 more point i wanted to discuss: I was surprised by the amount of "boos" at the curtain call. TCE's audiences i found (based on my only 2 experiences there) to be quite agreeable and not entitled like say at La Scala.. And then i realized this is the *first* broadcast where I truly enjoyed the camera angles (the entire Lungi da te is really great, perspective of Sifare walking away with Aspasia a bit blurred in background..) as well as zoom-ins for facial expressions.. and i thought perhaps that is the "problem": that on a "big" scale (i.e., in haus) you don't get to see this so your big-picture perception can be very different (brought me back to how much i enjoyed capuleti in Munich on big-scale yet dislike the zoom-ins + camera angles..) . In fact a friend of mine indeed attended this show live in TCE and she also told me she was "bored" with the staging (though i think she in general wants more out of stagings than I do, for me it's always about the flow).

        Lastly, before i am ready to charge at Section 1 at full speed (it *must* be done today!) I just wanted to say again how much I 'm in awe with this very particular production, that we get to discuss soooo many layers of the characters (and greatttt thanks to you both for pointing out various details). That's what I always enjoyed: that you walk away thinking about the characters' mindsets, evolutions, existence.. and indeed it's what separates exceptional singing actresses from even very good ones! Also, Anik, perhaps inspired by your many posts on this production, i see that the La Monnaie's are sold out at least for the first new nights :-).

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        1. THank you for your continued thoughts and observations! (I have more in reply, but, like you, need to get one paper done first… will get back to this!)

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  2. Thanks for this interpretation and yes, that scene after the poisoning attempt where Sifare walks off so quickly without really comforting Aspasia has also puzzled me, but it does makes sense the way you see it. Actually I can very well imagine the two of them fighting over Sifare’s unresolved father isssues after the official ending (with Aspasia having the upper hand I think).
    Oh, and I just found that this cool person called M7an6eb has uploaded the Rinaldo 2011 Glyndebourne production on YT, so, tonight I got a bit distracted from Mitridate and Don Giovanni by that. Terrific!

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    1. there are two; the other one is Ma8ne3b. Some more “distractions”. (I agree that Aspasia would be the driving force there, but I believe he might eventually pull through. Did they have therapists in ancient Ponthos…?)

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      1. Cool, I’ll check out the other one as well, there’s so much to see… And I haven’t even finished La clemenza di Tito (the Salzburg 2003) yet because I got totally stuck with Annio and Servilia again….

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    1. oh, darn it. I’ve got it downloaded, but since it’s about 4GB, it won’t be much use… haven’t seen it Youtube yet, but Ma7/Ma8 might get to it, they’re usually covering the Arte Concert streams for Baroque to Belcanto….? Will keep my eyes open!

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  3. Two more charming details I noticed in my I-refuse-to-name-the-number rewatch of the first Act of Mitridate, which add to the atmosphere of Aspasia and Sifare and their love story and their flirting/connecting with each other with relative ease:
    The first paints an unburdened young romance that then, before anything is even outspoken, is challenged by the unexpected return of Mitridate, whom they both managed to ignore before (missing, presumed dead, far away… while the person you’re interested in is *right there*? guess whom they will *not* be thinking about unduly)
    1) They are flirting: It is before the “actresses” fully settle into their roles, but listen to the first recitativo exchange (as of minute 11, more or less): Aspasia asks Sifare for help against Farnace’s threats and avances, adding that she hopes that human decency will trump family ties here (which will be an ongoing theme for Sifare throughout the opera). Sifare responds that yes, of course he will help her and unlike his brother, he will never see her as a conquest and she will be free to do as she pleases, but if she calls those who fall for her criminals, well, then he is even guiltier than Farnace is.
    Now Aspasia’s next line is a supposedly shocked, “What am I hearing? Oh God!” (Che ascolto? Oh ciel!). But listen to/look at the way Petibon shapes it: without any shock or surprise, but rather with giddy delight, leaning back to her all-seeing lady-in-waiting, who conspirationally smiles in return (clearly, she has listened to Aspasia sighing over Sifare for quite some time already) at Aspasia hearing and sharing the news à la “Oh God, did you hear that? FINALLY he makes a move.” (weren’t we talking about Aspasia calling the shots the other day? Boy, is she ever.) It’s just one line, but it really showcases the romance and its energy. The cast isn’t in full-on “Mitrdate”-mood yet, but this establishes that there is an easy, mutual, acknowledged attraction going on within the drama prior to Mitridate’s return, which makes it all the more devastating because they have something to lose then.

