Cher Public

Anxiety, cum-blog vital, say divas

Marlene_Dietrich_Stage_FrightMonsters and Critics reveals: “Although acclaimed mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has achieved almost everything there is to achieve in the world of classical music, she says she is still anxious ahead of every performance. In an interview with the German Press Agency dpa this week, the 44-year-old Italian opera star said a certain dose of stage fright is important to her career.” Now, about the cum-blog, after the jump.

Cher Pube Remko Jas whispers:

Roberta Alexander‘s Dress, Hair and Make-Up Class was the unmissable event of the 48th International Vocal Competion that is taking place in ‘s-Hertogenbosch right now….

It came as no surpise, therefore, that Miss Alexander herself is a regular visitor to She asked her audience yesterday who read it – one hand up! – after which she warmly recommended the site to all the participants in the workshop, and to the audience.  She added a small warning that parterre can be brutal sometimes, but it was great to hear a style icon like Miss Alexander expressing her love for La Cieca and her site….

Miss Alexander is genuinely funny, with the talent of a stand-up comédienne. Since she is not afraid to laugh at herself, students feel at ease, and open up to her immediately. Their discussions on what must be a very difficult aspect of the profession were candid, funny, and highly informative.

Well, you all know that La Cieca is a sucker (suckress?) for makeover advice, so she’ll go on to quote a few brani scelti from Remko’s roundup.

Not every lump and bump on your body needs to be seen! So don’t wear clothes that are too tight, and always wear “shape wear”(TM) underneath, which will cover up, among other things, those little rolls on your back. Also, beware of any panty line, and undergarment patterns (always flowers) coming through.

Don’t wear anything spandex or very short skirts, unless you have great legs. Bare legs never look pulled together on stage. There is no need for Amish type, thick black stockings, but a hint of dark is nice to set off the dress and the shoes.

Think about the character you sing, and dress accordingly. If you sing pants roles a lot, it is hard, but do try to think a little about variation. Always a pair of black slacks is boring – try combining them with an a-symetrical top, or with a nice, long jacket.

If you sing a Mass, don’t wear a strapless dress. Strapless dresses are tricky anyhow, because even skinny arms can look flabby in it. You need really good shoulders for a strapless dress.

If the skirt is too long, never lift it, just let it drop and walk. Picking it up is only permitted when you have to climb and descend stairs.

What is the best length of dress if you are overweight? That depends on the material, but a skirt onto the floor without stripes at all is best. Vertical stripes will stretch, and look messy. Horizontal ones will make you look like the Michelin Man.

Never ever wear jeans to an audition.

Invest in a good pair of shoes. Bronze colored sandals are best, but gold or silver ones are great too. The thinner, the better. Never forget that most of the audience is at feet height.

One good piece of jewellery is better than a lot of less good ones. Less is more. Not too much stuff going on, please. Don’t use boas and stoles unless you are a real pro in working them.  Most singers just fiddlle with them, which won’t do.

Never go to a theatre with just one dress – you can always tear it while putting on your shoes, you really need another outfit for emergencies.

Hair: Miss Alexander once went to an audition with an Angela Davis afro, and afterwards, an agent came to her, squashed her hair back, and exclaimed: “There is your face! There is your face!”

Make-up: Lip gloss is very difficult when you are singing. Miss Alexander once put some on. The first line she had to sing on stage started with “Ma che.” but her lips got stuck. And always use plenty, plenty of mascara.

A few tips for the men: Don’t combine a black suit with brown shoes. The shoes become way too prominent on stage. Remeber that most of the audience, sits at about the same height where your shoes are. It is better to wear no jacket at all than a jacket that is too big, or a jacket with sleeves that are too long. A short jacket makes you look like you are waiting tables in an Italian restaurant.

Comportment: Start by asking yourself the question: “what would you think of yourself when you saw yourself walking onto a stage?” On stage you need self-love, but it must never be over the top. You have to be honest, there is nothing worse than fake. Remember that the first thing the audience sees is you – so no ambling. You always need to smile too.How do you take bows? Preferably nice, gracefully, and normal looking. Always acknowledge your accompanist first before taking your bow.

Lanky László Pálfi from Hungary (Roberta Alexander “your language goes into the mouth, right?”) gave an excellent bowing demonstration. After a little practice, the ladies in the audience all expressed their admiration over his newly learned bow, with one hand on the piano, instead of grabbing his thighs. Very elegant!

