Rock, Swagger, Whispers: “Ariodante” at Theater an der Wien

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Last night, the Grand Ariodante Tour of The English Concert started the European leg of their tour at TADW Vienna.

Short version: It was wonderful. Alice Coote’s sound bottled would make the best Scotch ever, Sonia Prina is actually Joan Jett, Christiane Karg should be cast if Todd Haynes ever directs a 1950s opera, I want to know where David Portillo buys his shoes, and the English Concert were British in the very best sense: precise, dedicated and witty with an incredibly rich vocabulary.

Of course, there is a long version.

(Consider yourself warned: review contains florid voice descriptions, fashion reports, relevant muscle groups, and open-air fangirling. And likely typos because I slept less than 5 hours and am actually grading student papers right now)

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The strange sensation of seeing people live in front of you whom you’ve just seen on TV the other week: Oh, they’re real. Also, they really play that well. – The English Concert under Harry Bicket, with a slender, poignant, driven sound. Special mention: the theorbo (or archlute? – Played by William Carter, I believe), for some magical mood-painting moments. I could see his hands fairly well, also the different ways he played to achieve varying degrees of density and dynamics, and he drew my gaze to his playing more than once.

Ariodante 6

Curtain Call: Bradley Smith (Odoardo), Matthew Brook (King), Mary Bevan (Dalinda), David Portillo (Lurcanio), Harry Bicket, Sonia Prina (Polinesso), Christiane Karg (Ginevra), Alice Coote (Ariodante).

Since I saw the Carnegie Hall take (with the same cast, except Coote and Smith) and we liveblogged that, I will not rehash things discussed in length over there. The sound carried altogether differently in the smaller venue and without the amplification of broadcast micros. The English Concert retains the same drive, but gets more structure to their play, like a properly tailored and worn tweed jacket.

They play with a relatively small cast, laying out a structure that is more vertical than plush color clouds, leaving at all times lots of air and space for the voices – it is like stepping into an small, pre-Baroque church with high ceilings, where the only decoration is the light falling through well-placed windows. If they were a painting, they’d be a pencil sketch or an etching: all motion captured in precise, few lines.

Christiane Karg opened the evening once more with a flawless rendition of “Vezzi, lusinghe”, which also pretty much describes herself. She seemed, also in the smaller hall, warmer and more layered in sound, and more engaged in character portrayal. This Ginevra is one of perfect poise, a lady out of a 1950s Todd Haynes movie with Cinderella slippers (the adjacent Prince Charming included), and Karg’s work is one of subtle nuances. In between the TADW size and a seat close to the stage, I have come out of last night with a whole new level of appreciation for her work – not just the level of technical skill (that has been clear for a while), but the way she builds character from an outline of perfect poise, and arrives at something that moves past that poise even while she never compromises it. It is an intersection where Ginevra proves a perfect fit for her, both vocally and idiomatically.

From New York to Vienna, Karg and Bevan seem to have drawn straws to call dibs on wearing red, and Karg has won. I am usually underwhelmed by couture, but that dress – well, Karg in that dress – was a vision. An elegant blend of gathered and billowing, worn with a grace that made sure that even a bright red never came across as too bright. Karg could have walked out of there and taken over as Queen of Monaco.

The dress was also shoulder free and Karg won “Delts of the Night” in addition. Oh my. It also set the mood on this particular outing being a trapezius triad night because between Karg, Coote and Prina, there was a lot of exposed upper backs to admire.

The second best thing about the Ginevra opening scene, however, were Sonia Prina and Mary Bevan on their taken seats, giving everyone and Perfect Lady Ginevra the eye and commenting on the situation just by their posture. It was hilarious.

Prina, who, I am convinced, is actually Joan Jett in Baroque terms, wore those same lace over boy brief pants as in Carnegie Hall, with a pair of spiky killer heels that I have dubbed “I skinned The Queen Of The Night For These” and rocked a half-sleeve tube top with volants (if you can rock volants and you are not Carmen, you can rock anything) and a low back that also put her tattoo(s) on display. Additionally, she outdid Jack Sparrow in the eyeliner/bling/earring department, and Cencic in the sharp undercut sides/razor line back/tophawk hair department, and that was before she had even sung a note.

Bevan, in a long, 1970s vibe, sparkly, psychedelic hippie sheath of floor length and open, curly hair, matched the vibe perfectly. Ginevra was singing, and Prina and Bevan were sitting there with their eyebrow game on like Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry of “Oliver Twist”. Or Sweeney Todd and Ms. Lovett. Or like Gomez and Morticia Addams – him being the drama queen with the pomade and pinstripes, to her flower-pruning goth girl.

Bevan has a sizeable, almost mezzo-ish tone, uncommon for a Dalinda. She also has the required agility, but comes across as spunkier than your average coloratura soprano. She will likely build up more color repertory with growing experience, but as a still fairly young singer next to more seasoned colleagues like Prina, Coote and Karg, she held her own.

Prina, again, simply took over, long before she even had to sing. She prowls and pounces, swaggers and slinks in a  way that is mesmerizing. One never gets the impression of any gesture being put on or posed: this is an artist with an enviable flow right from her own comfort zone.

She might kiss or choke Dalinda (spoiler alert: both), try to cop a feel of Ginevra who is flustered as Grace Kelly faced with the advances of Ava Gardner Clark Gable in “Mogambo”, or get up to a brass balls duel with Ariodante in the garden: Prina’s Polinesso, here, is an outcast who embraces the label and in return challenges the society that has labeled him a freak for its own comfort. (S)he retains an edge of likability here that puts the audience in Dalinda’s shoes: we know we’re not supposed to hang out with the bad boy smoking pot under the bleachers, but it’s that he’s just got something about him. Nothing exemplifies this better than the group of older white, well-suited men in the audience ahead of me who began to shift in their seats with unease when Polinesso moved on Dalinda in “Apri le luci” (which was, in Bevan’s delivery, less “this is my first ball!” and more “I’ve seen enough already to realize that you’re not a good idea, and also, here’s my number.”) and then took the scene for “Coperta la frode”. Because what happens, on stage, was effortlessly cutting through any essentialist notions of masculinity.
Now one could argue that with her rocker vibe, Prina is already at a level beyond conventional gender notions, but it still remains a fact that she was a female singer on stage, and between her heels and her top, she was clearly recognizable as a female body at all times. Yet as soon as she moved in character, what the audience saw was not a woman: this Polinesso, in motion and voice, was a guy.

Gender is a relational performance. The End. PS. I love Baroque opera.

Prina owns the stage. She also unapologetically owns her material, which does have its idiosyncracies – the forte top notes come with a stronger taste of metal now, and the rapid open-throat runs have perhaps gained a bit more air, but she integrates it into her performance. I wrote in more detail on her voice in my “Silla” review, but I return to her recit work here because if there is one point – perhaps also aided by the fact that at TADW, which is likely not even half the size of Carnegie Hall, she barely had to apply any pressure throughout – where Prina’s technical and stylistic finesse stand out starkly, it is here, in the effortlessly delivered small rubati, in the smooth phrase-end ornamentations that happen so casually that you don’t even know how your shirt ended up on the floor. And there is the differentiated work she does in small-scale dynamics, between mezzopiano and piano, shading colors down to a whisper and then opening them up again with a flourish.

In my impression, what Prina is looking for in her work is not a flawless sound (she could strive for that, technically, but it does not seem to be her foremost interest), but the exact mood of an exact moment. She does not seem to see this as a solitary quest, either – she is very generous with her stage partners in offering cues and opening up spaces, leaving the reaction level up to them.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a singer who is so much in the now, and so much in easy sync with herself.

Now if you think this was all of the fangirling report, hold your horses: Qui d’amor nel suo linguaggio.

When it was announced a few weeks ago that DiDonato wouldn’t sing, but Coote would, I was sad, but I was also not sad.

Alice Coote has been part of my emotional soundscape for nearly 20 years, when she blazed onto stage in the legendary Stuttgart “Alcina” in righteous indignation and amorous stupor and I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered. And despite that, I had never heard her live (which is inexcusable). So there was a definite moment of “Oh God, it actually is Alice Coote!” last night.

She started out softly, so very softly, and before the first phrase was over, I was already smiling without noticing it. Her timbre is incredibly rich and beautiful, though it is never just about beauty. Her voice is a Mahler’d ray of sunshine, bronzen and burnished and deep, joyful in a way of won through anguish. There is that rhapsodic slant that always, and more than in any other singer, reminds me of Fassbaender, not only in tone, but in how she approaches tone as a narration. Last night, more than fifteen or twenty years ago, her voice struck me as the serene and the lamenting in perfect balance. She still has that edge of bold recklessness in there, but also so much more gentle nuance. There is something keening in there, too, a darker note at the very core that grounds everything, something that calls out and connects with the humanness and the loss it entails, as a starting point of beauty. And then there is colors upon colors like autumn fields and you cannot help but smile, even as you know that summer will be over soon, but if it were forever, you wouldn’t love it as fiercely.

