Monday Music: The Cold Genius (Henry Purcell)

It was absolutely necessary that I find a counter-tenor song for today, since I’m still so very disappointed that Cezar‘s magnificent counter-tenor effort on Eurovision didn’t do better, but it’s after midnight as I schedule this, and I have to work tomorrow, so was really not up for trolling the internet in search of the perfect piece of music.

Fortunately, it turns out that I had, stashed away in my list of things to write about, Andreas Scholl singing the Aria “What Power art Thou”, also known as the song of the Cold Genius, from Purcell’s King Arthur. Continue reading


Friday Fun: Spera e godi, il mio tesoro (Handel)

I went to see Opera Australia’s production of Partenope on Wednesday.  It’s a wonderful, insane production of a wonderful, bonkers opera.  The plot concerns Partenope, the soprano and the Queen of Naples, who is beloved by everyone, including Arsace (a mezzo), who she favours, and Armindo (a male alto), who is in love with her but too shy to say so.  Unfortunately, Arsace has abandoned Rosmira (another mezzo), who decides to take her revenge by dressing as a man (as you do), pretending to be in love with Partenope, and making it her business to torment Arsace, who recognises her, but for some reason says nothing about this.  There is also a random tenor prince who is trying to invade Naples because he is in love with Partenope, but that’s sort of a side issue in all the general crazy.  This particular production – which I will review when I am not busy making myself late to work – was rendered extra-specially mad by adding a lot of surrealism, making the invading tenor prince into an analogue of photographer Man Ray, and making everything even more sexualised than it was already.  Which is saying something.

Anyway, I was rather taken by the aria which Partenope sings right after Rosmira (still pretending to be a man) reveals Arsace’s perfidy – Partenope immediately turns to Armindo (who she has previously been treating in a mildly mocking fashion) and informs him that they will be living happily ever after now, but has to keep looking back over her shoulder to sing invective at Arsace.  As you do.

Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to find one recording of this, and it has a lot of background laughter, though it is beautifully sung.

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Monday Music: El Vito (Joaquín Nin y Castellanos) sung by Patricia Petibon

Really, how gorgeous is Patricia Petibon?  I mean, first there is that impeccable, light coloratura voice, full of personality, and then there is her amazing, almost outrageously expressive face.  I wish there were more videos of her singing live, because I could watch and listen to her for hours.

Actually, I kind of have been.  But I’m saving some of those other posts for later.  And swooning a little.

Anyway, here she is, singing El Vito, a Spanish folk song that was, if I understand correctly (I do not have her Melancolia CD – yet! – so I can’t tell you based on the notes) set by Joaquín Nin y Castellanos.  The lyrics are a little concerning, translating to “An old woman is worth a silver coin and a young girl two copper coins, but as I am so poor I go for the cheapest. On with the dancing, on with the dancing, ole! Stop your teasing, sir, else I’ll blush!”

But I don’t really care about dodgy lyrics, because Petibon is just so utterly gorgeous when she sings them. I’m sorry, I know I keep saying that.  One of the other things I really love about Petibon’s work is her choice of repertoire – her CDs tend to be a combination of baroque arias with the sort of folk songs that are halfway to being dances – full of lively percussion. To me, that’s the perfect mix… or perhaps it’s just the way Petibon sings?

Because I am now officially a Petibon addict, I’m going to leave you with a couple more of her songs.  Here’s her version of the Doll Song from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, complete with strange doll-like noises, broken creaks, and random attacks of Queen of the Night.  And for contrast, here she is, singing ‘Lascia ch’io pianga‘ (let me weep), from Handel’s opera, Rinaldo.

Can I be her when I grow up?

Music for a Monday: Je Veux Vivre (Gounod)

I seem to be in a French mood at the moment (but then, look what happens when I go into German).  Actually this is mostly because I’m looking for repertoire for my next exam, and thought it might be fun to do a little set of Shakespeare-themed songs (I already have Fear no more the heat o’the sun on my list).  This one might be a little high for me (it goes to a D, and while I got to a D flat comfortably for my last exam, I don’t know that my voice goes higher than that reliably – certainly not for so long).

But that doesn’t matter for Monday music.  I’m sharing this one basically because it is really, really cute.

This is taken from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and it’s actually filmed in Verona and on a balcony, which really is priceless, even if the singing wasn’t amazing.  Though the random blonde is a bit disconcerting.  Also, technically, the balcony (while gorgeous) shouldn’t be there for this scene, as it occurs before the ball.  But if one is trying to be iconically Romeo and Juliettish, a balcony in Verona is clearly the way to go.  And Rocío Ignacio’s voice is just lovely, and suits this piece beautifully.

Something about this waltz reminds me a lot of Sempre Libera (not the start, but once you get about 3 minutes in, you’ll see what I mean), which was written by Verdi about a decade earlier.  This isn’t in any way a complaint, incidentally – I think they are both gorgeous pieces of music.

Here’s another version of Je Veux Vivre, this one sung by Jane Powell, and obviously completely out of context, though I have no idea what the context actually is.  I really enjoy the light purity of Jane Powell’s voice – she’s a very precise singer, and one I really enjoy listening to, though her French accent is fairly awful.

If you’d like to see a version of this actually in context, here’s a recording by Angela Gheorghiu that should do the trick.  And if you prefer your Shakespearean opera with cross-dressing – and really, who doesn’t –  here’s Elina Garanca as Romeo Bellini’s version of the opera (really, everyone did a version of Romeo and Juliet, and none of them stuck to the plot – in this song, Romeo is disguised as a messenger, offering Lord Capulet Romeo’s hand in marriage for Juliet, as a replacement son after the death of Tybalt…).  How gorgeous are her low notes?  And her high notes, for that matter…

New favourite mezzo soprano

I’ve been mainlining Shakespeare-themed operas all weekend, and have had the Chanson de Stéphano from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette in the brain all evening.  I figured I’d find a proper version to listen to, and found this one, which is so gloriously wonderful that I had to share it with you immediately!

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Monday Music: Ouvre ton coeur (Bizet)

Here’s something bright and bouncy to make you dance on a Monday morning!  It’s by Bizet, who is best known for the opera Carmen, and is clearly fond of Spanish musical styles – this one is a Bolero, and utterly gorgeous, and it must be said, I am terribly cross that one of my fellow singing students found and laid claim to this before I could – I really covet this piece of music!

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