Saturday, March 29, 2014

Here and Back Again in NYC - Day 8 - Jonas Kaufmann at Carnegie Hall

Hey everyone!

So Day 8 of my New York City journey was pretty cool. As always me and my mum spent our day shopping and eating. We went to Eataly which is this huge Italian food place that works as a market as well as a restaurant. We waited in line for about 40 minutes for a table at the pasta section and when it came to it the prices were high and the portions were little. I was very disappointed although the pasta was really good I left the restaurant hungry.

But no matter because Jamie texted me and before I knew it I was in Washington Square Park meeting her and Mike! We had a lovely 30 minute chat and then she had to leave. I walked with Mike to the subway station and said yet another heartfelt goodbye. Then I rushed back to the Park where my mum was waiting for me. We got a cab and it was dark before we knew it.

We went back to the hotel to get ready for Jonas Kaufmann’s big debut at Carnegie Hall with pianist Helmut Deutsch. Needless to say that we were late and running down the icy streets of NYC in heels and holding extra hot lattes, I do love this life though! I did not, however, love having to go up ALL those stairs in heels and running because the recital was just about to begin. We got to our seats in the balcony and they were really steep and scary and there was barely any leg room which made us extremely uncomfortable. I was pretty pumped about this recital but the people were all so serious, it was very weird and my mum had THE GRUMPIEST man sitting next to her.

view from my seat

I didn’t have much time to complain because in a moment there he was, my prince charming in the flesh, Jonas Kaufmann! Although I have to admit I did not know any of the songs he sang! There I’ve said it, it’s the truth and it’s better than just pretending I know what I’m talking about because I don’t. I’m an opera fan and I know a lot about opera and musicals and a little about Faure chanson for feminine voices, but I do not know these lieder.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a blast of a good time. Because Carnegie Hall does give you the lyrics and the translations so you can follow, so at least I knew what he was singing about. And come on, Jonas is one of the most captivating performers I’ve ever seen, he can steal your heart away with one well placed note. It was impossible for me not to have a wonderful time. Because seriously, hearing him in a recording is already so great but there is nothing that can compare to having that glorious sound waltz its way into your body and soul. His voice is like dark butter melting, I don’t even know if that makes sense, but it’s not like melting chocolate. Ah man, I’m letting my feelings get the best of this post! Bottom line people, GO HEAR JONAS KAUFMANN LIVE! Go, just go!

Well first he did a selection of four songs from a Schumann cycle called Zwölf Gedichte (Twelve Poems, Op. 35). They were Lust der Sturmnacht (The Wild Night’s Joy); Erstes Grün (First Green); Wanderung (Wandering); Stille Tränen (Silent Tears). These are basically about what every good lied is about, nature and love and being in love while outside. But what I liked is all the different colors he brought to the table for each and every song he sang. He had a character for every single one of them. You could feel almost everyone was hooked (I say almost everyone because there’s always that old person who sleeps no matter how fantastic the event is) and that was quite obvious at the end of the cycle.

Then he did an entire Schumann cycle called Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love, Op. 48). They were all so lovely and Jonas has this ability to just transport you to wherever he wants with his voice. It was quite amazing. I say voice because I was quite far away I couldn’t really see him very well but all he needed to do was open his mouth and the walls felt like they were gonna crumble down. He had quite an ovation after that cycle was done and came back two or three times to take a bow together with the pianist to quite a thunderous ovation.

Time for intermission and my mom wasn’t feeling well at all so she left. I didn’t even get out of my seat, I just stayed there in awe of what I had just witnessed. And although I really liked the first part, the second was SO MUCH BETTER!

I don’t know if it was my taste or the fact that the audience just seemed to have warmed up much more for the second half but it was incredible. First he sang a Wagner song cycle called Wesendonck Lieder (Wesendonck Songs, Op. 91). And I don’t know if I’m more accustomed to the Wagner language as opposed to the Schumann one but I felt he sang those Wagner lieder much better. A very special highlight to the second song called Stehe still! (Stand still!) because I folded the end of its page in my program which means I probably really liked it. And now that I come to think of it, it was quite powerful and I remember having my head in the clouds.

But my favorite bit was without a doubt the Franz Liszt songs. He did change the order of the songs for some mysterious reason but I wasn’t complaining. These 3 song were all in Italian and had a much more operatic feel to them. I remember quite clearly as he finished the first one it was SO GOOD that you could feel the people ALMOST clapping and some people were so enticed that they actually started screaming “BRAVO”. To that both Jonas and the entire audience laughed. When he sang his second song it was just as beautiful and operatic and it had one of those high tenor notes at the end that SERIOUSLY had ALL the human beings who feel attracted to man sigh. I know I did, I sighed all through it like my 13 year old self sighing at the sight of Legolas.

The third and final song from the Tre sonetti di Petrarca cycle was just the cherry on top of the most heart racing performances I’d ever seen. People went NUTS when he finished! The clapping just would not stop and it was heaven. It totally felt like finally all those rules and conventions had crumbled down and he was just this great guy singing to a bunch of happy, happy people. I must admit, I screamed my head out! And specially because the lady sitting right in front of me had her hands over her ears and was looking viciously at everybody who would scream (she should get to know the grumpy guy who was sitting next to my mum, they are perfect for each other). And you know me, I don’t like people trying to reprimand me, so I took extra careful and powerful breaths so I could scream as loudly as I could without hurting my voice 1- because Jonas totally deserved it and 2- because she pissed me off. I would also clap really hard with my hands extra close to her head, yeah, I can be mean too!

