Sorry for the hugely long hiatus here, but traveling caught up with me a bit! Lots to talk about now, though, but I'll put it into a few separate posts.
So I've been in Sweden just over a week now studying with my teacher and also soaking up a ton of opera-related stuff in this beautiful country. I realized a couple nights that, even though I grew up in Europe for 14 years, I don't think I've actually been to an opera in Europe (excepting the UK) in probably about two decades. I have read a ton about "concept operas" sweeping across Europe, the insane Calixto Bieito, crazy stagings, etc., so I was especially excited to see what the Gothenburg Opera and Stockholm's Volksoperan had in store for me I saw last weekend. It was also lovely to make the acquaintance finally of a lovely American soprano, Rebecca Fromherz, who is pictured here with our teacher, Jean-Ronald (Ron) LaFond.
I of course also had to make sure I got my picture with him inside this beautiful theater as well!
It all started out last Friday night at the Goteborgs Operan with Stravinsky's masterpiece, "The Rake's Progress." Here we had an English opera in a Swedish opera house with Swedish surtitles sung by Swedes (minus one excellent Brit) really covered a whole lot of firsts for me. But what a way to start!
I didn't know this opera very well and was thrilled to see the production in its full glory. I had obviously heard the two main arias (though I believe that the two other arias sung by Anne Trulove and Tom Rakewell should be given more attention) in audition settings before and always thought they were very beautiful, but other than that, I didn't know much. A great place to be actually, if you ask me.
I had had the distinct pleasure of spending some time with tenor James Edwards (Tom Rakewell) the night before the performance and also the following morning, and had some fascinating discussions with him about opera in Europe, about the production, and about singing, both the business and the technical side of it. Of course I was duly tickled when I mentioned The Opera Insider, and he said, "Yes, I've heard of you!" In fact we had been in touch last summer about his recording studio, Vocal Recording, based in London! He is embarking on a very interesting project producing EPKs - Electronic Press Kits - for singers. I saw his and it is a minor masterpiece!
I also had the chance to meet and spend a bit of time chatting with Ingela Bohlin (Anne Trulove) and Ulrika Tenstam (Baba the Turk) at Bommen, the "Peach Pit" of the Goteborgs Operan regulars just across the street from the opera house.
Bohlin sang the role of Anne well, never wavering in her portrayal of a young woman's sweet naivete, but other than that, her voice seemed a bit ungrounded and there was little depth of personality that was allowed to shine through her crystaline voice. Still she sang beautifully and consistently in this demanding role, and was a pleasure to behold on stage. Edwards, tall, proud, and handsome, fit the role perfectly and sang the hell out of Tom Rakewell. A former baritone, his low register resonated roundly and gave his voice depth and feeling. A large presence on stage with no effort whatsoever, he truly inhabited the character and showed his descent into despair with clarity, thoughtfulness, vigor, and finesse. Tenstam was the life of the party as Baba the Turk, showing a fantastic flare for comedic timing and stealing the show on several occasions. Åke Zetterström's Nick Shadow was one for the records. His lanky, imposing physique and laser-beam voice added to the terrifying nature of his character. You would never have known that he was not feeling well since his solid technique and absolute command of the stage and of his character did not falter once.
The chorus was in excellent form. Their sound was warm and beautifully uniform, and it was obvious that the group had been working together for years, so cohesive was their presentation, both physically and vocally.
I must say that I felt the same way about the epilogue of this opera as I do about the last scene in Don Giovanni: simply put, I don't like it. Though it may well have been a comment on this style of opera in general, the final scene broke the silence and severity of the previous one, a hugely long almost half-hour scene that builds and builds until your heart is pounding, breaking almost at Tom's deperation. I found that it somehow cheapened the journey Tom had been forced to take. Talking to James afterwards about it, he felt the same way. "It's hard," he said, "to take twenty minutes to die, lie in a coffin uttering your last sounds, expire, and then have to get up and sing chirpy happiness. It just feels a bit unnatural."
Still, an unforgettable evening... and one I think I will have the pleasure of repeating this Saturday during their next performance.
To finish off, here's a beautiful picture of the Goteborg "Eye," at night, just outside the main entrance:
And another of the building itself, a truly magnificent structure.
2 days ago