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It’s been more than two weeks since our New Year’s Eve in Florence and I still almost can’t believe we could experience it all nor imagine any better atmosphere or better way to spend that special day. The opera in Florence offered pre-sale packages for the New Year including the symphony concert and a dinner at the opera afterwards and to confirm our seats many of us bought those packages months in advance.

I didn’t give the dinner much thought beforehand, I just wanted to have my concert ticket as early as possible and intentionally avoided having any expectations regarding to the dinner. In my experience things in Italy can be either absolutely amazing (I could give many, many examples) or go terribly wrong in which case people just say “oh well we’re in Italy” like those words simply explained it all (and I’m starting to understand they do, lol!).

This time everything went very well and the evening was really nicely organized. The dinner was served smoothly, the food was delicious, we got wines, a dj, an open bar and impressive fireworks exactly at midnight and it seemed everyone was in a good mood, eating, chatting, dancing and generally having a wonderful time. The Italian girls had helped the opera to organize our tables (for around 100 fans from all over the world) and named every table according to different Mika songs. Ours was called Dr John (such a cute detail wasn’t it).

The concert on New Year’s Eve was extremely intense and transferred us to another world and the best thing with the dinner was that it didn’t remove us from our magical atmosphere. We were quietly guided to our tables and given a glass of wine. The music started (mostly Mika and older party hits) and several waiters started to carry first starters and then other courses. It was all smooth and gradually more and more cheerful and somehow quite surreal.

The tables and food looked festive with many different glasses and fancy details. Not sure what the starter was, maybe chestnut, but my pasta after that as a second course was delicious! Weird to be this excited about food but I rarely get really tasty gluten-free pasta… The main course seemed good but was brought to tables at midnight and suddenly everyone run outside to see the fireworks and I left my food just like the others which was okay as I was full after the pasta anyway.

After celebrating the midnight we all came back to our tables and had a wonderful dessert (mine was a small gluten-free chocolate cake) and some sparkling wine and people danced or just sat and had coffee until the staff said it’s time to go and we started – very gently – to prepare our return back to the reality and a bit reluctantly left our fairytale party, feeling ourselves like real life Cinderellas, literally looking for our shoes (mine were under the table, my feet were hurting so much) and trying to find a taxi to take us back to our hotels.

It was a lovely day, first the stunning concert and then this dinner party with so many familiar faces. Definitely something to remember years to come. See our international table below. Front from right: Renate and her husband, Marion and Miri from Germany, Becks from Spain and Rose from the UK. Behind: me and my husband from Finland and Christina and her husband from Romania (her son took the pic).

Thanks everyone for that special evening and night, I felt lucky to spend the New Year with you! Last but not least, a huge thank you to the Italian fans for their preparations and of course to the opera for organizing everything so well! X

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A short update about the second night for the Voice France third round. Thursday night was naturally more boring than Tuesday because Mika had already chosen his team and we saw Florent Pagny and Matt Pokora choosing theirs and their style is different and not as interesting as Mika’s (a bit biased saying that of course, lol!).

Mika was chilled and his part was only to shortly comment every performance and otherwise there was not much to focus on except wondering what he was doing with his little notebook. He kept sending notes to the other coaches, maybe for his own amusement. I paid too much attention to different sounds myself and it made me feel uncomfortable throughout the night. Many of the contestants have the kind of voice that makes me shudder and just like on Tuesday, some songs were poorly chosen which added the effect.

Again, it was quite easy to guess which contestant is staying in the competition and which two are out so it looked a bit silly that the three other coaches many times chose different favorites even the performances were not that good and it gave the impression the production wanted to make the level look better than it actually was (what makes sense from their point of view of course).

However, I have no idea how the system works for real and if the production guides the coaches in these situations or not. Also, if the coaches make their own decisions, whether they plan them beforehand or in that particular moment after seeing every performance. Of course the coaches are professionals and can better see the potential in young people (than an average person in the audience) and I assume they know some background information from behind the scenes the audience can’t know.

Being a good singer is not enough for talent shows unless the talent is something absolutely spectacular. The contestants need to be interesting and have personality and a good story behind them the audience to remember them well. After the recordings on Tuesday and Thursday I can hardly remember everyone from Mika’s team and only one or two from the other teams. I can remember two boys from Matt Pokora’s team on Thursday simply because young male contestants are stereotypical talent show material and have always their own target groups.

This year Mika has a very interesting contestant who can go far and if all goes well win and I would like to see his team winning this season. I wonder if he is doing another season after this. The Voice can’t give him much challenge at this point – how could it – and I’ve always thought this man lives for new challenges. The rumors tell they pay him well though and maybe it’s all becoming a nice routine with familiar people. We will see, I’m only speculating here.

