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The Making Of Artaserse

– By Lankin –

Artaserse – Leonardo Vinci – Nancy, 02. Nov. 2012

I’m sure you know that feeling – when you’ve seen a movie, and watch the making-of, the point of view gets tilted. All the actions, the plot, the intensity, can now be watched from an outsider’s point of view. The illusion crumbles; it’s not real, it’s just actors, playing their roles.

Why do we love making-ofs? (Well most of us do.) It must be the change of perspective, and also the promise to see the actors as human beings – to see them differently, and to see more of them than they would actually show if they stayed in character.


A Lovely Mess – “Niobe, Regina di Tebe”

How do you prefer Mr. Jaroussky – as “an enlightened demi-god,” an “enraged, jealous husband,” or rather as “a bellicose warrior-king?”

Whatever your preference, Agostino Steffani’s “Niobe, Regina di Tebe” is the opera for you. (For me? Yes please, all of the above!)

The livestream is up! You can listen to last year’s production of “Niobe, Regina di Tebe” in full length.

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Lovers, I can tell you …

“Le Tourbillon des Sentiments” – 24 June 2012, Baden-Baden Festspielhaus

– by Lankin 

The pieces from the programme “Le Tourbillon des Sentiments” may have been written in the 17th century; however, Marie-Nicole Lemieux & Philippe Jaroussky, supported by the ‘Ensemble Artaserse’, made them seem brand new. After all, love as a topic has never become out-dated.

“Amanti, io vi so dire” – “Lovers, I can tell you … “ could as well have been the title of the programme. In depth, we have been lectured that night on the topic of love by the utter experts, as we came to realize. From the first flame of lovesickness to Hekuba mourning her husband’s death, almost every flavour and shade of love was present. (No shades of grey though, as we are happy to report.)


Artaserse, Prince of Persia

It’s only a few months now until the premiere of “Artaserse.” I thought I would just collect a few links that could be helpful to skim through, to get into the spirit; of course I’m happy if anyone can amend the collection.

– by Lankin –

The Opera

There are many operas called “Artaserse” using the same libretto,  Pietro Metastasio‘s. Leonardo Vinci‘s “Artaserse” was the first, composed for the audience in Rome, in 1730. Hasse came shortly after, as well in 1730; he composed his one for the audience of Venice.

The story is based on the historic figure of Artaxerses I, who succeeded his father Xerxes on the throne of Persia in 465 BC.


A Nightingale Amongst Falcons – Jaroussky’s Sesto In Salzburg

A dream cast, a great orchestra, an ideal location, and a live-stream — there can never be too much of a good thing, or so they say, but the latest production of Julius Caesar of the Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele, got close to prove otherwise.

– by Lankin –

The evening was a succession of highlights; at times it was hard not to lose track of the whole. Bartoli, Scholl and Dumaux pulled off their parts with enormous skill, and tremendous routine; they had appeared countless times in their respective roles before this production. Anne Sofie von Otter and Philippe Jaroussky were outstanding; I am always impressed how much Jaroussky adapts to the vocal style of his partners, and in the case of von Otter, with a splendid result; this is especially important, as the duet is a vital part of both their roles, as it shows the emotional connection between the characters, their similarities and differences. Where Cornelia has only utter hopelessness to offer, Sesto adds the poignant edge of futile hope to it that only youth can have.

Son nata a lagrimar
Son nato a sospirar,
e il dolce mio conforto,
ah, sempre piangerò.
Se il fato ci tradì,
sereno e lieto dì
mai più sperar potrò.
Son nata…
I was born to weep
I was born to sigh,
And I shall mourn forever
My sweet consolation.
If fate has betrayed us,
I shall never again hope for
A serene or happy day.
I was born…

The cast


The cast was almost too great to be true. For easy reference, I will just add a listing here:

Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) – Andreas Scholl
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt – Cecilia Bartoli
Tolomeo, her brother and husband (!), King of Egypt – Christophe Dumaux
Cornelia, widow of Pompey – Anne Sofie von Otter
Sesto, her stepson – Philippe Jaroussky
Achilla, Tolomeo’s General – Ruben Drole
Curio, a praetor, Caesar’s General – Peter Kálmán
Nireno, Cleopatra’s and Tolomeo’s servant – Jochen Kowalski

Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini, Conductor

The main characters don’t really need an introduction, but I think I would mention the rest of the cast:

Ruben Drole in the role of Achilla was given a chance to introduce himself to the Salzburg audience by this production — his voice is almost too beautiful for an Achilla, who is mainly a brute. Jochen Kowalski’s achievements I won’t put in doubt: that night, however, he didn’t really render a good impression after all. I wished they would have left out his aria, because his acting skills were acceptable. The direct comparison with the other singers is bound to bring out the flaws rather than the strong points of his singing. However, I approve of him being cast there; it had the taste of a cameo appearance though — a glimpse of former lead roles of his, some good years past.