Never try to keep eye contact with the public during your bow – that just looks silly. Good demonstration of this by La Alexander. Grabbing the piano is ok, although  Alexander was trained by her mother never to do this. Don’t give it a death grip, though. Find the light! Some singers seem to move to the one spot on stage where there is no light.  Hand gestures? Annoying and meaningless ones are not admitted. If you start the gesture, you have to finish it. Lieder for a long time were considered holier than holy. Nobody moved at all while singing them. If you watch old clips on youtube it is almost as if you look at a ventriloquist. It is admissible now to be a little more free, and move. You can have a little fun while telling the story.

  • armerjacquino

    Hurrah! I have spoken several times on here of my huge admiration of Roberta Alexander. I’m ever so glad to think she may have read it.

    *waves at R-Al*

    • Harry

      armeracquino :Roberta Alexander is another soprano whose name was unjustly ‘forgotten’ for her singing contributions during these crass Diva polls. Who can forget that amazing performance of ‘My man’s gone now’ on that Philips ‘Porgy & Bess’ highlights CD with Simon Estes ? Listen and feel your spine actually tingle.
      And who can forget Barbara Hendricks in things like her Liu in Puccini’s Turandot?
      Examples of enduring moments where voice and the character- ideally match, perfectly.
      That elusive quality of true communication is so often overlooked.

      While we see others, simply in raptures -- because ‘name a singer’ -- who happens to be the latest flavor of the month ‘ -- is even simply attempting some role ‘thought’ suitable. The results may be dire but the fans stay besotted , and excuse the shortcomings….because they are deemed ‘a Diva’.

      There is more to opera …than chasing after and listening to the belting scream queens! Singing at us rather than , to us.

      • luvtennis

        Hendricks’ Liu is ravishing, no? If only Ricciarelli had been a bit steadier of voice, then HvK would have accomplished his entirely, if risky, aim -- to make it clear that Liu and Turandot are two sides of one integrated female personality.

        • Hendricks’ Liu is ravishing, no?


        • LittleMasterMiles

          Tellingly, your adjective “entirely” lacks an object. Might I suggest “crazy”?

          “Liu and Turandot are two sides of one integrated female personality.”

          I think you mean “dis-integrated.”

        • luvtennis


          But what’s WRONG with it? Or better yet, you recall that La Battaglia di Cincinnati was his FIRST choice, right?

        • LittleMasterMiles

          Sorry, adverb.

        • luvtennis

          Right you are, LMM.

          Have you ever seen that incredible movie with Debbie Kerr called “The Innocents?”

          Everytime I see your tag, I think first of the tale and then the movie.

  • Letch Feeley

    This fantastic post brings back two very fond memories. First, my wonderful grad school voice teacher’s top two rules of stage dress: 1) Big girls need big hair. 2) Big girls need big hair. (She was a big girl who knew how to look like a knockout onstage.)

    Second is from a friend of mine who many years ago worked backstage at a PA concert hall where Anna Moffo would do semi-regular recitals late in her career. He recalled that she would always wear a moderately fitted flowing chiffon or organza gown. Just before walking onstage, she would grab a big fistful of fabric with her upstage hand so the gown was skin-tight, slowly walk onstage so everyone could admire her fantastic (and heavily girdled) figure, and as she turned downstage she would gently release the gown. I bet she was a whiz with a cape.

    • Often admonished

      This brought back fond memory number 47: John Copley to Dame Granite when she complained that she couldn’t walk backwards in her long gown “Just do what Lena Horne does! whoosh!whoosh!whoosh!”

  • The section on bowing got me thinking: What kind of bowing does the cher public like? Personally, I don’t like people who bow too much from the waist. One should either do a subtle bow (with just the head) or, in the case of the ladies, a deep bow from the knees. Also, I don’t care much for too many repeated bows. A couple of bows mixed with gracious looks towards teh auidence on all seating levels is best.

    And then, there’s also the length of the bows. Smart singers leave the audience wanting more. Gherghiou spends an eternity just standing there and waving. When doing a pairs bow, Domingo always tries to force his partner to stick around for a third bow (by which point the bravos have died out). Similarly, Pavarotti often outstayed the bravos and had to finish things off by throwing his arms open one last time to solicit a few more bravos to accompany his departure from in front of the curtain.

