Cher Public

The Quantification of the Diva: Part the Fourth

Photo: © Clive Barda/Royal OperaAs we launch into the fourth and final movement of our étude, La Cieca asks the musical question, “Can a Contemporary Diva achieve Grandezza, or, for that matter, Drag Imitability?” Let’s see what the numbers tell us. 

Grandezza

MD-GRAND-fuscia

Well, you could knock La Cieca over with a feathered headdress, but who do you think is capable of Grandezza when she puts her mind to it (and, perhaps more to the point, when she knows Robert Carsen is watching)? Why, that same soprano who is capable of just about anything—except, alas, reliably living up to her amazing capabilities!

Scandale

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This one’s a cakewalk for Angela, of course, but we’ve already seen her doing Emotional Journey, so let’s focus our gaze upon another modern mistress of malice.

Hair and Headgear

MD-HAIR-black

Allow La Cieca to kvetch for just a moment about the lamentable modern tendency toward singers (note: not divas) wearing their own hair onstage. Ladies, I knew Blanche Thebom, and, ladies, you are not Blanche Thebom. Again, Angie edges ahead, mostly thanks to her already legendary Lady Gaga-themed photo shoot, but for the purposes of this discussion, La Cieca prefers to highlight a diva who has basically made a second career of putting on and taking off wigs on stage whilst performing bel canto vehicles.

Weight Fluctuations

MD-WEIGHT-TEAL

So, some would-be La Cieca imitators confidently claim, Anna Netrebko canceled her Met Traviata this season because she was self-conscious about exposing her zaftig curves in the skimpy “Little Red Dress.”  Bull, says the real La Cieca. (“At 0:16, why does she turn the page on the music so quickly? How much music is printed on that first page? I can’t get past this!” says JCK.)

Drag Imitability

MD-DRAG-royal blue

Yes, Edita looks very like a drag queen, but that’s mostly because she’s elderly and mannered, and Ceci and Natalie do too, but they’re both nuts, so that hardly counts. For real RuPaul’s Drag Race action, though, it’s not where you start, it’s where you’re Finnish.

Tomorrow, in the Epilogue, we tally the scores and name, once and definitively, The Greatest Diva of Our Generation.

Jay Caspian Kang, who has delighted us so often at Free Darko, also may be heard tweeting at maxpower51.

  • La marquise de Merteuil

    Ok, that Karita clip had at least 9 buckets of crazy …

  • drtymrtini

    OMG I love the title “Drag Imitability” directly underneath that particular frame of Anna. Not that the two are related, but she seems more androgynous. I swear she closely resembles my older brother circa 1986 on his way to a Ratt concert.

    • drtymrtini

      On second thought, she looks like me if i went to a halloween party as her.

  • richard

    I think it’s sort of difficult to compare and contrast Zajick with other divas.

    Zajick has always seemed to me to be very sure of herself
    but without any hit of hysteria or drama. She knows who she is , what she needs to do and how to do it. She seems tough, like Birgit Nilsson but without Nilsson’s very dry sense of humor.

    Dolora seems to get what she wants/needs without a lot of drama, at least as far as it leaking out for public consumption. It may be that she is rather implacable looking. I was shocked to read an ON interview many years ago where she admitted to being a homeless person

    http://www.beyondcriticism.com/3056/thriller-powerhouse-mezzo-dolora-zajick-always-delivers

    during her days at the Manhattan School of Music and living in Central Park but then I thought, she’s pretty
    tough looking, a lot of riff-raff might take a look at her and decide that she was someone not to be messed with.

    So I don’t think there is much “scandale” associated with her. And her consistency is amazing. But that too works a bit against her as a “diva” as often inconsistency is a trait often associated with divas.

    • armerjacquino

      Reading that interview, I’m quite shocked to find that ‘Non piu di fiori’ is from Idomeneo.

      • richard

        Oops, some careless editing on the part of ON.

        Along the lines of just how matter of fact and down to earth Zajick is, I recall another interview (I thought it was the “homeless” one, but this comment doesn’t seem to be contained there) was her taking a way some of the mystery of the whole mechanism of how an opera singer sings.

        “It’s only a hook and a honk” she said. This may have been from another ON interview where I remember Zajick commenting that “Sharon (Sweet) sings the shit out of Aida”. Some indignant reader wrote a letter to ON complaining of Zajick’s “vulgar” language.