The opera

When the opera starts, Julius Caesar has just conquered Egypt. Cleopatra is supposed to be about 16 years old. Nevertheless, she is a queen, and she knows when her power is in danger. The Romans do not care much about Egyptian tradition, by which the succession via the female line is all that counts. Her brother (and husband!), Tolomeo, sees his chance: With Caesar as an ally, he might even keep some position, and power is what he craves. He thinks sending Caesar the head of a beheaded enemy, Pompey, will endear him. Caesar is not amused. Trouble ensues.

Pompey leaves behind his wife, Cornelia, and his son, Sesto. Tolomeo wants to degrade them, imprisoning Sesto and letting Cornelia work in the palace garden, and one doesn’t need to be particularly dirty minded to sense that he doesn’t have only flowers in mind.



Achilla, Tolomy’s vassal is fond of Cornelia, in a way. She also would be a good match, and thus, a good career move. He is wooing her in not exactly the most charming of ways, and Cornelia is not interested, even if it would maybe offer at least some protection from the assaults of Tolomeo’s.

Cornelia as an unmarried woman is threatened from all sides, she confirms Sesto in his plan for vengeance, and even Cleopatra approves, plotting against her own brother.

Jealousy, hate, a battle, and other hardships have to be overcome, until this initial mess evolves into a happy ending, at least on the surface.The plot isn’t only about power though; what no one could have foreseen is that Cleopatra falls in love with Caesar; and it is mutual.

The production

The production has been called “Jungle Camp in Egypt,” by a newspaper — “Das Dschungel-Camp” is a German reality TV show — but I refuse to be so quick in my judgement. For me, it had upsides and downsides. A quick round-up to start with:

Whenever someone states that something is exactly like something else, it is most probably wrong. At some point, all comparisons fail. The directors, Moshe Leiser, and Patrice Caurier are intelligent, so they know that. Yet, together with Christian Fenouillat, who was responsible for the stage design, they picked a cliché setting to start with, one that makes “Dynasty” seem complex in comparison.

Caesar’s conquest of Egypt is just like some war against a Muslim state? Let’s accept it, for a moment, as a working hypothesis, because this was one of the basic ideas of the Salzburg production. To detatch it a little, maybe, from actual events, it was set back, somewhere around the 70s or 80s, at some date where trousers with their waistbands pulled over the bellybutton seemed to be a great idea.



A comparison as daring as this is bound to break at some point — and the production played with this idea, as far as I gathered. By and by only tropes and quotes were taken out of history, just as Händel and the Librettists, Haym and Bussani did when they wrote Julius Caesar, so, it seems legitimate, after all. Of course, Tolomeo and Ceasar’s relation is somewhat historically verified, but the Parnassus scene at the latest breaks with any historic foundation. Also it is hard to picture the same Cleopatra singing “Caro!” and meaning it with Marc Anthony, and comitting suicide, after she has tested out various venoms of offended snakes on her slaves, calmly observing how they died.



Caesar in this production is a conqueror from the West, supposedly the EU, as a clue in the end is hinting. Actually, during the last 67 years, Europe was quite well-behaved, so this suggests the somehow decent approach that Caesar in the opera in fact shows. He despises people who only know cruelty. He prefers to ask first, he is just the type of guy.

Sesto is staged as an assassin with a background. He is equipped by his mother with a explosives belt even, but all references that could hint religion were left out. I liked it, because after all Religion in this context is never more than just used to gloss over personal motives of hate and disappointment.

The rest of the staging is set in the vague 80s, which means leopard print and high heels in abundance. (Agostino Cavalca as the costume designer is the expert here.)

No hope for humanity

There are two character triangles in the opera worth mentioning. One is Caesar and Cleopatra, with Tolomeo getting in their way, and one is Sesto and Cornelia, again, with Achilla and Curio at times, but again mainly Tolomeo in their way.



The intensity of von Otter’s and Jaroussky’s acting made Caesar and Cleopatra seem like a buffo couple at times. Even more, Caesar and Cleopatra having a good time in the sight of grief is not exactly a sign of empathy, so this enhanced the impression that this was a two-classed society.

The utter hilarity in the Parnassus scene — Cleopatra riding a torpedo while wearing a blonde wig — as well as other scenes made especially Caesar appear somewhat heartless. He only has one aria to show weakness and strength at the same time — his “Dall’ondoso periglio… ” (From the perils of the ocean.) Normally, this and the following “Aure, deh, per pietà,” (Zephyrs, come to mine aid) are some of the most moving moments of the opera. In this production, it didn’t suffice for me, however Scholl’s rendition was a valiant effort.

