Cher Public

Sicilian Whispers

Fabio-Armiliato_thumbThere is no peace for Verdi in Parma. 

As a second production of its Verdi Festival the Teatro Regio presented I vespri siciliani on October 10,  starring Giacomo Prestia as Procida, Leo Nucci as Monforte, and the lovebirds Daniela Dessì and Fabio Armiliato as Elena and Arrigo. 

Armiliato receives a fair amount of boos during the performance.  Right before the fifth and last act, the management announces that Armiliato is indisposed, but has agreed to finish the performance.  This does not prevent further boos at curtain calls, while, as it always happens, other member of the audience were trying to shush the booers.

In televised interviews right after the performance, both Armiliato and Dessì claim that the fracas had been caused by a very small group of “facinorosi” (bullies) intent in damaging not so much Armiliato as the Verdi festival itself.

A couple of days later Armiliato writes on Facebook that the day after the premiere he has been seen by a leading expert at the hospital of Brescia, and he has been diagnosed with a labyrinthitis.

The Teatro Regio asks tenor Carlos Ventre to be on call for the second performance, but Armiliato insists in going on stage.

Enrico Stinchelli, famous critic, co-host of the RAI radio show La barcaccia, writes an opera letter to Armiliato on the Italian forum Opera Click.  In brief, while Stinchelli is sorry to hear about the tenor’s health problems, he adds that in his opinion Arrigo is not a role suitable to Armiliato’s voice to begin with.  According to Stinchelli, Armiliato does not have the facility in the upper register to perform this part (and for the record, this production cuts Arrigo’s arietta with its high D at the beginning of the fifth act).

Armiliato replies with his own open letter, disputing Stinchelli’s assessment and comparing the booers to the Serbian hooligan who had forced the Italy vs. Serbia soccer match in Genova to be suspended with their vandalism just a few days before.  He also claims that there is a whole tradition of Italian spinto and dramatic tenors tackling the role of Arrigo, and throws himself in the famous age-old diatribe of pitch in the 19th century.

Then Armiliato cancels the third performance.  Apparently Carlos Ventre is no longer available, so the management sends on stage a young Korean tenor, Kim Myung Ho, dressed in civilian suit and holding a score.

Who knows what is going to happen in the next two final performances?

  • Harold

    How nice to read a report from Italy that doesn’t use the word “bewbs.”

  • well I’m scheduled to see Wednesday’s performance so I’ll keep you posted as to what goes on. Oh the drama of opera here in Italy.

    They just announced late last week that the final production of our 2010 season here in Roma -- Adrianna -- has been cancelled. Originally they said it would be scheduled for next season now they’ve advised subscribers that the ticket will be credited to our 2011 subscription. 2011 looks good on paper -- Muti doing Moise and Nabucco plus View from the Bridge, Elisir, Boheme, the Salzburg Elektra, La battaglia di Legnano, Abduction but as most press releases here could qualify for the Booker Prize we shall see what comes to pass.

    • Will

      Is the opera from Miller’s play William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge or Renzo Rossellini’s Uno Sguardo dal Ponte?

      • It’s the Bolcom opera, and it will be its European premiere. It’s the production of Lyric Opera of Chicago, conducted by Bartoletti

        • As Ercole says the Bolcom opera.

  • Dawson

    I have found a pic of the Korean tenor reading the score on stage. If I didn’t know he was a last moment replacement, I would have thought it was a classic case of regie.

    • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

      Thanks for the link, Dawson and to Ercole for your report.

      Amazingly it looks like I picked the long straw on 10 October -- at least, if getting to see the cast as announced and hearing a peformance that was broadly up to scratch trumps controversies such as the above, which I sometimes wonder about. On that afternoon I saw June Anderson et al in the Nederlandse Opera production of Dialogues des Carmelites in Nice Opera House (a gem in itself). The French were not on strike on that particular day and this mattered as we relied on public transport to get us back to base in Cannes. [A cab would have doubled out ticket prices.] The whole thing went like clockwork.

      Miss Anderson was in rock-solid form and the crowd responded appropriately, though the strongest reactions were for two supporting players making their débuts on the Cote d’Azur: Sylvie Brunet’s dying Mme de Croissy and Frédéric Antoun as the Chevalier de la Force.

