Cher Public

Plus ça change

80s“At some point, Met officialdom will have to recognize the continuing failures of the current arrangement, under which the titular artistic director of the company, James Levine, makes sure that he gets the singers he wants for his own performances and seems content to leave Mr. Friend to improvise the remainder of the season.” How quaint to think that, only 22 years and three Met General Managers ago, everything was so completely different… at the New York Times!  [NYT]

  • DAMN!

    My favorite part:

    “…replacements often must be dug up, figuratively speaking…”

    as opposed to when they are LITERALLY dug up, say, from the “halcyon days,” to perform zombie opera…….

  • Dawson

    Thank you Madame La Cieca for digging up this invaluable article. In 1988 the New York Times had the balls to write an article like this. Can you imagine cowardly, ass-licker Tommasini writing it?
    Jonathan Friend has been a scourge for the Met for almost 30 years. He knows nothing about voice, is too cosy with some agents and has been responsible for keeping huge talent away from the Met. Why oh why is he still there?

    • phoenix

      kickbacks? my favorite subject!

    • Harold

      Cosy with agents? To be fair, he despises agents in general so I find it hard to believe that he could be cosy with anyone who is in a profession that he abhors.

    • CruzSF

      Please don’t demean ALL ass-lickers with this comment:

      Can you imagine cowardly, ass-licker Tommasini writing it

  • Pelleas

    One thing confuses me, though--wasn’t Troyanos the Cesare for 7 of the 8 performances that season (including the premiere)? I can’t believe he mistook her for Nafe, or would have considered them interchangeable in any way.

    • justanothertenor

      The author indeed made a mistake. He was referring to the Opening Night of Carmen, in which Nafé made her Met debut. She sang the first three performances of Carmen that season and was never again seen at the Met.

      • I ordinarily distrust the excuse “editing error,” but it seems to be what happened in this case. Apparently a sentence or phrase got lost somewhere: the context make it clear that Henahan is referring to the “opening night” of Carmen that season (November 11, 1988), a stellar affair featuring the debuts of Mme. Nafe, M. Lafont, and Cheryl Studer (as Micaela!), plus Gary Lakes as Don Jose. There are similarly dreary revivals of Cav/Pag (Ermanno Mauro in both operas) and Butterfly the same fall, in between respectable casts for Lucia and Barbiere. It’s obvious, though, that the house’s resources were focused on the new production of Gotterdammerung and the opening night (later telecast) Trovatore: no need to mention who was on the podium those evenings.

      • richard

        I saw the first of the Carmens. It was a debut for Nafe, Lafont (who really almost did fall over), and …Cheryl Studer.

        On the whole it was a sorry mess but Studer was actually very good.

        • Orlando Furioso

          No reason she shouldn’t have been. For a while, and in the right music, it was a voice in a million. Too bad things went off track so soon and so badly.

  • MontyNostry

    Nafé, whom I saw as Rosina and Adalgisa (to the Norma of Margaret Price in her sole run!) was a sort of Berganza manquée, wasn’t she?

    • I wonder if there is any truth to the rumo(u)r that British opera queens deliberately left off the last syllable when pronouncing her surname.

  • MontyNostry

    A colleague of mine — who was like something from a Carry On film — used to refer to her as ‘Naff Alice’.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    This does bring back memories of bad old days. Ermano Mauro was a reason I stopped buying season tickets.

    But when was it not ever thus?

    • Pelleas

      His Des Grieux is on Sirius as I type. He really was a rather infamous casting, uh, curiosity back in the 80s, wasn’t he?

      OMG the crazy weeping in the middle of “Pazzo son”--hilarious. The weird gasping for breath before the final phrase--not so much.

      • MontyNostry

        For a horrible moment, I thought you meant in Massenet!

    • Tim

      He’s the dude who stated that Jussi Bjorling had no style! Nuff said.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    It’s all so depressing!

