Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tonal Arousal; Carmen at Met Live in HD

Elīna Garanča can channel Carmen. Her performance filmed live on January 16, 2010 made the rounds in the "Met Live in HD Summer Encore Series" and has been broadcast on the Great Performances Series on PBS.

Garanča sang with sexual magnetism and developed a very believable chemistry with Roberto Alagna. In the Seguidilla from the end of Act One, Garanča displayed her charms:



The tonality is as elusive and playful as the physical suggestion of Garanča. The key is B minor, but it is articulated strongly in the dominant until the thought of the inn "Lillias Pastia" swings us into D major [0:12]. A flamenco progression takes us for the first time to B minor with a tonal motion that trips like Alagna [0:24]. The smile of Garanča at this moment is the smile of Bizet himself.

The second verse explores D major by draping chromatic lines across a strong pedal bass. The music begins to dissolve. Garanča blows a breath across the register on Alagna's desk [1:12]. The music is blown into a cadenza-like passage that leans and relaxes.

The first stanza is echoed [1:31] but then the pattern is suspended. "I'm not talking to you," said Carmen, "I'm singing to myself. And I am thinking--it's not a crime to think."

But she is not just singing. She is not just thinking.

She sings unexpectedly in B-flat minor [2:45] in a tonality dark and vibrant, spontaneous and erotic. Don José asks if she will love him in this same key--one-half step low.

The suspended pattern continues as the second stanza is echoed [3:49] in B major. The resolution that arcs across the span from when this music was heard in D major is tonal arousal in purest form.

Garanča sings an unwritten cadenza at [4:05] to articulate the culmination released in one final motion of Seguidilla. Alagna swallows the final high B in a kiss.

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