      It was only the following day that we learned of the death of La Stupenda, who once discussed the high b-flat with Miss Anderson as being the product of their opulent chins. What a gal!

      • grimoaldo

        Which part did Anderson play, if that isn’t too ignorant a question?
        She has really kept developing and exploring new paths, good for her. Just a shame that no North American companies hire her any more.

        • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

          Hi grimoaldo. She was the new prioress, Mme Lidoine -- the first to lose her head in the harrowing final scene.

          I really don’t know enough about Miss Anderson -- I recall reading that she never fought shy of expressing her views about dud productions, and this may have hurt her. But she is in excellent voice (and shape), and I can say the same of another American soprano of similar vintage -- Deborah Polaski, whom I saw in the much larger Hamburger Staatsoper as Elektra in May.

          America’s loss is Europe’s -- more specifically, Germany and France’s -- gain. Polaski makes her home in Berlin and Anderson is a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in France, describing herself in the blurb for the production as an adopted Frenchwoman. The French also adore Jerry Lewis and even lean-period Mickey Rourke, mind, but they usually get it right in les affaires culturelles. I certainly would welcome the chance to hear her again some time soon.

          • phoenix

            The historical Lidoine was actually the last to die by the guillotine on that day, but Poulenc had to reserve that place for Blanche de la Force.

          • NYCOQ

            Grimaoldo -- Ms. Anderson can be difficult to say the least. I used to adore her when I first came to opera, but she overstayed her welcome in the bel canto rep about a decade too long. According to her ex, Manuela Hoelterhoff, in Cinderella & Co; she experienced a vocal crisis due to a thyroid condition and the medication used to treat it. There is a brilliant article in Opera News that I am sure her agent is sorry that he suggested. She came across like a lunatic who listens to no one, but the voice in her head. She is her own vocal teacher and coach. She writes her own ornamentations at whatnot. This in and of itself isn’t wrong, but I caught a La Donna del Lago performance in the late ’90s and her cadenzas were MOST UNMUSICAL and tasteless. Well so much for coaching yourself. I last saw her at the Met in Traviata about 6 or 7 years ago. This was back in the Volpe days and she was the “C” cast Violetta with 2 or 3 performances alotted to her (I think). The voice had held up, but it was defitely time to move into other roles.

          • grimoaldo

            Thank you for the replies. I lived in London until five years ago and saw, I believe, everything June Anderson did there. I loved her. She hasn’t been at Covent Garden for years either. I can well believe she is a difficult, maybe rather batty, person, but she has as you say kept herself in shape, still going strong, exploring new paths and developing as an artist. I really love her voice and treasure the memory of her unforgettable Puritanis at Covent Garden.
            Polaski I saw at Covent Garden numerous times as a superb Brunnhilde in the Richard Jones Ring and an excellent Elektra. In my opinion Anderson and Polaski would be much better in many roles than singers who are currently offered by the Met and other “A-list” opera houses but as you say that is France and Germany’s gain and our loss.
            It is odd to me how the “top” opera houses -- the Met, Covent Garden, San Francisco, La Scala for instance -- tend to have a lot of the same stars at the same time and then they all drop them at once. Is this because of the singers’ agents, do you think?
            I hope that Dialogue des Carmelites will surface somewhere on youtube or a broadcast.

      • Buster

        Thanks! Was not Nathalie Dessay supposed to sing in this production too?

        I loved the Carsen production. Rita Gorr sang Mme de Croissy in it when it opened, and said it was her favorite production of the work. The way she threw herself, age 71, into the part was astounding.

    • papopera

      -have we ever seen anything so inane as a backup tenor having to sing with the score ?
      Only in Italia !

      Keep us posted, this is hilarious.