  • peter

    The Met has been plagued by some real mediocre casting as far as I can remember. I attended a performance of Ballo in 1976 where Elinor Ross and Barry Morell (both passed their prime) canceled and were replaced by Klara Barlow and Misha Raitzin. They were joined by Rita Shane and Jean Craft. Luckily we had Sherrill Milnes. The Met season is just too long to have consistently strong casts.

    • SanDiegoSuzanne

      I don’t think a long season is an excuse. The Met is suppost to be Americans Premier Opera Company. As an opera lover on the opposite side of the Country, I am often stunned by the singers whose bio includes “appeared at the Met….”

      I am even more stunned that the bios of the amazing AMERICAN singers and singer/actors whose bios cannot include “appeared at the Met”. Scott Hendricks and Andrew Richards pop to mind.

      • Sue Brett

        Amen, sister.

    • first time I hear anyone dissing Jane Craft.

      • Gualtier M

        Especially since she is actually Jean Kraft -- however Ulrica was never really her fach. BTW: I think Ms. Kraft moved back to NY about a year or two ago to teach voice.

        • peter

          I liked Jean Craft very much but she wasn’t an Ulrica, as GM points out. She owned the role of the Mother in Hansel for years at the Met.

          • peter

            Oops. I did it too. It was Jean Kraft, not Craft.

  • Nerva Nelli

    These may have been my worst Met casts ever:

    Metropolitan Opera House
    December 11, 1975

    COSÌ FAN TUTTE {77}

    Fiordiligi…………..Clarice Carson
    Ferrando…………….Enrico Di Giuseppe
    Dorabella……………Huguette Tourangeau
    Guglielmo……………Lenus Carlson
    Despina……………..Colette Boky
    Don Alfonso………….Fernando Corena

    Conductor……………Kazimierz Kord

    Metropolitan Opera House
    March 23, 1983

    MADAMA BUTTERFLY {629}

    Cio-Cio-San………….Nicole Lorange
    Pinkerton……………Ermanno Mauro
    Suzuki………………Claudia Catania
    Sharpless……………Richard Fredricks

    Conductor……………Eugene Kohn

    • phoenix

      I stayed for awhile at that Cosi… hugette looked like lenus’ mother

    • peter

      The first Met performance of Rigoletto this year as broadcast on Sirius would make either of those two performances wonderful.

  • iltenoredigrazia

    Three comments: 1) Uninspired casts existed before Levine joined the Met. 2) Shouldn’t rush to judge quality of the performance by the printed cast. Some casts with big names can result in pretty bad performances. Remember Norma and Turandot in recent seasons? 3) Henahan’s reviews contained errors more often than not. (Benackova for Khovanschina?) He who lives in a glass house…

    • m. croche

      Yes, yes to point #3. My recollection of Henahan’s tenure at the NYT was that he was a pretty miserable critic, reliably wrong, and that I was not in the least sorry to see him go.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Henahan:

  • Henry Holland

    From the link:

    A company whose tradition requires it to put on seven performances a week for six and a half months each season

    What tradition is that? Is someone holding a gun to their head?

    Is there an old blue law/religious reason there’s no Sunday performances because without them it’s a real pain in the ass for us out-of-towners to schedule stuff.

    • CruzSF

      Well, do you think there’d be no moaning here about the end of the world if the Met reduced its schedule to 5 performances a week?

      • Henry Holland

        People here will moan about the sun rising in the morning. They will moan about the sun setting in the evening. They will moan about the sun’s continued presence in the sky during the day.

        I’m just curious why it’s a “tradition” that a Met season lasts forever and why there’s no Sunday performances.

        • Dawson

          The Met has wanted for a very long time to add a performance on Sunday and drop one on Saturday, but I have always heard that the unions have constantly opposed this idea.

          • mrmyster

            Remember when the Met would send a production
            down to Philadelphia every Tuesday? I always thought
            that was very civilized, gave the NY house a rest one
            night a week, and the shows were well patronized at the
            old Academy of Music in Phil. I wonder why they stopped
            it? Anyone know?