Jonas was over the moon and smiling and thanking everyone it was wonderful, but after he came back for 3 bows it was time for our encores. I must say that one thing that kinda disappointed me was the fact that he didn’t sing any operatic arias in his encores, but you can never have it all. First he sang R. Strauss’ Breit über mein Haupt dein schwarzes Haar and the moment he finished was overwhelmed by applause and screaming and some WE LOVE YOU JONAS, which you would like proper at Comic Con not Carnegie Hall but I just thought it was insanely cool.

Then he proceeded to sing 3 more Strauss songs Heimliche Aufforderung, Freundliche Vision and Cäcilie. And seriously, that was so much fun, because during the applause Jonas and the pianist would come out numerous times to take a bow and after the third encore we were really just clapping and screaming and freaking out because we appreciated his work. But then every time the pianist would come back holding sheet music I felt like that building was gonna come down. People were hysterical, I am not kidding, it was insane! I was hysterical too, it was just so amazing and he was so comfortable there singing to us and the responses were so powerful, it was really incredible.

Before the last Strauss song, which was the fourth encore, he addressed the audience and thanked everybody for that wonderful warm welcome. During his speech people would start screaming and someone screamed “THANK YOU JONAS” which resulted in more hysteria. I seriously felt like I was in Comic Con when they do actor’s panel of a beloved TV show or movie. Even Jonas was very surprised with this enthusiasm because as I wrote a couple of posts ago the reception for Werther was really amazing and very loud but this one was like twice even 3 times more noisy and warm.

He also said that he was singing so many songs by Strauss in the encores because he really did not want to leave him out of this program and that now we should stop celebrating so much Verdi and Wagner for their centenary and bicentenary birthdays and turn to the birthday boy of the year, Strauss. The audience laughed and then he proceeded to sing one more song this time by Schumann called Mondnacht. This was already too good to be true, 5 encores? The people were going insane and one very cool thing I noticed was that a very small number of people left during the encores. Because normally we know how this works, right? But everyone was so enticed and Jonas was so pumped it felt like he was never gonna stop!

Finally he sang his last encore Lehar’s Gern hab ich die Frau’n geküßt. If you saw me you looking at him sing you would think 1 – this girl is gonna fall from her seat right to her death because she’s leaning forward too much 2 – is she in love? I had my hands holding my chin and sighed all the time feeling like the only person in the room and the luckiest person in the world. Because even though the audience was making a lot of noise as soon as the pianist started to play there would be literally dead silence.

When he was bowing for the last encore he did a “that’s enough” hand sign and everyone laughed and clapped and clapped and clapped! I don’t think I ever clapped and screamed so much in my entire life! While gathering my stuff I got to meet a really cool guy who was sitting right behind me who also happened to be a singer. We talked enthusiastically about the concert until the people from Carnegie Hall kicked us out and then we walked together on the street for a while chatting about music and all sorts of thing. Then we headed our separate ways.

But that’s one of the reasons why I love NYC. The people there are just so COOL, all the people I’ve met at the opera house were absolutely incredible, and they were truly really nice.

I guess that’s it for today guys! Hope you enjoyed this post and please leave a comment telling me what you think! Cheers!

PS; All these beautiful up close pictures were taken by my friend Felipe Cunha, thanks honey!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Here and Back Again in NYC - Day 7 - Wicked and Pippin

Hey world! So you guys might have noticed something different about the blog. Yeap I changed it up. I never had changed the layout or anything like that so I felt it was time for a change, let me know if you guys liked it in the comments! 

Over the past few days I’ve been a busy bee. I don’t know if I mentioned this here but I moved back to my parents place in Santos. It was the logical thing to do since I finished college in São Paulo and didn’t have anything there that tied me up to the city itself.  And even if I got a part-time job there all my salary would go to paying rent. So I’m back in my beach cave. I had to bring all of my stuff from São Paulo to Santos and that’s a work in progress but most of my bedroom and bathroom stuff is already here. So I decided to do a little makeover on my bedroom, I cleaned up a lot of unnecessary stuff and donated a bunch of things I don’t use anymore. Plus I bought some shelves to make my live easier and my room less crowded. I’m planning on making a post about that soon.

But let’s go back in time a month to my fabulous 7th day in NYC. I remember that it rained all day and so we thought that there wouldn’t be a soul who would want to stand in line for musical tickets at TKTS. We were wrong. Regardless of the rain the line went on and on, we could do nothing but join in and hope that when we got to the booth there would still be tickets for Pippin. You see some of my friends told me it was a fantastic show and their performance at the Tonys last year was quite remarkable. And so we stood in line, in the rain for about 45 minutes but were able to get nice seats at half the price for that matinee performance.

