Sunday, October 22, 2006

Kiri Te Kanawa and Frederica von Stade in Paris

A look at the program, which was presented in three United States locations as well as in England (I'm not sure where else), would make one conclude that it was meant for Paris. Like Madonna's "I Love New York," which insults every city but the Big Apple, Poulenc's ecstatic "Voyage a Paris," programmed in the first half, says that any place other than Paris sucks. Kiri looked at Flicka and was clearly extremely excited to sing that song to us. Such enormous smiles!

Last night's recital was the most satisfying performance I've seen this season. I can hardly top the accuracy of Joshua Koshman's spot-on review of the Berkley recital, which occurred about a month ago. He describes why these artists are so special, what makes them legends, and why the recital was such a blast.

As hard as this is, I'll sketch my thoughts. Kiri: silvery, creamy tone; gentle, elegant, natural delivery; poise; uncanny ability to sing so softly; crisp diction in English; unfailingly clean lines; gorgeous face. She barely opens her mouth. Sometimes, her teeth touch and her mouth is open, revealing them--where does the sound come from? I have never seen a classical singer look more attractive while singing.

Flicka's goofiness clearly rubs off on Kiri. But Flicka can also be deeply moving, as in "O Waly, Waly," and "Connais-tu le pays." In these pieces, she unleashed an especially haunting sound.

Part of the fun was watching the divas interact on stage. I'll never forget Kiri's elegant pose, her legs crossed, as she watched Flicka sing her solos. Flicka often closed her eyes in rapture as she listened to Kiri sing.

The finest groups on the program were the Berlioz, Poulenc, and Cantaloube.

The lovely "Barcarolle" from Hoffman was somewhat underplayed, and Kiri came off as a little detached because she constantly glanced at the song's text, which had been placed on the piano.

The highlight of the entire recital, for me, was the second and last encore, a song I've never heard, consisting of "Meows." (UPDATE: Rossini's "Cat Duet.") After the first movement, the divas bended their knees and Marilyn-Monroed (yeah, it's a verb), "Mr. President!" There was a sense that there was no separation between artist and human being; Kiri and Flicka were just Kiri and Flicka, having a ball on stage in Paris.

Kiri's was the first classical voice I ever heard live, when I was twelve. This was only my fourth time hearing her, and I never thought I'd have the chance to meet her. I still didn't, not really, but I did get an autograph. She messed up as she was signing and said, "Sorry!" with a laugh. The crowd at the stage door was large, and she stayed quite a long time signing just about every program (and vintage memorabilia) before saying "Bye!" and "Au revoir!" and walking down to the sidewalk, turning left, and retiring to the Plaza Athenee.

After watching Kiri disappear, I returned to the throng to catch Flicka. An assistant accompanying the mezzo said that she has to get going (Flicka looked at me and quipped, "Je suis vielle!"--the tone was, "They're saying I'm old!") and can sign for three more people; thankfully, I was one of those.

As Sarah and I left, glancing now and then at Flicka, who was walking parallel to us on the other side of the street, we turned a corner and, as I looked back, I saw the Eiffel Tower sparkling, as it does for ten minutes every hour on the hour. Magic.

Sarah and I proceeded to a lovely Italian restaurant on the Champs-Elysees and talked the night away; hours later, we caught cabs at the Arc de Triomphe.


Anonymous said...

this is a great review of the concert ! i wish i had been there but i saw the ads way too late, even though i had uni exams i would have come anyway (i mean it was Kiri ! )... it's such a shame : i've been a fan since i was a child and saw her in Don G., she's an amazing soprano and probably the best mozartian singer. i doubt she comes back again here but if she does i'll defintely be there !
i hope a cd comes out of this !
thanks fro writing about the show, it's hard to get honest feedback on classic concerts.

Anonymous said...

She said "I'm a small stringed instrument"? Probably the word was vieille, rather than vielle, non?

of the kosmos said...

Thanks for reading, anonymous--and for pointing out the typo!