God, I am sorry. But this is Alice Coote. Surely you don’t expect me to hold my metaphors in check on this occasion?

There are the stylistic bits that make Coote immediately recognizable: the establishing of a more three-dimensional, physical sound by putting a bit of added breath into the consonants that then carries over into the vowels like a slight sfumato effect: it gives her that edge of staggering stupor and overwhelmed joy, but also of gut-level anger and indignation. Vocal knight territory for sure.

Coote has kept up singing Handel even as her repertory on the other side has always moved towards Mahler. It sounds like a gap hard to bridge (though Coote and Connolly both excel at it), but it works without turning Handel into Mahler, or Mahler into Handel. For someone who is not exclusively an early music singer, Coote fits herself to Bicket’s sound and to her colleagues very well. During “Con l’ali” (something I just heard Haller blaze through with all the devil-may-care confidence of youth), I thought that her coloratura doesn’t come as effortless any more, though after then hearing her “Dopo notte” and her “Bramo aver mille core”, I have to modify that thought. It is true that she has to work more for some of the leaps in the (admittedly mean) “Con l’ali” A part (the B part, taken a bit slower, was immediately a better fit), but Coote has always been a singer working from her body and not trying to hide that work she does. She doesn’t fudge over things: she does them, period.

As in the Carnegie take, I had again the impression that “Con l’ali” had been abbreviated (or the von Otter/Minkowski that I have seared into my brain is extra long?), but “Con l’ali”, despite being the most virtuosic in leaps and register changes, turned out to be the least interesting Ariodante aria of the evening. Coote sounding like a overwhelmed joy in a recit phrase as simple as “Mia dolce sposa” was far more interesting in color. And then there was Coote inhabiting her character scenically, but for that, I need to make a detour to the fashion report.

Coote, dressed in all-black, walked in in tuxedo pants (it was most definitely a night of trouser roles in well-fitting trousers. Oh my.) and a top with an asymmetrical armor allusion that was a cross between Alfred Kirchner designing the Todesverkündigung from “Die Walküre”, the von Otter “Ariodante” cover (#HeroicCleavage) and some Victorian-Goth Blossom-Leaf Amazon get-up with a low-cut back. And she wore open-toe heels that gave Ariodante an unexpected vulnerability. It’s not armor if your Achilles heels are on display. (also, with how her knees seemed to have spent decades on the battlefield, I wanted to say, “Put on some flats!” but it seems there is an unwritten dresscode against comfortable shoes on the concert stage, unless you’re von Otter?)

Just like with Prina, Coote – blond hair out and to her shoulders – was at all times recognizable as a female singer, a female body. Yet, just like with Prina, this body (cleavage and nice trouser cut and bare upper back notwithstanding) housed the portrayal of a man, or at least of someone not of feminine gender. The way Coote moved, the way she established both masculine-coded anger and chivalry for Ariodante on and through her female body was not female at all. It wasn’t put-on butch, either, it just moved past conventional femininity without even questioning it.

(Gender is still a relational set of performances. I still love Baroque opera.)

This Ariodante was more seasoned warrior than DiDonato’s, more innately powerful, more chivalrous in a studly manner. And it happened in very small things: The way Coote had her Ariodante smile at Ginevra in a way that spoke of being an underdog and that seemed to light up the entire hall in bliss. The way she was quick to block Polinesso’s space when he insinuates Ginevra might cheat. The way this Ariodante hurried to the rescue of Dalinda: saving damsel in distress first, blaming her for hurting Ginevra later.

There was one moment that stuck with me, in the first Ariodante/Ginevra duet (“Prendi, prendi, da questa man”) where also Karg did the trademark Bonney thing of turning a stage partner into a Prince Charming by the way she smiles at them (Karg seemed more at ease scenically here than in New York), and then Ariodante reached out to put his hand on Ginevra’s waist, and it’s this gathered red dress, and a small waist, and he never more than grazes it, but – and I say this not as a man, but as someone who has done this exact thing addressing a woman – it’s a detail that rang very, very true: the angle, the effortless knowledge of height, the courteousness learned.

Among the other singers, I had the chance to hear Matthew Brook for the third time in as many weeks as the King, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a King who was so into his part (also, nice touch on the tie and the differing pochette). This show, in the smaller space of the TADW, was his most cultivated take yet, with beautiful, often quiet, line work, but also maintaining the emotionality that had a few people move with unease (which is precisely why we need portrayals of men in tears under duress). The way Brook worked up, against his disbelief and helplessness and despair, the ire of condemning Ginevra in a single phrase was great work. Also the moment at the end of “Invida sorte amara” when Ginevra walks in and he realizes he has to tell her that Ariodante is dead.

And there was David Portillo, but for that, there is the wider context of Polinesso’s “Spero per voi, sí, sí” (aka “Notches In My Bedposts”) that is a mixture of threat and seduction, and there is one moment, on one of the last repetitions of “pupille vaghe” that Prina delivers in a buttersmooth piano, and then the theorbo sets in for the next phrase with a a little flourish, catching the exact mood, and I looked at the theorbo player – an older white man – and he was grinning with joy at what Prina just had pulled off, and he chimed in in style.

And after that, Lurcanio walks in. Portillo has the complete “the groom who today will turn into your perfect-son-in-law” look pat down. Well tailored gray-blue 3-piece suit, shirt with cufflinks, white tie and folded pochette (not bunched), and the most perfect tan shoes (Oxfords, I think), polished to a spit. God, the only way he could have looked better would be if he were a woman.
And he sang beautifully. Even across his range, with enough core on one side and enough creaminess on the other, with impressive dynamic scope with seamless shifts, never turning into bellowing or shrillness, unstrained and flexible throughout. #IfIHadToPickALyricTenor
…but then Polinesso rolled his eyes at Lurcanio and that was the end of this particular tenor attempt. #YouTried #She’sMine

With the small-cast band it was possible beyond the theorbo to make out single instruments – like accents in the two celli – which added another layer to this evening, and was perhaps also telltale of the pencil sketch way The English Concert played – never a thick frosting, at all times leaving space and air for the singers. Likewise, Bicket, if he did lift his hands from the harpsichord keys at all, only needed the smallest motion of barely more than his fingertips to indicate the sound he wanted and getting it back. Wonderful.

After the first intermission, the band turned it up a notch with the introduction to Act II. From the quietest place, the impression of a balmy summer night falling welled up, with the bass line like black ink slowly seeping more solidly into the sky (you keep your “Tristan” Act II, I will take this one, thank you).

And then there’s Prina’s Polinesso with an impish smile, tossing out a deceptively light “amorosi contenti”, and Coote’s Mahler Knight Ariodante is seething immediately. It is a pity that Ariodante and Polinesso don’t get more scenes together, their dynamic is so interesting, and DiDonato/Prina was completely different from this “get the horses and choose your weapon” vibe between Prina/Coote.

“Tu, preparati a morire” was taken light in the coloratura, in the bits of anger with some of the notes pushed at the end to denote anger, with lots of core, and there is the B part that already sounded like a foreshadowing to “Scherza, infida”.

I need a Scotch, my notes read. No wait, I think Alcie Coote *is* vocal Scotch.

Polinesso threw mocking glances, making Ariodante react in a way that reminded me of “Sta nell’Ircana”, 1999. Furious Coote is magnificent Coote. Put me some ice in that Scotch, please.

Then more of Portillo and his beautiful sound (and his beautiful shoes), but my notes say, Who put a tenor aria in there? I was much more focused on Coote’s heartbroken faces, and when it came to “Scherza, infida”, all it took was the opening line of the recit, that incredulous “E vivo ancora?” to do me in completely. And by the end of the recit, on “affanni miei” on a suffocated whisper, with the last “i” fading out into the hall, no one was breathing. And then the bassoon. And the pizzicati in the celli and the double bass. And I will kill the person who cleared their throat in the reprise. This, I thought (and I hadn’t heard “Cieca notte” then yet, which seems to be the perfect piece for The Seasoned Ariodante, along with “Numi, lasciarmi vivere”), is Coote’s piece. And she does not park on legato lines – even though she could – she does grieving ardor. This Ariodante doesn’t sit in the corner crying, this Ariodante is convulsing on the floor because the situation chokes him. Already the first “infida”, Coote takes relatively large, with some pressure, destilling Ariodante’s anguish – the word seems ripped from her throat, unwieldy, as if he cannot bear fitting it to Ginevra. And that is just the first phrase. Coote does not make pretty music here, even though there is beautiful sound. She has Ariodante take out his broken heart and watch it rip apart.