    Also, if a singer has just finished an intense scene, it works nicely to come out with a serious “I’m-still-in-the-moment” look on one’s face but after the first bow, break into a smile, thus giving credit to the adoring public for bringing him/her back to reality.

    Finally, a singer should think seriously about the gamble of a last-minute extra bow. Sometimes, the audience response is so rapturous that the singer has to interrupt his/her exit from in front of the curtain to add one more bow to appease the adoring fans. But if one doesn’t judge the situation well, one ends up like Leona Mitchell as Liu in the Met broadcast. She basks in the huge ovation with repeated bows but tries to throw in a last-minute bow at the end, when the audience has clearly stopped cheering. Leaves a bad taste.

    • ianw2

      I think I picked it up at school (but maybe it was at a bus stop?) but ever since, whenever I have had to bow to get the timing right its “did I shine my shoes today?” on the descent then “yes I shined my shoes today!” on the ascent.

      Women (and men, I suppose) should only do a curtsy-bow if they have strong calves and know how to do it properly.

      I can’t believe people still need to be told that brown shoes should not be worn with black suits. There are always exceptions, but I’m yet to see a male classical singer so devoted, so au courant with fashion trends to be able to pull it off without looking like they’re colour blind.

    • Buster

      Best bows -- best dress:

      Funny that Sena Jurinac shows up in this thread -- she was the only singer Roberta Alexander talked about in her class.

      Fragments of it are on youtube now:

      • Oh WOW
        such a great lady.
        And I love her stuff. Heard her back in 1987 in Nuits d’Ete and she was GREAT>

  • CarlottaBorromeo

    I bet the hair-squasher was Matthew Epstein!!

    • jeepgerhard

      I did too! Couldn’t have been any other. Joik.

  • tannengrin

    reading this so shortly after the ‘grandezza’ evaluation in the diva post, part 2, made me giggle. Now I want to attend a conversation between Miss Alexander and Tim Gunn on ‘proper stage attire and deportment’.

  • armerjacquino

    I am pathetically proud to have worked out that the lipgloss mishap must have happened during a performance of LA CLEMENZA DI TITO.

    • Pride, be not pathetic.

      • MontyNostry

        Talking of bowing divas, I am always surprised that a megadiva like Leontyne — who clearly had a presence to go with the voice — did such little, quick jerky bows, almost like she wanted to get them over with. Just watch any video of her.

        • Yes, in her Met Forza telecast, it looks like the bouquets coming down at her are getting in the way of her bows. She doesn’t seamlessly incroporate them in her jerky bows. I was a bit surprised that she got the highest rating in the grandezza score precisely because of that (though she has grandeur to spare aside from her bowing).

        • luvtennis

          Did Lee have wig issues that precluded sweeping bows?

        • scifisci

          Her bows seem fine in that ’91 carnegie video that LT posted, but I do know what you mean about her seeming less-than-enthusiastic at curtain calls.

        • MontyNostry

          She tends to remind me of a slightly bashful, but dutiful schoolgirl when she bows. Quite a contrast with her generally knock-em-dead singing. Still, the smile is megawatt.

          Her presence here is 110% diva … and how about that legato!
          (And doesn’t she look a little like Glodean White?)

        • richard

          I think Price relied heavily on wigs in the 60s and 70s at least. She had her own hair cut very short, it would look very stylish today but back in the 60s it was unusual.

          I followed her a lot but I remember buying one of her LP set of some opera. There were photos of the recording sessions and Price shown with her close cropped haircut. But in recital and concerts, she wore very elaborate wigs. She usually looked very, very stunning even as the years went on.

          Whether the jerky bows were an issue with “wig security” or something else, I don’t know. But she was not a natural on stage. It looked like she wasn’t all that comfortable. I remember the first Aida I saw her do, she came out in the first act and sort of slinked from column to column on stage. And her Radames was Tucker who was not particularly charismatic on stage but he seemed comfortable compared to Price.

        • reedroom

 This is some of the best singing EVER. I don’t know what to be most impressed with, the legato, the sheer beauty of the voice, the marvelous TRILL at the end…I never knew she had such a good trill…

          I am in love.

        • I saw LP at the Met in Trovatore a year or so before she retired. She certainly had no problem bowing then! After d’amore sull’ali rosee the applause went on forever, partly because she was milking it for all it was worth. She ended the aria kneeling, to great applause. As it started to die down she crossed her arms. That brought it back. As it faded again she looked up -- more applause. This went on for three or four different bursts, each time prolonged by Ms. Price moving just slightly to keep it going. I was very impressed…

        • That’s a great story, Despina!