As we were starving and wet we just went across the street to Oliver Garden for lunch. We did strike a conversation with a French guy who was like Prince Charming material when it came to his looks and also very, very nice. I did tell him that I had just seen a wonderful French opera the night before called Werther but that didn’t seem to ring a bell to him. No one is perfect, right?

At almost two we said our goodbyes and headed off to the theater for Pippin. I felt like me and my mum were the only people in that theater that were watching this show for the first time, that sensation only grew as the show began. I’m still in awe how the whole dynamic of musical theater audiences and manners are SO different from opera. I think I’ve already said this in my Cinderella post but the overture works as a shut up mechanism and also at the end of the musical after everyone has had their rushed bows they keep on playing and people just leave and always a handful of people stay behind and acknowledge that there are real life people playing. Anyways, this hasn’t started very well hun?

View from our Pippin seats
The musical was fun, but it felt more like a night at the circus than a musical. From what I’ve heard this is an old musical but I seriously found it very difficult to find a tune that lingered. If I’m going to be totally honest here the music wasn’t all that interesting, at least in my opinion. And, come on, I’m a musician, if the music isn’t relevant what am I to do?

Let me tell you guys the story, it’s very weird and I don’t know if I got it right. So there’s this lady who owns a theater company or circus company, I don’t know, and they are performing the life of Pippin. But it’s weird because the performance takes place as he lives, and the boy playing Pippin is actually Pippin, or something. Anyways, she tells him he’s bound for greatness and being son of the king and heir to the throne that’s not really hard to believe. And so Pippin goes on and tries to do many things but he fails miserably. The numbers were really amazing, the performers were so good, they could twist and turn their bodies in ways I did not know were humanly possible.

One great feature of this show was the narrator, circus company owner or whatever who was played by Patina Miller. Now Patina has a beautiful singing voice and I had seen her live before doing Sister Act, the musical which was so fantastic. She got a Tony award for this role in Pippin last year and no wonder since she works the trapeze while singing and it's just amazing!

But the thing was, it felt 70% of the time like a circus act. Like I was in the circus watching contortionists and people balance themselves in unfriendly objects and to be completely honest I am not a fan of the circus. Now before you run away and never come back because you think I have no soul because I don’t like the circus, hear me out. I don’t like it for a very simple reason, it makes me nervous! I feel nervous for the people doing their acts knowing that sometimes they don’t have safety nets and that they could be jumping to their deaths and that’s not an idea of a good time for me. So as much as I was impressed by all they could do I was also freaked out.

One incredible highlight was the grandmother, now, she was INCREDIBLE. Because then you had a 65 year old lady doing trapeze stuff with a hot, hot, hot guy and going like ‘yeah, I sail this ship!’. That was awesome! Kudos for Andrea Martin who originated this role in this production and surprise, surprise, got a Tony for it last year. She is AWESOME. She did some operetta you know. She played the Old Lady in Candide some good old years ago. You might know her from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding (I LOVE THIS MOVIE, one of my favorites), she played aunt Voula. She was the aunt, Toula’s dad’s sister, she wore shoulder pads, she’s fab!

Well, the musical was ok I guess, if you like big spectacles with complicated dance routines and unimaginable moves this is definitely for you. But as for the story, I am still trying to figure it out. And I find that there isn’t a real message, it’s all smoke and mirrors.

My mum didn’t like the musical at all. She was thoroughly disappointed so I decided to take her to see something I knew she loved, Wicked. We went to the Wicked theater and I texted Mike and proceeded to buy 3 hot seats for THE coolest, most awesome show on Broadway! I had some great tomato soup nearby the theater with my mum and then waited outside for Mike. He was late, but I think the funniest thing about us going in was that the usher who was zapping the tickets told me I couldn’t go inside with my coffee. So I did something quite alarming, I seriously drank the whole thing in one go right in front of them and even I was a little impressed that I could process so much caffeine at such short notice. I’m proud of me for that.

We went in and took our seats and before we knew it overture hit us.

View from my wicked seat!
Ok, I really love Wicked so this might extend itself a lot, it’s one of my favorite musicals. Sometimes I feel like such a baby, as soon as it started and that flying monkey appeared I was feeling the tears coming. Since I’m feeling generous about talking about musicals that rock I’m gonna go a lot deeper on this one.

So Wicked is the untold story of the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba. The first scene is actually just after the bucket of water has been thrown on the Witch and she melted and the people rejoiced. So Glinda, the good, appears to confirm the facts and we have our first song “No one mourns the wicked”. I think the only thing I did not like about this was the fact that the girl playing Glinda was trying to imitate Kristen Chenoweth’s voice. We all know how Kristen sounds and bless her heart for her instrument and yes, she did originate Glinda but trying to sound like her made the girl sound squeaky and awful! When she started to sing me and Mike just looked at each other instantly like “Oh no!” .

Kristen Chenoweth in 2003 as Glinda
One of the people asks Glinda if it’s true that she was the Wicked Witch’s friend. Glinda is a little taken aback by that and we flashback to the time they were in college together. One thing that was pretty awesome about this performance was that when Glinda showed up there was a huge ovation for her and when Elphaba showed also, the house felt like it was coming down. And people proceeded to cheer A LOT after songs, during songs when they would do some nice vocal line. It just felt great to have that freedom, it can feel kind of constricted in the opera house with all the rules and the etiquette.

