Cher Public

the nominating committee will come to order

As if we ever “came to order” around here! But anyway, La Cieca is throwing the floor open for a Listening and Viewing Orgy next weekend, when the MetPlayer will offer a three-day free preview. MetPlayer offers streaming of over 200 Met broadcasts and telecasts from 1937 to the present, including 20 in HD.  The free preview will begin at 5:00 pm EST on Friday, May 1.

So what La Cieca has in mind is to select via popular vote somewhere between three and five of the MetPlayer selections, then schedule times for everyone to tune in together to each of the chosen operas. Those who gather can chat about the performances and whatever else here at

So, in the comments section below, nominate your favorite performances from the MetPlayer catalog, along with a sentence or two explaining why this performance would make for an interesting group experience.  We’ll vote on the nominees later this week.

UPDATE: Here are complete instructions on how to log in to MetPlayer for this weekend-long free preview.

  • Harry

    Logical Tenor & Sanford: Well June Bronhill for one. Incidentally she sang the very next performance of Lucia after Sutherland’s opening night ‘Lucia splash’ in London. With Bronhill , you heard every word, with crystal clear diction (Taught by the famed Madame Marty) I once had the privlige of being given private tapes of her Rosina in Barber of Seville (at age 21) and the star was already fully there to take her place on stage anywhere. Later things like Maria Stuarda and Cunning Little Vixen were also stunning. Throughout her career, the voice remained totally intact without any hint of crisis along the way. Trained ‘in’ and by the old school techniques….something a few singers today , are in need of, badly.

    A slight point to reflect on: Is it an illusion? I noticed as a kid that famous opera singers of the day normally when interviewed, also spoke with perfect weighted speaking voices accepted ….as an adjunct/ reflection of their then singing training. Today, many singers when interviewed :sound like any Mr or Miss ‘so & so’. There is no clear stand out distinction!!?? Perhaps it says why so many singers have to work so hard to stay out of vocal trouble?

    Not like the ‘mooning smeared mumbles’ of Sutherland, who originally survived extensive excruciating dental work… with that jaw etc to get and make her : the ‘star’ she then became. We are also forgetting ‘ all this cost money provided by banking -on ‘backers’. Some closely associated, told me they think her efforts were remarkable if not a ‘miracle’ after those procedures.

    Symbiotic was the word used by one writer about Bongyne and Sutherland together. You are forgetting the ‘business clout’ Bonygne had at that stage with Decca. Nominate anything, put Joannie in it and it was a recording done deal, commercial or not! Who remembers the ‘çhinese’ opera by Leoni, the Talking Pictures album or Joan Sings Wagner? The number of takes some sections of that album had…..Shite!!! As well as other things that were not ‘raging successes’. Can anyone safely tell me they understood one word of Sutherland’s French in Massennet’s Esclamonde…………….and God I love anything of Massenet! Listen to the whole of the 6 CD anthology ‘The Art of Sutherland’ and it tells a story. La Macquise de Merteuil’s comment from Sutherland “Ï do what I can with what I have” I agree with, entirely. She was dedicated and professional, I do not want to take that away from her. BUT I believe she would have turned out perhaps fewer but better material with a far better conductor. Together they were ‘packaging and on -selling operas’ onto Decca. as proven during the shelving debacle over Pavarotti not being ‘learned’ ready for Maria Stuarda. During performances I have seen Bonygne fall asleep during performances requiring ‘speech between items (say The Beggar’s Opera). Rewoken when someone in the front row, reached over and tapped him on the shoulder!!! As for her finale performances in Les Hugenots………….AHHHHHHHHHHH!

    Strangely it was Metha that really got ‘singing out of Sutherland with Turandot……….though she very nearly physically stuffed her voice proper and permanently, in real terms just as she starts her reply after Pavarotti as Calaf successfully answers the second riddle. It is there captured on the recording for all to study, up very close. Makes one believe in the story told to me that Bonygne entered the studio ‘threw a ‘tizz’ during the recording and was told /ordered to leave.

  • Sanford

    Oh, lord. I went to Amazon and listened to June Bronhill. Do you honestly think she was anywhere in the same league as Sutherland? If anything, she’s closer to Kathryn Grayson, right down to the fast, fluttery vibrato. But she did seem to have a nice career in musicals (which seem to have outnumbered operas in her career). Anyone for a revival of Robert And Elizabeth?

  • armerjacquino


    Is someone really saying that were it not for Sutherland, June Bronhill would have had a major operatic career?

    It’s the last day of April, not the first.

  • Harry

    Sanford; Yes Bronhill did a lot of operettas as well. It is in fact regarded by some that the stream of operettas she did for Sadlers Wells, examples of which were recorded by EMI, her popularity helped saved the company. She was rather short, just 5 ft…….unlike 6 ft+ tall ‘big jaw Mc Graw Sutherland who looked rather funny as say Desdemona when I saw her once in Otello! Imagine an Otello threatening her….one punch and he would have landed in the orchestra pit!

    PS comparing her to Grayson on Amazon, really!!??? Change your computor speakers, please! The ‘curdled MGM film sopranoooo’ Grayson was really at best a mezzo. Her best work was the film Kiss Me Kate. She started to show ‘balls’. I even thought if her life took a different course inside opera, she might have been a good Brangenae! Later though, she was still pushing the Sopranoooooh angle on the club circuit, the voice range, comically risible like (visually) a compound fractured leg and she had become a big ballooning lard rubber duckie.

