The harvest is past, the summer is ended


Some recap is due.

Back in March, I interviewed French conductor Laurence Equilbey. The two pieces that resulted from that encounter are finally both published: they differ greatly, one being the Q&A for the more literary and younger crowd of The Believer logger [HERE], and the other, for North American classical music-listening type readership, is in print only in Listen magazine. Since I’m wildly impressed with the layout — why doesn’t online publication design ever look like this? — I have, don’t tell my editor, posted the PDF of the profile on my portfolio HERE. There’s tons of other interesting stuff in Listen fall issue, all equally well designed. As for The Believer, I have been a fan for years, especially of the way they’re pushing the interview form in new directions, and am glad that they’re expanding online and well beyond literary arts. They don’t do classical music at all, except for the odd online exception (there’s an interview with Nico Muhly somewhere in their archives, and I think that’s it) so I am extraordinarily pleased that my two editors found this interesting.

So that’s that.

As there was no opera during summer in our small town, I covered various other things for Xtra [for example] and now that the opening nights of the Season 13/14 at the COC are in sight, I am working on a fall plan of things operatic to write about in a queerly manner. I think I’ll continue the silly intros to operas that I started at Xtra in the previous season, and since it’s Peter Grimes that opens in October, and the COC is throwing a slew of interesting ancillary Grimes events this year, some Britten stuff will have to be pitched to my new arts editor at there who happens to be an opera virgin. We’ll see.

Another thing that’s happening in October is the all-female Julius Cesar in Brooklyn. I wish I can make this one. I wish all my favourite American bloggers see this so I can read A LOT about it. I have a weird grid of obligations throughout October, and you can’t just fly to NYC on a whim — takes booking many things way in advance.

I also read that Brigitte Fassbaender will direct a new production of Ariadne in Frankfurt in October. Luckily, our man in Havana will probably cover it.

What else… Oh yes: TIFF 2013 has come and (almost) gone. I saw a couple of things, Martin Provost’s excellent film on Violette Leduc, and the latest by Catherine Breillat and Gianni Amelio. Blue is the Warmest Colour should be playing in the cinema near you soon, so I’ll see that eventually (both nights were off sale at TIFF). Hollywood’s latest take on Don Giovanni, Don Jon (the trailer of which I discussed with some of you on Twitter recently), also premiered.

C’est ça for now, but before I sign off, you have to see the Violette trailer, and how perfect Sandrine Kiberlain is as Simone de Beauvoir.

Prinz Orlofsky, how do you do that thing you do

Prinz Orlofsky, how do you do that thing you do

What makes a rocking Prinz Orlofsky? Let’s give this issue our undivided attention.

Here’s Die Fass.

Timbre: the right shade throughout, that is, on the dark side. The little spikes/screams: blend well, don’t interrupt the flow. Tempo: comes close to too fast, some wording divides syllables into beats (note the en-nuy-iert which is almost staccato). Stage movement: excellent. Masculinity: excellent. The slight dust of femininity necessary: yes. The oddball factor: yes, and done well. Chalk the last four under Good Acting. Diction: native language so goes without saying. I don’t remember how her Russian accent was in the spoken part, I need to get hold of that DVD again. (It’s the legendary Carlos Kleiber-Otto Schenk production) No other way to put it but: Hotness: through the roof.

Now let’s look at Troyanos.

Timbre: Not too sure about this one… it sounds too sopranic to me. Also at the beginning there are bits that sound very nasal. The spikes: Belong a little too much. The whole thing sounds spike-high. Stage movement: very little. The masculinity-femininity ratio: excellent. The oddness: some. Diction: good fake Russian in the dialogue. How was her German in the aria, German-speakers? Hotness: yes.

