Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I am a die hard Tintin fan and I can prove it. Look at the photo below to see the main characters in that Belgium/French world famous bandes dessinées. I have the entire cast and all the books of Tintin in my collection and many books about Tintin. Of course I wanted to see what the latest Tintin movie is about. Based on the series of books by Hergé, the film is produced by Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy. This is a big budget movie estimated at a cost of US $ 130 Millions that recently opened in the Czech Republic on 23 October 2011. This 3D motion-capture and CGI extravaganza cleverly combines three of Tintin's original stories: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure (Le Crabe aux Pinces d'Or, Le Secret de la Licorne and Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge.) If you watch the film, which I think is very good, you can see from the mascots on my photo that Spielberg and Co. have done a very good job. The computer rendering of all of Hergé's (that's his way to nickname himself from his real name Georges Rémi, from the French pronunciation of his initials) characters is amazingly well done. To the right in the photo is the diva Bianca Castafiore. From the comic books (I really prefer their real name of "bandes dessinées") you know that she is a soprano whose voice is feared of being able to shatter glass but that never actually happened in the books. Instead, her singing voice was the terror for Captain Haddock and Tintin's dog Snowy (Milou.) The film worked that into its own story and Ms. Castafiore was given the job to shatter the glass container of the model boat named Licorne with the high note at the end of her recital.

This naturally involves operatic work again. In all of Tintin's books, Ms. Castafiore always and only sang one song: Gounod's Jewel Song from his opera Faust: Ah! Je Ris... I was looking forward to that scene in the movie but was surprised to see that a different opera was used. The song you hear is "Je Veux Vivre" sung by American soprano Renée Fleming. That song is known as "Juliet's Waltz" from the opera Roméo et Juliette, also by Gounod. To even confuse the viewers more, John Williams opened the diva's singing scene with music from Rossini's The Barber of Seville! My guess is that "Je Veux Vivre"'s climatic ending has a higher note than that of the "Jewel Song" and that is more realistic of it shattering all the glasses in the audience. Since it's always nice to know what they are singing about, the French lyrics are below... with translation for you.

If you like this, go see the movie and get to know Tintin. Spielberg and Co. will be producing at least two more Tintin movies that will come along in the future.

Gounod: Roméo et Juliette

Je Veux Vivre (Juliet's Waltz)

Ah! Je Veux Vivre.... Ah! I want to live
dans ce rêve qui m'enivre.... in the dream that intoxicates me
ce jour encore. .... this day again
Douce flamme.... Sweet flame
je te garde dans mon âme.... I keep you in my soul
comme un trésor. .... like a treasure.

Cette ivresse.... This drunkenness
de jeunesse.... of youth
ne dure, hélas, qu'un jour.... lasts, alas, but a day
puis vient l'heure.... then comes the hour
où l'on pleure.... when one weeps
le coeur cède a l'amour.... the heart yields to love
et le bonheur fuit sans retour. .... and happiness escapes without returning.

Je veux vivre.... I want to live
loin de l'hiver morose.... far from that sullen winter
laisse-moi sommeiller.... let me linger and rest
et respirer la rose.... and breath the rose
avant de l'effeuiller. .... before stripping it of its petals

Ahhhh ahhh ahhh

Douce flamme.... Sweet flame
reste dans mon âme.... stay in my soul
comme un doux trésor.... like a precious treasure
longtemps encore. .... a long while still.

In the clip you see by clicking on the photo below, Tintin and Capitain Haddock followed the trail to the third model of the Unicorn that contains the third parchemin to the treasure of Red Rackham. The arch-villain Ivanovich Sakharine has a plan to shatter the glass container protecting that boat and grab the parchemin.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Queen of the Night... Not

You heard a mezzo-soprano already. Mezzo-soprano ("medium" soprano) voice usually extends from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (it is written as A3-A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4). Push comes to shove, some may have the range from G3-C6. Soprano, on the other hand, especially Dramatic coloratura soprano, has range from B3 to high F6! F6 is very very high! That note naturally brings me to talk again about Mozart's Magic Flute opera where his Queen of the Night aria reaches the note F6 not one but four times. I had an old blog of this aria from the movie "The Magic Flute," but that soprano is not among the best sopranos who sang this aria. Here is a better rendition by Diana Damrau. This opera was in German and the words are below to help you understand what the Queen was raging about while ordering her daughter princess Pamina to kill her father, the Queen's husband Sarastro:

Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, (The revenge of Hell cooks in my heart,)
Tot und Verzweiflung flammet um mich her! (Death and despair flame around me!)
Fühlt nicht durch dich Sarastro (If Sarastro does not feel through you)
Todesschmerzen, (Death’s pain,)
So bist du meine Tochter nimmermehr. (Then you will never again be my daughter.)
Verstossen sei auf ewig, (you’ll be Disowned eternally,)
Verlassen sei auf ewig, (Abandoned may you be eternally,)
Zertrümmert sei'n auf ewig (Destroyed be eternally)
Alle Bande der Natur (All bonds of nature,)
Wenn nicht durch dich (If not by you)
Sarastro wird erblassen! (Sarastro becomes pale! (as death))
Hört, Rachegötter, (Hear, the revenge of the Gods,)
Hoert der Mutter Schwur! (Hear the mother's oath!)

Everybody wants to sing this aria. Following Ms. Damrau is a hilarious attempt by a nobody soprano. Pay attention to the amusement felt by the violinist sitting behind the singer. She can't reach the high notes, but she's so willing to try!
Queen of the Night

Sunday, December 11, 2011


From the sacred to the profane, Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle to Womanizer! Well, just a matter of speech and not really profane so please do not be offended if you love Britney. I love her too and I think she's just perfect! This clip is to prove that I am not always old fashion, and here comes Britney! This is really a practice run for me to see how the video codecs behave in HTML5 when the source is high definition (HD.) To accommodate the non-Flash world, I think the price is pretty high. The video requirement is about triple in size and the processing is painfully slow. Too bad Apple does not like Flash! Fair warning, she's nude at times!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Agnus Dei

Time to take the plunge and from now on, my video clips will be encoded using the new HTML5 protocol. I am sure there will be issues to resolve such as aspect ratio, subtitles etc..., but these videos will play on iPhones and iPads.

You may remember in some of my previous blogs of Fellini's "And the Ship Sails On," there were a couple of references to Agnus Dei from Rossini's "Petite Messe Solennelle," here and here. (Remember, these older blogs will not play on Apple's devices that do not support Flash.) I felt it incomplete to leave that work without returning to it today. I am far from being religious, but many if not all of the great composers wrote divine music especially for religion, and one cannot escape the reality that it is an integral part of life. Here is a complete performance (length 7 minutes 13 seconds) of Rossini's Agnus Dei. Listening to this kind of music, don't you wonder what the singing is about? I do! Without appropriate background, it will be tough to know what the words say... so I did my homework just to satisfy my curiosity... and you can read about it here:

From this, I plagiarized the following..."In Liturgy, Agnus Dei is a name given to the formula recited thrice by the priest at Mass (except on Good Friday and Holy Saturday) in the Roman rite. It occurs towards the end of the Canon, after the prayer "Haec commixtio", etc. Having finished saying this prayer, the priest covers the chalice with the pall, genuflects, rises, inclines his head (but not his body) profoundly towards the altar and, with hands joined before his breast (and not, therefore, resting on the altar), says with a loud voice: "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis" (Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us), repeats the formula unchanged, and still a third time, substituting now "dona nobis pacem" (grant us peace) for "miserere nobis", meanwhile striking his breast thrice, once at each "miserere nobis" and once at "Dona nobis pacem", with the right hand (the left hand resting throughout, from the first "Miserere", on the altar)."

Now listen to the mezzo-soprano Manuela Custer (born in Novara, received her diploma from the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory in Turin under the guidance of Elio Battaglia. She made her debut in 1985 as ENRICO in Rossini's Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra with Lella Cuberli, Rockwell Blake, and Daniela Dessì, conducted by Gabriele Ferro,) and the choir, that's what they are singing. I am not sure why they cannot memorize these lyrics and have the need to each carry the pages that they hold in front of them. The words are not that complicated admittedly it's Latin. I am sure I can remember this if I were paid to sing this in a choir... but they will have to pay me handsomely! A king's ransom would do!
Agnus Dei