Monday, 8 August 2011

August Opera Challenge Day Eight: Best Bass/Bass-Baritone

I know you knew it was coming. You were probably wondering how long I could cope in a challenge such as this without penning an ode to Bryn. I really had no choice but to last out for eight days, but now I see the words 'Best Bass/Bass-Baritone' in front of me, and I am breathing a big sigh of relief. The truth is that no matter how much I gush about Placido, Callas and Cecilia Bartoli, there is one voice that I would always choose above all others and that voice is Bryn Terfel's. On the proverbial desert island, a recording by BT is the one I would save, and it's extremely rare for me to get through a day without listening to him sing something. Or indeed many things. This is the voice that has made me laugh very loudly on public transport (Falstaff) led me to queue outside the Royal Opera House for a combined twenty-eight hours (Tosca) and has frequently resulted in tears running down my face when I've least expected them to. 

The whole thing was pretty unexpected, to be honest. A mystery voice that drifted across the radio waves and literally floored me. Well, not literally. I crawled onto the bed and listened in silence, and had this sort of (corny) magical moment that I'll never forget, with the evening sun streaming into the room and my heart feeling like it had completely stopped beating. Love at first listen. And do you know what? It wasn't even anything remotely operatic. It was, of all things, Shenandoah. I knew right away that it was the voice for me. Weighty and powerful but with the ability to move into perfect lullaby-like lyrical softness. Full of character and clever intonation. A timbre that is rich and warm and deeply, deeply chocolatey. And I mean the kind of chocolate that has 70% cocoa solids and just enough cream to result in a serious sensory experience. I should stop with this description now, shouldn't I?

Of course after that, I sought out everything. What a delight to discover a voice that makes you feel like that, and then realise the person it belongs to is also a wonderful, humorous, sensitive performer. I can honestly say that I've never been disappointed by anything I've seen or heard Bryn do. Even when directors and designers get him to perform in the most outrageous of productions (Dulcamara Elvis? Falstaff the rooster? Mephistopheles in a dress?) I am delighted and charmed. Let's face it, I'm a tad in love. But we'll save that for a later August Opera Challenge post...

I think everyone I know curses the moment I fell for BT. There are days when people don't think that his interpretation of English folk songs go with an early morning cup of tea. Or that Bad Boys is the perfect soundtrack for driving to the supermarket. Or that opening a bottle of wine and turning up Wagner Arias is the best way to spend a Saturday evening. Is this the reason people pretend fuses have gone and batteries have died?

I guess that Bryn will make more appearances in the August Opera Challenge than anyobody else. I can forsee a lot of my favourite Terfel moments coming up in other posts, so I wanted to choose my YouTube clip wisely and not pick something from an opera that's going to make five other appearances. I think Sono lo spirito che nega from Boito's Mefistofole fits the bill perfectly as the opera is unlikely to pop up in another post, it's something Bryn has been singing a lot at concerts and recitals recently, and it is the perfect vehicle for his dramatic as well as vocal talents. This is SUCH a charismatic and strong performance from the Bad Boys tour. Enjoy!

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