Headshot of La Cieca

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One sigh fits all

sospiriI used to think that recital albums, greatest hits albums, and concert albums were just products of a singer’s vanity—or conductor—and that they terribly lacked imagination or preparation or dramatic heft. “Greatest Hits” albums frequently suffer from this affliction, as it is, more often than not, just a mish-mash of what this soprano or that basso sings best without regard for the medium of albums. No drama, no story, just “look (or listen) at me.”

When I received this recording of Cecilia Bartoli’s Sospiri, I was a little worried: I had just finished reviewing an awful recital album and here comes another one? But from the very first notes coming from the orchestra and more so when I heard the first few seconds of Ceci’s vocal wonder, I knew this was going to be a different experience.

I remember watching the intermission video feature for the Joan Sutherland (requiescat in pace) and Marilyn Horne (save her, O Diva) Lincoln Center concert where Richard Bonynge talked about the difficulty of arranging the line-up of what is to be included in a concert/recital as opposed to an opera: how to ensure that the audience’s attention does not start to wander, or how to keep the tension delectably electric. Ceci’s album of mostly Baroque pieces, from lesser-known works of Handel to Bach, to Mozart and even Mascagni, does not suffer from this problem.

As it is full of verve, energy, insight, the album and the arrangement therein stayed true to the “sospiri”/sighs/breaths theme of deep introspection. Set rapturously aflame at the beginning with “Ombra mai fu,” every song had a somber, prayer-like quality, as if you were undergoing an intense, but ironically relaxing psychedelic experience. In fact, I suggest that you listen to this album in your next herbal excursion.

One thing that I absolutely must commend Ceci—yes she and I are great friends—for is her academic interest in the ginormous swamp that is opera, choosing to rediscover and focus on lesser-known works of the Baroque period that folks like me, your newbie to this whole opera-world-place, do not really know, if at all. “Lascia la spina cogli la rosa” from Handel’s oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno is performed in such a way that I could totally envision and feel the intrinsic intertextuality and inter-genre quality of Baroque opera as a holistic art form that combined music and dance post-Lully and Louis XIV.

The way the music is composed and performed is very choreographic as if asking the body to move along with it, for both listener, and I would guess also for the performer—more so I would surmise. Ceci is able to launch the trills with melismatic accuracy that is exciting. She decrescendos to a point and then, it’s over. Also for “Cervo in bosco,” from Leonardo Vinci’s Il Medo,  the opening chords remind me of “Come nave” by Hasse. Baroque music recycles so much but almost creates this hyperconnectivity of feelings that is in my mind revolutionary.

Being unfamiliar with most of the works in this Prestige Edition—girl… just the name itself is a success, though I thought the bubbles design of the cover was a little tacky—I cannot really offer more than the instantaneous reactions I had upon listening to the pieces. ForGelido in ogni vena,” the attack and engagement with the words is there in a way that my previous reviewee will never have for the Italian repertoire. Ceci paints a beautifully complete and complex picture of emotions. The Rs are pronounced like crazy.

Let me however say, that the “Casta diva” was a mess. Home girl did La Malibran a disservice with that recording. It was too breathy and a little weak for a high priestess trying to direct her people through an on-stage trance performance of ritual magic and symbolic domination.

Overall, this CD is worth buying as an introduction—or as a remembrance for y’all old and bitter grandmas—to Ceci’s art and to her incredible voice. I say BUY BUY BUY! I used to dislike her because I thought she didn’t have the diva comportment I look for in my idols but to hell with that. This CD, albeit I’m sure she spent no time in actually recording anything for this particular CD—mostly taken from her Mozart, Rossini, and Sacrificium albums—is a keeper.

