Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Trittico of Arias (but no Puccini)

I'm still in an opera mood after my trip to San Francisco, and thought I'd share some of my recent favorite video clips. I tried to go for maximum variety: three singers, from three different countries, with three different voice types, singing in three different languages. (And you will note that none of them is French, or a soprano.) As always, since I come to opera from the theater, I admire these performers for their acting/stage presence as well as their voices.

Jonas Kaufmann, German tenor, sings "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" from Carmen: Kaufmann has a surprisingly dark tenor voice that sounds great throughout its range. But his acting is what really gets me--completely believable and very poignant, as a macho soldier struggling to express feelings he has never expressed before, and filled with self-loathing for allowing himself to appear so vulnerable. This fall, Kaufmann will play another self-loathing French role, Des Grieux in Manon, opposite Natalie Dessay (at Lyric Opera Chicago).

Joyce DiDonato, American mezzo, sings "Una voce poco fa," from The Barber of Seville: I watched DiDonato in this role when it was a Met broadcast last year, but I think I like her version from the Royal Opera House even better. She uses unique and expressive ornamentations, and makes specific acting choices, moment to moment, to capture Rosina's vivacious personality. DiDonato is one of the most in-demand mezzos these days for baroque and bel canto roles; and, a thoroughly modern opera star, she charts her adventures on a blog called Yankee Diva.

Bryn Terfel, Welsh baritone, sings "O du mein holder Abendstern" from Tannhäuser: I've decided I need to get more familiar with Wagner, and my friend Thane, who knows about such things, told me I should start with Tannhäuser (a more accessible, earlier opera). Thane actually does a nice rendition of "Mein holder Abendstern" himself, but since I now live across the country from him, I have to turn to YouTube and the charismatic Terfel. I tended to associate Wagner with bellowing, but this gentle piece reminds me of a folk song, and Terfel performs it sensitively.

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