Friday, 6 March 2009

Bear Notes: Partenope on the Radio

Another chance to hear Theater an der Wien's production of Partenope - apparently it was on the radio last weekend which I foolishly missed. Anyway I have been given a reprieve and I can get to hear it online at Radio 4 in the Netherlands at 7 p.m tomorrow - March 7th. The cast is dazzling with Christine Schäfer as Partenope, the great countertenor David Daniels as Arsace, Kurt Streit as Emilio and Patricia Bardon reprising her role of Rosmira. What is more it is conducted by Christophe Rousset - more joy for the baroque lover. Theater An der Wien have released this promotion video to give us all a taste of the production. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Bear Notes: L’Incoronazione di Poppea in Barcelona

If you have internet connection you can hear Monteverdi's L’Incoronazione di Poppea live from Barcelona today. Featuring Sarah Connelly as Nerone and Miah Persson as Poppea and conducted by Harry Bicket we are in for a treat... cannot wait.

Check it out on Radio Clasica RNE at 8.00 pm.

Speaking of live and direct.... On Monday 23rd February Lucrezia Borgia is broadcast on Bayern 4 Klassik featuring Edita Gruberova as Lucrezia Borgia and Alice Coote as Maffio Orsini... It starts at 6.30 pm (GMT + 1?).

Joan Sutherland as Lucrezia Borgia - screen capture

Monday, 26 January 2009

Bear At The Concert: Anna Caterina Antonacci and The English Concert

It is always gives me a thrill to see a couple of theorbos and an harpsichord - you just know that the music is going to be sublime and affecting. The English Concert with the extraordinary soprano/mezzo-soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci lived up to my high expectations and widely sailed over. The set brought old favourites like Monteverdi together with some new names to me; Castello, Marini and Farina.

The Castello (early 17th century) and the Marini (1594-1663) set the scene for the Barbara Strozzi (1619-c1677) 'Lagrime mie' sung by the illustrious Anna Caterina Antonacci.... having her wonderful recording I was waiting tremulously... oh what an exquisite rendition... the recording is tortured bliss but watching Anna Caterina Antonacci you are plunged headlong into this morass of tragic lamentation. From the opening middle eastern tones of 'Lagrime mie' (yes, 17th
century Venice was huge cultural melting pot) to the aching lament of 'E voi, lumi dolente, not piangete' (And you, o aching eyes, aren't you going to cry') manages to wrench every emotion out. Antonacci with clenched fists pushed, pulled, no, bodily heaved the whole audience through Strozzi's changes of mood.

To save us from emotional breakdown from Strozzi's sorrow-filled tale the English Concert tucked in Carlo Farina's (c1600-1640) Capriccio stravagante... and what a difference. Farina threw in everything but the kitchen sink into this piece.... the strings imitate the fife, hens cackling, cats fighting and dogs barking. The audience were suitably amused with violins sounding like cocks crowing and cats fighting. An erratic, fun and playful piece. Truly weird. Looks like it is a favourite of the English Concert but will probably swiftly become 'what the audience talked about most'.

Back from the interval we are plied with more Castello to ease us into a blistering 'Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda' by Monteverdi. A tale of mistaken identity, battle and war... you can hear to the clashing of swords and the striking of blows in the music and Antonacci's rapid pronounciation of 'L'onta irrita lo sdegno a la vendetta, E las vendetta poi l'onta rinova...' (Pride excites rage and vengence, and vengence refuels pride) describing the battle which falls away to the aftermath where both warriors are weary and out of breath... Antonacci
pants 'E dopo lungo faticar respira' (and after a long pause, regain their breath) and you just have that scene in your head.... I was open-mouthed through most of this, awe-struck by Antonacci's mastery and exciting, beautiful tone.

After a thunderous applause the unexpected encore was an impassioned 'Addio, Roma!' from Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. This was probably the best rendition that I have heard of Ottavia's famous aria. Antonacci sung of real anguish in having to leave your homeland.... such a plea of woe... I was impressed... one could not fault her passionate singing whilst still managing to be technically brilliant.

I wanted more.... maybe I will just come back Thursday when she sings again at the Wigmore.

