Cher Public

La marguerite a fermé sa corolle

alagna_keenlyside“…whenever he was joined by the baritone Simon Keenlyside, who sang Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa and Carlo’s devoted friend, Mr. Alagna opened up in every way.”

Well, wouldn’t you? [NYT]

  • manou

    From your friendly cuttings service, here are some more reviews:


    An oft posted AP review, selected here for the wonderful caption of Alagna and Poplavskaya’s picture, which I hereby formally enter for the previous competition :

    also A.N. Other blogger :

    Variety is the spice of life.

    • jfmurray3

      I agree with the AP review re. the priest’s speaking during the auto-da-fe. I found that disruptive and an unnecessary addition to the scene.

      The only speaking I expected to hear onstage last night was from the prompter.

      (I did love Alagna’s shaking hands with the prompter during the curtain call.)

      • manou

        Yes! We (in the Casa della Cieca) could all hear someone talking and thought it was some malfunction or some techie accidentally being picked up by the mikes.

  • manou

    So good I posted it twice (with a bonus sentence).

    Housekeeping -- please tidy up.


  • poisonivy

    I was there last night and thought the new production was on the whole a big success. Very stark and grim, but evocative and many quick scenery changes, which are important in such a long, sometimes episodic opera. The prison-like walls and light that seeped through the windows were eerily like a medieval castle. The black, severe costumes flattered everyone while evoking Inquisition Spain at the same time. The stifling religious atmosphere was emphasized but not beaten like a dead horse. Newcomers could watch this production and know exactly what this opera was about, and vets could appreciate the touches. That’s my definition of a successful production.

    I thought the performance was also very strong. Well, four of the five singers were very strong. The weak link was Anna Smirnova. When she launched into th Veil Song I thought, “Ok, big voice, a bit unruly, could be fun.” But as the evening progressed the harshness of the voice and the unruly top were bothersome, she reminded me of a Jackson Pollack painting. She threw notes out in the auditorium and only occasionally did the notes land.

    I thought the other slightly disappointing performance was Simon Keenlyside. His voice is a bit too small for Posa. I don’t think of Posa as a real character — his character is the type that wouldn’t have been tolerated for two seconds in King Philip’s court. So I think of him as an excuse for some beautiful singing, and thought Keenlyside’s voice was a lacking.

    I thought Alagna, Popsy, and Furlanetto were all in their own ways magnificent. Alagna was his usual ardent, boyish self but he does seem to have reworked his voice and it sounds less harsh and metallic than it did a few years ago. It’s hard to believe he’s nearing 50 and still looks believable practically skipping onstage like a little boy. Poplavskaya is the type of singer I think a lot of people are naturally skeptical about (young, good-looking, heavily and rather suddenly promoted) but her voice is a real spinto. Large and able to ride through the orchetra. The timbre is not particularly beautiful but she was certainly a pleasant surprise. It helps that she actually made Elisabeth a young lady (which she was, historically) and thus made the love triangle between young Carlo vs. Old Philip very tangible in a way that, say, Montserrat Caballe couldn’t have. Ferrucio Furlanetto doesn’t have an organ-like lower register but he was magnificent as Philip. “Ella giamai m’amo” was the highlight of the night.

    It was kind of depressing to see empty seats and many people leaving before the last act.

  • enzo

    Is Jonas the only good tenor we have for fairly heavy roles?

  • Lucky Pierre

    i don’t know, what the fuck is wrong with TT’s glasses? alagna “so good looking”? please…

    speaking of the gelb’s faves, i see hong is slated for one micaela this season. is she covering the role then? i know people that are going for that one perf. since they love her. what’s the story? is she on gelb’s shit list too?

    • Gualtier M

      Hong is over 50 now and she has two Micaelas this season. She was pretty much kicked out with Ruth Ann but kept her mouth shut. Levine is very, very fond of Hong as are most of the artistic administration types. So after there were no more contracts, she picked up stuff that other people canceled. She got a run of Contessa Almavivas that Roeschmann canceled. This year she has two Micaelas.

      • In the sense that “kicked out” means “chose not to offer the same fat, high-priced contracts these aging singers had come to take for granted over the course of 20 years or more,” yes.

        • Pu-Tin-Pao

          Nice little prejudice you’ve got going there against old people, Jorden. But pretty
          stupid, if you ask me. After all, racists know they’ll never turn black, but
          you, on the other hand, are going to be even older yourself one of these days.

          • CruzSF

            What are you talking about? I see an argument for merit-based casting. Should a singer expect guarantees to sing Musetta for 40 years?

