Saturday, May 1, 2010

Armida or what a woman will do


Today I was at the metropolitan opera, well listening to an HD broadcast of Armida by Rossini. It is rarely performed and no wonder, the singing is incredibly technically difficult and all bel canto. Renee Fleming and Lawrence Brownlee were the leads and sang magically as Armida the sorceress and Rinaldo the warrior.

The opera is about the conflict between love and duty, or cupid and fury. It takes you into the underworld. There was a hilarious scene when the furies from the underworld did a ballet. The ballet in the second act was outstanding, again on the theme of love and duty or masculinity and femininity.

Armida is a sorceress and has an island of pleasure, it is always spring or fall despite what the outside says, it is secluded and beautiful, inhabited by nymphs. What is so wrong about that? Like the Star Trek Episode the Lotus eaters, we know it wont last. Paradise never does.

In Act three, Rinaldos warrior buddies, armed with religion come to reclaim Rinaldo from his enalavement to love. They convince him that honour and bloody battle is better and he follows them.

Armida is distraught, in what is the most beautiful and poignant singing I have ever heard, Renee Fleming pleads telling Rinaldo she will be a servant, cut off her hair, tend his horses and even go to battle with him. She even begs him to kill her, as life is not worth living without him. She tries every trick in the book but it is all for naught. He leaves her, alone and broken on her island. She renounces love and calls upon the furies to destroy her paradise.

The moral of the story, furies, revenge and honour always win over love and pleasure and in the end, destroy it all. The human condition is not meant to be lived in paradise.

Lawrence Brownlee is a young tenor with a magnificent tone in his tenor range. He is convincing on the high as well as the low notes and mastered the part admirably. Renee Fleming was at her finest. When Brownlee sings with Fleming there is never the any note you can sing I can sing louder, only sublime texture, finesse and tenderness. The opera was a treat for all my senses~

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