Cher Public

Medium rare

ouspenskayaLa Cieca hears that a highlight of the 2010-2011 New York City Opera season will be the local premiere of Seance on a Wet Afternoon, the Stephen Schwartz tuner to star Lauren Flanigan.

Lighter fare will include A Quiet Place and a triptych of monodramas (including Erwartung) plus revivals of Intermezzo, L’elisir d’amore (in the Jonathan Miller “Brokeback Mountain” production) and Turandot starring Christine Brewer.

  • schweigundtanze

    Well that’s certainly interesting.

  • squirrel

    Intermezzo?! when was that last done here?

    Christine Brewer?! this gets very, very insteresting!

    • Camille

      Intermezzo was given by NYCO around 2000-2002 cannot recall when exactly but it was with Flanigan, who was very good in the role (Christine).

      About that other Christine, I will be glad to hear her but I seriously doubt Turandot’s high-lying tessitura as her turf. Lots of loud singing and standing still is good for her.

      I wonder who would do the Erwartung?!

  • A Gay L’Elisir? So the tenor and the soprano will both be men?

    • squirrel

      There was a Tristan und Isolde like that in Dusseldorf (I think) but I’m sure that’s been well covered here on Parterre and you don’t need me to tell you about it!

  • Orlando Furioso

    I will be glad to hear [Christine Brewer] but I seriously doubt Turandot’s high-lying tessitura as her turf.

    I would have guessed that too, given the importance of Wagner in her rep these days. But have you seen her do the Mahler 8th? She can pop out a C like nothing, or float it for days. (And I don’t know if she still does Donna Anna, but when she did, her command of the tessitura was thrilling.) I had in fact been wondering if she might have any interest in Turandot.

    • schweigundtanze

      Gasp…is that a quote function?!?!

      • Orlando Furioso

        Yes — it’s not new, it’s one of the HTML tags we’ve had ever since the blog moved. Use “blockquote” within the pointy brackets.

    • Camille

      Uh-huh, Signor Furioso, I hear you and let us think happy thoughts. After last spring’s Ring fiasco, I would just love for her to comeback and make a HUGE hit so the MET would come on bended knee. Hope it happens but I’ll not hold my fiato!

      The problem is: popping out a high C is not the same as sustaining an over-the-top, sitting on the passaggio role over the entire (well, two acts anyway) evening. Those Donn’Anna’s were quite some time ago and Alceste is comparatively middle-voiced, as Gluck usually writes, SOOOOOO — let’s hope the Lady Billows she is expected to do in Santa Fe goes well and whets her appetite for something more! A great voice and it seems, a lovely person. Shame on the MET!

      • Orlando Furioso

        I’m in agreement. I’m not saying Turandot is a guaranteed slam-dunk for her, but I do think she has surprises in her. Look at the tessitura of Soprano I in the Mahler: I think it’s not far off what you describe, and the Hyperion Strauss Vol. I is up and down and all over too. (I know… recording studio, short songs…)

        All I’m saying is, I wouldn’t rule out its working out well for her.

        • Camille

          Let’s do hope so!!

          Which songs does she sing on the Hyperion Strauss album — maybe “Fruehlingsfeier” --I have been meaning to listen to it but not yet remembered to order. I thought the Chandos Fidelio was something! Alas, no physique du role for that. Same for Voight. Should have sung it instead of Mattila.

      • messa di voce

        Shame on the Met???

        Three years to prepare and Brewer shows up not knowing her roles, and isn’t able to learn them during rehearsal? The Met provides her with a face-saving cover story and sticks to it? The Met spends umpteen dollars to bring in singers at the last minute who know the words and the music?

        Shame on the Met???

        • Camille

          Is this the REAL story, messa di voce? Many were bandied about but as you seem very certain of your remark, I tend to believe. However, it seems fairly uncharacteristic and highly unprofessional, so I still wonder. Until Peter Gelb comes out from behind the gelb curtain to make a pronouncement. I reserve the right to wonder.

        • messa di voce


          This is what I hear from sometimes reliable sources.

          Can you offer a better explanation of why the Met decided to fly in 3 or 4 other Brunnhildes at the last minute?

          Gelb will never announce why Brewer was fired: he is far too professional to do that.

          But, responding to your original post, the basic question is, ” What was shameful in the Met’s actions here?”