          • phoenix

            so let’s hope that both you Pu-Tin-Pao, as well as Cieca, have the good sense to retire at a reasonable age
            … i assume that you Pu-tin, like to hear singing from veteran singers, whether thay have lost their voices from the natural course of age & the vicissitudes of a long life… or perhaps not in all cases.
            … In the sense that each singer should be judged on their individual merits regardless of age, I do agree with you; but no matter how well they sing, to keep them on the boards after they have lost intrinsic vocal texture & overtones, I most definitely do not agree with you & i have to comment on that.

            Best wishes,

            a retiree

          • Gualtier M

            Being a 50 year-old lyric soprano or mezzo is not the same thing as being a 50 year old Wagnerian or heavy Verdi soprano or being Zajick at 50 singing Amneris.

            I actually think that Ruth Ann Swenson probably sounds lovely these days. I heard good reports of her vocal condition last year when she sang Musetta.

            Hong has always been a very classy elegant singer. She probably looks a lovely as ever and sounds lovely too. Not like she did 25 years ago, but damn close.

            I think the phone stopped ringing for both of these ladies due to ageism in their fach. Hong can’t turn around at 50 and start singing Aida and Desdemona like Freni and Scotto did.

            However, the Met needs to shake up the casting and give young people a chance which is why Heidi Grant Murphy must give way to Lisette Oropesa.

            On the other hand I would be delighted to hear both those girls again, if not at the Met in their old repertory. Let’s have Hong in something like a Manon in a small house and Ruth Ann as Rosalinda or Mme. Lidoine somewhere.

            My big question is why hasn’t the Met reengaged Ekaterina Siurina? She is such a lovely singer.

        • phoenix

          Siurina has a beautiful voice, but she also has a family now. She may not want to travel so much now.

          • Gotta love Siurina, her perfectly, ideal pure voice and impossible russian vowels :)

          • Chanterelle

            Maybe not, but she’s recently done Susanna and Lauretta in Paris. Just lovely. Where does she live?

          • MontyNostry

            Is Siurina Mrs Castronovo?

          • MontyNostry

            I get her mixed up with Serjan who is Mrs Calleja.

          • manou

            Calleja’s wife was Tatiana Lisnic. Castronovo and Siurina are (still?) married.

          • Yes, I think she is still married to Disney’s Alladin.

          • manou

            A cross between Aladdin and Pinocchio.

          • MontyNostry

            manou, you are right. I am getting my Tatianas confused. Has there been a Calleja/Lisnic split?

          • MontyNostry
          • oedipe

            I heard, or, rather, TRIED to hear Siurina in both Trittico and Nozze at the Bastille. Tiny voice, very hesitant singing, very disappointing. You wouldn’t want to “hear” her at the Met. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it.

          • prunier

            I heard Siurina do Susanna at the Met, from the Family Circle, and found her lovely voice to be subtantial and very audible in the house. Maybe not yet a “full lyric” by big house standards, but the sound has more warmth and body to it than the soubrette type often cast in the role.

          • oedipe

            Prunier, here is an example (though you won’t get a clear idea of the volume, of course):

    • NYCOQ

      Volpe and Levine loved her. Despite the protestations of a lot of the middle-aged singers that did not make the Gelb cut she was one of the ones that deserved it. A servicible soprano and a scrupulous proffesional, but she is one of the exemplars of bland, nondescript American singing that took hold in the 80’s and 90’s. And yes, I know she is Korean, but she falls into that category for me since her career took place in this country. There was no hue and cry as far as I am aware when she wasn’t offered a lot future contracts with the Met.

  • steveac10

    I’m a bit flummoxed by all the critical hand wringing over the demise of the Dexter production. When it premiered the sets (and their lack of a coherent style}, we’re almost universally derided, and the agreement seemed to be that it was not one of Dexter’s better efforts (especially the inert, ugly, small scale auto-de-fe}. Sure, the costumes were pretty, but so are the new ones.

    • Because among a certain brand of opera fans, the new is always bad, and (corollary) what’s the point of doing Don Carlo anyway if you don’t have Bjoerling?

      • CruzSF

        Hahaha. So f*cking true.

      • Often admonished

        Bjorling?!?! you need Martinelli!

    • sterlingkay

      I couldn’t have said it better. I remember people screaming about the ugly, utilitarian David Reppa sets in that John Dexter production when it opened…And that Dexter had no business directing VERDI. Now I read that it was one of the classic MET productions! Who knew??

      • richard

        I too was surprised by all the nostaglia and regret concerning the replacement of the Dexter/Reppa Don Carlo. Dexter really didn’t do all that much with the singers when the production was new, he was faced with a number of unchangeable forces. And while a few of the settings were atmospheric, several , particuarly the big courtyard set where so much of Act 2 takes place, always looked very ugly to me.

