Coloratura singing, as a wise observer remarked, is a bit like dancing on pointe: bizarre and unnatural, but powerfully compelling when done well. Vivica Genaux does it very well indeed.
The American mezzo-soprano made an all-too-rare return to the Bay Area on Friday night, appearing in Herbst Theatre with Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra with a collection of Baroque opera arias. Then she proceeded to give a virtuoso display of precision vocal fireworks.
Rapid-fire runs, repeated notes, pitch-perfect leaps between registers, elaborate ornamentations of melodic lines that were already fairly ornate to begin with – these are Genaux's stock-in-trade. With McGegan and the orchestra providing stylish accompaniment, Genaux made a good case for Baroque singing as a thrilling high-wire act.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.