Sunday, December 9, 2018

Aria Code – Redial and Review: Ah fors'è lui...Sempre libera

I finally listened to the first installment of  Aria Code, the new podcast coproduced by WQXR and the Met. Each podcast addresses just one aria, giving it in-depth thought and consideration. Based on this episode, they don't just consider the music or explain the plot; they delve into how the music reflects the character's thoughts and feelings in relation to the story.  

This episode is a refreshing glimpse into the mind of the singer and character as Diana Damrau narrates Violetta's big Act 1 finale. She discusses how the music reflects Violetta's thoughts and emotions. I felt like I was being let in on the musical process, as well as Ms. Damrau's thought process as an actor/singer.

Host Rhiannon Giddens, who studied opera at Oberlin before embarking on a folk music career, called on two additional commentators to reflect on the cultural setting of the opera and the mindset of a woman in Violetta's position: Cori Ellison is the company dramaturg for Santa Fe Opera; and Brooke Magnanti, a writer and former escort (yes, that kind of escort).

The discussion is insightful, thoughtful, and informative; and it’s not overly scholarly or "arch," as some of the official Met podcasts can be. It feels more like a personal analysis than “this is high art” musicology or someone simply describing the plot (which most of us already know, anyway.)

Maybe best of all, this episode concludes with a complete performance of  Ah fors'è lui...Sempre libera by Ms. Damrau. (Each podcast will feature a complete peformance of the aria under discussion.) The only quibble I have with the whole production is the "title" of the episode, which (maybe in my own snobbery) I think: (1) is inaccurate, because Violetta seems classy already; and (2) unnecessarily cheapens the podcast's image. But that is a very minor quibble.

So, I finally listened, and I am glad I did. And now I cannot wait for the next episode. Take a half hour (plus or minus) and check out this wonderful podcast!

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