Here’s Malena Ernman as Orlofsky. Vodka is out, madeira is in:

Timbre: Hmm. On average, good. But the lowest notes are unlovely, and higher up there are moments of the Dame Edna colour. Tempo: in comparison to Fassbaender’s — noticeably slower, which is to my liking (maybe I want Orlofsky’s aria to last a looooong time, all right?). Stage movement: excellent. Masculinity: save for the hands, complete. The femininity spice: none. And herein the problem. Prinz Orlofsky is not about the best male impersonation. There needs to be a slight remainder somewhere that signals, this is a woman being very masculine while singing this oddball aria. You can argue that the mezzo range provides enough signaling that way. I don’t think that’s enough. Anyway, I’m still trying to explain it to myself why a perfect male impersonator Orlofsky (or any other trouser  role, for that matter) isn’t what the role is about. Maybe the convincing male makes the situation more neatly hetero? I don’t know. The oddness: excellent. Diction: excellent Russian undercurrent in the spoken dialogue. Hotness: um… no.  Too weirded out to be attracted. Extra: the ornamentation! In her round two, Ernman does some very neat fioritura. Gorgeous, and unexpected.

Two other versions which are waaay out to lunch: ROH’s ’84 Fledermaus with the Orlofsky wrong in just about every possible way; Agnes Baltsa in Theater an der Wien in ’99: tsk tsk tsk.

Now, I have one joker left in this game, but you can’t see it because it’s not on YouTube. I bought this Met Opera Gala 1991 DVD just so I could see Anne Sofe von Otter as Prinz Orlofsky, even if only in Act II and as part of a Gala and not in a regular performance. These Met galas are a strange business. ASvO’s Prinz was the only person on stage under 65 (she was in her mid-30s) but stood out in countless other ways. The timbre was consistent and confident, on the lighter side but not exceedingly so, the diction perfect as usual, the acting mischievous. Gender play was… well, imagine this hybrid: a Scandinavian slalom skier and a young Boris Becker. Then imagine that creature is a woman. Whatever languid femininity ASvO’s manner brought to the role (there’s some of that), the height, the colossal handsomeness of the woman tipped Orlofsky permanently to the masculine side. But you have to see the DVD to understand. There’s exactly 11 seconds of her Orlofsky here, starting at 1:01.

But where was I? Yes. Who is the ultimate Orlofsky, then? The polls are open. I’m torn between von Hotter and FassGender-Bender.

Ich lade gern mir Gäste ein,
Man lebt bei mir recht fein,
Man unterhält sich, wie man mag
Oft bis zum hellen Tag.
Zwar langweil' ich mich stets dabei,
Was man auch treibt und spricht;
Indes, was mir als Wirt steht frei,
Duld' ich bei Gästen nicht!
Und sehe ich, es ennuyiert
Sich jemand hier bei mir,
So pack' ich ihn ganz ungeniert,
Werf' ihn hinaus zur Tür.
Und fragen Sie, ich bitte
Warum ich das denn tu'?
'S ist mal bei mir so Sitte,
Chacun à son gout! 	

Wenn ich mit andern sitz' beim Wein
Und Flasch' um Flasche leer',
Muss jeder mit mir durstig sein,
Sonst werde grob ich sehr.
Und schenke Glas um Glas ich ein,
Duld' ich nicht Widerspruch;
Nicht leiden kann ich's wenn sie schrein:
Ich will nicht, hab' genug!
Wer mir beim Trinken nicht pariert,
Sich zieret wie ein Tropf,
Dem werfe ich ganz ungeniert,
Die Flasche an den Kopf.
Und fragen Sie, ich bitte,
Warum ich das denn tu'?
'S ist mal bei mir so Sitte
Chacun à son goût!

Is it me, or is the opera house too hot? Singers and menopause

Is it me, or is the opera house too hot? Singers and menopause

An oldie, but a golden one: the article by Tamara Bernstein on what can happen with singers voices when they reach That Stage. Christa Ludwig, Evelyn Lear and Brigitte Fassbaender among the interviewed.

Ludwig cuts through the medical jargon. “The vocal cords are very much like the vagina — it is the same tissue,” she explained.