And apropos watching, there is one small detail in this scene that bespeaks the care that went into the scenic aspect of this production; during the aria, Odoardo walks in briefly, a witness to this heartbreak which will later make him tell the King that Ariodante has died (with how Cotte sings this, he is not the only one believing it). And props to Bradley Smith for this moment. Odoardo is a relatively thankless recit part, but Smith was present at all times when on scene, yet never overdid it. How he managed to step into and out of “Scherza, infida” without being a bother was really good work. He also managed some nice accents throughout – pausing when leading the dying Polinesso offstage to be told the plot to unravel in the end, making disbelieving faces at Polinesso when he wants to step in to defend Ginevra, and, after a beat, putting a hand on the broken King’s back after “Invida sorte amara”. it may not be a part to make a big difference, but I really liked the work he did with his lines and on the scene beyond.

But I am not yet through with “Scherza, infida”: the trembling string beats that push “ombra mesta” forward. The segue back into the A part, with the final “tornerò” fading out into a pianissimo and even my pen on paper, even a breath, would have felt to loud in the house then. the ornamention on the final “Io, tradito”.

Notes afterwards: I have been slayed.

There was a “Brava” (too soon, into this precious quiet), and at least a minute of hollering and applause.

Bevan had to deliver “Se tanto piace al cor” afterwards, and she gave it some weight of “I know this is a bad idea, but I cannot help myself”, especially in a nice low “vezzi”, that again sounded more mezzo-ish in color. And there is a chilling moment to the side, where Prina sits and you can see on this Polinesso’s face when he ponders that, yes, he will have her killed, but there is also still a bit of ‘damn, that was good’.

Karg’s “Mi palpita il cor” was nicely forboding in atmosphere, but also technically flawless because of course it was (and she could have organized the Easter Egg Roll on the side, in addition). At this point I also dubbed her “Princess of the Scots and the Delts”. For obvious reasons.

Portillo storms in with Lurcanio’s accusations and he gets an absolutely roaring accent in the theorbo for “chiedo giustizia, e non conforto”. And then he sings perfectly. Again. With great coloratura. Really, if he were a mezzo (and a woman), he’d be perfect.

The larger scene of Ginevra and then “Il mio crudel martoro” plus the ballet music (there was scene applause before the ballet music could segue in, Karg had truly reeled the audience in at that point) was a long stretch of time to gain a better understanding of how she works, which is from a parting point of perfect poise that then inwardly unravels, but without damaging the tone, just via color and breath. Karg gets some nice orchestra support (the driven beats for “dalle reggio di Dite”!), and there is the theorbo, again, but she carries that whole scene on her own, emoting through the entire ballet sequence with all its changing moods. I would gladly have looked at her for another ten minutes. This scene, towards the end of “Il mio crudel martoro”, was also the first time I saw her use her knees to anchor a tone: a small indicator for the scale on which her dismantling worked. Outstanding vocally, and – at least at the close distance – also very compelling scenically.

In the Act II intermission, Dehggi and I had been reduced to stupid smiles and sighs and “Ah, Handel.”, and “Ah, mezzos/contraltos”, and “I never realized how compelling Karg can be in stage terms.” And more stupid smiles and sighs.

For Act III, Coote walks in with a hefty “Numi, lasciarmi vivere”. It’s so much color. It’s kind of “Siegmund, sieh auf mich”, but better. It’s “Is this what Scrooge McDuck feels when he jumps into his money pool: an embarrassment of riches, and why doesn’t he listen to opera instead?”
Oh no, the sea wouldn’t have spit out this Ariodante. It would have pulled them under and crowned them queen. But instead, Mahler Knight Ariodante jumps in even in heartbreak to save Dalinda, and then, when he finally gets what happens, it is again something that Coote channels through her entire physique, having it push out of Ariodante beside himself – “dunque… colei…” And there is so much remorse and shame in those two words that one would be all too inclined to pardon him despite having such abysmal partnership communication skills.

And then it is “Cieca notte” (who needs “Dopo notte” if there is “Cieca notte”? – But after then hearing “Dopo notte”, I was glad that there are both) – Coote uses her entire dynamic range, again and again directing the “Voi tradiste” at Dalinda, and uttering the “una gran fe” in half a shout. Each single “Cieca notte” (God, Coote sure has great chest range, too) seemed designed to make me finally pass out. Notes: If I could take one piece from this evening with me, I would want it to be this one. Down the the vehemence of the pushed-out final note.

Dalinda’s “Neghittosi” offered more spunk and also a solid dose of ire (Ms. Lovett clearly picked up a thing or two from Sweeney Todd), and to no one’s surprise, Prina also rocked “Dover, giustizia”. It is contrasted by an otherworldly “Io ti bacio” – which is an exposed, high-range, almost a cappella number. Of course Karg was flawless (again) and also brought, I thought, more emotional weight to it than at Carnegie Hall.

The theorbo gets more points for the work during “Ti stringo al seno e parto” where, in his best moments, Brook reminded me of Laszlo Polgar singing “Vieni, o cara” in the 2009 Zurich “Agrippina” (#BassTouchstone). I correct my earlier words: actually, it was after this one, and the mood was somewhat spellbound, that Odoardo put a hand on the grieving King’s shoulder.

Karg’s “Giusto ciel” has just one note: GUUUUH.

The battle between Polinesso and Lurcanio is still only an aggressive stab-hug of half a second. Which, meh, but then Ariodante walks back in and I stop caring about the battle. Coote once more aces this scene, giving Ariodante – between large steps and awkwardly wringing his hands, and not really daring to look at Ginevra, but with such overwhelmed joy that he can, indeed look at her again – enough remorse to temper the supposed bright happiness of the scene.

Joy, then, is a gradual process built throughout the most poignant “Dopo notte” I have heard yet, starting out not jubilantly, but battered and with shame. The aria is not a celebration, but the work towards it: Ariodante tries to convince himself that there is hope beyond the heartbreak (also the one he caused). And when he succeeds in the end, after a row of perfect paladar-directed piani (so smooth!), it is happiness earned. The coloratura works perfectly here, with the aria being a better fit for Coote, I thought, than “Con l’ali”. Bickets turns the pit down to a simmer here, and by the end of the aria, Coote is smiling, and Smith and Bevan in the background are also smiling broadly, and large parts of the audience are smiling, too.

The final Dalinda/Lurcanio duet is beautifully sung. Portillo is still close to perfect, but he is still no mezzo or contralto, and Dalinda’s gaze seems to say pretty much the same. Both Bevan and Portillo play the scene nuances, not all bright and happy – on the first impulsive “un traditor!” Bevan tosses her Lurcanio a look that seems to say, “Tone it done a notch, will you?”, and he does. Nice work. Also, the English Concert is, again, so very good, particularly because they work with such a small cast where individual colors make up the entire sketch work.

Apropos colors, I would like Alice Coote’s phrasing of “Mia dolce sposa” bottled, please. And an ice bucket.
With how this Ariodante sings the final duet, I’d take him back, too, if I were Ginevra, particularly the “ma in questa che ti dono”. Swoon. For a few seconds, I wondered whether these two have ever sung Rosenkavalier together? They did push their music stands together again. The mood was quieter, more solemn that the giddier, more youthful joy in the Carnegie Hall take (perhaps Karg’s reserve fits in this aspect better with Coote’s older, wearier Ariodante?) – but then Karg, suddenly, finally smiled and it shifted the entire mood. And in return: Alice Coote leveling goofy, joyful smiles at her stage sopranos while acing endless coloratura runs is an infectious thing of timeless beauty. There was so much joy, both in her voice, and in her and everyone’s performance, and it also echoed through the house.

Lots of applause and palpable happiness in the hall – and even the perpetually nagging Viennese audience seemed completely taken. All I heard in walking out was “Wonderful” and “So gorgeous”. Dehggi and I said pretty much the same, another dozen of times, as we stood in the street in front of the entrance, still smiling.

And then Sonia Prina walked past us and we seriously swooned on our feet. And we agreed that it was somewhat embarrassing. And then we swooned some more. (and then Dehggi stopped Prina – who was very kind and a good sport even after a 4 hour show – for a brief chat. But that story, I am sure Dehggi will tell far better and in more detail once she gets to it.)