P.S. I plan on having making love with Disc 2 playing in the background. That Stabat Mater

134 comments

  • Due to popular demand :

    Teresa Zylis-Gara
    Airs d’Operas Slaves

    1. Dvorak -- Rusalka
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/2ca0f8af-cff5-4f91-b60c-a0ce3cead924/01s.Rusalka

    2. Smetana -- The Bartered Bride
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/6b649eb5-da1a-46be-8dc8-99f846485e35/02s.The-bartered-bride/nsprev

    3. Tchaikowsky -- Eugene Onegin
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/24d87245-181d-4787-8773-25cf34ad8995/03s.Tatyana-letter-scene/nsprev

    4. Moniuszko -- Paria
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/cc718371-c35b-432c-be5b-c32b7b157dca/04s.Moniuszko—Paria/nsnext

    5. Moniuszko -- Halka
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/d81404fb-bb3f-465c-bcbe-d7706cdca903/05s.Moniuszko—Halka/nsprev

    6. Tchaikowsky -- Pique Dame -- act 1
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/18101bad-da00-4354-80ae-a3aa23dcc13a/06.Pique-dame-act-1/nsnext

    7. Tchaikowsky -- Pique Dame -- act 3
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/1d8b21d9-51e7-4819-b24b-1e7d9c32281d/07.Pique-dame-act-2/nsprev

    Teresa Zylis-Gara
    A Portrait

    1. Mozart -- Le nozze di Figaro -- Dove sono
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/257220b2-8d4d-4ac4-9a51-887c3d6b4117/01.E-Susanna-non-vien

    2. Puccini -- Tosca -- Vissi d’arte
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/5f44b730-63ef-4e0b-bbf2-1046ee29fd04/02.Vissi-darte

    3. Puccini -- Madama Butterfly -- Tu? Tu? Piccolo iddio
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/c23deeda-dee2-4577-a867-96e231efa22d/03.Tu,-tu,-piccolo-iddio

    4. Puccini -- Manon Lescaut -- In quelle trine morbide
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/74e0d664-22f4-4a63-9f7c-2f9f13aa30a4/04.In-quelle-trine-morbide

    5. Puccini -- Turandot -- Tu che di gel sei cinta
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/51efcf38-738c-45ec-b402-aea57e4a35ff/05.Tu-che-di-gel-sei-cinta/nsnext

    6. Mercadante -Il Giuramento -Romanza de Elaisa (1 act)
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/08395c9e-0770-46bf-8273-87ee7b704e36/06.Romance-de-Alaisa

    7. Puccini -- Gianni Schicchi -- O mio babbino caro
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/bf569426-5d79-45bf-b4e8-c1481cd7206f/07.O-mio-babbino-caro

    8. Puccini -- Madama Butterfly -- Un bel di
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/09119d69-a0f4-42ce-9398-2445881d164d/08.Un-bel-di

    9. Verdi -- Un ballo in maschera -- Morro, ma prima
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/ed072d63-d879-48c0-a735-b2df773e9e8f/09.Morro,-ma-prima-in-grazia

    10. Puccini -- Manon Lescaut -- Sola, perduta
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/07c318c5-e423-4418-a675-42ddb394a795/10.Sola,-perduta,-abbandonata

    11. Puccini -- La Boheme -- Mi chiamano Mimi
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/2a6cd00c-313f-4bb9-abf5-47feb049f33f/11.Mi-chiamano-mimi

    12. Verdi -- Otello -- Ave Maria
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/09f3f63a-7cc2-466d-ac37-43e47ca20fb3/12.Ave-maria/nsprev

    13. Mercadante -Il Giuramento-Romanza di Elaisa (3 act)
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/177b3d31-c15e-4d99-aa20-d0b40c50af24/13.Romance-de-Elaisa-act-2/nsprev

    Kathleen Battle :
    Offenbach -- La belle Lurette -- On s’amuse, on applaudit
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/d93dec91-3de9-4b48-aae9-389426f8f93d/Offenbach—On-samuse,-on-applaudit

    and last of all, a favourite of mine from the Battle album :
    Berlioz -- Beatrice et Benedict -- Je vais le voir
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/e83791c7-0afa-4d96-a2c2-ca81f9f7423d/Berlioz—Beatrice-et-Benedict—Je-vais-le-voir/nsprev

    • peter says:

      Thanks. I love Zylis-Gara. During my standing room days at the Met, I got to hear her sing Butterfly, Tosca, Manon Lescaut, Amelia in Ballo, Donna Elvira, and Elsa. She sang a lot at the Met in the 70′s and 80′s. A lot of my friends thought she was dull but what a gorgeous voice. Her top wasn’t always reliable but I remember a performance of her as Tosca with Domingo where everything worked completely and she was on fire.