        I remember too the previous Met production, which was Bing’s calling card. But by 1970, when I first saw it, there was nothing of the original direction left and the sets, while well designed, were pretty shabby looking.

        In any event, the 1979 Dexter/Reppa Don Carlo had been given a lot of outtings and I really thought it was time for a new take on the opera. But why can’t the Met do the opera in it’s written language?

  • Lucky Pierre

    oh LC, you are so witty. you know there’s other singers out there besides angie and anna… you should try and hear them too.

  • I think that Gelb made a good decison regarding RAS. Her best years were behind her (as is often the case with pretty lyric-coloraturas) by the time he arrived and he made a value judgement. I was surprised to disover a few years ago that once a singer achieves a certain pay-scale, there’s no going back, even if their value to the company declines.

    So, someone like RAS who was probalby earning the Met’s top fees during the 90s, was just not worth those fees anymore. The company has to make a decision based on what’s best for its future, not whose feelings will be hurt.

    I haven’t heard Hong in a number of years but she strikes me as another one of those lyric-coloraturas who don’t have as much to offer once the bloom is gone from the voice. Beautiful light voices don’t age very well. I’m not suggesting that Hong shouldn’t be cast anywhere anymore but the Met also has a right to decide whether they’re getting their money’s worth.

    The types of roles that RAS and Hong sing can be easily cast by younger, cheaper singers, with fresher voices.

    • sterlingkay

      I think Gelb has been vindicated in his decisions regarding both RAS & HKH….if they’re still singing on a high level why are they not being engaged by the other elite opera companies??

      • Lucky Pierre

        kashy, i wouldn’t say hong is a coloratura — swenson, yes, but not hong. i don’t know what swenson sounds these days but hong is still quite good. i think she also does not want to stay away from her family, and she doesn’t have to work (her husband does quite well), so why bother get gigs in london or SF?

        • der_neugierige

          Actually, HKH’s husband died last year of cancer. Could also account for why she hasn’t been singing much lately, even aside from the Met.

          • Lucky Pierre

            sorry to hear that but thanks for the update, i wasn’t aware of that.

        • You’re right. She’s a regular lyric, leaving even fewer options for her at the Met. I’m sure it’s not a case of the Met thinking that HKH wouldn’t do well in certain roles but more that they can get a younger singer for less money to do the same role. This gives them the added benefit of investing in a singer with potentially a big future ahead of her.

    • Alto

      “Beautiful light voices don’t age very well.”

      I beg your pardon!

      Helen Donath (older than God and singing like the cherubim)

      • Is it too late to insert “most” at the beginning of that sentence? ;)

        • Alto

          Dear Kashania,

          Not only may you make your insert, but I do hope that you and your young man (if I may presume!) will stop in for tea with my dear Klaus and me next time you’re in Hannover!

          Helen (SO much more than a soubrette!)

    • Come to think of it, RAS and HKH should feel lucky that they spent their best years at the Met — unlike many singers who are past their prime by the time the Met gets around to hiring them.

      • Alto

        TELL me about it.

        Live and prosper, darling — and always support from the diaphragm,
        Ewa Podle?

        • Alto


          I guess the blog program can’t take a Polish S?

          Fucking Americans, get a clue!

          • Liana

            Especially that “podle” means “meanly”,or “poorly” :)

  • Troppo Primavera

    It;s not just a question of voice type but obviously a soprano who sings roles like Rosina and Gilda can’t get away with doing it in her 50s.Still one heard that Swenson was in excellent form last season as Musetta and there are surely many roles she could undertake,Madame Lidoine would be a good fit as already mentioned.I heard Oropresa as Constanze with WNO,and frankly she was not up to it.Swenson’s youthful attempt at that very difficult role in the DVD shows that she had a remarkable technique.Is there anyone around now who could sing it as well?Her voice now is heavier,and probably less flexible.But she is still a considerable talent and I would far rather hear her than many of those sopranos who have passed their sell by date who are still being widely promoted,or rather who promote themselves,and appear with regularity at the Met.

    • MontyNostry

      … as, perchance, Armida, Troppo P?


    While I am sure that RAS & HKH are both wonderful people neither of them posessed “star quality”. They showed up did a good job, but never caught on fire. Back in my early Met days when I would just about go see anything at the Met when my budget could afford it RAS provided me with 4 of the most mind-numbingly boring nights at the opera. Natural gifts melded to a good technique but as boring as a box rocks on stage. Why do people think that singers go on forever? The singers that still have a career after 50 either through vocal strengths, star quality or just plain old good p.r. are a rarity. This ain’t Germany where you get to sing till you drop.