Cher Public

Things never change, Jo

dame_joIn a tidbit sure to warm the cockles of Our Own Vicar of John Wakefield, beloved artist Dame Josephine Barstow will return to the ‘boards’ of the Gran Teatre de Liceu in April 2011.  The legendary septuagenarian singing actress will be heard in the pivotal rôle of “Mummy Lucy” in Richard Jones‘s inscenation of Rustic Chivalry.

  • eckermann

    …and we can only hope that Ian Bostridge will give us his Turiddu.

    • manou

      …or his Turridon’t.

      • Baritenor

        Oh, Ba-ZING! Awesome.

    • mrmyster

      And Mr Bolton’s Alfio?

    • manou

      Sanford -- this is lovely! Only just listened to it -- and grateful it has nothing to do with Jo B!

      • Thanks, Manou. I’m a lazy fuck, so I’m still only halfway done editing the concert. But asll of the first half…the Tin Pan Alley…is now up at Youtube on my channel (

  • Henry Holland

    That looks like it was a fantastic production of Britten’s wonderful opera, too bad the DVD reviews say the score was butchered and the DVD is half live/half studio.

    • Baritenor

      I own it. Yeah, they gutted the score. It doesn’t really work; they should have just filmed the performance (which is excellent) straight.

    • Regina delle fate

      It was a disgrace that this production was not filmed in its entirety! Whatever one things of Barstow’s controversial voice, she was a unique figure who sang an amazing variety of roles during a very long career, but no doubt the naysayers here will claim she was just another product of Rosenthal’s feverish imagination. Barstow is presumably in the Jones production because he wanted her. I honestly can’t understand why her engagement as Mamma Lucia in Barcelona should provoke such sarcasm and scorn from a New York-based website.

      • Arianna a Nasso

        Or perhaps Barstow had some success in Barcelona over the years, and the management thought it would be interesting to bring her back one last time for a cameo role. I too was a bit puzzled by the “edge” in La Cieca’s post about this casting; perhaps she felt Caballé was being cheated out of work.

  • armerjacquino

    Mamma Lucia is just about the only role I’d be happy to hear her in. So long as she didn’t do too much of her ‘acting’.

  • sfmike

    Uh, Josephine Barstow is god. Saw her as “Salome” and “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” live in San Francisco years ago and have never quite gotten over either performance. She was great. And her performance on the Mackerras recording of Britten’s “Gloriana” is definitive.

    • messa di voce

      And her Lili Vanessi is truly unforgettable, in every sense of the word.

      • Harry

        I never thought I would have to say it but…..Kathryn Grayson in the 50’s film version had a much better ‘hang’ on Kiss Me Kate, than that British sharp trumpet.Just take ‘So in Love’ where Grayson surprises with her firmness: with none of her famous wobbles. At that point, one wonders what if, Grayson had chosen a different path and seriously studied a a younger age….as perhaps a high mezzo?
        Barstow spoiled the later EMI CD release. Barstow’s voice sounded like an too long -left over-ripe pungent cheese. Lili Vanessi is a romantic role of a mature person. Not a role that should sounds ‘sixtieth’. Let;s not be discreet about it. If people cannot detect ‘vocal age’ on a recording….it is time they changed their Hi- Fi equipment. Whatever equipment are some people listening to?

  • michonnetsu

    The sarcasm may be inspired by the questionable priority of importing a soprano never known for idiomatic Italian style to a mezzo/contralto role which is all about idiomatic Italian style. It could also be that La Cieca was amused by the import happening in a city full of the sort of comprimario mezzo who could do the part handsomely. But perhaps she will illuminate her questioners…

    • Arianna a Nasso

      Sorry, I don’t think Mamma Lucia has enough lines to be considered “a mezzo/contralto role which is all about idiomatic Italian style” -- it’s much more about providing the appropriate dramatic presence in her exchanges with Santuzza and Turiddu.

      • Pelleas

        Complaints about “idiomatic Italian style” are beginning to seem the last refuge of scoundrels around here.