      • justanothertenor

        Strangely enough, the Met DOES only have 5 performances this week, and only 6 next week. I have noticed this creeping in in the past few seasons. It used to be just the first two weeks of the season, but now it happens pretty routinely.

        • prunier

          I think they sometimes take nights off to schedule rehearsals for upcoming openings.

          The season also runs later into the spring than it used to, so the total number of performances may not have decreased.

          • richard

            Up until the end of the Volpe years, the Met never had dark nights Mon-Sat thoughtout the season except for an occasional dark Christmas/
            Thanksgiving. In the middle of the last decade, the Met went dark for two weeks in January, the reason given was that the company “focused on rehearsals” during that time . But January is a very tough box office month so the cynical side of me tells me they didn’t put on performances that would be difficult to sell out. And the two weeks were added back on in May.

            A year or two after that, there were weekday gaps , as justanothertenor notes, in the first weeks of the season, presumably to ease the craziness of doing a lot of rehearsing and putting on performances at the same time.

            All in all it makes sense to me, lots of other theaters do it and I’m sure they can rearrange the subscriptions so that no oen is really affected.

        • Regina delle fate

          More new productions meanz more dark nights. English National Opera has more dark nights than performances nowadays.

    • papopera

      Well……how much do they make really? What are the fees ? Always wondered how much they are paid per performance ?? Is it public or secret ?

      • SilvestriWoman

        Though I can’t speak to salary figures, I doubt money is the issue; rather, some time off. For the chorus, it can brutal, as contracts can allow them to work 10-14 days without a break. Just this Saturday, the chorus has Boris and Boheme back to back. I’d say that makes for a pretty damn long day.

  • Harold

    I never thought I would be defending Jonathan Friend, but here are a couple thoughts:

    New York is a long way from Europe, and the Met has never paid the kinds of fees that artists can earn in Europe. This was especially true in the 1980’s and 1990’s. So, if Edita Gruberova (for example) is invited to sing at the Met, it means devoting a large block of time away from Europe, where she might get to go home between performances and not earn the kinds of fees that she can earn at home.

    The Met had a system of second casts/covers in place so that if the first-cast artist canceled, the cover was in the second cast. Guaranteeing performances was a way of guaranteeing solid back-up singers in the first cast.

    There are a lot of performances to cast, so it is not usual to find some really stinky casts where the first or second choices might have canceled with no time to find a replacement of the same caliber. For example the above-mentioned Così fan tutte was the second cast of the following artists:

    Fiordiligi…………..Elizabeth Harwood [Debut]
    Ferrando…………….Ryland Davies [Debut]
    Dorabella……………Anne Howells [Debut]
    Guglielmo……………Richard Stilwell [Debut]
    Despina……………..Colette Boky
    Don Alfonso………….Renato Capecchi

    It’s a very heavily British cast, but the level was slightly higher than the second cast.

    And last, Jonathan Friend had to do Maestro Levine’s bidding for good or bad. It’s hard to know without being in-the-know whose choices were whose.

    I would be happy to see him go if there were a better choice out there to replace him. Is there?

    • papopera

      What kind of fees compared to Europe ??…of course european theatres are all subsidized by the state. But what does it mean in $ $ $ $ figures ???

  • sterlingkay

    I’m sorry, I know its a favorite past time to bitch about the casting at the MET on this site but certainly of the operas that have been performed thus far this season all but RIGOLETTO have been, I think well cast…The RHEINGOLD, BORIS and HOFFMAN had superlative musical values with strong casts accross the board (whatever you thought of the productions) and the BOHEME had the debut of two very promising young singers.

    • Very true, but let’s look at the circumstances:

      1. Rheingold: Jame levine conducting, and we know that what Jimmy wants, Jimmy gets; at least in terms of casting.

      2. Boris: New production done for one of the Met’s star bases. As the 20 year old article says (and still holds true to this day) no expense was spared for a new production.