Ariodante 5

Curtail Call, II: Bradley Smith, Matthew Brook, Mary Bevan, David Portillo, Harry Bicket, Sonia Prina, Christiane Karg, Alice Coote.

Ariodante 1

Pre-Show mehlspeising at Café Drechsler with Dehggi. We were so happy about a ladies’ trouser night that I barely tasted the Topfenstrudel, but I think it was very good. Though the opera, then, was even better. – From my seat, I could see Dehggi nearly fall over the railing of her box and when we met up in the intermissions, we had no snark left, we were just grinning goofily.

Ariodante 4

(I still covet David Portillo’s shoes.)

414 thoughts on “Rock, Swagger, Whispers: “Ariodante” at Theater an der Wien”

  1. Thank you so much, this is wonderful! And makes waiting time even harder…I’m counting the hours now and will likely reply more after tomorrow!
    “in the effortlessly delivered small rubati, in the smooth phrase-end ornamentations that happen so casually that you don’t even know how your shirt ended up on the floor” OH my….

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  2. Coote’s Scherza, infida used to bring me to tears but due to general giddiness that evening I could admire her trademark intensity instead. Cieca notte was very powerful. You do want chest for that one. It’s such a different sound and interpretation from JDD, I’m glad we got to hear both, though I hope we get to hear JDD do it live again under better auspices. With Coote I got the contrast with Karg in the duets better.

    It’s possible to like something so much there’s no need for snark 😉 it was that unusual kind of night. At the end I lingered in the box just to bask in the atmosphere a little longer 🙂

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  3. uttering the “una gran fe” in half a shout

    I remember that bit! Her work with dynamics and chest (yes!) on that one was exemplary. It’s really up her alley, with the more muscular and dramatic approach. Ariodante, angry? Yes, he finally is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With how this Ariodante sings the final duet, I’d take him back, too, if I were Ginevra, particularly the “ma in questa che ti dono”. Swoon.

      Yes! Coote’s dense sound made a very nice contrast in the duets.

      this Ariodante is convulsing on the floor because the situation chokes him

      that’s it, her Ariodante is very real. When I was listening I thought “I can believe that he’s on the verge of suicide”. She opens herself up to a large degree, which I think makes some uncomfortable (like my seatmate, who stubbornly refused to applaud her but clapped after others’ arias).

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      1. there were several interesting instances in comfort/discomfort when it came to emotion and vulnerability on male characters (Ariodante, King).
        ….not applauding? Pu-llease.

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        1. Hey, I was pretty lucky regarding surrounding fellow audience, yesterday (I had expected people would maybe be very posh or hanseatically reserved). There was a lesbian couple in front of me, an elderly lady behind me, who audibly sighed with Ariodante and chuckled with Polinesso, and a lady in first row who had blower bouquets ready for Prina and Coote.

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          1. a lady in first row who had blower bouquets ready for Prina and Coote

            I like her style 🙂 also the elderly lady with the sighing and chuckling. Us in 2047 😉

            Liked by 3 people

          2. As I keep saying, #OperaCougars at #ShadyBelcantoPines.

            a zimmer frame race when spotting certain singers 😀

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        2. yea, it was strange. I almost asked him why (this wasn’t the stiff gent, it was the other chap). I guess he was a “disgruntled” JDD fan.

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          1. who, then, didn’t connect to JDD’s overall aproach to humanity because, if I may say so, that is one kind of behavior that strikes me as utterly un-JDD.

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          2. agreed, but I think some people may go for the hype rather than the message. Or perhaps he simply doesn’t like AC, which is allowed after all.

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      2. did i mention i *really* wanted to hear her Ariodante? her approach and weight (heft) really work for my ears. As i might have mentioned elsewhere, i identified with her way of singing (emotional expression) more than with Joyce’s (or S.Connolly’s). After that Lungi hearing test, i often wonder if it has to do with the heft of the voice: a dense(r) voice makes going from “pushing” or “muscular” to light (both in volume and in texture/color) more expressive (to my ears) . There is also that bit about “uncomfortable” that makes the character vulnerable [not for Dehggi :-), i’m currently sitting through my fav version of Lungi again and admiring again all of these aspects, and] i’m really wondering if it’s totally subjective or there’s a general truth to this. Of course i’m reminded again from that Lungi excercise that it’s very likely i just can’t hear well when a voice is on the “smoother” side.
        (ps- but Dehggi, in case you’re wondering, i once conducted a self “hearing test” by listening to 10 different versions of “Lungi da te, mio bene” and it ranges from i can hear A LOT of dynamics to it’s so beautiful but i can’t hear anything , with the former by Ann Murray + MP and the latter by C.Karg!! hence it was a good discussion about what exactly each of us is hearing..)

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        1. Now I want to revisit Karg’s take on Lungi, to see whether I can now make more sense if it. (And then, if course, our favorite, which in intensity and scope now brings to mind the recent Pur to miro)

          Dynamic range would be a fairly objective category, I think? But it interacts with creating atmosphere through timbre, and that in turn would depend more heavily on your hearing, and how you perceive certain overtone clusters.

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          1. We may have to adapt our theory of Karg choosing her dresses in line with the character, (seriously, is that her idea of Sifare?)
            But it still works for me vocally.

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          2. Well, there is the arguments of delts.
            And I’d also watch the version with Sifare as the first-born daughter and and VK as her sassy younger sister Farnace who do the Statira/Argene duel for the throne and Aspasia (not Dario here)

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          3. We didn’t have a party and no guest other than the witnesses and church was out of the question anyway, so it was pretty relaxed and I got to count 😉

            >

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          4. oooh, thanks! (I can NOT picture that. But then again – and perhaps Nesi excluded – whom can I actually picture with this piece any longer?)

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        2. Maybe it also has to do with how far a singer is willing to go with the risk of imperfections? Because, I think, the more unfiltered expression you give, the lesser the voice control. There were some of those (very slight) imperfections in Coote’s performance, mostly in the coloratura parts (maybe also only audible due to the great acoustics) but those of course did not compromise the overall impression!
          A bit related to Prina, who primarily goes for “what fits for the character best in this moment” rather than “most beautiful sound at each point” (and I think that approach makes the quieter bits all the more impressive, I know her voice in all nuances so well, still got quite shocked several times #shirtonthefloor, but I’m drifting away from the main topic…).
          Back to Ariodante, I can’t say I liked Coote more than JDD, it is just such two quite different types of voice and quite different takes, each one superb on their own account.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Oh, I can see that revision prep is coming along just dandy 😉

            Expressiveness: yes, I think the way I listen, and with the things I look for in characterization, I actually look for imperfection, for idiosyncrasies and for the moment that is not 100% pre-planned and controlled, but that reacts to a unique situation: something about connecting with a room, opening oneself up for communication instead of just giving a show (and we are back with vulnerability, with authenticity). I think there are various ways to achieve that, also depending on voice type and repertory, but using more of your scope than just the ‘safe bits’ is certainly one of them.

            I would have a hard time comparing JDD to Coote, too. I connected to both performances, but in different ways.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. One paragraph done, so I’m allowed to comment!
            On vulnerability, yes, I agree, and I think it was an important factor in what made Coote’s performance so touching. For me, the boundaries between the role and the singer were quite blurred here, in the sense that I often had difficulties seeing the knight instead of the singer (maybe also a question of outer appearance), while, at the same time, she was clearly in the emotional landscsape of the character all the time, thus abolutely integrating into the storyline. And I think this “blurred” approach is only possible because the character of Ariodante (in this more likable interpretation) may not be so very far away from a modern person’s own inner landscape. But this may also just be my very own perception, would be interesting to see Coote perform in a staged, costumed version.
            In contrast, with Polinesso, also due to the nature of the role, the approach seems more that she just becomes that character for the time being, and acting from that point all the time, while it is likely quite far away from the singer’s own character (but of course all acting has to start from somewhere).

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          3. class finished or today, I’m allowed to comment, too!
            that is another interesting point that, I think, I also registred somewhat – your description makes me nod now and say “Ah, yes. This.”
            And I think it may have to do not necessarily with character, but indeed with the “modern person” approach, giving Ariodante some universal human treats of anger and hurt that would encompass both singer and role, and also the audience?
            (It is possible that I need more coffee)

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          4. i think it helps that you’ve seen Joyce up close live. Hearing live makes a huge difference. I’d go as far as saying she sings differently in the US than in Europe (playing more safe, keeping the crowd pleased here..)