It wasn’t helped by half-dead soldiers crouching in pain at Caesar’s feet in that scene, and where a normal reflex would be to offer fist aid or last rites at least, he just stands there and sings, beautifully though. At the end he is hiding amidst the suddenly very dead soldiers, his face a grimace of disgust when he lies amidst the corpses of the men who died for him.

So, Caesar seems relatively heartless, and it rubs off on Cleopatra’s part; her sudden mood-swings seem staged as well. What in a teenager would just-so pass as charming seems vulgar and shallow; it doesn’t necessarily have the same effect when sung by a queen with a preference for black leather.

A Lot Of Almost-Sex & A Little Sexiness



That Scholl as well as Bartoli still managed to shine in their arias is a great achievement; it wasn’t made easy. It is hard to act and transport deep emotions, like in Cleopatra’s two “big” arias — one of which she had to sing with her head inside an environmentally friendly shopping bag — when the scene is surrounded by meaningless actions and substitutes.

Red-headed torpedoes — and to make the symbolism even clearer, with fans held against them to look like testicles — not to mention Sesto’s snake he is handling with a certain skill — the production is full of blatantly obvious symbolisms, and frankly — they are so obvious that they even make a p*rn plot appear subtle in comparison. And what is worse, the directors are right — at least I up to some point enjoyed it. However, body and soul can’t feed on p*rn alone. All this half-rape, half-snuggling, half-w*nking, a lot of leopard print and black leather — but not even a kiss! It all leaves a shallow feeling. It is oversexed and yet all the characters seem to be lacking something.



I like hidden references, guessing games, and food for thought, so, the in-your-face-symbolism disappointed me a little at first. If I wanted to see p*rn, I could have watched it — but I wanted to see Julius Caesar! Single pictures are something else, they are a snapshot that leaves the before and after to fantasy. Just for the record: The sight of Jaroussky snake-wrestling is not to be despised, after all.

To the Parnassus scene: Cleopatra stages this for Caesar, which in turn suggests, again, that he is not someone who would pick up more subtle hints.

What saved the production for me was that by and by though, I have to say, I particularly liked the character of Sesto, and how it was depicted. He was maybe portrayed as the deepest and most complete character of them all, even more so than Cornelia, who in contrast to most productions was staged as a distanced, self-absorbed woman.

Oh, and we saw Jaroussky shirtless! There, I said it. Of course, Sesto’s absence of a shirt is meant to show his vulnerability, and Jaroussky’s figure helps in transporting this aspect.

So, let’s just continue where I have stopped at: More than obvious symbolisms.

L’angue offeso


My first thought when I saw the pictures from the production was that according to my understanding, if anything, Sesto does not in particular feel threatened by penises. Well, in a very far-fetched metaphorical sense, as Caesar and Tolomeo have an ongoing competition about who is going to rule Egypt, and he is in their way. I am not sure though whether that suffices as an excuse.

Originally, Sesto is not threatened by but in fact compares himself to a snake. He won’t rest until he has brought the enemy down with him. So why was this inversed? I had to think of a Buddha quote there:

Holding on to hatred is like drinking poison and expecting the other to die.



The one thing that is sure, is that Sesto is an instrument; his grief is being exploited, by his step-mother as well as by Cleopatra. It is his duty to avenge his father’s death, according to tradition, and he feels he must oblige. We sense though, that it won’t be the solution to all problems for Sesto, even if it is a very comfortable solution for the others.

But it isn’t even his own hatred alone; His own mother arms him with the assasin’s belt; she is the one who gets more and more detatched from him. Joint hatred can never replace mutual love.
From closeness in the beginning, they have at first Achilla literally standing between them, until it is armies, worlds, and generations. The meeting at the final chorus is bitter. They are standing next to each other, just like strangers.

I know people who have killed — at war, but it doesn’t matter. It changes people, you won’t ever forget. The ending shows, Sesto will never forget either. He still has his battle-worn shirt on, whether his mother has peeled herself out of her shabby garments to reveal a robe fit for the occasion.

That Sesto is accepted by Caesar and finds himself in the middle of the partying adults behaving like teenagers really, smoking joints (Cleopatra forgot to light hers, by the way,) and drinking, for me symbolizes he is now part of the establishment. However, he is not like them. He has maybe the deepest feelings of them all, and no one can help him to handle.

A wasted soul, and a wasted youth. Smile? Whatever you say. It seems to be a good solution. Just smile, and nibble at the titbits being offered. Sesto’s smile is horrible to watch, and that Tolomeo whom he has killed joins him is no relief — Sesto has finally crossed the brink of sanity. Tolomeo is something only he can see at this moment. The scene made me despise Caesar and Cleopatra flaunting their happiness.