    che ascolto - o ciel

    2) I only just now realized what Sifare is picking up (in fact, he goes out of the way to pick it up – perhaps it carried over from a different placement in early rehearsals?) in his “Parto; nel gran cimento…” (why is there always a “Parto, ma…” aria? Why do I have no resistance against those?? Ugh!) , shortly after minute 39: He picks up an item of clothing, holds onto it, then hides it behind his back, shielding it from Farnace’s gaze, and then Arbate wrangles it back from him as if saying “Stop it, you know you can’t do this”.
    I first thought it was a jacket of his, or some coat, but it is in fact Aspasia’s skirt, the “normal” one (she takes it off before “Nel sen mi palpita”) that she leaves behind to put on the more royal dress, which she then wears for her interactions with Mitridate, and while she considers herself bound by duty (tellingly, she takes it off again when she is about to poison herself and moves beyond duty). So in the very aria where Sifare says that he will fulfill all duties as a son and brother, he reaches out for a tangible reminder of Aspasia (it is, I would say, more loaded than Cherubino’s ribbon-stealing, but it is the same register of holding onto a forbidden romance through an item of clothing). Also, it happens over the words of “I’m in just as much trouble as you are.” Excuse me while I gather my bearings.

    dear God the skirt

    Both moments are very small, it took me copious times to catch them, but they both show the detail craftswork at play here, of setting up a greater context for the characters with just one line or one gesture that may not even register to a casual viewer. And I really, really like that (and am looking forward to finding even more of those).

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    1. more captures!! 🙂 . so that’s what it was! i kept thinking it was the governor’s jacket and didn’t get why Sifare was hiding it behind his back sheepishly.. what can i say, there was sooo much exchanges, the more I/you/we see the more we (I for sure) fall for Sifare… thanks for the intepretation on the first cap too, i thought she was flirting for sure but was not sure whether because they were still trying to get into character.. but indeed it really made for better intepretation than the forward (usual) way!

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      1. and now I also figured out the rest of the timing (I wasn’t sure at what point Aspasia is changing her costume) – during The Shirt Aria ™, towards the end and after the handholding, when Sifare is happily dancing on the tables, there is one exchanged look before (I deduce, camera cuts put them in chronologically order), particularly a long, alert look of Aspasia who is leaning against the Per-Raphaelite column, and then she is taking off her skirt (in listening to/looking at that scene, I’d have to agree that some things may make people drop their skirts. Or pants), so that in the next scene, when she is threatened by Farnace, she is also more vulnerable in attire (the same applies for her farewell outbreak with “nel sen mi palpita”).

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    2. Yes, very nice details! I also noticed Aspasia’s delight in ‘che ascolto!’ but had missed her gaze at her companion. ‘Aspasia’ adding this detail at this point implies that she is already very much in her character while ‘Sifare’ takes much longer to really get there (we talked about his/her body language still being more female during ‘Aspasias’ first aria). This all fits well with ‘Aspasia’ being the one to drive the others forward, motivating them to immerse into the performance. Also, ‘the grasp’ can be understood as ‘Aspasia’ challenging ‘Sifare’ to really engage to the play. Maybe the couple’s differences with regard to youthfulness are also genuine characteristics of the two actresses who play them?
      The skirt, very nice as well (and I really love Cherubino’s ribbon snatching, this charming detail just perfectly reflects the way of his adolescent thinking and feeling).

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      1. Just when the actors/actresses settle into their characters is another question I pay attention to at the moment – e.g. there are moments of the younger acting staff still reading from the libretto and observing when the singers are already settled; Dumaux has this interesting bit in his first aria where he uses the libretti as props, but already appears to be *in* character.
        Aspasia, as both you and thadieu pointed out, is the one drawing everyone in and the first to be in character, yet the energy of her first aria, which is within the plot directed at Sifare, is directed at pretty much everyone, at times even directly at one of the children. Everyone else, even Sifare after the exchange with Aspasia (Hands! Hands!!) is still a little out of it – you have him running off, coming back (giving instructions to Farance and Marzio, too), Aspasia immediately connect back with another touch, then it’s more listening, observing, sorting through costumes. The direction manages to turn into a slow slide rather than an abrupt change. Arbate is in charater as soon as he has his hair pinned up: both brothers respond to his authority.
        The only one who seems “in character” fromt he first moment, perhaps because her character is the same in both realities, is the older woman who starts it all by making the coffee…
        Cherubino: I’ve been trying to pinpoint the difference because the register is the same – snatching an item of clothing belonging to the woman they desire (in Cherubino’s case, to one of them, but – especially given part III – the one most desired) – but other than that I would see Sifare as older (the production downplays his being a successful army leader – the very frist scene, cut here, is all about him and Arbate talking military and political schemes), and a different point: he knows that Aspasia is attracted to him, too (especially in this production, but even apart from that, “Al destin che la minaccia” is pretty much Aspasia saying “Me, too”), so he is at a different point because he has something to lose already, and he is aware of it.
        Age difference and the actresses: I hadn’t thought about that yet (not as age, but perhaps as a difference of personality) — but I will have to do that now. Thanks!

