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 Verbier Festival and Opium

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PostSubject: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-24, 11:46 pm

Every time I watch those Verbier Festival video, I can’t help thinking how brave Philippe was/is. Normally, a song recital is made up with either one song cycle, or two or three groups of related songs, isn’t it? In this and all other ‘Opium’ recitals, he sings some two dozens of songs all in different settings and moods, and all from memory. It must be inhumanly (?) hard, yet Philippe makes it sound all as light as rose petals falling in a breeze.

How are the CD and the recitals being received in France or in other countries? In the UK, although his JC Bach and Handel concert at Barbican in November had very good reviews (except by Hilary Finch from The Times who gave, would you believe, two stars. And she rubbished La dolce fiamma on Radio 3. I have a sneaking suspicion that she has something personally against him!!), anyway, people here seem to be a bit unsure about Opium. Maybe things are different in France where the texts are really understood, or there is a different song tradition?

And every time I watch the festival video, I can’t help admiring Philippe for improving his performance so much. In the CD, there are some places where his voice sounds a bit strained but that’s all gone and all the songs are a lot more nuanced. How can those people not like it?!

There is one thing about Verbier Festival that worries me. I expect a lot of you will think I am just being silly and making fuss over nothing. Well, I am usually dead against ‘political correctness’ which to me is plain nonsense. But here I am feeling somewhat uneasy about hearing Philippe sing Cancion de cuna para dormir a un negrito (one of the encores). It is a lovely song beautifully sung but when you look at the text, it’s about a ‘white master’ giving a little gift to a ‘little black’ slave baby. This is different from Negro Spirituals which are slaves’ own expressions of their suffering and longings. I’d hate to think that Philippe may be seen as being insensitive. There are a whole lot of beautiful songs he can sing. I think it may be prudent to leave this song out from his programme.

By the way, I said in the other thread that Philippe’s voice was like liquid diamonds. But that’s just as bad as an angel’s voice because diamonds have no colour or warmth. I’ve given up trying to describe his voice. Maybe in the future when people want to describe something indefinably beautiful and wonderful, they’ll say ‘it’s just like Philippe Jaroussky’s voice’.
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-24, 11:54 pm

hermit

His voice is like.......................ehm..................let me think ..........like the voice of Philippe Jaroussky? Perhaps? [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

The program "Mélodies françaises" was very welcome in France ( though, some critics were against the countertenor - voice in this repertoire) as also in London, Purcell - Room last March ( I was there and quite satisfied with the reaction of the audience after the concert) and in Germany. I ´m sure, the German audience loved the atmosphere of these songs especially because of its tender decadence.

And the glorious debute in Carnegie Hall even with "Mélodies " speaks for itself.
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-25, 5:00 pm

Il ragazzo

(Before I start, I apologise for the lack of accent marks etc.)

Thank you for your report on the concert at Purcell Room. I am very glad to hear that the audience’s response was good. I think the British tend to think you should intellectually appreciate classical music rather than simply enjoy it. So a concert like Melodies francaises probably makes them uneasy. Also, when you think about it, where songs are concerned, there is little between Britten and Cliff Richard in Britain: either bowtie and tails recitals or pop concerts for screaming teenagers. There were songs for music halls but it was the humorous texts that was the main point for those songs. In France there is chanson which may not be exactly high art but definitely not pop songs for kids, so I imagine people have no resistance to simply enjoy beautiful songs.

In the Box of music (sorry, I can’t remember the French title) programme, Philippe seems to be talking about chanson and melodies. Can anyone tell me what he is saying?
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-26, 7:35 pm

hermit

A short note about the Montsalvatge "Cancion de
cuna"
(cradle song/lullaby): it's the mother singing to her
baby, and she reminds the baby that he's NOT a slave. She says
that if he's good and sleeps, the master of the house will buy him a
suit. The exact words in Spanish are "el
señor de la
casa", which is usually translated "master of the house"
but could also be "owner of the house". She's not
saying that he's THEIR master, but is the guy who owns the place (and
is her boss; she would be an employee, not a slave).


Here's a paragraph from R.P. Raine's article in the Grove
Dictionary about Montsalvatge's interest in Cuban music:

"Montsalvatge reacted against the Germanic leanings of his
Catalan teachers and their generation, being drawn instead to
Stravinsky and the French, particularly (early on) Les Six, as well as
to his Spanish and Catalan nationalist forebears. A series of 'West
Indian' works in the 1940s and 50s suggests the strong influence of
Milhaud, though they may equally be seen as a reflection of the then
current vogue, in both Barcelona and Paris, for African-American music
(during the 1930s Marian Anderson had popularized Negro spirituals in
Barcelona). For Montsalvatge, however, West Indian, and specifically
Cuban, rhythms had a deeper significance because of the close
historical ties between Cuba and Catalonia. Many Catalan emigrants who
had formed part of the colonial population returned to their homeland
after the war of independence, bringing with them hybrid
Hispano-African-American songs with strange, exotic rhythms. During
the 1940s Montsalvatge travelled around the Costa Brava collecting
these songs, publishing many in his Album de habaneras (1948). Typical
of his West Indian manner are the second of his Tres divertimenti
(1941), the Cuarteto indiano (1952) and above all the 5 canciones
negras (1945-6). These last (particularly the 'Cancion de
cuna') are his most widely performed songs, particularly in their
lusciously orchestrated version of 1949, being light in style and
popular in appeal."


