Category Archives: Hot Mezzos in Pants

Unlimited joy and Joyce!

Vibre, mon âme, chante et proclame, chante ta joie!


Yet again, I had the pleasure of spending an unforgettable opera evening. When we did Otello last season I wondered what would make someone go to see a concertante performance of opera. Well, there’s at least one answer I can give now: a most ravishing Joyce DiDonato!

Donna Leon presented Handel’s Ariodante in Baden-Baden on Friday, introducing to the performance of Joyce DiDonato singing the title role, accompanied by Alan Curtis’ Il Complesso Barocco. A slip of the tongue of Donna Leon became my program for the evening: she talked of “unlimited Joyce” instead of “unlimited joy”.
Interestingly, she compared the plot of Ariodante with that of Othello: the bad guy plays a trick on the good guy to make him believe his fiancé was unfaithful in order to gain the fiancé and the good guy’s all other comforts. Without examining the evidence, Othello decides to act: in an endless shouting of “Il fazzoletto!” he stabs the unfaithful. Ariodante doesn’t care about evidence either. But he chooses his own death, even though not successfully. Thus, the audience is sent home with a reconciling happy ending.

It takes Handel a lot of music to work out this plot, thereby giving a lot of room to discover the beauty of his music, if one had been skeptical about it before. And the musicians took their chance to enchant the audience.

I could not let my ears and eyes from the evening’s “hot mezzo in pants” Joyce DiDonato, whose portrayal of Ariodante went right into the heart. I wanted to stop the course of time when I saw this beyond-my-mind-voice unfolding its warm magic ten meters in front of me (and not in some technical appliance). And I now know: a concertante performance doesn’t have to be any less credible, after not only hearing Ariodante’s unlimited joy, his despair, and his relieve, but also seeing it in DiDonato face and body.

After the performance I followed DiDonato’s advice to catch her at the stage door for an autograph and I met a most cordial person who didn’t stop to share her gorgeous smile. In full excitement and gratitude I tried to control the shutter release of my camera and even though I didn’t use that feature I am sure: the automatic-release-when-detecting-a-smile-function of my camera was developed for persons like Joyce!

Look at the hair! 😀

Maybe it’s worth to re-explore the thought of Der Rosenkavalier in Milano in October… Donations very welcome! 😉

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Couldn’t Octavian get Susanna?

April 2010 brought a lot of changes to my life and once in a while I am very curious to examine in which way I regard certain things different back then and now a year later.

One of these things are pant roles. First of all – no fascination lost there! Last year I scraped together every piece of literature I could find on Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro, Mozart), having rare library experiences full of excitement. One of the most obvious discoveries was that there’s no way around Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier, Strauss) in the matter on pants. But since I sometimes tend to be rejective of unknown things, I stuck to what was familiar, thereby sensing what Beauchmarchais who wrote the play upon which Le nozze is based had already noted hundreds of years before: That Cherubino must be played by a very beautiful woman.

Realizing that there is an extremely high theatre concentration in this region (six (!) houses within 150 km), I decided to exploit the last 12 months of student reductions on tickets. And the decision was easily taken, for they play Der Rosenkavalier in Wiesbaden. After one year of pant role fascination, finally the chance to meet the character of Octavian.
Coincidentally, Le Nozze di Figaro had opened the week before in Giessen – a fabulous production. Solely Cherubino, my all time favorite role, could not fully convince me. Maybe Beaumarchais’ demand could not fully be complied with? (Good Lord, a different hairdo would have done stunning wonders and rendered me speachless as I found out a couple of weeks later.) But I was compensated: It was Susanna (Odilia Vandercruysse) who caught my all-positive attention this evening – with her singing, her acting, her smiling – contagiously cheerful, cordial, ravishing. (For completeness’ sake: Stephan Bootz did a marvellous Figaro!) And of course, Mozart did the rest.

After my very personal Cherubino disappointment (which is not to say that there was a bad performance! To exculpate her, she couldn’t have done anything to prevent this!) I took a look at the Rosenkavalier cast, Merit Ostermann as Octavian, and commented with “alright, I once met her, remember her pretty, she may sing him”. And so she did. Four hours later I walked out of that theater with an indescribable inner enchantment, unable to properly express my emotional state. The great amount of disgust I had felt for Baron Ochs (intentionally emetic I guess) was hundredfold surpassed by my sympathy for Octavian. Ostermann played a most convincing 17-year-old boy when looking serious, but every smile made her male disguise transparent. A wonderful combination. What my eyes saw made goosebumps spread all over my skin, what my ears heard, this soul-touching voice on a lovely composition, made me hold my breath. And talking about not breathing – when it shall all end, then please with this terzett… but since the whole death theme was spared out here, I want to stick to the great sense of vividness that this opera performance conveyed.  Even though in a somewhat different, less personally compelling way, also the gorgeous Feldmarschallin indulged the senses, thereby being indispensible for completing my Ocatavian experience.
Only Sophie, I felt, got a little bit lost in strange shoes and hairdo (I will take it symbolically). But as I tried to imply before: in the end, nothing mattered at the beauty of these three voices revealing the magic of this wonderful music.