What is left for Sesto? There is no target for his hate anymore, and it doesn’t take very profound psychoanalytical skills to deduce that this was the only thing that kept him going. He has no purpose now any more. What will he do? Suicide, maybe. His step-mother is no help, she doesn’t attach, as little as she cares about his shabby clothes, when everyone else is dressed appropriately for the final celebration.

Cara speme


I want to share one aria in particular, the “Cara speme.” Even before Jaroussky started to sing, I was taken. This must be one of the most hopeless “Cara speme”s ever, I thought. The phrasing is not something smooth and uplifting, it rather pictures a timid effort, the non-legato makes it sound despirited.

The aria is set in scene with Sesto preparing himself for battle. It hurts to see him camouflaging himself, as of course the sullying is more than just a physical act. The motive will be enhanced later, when he will smear himself with Achilla’s blood — I will come to blatant symbolysms later on.

Something is being spoilt at this aria, or already has when the aria starts: Innnocence. Children shouldn’t wear weapons. There is no more the innocent hope of a child when the aria starts, only its fragility. Jaroussky starts out the aria in the most boyish of voices — utterly heartbreaking. In the Da Capo he manages to give every embellishment a meaning; even the accompaniment softens up, his voice is getting more lush and flexible; it gains more colours, and is becoming even more beautiful and complete, and by and by a feeble but true hope shines through. It doesn’t make it less heartbreaking, however. We know that this is a boy who has just gotten hold of a Walther P99, who thinks that with this he can handle professionals armed with MP5s.


For me, the “Cara speme” was the best part of the night. Superb in every way.

Thank you @mutewoman for being so quick!

Cara speme, questo core
Cara speme, questo core
tu cominci a lusingar.
Par che il ciel presti favore
i miei torti a vendicar.

Pet Peeves

  • Blank ammunition won’t even kill a snake.
  • We blame the directors for not being able to get Dynasty as well as Elvira out of our heads while watching.


Non disperar …


Venere bella …

  • And finally: Scholl topping Bartoli? You must be kidding.

On Our Own Behalf

Thank you for visiting our Facebook wall and for sharing your emotions during the broadcast, via chat and in comments, a big thanks for your participation, submissions, and help.

Picture credits

The images used in this post are all screen grabs from the Arte livestream, in low resolution. If you are the copyright owner and object to your pictures being published on this site, ask us to take them down, and we will comply immediately.

The production is still available on Arte’s web page.



Too Hot To Handel

This post could also have been titled “5 Reasons Why We Are Happy,” or similar.  There are actually more than just five; the Salzburg production of Julius Caesar makes us happy on so many levels.


By now, the first official reviews are coming in, and the non-professionals I talked to, who were attending the première yesterday are still too flustered to utter any coherent sentences. Educated people lapse into chat-speak and utter “OMG!”s or keysmashes, vocal splendour and shirtlezzness have been mentioned. So, we will have to wait for the more personal reviews until the hormone levels and heart rates return to almost normal.

For those not totally at home with Classical music in general, or with Europe: The Salzburg Festival (Salzburger Festspiele) is something special. To sing there is as if to be knighted; it has about the same relevance as the Bayreuther Festspiele for Wagner singers; that PJ is performing there makes me more than just happy. Its an honour for the singer, and of course, the honour is mutual.


The production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier looks great, from what can be told from the pictures, and oh, those pictures!

Back to the Point:

5 Reasons To Be Happy

1. PJ

It’s obvious, isn’t it?

2. Georg Friedrich Händel

Do you know the opera yet? If not, read up on it a little. It is maybe the most famous of Händel’s operas on the whole, and for a reason, as it has got everything: Drama, utter hilarity, and of course, deep emotions.

Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Son nata a lagrimar


Son nata a lagrimar
Son nato a sospirar,
e il dolce mio conforto,
ah, sempre piangerò.

Se il fato ci tradì,

sereno e lieto dì
mai più sperar potrò.
Son nata…

I was born to weep
I was born to sigh,
And I shall mourn forever
My sweet consolation.

If fate has betrayed us,

I shall never again hope for
A serene or happy day.
I was born…

3. The Cast

There is nothing better than a great singer in great company: The orchestra is Il Giardino Armonico conducted by Giovanni Antonini; Andreas Scholl, Cecilia Bartoli, and Anne Sofie von Otter don’t need any further introduction. The cast mirrors the high standards; Salzburg casts are basically a “Who Is Who” of opera.

Just to state how great the other members of the Salzburg cast are, in case you didn’t know already — this is in appreciation of Christophe Dumaux, who is unjustly less known than the other artists mentioned.

Georg Friedrich Händel

Giulio Cesare in Egitto
L’empio, sleale, indegno!


L’empio, sleale, indegno
vorria rapirmi il regno,
e disturbar così
la pace mia. 

