I have just returned from hearing Olga Borodina at Zellerbach Hall. Cal Performances Director Robert Cole came out beforehand, but since I was in the front row and he was using a microphone I couldn’t make out most of what he said, except for “bronchitis” and “begs your indulgence.” Why is it that Borodina sounds better with bronchitis than most people do when in perfect health? There was an occasional sense of strain on soft or high notes, and she omitted one of the songs in the second half, but otherwise there was so much to admire and enjoy in her Venetian sunset of a voice. She sang Tchaikovsky songs in the first half and Rachmaninoff in the second; although she clearly would have preferred going home and getting under the covers, she came out to the ovations, blew her nose, coughed, gave a slight smile and shrug, and seduced us into submissive Samsonhood with Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix.
There were many Russian speakers there (though unfortunately not enough to fill cavernous Zellerbach), but even so there was much following of texts (printed not in Cyrillic but transliterated and then translated) with the accompanying rustle and rattle of programs. At least I assume that’s what was going on. Maybe people were just folding origami cranes – I hear that if you fold a thousand of them, peace descends on the concert hall. I had read the texts beforehand and decided just to listen, a decision I was happy with, since Russian songs have, let me say, certain similarities in theme. Afterwards, wandering through the misty poplars near the mournful river, my large, dark, incredibly near-sighted eyes saw an answer; and so here, with trembling heart and affectionate respect, I present the all-purpose generic one-size-fits-all Russian song to the cold indifferent world:
Though it is morning, the sun has set;
The fragrant meadow regards me with insolence.
Ah, little bird, why do you sing so sadly?
Hey, bird, I’m talking to you!
Away you have flown on the mournful breeze!
So you, my love, have flown away like a dream,
Taking with you my anguished heart,
And several nice shirts
Of which I am now bereft.
The Beethoven Project
3 weeks ago