Pergolesi’s “Adriano in Siria” at Theater an der Wien



If the renaissance ideal was purist clarity, boiled down to shapes like square and circle, Baroque sweeps in with a penchant for drama for drama’s sake: the squares turn to trapezoids, the circles to ovals. Add some waves that rush forward to nearly reach the ankles of Mozart, some 35 years later, and you’re all set for a night with Pergolesi’s “Adriano in Siria”, with a cast that covers a range from Baroque affect to pre-classicist lyricism.

It was an evening – the final leg of the select concert performance tour that accompanied the recording release – that raised a few questions: Why is there so much Stabat mater and so little Pergolesi seria going around? (I don’t know) Why am I incapable of going out of an opera night without 15 pages of notes? (I don’t know) When did Romina Basso turn into the silver fox to outfox them all? (I don’t know, but you won’t hear me complaining)

The cast of the evening was nearly identical with that of the recording, only the Aquilio of Sofia Fomina was added to the line-up.

The plot revolves around Adriano, who has just conquered Syria. For being the Emperor, he has not all that much to sing. The real hero is Farnaspe (Franco Fagioli), one of the defeated Parthians, who is dating Emirena (Romina Basso), daughter of the now-dethroned Osroa (Juan Sancho), who in turn is not amused by being short a job and a throne. Neither is Sabina (Dilyara Idrisova), Adriano’s fiancée, because Adriano has fallen for Emirena instead. And we’ve got Aquilio (Sofia Fomina), advisor to Adriano, who is trying to make use of that development because he is hopelessly in love with Sabina himself.

It was my first encounter with the Capella Cracoviensis under Jan Tomasz Adamus, who conducted from the harpsichord. A half dozen first and second violins, two double basses placed on either side of the pitch, oboe, two horns and a continuo group (encompassing one of the basses). The sound – which may have been a bit one-sided because I sat very much to the side – came across as sharp and brilliant, notably so for a period band. I did a double take at first wondering whether those could even be gut strings.
Overall, and in comparison to my recent exposure to the muscled and elegant warmth of Les Musiciens du Louvre, or the very much soloist, laying-bare-the structure approach of Il Pomo d’Oro, the Capella Cracoviensis felt like a marble relief thrown into sharp light. The first violins in particular had a near metallic brilliance to them, intersecting nicely with the bright approach of the continuo harpsichord.
The work by the continuo group was laid-back in comparison, with detail work and small tempo variations in a very present theorbo and harpsichord that captured my attention before the overture was even over.


[Curtains after “Adriano in Siria” at TADW: Sofia Fomina, Romina Basso, Franco Fagioli, Dilyara Idrisova, Yuriy Mynenko]

“Adriano in Siria” boils down to many arias, an astounding amount of recitative monologs, often veering into accompagnato territory, and one final duet.

The first voice on stage was Yuriy Mynenko, who continues to offer a youthful and even timbre, though much more poised by now (when I hear Mynenko, I always have to think of this). If he does not have to push past mezzoforte, he has a beautifully cultivated tone, particularly in the middle range, which was evident already in his first “Dal labbro, che t’accende”. There is some slanting in more dramatic outbursts, but if there is a way to place the tone well, he manages evenness throughout the ranges and also has a present, healthy-sounding top without distracting tightness.

And then Fagioli. I heard him last in the same house in April with Mozart’s “Lucio Silla”, but the Pergolesi is a much better vehicle for his flamboyant dramatic abilities. His way of music-making is unique in a way that he employs a lot of scenic momentum, but allows the audience to participate in the act of producing it.

It start with making an entrance, with, in a sea of black, a just ever-so midnight blue satin jacket with a subtly Neapolitan shoulder, an epic white shirt with a tulip collar, and with patent leather shows showcased by a stance that is half a Baroque reverence already. 
If Mynenko, at times, seems to exude the serene calm of a choir boy, Fagioli is a bird of paradise, or perhaps a silk pheasant – not by theatrics, but by default, in a deeply serious way of music-making that simply does count with stances and ornaments.

You can see him visibly get into every piece of music in the introductions to his arias, he shares his nerves and his labor of producing a certain atmosphere, a certain color, without hiding it behind smoothed poise. To me, his invitation to the listener was at all times extended, and he did some stupendous, amazing work on this night that was always tempered by offering himself up to the music he sang, and to his audience. At no point, I found his poses arrogant. They merely seemed a sincere way of work – notable for example in his bows that are close to old French reverences, but there is never the impression that this is put on for show, or to prance about: it just is, and it fits the evening and the sound just fine.