      • The update is that this morning La Barcaccia was almost entirely devoted to the Vespri affair. The correspondent said that the management had been informed of Armiliato’s cancelation at 12 noon, just three hours before the 3pm Sunday matinee. At that point Armiliato himself called in, saying that it wasn’t true, because he had informed the Festival management about his inability to sing the evening before. Stinchelli pointed out that in any case Armiliato had lowered Giorno di pianto half a step since the beginning of the run. We also learned that the young tenor with the score is his handa is a student of the Parma Conservatoire, and had never ever sang a complete performance of any opera in front of an audience. Talk about debut! Singing your very first opera something like Vespri in front of the Parma audience!
        Armiliato also said he intends to sing at least one of the two remaining performances.

  • What exactly is labrynthitis? I’m assuming it means his gardens are fucked up. Or maybe it means he’s a-maze-ing.

    • CruzSF

      It does indeed mean inflammation of the labyrinth, but in this case, probably of the cochlear labyrinth. Usually appears with hearing loss and vertigo. (I’m guessing the word is accidentally misspelled above — maybe first by Armiliato).

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      It’s a pretty common virus that causes you to lose sense of balance. Tends to clear up on its own after a week or 2. No doubt Constantine can furnish further information.

  • Cocky Kurwenal

    I didn’t realise Enrico Stinchelli was still a prominent commentator. I bought his book ‘Stars of the Opera’ when I was a young teenager and couldn’t stop reading it over and over, partly for the treasure-trove of information it provided, partly for the bizarre assertions he occasionally made, and mostly for the hilarious way it reads in the not very idiomatic translation plus typos present in the edition I bought. My favourite part was a long discussion of contemporary hopes in Heldentenors which just ended with the unforgettable line ‘Unfortunately, Siegfriend Jerusalem is completely inadequate both vocally and stylistically’.

    There was also a claim that Kiri made her debut as ‘La Donna Del Lavo’ which put one in mind of Dot Cotton in her launderette, plus this baffling impression he’d formed for himself that Jessye Norman and Margaret Price were practically interchangeable artists.

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard him mentioned in any other context. I’m might start reading him in Italian to see if he seems as pompous. I expect he does.

    • phoenix

      Pompous… he has the primary element required in order to become a treasured Parterrian! I make untold typos & grammatical errors constantly, so that wouldn’t bother me either.
      At least keep us posted on this one. It’s worth a read, for sure.
      And now back to Dot Cotton, with whom I am planning a tea party tomorrow afternoon while we wait to see which of us can tell the difference between Jessye & Margaret when they come in to wash their construction overalls.

  • Will

    phoenix, thanks for the item on Mme. Lidoine and the order of the executions. The idea of Blanche being the last to go seems, from the title, to be the idea of Gertrud von le Fort’s novel Die Letze am Schafott (The Last at the Scaffold) and that’s how Poulenc wrote it.

    The movie, with screenplay by Georges Bernanos’
    based on the von le Fort novel, was not made until a couple of years after the opera premiered and calls for Lidoine to bid farewell to each of the sisters personally, including Blanche who emerges from the crowd after Sr. Constance has been guillotined. Lidoine greets her joyfully, sends her off to the scaffold and THEN goes to her own death.

    Another big difference in the final sequence of the film is that the priest AND Mere Marie (Jeanne Moreau) are in the crowd watching; when Marie’s name is called, she begins to walk toward the scaffold but Lidoine shakes her head “no”. Marie steps back, shaken and when the absent Marie’s name is called again, it is Blanche who takes her place.

    I wondered when I saw this that if the Old Prioress had a horrific death in order to make Blanche’s death an easier one, perhaps Blanche’s death in place of Marie’s is meant to indicate that she dies to give Marie an easier death when the time comes.

    If interested, the entire film, in French with no titles, is available in something like 11 chunks on YouTube. Moreau gets billing above the title as the star, rather than the Blanche or Lidoine. It lasts about 90 minutes.

    • phoenix

      Thanks for this info. I heard of the film, but never saw it. It really scared me when I read about the Carmelites of Compeigne in the Catholic Encyclopedia when I was young and now, with all the beheadings & such being posted all over the internet… I mean that kind of depravity has gone way beyond it’s limits.

    • I’ve seen the film a while ago, because I follow my mother (Moreau) wherever she goes. It’s got a stellar cast too! Alida Valli, Madeleine Renaud, Georges Wilson and the eternal duo of Pierre Brassuer and Jean-Louis Barrault (imported from Enfants du Paradis).

      • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

        That’s a pretty amazing cast, CF -- I must try and track this one down.

        The programme notes for the production I saw went into some of the differences between the Bernanos screenplay and the Poulenc opera but I have learned more again by tuning into this discussion. Merci!

  • Loge

    Let me go on record and say that if Fabio indeed has labyrinthitis I hope he recovers quickly. It is a pretty miserable disease. One is dizzy and it is difficult to walk and even to stand upright. Moreover the patient is frequently nauseated. It also does a psychological number on the patient as his orientation in the universe is off kilter.

  • Regina delle fate

    I think all Italians -- especially the men -- suffer a permanent state of labyrinthitis.

  • Regina delle fate

    By the way -- pace Signor Stinkelli, I’d rather hear Fabio as Arrigo than Burghart Fritz as Henri, as I did recently in Amsterdam.

  • Olivero is my Drug of Choice

    Revive Dialogues at the Met with Magda Olivero making a triumphant return in the role of the Old Prioress!

  • deviafan

    I saw the Sunday perforamnce with Kim Myung Ho, and I thought he did a great job. Arrigo is not an easy role, and to sing while still reading from a score in Parma would be terrifying to say the least. I should also mention that Dessi, Nucci and Prestia all contributed to a wonderful performance.

  • I saw last evening’s performance (20th) and Kim Myung Ho sang the Arrigo -- this time without a score, in costume and with most of the staging in tact. Dessi, Nucci and Presita seemed to be guiding him through some of the movements. As Deviafan says it must have been a terrifying experience given that he had three days to achieve a semblance of a performance. That said I hope for his sake he isn’t called on to do this sort of thing too often.

    I honestly don’t feel I can say much more as I was a guest of the house as compensation for some problems earlier in the year at a performance of Un Giorno di Regno.

  • The war between Armiliato and Stinchelli continues. This time La Signora Dessì posted a nasty message on Stinchelli’s FB page:
    Daniela Dessì:
    Ma possibile che non abbiate altro da fare che perdere il vostro fiato parlando dei Vespri Siciliani di Parma,spettacolo di grande classe con colleghi e direttore straordinari.
    Enrico oggi ho ascoltato,come potevi ben immaginare,la tua trasmissione alle 13 e l’ho trovata veramente di cattivo gusto. Mi meraviglio molto dei tuoi modi e della mancanza di rispetto nei miei confronti cosa che non mi sarei mai aspettata.Concludo,e non entrerò mai più nelle vostre sterili disquisizioni,pregandovi di non farmi bersaglio delle tue/vostre polemiche con il Festival parmigiano e chi lo dirige. Grazie Buona notte.
    Basically she asks him why he is wasting his breath speaking about Vespri; she found that episode of La Barcaccia of bad taste, claims that he has no respect for her, and asks him not to speak about her anymore

    And Stinchelli replies:
    Enrico Stinchelli Cara Daniela , mi dispiace che tu abbia trovato “di cattivo gusto” e “sterili disquisizioni” la trasmissione di oggi, se permetti sono io a stupirmi di questo tuo astioso intervento: non potrei mai credere che tu non sappia accettare, da donna intelligente e artista sensibile, delle critiche o opinioni contrarie alle tue. Tu dici che questi “Vespri siciliani” siano una meraviglia, io semplicemente dico di no e mi sembra che le varie registrazioni in circolazione lo dimostrino abbondantemente. In un normale contraddittorio si accettano i plausi e le critiche. Quanto al ‘gusto’…io ho trovato di cattivo gusto l’attacco del tema sulla coda del Bolero con un rallentando da strapaese, per esempio…o parecchie altre cose che non mi va di elencare qui. Parli di ‘mancanza di rispetto’ , bene, dimostrami dove e come ciò sia avvenuto e sarò il primo a scusarmi. si ha un rapporto ‘diretto’ e non ruffiano, Daniela, una critica vera vale più di una lode fasulla!
    He replies attacking her performance of the Bolero, citing her pedestrian rallentandos (among other things) and telling her than a heartfelt criticism has mort worth than fake praise.