            On that related note, same with the rest of the singers on the Ariondante tour (on the topic of their conservative clothes) with the exception of S.Prina whose attitude is “this is me, nope, i’m not going down that let me be as beautiful and femme as you think i should behave” look. I remember when N.Stutzmann was here with S.Mingardo and E.Barath as well, it’s as if they got the memo: be conservative, long non-showy dress in black is OK. I almost thought Bevan didn’t catch the memo in time, hence her red dress 😀 . And i was worried Karg would catch a cold at Carnegie Hall with the AC going rampant..

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          5. ps- sorry, i keep repeating like a broken record.. but my opinion was somehow quite heavily based on the single time i heard JDD live in NY.. and if i should learn anything, it’s that i should hear her more live (pref in europe.) I remember last month i was in London and heard Emilie Renard (veeeeery good hair!!!) live for the first time.. and if i didn’t know better, i’d think (a) her voice is tiny, (b) she can’t sing low, how can she be a mezzo… Both Dehggi and Leander assured this was not how she’s normally heard, that this was quite out of the norm: that the music was not well chosen and was heavily in the contralto range, and the conductor was simply BLASTING his harpsichord playing over her. She sang duet with Louise Alder whose voice is bigger and was able to SHOUT above the harpsichord and above E.Renard’s very low-range voice.. the lesson learned: go to hear singers more often live, in small intimate halls if possible..

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          6. I’m still debating with myself whether to travel to Essen to hear her War and Peace program. But, to be very honest, hearing her live in Semiramide, I was very impressed by her technical skills, but it all kind of got overlayered by Barcellona. So I guess it will be good to hear her without distractions of the strongest kind. (Dehggi, I’m also debating whether to hear Semiramide at ROH again)

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          7. War & Peace is worth the trip, I would say, if you want to get a look into a project the singer cares about, and how she appears in that context. I am really glad I had the chance to see/hear it.
            Also, Il Pomo d’Oro are really good, too.

            Liked by 2 people

          8. Oh, and how did you like Alder, I absolutely love her Poppea in that concert version with Connolly.
            Wasn’t Renard on Anik’s boyband list?

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          9. oh you bet she was. 🙂
            and I will have to look at that Poppea again, I remember enjoying the balance there (though I also still want to look at the Schwetzingen Poppea in depth because that finale was kind of mindblowing in the very best sense)

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          10. Actually, my first impression on that was that of “too much”, but that may just be my problem, and I certainly don’t want to spoil the mood (interesting though, how some things work so well for some and not for others, especially since usually we all tend to agree very much during live blogs).

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          11. It IS a bit much for a Northern audience, but I also got the impression that it was very HER, and that was wonderful to witness. Also, her encore moderations.

            >

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          12. yes, Renard = HairGame. Her Holofernes worked well at TADW, but you are right, some of it sat a little to contralto for her (which is why I suggested Nerone), but she pulled it off of because she could employ nuance work in the venue (and, okay, chutzpah and great hair helped, too #TeamSmirkingWarlord) and didn’t have to shout.

            But on a general scale, I’m all for us camping out across small European performance spaces – the TADW-Wiggy-TCE triathlon, perhaps? on a permament basis.

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          13. (i think we would have heard her too, but that conductor was simply all about demonstrating his harpsichord *loud* playing ability.. that’s why Dehggi spent all that time in Torino admiring Dantone’s soft playing and taking care of contraltos on stage)

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          14. (and the blond singing about birds! there is a dvd coming! they even said they originally wanted to do a live cast on 23/apr but some complications.. so now we wait for dvd, hopefully with not too much doctored sound. then we’ll put it in our liveblog sched for 2018!)

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          15. I really like that red dress, but Bevan’s dress Sunday was also very good, (and it seems SP is actually adapting her Dalinda scenes choreography to the dresses she wears, like following lines and stuff, the red one was not so good in that regard)

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          16. Detail work, also on Agathe’s part?! 😉

            Bevan and Karg seem to coordiate, while everyone else seems to be in between black and safe suit country (or both)?

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          17. perhaps this “I’m best when I’m me” approach also has a special resonance with our crowd? Several of us get or have gotten called out for not fitting into sterotypes of conventional (straight) femininity in terms of self-presentation, be it presenting being masculine-of-center or genderqueer or with mixed markers. And that may even more rigid in the U.S. A league than in Europe.

            JDD in a smaller venue: that is a really good point. I don’t think she’d do TADW any longer if it weren’t part of a tour stop wiht such a high-level cast, but that hall (or also Wigmore?) would be very, very interesting. Because I heard her at Staatsoper, which is big, and then at Konzerthaus, which is also still bigger than TADW. And she has the technical skill for high-level nuance work, which she might employ differently for a smaller audience. Intriguing prospect.

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          18. (i just did a search, Carnegie Hall is bigger than Opera Bastille; as to why i’m still awake.. just spent 3hrs make *1* figure for revision2, am airing my grievances..)

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          19. grievance to fill the entirety of Carnegie Hall…? (BIGGER than the Bastille? Darn.)

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          20. And interestingly enough, with Coote’s Ariodante, gender did not seem to matter much, maybe also because she did not do any efforts to appear very masculine. And maybe this very relaxed approach was also beneficial to the Ariodante/Ginevra scenes? Also, having the focus of their connection on the vocal level, which was working extraordinarily well?

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          21. jeah, i was extremely impressed with S.Prina’s way of singing, and indeed it’s was more impressive when she took it “soft” , because it has a purpose, and you can *hear* it well (in combo with visual intake.

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          22. And she did carry extremely well, actually during “power parts” she was really, really loud. Maybe her voice has also gained volume sith increasing maturity, she is singing Verdi this fall…

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          23. though softer, in that case, never means less intense. She does not have to be loud to build presence (perhaps surprising at first, next to her more boisterous scenes)

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          24. (Dehggi, I’m also debating whether to hear Semiramide at ROH again)

            if you want to save up on lodging, mi casa, su casa 🙂 also you can check out her Wiggy Masterclass on 24 November, which is the middle of the run.

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          25. WHAT, no I was not aware (does this really imply I should check her FB account more often?). I’m tuning in now, but it also seems it will be on replay. Thanks!

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          26. I absolutely love her Poppea in that concert version with Connolly.

            me too! I thought it was a great show! Have you seen what I wrote about it?

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        3. i once conducted a self “hearing test” by listening to 10 different versions of “Lungi da te, mio bene”

          I do that too 🙂 especially when I like something a lot I’ll listen to other options to “test” my liking. To give a sacrilegious example (in this Prina worship context), I really like Stutzmann’s take on Mio cor, che prigion sei (Vivaldi) a lot better than Prina’s, though I agree with Agathe et all about Prina’s outstanding work with the piano and pianissimo. In that case (also involving conducting (tempi) big time) it just works better for me. But then I like Prina’s Nel profondo cieco mondo better than anyone else’s, though there’s some ace ones out there – she just expresses the frantic mood like nobody else and the slightly acidic top fits the mad jumps.

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          1. can’t reply to Agathe but: she’s singing WHAT in the Fall? omg. Why? By which I mean, what, actually? The requiem? I hope not Ulrica.

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          2. Mrs Quickly in Falstaff. She will be totally up to it acting-wise, but I have serious difficulties imagining the vocal approach Let’s hope for some sort of broadcast!.

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          3. some reaction as to more MP Verdi: “Sure, you can do that… but aren’t your nuance skills wasted on that repertory? Couldn’t you reach more, do more individually, elsewhere?”
            (then, again, Verdi pays bills, and her voice is bigger now, so…)

            Liked by 1 person

          4. PS. what I would absolutely line up for would be a Coote Brangäne (#TristanGoHome), if she ever got to that place and decided to go there.

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          5. Mrs Quickly? Weeeeird. Or perhahps not, what do I know? I heard that opera once and it made absolutely no impression on me beside it was still going on after I finished ironing all my shirts and trousers. I guess it helps seeing it? It’s a comedy, after all.

            btw, thadieu: you DID let the Carnegie Alcina where Coote was Ruggiero go! true, it wasn’t with that soprano but JDD was no slouch.

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          6. I also have seen it ages ago and don’t remember being profoundly impressed. But will of course give it another go for SP if there is some sort of broadcast (Barcellona has the role in her repertoire as well)

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          7. jeah i know, i told you, they had that run exactly during my nightmarish deadline time back then, around Oct/Nov right? i knew they originally planned a Boston date but it was scratched immediately… i’m more beating myself missing ACA’s solo night singing that Era la notte concert..

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          8. (crap article otherwise)
            it’s the Evening Standard, you need to lower your expectations way down. Then again, you can apply that to pretty much the entire UK written media.

