Watching TV after a hard day of rewriting about three jokes, it suddenly struck me that I had sky plussed the first heat of 'Cardiff Singer of the World' last night. I became mildly obsessed with this competition in my adolescence, in its bi-annual appearances. I remember (ok, this is where you decide I'm weird) that I read a nice article in the Guardian once about how they all had fun and went out drinking together between concerts, really just a puff piece, and for some reason I covered said article in sticky backed plastic and blu tac'd it to the wall next to my bed. Perhaps everyone's quite weird at 14, but really, it's no wonder I used to get beaten up, is it?
So, anyway, I love CSOTW, and thought I'd write a bit about it on here. I'm aware that this is turning into more and more of an opera blog, which was never the intention. There are other people who do that much, much better than me, for one thing. But, what can you do? The football season is over, I haven't got anything to plug (that's Thursday, when That Mitchell And Webb Look returns to your screens with more material of mine than ever before. Oh look, I did have something to plug) and none of my neighbours have played Afroman loudly late at night for a few weeks. We have a new floor in the hall- should I tell you about that? Besides, BBC4's coverage of Cardiff is a great way to get into opera. Just don't laminate anything.
When I was rambling on about Cosi and Trov, I was frustrated that I couldn't remember half the things I'd thought at the time. So tonight, watching last night's heat, I just typed as I watched. It may not be coherent but it's immediate. Or something. And now tonight's heat is starting. Balls. I'm falling behind. Anyway- last night's mob.
Josie D’Arby doing backstage interviews- wtf? Still, she was an unexpected addition to ‘Look Around You’ and she was great in that, so I’ll keep an open mind.
Etienne Dupuy- Canadian Baritone- words that cause the heart to flutter with adolescent memories of Gino Quilico *reverie*- This one is full of personality, lovely voice but nothing to make me sit up and take notice. I’m kind of allergic to Papageno, though, especially out of context. Oh look, he’s finishing with Largo al Factotum. I’m so pleased. Slightly odd Beatlemania screaming from the audience at the end.
Dana Bramane- Latvian Soprano- apparently inspired to be a singer by hearing Whitney Houston aged nine, which makes me feel old. She doesn’t think she’s going to win, likeably enough. Sounds nice in the rehearsal clip of ‘Donde lieta usci’ which is her opener. Oooh yes, I like her. Very Slavic sound, but of the light, bright, forward, Vishnevskaya- type, rather than the ‘please stop clouting me with your vibrato and go and sort out that samovar’ type, which can get wearing. Cor, it’s ‘Mi Tradi’ next, which is brave, and unexpected. Very nice it was too, although she chucked in a vulgar high note at the end. I liked her a lot, though, and she’s certainly first in the field of two at the moment. Mary King’s talking about a register break, which I didn’t hear, but hey, I’m not a voice teacher.
Fernando Javier Rado- Argentinian bass- cuteish (‘opera cute’ to borrow a savagely accurate phrase from someone else) He’s doing Philip II, which is a brave choice when you’re like twelve*. I suspect, by the way, that age will be a running theme in these notes. This is the first Cardiff where I’ve been conscious of being older than the singers. But in this case it’s relevant- he’s singing beautifully but all we’re getting facially and vocally is ‘I think this man is probably sad’. Followed by ‘Non piu andrai’, which was finely sung but again dullish. So, if he swiped his card, he’d see for voice: ten, for oomph, three.
More high pitched screaming for him from what seems to be an almost entirely female audience. What do gays do in Wales, then? Rugby maybe. Oh, and there was that one in Steps.
Wow, Kurt Moll’s on the panel. And Gwyneth Jones. Cool.
Emiliya Ivanova- stunningly beautiful Bulgarian soprano. Coloratura by the sound of the rehearsal clip. Initially wanted to be a pop star- hmm. She’s doing ‘Lucia’- Regnava nel Silenzio. If you can carry this off, love, you’ll probably earn more of a crust than most Bulgarian pop singers. Oh, and sack your stylist. Now, this is lovely singing. She can act, too. Easy winner so far, you’d be happy with this in a major house. Although I have to go to sleep for a moment now because it’s Donizetti. Seriously, so far ahead of the rest it’s not funny. Confirms this with a lovely version of Juliette’s Waltz Song. Would be lovely to hear her sing something, you know, interesting.
Eri Nakamura- Japanese Soprano. Josie D’Arby is completely redundant, by the way. She just asks them one by one ‘how did you decide to become an opera singer’, and then grabs them as they come off to ask ‘How did that go?’ since she patently has no idea. More Donizetti.- the Don Pasquale aria. Overdoing the soubrettish laughs- looks and sounds sinister. Good though- plenty of personality, strong technique. The voice doesn’t do as much for me as Ivanova’s does, although I have a sneaking suspicion she’s going to pip this as she’s more extrovert. And now more Juliette- but ‘Dieu, quell frisson’ this time. No doubt she’s impressive, but I don’t actually like the tone quality. And she went a little sharp on the last note. Pick pick pick. She’s super-dramatic facially and gesticulatively though, which will go down very well live. King and Neal Davies are big fans.
Josie D’Arby- ‘this is a bit like the Olympics, isn’t it?’. Now she’s talking to Connie Fisher, who is telling us that eyes are more important than voice. Chew on that, parterre.
Nakamura wins. There’s still hope for Ivanova, though, as the finalists aren’t necessarily the heat-winners. Hope she gets through. Now for tonight’s lot. I'll put all the subsequent heats in as comments, so people don't have to wade through them. And so I can decide not to bother if I feel like not bothering.
*Oh gawd help us, he's 23.