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Birdsall

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About Birdsall

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  • Connection to/interest in ballet** (Please describe. Examples: fan, teacher, dancer, writer, avid balletgoer)
    fan
  • City**
    Gainesville
  • State (US only)**, Country (Outside US only)**
    United States

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  1. I have a Lucia from her debut run from February 1959 at the Royal Opera......I don't think it was Opening Night. I would have to research, but it was from the first run (her first Lucias ever) that really made her an overnight sensation, and it is proof that Sutherland could be very effective in the drama department. Her amazing technique was what carried her through her career and kept her fame alive, but she could be more than just a wind up doll also. Without the bootlegs we would not have Callas in Anna Bolena (on fire in the final scene) or her wild Medea in Dallas after being fired by Bing at the Met. She sings like she has a score to settle. You are right about her Normas and the first studio recording (I disagree with John Ardoin who wrote that her 2nd studio Norma was better due to more dramatic insight and a better supporting cast......to me the 2nd studio shows how here voice had declined and her first one shows so much power and ENOUGH or PLENTY of incisive drama.......nobody has come close to creating so much drama in Norma, although Caballe comes very close in the L'Orange video). Her bootleg from 1958 of Traviata makes me weep when she sings after Alfredo throws the money at her as well as her "Addio del passato....." All three of these greats (Callas, Sutherland, Caballe) ruined Norma for us all......no one else has measured up, imho. It continues to be the Mount Everest role for sopranos and no one has knocked those three off their pedestals.
  2. This is why bootleg audio recordings are traded, bought, and sold. Many opera singers are much better "live" rather than on studio recordings. Callas sings with such intensity with her words even more than her studio recordings. Caballe proves that she could be "a beast of the theater" as you say on live recordings. Even Dame Joan Sutherland, usually thought of as a technically incredible voice but lousy at the drama, has even shown more acting on her bootlegs.
  3. I love Caballe and saw her live on the tail end of her career, where she began to use her famed piannissimi even when the score said, "forte" (she even admitted that she really didn't have the high notes for the bel canto repertoire, so her forte notes were often screamy but occasionally fine, and she relied on her floated pianissimi more and more, but I couldn't complain. Her piannissimi were so gorgeous. One of my all-time favorite moments is when she holds a piano note forever in Maria Stuarda during the preghiera, and just when she SHOULD run out of breath she credscendos instead. I don't think any other soprano has done that. The very end of Don Carlo had her holding a piano note until the orchestra stops. Her studio Norma is mediocre, but her video of Norma at the antique theatre in L'Orange is amazing! She's totally on fire! And the wind that night helps to create a turbulent atmosphere. She is one of the greats!
  4. Birdsall

    Yulia Stepanova

    I have to admit that I don't like the color scheme of the costumes/sets in the first scene and the second act of the Grigorovich's Swan Lake. It does look depressing compared to the Mariinsky's (Sergeyev's) version. I love the swan scenes in both versions. There are distinct differences even though the first swan scene is almost identical. I don't mind the choreographic differences or even the Evil Genius at the Bolshoi or jester in the Mariinsky. I love the Sergeyev version more than any other version in the world, but I find the Grigorovich version has grown on me.
  5. Birdsall

    Svetlana Zakharova

    Laurent, This is true. I am just a fan of both ballet and opera, although I have much more experience with opera. I do think the performing arts have always had "experts" and simple fans giving opinions. Sometimes experts can be so caught up in the technical aspects they miss other aspects. Fans can sometimes see things with a different perspective that is fresh compared to an older, experienced critic. Both can be dismissive of great artists as well. Even critics and/or experts disagree on some dancers and singers and fight like cats and dogs. Even today people argue over Maria Callas and Dame Joan Sutherland and probably always will. People hear and see things differently no matter what their background is. Art is very subjective. But I do try to stay positive when I see an artist give her all. I just saw Svetlana Zakharova in the Bolshoi's La Bayadere in Milan, and I think it is a shame that many on BA dismiss her due to her high extensions. She has given very good and some great performances over the years and, in my opinion, she deserves respect as an artist.
  6. Birdsall