And, yes, the sound. Fagioli’s tone projects well and the sound is viscerally satisfying in that there is no need to fill in overtone blanks as happens at times with countertenors. The timbre is rich, round-going-on-oval, and colorful. And,yes, at times, if you close your eyes, it is like hearing Bartoli. Fagioli has less of her effortless sfumato, but there are definitely shared choices in coloring, most characteristically in sending the sound across the roof of the mouth back to a near guttural coo, and then back forward to a brighter, more outward projection again.

Third in a row of impeccable suit jackets was Juan Sancho – a slight, youthful figure who must be a Bostonian by vocation since he wore bright red socks with his patent leather shoes. He also marks the first time I have ever seen someone wear a cutaway outside of British upper-class weddings (I am now in favor of it). Sancho dove into the drama head first, not with vocal force, but with pronunciation. His voice is not big, but it has a nicely German-Mozartean tenor core, that slight hue of graininess that often gets dubbed ‘virile’, particularly in middle range, which is nicely compact, and in his top notes. His lower range was more than once covered up by the pit, and the top did not count with even squillo – I am guessing some vowels carry better than others. His Italian diction stood out, as did his commitment to drama and character. His first aria, “Sprezza il furor del vento”, counted already with the horns, who were very well tied into the overall orchestra sound and whom I would have liked to hear in more arias.


[Curtains after “Adriano in Siria” at TADW: Yuriy Mynenko, Dilyara Idrisova, Romina Basso]

If you want to know who had the most effortlessly sovereign timbre on this night, though, you have to look past all three men towards Romina Basso, who had the best-placed tone and most accurate use of color palette, at least during the first half of the evening (the air in the hall became very dry as the evening went on, and it may relate to Basso’s timbre coming out a little flatter at the end of the night).

So. Romina Basso. I had never heard her live before, and remembered her from concert videos as a somewhat Loren-ish redhead with a definite amount of swagger. Kind of like this. So I was admittedly thrown for a moment when the cast took an introductory bow before the show started and Basso walked out with short, dark, silver-streaked hair, wearing something flowing and gauzy and black and with a slit up over one knee that could have been lifted straight out of a Golden Girls episode, with a long string of knotted pearls and glasses on a necklace. It was classy Dorothy Zbornak putting the blame on Mame, and yes, it was very appealing.
It didn’t hurt that she also won the butch timbre context hands down (as the old saying goes, shiver me timbre, and it was probably coined around mezzo-sopranos). So it was this, and unstrained and focused sound, expertly shaped into gutsy phrase-acting, and turning recitative into 3D entities. (Yes, I may have gotten a little swoony. Or a lot.)

It says something if an evening with stunner arias – and there are three mother-of-all-arias numbers for Fagioli’s Farnaspe alone, and each of them did indeed stop the show – the most gripping, compelling moments happen in the recitatives. Not the being wrapped up in sublime sound or being swept off one’s feet, but that breathless moment where you perception has to shift to a new axis because something, in some bare phrase, just inexplicably happened.

Fagioli’s recitative work was the best when it was in reaction to Basso – the two of them challenged each other to a Baroque power performance not in strutting sound, but in sculpting phrases, pushing for the dissonances more than for the resolution. (Oval, not circle.)

In comparison, Fagioli – whose diction, due to other priorities in sound production, comes out somewhat garbled at times – is working with a line that is still primarily based on sound and sound-painting, whereas with Basso, one gets the impression that she is talking, she just employs notes to do so and gets the meaning across through setting text to music.

The first big aria for Fagioli is “Sul mio cor so ben qual sia” – a large bravura number with a very big range. Fagioli is not afraid to add notes in chest voice that are all tied in in style – not trying to make them uniform, but distinct, and he works with that color difference. It is visible what the music does to him, and he allows himself to move along with it. Looking at him, at times he is the poster child of all Baroque lines, “Agitato da due venti”, the proverbial ship braving the musical sea with gusto and skill. I don’t think anyone could accuse him of his trill being effortless – it visibly takes effort, is audibly produced, but what marvelous results that yields! And, yes, there is some tightness at times, some notes slanted to oval past the point of no return, but his performance sizzles. – Another similarity to Bartoli: some acuti feeling somewhat padded.

