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Now, that’s how it’s done!

jake_gLa Cieca proposes a new weekly competition: she provides the theme, you provide the examples. This week: “Now, that’s how it’s done!”

The concept is: if you want to know how an aria or operatic scene should be performed, look no further. Your task is to find and to properly embed a YouTube video exemplifying some operatic superlative, then append a few sentences explaining why your choice is indeed the best of the best.

La Cieca will now offer an example.

Everything about this Renata Tebaldi clip if pretty fabulous including (especially) the hair, but what really is “how it’s done” here is the expert and fearless use of chest voice. Especially impressive is the soprano’s deliberate contrast of timbre between the hard, snarling chest tone and the limpid mezza voce in the middle register. Some Giocondas are good at expressing rage, others vulnerability, but Tebaldi can modulate between the two almost instantaneously without sacrificing the quality of the voice.

So, go look for a YouTube clip of your favorite “Now, that’s how it’s done!” moment, and post it in the comments section for this posting, along with your commentary, by midnight on Sunday, June 20. The clip and comment La Cieca judges the best (and her whim is final) will receive a copy of the newly-released DVD The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991: 25th Anniversary at Lincoln Center, documenting this performance. (If the winner resides outside the United States, La Cieca reserves the right to substitute an amazon.com gift certificate of equivalent value.)

So, show La Cieca how it’s done!

321 comments

  • poisonivy says:

    Here’s an oldie but goodie:

  • Violetta says:

    Late, but here’s my contribution:
    (I never seem to have time to keep up with all the goings on at Parterre -- what a great thread!)

    For floated legato, dynamic control, and the supported decrescendo 1:55 -- 2:05.

    • CL in DC says:

      Thanks for this clip. It’s one of my favorite moments in the opera and that was a beautiful rendition.

    • I have to say that this man was wonderful. Too bad his mind got the best of him. If there was ever a tenor who could do everything it was him. He had the agilita, the power and the command of the style. Listen to that french and the grasp of the style.

      Beautiful!

      • mrmyster says:

        Lindoro, could you explain “his mind got the best of him?”
        That would be rather unusual in a tenor, no? :)
        What did you mean?

        • He was known as Il pazzo for his erratic behavior. Here are some stories:

          1. Somewhere in Europe (Vienna?) after singing 4 consecutive high C’s in the Riddle scene in Turandot he stoppped the conductor to tell the audience it was OK to applud beause puccini had written a pause in the music.

          2. He was known to make remarks that one of the 3 tenors (Domingo?) was looking to put a hit on him and kill him

          there’s evidence of his erratic behavior too:

          I am not a mental health professional, but I think that the pressure got to him, probably compounded by the fact that he saw himself as better than any of the 3 tenors and resented the fame and adulation that they received.

          In certain ways he was right, he had a better technique than both Domingo and Carreras (He never lost his high C, wereas both Domingo and Carraras had it for like a weekend and then lost it permanently)and he had a more varied repertoire than Pavarotti and had a better grasp of languages and styles. In all reality, the Pav was a slob who got away with it because he had a fabulous voice. Pav would not sing in anything but Italian and his recordings of anything else show that his master of languages was rudimentary at best. Pavarotti was not very curious about adding roles, avoided Rossini like the plague and sang only 2 Mozart roles. Also The Pav was not a great musician and didn’t particulary cared for the process of learning music; I am am sure that irked Bonisolli quite a lot.

          When it is all said and done, pound for pound, Bonisolli was their equal and in some areas the better one but he didn’t have the “sex appeal” than the other 3 had. I am sure this affected his psyche and his behavior.

  • Tristan_und says:

    Is it my imagination or did the clip of Troyanos singing the last scene of Les Troyens vanish from the face of this thread? Copyright issues, La Cieca? Grazie.

  • CL in DC says:

    I’m late to the game, but I had to throw this in. I love Ariadne auf Naxos. I’ve only seen it live twice, but I’ve youtubed the heck out of “Ein Schones war” and “Es Gibt ein Reich.” If there’s a better version than Jessye Norman’s from the Met, then I haven’t heard it (but I’m willing to listen). Her breath control is amazing. The drama and power are there, yet there’s still a delicateness to it.

    And THAT is how Ariadne is done!

    • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

      Another thing I like about this clip is that she does not make it look easy. It’s difficult music, and she knows it, and we know it, but unlike so many who work so hard just to get through it, she works hard to get it right. There’s a difference.

      • luvtennis says:

        BAB:

        You are just soooo cool.

        Really. How do you manage to be so funny, articulate, humane and wacky at the same time.

        You may laugh, but I have always felt that Ms Manners is one of the underated pleasures and treasures of the world. Your writing reminds me of her.

        Sane enough to understand the insanity of life. Keenly aware of the absurdities of human behaviour and wise enough not to be disheartened by them.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      I love Jessye’s Ariadne too -- what a perfect fit for her voice. She is so well accompanied by Levine too.

      • MontyNostry says:

        How big a sing is Ariadne? With the small orchestra, does it still need a voice on the Norman/Voigt/Stemme/Urmana scale, or can a lighter instrument still do it full justice? I’ve never listened to the Schwarzkopf recording, but I don’t think she ever sang it live. Janowitz did, though, didn’t she? Maybe it’s a question of amplitude rather than simply volume.

        • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

          For me, it’s the package. She is, after all, “the prima donna.” The audience should be impressed by the sheer size. Balance-wise, if she sounds like a Zerbinetta whose testicles have descended it makes little sense. There are four key points that I listen for — the character’s impact in the Prologue, the off-stage cry in the opera proper which needs to sound almost mythic, “Es Gibt ein Reich” of course, and then the final duet which will be merely endlessly banal unless the audience is continually involved with the artistry involved. Norman does it for me in a way that most of the “Vienna Ladies” don’t.

        • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

          Well shit, Kashania just said it better. Ignore me, please.

        • kashania says:

          You sell yourself short, BAB. I could never come up with something like “a Zerbinetta whose testicles have descended”.

    • kashania says:

      Ariadne was made for Jessye, both from a vocal and dramatic perspective.

      Vocally, the role’s tessitura was perfect for her. The few high notes were within her reach (though she lacked the shimmer and gleam of a higher soprano) and she was one of the only sopranos who commanded the low notes of the roles without sounding out of her element. She brought great amplitude of tone and breath control (just listen to 3:57 in “Es gibt ein Reich”) to her singing but also much delicate, beautiful singing (as in “Ein Schones war”).

      Dramatically, the part of a hopelessly grand diva, playing the role of a woman isolated on an island was a ridiculously good fit for Jessye. But, while she played up the comedy in the first act, she brought real pathos to the second. She didn’t make the role comical.

      Apparently, she was even better in the 84-85 season at the Met.

    • You know, Battle ruins that telecast for me. I can not stand her fake shrill Zerbinetta. That telecast should’ve had Blythe Walker as Zerbinetta. She was covering and had done one of the nymphs earlier.

      Just about anyone would have been preferable, Gruberoba, who never got a telecast of the opera while she was still owning the role. Gianna Rolandi would have been just as good.

      • ilpenedelmiocor says:

        Yeah, agreed — totally fake. The most real aspect is when she imperiously tries to shush the audience near the end so she can finish the last few lines of the aria.

  • callasorphan says:

    Jessye does indeed sing the hell out of this--I LOVE it!!

  • Bill says:

    Norman, despite great low notes, with her husky version, much less to my taste than renditions of
    Janowitz, della Casa, Rysanek, Benackova (or
    Schwarzkopf on records).

    • luvtennis says:

      For me, Jessye’s Ariadne and VLL are nonpareil. Frankly, the singers listed by Bill simply cannot compare in my opinion.

      Rysanek lacked the vocal precision to do justice to the role. Her recorded version is unreliable in pitch and dynamic.

      Janowitz is lovely and pure-toned, but the voice hardens and tightens up top and there is so little warmth of humanity in her singing.

      LDC shares many of Janowitz’s version and is warmer to boot, but the lower reaches of the role -- where so much of the music “happens” -- elude her.

      Benackova is a particular favorite of mind, but I have always found her lacking in Italian or German music. She always seemed unable to manage the consonants without breaking the line -- there is almost a gulping quality in her singing that you never hear when she is singing Czech music.

      • luvtennis says:

        virtues

      • armerjacquino says:

        ‘little warmth…humanity’

        You’re kidding, right?