    Yulia Stepanova

    That looks almost identical to the Sergeyev, except that she lingers on the floor a little longer. When I saw her in the Sergeyev Mariinsky version instead of lingering on the floor she got up and went from side to side showing how weak Odette felt followed by the high attitudes (which you also see here). Nadezhda Batoeva recently debuted and did a 2nd Swan Lake at the Mariinsky, and she lingered on the floor just as Stepanova does here. So I think it is the Sergeyev, but apparently there are slight variations on the small details of Sergeyev's version.
  7. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    That's true, Drew. Zakharova was the most experienced, and she was very good. She is still worth seeing. And Rodkin partnered her very well. So that was a recipe for being the best show, but somehow it wasn't. Kovalyova and Tissi were electric, in my opinion, and this is something that is hard to put your finger on why exactly......they simply made the story come alive for me.
  8. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    Last night Kovalyova, Tissi, and Kretova thrilled the crowd, and the audience didn’t seem to want them to leave. Tissi, of course, was beloved, but it also felt like I was watching a star being born for Kovalyova! Kretova too! It was like watching 3 stars being born! I actually saw Kovalyova’s debut via a private video and thought she was too young and inexperienced for Nikiya...I was actually disappointed when I watched the video, but last night she impressed me, so I assume she’s been working on the role. Where she was weak in her debut seeming to barely act when the High Brahmin accosted her, she was more emphatic in her rejection last night. However, she looks to me to be a sweet and gentle soul where anger or rejecting someone comes harder than for someone like Zakharova. She has the flowing Vaganova arms that I love, and all night she seemed like a woman in love. Her turns with the scarf looked more assured than Zakharova’s! But the biggest thing that made me love this performance was that all three main characters seemed fresh, young, alive, and the dancers looked like they LOVED what they were doing at every moment. Kretova’s acting was outstanding. She looked desperate when she thought she might lose Solor, and she was very imperious and angry after the cat fight bringing her fist down powerfully. After the snake bite and Nikiya accuses her she looked scared. Technically I found no fault either. Her Italian fouettés and regular fouettés were great! Tissi was hard not to love. I am sure part of the excitement in the theatre was due to his being Italian. However, he delivered and added so many little balances or poses that were beautiful and expressive of the moment. It was like he wanted so much to give the most to the performance. His first solo, however, had a slight jerkiness to it, as he prepared to jump, but all other moments were gorgeous. His cambres in the first act as Nikiya circles around him were deep and beautiful. Basically, this was the performance I thought I would like the least, but it ended up knocking my socks off! Everyone was “on” and you truly believed in the plight of these young people! It is so rare for all the main dancers to be so exciting.
  9. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    It looked full to me. Hard to tell if the back seats in boxes were full though. Kovalyova, Tissi, and Kretova were great tonight! They all looked like young people in love! They gave their all! I was very surprised. I will have to say more tomorrow. I have to try to sleep for 3 hours before catching a flight home very early!
  10. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    I have the Ali Baba audio recording with Alfredo Kraus from La Scala’s 1963 production. I listened to it several times before coming here, and, although the singers were better (especially Kraus), even then I felt it is no major work. It is enjoyable with nice music. I think great singers improve it, but I don’t think it will ever be held in the esteem (popular or critical) that other comic operas are (Barber of Seville, L’elisir d’amore, Don Pasquale, La Fille du Regiment, etc.). I imagine the original singers may have embellished their arias and that may have helped a lot. Maybe La Scala also cut the set pieces and they would be better uncut and embellished. No idea. I found it fun and nice but won’t run to see it again. I do like to see rare operas. Occasionally you sit up and realize an opera doesn’t deserve to be neglected, but often you understand why. I have seen many rare early operas by Verdi, and they show that Verdi was not born a genius. He has glimmers of genius in some arias or ensembles in the early works, and something like Oberto showed his connection to bel canto (which is very interesting) before he found his own amazing special voice. But even from this great composer you understand why many of his early works are rarely performed. They aren’t bad. They just aren’t La Traviata, La Forza, Don Carlos, etc.
