Sunday, 28 March 2010

Once Again, All Alone - Videoclip with Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Russian romances (romansy) have nothing to do with "romantic" in the sense of romantic movies. They are art songs, typically on the words of a poem by one of the many great Russian poets. They are often sad or nostalgic, and yet you must keep listening to them from the beginning of a CD to the end. Not excepting Hvorostovsky's newest release of Tchaikovsky's romances, which has a total of 81 minutes.

Mentioning this release, I can not forget to say that it's in my book his best release in this genre. The voice is darker, fuller, his approach mature and Mr. Ilja's playing perfect. Be looking forward to another release that the Delos are planning. I have heard it, as it has been released in Russia, and it's just as good!

Nevertheless, Mr.Hvorostovsky has always been singing this genre, and he's surpassed by none. His very second CD he released in the West, a year after the very successful Tchaikovsky and Verdi Arias (1990), was Russian Romances (1991). It is my second favourite CD of romances (after the newest one, of course). The picture on the cover comes from this videoclip:

I don't know how famous or obscure this video was at the time, but I suppose videoclips by opera singers were not as common then as they are now, let alone would they comprise of hints of eroticism (mild for today's standards). One thing is for certain: it's an excellent video. In its mood and artistic approach, it's entirely loyal to Tchaikovsky's song, and shows how literally timeless these songs are.

Sheet music with Russian text and singable English translation (surprisingly loyal) in .pdf can be found here, on a site dedicated to everything Russian, including Russian music, including art song. All of it is only in Russian, unfortunately.

If you feel like you need a literal translation and transliteration, I've made one for you:

Important notes:
я - ya - I
ы - is like "i" in "bit", but more to the back of your mouth.
е - full pronunciation is "ye", but the "y" part is often ommitted, what is left is some sort of a softening of the preceeding sound.
Notice the vowel reduction in unstressed syllables. Difficult to transcribe :-)
More on Russian pronunciation here.
Notice that the word order is not strict. Where it would not be clear, I've marked the subject in bold.

Literal, almost word-by-word translation
Singable translation from the sheet

1. Снова, как прежде, один,
Snóva, kak prézhde, adyín,
Again, as before, alone,
Ah! Once again all alone,

Снова объят я тоской...
Snóva abyát ya taskóy...
Again I'm embraced by wistfulness
Racked once again by my grief...

Смотрится тополь в окно,
Smótritsya tópol' vaknó,
Staring is a poplar through (in) my window,
See where the poplar stands still,

Весь озаренный луной.
Vyés' azaryénniy lunóy.
It is lit by the moon.
Still with its silvery leaf.

2. Смотрится тополь в окно...
Smótritsya tópol' vaknó...
Staring is a poplar through (in) my window,
Now through my window it stares,

Шепчут о чём-то листы...
Shépchut a chómta listi...
Whispering about something are its leaves...
Softly it murmurs to me...

В звездах горят небеса...
Vzvyózdakh goryát nyebesá...
With stars are on fire the heavens...
Stars stud the heavens with their fire,

Где теперь, милая, ты?
Gdyé tyéper', mílaya, ti?
Where now, my love, are you?
Say, my love, where can you be?

3. Всё, что творится со мной,
Vsyó, shto tvarítsya sa mnóy,
All that has happened to me
All that has happened to me

Я передать не берусь...
Ya peredát' nyeberús'...
I cannot begin to tell.
Cannot begin to be told.

Друг! помолись за меня,
Druk! pamalís' za menyá,
Friend, say a prayer for me,
Friend, say a prayer now for me,

Я за тебя уж молюсь.
Yá za tyebyá uzh malyús'.
I for you am already praying.
Pray, as I pray now for you.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Dmitri Hvorostovsky (!) in Prague (!)

On the 27th of August, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Ivari Ilja will perform Russian art songs at the festival Dvořák's Prague. Now, in March (!), only approximately 180 out of 1144 seats are left (!), so if you've been considering to visit the most beautiful city on Earth and maybe connect your trip with a cultural event, you should hurry up. If no circumstances beyond our control take place, FrufruJ will be the blonde girl in the fourth row centre (!). See you (t)here!

Tickets can be booked here.

PS: I might have one ticket left... ;-)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Phenomenon of Rolando Villazón

Some time ago the fellow blogger Mostly Opera launched the poll entitled "Best Tenor of the Moment". To the surprise of many, Rolando Villazón was closely first with 37% (293 votes). I have stated my attitude towards charts of any sort in art, and this is one of the reasons why I think they're pointless - even though I voted for Flórez :-)

The so-called "connoisseurs" almost uniformly scorn Mr.Villazón. The fact that his technique is not perfect has been proven by the necessity of undergoing a surgery. He could have chosen his repertoire more wisely. However, what these critics forget is, Art is not just technique.

Mostly Opera's ironic tone in the title "The readers have spoken", announcing the results of the aforementioned poll, and especially some comments from people hidden behind the veil of the Internet anonymity ("There's no way Mr overacting clown is a better tenor than...", to quote but one), and their astonishment at the results, only show their lack of understanding of what is behind. Opera public is not a herd of sheep, praising the one who is presented to them as a big name. They mostly don't care whether somebody's technique is perfect, they care whether his or her voice is beautiful - which is often connected. However, voice is the instrument, the artist is the interpret.

Mr.Villazón has always put at least 100% of himself in a performance. His sincerity, humility and inner beauty are what makes him a favourite to many. Maybe he's put in it too much and has given himself away - that would be a reason to grieve, not to scorn. People as sensitive as some singers being exposed to ironical and sarcastic statements, and often even insulted, is not a normal state, it is something we all must aspire to improve.

It never ceases to amaze me -- and sadden me -- that people call him "a clown" and mean it as an insult. It is a great gift, to be able to bring smile to people's faces, no matter if with a beautiful voice in a beautiful opera, or with a red nose. I wasn't present at his comeback performance, and a Czech blogger, Villazón's fan, was not positively surprised (automatic translation) - in fact, is afraid that this might be the beginning of the end of his operatic career. Let us hope that she's wrong. However, end or no end, Villazón or another singer or musician, please let's not forget that life's too short to be cool and serious all the time, that sometimes it's good to be swept off your feet, forgetting what you know about the "correct way", and always remember to be a clown! :-)

Good luck to you, Mr.Villazón! You are a great artist.