Dmitri Hvorostovsky – Russian passion at the Edinburgh festival

Edit: if you’d like to hear some samples of his amazing singing do check out my twitter timeline on the right hand side towards the bottom of the page, i’ve been listening all day and posting a few videos there. It’s passion like the one he had and generosity towards the audience that makes opera such a profound experience with the right artist. ….
This was an original post from August, 10th , 2008… the first time i ever saw Hvoro live. What i didn’t share back then was that i also met him after the performance and he was lovely and charming and funny, an utter rock star 🙂 I hope i can find the photo he had somebody take of me and him. He’s now singing for the angels, but he will always have a very very special place in my heart. We’ll never stop missing you, Dima 😦 RIP
(Sadly the linked video is no longer available). More thoughts on him i found again :

(http://operaismagic.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Dmitri%20Hvorostovsky)

Dmitri Hvorostovsky – Russian passion at the Edinburgh festival

My festival started with a bang!! And probably started the way it should have ended, in absolute mind blowing, soul filling superlatives!

Translation: I experienced my first live “song evening”! And it was to be a memorable one, by the hand of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and in Russian no less! I say if you decide to do something new, do it properly!

Usher Hall was packed but one cannot say it was dressed for the evening… It looked more like a bombed place where big holes in the walls were hidden behind wooden panels. However, it is still a miracle they are able to hold concerts there at all considering that just a few days ago the place was totally uninhabitable.

In the middle of a song we also heard a loud bang, which could be either of – the first set of firework at this year’s Military tattoo or the workers dropping some boxes 3 floors down. Hvorostovsky reckoned the roof didn’t tremble too much during the evening 😉

Considering that my vocabulary in Russian is reduced to “vodka” , which I don’t like, and “spasiva” which probably sounds like everything else but thanks, I was quite apprehensive about enjoying the evening. So in order to prevent linguistic frustration I did my homework and read all possible translations of what would be the program of the night; some I did not find at all but I armed myself with trust in the wonderful performer which I had first heard in a ROH Traviata.

But I found that homework wasn’t necessary, because the artist translated with his voice, tone, gestures and gazes all you would ever need to know about Russian. It did give me however the freedom to ignore the program pages in my lap and tie my eyes to Dmitri. Some would think that “fun” is not the right word for describing an evening of Russian songs, but it is exactly what I experienced. They are often depicted as being an endless road to depression, but I found them much more intense and multifaceted than that. Yes there is winter cold, and sadness about lives’ struggle, there is hope of end and fear of betrayal but there is so much more and so much more powerful. And with such a passionate and consummate performer the songs grew to impressive dimensions. Even if you didn’t understand the word, you saw the sadness in his eyes, you heard the suffering in his tone, you saw the rage and frustration in his hand. And you heard sarcasm flow from his lips, just as you saw them curb in the most lender of smiles.


It is a true artist’s achievement to spellbind an audience of thousands in a foreign language with just your voice and a piano. Gradually people forgot about their programs and just listened to Dmitri tell us wonderful stories. There was a strong connection there, a dialogue of smiles, eyes and ears, which thankfully survived even the constant interruptions of applause after each song. It became more relaxed and familiar than such evening might be, but I don’t think it lost any of the intensity of the performance.

For more details on the program of the evening please see intermezzo! I felt that I had little to tell about the songs after this, but I decided that it gave me such an unforgettable experience and such pleasure that I had to say thanks once again to Dmitri and Ivari Ilja, who so sensitively and finely accompanied the songs with his piano.

I liked all songs, the sad ones, the melancholic ones, the furious ones and the merry ones, but above all the ironic ones. Watching Dmitri sing Tchaikosvky’s Pimpinella is just pure fun!!!

And he has the most amazing technique and endless breath, guaranteed to make the audience’s jaws drop to the floor where they stayed for pretty much of the evening 😉 My only slight disappointment was not hearing Goethe’s “GlucklicheFahrt” and “Uber alle Gipfeln ” in original, but Medtner’s music and Dmitri’s singing fully compensated for that.

Dmitri was also dressed for the part, all black silk and flowing lines around his shoulders and arms which made his movements even more gracious.

This was and evening of pure, refined Russian passion to die for!

And for me one of many many more song evening to follow, whatever the language.

