Last Sunday, I went to the Hawaii Opera Theatre’s production of Donizetti’s “Daughters of the Regiment,” and what I absolutely loved was the famous tenor aria, “Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fête!” which features NINE high Cs. The whole opera was characterized by Honolulu Star Advertiser reviewer Ruth O. Bingham as “lighthearted entertainment featuring spectacular vocal displays held together by a slender plot, … the opportunity to hear vocal pyrotechnics.”
Promoters billed Audrey Luna, soprano, who sang the role of “Maria,” as making headlines last November by “singing the highest note ever sung at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.” She appeared in nearly every scene, “lighthearted, carefree and unconstrained by vocal norms,” according to Bingham.
But the voice which absolutely wowed me was Michele Angelini, who despite his Italian name, is an American tenor. You see, to hear a tenor sing a high C (one octave above middle C), on pitch and without going into falsetto, is considered the very top of a tenor’s range. Even in the opera’s debut in 1840, the opera was “a barely averted disaster,” because the lead tenor, Mécène Marié de l’Isle, was frequently off-pitch. Ooh, I can’t imagine anything more painful than a tenor out of tune singing all those high notes!
Not so with Michele Angelini, who was “right on the money” with every C, absolutely effortless and beautiful, right on pitch. I tried to find a video with Angelini singing this, but alas, couldn’t find one.
There is a whole blog post devoted to this aria in OperaWire, which showcases four tenors singing this role: Alfredo Kraus, Juan Diego Florez, Lawrence Brownlee and Luciano Pavarotti. Apparently, Pavarotti’s whole career started with the singing of these 9 high Cs, when he sang at the Royal Opera House in 1966 and gained the title “King of the High Cs.”
I was trying to think of the equivalent feat in the organ world, and I can think of a number of difficult, almost impossible passages in pieces like Mozart’s “Fantasy in F minor, K. 608,” or perhaps Jehan Alain, “Trois Danses,” or Franz Liszt’s “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam,” which stretch the performer to the outer limits.
Even though it’s now been a week since my last post in this blog, I’ve been on a virtual treadmill trying to get things ready for my Vivace! night with the Oahu Choral Society, scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd. You can find out how to buy tickets and more information on the OCS website. I compiled a guest list for sending invitations in addition to writing my “acceptance speech.” Thank you, members of the Academy, oops, I mean, the Oahu Choral Society …
For the slideshow I had to look through dozens of photo albums plus 39,000 digital photos on my computer to come up with pictures which showed me at various stages of my career. My sister Margo even looked through old family photo albums to find pictures of me at the piano and organ as we were growing up. I was surprised to find pictures that I had never seen before now (!) like the one taken at my senior organ recital in 1972:
I have walked the length of Ala Moana Shopping Center so many times now in an effort to buy my dress, shoes, and accessories—this task is now DONE! I also made an appointment to have my hair and makeup done on that day.
My son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and the other grandma will be coming to Hawaii for just three days to attend the event, and I was happy to find a local company which rents cribs, strollers, and all sorts of baby equipment for tourists and other people like me—grandmas who have babies coming to visit.
In addition to getting ready for Vivace! I have been subbing at the United Church of Christ Judd Street, learning all kinds of praise music, plus have produced a newsletter for my condo building and taught organ lessons. I’ve also spent hours helping Roy Helms, a tenor in the Lutheran Church of Honolulu choir, with the website for his company, Contemporary Crafts Market.
And the real kicker is that I’ll be playing in a concert with the University of Hawaii the very night before! Jeremy Wong, the interim director of the UH Choirs during Miguel Felipe’s sabbatical, asked me about playing a concert of Spanish and Italian baroque music a long time ago last summer, when I knew nothing about Vivace! It’s an entire concert with me playing from scores containing nothing but figured bass (a musical shorthand)—which always takes a lot of preparation on my part.
Why do I always do this to myself?! (Groan!)