    • scifisci

      That rigoletto cast was truly awful. I never thought it would get worse than amsellem and aronica but it did. The worst part is that they could have given a promising young soprano a chance to sing Gilda. It could have gone from a sub-par routine revival to a new discovery. But of course, Schafer has a record deal so she must be good. (rolls eyes)

      This “star casting” is the kind of outdated, antiquated thinking that plagues the Met’s casting department. They need to realize that there are no mid-level opera stars anymore. There’s just literally a few big names who alone will sell an opera, and it’s a lot fewer than they think. For an example of such delusional thinking, Deborah Voigt is NOT one of these big names. Not a single run of operas she has headlined have sold well. But instead of looking at the actual numbers with respect to so-called “stars” with questionable voices, they just go by what they assume to be true. Therefore, instead of realizing the debbie has a mediocre voice and not-so-huge box office appeal, they go on believing she’s this huge star that will make the difference between a sold out and half-empty house. Unfortunately, most of the Met’s casting department has been there for 20+ years and isn’t going anywhere.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        I suffered through a Schafer song recital a year or two ago and it was horrendous. I can’t imagine how she’d come across as Gilda in a large house. That does seem like very strange casting.

        • armerjacquino

          She was terrific in the first run of the McVicar Rigoletto, and there were no volume problems in CG.

          Even as the world’s most miscast Sophie at the Met earlier this year, she acted well and the voice sounded good (if utterly, utterly wrong).

          • manou

            Yes Schafer was good in the McVicar production, and so is Ciofi in the current run, not forgetting Hvorotovsky who is surprisingly outstanding as Rigoletto.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I’ll take your word for it. I suppose that if she’s given a long line to sing she might behave better and irritate less. I’ll be steering well clear for evermore though!

      • Feldmarschallin

        actually Schaefer hasn’t had a record deal with DG in ages. She had one or two CD’s come out on there label and then there were some differences as to what she wanted to record and what they wanted her to record and she opted out. She has since recorded one or two CD’s on smaller labels and also paid for her own recording of the Winterreise. At least she wasn’t just a whore and let them do whatever they wanted and showed some sort of integrity. I haven’t heard the recent Gildas but have heard from several people whom I trust that she wasn’t very good. I wasn’t impressed last season with the Sophie’s and she had retired the role already but did the Met a favor since they begged her to sing it. Her Lulu in 2000 and 2001 was spectacular IMO. She was a great Gilda at Covent Garden IMO but perhaps her days of Gilda should be coming to an end. Not that easy for a lyric soprano with a light voice at her age to get into new rep. Battle was a similiar type of voice without the brain and was in a similiar situation. Not all are like Popp whose voice matured into heavier roles and could go into Arabella and Elsa. But Popp always had a fuller voice even in her young days. Same with Gruberova and Damrau. Schaefer and Battle are not so lucky. Notice how Popp went from Susanna to Contessa but Schaefer from Susanna (if she indeed sung Susanna) to Cherubino. Kuehmeier sounds like she will go the route of Popp perhaps. And no voices are alike so as spectacular as Popp’s Koenigin der Nacht was, it lastly for a very little time and she only once sang Zerbinetta and came to grief with it vowing never to sing the role again. As soon as Popp could she gave the role up and even admitted that she always was nervous abouting hitting the F’s. I doubt that Gruberova or Damrau ever that feeling since their voices lie higher than Popp’s. With Popp I always felt those F’s were the result of very hard work. But even in her KdN’s days she never had the freak upper extension like Moser, Gruberova or Damrau.

        • poisonivy

          I heard Schafer’s Gilda this year. She’s an intelligent singer and a good actress. She’s kept her looks, and for that reason still looks believable. The issue is her voice just isn’t attractive anymore. It’s turned rather hard and metallic, with a whistly top register.

          Feld is right that many light lyric sopranos have a hard time graduating from the -inas and -ettas. Even ones with a fuller voice. I have a video of Hilde Gueden in Nozze di Figaro. She’s no longer singing Susanna, but Contessa. It’s 1963. Her overall tone is still nice, but she seems very wrong for the part, totally lacking the aristocratic hauteur, and just altogether too cheerful and soubrettish. Afterwards I quickly put on my cd of her as Susanna to cleanse the palet.

