Monday, January 14, 2013

Cold winter, behind the scene opera, and Viviane Hagner's Mendelssohn concert

Well, 2013 sort of started on a bit of a hiccup for me. The apartment's internet modem is officially fried. I don't know how... we don't even have a working heater in the place! Smiley Anyhow, that made properly posting stuff online a bit inconvenient. The good news is that the replacement modem should be arriving tomorrow or Wednesday, however, so there is a happy fully wired bliss looming in the future for me.
Don't we look like we were about to go trek across Antarctica?
We've had a really nicely dry if rather cold week. I mean, it got so cold here a few days ago that people had to actually put on a sweater to go outside! Smiley What's the San Diego climate coming to??? A week ago we were out walking around in t-shirt and jeans (and some even wore shorts). Now we're all bundled up in long sleeved sweater! Wimpy me even had 4 layers and a pair of ear muffs on when I got up early to go for a ride on Saturday morning. Granted 2 of the layers came off shortly into the ride (going up the steep first 3 pitches of Mt Helix tends to heat out-of-shape cyclists up in a hurry). I'm telling you, San Diego is almost fooling me into believing that it has more than one season in a year!

Okay, okay, enough needling of people who actually are experiencing legitimately cold weather... Last week a favorite classical music/opera oriented blogger friend of mine posted a link to this fascinating webpage with a really cool behind-the-scene video of what goes on behind the stage during a live performance of one of the most complicated opera on the repertoire, Wagner's The Valkyries, at the Royal Opera House. It is a really awesomely educational watch for me. I shall now appreciate it much better when things don't go wrong on stage during an opera performance... considering the boat-load of things that happen all at once!

I also made it to the Saturday performance of Mendelssohn's violin concerto and Nielsen's 5th symphony at Copley Symphony Hall on Saturday night. A good evening at the San Diego Symphony, which started off with opera fans-friendly overture from Rossini's La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie). I had been wanting to hear Viviane Hagner play live ever since I first saw the video clip of her playing Saint-Saëns' Introduction et rondo capriccioso with Zubin Mehta and the Israeli Phil on Classic Arts Showcase back around 2004. The lass was only 14 yrs old then.

She has since blossomed into a beautiful woman and a marvelous virtuoso violinist. The Mendelssohn concerto is, of course, played to multiple deaths ever since it premiered in 1845 for obvious reasons. It is just about as perfect a violin concerto as you can get, and it allows for quite a variety of interpretations. Everyone has their favorite version(s) of how this thing is performed, I think. I have a few... and must now add Hagner's communicative and nuanced performance of it to my short list. What can I say? It's wonderful to listen (and even watch) fantastic soloists who make musical dialogues when they could have gotten away with just showcasing their talents and visions. Hagner listened and reacted to the orchestra (San Diego Symphony under Jahja Ling) that was playing with her, and it responded in kind, and the music came alive and gave quite a zing to the evening.

The latter half of the concert was also a treat for yours truly. I had never heard any of Carl Nielsen's music before. It is quite a discovery and a nice stylistic contrast from Mendelssohn's ultimate romantic number. Many times when I go to the symphony I have felt quite let down in the second half of the performance when the SDO would regress to beautifully and correctly playing minus the communicativeness and the infusion of personality that the featured soloist had incited out of the band in the first half of the show. Saturday was quite different and in a very good way!
I'm afraid that's my blog update today. I've been at this internet cafe for many hours now, nursing my mug of hot cocoa until the last drop got nearly as cold as chocolate ice-cream, and the proprietor is starting to look at me funny. Really, if the internet modem turns up in the mail earlier than Wednesday I think I'll have to kiss the postman out of sheer gratefulness. Can't wait to be reliably wired on to the ethernet again!


berenice said...

oh mister Smorg, so glad you saw Viviane Hagner playing Mendelssohn!! This season I've been twice with my mom to Copley, first to the Symphonie Fantastique on December and Jeremy Denk, and to the Salute to Vienna, both lovely, specially the Fantastique, i LOVE that symphony, the Vienna was fun but my mom enjoyed it... but what I really wanted to see was Mendelssohn!! Sadly we were too tired and a bit sick this weekend, so sad I miss it, and so good you went!! I am looking forward to the Opera season, what do you recommend, I only saw Aida once in Mexico, so maybe this April? Keep warm mister Smorg, is unusually cold for coldy-Diego!

Georg said...

Good idea, Smorgy, to display the Nielsen violin concerto on your blofg. Never heart of this composer.

This girl (or is she already grown-up?)plays wonderfully. Dynamic play. And the music is melodious, a pleasure to listen to. Thanks you.


Anonymous said...

Mentioned in despatches! ... I've arrived!!
I hope that postman is nice ;) and your internet situation improves very soon.

Smorg said...

Hiya Bere, Georgy & Eyes:

Apologies for lateness! We needed a new modem and it hasn't arrived yet, I'm afraid. (On a good note, I guess I won't have to kiss any postman after all!)

Sorry you had to miss the Mendelssohn concert, Bere! Hope you and mom are all recovered now and will be up for more excellent concerts soon! :)

I really don't know much about Murder in the Cathedral and the Mexican mariacchi opera. Gotta say, I'm not a big fan of Aida... though I'm really looking forward to Fille du regiment and Samson et Dalila. :D I'm not terribly familiar with Vargicova, the leading lady in Fille, but there's Ewa Podles and Carol Vaness in the supporting roles, and those gals are must see sort of artists. ;)

Samson et Dalila is rarely performed here, of course. The music is absolutely gorgeous and Krasteva has just the dark voice for Dalila. It should be a great show. I'm hoping to catch one or two performances, but can't plan that far ahead yet.

Sorry I didn't label the videos well on the post, Georgy, but the violin concerto is Mendelssohn. :D And it is really an amazing piece. That Viviane Hagner really lit up the hall, too. She really got into it and looked and sounded like she was having a great time.

Hey, thanks for dropping in, Eyes! And thanks very much for introducing me to the ROH backstage during Valkyries clip. I can't get enough of the thing!

Hope everyone is having a good week. Thanks so much for dropping by! :)

Anonymous said...

Thnx for the Walkure backstage link and the Hagner clips. Fantastic stuff!

Rob said...

Hi Smorgy,
Thanks for the ROH backstage tip. And thanks to the chain of insiders who got the info to you!

I find sometimes that the "workings" of a production are at least as interesting as the performance itself. I am at work so I cannot look now, but I can't wait to get home to check out Backstage at ROH.

Smorg said...

Hi anonymous: You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed them!

Hi Rob: My pleasure! Hope you enjoyed the clip. I watched it 3 times and loved every bit of it. So fascinating getting to see and hear what goes on backstage during such a busy opera performance. It really gives me renewed respect for stage staff! :o)