Well we flash back and Elphaba walks in and huge ovation right there. But her fellow classmates don’t think she’s as awesome as we know she is and nobody really likes her because she’s green and has a little bit of an attitude. Her father actually only sent her there to take care of her handicap sister, Nessa, who is a perfectly normal color. The father is not a real fan of Elphie (what a jerk) and dotes on his other daughter openly.

As for Galinda she’s a very spoiled young woman who always gets what she wants. And now she wants to do a witchcraft seminar with the headmistress of the school, Madam Morrible. Things get tangled and Elphaba gets assigned to share a room with Galinda and as they protest Elphie gets nervous and does some magic. The headmistress is impressed and tells Elphaba she will teach her privately and take other students plus giving a ring to the Wizard of Oz about her.

Shoshana Bean as Elphaba in the left and Megan Hilty as Glinda in the right 

Elphaba then proceeds to sing one of the coolest songs in the whole musical The Wizard and I. The girl who was playing Elphaba wasn’t the principal and not even the first replacement and she rocked! I mean, she was SO good and it amazing! She had very good technique which allowed her to play with the song and really feel it and it was really quite incredible.

Idina Menzel as Elphaba, she originated this role
As life proceeded in school Elphaba wasn’t popular at all but found friendship with her history teacher who also happened to be a goat! In Oz animals were just like people, they talk and are sometimes even more intelligent than humans. But the professor warned her that something odd was happening and that he’d been hearing rumors of animals not being allowed to live out their lives as they always had and who had forgotten how to speak!

A new guy arrives in the university named Fiyero and he’s the perfect personification of a charming bad boy, killer looks and lack of sense of responsibility. He sings about how we should all dance through life and not think of our problems and only have a good time (Dancing through life). Galinda and Fiyero come to the conclusion they were made for each other. When a munchkin named Boq tries to ask her out Galinda tells him how the guy who asked Elphaba’s sister out would be her hero he hurries to do just that. 

So everyone is going to this big party and Galinda being the self-centered person that she is gives Elphaba a pointy black hat telling her it’s the latest fashion.  But just as Elphaba arrives at the party wearing the hat and everyone proceeds to laugh at her, the headmistress goes up to Galinda and tells her she can be in the witchcraft lessons because Elphaba insisted she also took them. Now Galinda is feeling like the worst person in the face of the planet and Elphaba starts doing a crazy dance all by herself while others watch and laugh. Galinda joins her in dancing and before you know it everyone is dancing quite a beautiful choreography and finally accepting Elphaba.

Galinda and Elphaba bond and Galinda tells her that she’s going to give her a makeover and teach her how to popular in a very funny song of that said name. Even though the girl was imitating Kristen it wasn’t all that bad because she sounded real funny in the spoken bits and she did add her own personal touch to the character which made her even funnier.  

After that things start to look up for Elphaba but one day they fire her goat teacher, Dr. Dillamod and bring into the classroom a cage with a lion cub preaching how good these things are for animals because then they will never learn how to speak. Elphaba is enraged by this and uses her powers to make an escape with the lion cub and Fiyero who helps her. There’s an awkward moment between the two as they free the lion cub but Elphaba knows they can never be (I’m not that girl).

The wizard wants to meet Elphaba so he invites her to go to the Emerald City. Galinda isn’t really well because ever since that day with the lion cub Fiyero has been different, as she herself says “He’s been thinking!” which apparently isn’t a good thing. And he indeed seems changed somehow, concerned about their goat professor. Galinda in an attempt to seem worried about the teacher states that since the professor never could pronounce her name correctly she would change her name to Glinda. (What? Yeah!)

Elphaba invites Glinda to go to the Emerald City with her and off they go! But when Elphaba finally gets to meet the Wizard harsh reality punches her in the face. Because you see, she wanted to tell him of all the things people had been doing to animals so he could stop it, but the thing was, he was actually behind all that. Furthermore he possessed no magic whatsoever, that’s why he was so interested in her, she had magic that could help him carry on his plan to separate humans from animals.

After learning all this Elphaba panics, grabs the spell book and runs for the roof. Glinda follows her. Elphaba can’t work for the wizard after all she’s heard and is resolute in running away and telling everyone the truth about the wizard. But as soon as she’s out his door he announces that she stole his spell book and that she’s a liar and wicked.

That leaves Elphie with very little options but to run, she enchants a broom for it to fly and asks Glinda if she would come with her. But Glinda decides to stay behind and hold off the guards so Elphaba can escape and there’s that moment that my eyes fill with tears and my mouth hangs open, when she freaking flies. I know how the whole thing works, where the machine holds her and how the effect is made but still it’s so freaking perfect that it does indeed seem as if she’s flying and quite literally Defying Gravity. End of act one with screams, tears and cheers!

On to act two and it opens with one of my favorite songs, Thank Goodness. Some time has passed and Glinda has been appointed to be Glinda, the good, kind of like a cheerleader to spread joy and hope to the people of OZ, or something. And Fiyero is now the captain of the Wizard’s guard and Elphaba is still in the run. The people from Oz now believe all sorts of weird things about Elphaba, like that she has a third eye, or that she can change her skin and even that her soul in so impure pure water can melt her.