Ma perda pur la vita, 
prima che in me tradita 
dall’avido suo cor 
la fede sia!

For Jochen Kowalski: To get an impression, my advice would be to look up his Orfeo ed Euridice, which is fully available on youtube.

4. Non disperar! — Livestream on Arte

For those of us being homestuck and not able to attend the performance in Salzburg, the production will be broadcast with a time delay, but still “live”, on Arte. As I understood, it will be available for two months after, so, after tomorrow night there will be no holding back for us to re-watch it, and of course, as it is an opera, listen to it again and again.

5. The pictures!

Traditionally, the fans of PJ’s are rather deprived when it comes to full resolution images of their idol. So, the pictures made available by the Salzburger Festspiele are more than just a treat.


Full resolution and more pictures are available here, credit goes to:
© Hans Jörg Michel

Did I mention shirtlezzness yet?

This is from the actual programme, so I assume he is fine with it. How we feel about it? Well, you can make an estimate. Just a hint: Two of the pictures where he is fully dressed wouldn’t let us sleep for a night already.


Just to be nagging, a little: I would like to mention that a belt is supposed to be on the hips, and not above the bellybutton, unless there is a very good reason for it not to be. Well, I blame La O., after all, it’s always the mothers’ fault how their boys are dressed — but I digress.

Join The Madness!

For all of you who cannot handle their emotions alone, come to our Facebook wall after 20:00 GMT+1 today.

Until then — Keep breathing, …



… and count the seconds.


Concerning the featured image of this post: In my humble opinion, in the category “Innocently Handling Phallic Objects,” PJ is still close second after Peter Pears in this production of Billy Budd:



Neumarkt, 23 March 2012

– by Lankin –

The Concert Hall

The Reitstadel in Neumarkt is famous for its acoustics and is frequently used for recording. It is a box-shaped room with a balcony at the back, with seating space for a total of around 500 people, but a good many were standing that night, so there were more.

The audience in Neumarkt is very disciplined and cultivated. Ansbach — where the famous Bachwoche takes place — is not far from there, and the concert at the Reitstadel that night had most of the same clientèle — a mixed audience in every respect, and they knew what to expect — even if, of course, not all of them had heard Jaroussky or Lezhneva perform live before.

No one clapped their hands or made a noise between the movements, no coughs, no ticking watches – heaven, basically.



The Musicians

Philippe Jaroussky doesn’t need any introduction here; maybe Julia Lezhneva does: She is very young indeed, and Wikipedia seems unsure how to classify her voice — maybe because it is truly one of a kind — round, warm, very flexible, and first of all, huge. She studied with Elena Obraztsova, and this influence is clearly apparent. If she would set her mind to it, she could surely sing Elsa or Senta. Her voice is beautiful throughout, perfectly blending through the registers, and of course, she is a great musician.

Considering her huge voice it was rather surprising for me that Jaroussky’s easily matched hers. This is especially notable, as the Stabat Mater is quite low for him.

The two voices blended and mixed perfectly almost the entire time. In my estimate, Jaroussky more tried to match her phrasing and tone of voice than vice versa though, so, I saw this mainly as his achievement. Of course, he is a very routined and great duet partner.

I Barocchisti under the baton of Diego Fasolis were great, even if everyone might have their favourites among the ensembles. Fasoli’s tempi weren’t so daring as Jérémie Rhorer’s were, and he is not someone who loves effect as much as Spinosi does. His conducting had some splendid moments though. Memorable for me were especially the Cuius animam gementem and the Pro peccatis suae gentis where he really managed to add an edge to the piercing sword and the lashes of the scourge, and what may have been even more notable is his wise choice of tempi, always putting the singers at ease. That might be less evident, but the greater achievement overall.

The Music

The programme started with one of Händel’s most famous Violin concertos, HWV 399 op. 5 Nr. 4. Especially the last movement, a Minuetto, is quite popular. It was a nice and secular start, abducting the audience from their everyday life, and making them truly arrive there — body, heart, soul and ears — thus serving as an overture. The concerto matched smoothly Händel’s Salve Regina (g-minor, HWV 241) that followed.

Lezhneva made quite an impression, despite her youth singing with admirable routine and expressiveness. As I said before, her voice is round and warm, darker than that of a typical lyric soprano. The only thing I found a pity is that while in the Salve Regina she could flaunt her coloratura skills, her lyric lines, and her wonderful pianissimi, the piece gave her little opportunity to use all of her voice — the Cuius animam gementem later on made me crave to hear her voice in something not Baroque. We will, though — I am confident she has a great career ahead of her.

After Lezhneva’s entrance, it finally was Philippe Jaroussky’s turn, with the Vivaldi Cantata Longe mala umbrae terrores.