Basso’s first aria, in comparison, is “Prigionera abbandonata”, but the thing that stands out, breathlessly, is the final line recitative phrase just before it: “Ah, pena”.
Basso is seeking out the the friction of dissonance, the vocal look into the abyss, the intensified sound that carries half a wail on its echo. Yes, her clear, supple middle register stands out, but the intriguing thing are not the vocal acrobatics, but the vocal illustration of text. She seems to go for a kind of truth with no fear of extremes, and in that, she and Fagioli fit each other well.

Of the other two soloists, Sofia Fomina offers a soprano villain who shows up with, yes, trousers, but moreso with a sparking collar of jewelry (tiara is so yesteryear’s princesses), a lace shirt and a ponytail of evil scheming. Her lower middle and bottom register shows the influence of the Eastern European school in a dense, darkened sound with an underlying vibrato. Fomina gave an engaged, technically solid performance with some nice scheming smirks thrown in.

The Sabina of Dilyara Idrisova, in turn, works from the bright tone of a light lyric coloratura. All dazzle, with enough core to ground it. Her voice is pleasant and well-tempered, with some Pamina-esque weight to her timbre: beautiful, but not particularly involved. At times, the very careful front projection in the top register sounded a bit distant, as if not entirely free, but she had full command of her coloratura and showed off some seamless crescendi. Of her “Chi soffre senza pianto”, it were the embellishments in the reprise that stood out.

One of the perks of Pergolesi seria is the amount of accompagnati, which, in their use of orchestral color and dramatic painting of emotion, seem to catapult 1730s Naples forward to 1770s Austria.

Sancho’s dethroned King Osroa made use of the affect scope and dove into the swerving changes with lots of energy. His tone remains slender, though, which at times detaches it from the openly dramatic text, but the Capella Cracoviensis is supplying a background drive that carries very well.

Even some of the secco recits have a modern-day feel, as in the very civilized break-up between Adriano and Sabina:”There’s another woman?” – “Well, I don’t want to lie to you.” – “How could you. Well, I better get on the next ferry out.”
In contrast, the reunion of Fagioli’s Farnaspe and Basso’s Emirena is a case study in intensified Baroque affect: Basso’s “Farnaspe!”, with a heavy second syllable, the ‘s’ very late, but very pronounced, met by Fagioli’s driven “Principessa!” Now those were two lines to swoon over.

It is this make-up recitative (before, Emirena is shunning Farnaspe for political reasons and they are both suffering and, well, Baroque opera 101) that really slays the evening in its delivery, an emboldened, still searching Farnace asking, “Dunque io son?” with devotion, and Basso’s Emirena proclaiming “La mia speme, il mio amor” in a a way that led the audience to miss a breath and get a little dizzy. I downright blushed at the delivery of that phrase, and then wondered whether someone had suddenly turned up the thermostat?

If Romina Basso, in this instance, had been a painting style in her handling of words, she would have been a stark Caravaggio entering the serene color palette of a Botticelli scene: wild and dark and hunting for every last bit of truth, and oh so very three-dimensional. (okay, I think I have to upgrade my post tags to ‘undignified fangirling’. Sorry.)

It is a sensation that translates to the actual space: Basso is the one who moves the most on this evening, who keeps turning her body fully towards her stage partners, who takes a step closer, and acts. Fagioli is a close second here.

Of course, since this is Baroque opera, as soon as Emirena and Farnaspe make up, they have to part ways, and Emirena gets to look after his retreating form with a languid “Sola mi lasci a piangere”, which was a very good take, and the band did a very good baseline with a dotted string background, but the most thrilling thing, again, happens right before that: the last line of the preceding recitative is “Che mai sarà di te, dolce ben mio?”

Basso, fairly recently, has done concerts and also released a recording of Sephardic songs and laments, and all the shades of ‘endechar’, all her work in that Ladino repertory, seemed to echo in this “Che mai sarà di te.” – Holy Smoke. I had the feeling of the chair being pulled out from under me by that single line.