        • Actually, the interview made me appreciate Zajick much, much more.
          Nevertheless, I admit that she is not ‘my kind’ of singer. I was never touched or thrilled, either live or on record. The voice is certainly very big, the technique staggering. The timbre, though, is not really interesting. The voice cerainly sounds technically sustained and manipulated, with very few individual characteristics. I don’t mind “ugly” voices or voices that are not considered aesthetically beautiful, if one can be objective about such things at all. I like Ewing back in the early 80s for example, or Schreier, or Adam, or Varnay, because they are individual and all of them do something meaningful with the music. But Zajick’s voice sounds very anonymous to me.
          Besides, apart from a general level of histionics, I never find in her singing a genuine commitment to the characer, style, or text. The diction is never mushy, yet it’s all on the same general level. And I like it when musicians are specific. I was dissappointed when DECCA cast Zajick as Jezibaba on the Mackerras recording of Rusalka, because she isn’t able to project the malevolence and eeriness of the character. It’s a great role and I was sorry they didn’t cast Marjana Lipovsek in it. She should have been utterly magnificent. Here’s another example of a voice which is not intrinsically beautiful, yet the artistry and commitment always conjure a specific emotion and the net result is always highly memorable.

          Compare and contrast Zajick and Baltsa in “O don fatale”

          Zajick here is at the absolute height of her powers. “Ti maledico o mia belta” is woefully bland. Where is the M, the pointing of Belta? So much to do here, but no. And I here suspect intonation in the B section “O mia regina”

          Here she is in a later assumption, a little better thought out, but still not personal or imaginative.

          And Baltsa around 1985 when this was filmed, was already on the way to technical disaster. Disconnected registers, screaming on top, breath control going gaga. But this is so exciting, specific, even iconic in a way. When she sings “versar sol posso il pianto”, I believe her.

          httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?
          v=usyPazl9QMQ&feature=related

          Not to mention Verrett/
          At around 1:15 she reinforces the minor center of the phrase by using a very special color. Never heard it done before.

          And this is genius, of course, despite the fact the she forgets some lines and the top is horrid.

          Notice the control of rythym when matcing the vocal interjections to the strings “Io suo furore mi fece”. Nobody does it like this.
          At around 0:55 she matches the phrase “che cancellar mai non potro” to the swirling figure in the celli.

          And, of course, how can it be otherwise, the matching of stage movement to the orchestral ritornello leading to the final allegro C section. The gestures and eyes express the alternating emotional states.

        • Here is the Baltsa link

        • And here is another, very intelligent and specific, performance which I love.

        • armerjacquino

          CF- although it’s become a spurious truism in the case of Callas, with Zajick I think you really do need to catch her live. The size and security of the voice is utterly, viscerally thrilling.

          I didn’t ‘get’ her until I saw her as Azucena at the Met last year, but she blew my socks off that night.

        • I saw her live back some 12 years ago in the Verdi Requiem (a stupendous Sharon Sweet) and later as Amneris. I was impressed by the size and stamina, not by much else.

        • MontyNostry

          I haven’t seen Zajick live, but — while I can appreciate it’s an exceptional voice and technique, and people say she’s a great gal — I find she communicates virtually nothing to me. It’s one of those ‘clenched teeth’ sounds and the words don’t exactly ping across. She just sounds vaguely pissed off to me.

  • There she goes with those damn splits again.

  • If you feel a diva who should have been a contender (or a contentious diva) has been omitted egregiously from the study, you are invited to rank your favorites. Here are the criteria and their total possible point value.

    EMOTIONAL JOURNEY (200)
    STIMM (150)
    KUNST (150)
    ICONIC MOMENT (100)
    CULT STATUS (100)
    GRANDEZZA (100)
    SCANDALE (100)
    HAIR AND HEADGEAR (50)
    WEIGHT FLUCTUATIONS (50)
    DRAG IMITABILITY (50)

    • armerjacquino

      I just totted up what Verrett’s potential score would have been and got 1050.

    • jeepgerhard

      DOV’E LA BLYTHE???? Apart from the fact that she sings & acts the bejezus out of everything from Bach to god-knows-what, she gets Numero Uno for humor, which, alas, doesn’t show on this chart. What other opera singer, BTW, is married to a (former) pro wrestler?
      Lots of love,

      • jfmurray3

        I agree re. Blythe. Stole Rodelinda from Renee and David Daniels. Opening night Mostly Mozart this summer -superb. I cannot wait for her Rheingold Fricka. (Loved her Walkure Fricka last year.)

      • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK

        Nice to see, jeepgerhard, your suggestion that sense of humor should be part of the analysis. I questioned the inclusion of “Drag Imitability” until I remembered the legendary Tollerod Drumsgaard who toured the upper Midwest for decades until his untimely death at the age of 86.

        The first part of his presentation was usually a series of readings from Ibsen in Norwegian. I remember his John Gabriel Borkmann as being particularly moving. His drag presentations came in the more raucous second half and culminated in his Kirsten Flagstad. Clad in a simple, dark-colored cotton housedress he would walk from one side of the stage to the other. Then back again. Then he’d knit. Then he would lip-sync the “Wesendonck Lieder.” oh, not the whole thing, of course; usually just “Schmerzen” and “Im Treubhaus” or “Traume.”

        Electrifying !

    • OpinionatedNeophyte

      Of course I think Verrett should be part of the contest and its my own fault for failing to nominate her when the primaries, as it were, were going on. Particularly shameful since I live on a high horse about the importance of political participation.

      That said,
      EMOTIONAL JOURNEY (165/200)

      Is Shirley Verrett a gut wrenching singer? Thats a tough one. Certain roles, Dalilah, for example really allowed her to work some subtlety and nuance into performances. But more often than not she was a bit too over the top to get at anything like delicacy or to all over the place to create a perfectly focused emotional mood that gets you in the core. This may be her best example in that regard available on youtube, despite the horrid non-response from the jaded NYC audience.

      --STIMM (100/150)
      I’ve got to be fair here. I’ve never thought that Verrett’s voice was the most beautiful sound I ever heard. In fact, every recording of hers that I own (and cherish) is a live one, because for whatever reason her magic just doesn’t translate well into the recording studio. Towards the end of her career there were problems, a weird hollowed out middle, a tendency towards shrillness. All of which can be in these clips, none of which makes the following any less AMAZING. And for those sticklers, both are post 1980s dammit.

      —KUNST (150/150)
      I want to give her 200 for this category. I feel like Verrett is one of the most textually aware singers of all time. She also knows as much as anyone about how to create drama and real suspense in a performance. And really, every performance I link to for her is a great example of this whole Kunst thing. I’ve chosen Amneris because, she rarely did it and I wish she had more often. How many Amneris seem like they’re just waiting for Ramfis and his lil chorus to shut the hell up already so they can jump in and hit some high notes. I hear real fear, real uncertainty and real hope that Radames may be saved here.

      *(for camp highjinks see this BBC video

      A perfect example of why she couldn’t always quite score so high on emotional journey no matter how great the overall effect was)*

      —ICONIC MOMENT/GRANDEZZA (180/200)
      We’ve all seen it. We all love it. I can’t get enough of it. And I don’t think I need to explain why I’ve included it. Seriously Shirley, how did you do it?

      —SCANDALE (50/100)
      —CULT STATUS (35/100)
      Where to begin? Her rivalry with Grace Bumbry? Her well known super sensitivity to the slightest criticisms? Her falling out with Jon Vickers? Wasn’t there also something with Domingo? Well thats sort of it isn’t it? It seems, for the most part that La Verrett was the aggrieved party in these situations, she certainly never caused an opera production to implode. She seems to be the kind of singer a lot of people forget for one reason or another. I don’t know why. I think a certain chunk of her fanbase, i.e. black opera queens, assume its because of racism. But then again we *always* think thats whats up when people don’t like our divas. Even to the point of defending KB. On the other hand, I feel like youtube has really revived Verrett in the mind of younger opera goers many of whom seem bewildered that homegirl isn’t always in the pantheon of great performers. Something to think about. How is cult status really determined? Whose adoration gets counted eh?
      OK I may do the other categories later or not, who knows.

      • Thank you, now I’ll just have to hoot in agreement.
        I watch the Macbeth Abbado stuff every 10 days or so, just to remind myself that miracles can happen. RAI owns the wider public the original tapes.

      • richard

        Verrett is one of my favorite-of-all-time singers
        and one I was always looking forward to seeing.

        I think you make a lot of terrific points, including pointing out some of her faults, in addition to not having the most plush instrument, she also could get scattered and pile on too many effects. Sometimes she didn’t get it that less was more.

