All that remained today was an attempted (and failed) incantation, and an attempted (and, again, failed) seduction, resulting in a fierce and fiery curse. Oh, it’s good to be bad!
As ‘luck’ would have it, I had a rather unsettling phone call from my manager before leaving my hotel room to record for prosperity these final, demented scenes, and I found that the frustration which welled up in me, actually fueled a bit of extra rage and fury during the taping, hopefully making for a thrilling account of the accompanied recitative before “Ombre pallide”, and for the raging aria, “Ma quando tornerai”. The uphill walk to the church consisted of a self-pep-talk along the lines of “you have work to do – don’t worry about things you cannot control.” Come to find out, even when things are going well, this business remains quite a challenging one to stomach much of the time. But happily, the music, once again, barreled into my consciousness and saved the day!
The dynamic of the recording shifts drastically on the final day of taping, I’ve found; while on the one hand everyone is exhausted, fatigued and utterly drained, we are somehow also charged up knowing that we are nearing the end of this adventurous journey together, and if we can just push through, we’ll be on the other side of a rather enormous accomplishment; and when a group has such special chemistry as this one does, magic can actually happen.
Immediately we found a wonderful atmosphere for the recitativo “Ah, Ruggiero crudel”, which assaulted the silence with its intensity and urgency, countered immediately with Alcina’s desperation and fury at not being successful in her summoning of the dark forces around her. It’s Handel at his wicked best, and it gives a singer so much astounding material with which to work, every measure rich in possibility. Perhaps my voice teacher wouldn’t approve of all my technical choices, but this is a case where you simply cannot hold anything back, where everything in your arsenal of expressivity must be employed – the character, the drama, the composer demand it!! Ah, it’s just a dream for me to be given a character like this to sink my teeth into. (You compare this kind of recitativo to the continuo aria, “Si, son quella”, and you have the only demonstration necessary of why Handel’s genius is so vast and awe-inspiring!) I was in heaven.
And last, but certainly not least, the final piece of the puzzle: the raging, scorching aria as Alcina relentlessly thrusts her fury toward Ruggiero. The gloves were off, we dug in, and we went for it with everything we had. It cost a bit, as all of us definitely felt the fatigue in the end, but there was a determination to make the most of this violent number, and my hope is that it will have the desired effect of truly showing the fury of a (perhaps, ‘slightly demented’) woman scorned.
And so … there is my Alcina.
Now I must turn it over to the powers that be, let them work their magic, and wait eagerly for the release. It’s interesting to project myself into the future and think of the moment when the first copy will arrive in my mailbox: will I even remember the emotion that has stirred in me over these past 8 days? Will I be disappointed in the final cut? Will I be surprised? Will I hear it and think, “Oh damn, I really missed the mark on that aria”, or think that I did way too much, or far too little. See, here is what I love about what I do: it constantly teaches me about life: I’ve done the very best that I could with what I had at my disposal in this moment in time – now I must let go of it, and what will be, will be. Between now and the release (probably the beginning of ’09?), so much of my life will have unfolded: new roles, new cities, new experiences, bad days, beautiful days, heartbreak, success, failure – I will surely be a different person when that first copy arrives than I am today, and unquestionably I will wish I had done many things differently.
But in the end, I know that I did all I could do, and after the first or second horrendous listening (the first listen of a disc is always pure torture and agony for me), I’m sure I’ll start to come back to this moment in time, remembering the wonderful quality of work, recalling the sweat and the fear and the joy and the discovery, and I’ll feel such gratitude, as I do today, for having spent 10 glorious days surrounded by a wealth of beauty and creativity.
Well, that’s a wrap.
*Part of our basso continuio group: Davide & "It's only a half-step" Nils ;-)
*The parting view from my window