I read about Anja Harteros all the time – mostly either paeans to her fabulousness on stage, or laments at her fairly frequent cancellations – but it struck me last night that I'd never actually heard her sing, either in person or via recordings. She's respected and adored by many of the operapeople I trust most, so I've never doubted her brilliance, but somehow I've also never got around to investigating the nature of that brilliance. You can get a vague sense of somebody's artistry from reviews and a look at their repertoire, but not much more than that.
So, off to YouTube – the font of all diva knowledge – where the first morsel to tempt me was this very beautiful "O mio babbino caro" in concert.
But I fancied something a bit more intense and theatrical, so my next step was this, "D'Oreste, d'Ajace" from Idomeneo. A slightly oddball production by the looks of it but the manic intensity of her Elettra is gripping and she sings the daylights out of it.
Maybe you think this blog post is going to be an Anja Harteros Gala, and it might have been, had this not caught my eye among the linked videos in the sidebar.
Well, wow. The production is everything Anja's wasn't: hypertraditional, static and let's face it, potentially very very dull...except that Behrens is here to prove that it's the singer, not the staging, who brings a performance to life. She's riveting and terrifying and completely wonderful and it all comes from within: that is one raging inferno of an inner fire. I don't for a minute mean to diminish the marvellous Anja, but this performance edged her out for my Revelation Of The Night.
It also started me thinking about other exciting Mozart sopranos, from which it was a very short leap to – who else? – Carol Vaness. I was hoping for my third scary Elettra of the night, but YouTube didn't seem inclined to oblige, and since I actually own that one on DVD anyway I was happy to be sidetracked by something very different, though still Mozart:
Parsifal and Peter Grimes might have supplanted Don Giovanni at the top of my favourite operas list but I will never ever not love Mozart, and while Così has its longueurs, the above isn't one of them. Neither is this...
...although that might have a little something to do with the supreme adorability of Cecilia Bartoli. I was nine when, fascinated by her incredibly mobile eyebrows, I declared her my favourite and while she might not be quite at the centre of my diva universe any more, I haven't stopped loving her; and I doff my hat completely to her having maintained a top level operatic career on what appear to be almost entirely her terms. No mean feat, that. The sheer joy and love of music which radiates from her is, to me, irresistible – especially when she goes and does something like this:
[moment of silence]
Where to from there? Oh, I know. MIRELLA.
Thus it might easily have continued for hours (or all eternity) but you have to stop somewhere, I suppose, and this where I stopped last night. The only name I searched all night was Anja's; every other video was just a recommendation thrown up by the previous one. Interwebz, you are a grand and glorious thing.
And so, as it turns out, is the woman who started the evening's adventures, so let's finish more or less where we started, with Anja Harteros being glorious.
I'm sold. Ain't opera grand?