Cher Public

Quel grido e quella morte

Maria Guleghina‘s Turandot on PBS right now, and, holy hell, I didn’t realize just how incredibly awful it sounded. How could anyone let such a thing be released — no, escape — on HD?

  • melisma catatonia

    Whatever happened to Andrea Gruber? She was the finest Turandot I’ve ever heard live (too young for Birgit, well, at least as Turandot). Gruber, Paris, Christmas 2002. A performance for the ages. And Ghalouzine and Hong were damn good, too.

    • Gruber got her act together for around 3-4 years and gave some impressive performances as Turandot and Abigaille. But by the time of her Aida broadcasta few years ago, things had gone south.

      • richard

        I heard Gruber sing Turandot at the Met in 2002. Back then she was very good indeed in the role. But she seemed to go downhill after that and by the time she sang a broadcast of Turandot in 2005, she sounded very squally. I didn’t hear the Aida Kashania mentions but I can imagine it wasn’t too hot.

  • La Valkyrietta

    I liked Leona Mitchell well enough, but she was not as memorable as Marton or Leontyne or other singers.

    A wonderful Liu was Caballe, in the previous Turandot production. Great memories of the XXth century. There was a difference when Caballe (and also Martina Arroyo) sang Liu. The crowd does not carry her off stage, the stage goes dark and she walks off. Here is where I hate the XXIst century. One of these current directors would change singers rather than sacrifice the visuals. He would want the audience to get the visuals of a dead Liu being carried off stage. He would be willing to sacrifice a gorgeous “perche un di, nella regia, m’hai sorriso”. But onward with progress and high definition! Oh well.

    • luvtennis

      A treat.

    • Arianna a Nasso

      “One of these current directors would change singers rather than sacrifice the visuals.”

      Really? Like who? What specifics examples can you give of this happening? If you can’t, then don’t throw around such sloppy blanket statements.

      Over the years there have been more svelte Lius who could caress that B-flat AND be carried off easily by the crowd than the handful of Caballes and Arroyos who could only do the former. Why can’t we continue to have both? But I suppose that’s a boring answer which doesn’t allow you to slam directors as the scourge of opera today.

      • La Valkyrietta

        Why mention names? Anyway, the classic illustration of my accusation is Voigt. There was a director who opted for a cocktail dress instead of her voice.

        • armerjacquino

          Actually, it was an opera house and they opted for Anne Schwanewilms, and she was superb.

  • Harry

    The most fascinating thing I find here……. ‘since there is not much around of quality singers’ people are willing to make all sorts of concessions in the XXI century. Making excuses, where they pretend every force imaginable is to blame ‘for groups of 5th singers’; not being able to give the ‘very best of their usual standard worst offerings’! Just as well the recording industry is retreating from its former glories. Imagine having a great pile of these modern ‘toxic documented performances’ in the future -- stuffed away up in the attic. They would need musical pest fumigation, before ever attempting to re-touch them.

    • La Valkyrietta


      It is also pertinent that directors and many people involved with opera production today mind the visuals more than the musical work at hand.

      Take Attila, with a marvelous conductor. Prada’s worry was she could not dress the slimness challenged in the chorus. I can picture a future with a chorus hidden, and silent young gazelles parading on stage, thus affecting the sonority.

      Yes, we can have both. Callas had Visconti and she lost weight and was able to use the chin for expression and gave us some gorgeous years and a recording of Armida that is a joy to listen to. The XXI st century seems to be losing its way with oil spills and Guleghina style Turandots. Horrore!

      • No such story. Prada’s demand was for slimmer supernumeraries. Why shouldn’t a designer have a specific body type in mind for silent actors whose essential function is simply to stand there in the costume?

    • melisma catatonia

      The recording industry is making plenty of recordings — today they are called DVDs. And a lot of what is being recorded illustrates the decline in singing and the paucity of grand voices today. For example — did we really need Cedolins’, deVaughan’s or Salazar’s AIDAs documented for all time? Even Stemme and Urmana, although vocally better, were not Aidas for the ages. If one argues that they are State of the Art, I say QED.

  • Speaking of “technique” -- Stella et al. It is often mentioned on here that the technique goes and then the voice goes. This may well be so, but to my experience it is also true to say that you can employ the best technique in the world and still have your instrument fall to pieces on you some times- the two do not necessarily go together.

    Good singing technique is important in all ways to produce a wonderful sound etc- and while it does play a large part in sustaining a voice- it is not always sufficient to save a voice that has for many other reasons started to “give out”, fray or whatever.

    For this reason I sometimes wonder if a singer in crisis, finding “technique” not saving them from problems, starts to attempt “something/anything” to save the situation -- which can lead in turn to listeners coming to the conclusion the technique went first.

  • Morag Beaton certainly ranks among the great Turnadots. She sang a sensational series of TURANDOTs in Australia in the 1967, 1970 and 1971. There is a recording of a least one of those performances (Sydney 1971) with Donald Smith and the Australian Opera chorus. There is also a fantastic studio recording of her singing ‘In Questa Reggia’ (with piano!) from 1974 which will shortly be posted on Youtube.