      • Harry says:

        And don’t forget Zylis-Gara’s contribution with Gosta Winbergh in Chausson’s Le Roi Arthus(Erato)if one is lucky to have a copy. Love it! I play this haunting music often.
        Both of these singers too, tended to be rather overlooked by record companies.

        • luvtennis says:

          Harry, my friend. I just saw a review for a reissue of the Jordan Chausson. It appears to be back in print FINALLY. I had this recording and cherished it -- although Zylis Gara has some serious intonation problems. Quilico is magnificent and the performance is lush beyond one’s dreams.

          I am so glad it’s back.

          • Harry says:

            luvtennis: Glad to see the (Erato) Chausson Le Roi Arthus available again in print, for other opera fans to make its acquaintance. When it was unavailable, I did see it at one stage, being offered on e-Bay at $299 new or $199 second-hand.

            I have Zylis Gara’s Composer in Strauss’Ariadne. I find Janowitz’s ‘squeezed tubular delivery’ in the title role irks me a bit. Tomova -Sintow to me…is the perfect Ariande.

    • phoenix says:

      Yes, Zylis-Gara was much beloved by many, many of us… i go along with Peter, Harry, Rysanekfreak too. Thanks very much Cerq-Farr!

      • Camille says:

        Is it possible to upload her sterling example of the Komponist’s Arie? A must for anyone interested in hearing it sung as was originally intended, i. e. Soprano,rather than the put upon pushing mezzos.

        I had the privilege of seeing this very lovely lady, whom I agree has been slightly looked over, in the Adriana Lecouvreur which Miami Opera presented in 1978 (with a young and gorgeous Domingo). Although it was not in the league of, say, la Divina Magda, it was sung very well, which is always nice.

        In the last year I’ve actually wasted a lot of petrol driving around listening to the excellent Elisabeth in Tannhauser.

        A very lovely artist. Not to be dismissed or forgotten.

        • armerjacquino says:

          Camille, unlike the above recitals, the Kempe Ariadne is available on itunes. Zylis-Gara’s rendition is indeed glorious and well worth 99c of anyone’s money!

          • Thanks for the info! I was introduced to Zylis-Gara singing the Otello duet during the Bing gala and kept thinking…why isn’t she a bigger star? When I listened to the unnatural act Aida, I was even more perplexed as I thought she outshone Ms. Dunn who was a bigger star. I’m glad to know she sang Ariadne and I look forward to the download.

          • armerjacquino says:

            ON- Z-G was the Composer, not Ariadne. The Ariadne on that recording is Gundula Janowitz.

          • Camille says:

            Yes, Janowitz was the Ariadne, and the PERFECT one, too! That includes Reining, too. I have never been able to listen to anyone else’s without having the memory of her incredible timbre take over whomever’s I may be listening to. I only saw her live once, as Agathe in Freischuetz, but I’ll remember the moonglow of the Kavatine, ‘Und ob die Wolke’, until I die. What a voice and what an artist.

          • armerjacquino says:

            My mother was directing a radio play and was looking for some ‘ethereal’ music for the opening. I suggested the Kleiber/Janowitz ‘Und ob die wolke’ which she used.

            She received SACKFULS of letters asking what the beautiful music had been.

          • Krunoslav says:

            Did y’all see what OPERA NEWS ran last year on Zylis-Gara?

            http://www.operanews.com/operanews/templates/content.aspx?id=2111

            She did eventually sing *Ariadne*, around 1982 I think, somewhere in France.

        • Camille I’ve always wanted to hear J. Norman sing the Komponist, in fact considering how deep and sonorous her middle is I never understood why she didn’t sing a few trouser roles here and there.

          • Jessye could sing der Komponist *today*. It’s all a question of tessitura, temperament and timbre, not forgetting the taille, of course!

          • Camille says:

            I would rather hear her sing again, as I once did @ Carnegie in recital with Mr. Levine, the Chansons Madecasses, which she tore into like a whirlwind and wiped out the entire Hall. It had to be seen and heard to be believed, what that woman did!

            La Jessonda, as I am won’t to call her, has a new album out now, doing “crossover” in a way that should be an object lesson to all those wayward divas straying far and wide and darkly hoping for pop stardom. Jessye, one hell of an intelligent woman, and as my husband always sez, that with her musicianship, she should be conducting.