  11. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    Cherubini’s rare opera is probably rare for a reason after hearing it tonight (actually last night since it is well past midnight)...there is really no big memorable aria (Nadir and Delia have an aria each but their arias are not thrilling, just “nice”), no memorable duet, no great chorus, etc. Everything about it is nice (the music is nice, the story is comic but I never laughed but it was cute, the set pieces weren’t bad but nothing to make us wish a favorite singer would star in this), but it has nothing that thrills. No “Casta Diva” or “Celeste Aida”.... I don’t mean to make it sound bad. It was fun and nice. I don’t feel I wasted an evening, but I doubt I will ever see it again, even if I had the chance. It strikes me as an ensemble piece where no one character takes center stage at least not for long. The arias are almost ariosos. Therefore it was a perfect vehicle for the student singers of the academy. I think overall they showed promise but they didn’t sound like polished singers. The tenor Hun Kim as Nadir had an aria at the beginning and did not sound warmed up, but he got better as the opera progressed. Soprano Enkeleda Kamani was Delia, and she sang well and acted well. I think with more stage experience and technical study she could develop into a very good singer. Bass Paolo Ingrasciotta was Ali Baba, and I thought he sounded best among the main characters. Luciana D’intino prepared/coached the singers, according to the playbill. The ballet students did some crazy modern dances (one tossing watermelons to each other). They looked talented but the choreography was more like circus acrobatics. Paolo Carignani conducted well and got the most applause. Liliana Cavani was the director, and she had them double as students in a library and also going into the world of Ali Baba. It enabled the production to be both fairly conservative but with a twist that might satisfy the Regietheater lovers. Overall, a nice evening, not a performance for the ages though, and I didn’t expect that. It was interesting to hear and see this opera. I probably will never get another chance to see it, but that won’t bother me either. I would much rather see Cherubini’s Medee!
  12. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/season/2017-2018/ballet/bolshoi/la-bayadere.html Here’s the casting for all 3 shows (above) in case I don’t mention most. Late and I am tired. I see why Smirnova’s arms are controversial now. I think part of the issue is that she has large elbow joints sort of like the men who have large forearms (larger than their biceps which looks like Popeye arms). You see this more frequently in men. Smirnova’s forearms are not Popeye arms but the elbow joint is much larger than most ballerinas and this causes many of her movements and poses with her arms to take on an angular or bent or squarish shape. I think she is trying really hard to compensate and the audience loved her (maybe even more than Zakharova). She does give her all in acting. She is the up and coming prima (may knock Zakharova off her throne) judging by audience reaction. I enjoyed much of her performance, but I agree with some people that her arms are a problem. She does have a diva look but her curtain calls are rather humble in manner. I like her, but I want to like her more. But who am I? It sounds like she has plenty of fans. Chudin ended his turns in second by stopping with his working leg high and balancing before finally setting it down. He was committed and a great partner. What he lacked in zip and youthful vigor (Rodkin) he made up for showing his experience. Shrainer was a very dynamic Gamzatti. After her Italian fouettés and regular fouettés I thought she was about to fall out but she recovered before any problem. It looked like she might fall out but regained her confidence and composure before she did.
  13. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    32....both the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi do 32. And I counted to make sure! LOL I have seen the Markarova version and it is disappointing for me to see only 24. I do like the temple collapse and closure that Markarova gives us especially the beautiful apotheosis where Nikiya seems to lead Solor up the steps to Heaven holding the scarf....that is a beautiful moment (ending). But I really love the Russian style in the entire Shades scene, and 32 on 4 ramps is pure bliss! Grigorovich attempts some type of closure. I interpret his ending as Solor waking up and realizing she’s gone for good (Nikiya appears at the top of the ramps and then leaves) and he collapses (almost like Giselle’s ending).
  14. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    Okay, I will. It is actually students from La Scala’a Academy who have been working with La Scala to learn and perfect their abilities.
  15. Birdsall

    Bolshoi at Teatro alla Scala

    It is magical when there are shades on all four ramps! I had seen it on video many times, but in person it was so gorgeous! That’s one thing Grigorovich changed that I love!!!
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