Cher Public

Skating on the Nile?

aida_basel“Aida am Rhein,” an outdoor on-location live presentation of Verdi’s opera, with the cast of the current Calixto Bieito production in Basel. (So far as I can tell, Bieito didn’t direct the film or the outdoor spectacle, but presumably some of the dramatic ideas of his production were carried over into this performance.)

Acts 1 and 2:

Stars vom 01.10.2010

Acts 3 and 4:

Stars vom 01.10.2010

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    For more video coverage of this nonesense, see the previous thread. DeYoung is very glamorus in this and applies her makeup on camera with great panache. Her smile is completely engaging. Aida is first seen smoking a cigarette!

    • I would be interested to hear why you dismiss this performance as “nonsense.”

      • phoenix

        Gotta get my 2-cents in before the thread goes off on different tangent. First of all, to the wonderful individual who posted this video up (Cieca, I presume? or whoever?) muchas, muchas gracias! For what kind of an effort it is, this is a very interesting video production… no matter how anyone feels about the singing. When I saw Angles Blancas in this video I woke up… she brought back my first fantasy idea of a production of Aida… something I hadn’t thought about for decades since I first saw this great opera (set Aida in my home state of Arizona during WW2; Radames, a US Air Force Lieutenant from Boston stationed at Fort Huachuca; Aida, the mestiza great-granddaughter of the last Mexican governor of the original province of Norte México, from a large extended family had fallen into extreme poverty). This Aida fantasy always provided me with a day-dreaming link to my biological parents whom I never knew (although they didn’t stay long enough together to perish in the tomb, let alone to get to raise me). Sure I can criticize the singing, but it is redundant in the face of such a meaninful theatrical experience for me personally. The Radames may be a bit over the hill vocally, but he sings with style. I didn’t like the way de Young looked, but she too is a skilled performer & she knows how to build a performance, Act by Act. Again, thank you so much for posting this video. Angeles Blancas may have rewritten the score to the point Verdi wouln’t have recognized some of it, her beauty, personality & interpretation comes closest to the Aida I always envisioned. Angeles Blancas has a hint of the voice & style (as well as much of the same flawed technique of her mother, Angeles Gulin {1939-2002}) which I adored: FLAWS & ALL. I was so happy when she came to the Met in that one Sicilian Vespers long ago… I went backstage (something I rarely did in those days) to congratulate her in person and I’m sure glad I did.

        • peter

          Phoenix, I saw that one Angeles Gulin performance at the Met in 1983. She had the biggest voice I’ve ever heard live. Yes, it was a very flawed instrument but I thought she was being miked because I never heard such a large sound, especially the middle voice. I didn’t realize that Angeles Blancas was her daughter.

          • phoenix

            Peter, unfortunately I don’t remember that many details of Gulin’s performance in Sicilian Vespers that night. When I heard that voice… the proscenium, stage, audience etc. faded away & I went into one of my altered states (Oh dear!). All I remember is the sonic quality of her tone & I loved it (still do, of course). How well she sang I can’t tell you because I couldn’t get back down to earth while she was singing in order to figure it all out. From many of the postings I see around here & read in other places, I guess that somewhat freestyle of singing has gone out of fashion in favor of other more precise & cautious techniques. But you can still hear that same style (provincial? perhaps… love those provinces!) in Cruz-Romo’s old broadcasts and in somewhat better sound in Ana Maria Sanchez’ Sita in Massenet’s Le Roi de Lahore (Dynamic CD, Viotti -- Venice 2005) & other places that don’t come to mind right away (forgive me if I perhaps offend her majesty Caballé, but if you listen with a keen ear… especially in that Aroldo she did at Carnegie Hall… you can hear the essence of that same style in one of it’s best presentations). Peter, you brought back memories of an old friend named Peter who was at the performance. How superficial am I that I can’t remember all the nuances of one of my favorite singer’s performance the only time I saw/heard her live, but I can remember the friends I met at the intermission.

          • Krunoslav

            Angelas Blancas has managed to destroy her voice in less time than her mother did.