Watch out for the repeat later this year at the Barbican and on the 15th on BBC for the broadcast of the evening in Edinburgh.

Here is a small taster of an older version of PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY “In the Midst of the Ball,” Op. 38, No. 3

Thanks for the video dokoleg1

For further reviews please see the Scotsman and the Herald

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I need to have a word with karma..

It needs to pack its bags and move on.

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Childhood comfort food – ‘chet’ – simple onions, peppers and tomatoes on well toasted bread (my gran used to make this for us on cold Sunday mornings). I needed this today

It was last September when this whole circus of a year started and it is not looking as if things will change anytime soon, but i really wish they would.

It started with redundancy at work which left us at less than a 1/3 of what we used to be. All at risk, it wasn’t the most peaceful of winters having to wonder almost 6 months if i would have a job at all by the end of it. A few interviews only confirmed that i really didn’t want to go anywhere else and be back on the hamster wheel in the commercial world, living out of a suitcase. Then in March thankfully i had a job, but not the job it used to be. About 2x of it in fact as it has turned out. Not all days, but never really less than 1.5x. Followed by the uphill battle for our workplace as a whole, which has only ended about a week ago with finally some certainly over the next 10 years. But with impaired finances and other circumstances which will make life difficult for everyone.

But at this point i owe massive thanks to all those who spoke up and wrote in the papers and took to the street and saved it. For a few months it looked as if it would be much much worse. This, this we can make work.

We still don’t know exactly how things will work out, but we’ve been adjusting during the summer. And i’ve had to adjust to much lonelier summers at work since everyone with kids was off and i was left with it and no holidays in sight. Mine are spent flying back to see my parents and somehow this year the few days i squeezed to take off were spent battling flu around a bank holiday. I hope the good memories from last year’s 1 week Scotland trip will manage to keep me going for many more months.

In the meantime last November my flat was a building site as all window sills were getting replaced, the kitchen got repainted, with smaller paint jobs once windows fixed. I came back from Xmas trip to find a leak in the roof which had stained my bedroom ceiling. And i had the pleasure of the increasing damp until July this summer. Finally after another 6 weeks building site outside the window the roof was (hopefully) fixed for a while. And 2 weeks ago the bedroom got finally repainted. I hope with 3 building sites in a year i’ve completed the 5 year average.

July i joined a friend for 2 days around estates in Derby to get some fresh air and hopefully put a nasty cough behind me. Which i did, but the break was somehow ruined when Brexit hit right in the middle of it. Whatever people say about the timelines and so on, the world around me has changed irrevocably, and not for the better.

(Working with news screens in your view line all day is a stark reminder of what the world is like and how much this place has changed. I have trouble recognising it though when it refuses to shelter even children in the most vulnerable of circumstances 😦 When it and its neighbours can dismiss those in terrible need with threats of dismantling the camps they take shelter in, instead of trying to provide help. I have real trouble reconciling what i read in papers i’ve dealt with to try and claw some security back and how we act. We seem to be drifting far and farther away from the principles we supposedly stand for).

It’s all a bit of an unfortunate chain of events but it felt like every step was into the unknown, job, house and overall life uncertainty all at once. You suddenly realise how few safety nets you have, if any at all. And that it is something almost nobody can understand. Being the boss of your own destiny also means that yours is likely to also be the only hand to stop you from falling.

And then in August, my already small family, scattered around the world dwindled to the fingers of one hand (and this includes cousins and uncles).  Loosing somebody so close to you does tip the scales in some ways. You learn to look past or just accept the declines you can’t stop and just focus on what you still have, at least for a little while longer.

Thankfully there’s been the blip here and there of nice, positive things, like a good word, a workplace which in spite humongous challenges still has hope and inspiration, the unexpected token from far away, a friend who visits, one who gets you out of the house to go see theatre with them. All that has made a difference, as frankly has the sun which decided in September to give us some long overdue summer.