So, summing up my last two Saturday evenings, sitting for hours (!!) in red velvet plush seats: Susanna should enter the rose garden.

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Intermezzo

This afternoon I was amused by a question stated in a blog post (“Intermezzo” – what a lovely pun!):

What’s the difference between Joyce DiDonato and Katherine Jenkins? Apart from obvious stuff like one can sing Una voce poco fa and one can’t, that is?

After seeing the videos, this was even obvious to me… (and yes, I know, I couldn’t do any better, but that’s why I go to the cellar for Una voce and not on youtube…)

Just like DiDonato singing Una voce, I love the title of her latest recording – Diva~Divo. While googling Ruggiero and Cherubino I came across another blog where the Diva~Divo theme is put into lovely category titles (and I admit my plagiarism on that):

Hot mezzos in pants  |  Hot mezzos in skirts

And Anik LaChev, the blogger, proves that dispite all privacy concerns, there are good reasons to enable google search for blogs – great examination of the “gay google treatment” for opera singers! More of this you can find in episode 2 and the latest analysis.

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Soundtrack 2010

I had a very conventional idea this evening: collecting all the wonderful music that has inspired, questioned, supported, and challenged me over that last twelve months and composing my soundtrack for 2010.

It all startet in January with a piece of Italian music, the first one I got to sing and it captivated me right from the beginning.

Carissimi: Vittoria, Vittoria mio core (unfortunately I didn’t find the Bartoli recording on youtube


The next thing that messed up my mind was of course Cherubino and Pamela Helen Stephen’s interpretation of this fascinating role. I still go crazy when he’s about to kiss the lady…

Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro. Non so piu and Voi che sapete

One of the greatest moment was the Otello concert in June. I love Verdi, and I loved that whole project… never to forget!

Verdi: Otello. Fuoco di gioia

During holidays I discovered the most beautiful Joyce DiDonato while searching for a Una voce recording. Once again, a mezzo had gripped me, once again I read through the article on diva worsphip by Terry Castle and I had to smile once in a while…

Rossini: Una voce poco fa (Joyce DiDonato)


Since things had not always been decided that rationally I was happy to come of the next piece – I finally got the formerly new album of Madsen and its best song: Goodbye Logik.

Fall was time of Chichester Psalms and Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang. Another ravashing concert! After two hours of being caressed by the orchestra I had to shed a tear when I heard the beautiful soprano solo ‘die Nacht ist vergangen’…

Berstein: Chichester Psalms, 1st Movement

Mendelssohn: Lobgesang. Stricke des Todes, Die Nacht ist vergangen

As I wrote recently, Carmen hit on the way to Christmas, bringing back wonderful memorie of the Lisbon Meeting 2004/05 – even though the two things don’t really relate to each other…

Bizet: Carmen. Habanera

The Carmen thing however was interrupted by Christmas and, of course, the Christmas Oratorio. A lesson I learned by coincidence: No benchmarking in singing.

Bach: Weihnachtsoratorium. Bereite dich, Zion

I think that’s it for this year. I am curious what is going to come next!

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Art is not all that useless!

On evenings like this I find myself transfered into some kind of emotional vacuum. Rehearsal with orchestra, Chichester Psalms and Lobsgesang. I don’t get tired of this amazement… when I push the play button of my CD player it might be that things don’t exist in reality and if they do or did, they are so far away. When I sit there, I realize over and over again that this is real. I stare at the conductor with big eyes, I look at the muscians as if I was either totally lost or as if I had never seen a human being before. As bad as a performace might be, spoken in absolute terms, the emerging sonar waves cause my soul to vibrate and I feel like the most privileged person in the world to become part of that magic. When the soloists start singing (and please… respect the solo.) my disbelieve becomes even more intense – that out of nothing that room can be filled with a most beautiful spirit. And as a matter of fact, the singers, they ain’t got nothing. They can create beauty out of nothing. And be it with something so little – I am part of this invisible and intangible creation.

Vibre, mon âme, chante et proclame ! In fact, there are no better words to describe this emotional state I am in during these rehearsals, for French is not a language to understand but to feel.

You might wonder where the vacuum now comes from for all of this doesn’t really sound like vacuum. What makes me sad is that all of this – it is only the beauty of the moment. There is no way to capture, to record these moments, this atmosphere, this great gift that I am so honored to receive. And it should not be captured because it could never be the same. All the grave my sadness when the two hours are over and the course of my ‘normal’ life continues. But still, it is most wonderful to have the opportunity to escape from that for some moments…

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I think maybe it’s a bit too early for you…

It is pretty much exactly five years ago – it was the time of autumn support singer auditions. I knew I would have to sing there. Sister Anne took me to the French courrier, just before midday prayer. I did the first song but after messing up the canon she said the redeeming words: I think maybe it’s a bit too early for you. Three more months to think about daring, thank God.

