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.

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Royal Opera House favourite Jonas Kaufmann clips

Source ROH: Watch: Our favourite Jonas Kaufmann clips

‘Ahead of the tenor’s performance at the Last Night of the BBC Proms, we pick some of our favourite YouTube clips.

BY LOTTIE BUTLER (ASSISTANT CONTENT PRODUCER (NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA))

9 SEPTEMBER 2015 AT 3.00PM | COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE

Acclaimed German tenor Jonas Kaufmann will take to the stage of the Royal Albert Hallthis Saturday for the grand finale of the Proms. Last Night of the Proms, a celebrated concert that marks the close of the two-month classical music festival, will be broadcast live on BBC Two (first half from 7.15pm) and BBC One (second half from 9pm).

Jonas will join pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, soprano Danielle de Niese and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Marin Alsop. They will perform a programme that ranges from world premieres to the National Anthem. View the full programme.

Jonas will sing Thomas Arne’s ‘Rule, Britannia!’ (the first German to do so at the Last Night of the Proms) as well as operatic arias ‘Nessun Dorma’ from Turandot, ‘Recondita armonia’ from Tosca and ‘Donna non vidi mai’ from Manon Lescaut.

For a taster of Saturday’s performance, watch Jonas perform ‘Donna non vidi mai’ inJonathan Kent’s production of Manon Lescaut. The production had its world premiere in June 2014, and was subsequently screened live in cinemas across the world:

Jonas has just released a new album – Nessun Dorma: The Puccini Album. The recording, which includes excerpts from all of Puccini’s operas (except the all-femaleSuor Angelica), was recorded with Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and choir of the Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia.

Jonas next performs at Covent Garden as the lovestruck Don José, opposite Anita Rachvelishvili‘s fiery femme fatale in Francesca Zambello’s Royal Opera production ofCarmen. To whet your appetite, watch an extract of his performance at Covent Garden from 2006:

Jonas made his Royal Opera debut in 2004 as Ruggero in La rondine, and has since sung roles including Alfredo in La traviata, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Don Carlo, and Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur. In April 2014, he performed a hugely successful main-stage recital of Winterreise, Schubert’s lieder cycle that he has also recorded with Sony:

Carmen runs 19 October–30 November 2015. Tickets are still available for some performances.’

Day tickets are released at 10am each morning for personal callers , and returns may become available

Hello old friend – and i don’t mean Puccini ;-)

http://www.vevo.com/watch/USSM21500374?syndicationid=bb8a16ab-1279-4f17-969b-1dba5eb60eda&shortlink=kkzoiS&country=GB

Please click on the link above to view the video, otherwise it is embedded into the ClassicFM article linked below (it’s a promo video but apparently not available everywhere, etc and i can’t embed it here as Vevo and WP seem to hate each other)

Talk about coincidences, this is what dropped into my Inbox this morning 🙂 I knew the CD was coming, it is somewhere in my pre-order list at amazon, but i’d pre-ordered it and then forgot about it. I do have everything he has recorded to date, not all DVDs, but all CDs as it is the audio aspect that interests me more that some productions.

ClassicFM has done a funny little article about it here 😉 Feel free to have a look and don’t throw tomatoes at the photos, i knew, some kid in the office has been at photoshop again and he ain’t very good about it! As you can easily tell by comparison with the live figure in the video 😀 No idea why they do this stuff and create bad wax replicas in photos, but there you go, money only goes so far with the classical music business and the money goes to the recording process and little is left to pay really good photographers…

I know these videos are made for a purpose, to sell. But i have no issue with that, particularly as it is a tiny market compared to pop music and singers, if lucky, only make about 1 Eur per CD sold. These days it is more to capture a voice for future generations, to get to sing stuff you may not get a chance to do on stage, to collaborate with certain musicians, etc. And these recordings are very expensive to make, pay the orchestra, the conductor, the venue. It used to take several weeks in the past but these days people hardly have the funds to stretch recordings like these for more than 1 week. So it is intense, very hard work, sometimes 6h+ in the studio/hall a day. And that is a lot for singers who under normal circumstances when they performed sing for about 3-5h a night every 3 days on average.

Anyway, enough boring background about the making of 😉 This video is a promo about the upcoming CD which contains only Puccini arias. Funny enough Puccini is not my favourite composer at all, BUT the man had a knack for brilliant stage drama and the music can rival the best of movie scored from today. And he picked interesting stories to tell.