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          9. But UK radio just made a very good impression on InTune, smart commentaries by Suzy Klein!
            And with print media, yes, some are very bad, but there are also the good ones and when I was living in UK I really liked the way of taking things less serious than in Germany, also with regard to the evaluation of literature, i.e. Fingersmith was nominated for the Booker price and I read enthusiastic articles about it, written by (presumably) straight critics, while such fun literature would likely be regarded as second class in the literature circles of Germany.

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          10. But German-language lesbian romance usually *is* second rate (or third). Or at least the landscape about two decades ago was rather sad, before I made the switch to better works for free i.e. fanfic. 😉
            (Looking foward to InTune on replay, I only saw it- was searching for reports from the Ariodante tour on FB – when it was already half over)

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          11. Haha, yes, I kind of noticed that!. But the thing was, that Fingersmith was not even labelled as lesbian literature in Britain (at least not by the Guardian or similar, don’t remember), like it was totally self-evident it was for everyone.

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          12. true, but also, it’s good precisely because it’s not only lesbian romance, it is a lot about power relations and trust, and women’s agency, and it’s a period piece. And it just happened to be gay, too.
            My experience with German print was more “badly edited romance-only with a credibility level below Baroque opera”, or “wanna-be edgy beyond ‘just romance’, but romanticising abuse”

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          13. Yes, and with a great surprise effect, I still love it! I can’t really discuss German lesbian literature, because I gave up very quickly on that.

            Liked by 1 person

          14. I owe that fellow student a lot of thanks who one day told me “I write stories… online.”
            “People do that?!” I asked.
            “Lots of people, in lots of fandoms.”
            “…what is a fandom?” I asked.
            She sighed, and – it was in the day before laptop computers – logged into something between geocities and yahoogroups on one of the black-and-green screened university computer pools.
            And that was the end of me being buying bad books for queer content.

            Liked by 1 person

          15. depends on what your poison is, but sure. 😉

            The best starting point these days is really AO3 (archive of our own) that allows for specific searches with lots of subcategories and makes giving feedback and downloading for mobile devices very easy.

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          16. Interesting about taking things less seriously, for better or worse. I noticed it at the show as well. I think this first class, second class thing in regards to art is very continental/old school. It’s high time some of the “genre” literature got some appreciation. I actually have no idea what InTune is, though (not listening to enough radio, I guess).

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          17. Here! http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08px5h7
            Prina is in it for the first 30 minutes or so and sings a very nice Bella Asteria.
            Sorry, my comment was misleading, the moderator is not the main interesting point, but I liked her although she sometimes interrupted SP a bit, but I guess they are tight on their schedule. But the level was clearly above the usual “how is it to play a man for you as a woman”

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          18. thanks for the link!

            “how is it to play a man for you as a woman”

            oldie but goldie 😀 I’m sure had she asked, Prina gave her an answer to end that further line of questioning 😉 my favourite would’ve been “good thing you asked, let me show you!” haha.

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          19. I wanted to add: it wasn’t a bad interview by any means, but I really wanted S Klein to shut up and let SP talk as she wasn’t going off topic. You don’t necessary need to tick all the questions on your list if the interviewee is saying something interesting.

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          20. “badly edited romance-only with a credibility level below Baroque opera”

            eh heh heh. I wonder why they’d rather choose to print that instead of the good fanfic out there. Or maybe fanfic writers just don’t give a hoot about getting in print?

            that being said, I actually found Fingersmith rather hard going and ended up liking the beginning bit with all the thieving best. What do you all think about the Handmaiden film?

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          21. I’ve only seen stills, but the camera work looked intriguing (not sure when I last watched a movie… probably Carol, 2 years ago, for Christmas? Simply no time!)

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          22. yea, I’ve watched very few since opera. It’s good and explicit and it does a good (funny) job with the “reading the erotica” bits. I certainly enjoyed it better than Carol but I seem to be in minority about that one (also, the original material is way better, so the comparison is probably not fair). Have you seen the English (original) version of Fingersmith?

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          23. it’s a bit hazy already – I think I did? I remember watching Tipping the Velvet first, and then Fingersmith.

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          24. *cough*goodficonA03*cough*

            but really i came to reply about the Evening Standard pic! Zowie! (also, dear writer, it’s actually not confusing at all, get a grip already.)

            Liked by 1 person

          25. From Rev:
            (also, dear writer, it’s actually not confusing at all, get a grip already.)

            if you think that writer can’t get a grip, I remind you of this Alcina review that I have trotted everywhere (I bet somewhere around here, as well) because I just want to beat it with an old skool cane: https://operabritanniauk.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/handel-alcina-barbican-10th-october-2014/

            yes, it’s been almost 3 years but I still can’t get over how wrong it is (paragraph 3 takes the cake).

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          26. you just need to point me to a clip, give me precise time (and given my WS badge i *should* know what you mean at that moment and capture the right “behavior” for the gif 😉 )

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          27. I’ll make sure to include some of that smirks + swagger from A.Hallenberg’s Arsace too , i still have that image in head of your capture, when (s)he’s lounging on the casket while mustard huff and puff (in reallly nice voice) on the opposite end.

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          28. ps3: btw, is there a way to allow comments on the actual gif bar? that will make everyone’s life easier regarding suggestions 🙂

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          29. i searched.. i don’t think i can allow comment on a page. if you happen to find instruction on how to do that? else I could make a post out of it, linking to the bar?

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          30. it might depend on your theme? you can definitely leave comments on my pages.

            but if you can’t, yea, a linked post will probably work best 🙂

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          31. Am actually on the night bus home. Already got called a slut for not condemning “satanaic happy homosexuals”, got offered chicken nuggets after the guy across from me nearly threw them into my lap anyway, and the gaggle of young women in rain-soaked ball gowns keeps throwing me looks (might be the nuggets, though)

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          32. Wow, and poor you has to share concerts with this guy in the audience… Thadieu, does this qualify for “oe”?
            (I have been having “Io detesto” in my ear the whole day, quite fitting, and that evil laugh in the end was soo good, the recording doesn’t get anywhere near the live experience here)

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          33. it doesn’t, you’re right! Plus it’s great to hear it in person 😀

            at the time I wanted to write a disgruntled reply, then a disgruntled post but I guess I gave in to politeness or something.

            like I said, the crowd is very mixed. I sat in the 3rd row then and there were these ladies behind me who spent all 1st intermission commenting on JDD’s outfit, nothing about the music/singing/interactions.

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          34. (jeah, oẹ i nearly threw up just from the 1st paragraph. did you skip toward the bottom and click on Dehggi’s reply post? i encourage you to.)

            ps- if you’d like to get that dot under the letter “e”, head over to here and type in the box oe9 . oe without the dot is a baby-crying sound 🙂

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          35. Already got called a slut for not condemning “satanaic happy homosexuals”, got offered chicken nuggets after the guy across from me nearly threw them into my lap anyway, and the gaggle of young women in rain-soaked ball gowns keeps throwing me looks (might be the nuggets, though)

            are you on the 29 from Trafalgar Sq to Wood Green? Sounds surprisingly familiar. Although I kinda like “satanaic happy homosexuals” 😉

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  4. Your descriptions of singing and acting are so vivid that I can almost imagine what it was like… Thank you so much, I really enjoyed reading this! Opera, fashion (Prina’s dress ❤ ), gender analysis, fangirling and even Topfenstrudels, all in one review.

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          1. haha, I like that plan! that will work especially well if the opera has CTs (sugar therapy).

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  5. It is a pity that Ariodante and Polinesso don’t get more scenes together, their dynamic is so interesting

    yes again! they should totally fight in the end (or make up, that would also be interesting, though I like that Polinesso is not the kind of villain who ever repents) but then the tenor would be useless 😉 of course, in a contemporary re-writing we chuck him out to begin with and this ends with Dalinda still hanging, Ariodante uneasy on the throne (with the burden of expectations) and Polinesso still plotting. Ginevra gone, of course.

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  6. It is a pity that Ariodante and Polinesso don’t get more scenes together, their dynamic is so interesting

    yes again! The showdown should be between them; or, even better, they make up, though I like that Polinesso isn’t the kind of villain ever made to repent – but then the tenor would be useless 😉 in a contemporary re-writing we would chuck him from the getgo, and end with Dalinda still hang up on Polinesso, Ariodante uneasy on the throne (with the burden of expectations) and Polinesso still plotting. Ginevra gone, of course – to star in a woman-centric opera. Though I guess Polinesso would go after her but then it turns into a crime novel 😉

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  7. I mean, your reviews themselves make me swoon. Again, feeling like I was there. Your description of Coote’s voice, the paragraph with the brilliant line “a Mahler’d ray of sunshine” – that’s perfection in itself. What an amazing evening, and you capture it so beautifully!

