Clearly I listen to too much music. Because after all, it's only been a few days since I last posted. But somehow, I've amassed quite a list of things I want to write about. And write about them I shall - so you'll just have to bear with me.
I've been continuing to feed my new-found Kiri addiction. It's all very odd. I don't know what I find stranger: the fact that a lifetime worth of indifference could evaporate so quickly; or the fact that I ever was so indifferent. In any case, it's all changed now. Things which a few weeks ago I would have been to stubborn even to try, I now adore. Like the Air des Bijoux from Faust. Not long ago, the thought of Kiri singing this would have had me running in the opposite direction. But now... she's beautiful! She's not the most agile or girlish-sounding Marguerite, but she makes the most incredibly beautiful sound. And it's beauty with a soul to it too: not boring, detached, meaningless singing. And as I said, it's addictive. I keep needing more. Luckily, we have Kiri CDs in the house, even if I've ignored them a little. All the Kiri that's in shops these days is full of Gershwin and Kern and Pokarekare Ana, and as much as I now adore my Kiri, I still want to steer clear of that side of things for the time being. That said, however, I've been listening repeatedly to 'Tarakihi' from her Maori Songs CD (which I don't own). This certainly ain't Kiri in operatic mode but dear me it's fantastic. Kiri + chorus perform fight song about a locust. I love it. If we change our national anthem, we should change it to this.
I've also, thankfully, moved past the Kiri Te Kanawa/Patricia Wright vocal resemblance thing. To an extent. I'm pretty sure my theory was right: the similarity to Patricia was responsible for the change in my attitude to Kiri. However, it's rather a backhanded compliment to say someone sounds exactly like someone else, and I wanted to get away from the resemblance and enjoy the differences. Which I think I am now, more or less. For the first few days, just hearing Kiri, it was a little difficult: there so many phrases which I thought could quite easily have come from Patricia. But I went back and listened to Patricia's Italian Songs, and realised I was absolutely wrong. Kiri is all silk and seamless loveliness; Patricia is bright and vibrant and exciting and just generally utterly fabulous. Patricia is also (you might have noticed) still unquestionably my favourite of the two.
While we're on New Zealand sopranos, there's another I ought to mention. Anna Leese was on the radio on Thursday, live from the Auckland Town Hall, performing a couple of Mozart concert arias as part of a concert by the Auckland Philharmonia. 'Vada, ma dove' and 'Ch'io mi scordi di te', both sung very beautifully: but to be honest, I don't think Anna was at anything like her best. I've heard Anna live and I've heard her recorded. She was incredible the very first time, when she was still a voice student. Every time since then, she's been even more magnificent than before. She's absolutely a star. But something wasn't quite in place for the Mozart arias. They still sounded great, but they didn't sound right: sections which should have been made brilliant and exciting were far too light, almost weak at times; and on some of the lowest notes she almost disappeared. It's possible of course that this had more to do with the recording than with Anna; at the very worst, I'd say she was just feeling a little poorly. Of course it doesn't really matter: Anna Leese singing slightly below par is still very very special indeed.
And tonight on TV we had Verdi's Macbeth. Ridiculous, ugly production, I thought. It looked like four production concepts for four different operas had somehow been thrown into one place and forced to fight it out. Lady Macbeth in the world's ugliest dress, choruses who looked ready for biological warfare, and a mute Duncan with a mask borrowed from the Sybil in I, Claudius. Weird. There were moments when I could vaguely make out what the director might have been getting at, but mostly it was distracting and pointless. The sole exception was the banquet scene, where Lady Macbeth's drunk-on-wine-and-power behaviour made sense of the otherwise rather odd presence of a Brindisi in the midst of Macbeth. All in all, though, not a great piece of theatre.
But does that matter? Not one bit: the singers were incredible. Thomas Hampson was to die for. Every time I see Thomas Hampson as himself, he irritates me. But on stage, singing, all is forgiven: the man is fabulous. Such a fabulous singer that you forget he's a semi-adequate actor in a ridiculous production. He managed to be dramatic and exciting and at the same time never lose any beauty of tone. An absolute pleasure to behold. Paoletta Marrocu makes a seriously scary Lady Macbeth. Her first scene, reading the letter from Macbeth, was hair-raising: so fearless you'd have thought she had nothing to sing afterwards. And not exactly a beautiful voice, but beautiful's not really what you want from Lady Macbeth, is it? You want frightening and exciting, and Paoletta delivered - and then some. Her very best moments came in the Brindisi scene which I mentioned above: strutting about in an orange fur coat, disconcerting her guests: she was brilliant. As were the rest of the cast, although it's hard to notice anyone else with these two battling it out for the spotlight. But they nevertheless could have done without all the weirdnesses of the production. For once, I'd have to say this is one which would work at least as well - and probably better - in audio only. Thomas and Paoletta do well as actors, but the real drama is in the singing.
Is that everything? Almost. The Marama Hall concert schedule for Semester 1 is out now, and the most exciting thing on it (apart from the vocal students' recital, naturally) is a recital by Deborah Wai Kapohe (in classical mode) singing French music. Two recitals in fact: a short lunchtime one and a proper length evening one. Things like this make me so glad I don't live anywhere else: only here could I see two recitals by a soprano I adore within days of each other, for a total cost of $7. I'd pay real money to see Deborah, and here she is singing for almost nothing. Other than Deborah, the highlight, as I said, will be the recital by vocal students: my prayer for more singers on the lunchtime programme seems to have been answered. And I assume there'll be some singers in the prizewinners' recital too. What I really long for, though, is something like the very first Wednesday recital I ever saw, where students performed operatic excerpts, in semi-costume. There were bits from Zauberflöte, I remember, including Ken Ryan running about with a small stuffed snake tied to his ankle; Anna Leese sang 'Nobles seigneurs, salut'. And it finished in the Anvil Chorus. It was absolutely wonderful; sadly I've never seen anything like it since.
Oh, and I think I rather like Hildegard Behrens, whom I'd never listened to until today, when I dug out her Nuits d'Eté & Schéhérazade CD and loved it. But we shall see.