I am sure anyone will recognise some arias on this video, the Tosca bits and the Vincero 😉 (from Turandot, about an princess who kills all the potential suitors who can’t solve the riddles she sets them 😉 this one is set to defeat her however, duh! 😉 ) I do like Tosca a lot and not just the well known bits but the duets and the interactions and he is by far my favourite painter, Mario Cavaradossi. I can’t begin to describe the sweetness of his vocal lines when the talks to his lover, the famous singing diva, Floria Tosca. Check this out, from a live performance and listen out for the chuckles, smooching sounds and all that 😉

It is one of my favourite roles of his, among other things because i was there when he sang it for the first time, in London with Tony Pappano (same conductor as on the upcoming CD) a bit over 7 years ago 🙂 Another very fond memory of those nights (went to see it 3 times 😉 ) is the way the hall went dead silent when he sang his last year just before he knew he was going to die, saying good bye to his memories of her and to life in general and hearing the sighs and sobs of people around me, men and women alike. In fact people were so utterly moved, nobody dared to clap at the end of the aria and that is, as far as i know unheard of. Because you see, in opera, arias are there to impress with vocal proves, with high notes and it can be so exciting to hear you forget what the singer sang about and cheer him for what he is able to accomplish with his voice.  Now imagine somebody who puts his all into it and all he gets is…. silence 🙂 We actually had to tell him what people were experiencing after the show, as he thought something had gone wrong for the usual reaction not to happen. As he says in the video, Pappano knew him better maybe than he knew himself as an artist at the time and gave him this role to own, at a time when nobody in an opera house as big as the ROH would have considered to pick him for something as challenging and high profile. And boy was it special 🙂 I remember wanting to come back again and again and again (i wasn’t living in London at the time) until a ‘certain someone’ said: ‘don’t, it’s enough, i’ll do this again’.

And i have seen it quite a few more times and hope to see it some more 🙂

His Mario i’ll never get bored with. But there is another role on the CD and of Puccini that i particularly like, he mentions him in the video as well, the story of the bandit, saved by a strong woman 🙂 Puccini adored his leading ladies and his operas are mostly showcases for sopranos. But i like this story because it was written at the beginning of the century when stories of strong women were not necessarily a staple on stage and it is nice that for once the hero is not the tenor 🙂 This aria, which happens towards the end of the opera is therefore special, because it captures a moment of utter vulnerability. He has been captured, his bandit days are over and he is prepared to die hanging and asks them to not tell her about his death but pretend he has gotten away and if living a life of freedom (And then she comes and convinces them to let him go as she believes he is reformed and she can save him; the opera actually has a happy ending, which is unusual!).

So there it is, video from a live performance this time, Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano (let her believe me free and far away from here..):

Looking forward to the CD now, not only because of the nice memories it has brought back, but because this is the most thrilling, powerful, rich, raw and emotional voice i have ever heard live on an opera stage 🙂 Mille grazie Jonas 🙂

#BlogIntroChallenge 1: What made you start blogging?

The lovely and ever inventive and creative Guylty has issued a new blog challenge. It is all a journey of introspection via the above question path. I’ll take this slowly, as seems to be my pace round here, but time is impossibly limited so at least i can start with nr 1.

I had this half written and ironically in the page i had written i was saying how much more i enjoy my new blog home compared to the old…. when i clicked by mistake and the whole thing was gone! Why is there no auto-save on WP???

Unfortunately i now have to cut the story short 😦

What i was saying is that this blog is not really new, i have been at it for a surprising – to me – number of years just changed street address so to speak. Meet me… back in 2008…  Opera is Magic!

The impulse back then was the same as when i pushed myself to get back at it: real life experiences which were both enriching and life changing. I’ve been going to live performances of music and theatre since the age of 3 when i parents first took me to see an opera. It has always been part of my life, but it was growing and changing myself and circumstances around me that led to a more conscious enjoyment of it. I moved countries and had to travel a lot for work so could only see a lot less. I learned to live without the frequency of events, experienced other hobbies and discovered the internet at some point as a means of keeping in touch with the artistic world.

I also realised that what for me has always been a source of joy and excitement did not mean overall positive reactions. In seems at least in classical music the more people know and have experienced, the more they enjoy criticising and debating. So i wanted to keep that feeling of excitement for longer  but also convey it to others, among which many of my friends who had not experienced it before or to a much lesser degree. Which is sort of why my first post was in Spanish although i am not a native speaker, to share with friends. I switched to English immediately after as the interactions outside the net suggested other people may want to read too.

I got enormous joy out of writing and sharing the experience and the travel time in hotels allowed me to keep it alive for a good number of years. When work pattern changed it became more difficult also because some of the people i shared the experience in writing crossed over in real life and i was having the face to face conversation that i used to have in writing before. 2012 has been a year of artistic high points and big accumulation in real life of events, i lost the energy to repeat what i spent tens of hours talking about. And the two years that follow lack any high points that came close to those. Nothing quite reached the level of excitement that i had experienced before ( and other rl concerns emerged as well).

As you can see i couldn’t bring myself to close it completely, not even to make it private, i loved writing it. So i kept it and i routinely played around with the idea of continuing. I created the empty shell of my current house more than a year before i actually started writing again..

And then came 2014 🙂 with a life changing summer you have heard much about by now 😉 And i felt inspired, challenged, enriched again.The inspiration came from where i did  not expect it and it is very different to write about something that is so much less familiar to me. And i felt it has also given me the permission to write about other topics too. And inspiration and joy has come not only from the impulse originator, but also from making new friends, interacting with people, finding new ideas, exchanging thoughts. I like the fun times as much as i do the pensative times. Thanks for bringing me back and for allowing me to feel completely at home in the blink of an eye 🙂 And the latter is fully due to the interaction with you fellow bloggers and commentators 🙂