            Speaking of conductors, Mr. Levine does not look at ALL well up close in HD. I wonder if he is trying to go the Felix Mottl/Giuseppe Sinopoli route? I’m worried that he is.

          • kashania says:

            Jessye did sing Idamante in concert (with Gedda/Harper under Colin Davis). It’s available on recording.

            I think Jessye did not do second roles in an opera where she had already sung one role. For example, I think she could have been a fabulous Fricka but since Sieglinde was one of her regular roles, I think she would have seen that as a step down. (Frankly, she could have sung Brunnie in that opera as well).

            Same the Komponist, since she was the reigning Ariadne of her day.

            And let’s face it, Amneris was a better vocal fit than Aida, but since she sang the title role a few times early in her career, I don’t think she would have considered the “step down”. It’s a shame but I think a lot of her role choices (especially in the second half of her career) were driven by ego.

          • kashania says:

            Camille: I heard Jessye’s Duke Ellington performance with the San Francisco (thank you BABs) and it was a bit of a revelation. I didn’t know she had that in her at this point of her career. As BABs has said, she turned the songs into a sort of song cycle and was able to weave some serious magic (once one gets past the first song).

            On the other hand, I heard some 30-second clips of her Roots album and was appalled by some of what I heard. The “Somewhere” especially seemed beyond the pale.

          • Camille says:

            My dear Sir Kashania,
            Thank you for your genteel response regarding that stupefying singer we know as Jessye Norman.

            When the concert was announced, I took it for granted she would be e-NUN-ciating the ‘Lincoln Portrait’ or something of the ilk. I was stunned when I found out she would sing and I am stunned by the results. I vote we get La Jessonda in the position Angelina Jolie holds at the U.N., but expand her to be in charge of all lost children’s souls. What a powerhouse. Keep on truckin’, Jesseye.

        • Kempe’s gorgeously sung and played (apart from Geszty, perhaps) Ariadne is readily available, so posting excerpts would be an infrigement of copyrights, no? The TZG recitals are long deleted, and likewise the Kathy Battle French one.

          I posted the Rossini Stabat Mater excerpts for you to get an idea of the recording. Only thing I left on my esnips page is the Margiono Ah! Perfido when Camilly comes home around thanksgiving :) :)

          • Camille says:

            Grand merci a mes cheries Mmes. C+F--for having answered ON’s request and far more succinctly than I could have, and for keeping the Ah! Perfido.
            As well, I have been eyeing the Mercadante Giuramento. Mercadante is someone I’ve become curious about--too bad that the ‘Virgina’ at Wexford Festival was utterly out of question pour moi.

            I am thinking of buying a new laptop as this BlackBerry is wearing down my thumb cartilage as well as not allowing me to hear all these marvelous samples and partake of the QPF Channel as well. Thanks for being genereuse, C+F.

          • Well you know what they say, Camilly, sharing is caring USW.

          • luvtennis says:

            I used to love Janowitz’s Ariadne, but now I find it cold in expression and very tight on top when it should soar.

            Just bought the Brewer. Her german language performance is near definitive for me. We will see how the years have affected the voice and the performance.

    • I adore Zylis Gara. I have her singing the 4 last songs in (I think) a studio recording paired with Tchaikovsky melodies and it is wonderful.

      A) Richard Strauss : Vier letzte Lieder
      Orchestre de la Radio de Hanovre: Franz Paul Decker, conductor
      B) Tchaïkowsky: Six Mélodies (in russian)
      5 Toujours vers toi
      6 Réconciliation
      7 Le vieux Mari
      8 Si j’avais su
      9 La Maumarié
      10 Pourquoi
      Piano: Jerry Marchwinski

      Another recital, quite wonderful and sadly not available in the US is Teresa Kubiak’s. I got a hold of it and it is wonderful.

      MANON LESCAUT -- Sola, perduta abbandonata
      MADAMA BUTTERFLY -- Un bel di
      MADAMA BUTTERFLY -- Tu, tu piccolo Iddio
      TOSCA -- Vissi d’arte
      UN BALLO IN MASCHERA -- Ecco l’orrido campo
      UN BALLO IN MASCHERA -- Morro, ma prima in grazia
      HALKA -- Gdyby rannym slonkiem (Halka’s Act II aria)
      PIQUE DAME -- Uz polnocz blizitsa (Lisa’s Act III aria)
      RUSALKA -- Song to the Moon
      LOHENGRIN -- Einsam in truben Tagen
      DER FLIEGENDE HOLLAENDER -- Senta’s Ballad

      Her recording of the 4 last songs is also very beautiful.