    (PS I think I have those shoes?)

    (PS don’t think I missed the Grace Kelly reference 🙂 )

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    1. (Where did you get those shoes?)
      (You would never miss a Kelly reference)

      Remarkable about Karg’s character take in Ginevra is that she manages to pull off youthful-poised without making it cutesy or pretentious. It was very much princess, but in a way that did not have me froth about Disney gendering.

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      1. Definitely need to watch the whole Carnegie! (tho I do take from your review she’s even more so poised-not-cutesy-pretentious here.)

        I would never miss a Grace Kelly reference, no.

        The shoes are a fun story, when I’m on my computer I’ll tell it!

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        1. I have to admit, she did carry her dress really well yesterday (this time a model with one shoulder free). Also, because it is a 360° venue, with the stage in the middle, she was turning around quite often, I think you would all have been thrilled, reg. shoulders and delta and posture and whatever! (Actually, everyone was turning around quite often :-)).

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        2. ok, shoes story: when my parents were here in February they took us clothes shopping at the local Frankenberg’s ( 🙂 ). My mom went with my beloved and my dad with me as we wandered about. Pretty much everything in the “women’s” section was too far on the side of femme-y for my taste (or cut for humans with no shoulders? sigh). I kept saying to my dad, “basically, I dress like my brother” and he was like, “well, just get whatever you like.” He *so* didn’t care. So we ended up in shoes finally, because I needed new ones anyway, and I picked out 2 pair of “men’s” dress shoes, the black ones I wore to the Met and the brown ones per above, though I think not quite as shiny. My dad would ask me what I liked and then just kept bringing me shoes and that is how I now have shoes at least closely resembling those above. (PS, he also made sure I got a super-fly black leather jacket, my dad is great! He seriously *did not care*, as long as I was happy.)

          gendering clothes is stupid, btw.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. not only do I hate shopping, I hate clothes shops. Recently I had to buy a pair of “not trainers” and omg, it was excrutiating! The atmosphere, the idiotic sparkle crap that seems to be going on at the moment, ruining decent shoes, the sales assistants ready to jump you OR absolutely ignoring you… don’t get me started 😉 I’ve never bought “non trainers” men’s shoes before. Are they any different from women’s in any sensible way?

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          2. Mostly no sparkle, better quality (unless you buy Ferragamo and upwards), but often too broad and clunky for slighter feet/frames.

            >

            Liked by 3 people

          3. I think they are much more comfortable! (go figure. #patriarchy). Classy (whatever that means really without sparkles or random flowery crap or oddly placed buckles or whatever. Just…a nice looking serviceable shoe.

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          4. looks like they’re 1) better quality, 2) more comfy. Are we surprised? I remember being a kid and noticing that boys’ trainers were always cooler looking, more design options and crucially, not pink.

            Liked by 2 people

          5. hoestly, that’s why I usually wear trainers, not because I’m either too sporty or too ghetto. Most women’s shoes just kill my feet. And the pink… though it suits my skin complexion like you wouldn’t believe 😉 but I totally “feel” you on that. I refused to wear anything pink through my childhood because I hated the girls/boys split that to my kiddie mind just seemed uncomprehensible.

            Liked by 2 people

          6. It’s the assumption they have to be dainty or pointy-toed (even trainers!). God. I need room for my toes please! Like any human! Keens are good with their boxy toe-space. “men’s” shoes. Sigh. Patriarchy is stupid.

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        3. Yes, watch the Carnegie in full! As Agathe said, there should also be a video of the European branch, preferably from a smaller venue. Because of reasons!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. clearly from a smaller venue, since we already have one from a big venue. Though I looked and didn’t see any cameras… sadly. Though I think there were mics in the pit.

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          2. REASONS.

            In the free time I have I seem to be writing nothing but Rosenkavalier posts. Carnegie, while it’s own goodness, would be a distraction to that. 😉 But I will I will! I don’t just want to run it in the background while working, I want to be able to watch too.

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        1. After 4 hours on those, I think it isn’t humanly possible to be comfortable?
          But soprano dress code is hardcore.

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          1. Sopranos are tough. (have to be, I guess, if getting jobs also depends on you adhering to such conventions and not just on great singing?)

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          2. I suppose I should clarify that I don’t mind when *other people* wear them (ahem), just that I would not be able to bear it. But it’s too bad that it so often comes down to adhering to convention in order to be employed.

            Am I not paying enough attention, or do mezzos get to mess with convention a bit more? (though the obvious discomfort from men with Prina (parterre and per your review) and Coote would say perhaps they don’t, actually)

            Liked by 1 person

          3. some (although I also think that Prina is a category on her own, just like von Otter singing Ariodante in red trainers of a sort). But not completely.

            Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello, hello, I’m alive, if still a bit shaky :-)) No sorry, first I lost the battle against my mobile/wordpress, then had to get very few hours of sleep and then was busy trying not to grin inappropriately at work today until just now, puhhh. Back in a few minutes!

        Liked by 4 people

  8. Had to get back here for your description of Coote’s voice, I was so impression, especially by the slower parts, that very special timbre, and all those beautiful colours seemed to just be there in a very direct fashion, like she didn’t need to use any kind of technique at all (she did of course), always perfectly fitting the emotional mood of character. And I’m desperately holding onto some moments because there is no broadcast, no repetition, just those magical moments.
    And with Karg, the combination in the duets was just so perfect, I found their voices and styles so perfect in fit, harmonizing so beautifully, I was nearly in tears after the first duet.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ups,I just see I apparently have not recovered to fluid language yet, could you maybe edit, “impression” to “impressed” (just in case someone who doesn’t know the circumstances reads this and thinks I’m always that incoherent)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. oh, but with this commentary, I think we can leave it? It was easy enough to understand and it is a nice document to the powers of Handel. And Handel interpretation. 🙂

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    1. Oh, does that mean that there will be one of your Very Personal Reviews? Great! Looking forward to it, and hope you’ll enjoy this show just as much at the Barbican!

      >

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That seems like a reasonable measure of caution (though like a true rocker, Prina seems pretty unfazed by drooling fangirls)

          Wait, there are intermission parties with the artists?! Clearly, you have the Senator Gold Circle Card of opera.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Why change a winning pair of trousers?
        But let’s see whether Dehggi reports a fourth dress from the Barbican for Karg and also for Bevan.

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        1. Why indeed! Plus they look comfy and not hot (as in not hot to wear, obviously they are the other kind of hot!). I’m waiting patiently for follow-up dress reports!

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        2. Oh, now that you mention it, Bevan’s dress was very nice! She in general was quite adorable, really great chemistry with SP, funny in her reactions, but not as much as letting it drift into a farce. And yes about the richness of her voice, really warm, and it seemed much bigger live than on the CH recording, didn’t thadieu say something like that as well?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. She also had no issues making herself heard at the Barbican all the way to the last row Balcony (yours truly paid more for that seat than for the first box “balcony” (which is the same level as Circle at the Barbi) at TADW). Very plummy voice.

            Liked by 2 people

        1. And the pants, ehm, yes, esp. in 360° view (sweat…)

          haha, why do you think I was so happy with my TADW seat, where I had backviews all the time 😉 delts, tattoos, other assets… ❤ ❤ ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          1. (yes, ever since i’ve seen how the WS was carried , check the front photo of the gif bar, i purchased a full sized bar myself and have been dangling off of it building up the right set of muscles to qualify.. 😉 )

            Liked by 3 people

          2. they are all about body work/balance (Gardina! – which reminds me, thadieu, how about that insane Vagaus crouch moment?) and all that is linked to muscle groups 😉 Well, except for Joshua/ACA, that is just… wow.

            Liked by 2 people

      1. It seems! This was was good as well if you like that kind of thing, for me it was a bit too much, but it suits her, as you discussed before..

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        1. I am been trying to remember what she wore for that Ressurezione (or Trionfo?) with the Berlin Phil – is that a signature thing of hers?

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          1. Heh.
            But I guess it is a more recent thing then, or a thing or this tour? Because the get-up in that clip (OF course also with Prina..) is a lot more normal and not as much responsible princess.

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          2. Yes, (I like that more normal one actually), it seems the dresses are part of the self-chosen Ginevra costume, and it was quite fitting. The “Il mio crudel martoro” scene was also very impressive yesterday, she turned around, looking up into the audience during the orchestral sequence. Even husband (who was new to Ariodante) was impressed and afterwards summarized act II with “somehow, no one is talking to Ginevra”

            Liked by 3 people

          3. smart husband.
            and the looking/enganging with the music and audience in the Act II ballet music was impressive.