        But even so, I always found her thrilling. Lady Macbeth, Azucena, Favorita, Dido, Bluebeard’s Castle, even Nettie Fowler in Carousel.

        On Amneris, I heard her comment in an interview that she didn’t like singing it, she felt conductors had the orchestra play too loudly in the Judgement scene and she felt that it was an uphill struggle to compete.

        Why she was never more noted may have to do with all her peculiarities, she had health issues and cancelled a fair amount.

        Still, in my book, one of the absolute greats.

        • MontyNostry

          I hardly think Verrett was a singer who was “never more noted”. Surely she was one of the top stars of her time. I only saw her twice (as Dalila and in recital) in the early 80s. Dalila was a bit low for her by that point, but the recital produced the most thrilling live ‘Zueignung’ I’ve ever heard. Close behind her in the live ‘Zueignung’ stakes for me is the less tempestuous Anna Tomowa-Sintow. Which reminds me … Try hearing Dame Gwyneth in ‘Caecilie’ in the intimate space of Wigmore Hall!

        • richard

          MN, maybe not the best choice of words. I was basically going along with OpinNeo and agreeing that Verrett doesn’t have the devoted following today (i.e. getting enough votes to get her name on the slate for the classic divas, for one)

          I rate her very highly but I think that maybe her contemporary, Miss Grace, has a wider appreciation today.

          Maybe part of the problem is that she comes off as a bit odd rather than really diva like. She was slightly prickly and a bit weird in a very unflamboyant kind of way. Her rep was all over the place too.

      • lorenzo.venezia

        For me it was her 1978 Tosca at the Met. Thrilling and blood-curdling.

        • chaka

          Verrett rules! I’m so excited to see all these YouTube clips.

        • Belfagor

          ….which I notice is about to be released (FINALMENTE!!!!) on DVD -- che gioia!

        • MontyNostry

          Belfagor -- synchronicity (see my posting elsewhere about ‘Zueignung’ has delivered this on YouTube, posted just a few days ago. Happy memories, eh?

      • What I love from that Lady M. clip (aside from the sensational singing) is how she handles the 2-minute ovation that follows. The general idea during such long ovations is to “freeze” the moment. Now, some singers, like Norman, are able to almost literally achieve a freeze and stay in that position until the applause dies down. Verrett doesn’t freeze (frankly, I don’t think she was anticipating the lenghty ovation she got) but stays in character. She shifts position, strikes a new pose, but all of it is an attempt to keep herself in the moment. So, it’s a different kind of “freeze” that she achieves. I find it fascinating. The whole video is an example of youtube at its best, IMO.

        • OpinionatedNeophyte

          I totally agree. I feel like she’s on the verge of taking a bow at a number of points, but she holds herself in. The self control is beautiful, you can almost hear the audience trying to get her to give in and she doesn’t give them what they want, just as a queen should. Go Girl!

      • luvtennis

        I love Verrett. Ever since I first heard her Orsini on the RCA Lucrezia she has been one of my favorite singers. I still think her performance on the Stein Don Carlo is the definitive recorded Eboli.

        Interestingly, I had never seen her live and was not aware of what a great beauty she was when I first started listening to her recordings.

        I write this because, pace CF, I don’t find any signficant difference in timbre, use of text, musical accuracy etc between Zajick and Verrett. For my own part, I prefer Shirley, but I ask myself why?

        Also, I agree that Youtube is a godsend in many respects, but like most technology, it can be a double-edged sword. Why? Because it inevitably emphasizes the visual aspect of performance, especially give the sonic limitations of the posted material.

        Frankly, I think opera has gotten way too caught up in the visual for the good of its own longterm survival. How long before HD considerations start to override everything else?

        Assuming that HD is successful financially, then I give the artform, as we now know it, another 15-20 years before it morphs into another art-form altogether, particularly if the world economy remains in recession. Maybe it’s time for us to start on the new path now.

        • Really?? I don’t hear much similary in timbre between Verrett and Zajick. Zajick has the more plum and warm tone (with lots of steel). Verrett has a much less covered sound. Both have great high notes and solid coloratura chops.

        • luvtennis

          I wasn’t being precise in my diction.

          What I meant to say was that both singers strike me as having perfectly acceptable timbres. My point is to question what drives us when we make distinctions between roughly comparable singers. Zajick and Verrett are roughly comparable in terms of gifts and achievements. Verrett and Nadja Michael are NOT, for instance.

