What is a long weekend for, if not for sinking happily into the tar pit that is YouTube? And what is a blog for, if not for pulling you down there with me? An assortment of video treasures I can't help but share. (My apologies for the atrocious title, but once it had occured to me, I couldn't shake it.)
I started out trying to watch as many renditions of Desdemona's Willow Song as I could find. Evidently I am a masochist — this aria makes a mess of me every single time. A couple are audio only, but no less devastating for that — Anna Moffo is so delicately perfect you can practically see her anyway and, in her own way, Maria Callas kind of renders visuals unnecessary too. Lovely Barbara Frittoli (long time girl crush of the one and only vf) is another heartbreaker. Renée is surprisingly out there and powerful in concert at the Chatelet, despite wearing a truly inexplicable amount of clothing. (I heard her again tonight, on the Met broadcast of Otello and, well, there's no other way to put it — I burst into tears like a toddler.) But nobody, chez YouTube at least, can touch Mirella. Nobody else's high A# stabs me quite so painfully. I have perhaps mentioned my foolish habit of listening to Mirella sing this aria on my iPod, meaning that I find myself suddenly staring intently at the ceiling in public places, so as not to make a weeping fool of myself. And she's upsetting enough with audio only, but watching her makes it much worse. [Postscript: I just found Renata's. So maybe I'll declare a tie.]
Speaking of Mirella triumphans — I followed my Willow Song kick with a "Con onor muore" kick, and Mirella wins again. Not without stiff competition, though. Victoria de los Angeles is small and sweet but steely and determined. Renata is my first ever Butterfly (actually that's not true, but it might as well be), though it's a shame this clip doesn't actually include those opening words — everybody else I've heard sings them, but Renata speaks them in that distinctive, sonorous voice of hers and it's completely chilling. Anna Moffo makes another appearance, this time with visuals. But Cristina Gallardo-Domas is a rather frayed disappointment, and while I don't suppose she can be blamed for the weird death throes (yes, we get it, she's dying like a real butterfly, enough already) they're still offputting. Getting back to Mirella, though — I can't believe I'd never seen this before. It's unlike all the other deaths of Butterfly. She makes him watch. This took me entirely by surprising and it's quite beautiful while at the same time totally horrifying. (Speaking of horrifying — forgive me, Gert, but I'm really not sure about the facial hair Placido is sporting there.)
So after all the above, I needed more Mirella. (I always Need More Mirella. It's a good rule for life.) I love this excerpt from her film of La traviata. The extreme close up of her eyes is a bit strange, but it also highlights just what a powerful actress she is — all the emotions you hear in her voice, you see in those eyes. In an odd sort of way, I also love this, from Act One of Fedora. Apparently Mirella breaks embargoes as well as hearts: that clip marks the first time I've heard even a note of Fedora since June 2006. Above all, I love her Tatyana (Part One and Part Two). This is a revelation to me, but really shouldn't be — it's from the gala re-opening of the Zurich opera house, a concert I grew up watching. And yet I've very little recollection of this. There is a possibility it was on occasion fast forwarded (which is evil, I agree, but I wasn't the one holding the remote, I swear). Anyway I find it totally spellbinding. And there's no staging, no props or costumes. Just Mirella and the music and that's all you need.
Who else? This month, as noted, is All About Arabella for me. And believe it or not, not just Cheryl's Arabella. Karita is her glamorous, fascinating self here (with Thomas Hampson, endeavouring to deserve her) and here (with Barbara Bonney, looking like Le Petit Prince). I mean, she's clearly not trying to be a 19 year old Arabella, but who cares? It's not exactly a conventional staging in any other respect either. An old favourite of mine is Renata's "Voi lo sapete" — she's radiantly beautiful, her singing is sublime, but what it's really all about is that wail at the end, which has to be heard to be believed. There is the inimitable magic of Beverly Sills — in magnificent duet with Carol Burnett (both of them in top form), a totally age inappropriate and totally amazing Daughter of the Regiment and, maybe best of all, on the Muppet Show (Pigoletto, of course). Another more recent wonder, likewise full of sunshine — Glorious Joyce, as an unbelievably beautiful Rosina. And as my parting gift, though I've no doubt linked to it before, here's this. One of my favouritest things ever, and likely to stay in your head for hours if not days.