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  9. Just found your passage on “Numi, lasciarmi vivere”, that, and Cieca notte were my absolute Coote highlights, (much more than the coloratura parts), unbelievably beautiful, broadcast urgently needed…!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, interesting (and rewarding!) to know that the same two bits stood out to you.

      I checked with the ORF; couldn’t find any broadcast. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Pffffff.

          (reminds me of the ROH Semiramide and cutting it out to apparently not overstrain the audience?!)

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          1. though what if there is some sort of clause whereby Carnegie Hall has the dibs on it?

            I have to admit that I’m not very familiar with Semiramide so I don’t think I will be the wiser with the cuts, unless there is something way obvious.

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          2. well, first Idreno aria, for starters, which was already missing in Munich even though they had Brownlee. (It’s like doing the Zingarelli and having Hallenberg and not cast her as Romeo.)

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          3. But I don#t think it will be further cut, I checked the performance times announcement, was the same length as in Munich.

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          4. I think Giulia mentioned some scoop on Twitter? But I don’t know enough about ROH in the first place.

            >

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          5. It’s like doing the Zingarelli and having Hallenberg and not cast her as Romeo.

            you’re not bitter at all 😉 joke aside: ugh, don’t remind me. Worse, I think, is casting a CT as Romeo.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. re: cuts. Since it’s the same production as in Munich, I figure they will do it the same way? It starts at 6:30pm, which is the earliest timeslot (except for Wagner stuff). They try to make it so operas habitually end between 10-10:30pm.

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          7. I don’t know if it’s traffic or union regulations. Nowadays the tube is moving towards functioning all night (I think it’s just on Fri-Sat). Last night the opera + curtain calls let out by 11pm but the Barbican might be different.

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  10. from thadieu upthread:

    i think it helps that you’ve seen Joyce up close live. Hearing live makes a huge difference. I’d go as far as saying she sings differently in the US than in Europe (playing more safe, keeping the crowd pleased here..)

    I wonder, since she’s such a big star these days, that she actually thinks about these things more than she did before. Maybe this is why she incorporated so much belcanto styling, since Americans are more used to that kid of thing? I found her Ariodante extremely interesting and would really like to see/hear it live (in Europe) again at some point.

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    1. JDD and Coote are really hard to compare, but I admit in the boyband fighting scene (Tu preparati a morire), JDD’s and SP’s acting was really priceless, clearly having loads of fun.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yes! great fun and great energy both times, which I think also goes to show how Prina tunes in on a given stage partner instead of relying on a program she has thought up beforehand. The Carnegie take played more with Ariodante’s disbelief and mocked it, whereas in Vienna with Coote, it was more lighthing an oil field on immediate fire.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Just listening to her “Il primo ardor”, I really like her version, getting a bit beyond the typical coloratura soprano interpretation (as you said, she knows this is a bad idea, still kind of embraces the fact of not being able to change). Probably, hearing her live also helps in hearing the subtle colouring in her voice better.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. meanwhile, I have to finish a paper review tonight and send it to the group before getting to sign off.

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          3. no that was ambitious me tLking.. realistic me got 3 more figures done only in nearly 9hrs… with my excuse being the figures are the hardest part and if you can convey the message then the typing will flow .. today of course.. with paper #2 in the wing demanding revision too…
            how is livblogging sched going? 🙂

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          4. I’m at an event on Sat (bugger), but could do Fri this week? Or even tomorrow? Next up would be Ariodante with Hallenberg/Nesi, then the TinyPinyNerone Poppea, and then the MET RK…? And then Dr. T. will claim some ACA time…?

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          5. great, Friday at 9 for the Hallenberg/Nesi Ariodante then? Or are we still too Prina’d for that?

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          6. Ok, will email Agathe and see if there art any comments by the regulars here, decision by noon! If not, next Sat.?

            >

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          7. 😉
            apropos events, forumopera has a review of the Paris Mitridate DVD up
            https://www.forumopera.com/dvd/mitridate-pour-grands-que-soient-les-rois-ils-sont-ce-que-nous-sommes
            (though it’s geared a bit towards “But who is perfect vocally?” which… okay, not my perspective. (e.g. criticizing MP for putting expression over purity of sound – I am thinking so much these past few days about audience/reviewer mindsets and the idea of a ‘perfect’ voice in relation to that, and what that kind of expectancy does to a concert experience)

            Liked by 1 person

          8. …disgruntled PS: what kind of entitled viewpoint is it when someone writes, and I paraphrase, “One is happy to see that PP can move past her face-pulling into actual tragic acting.”

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          9. grrrrr though PP does not need to bother with this pile of dung, it is the kind of craps that inevitably results in casting of “smooth” voice over anyone who dare to express the music. you know what i’d like now actually: an opera with Prina and MP! 🙂 hey, how about with Alice Coote too! i know which opera!!!!

            Liked by 1 person

          10. I still have one cap saved away from the Kasarova/Harteros/Cangemi for Threesome Thursday. Which we should invent, specifically for that scene.

            Liked by 3 people

          11. Booooh, I hate this kind of condescending style. And it’s usually male authors who think they have the right to regard things from a “superior” perspective

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          12. #Mansplaining

            (just prepping the liveblog thread for tonight and in loking up the cast list I ended up on a review where a male (apparently, if we go by name) reviewer felt the need to explain what castratos are (explained it all wrong, too, but the nerve!)

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          13. yayyy, me super like! i’m really looking forward to Hallenberg and Nesi tonight, esp. in light of *everyone* fresh off and now have Ariodante’s (and Polinesso’s, and Dalinda’s, and Ginevra’s…) music memorized!

            Liked by 1 person

          14. man, can I ever use some more trouser roles ruling the world by Handel singing tonight.

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          15. and oh, other topic, but also sopranos: Petibon’s Pelléas will be aired on FranceMusique June 4th, 8 p.m. 🙂 🙂 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

          16. wasn’t that more of a US/European thing? If not, URGH.
            (HDD praising Coote on Twitter this afternoon, though. A+ colleague spirit)

            Liked by 3 people

          17. In Hamburg they just smoothly handed over the star torch to Coote, and, while she was absolutely great, I also wonder on how far audience reactions are influenced by that promo (she clearly got most applause). Prina was not much promoted and only got one of the tinier “slots” in the program booklet. Yet, as told, there were clearly some real fans in the audience.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh, interesting aspect, too. I could imagine that she would adapt (and it would be interesting to compare with her recent South America tour, which may have been yet another brand).

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Re: Halle show. I’m running into a bit of a problem here. I went to the Festival site and it turns out you book through ticketonline which really penalises you if you’re from outside Germany. A 35 Euro shipping fee! Don’t they have a pick at the venue type deal? As much as I love her, 35 Euro for shipping??? It’s a ticket, not a rocket. What can I do?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you are seriously planning to go (:-)) I can of course help you with that and bring the tickets, your only risk would be the possibility of me getting struck by lightning on my way there. Or I could mail them to you, you have my email I guess?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am serious about it, indeed. I have a block of 4 days off starting on 3 June and it feels like such a shame to let something like this pass, especially now with this Ariodante momentum.

        when I click the order tickets button it automatically takes me to the ticketonline site and that only has shipping options that I can see.

        If you’re so gracious to help, I can paypal you the price + shipping for Germany (only 5 Euro or so) and I’ll take my chances with the lightning 😉 if you send it by mail it may not arrive on time or something. Also it may cost a bit and we’re back to square one. Thank you for the offer, it’s very kind of you 🙂 I will email you as well.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Do they have a “pick up at office” option? I could probably orchestrate that through one of my colleagues in town, and they could pick up for you. Or have it sent to Agathe’s place, since you two will meet up anyway? #PrinaFangirlLair

      >

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      1. weirdly they didn’t have that option, though I know some of these third party sites do give you the opportunity to pick it at the venue. I think it will work best if Agathe can help me, I don’t want to put pressure on somebody who doesn’t know me at all. But thank you for thinking about that 🙂

        #PrinaFangirlLair – I like that 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      1. thank you! it was lovely but nowhere near as special as in Vienna, so I think you still had the best deal 🙂 and luckily, so did I 😀 it did give me the opportunity to go easier on gushing and pay more attention to the musical side.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. See? This is what I mean about British/German quality press. Awesome picture and so great to see her chosen for representing the evening here, I was a bit annoyed about the general shortage of promo regarding SP before the concerts.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Eh… What the heck? If that were one of my students, they’d fail the class for having plagiarized.

      >

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        1. I don’t believe the authors get paid, but the website makes money through ads.

          But even if no one made any money, it would still be plagiarism. Post on the issue is in progress.

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