During the following aria, I thought that, yes, perhaps her top has lost some of the smoothness it had five or ten years ago, but, God, her rhetoric skills are amazing. Skirting the edge of ‘too much’, working heavily with fading notes, sometimes abruptly, with portamenti on the edge of glissandi, with a killer instinct on where to add another passing note, add it near impossibly late, and then how to hold it, hold it, until it nearly breaks…

The second big Farnaspe aria afterwards was technically stunning, but didn’t unhinge me as much. It’s “Lieto così talvolta”, featured on Kermes’ Lava recording, and it is a good comparison because Kermes’s slender take is resting in itself: clear, bright, unperturbed. Fagioli’s take is much darker, straining towards something, pushing and yearning, and never just clear. It is the making of an idyll, not just relishing in it. Fagioli is not a ‘pure stream of sound’ kind of singer. Again, he coos and trills and thrills… and the trills are not happening, they are fantastic artistry.

The Capella Cracoviensis moved beautifully in giving him space for his cadenza at the end of the B part and he kept smiling as he sang, again keeping the process visible. His singing is commenting on the story more than embodying it, and he, once more, did that Bartoli thing of centering the sound in different parts of the mouth, turning it from brighter to more guttural and back again. At that point, even I wouldn’t have had gender quibbles on cis-casting – it was a beautiful take, it sounded great, and after this gift, he bowed into a long reverence, looking humbled and happy.

Like this, the hall walked into the intermission – lots of opera queers of all genders. Even more straight women in the 40-60 age segment, though, who were enraptured by Fagioli.

After the intermission, there were a few beautiful takes by the side characters: Fomina’s Aquilio going a little Abigaille for “muove la destra”, with the harpsichordist smiling and nodding emphatically. Her/His “Saggio guerriero antico” comes with another lengthy recitative intro, and Fomina tried to add to the story with it, making a scene in the ebst sense. Idrisova’s “Splenda per voi sereno”, in turn, was her best aria of the night, showing off clean, bright coloratura work, a well-focused tone particularly in the same-note repetitions, and overall lyric coloratura dazzle.

Adriano get a nice vengeance aria when he is almost murdered, “Tutti nemici e rei”, with a thriving pit – it is kind of wild and Mynenko does  very good job with it, but he is not as effortlessly dramatic as Fagioli. My notes on Sancho’s raging “Leon piagato a morte” read, in turn, “Horns and Sancho. Please date. Each other.”

There is a lengthy recitative between the men, with Farnaspe and Adriano arguing over who is guilty of trying to murder whom, and who gets to marry Emirena. Emirena cuts in, and again, Basso’s timbre is the most commanding of all of them, with her small embellishments and, at that point, notably dry ‘rrr’ takes – her “Quell’amplesso e quel perdono” still sees the most involved acting on the concert stage and in the ensuing recitative, but pales in comparison to Farnaspe’s ultimate showstopper, ” Torbido in volto e nero” – crazy leaps of at least two octaves, and at one point, I have scribbled “Holy Cecilia, what even *was* that acuto?!” into my notes.

The vocal interaction between Basso and Fagioli in the recitatives continued to be a thing of beauty, where at one point Fagioli took Basso’s exact note and spun it on.

The evening culminates in a duet of Farnaspe and Emirena, “L’estremo pegno almeno”, and it extends this energy: dissonances dovetailing into each other while both have turned towards each other, taking cues from the other’s stance, as if logically straining for contact and closing also the physical gap between them. Basso has the grounded, sculpted warmth, Fagioli has the flaring heights. At times, her vocal line moves below his here, two singers who make each other go further in search of expressiveness.
The duet has a very catchy minor key shift towards the end that seems to edge them on further still. The intonation was perhaps not at 100% throughout here – there are a capella lines with wild swerves – but I did not care because this piece, handled by these singers, made things happen. They seemed genuinely touched by each other’s singing, too, and the mood in the audience, towards the end of a nearly 3 1/2 hour opera, echoed this spark of magic.

Well-deserved applause all around, in the end with most of the house on their feet.


[Curtains after “Adriano in Siria” at TADW: Yuriy Mynenko, Dilyara Idrisova, Romina Basso, Jan Tomas Adamus, Franco Fagioli, Juan Sancho, Sofia Fomina]

63 thoughts on “Pergolesi’s “Adriano in Siria” at Theater an der Wien”

  1. unstrained and focused sound, expertly shaped into gutsy phrase-acting, and turning recitative into 3D entities

    supple middle register stands out, but the intriguing thing are not the vocal acrobatics, but the vocal illustration of text

    swooning… while continuing to read…


    1. working heavily with fading notes, sometimes abruptly, with portamenti on the edge of glissandi, with a killer instinct on where to add another passing note, add it near impossible late, and then how hold, it, hold it, until it nearly breaks…

      .. now drooling… and continuing reading.. (while actually MP’s recit just came up prior to “non di mir” .. )


    2. Of course this turned out far longer and more involved than I had envisioned – glad you’re getting something out of my descriptions!