            I herad that Gulin debut/farewell VESPRI and it was one of thr saddest nights I can recall at the Met, up there with Elinor Ross’s 1979 AIDA, in terms of hearing a great natural instrument that just wasn’t functioning anymore. Gulin just could not access her upper register with any ease of consistency and each big moment was a disaster or near-disaster. Unlike Miriciuou , who later also appeared in bad form in this production, Gulin had NO stagecraft or phrasing and really did nothing but make some luscious sounds in those parts of her voice that stil could make them. Technicaly she was a mess. Surely she was there only to make the end-of-career Scotto, doing the rest of the run, sound better in the remains of what had been a triumphant assumption.

            At the end of the VESPRI Gulin got on her knees and cried. They did *not* seem tears of joy. I think she knew she had come too late and in the wrong part. Not a happy memory.

          • mrsjohnclaggart

            Krunoslav I too was there!!! How did we miss one another. I heard Angeles do Gioconda and Norma in the early 70’s — massive, incredible tone throughout the range — not a lot of skill but then one thought the dooming (usually) “if she finds a teacher/mentor…” They never do and she had survived one bout of cancer.

            The difference with Eleanor Ross, my second cousin twice removed, was that she had it all for a fair length of time. She began in the mid 50’s and was a Philly diva in the 60’s, along with my cousin, once removed, THE Irene Kramarach, still the greatest dramatic mezzo America has ever produced.

            Eleanor poured out a resplendent, enormous tone, could grade dynamics — good pianissimo, piano, mezza voce and really thundering unforced fortes. She had musical skills, could phrase and her words were clear and meaningfully pronounced. She was pretty much as loud as Birgit in that horrible opera Turandot and had her own distinction but I remember thrilling Aidas, Toscas, Ballos and a Gioconda (she sang in Newark, city of my dreams, Hartford and Stanford as well as Philly and I’d try to get to see her).

            She stunned a lot of people and I would like to know what the story was with its being — in her prime — a provincial career (though with some gigs abroad and in South America). Rescigno told me she was one of the few ‘real ones’ after the great period of the late 40’s — late 50’s. He also had a funny story about her and Mary Ann.

            He and John Ardoin (the sweetest human after Nicola EVER to be a queen and I include myself, who am sweetness personified) had a funny story about Eleanor.

            Mary Ann as you know was coming to sing Medea in Dallas; but Mary Ann being Mary Ann nobody was sure. So they hired Eleanor to learn and coach the part just in case. She was put up in the same hotel as Mary Ann (back room, tiny, very dark, brick wall view). They did not tell Mary Ann they had an understudy.

            They picked Mary Ann up at her grand suite to chauffeur her to rehearsal. In the elevator she screamed, scaring them both to death, “I have forgotten my glasses! I am BLIND!!!!” They got up off the elevator floor and started seeing if they could reverse the elevator. “Don’t,” said Mary Ann, “I trust you both to steer me safely.”

            They exited the elevator into the huge, dark lobby. Sitting at the very farthest end, in the back, in a huge armchair was Eleanor. Nicola and John steered Mary Ann toward the revolving doors past the many who recognized her and applauded. As they got outside Mary Ann said, “oh, you can send HER home, she won’t be needed”!

            Eleanor is a great lady (I think is is right). At the Met after cover contracts she finally got to sing. Right before her debut her husband collapsed and she was distraught but he convinced her to go ahead. But she’d been falling during rehearsals. Right before her night she was told she’d had a slight stroke, and had Bell’s palsy. She went ahead — but the Bell’s palsy (which often lasts three months or so) never waned, and it created problems with her entire technical mechanism (it’s a partial paralysis of one side of the face). She managed some respectable performances but was never as good and finally had a serious decline.

            Another great singer was MARY CURTIS VERNA. Today she would be the spinto goddess of Italian Opera but she only got bits and pieces. I haven’t seen an Aida or Gioconda or Manon Lescaut or Tosca as good as hers in twenty five years (really who was the last commanding singer of that rep from a vocal and interpretive standpoint? Scotto minus the first two in the late 70’s early 80’s and don’t give me this bull shit that Mirella was good at verismo_.

