Friday, July 13, 2007

Carmina Burana

Tonight I took M to see Seattle Symphony Orchestra's production of "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orff. It was a last minute thing because I didn't find out about the show until the day before. We ended up with decent tickets though and I always wanted to see the production since I've heard about it so much. I knew M would enjoy it cause she is really into choral music, albeit mostly Chinese ones.

The show started with Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major. It is a pretty famous piece although I don't think I have heard it in entirety. The guest violinist was quite good but I think I don't really enjoy the kind of frenzied solo sections they put into it. You can barely make out the notes. I guess violin concertos are not my cup of tea haha. The main theme is quite beautiful though. This piece also marked the first time I saw a ASIAN FEMALE conductor at a symphony performance. Carolyn Kuan is only 29 years old and she was incredible. She was so energetic and flamboyant that you just can't help but feel her enthusiasm and control. I thought she was super cool haha.

After brief intermission, we went on for the main course. "Carmina Burana" is basically 24 medieval Bavarian song text set to music by Carl Orff. The most famous piece is of course O Fortuna, shamelessly ripped off for many apocalyptic movie trailers. (this link is just for Velius ;)) So it was quite cool to hear the original in an symphonic setting performed by the Seattle Symphony Chorale. there is just something about listening to a 100 person choir singing in latin Gregorian Chant style that makes you automatically think of the apocalypse. Now I wonder if it is because the music invokes the feeling or is it because I have seen too many apocalyptic movie trailers set to this music haha.

In addition to the chorus, we also had 3 solo guest stars, a Soprano, a Tenor and a Baritone. The Baritone was actually really wonderful. He had a very deep and beautiful voice of course. But he was also very expressive and funny especially singing the drinking songs. He got the first spontaneous applause of the night because he portrayed this drunk with such charisma. I thought the Soprano was quite decent as well but M said she was only mediocre and her voice wasn't big enough. Since M can sing circles around me I defer to her opinion on such things :). I actually felt very sorry for the tenor because he only got to sing one song out of 24. So he had to spent the whole hour and a half sitting in the front row looking bored. But not only that, the only song he got to sing was about a swan being roasted on an open fire lamenting his fate. The tenor was quite big (very typical opera singer) and it was already incongruous to hear a very pure high tenor out of his mouth. Then he proceeded to sing in this very self pitying voice just made the whole thing extremely comical. Too bad he didn't get to perform more. I put the text of his song here:

12. Olim Lacu Colueram
Olim Lacus Colueram -----once I had dwelt on lakes
Olim pulcher exstiteram --once I had been beautiful
dum cygnus ego fueram --when I was a swan
Miser, miser! -------------poor wretch!
modo niger ---------------Now black
et ustus fortiter! ----------and well roasted

Girat, regirat garcifer-----The cook turns me back and forth
me rogus urit fortiter0----I am roasted to a turn on my pyre
propinat me nunc dapifer--now the waiter serves me
Miser, miser! -------------poor wretch!
modo niger ---------------Now black
et ustus fortiter! ----------and well roasted

Nunc in scutella laceo------now I lie on the dish
et volitare nequeo---------and I cannot fly
dentes frendentes video---I see the gnashing of teeth
Miser, miser! -------------poor wretch!
modo niger ---------------Now black
et ustus fortiter! ----------and well roasted


Tochi said...

Man, it must have been awesome to have just been there and immerse yourself into the music.

I always wondered whether being able to understand the lyrics would give these opera songs more impact. There is a certain mystique about not understanding what they are singing - it just has to sound cool.

moonfleck said...

I think in Opera, it would be nice ot understand the meaning of the lyrics. It doesn't have to be word for word translation, but since it is a story, it is important to tell what is going on. In just pure music, I don't think it is necessary, I enjoy listening to foreign music because the words sounds pretty.
In the case here, the lyrics were provided along with English translations.