      • Regina delle fate

        Exactly Arianna! And Barstow is a fine actress. She sang Santuzza once at Covent Garden -- not one of her unforgettable roles, but she was always a noticeable presence.

        • armerjacquino

          As you may have guessed, Barstow is one of my betes noires. I really don’t get all the ‘she was a fine actor’ stuff.

          I always found her acting desperately mannered, calculated and external. She never moved me because it was all for effect.

  • La Valkyrietta

    I hope they have a good screaming peasant woman at the end. My last Cav at the Met many years ago was spoiled by a sort of Barbara Walters voice reporting on the fate of the compai.

  • luvtennis

    Barstow lost all artistic credibility for me when she permitted her Amelia in the HvK Ballo to be INFLICTED upon humanity.

    Her voice is so ugly, so flat and gray, with no juice or resonance. It is horrifically bad. No artist with any real integrity would have either performed a role so unsuited to her abilities at that time or having committed the travesty to tape, agreed to its release.

    No go, Jo.

  • Harry

    luvtennis: I totally agree. Barstow’s atrocious Amelia
    was the height of absolute sulfuric -- acid filth. To think that the ailing dying Von Karajan cast her in it during his final days, suggests how ill he must have been at the time. Though as it turned out, it was the crowning achievement of his operatic mis-castings.

    To think any King of Sweden or Governor of Boston or what have you, would want to pair up….!!?? It gave meaning to what could be called ‘operatic -- necrophilia’, a story played out between a much younger sounding man and a vocal corpse. Aurally it matched: sonic putrefaction, filled our ears. It became Verdi’s opera ‘Balls-up in the Morgue’ (and everybody was in need of safety Masks!)

  • The Vicar of John Wakefield

    People here have been writing scurrilous tosh.

    Our “Jo” was the finest Verdian soprano on the boards since Joyce Gartside of the old Vic-Wells company. Her clarion English diction and refulgent, soaring tone make for great memories from THE MASKED BALL and (opposite the immortal Cynthia Buchan) THE FORCE OF DESTINY.

  • luvtennis


    You need to stop mixing crack and heroin (or would that be opium or morpine in your case?)!

    Whatever Barstow could do in the theatre or in other roles, the HvK recording is HORRIFIC. I no longer have any respects for the British bootlickers who pretended that it was an abomination.

    Oh well, the claimed Plowright was the next Price (in terms of Verdi prowess). We all know how that turned out.

    • luvtennis

      “respect” “who pretended that it was anything other than an abomination.” Sigh. . . . I really have to get my secretary to start proofing my posts.

      • Often admonished

        but the original one was a better representation of your critical ability

  • luvtennis

    Wow, was that actually a completely gratuitous insult?

    I would really appreciate some explanation as to why my opinion merits such an attack.

    La Cieca -- I love the “lively” commentary on the forum. Bless you for providing it to all of us. But surely we have some rules of decorum. I would suggest that the following: Out of the blue insults must be accompanied by a 50 word explanation for the attack.


      Note to luvtennis. I can’t say that I saw anything particularly insulting in Often Admonished’s comment, but your response was wonderful. It was gracious, good-humored, and completely non-confrontational. I feel like insulting you myself, just to see your response.

      Bravo. Or brava. Or bravi, in case you have Multiple Personality Disorder. Or are of royal descent. Or both.

  • luvtennis


    I have followed with your recent contributions on the site with a mixture of pleasure and envy (and gluttony and sloth. . .). Your wit -- your sheer flair for language is daunting -- and believe me, I am the last person to offer disinterested compliments. ;-) (actually, it should :-( [Is there an emoticon for the lust and envy that decline inevitably into evil and death -- you know, the Iago emoticon] -- I really am envious of you. Do you need a young attractive personal assistant who aspires to replace you as the most beloved poster on Parterre? If so, you can email at


      I’d be delighted. Of course, you’ll have to provide your own seatbelt.

      • manou

        Betsy -- watch out! Remember Eve Harrington…

  • mrmyster

    luvten: good luck, hon; just make sure you get minimum wage.