Cher Public

Cher public dell’abisso affrettati!

ulricaLa Cieca (not pictured) invites you, her group mind, to help her sort out the following conundrum.

Our situation thus far at the Met revival of Traviata — as it has been passed along to La Cieca bit by rumored bit –goes something like this:

  • Leonard Slatkin showed up for rehearsals not, let us say, entirely conversant with the score;
  • Which mightily pissed off Angela Gheorghiu (Violetta) and Thomas Hampson (Germont);
  • Who, whatever you may think about one or the other of them, do know their Traviata pretty well, and are not known for reticence in expressing their opinions;
  • And whereas, at Wednesday’s rehearsal of the Verdi, La Gheorghiu was not anywhere to be seen;
  • And so Hye-Kyung Hong sang the rehearsal;
  • And, furthermore, so a source near the Met tells La Cieca, Gheorghiu has protested Slatkin.

So, cher public, La Cieca asks what will happen Monday night?  (Please note that you may enter more than one answer!)

  • Camille

    Netrebko’s piano is a f—-ing lousy SPINET?????

    What atrocious taste in design she has — it’s no longer a mystery to me why she cannot sing a roulade accurately, as a collection of booze glasses seems to be more important than a decent piano.

  • casualoperafan

    The situation doesn’t surprise me, I thought it was Traviata from the first posting.

    To Slatkin’s defense, let’s remember that he was supposed to be conducing Ghosts of Versailles in this run, NOT Traviata.

    Traviata is deceptive to conduct. If you do not have a feel for Italian opera and you are not good at following singers without giving it all up to them in the process, you can have trouble with Traviata.

    I seriously doubt that Slatkin was actually unprepared. He just probably underestimated the difficulty of it without realizing it but the man is a very accomplished musician, he is not an arrogant beginner who showed up not knowing Traviata. He just is not a specialist in this genre and is not used to singers who prefer to merely be “followed” which Gheorghiu and Hampson both are, indisputably.

    Gheorghiu and Hampson are both very self-involved singers who take an extradorinary amount of rubati and liberties and have a style of phrasing which is shall we say nicely unique to each of them.

    I have seen Gheorghiu lead many an experienced conductor around the flagpole and wondered how on earth they followed her.

    I have heard more than a few -- in fact, I have heard many musical mistakes and near train wrecks in her performances since the beginning of her career. It is NOT just with Leonard Slatkin.

    Someone with Slatkin’s style and type of experience would probably have a lot of trouble with a singer like that.

    Plus, with short rehearsal and two singers like that, is not the best time to take a fresh look at the score, but someone of his reputation and inclination doesn’t think of taking on a piece just to get through it accompanying singers. He wants to “do something” with it.

    It strikes me as nobody’s “fault” but bad chemistry and differing expectations.

    Hampson played the trump card by showing up late, figuring that Slatkin would have no choice but to just follow him. This is the OLDEST trick in the singer’s book -- show up for the sitz probe when it is too late for the conductor to fiddle with you.

    Gheorghiu, who often does that herself, is currently on thin ice at the Met, probably had to show up on time. and make a show of being cooperative.

    Yet utlimately my feeling would be that two singers who are very experienced in Traviata should be able to adjust to a conductor who is as accomplished and intelligent as Slatkin, despite differences in style and approach, in order to prevent a disaster.

    To complain about him privately is understandable but to protest him officially would be really insulting and coming from someone who just threw the Met’s Carmen into turmoil and is on the down side of her career, maybe her reach is beyond her grasp by now.

    Would it really be THAT hard for Gheorghiu and Hampson, in the sections where things are at risk, to merely STAY IN TEMPO for a few pages and to alert the prompter that extra care and attention might be needed?

    Surely such great artists of their stature can be expressive even when singing in tempo now and then for a few bars, right?


    Good Lord, Casualoperafan, a careful well-balanced analysis ! One which finds no fault and gives all the benefit of the doubt and even allows for individual integrity. What IS this world coming to?

  • Arianna a Nasso

    Re: 102 “It strikes me as nobody’s “fault” . . .”

    Actually, it is one person’s fault: Peter Gelb. When he replaced Ghosts with Traviata, he should have realized that Slatkin was not the right conductor for middle Verdi or for these two stars in a revival situation like this. He should have bought out Slatkin’s contract like he presumably did the rest of the Ghosts cast. Yes, it would be further expense, but that’s life.

  • Nerva Nelli

    I’ve never seen a single comment about Wolf Trap here.

    Rutter was AWFUL as Alice Ford at Santa Fe though, amd as dull as dishwater- which is how she seems to me on internet clips too. What are you Vicarites hearing that eludes us Yanks?