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  4. I am hoping to hear your take at some point re. Sifare not always able to keep balance when being advanced/grabbed by Aspasia, a detail i find very lovely and tying somehow to his youth (still at the age where one is on the toes, hence not quite balanced, and still making the first reaction that comes to head. i know i have somehow ideas related to him being young here that constantly strikes me throughout the opera but not quite managing to articulate yet… perhaps more being able to relate to my youth… finally get to listen to this again after nearly a *whole* week! (perfect way to kill 5-hr in transit :-))

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    1. I hope the transit was good (and filled with good music)!
      The balance – I am still pondering that. If you look at Sifare’s physicality in comparison to the other male roles, I would say that it is in part informed by the singers’ physicalities (H.-L. seems to have started with the singers, not with a preconceived concept – same e.g. in the lack of wigs/body props, etc): Papatanasiu appears to be tall, and if you put someone tall and slender from feminine unto masculine repertory, I think you automatically start with a physicality that is lanky and a little gangly (if you want to work towards a different physicality, of course you can do that, but given the direction and the singer’s own comment, that does not seem to have been the case).
      The next bit is comparing physicalities, particularly among the other male roles: Azzaletti’s Arbate, despite a slighter stature, works a lot with respect through seniority, which I would think to be a conscious directing choice (very visible also in how she plays the change into character: from a women who enjoys reading the along ‘romance’ in the beginning, to tough and scheming Governor). It shows very well in her/his handling of the fighting brothers for Arbate’s first act aria: those two listen to Arbate, and Arbate will not be intimidated by Farnace’s or Marzio’s huffing and puffing, or by Sifare’s initial defiance and skirt-stealing shenanigans.
      You’ve got Mitridate: Spyres is young, but he has a compact physicality at his command and manages to channel that into something threatening (from what I have seen of him out of this role, I’d say that was also a directing choice), he is not losing his balance at all, his lunging at Aspasia is always driven, active, and he only stumbles in the end, when he is supposed to be dying and looking for reconciliation (and Aspasia still cowers instinctively then). It’s a bit ore tricky with Dumaux’s Farnace, who is likewise tall and slender, a bit more built, but who does a much more artistic portrayal of balance: unbalancing himself, but projecting a lot of flexible energy: that can turn out half-threatening, as in his early interactions with Ismene, but it can also lead to vulnerability. But that is a quality characteristic of Dumaux (I heard him as Ottone in Poppea and his presence in Drusilla’s clothing was impressive because it had nothing of drag, but quite a bit of ungendered grace).
      So in that mixture, Papatanasiu’s ‘unbalancing’ of Sifare fits into a framework where outward maleness was not the aim (as documented by interview), and where a lanky, not-so-strutting body language, I would think, worked without much modification to portray youth, and the non-toxic masculinity we talked about already. (She does some noticeable work with stride length, fixed wrists, and taking space while gesturing, but that’s about it)
      It is different when you place Sifare’s physicality against the women: He does not interact much with Ismene, so there is not really anything to draw from, but he also seems a lot easier to unbalance than Petibon’s Aspasia, who, despite a slighter stature, is projecting a lot more tightly coiled energy. She gets threatened, she is, at various points, forced to the ground ‘by fate’, but it never gives the impression of toppling, or hesitation: she stands, she strives for something, or she is forced down.
      If you take that to the combination of Sifare and Aspasia – with the delightful gender-conventional height difference – you could read it as youthfulness (is he younger than she is?), though my first association would be different tempers: I think the body language marks him as young, as still not so much at home in his own size, but more so as gentle (even when he threatens his brother or – which is a nice juxtaposition of physical energy – tries to stop Mitridate from lunging at Aspasia). He moves not dispassionately, but considerate, which fits with being a lot more respectful of the system he was born into. Does the contrast mark Aspasia as older? To me, the first association is fierceness and a temper, which she has more than he does. She *is* unbalanced at times, but it a way that is a lot less hesitant: take the scene before the “Se viver non degg’io”; During Mitridate’s aria, it’s not quite clear who of the two is the bull and who is the torero; Aspasia has a good defensive stance (there is one shot from behind, with the coat half draped behind her, half bent forward, which is anything but weak).
      If we look at the interactions between Sifare and Aspasia, there is the early moment of the actresses settling into character, which I would leave a bit aside, apart from the basic energy that is “decisive” vs. “still searching”, which also shows on the balance level: already at this point, they nicely balance each other.
      There’s the interaction during Aspasia’s wild “Nel sen mi palpita”: she is not balanced at all, but it is a very different kind of handling equilibrum than what Sifare exhibits. With “umido il ciglio”, she downright throws herself at him and he staggers, but keeps her upright, just like he is a reassuring hold at her side – despite his own struggles to catch her weight/support her – throughout the first A and the B part. (personally, I really like this detail of being-there-but-not-going-further)
      There’s the restrained interaction for “Lungi da te”, where Sifare is twice breaking the vertical axis (first to kneel at Aspasia’s feet, which has a nice reaction from Aspasia/Petibon in looking around as if saying “Hopefully nobody sees us because we must not of this (though I want to)”, then when he falls during the aria: an exercise in struggling to keep the poise.
      Then, “Se viver non degg’io”: Sifare as intinally more hesitant, but then clearly as a support Aspasia holds onto (down to the very end of the duet, a screencap of which will still appear in honor of you at some point) and he seems more balanced and steadier then (growing up?), but I think much of it is because she allows herself to let go in front of him and that makes him step up to it. This, in thinking about it, may be the moment where he appears the strongest, because the last interaction is for his “Se’l rigor d’ingrata sorte”, where he is not centered at all and where, in a way, one could read their being physically apart as a lack of stability for both: he is completely distraught, she is coiled into the theatre seats in the end.
      I would see three patterns: a not-so-steady Sifare still keeping Aspasia upright and/or safe; Aspasia allowing herself to lose balance with and in front ot Sifare, and the two of them stabilizing each other.
      As a result, I would agree that looking at the aspect of physicality alone, Sifare, particulalry through is interactions with Aspasia, comes across as youthful, while Aspasia comes across, to me, not necessarily as older, but as fiercer. They both get unbalanced plenty (but she reacts differently to it).