It was a contrast in every way. Jaroussky’s voice so unlike Lezhneva’s, Vivaldi’s expressiveness so unlike Händel’s Salve Regina. Where the Salve Regina is moderate, the Longe male is almost violent in its description of the vale of tears that is life. I long to have this piece on CD, but then, I have a good memory for music — I will never forget his performance of that night.



Jaroussky and Fasolis, regarding each other with mutual respect.

Whereas the start of the programme comprised of not so popular works, the Stabat Mater is of course one of the most famous compositions by Pergolesi, and one of the church pieces performed most often even, I would guess.

Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater

Be it Pergolesi, or Mozart; their early death somehow makes their works even more precious. Mozart’s last work was the Requiem, of course, which stayed unfinished — he stopped composing right in the middle of the ascending line “solvet saeclum in favilla.” Pergolesi’s last work was the Stabat Mater; he did finish it. The end of the Stabat Mater, the Quando corpus morietur, followed by the obligatory Amen were the last things on his mind as a musician. He didn’t just write it out of a sense of duty, fulfilling a contract — it is personal. He was dying when he wrote it — slowly, and probably painfully, as dying of tuberculosis isn’t a quick and clean death.

“When my body will die, make that my soul is given the glory of paradise,” the text ot the Quando corpus morietur states. There is no true hope of salvation, though, but instead an endless strife, disheartened by many attempts set into music by the deceptive cadences.

When I listen to the very last bars of the Quando Corpus, I notice a similarity to Mozart’s Lacrymosa. Both have a similar motif in the strings, a rest on the first beat of the bar, with the plaintive motif afterwards. I wonder if Mozart thought of Pergolesi’s piece, or if he by chance picked a very similar phrasing. Both stay in minor, and both pieces have a more than humble approach; it doesn’t need much imagination to picture soldiers returning from battles, defeated, or delinquents heading for their execution.

There is no host of angels like in Bach’s final chorus of the St. John’s passion, lifting the dying — and thus, the listener — up with them, soaring and triumphant — there is only little comfort, but much pain, no true final salvation. The little motif of the violins might be heard as plaintive like a sob, or like a soft and futile caress, like a mother would caress her child that is dying in her arms nonetheless. Both pieces — Mozart’s and Pergolesi’s — are almost painful in their intensity.

So this is the Quando Corpus Morietur for me. That night, though, there was more to it. To explain, I would have to mention an interview that Mr. Jaroussky gave once.

Comment aimeriez-vous mourir ?
— Sans m’en rendre compte.
Si vous êtes croyant, qu’aimeriez-vous que Dieu vous dise en arrivant au ciel ?
— Je ne crois pas, du moins pas en Dieu.

I had to think of those words incessantly, during the whole concert. They moved me, since I first heard them. To imagine a world without Philippe Jaroussky in it hurts me more than to think of my own death, by far. That art and recordings live on is only a feeble comfort; it is not even remotely the same as a living, breathing person.

But maybe I am wrong; Pergolesi lives on as well — his anguish when he was dying, but also his wit and charm in La Serva Padrona.

The combination of Philippe Jaroussky and the most heartbreaking piece of Pergolesi’s was a hard combination to bear for me that night. I tried to listen more analytically, to look more at Ms. Lezhneva than at him, or close my eyes when he was singing to be able to handle my emotions in dignity.

There were standing ovations and cheers for Lezhneva, Jaroussky, and I Barocchisti with Mr. Fasolis.

As an encore they chose — the Quando corpus morietur! So, we all died twice that night.

We had the honour to meet Mr. PJ afterwards, and there would have been so much more I would have wanted to tell him than the chitter-chatter I molested him with.

But then, it would be of no avail, just like the Quando corpus moriertur. What is there to add? Mortality is a dire thing.

Just, don’t die — live forever!



Gran Teatre amb Philippe

– by Biri –

Han pasado unos meses desde aquella noche, pero como suele ser con él, una noche inolvidable. No, no ha sido mi primera vez y espero con todo corazón de que no sea la última.

He perdido la cuenta de cuantas veces he escuchado sus cd’s en mi coche, pero calculamos una media de 40 km diarios durante los últimos 2 años, cambiando solo de vez en cuando a otro cd, sólo para, minutos después, volver al suyo,… Sí, admito que puedo ser una obsesa en algunas cosas, no muchas, pero en algunas y PJ está ahí, en esta lista diminuta. He de admitir, además, que me gusta más escucharle que verle cantar; es su voz la que me cautiva ante todo aunque él no sea desagradable de ver. Por él me escapé a Barcelona un fin de semana, verle en vivo es toda otra experiencia, tan diferente del frío tacto del cd o un vídeo impersonal en youtube. Quién lo haya visto me entenderá y quién todavía no tuvo la suerte, espero que lo haga pronto porqué nada de lo pueda escribir aquí puede sustituir esa experiencia.