While that happens we are brought to the estate of Elphaba’s family for she goes there to ask aid from her sister. Her sister is not at all happy to see her and confronts her, telling her that she never ever used her powers to help her get out of her wheelchair. Elphaba is taken aback but puts a spell on her sister’s diamond shoes and as they burn up and turn into ruby her sister can finally walk. She calls on Boq and tells him now they can be happy together because she can walk. But Boq is in love with Glinda and now that Nessa can walk he can finally tell Glinda how he feels. Those news are not welcome to Nessa who is so mad and so desperate to have Boq’s heart to herself that she starts chanting something from Elphaba’s spell book and Boq starts tugging his chest. Elphaba tries desperately to fix her sister’s mistake and after she’s taken care of Boq she goes away. We can’t see Boq and as he wakes up and comes out of his hiding place we see he’s become the Tin man, he has no heart. PRETTY COOL!

So Elphaba heads off to the Wizard’s place to try and free the winged monkeys she created by accident. The wizard finds her and tries to convince her to come to his side and he almost succeeds. He calls on the guards and who shows up but Fiyero who is absolutely stunned to see Elphaba and in a heartbeat has his riffle pointed to the Wizard and is telling Elphaba to run. Glinda arrives just to see this exchange and then Fiyero makes the decision to go with Elphaba.

Now it’ Glinda’s turn to sing I’m not that girl. Since she’s very upset she tells the Wizard that to get to Elphaba he should make her believe that something had happened to her sister. But the wizard knows that Elphaba is too smart and a rumor won’t do and that’s why a house was dropped on Nessa, the wicked witch of the East.

But before that happened Fiyero and Elphaba are having a romantic and fiery duet about how much they care for each other. It’s pretty hot. Elphaba though senses there’s something wrong and rushes to where her sister was and BAM, she’s been hit by a house.

Glinda is there paying her respects to Nessa and when Elphaba arrives they have an awesome catfight. The guards seize Elphaba and just as they are about to take her away Fiyero appears and holds Glinda as a hostage so Elphaba can escape. She does but he is seized and condemned to die. As Elphaba gets to his abandoned castle she’s trying to do any kind of magic to save him (No good deed).

When Glinda arrives in her castle Elphaba is pretty much defeated and doesn’t believe that even with all her power she can make a change for the better. So she hands her spell book to Glinda and says “Now it’s up to, for both of us” and they sing one of the most beautiful and tear producing duets in musical theater history, For Good. It’s about friendship and it lasting forever, I sing it with my sister and with my good, good friend Paula, I love them. Anyways, I cried a lot.

And then we see that iconic scene from The Wizard of Oz, the little girl throwing a bucket of water on her and Elphaba melting through a sheet, so we only shadows. When the sheet is drawn the only thing that’s left is Elphaba’s black hat that Glinda gave her all that time ago. I’m crying just writing this,  you can imagine how I was when I was actually seeing this, hot mess. Glinda takes the hat and goes on her bubble and we come back to the first scene of the musical.

Glinda then proceeds to send the wizard away because he wasn’t even from the land of Oz, he’s from our world. He did spend the whole show drinking from a green bottle when in distress and Glinda says she’s only seen another green bottle like that with one other person, Elphaba. The bottle belonged to her mother, and then we find out that Elphaba was actually the Wizard’s daughter and the reason why she had such powers was because she was a child of both worlds.

As the cries of joy from the people diminish a scarecrow enters and hits the floor 3 times and opens it up. He cries “It worked!”. Elphaba comes out from the trap door and we then learn that her spell was able to save Fiyero from execution but it had also transformed him into a scarecrow. And so they head off to another world never turning back to Oz and their friend Glinda never knowing that they were both alive.

Isn’t this like the best fanfiction ever written or what? The story of this musical is based on a book by Gregory Maguire who based her story in the Wizard of Oz movie and book, meaning, fanfiction.

Mike and me after the show
Well after the musical me and Mike went to the stage door because we wanted to congratulate the lady playing Elphaba. But it was so weird. There were a lot of people waiting out in the cold and some of the performers came out and autographed their programs and took pictures. Then suddenly this lady comes up to the line and says “Those are all the performers who will be coming out from this door tonight” and everybody leaves. Neither Elphaba nor Glinda came out to greet all those girls who were standing in the cold, I thought that was preposterous. I mean, seasoned stars from the Met, people who are so much bigger and older than these ladies come out the stage door every time and greet their fans. And don’t start me with “They are tired” “It’s a tough show” because 1- they wear microphones and 2 – Renée Fleming was also tired but she talked to everyone, signed everything she was given and took pictures with everyone that asked.