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      1. :), more details for me to re-wind in head to start the morning here!
        I think I’ve gotten it down: first, a minor thing: here in the US being “masculine” has this certain image where you’re not allowed to show your vulnerability.. so that’s part of what I find very welcoming here, that Sifare exhibits vulnerability/fragility without being concious about needing to flex muscles.. which translates to him being very sensitive and (almost) always ready to catch/protect Aspasia (when his head is there, you’re right about the “being-there-but-not-going-further”: superb restraint/acting!).

        Aside from that, to the major point, I think i sorted out what’s going on (in my head) during “Se viver non degg’io” : I wasn’t thinking in term of age difference between them but rather the ability to imagine what’s coming: they are both about to suffer and die. Through facial/physical expressions, Aspasia could see what’s coming, tracing back all the way to “umido il ciglio”, and at this point she seems so physically and mentally tired and could only use the last reserved energy to function on the most basic level of standing/”fighting” (collapsed, slow to get up, not reacting when being pulled apart, and finally gathered just the last bit of energy to break free to join Sifare again, verbal barb at the 2 guys with very little body movements). It’s very interesting how she moved away or caught Sifare’s hand, first his left when on knees coming down to lying, then his right as she got back up on knees, almost as not dare to imagine what being tendered to could feel.
        At the same time, equally impressive in acting and facial expression, i found Sifare’s reaction very interesting when they’re both on their knees (as i kept repeating myself several times now 🙂 ). I’m not sure if it was M.Papanatasiu’s intention or whether she was just taking a break in acting thinking the camera wasn’t zooming in.. (i don’t think so), but the contrast between the slightly non-responsive facial expression while Aspasia entering her first phrase on knees to the immediate reaction as the bad guys approached showed how with immediate threat he could feel it instantly and knows how to react, but his lack of experience in life makes him unable to imagine the upcoming horrible fate. What i mean here is sort of like, for example, my experience going winter mountaineering for the first time in my life (waaay back when i was young and energetic): despite all the warnings of cold temperature + wind conditions i was so inexperienced that this possibility of “coldness” wasn’t in the repetoire/knowledge-bag so to speak, so you take in what you hear as warnings but lacks the most basic level of understanding/imagining.. and as such even with everyone dressing very seriously i showed up in shorts — something i’d never do again ever! (needless to say during that trip i remember opening eyes the next morning being glad the person next to me was still alive.. memorable trip..).. but yes, that’s what i mean when thinking of Sifare as being youthful during the duet: in his reactions to immediately-seen threat where he knows instantly how to react to almost slightly naïve facial expression in comparison with Aspasia/P.Petibon.
        (i might get around to that next opera you just posted this month 🙂 , and yes, that sounds about right, i WILL be camping and taking notes too with La Monnaie!)

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        1. One more thought on Sifare’s ‘non-expressiveness’: I think, while it makes sense that he doesn’t really comprehend the reality of the life-threatening situation they are in, he is also totally overwhelmed by the intensity of Aspasia’s grief and fear and he can’t cope with not being able to do anything to alleviate her pain. This helplessness is also evident in ‘Nel sen mi palpita’ where at one point he even glances upwards, like asking for some divine intervention in a situation he sees no way out. But while his conflict is quite visible in his expression here, in the duet scene he nearly seems to dissociate from the situation (maybe because he, too has no strength left, although trying not to show this to Aspasia?). The moment the two men appear, he has at least something to do, which is much easier for him and he is present again in a second. In this interpretation it would be very much to his credit that he puts Aspasia’s feeling over his own, although he has just as much reason for grieving, only letting himself go when he beliefs himself alone in Lungi da te.

          And Anik, thanks for your thoughts on Dumaux’s physicality. I had nearly started to worry about being impressed by his body language which comes across as rather threatening at first sight, but as you say, he has a special kind of grace to him.

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          1. oh, I like both your interpretations very much – and I think it fits together into a bigger narrative of a young, somewhat guarded and inexperienced person who has grown up with a violent and largely absent father: the reading of him being overwhelmed by Aspasia’s grief and does not know what to do, and is pained by it, is great! It gives me even greater fondness for the way he stays with her to at least be present (and, as you said, possibly put back his own fears to support her). Sometimes, simply staying with a person is all it takes (and it brings me back to the greater theme fo respect in this production, and the many framing incidents of “I am listening to you/I recognize your feelings.”
            Also your observation on how in “Lungi da te”, Sifare only lets truly go once he believes Aspasia to be out of sight… yes! (if this were fanfic, it would hit all the right tropes. Minus the explicit, big happy ending, perhaps.)