      • armerjacquino says:

        How common a name is Kubiak? I ask because I was on holiday in Krakow a couple of years ago and heard a Verdi Requiem with a wonderful soprano called Barbara Kubiak. The name aroused the liveliest suspicions.

  • rysanekfreak says:

    Thanks, CerquettiFarrell… There is some rare stuff here that I’ve never heard before.

  • I’m a little shocked that no one has mentioned the Blue Album as an example of a perfect recital recording. It captures Price at her absolute peak, at the time the Rondine piece was apparently not well known, and it just gives off this kind of revelatory feeling.

    • Well, I can’t stand it any longer, I have to say it and die a horrid death

      M Price does absolutely NOTHING to me pre her Isolde and Amelia. Something happened, something opened with that studio Isolde. Beforehand it’s a gorgeous tone, yes, incredible range, flexibility, very good legato sometimes marred by small puffs of air, but the expression is so often severe, detached. For my money there’s no SOUL in it all. I have her early Mozart recital of course, but I never bother to listen because it’s not moving, in both ways. It just stays in one plays, wonderful sounds but where’s the essence?

      OK you can stone me to death or burn me or whatnot :)

      • PLACE. It never plays on MY equipment LOL

      • La marquise de Merteuil says:

        CF I think ON means L Price’s Blue Album. Not M’s -- if she has a blue album.

      • Dear CF, I am going to revel in this one moment when I can feel I know a tiny bit more opera lore than yourself. :) The “Blue Album” is Leontyne Price’s first recital album. I think the official title is “Italian Opera Arias” or something like that, but I’ve always heard of it as the “Blue Album.” Pure magic.

      • Camille says:

        Mmes. C+F: I believe stoning has been outlawed in most civil countries.

        I, unaccountably, bought that Tristan, and have not listened to all of it, but there is something about the Liebestod which is very striking, to my ear. “Wie er leuchtet”--why, you can ‘hear’ the light in the way she paints that word, e.g.

        Well, this is the third singer I have spoken of in the last hour of whom I’ve been privileged to hear, only once. Dame Price was in recital, singing among others, Mignon lieder of Wolf. It was pretty freaking unbelievable how a chubby middle-aged lady could turn herself into a young girl, right before one’s eyes! That is what I love to see ina singer, the ability to transcend and transform themself.

        • Oh I know EXACTLY what you mean by transforming. It’s there for all the world to witness on the two Lotte Lehmann masterclass clips (and I’m sure YOU know them by heart).

          And I know what you mean regarding M Price’s fabulous tone painting in Kleiber’s Tristan. Now you have to listen to the beginning of the second act (Isolde / Brangaene) especially the Minne episode, because Price illuminates the music and text like no other Isolde. Naturally this can’t me done in live circumstances.

        • richard says:

          Camille, do you know if it’s legal in the US?

          Here’s the reason I ask, since CF brought the practice up. On the departed HBO series OZ (loved it!!)
          the practice of stoning was part of the plot on one episode. There was a prisoner sentenced to be executed and he used the tactic, since he was allowed to chose the manner in which he was to be executed, of chosing to be put to death by stoning. And since the NY State authorities could not assemble a group of people to throw rocks at someone until he was dead, he continued to chug along in the prison.

          Now I’m aware that I shouldn’t believe everything on TV, that’s in the same category as believing everything on wikipedia, even worse really, but I wondered if the plot mechanism was based on actual laws on the books.

        • Buster says:

          The Mignon Lieder were the highlight of the Concertgebouw recital too, Camille. Like a mini opera.

      • Buster says:

        CF: early Margaret Price records that move me are, first and foremost, the Somary Messiah (with Yvonne Minton), Barbarina on the Klemperer Nozze, and her Fiordiligi, my favorite Price record, together with her later Pamina. Oddly enough, her song recitals before the Sawallisch Schubert disc fail to move me too. I only heard her live twice, she was turning gray, and wore glasses, but both concerts (Four Last Songs with James Levine, and a Schumann/Wolf recital at the Concertgebouw) were magical.

