Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summertime, and the livin' is easy

A week of blog silence, and what do I have to show for it?  Well, a revised syllabus for a course I'm teaching in the autumn, for one thing.  But of course hours spent debating the merits of potential reading assignments don't have to take place in silence.  Cecilia Bartoli, (who, I am tempted to believe, can do no wrong) has a record of Mozart arias which, to me, is the aural equivalent of a really, really good cappuccino, at once soothing and stimulating (effortless vocal acrobatics like perfectly steamed milk?  Maybe that simile shouldn't be stretched too far.)

Last Sunday, I was given a real treat: not only did I get to see the exciting 1970 Karl Böhm Fidelio for the first time, but I got to do it in the company of a friend who was at least as excited about it as I was.  The extreme closeups of the television filming I found occasionally jarring (possibly in part because of Marzelline's anachronistic eye makeup?) but it was a moving performance.  Josef Greindl's Rocco, here, I found much more vivid and engaging than in the 1963 video I mentioned earlier.  My heart still belongs to Christa Ludwig, but Gwyneth Jones' Leonore was fresh of voice and firm of purpose (go here for her "Abscheulicher!")  James King's Florestan was, I thought, of irresistible vocal beauty.  The chorus wowed me: they were lump-in-the-throat expressive as well as impressively precise, and not only that, but the prisoners' pathos survived the camera close-up with flying colors.  Böhm's orchestra seemed to be an expression of the characters' heartbeats, their most private thoughts translated into sweeps of sound.  A few of the spoken dialogs were omitted, and I missed them (I like my Singspiel!) but the entire thing had a breathless emotional urgency which I loved.

Whilst paying a filial visit to rural Pennsylvania, I cajoled my Respected Father into giving my recording of The Magic Flute a try.  He graciously consented and even read along through the entire libretto.  Although he harrumphed at symbolism, he was so thrilled to discover that Mozart had a sense of humor that he went straight off to dig up his recording of  Rachmaninoff's The Covetous Knight.  "It's great!" he enthused.  "It's so dramatic!  And the words are great, too, and the music goes with the words!"  "It's as though it's an art form!" I quipped.  I'm not holding my breath for luring the R.F. to live opera anytime soon, but he might brush off those half dozen opera LPs of his.  Maybe.

In the coming week, I plan to use the magic of technology to listen to Bayreuth broadcasts, thanks to WDR 3 in Cologne.  The Gordian knot of opera schedules across time zones appears to have been cut by their brilliant radio recorder, which seems to promise that I can record, for example, Lohengrin off their web stream, and listen to it whenever I like (this seems too good to be true, but oh so exciting.) I may need to move to Cologne.  They have a large university and environs lousy with castles and monasteries and archives.  And they have an opera house, and a river to bike along, and nice downtown restaurants to drink wine in, and free concerts in the cathedral every weekend. What more could a girl want?

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