        • louannd

          I have been trying to understand why Dove sono always seems so boring; I used to adore it because I used to think it one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever. After hearing this performance, however, I now know why. No one can sing it anymore. Lovely.

        • luvtennis


          I remember those pictures. Either from the Ballo or the first Forza.

          Her short fro had gray streaks too, as I recall.

          I think Lee was very comfortable on stage early in her career.

          How does this look?

        • richard

          How does it look? Like a TV studio set rather than a stage during an opera performance.

        • iltenoredigrazia

          Re. (God only knows where this will be posted.)

          Despina, I too remember Price milking the applause in the manner you described. Never forget the first time I saw her as Aida, just as she sang the very last note of O Patria Mia she turned rapidly around with her arms outstretched, acting surprised and ready for “mio padre.” Then came the last chord and the applause started and, of course, she couldn’t hold that pose very long. So down came the arms, followed by a nod, arms to the heart, etc., Eventually, she got back to her stretched arms position and continued with the performance. A mistress of her craft.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    Netrebko finished her runs of Manon with ROH in Japan, Sept 20. On Sept. 22, she takes on Violetta as last-minute sub. No anxiety here but pure guts. Is this the first in opera? Two different roles with only 24h rest in between? Can Netrebko pull that off? Good luck, Charlie!

    • armerjacquino

      Well, firstly it’s completely off-topic, and secondly, it’s really not that unusual. Steber sang Fiordiligi and Desdemona on the same DAY- that’s impressive. Manon on a Monday, Violetta on a Wednesday= not news.

    • I think Manon and Violetta are two of Netrebko’s most frequent roles so she probably has them both ready to go at the drop of a hat.

    • iltenoredigrazia

      Back in the late 60’s Raina Kabaivanska sang in a broadcast Don Carlo at the Met and immediately flew to Washington, DC where she sang that evening the premiere of a new production of Manon Lescaut. (Surprise: she was replacing Teresa Stratas for whom the production had been mounted, including a film supposedly with some nudity.)

      • iltenoredigrazia

        Gabriella Tucci also sang Faust and Boheme (I think those were the operas) one Saturday at the Met during the last season at the old Met.

        And I sort of recall Scotto doing Boheme and Lucia at the Met also on a Saturday.

        • richard

          ITDG, possibly the Scotto feat was two consecutive days rather than the same day?

          I recall one season where both Scotto and Pavarotti sang Boheme and Lucia on two consecutive days. The PR people made a bit of a splash with this item.

          This was obviously much earlier than their joint Gioconda….

        • iltenoredigrazia

          You are probably right, richard. What I remember clearly is the picture of Scotto being given a shot of vitamins during the intermission before the mad scene.

  • On subjects of great divas and bows- I have been tingling all week having just obtained the DVD of Nilsson/Rysanek’s ’80 Met Elektra. What an incredible tour de force it is. Aside from the gobsmacking performance the DVD also has the complete curtain calls as an added feature and what a treat it is. With an additonal camera mounted behind stage it is sheer delight to see the artists “coming down” to thoroughly bask in the afterglow of what was clearly an historic performance. La Nilsson as usual reverts to her delightful “girlish” self- and the love between her and the audience is makes this one of my most treasured performances on DVD. Watching it, brings the whole thing closer to the feeling of just having been in “the house” better than any other recording I have ever seen- if only other performances featured them as well!
    I must also mention that this wonderful experience would not have even happened, if it wasn’t for Jimmy Levine- who sprung to action before the last performance and organised the peformance be filmed. God bless you Jimmy- I’ll love you forever based on this alone. If only “others” in the past had ensured some other great performances had been memorialised.

    • mrmyster

      Louannd: ‘Dove sono…’ is boring only when the singer is bored
      or boring. It is a great aria, but it requires a mature vocalist who
      knows her trade. We have all heard it a zillion times, but I can
      count only a few when it really worked. And those big A-naturals
      at the end are a lot harder than we think, I’ve been told by several
      master sopranos. The aria also takes lots of vocal color and dynamic
      control, and is a study in legato. I do not suggest, however, that
      the Mozart aria is boring in itself; ‘Porgi Amor….’ much the same;
      takes an artist.

