Love Hurts…

I love Kasarova, I cannot help it. But… sometimes. I mean… *hysteric sob.

I mean, what are we witnessing there? Is this a parody of Ruggiero’s aria?

This growling in the lower range, the belching graces — or whatever this is supposed to depict, before the notes — all the time? And the performance as such…

To not lower myself on youtube-comment level,  a tender musical critique here: It is THE aria di bravura for Ruggiero. Ruggiero is the gentle hearted fiancé of Bradamante, his warrior spouse — she has the ballz, so to speak. This aria is necessary to shape Ruggiero’s persona, and not reduce him to a complete wimp amidst all this “Verdi prati” etc. It is one of the most awesome arias a castrato could hope to sing at the time. I bet Senesino drooled for it — the castrato the part of Ruggiero was originally written for. It is reported he complained about the “Verdi prati” as being too simple. He wanted to show what he had got — with the “Sta nell’ircana”  he most definitely could.

In a baroque aria, the singer has to comply to somehow strict rules concerning the appropriate embellishments. They are quite free in their choice, but not totally. In that version, they are unimaginative and boring, in my humble opinion. In this aria, the orchestra is depicting the menace, pursuing,  the hunter going for the tigress in her cave. She ponders, unsure whether to attack the hunter, or even flee, but she won’t flee — unwilling to leave her young. The orchestra and the vocal line are supposed to interact —  it is a dialogue. So this makes it different from Caesar’s “Va tacito”, e.g, where the singer, Caesar, is the hunter, and has the horn part following in his wake, so to speak. In the “Sta nell’ircana,” the singer takes the part of the tigress, waiting, lurking, a dangerous animal, cornered by the hunters. A tigress lurking in her cave is NOT screaming at the top of her voice — or rather growling — at least not all the time. And in this version it is not interactive — the hunters advance, the tiger reacts in some way — it is like sung on top of a playback.

The version doesn’t have ANY shade in dynamics, neither from the orchestra nor from the singer, apart from the sissy-ish trill at the end of the B-part, on “vince amor.” Why that? Is this meant mockingly? Is not love going to win after all? Well, the opera is not about mutual love so much, so I am forgiving that one. It is one of my favourite operas, but it is heartbreakingly sad. I never liked Ruggiero who leaves Alcina, the  sorceress, heading for her meno-pause; she is left with nothing, no love, her world turned into meaninglessness. To top it off, she is killed in the end, her ex-lovers freed, and Ruggiero departs unscathed.

What kind of person does it take to leave this woman? (And that is her with her magical powers all gone, following the plot.)

Yes, I strongly dislike Ruggiero in total, even more after the Vienna version now 😉

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6 thoughts on “Love Hurts…

  1. Splendid – another can of worms!
    By “parody” are you suggesting that the musical director and/or the performer have deliberately set out to mock the original work?

    What are these “somehow strict rules” of embellishment to which you refer?
    Is the aria better for having more of these? if so how many does it take to be acceptable?

    I believe it is common practice to keep the embellishments for the da capo, which this performer does. I think you will find ornamentation in bars 1,2,3, 6-7, 11,18, 21, 27-29, 32, 36-39, as well as quasi cadenza at the end.
    I’m guessing that “the belching graces” to which you refer are the “register inconsistencies” for which this performer is renowned. For some it is part of the idiosyncrasy of her performance and lends individuality, for others it is an unacceptable mannerism and not to be tolerated.

    So – are you against the character of Ruggiero, the way Handel has constructed this piece or the interpretation of this particular aria by this particular MD and performer? – or perhaps all?

    By the way, we shouldn’t underestimate the dramatic effect that sound engineers and recording techies can have on live performance ( re: lack of dynamics )

  2. Well with “parody” I picked the word most in favour of the accused. Honestly, I don’t know what happened there to render this result.

    Concerning embellishments. The strict rules are… Too many to mention, as it has to fit the style of baroque. In 4 minutes roundish she bends the tempo, e.g. to fit along the embelishments, to add another spice, it seems. This is not baroque at all.

    I was not complaining about Kasarova in total, only this particular performance. This recording of hers is in fact one of my favourites:

    Concerning the register inconsistencies — they are deliberately put there for some additional masculinity, maybe, as the performer can of course do without them — so she uses them for effect, similar to a grace, that’s why I chose the expression.

    No, I don’t like Ruggiero in total, as well as I don’t like Kalaf, e.g. — but that doesn’t mean I don’t love their arias 😉

    You are of course right, concerning the impact the recording has. A recording can spoil or save the performance. Yet, in this case I don’t think the audio engineer is entirely to blame.

    What I think is a “better,” which means, more surprising, and more unique variety of embellishments at the da capo of the aria — but of course this is only my point of view — is that one:

  3. I had not heard this Genaux version and admit that the singing of the ornaments is very clean and impressive, perhaps very suitable for a concert performance or a recording but, I feel anyway, embellishing is further interpretation of the music by the performer in the context of the whole work. What Frau Kasarova does with the character of Ruggiero as she developes it throughout the opera can only really be looked at holistically. I think interpreting the aria in any other way would not be true to the character, the dynamics between the characters and the nature of this production as envisaged by the director and MD.
    So – for me, in this instance, less is more and what is lost in vocal perfection is gained in the power of theatrical performance.

    Chacun à son goût !

  4. What an interesting discussion! 🙂 That’s one of the things I like about artists like VK, I think. She doesn’t always does it the way I’d like it either, but she always has something to say (and her talents for dividing the audience is almost peerless these days). 😀

    Eyes’ last comment sort of reminded me of this conversation I overheard in another forum a short while back… Someone was listening to the broadcast of Don Carlo from the Met via Sirius radio and was distraught that M. Alagna’s Carlo sounded like he was dying at the end… Then someone who went to see a previous performance of the run piped in that according to the staging, Carlo actually was dying in that scene, so the creaky dying sound was intentional and not indicative of Alagna’s vocal condition. 😛 Doesn’t quite apply in this case since you can see and hear, tho I think the audio track and the video aren’t always from the same performance. 🙂

    Then again there was that Belle Nuit CD VK released a few years back that perplexed me to no end. It was from a live concert recording, and I actually listened to the live broadcast via the internet and loved it. So I was really looking forward to the CD…. which turns out sounding nothing like I heard, but a whole lot worse (both the orchestra and her). Something went really awry in the sound engineering process and I was nearly torn in two trying to review that CD objectively (I mean…. I knew she wasn’t at fault there, but I could only review what’s on that CD and not what it originally sounded like). 😦

    Anyhow. Thanks for writing this up, Lankin. 🙂 Hey, Eyes! 🙂

  5. Oh, dying in opera — a broad subject. I suggested a category “best post-mortem-hug” a while ago for an opera section of the MTV awards :D.
    Yes, indeed. Kasarova is controversial. I won’t ever pick on bad singers, because it is simply no fun, and there is no point in it. Also you cannot accuse Scholl, e.g. for not having Connolly’s voice. It is pointless.
    So, believe me when I say — I love Kasarova.
    Her Sesto is downright awesome, many other pieces are — I love the special, open quality of her unique voice as well as her acting, her style, everything.
    It is just BECAUSE I know and love her so much differently that I scratch my head at this rendition.


    (Don’t be confused, it starts with Annio)

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