Karma not quite done yet however it seems. At the moment it is telling me that a trip decided in a ‘what the hell’ moment may not be a good idea. Everything that could go wrong has, things that have never ever happened to me in a lifetime of travelling. I ended up booking the same flight twice, because the website had a hick up. And got charged twice and lost a chunk of money in trying to claw it back (cured me of using agency sites ever again, appalling service). And it wasn’t the flights i wanted either, since those increased beyond my budget while i was trying to book. Now i am forced to take a bet in a travel across the pond as if it was Europe, hoping i’ll make it from flight to town and also back in time for theatre. And i hate taking those time gambles. Then i bought the wrong theatre tickets. Yes, wrong dates (never done that before either and i am hardly inexperienced where bookings are concerned). Never mind there is only 1 price in the entire place and it is anything but moderate. I got myself out of that particular disaster at the pricey cost of international phone calls (to which i had to figure out international call numbers on my own as staff was totally unhelpful via email) and another steep fee. (Way to go on making new customers feel welcome).

And it continues with more admin (which  assumed known as i had investigated for reasons of work earlier in the year) to even be able to make the journey. Turns out visa is double the price of a ticket if you are a tourist. Plus it involves personal interviews and begging for admission and justifying all your life enough to be believed and approved. I think it was my subconscious which refused to go there until now and deal with any of the humiliation because i know where it takes me back to and how much i would dislike doing it. It’s possible that if i used my brain and started here instead of applying heart to it i would have not even considered it. Now i have no choice. At present i am not even putting together all the costs vs time in particular because it would spell one clear word : nutter.

While i was still chewing my way through this particular first time ever planning fail  this happened.  Jonas Kaufmann has had to cancel the upcoming Hoffmann performances in  Paris because doctors have found a hematoma on his vocal cords, probably caused by side effects from some medication. He’s under strict orders for total vocal rest until this is absorbed. That’s sort of the scientific bit of it. The long version is that a singer and very nice person i have known for 10 years now is facing career and personal uncertainty. Singers’ careers are so fragile, you rarely know what is around the corner and small things can have important consequences. And singing is rarely just a job for any of them, it’s what they love, what drives them and like in this case, what gives joy to so many people. And they are always under scrutiny, criticism, etc. Not knowing when, how you will be able to sing again can only be a source of horrible anxiety.

Truth be told i never expected this to impact me as much as it did (regardless of having a matinee train ticket to go see him in a role new for him and which i love). But all the years i have enjoyed his singing and acting and all that have come rushing back in my mind. And the thought of somebody so generous with his gift, who has brought so much joy into many years of my life out there, stressed, anxious, not knowing what the future holds for him is just painful. The frustration of not being able to help or support is horrible.

I can only send all my warmest thoughts, virtual hugs and wish him loads of patience and a truckload of good luck. If thoughts can help at all, all mine are his. And this (for no other reason than it is the fist role i ever heard him sing and love this duet the way he sings it very very much):

As he was saying to Violetta the first time i ever heard him 10 years ago:

La tua salute rifiorirà.

And because inevitably i lost myself in youtube videos of him singing here’s 2 more bits from the fabulous Andrea Chenier he did recently at the ROH. Singing, he really is a poet on stage 🙂 Get well soon Jonas! You’ll be back here, having fun with Tony, in no time.

Tomorrow is Monday, sunny day – yay, monthly reporting week – not so yay, but at least i’ll be away from the building site downstairs, next door and across the street during the day, all home appliances working so far, i’m feeling ok (last week’s back pain finally gone), JK has one more recovery day behind him. Things can only get better.

Opera rehearsal- from rehearsal room to opening night

Thinking a lot about rehearsals these days and how people slip into other character’s lives and emotions i remembered i saw this amazing documentary:

This gives a little insight into what it takes to create a role for the Royal Opera House stage. Soprano Elizabeth Watts was absolutely gorgeous as Zerlina by the way 🙂

I remember watching this for the first time and crying for most of it because it found it so touching to see how hard and emotionally demanding the process actually is (even for somebody who is an absolutely fabulous singer!)

Enjoy!

An Opera-Themed “Sampler” Quilt For Hariclea

This was the most wonderful surprise!! Totally unexpected but so lovely ❤

I’ve had half a day away from home and still find it hard to find the words to describe how wonderful the quilt is that jholland has gifted me with! I’ve admired her crafting skills even since i first read her describe her work, but never in a million years did i dream about owning such an amazing creation!

