Jonas is unreal. Literally unreal. He is solid throughout his entire range – burnished bottom to ringing top. Any note he wants, it’s there. Any way he wants to color it, it’s there. There is such a dark richness to his voice. When he opens up the throttle, there is really no inch of space his sound doesn’t touch. It truly reverberates throughout the entire hall. And then he’s able to scale back to the most incredible pianissimo EVER EVER EVER without losing any of the richness or fullness. The audience didn’t even wait for the final bars of “La vita è inferno all’infelice” to finish, they ERUPTED the instant his breath stopped. E.RUP.TED. It was stunning and magnificent. Hearing Jonas sing “Pourquoi me réveiller?” is one of those historic things, you know? Like, even though it wasn’t a full Werther I will be bragging about it when I’m 70. I obviously cried.
Renée sounded glorious; soooo good. Much better than some things she’s sung recently (Hello, NYE concert in Dresden?!). “Allons! adieu, notre petite table” was incredible and brought a sizable ovation. Her sense of legato has never faltered throughout her career and it was well displayed that night. She sang with such tenderness and vulnerability; an ache in her voice I’ve not heard before. I thought Danny Boy was lovely. The orchestration was beautiful; some thought it (and consequently Renee’s singing) overly saccharine, I did not. It did seem out of place in terms of the rest of the program, but what can ya do.
Faust duet –Both Renée and Jonas started off with great energy, lots of movement on stage. Probably the weakest of the three, but still solid. It was so cute watching them play young lovers. They have got insane stage and vocal chemistry and if the powers at be don’t capitalize on that, they’re idiots. Renée’s Marguerite sounded pretty darn good considering she hasn’t sung her in ages. I think the final note was the only one she didn’t nail the whole evening. Jonas’ Faust was so eager and so childlike. Not sure what else to say about his voice. It’s a goddamn marvel.
“Gia nella notte densa”. Folks, I had dreamt of this day for years. Jonas Kaufmann singing Otello to Renée Fleming’s Desdemona. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed. Renée’s voice was throbbing with love and complete devotion. Jonas sounded so completely at home. When he sings a full Otello, I tell you what, it will be Amazing. Their vocal lines intertwined so completely and so beautifully that it hurt. I’ve read some comments and had some questions about balance of sound during this duet. Renée did sound a bit stronger, but I think that was due to Jonas’ characterization of Otello. Maybe? I don’t know. It seemed to be a very internal/memory thing, but I’m not familiar enough with Otello to really know what I’m talking about. His Otello was passionate though, oh man. We got two kisses, folks. Two real kisses. They were marvelous. None of that “kiss my thumb” shit. Yes, Placido, I’m lookin’ at you. I think they were standing closer together for this duet than in the Manon one. There was no space between them. It was so immediate. They were beautiful.
Manon. This one could have been staged a little better, but it was still smoking. They are just so good together, so strong and so intelligent and always with each other. Renée had The Entire Place in the palm of her hand during “N’est-ce plus ma main que cette main presse? N’est-ce plus ma voix?”. I mean…ugh. Her tone was liquid gold. Jonas’ voice was charged with outrage and regret and then consumed with urgency and lust. They were all over each other by the end, but no crazy hot kissin’. Their sustained high notes at the end were Glory.
Sir Andrew Davis did a marvelous job with the LOC Orchestra. They never covered the singers and they moved very well with them. I never saw Renée or Jonas look over their shoulder to catch Sir Andrew’s eye; they were always at the front of the stage completely in the moment. I’m glad tempo and staying with his singers wasn’t an issue that night, because it sure was the following night during Act 1 of Clemenza. Oy.
The audience was riotous after the final notes of the St. Sulpice duet. Clapping for days, yells upon yells; a heaping of deserved praise and gratitude. Sir Andrew came back alone and began Lippen Schweigen. After the first two notes, I literally exclaimed out loud, “I totally called this!” People turned around and stared at me, and I just sat there rocking back and forth in glee. I KNEW they were going to sing it and boy did they ever. Such a treat to hear them singing in German together! It was like an endless stream of chocolate from the heavens. And then they waltzed and I melted into a puddle. Endless cries and applause once again brought them out for a second and final encore. I was not expecting “Glück, das mir verblieb” at all and it took me a few seconds to recognize it. From the first time I heard Renée sing it, this piece has always hit me in a deep place. I never thought I would hear her sing it live, let alone in its original setting, let alone with Jonas. I was a mess. Honestly a mess. I had to bite my lip to keep myself from crying out loud and making a scene. She sounded exquisite and then they were singing together and it was too much. Time stopped. Those moments that we all live for – that’s what “Glück, das mir verblieb” was that night. It was complete magic.