          Is that a bit clearer?

        • Belfagor

          I heard Verrett live -- past her best, starting in 1981 as Tosca, Norma, Dalila, in duet with Bumbry, and in recital. While she was not a verbally pointed communicator in the Scotto mode, she was a very in-the-moment performer, who could be inconsistent (undisciplined) on stage. I found her timbre, which by then was unravelling a little, with a hole in the middle of the voice, ungainly gear changes and all -- absolutely thrilling. There was something very heartfelt about her, and she was unerringly musical in her phrasing, and her breath control, at her best, could be phenomenal. She seemed to have a profound harmonic sense to me, and could wring nuances,frissons -- a whole palette of colour out of modulations and phrases which were very personal and which remain imprinted for me. The impact of her top register could be almost percussive -- very exciting.

          I’ve only heard Zajick live once -- and while it was a great ‘wall of sound’ I found her comparatively black and white as a performer, not very interesting phrasing, and generalized interpretation, at times exciting, but lacking the colour, variety and sheer soul of Verrett.
          I’m not sure why they are being compared, as live, I didn’t find much point of contact between them.

        • MontyNostry

          Shame on me, Belfagor. In an earlier posting I completely forgot about seeing the Grace’n’Shirl double whammy. Probably because of its oneiric quality. E sogno? o realtà?

        • luvtennis

          Belfagor:
          I picked them simply because they share a number of the same roles. I just as easily could have pick La Grace, who also quite the sexy babe in her day.

        • Spot on, Belfagor. I see absolutely no connection between Zajick and Verrett. It seems like they own and operate a completely different set of priorities, like they belong in parallel universes.
          While Verrett, especially later on, could be unpredictable, wild, harsh sometimes, but always singing her heart out and visibly and audibly employing her intellect to get the best out of the music, Zajick seems very happy to present a secure, large tone and “do character stuff” in a very general way. I have never heard from her a change of tone, a coloristic inflection that might point out the harmonic language or an interesting turn of a phrase.
          More interesting and surely more reasonable (though obvious) to compare Verrett with Bumbry. Both shared a very similar repertoire and were active roughly around the same period. Both switched from Mezzo to soprano and back again. Both were utterly musical and had a great way of pointing the text. Bumbry’s voice is much more appealing to my ears, and apparently had a larger and better instrument at her disposal, yet Verrett, during her best years (circa 1970-1978) could produce a frisson that Bumbry could only have dreamt about. So I opt for Verrett.

        • OpinionatedNeophyte

          Thank you, at least, for not comparing Verrett-Bumbry. I feel the industry pit them against each other, as if there could only be one great black mezzo turned soprano on the scene. Zajick, I think has much more in common with Grace than Verrett I think. Both Grace and Zajick have a more “sopranoish” timbre to their sound. Verrett’s voice didn’t lie as naturally high which made her forays into the soprano rep could so wildly fly from incandescent to problematic.

        • rapt

          Isn’t the Bumbry/Verrett contrast a textbook example of Stimmdiva/Kunstdiva?

        • MontyNostry

          I think there was some Kunst going on with Bumbry too. Have you seen her Carmen for Karajan?

      • marcello52

        You know there is just something about the things that you say “OpinionatedNeophyte” that always rub me the wrong way even if I am in agreement with what you are saying. Perhaps it is your name, which I think is a sorta “oxymoronic” Or perhaps it is that I have put too much store in your name “neophyte” and then see that you spew on and on as if you create the art form of opera. Or perhaps it is your general tone of this know-it-all who is shouting over everyone as if he is the final word on all matters relating to opera. I could also be that I am just an “Opinionated Hater” masquerading as an opera queen. Whatever the case, I have to say that I generally do not like seeing that you have posted anything on this site; not that it should matter in your world.

        Needless to say, I do not agree with much of your “opinionated rating” of Ms. Verrett. I am more so with Armerjacquino 1050 in my book. The woman is pure gold. Perhaps because I never saw her live so I did not hear the inconsistencies in her voice people who did see her can attest to. However, everything that she touched for me, I found new insight and excitement in the role including the seemingly untouchable Norma.

        • CruzSF

          wow.