Anyways, after that me and Mike headed to Greenwich Village to meet our Russian friends of a late dinner or something. Getting there we happened to stumble upon a drunk opera student and it was hilarious, he made us add him on facebook right then. We met our friends in a diner and we just hanged out there, talked, ate, it was really fun! But then Mike had to pack and my mum was already freaking out so we left at about 1, 2 in the morning.

aren't we adorable?
On our way back uptown we met the nicest couple and talked to them for a bit. Mike left and we had this big hug moment and I was so sad he was leaving! The couple was really moved by our exchange and then I found out that, surprise, surprise, they were both opera singers! WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

And that’s basically it, that day was fun! Jut so you guys know the pictures from Wicked are from many different casts throughout the 10 years it's been on Broadway but I did put in more pictures of Shoshana Bean as Elphaba and Megan Hilty as Glinda because they are my favorites! 

And now it' freaking Once Upon a Time time PLUS the comeback of the last season of Drop Dead Diva! Tonight is gonna be awesome! Peace everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 2014/2015 Metropolitan Opera Season (part 1)

Hiya everyone! Doing that 50 random facts about me post was a lot of fun, thank you all for the responses!

I don’t know why but awesome things always happen when I’m about to embark a plane or am already in it. Like January of last year there was a radio stream of Susan Graham’s and Renée Fleming’s recital at Carnegie Hall and I was flying. Or when I was flying back to Brazil last October and there was a fabulous Norma broadcast with Sondra. And just as I was embarking the plane to go to NYC last month the 2014/2015 season of the Met was announced. I was indeed a sight to see that day, making my way from the terminal to the plane clutching my phone and reading cast lists as I almost knocked several people with my carryon bag. Plus the fact that I was squealing like an idiot every time I saw they were doing an opera I liked or that someone I like was gonna be in this or that opera. Main point, there was a lot of squealing and rejoicing.

Most of these operas I know and love and others I’m dying to see so it’s gonna be a pretty fun season. My plan was to talk about all the 24 operas of the season in one post but it turns out I get overly excited writing about stuff I really like so I’ll do the following: A four post series with my thoughts on each of the operas from the new season of the Metropolitan Opera and also a little helpful synopsis of each. So here come the first 6:

Opening the Season with Figaro! New Production

YAY! YES, YES, YES! Mozart God, yes! First of all it’s high time they opened a season with the incomparable Mozart (one of my favorite composers) and second who doesn’t love a comedy? Not to mention that this is going to be a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro after quite a while with the old one. How old is it? I’ve seen pictures of that production with Bryn Terfel as Figaro that dated back to 1994, so 20 years at least. High time they did something new, hun? And I most certainly cannot wait to see what they will come up with.

Now Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart back in 1786 and it may come as a shock to us but it didn’t have a very warm welcome back then. It’s because Mozart was one of the first composers to start to write operas about the everyday people as opposed to writing about the Gods and myths. He wanted opera to be something that everyone could enjoy, not only the aristocracy. The opera is based on a play by Beaumarchais that is actually the second part of a trilogy, the first part is called Le Barbier de Séville. Does that name remind you of anything? Yes, Mozart’s opera was the continuation of the story of The Barber of Seville that years later would also be transformed into a “hit” opera by Gioachino Rossini.

So the opera is set in the Count’s (Peter Mattei) estate during the day of Figaro’s (Ildar Abdrazakov) wedding to Susanna (Marlis Petersen). The thing is, the Count is kind of a jerk and cheats on his wife constantly and has set his eyes on Susanna of all people. But Figaro is an ingenious and smart guy and will do all he can to marry Susanna regardless of the Count’s advances and schemes. In the middle of this hurricane of a day we also have Cherubino (Isabel Leonard), a young man who is ready to help Figaro but who also can’t control his hormones and falls for every lady he sees, but is helplessly in love with the Countess (Marina Poplavskya). The Countess was once a witty and happy gal but today being with a man who cheats on her and don’t give her the time of day has become melancholic and miserable.

Now on to the cast, I’m so thrilled that our star of the night is going to be Ildar Abdrazakov because he’s such an incredible singer. I had the absolute pleasure of not only seeing him in Prince Igor live but also of talking to him and as a person and as a performer he is SUPER! I have never heard of his co-star Marlis Petersen who is playing Susanna but I’m more than glad with the great picks with Peter Mattei as the Count and Isabel Leonard as Cherubino. I’m not a big fan of Marina Poplavskaya so I’m not particularly excited about her playing the Countess (my favorite character) for me her and Elina Garanca are battling to the death for the crown of Ice Queen of Opera. (did I just say that out loud?)

Ildar Abdrazakov (left) as King Henry in Donizetti's Anna Bolena and Marlis Petersen (right) as Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro

Peter Mattei (left) as Figaro in Rossini's Il Barbieri di Siviglia, Isabel Leonard (center) as Sesto in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito and Marina Poplavskaya (right) as Elisabeth in Verdi's Don Carlo 
This is one of my favorite Mozart operas and an absolute MUST for anybody interested in learning a little bit more about opera and also a blast of a lot of fun! And if you can’t go to NYC to see this beauty, don’t worry because it’s included in the Live in HD program for the 2014/2015 season, YAY!