        • Nerva Nelli

          “She has since recorded one or two CD’s on smaller labels and also paid for her own recording of the Winterreise.”

          Boy,I’m sure glad I didn’t!

          • Buster

            Christine Schäfer is heartbreaking in the Christoph Marthaler Traviata -- will that production ever be on DVD?

            Any singer who sticks out her neck for Crumb deserves a lot of credit, in my opinion. The recitals I attended were splendid -- apart from Apparition I have very fond memories of her Dichterliebe.

          • Edward George

            Buster,

            You can find download links to the video of the Marthaler Traviata at TodOpera:

            TodOpera pg838

          • Buster

            Thank you, sir.

        • She can do terrific recital work because she’s a great communictor and of course, the Seven Deadlies. There are tons of things she could do, like Melisande or Poppea. She has never been one of nature’s charmers or had a ‘natural’ voice. The Gilda worked at one time because scenically it was gripping although the voice was never really a natural in it. Trviata is one of those roles (like Susanna) which can work for many voices in many ways if you know what you’re doing.

          Roschmann is one of those singers (like Popp or Schwarzkopf or Della Casa) who made the transition from the lighter Susanna into Contessas. But Roschmann made some bad career choices (re her Salzburg Vitellia) and is intent on ‘faking the colour’ to dire consequences -- the top is all but gone. Sadly, because she is arguably a real artist. And is currently unlistenable.

          I think Kuhmeier has an impressive career ahead of her. It sounds to me to be a very ‘natural’ instrument and it develops accordingly. She may sing Eva or Elisabeth one of these days and her Brahms requiem solo is already legendary. There’s lots of freshness and individuality in all she does.

          • The Vicar of John Wakefield

            “I think Kuhmeier has an impressive career ahead of her. It sounds to me to be a very ‘natural’ instrument and it develops accordingly. She may sing Eva or Elisabeth one of these days and her Brahms requiem solo is already legendary. ”

            Not remotely in the Anne Evans class.

          • I guess before 1985 or so. The top was rather flat by then, if still luminous. I love her Chrysothemis though, sort of hoch-coloratura in a way. My benchmark in the Brahms is Grummer for Kempe. Sorry, not M Price.

          • armerjacquino

            That Roschmann Vitellia is thrilling, but you can hear what it’s costing her.

          • But AJ don’t you prefer a more ‘butch’ sound like Casula or Pendatschanska or, in her way, Varady? For Roschmann there’s too much pressure on the middle voice. Well, it’s a killer role.

          • armerjacquino

            Vanness is the benchmark for me as Vitellia, particularly in the middle and lower registers. Roschmann clearly doesn’t have the right voice for it, but her dramatic and vocal commitment are what make it a thrilling performance- like Scotto’s Abigaille, to make a slightly esoteric comparison.

          • Vanness too, of course. With Roschmann it’s not just the voice, the temperament is somehow lacking. The best singing AS singing of the aria I ever heard is by JDD on a CD containing the clarinet concerto, under Bruggen with the wonderful Eric Hoeprich.

          • armerjacquino

            CF- I have just gone straight to itunes and bought that JDD version, I didn’t know it even existed. I’ll listen to it later as I’m currently watching the football (man of contrasts, me) but I’ll be very impressed if she matches Vaness in the ‘veggo la morte’ low section. I’ve been waiting 20 years for someone to match her but nobody has…

          • let me know and enjoy the match ! :)

          • Tamerlano

            Kuhmeier’s voice is stunning…the naturalness of her approach and the honest way in which she communicates is SO refreshing. She easily outshines Pieconka in their clip together.

          • armerjacquino

            That Arabella duet is quite gloriously sung by both artists, I think.

          • Regina delle fate

            Varady was certainly the most exciting Vitellia on stage followed by Vaness and even Janet Baker who always omitted the D in the trio. Vaness’s low notes were good, but Varady’s were even better. Röschmann’s Vitellia was like hearing Freni attempting Lady Macbeth. Pendachanska also has lots of temperament and all of the notes, but I only know her Vitellia from record. Where does she sing, apart from with René Jacobs in concert? As for the Vicar’s Kühmeier/Evans comparison, when Kühmeier sings Brünnhilde at Bayreuth maybe he will have a point.