      • luvtennis says:

        The L. Price Blue Album is divine. Divine.

        I agree with you about Margaret Price to a certain extent.

        At one time, she was my favorite singer of her generation. But over time I have come to find her singing cold, overly mechanical at time, clumsy (all that aspirated legato and coloratura), and occasionally wild on top.

        The Ballo is wonderful for the most part -- the closest to Lee in terms of security and beauty of tone, but still a little cold and you can hear the top starting to spread. Interestingly, this recording predated the Tristan but was released afterwards. Another Pavarotti delated release.

        I still adore M. Price’s live Fiordiligi from Munich. The early Mozart album has some fine moments. The Isolde is lovely too, but again that spreading upper register is troubling.

        • I find the early Price Mozart recital so frustrating. I try to come back to it occasionally and always turn it off after a few tracks. Listening to it on my car stereo is impossible as I get so annoyed and begin to drive aggressively!

          I hear a creamy, full tone and a very impressive range, easily produced. The tone never spreads as in that Amelia. But the diction is AWFUL in so many kinds of ways, which bears absolutely no explanation. Vowels are distorted beyond recognition, in a way which has nothing to do with tessitura (sopranos never sing a real U sound above F, it’s just inhuman). And the coloratura, though accurate, sounds heavy and laboured and has no ‘real’ energy or excitement.

          But what troubles me most is the dullness of it all. Arias and recitatives are sung for what they’re worth, notes are spun with no intention of bringing forward a sense of character, or a dramatic / mental situation. I’d like to see a gallery in sound of distinct CHARACTERS.

          Conversely, a good example of a vivid, fascinating recital that is really a gallery of very distinct characters, each and every one of them having their own vocal ‘colour’ and makeup is, of all things, Bartoli’s “Mozart Heroines” CD. Regardless of whether this could have passed muster heard live, here Bartoli, on very good vocal behaviour, manages to create a specific ‘sound image’ for each and every charater. Her Contessa sounds immediately different from her Despina, for example. From the first note. The diction itself varies -- Despina’s consonants are brighter, more forward, whereas Rosina’s diction is slower, and mainly produced ‘on the chest’. It’s a game and Bartoli clearly enjoys playing. In that respect in in this recital, she certainly seems to me to be a very great artist.

    • luvtennis says:

      It’s stunning ON. Lee was in absolute glory.

      To this day, I have never heard a voice so completely liquid in legato and tone, and the upper register still has that flaming quality due to the rapid shimmer.

      Honestly, we don’t have singers like that anymore it seems. So completely confident in their art -- Joan’s Prima Donna Album offers the same mastery across an even wider range of music.

      I just listened to a bunch of new stuff this weekend, and some it has left me so depressed.

      Poplovskaya -- Yes, it must be nice for a producer to have a soprano who looks and acts like a young Helena Bonham Carter, but her singing is so managed, so cold. Why should care about a singer who doesn’t appear to love singing?

      • Oh but there ARE singers today who evince joy and demonstrate technical expertise and lovely voice -- just not in the repertoire of middle to late 19thy century opera!

        Bsides the obvious examples (JDD, JDF, Brownlee, Kaufmann) I can think of Bernarda Fink, Karina Gauvin, Christian Gerhaher, Carlos Mena, Genia Kuhmeier, Sara Mingardo, Anna Bonitatibus, Dorothee Mields, Laura Aikin, Stoyanova, Martinez, d’Oustrac and many others. These names provide enchantement and joy on many occasions, some of them are IMO very great singers. Just not having the large voices and temperament singing 1840-1920 music and frankly are not interested in it. Wht not enjoy, here and now, the really good singers in the repertoire they excel in?

        • luvtennis says:

          CF:

          I absolutely enjoy the singers you list, or at least some of them. But I am a opera fanatic, as you know. I was not an opera fanatic when I fell for Lee, Joan et al. Also, I would pay to hear those singers sing the phone book. I would not say the same for any of the singers you mention. Organosova was the last singer I felt that way about.

          Also, I feel a lot of the rep exumation currently underway is little more than a final desperate attempt to find new stuff to present since there are so comparatively few new operas being staged out there.