Live shows for this season will be later this spring. I really enjoyed spending a few days in France and would love to do that even more. A huge thank you to the French girls and everyone else I met during the recordings for your company, help, chatting, translating and trying to teach me French (not much progress there I’m afraid). Hope to see you all soon xxx

I’m doing a couple of quick posts to describe my trip to The Voice France third round recordings in Paris. It felt important to travel and see Mika especially now when we possibly have only rare other events to look forward to this year (in case he is planning a small break to focus on his new music). It’s comforting to see him at recordings and with translations I can quite well follow what’s happening. My usual translator Melyssa couldn’t be in Paris for the third round (and I missed her!) but I was luckily sitting next to Ani who kept me updated during the night, a huge thank you to her for that.

The first night (Tuesday) was reserved for Zazie’s and Mika’s teams and the other coaches only gave their opinions after every performance, not pushing their words too much so both Zazie and Mika could focus on making their own decisions which was especially hard for Zazie. She doesn’t want to sent people out, it seems she would like to keep them all and fortunately on Tuesday the others were helping her a bit with this issue saving some of her contestants and that definitely made her happy.

The idea of the third round is to group the contestants in groups of three and hear them all performing one song chosen by themselves. The coach for the team decides which contestant continues to the live recordings and which two are out of the competition. Every coach can “steal” one contestant from other teams to their own teams (so the stolen contestant is not out but just changing his/her team). Many of the songs chosen were not best possible at all and some contestants could have done better if the songs had been more suitable. The level was not really high and it was easy to guess who will continue and who is sent out even the groups were well and logically done grouping similar types together.

I’ve had two favorites in Mika’s team and I hoped in advance that they both can make it to the live shows. My first favorite is a contestant who seems both very strong and very vulnerable and sensitive (as a person) at the same time. I liked him since the beginning and was happy he chose Mika because I know Mika can be sensitive and caring and give the contestant good and careful guidance. However, the performance for the third round was nervous and not as good as the auditioning and I was worried Mika might choose not to keep this contestant in his team. He did keep him though and I loved him for that and felt a bit ashamed I didn’t trust him in this decision. It was all emotional and a bit teary and will cause a lot of emotions in the television audience as well, I’m sure people will like the contestant.

My other favorite in Mika’s team has been a colorful group I like a lot because all three in the group seem very different as personalities but after performing together for a long time have grown together and give a good impression as a group. The group seems ready and experienced and something that could be successful if they just got visibility and some help to sharpen their style. They did well during the third round and continue to live shows and after seeing all these contestants again these two (the individual contestant and the group) in Mika’s team were the ones I can remember best even Zazie has some strong contestants as well.

The first of these two nights was entertaining to watch. I felt a bit tired after taking an early flight in the morning and of course I do wish I could understand Mika’s commenting. I regret and have lately much regretted not learning French. Thanks to my friends I can follow recordings quite well despite of the language and the issue hasn’t bothered me too much. Still, the truth is if I can’t understand him when he shares his thoughts I can learn to know him only through his music and it’s the most important but not the same as understanding everything.

I didn’t have a possibility to wish Mika happy new year in Florence and hoped to do that in Paris but naturally he had such a crowd around him that it wasn’t possible. However, he saw my face from distance behind the crowd and said a quick hello and happy new year which was nice and kind of made my wish to came true. Thursday night can be more boring for Mika fans because his team is already done but I will write a short update after that one too. X

My husband and I spent a long weekend in Florence for these two symphony concerts and had two and a half days to walk around in this beautiful city. We arrived from Helsinki on Thursday and had no plans for the evening and decided to walk to the hill to see the city view and have a quiet, cozy meal after that.

We wanted to visit both the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries during the weekend but didn’t bought tickets in advance and were not sure if we are willing to queue long enough to see them both. Eventually we went to Uffizi early Friday morning just before the opening time, got in after a half an hour of waiting and had a peaceful experience in the museum, luckily only a decent number of people were let in at a time.

I love museums for their atmosphere… I love beauty and aesthetics in general but I guess I’m more interested in the artist life and those brilliant personalities behind the master pieces and the historical spirit living in old buildings than any form of art itself.

Botticelli’s Primavera must be the most famous piece in Uffizi and as it’s surprisingly positive compared to everything else it was my favorite as well and I especially loved it how Flora and her dress immediately brought my mind Ida and her lovely flower dress in Montreal! Uffizi art was full of mothers with their giant, fat, even muscled children and I couldn’t stop staring at them in all their fascinating weirdness. The colors of the round painting below made me think of this autumn colored sweater I had seen on a fashion catalogue. Everything modern designers do comes from history, doesn’t it.