            (Did you ever see Dumaux’s Tolomeo? Of course he’s the villain there, but he really has a way of using his (male) body in a way that allows and combines all kinds of gendering – grace tends to stand out, I think, because we usually try to separate grace from masculinity (unless it’s ballet).

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          2. Thanks, and I’ll put the Tolomeo on my list, but haven’t made much progress with it, I’m still stuck at Rinaldo’s boarding school, I’m afraid, only interrupted by occasional visits to the Mitridate theatre. (Also, no time for workout, but there is a gym in Rinaldo :-))

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          3. I will have to rewatch the Rinaldo again! (coordinating workouts and kids is a challenge, isn’t it?)

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          4. Carrying around lazy kids qualifies as upper body workout I think. Let me know if you re-watch Rinaldo and want to exchange further thoughts on that. While it certainly is a fun production, I also really love the musical interpretation here (didn’t know this opera very well before). Oh, and by the way, I’m going to hear Anett Fritsch as Cherubino soon, really looking forward to that!

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        2. Perhaps we should organize a shared hour (if we find one across timezones?) to watch and liveblog and comment the Monnaie re-take of “our” Mitridate together? 😉
          Thank you for your thoughts and observations, your wintersport example is spot on, to me! Perhaps I need to tone down my abuse theory a little, Sifare *is* somewhat stunted by that (that unquestioned acceptance of the paternal authority even when violent), but still functioning, and still somewhat sheltered: that he cannot imagine threatened horrors, but is able to react well to threats he can see, like those two goons in the duet: fantastic point!
          He’s overwhelmed, somewhat out of his depth, an abstract kind of scared, and, as Agathe put it, has to deal with not being able to take Aspasia’s pain away (except for sharing it, and giving her space to express it), so: more overwhelmed (and no acting break – the “gaze to the heavens” is a nice explanation. A “damn, what do I do now? What *can* I do now?”).
          That idea of vulnerability and masculinity (It is a Western, and, as you say, particularly a US issue) is what I meant with “non-toxic masculinity”: he is not establishing masculinity by rejecting emotion, particularly emotion that is gentle, or , yes, overwhelming, and not anger.
          Of course, his inability to imagine the horrors to come (ths perhaps also explains a bit why Aspasia is done with Mitridate after his attempt to kill them, while Sifare perhaps still does not really grasp that, yes, he *would* have killed his own son and his bride) leaves us wondering just what Aspasia has already seen. I wonder this in the acting choice when Mitridate is first physically threatening her: he lounges at her and she at first grows very still and rigid, and then curls into a ball, like someone who has been in that place before, or at least it familiar with the pattern. The reluctance of, very consciously, taking Sifare’s hands during the duet as barely daring to allow being cared for/about: verrrry nice. And a really good point in contrast to how Mitridate has obviously been treating her (have they met before? Or has Aspasia been shipped there without any prior interaction with him?).

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      2. For hereditary monarchs, the personal really is political. Completely political. Betrothal, sibling rivalry, rebellion and punishment — all such family business involves duties to the dynasty, to the state, and to all the monarch’s subjects. A son called to support his father in battle will defend his inheritance as king, his people against conquest: demands at least as powerful as his personal emotions. Love-and-duty-conflict plots generally employ royal characters because those characters must struggle not only with each other, but also with the tension between their feelings and the requirements put on them by their inescapable roles. Mitridate presumably plans to marry Aspasia for political reasons; asking Sifare to protect her in ways that may prevent that marriage, she tempts him toward literal treason in time of war, and the king’s anger is by definition more than personal. Of course it is utterly personal too, in all the ways you describe so closely. In that combination is the height of feeling, the dramatic agony and relief. Powerful, they are not free. “Da ist zum Beispiel die Stelle, wo der König geweint hat.” Power impairs their humanity.

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        1. And it is exactly the point that is so hard to grasp for audiences in demoncracies, and modern-day audiences at large: the hierarchies are still there, but they are concentrated in economy, no that much in personhood. It shows at once how much Enlightenment has won, and how much simply has shifted into a less visible realm.

          (I could not put it as succinctly as you do, though)

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      3. ps- hiding in here today (while making final push for proposal..) and wanted to say i really love this analysis on geometry/balance! (and an interesting comparison while following Semiramide..)

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    2. On a side note: since this Mitridate moves on to La Monnaie, with only Spyres and Papatanasiu remaining of the cast (if I remember that correctly), I am very curious as to what the energy of the Paris recording owes to this specific cast at large – e.g. also how much of this Sifare comes out this way because he is cast opposite this very Aspasia.
      Since La Monnaie streams all their productions on the demand after the run (for Mitridate, streaming will start May 24th, up until June 13th), we will get to compare. I’ll probably sit there with a notebook, frame for frame, and ponder intentional and unintentional choices of embodiment (and I am curious about Lenneke Ruiten’s Aspasia, though I will admit I have trouble imagining anyone but Petibon here – keeping an open mind and all that. But…).

