The only possible way for Opera Chic to begin this Haendel year in an appropriate manner was to go to Zurich. Not simply to Starbucks -- even if the Swiss town flaunts the closest Starbucks to OC's adoptive city of Milan, an uneasy 200 miles away (and OC necessarily supports Starbucks as a show of patriotism -- freedom coffee!). Not simply to Starbucks for gallons of gingerbread latte, but on to the Opernhaus -- that pretty little mousetrap of a theater -- amid the usual paparazzi frenzy -- where Opera Chic checked out Robert Carsen's already classic production of Haendel's "Semele", with the sparkling Scintilla orchestra conducted by Uncle Bill, aka Maestro William Christie, Membre de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, honorary French citizen with a cool Legion d'Honneur to show for it, helluva guy.
That's what Opera Chic did last night. A full review is forthcoming, if you behave.
But since Semele was Cecilia Bartoli (the DVD of this production, recorded in 2007 during its first run in Zurich, is coming out next month: but the cool kids -- OC among them -- had already watched the satellite broadcast on Arte TV last year) la Ceci, having the pop-art tendency to paint everything around her in the brilliant rainbow of her coloratura -- and the review will have to be mostly about her and her explosion of talent -- that's what divas do, face it -- the least we can do now is to dedicate a small separate post to the musical engine of the evening: Maestro Christie, la Scintilla's Konzertmeister aka the flawless Ada Pesch, and the professori of Scintilla's period instrument orchestra.
Christie's greatness -- what makes him so radically, even anthropologically different from so many unworthy prophets of the HIP movement, peddler of a scorched sound -- is that he's not only a scholar -- he knows Rameau better than old Jean Philippe knew his own stuff -- but that he infuses every work he tackles with a delicate, elegant sound, as natural as breathing. Nothing to do with the hard strings, jarring brass, unsubtle phrasing and threadbare sound of so many HIP conductors. Christie's magic lies in the fact that he can be witty or sad, but he's always so elegant, and deeply human.
Beethoven studied Haendel -- the greatest composer who ever lived, he said -- respectfully trying to "unravel" his mysteries. Maestro Christie (in the photo below, his workstation in the pit at the Opernhaus last night) attacks Haendel's secrets with a smile: and we thank him, and la Scintilla, for this.