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Subject: Edita Gruberova's Tokyo concerts
From: NAKAMURA Akira <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:NAKAMURA Akira <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 16 Oct 2011 11:55:23 +0900
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After she sang Elisabetta in "Roberto Devereux" with the Bavarian
State Opera three times in Japan, Edita Gruberova gave three concerts
in Japan, one in Fukuoka and two in Tokyo.  I was unable to attend her
Fukushima concert due to work commitment, so here is a review of her
Tokyo recitals.

Dates: October 9 and 13, 2011
Venue: Suntory Hall (9th) in Roppongi, and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan (13th)
in Ueno, Tokyo

Conductor: Andry Yurkevych
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra

Program:
W. A. Mozart: Entführung aus dem Serail overture
     “Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose” from Entführung aus dem Serail
G. Donizetti: Roberto Devereux overture
     “Il dolce suono...spargi d’amaro pianto” from Lucia di Lammermoor
G. Rossini: “Pas de six” for the orchestra from Guillaume Tell
G. Donizetti: “M’odi ah m’odi io non t’imploro...Era desso il figlio
mio” from Lucrezia Borgia

intermission

A. Thomas: Raymond overture
V. Bellini: “O remdete mi la speme” “Vien diletto” from I Puritani
A. Ponchieeli: “La Danza delle’Ore” from La Gioconda
G. Verdi: “E strano!...Sempre libera” from La Traviata

encores
L. Bernstein: “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide
J. Strauss: “Spiel' ich die Unschuld vom Lande” from Die Fledermaus

Both the Suntory Hall (seat capacity: 2,006) and the Tokyo Bunka
Kaikan (seat capacity: 2,303) concerts were sold-out events.  (In a
stark contract, Angela , who happens to be also in Japan right now,
had a concert at Suntory Hall also.  It was reported that
approximately four hundred people showed up.  Seeing a very
underattended house, Gheorghiu told the audience to come down to the
central orchestra seat section.  The rumor here is that Gheorghiu will
never come to Japan again after this humiliating event.)

I will not comment on orchestral pieces and concentrate only on the
vocal sections of the concert.

Gruberova started her program with Konstanze's first Second Act aria.
Although she dropped the role of Konstanze many years ago, she started
to singing Konstanze's arias again.  This aria does not contain any
flashy coloratura but a soprano who sing this must be a complete
master of clean, clear sotto voce singing and good breath control, and
because the vocal lines are so exposed, she has to have an excellent
sense of pitch.  Gruberova proved to ramain a superb and stylish
Mozartean, after singing heavier belcanto roles for years.  Her
pianissimi are crystal-clear and beautiful, and she conveyed the
melancholic atmosphere very well.

Then came Lucia's Mad Scene.  I am fortunate enough to have heard her
sing this most famous mad scene many times (both in complete opera
performances and in concerts and recitals), and she still moves me
deeply.  She was particularly wonderful in Suntory Hall, nailing all
acuti, executing trills and coloratura perfectly.  At Tokyo Bunka
Kaikan, her final high note before the "Spargi d’amaro pianto" section
was a little flat (I can already hear gloats from some people who want
to have Gruberova retire just because she sings her acuti a tad flat
sometimes (but not frequentely!)).  However, she recovered quickly and
was able to finish "Spargi d’amaro pianto" with a stunning E flat,
bringing down the house.  Gruberova expressed the vulnerability of a
young woman gone crazy well.

Lucrezia Borgia is her latest new role. I saw her sing it in Munich
twice in 2009.  Lucrezia Borgia was mad in the cabaletta, but her
madness was totally different in nature from Lucia's.  Gruberova used
her chest voice and showed her frenzied madness very dramatically.

After the intermission, she was a young frail woman gone mad again in
"I Puritani."  Her Act 2 mad scene may be more famous, but I like the
Act 1 mad scene equally well, especially when Gruberova sings it.  The
way Gruberova sings it is very different from others, as she is
virtually the only one who uses messa di voce here.  She showed how to
sing scales cleanly without sounding effortful in the cabaletta.
Amazing!

The biggest surprise for me was Violetta's big scena and aria.  I saw
her sing Violetta (Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Japan tour) 10 years
ago.  For a while she dropped the role but recently started singing it
again, and I was wondering why.  Now I know!  She can do justice to
both vocal and dramatic demands.  Coloratura is not a showy dazzling
technique but is part of deep interpretation.  When Gruberova sings
"Sempre libera," it's never a question of whether she will be able to
sing it. You can concentrate on Violetta's tormented inner conflicts,
which are brilliantly conveyed by her singing.  I would love to see
her sing it in a complete performance, and see how evolved she is over
the ten years in terms of interpretation.

After two and a half hours of intense singing (mad, desperate, etc.),
she chose as her encores two very fun pieces.

Gruberova has been singing "Glitter and Be Gay" as an encore for
years, and I have always loved her, with her accents and all.  She has
considerably camped it up.  Perhaps she listened to Renée Fleming's
bizarre recording and thought that it was okay to be more outrageously
sung than she had been doing.  The result was a deliciously campy
rendition.

Her second encore was also her favorite encore song for years.  It's
fun to see a grand diva sing Adele's little song.  Gruberova changed
her voices for comical effects and mischievously interacted with the
conductor and the first violin.  Another campy song that made the
audience go wild.

The concerts were quite long (3 hours including two encores) and
demanding for any sopranos, and the fact that Gruberova, who has been
singing professionally since 1968, can still sing them so well is
nothing short of a miracle.

I was taking a young friend of mine, who is a big lover of classical
music but had never heard Gruberova live, to the Suntory Hall concert.
 He told me that he would never forget this wonderful experience, and
I, who have been to her performances many times, agree 100%.

NAKAMURA Akira
Tokyo/Los Angeles

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