Everything you want is on the other side of fear. – Jack Canfield
I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do. – Georgia O’Keefe
I’m moving to Chicago on January 15th. Surprise, surprise! A friend and I are up and chucking all we own into a U-Haul and are claiming a little corner of The Windy City. We don’t have jobs, but we’ve got big dreams (they revolve around The Lyric Opera, duh). I’m more terrified than when I moved to South Korea for a year. But beyond all the fear and doubt, I feel like there is something great for me in Chicago. Some tremendous friends have told me that life is about following your heart, your passion, and your gut.
Well, here we go.
I think it is safe to say that 2013 was a year of firsts. Like, all of the firsts.
First visit to NYC! First visit to The Met! First visit to Carnegie Hall! My first live Handel! My first live Wagner!
All these gorgeous people sang to me:
Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Bryan Hymel, Karen Cargill, Luca Pisaroni, Patricia Bardon, Brenda Rae, Joelle Harvey, David Daniels, Thomas Hampson, Deborah Voigt (2x), Jamie Barton, Russell Thomas, John Relyea, Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Angela Meade, Lucas Meachem, Alexandra Schoeny, Nicole Cabell (2x), Michelle DeYoung, Lori Philips, Thomas Gezhali, Corrine Winters
Some mysterious confluence of the universe enabled Jen and I to attend The Opera News Awards banquet. The fact that I can utter that statement still sends my heart reeling. I mean, WHAT IN THE WORLD. I met the following people: F. Paul Driscoll, Dawn Upshaw, Mirella FREAKING Freni, Simon DEAR GOD ABOVE Keenlyside, Isabel Leonard, Pat Racette, OHMYGOD I FORGOT WE MET ALICE COOTE, Harry Bicket, Patricia Bardon, and I got a hug from Debbie because in my mind we are BFFs.
My friends and I met Joyce backstage and gave her beer. NAILED IT.
I was able to tell Renée that she changed my life. So that’s pretty cool.
I took two friends to the opera for the first time. What fun!
Internet friends became real life friends. Which is really the best thing ever.
All this #operarox nonsense on twitter is damn spectacular and I love you all. It’s fantastic to walk through this magical world together.
Here’s to another year of experiencing musical highs and to hopefully meeting more of you!
Dear friends. Do you know how wonderful this life we are living is? It hit me pretty hard today.
My birthday celebrations started last night. This I believe: when a meal is shared with friends around a table, one enters a sacred space unlike any other. I have an incredible group of friends here. I laughed until my stomach hurt, I cried when my friend shared of an unfortunate reality, I melted when I ate Brandon’s exquisitely prepared meal, I smiled the whole evening long. I drank countless delicious beverages and reveled in my good luck. To top it off, my friends and I watched the first half of Wagner’s Das Rheingold. Two first time opera viewers! How could my birthday get any better I ask you?
My birthday morning started off in a most epic way. I had leftover birthday cake in bed. Joyce DiDonato responded to my tweet and wished me a Happy Birthday. My friend Steele called me and sang Happy Birthday to me in his full barihunk voice. The Twitterverse and FB world exploded with well wishes. Which brings me to this: I am so incredibly grateful for the opera family I have acquired on this glorious thing we call the internet. To all my friends on Twitter (whether I have met you or not)…you have my absolute heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for walking with me through this incredible world of opera. We are all the more richer for it.
I attended a wedding today. I was able to dance, which is one thing that gives me great joy. I had a lovely time with my Uncle during the reception. I ate more cake!
I’m not sure if it was the finale to Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro that set me off on the way home or thinking on my birthday celebrations, but I was shedding many a tear. Life is so glorious. I have so many wonderful and steadfast friendships in so many places. I think my parents are the bees knees and they are unfailing in their love and support. They also don’t give me shit for being 27 and single. Music! I have known deep in my bones for my whole life that music is what I absolutely cannot live without. It is stunningly beautiful and moves me daily. I believe opera is the most supreme expression of this shared experience of life, it is the culmination of everything (Joyce’s wisdom) and it has genuinely changed my life. It has opened doors I never thought possible, it has been the foundation for many friendships that will last my whole life, it has taken my soul to heights I never had imagined.
So. I urge you all to bask in the light of living, to tune into the joy of the universe, to give thanks for those around you, to be present at all times, to fully realize, to take this truth into your soul, that whatever we are doing on this planet is right, is essential and is bloody phenomenal.
