Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Console my ears with beauty (Joyce DiDonato, Jake Heggie and Brentano Quartet / Barbican Milton Concert Hall)

Camille Claudel (December 8, 1864 – October 19, 1943) was a French sculptor and graphic artist. (Public domain - expired copyright)
It started in Venice. The evening had been resequenced, and opened with songs by Reynaldo Hahn, perhaps best known today as Proust’s lover. With her friend Heggie at the piano, this enabled DiDonato’s power to be demonstrated, with the ease, pizazz and power for which she is adored on both sides of the Atlantic; her warmth on stage is as far removed from diva as it might be possible to be and this came too as she looked at Heggie with the warmth of genuine friendship. This came through in the songs. She’d sprained her ankle. So less remarkable on stage than the famous broken leg Barber at the ROH, but impressive nonetheless (details anywhere – even the Daily Mail.) The show must go on! And it did. If DiDonato was hindered beyond needing a stool it didn’t show, and it couldn’t be heard. Her puissance was entirely impinged. She wants a new gimmick for London, she quipped as she explained the resequencing of the programme.
Next up, whilst the mezzo – or rather her ankle- was put on ice, was Debussy’s string quartet performed beautifully by the Brentano String Quartet. This was a beautiful, sensitive rendering of the piece and set the ground for the show’s climax.
After the interval, it was Heggie’s song cycle was played for the first time. Belle époque Paris must have bene something to behold. We got a flavour of the creative hotbed in Paris, when Heggie pointed out in the after show discussion, casually, that Kiri Te Kanawa was in the audience, to spontaneous delight and applause. Claudel, the sculptor, was friends with Proust, Hahn, and a lover of Debussy; and this took a series of her sculptures as inspiration.
Heggie’s song cycle Into the fire, was exceptional. A work of incalculable beauty. It gave the impression of at once handling the sculptures (represented in the programme) in delicate hands, and being inside them. This was warm music –rather than the cold, experimental kind. There was tune and rhythm. Meditative, melancholy, and made for Joyce: it showed her off, and she showed off them, and at the same time, her coloratura could be flashed to the delight of the audience. It let her go from 0 – 100 mph in no time at all. Powerful yet tender at once. The epilogue was deeply moving: “Jessie Lipscomb visits Camille Claudel, Motdevergues Asylum, 1929”. The pair are pictured below - the patient and her visitor. In a few verses the horror of the situation was captured perfectly. This wasn't a big star pleasing a crowd with old numbers and best hits.
Camille Claudel and Jessie Lipscomb (on the right)November 1885 – December 1887 (Public domain - expired copyright)
Overall:  Everything is “curated” today. But that's what this concert was- an exquisite exhibition of music and song and almost included the objects. DiDonato’s dynamic range, warmth, and power were shown off superbly.

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