          • Indiana Loiterer III

            For Alexandra Pendatchanska, who I’ve seen live and admired as Ermione at NYCO, see:

            http://www.pendatchanska.com/

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Kuhmeier sounds quite lovely, but I think to hear Elisabeth in her future takes quite a lot of imagination. She does resemble a young Roschmann, without the driven tense quality which is partly what made Roschmann so individual and has led to most of her problems. I don’t hear a totally released, healthy sound though, in any of the 3 excerpts.

  • steveac10

    I just wish the Met (and all major houses) weren’t still so obsessed with planning ages ahead (Thanks Ingpen). Last year’s cover managed the above with no notice and probably no stage or orchestra rehearsal. At least a full minute of roaring applause (that’s still going strong when the clip gets cut off)and the result….she’s still the cover. To add insult to injury we got the vastly inferior Anna Cristy to open the revival. Why is a real Olympia covering an over parted Papagena? Jonathan? Sarah? Anybody?

    • Gilmore is *amazing* why on earth isn’t the Met giving her the props she deserves?

      • MontyNostry

        Gilmore? For a moment, I thought you were referring to the terrifying Gail (who looks a lot like late disco divo Sylvester, I always think).

        • Nerva Nelli

          Ah, MontyNostry, warped minds think alike!

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Gail Gilmore is a new one on me -- does she think she’s Grace Jones or what? It’s like she’s trying to be as freaky and terrifying as possible. I note with interest that is says on her website she includes Elektra among her roles. Has anybody ever had the pleasure?

          There is a version of the same duet on YouTube with Plowright having a bad night, for those who are really perverted.

          • peter

            Gail Gilmore sang Kundry at the Met in the 80’s. There is a broadcast of her performance. I vaguely remember that she was some how “involved” with Deborah Polaski at the time.

          • MontyNostry

            Never mind the weird, wobbly, squeezed-out sound, the acting makes me think of a pantomime dame. “Look behind you, Aida!”

          • Nerva Nelli

            The recording to look for is a “Broadway Night” in Germany with Gail V.(please!) Gilmore and Ramon Vargas. Her contribution is… beyond words.

          • MontyNostry

            Sounds like you really could blame it all on the nights on Broadway.

          • Feldmarschallin

            yes I had the pleasure. Kundry was one role. And I think Amneris too. The less one says about her the better. She was the girlfriend of Polaski at the time. Can we say register break or what? Once they were doing a bunch of Aidas at the Olympiahalle….One each night for 7 days I think and I went and volunteered as a super. I did hear Bumbry as Aida so not all was horrible but there were also people like Lynn Strow Piccolo. Another one we should forget real fast. But Gilmore did manage to make to the Nationaltheater for one or two Kundry’s which I attended. Bjoner and then Meier were the resident Kundry’s but for some reason we the pleasure of getting Gilmore. The voice was of fairly large size but hooty and pitch was not her thing either really. I also remember Bruna Baglioni who also sang some of those Ammerises. She sang mainly in the Italian provinces but I guess managed to cross the Alps once or twice too. Another fairly large voice.

          • Buster

            “but there were also people like Lynn Strow Piccolo”

            And Fiamma Izzo d’Amico.

        • steveac10

          This is why they hate us!

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Very beautiful voice, and incredible upper extension! Did she go all the way up to an a-flat, or have I got the key of the aria wrong?

      • iltenoredigrazia

        Those were about the highest notes I’ve ever heard a soprano sing. Wow.

        • richard

          Higher than this?

          • iltenoredigrazia

            Another wow. I’ve heard of Mado Robin and her very high extension but had not actually heard her. I probably should Google her. Did she sing opera? In the US? Is she alive?

          • papopera

            my piano tells me thats a Bb in the stratosp?ere one octave higher than the
            high Bb. Big deal. Mado tu hurles, ma chérie.