  • Sanford

    Grayson a MEZZO? I don’t know many mezzos who could sing The Bell Song (and she did it rather well). She has more in common with French coloraturas, such as Mady Mesple, or American coloraturas such as Roberta Peters. In fact, how many Mezzos can you name who starred in movie musicals?

    Rise Stevens (The Chocolate Soldier)


    And Ms Bronhill doesn’t hold a candle to Marni Nixon, who should have had a much bigger career than she had, but still managed to perform all sorts of 20th Century classical voice rep, while working on stage and in the movies.

  • Harry

    Well Amerjacquino there was Amy Shuard, a good British girl who never got a chance. It appears we are back on April fools day with all the Sutherland scream queens. I witnessed the ‘Afternoon cheese /wine and bickie soiree’: all listening to Sutherland records’ cult -- from day one. Sutherland after 1972,her voice darkened and the transitions downwards started. The queens were suffering pitch deafness from hearing too many rising whistling kettle noises. Take her recorded output with Bonygne from then on. Was she into Puccini? Nope? Her Verdi…what little she did…forgettable ( the second Rigoletto conducted and sounding like it was Donezetti’s not Verdi)….Wagner…opps! Noted for Donezetti and Bellini. Big deal! A re -run of good things past, now being done over & over very badly. Fast becoming dust covered ‘recorded travesties for the future’ which is now here. Go enjoy!

  • Harry

    Sanford I prefer to disagree. Next you will be telling me that Julie Andrews (lovable as she was) was also capable of a good Bell Song once. Grayson had a vibrato louder to me than the ‘juddering put-put’ sound of an old badly serviced outboard motor boat’ and that was when I was a kid back in the early 50’s!

  • Harry

    Grayson probably áchieved her Bell song’ courtesy of a tight corset’… they were after all big necessities in those days for figure……..and vocal support. Even ‘men’ wore them!! Her film career had problems because of weight concerns ‘playing darling daughter roles’ for Louis B Mayer before one or two less successful woman roles. I had the old 78 rpm records of the sound track of Grayson’s Showboat . It took me a while to realise that it just was’nt her voice, but the pressings also had faults that complimented her contributions. I thought they were all hers! Why even I and others when we were young could clinch our tits, strangle our diaphagns and let out a mocking few “Lucia’ runs to mimic Sutherland and other divas. I was jealous of one fella though, who could ‘do’ the screaming Queen of Night for about 15 seconds.

  • Often admonished

    Stephane Deneve is MD of the Royal Scottish Orchestra where he is doing great work. A couple of US orchestras have him on their short lists for big jobs.

    re Bonynge: the most respected Italian critic, Rodolfo Celletti, wrote that Bonynge knew a vast amount about the voice and the ottocento repertory, more than anyone since Serafin. He would have been a great conductor IF only he knew how to conduct.

  • Cocky Kurwenal

    Amy Shuard had the career she was due, surely -- wasn’t she struck down by illness in her early 50s, probably her prime, given her voice type, which also explains why she perhaps isn’t as well remembered as she might be? In any case, the number of roles in which she overlapped with Sutherland is surely close to zero. And I don’t call a string of appearances in leading dramatic soprano roles at the Royal Opera missing her chance. I think Shuard was wonderful without necessarily having the interpretative insight or distinctive instrument that would have meant her every utterance should have been recorded for posterity. Plus she sounds like a great fun woman who was happy with the work she had and didn’t covet the kind of globe trotting existence and international adulation that Sutherland or Nilsson had.

  • Sir Morosus

    Armer Jaquino

    I think Shuard shared some Verdi roles with Sutherland in their early careers- Amelia in Ballo for one.

    I heard her as Kundry, Brunnhilde, Elektra and Turandot in the 60s. She was eclipsed then by Nilsson, but would have awider international career these days. She had an impressively large and secure dramatic soprano, but which became hard edged and unyielding. There was nothing characterless in her live performances.

    She was noted for taking surreptious swigs of Guiness from a convenient horn held by a chorister in the 2nd Act of Gotterdammerung to lubricate the throat for that cursing business.

    She did sing at the Colon in BA, Vienna and Bayreuth , though that was probably too late in her career.

    Fortunately there are now some extant live recordings on Opera Depot and the Royal Opera Heritage label.

    I would dealy like to track down one of her as Elektra.

  • armerjacquino

    Thank you, Sir Morosus. It’s an easy enough mistake to have made, as we are both devilishly handsome young British gentlemen (*ahem*), but it was actually Cocky Kurwenal who was talking about Shuard.

  • Sanford

    Harry, you have neither made your case for Grayson as a mezzo, nor named a singer who was denied a career by coming up against Sutherland. And although I happen to like Kathryn Grayson in Showboat and Kiss Me Kate, I never claimed she was a great opera singer, I merely compared her voice to Ms Bronhill. So I’d still like to know who you think lost out because of Sutherland.

  • Sir Morosus


    Apologies to both you handsome devils. Somehow I just imagined the pseudonyms reflected the true characters of the bloggers (as mine does, of course) and I saw in the mind’s eye you as an ineffectual young man and a bearded bluff old bloke respectively…….