            Anarchy Now!!!!!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Not the performance… the entreprise. The Aida is fascinating, the synchronization amazing.

    Here’s more misguided call it what you will from La Fura del CAOS:

    The telecast is very badly conducted.

    • Actually.. WOW! This seems fascinating, very ‘sexy’ and some hantingly poetic images. I’d love to see this Mahagonny production. MB certainly whets my appetite which such a spot-on approach to Moon of Alabama. Weill Style is so damn difficult to get and she nailed it. No barking, humming, howling, just plain, very ryhthmic, on-pitch singing with lots of consonants. And White is always fascinating onstage. I hope they release a DVD!

    • phoenix

      Thank you Quanto Painy Fakor; being just as misguided as any of the chicas listed below, I appreciate & enjoy those Mahagonny videos, regardless (or because of) Gérard Mortier. Jane Henschel as Begbick looks awful (as she is supposed to) but she can’t match that bulldog face of Astrid put on at the Met years ago.
      The audio of this coming Saturday’s live performance from Teatro Real is supposed to be broadcast (but with an alternate cast). Cerquetti?Farrell: that often indicates the Teatro Real has reserved the video performances of the first cast for a DVD and/or TV broadcast.
      SATURDAY 9 OCTOBER 2010:
      2 pm EST Radio Clásica (Radio Nacional de España)
      Temporada de Ópera del Teatro Real de Madrid
      Transmisión directa 9 Oct. 2010
      WEILL: Ascenso y caída de la ciudad de Mahagonny
      Pablo Heras-Casado, dirección musical
      Jim MacIntyre: Christopher Ventris
      Jenny Smith: Elzbieta Szmytka
      Leocadia Begbick: Jane Henschel
      Trinity Moses: Willard White
      Fatty “the Bookkeeper”: Donald Kaasch
      Jack O’Brien/Toby Higgins: John Easterlin
      Bank-account Bill: Otto Katzameier
      Alaska-wolf Joe: Steven Humes
      Seis Chicas de Mahagonny: Rosella Cerioni; Esther González; Pilár Morguez; Carolina Muñoz; Iria Rajal; Mirian Valado
      Phoenix is not responsible for any last minute cast changes that may occur.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    And all of this serves to point out how American television doesn’t give a damn about any of these “developments”.

  • Tamerlano

    I think the idea of the broadcast is kinda cool…but, am I the only one who finds the singing pretty lousy. Blancas is a MESS, I love weird voices, but not when they don’t work. DeYoung mugs and lurches with aplomb, but the voice is not for Amneris.

    • luvtennis

      DeYoung has one of the most forgettable timbres in the history of forgettable timbres.

      Why do conductors who should know better insist on recording voices that are so intrinsically unmemorable (or worse).

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Actually, with the exception of a few techies, who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, the performance is as precise as a Swiss watch. The most difficult musical moments in Part I (through the end of the Triumphal scene) are admirable in their execution. The sound engineer really knows this music and bring out details that are often lost in the theater. Much better overall than the Traviata in the railroad station and the Boheme in the suburbs.

  • sensibility

    Off topic.Have you heard about the huge succes of Adriana Lecuvreur in Berlin? ECSTATIC REVIWS.Some critic called it PERFECT.The whole cast was superb.
    Critics said;Such a fantastic performance happens rarely.Unfortunately the cast won’t be the same in London.Of course Kaufmann & Gheorghiu will be, but not the others.
    Fingers crossed for the second perfomance.

    • scifisci

      Thankfully for those of us unable to attend live, it is being recorded for release by EMI.

      • I will guess the Berlin performances are…..

        Does anyone know who will be singing what in London, besides Gheorghiu and Kauffman?

        This sounds very ineresting. Kauffman sounds interesting as maurizio and Gheorghiu, well, as much as i do not like her, this could be a great thing with her.

