The preservation of the score’s integrity is realized without loss of Baroque style by the vocal interpretations. If the vision of this future production (in 2017) is to promote accessibility, then this R. B. Schlather creation must include this cast of Jamie Van Eyck, Tamara Wilson, Ambur Braid, Samuel Levine, and Randall Scotting.
Then, as I am being taken by the vocal finesse of the historically accurate performances by these fine dramatic artists – from the visceral, blood-chilling demonstrations of Braid’s “Voi che fate!” to the velvet royalty of Wilson’s Ginevra and Van Eyck’s Ariodante – and, equally, as I am listening to the Baroque melisma and ornamentation spinning in the room, I am searching for Schlather’s “new.” I find myself circling back again to Rilke and the busker at 59th Street. This company of singers is creating opera has if they had to confess to themselves whether they would have to die if singing was denied to them. For the audience, the philosophy is reciprocated because we are also being taken to the same ledge-of-a-precipice experience.
My search for the new continues. The word “retro” creeps into my lexicon. The “new” in this production reinforces bel canto singing – bringing with it the elemental trace element of truth. Without staging or stance, with their backs to part of the audience, the performers reminded us to what it means to communicate simply through the soul of the voice and observing the powerful simplicity of the open vowel. It is a method of singing prescribed byHerbert Caesari, the vocal pedagogue loved by Roland Barthes. Caesari insisted that the vowel is the soul of the voice, and with it, he says, the voice of the mind. These singers and this production bring an emotional truth to their conjugation of the voice and the score. This “new” retro new in Schlather’s (et al) production is an experience of truth fueled by equal parts vulnerability and urgency.
The question, then, is how much will be lost or how much can be saved when this eavesdropping moment moves to the opera house.
I wrote an ode to it to keep it safe.
Ah. An expiration of sound of formed vibrations. Ah. As simple as that. To some, the vowel is called the soul of the voice. Ah. The French word for the soul is l’âme. The word that sounds so much like a heart is the same word used for a sound post in a violin, the tiniest piece of wood in a violin. Ah. A single splinter of pale wood connecting two sides of a small instrument. Fragile and vulnerable, so completely hidden from a light’s view that we do not know it exists. Ah it is a splinter that is the heart of a violin—the part that gives the sound. Ah. This is what is means to sing.
As an opera singer, writer, cultural commentator, curator, and diplomat, Xenia Hanusiak contributes to the stage, the page, and the intervals in between. She holds a PhD in Literature, two degrees in classical music, and a Bachelor of Arts degree (Theatre, Literature, Art History). Her collection of essays, feature articles, commentaries and columns have appeared in The Age, The Australian, ABC, South China Post, Sydney Morning Herald, Boston Globe, and specialist literary and music publications such as Music and Literature and La Scena Musicale.