You would think that all this travel I'm doing would make it easier to pursue my favourite singers (and in fact it mostly has) but Karina Gauvin has remained elusive. She's everywhere I'm not, her website taunting me with concerts of Handel arias or French songs destined always to remain beyond my reach. She's even singing in Australia this year. I've been beginning to despair. If only I knew every opera singer's travel plans through to 2015, the way I know my own; perhaps she's awaiting me in Paris or Seattle or London.
Then it turned all was not lost anyway; I found her in New York, singing in the St John Passion at Carnegie Hall with Les Violons du Roy. A mixed blessing. I mean, Bach is wonderful, clearly, and Karina singing Bach? Sensational. But Johann Sebastian, in his infinite wisdom, was writing to glorify God and not so much to please me: so we have a piece of music which is irrefutably glorious and transcendent and a thousand other devotional adjective ... but which doesn't give Karina Gauvin nearly enough to sing. Two arias? You're killing me, J.S.
Or is he? In fact she sang those two arias so gorgeously that they didn't feel like short shrift after all. She lived up to the adoring expectations which CDs and YouTube videos have helped me to build up and even confounded them (delightfully) in a couple of spots. Ten minutes of close-range Karina (I was in the front row) is infinitely preferable to no Karina at all, and while my addiction is still crying out for a more substantial fix, this was a fairly generous teaser; and in an emergency situation, I could survive on her "Zerfliesse, mein Herze" for weeks.
And while I would be completely prepared to sit in silence for an hour between two arias from Karina, that is of course not what we were doing. I had all manner of wonderful playing and singing to keep me company. Our tireless Evangelist was none other than Ian Bostridge, the first male singer I ever really "got", back in the days when my heart belonged mostly to Cecilia Bartoli and Barbara Bonney and tenors tended to pass me by. (Baritones were more perplexing still, one grey and unfathomable mass. How times change.) Neal Davies was Jesus, and singing alongside Karina in the other unnamed solo parts were countertenor Damien Guillon, bass-baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann and, another highlight for me, tenor Nicholas Phan: a name long known to me via his blog and Twitter presence, and now via his excellent singing as well. Bernard Labadie conducted Les Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Québec.
Diva worship, you see, is a force for good and for edification of the soul. The shameful truth is that without Karina's involvement, I would probably have shied away from a Sunday afternoon St John Passion. (The St Matthew Passion is likelier to tempt me on its own account, though I couldn't tell you precisely why.) But she pulled me in and it was time well spent. I've had a very satisfactory fix of Bach – now back to the hunt for More Karina.