Cher Public

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 gift certificate of equivalent value.)

So, show La Cieca how it’s done!

  • How to sing with cojones!

    Or these -- on how to sell your aria no matter what/how to bring opera to the masses, lol --

    • Oops, I forgot my explanatory appendage! The second part is a joke, of course. So, as for Stratas’ performance: Great opera is great theater, it is about real flesh and blood, no matter the context. Stratas did all the suffering to master this music so she could use it for deep and specific communication. The screaming, and then the gorgeous refrain about the bird- it all takes such guts as a singer and actress. Sometimes it’s sublime, sometimes hideous -- but always truthful. Here we really experience someone else’s heart and psyche through music, not just something beautiful, though pure beauty is wonderful, and though the beautiful, functional voice is always prerequisite…


        . . . and the third part was pure Zen.

        • Heehee, yes, obviously. Sorry to be unclear, I meant “second part” to encompass the last two… Heehee…

    • ilpenedelmiocor

      Holy fuck, I had forgotten about this scene from Ghosts. Yeah, Teresa milked every drop of blood, sweat, and tears out of this one. Unbelievable.

  • And speaking of Dementia…

  • louannd

    My first love — Fritz

    • louannd

      I don’t presume to be able to do this voice justice with my casual knowledge of opera and limited writing skills. I just know that I hear a perfect timbre and amazing legato with so much tenderness, mixed in with the right amount of heft that makes for a beautiful Mozartian performance.

      • louannd

        and thanks to that picture of JG, I am going to watch clips of Donnie Darko.

    • Tim

      In a perfect world Jussi would have not died so young and Fritz would have carried on Jussi’s legacy for many years. Two immortals! Thank you.

  • operacat

    This is how to sing in French i.e. with absolute charm, lovely voice, and total ability to communicate in the French language.

    Maggie Teyte sings IL N’EST PAS BEAU from LA PERICHOLE

    • operacat I give up. . .I have tried three different ways to embed the YouTubes. sorry all.

      • Donna Carlo

        operacat: Babs got similarly frustrated. Have you had a chance to try out the steps in my reply at 34.1 on this thread?

        The most important thing is to completely ignore the EMBED button beneath each YouTube clip. It threw me into confusion at first. It’s Cieca’s instructions, of course, that take immense precedence.

      • Perfect voice. Perfect presentation. Gorgeous gown.

  • Cocky Kurwenal

    Here is my contribution -- before she went off in very much her own unique direction, Dame Gwyneth really was the most wonderful exemplar of ‘How it’s done’ in Verdi in particular.

  • stevey

    Who cares if I get disqualified from the contest for submitting too much stuff… I’m just excited to be able to share all my finds with everybody!!

    I’ve divided some of my favorites up into little sub-catagories…

    The first two are just incredible scenes were everything ‘works’:

    Two titanesses going at it. The ferocity of Jones is almost palpable. And watch Rysanek after she receives the news of Orestes’ death. It’s like in her joy she momentarily forgot that her daughter was still there and then, being recalled back to reality, advances, slowly, menacingly, towards her. It reminds me of those horror films where the insane maniac never runs after his intended victims, but always maintains the same slow, steady, inexorable pace! Then the unbridled mania before she sweeps from the scene. Incredible!

    I love this even if just for the last two minutes. Both voices ring out thrillingly and it reminds me of how glorious Gorchakova could be in her prime. I especially love the shot of Gergiev absolutely WORKING that spectacular Met orchestra for everything they GOT in the final bars at scenes end.

    These next are just musical and dramatic perfection by a single performer, if you ask me. Dramatically, musically… everything is ‘there’:

    A true singing actress, and legend. Look at the nuances in this performances. Someone said that Martha Modl could be gripping reading the phone book and I fully agree. She lives every minute of this role and makes this scene a rather gripping monodrama in and of itself.

    Talk about commanding the stage. Every inch and every second a queen. I love the response she gets from the rapt La Scala audience at the end of the area

    This last group I love just for vocal reasons alone:

    It’s the stuff of legend and now, thanks to ‘Youtube’, it’s preserved for us all to enjoy- a high B held triple forte for an incredible 16 seconds.

    Stunning, soaring vocalism.

    Talk about visceral power. She throws out the high A, B, and C sharp like they were nothing.

    Forgive me, those of you who hate her… but I think this is gorgeous. The voice just blooms at the top and everything- the pathos, the diminuendo are just ‘there’!

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      I really like all your selections, and I’m especially pleased somebody else has posted some Gwyneth -- in truth, I prefer her later work, but only had the courage to post some 1960s Verdi, given that we’re meant to be showing shining examples (and so many people consider Gwyneth’s later work a bad example).

      Who are the singers performing the German language work that lasts 7:40? Stunning, but completely unfamiliar to me. She has a strong resemblance to Pat Butcher, if that means anything to you…

      • stevey

        Thanks, Cocky! I’m glad you liked them!!!

        I know what you mean about the Jones posting… but I wanted to include it for the visceral impact and the intensity of the scene- ‘opera as performance’, kind of thing. Surely it has been sung better (cf. my Grob Prandl posting) but it terms of the scene having more thrill or sheer impact, surely THAT is ‘how it’s done!!