        • Belfagor

          I remember the sheer animal sound of la Grace’s voice, at her best -- I saw her in L’africaine, Macbeth, a concert performance of Medea, a couple of recitals, and duelling with Shirl. She could be fantastically exciting, but much more generalized than Shirl. I was never as convinced by her forays up top: things were usually monochrome in colour and forced out by sheer will -- and her middle register became very inflexible. Her late career has been surprising, as I think she had stopped being taken seriously by the establishment, and she seems to have been re-invented, retrospectively as a ‘great singer’. Which is of course just -- I think!

          I don’t think she was the artist that Verrett was -- I remember Verrett singing -- of all things -- Desdemona’s Willow Song and Ave Maria, with her middle slipping away, and all sorts of vocal quibbles and inconsistencies, and yet, she somehow managed to convey the whole drama in concert -- it was at Covent Garden -- by the end there was a rapt silence and we were all collectively, captured and present in that scene.

          Thanks, Monty, for Zueignung -- I remember it well. But you can hear that late hollowness in the middle, she seems to need to scoop up to the opening notes of phrases, which was a problem in her later singing, though the climax is engulfing, and so generous.

          Did no one mention Anna Tomowa-Sintow, by the way? I heard an incandescent ‘Forza’ from Paris once, and saw her as Jaroslavna, where her account of the Act 4 ‘plach’ was one of the grandest, most sustained things I ever witnessed on an operatic stage.

        • MontyNostry

          Caro Belfagor, you say that Grace’s ‘middle register became very inflexible’. It probably always was a bit inflexible, even when she was stilly a mezzo — and it did get very brassy, especially around the top of the stave where it would suddenly bulge, or perhaps one could say flare up (not unexcitingly, it must be said). But as Grace herself might have said at some point … “Well, Shirley, dear, at least I **have** a middle register.”

        • OpinionatedNeophyte

          I’m sorry its that serious for you. You know, people who I respect have always told me those we despise tend to have personality traits that we despise about ourselves. Perhaps the most productive solution is for you to use my posts as an opportunity for self reflection. How am I like, OpinionatedNeophyte? What do we share? Why did my mother beat me as a child? Etc. When you feel enraged at the site of my moniker on a web browser (and I mean….really?) open up your journal and start writing. You’ve got to engage with that inner bile.

          Also I’m a little bit upset that you failed to notice that I also think I know all about politics and social issues in general. A fan (stalker) such as yourself needs to know more about your bete noir.

        • richard

          I don’t really get the comparison between Shirl and Grace either, other than that they were contemporaries, African-American, and both struggled with fach.

          I really liked Grace a lot, but my feeling was always tinged with “what will she do next”. There was a slightly comical aura about some of her assumptions. I saw her very first Tosca (Jimmy Levine’s Met debut) and she cracked all night. But she went for it with everything she had.

          Similarly Lady Macbeth had a number of very iffy moments leading up to a high Dflat in the Sleepwalking Scene that didn’t come out at all, leaving Grace with a “what the hell happened???” look on her face.

          And Nabucco had her trying three times for the high C to end her big act 2 aria. Two little noises came out but Grace wasn’t satisfied until try number three when something resembling a high c came out.

          But for me these sort of silly antics were offset by her tremendous drive and determination. And when she was on she was really something. She wasn’t quite as overwhelming vocally as Zajick is in the three big Versi mezzo roles but she did still sing all three spectacularly and with a lot more real temperament that Dolora brings to them.

          I agree with the poster that suggested she had painted herself into a corner and had become a bit ridiculous. But with her amazing drive and focus, she did manage to reinvent herself.

          The last time I saw her was in a mid 90s OONY Herodiade and she both looked and sounded very good.

          I always had a soft spot for Grace, I really adored her. But Shirley was NEVER even remotely ridiculous and always carried me along with her.

        • Here’s another Verrett clip which I LUUUUUV to death. So musical and engrossing even when she lets her hair down.

        • And this clip shows exactly why Verrett WAS Verrett. Such generosity even in rehearsal. Everything you need to know about Lady Macbeth is in her face. And the silly movie director chose shots which completely obliterate her presence. Bah!
          BTW She is unbelievably beautiful here, even inhuman (subhuman, devilishly beautiful).

          httpv://www.youtube.com/user/lucpebo2#p/u/50/GN3A2B1Wulw

        • sorry, prima parte :

        • Well, it’s clearly time to do an exhaustive study of members of the cher public and all their various qualities — know-it-allness, bitchiness, eruditeness, niceness, and most of all rub-me-the-wrong-way-ness.