          • Of the French coloraturas, this is my favorite in one of my favorite recordings of hers:

        • MontyNostry

          Poor Mado died young, I believe. Those B flats in altissimo obviously did her in eventually.

          • luvtennis

            Indeed. I think they caused an aneurism.

            (This is a complete urban legend, but one that just seems right!)

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Cancer, possibly leukaemia in 1960, sadly. Sang lots of opera in France.

          • richard

            I always heard it was leukemia. She died about age 40. The only opera she sang in the US was
            at the SFO in 1954, where she sang Gilda and Lucia. She got into a fight with Fausto Cleva who wasn’t crazy about interpolated high notes (boy , was that a bad match-up of conductor to soprano).

            Robin wanted to interpolate a high B above high C (not sure where a B would fit) and Cleva said no. I think Mado sang the note anyway so an alternate conductor did Mado’s remaining performances.

            Robin only appeared in NYC at an April in Paris affair held at the Waldorf.

            Rumor has it there is a recording of her in Barber with she sings a C in altissimo. Hmm.. maybe.

            Actually this youtube transfer is crummy sounding. I have a set of videos including this one as well as some old LPs and the super acuti are pretty full sounding, not at all like squeaks.

            But her coloratura, ah, lacks “polish”. I think it was mostly the whistle register and not a whole lot else but I’ve heard that her complete Lakme is very lovely (never heard it)

          • luvtennis

            Cocky:

            Your account is both sad and pedestrian. Too pedestrian for such a demented songbird.

            How about this. . . .

            Robin died during an ill-advised attempt to sing the c in altissimo. She hit the note with ease, apparently, but her success went to her head, alas in more ways than one. She tried to follow up the c with a d. Unfortunately, her head exploded and she died instantly. Apparently several recording engineers also suffered from fatal ear trauma. The resulting recording was banned, but if you promise to sleep with the curator at the national archives, they will let you listen using special headphones.

            How’s that?

          • luvtennis

            Indeed, Richard. Robin’s superacuti were very full, not at all the sort of squeaks that you get with Dessay or Moser or Fleming on say a G. She could hold those puppies, and they had vibrancy and juice.

            That said, the coloratura was pretty amateurish in execution -- sometimes spot on and exciting, more often clumsy and slightly off.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Luvtennis, apparently although she almost never performed anything higher than a b-flat in public, she regularly vocalised up to the c-sharp or d. So although your story is a good bit more exciting, she wouldn’t have been doing anything too out of the ordinary. Unless it was a cumulative effect, of course.

            I agree -- for a coloratura soprano, her coloratura tended to be pretty sketchy. National treasure she may have been, but she was something of a one trick pony. I bought a CD of her during my teens when high notes were the single most important thing to me, and once you’d heard the first track there wasn’t really any point listening to the rest of it, since her ‘Ah vous dirais-je maman’ made exactly the same impression as her Lucia mad scene.

          • luvtennis

            Cocky:

            You are being too literal again!!! Remember, when in doubt go for drama and trashiness. The truth means nothing today.

            Robin was long dead before I arrived on the scene, but my experience with her was remarkably similar. I checked out her records at the Loeb Library at Harvard. She was freakishly exciting for about a week, but like all freakishly exciting experiences, the the thrill began to pall almost immediately.

            Kind of like hard drugs, or so I have been told.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Hopefully without the ruinous consequences.

          • armerjacquino

            ‘I started with a bit of Mado Robin… I thought I could handle it…Before I knew it I was getting into the hard stuff. Hellen Kwon, Beverley Hoch… even Yma Sumac’

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            *googles for Hellen Kwon, thereby proving ArmerJ’s point*

          • armerjacquino

            I wouldn’t if I were you.

          • papopera

            She was only 42 when she croaked her last scream. Cancer généralisé.