        • MontyNostry says:

          Sorry, armer, but Janowitz doesn’t touch me either — except in that video of Arabella from the late 70s.

        • armerjacquino says:

          I’m not talking about whether she moves you or not, Monty- just really don’t see how it’s a voice that can be accused of lacking warmth or humanity.

        • MontyNostry says:

          This is one of those taste issues … I first heard GJ on the Karajan Schoepfung when I was about 15, and I could hear it was beautiful (though even then I thought some of the coloratura wasn’t great), but I have always felt that her constant vocal expression is an inscrutable Mona Lisa smile.

        • parpignol says:

          Janowitz live in Arabella (Vienna, 1970s, opposite Waechter) was perfect, the Mona Lisa smile was just right for the role, and no Arabella ever sounded more exquisite (well, maybe Della Casa did, but I only know the recording); Ariadne: Norman live was the best I ever heard; but I thought Stemme just this season was sensational; on recording I keep going back to the Leontyne Price recording with Solti: could Ariadne be more beautiful than that?

  • Bill says:

    luvtennis -- some of the flaws you point out in
    the singers mentioned are so. Lisa della Casa
    (as evidenced in her 1954 Boehm DGG Salzburg Ariadne, was not as comfortable in the lowest notes though this was less evident when one saw her perform. But so often on high the voice flowed out with such radiance
    that any comparison with Norman on that scale would be superfluous

    Janowitz’s voice did harden a bit on high, particularly later in her career but not always.
    But her voice was much creamier than that of Norman, the sound brighter, the refulgent flow of sound just gorgeous, her diction close to perfection (and never
    exaggerated).

    Rysanek was an uneven performer from a vocal point of view -- and particularly earlier in her career, her
    lower notes were sort of of the fog-horn variety.
    But when her voice was under control it could have
    such excitement in the ecstatic parts that Ariadne
    has to sing as to admonish any defects.

    Of the more than 40 different Ariadne’s cast in the role whom I have experienced in the role on stage , the most absolutely beautiful I have heard (several times) was that of Benackova -- it is so that in Hollander or Fidelio, though beautifully sung, her performances lacked something of that excitement that the best Sentas or Fidelios can sum up -- but Ariadne is a bit more of a placid creature on stage -- the emotion is more in the voice than in the stage action -- and here Benackova was marvelous, pouring out gleaming note after gleaming note. I saw her thrice (all in Vienna) and the audience was absolutely rapt and enveloped in the warmth of her utterances.

    Other Ariadnes I have enjoyed include Jones (once in Vienna, replacing Janowitz, Jones was in absolute
    perfect control -- she knew it, the audience knew it and she received a rapturous and thunderous ovation at the end). I liked Gessendorf too, I liked Johanna Meier earlier in her career, I liked Norman also -- it is a deeper voice which I find lovelier in Mahler than in Strauss. I never saw Crespin but she sounds very much in control in the Chicago Lyric performance (1964). I was not as pleased with L. Price -- liked Caballe -- thought Tomowa-Sintow effective, particularly on high. Christine Brewer, among the larger voiced Ariadne’s had a splendid evening at the Met. Voigt used to be effective in the role -- probably not now. Watson was one of the best American
    Ariadnes, others were serviceable, a few were ineffective -- The last ones at the Met, Urmana and
    Stemme I felt were sort of in the middle of the pack
    I know Studer sang the role, and probably quite well, but I never saw her do it.

    We know what Reining sounded like -- have a snippet of Cebatori -- maybe nothing much of Jeritza, Lehmann, A. Konetzni. but they must have been formidable.

    Today I might favor Schwanewilms for her lovely sound, and when she gets around to doing it, Kuehmeier -- maybe the next great Ariadne.

    Strange, but Ariadne seems to be role of which Italian singers have steered clear -

    • kashania says:

      Hmmm… I’d love to hear Crespin’s Ariadne. I think that lower sopranos like Norman (and probably Crespin) are more dramatically appropriate for Ariadne. An Ariadne whose voice soars too easily just doesn’t convey the trapped heroine the way an “earthbound” Ariadne can. They may sing with exquisite tone and style but I think the low tessitura of the role is a conscious move on Strauss’s part. The few high notes of the part, contrasting as they do with overall tessitura, illustrate the heroine’s desire to leave the island, methinks.

      • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

        Oooo, well methought, methinks. I never methought of it that way meself, but it makes mesense.

      • Bill says:

        Kashania -- Crespin’s Ariadne is available on
        pirated CD -- actually it is a very good Ariadne
        performance throughout -- Chicago Lyric 1964 (the Met production which Chicago borrowed for its first ever Ariadne) with Eugen Jochum conducting, Seefried, Grist, Kunz, Jean Cox as Bacchus -- there is a bit of cavern like sound -- but the opera house is large. I believe Crespin also sang Ariane in Aix and that one may be available here or there as well. What is so good about
        Crespin in the Chicago version is the wonderful
        control of voice she displays -- and of course
        she has no problem with the notes, top to bottom.

        • kashania says:

          Thanks, Bill. I’ll look for it.

        • armerjacquino says:

          There are extended highlights of an Ariadne with Crespin and Mesplé on youtube, too.

          Bill- Schwanewilms is a gorgeous Ariadne. I saw her at Covent Garden and she sounded very reminiscent of Della Casa.

      • Your wish is my command Kanisha:

        • kashania says:

          Bless you, Lindoro!

        • CL in DC says:

          Thanks for sharing the Crepin Ariadne, Lindoro. I still prefer Norman, but that video led me to Crespin’s “Einsam in trüben Tagen” from Lohengrin, which I found to be pretty awesome. I don’t know if ‘haunting’ is the word I’m looking for, but it is pretty spectacular.

        • ilpenedelmiocor says:

          I remember Crespin as being really good in Strauss (especially Rosenkavalier), but the first few notes of this clip are scary. :-)

        • MontyNostry says:

          ilpene …, Regine doesn’t sound too scary to me --maybe it was the after-effect of that opening picture of (?) Melchior in full Lohengrin gear. Is that Gorr being pointed out by Crespin in one of the later shots? What a combo!

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          Much as I love Crespin, this Ariadne clip is kind of horrible. It’s all very well pointing out Jessye’s intonation issues but Crespin’s here seem far worse to me.

      • It could also be that Strauss’ originally thought Ariadne to be a Contralto role, but changed his mind.

    • mrmyster says:

      Brewer just recorded Ariadne for Chandos, in English. We’ll see
      what you guys think. This is no place to criticize Mme Norman, so
      I wont, but I will say that her frequent less-than-in-tune singing
      pretty much robbed her of much enjoyment for me. I heard
      Janowitz sing it many years ago — 1960s — at Kennedy Center,
      with no less than a young Gruberova as Zerbinetta — it was E.G.’s
      show, Janowitz put us to sleep; exceptionally dull. Best Ariadne
      I’ve heard — on a good night, Rysanek — the perfect Strauss
      voice when on form.

      • kashania says:

        I think Brewer’s recording could be wonderful and she does opera in English so well. The key to Norman is pre-1990. In the early 90s, she lost a lot of weight and I think this effected her support and her pitch, which became quite variable.

        • luvtennis says:

          Kashania:

          Agreed about timing for Norman. The weight loss really hurt her ability to support the top.

          Bill:

          I can’t disagree with some of your observations, but for me, Norman sings with an acuity that works wonderfully in the role. Additionally, she is so refulgent in the middle voice where most of the role lies that the lack of true soaring top is of minimal importance for me. I would also point out that Norman, at least in the 80s, sang the isolated high notes with extraordinary presence and accuracy. Her Fidelio was likewise distinguished.

          BABS:

          Brewer recorded Es Gibt ein Reich a few years ago.

          It was the most perfectly sung version of the aria that I have ever heard. And it’s a favorite of mine. Price recorded a version in the late 60s that is likewise perfectly sung. Very different sounds, of course.

        • parpignol says:

          I was not loving Brewer’s sound in the Beethoven Missa Solemnis on Thursday evening; there was also lots else wrong with the performance, so perhaps she was just having a bad night under generally disappointing circumstances. . . from where I sat, very little vocal character or spiritual conviction. . .

      • Hippolyte says:

        Given that the Kennedy Center didn’t open until 1971 I’m guessing you mean the visit of the Vienna Staatsoper there in 1979?