  • operacat

    Slatkin actually has conducted TRAVIATA in washington DC with Hei Kyung Hong in the 2003-2004 season. At the time he conducted a version of the opera that was very different than the one we see nowadays — I dont recollect the differences. I am wondering, given his penchant with the National Symphony to conduct Mahler’s rewrites of the Beethoven symphonies instead of the originals, if Slatkin wanted to perform the unique version over the one we all know?

  • armerjacquino

    Nerva, your question to the ‘Vicarites’ is hilarious- I used the not-exactly-glowing phrase ‘pretty good’ and MN said she was ‘just not very interesting’.

    I guess you see what you want to see.

  • operacat

    To atone for the lack of Wolf Trap comments, there was a lovely semistaged double bill of Musto’s Bastianello and Bolcom’s Lucrezia. Both very tuneful and lovely and very stageworthy and very well done. I understand they will be web cast in late May. . . worth seeing.


    ArmerJacquino #107. What a splendid chance for cultural cross-pollination and international understanding. In the USA we do not “damn with faint praise.” we prefer good old-fashioned SONUVABITCH DAMN-ing. Preferably with bodily functions, as Manou has pointed out numerous times. (Well . . . once.)

  • Camille: The atrocious (or at least idiosyncratic) taste I give you. But by the time you carve 3 bedrooms out of 1900 sq ft of space, I don’t see exactly where a grand piano would fit. Here’s a floor plan of a 1900 sq ft condo in that neighborhood (not the same building).

    I guess the small (maid’s?) bedroom at upper left might serve as a studio, but could you cram even a baby grand into so tiny a space and still have room to walk around?

    The other point is living only a few blocks from the Met, surely it’s easier to go there to practice than to try to work in an apartment with a 2 year old child…

  • The Vicar of John Wakefield

    Rutter’s Verdian achievements place her in a class with Joyce Gartside and Ruth Packer.

  • Camille

    That’s Easy, La Cieca —

    I would not only cram the baby grand into the living room, but also cram the baby into daycare at two years of age. That’s the custom of Yuppies-of-Today.

    This whole mess looks like it’s Brighton-Beach-on-the-Hudson, ossia Natasha’s Blini Palace; the Manhattan skyline is a discordant note with the rest of the decor as it rightfully should be Coney Island instead.

    The proposed Anna Bolena COULD be just a wonderful thing if she would knuckle down, but based on the revealing lack of ‘pride of place’ of her piano, I am fearful now that Anna Bolena will have blini stains all over her bib.
    I mean, you must have seen photos of M. Callas at her pianoforte, no? C’est ca.

    Whatever became of that lovely Poiret you wore on your way to “The Girl”?
    I want it!

  • casualoperafan

    To #104:

    By “fault” I didn’t mean no poor judgment was shown.

    The man who runs the Met SHOULD have the musical judgment to have known that Slatkin was the wrong man for the situation.

    However, Peter Gelb’s musical judgment is, frankly, not so hot.

    I think he really and truly thought that musically it would be fine, especially if as someone else wrote Slatkin had conducted a “critical edition” or “original version” previously. It might have sounded like an interesting artistic idea to him.

  • manou

    Betsy Ann @ 109 -- when? when? what did I say? Was it in French? Qu’est ce que j’ai dit? Aiuto!


    Coy Manou! Surely you remember. I was but a neophyte then, so fresh, so innocent, so unspoiled, the dew falling on my bosom. Or drool, I can’t remember. Anyway, something was falling on my bosom. Several of us youngsters would gather at your feet as with gentle smiles and demure manner you taught us how to survive in the posting world. “More shit,” you would say. “Put in more shit. And piss. That’s always good.” Those words have never left the forefront of my consciousness.

  • manou

    Koi carp Betsy! Never would I utter such repellent phrases (in any language). My governess would die.

    Oops -- she has.


    Oh, I cry you mercy. It was just around the time I was re-shellacing my bibelots and had failed to provide adequate ventilation.

  • manou

    And merci beaucoup to you too!

    Do watch out for the powerful fumes when applying volatile substances to your valuable tchotchkes…

  • Lucky Pierre

    not to pile on la gheorghiu, cause i know some of you just hate the poor woman, but she just sang not too long ago at the kennedy center honors, and her “vissi d’arte” was a mess, tempo-wise. she and the conductor couldn’t agree on the timing. maybe it was lack of rehearsal? hmmm…

    was it our dear old gracious leontyne who said that she never argued with conductors about tempo, and “i never had a bad one (conductor).”

  • MontyNostry

    Renee interviewed the usual subjects by the ever-florid diva-worshipper Peter Conrad: