Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow)


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About Sean Gerard Leah. Sean Gerard Leah. Sean Gerard Leah though he more often works under a cleverly similar name is a Boston-born, Seattle-based novelist, poet, journalist, and editor. With his wife Caelyn Alba, he is a founding partner of the erotic-lit publishing house Muse of Shadow. Books by Sean Gerard Leah. No trivia or quizzes yet. Welcome back. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. The playing is unerringly spontaneous and dramatically integrated with singers who illustrate profound appreciation of text.

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Butt bravely resolves to use the same forces Handel had at his disposal in Dublin, which means that the entire oratorio is sung by a dozen singers with all soloists required to participate in the choruses, as Handel would have expected. This new Coro recording presents them to better advantage than their uneven version for Hyperion: the choir remains excellent 21 years later but the orchestra and soloists are a vast improvement.

Only one member of the choir and two orchestral players repeat their roles in the performance, and the violin section has swelled from seven to 12, which helps to produce a stronger theatrical sound.

The contribution from the oboes is more telling and to the fore than one usually hears, although the prominence of the organ as a continuo instrument is seldom convincing nor is the use of theorbo accompaniment in recitatives. When necessary, resonant homophonic grandeur is achieved without pomposity. Three of the soloists earned their spurs as members of The Sixteen. Christophers conducts with finesse and integrity. In common with many operas of the time — and fewer oratorios — there are no large choral forces required in this portrayal of the battle between protagonists of darkness and light.

The international cast includes two Italians, whose verbal relish is especially good to hear. Luca Pisaroni makes a suitably villainous Lucifer and his virile bass-baritone is well up to the wide tessitura of the part; this is a devil who gets some of the most difficult tunes. Two British singers complete the line-up and both give of their very best. The epic anthology of archaic and modern chorus techniques in the scriptural, monumental and decidedly undramatic Israel in Egypt was radically different from the fascinating dramatic characters and quasi-Shakespearean intensity of the vividly theatrical Saul , in which the trombones, carillon and harp are used to illustrate Biblical scenes of music-making, from jubilant crowd scenes to intimate music for David.

Christopher Purves charms, broods, fumes implacably, plots villainously and confronts his doom vividly in the manner of a Shakespearean tragedian. Contrapuntal lines are moulded warmly and with immaculate diction, and extrovert choruses are sung with plenty of charisma, seductiveness or moral outrage as the texts variously demand, such as the choric contemplations of envy and rage that bookend Act 2. Tempi are shrewdly judged, rhythms light and supple, and recitatives tumble inevitably into arias.

As at the English National Opera, Rosemary Joshua, radiant of tone, dazzling in coloratura, makes Semele far more than an over-sexed airhead. Hilary Summers, a true, deep contralto, characterises both roles well. With excellent recorded sound and balance, and an informative essay from David Vickers, this becomes a clear first choice for an ever-enticing work.

McCreesh, however, stoutly defends the original structural balance. This historical infidelity is one of the few possible -reservations about the set, which is a notable achievement. McCreesh is fortunate in his cast, too.

Predictably, Scholl becomes the central focus by his beauty of voice, calm authority, charm and intelligent musicianship. Here is a case of astonishing neglect not just gratefully but outstandingly well repaired. Not that Handel himself gave Susanna many opportunities, reviving it only once after the premiere of I t has suffered critical misunderstanding and misrepresentation over the years, but from the evidence of this superb performance, it is a work of deep seriousness, gravely moral in tone.

The long opening scene, est ablishing the marital happiness of Susanna and Joacim, is unfolded with real accomplishment offering music of warmth and consequence as well for Chelsias, Susanna's father. The aria for soprano that closes the scene, "Bending to the throne of glory", strikes me as one of Handel's noblest utterances. Susanna's two suitors are vividly portrayed; the tenor's music is infused with a kind of insinuating sensuality that perfectly captures the character's lasciviousness and the bass's is truly menacing in its directness and graphic expression.

Jeffrey and David Thomas beautifully fill these portraits with a real grasp of the Handelian line and phrase.


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The aria for Susanna that follows, "If guiltless blood be your intent" is one of those moments where the music is extraordinarily elevating, as too is the chorus that ends the act, after an aria from Joacim which represents with dashing violins his flying home to Susanna's aid. The soprano Lorraine Hunt, as Susanna, offers singing of great expressiveness and she rises to great heights of concentration in her arias at the heart of the work. Drew Minter's perfectly tuned, gently phrased Joacim, matches her extraordinarily well.

Jill Feldman, too, offers some stylish and fresh singing. The California-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, under Nicholas McGegan, produce a warmer, and less scrawny sound than many baroque bands but with welcomely less surface gloss. This is, in short, one of the best performances I have heard of any Handel oratorio, marked by integrity on every plane. Above all it establishes that Susanna is a work of stature that I, for one, had never suspected from previous performances or the score. An excellent recording and a first-rate booklet merely add to the pleasure of this outstanding set.

Until relatively recently it remained a rarity, but lately it has come to be recognised as a masterpiece, although quite different in mood and treatment from most of his more familiar oratorios. But all the solo music is finely sung. Her presence at the centre of the tragic drama elevates it as a whole. Didymus, originally a castrato role very rare in oratorios , is sung by Robin Blaze, whose focused, even-toned countertenor — not a hint of the traditional hoot — serves well: this is fluent singing, with no great depth of tone, but very steady and controlled, with the detail precisely placed.