  • rommie

    ISOLA JONES -- does anyone know what happened to her?

    • Baritenor

      She’s retired.

      • rommie

        oh. too bad.

    • Gualtier M

      Isola mentioned in an interview that she and Jerome Hines bonded because they were both devout Christians and would pray backstage together. Then she’d push her tits up and sing Maddalena…

      • Nerva Nelli

        That was Myra Merritt who prayed with Hines and the late Timothy Jenkins. It did not audibly help her singing, never a pleasure unlike Isola who could be very effective.

        • Gualtier M

          Thanks Nerva, btw look at the chorus sopranos at the Met and a familiar name pops up: Marvis Martin. Last I saw of her she had lost a tone of weight and was singing concert excerpts from “Porgy & Bess”. Guess she gave up the soloist career and decided to make a steady paycheck in the chorus. Former NYCO Merry Widow Jane Thorngren and tenor Neal Harrelson also show up in the Met chorus as does bass Seth Malkin. All sang lead roles about 10 years ago around the regional circuit and at NYCO.

  • m. p. arazza

    “I can’t say that I am dying to sing, say, Turandot. In fact, Birgit Nilsson specifically told me not to sing that role. As she put it, it doesn’t need to be sung by a beautiful voice, and I would risk ruin by singing it”

    • Camille

      As I feared.

      Thank you, m p arazza (by the way, I love your screen name).

      I wonder if Birgit Nilsson did not consider her own voice “beautiful”? Reminds me of the interview Jellinek (may he rest in peace) did with Rysanek…apparently a critic (Goldberg of L.A. Times), while reviewing Leonie’s perf as Turandot, cautioned her against it as it may ‘ruin her beautiful voice’. Apparently she took it to heart and subsequently dropped the role. Shame, as her excerpted aria is glorious on that old solo RCA recording.

      • kashania

        I love Rysanek’s “In questa reggia”. It’s a shame that she dropped the role as it seems well-suited to her. It requires the soprano to sustain high-lying passages while singing loudly. Loud high notes were Rysanek’s thing and she never exhibited trouble with high-lying tessitura as far as I know.

        • Will

          I doubt that Turandot could ever have caused Rysanek any harm. There was a story out there many years ago--La Cieca may be able to enlarge on the story, confirming or denying--that Nilsson and Rysanek made an agreement: Rysanek would stay away from Turandot and Nilsson would stay away from Senta.

  • mrmyster

    Camille: That Hyperion disc contains 19 songs. Many of them are
    chestnuts, but she includes about five of the “Orient Songs,” that are
    not that often performed, and I understand one reason for that is
    a very high tessitura. Christine “has great height in her voice,” as
    one writer has said, and I have heard her sustain quite easily a high
    lying series of lines. She’s now approaching her mid-50s, so if she
    is going to risk (to her voice) singing Turandot and its demands for
    the declamatory use of the top register, now would be the time.
    She had somewhat the same demanded of her in her quite
    successful Chicago Dyer’s Wives — is that not right? I think so;
    some reports are that her voice suffered, but I’ve heard her
    subsequently and heard no problems. She knows her voice
    intimately and expertly, and one would trust her judgment. I
    just have a feeling the best thing that ever happened to her was
    NOT singing those Met Ring Cycles — now that will take it out
    of a girl’s voice! She’s been more disciplined since then and
    if she essays Turandot at NYCO -- God Bless! I’ll buy a ticket!
    She often exhibits a great ability to relax the voice just before
    taking a sustained high tone — I’ve heard her do it in Act II
    Tristan — it’s quite remarkable; that, of course, releases the voice
    to ride easily on the breath and be free to handle the top B or C.
    If the muscle tone is still there, I see no reason why she should
    not handle a series of top Cs. Listen to her Hyperion recording of
    Beethoven’s Ah! Perfido, if you want to hear some absolutely
    perfect technical singing -- it’s quite remarkable. The lady really
    knows what she is doing, perhaps more than any big name, in
    her category, before the public ! Have you heard her in person?

    • Orlando Furioso

      For the contents of her Hyperion CD — I love the label’s website, it’s so completely informative:

      She does indeed do “Frühlingsfeier.” The real standbys here are “Allerseelen,” “Wiegenlied,” and “Zueignung,” along with a few others that turn up on recordings with some frequency, and a number of rarities.