          By the way, did you see my Stoyanova critique?

          • I have seen your Stoyanova critique and I agree on all points.

            I don’t know that I wouldn’t take a phonebook dictation from Mingaro, Gerhaher or Fink. All of them fascinating artists with beatiful, immaculate tone.

            As for the question of operatic repertoire, I’m afraid my English is not good enough to articulate the finer points of this question, but let’s just say this -- whenever a Handel or Monteverdi opera is performed throught Europe, it’s impossible to find tickets. Yes, the halls are smaller but that’s also part of the problem in the USA. Halls too big -- enforces the choice of repertoire -- repertoire becomes staid -- certain expectations reagrding volume of voice and repertoire are maintained -- dearth of singers able to cope -- goes on and on.
            The ‘old’ world has moved on beyond 1840s-1920s. There’s lots more to opera than these 80 years.

  • oedipe says:

    In a recent thread on Parterre, somebody mentioned opera-l and the rather flippant topics debated there, for example “Netrebko’s potty mouth” . Curiosity led me to opera-l (where I rarely go; although, in all fairness, opera-l is scarcely the only place where flippancy manifests itself) and I came across a very wise and amusing e-mail from “kira”. I think it should be required reading for all opera lovers and I hope s/he doesn’t mind my reproducing it here:

    ” There is a measure of schizophenia about opera fans that I find always
    fascinating, sometimes infuriating, frequently more about the “me first”
    factor of the fan than an effort at objectivity.

    On the one hand, such a fan can write scathingly of a singer for missing a
    note or transposing or having vibrato so wide or not wide enough. They will
    dicker over nuances and have no problem pronouncing the offender guilty of
    the slightest vocal offense. They insist, repeatedly, that it is all about
    the music, all about the vocals, all else is simply stagecraft and secondary
    to the great triump of the chords, blah, blah, blah.

    In short, these folks will blast a singer for infractions both large and
    small without ever offering the levling grace of evaluating whether they
    were successful in bringing the character to life. For them, it is all about
    the music and musicality; the rest is noise. Forget how other fans react
    to them as performers or even, dear me, as entertainers.

    Until they stumble across a singer they like in spite of all the weaknesses
    they fault in others.

    Then it becomes a ‘who cares whether the singing meets the standard I apply
    to all others. She (or he) appeals to me and therefore the rules of
    engagement don’t apply any more.’

    There is nothing wrong with being human; it is the hypocrisy and the sense
    of individual exceptionalism (my tastes and opinion trumps yours) that gets
    me.

    For what it is worth (and it isn’t worth much)….

    Kiwi”

    Certain artists, especially from the past (e.g. L. Price), are such “monstres sacrés” that they are now situated somewhere in the realm above and beyond controversy. But when one comes across people’s likes/dislikes of present day singers, it is mind-boggling (at least for my little mind) what passes for brilliance, intensity, emotion, or lack thereof .

    • luvtennis says:

      Oedipe:

      I was actually the person who mentioned the OperaL squabbles.

      One problem is that people relate to opera in different ways. Some care primarily about the voice, some care acbout dramatic or theatrical capabilities, some careabout stylistic accuracy or taste, some diction, and some care mostly about the rep.

      Me, I am a voice fancier first and foremost. I appreciate the theatrical element of opera, but it is not what moves me. Or at least it doesn’t move me in the way that the music does. I am also not much for live theatre in general -- I much prefer to READ Shakespeare if you catch my drift, although I have seen a number of the plays staged.

      Frankly, the crazy sniping, critiquing, bitching about singers past and present is what makes these fora pleasant places (or at least entertainingly unpleasant), but what I don’t like is the endless psychodramas (many having nothing to do with music or singing or opera even) that play out over in OperaL among individuals who all seem MORE than old enough to know better.

      • oedipe says:

        My point (which I might try to develop in more detail at a later date, if I can) is that opera lovers everywhere, and not just on opera-l, even among people who are sophisticated musicians, sometimes have these seemingly IRRATIONAL likes/dislikes that are based on how a singer’s voice resonates with them, but are also influenced by the singers’ personalities, their sexuality, their ethnicity, the perception of their social and cultural background, etc. I find this a fascinating topic.