Pero dejemos de alardeos e introducciones que a pocos puede interesar.

El Liceu de Barcelona ha dado la bienvenida a uno de los contratenores franceses más productivos del momento, y eso justo después de una noche sensacional con el tenor Juan Diego Florez. Quién hubiera esperado que Philippe Jaroussky pudiera llenar el Liceu casi por completo y capturar la admiración de todos los presentes en estas condiciones? A mí, no hacía falta que me capturara, obviamente, pero la pareja que se sentó a mi lado y muchos de los que estuvieron ahí esa noche, sí que lo fueron..

Mientras esperé con impaciencia el inicio del concierto y al no tener compañero o amigo que me acompañara al evento, empecé a hablar con mis vecinos de asiento; una simpática pareja española, amantes del teatro, la música clásica, y todo lo que rodea la expresión artística de las personas en general. Ella más emotiva, mientras que él parecía tener como amante la perfección. Les pregunté si habían oído hablar o conocían a Philippe Jaroussky.

Y sí! Le habían escuchado en la televisión pero sin realmente prestar demasiada atención, como música de fondo. En definitiva, habían ido al concierto porqué amigos les habían aconsejado de hacerlo. (Gracias queridos amigos de la pareja española, seas quienes seais).

La impaciencia mientras tanto crecía en mí, dificultando el estar quieta en ese asiento rojo sangre. Una voz bastante estresante iba contando los minutos: 10 minutos, … 5 minutos, … 3 minutos … antes de que la función empezara! Una tortura que hacía el momento interminable! Oh, sí.. he estado en un teatro y/o opera anteriormente, claro que sí, pero nunca había prestado tanta atención al tiempo como en aquel momento, no importaba cuan dulces recuerdos me iba contando la amable vecina ni cuantas notas de prueba estaba dando el cembalista a su instrumento abajo en el palco, quería adelantar el reloj para luego tener la posibilidad de pararlo durante unos momentos cuando él cantase.

Finalmente las luces menguaron, los que formaban parte a la orquestra Freiburger Barockorchester, bajo la impecable dirección de Petra Müllejans, tomaron sitio, y la Obertura de Riccardo I, re d’Inglaterra abrió la noche, llenándola de música.

Philippe apareció, seguro, firme y decidido a conquistar toda Barcelona si fuera necesario, pero “sólo” se trataba del Liceu y sus visitantes en este caso.

Si con Agitato da fiere tempeste, aria de Oreste no lo consiguió por completo, sí lo hizo con Ho perso il caro ben. Como puedo decirlo? Mis vecinos estaban encantados, perfección y emoción estaban más que satisfechos por haber venido ya que encontraron ambas cualidades en la voz de Jaroussky.

Lamentablemente he de decir que en Barcelona no hemos aprendido a leer el folleto y tenemos muy poca idea de cuando hay que aplaudir o no, por otro lado, las personas que siempre parecen toser en el momento estratégico, perfecto para arruinar el mejor de los efectos, perecían haberse retirado en una de las esquinas más oscuras del teatro.

A pesar de ello, el concierto continuó, Jaroussky parecía más bien acostumbrado a la ‘mala educación’ de sus oyentes y no solo eso, tanto él como la orquestra nos han mimado durante más de dos horas.

Durante el entreacto no me sorprendió en absoluto la manada de personas que se arrojaron a la tienda de música que habían improvisando (no, no improvisado pero muy bien meditado) como si se tratara de las últimas existencias que se pudieran encontrar antes de un ataque nuclear.

Yo, que había hecho mi compra con anterioridad, mientras tanto iba inspeccionando el Liceu, pasando por los diferentes pisos y captando algún que otro comentario.

A pesar que la opera ha sido reconstruida siguiendo los planes de antes del incendio de 1994 y mantiene un aire clásico, también se nota los elementos modernos en ella. Preparada para videoconferencias, traducciones de texto para cualquier asiento, cámaras, controles, … me hubiera gustado dar una mirada detrás de las escenas también, y no solo por Philippe Jaroussky, creédme. El liceu, vuelto a reabrir en 1999 es una de las operas más modernas que he visitado y, al mismo tiempo, no perdió ni un ápice del ambiente clásico que tanto impone.

Comentarios que rondaron? Se dice que Philippe Jaroussky tenía miedo de que su voz no fuera lo suficientemente potente para el Liceu. Si fuera su miedo o de alguien más lo desconozco pero, aunque es verdad que su voz no sea entre las más potentes, tiene una técnica y una sensibilidad en su voz que equilibran esa falta más de sobra. Además no escuché a nadie que se haya quejado.