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      1. could we hope she managed to negotiate to bring the shirt along? 😉
        yes, an organized watching + blogging event sounds great! only 7 hrs diff and given my erratic schedule i can always accommodate.. i was going to mention missing is also EM + her orchestra.. it will be interesting to hear how C.Rousset provide support for MP

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        1. They’re doing this without Haïm?! I remember reading that weeks ago, but apparently purposefully forgetting it again.
          That will be… well. I cannot really imagine this take on it without Haïm’s diction.

          Rousset did a Mitridate recording (in the early 2000s, perhaps?) with Bartoli, Dessay and Mehta – I put that on for workouts sometimes because I still need to convert the Paris audio into a burned CD so that I can play it over the good speakers (and not the laptop), so I have listened to it quite a bit lately. I’ve always liked it, but I like Haïm’s better – in comparison (and part of it may be that I usually listen to it while counting reps and cursing), I find Rousset very colorful, detailed and elegant, but also with less vertical drive: to me, it is not as gripping. That’s a studio recording, though, so I’m curious about the live stage version to come.

          No Haïm, no Petibon, no Devieilhe, no Dumaux… we may have to cling to The Shirt.
          But yes, let’s set up a livewatch blog event for late May! I’ll organize something and check with you for dates/times. I predict us blogging through that, saying “Yes… but…” and then collectively getting out our Paris copies and watching that version all over again. 😉

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          1. i don’t know C.Rousset’s conducting well but singers (e.g., A.Hallenberg, V.Genaux) loves working with him.. i find his conducting tends to be on the fast side without reasons that i can understand… but he has worked with MP before when she sang Alcina in Paris, i’m very curious to see this now! (i really believe the umbrella that held everything acoustically related together so greatly was because of EM so am even a bit skeptical how it’ll work once you take the roof (EM) off… but when in doubt, Mozart (or Händel as in that Geneva version) will come to rescue (i hope!)
            You know “our” Mitridate was also broadcasted on the radio on francemusique? i downloaded their version as in my experience it (radio broadcast) tends to be much better than video streaming.. but I haven’t sat through it because everytime i attemped it didn’t get too far because i reverted immediately to the visual version 😀 . I can pass it on to you though if you’d like to check for better sound to convert to cd?
            (counting reps + cursing to mozart, that’s hard 😉 )
            (oh, ps- a bit unrelated, Galou is on radio tomorrow from Amsterdam singing Bach st. matthew passion, NS also conducting same piece tomorrow but sadly no radio.. then on friday S.Mingardo is singing Bach St John Passion on radio from Aix, you can check for precise time at worldconcerthall)

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          2. Thank you for all the alerts 🙂 – the bounty of Easter Week!
            I’d love a shot at your France Musique broadcast, thank you (“our” Mitridate” – hehee). Comparing tempi between Rousset and Haïm will be interesting, but I’m also curious about how he’ll take on the dramatic intensity. I am expecting it to be different, but I don’t yet know how.
            seria is pretty okay for workouts, even in Mozart. Rossini is good, too (I find Wagner only possible in very, very select pieces – Lohengrin 3rd Act prelude, some of Tannhäuser). There are tons of workout compliations on YT, but nobody has made an opera or Early Musc one so far. Glaring oversight! I could use a more-or-less 135 bpm warmup playlist on that corner, and a few 1-2 hours progams with motivational drive. If I ever find the time for it, I’ll post and share.

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          3. ps- wow, listening to the radio broadcast is very nice, esp. after sooo much time invested in watching so now one gets to listen while re-playing in head. this way i’m appreaciating the orchestra’s take sooo much more as well!
            (and i think i was wrong, it wasn’t a clip of MP at the beginning of the broadcast? sounded very much like her.. the clip before C.Bartoli.. and now am making it to the absolutely gorgeous PP’s first aria…)

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          4. The Grasp Aria! 😉 We will end up with shorthands for all arias: The Shirt Aria. The Is Anyone In This Bar Even Remotely Straight Aria (Ismene’s first). The Skirt Aria. Etc….

            As soon as i get my ears onto the broadcast, I’ll weigh in – likely they played samples from the Rousset recording, which stars Bartoli.

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          5. ps- a (short) interview with MP at intermission! my italian is pit. whenever you get there, please feel free to translate 🙂 , something about complicated character handeling love for Aspasia vs love for his father.. and then more.. (and i need to find out that aria PP sang just before intermission, rocking on the radio! fantastic! clocking in 02:01:17, interview at 02:08:00, no hurry)

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          6. The Aspasia aria before the break is “Nel grave tormento”.

            Will hopefully get to pt. 2 tomorrow; I’m coming out of “Agrippina” as I type this.

            >

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          7. The interview bits (two questions):

            Q: What do you like about the role of Sifare?