Harry Bicket and Anna Caterina Antonacci

Il Combattimento - Monday 26th January 2009

Anna Caterina Antonacci
Harry Bicket Director/Harpsichord/Organ
Nadja Zwiener Violin
Walter Reiter Violin
Alfonso Leal del Ojo Viola
Joseph Crouch Bass Violin
Peter McCarthy Basso di viola
Elizabeth Kenny Theorbo
David Miller Theorbo
Frances Kelly Harp

Castello Sonata 16 a 4 stromenti
Marini Sonata a 4, Passacaglia op.22
Strozzi 'Lagrime Mie'
Farina Capriccio stravagante


Castello Sonata 15
Monteverdi I combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda


Monteverdi Addio, Roma! from L'incoronazione di Poppea

Bear At The Movies: Orfeo ed Euridice

I had such high expectations for this production - it is one of my favourites; a perfect marriage of music to singing, Gluck trying to make the music as important to the singing. This should be achingly beautiful and tragic. This production only managed to be beautiful I think.
Mark Morris' (self-professed 'opera queen' wrapped in a pink pashmina) direction was adequate. For a dance choreographer the dancing element was lacking. The focus was out. Trying to mesh singers and dancers together did not work.... and really since in previous Morris productions the singers were even banished from the stage I was disappointed with the lack of ambition in the direction....
James Levine's obvious love for this piece was born through in his conducting which was suitably dramatic.... perhaps it was the singing the made me deflated with the overall piece. Now, I had heard rave reviews of Stephanie Blythe's Orfeo - great range, and impassioned in parts but she left me cold.... Yes, her voice is beautiful, yes, she does have a good tone but there was no tie in with the words; there was no notion of the real tragedy. I know that she had missed a performance due to illness and I wondered if this was the reason for the sometimes lack of emotive force. Was she concentrating on controlling her voice particularly in the higher registers?
Heidi Grant Murphy's Amor in a pink polo shirt and chinos brought a little more baroque feel to the piece - cheeky but every so charming. The surprise for me was Danielle De Niese as Eurydice - the best I have heard her... An extraordinary impassioned performance - she still overacts but she did manage to raise the emotional charge of the piece and encourage a little more passion from Stephanie Blythe.
A note about the set..... when Eurydice is re-united with Orfeo the whole scene looks like it set on a staircase made of glistening coal.... The set was definitely the star in this scene.
Overall this was a rather disappointing production. Morris could have made more of the dancers and for me this was a missed opportunity. I did so want this to be a great production but then may be I just had too high expectations.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Bear Notes: Anna Caterina Antonacci

I have to admit that I was not exactly bowled over when I saw Anna Caterina Antonacci at first in a cinema broadcast of Carmen from the Royal Opera House.... she was a very traditional Carmen and perhaps that just what swayed me from truly appreciating her talent...

That all radically changed when I heard her only recording (surprisingly) 'Era La Notte' - a beautiful collection of Baroque classics from the likes of Monteverdi, Giramo and Strozzi. I was completely entranced - at one point her voice had such beauty but then in the next sentence be so vicious and steely.I was joyous that she should have recorded such rare gems (Monteverdi I adored and Strozzi was to become my new love - more on Strozzi in a later post). In Strozzi's Lamento 'Lagrime mie' when Antonacci sings 'E voi, lumi dolenti, non piangete?' (And you, my afflicted eyes, do you not weep?) I had that familiar piercing of the heart, the same shock that great voices bring.

Luckily she is bringing her rare vocal talents to London and the Wigmore this month (Monday 26th and Thursday 29th January) showcasing some of the pieces from her album... Monteverdi's 'Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda' and joy - Strozzi's 'Lagrime mie'. I just hope that the concert will, at least, be half as good as the recording....

Read more about Anna Caterina Antonacci in the Times... an interesting article about this 'cult' diva.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Bear Notes

As befits the 250th anniversary of Handel's death Radio 3 have a host of programming for our delection. This week he is composer of the week.... check out on - everyday this week at 12:00-13:00 and 22:00-23:00.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Bear Necessities

On Bear's Listening Post....

'Luonnotar' - Sibelius - from Sibelius Tone Poems - Songs
'Piante ombrose' - Cavalli - La Calisto - Sally Matthews
'Oh Thou Bright Sun' - Handel - Theodora - Dawn Upshaw from the Glyndebourne Peter Sellers Production
'True Love Will Find You In The End' - Headless Heroes (with Alela Diane)
'The Green French One (Original Mix)' - Dinamoe - from Body Language Vol. 7 - Mixed By Matthew Dear