    • I had the same reaction when I bought the DVD. All that extra curtain call footage wasn’t on the VHS. I love how they start to bring down a curtian on top of the main curtain to suggest that the show’s over and it just gets the crowd even more excited. But best of all is seeing them all backstage during the bows.

  • Does anyone know when or where this ridiculous habit of applauding fellow singers, the orchestra, the stagehands, the ushers and the barmen in the lobby as we’re applauding the diva/divo started? And am I the only one who finds it really irritating?

    • armerjacquino

      You get ‘irritated’ when artists applaud their colleagues? Crikey. Some people need some real problems.

  • Oh, no no no no no no NO.
    I am totally acting as the infuriating party pooper now.
    I’m referring to the posting of Mozart’s Dove Sono sung by L. Price at the Bing Gala (I presume).
    The voice is gorgeous, but where IS the style, let alone the style, the sense of phrasing, text, emotional environment?

    Let me demonstrate what it is that I so dislike about Price’s singing, using this clip. Instumentalists around the world are doing this instinctively. Singers, too, are tought now to pay attention to details, which are far from negligible. In the classical style, the musical phrases and balance between them is tantamount to a spoken language. If you mangle the balance, you mangle the text, the musical message.

    First of all, where is the beautiful accompagnato that launches us into the mood and into Rosina’s dilemma, to have a simple servant girl assist her in this marital plight?

    Second, and foremost, the Andantino is built from the following block: C-D-C-B-C, in tonal terms: tonic, supertonic, tonic, subtonic, tonic. Basically, the building block is a cadenza leading into the tonic. Any musician would, naturally and rightly, put the stress on the second C, on the syllable SO. But Price stresses the final C. This is utterly unmusical, even vulgar. And that last C should be an eighth note, not a quarter as Price sings it.
    Since this is the building block, the way Price sings it disfigures the phrase, and so the entire musical progression. The next phrase is E-E-F-E-D-E. And Price stresses, again, the last E instead of the fourth. Which is TOTALLY wrong again and disfigures the music.
    Then -- Di dolcezza -- the stress has to be on the B and not on the top F -- but she is only interested in showing her brilliant upper register. So there.

    Third, the whole aria is an interplay between the voice on the one hand, and the oboe, bassoon and horns on the other, with the oboe leading the proceedings. Ideally, a contessa should attune her voice to the oboe, but even if she can’t do that, she MUST listen top what’s going on around her, because the voice is totally interweaving with the winds. But this doesn’t happen over here.

    Next, around 1:30 (the B section of the andantino), Mozart modulates the music, first into G Major, then the vocal line modulates into G minor, and the music hovers between G Major / minor. Well, the singer has to color the voice in a way that will match the shifting harmonies. But, again, nothing like this happens here, no sensitivity to the basic rule that guides western music from circa 1400 up until 1920 or so. Bottom D in “per me tutto si cangio” is VERY important in establishing both atmosphere, harmony and the plight of the character, but nothing of this is evident here.

    At around 1:55 the asecnding sixths writtren sequentially are not easily negotiated, and the A sharp “Trapasso” should be most important. Instead, Price stresses the end of the phrase, a B, which is totally unmusical and kills the entire meaning of the phrase.

    Recapitulation -- SOMETHING should be done, most singers turn to an inward pianissimo. Again, Price does nothing.

    Allegro -- The lyrical eighth notes are completely chopped and vulgar. Where is the hope Rosina sings about?

    3:38 -- The phrases starting with Ah (on C) are NOT slurred in Mozart’s manuscript. Indeed, he writes a comma after the Ah. In baroque to late classical, a comma is tantamount to a breathing mark. Well, complete disregard here, and Price slurs the entire phrase. Lovely breath control perhaps, but what has this to do with Mozart?

    At around 3:51 -- “Nel languire amando ognor” -- Mozart hovers on the verge of C minor (the E flat is very important) -- well, the color doesn’t change for a bit. It’s like she doesnt even recognize it’s a different harmonic context!

    At around 4:07 -- it should be sung “mi porTAsse” and definitely not “mi portaSSE”. Bad Italian, bad musicianship.
    The sluured top A-A flat -- G are poorly connected. Glorious sounds indeed, no sense of phrase. Mozart has slurred everthing here. But Price is choppy.

    These are emphatically NOT small details. These are the building block of music, interpretation, context. And nothing of what I expect in Mozart singing happens here. So great voice, very little art.

    And now I’ll duck, if you please.