And now there is Schrati and Christina singing together! In a first time recording experience with many unexpected difficulties (yes, also the iMac can crash!! Just like the iRack and the iRan…) and thousand interesting things to explore and develop.

But what kind of change made me sit in the support singer’s spot in church? The next audition came three months later. Sister Christina made me find the right tone in Da pacem and appointed me support singer. This time I was happy about it. Not because I wanted it so badly – far from that – but because someone believed in me more than I did. And basically that is how everything else came into existence and development. Some things keeping coming back, like the question of what I am afraid of (Agnes, it has always been an honor!). But but I got out of French Courrier!

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Brustpanzergröße 95 D

 “Was haben die eigentlich immer mit den Jungfrauen?! Frauen, denen man nicht mehr das Kellerfenster einrennen kann, sind offenbar wertlos…”

Nachdem wir bei ticketonline.com für die “Print@home”-Funktion 2,50 Euro Porto zahlen mussten, waren wir letzte Woche endlich stolze Besitzer von Karten für Katharina Herbs neues Programm 400 Jahre Sex in der Oper. Nach unzähligen Stunden der Vorfreude und leckerem Essen bei der italienischen Erlebnisgastronomie Vapiano in Mannheim war es dann endlich soweit – der Ankleide-Assistent / Techniker trat auf die Bühne und verkündete, dass es auf eben jener keinen Sex geben würde. Ein Raunen ging durch den Saal, aber es wurde auch schon bald klar, dass die meisten Anwesenden das kleine schnucklige Theater auch nicht wegen der unzensierten Titte auf den Plakat aufgesucht hatten (so wie das offenbar in Köln der Fall gewesen sein sollte).

Zwar lautet es in der offiziellen Ankündigung des Programms “und ja, es geht um Sex”, aber hätte ich das erwartet, wäre ich enttäuscht worden. Stattdessen ging es darum wie man hohe Töne singt (“Uffmache! Gosch uff!” – Gott sei Dank spricht meine Gesangslehrerin überwiegend hochdeutsch…) und Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen mit phonetischer Interpunktion dargeboten, es ging um große Brustpanzer (zu denen Katharina Herb ein sehr spezielles Verhältnis zu haben scheint) und Jungfrauen, die sich in Menschen verlieben, die sie nicht kennen (und wiederum von Menschen geliebt werden, denen sich unbekannt sind) und nach dem Wegsterben des Geliebten das Kloster aufsuchen, um Waaaallküren und den bösen Zwerg Alberich (und ja, da ging mir als Münsteraner Tatort-Fan ein Lichtle auf!).

Der Abend war eine erfrischende Einführung in einige Klassiker der Opernwelt, mit einem kleinen Exkurs in die Anfänge der Operngeschichte, die suggerierte, dass man lieber auf die Verständlichkeit des Texte verzichten sollte, als die instrumentale Begleitung auf zwei Flöten zu reduzieren.

Da die Handlungen von Opern meist sehr komplex sind (ich habe eine Aufnahme von der Hochzeit des Figaro, da steht im Booklet bei der Zusammenfassung: “Der Akt endet in allgemeiner Verwirrung”), sollte man sich eigentlich nicht mit mehreren Opern kurz hintereinander beschäftigen – jedenfalls baut sich meiner Erinnerung gerade ein Bild zusammen, in der die Zigeunerin das falsche Kind ins Feuer wirft, dann mit dem spanischen Soldaten flirtet, bevor sie im Rhein nach Alberichs Gold taucht… aber gut, da muss man sich halt mal ein bisschen konzentrieren. Kurzum: Es wurden Carmen, Il Trovatore und der Ring erzählt, dargestellt und gesungen, wobei es zwischendurch auch mal ganz ernst wurde, als Katharina Herb Azucenas Arie Condotta ell’era in ceppi sang, am Feuer, da lief es mir dann doch mal kurz kalt den Rücken runter, sofern man in diesem Raum von Kälte oder auch nur kühler Luft sprechen konnte.

Das Finale (nicht das offizielle, aber mein persönliches) war dann aber doch der Ring, bei dem ich immerzu an ein Video denken musste, dass ich kürzlich auf youtube fand: All you need to know about opera in 10 Minutes.

Da wird trotz Spontanität geniale Plätze in der zweiten Reihe ergattert hatten (das wollte ich bei dem Portozuschlag aber auch hoffen!), kam auch noch mein kleiner Lichtriese zum Einsatz – in solchen Momente bin ich von diesem Objektiv (50 mm, 1.4), kombiniert mit der Serienbildfunktion der Kamera, ziemlich begeistert, da es mir einige gestochen scharfe Fotos der Diva bescherte. Also alles in allem ein phantastischer Abend!

Nur die Feder-Augenbrauen, mit denen kann ich mich nicht anfreunden!

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