            1. also, no need for apologies since I do not foresee the day where I will ever complain about your photo-scouting skills.


  2. That sounds wonderful and I’m really tempted by your colourful descriptions of voices and interpretations! Listened a bit to the samples and YT promotion to get an impression and that album definitely goes to my wish-list, and really, why is this so rarely played?
    From what I have heard and seen of Fagioli so far, I totally agree that he excels in dramatic delivery, musically and acting-wise, while the voice itself, especially in solo arias, is not so easy for me to hear, but I could imagine that in a live-performance you get more nuances that might be covered by his strong and piercing sound in recordings? Also, it’s probably just me, because CT’s are in general not easy to listen to for me, with the main exception of Bejun Mehta.
    And I clearly need to listen more to Basso!


    1. Hell, *I* need to listen to more Basso.

      Generally, I find Fagioli so unique that I don’t mind the occasional wild detour, but I get your point, and yes: he does make a lot more sense when you can see him as he sings.



      1. And I clearly need to listen more to Basso!

        Hell, *I* need to listen to more Basso.

        we need to add Basso to our list of operas! what about that Orlando at TCE? (omg, i thought this photo was from that production, but, after rubbing my eyes.. i need to search for any evidence of its existence..)


        1. The Orlando is very Baroque, this is… oh my. Whatever this is, we need it. (there should be more Scarlatti, anyway, and Neapolitan shoulders are clearly on a roll)


            1. also works for grading student papers!

              (The Currentzis Giovanni kept distracting me, but I have odd feelings on that one overall. Too bad the Adriano in Siria isn’t available as an MP3 dl (Amazon only offers the CD album), I would be tempted to buy that (though how much work I would get done then… well…)


            2. yes, there it is!! Thank you!

              I couldn’t find it earlier – the Cd page doesn’t mention an option “mp3 album”, and when I looked in the Music Downloads section, I came up empty.

              So now I can go be properly tempted. 🙂


  3. while chomping down on my noodles for dinner earlier, i had time to really read through your description again of FF’s singing. It’s really the kind of singing that i’m really into! and yet, i did discuss with Dehggi about his voice in particular in Paris. The fact that you both can hear so much of his expression and I can’t.. I have been thinking whether it’s my resistance to CT but definitely not the case here. As I explained to Dehggi: a couple of months ago I played a clip from the quartet of Il Trionfo.. from Aix for the Spanish researcher here (the one who played pro music for a living for 10-yr and can hear very well) to introduce him to the piece, and the first thing he said was: did you hear his (FF’s) very wide vibrato? This question came up without me saying anything beforehand. Apparently Dehggi does not hear his vibrato… so we discuss the bit about which frequency we might be attuned to, and the fact that his is the only thing i hear and it’s so distracting (it’s coming in and out of audible range for me) I can not hear any music lines underneath. By the same token, Agathe once mentioned ACA’s vibrato (or VK once in an interview mentioned she used it in singing Händel) and I don’t hear any vibrato in their voices, I think this really sums up my particular tuning to FF’s singing. Since the summer, i often went back to this quartet and/or various clips of the Aix’s performance to see if i can get used to his singing, and every time i got hit by the same problem :-).

    In comparison, Fagioli – whose diction, due to other priorities in sound production, comes out somewhat garbled at times – is working with a line that is still primarily based on sound and sound-painting
    When I first heard him live, i could not hear a single word he was singing. And I always thought it’s very similar to how VK produces sound, in that her focus is not really on the diction but how things are shaped musically. Wouldn’t you say so? Though I think one can hear VK’s words better than FF’s (i can).

    whereas with Basso, one gets the impression that she is talking, she just employs notes to do so and gets the meaning across through setting text to music.
    And I’ve been using these same lines when I try to write in words the difference i hear between ACA and VK 🙂 , and how MP is also working like this for me. Coincidentally, since i was reading this post again today, and while walking back home from work, I found myself smiling somewhat, the fact that MP’s singing is so much this. The recit in DonG during the morgue scene was really exactly what I look for, such that she would be immediately on my radar regardless of how she delivers her top notes! (and she was indeed immediately on my radar when I heard her phrased the recit prior to “Soffre il mio cor con pace” !)