    • One detail is that the recitativo was sung in the actual performance, but when highlights from the gala were televised, it was edited out.

      • Thanks, La Cieca, for pointing it out. I guessed as much, because it is practically impossible to start the aria in concert like this, as it starts immediately with the singer.

        But a myriad of other problems remain, nevertheless.

    • Here are some examples of the way I think it should be done

      (here -- hear the interplay with the oboe!!)

      Perhaps the ultimate in style :

      No Viennese sopranos, no baroque specialists. Just plain, good musicians

      • lorenzo.venezia

        Wow. The Jurinac is sensational!! Grazie tanto!

        • Da niente.
          Actually, this time round, I hugely enjoyed Maria Nistor-Slatinaru. Such a big sound, yet she shows loads of retraint here. The voice harnessed and kept in check, as befitting the role, mood and music. Wonderful singer.
          Also Jurinac, of course.

      • Tamerlano

        Thank you! It’s so true about Price. I have heard it said often that she was a fine Mozartienne and I have never understood that assertion. The phrasing is a disaster…I always get the slight feeling she’s belting out the whole thing. She never sang the Contessa on stage did she? I don’t think she did. There is also a “l’amero saro costante” with Perlmann that kills me and not in a good way…hold on…here…
        I love Price, but Mozart wasn’t for her. I think this aria actually serves her better than “Dove Sono”, because it is quite a bit higher and doesn’t demand too many dips into chest. It’s a tough call though. Just when I start right her off, she throws in a perfect trill at 3:53 and I am right back on board…sigh…such is the power of diva :)
        My favorite recording of this aria is by Moffo…proving that she could be a very fine Mozartienne. And the voice is pure glamour (in fact, she sometimes, to my ears at least, sounds freakishly LIKE Price).

        • MontyNostry

          Part of the power of a diva is that you can actually get to love her faults!

        • BEAUTIFUL!
          Thank you so much. Listened a bit to her Mozart arias cd on Testament. Didn’t like it. But this is a gem.
          I love the aria so much. Thank you.
          My favourite in this is Seefried, BTW.

        • richard

          Yeah, I don’t like Price’s Re Pastore aria here but it was comparatively late in her career. One of the aspects of her singing that became compromised was her ability to move from note to note smoothly. She went from having a pure legato to one compromised by a fair amount of sliding.

          Try this one, much earlier , actually this aria is much trickier, but Price is able to move much more smoothly

    • marshiemarkII

      CerquettiFarrell, what a perfect and well reasoned assessment of the horror that was Price in Mozart. But even more horrifying is the butchery that she does of Vissi D’arte in this clip, offered by OpinionatedNeophyte as the BEST Vissi d’arte ever :-) (and in a spiteful post intended to denigrate the glorious Leonie at that) :

      I certainly don’t have the musical knowledge you have to do the musicological analysis you make, and in any case Puccini is not Mozart after all, so I’ll just try to do an amateur opera queen assessment, from the point of view of my almost 40 years of opera listening.
      To wit, listen to the opening, the clipped viH-ssi, darH-te, viH-ssi damoH-re for starters, absolutely no legato and not even a hint of portamento, so needed especially in amooooore, and then the mush continues with that hooty sound in the middle, like a hyena (con fe sincera) with an absolute butchery of the Italian language. What did she sing on the word rimuneri? Is that singing off the words, vocal acting? But even worse, the phrases all suffering from a rhythmic jerkiness that has nothing to do with the poise and elegance required, the phrase endings clipped at will, and obviously no portamento, The very shape of the phrases like no other version I have ever heard. The middle tones ugly ugly ugly, and the bottom even uglier, dusky and hooty. Then we get to the big b-flat, a-flat, g stepwise descent, and there finally you get the Price trademark pretty high notes, and indeed plenty of legato, but at that point you know it has nothing to do with the words or the drama or Puccini, it’s all about showing Leontyne at her “prettiest”, sort of like a circus-act. It is really a caricature of the aria and an act of profound disrespect for the music. And this is all a willful decision on her part, not the weakness of a bad night, or other accident. Just a circus act to garner maximum applause, and throw some red meat camp to the queens so they can jump up and down. It’d be useless to say that any Italian soprano at conservatory level would sing this better. To compare this travesty to Callas, Tebaldi, Olivero, Caballe, Kabaivanska, Freni, Scotto, and countless others like, Tucci, Stella, etc, would be an act of extreme ludicrousness. If THIS is considered good singing, let alone great, if this is STIMM, then please let me out of the planet, I want to get off. At least we must thank Price for having stayed away from Wagner, though she unfortunately did do her share of butchering the other God Richard Strauss. In that sense Pelleas, Price is much worse than Sills. At least Sills did mostly inconsequential stuff, with the exception of her murder of Norma, but Price got close to the Olympic Gods, and many [young people now] must think that is the way to do it, tsk tsk tsk.