The author of the lyrics was Ildefonso Pereda Valdes (1899-1996),
a Uruguayan writer, historian, lawyer, critic, poet, professor of
Afro-American literature. He is considered a pioneer in the
study of the history of blacks in Uruguay. He studied the slave
trade, black culture (historic and modern), the abolitionist movement,
intellectual life and folklore; he published an Anthology of Black
American Poetry (1936) and several books of essays on the condition
and role of blacks in Uruguay's history (1937, 1938, 1941).


A note: "negro" (the word for the color black) is
a normal way in Spanish to refer to a black person; it is not
old-fashioned or politically incorrect (as some people might consider
it in English). The word "ninghe" has (as far as
I know) no meaning, just a soothing word used in a lullaby (like
"hush-a-bye" might be used in English). The word
"complar" is an imitation of the way some Cuban blacks would
pronounce "comprar" (to buy).


Big thank to my dear friend for this detailed explanation. Hugs and XXX! [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-26, 8:45 pm

Dear Il ragazzo

Thank you so very much for your very detailed explanation. I did not really believe Philippe diid not know what he was singing. Mystery solved and I feel very happy. I blame the translation I found. I shall listen to the song again, and again, and again with a contented heart.
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-26, 9:25 pm

hermit wrote:
How are the CD and the recitals being received in France or in other countries? In the UK, although his JC Bach and Handel concert at Barbican in November had very good reviews (except by Hilary Finch from The Times who gave, would you believe, two stars. And she rubbished La dolce fiamma on Radio 3. I have a sneaking suspicion that she has something personally against him!!), anyway, people here seem to be a bit unsure about Opium. Maybe things are different in France where the texts are really understood, or there is a different song tradition?


Some people just don't like countertenors I suppose. (Even Diego Fasolis admitted that he didn't really like countertenors in the EPK video for Max Emanuel Cencic's latest release - I was so surprised to hear him say he actually prefered women to countertenors since he was recording a cd with one) And then there are people who don't like songs. I used to not like songs myself, but I suppose Ian Bostridge helped me get over that...

But I digress...My point is that some people are not very willing to broaden their horizons musically. They have a certain opinion about what they like and sometimes they're not willing to change their minds.

I don't see really why it's such a big deal that countertenors sing songs and lieder. I was browsing iTunes for a decent recording of Winterreise here the other day (again thanks to Mr Bostridge) and I heard versions recorded by tenors, baritones, basses, female altos and transcribed for various instruments. It seems both accessible and acceptable for all voice types, why not countertenor? Or is there some difference between German and French tradition?
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-26, 9:27 pm

hermit, you´re welcome.

Don´t worry, Philippe knows for sure very well what about he is singing !



karenpat

He he, the German and the French have even something together - they both did not have used the Castrati anyway! Neither for Mélodies nor for Lieder. [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-26, 10:06 pm

Grieg wrote songs for Norwegian texts but not for castrati to say the least; I don't think there were any in Norway at all [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] never mind me, I have no education is music whatsoever. (can barely hit 3 notes on a recorder, can't read music...) Just musing on the subject!
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-26, 11:40 pm

Il ragazzo

I should have known!! I’ve just been listening to the song and it is beautiful, BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL. It makes me feel life is worth living.



karenpat

I agree with you there that some people seem to have a fixed idea about countertenor’s voice. Just mention countertenor, their reactions are usually ‘no thank you’. Mind you, I do see their point. I used to like countertenor in general, especially in Bach’s Passions and cantatas but since I started listening to Philippe, I find most countertenors, well, sort of insubstantial. Perhaps Philippe should call himself something different to save other countertenors from appearing to be not good enough!! It’s getting late. More later.
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PostSubject: Re: Verbier Festival and Opium   2010-03-30, 7:52 am

I've just caught up with this thread which is very interesting as regards all the topics covered.
Recently I read somewhere (I can't remember in what article or website) that the melodie repertoire is out of fashion in France and perhaps even neglected. I don't how true this is, but I wonder if the Opium CD is helping introduce a new audience to it (no matter what the critics say!)

And may I saw, as I think we all agree, that the musical partnership of Philippe and Jerome is just perfect?! Jerome has a fantastic ability to create an atmosphere to surround the voice; he can truly paint landscapes with the piano.
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