        • oedipe

          And in the performances that Gheorghiu cancels, one gets the opportunity to hear…none other than Angeles Blancas!!!

          • Oh gioia! As i said before, these little wimp sopranos with grandiose aspirations…

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Borodina, for some of them.

        • manou
          • manou

            …but Borodina is taking over for the Princesse de Bouillon later on, as Cocky K had pointed out.

          • Oh Sweet Jesus! Wasn’t Bonaventura Bottone treated like the next best thing not that long ago and now he is doing some secondary parts?

            Am I remembering someone else?

    • melisma catatonia

      I was lucky enough to be there. Gheorghiu embodied grandiosity, although I would wish she could turn up the volume on her voce. The first aria was a study in silken legato and wafting smoky delicacy. Great catfight with the formidable mezzo (Anna Smirnova). True dementia end of Act 3 with the recitation and cries of vengeance. She was truly in the zone for this. Tried to get there again with the last aria, but a sloppy entrance by the horns visibly annoyed her, so she was less innig, but still impressive.

      Kaufmann sang like a god. He’s the real thing. I’ve never heard such a large voice capable of such lyrical and tender singing. Amazing messa di voce --maybe too much going into head voice? He needs to decide to become a true spinto and give up some of the wimpier lyric colors. In the 3rd Act he sang a high Bb which reminded me of Corelli. But even that is a bit the wrong kind of praise, because he’s already approaching a kind of ne plus ultra all his own, although he needs a bit more work on his Italian.
      Fine supporting cast, too. Especially Markus Brueck’s solid, heartfelt Michonnet and Smirnova’s powerful, Slavic-edged Bouillon. Overall, a real Sternstunde!

      • scifisci

        After seeing her in traviata this past season, i knew that the hysterics of adriana would fit her like a glove. It was mostly out of place in traviata though. gheorghiu seems to have plenty of volume up top and can muster up an intense chest voice, but she seems very, very reluctant to beef up the middle. I guess she is adamant about preserving ease and beauty at the top, but that’s not really verismo is it?

        • richard

          No, one of the big parts of Verismo singing is firm, biting declamation and that oftens involves both the middle and the chest voice.

          Also Verismo uses a lot of rubato and, sorry Ange, singing at the tempo you decide on rather than the conductor dosen’t exactly count as rubato.

          Actually, I find Angie tends to clip phrases a lot. In general she often seems to be concerned with getting away with the least amount of vocal effort. Angie not only doesn’t sing on her capital, she also hoardes soem of the interest!

          • luvtennis

            Your assessment is spot on, Richard. Angie is singing Verismo because it suits her temperamentally, doesn’t require any pesky agility or extreme high notes.

            But Angie is a lyric soprano, her voice is VERY soft-grained, and she has a fairly sound classically-trained voice -- meaning she has a sound legato, well-managed upper register with easy access to the head voice. All of that counts for very little in Verismo over the long haul. Unless one’s goal is over the short, er haul.

            I hope she doesn’t kill that voice. All it takes is one bad night in the wrong role.

        • i would not suggest you ask that question to Mafalda Favero, Tebaldi, Magda Olivero, Freni, Scotto, etc, etc, etc…

        • scifisci

          to be fair, caballe and freni managed to be quite successful in verismo for a while without sacrificing beauty and ease at the top, so maybe it is possible.

          Richard, it’s a recession don’t ya know? angie is trying to save all that she can!

          There are rare occasions though, when she gives all she’s got, and only then do you realize why she became such a big star.

          • luvtennis


            Actually, I would disagree a bit with your observation regarding verismo and the wondrous Caballe and Freni. I think both suffered some real hardening at the top and holes in the passagio as a result of singing some too much Puccini and verismo light.

            They had such tremendous natural endowments to begin with and were sufficiently well-trained that they survived (unlike say, Tebaldi, whose second-career voice hurts my ears). Also, Angie’s voice is smaller and softer-grained than either Montsy or Mirella.

            In my opinion.

