White Shirt Monday: All the cinas, all the time

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 [Hit Me With Your Best Stab: God, why are women who fence so damn appealing? (paging Morgana for an understanding nod) — Silvia Hauer (Bradamante) in Ingo Kerkhof’s staging of Handel’s “Alcina” for Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden, 2016. The production isn’t entirely new, as Kerkhof has already employed the same concept – which he treats as a work in progress – in Cologne in 2012; his Ruggiero (Franziska Gottwald) is the same singer in both versions. The Wiesbaden trailer offers further glimpses.]

[Kissing after the cut. We wouldn’t want to detract from the fencing.]

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[Raison d’être, basically. – A stairway to heaven for Heather Engebretson (Alcina) and Franziska Gottwald (Ruggiero) in Handel’s “Alcina”, Wiesbaden 2016.]

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[Anik and (coloratura) sopranos in 2016: an illustration. – Silvia Hauer (Bradamante) and Katharina Konradi (Morgana) negotiating attraction in Handel’s “Alcina”, Wiesbaden 2016.]

39 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: All the cinas, all the time”

          1. Someone really should get Hammarström a shirt with all the sopranos who have Morgana in their repertory, she’d only need to cross them off.

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        1. Petibon is so endearing, not at all “evil-seductive sister sorcoress bewitching you” (not that that would necessarily be a bad thing, it’s just less layered) – and Hammarström does thunderstruck very well. Then again, what else would could one possibly do in that instance?!

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          1. visciously fighting reports.. but the only image in have currently is of PP in that (adorable) outfit wrestling on the ground… the phone recording is clearly not doing justice to her voice (and that bit of taking the tie off clearly needed a 180deg alternative angle)

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          2. The phone recording is one thing, and I also asked myself whether the Scala as a house does perhaps not that well for her voice? Dessay, if you compare the Paris take of the same production has more heft, at least away from the vers top, and that characteristic, metallic brillance. Petibon’s sound quality is, to my ears, warmer (and she has a different way of creating weight – if you check her Paris “al destin”, she sings the lower notes very present, but eithout pressure – as if drawing a clear circumference and then lightly coloring the inside. Technically and musically very smart and effective)

            In acting, I second Agathe – Petibon’s Morgana is so endearing because Petibon gives her the nerves and the giddiness and the “I can’t believe I just did that!” of actually falling for someone. Dessay does more of a distilled style of exuberance in her trademark intensity (which I also enjoy a lot, but it is a different way of approaching Morgana’s emotional landscape).

            I would also say that the way Morgana is sung in those two clips also causes the Bradamante reaction since they both sync very well to their stage partners: Kuhlmann is more overwhelmed, more easily distancing herself, even though her surprise comes with an edge of being charmed by Morgana. Hammarström, on the other hand, apart from her Bradamante being generally more attined to the world around her, does more of an “bewitched, bothered and bewildered” reaction, with a bigger emphasis on “bewitched” – more gray areas, not as much black and white, and that leads to a human moment of connection which is at the very root of what makes opera as a way of thinking about humanity so appealing to me. (Fine, the flirting doesn’t hurt, either)

            …also, I am in favor of all angles of sopranos taking off ties (off themselves or others) ever!

            >

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          3. Thank you for these insights, and again, my paper is not making any progress..
            This lack of any distancing PP displays shows equally in the acting and the musical interpretation, I think. I was also bothered by the bad sound quality at first, but apart from that was quite struck by the intensity of her performance. I joked yesterday about Morgana’s seductiveness but in fact, this is not about seduction at all, it’s about her feelings and in the heat of the moment he doesn’t even care much if Bradamante feels the same. In line with this, she even sometimes sacrifices pure beauty of sound for emotional transport, i.e. there is this high-pitched ‘Caro’, where she starts with a kind of shrill, urgent tone, only then giving it room to oscillate (but maybe I’m over-interpreting and it’s just the sound quality here).
            The wrestling, Oh dear, she really crosses a line there, losing control, and again, PP doesn’t mind crossing that line, in comparison to Dessay, whose performance seems rather tame here in comparison.
            Hammarström’s reaction, yes very nice!
            There’s also lots of ‘Grasp’ quality here, she really knows how use movement and momentum, i.e. when she ‘pushes’ Bradamante to her knees, also they easily manage more full rotations when rolling on the floor compared to the other clip (can’t count them now, I don’t want to distract my office colleague from his work as well). OK, it seems like I’m getting obsessed as well, better stop it now…

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          4. didn’t she say something in that Vienna Staatsoper interview in how she tries to establish a different physicality for every part? She really does pay attention to body language, and yes, how she commands momentum is impressive. And she really falls more on the “truth!” side of the spectrum between “control” and “taking risks/crossing limits”. The more I watch this, the more I like it.