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On Saturday we headed to the Accademia Gallery a little bit later than planned and the weather was chilly and the queue long already so we took a guided tour starting in a few minutes which turned out to be a good solution as we didn’t have to queue and got a nice history lecture before having time to walk around in the museum on our own.

Michelangelo’s David was absolutely breath-taking! This was my first visit in Florence so I had no idea how stunning, impressive and huge it is in reality. The amount of love and admiration for the male body put in this sculpture is simply astonishing. The body and muscles in all their perfection combined to the giant hands and clumsy ankles and even lovely natural light coming from above, loved it all.

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After visiting the gallery we had a plenty of time to walk around before it was time to get ready for the New Year’s Eve concert and we had a small rest in a cozy, colorful book cafe we bumped into on our way to the river. It was perfect for us, we both love books and as it wasn’t mainly for tourists it wasn’t crowded at all and we could have a calm and relaxed moment before walking to the Boboli gardens.

The gardens – actually a large park – must be my favorite of all the places I saw in Florence. It was big enough not to feel too busy and crowded (people were mainly gathered in certain spots to take photos) and we could have walked there for hours, I would love to go back there in spring time.

I took a lot of pictures of the beautiful small green observatory because it was exactly the kind of a building where I would love to live but I guess a historical observatory with an access to a huge, private park in the heart of the most important renaissance city in the world can be too much to ask. What a lovely and pleasant long weekend in Florence and as always, the anticipation of these two symphony concerts made my mood even better than it already was. The experience would have been different without them, it wouldn’t have felt complete like this.

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Finally back home from my trip to Italy and trying to collect my thoughts about these two amazing symphony concerts I just saw in Florence. I was traveling with my husband and we had a lovely short holiday, Florence is a beautiful city full of art and history and this was our first visit there. Also, I met many friends from all over Europe and Asia and we had a wonderful party together. Twice, actually. First MFC 10th anniversary party on Friday before the first concert (I will blog about that later) and then Opera di Firenze gala dinner on New Year’s Eve after the second concert (and will write a separate post about that one too).

Symphony concerts make me so emotional it’s always hard to find words, they are my very favorites of everything Mika does. The arrangements by Simon Leclerc are out of this world and I love being able to hear Mika’as voice so clearly and without too much distraction. I always enjoy the gig or festival atmosphere, being in the audience and experiencing music together with people I like but what makes me travel this much is the thought of seeing Mika on stage and hearing his singing. There’s nothing better than being able to totally focus on his performance and the symphony environment is the best way to do it. I love the drama and intensity he adds to the songs and how tangible every emotion becomes. I can feel transferred to another place – whatever it is in the song – and it’s the weirdest feeling ever, like everything in the story is suddenly happening for real.

I’ve seen all the six symphony concerts so far and noticed every concert is different, special and magical in their own way and I enjoy this fact they are all different. Just the venue itself has its own effect, the modern music halls in Montreal or Florence can’t compete with the breath-takingly beautiful old theatre we saw in Como, a piece of art itself. The Canadian audience was calm and that way exactly my taste but on the other hand the organization at the opera in Florence could control the audience surprisingly well. The crowd was restless and a bit distracting but at least people stayed still until the last song which, believe me, was well done and organized.

In addition to that there are technical elements. I couldn’t hear Max properly during the first Florence concert, not the way I heard during the second one and I enjoy hearing him well because I like his voice. Then there’s Ida and don’t even know where to start with her. I like Ida a lot and I missed her in Como and now really enjoyed having her back and think her pure voice added something special to many songs, not only to Happy Ending or OMS but to many other songs as well. Gives me a warm feeling to see Mika and Ida together on stage because these two know each other well and I feel Mika is better when he has loving people he knows and trusts around him on stage. To be honest I don’t know if it’s true or if I simply like Ida being there because I’m used to hear her there since the beginning and like stability like that myself. Either way, she sounded stunning, they had a lovely chemistry and I was happy she was in Florence.

Every symphony concert depends naturally mainly on Mika and how he feels and where he wants to focus on that particular night just like it is at regular gigs. If he is calm and careful he pays more attention to every nuance and I think he did that more on the second night compared to the first one even he still was very expressive as well. And I literally can’t breath when he performs like that, the experience is incredibly beautiful. I almost can’t believe I’m there to whitness it all and try very hard to catch everything and always wish my musical ear was better so I could remember every detail afterwards but of course I can’t. I can only remember how amazingly wonderful it was when it happened.

If he is excited to tell the story and focusing on the meaning of the song he adds theater in it and while doing it seems to suddenly get even more excited,  just for the childlike joy of performing and being on stage and it makes my heart burst. First there’s the emotion of the song. In seconds I’m transferred to another emotional state and to a new imaginary environment, always very intense. Then there’s the feeling of having so much love in my heart because I love watching him on stage. For some reason my mind automatically pictures him as a child. Dressing up in costumes, singing, acting, perfoming and wanting to tell a story after story forcing his family to gather around him to watch and to be his audience, like children do. The next moment I remember his family sitting in the current audience and I can’t help but smiling. Such a sweet and funny thought (said in a very loving, tender way).