          • scifisci

            True…I originally wrote “before sacrificing….” but then changed it to “without” after remembering that caballe had been singing roles such as maddalena di coigny and manon lescaut since the early/mid 60’s.

          • richard

            scifisci, ha, I like the recession rationale.

            But I agree, every now and then and really guns it and it’s easy to see why she became such a big star. She really has lots of things going for her. If only she wasn’t such a STINGY singer!!!!

          • I agree about the effect of verismo/dramatic roles on Caballe’s voice. That simply divine sound was already showing signs of tarnish by the late 70s. By then, the voice had hollow spots (as Luvt has said) and there was a slight edge to the tone.

          • Jay

            Freni’s singing Aida in Salzburg in 1979 didn’t help, either. One of a number of roles that skimmed the cream off of her once-lovely voice. (I was at that Aida prima; both Freni and Carreras struggled to swim across the Nile.)

      • Jay

        No transposing down, eh, like a certain tenor did at the Met a couple of years ago.

  • I can take the setting, makes sense to me, Aida is likely an illegal immigrant caught between someone who loves her and can give her freedom and the political elite who will not stop at anything to demonize her and those like her in order to Keep their power. Now, I wonder where have I heard that story before, but I digress…

    What I can not wrap my brain around is how anyone could take and enjoy that pinched, white, unsupported and whinny sound that Angeles Blancas makes as Aida. I thought her as Addina and Donna Anna were bad enough, but now we must suffer through her Aida? How is this woman having a career outside the Spanish provincial houses is beyond my brain. I would not inflict her on the poor provinces as it is.

    For the rest, I find the concept quite relevant, and again, I find myself liking another Bieito production (I like his Ballo and his Giovanni)

  • La Valkyrietta

    I don’t like cigarettes, but I don’t like cars ether, so even if I think that ‘you are doing fine Barthelona, Barthelona, olé’, to a production of Bieito is not where my crazy heart wants to go. Thanks La Cieca for the kind invitation I assume was extended also to little moi, but no thanks. Like Miss Otis, I am unable and regret.

  • papopera

    What’s this castillian prick trying to do to our
    beloved operas ?

    • La Valkyrietta

      You say Castillian, I say Catalonian. Anyway, Wagner was friendly with Fromental who was the father- in-law of the composer of Carmencita, and the uncle of the librettist, but to Bieito I say pieta, mercy, mercy, Lord, mercy with opera.

  • Thank you so much for this very interesting performance.

    And WTF has happened to the once promising light lyric, the daughter of the renowned Angeles Gulin??

    Stages in the Destruction of a Voice. A Study.





    Epilogue -- the present “Aida am Rhein”

    • I want whatever drug she was taking for the Macbeth concert!

      • I want whatever drug she was taking for the Macbeth concert!

        Ask Dimitra Theodossiu, they must have the same supplier…

        I will never understand these little wisp sopranos who wake up one day and think that because the want to be “actresses’ all of a sudden their repertoire is too small for them.

        And I thought she had hit the bottom of the barrel with that Aida, how wrong i was!

      • Harry

        CF; What passes for singing ….these days. How hard one can yell.

      • luvtennis


        This is why I am so hard on singers. When you tolerate bad singing in exchange for dramatic values, you invite this sort of nonsense. Slippery slope, baby.

        What are Nadja Michael and this woman doing on the stages of any non-regional house?

        Would they get away with this absolute dreck if they were fat and unattractive? I don’t think so.

    • phoenix

      What happened to her? Very simple answer you knew before you even asked the question.
      --> like mothra like dothra; she is obliged to continue her mother’s tradition

    • Quanto Painy Fakor


  • Harry

    papopera: Probably Bieto believes he is the evangelist Savior of opera. More likely he is taking all the silly ruddy fools who drool over his stupid ‘world view’ ideas, to his individual delusional hell with him. Desperately trying to be naughty , offensive and shocking with his manufactured perverse grunge.. Screaming out all the while, ‘look at me….LOOOOOK at ME! Another feted alienating dip shit, like a Kosky, having his five short minutes of mention in music review columns.