      Also, don’t overlook her 4 letzte Lieder for Telarc. To my ears they’re mighty fine.

      • Camille

        Grazie, Orlando.

        Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the Turandot happening.

    • Camille

      “Have you heard her in person?”

      I AM the person, alone and unaided, who yelled “BRAVA!!” For her @ her MET debut--it’s very tricky to get it in there after ‘Es gibt ein Reich” — and I was immediately shushed up by the ignorant dragoness in front of me -- to which I responded with an even louder BRAVA, and which finally ignited a landslide of others in the audience.

      So, YES, I have heard her in person and loved her sound and wished from that moment I could hear her as Isolde or Brunnehilde.
      If she sings Turandot, I’ll be there!!

      Oh yes, previous to this I heard her as the cosidetta “Ismene” I.e. The Elettra character in R. Strauss remanagement of ‘Idomeneo’ (as if it needed it!) Wherein she capped the final aria witha thrilling C in alt.

      That ‘Idomeneo’ is certainly a weird enchilada!

      Thanks for the information MrM. Brewer is one of the only real ones left!

      • richard

        I was at Brewer’s second Met Ariadne and was extremely
        impressed once she was in the opera proper. She appeared ill at ease in humor of the prologue and was badly costumed.

        But the opera itself, wow! And originally I was unhappy at getting the “cover” Ariadne on my subscription. But what a terrific performance. And Dessay was still wonderful as Zerbinetta.

        • Camille

          Yes, you are correct about her dis-ease. A Buehnentier, she ain’t. And, as good as Dessay was then, it was phenomenal @ HER debut in the late 90’s. I’ll never forget that performance!

  • laragazza

    Speaking of “Medium Rare”, is there anyone out there in Operaland who still likes Menotti?

    Just wondering.

    • Alto


      • +1 though not in a devoted way. Have listened casually to The Consul and whatever else was on that Gala 3 discer. Enjoyed it.

        • Will

          Yes--and I would LOVE it of NYCO were to do an exhumation of The Saint of Bleeker Street. Let’s see: Brandon Jovanovich, Beth Clayton, Maria Kanyova?

  • LittleMasterMiles

    “A triptych of monodramas”? Erwartung of course, La voix humaine, presumably, but why am I blanking on a likely third panel? “Pierrot Lunaire” seems unlikely if Schoenberg is already on the bill. Britten’s “Phaedre,” perhaps, but doesn’t that include speaking roles as well? A premiere? Some sort of staged baroque cantata? “Eight Songs for a Mad King”? I suspect there’s something I’m overlooking….

    • Perhaps, Berlioz’ la Mort de Cleopatre, but it’s awfully short (only 20 minutes)

    • Orlando Furioso

      Britten’s “Phaedre,” perhaps, but doesn’t that include speaking roles as well?

      Phaedra is a solo cantata, mezzo with string orchestra plus percussion and harpsichord, no other voices. It’s also just 15 or 20 minutes long, really too short for a situation like this.

      What about one or both of the monodramas Lee Hoiby composed (that Jean Stapleton performed): The Italian Lesson (after Ruth Draper), and Bon Appetit! (Julia Child, always a timely topic).

      • WeillFan

        Here’s a few monodrama suggestions:
        How about something from Ernst Krenek’s triptych that included “Der Diktator,” “Das Geheime Konigreich” and “Schwergewicht oder Die Ehre der Nation”? Julliard did the final comic piece in 2008 and it was loads of fun.
        Or how about Kurt Weill’s “Der Protagonist” or his “Der Zar Lasst Sich Photographieren” (“The Tsar has his Photograph Taken”)?

        • WeillFan

          Oops. I just realized that “monodrama” probably does not mean “one act opera.” So in that case, how about Beeson’s “Practice in the At of Elocution.”

        • Gualtier M

          I once had the idea of a triple bill called “Lauren on Line One”. It would consist of “Sorry Wrong Number” by Jack Beeson, “La Voix Humaine” by Poulenc and either “The Telephone” by Menotti (Lauren is seriously too old for the fluffy ingenue heroine but it could be updated to a yuppie with cell phones???) or “The Italian Lesson” by Lee Hoiby.

    • Nerva Nelli
  • LittleMasterMiles

    And speaking of “Erwartung,” am I the only one around hear who longs for a revival of the Met’s double bill with Bluebeard’s Castle created for Norman in the 1980s? But who to cast? Mattila?