            MP: Sifare is a role of extreme pathos; and is a bit of a difficult personality because is is always caught in between duty and love. The love for Aspasia, and the love for the father. He is really a complicated character, also because… the music also depicts this. And Mozart, who has all these outlets, all the melancholy and the nostalgia in the same moment, and the joy in the beginning, when he is with Aspasia, very much taken and happily so and this role is really fascinating.

            Q: So, Mozart at age 14… he does manage to capture these characters, psychologically, to render them

            MP: Incredible, it’s incredible. Mozart at age 14 succeeds in conveying the suffering, the psychology of everyone, of the vengeance… How does a fourteen-year-old do that, via the music, supported by the libretto? And all these different feelings, from love, to hate, from jealousy to passion to…. One thing is incredible, and because oft hat I believe that Mitridate is a rare case of not often-played opera but an opera that when it is given, it is truly loved because the music is so beautiful, so incredible…

            🙂
            (Uh-huh. Tell me more. Fits in with so many of our ideas, too. Happily taken indeed.)

            listening on: Interviewing Petibon as of 2:15:10! I am SCREAMING and I really wish my istening comprehension French was better because she is talking of Aspasia having a spine (vertical axis, I am guessing also physically? It is JUST WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT two days ago!), and inner power, and about duty and rebellion (it sounds more like rebellion…?) and about musical architecture in Mozart. and about the take of the CHL and EM.

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          8. Then again, we will only get to have our La Monnaie blogging event if fundamentalists of all faiths (and non-faiths) stop promoting segregation and supremacy and hatred, which lead to violence and killing. La Monnaie – one of the best, most innovative, most socially conscious opera houses worldwide – is not even 2km away from this morning’s attacks. For all we know, musicians and staff might have been on their way to work in that train car. And no matter their professions, there were people in that train car (and in the airport) whose steps and voices will leave gaps. Imcomprehensible ones for their loved ones, silent ones to everyone else who wishes to live in peace, no matter from where we hail, where we live and when we got there.

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  5. happy Easter and egg hiding Anik! perhaps you can get a bit of inspiration in the morning from this! (and for anyone who would like to sample her Alcina! I quite love it i have to say!)

    ps- ❤ ❤ your comments/discussion from yesterday, i decided to sit through it once more to get the feel again for what both you and Agathe noted.. but i think we are saying similar things on that abuse issue, just a matter of interpretation of that exact word.

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    1. oh, thank you! How much work will I get done if I watch that first thing in the morning? (it cannot be worse than “Al destin che la minaccia”. Makes my grasp on things slip dramatically.)

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    2. Thanks for posting this link, thadieu! I’m quite crazy about Alcina and especially this aria at the moment and I like this version 🙂

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      1. Although, thadieu, it does NOT help work morals. 😉 Or perhaps it does, since I’ve got one paper finished, but I guess it could have been finished an hour earlier…

        >

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      2. wow, major congrats Anik!! I’m on the run to the office now for meeting + fighting proposal still… but since Agathe mentions this particular aria… if you allow me to oblige with the _other_ Greek soprano’s version as well in case she doesn’t know? and to mention i was merely 20cm from the camera-man who filmed this…
        (but yes, i was pleasantly surprised how warmer MP’s voice sounds as Alcina and immediately thought about how Händel really brings out the best in voice (A.Scholl said that in his master class when he was in Boston), and i’d have loved very much to hear more from her in this role.. the hunt continues…)
        (also, i have more thoughts on Mitridate! didn’t quite find the time yet to put down.. but don’t lose your interest 🙂 )

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        1. losing interest… not likely anytime soon. Looking forward to more discussion!

          Greek sopranos – it must be a conspiracy. There is THE Greek soprano, then there is The Other Greek Soprano and now there is also This Other Greek Soprano… I agree on the sound quality of the Handel; I am currently sampling Rossini – not quite the same, but word is still out. What I also noticed was the difference between “staging recently tailored to a singer” where every phrase is cueing something, and “production that has been around the block for a decade, and singers more or less have to make up things quickly on their own”: the cues are a lot less tight (which is logical). Either way, it is a magical aria.

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          1. Oh, and regarding Alcina productions: After some re-watching, I still like the Teatro Real production (and you can apparently watch it infinitely once you have paid for a video), because even if the staging has some strange and unnecessary parts, it leaves room for the singers to create their characters and Rice/Prina are both really great singing and acting-wise. Here’s a short YT clip to give you an impression:

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          2. Thank you for the video!
            I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that it’s Alden – I find his work to be solid, usually (at times a little glaring or too conceptualized, but at least he tends to have a concept) and the whole Freudian Ruggiero-is-unsure-about-his-engagement-and-dreams-up-afantasy-lover take really puts the Bradamante/Ruggiero dynamic front and center.

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        2. Very nice as well, thank you (although quite hard to really focus on Harteros’ aria with Kasarova stealing half of the show and she is not even singing here). I bet you won’t forget this life performance evening?
          About Händel and voices: What really strikes me is, that even with singers I am personally not so fond of it’s still very nice music (and gorgeous with the ‘right’ singers) and it works in a variety of interpretations. (Come to that, even Philipp Jaroussky’s Ruggiero in the Aix production works for me musicwise, while I agree that he is not strong on the acting side, gender taken aside).