    1. ps- oh in that convo with Dehggi she also mentioned she doesn’t hear VK’s register change.. whereas i hear it very well and always like the fact that she changes it the way (i envision) i change gears when driving a stick shift 😀 (poor Smorgie can testify if you ever ask her)


      1. In the end, we will have to file an actual project on acoustics, hearing patterns and affective perception. You do the physics part, Agathe the psychology and I the cultural history.

        VK/ACA – precisely. I also hear the register changes and that she uses the difference in sound as a stylistic element has always appealed to me.



    2. Shirt or not, we would have loved her anyway…?

      With all the exposure she got this year, we were program to stumble upon her singing and be drawn to it.

      With Fagioli, I think what makes him so matter-of-fact for me is that I have listened extensively to Bartoli, whose sound production is similar. I’ve also written on her professionally, so I’ve had to think and analyze her approach a lot, so Fagioli is probably easier on my ears. Without that reference point, I might be more bewildered.

      I hear his vibrato, but less prominently than you do. There really must be an acoustic phenomenon at play here linked to individual hearing and/or filtering.

      Apropos filtering, we’ll have to address the sound mixing on that DonG, I get the impression the voices of A and E are notably smoother and slender – as if someone had photoshopped all frayed edges off a photo.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear his vibrato, but less prominently than you do. There really must be an acoustic phenomenon at play here linked to individual hearing and/or filtering.

        Yes, yes, yes, that’s so exciting! Your post, thadieu, leaves me quite puzzled again on how perception can vary so greatly and I think there hasn’t been nearly enough research done yet on the neuroscience site. Currently stopping myself from sketching a proposal…
        Actually, our grant would need to involve regular meetings at major opera houses for live sampling!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. ps- when Eyes were still blogging I used to ask her all sorts of questions on choice of tempo, choice of phrasing, terminology, etc. and she would give me listening exercises 🙂 , and i remember for the longest time i never understood her “vibrato” samplings because despite all the things she pointed out from various samples i heard nothing 😀


        1. Hey, it just occurred to me, maybe you try comparing a trained voice with a completely untrained one? Because I think nearly all trained voices would have at least very little vibrato, although there is a German “school” of Baroque singing where ideally no vibrato seems to be the goal.


          1. no no , Eyes gave me all trained voice, including that boy i heard in alcina in wien, Barbara Bonney, and some others, the problem is my hearing of vibrato: i can only hear very wide ones. that s why i didnt manage to hear anything, and for the longest time i didnt know what vibrato is!
            greetings from sunshining lis angeles


          2. I suspect — entirely on anecdotal evidence — that how a given singer is heard also depends a lot on the physical structure of a person’s ear, perhaps even more than a person’s neurological hardwiring? Speaking as someone for whom listening to some singers involves a lot of teeth-gritting because of the reverb.

            I hear Fagioli’s vibrato as much more acute than any of the other current CT’s I’ve heard, and it puts him at the outer edge for me. I don’t find it unpleasant, but it crosses the border into warbly at times, and there’s a point where his sound kind of falls apart.

            No reverb though 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. yes, it does – and reminds me always of the early 18th centurly descriptions of Caffarelli (whose repertory Fagioli sings a lot, also in this Pergolesi) as “sweet warbler”. The meaning of the word may have changed over time, or it may describe a different sound aesthetic of a different age.

              So it would be both physics/geometry and neurology… this *is* turning into a research project.


            2. Which would also place it more in sound origin and less in text-

              He’s got that guttural nightingale twitter at times, which is also, if specified, the preferred 18th century analogy.



            3. Interesting, I hadn’t considered this aspect but yes, that seems entirely possible. And thinking about it, considering the physics of the ear itself also means that elderly people, who often don’t hear high frequencies that well, would have a different experience concerning the “frequency mix” of a voice. But I guess, apart form the ageing process, anatomy/physiology of the ear would be rather fixed, while the neurological aspects are more shapeable, also integrating a person’s hearing history, and maybe even cultural background?


            4. Oooh, all four aspects would be fascinating.

              So we will have to make quantitative studies on the shapes of human ears, cross reference them with age, do a neurological audio profile, and the interview on hearing history and cultural background…?