    • armerjacquino

      Dalayman did it at Covent Garden, I think.

      • Will

        Flanagan’s pretty fearless and Steele obviously wants her back at City Opera after the several years she was neglected by the company. I wonder if she might be doing the Erwartung.

        This schedule impresses me as being what NYCO is all about, or should be. By the way for those who don’t know, the L’Elisir is probably more a “Happy Days” rather than a “Brokeback” production. The setting is Adina’s Diner, it’s tres 50s and a lot of fun. Paolo Szot was the original Belcore. Igt’s a lot of fun.

        • Nerva Nelli

          I found it dreadful, false and unfunny and unmoving. Part of Miller’s continuing obsession with the America of his cinema-going youth.

          Tony T, enjoyed seeing John Tessier dressed as James Dean and Paolo in uniform, as I recall.

        • after the several years [Flanigan] was neglected by the company

          It should be noted that this “neglect” of barely two seasons occurred after a period of over a decade during which time Ms. Flanigan had lavished upon her new productions and major revivals of star vehicles at least once, usually twice each season: Vanessa, Mourning Becomes Electra, Macbeth, that hideous dreck Lilith, that even hideouser Central Park, The Mother of Us All, Intermezzo, Lizzie Borden, The Seven Deadly Sins, The Turn of the Screw, Mathis der Maler, Esther, Roberto Devereux, and Die tote Stadt. Maybe the City Opera ran out of offbeat repertoire, or maybe they would have cast Ms. Flanigan if she’d been willing to sing, say, Mozart or Verdi or Puccini.

          And it’s not as if she was burning up the world’s other stages from 2006-2008 either.

        • Alto

          That Cieca. Always trying to insert fact into the discussion.

        • RDaggle

          In another thread La Cieca outlined the math behind some changes in casting for upcoming Met seasons. Where Diva grief outweighs Diva irreplaceability.

          It’s my understanding that at NYCO Ms. Flanigan, after several seasons, eventually tipped that equation into the negative numbers.

          But that was the feeling at the previous management …

    • Signor Bruschino

      I’m with you- I loved that production, and would love to see it on the Met Player… Mattila would be something!

      • Will

        LittleMasterMiles asks about other monodramas. One that comes to mind immediately is Hugo Weisgall’s The Stronger after the Play by Strindberg. There is a mute character on stage as the object of the soprano’s attention, which turns eventually into a very dramatic tirade. Adelaide Bishop, Brenda Lewis and Johanna Meier (who recorded it) are particularly identified with the role.

        The Stronger, which comes in at around 25 minutes long, dates to 1952. Given the revival of Weisgall’s Esther this season with Lauren Flanagan sounding very good in it, I could imagine Erwartung, La Voix Humaine (as Miles suggests), and The Stronger as a triple bill.

    • Nerva Nelli

      How about Heidi Grunt Murphy?

      • mrmyster

        I had heard she will soon be available
        for domestic service. Will she be the new
        Hazel? :)

    • schweigundtanze

      I heard Michelle DeYoung and John Relyea sing Bluebeard with the Cleveland Orchestra and Boulez two(?) years ago. DeYoung was good and Relyea was superb.

      • horiampa

        Speaking of the Devil, The Chicago Symphony will be performing Bluebeard at Carnegie Hall on Saturday night, January 30, with the self-same Boulez conducting and DeYoung as Judith, but with Falk Struckmann as Bluebeard. I’m really looking forward to it.

    • Lucky Pierre

      i love the keszakallu (sp.?), but the met’s production was an indulgent tacky project for done just for norman. i would not care to see it again, nor the met’s erwartung.

      la mort de cleopatre is one of my favorite works. norman’s recording with barenboim is outstanding. would love to hear podles’ version too. not sure how it’d work on stage. it’s about 22 min., isn’t it?

      • Camille

        22 minutes and wonderful each one.

        Dame Granite was my Cleo for many years. I heard Borodina do it in ’03 w/MET orchestra/Levine and it was wonderful! She had no trouble then with the acuti. It grieves me to hear her current vocal estate.

