This weekend I've watched again the video of Der Rosenkavalier with Gwyneth Jones, Brigitte Fassbaender, Lucia Popp and Kurt Moll. Deutsche Grammophon has released this on DVD now, which DVD I'll need to own, if for no other reason than that the sound quality will surely be better than it is on this now ageing tape. Sound quality notwithstanding, though, it's a glorious Rosenkavalier. Hard to know who to watch, when you have Brigitte and Lucia and Gwyneth and Kurt all there at once. I'm very fond of all four. Of course, Lucia is of extreme importance to me. But much as I love and adore her, I struggle to believe anyone could feel capable of leaving Gwyneth Jones' Marschallin. I doubt I could.
Then there was the online broadcast, courtesy of ABC Classic FM, of Opera Australia's "Love in Two Acts". An odd experience, this. I don't know which night it was recorded. There were no convenient mistakes or mishaps to allow me to identify one performance or another, though I do know it wasn't opening night. I tend to think it was the third or the fourth. It doesn't matter hugely I suppose. In any case, it was strange to hear. Both in the Rossini and in the Poulenc: everything so familiar, and yet slightly different, because the microphones are just where the audience isn't. So, for instance, when Elle sings turned toward the mantlepiece, what was distant in the theatre is disconcertingly closed: apparently there's a microphone upstage. Conversely, her electrifying fortissimo passages lose something in translation, sound a little duller and quieter than they were in person. All the voices, in both pieces, sounded closer and more immediate than they ever would or could in the theatre. In Il Signor Bruschino the closed-miked effect of it is a boon to Kanen Breen, whose voice never quite projected sufficiently. You wouldn't know it here. And in La voix humaine, well, will you allow me to say something perhaps a little mad? There were times when that immediacy was rather like hearing a voice on the telephone. You see what I mean? Listening to it in this way, one might imagine oneself on the other end of the phone call. Seeing it in the theatre, the audience can only ever observe; hearing it via speakers, the perspective becomes a little more mobile. She isn't just saying these things to somebody else any more: she may just be saying them to you. Besides all that, there were other advantages to simply hearing it. It was excellent to have confirmed what I already knew: that her performance stands strong on its own, apart from all the theatrical interpretation by the director and apart from Yvonne's own (considerable) visual appeal as a performer. There was plenty added by the experience of watching this opera live, but with all of it stripped away, nothing is lost. Had I come to this broadcast without knowledge of the production, I would have been just as shaken by it - and just as enamoured of her.
On Monday night, more Poulenc, in the shape of Les Dialogues des Carmélites on the Arts Channel. The music of La voix humaine has become so entrenched in me that there was a somewhat comforting familiarity in this, though I'd never heard a note of it until then. This was a stunning production from L'Opéra du Rhin, Anne-Sophie Schmidt captivatingly fragile as Blanche de la Force. The fabulous Patricia Petibon made a charming Soeur Constance - the Maria von Trapp of the Carmelites - and proved she can do drama as well as comedy, though it's still the latter in which she she truly shines. A few years ago, you know, I assumed I was unshakeably old-fashioned: I'd never have imagined myself as entralled by Poulenc as I've become. It's yet another happiness for which thanks are due to my diva, who introduced us, after all.