Tank Tops and High Tops: the Currentzis “Clemenza” at Musikfest Bremen

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In brief: There was some very good and dedicated music-making to be heard during this “Tito”. Currentzis makes a lot more sense when he is on a podium, working, and not not talking about it (or, God forbid, on a press photo shoot). There were some over-affectuated bits and some unnecessary theatrics (also looking at you, light crew), but it was a good and focused concert, and it offered lots of chances to reflect on the idea of authenticity, art as a space of the sacred, music-making and democracy, and the power of audience attitudes.

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Homecoming Queen: Jacobs with Monteverdi’s “Il ritorno di Ulisse” at Theater an der Wien

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An ample decade ago, in its first season as Das Neue Opernhaus, I first traveled to Theater an der Wien to catch Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” conducted by René Jacobs, which indrectly inspired the creation of this blog. So it is – for a variety of reasons – always a special occasion to go back to TADW for more Jacobs.

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“Qui d’amor, nel mio linguaggio”: Don’t plagiarize it.

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Nice review. If you want to know why it feels familiar, you know where to go (or, my recent English Concert “Ariodante” review has found stunning similarities (minus the fangirling, and really, that’s taking all the fun out of it) in the one posted on OperaToday, and I’m not amused by it).

Tonight, we’ll be doing an impromptu session on structural plagiarism, which, for some of my students, is a concept that is hard to grasp.

Structural plagiarism is if you don’t cut-and-paste directly, but just steal thoughts and structures, specific details or catchphrases from something and use them, deliberately refashioned here and there, as your own work. My students are usually baffled that this can be recognized and called out, but let me give you a perfect example:

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. […] 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.

These are the first lines I wrote on Alice Coote’s singing in my “Ariodante” review. Note the cluster of adjectives (in bold). And now have a look at this:

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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.

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Tragic Valentines: Hasse’s “Piramo e Tisbe” at Theater an der Wien

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It’s been a while since this concert, but I still have a few thoughts collected on Hasse’s “Piramo e Tisbe” under the baton of Fabio Biondi, starring Vivica Genaux and Desirée Rancatore in the leads.

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Wrestling Rousseau: “Ariodante” in Stuttgart

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To get this out of the way: no, this evening is not like “Alcina” (nothing will ever be like that formative “Alcina”), but if the legendary “Alcina” is one Baroque bookend of Wieler’s Stuttgart years, then this “Ariodante”, staged by Wieler and Morabito. may well be the other.

The concept looks at the intersection of class and enlightenment thought, juxtaposing baroque affect against classicist emotion and the question of identity warred between them. Literally: in a boxing/wrestling arena.

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