Otro pequeño particular que capté durante la pausa es que, entre los presentes, pocos habían tenido la ocasión de oír Philippe Jaroussky con anterioridad.

La segunda parte no fue menos maravillosa que la primera, con canciones como Mi lusinga il dolce affetto, aria de Alcina, Ombra cara, aria de Radamisto o con propinas como Alto Giove, que Philippe Jaroussky, con su amable charm, resumió al castellano (disculpándose de no poder hacerlo en catalán) su contenido; dando la noche un aire especial y encantador.


Los bises, las rosas rojas, PJ invitando varias veces a que se levantara también la orquestra para recibir vitores y aplausos, que efectivamente meritaban por su actuación. El buen humor, la seguridad y saber interiormente que aquella noche lo habían hecho bien, hizo que los ojos de PJ, Petra y los demás brillaran de satisfacción.

Y nosotros, el público, encantados como los ratoncillos de Hamelín, una cola de más de 150 personas (tengo experiencia de colas por haber estado demasiadas veces en ellas durante el check-in del aeropuerto), en medio de las ramblas, de noche y en Diciembre, esperábamos para tener la oportunidad de una firma, un saludo, y un apretón de manos con él. La mayoría ilusionados con una firma sobre el cd recién comprado, como recuerdo de esa noche; otros sin saber realmente que esperarse y otros con regalos (yo misma incluida).

No fue un caso único que la gente que pasaba por ahí, desconocedor de los hechos, preguntara lo que estaba pasando.

En la cola conocí a más gente, más catalanes, más españoles, tanto hombres como mujeres, y yo feliz de ver que no era la única entusiasta del grupo o me hubiera preocupado enormemente. Esto y ver con que amabilidad recibía a cada ‘fan’, nuevo o viejo, que estaban por delante de mí deberían haberme ayudado pero, desgraciadamente esa sabiduría no me ayudó en absoluto a la hora de dar la mano a Philippe Jaroussky, de dejar de sonreír como una tonta o de encontrar las palabras adecuadas, ya que en ese momento mi cabeza estaba completamente vacía de vocabulario apto para esas circunstancias.

Unas firmas, una foto hecha por un barcelonés muy simpático, y la sonrisa de niño travieso al ver el regalo que traje coronaron la noche perfecta.

Lo único que me hubiera gustado, era tener la oportunidad de dar las gracias personalmente a Petra Müllejans que, a mi parecer, es parte del éxito que tuvo PJ esa noche.

No obstante, salí a la noche feliz, feliz como pocas veces he sido. PJ regala ilusión y alegría con su presencia, paz y un mar de emociones con su voz y sí, Barcelona en Diciembre es preciosa…. 😛


Noche perfecta, … perfecta? Argh! Parece que no era yo la única nerviosa en la cola. La foto de PJ y de mí salió movida!! Lo hubiera dejado pasar, hubiera sido una excusa perfecta para volverle a ver pero luego caí en la cuenta de dos cosas:

* Primero: Lankin me iba a ahorcar si no volvía con una foto en condiciones!

* Segundo: no hay necesidades de excusas para ir a ver a PJ! Se va y punto! 😀

Así que volví a ponerme al fondo de la cola, con la esperanza que esta vez pudiera controlar mi timidez un poco más. … haha! Anda que sí! Parece que nunca aprenderé.

Le pude ver, ojeando hasta donde iba la cola de personas que le faltaban por atender y creo que no pudo ver el final de ella todavía. No obstante siguió tan profesional y amable como al principio, sin prisas, sin aparentar verdadero cansancio.

Otra vez mi turno, él tardó un momento en reubicar mi cara sólo para luego decir: ‘Tú, de nuevo.” Le pedí perdón mil veces pro importunarle de nuevo, le expliqué porqué volvía a estar por ahí. Lo curioso es que podía mandar, y digo MANDAR porqué es lo que hacía a la persona a la que le tocó hacernos la foto esta vez mientras que a mala penas podía mirar PJ a los ojos. Bueno, primero he de dar las gracias al ‘nuevo’ fotógrafo que ha sido muy paciente y segundo espero no haber asustado a PJ aunque a él, todo aquello, después de dos horas de firmas y seguramente con un brazo que le dolía, parecía divertirse.

Ahora podía irme con la consciencia tranquila aunque interiormente hubiera preferido abrazarle y darle un besito para la maravillosa noche que nos ha dado. GRACIAS PJ!

En fin, ¿que me queda por decir? Seguramente mucho, muchos detalles que a una persona más objetiva que yo le hubiera gustado más leer que no esta cháchara sentimental de un fan empedernida.

Me duele admitir que soy exactamente eso, pero tratándose de que se trata de PJ me lo hace más llevadero, porqué él se gana a sus seguidores con empeño, esfuerzo y en fin… encanto.