As Septimius, Paul Agnew is in good voice, firm and full in tone, phrasing the music elegantly although the Act 3 air is unconvincing, too bouncy and cheerful for the situation.

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Ornamentation is appropriate and tasteful, and McCreesh takes the recitative at a natural and relaxed pace. His main contribution, however, is in the well-sprung rhythms he draws from his Gabrieli singers and players, in the way he allows the lines to breathe, and in the sense of purpose and direction he imparts to the bass-line. Robust cut-and-thrust is lacking but only infrequently.

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The singers deliver an engaging and fervent account of the moral conflict between the evil Piacere Pleasure and the virtuous guardians Tempo Time and Disinganno Disenchantment over the soul of Bellezza Beauty , who wants to be a disciple of Pleasure but thankfully ends up on the side of the angels just in the nick of time to be saved. Mezzo Anna Stephany reins her voice in with admirable discipline and there is a nice atmosphere of chamber music-making between her vocal lines and solos by organist Mark Williams.

The ever-increasing popularity of Handel and his contemporaries, and their employment of alto -castratos, has encouraged the development of countertenors capable of similar vocal feats to the original interpreters of the heroic roles in these works. Among these, David Daniels can certainly be counted as a leading contender. He displays and deploys his talent here in a wide range of arias reflective and dramatic.

Sandrine Piau and Christophe Rousset have been consistently stylish and -perceptive Handelians together. The playing of Les Talens Lyriques is a model of clarity, vitality and theatrical wit. Rousset and Piau achieve the perfect synthesis of elegance, extravagance and emotion.

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The accompaniments, done by a chamber group under Alan Curtis with much refined timing of detail, add to the pleasures of this truly delectable CD. Alan Curtis clearly welcomed the chance to add this masterpiece to the gradually expanding list of Handel operas he has recorded with Il Complesso Barocco. The acoustical environment of this recording is near-perfect. Curtis, too, knows how to coax the best from his singers. Joyce DiDonato, Maite Beaumont and Karina Gauvin have worked with him before and contribute vividly informed portrayals of the principal characters that stand comparison with the best performances on previous recordings.

Gauvin, her silk-clad Morgana fully as manipulative as Alcina, and Prina, the ever faithful Bradamante, each bring tremendous spirit and sensuousness to their roles. Baker is in superb voice, and for her commanding singing alone the set is more than worth having; but the new version under Nicholas McGegan certainly surpasses it in almost every other way.

This recording, made with the cast from the Gottingen Festival last year largely American singers who have collaborated with McGegan in his Californian performances , seems to me at least the equal of the best he has done before. McGegan directs in his usual spirited style. At any rate, his tempos are wide-ranging — quicker ones move pretty smartly, but the slower ones are given ample time for the import of the music to make itself felt.

He does not shirk the tragic grandeur that has a place in this score: listen for example to the opening music of Act 3. The dances are done with springy rhythms and often with considerable vigour. The recitatives are sung at a good pace but with full dramatic weight. The orchestra, modest in size the strings are only 4. Her virtuoso A major aria in Act 1 is masterly in style and control and so are the rapid semiquaver runs in the aria that opens Act 2. And there is great intensity in her singing of the two minor key arias that begin the final act.

As Ginevra, Juliana Gondek, even with a touch more vibrato than might be ideal, sings with a natural musicianship — to be heard in her phrasing and her way of shaping the music — and a wide range of expression: best of all perhaps in the virtuoso aria in Act 1 and the magnificent tragic scene at the end of Act 2, though the poignant D minor farewell to her father in Act 3 is deeply touching too.

Lisa Saffer provides a charming and spirited Dalinda and Nicolas Cavallier a King with suitable warmth and depth of tone. The role of Polinesso, intended for a contralto rather than a castrato, is projected by Jennifer Lane with style and some passion, the latter particularly in the final aria where he looks forward to his triumph. A fine set, which I recommend very warmly.

However, it frequently shows the composer at his most masterly. The sole disadvantage is that more passionate music is underplayed and lightweight, which means that sometimes it lacks dramatic punch and expressiveness. For instance, the dance-like courtliness in the overture is elegantly moulded but could do with some fiery intensity, and the final chorus is curiously underdone.

So much of the performance is musically meticulous, but it would have flourished with a few more degrees of dramatic heat.

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Virgin Classics Erato has made much of the fact that this is the first Handel opera recording in which all the male characters are sung at the correct pitch by male singers, but several of the illustrious countertenors involved occasionally drop a few notes down an octave in order to conserve their larynxes. Philippe Jaroussky and Max Emanuel Cencic each give attractive performances of virtuoso arias. Set in a legendary Dark Ages when Britain was supposedly ruled by Lombardy, the plot hinges on the whims of the oversexed, cynically manipulative King Flavio, whose lust for the beautiful — and far from innocent — Teodata threatens to wreak havoc on everyone around him.


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  • Tempi — mobile but never frenetic — are aptly chosen, rhythms buoyant. The singers, many of them Curnyn regulars, dispatch their arias with fine Handelian style and spirit, and, crucially, bring real theatrical vitality to their recitative exchanges.

    Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow) Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow)
    Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow) Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow)
    Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow) Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow)
    Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow) Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow)
    Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow) Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow)
    Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow) Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow)
    Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow) Play For Me — A Sexual Concerto (Muse of Shadow)

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