The first Florence night was extremely emotional to me. I had looked forward to this night for a long time and had almost forgotten how well these symphony versions work, how real they feel. Mika was very theatrical since the beginning. He started with Toyboy and suddenly I was in a nursery, I had hardly time to understand the transition. I could see the colors and textures and all the toys, the toyboy, even needles in the eyes, and started to think how confusing it must be to grow up having all kind of feelings people have when they grow up and not always be sure if it’s right and acceptable. So touching. I never think anything like that at usual gigs, now it just happened. After Toyboy he changed quickly to Underwater and made it extremely dramatic, the water was everywhere and it was stormy and green. He has really found his acting side lately (maybe due to Casa Mika) and he made the song even more emotional and powerful than usual.

Boum Boum Boum was intense compared to the gentle gig version I got so used to last year, Rain emotional as well and then it was Last Party already and I tried really hard to keep up and jump from one song and emotion to another one, very quickly not to miss any of the songs, something that I’ve found difficult during the earlier symphony concerts but gradually learnt to do. I feel every emotion with my whole body and every muscle and it’s hard to relax and feel “nothing” between the songs and get ready to another one, there’s very little time. Last Party was as lovely as it always is and the version from second night somehow amazingly carefully done, beautiful and detailed. Next on the setlist Overrated and Any Other World (both wonderful symphony songs) and then Love You When I’m Drunk so cheerfully I had to wonder what is so funny in it, maybe an inside joke or a meaning I can’t find or fully understand.

Then Ordinary Man. I’ve learnt to love this song at gigs, it sounds different and more vulnerable without an orchestra and done in a smaller way. I’ve always thought the symphony version has a massive self-pity in it simply because it’s hard to see Mika ordinary with a formal symphony orchestra behind him. This man is not ordinary in the usual sense of the word, even the sweat he shakes over people after an energetic show is seen as a treat. He started the song and for some reason I decided to jump along with the whole self-pity thought and wow it worked well and the song was my biggest favorite during the first night and one of the favorites second night as well! I was immediately swelling in my misery. I could feel how dirty and disgusting my hair is in the darkest moments when I can’t bother taking a shower because no one really cares, when there’s no point to bother anything in this world. Loved it unexpectedly much, a wonderful experience. Then Heroes, one of the very best symphony songs so quickly over my pity party and focusing on it.

After the break Grace Kelly, partly sacrificed because it took time to adjust after the pause and I was grateful it was GK and not Over My Shoulder yet. I love OMS in every possible versions but especially symphonic and with Ida it’s even better than it usually is. It’s a dark but still calm and peaceful song and l loved how Ida’s voice gave it a tiny bit hope. Songs like this can take over my mood for a long time period and a little bit of hope makes everything easier to handle. Lovely Good Guys (so good with an orchestra) and then Make You Happy and surprisingly my another big favorite both nights but especially on the first night. He kept repeating the line and suddenly I started to believe him, it was very convincing. I had totally forgotten how much I like this song. Happy Ending is always stunning but on the second night it was extraordinary, maybe my all time favorite version. I’m sure time stopped for a tiny moment, it really did.

Origin was powerful with the big choir. I loved the choir in many other songs as well, it had an impressive effect and it added a lot of extra. Then Relax, one the most important songs for me personally and lovely, gentle and natural both nights but particularly on the second one. EMD and Love Today are not my orchestra favorites because the audience can’t stay still and there’s too much distraction (which always shifts my mood) but Stardust after them was still lovely of course, even the audience was too restless at the time. There was an extra song both nights, Grace Kelly on the first and Underwater on the second. The crowd was in chaos in front, everyone taking pics and vids but I didn’t care, just felt happy and thankful, overwhelmed and exhausted.

Such a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience for fans, these two concerts with a fun pre-party on Friday and a nicely organized dinner-party on Saturday. Stunning work from both Mika and Simon Leclerc and of course also from Ida, Max, the orchestra and everyone involved. More reports to come. Monta suukkoa.

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Happy New Year from Florence with a couple of quick photos I took in the end of the second sinfonia pop concert (cameras were not otherwise allowed of course). The second night was even better than the first one. Mika was more focused on his singing so we got many especially stunning versions. He was very careful with some important songs but still managed to create a lot of drama around every song so there was a good balance and I really enjoyed the whole night, very special. The fireworks were crazy and the dinner organized by the opera and included in the concert tickets nicely organized and it was good to spend time with so many familiar people from all over the world. A longer report later. xxx

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