I saw two divas, or co-called, this week: Lypsinka, and Cecilia Bartoli. One retained her title, one faltered. No big surprise who's who.
I have never seen Lypsinka live, and was a bit disappointed. This show was entitled The Passion of the Crawford. It consists of mostly a recording of a Town Hall interview with La Crawford circa 1972, and some additional fun performances from film and otherwise, the highlight being a completely awfl "to our children" poem from the 1950s, written to Alice in Wonderland and Little Bo Peep. I wish I had the text. Just howlingly awful. Joan starts to deconstruct/combust as the evening wears on, including Lypsinka's famous phone montage, where the phone is constantly ringing, and each time it is picked up another line from a movie is "said". There are a few photos of Joan's eyes, reminding one a bit of the Dreyer film, but just a bit. I felt the performance was a little flat. Jon Epperson as Lypsinka's skill is great, and her takes, here to the fawning man who is interviewing her, are hysterical, but there was little to draw me in. Speaking of the interviewer, he was done with great skill by, well, I don't have my program with me, and he doesn't seem to be listed in any of the press--but he did a great job in a mostly thankless role. I suppose my beef here is that there isn't much of a narrative, and sound design, though fun and in this case spectacular, cannot carry a show for me. The interview is a hoot, though it presupposes an interest in Joan Crawford, and is also interesting for the James Lipton predecessor conducting it. At the end, I thought this was something that would have been a blast in a downtown NY bar, but not at 35 bucks a pop in a theatre. Just my two cents.
As for real women who use their voice, I saw Cecilia Bartoli last night in recital performing works by Handel, Scarlatti, and Caravelli. Wonderful. A friend commented it was like watching the Olga Korbut of opera, as Bartoli is truly gymnastic vocally. The difficulty of some of the arias, the embellishments alone, are akin to watching gymnastics and waiting for a fall. That she can sing these is amazing, and that she can act them and feel them while she does is even more impressive. She has an ebullience and joy on stage that is thrilling to see. It's wonderful to see someone this alive, present and joyful on stage. And, to top it all off, her pianissimos are thrilling. To see someone at a time when she is so in charge of her instrument is a true joy. Not a big voice, but worth seeing for her presence alone. My absolute favorite thing about the night was to see her at the end of the fast or angry arias, waving her arms at her side, reminding me of Popeye swinging his arms of all things, and seeming that she would jump of the stage at any moment, or simply take off. And all in a big green dress with a long, long train. Now, that's a diva.