      • I wouldn’t be that harsh on her -- I guess this was (illegally) taped pretty late in her career, and it’s sung without an orchestra, and off-hand as an encore, presumably.
        But still she makes it sound like a spiritual. Yikes.
        Compare it with the Karajan complete studio take and it’s utterly different.

        And please, no bashing on account of me being ethnically biased. Here’s another afro-american singing this beautifully, meaningfully and IN STYLE.

        And here’s some class :

      • marshiemarkII

        CF that clip is from Carnegie Hall, May 16th, 1976, so not particularly late, in fact according to the comments in the YouTube thread, she was 49 years old. And actually the precise date in which I had said in my original post that she had become “unlistenable”.

        But you want to hear something really funny? I was in the hall for that concert!. I had come down from Cambridge to hear “mother” as my friend called her, and I was one of the queens jumping up and down, for sure! I guess not something I am terribly proud now, with 34 years of hindsight. Ah youth wasted on the young, and so life goes……

    • luvtennis

      You had better duck! ;-)

      I cannot listen to the attached excerpts unfortunately because I am at work. But I did happen to have a number of Dove Sonos in my car CD player. Leontyne’s from the 68 Munich recital. Margaret P from the Muti. Auger from the Ostman. Janowitz from the Bohm.

      Firstly, let’s start with the criticism that I find most disturbing. The “Portasse” issue. I haven’t heard the Met performance today so I won’t speak to it. But I find absolutely no meaningful difference in how Leontyne pronounces the word (it appears several times at the climax of the aria) and the other singers. Tempo and conducting play apart in a singers phrasing always, but I hear nothing in Lee that suggests that she “just doesn’t get it.”

      Here is the Munich version.

      • Actually, this is somehow better than the Bing gala. Better integrated and “behaved”.
        But why the near-stacatto eighth notes in the allegro section? That goes against the character. While Rosina may find a way out of her problem, and is faintly optimistic about the outcome of the garden maneouvre, she is still very much a regal nobleowman.
        All a singer has to do is listen to the orchestration. This is not bel canto. Mozart writes out the character in the orchestra, using specific timbres and note values. The voice MUST respond to the woodwind, it MUST be aware that under the flowing eigth notes, he writes half-notes in the string, meaning -- this has to be sung with a seamless legato. Not jumpy near-stacatto the way LP sings here. There is room to liven it up a bit -- the “Ah se almen la mia costanza” has a “jumping”, disconnected arpoeggio in the strings (4:35) -- heartbeats, nervousness, expectation? It is for the singer to find out for herself. But then at 4:55 the mood changes (!) with the half notes below the vocal line.

        Regarding the specific “mi porTAsse” -- it occurs only once, here in 5:03, then a sequence to the words “una speRAnza”. It goes G-G-G-C-C, and then C-C-C-C-E-E-. Hear the oboes, bassoons and horns -- they echo the voice and the singer must relate to them. Listen here how the woodwind players INSTINCTIVELY place the stress on the third G, then on the fourth C. The sound HAS to diminish on the last note. This is extremely difficult to negotiate technically, and many many singers falter, yet they best of the lot at least give the impression that they know where the stress should fall. But in the Bing gala LP doesn’t seem to care. At least here in the Munich excerpt she lightens up the sound and makes it work.
        The orchestra is absolutely EVERYTHING in Mozart’s operas. That’s the clue to the drama, psychology, interaction, emotional development, scenery. A Mozart singer must be constantly aware of what’s going on in the orchestra, and relate to that. Otherwise, why bother with this repertoire.

  • lorenzo.venezia

    Hearing the Jurinac reminds me of when I accidentally stumbled upon Imrgard Seefried’s “Ich bin der welt” on Youtube… no longeurs, not so much melancholy as ecstatic, a revelation. The Jurinac wasn’t a revelation in that way, but gorgeously musical. (Barbara Frittoli wasn’t bad either ;-)