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          5. ps- it was really a bad recording in the sense I re-listened to Harteros and the warmth in her voice was replaced by thorough shrill… (but yes i was wondering about how PP’s voice would carry in that big haus Scala.. and K.Hammarström’s voice is not that big either)
            (hurrah, abstract is done, 1995 characters, and requirement is 2000… now just need to cook up a 300-character title…)

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          6. yes, acoustics and phone mics really did a number there – but I am very grateful that we have recorded evidence at all and that Gudrun74 is consistently sharing her audience experiences.

            (meanwhile, I need to cook up 10 1/2 pages of paper that is not making much progress at the moment. I should scramble back to the script before you start doing gifs!)

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          7. i’m very grateful as well for the fantastic clip! i guess i was responding somewhat to those comments on that clip derailing PP… but i should have known, some people really have issues in life..
            (you’re safe.. i would very much like but might not get to the gif until tomorrow during Così.. currently entangled with sea level! then the report.. then reply to the postdoc..)

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          8. YT comments in general tend to give me ulcers – so much entitlement, so much attacking one singer over another. Ugh. Another big reason why I try not to write negative critique and prefer to stay silent when it is a question of style.
            @thadieu: I was reacting, too, in my write-up. I am so lucky that the White Shirts are an educated and thoughtful crowd in discussion!

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        1. you’ll be watching that entire “Così” again before bedtime, won’t you?
          (and we could add in *someone* who has also sung Fiordiligi before, and I am sure we could think of a suitable Dorabella, too, and then we would not sleep at all any longer)

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          1. no, not entire Così, but i’m drooling uncontrollably over that cast (we’ve seen clips before of Harteros + Bacelli, but wow, this pair to round out! i clearly get into operas too late in life!)
            (but i’m thinking i can put up with a certain someone as Fiordiligi for sure.. (even though i’m still not sure which character this is😀 , we’ll find out in 2 days!))

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        2. … I didn’t know it before and have played it at least 10 times since this morning, (damn, there goes my home office day). Absolutely marvellous, it seems I never took Morgana seriously and PP has opened my eyes. Also very interesting to compare with the identical scene featuring Nathalie Dessay.

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          1. yes! (that staging has seen a lot of names come through already…) I also always enjoyed Dessay – always will – in this (the Christie was my first “Alcina” recording, a home-burned copy by my then-girlfriend, with hand-made covers), but, you know – Ant Colonies FTW.

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          2. Also, Haïm is having quite a track record with the French coloratura line-up: first Dessay, then Petibon, now Devieilhe…

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      1. That staging, yes, R Fleming and S Graham, this is also my one of earliest Alcina (on YT) impression and I always remember Dessay in it, she was such an adorable Morgana. A shame it is not recorded on DVD! …..😦

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        1. there *is* a full in-house video of the orginal Paris cast, if I remember correctly – I found it on YT earlier this year. I could check my archives, unless you’ve got that one already (not DVD quality, of course)🙂

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  1. Really? I mean that (I think it is a Robert Carsen, not too dure) Alcina on DVD? No I don’t have it, and would love to have one!

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    1. yes, that Carsen from Paris – the original 1999 (?) take. It is not a DVD edit, obviously, but likely a dress rehearsal vid recording, but I’ll look it up for you tonight and try to Dropbox it.

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        1. So… I figured out when I posted the YT link, which was in this post, but of course that one’s offline by now. I couldn’t find the video just now in my archives (which is odd, since I remember downloading it), but thankfully, it’s still on YT, in three parts – you can find it here: Act 1Act 2Act 3.

          And if you open Act 1 – hey, look at that cembalist…

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          1. and that trademark energy – I would also have taken a three-hour angle of the pit after that first shot.

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