          • Harry

            You can hear Mado Robin hit a G sharp above top C on one recorded item ‘Variations on the Carnival of Venice’ she did.
            She was said to be a very wealthy lady in her own right, as well. Perhaps that explains why sh did not have ‘to seek or plead’ to get work. I have a couple of mint vinyl recordings of her from EMI Pathe Maconi on the shelves.

          • iltenoredigrazia

            How high did Yma Sumac go?

    • MontyNostry

      Kathleen Kim wasn’t exactly a knockout either, as far as I could tell from the audio broadcast (and from her Zerbinetta too).

      • richard

        No, I heard Kim on an audio feed too and thought she was ok but not extraordinary as Olympia. It would have been good from a singer doing all the roles but not from a singer hired to do just this one.

        Her Zerbinetta was really subpar. So of course she’s repeating it this season. Actually that’s not all that fair, as I recall she was a replacement in both roles.

        Gilmore sounds spectacular indeed!

    • armerjacquino

      That is sensational.

    • manou

      *****

    • Sue Brett
      • Cocky Kurwenal

        How old is she? Judging by the photographs, it doesn’t look like her path can have been THAT long or THAT slow.

      • armerjacquino

        Uh oh, she’s gorgeous. Which means I give it a year before people start complaining that she CAN’T SING and it’s all a DISGRACE and BRING BACK JEANETTE SCOVOTTI.

        • The Vicar of John Wakefield

          Bring back Gwen Catley!

          • Harry

            Doing the Skater’s Waltz no doubt! AH! The memories of childhood and 78 RPM records.

        • steveac10

          On the other hand, with that kind of debut Bing would have had her on the schedule for at least 15 performances the next season. With Fiend and Billingsgate it’ll be 2015 before they’ll schedule her as Barbarina for the spring run to capitalize on her success.

          • The Vicar of John Wakefield

            It’s not like she’s proved her worth at the ENO like Anna Christy. Neither Yank, however, holds a candle to Eddy or Bronhill.

    • louannd

      • luvtennis

        What a stunning young lyric coloratura. Hope she gets all she can out of the upper extension -- such things cannot last forever. Fortunately the rest of the voice seems well-produced and full enough for the big highflying coloratura roles -- QotN, Zerbinetta, Constanze, Lakme and Dinorah. Wonder if she has enough oomph for the Huguenots Queen.

        Does she have any cds available yet?

        • louannd

  • Nerva Nelli

    “Gilmore is *amazing* why on earth isn’t the Met giving her the props she deserves?”

    Indeed!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzWt_L7IBNw&feature=related

  • florezrocks

    Y’all need to go read Opera News’ massive interview with Netrebko.

    so much dirt!!!

  • Byrnham Woode

    Several points.

    Gail Gilmore also appeared at the MET as both Frickas and the Composer in ARIADNE. The Kundry was, I believe, her only broadcast.

    All this was in the late 1980s, when she was rather big in German opera houses. The MET clearly used her as a “second cast” back up to prima ladies such as Troyanos and Meier, and Gilmore (or her agent) was able to contract her for her own performances as well as covering. I am reminded that the MET needs good covers.

    I question how quickly Rudolf Bing could have scheduled more than a couple of nights for a breakthrough sensation such as Rachel Gilmore. The lady has other dates of her own elsewhere which he would have to buy her out of. She was a sensational Zerbinetta here in Boston last spring, not long after the MET Hoffmann.

    It was Bing who expanded the season from a late November opening to late September, And the move to contract important artists years in advance began during his tenure as well. Of course it was happening all over the world and is a very difficult policy to act in opposition to.

    For instance, the MET has contracts for a number of upcoming RING operas over the next three years. Bayreuth is about to announce it’s new RING cast -- not scheduled till 2013. I’m sure each theater is very concerned that these artists can still sing 3 and 4 years hence. But if they don’t sign them up, others will.

  • jhr

    Hi gang!

    I’m a young opera lover of moderate knowledge, and new to NYC. Which 5 productions do you recommend I see at the Met this season? I’m thinking:

    boris godunov,
    Nixon in China
    la traviata
    don carlo
    das rheingold

    what do you think? thanks for your help!