“As long as she lived that ecstasy was going to be hers. She would live for it, work for it, die for it; but she was going to have it, time after time, height after height. She could hear the crash of the orchestra again, and she rose on the brasses. She would have it, what the trumpets were singing! She would have it, have it – it!”
– The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
These words pretty much sum up all the feelings when listening to Strauss’ Zweite Brautnacht! from Die Ägyptische Helena.
I had every intention of writing a really heartfelt post about what this trip to NYC means to me; bein’ all philosophical about how The Met = Mecca (heilige Kunst and all), how Joyce has affected my life, how I’ve never been to NYC before, how I’ll be meeting J and J, etc. Then about halfway through I said fuck it, GIFs are way easier.
So this is how I feel about going to NYC next week.
– From the minute I walked in my apartment door I haven’t been able to stop crying (10, 15 minutes now?). I mean, the real real hardcore weeping kind of crying. I can’t get over the enormity of what just happened. I’m not even thinking of the music or the singing. Just that she was there. And I was there. And it happened. It really truly happened. The plain fact that I had this dream, it happened, and now I’m on the other side of it. Renée Fleming. The most famous soprano of this generation. Who is one of my most favorite people on this earth. Who has touched me repeatedly with her artistry. Who changed everything. She was right there in front of me. How many times have I seen ALL of her videos on youtube? The many times I’ve seen her enter a concert hall? There I was sitting on the right side and the stage door was opposite me. The door opened and there she was. It was real life. There was no screen between us. No distance, no barriers. She was gorgeous and she was right there. Her little nod to the conductor when she’s ready, her “wrap myself in my shawl thing because I’m overcome with emotion”, her hand motions – they really happened. She made me laugh IN REAL TIME.
-To hear her Desdemona live was stunning. The audience knew it too…there was a little slice of reverent silence before the applause.
-They did Rusalka and I was a mess before she even started singing. This song started my love affair with Renee. I felt like I discovered sound the first time I heard it. She was right there, so close, and she started singing and those first tones filled the hall and the sound was reverberating around me and in me and through me and I was a part of something astonishing.
-I Could Have Danced All Night was her “final” piece. She prefaced it by asking “Are there any singers in the house?” Many cheers were the response and she said, “Good, because I want you to sing the chorus when I cue you so I can (waving hands about)…play.” Ugh. So I sang with Renee Fleming! The whole house joined in and we actually sounded quite lovely. Afterwards she said – “If I had known how good you sounded, I would have been more nervous.” BAH! THIS WOMAN!
-She sang three encores. THREE! My hands were red and sore from clapping so much. She sang “I Feel Pretty” which was hilarious because she told us to sing with her again, but the conductor kept bringing us in to sing these background parts (which not very many people knew what he was talking about) and she kept laughing while she was singing! and it was glorious. When she came out a second time she asked if we were tired and everyone yelled No! Next she sang “Danny Boy” and ugh. It. was. so. good. This is a song that I’ve been pretty immune to over the years – sung it a lot in school, heard a lot of artists and choirs cover it, meh I’m over it. But when she sang it, it was different. So much freaking emotion that she pours into her voice. The soaring. The richness. Words, my friends, just
suck. I can’t describe the feelings. I would have been happy with that as a finale, but then she came out and sang “O Mio Babbino Caro”. Now. Before you get all “OMG, that one” on me, hold the bloody phone. Previous to tonight I have felt the same way. I tend to glaze over when it’s performed and am usually impervious to its enate charms. I was crying before she had finished the first phrase. And I continued to cry during the whole piece. Tears slowly streaming down my face. Karen said that everyone around us was also crying. The gentlemen beside her was not a quiet cryer, bless him. The phrasing, the clarity, everything…it all came together and was glorious. It was warm, deep, full, like the most brilliant sunset you’ve ever seen. Whatever you conceive heaven to be…I promise you…that’s what it was.
I don’t know how many times I squealed. Too many. I don’t know how many times I died. Too many. My face started to hurt because when I wasn’t mesmerized or crying, I was absolutely beaming. I was a grinning fool. Her dresses! So gorgeous. The entire hall gasped when she came out in her pink gown. I think I freaked out the most when she came out for the third set with HER HAIR PULLED UP. WHAT. She never does that. I think I exclaimed something a little too loudly ’cause I’m pretty sure the woman in front of me turned around.
It was sublime, masterful, perfect and I can’t. I just can’t. She’s changed everything once again. Words can express us only so far. Do you understand, dear friends, what this evening has done to me?