    If people think directors start from scratch, creating a new production….they are more silly than I thought. More likely, you will find they are already armed with every DVD production of this or that opera ‘for their own ideas’ How many more Carmen’s are there going to be with a f….king car on display around the World? There was even a Carmen Ballet set in a motor repair shop, with a ah-la hint of Westside Story type setting!! Don’t tell us the simple idea is …the term ‘car-men’ as a play on words was the first bright spark of idiocy; was what came into these directors’ heads??!! We can now perhaps expect one new revolutionary Carmen innovation…. I expect next, to see one set in a ‘low class’ paella restaurant…and a fight in the kitchen starts, between two waitresses. I claim copyright on that silly loathsome idea …here and now! You heard it first..right here!

    How many operas where oppression of some kind is suggested , will audiences be subjected to the same ‘dazzling concept ideas’…..placards, grilles, walls, fences, pickets and iron bars? I can remember when suspended overhead swings were in vogue for everything from Orfeo et Euridice to Rusalka for a while, till it died down. Then we had wall to wall garden lawns inside the four walls of dwellings….for things like Werther to Don Giovanni. That was considered ‘cool’ for a while. If one thinks carefully, and keeps mental track of various productions: noting the various passe’ staging trends and tricks in opera, you see set design & production idea plagiarism, rearing its head like a smelling pile of rotten rubbish. Now it is ‘use of stunt body doubles’ LED panels and phantasmagorical video displays that are infectiously spreading like a mental ‘worm’ plague throughout the creation of live opera. Then these chaotic directors expect the supercilious trendy creatures — their devotee audience --to gaze upon, examine and analyze these shit concepts/sets: whilst trying to ram their silly interretations down other sane people’s throats as ‘work of genius’. Instead contently, I leave them collectively to ‘just merrily play with themselves.’ Usually the falling subscriptions and box office receipts usually tell the true story.

  • pernille

    Completely OT ( sorry)
    I just saw on Garan?a website that she has announced a string of cancellations -- she also had some health-related cancellations last year -- what gives? Anyone know? We need all the good singers we can get.

  • pernille

    Completely OT ( sorry)
    I just saw on Garan?a website that she has announced a string of cancellations -- she also had some health-related cancellations last year -- what gives? Anyone know? We need all the good singers we can get.

    • pernille

      Sorry about the double post -- I’m not sure what happened.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Back to sanity:

    • pernille

      Thank you for posting this. I have totally blanked on what it is Marilyn Horne is singing in this clip. Can someone help me?

      • rapt

        It’s Urbain’s aria from Les Huguenots--not the entrance aria, but the one from the second act.

        • pernille

          Thank you, rapt.
          Now I can stop playing it in my head and go onto something else. Much appreciated!

  • FWIW, I’m going to see the Bieito in Basel this weekend and will write about it chez moi.

    • CruzSF

      I, for one, am looking forward to reading your take on it. (Love the illustrations chez vous, by the way.)

      • Aww, thanks, Cruz!
        An old friend did the header; her website is linked on my About page if you’d like to check out her work.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Calixto bis zum kotzen (nudity)
    At 2:20, an outraged audience member flees Bieto Hanover Trovatore

    Bieto Lulu

    Bieto Gluck Armida

    By the way, La Juntwait could learn a lot from these European hosts

    Bieto Don Carlo

    Bieto Macbeth

    Bieto Carmen

    Bieto Wozzeck


  • La marquise de Merteuil

    These works are not boring or old fashioned, only the performers are, as Callas pointed out.

    Regie is now the tradition or the rule, and tradition is the exception in Europe -- but they (directors) don’t see it. And to quote Robert Alexander: The concept is, there is no concept. Some operas do work out of their context/timeframe (IMO eg Traviata, DFOS, Don Giovanni, Butterfly & Turandot), and others just do not (eg Tosca, in particular historical works like Stuarda/Devereux/Don Carlos, Salome, Elektra).