        The selection that’s unfamiliar to you is a German rendition of the Raoul/Valentine duet from ‘Les Huguenots’, performed here by Richard Leech and Pilar Lorengar (channeling Pat Butcher… spot-on observation, BTW!!!)

        • MontyNostry

          You mean that much-loved singer Patricia Carnicero, who frequently appears alongside the still more loved Barbara Escorial, la regina rubia del sapon ingles.

        • MontyNostry

          Sorry, that should be jabon, not sapon.

        • MontyNostry

          … and reina, not regina. I will give up trying to be witty in Spanish — too far down my list of foreign languages.

    • Until today, Gertrude Grob Prandl was just a name I had seen pop up occasionally. But after that Elektra clip. WOA!!!

      • luvtennis

        You mean you didn’t take any of my tips to listen to her??!?!?!?!

        I am really hurt Kashania.

        • I must have forgotten to write it down (;)) but believe me, she has my attention now. Any particular recording you’d like to recommend?

        • luvtennis

          There is a live Walkure from Geneva that is available. It is utterly stunning. Even better is a Tristan -- not the one with De Sabata (horrible sound) -- from ’56 I think. She is unbelievable.

  • The easiest way to post videos is:

    go the video on youtube.

    copy the URL from the address bar

    Paste in the reply box on Parterre

    insert v after http

    • zurga

      Thank you Sanford.
      I am sorry to be so dumb, but you made it very easy.

  • zurga

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    Beautiful legato, lovely pianissimo

  • zurga
  • zurga

    I am trying again.

  • zurga

    The last try.

  • rysanekfreak

    Just an experiment, to see if I can do it.

    This is how to steal a Tosca performance from the title Diva. The second version is also how the audience should respond.

    • What did you expect? In one audience there is Puccini running in their blood; the other has Purcell.

      • armerjacquino

        So what do you guys have in your blood then? Rorem?

        • Here, in the USA? Rogers and Hammerstein.

          In my country? That’s for you to find out. LOL!

        • armerjacquino

          Haha, a very elegant reply.

  • rysanekfreak

    Thanks to Sanford at #47 for explaining it so easily. Yes, it works!!!

  • rysanekfreak

    And this is how you get the audience to applaud during a Wagner opera when they’re really not supposed to applaud.

    The same thing happened in San Francisco when Pilar Lorengar was trying to sing Elsa’s next lines and you couldn’t hear her because the balcony fanatics were still applauding for Leonie’s Curse. GAC!! )

    • rommie

      im a convert!! holy shit i just jizzed my pants

    • richard

      This is from the MEt performance, right? from some anecdotal comments I’ve heard Leonie was even more hair-raising in her SFO performances. Any comments?

      • Yep, it’s the Met broadcast with Hoffman and Marton.

  • rysanekfreak

    And for my last one of the day, this is how you own (pwn in blogspeak?) a role. Nobody before, nobody since. Rysanek IS the Empress.

    • DrugProduct

      Wow, Sanford, this is great. So insightful, thank you so much. I am a total Rossini freak now.

  • ines



    I hope I managed to get the videos in….

  • MirtoP

    When I’m in the mood for a little perfection, this video never lets me down. I wish I had the right words to “explain” this post, but I think the performance speaks/sings for itself. It’s indeed “how it’s done,” at least for me:

    P.S. First video posting attempt, so please be kind if I mess it up, thanks!

    • zurga

      Breathtaking, sublime!
      Thank you very much!

  • Earl Koenig

    I, too, love all of the old gals, but here’s one from the new crop, Stoyanova, that manages to make Antonia’s death catch flame -- beautiful vocalism and fantastic acting:

    And for those that claim that balls-out Wagnerian singing ended with Leonie, Birgit, and Gwyneth, here’s Nina Stemme shredding the finale of Dutchman. Sensational, fearless, and she looks fabulous…truly perfect!

    • callasorphan

      Yes, she sings the hell out of the finale. She had me screaming!!

      • richard


    • The only one who in my book can rival Rysanek’s ending those Bayreuth performances.

    • Sensational. God bless this thread for all the riches it bringeth.

  • And this is how you tell a story with real humour and the ultimate diva affectation. (It comes at 7:34).

    • callasorphan

      Love the “boy” waiting in line for Callas.

    • I sat down and watched the whole thing and there in front of me was footage of Freni in the Visconti production of Traviata. Where in God’s green earth is the rest of that footage!

      • Most of the operatic footage seems to be from Covent Garden. I wonder if they have the rest of that Traviata.

        • Seems that it was telecast or something, given the fact that there is commentary when Freni comes to take a bow.

    • wladek

      Parts of this brings to mind the songs of the great Lady Peel, equally famous as Callas at the time
      rumour has it that Lady
      Peel turned down the met . Lady Peels’
      most requested songs never did enter the Callas bel canto repertoire
      for some odd reason.I knew people
      that given a choice between the two
      preferred Lady Peel always hoping
      she would include a certain song
      about attending a party -- amongst
      others. She was of the verismo school