        • rapt

          Plus, Kashania, the Iconic Moment--which we haven’t seen for awhile--of “I’m out of here forever!” (also known as “I’ll hold my breath until I turn blue!”) followed by an absence lasting sometimes as long as twenty-four hours….

        • How could I have forgotten that quintessential cher public quality — I’m-out-of-here-forever-ness? Thanks for the reminder.

        • CruzSF

          Well stated, O Neo.

        • OpinionatedNeophyte

          Thanks Cruz, at first I was kind of annoyed and then I was like wait…he’s actually being super ridiculous. This site is the only place I get to blather on about opera (or the arts in general) as I live in a small midwestern college town. I love being a little pompous, a little foolish and a little bitchy on here aka everything thats fun about being an opera queen. Marcello may want to just spend a little time outside the home and off the web if the bantor around here gets him that irritated.

          Kashie, hee yes I have been a part of many an internet forum where people fall out, declare that they are DONE!!!11!!! for ever and then reappear. Its all part of the fun. Poor Marcello seems to have forgotten than.

        • CruzSF

          It’s ridiculous to accuse you of being the zenith of pomposity, given the rest of us here. And besides, hasn’t La Cieca made this a safe house for the pompous?

        • Oy, Parterre is like manna from heaven after some pretty rough classical music forums I’ve been too. Zum beispiel, Israeli classical music forums are a living hell for all kinds of vermin. You do not realize how lucky you are in having such a sensitive hostess.

        • marshiemarkII

          Cruz, I thought ***I***, MarshieMII herself had already cornered that market long ago. Wasn’t it Peter who put that crown on me???? Fit for a queen of course ;-)

        • Eeek, been TO!
          Have to get some sleep before any further nocturnal maritime excursion.

        • peter

          marshiemarkII, I take back what I said about you being pompous. You’re off the wall but very lovable.

        • CruzSF

          Marshie, I bow before your Royal Pompousness. So does that leave the rest of tied for second place (with O Neo coming in at #3?)

        • marshiemarkII

          Thank you Peter, ya know I love ya all :-)

        • Couple things, because this’ll end up in the wrong spot since I am apparently functionally retarded:

          1. It’s always awesome when people forget what they say about arguing on the internet being like winning the special olympics;

          2. Grace Bumbry is awesome in opera but her excursions into Lieder are pure gold -- late entrances, wonky notes and all kinds of hijinx abound.

          3. MarshieMarkII is not the least bit pompous IRL but he does look adorable in a tiara.

        • CruzSF

          Marshie, you told me you were biologically female! Uh-oh…

        • marshiemarkII

          Sorry to disappoint Cruz, but Salomanda is right, I do look quite wonderful in my tiara, so we can still have fun, ya know :-)

    • parpignol

      I feel like someone ought to try to run the numbers for Nilsson, since she was still quite spectacular on stage in 1980, and she was arguably the greatest Wagnerian singer of the second half of the 20th century. This is just one tentative evaluation:
      Emotional Journey: 180, your emotional state when she finished her Liebestod or Immolation Scene. . . at least as high as with Waltraud Meier, no?
      Stimm: 150, the voice was super-human, right?
      Kunst: 135, she certainly understood Wagner!
      Iconic Moment: 100, Liebestod, Immolation, In Questa Reggia, her cry of Orest!
      Cult Status: 90, for anyone who cared about Wagner
      Grandezza: 100, again super-human
      Scandale: 75, tax issues, stalker problems, holding the note longer than Corelli?
      Hair and Headgear: 40, Valkyrie horns and Turandot headdress
      Weight Fluctuations: 0 points? did she ever gain or lose a pound?
      Drag Imitability: 25 mannish frame might be conducive, but I don’t know if anyone ever tried it. . .
      total point count: 895, does this seem fair?

  • operadunce

    This has been delightful, La Cieca. Informative, thought-provoking and hugely entertaining. Paterre at its best. My compliments to you and JCK. Just a note in passing: Among the candidates, only Anna, Anna, Anna and La Scoopenda are individual Topics on Parterre. Not sure whether you add or subtract for that. :)

  • Further to the Dessay madness-drag imitability-emo thing, three well known items:

    Horny Olympia

    Love-Crazed Morgana

    Out of her mind bored Marie

    • OpinionatedNeophyte

      oy the screaming….

  • Harry

    One person;’s delight….someone else’s banshee! Ah,..Opera!