Down to the Latin Quarter

La Boheme totally never gets old, I particularly never tire of it. I think the Met made this season thinking of me because they are doing so many things I love, ah well, thank you guys! Puccini is one of my favorite composers, probably my favorite for Italian opera, I don’t know, Verdi is also quite dear to me, depends on what I’m singing at the moment actually. Anyways this is one of the most traditional and beloved productions of the Metropolitan Opera by Franco Zeffirelli and it’s getting 15 performances this season. It’s really like a dream of a production, very traditional and faithful to what you might have seen back in Puccini’s day.

second act of the Met's production of La Boheme
La Boheme tells the love story of a poor poet, Rodolfo, and an even poorer flower maker, Mimi, who live in the Latin Quarter, a location in Paris that back in the beginning last century was where impoverish people lived, especially artists. Their love is poisoned not only by Mimi’s disease but also by Rodolfo’s incontrollable jealousy. Marcello, a painter who lives with Rodolfo, is also living his own love dilemma, he’s in love with the singer Musetta but she left him to be with a rich old man. The couple goes back and forth during the whole opera and could be considered the ‘comic relief’. But La Boheme is not just the story, it’s also the exquisite music and unforgettable melodies of Puccini that take us on a journey and accompany us on our way home after we cried our eyes out at the end.

The cast is superb! First of all this opera will mark Angela Gheorghiu’s return to the Met after 3 seasons of absence (I think, I'm not sure, but I’m sure about 3 seasons of her not doing anything at the Met). And people can say whatever they want about her, that she’s crazy, an over the top diva, maybe she is, I don’t know her, but what I know is that she is SUCH a great singer. Especially when she sings Puccini and Mimi is one of her signature roles. It’s one of the things that she does perfectly that many try to imitate (believe me I’ve seen people try first hand) and can never accomplish. So that’s pretty exciting. Also playing the role of Mimi we have Kristine Opolais who I heard sing a beautiful Magda in La Rondine at the Met back in January of last year so I'm sure she's going to do a wonderful job with Mimi and Ekaterina Scherbachenko who I've never heard of. As Rodolfo the fabulous and so cool tenor Bryan Hymel will be sharing the job with Mexican tenor Ramon Vargas. I do have a preference towards Bryan because he’s so young and so fresh and he has the look and the voice of a youthful Rodolfo and I imagine he’s up to the job to shake things up a bit when it comes to playing this part.

Kristine Opolais (left) as Magda in Puccini's La Rondine and Angela Gheorghiu (center) and Ekaterina Scherbachenko (right) as Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme
Ramon Vargas (left) as Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni and Bryan Hymel (right) as Aeneas in Berlioz's Les Troyans

Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth!

I must admit I have never seen this opera but I’m more than familiar with the Shakespeare play. I love it that there are so many operas in the repertoire that tell stories written by Shakespeare. This for me is one of the most dark and heavy of his works that I’ve read, filled with death, greed, hunger for power and madness. The perfect ingredients for an opera, especially Verdi opera!

I don’t know what line the opera follows but the original story goes something like this: Macbeth (Zeljko Lucic) just won a very important battle for his king, king Duncan, with his buddy Banquo (René Pape). They are visited by 3 witches that tell them of a prophecy that basically says that Macbeth is going to be king and that Banquo will father a king but will never be one himself. So when Macbeth tells his half crazed, power lust wife Lady Macbeth (Anna Netrebko) about this prophecy she makes him kill king Duncan so he’ll be king by basically telling him he’s a chicken he if doesn’t. And then all hell breaks loose and it’s a super bloody story but it’s Shakespeare, meaning that it’s amazing regardless of the amount of blood that is spilled!

Now for the cast we have the newbie for the role Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth. She has finally given up on the roles that made her famous (Adina, Juliette…) and moved on to a heavier repertoire (Tatiana, Leonora…) and Lady Macbeth sure is heavy from who I’ve heard. But Anna is a very incredible artist, I’m sure she’ll do great. Zeljko Lucic plays Macbeth and he is a performer who is more than used to the heavy Verdian repertoire, his Rigoletto is fantastic and I’m sure his Macbeth will be just as great. In this cast we also have Joseph Calleja as Malduff and René Pape as Banquo two performers I really like and look forward to seeing singing this opera.

Zeljko Lucic
Anna Netrebko (left), Joseph Calleja (center) and Rene Pape (right)
This is the opera that’s gonna open the Live in HD series on October 11th, the peeps from the Met just had to open SOMETHING with Anna Netrebko, right? If not the season, be it the HD series.

Tale as old as time

Although I really like this repertoire I can’t help but feel that they just put this together by choosing the top 20 of most famous operas of all time. And Bizet’s Carmen is definitely in the top 10 and it’s getting 16 performances this season. I have a very difficult history with this opera because you see I had to endure a group of people rehearse this piece for months on and to be totally honest they weren’t very good. So every time I heard the songs I would remember that incessant screeching I had to listen to almost every afternoon for 4 months and that just does something to your brain. It took a great deal of different kinds of productions and casts (good ones) to erase that memory, but now I’m pleased to announce I have been cured for a while.