              Liked by 1 person

            5. Sr. Valkyrie stood in front of our bed at seven, alarm clock in hand, pointing at it at declaring: look it’s past 9!
              Jr. Valkyrie ran out of jerseys – gift-wrapping won out over laundry last night – and now he’s running around in cargo pants and an oversized plaid flannel shirt for Christmas, only missing a sign that reads “my parents are lesbians”. Oh, and the tree looks as if an Ikea shower curtain has met the very left wing of the Green Party. 🙂

              Fell asleep last night over a half-done TC post…

              Merry Christmas to you and your family!

              Liked by 1 person

            6. 😀 sounds familiar, including unfinished laundry and self-crafted tree decorations with adventurous constructions! Merry Christmas to all of you too!


            7. Merry xmas to you both, and your families! we’re in southern california enjoying the beach and overdosing ourselves with kids and vietnamese food, with more kids and siblings arriving today.

              Anik, i had a dream last night you were visiting me (in Boston) for a concert! hopefully more to come in the new year, along with a visit Agathe’s way. I have 2 good friends who now live in Bremen (who did not know about the early music festival!) and a friend in Brussels (who did *not* know about La Monnaie!) who both told me i can come anytime! that, and more from our own music festival :-).

              Liked by 1 person

            8. of course, the pressing question of your dream concert is: was there singing, and by whom, and which band did play?


            9. Merry Xmas! Beach and vietnamese food sounds good, do you surf?
              The Musikfest program is not out yet but I’m sure there will be something worth hearing again!


      3. oh yes, can we discuss the DonG here? like how so smooth it is? it felt over-polished, very rhythmic and rehearsed. E was quite more spontaneous during recit (oh , wait a minute, this is K.Gauvin right??! I remember quite like the voice!!!) and at times I thought i was listening to C.Bartoli! I really enjoyed her recit prior to “mi tradi..” but then she went a bit wild with the decorations and broke the emotional feel toward the end… and then for A, i thought man if this was our impression of MP’s voice then we’d be in for a deep surprised on real-life take… but in fact i thought she really managed to keep it “spontaneous” in the communication (like she meant what she sang, instead of just singing along).. and even in her “decorations” in “non mi dir..” i could work it into the context. As for the genus of Currentzis, clearly my hearing failed completely because i only hear very sharp + rhythmic + stylish, but it doesn’t really contribute to the drama/story for me.. and the male singing went with him, swinging and rehearsed… But i need to emphasize I also completely don’t understand L.Equilbey’s conduction, which we have talked about before. And generally I never quite enjoy listening to recording because i often find them too careful + smooth (even C.Bartoli’s Norma!)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ll probably do a post on it to discuss it – I get similar impressions: very polished sound quality; my overall feeling was standing on an icy lake throughout.
          It’s got very impressive bits – e.g the precision and wrangling in of every little bit at the start of the overture? Wow. (though personally, too Karajanesque for me) I also really liked the voice of Tiliakos which worked well with the approach, I find. But I cannot listen past the chauvinism, both in outdated interaction between musicians and in gender ethics – much less when the program book quotes the conductor with “Giovanni is someone who does what we don’t dare to do”. And I really should turn this into a post…
          Enjoyed the dragging of the genius pose by Brachmann in the FAZ though. A lot.


          1. Yes, Jan Brachmann’s article is fun, and he is really talented in dissecting the genius myth. Still, I’ve become cautious regarding Brachmann’s reviews, they sound very intelligent and informed (well, yes, he probably has a lot of knowledge), and you’re spontaneously drawn to agree with him. Still, his was one of the reviews on the recent Deutsche Oper Abduction with a very bad verdict, drawing a picture of a vain, senseless directing approach, only meant to provoke and even disturbing the musical flow, while my own experience turned out to be a very different one.
            So, in a way here we are again with the problem of „experts“ telling everyone how to view things, and it is a pity if this puts people off a production with the chance to make their own conclusions. OK, I may not be totally fair because after all a review is always a subjective thing, still a like that fact to be acknowledged somehow and immensely appreciate this in yours.
            (And, if you would rely on Bachmann, you would think MP a singer who cannot bring expression across without the help of extravagant cadenzas, I wonder how you could just swallow this down and still post his article, remarkable independence of views ;-))

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I didn’t say I enjoyed that part of his article 😉 – but to each their own opinions, as long as they are informed in some way.

