Barely awake after partyin' all nite & damaging a fine reserve of vintage bubbly, OC watched live on ZDF a sizable slice of Maestro Pretre's not-so-fresh Sachertorte, the New Year's Concert from Vienna (we love GP, he's like a kindly grandpappy, and he almost always moves us: not today, tho, too weak, too flat -- in the last few years other conductors such as Jansons and Mehta have rawked Strauss much MUCH harder). OC then tuned her big shiny plasma to RaiUno, that had decided instead to broadcast live from la Fenice in Venice the Italian version of Vienna's classic new year's extravaganza.
The first part of the concert (Luisa Miller: Sinfonia; I vespri siciliani: Le quattro stagioni
Inverno, Primavera, Estate, Autunno) has been ruthlessly killed by Rai's powahs because the Pope was simultaneously giving a ginormous speech in Rome and Italy's most popular channel was totally whalin' on that, because if you'd rather listen to an old cranky Italian (Verdi) than an old cranky German (the Pope) you'll make the Baby Jesus cry; after the Pope hath spawken, finally, they managed to beam, live, the images and sound from Venice for the second part of the concert: a mashup of Italian opera arias and the inevitable Va' Pensiero. (not exactly the happiest sound to welcome the new years, but whatevs).
Maestro Roberto Abbado -- who hadn't chosen personally the program for the second part of the concert but had to execute a RAI-made list of blockbuster tunes, as he managed to wisely let know to Corriere della Sera's a few days ago -- managed to make lemonade out of those state-TV lemons, showing us once again what a fine, fine, elegant, underrated conductor he really is.
The singers: a juicy Barbara Frittoli who flaunted some exquisite colors, a massive bewbétage and, we're frank because we *heart* her, a dangerously sagging neckline (at the very least, she needs to be lighted very differently; Dr. 90210 can come to the rescue too); il maestro Ferruccio Furlanetto who shook the Fenice's recently rebuilt walls with the raw powah of his bass-baritone; and Marcello Giordani's last-minute replacement, il signor Walter Fraccaro -- Alagna's doppelganger for Zeffirelli's unlucky Aida of December '06 at la Scala -- who was just happy that Alagna was nowhere to be seen. Sadly, Alagna would have totally eaten WF's lunch, and we're not sayin' much here, are we.
As we said above, Abbado's beautiful phrasing managed not to drown Va' Pensiero in the usual sea of corniness, kept Libiamo's band-like waves of sound within the limits of the acceptable, and even Aida's Marcia Trionfale (photo above) was elegantly shaped by the Milanese maestro. Who gets a bonus because he didn't show up, like many conductors lazily choose to do, in white tie for a morning concert. Avoiding the stuffy classic morning suit, he opted for a beautiful midnite blue suit with simple white shirt and pearl gray tie, an OC rating of A. Very nice also the natural gray of the maestro's hair.
Abbado's hand clasping Frittoli's for the post-concert applause:
New Year bonus for our readers: a closeup of la signora Frittoli's impressive cleavage. No n1pple slip, mebbe next year! Rawk on 2(.)(.)8