So Carmen is this feisty and hot headed gypsy that every guy wants to have because she’s so sensual or something (sorry guys, I’m a soprano, sopranos usually have this perception of Carmen, but that’s just because we can never play her). But of course Carmen is the kind of girl who can have all guys drooling over her but she wants the ONLY ONE who doesn’t seem impressed by her seduction skills. That’s Don José who is a very goodie pants kind of guy and he is also engaged to be married to his childhood sweetheart Micaela. But Carmen won’t rest until he gives into her, which he eventually does but what she wasn’t counting on was just how possessive he could become and ultimately dangerous.

As Carmen two very different mezzos have been cast and neither of them is a stranger to this production. Elina Garanca was the first Carmen to do this new production by Richard Eyre, she actually substituted Angela Gheorghiu who, rumor has it, had this production made for herself and her husband but latter felt this wasn’t right for her and quit. We also have the AMAZING Anita Rachvelishvili to portray the gypsy and let me tell you, this woman is SO good! I saw her in Prince Igor and she was absolute perfection and I’ve also seen her do Carmen in a La Scala production on DVD and she just has all that warmth and lush colors in her voice and her body language and performance that the later does not possess. As Don José we have Aleksandrs Antonenko he played the Foreign Prince to Renée Fleming's Rusalka a couple of years ago at the Met. We have Roberto Alagna who has played this role about a billion times and was the tenor that opened this production together with Garanca in 2009. And the ever so charming and perfect Jonas Kaufmann (but he’s only doing two performances). From what I could find out Ildar Abdrazacov is playing Escamilo in two performances and Ailyn Peréz is playing Micaela in 2015, both of them are very exciting performers.

Elina Garanca (left) and Anita Rachvelishvili (right) both as Carmen in Richard Eyre's production of Bizet's Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera
Jonas Kaufmann (left) and Roberto Alagna (center) both as Don José in Richard Eyre's production of Carmen at the Met and Aleksandrs Antonenko (right) doing Puccini's Il Trittico
This opera will also be featured in the Live in HD program being transmitted on the 1st of November with Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen, Aleksandrs Antonenko as Don José, Ildar Abdrazacov as Escamilo.

Keep the magic coming on that flute!

Yet another opera blockbuster, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s enchanting Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). This production reminds me of a children’s storybook, it’s very colorful and filled with crazy shaped costumes and exotic animals. But it does work great with this particular opera and thank the Lord they are doing the whole thing in the original language this time. Because if I’m not mistaken this was last season’s Holiday Presentation in which they cut a lot of stuff and translate it to English. I don’t have any problems with the translation if it helps reach out to a broader audience, especially when it’s comedy but taking stuff off is heresy to me and completely unnecessary.

In this opera we have our dashing tenor hero Prince Tamino (Toby Spence) who sets off to rescue the Princess Pamina (Pretty Yende) from the claws of the ‘evil’ Zarastro (René Pape) with the help of his comic relief side kick Papagueno (Markus Werba). But nothing is what it seems and is Pamina really being held against her will? Is Zaratro really the bad guy? Is Papagueno just desperate to get laid? Is this one of the most sexist operas ever and still we love it? Yeah, well, you can soon find out.

There’s only one cast for this opera, we have Toby Spence as Prince Tamino and I’m pretty sure he’ll do a great job, he has the Prince look and a beautiful voice. Pretty Yende, who made her Met debut suddenly January of last year stepping in after the soprano playing the Countess in Le Comte Ory cancelled, plays Princess Pamina. I don’t know Markus Werba, who is playing Papagueno, at all but as I’ve said in the Macbeth bit René Pape is awesome and Zarastro is up his sleeve.

Toby Spence (top left) as Antonio in Ades' The Tempest, Pretty Yende (top right) as the Countess in Rossini's Le Comte Ory, Rene Pape (bottom left) as Zarastro in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Markus Werba (bottom right) as Figaro in Rossini's Il Barbieri di Siviglia
The Death of Klinghoffer Met Premiere

Oddly enough this is the opera that got me most excited amongst this group of 6. I guess I just love to see new things. So compared to the other works this opera is very new although it was written 23 years ago by still living composer John Adams. Even though the work has a bit more than two decades it is still a controversial opera that in some people’s minds ‘should never be performed’. I myself have only seen Doctor Atomic by Adams and it is just absolutely fantastic and the music is mind blowing! This will be the first time The Death of Klinghoffer is performed at the Met which means we have another new production.

Like some of other works by Adams (the creation of the atomic bomb in Doctor Atomic and Nixon in China being about politics) this opera deals with a very delicate and recent subject: terrorism. It tells the true story of how a cruise ship was kidnapped in the Mediterranean by terrorists and all the passengers made hostages and the death of Klinghoffer who was killed during this high jacking. Something quite nice I’ve heard the composer say is that he doesn’t want to end the problems of the world with his works, but he wants to show the human side of both the victims and the villains.

Staring in the leading role is the amazing Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot and I couldn’t be happier to always write about his wonderful performances and his victories at the Met. He’s such a fantastic singer, brilliant performer and also a great person.

Paulo Szot the night he won his Tony Award back in 2008
Sorry I don’t know much about this opera but now I’m very curious to see how this will play out. And be happy because this opera is also in the Live in HD program, it will be streamed live on the 15th of November

Well, I guess that’s it! I hope you guys liked the post and next one shall be about my 7th day in NYC so stay tuned! Cheers and peace everyone!