When we were working at Tower, my friend Suzanne Carrico and I seized on every opportunity we could find to play Nan Merriman's recital disc. "Goddess!", Suzanne would exclaim when the Merriman voice began to suffuse the room with its one-of-a-kind timbre.
The track that particularly mesmerized me was Bachelet's 'Chere nuit' ("Beloved night") in which Merriman wove a seductive spell with her delicate vibrato and her bewitching colouring of the words. The song is a setting of a poem by Eugene Adenis-Colombeau, translated as:
"Soon the hour will be here. Behind the hills I see the sun that goes down and jealously hides her rays. I hear the souls of things singing, and the narcissus and the rose send me the sweetest perfumes.
Beloved night of serene radiance, you who bring back my tender lover, ah, come down and veil the earth with your calm and charming mystery. My happiness is re-born under your wings, O night, more beautiful than any day: ah, arise and again make the dawn of my love shine forth. Beloved night! Ah, descend..."
The Rapture is what I call an elusive vocal quality which
can't truly be defined; it's a shining feeling underscored with
sensuousness or passion that is somehow contained. It doesn't pour out
of the singer on a grand scale but instead seeps mysteriously into the
tone colours as the voice responds to the text. Some singers have it,
some don't...some can only find it it certain music, others tend to
bring it to everything they sing. In the case of Nan Merriman's 'Chere nuit' I have only to think of the sound of her voice to experience...the rapture.
Short, dramatic, tuneful, and climaxing with one of opera's greatest laments followed by one of opera's most poignant choruses, Purcell's DIDO & AENEAS has always seemed to me to be a perfect opera.
Telling the tale of the betrayal of Queen Dido of Carthage by her lover, the warrior Aeneas, Purcell's opera was originally performed in 1689 by students at Mr. Josias Priest's School for Girls in Chelsea, London. It is considered the oldest English-language opera. It's quite interesting to contrast Purcell's setting of the story with that of Hector Berlioz; the French composer's long (but magnificent) version seems about four times longer than the English rendering.
The Purcell score provides brief ariettas set among dramatic recitatives and interlaced with captivating dance tunes. The intimate scale of the piece usually precludes its being performed at large opera houses though it was given in by the New York City Opera in 1979 on an unusual double-bill with Balanchine's staging of the Richard Strauss BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME (danced by Patricia McBride and Rudolf Nureyev, no less!). That was my first chance to see the opera; since then I have seen it only rarely. LES ARTS FLORISSANTS gave it at Tanglewood, and there was a very nice studio performance at Juilliard a few years ago with Noah Stewart creating a memorable Aeneas (the role can be sung by tenor or high baritone).
It's an opera I listen to often and I have several recordings, each quite different in feeling. The three I tend to play most frequently are the grandly operatic Phillips recording with Jessye Norman and Thomas Allen; the emotionally fraught, unforgettable Tatiana Troyanos as Dido conducted by Raymond Leppard, and - a more recent version - the swift-paced, intimate Veritas recording led by Emanuelle Haim and featuring Susan Graham and Ian Bostridge.
Andrea Sacchi's painting of the abandoned Dido with the sword of Aeneas.
"Thy hand, Belinda; darkness shades me... On thy bosom let me rest. More I would, but Death invades me... Death is now a welcome guest
When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create No trouble, no trouble in thy breast.
Remember me, remember me But ah! forget my fate."
The final chorus:
wings ye cupids come,
and scatter roses on her tomb;
soft and gentle as her heart;
On a Summer evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently, Kokyat and I wandered into the New Greek and Roman Galleries at a particularly poignant time of day: the blue hour, that fleeting period of time which occurs each morning and evening when the sky is neither truly light nor truly dark. My photographer-friend became transfixed by the beauty of the moment and I felt inexplicably content as he recorded the elusive colour with his camera.
We both found favorite works in this gallery: Kokyat's (above) being Young Hercules.
Click on the above images to enhance the view.
I was especially taken with the enigmatic, timeless expression of this bust of the Roman Empress Sabina.
Believed to date from approximately 121 AD, the bust shows Sabina, wife of the Emperor Hadrian. Beyond her in this photo is a bust of her younger sister Matidia.
A fountain strewn with coins prompted us to make wishes. Mine has since come true. Click image to enlarge.
Over the years I have spent many hours at the Met Museum, but few as memorable and deeply satisfying as this blue hour with Kokyat. It put me in mind of the Reynaldo Hahn chanson, L'heure exquise as sung by counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky.
"The white moon shines in the woods. From each branch springs a voice beneath the arbor. Oh, my beloved...
Like a deep mirror the pond reflects the silhouette of the black willow where the wind weeps. Let us dream! It is the hour...
A vast and tender calm seems to descend from a sky made iridescent by the moon. It is the exquisite hour..."
Chelsea Art Museum will present Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (above) September 1-3 in
Benoit-Swan Pouffer's performance experience
interpreting the artworks exhibited in the museum’s groundbreaking
exhibition, Iran Inside Out, as a continuation of his
installation series. Pouffer aims to add another dimension to the
exhibition by translating the pieces into different physicalities, integrating visual and performing arts into a single work.
The performance will enmesh the Cedar Lake dancers with live musical
accompaniment by Iranian visual artist Reza Derakshani (above), whose paintings
are also featured in this exhibition. A vocalist, instrumentalist, composer and performer, Reza Derakshani’s mix of
traditional Persian music with new sounds and textures have produced daring innovations which include modifying instruments and
creating new sounds and musical colors.
More information here. The Chelsea Art Museum is located at 556 West 22nd Street, NYC.
Thursday August 27, 2009 - Cloudy sky and a far more comfortable temperature when I arrived at the US Open this morning. The sun eventually came out and so did the legions of children dragged around from court-to-court by their parents to the ceaseless chorus of: "Can we go home?", "I want ice cream!" or "I need to pee."
Japan's Tatsuma Ito (above) had the first match of the day on Court 4; his opponent was the very tall Polish player Lukasz Kubot. Lukasz had a very vocal fan club in the stands; they were a bit over-demonstrative and at one point were admonished by the chair umpire.
Lukasz, seeded 12th in the qualifying draw, had a very erratic first set and Tatsuma capitalized on his opponent's unsettled form to take it 6-2. Lukasz looked far more focused in the second set which he won. In the third set Tatsuma had an early break but Lukasz broke back. Then Tatsuma had a nightmare game in which he double-faulted on every point. But he then broke Lukasz again and held on to win the match. I really like watching him play, and it was fun seeing him engulfed by fans after his win.
The pace of the Ito/Kubot match was very slow and there were several long games and many stallings at deuce along the way. Starting to make the rounds of the courts, I found I had missed some matches of interest. Alejandro Falla was en route to victory over the Irishman Conor Niland; I went off to get a Diet Pepsi and when I got back to court the match was already over.
Looking about at the swarms of kids and the platoons of cell-phoners ambling past the courts in search of something to divert them from all this bloody tennis, I got depressed and decided to leave. I will go back tomorrow - weather permitting - to see if Ito can win one more and get into the main draw.
From Sunday August 23, 2009 - With the tennis starting, it's a busy week but I wanted to post a few more of Kokyat's photos from the TAKE Dance showcase performance of the opening movement of Takehiro Ueyama's LOOKING FOR WATER which concluded Take's recent Summer Intensive at the Morocco Studio.
All photos: Kokyat. Click on each image to enlarge.