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          1. yes, I agree. It is not that much about gender; I am very, very fond of Jaroussky’s phrasing and style but I’ve always perveived him as a recital or church singer first, and a stage singer only second – his singing fits precisely into a rhetoric of eschewing outward physicality in an operatic sense.
            And his singing is really strong within the style concepts of repertory older than Handel. I love his 17th century recordings even more than the latter ones. (notwithsthanding, Handel works with a variety of voices – the classic case being modern sopranos who don’t usually make Early Music their home)

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    1. He is an actor first and foremost, from what I understood, but I didn’t know he also does TV/film. Looking good! With the cutting cheekbones and dark bangs, I’d always think warrior princess instead of queen… After having seen his directing work in regards to un/gendering bodies, I would love a chance to see how he approaches patterns of femininity.

      >

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  6. Hey you fans of E. Haim, I’m trying to create a text link, so if this works you should have a link to a recording you most likely know but just in case you don’t, it’s really cool and you got four brilliant singers here. So click on this
    Just ignore this post if it doesn’t work, or maybe you can tell me how to do the linking?

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    1. Works perfectly. Thanks, Agathe! This one and her Resurrezione were among my first, and still favorite. (Although I really hope we get a look at Aix this summer via Arte, for comparison. And for sheer enjoyment!)

      >

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      1. You mean the Resurrezione recording of 2009? Gosh I didn’t know that one, just checked it out on Amazon and am hyperventilating at the cast. Thanks! She really knows to chose her singers doesn’t she? There’s also a 2014 concert recording via Berliner Philharmoniker with mainly the same cast but without Pisaroni so I guess I will get the 2009 version. The 2014 one is with Christiane Karg, and talking of her, in yesterdays post on the Frankfurt Rosenkavalier you wrote “Christian Karg” and for a glimpse of a second I really thought they had cast Sophie with a countertenor in some freaky experimental approach (I mean, some CTs do get very high, but probably not that high)….
        Btw., Oper Frankfurt may not have the same high reputation as more traditional houses like Munich but I think it is actually a very good house with very good singers (I saw quite a lot of productions there and usually couldn’t find much difference regarding quality compared to the “world stage” of ROH covent garden, where they focus more on having really big names). Also, I mostly liked the stagings I saw there, usually rather modern but not overly experimental. The Rosenkavalier looks good, maybe I should visit some friends near Frankfurt soon.

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        1. I remember seeing the Resurrezione on YT (or ARTE?) in 2014 when it came out, but I don’t know if it’s still available?

          Thanks for catching my soprano error. I find Frankufrt to be fabulous, particularly when it comes to the consistent output of intelligent stagings (I don’t mind experimental, I just want smart, and they do that). And any house that raised a Christiane Karg cannot really be considered “Lesser”, I think. I’m not big on the voice cult of “Big Names” (I am big on the voice cult, though) and the big hosues usually combine that with more conventional stagings that often are not as intelligent or challenging as I would like them, whereas the “second row” of still big houses is often better with stagings, and just as good with voices. There are so many good ones withough being super famous, or linked to big record company contracts!

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    2. yes, i sat through this “il Trionfo..” last year during one of my night-working-rambling-alone-in-my-own-comment-box sections, and really love everything about the recording! I think it was only 2 years ago that i “heard” of E.Haïm (but i’m late to everything so it’s ok..) and the first thing i heard was actually that “Une Fête Baroque” concert, and strangely enough i remember my first impression of her conducting was “subdued”. Must have been because I’ve never quite heard her way before… and then my 2nd experience was her *exquisite* take on Händel’s “Aci Galatea e Polifemo” which i rambled about for nearly 2 weeks off and on (and began to develop a feel for how she conducts, the final string line.. heartbeaking.. ). Then this on “il trionfo..” and finally the gorgeous “Dido and Aeneas” that i absooootely love! and then “Mitridate”, sigh,.. and now i’m “stalking” her on fb :p (but she doesn’t have a calendar like N.Stutzmann, sigh. may be i can drop a comment suggesting..)

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      1. Oh yes, Aci, Galitea e Poliferno, I have a burned CD of it that I really love (esp. “Sorge Il Di”!), but I haven’t noted the interprets names, so no idea. Sounds very similar to Haim’s version from what I could hear on YT/amazon, but I don’t think it’s the exact one. From Haim I knew her Magnificat before which is also great.
        About calendars: People’s opera base calendars actually tend to depress me because they often only show you what you have missed (like “Oh, I could have managed to be there…”) and are often not so up to date regarding oncoming performances making “stalking”difficult.

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        1. Add to that list outdated personal websites (calendars!), no clear listings with respective agents (at least none publically accessible) and gaping holes on opera base.
          it’s at times game of “hello, I’d like to follow you around the planet and add to your fame and status and riches, but you’re not even leaving a breadcrumb trail”

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