I’ve always read her with great pleasure, not just on our joint ‘pReoccupAtion’ but about the lovely animals she cares about and her fun family 🙂 and all manner of other common themes. But, we’re yet to have the pleasure to meet in person so i never expected to be the undeserving receiver of her hard work! Or her mum’s for that matter 😃

This arrived for me today via a trip to customs! A few days ago i received a letter from customs about a parcel from the US and i was not sure what it was. I went online, did the required formalities and curiously awaited the parcel 🙂 Happy to say whatever customs did has not disturbed the content at all, as you will be able to see below, it seemed untouched and i glad it was so respectfully treated and valued 🙂

I gently unwrapped it while having to stop every minute to wipe my eyes. Beyond just recovering from the sheet surprise of it the detail is just incredible and jholland has hit so many spots 🙂 I loved discovering every square of detail, the lovely bling of black cloth with tiny golden squares surrounding the pattern, the gilded border and the scores of my favourite pieces and places all around. It has prints of opera houses which are dear to me like the Royal Opera House in London, the Garnier in Paris, the Wien Staatsoper and the Metropolitan in NY which i am yet to visit 🙂 There are images of extracts of scores of Tosca, Don Giovanni, Boheme and even Lucia, one of my very favourites!

And then there are the instruments, the masks, the opera glasses! It’s more glamourous really than my entire opera going life 😜

It’s such a labour of love! Please do read jhollands lovely post below which describes in detail how it was made and all the details! And i can only imagine the long hours of work. I am incredibly grateful to jholland and her lovely mum 💛💙💜💚❤💗💓💕💞

It has so much in it of my love of opera, which has always been driven by the music itself and the singing rather than individual voices and the added details of instruments and opera glasses also remind me of all the nights at the opera i spent with my parents and especially my grandmother , who is the one who gifted me my first pair of opera glasses, which i still own. And it is filled with the love of the gentle hands of those who made it 🙂

I never would have guessed an unassuming trip to a Miller play in London would one day land this treasure in my lap 🙂 But it has and it has brought me wonderful friends with incredibly big hearts who i hope one day i will be able to meet in person and hug for real (preferably while we attend another piece of theater with RA together 😉😍)

Thank you sososososo much! And here it is in all it’s wonderful glory, with all the spot on details on the front, the beautiful patterns, the border, the bling, the  music of the design and almost even more on the back where you can hopefully see from the photos the swirling handmade patterns of spirals, flowers, waves 🙂

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If you right click on the images and click open in new window you’ll see each of them in  bigger size.

Can’t wait to sit with it watching a recording of an opera.. or of a play 😉 and i can’t stop running my hand over the it…

Big hugs and kisses to you jholland and your mum! i feel truly lucky and spoiled rotten!

preoccupiedwitharmitage

Final Product Opera Is Magic, 2016. (I named the quilt, of course, after Hariclea’s wonderful blog!)

Funny that I should receive the heartwarming response that she received my gift from Hari on Mother’s Day- made my warm-fuzzy-filled day all the better! And somewhat fitting, as well, because my own Mom had quite a part in this quilt. We’ve been in a bit of an Armitage Drought, lately, and in case anyone ever wonders what I tend to do when I’m not full-on preoccupiedwitharmitage, well, I’m generally spending time with Mom quite preoccupiedwithquilting. =)

Lately, though, my hobbies have converged to some degree, as I’ve found myself obsessing thinking about doing some sort of an Armitage-themed quilt. And while I ponder that, I’ve been inspired by some really warm fandom friendships. When I think about these people, I’m afraid my quilting addiction kicks in. You see, when I’m fond of someone and feel like I…

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Juan Diego Florez and classic Italian schmalz

click on the photo for a link to the album on Spotify and you can listen for free 

Track list:

Sorry for the lack of postings, it’s been a bit stressful at work lately and my batteries are just flagging, not enough power left for proper writing. Seems to be set to go on for a while so i’ve been ploughing my ears with as much comfort as possible 🙂

I’ve just finished a few audio-books and this morning heard the last of Darcy proposing again to Lizzy so have switched to music and stumbled upon this. I love Juan Diego Florez in all his incarnations but i love it when he sings ‘easy listen’ music. Maybe because he does it better than the vast majority of operatic singers out there 🙂 Probably also because he started off as a pop-singer himself and he can lay on the schmalz with the best of them an in a really honest, heartfelt mode.

There is just something about his voice and the familiar tunes, the sound of guitar and accordion, the memories of Italy, the sun, the car 😉 that provided the much needed relief.

Enjoy!!