        • Lucky Pierre

          camille, you are so lucky. i would have loved to hear borodina’s version. i’m looking for podles’ live one. i also heard that verrett had sung this part in concert. i have live versions with urmana and dimitrova (!!!), which are not too satisfying.

          for me it’s hard to imagine anyone surpassing my memories of norman’s recorded studio version. all the different mood shifts and range of emotions, from queenly pride, rage, scorn, contempt and finally quiet resignation… i can picture still how she must have twisted her lips to spit out “un vil reptil” with such contempt in the “un”, enough vinegar in that one syllable to pickle half of humanity.

      • kashania

        Pierre: I heard Norman sing “La mort de Cleopatra” live in concert. and she was pretty sensational and displayed a range of colours and emotions. I must make a note seek out her studio recording. It’s a pity her Cassandre and Didon were never recorded (though they were captured on the Met broadcast when she sang both roles). The grand Berlioz stuff was tailor-made for her voice and temprament.

        • I heard Norman sing “La mort de Cleopatra” live in concert.

          Jessye was always at her best in oxymoron.

        • kashania

          Jessye took the love-death thing very seriously.

        • Lucky Pierre

          kashy, i believe that recording is out of print unfortunately. it also includes kiri’s nuits d’ete. curiously norman’s recording of nuits is pretty unlistenable. too tame, too dettached, bland as heck.

          lacieca, you are such a wag. obviously she was alive before the asp’s bite.

        • m. p. arazza

 Borodina recorded it with Gergiev (Philips live recording with Symphonie Fantastique).
 The Te Kanawa/Norman is reissued by ArkivMusic.

        • La marquise de Merteuil

          Taking my queue from the Vicar I’d have to say that my fav recording is with Dame Granite ….

  • Camille


    Would you care to reveal the title of the film (captioned above) that you are starring in, along with the gentleman’s identity? As well, what is the dire news he has just been given? Will he NOT be receiving the ‘Cobra Jewels’ for X-mas?

    • hndymn

      I’ll save La C the trouble and identify Maria Ouspenskaya (that’s how it sounds, the spelling may be otherwise) and Lon Chaney Jr. in “The Wolf Man.” Her wonderful accent gave generations of comedians a great target for mimicry.

      • Camille

        Tks hndyman! I knew it was Ouspenskaya but I didn’t know Chaney, Jr. I would suppose she is giving him the bad news he’ll soon be howling at the moon!

    • Madame Ouspenskaya never was much a harbinger of glad tidings, was she?

      “In the tragic romance Waterloo Bridge (1940), Ouspenskaya played the tyrannical ballet instructor Madame Olga Kirowa, whose harsh judgment drives a lovestruck student (Vivian Leigh) to prostitution.”

      On the other hand,

      “…this artistically minded stereotype was somewhat softened by her other less astringent dance instructor role of 1940 in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940-Dorothy Arzner). When she played the doyenne of a threadbare dance troupe whose members included an earthy realist, played with cynical joy by a zippy Lucille Ball and a dreamy idealist and slightly prim Maureen O’Hara, the character actress left the impression of a concerned woman struggling to pass on her love of Terpsichore to her students…. As she points out to her dancers, ‘You do not learn oomph. You are born with it’.”

      • Nerva Nelli

        Dorothy Arzner — “Dyke, ya know…”

      • MontyNostry

        In that clip, it is interesting to see the length and literate nature of the introductory text. Not something that the fast-cutting, 3-D, CGI ‘Avatar’ generation could cope with, I’d wager …

        • Harry

          If that cartoon Avitar and its blue slimy people are the future of cinema…..I will not be watching. Haven’t seent it, don’t ever intend to.

      • Camille

        “You do not learn oomph. You are born with it”….would that those words were stenciled on the entryway hall of Juilliard!

        Lots of things in art cannot be learned — they may be hiding inside and not yet deduced, but usually they will find a way out.

        I love ‘Waterloo Bridge’! Didn’t know La Cieca-Maya, was in that as well.

        La Cieca is an arcobaleno that shines her rays dapertutto!!! Baci!

    • MontyNostry

      Aah. No Cobra Yoo-el for Yule.

  • whatever

    this is interesting stuff … anyone know whem City Opera plans to announce its 2010/11 season officially?

  • Harry

    Look at the complimentary plot similarities of Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Menotti’s one Act The Medium.
    The Medium has a challenging bitch of a scene for the star…where the music’s key signature keeps changing bar by bar.