              And I get a sense of conservative entitlement from Brachmann, too – and I can imagine, form his writings, that he would be put off both by the “Abduction” staging and by the self-staging of Currentzis – the review read, to me, like the piece of someone who felt personally insulted or offended by something (and my reaction to the whole chauvisinst baggage of the genius myth is no different)

              Oh, and on MP and Gauvin: I found it curious how he lauded Gauvin for an intesse take (I think his word was “glutvoll”) when in my impression, from seeing her in concert appearances, is that she did a lot less fire here than she is capable of. It reminded me of what you said even before the DonG came out, how the Così does not seem to you focused on the singers, and I get that same impression here.
              And as for Papatanasiu, after hearing her live and after getting a few less sound-edited impresisons of her work this year, I think that if I were judging her just on this DonG, my review would still be favorable, but probably not as much. They both come across rather reigned in, I would say. – Elegiac, somewhat at a distance, very poised, very slender and glossly in sound – kind of going Schwarzkopfian? Not with the mannerisms, but with the poise?

              The overall cadenzas – btw, there across genders – and then being put off by them in the female leads were an other interesting point of the review. I read “glutvoll” and that bit about “extravagant cadenzas” and I asked myself “What is your image of Mozart’s heroines? What are your thought patterns when you write on women, and one female singers and handling of scores?” it’s a bit “what kind of opera books did you read?”

              For me – like for thadieu – there was a lot more happening in the recitatives. (I’ll try to put up that post tomorrow.)

              Liked by 1 person

            2. True, that review somehow read quite emotionally involved and in a way it is a good thing when someone cares a lot. And regarding Currentzis I was really put off by his self-presentation and his view on Don G’s character in the promotion video, actually that much that I’m not at all keen on that recording. So I won’t be able to comment much to your post tomorrow.
              Individual picture of how an opera character should sound and be displayed: Yes, that is so common, and I’m not free of it, and I guess it has a lot to do with performances that were formative for us personally, maybe especially at a young age when you have no distance to things? Still it is amazing how often people seem to be totally unaware that more than one interpretation of a character might be possible and valid (YT comments are often unnerving in that regard I just hope that singers usually don’t read them). Or the opera guides of course. I think I was even exposed to some quite old and outdated ones from my parents’ bookshelves, quite hazardous probably.


            3. We are all influencec by what we have read and seen, especally – as you say – in tiems hwere we were not yet aware enough to question narratives. And that’s just a fact, so I think for me it’s not about trying to erase that, but handling it responsibly, interacting with one’s own patterns and prejudices, conscious of where they come from, and mindful of one’s words.

              oh, speaking of reviewing – and onto previewing: I jsut rolled my eyes extensively at this NYTimes article (what’s with the salivating interest in how real the stage action is? …really? – but, yes, if that is your focus, then it is your focus. Fine.)


            4. …being totally aware that my perception is fundamentally influenced by previous hearing experiences, ćan I say that so far I find Currentzis’ take both too aggressive and hurried at times (agree with Brachmann there), and too tame and superficial at others. The voices and orchestra sound are really good though, but voices are very polished, as you said. Maybe the recits are better because they enable a break from Currentzis’ grip a bit?
              This NYtimes article, ts, ts, ts….really quite stupid.


  4. Wow, those recits…. And they really already have a Mozartean feel to them. And Basso’s phrasing and diction! (new years resolution: improve my Italian!, still, this manages to draw me in without access to the exact translation or staging/acting).
    I’m also very taken with Fagioli’s „Lieto così talvolta“, truly beautiful, and I personally prefer his more intense take to the Kermes version.
    Thank you again for both review and music, I think I will stay with this for some while getting to know this wonderful piece better.
    Now, off to the childrens’ new years party….Happy 2017 to you!


    1. Yes! I am so glad someone else gets why I’m so over the moon with the recit delivery and also gets that Mozart vibe…!

      Happy New Year! (hope the party was good! – we kept it small, but of course there were sparklers, Dinner for One and ‘champagne’)


  5. Happy 2017 to you and your family Anik! and to Agathe’s too!
    (thanks for the xmas gift! i just done making a safe copy. i also saw a production of this with english subtitles at the usual suspect’s place, the place where you can get the Rennes Traviata.)


  6. I’m still preoccupied with this. Have it in the car and it saved me from feeling very uncomfortable when getting blocked on the motorway alone, and it got dark and started snowing and got cold in the car…
    You know what’s good as well? The other Adriano in Siria (Veracini) in the Biondi recording. Again very good recits by Basso and in dialogue with ähem others.


    1. See, I don’t even need to ask or search for the cast (but I did and hey Hallenberg!). … do you have the recording? (Asking for, uh, a friend?)



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