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True “West”

giordani_thumbOur Own JJ finds the Met’s revival of Fanciulla “…a performance more dutiful than golden.” [New York Post]

  • Camille

    Mr. Jorden deserves to be commended for his perceptive, well-adjudicated review of this important revival.

    Kudos, jj.

  • CruzSF

    I hope they can work out the card game staging by the HD. It sounds like Voigt is singing about the same as she did here in June: not great, not horrible. She got the job done. Fanciulla is one of the most touching operas, IMO, and found that it survived the treatment it received here (in this sense, I agree with JJ). Giordani MUST be an improvement over (our) Licitra. On the radio, he sounded OK (again, IMO). I wish I could be there to see this. The HD broadcast will have to do for me, I guess.

  • richard

    JJ’s review makes me want to see Giordani’s Dick….er, …somehow that didn’t come out right.

    Seriously, I’m really a sucker for not only the character of Minnie but also Dick Johnson, I love Or Son Sei Mesi and Ch’ella mi creda is about my most favorite tenor aria.

    Giordani has been a very uneven tenor for me in the past but it sounds like Dick Johnson worked well for him.

    There’s always the HD I guess. And I suppose Matos. Does anyone know anything about her?

    • Camille

      richard,
      Now, now…the Dick Johnson contest is over.

      We didn’t win, but maybe we should keep trying?

      phoenix (where IS he?) told me a couple weeks back that Matos is pretty wildly creative with her singing, sort of rewriting parts as she does them.
      Um, as most everyone has no clue what is being sung in Fanciulla, well, she’s gonna have a field day. He did say she has temperament etc., etc. I do believe I remember that someone said she is Portuguese. That’s all I know. I am going that night as I am not gonna let Little Debbie spoil my centennial celebration of my beloved Girl.

      • phoenix

        Camille, you might have heard Matos on that Decca commercial recording of Bretón’s la Dolores with Placido Domingo.
        She was born in Braga, in the north part of Portugal near the Spanish border. I was amazed at her vocal acting in a broadcast of Cavalleria Rusticana from Teatro São Carlos in Lisbon (an opera I usually don’t like at all, but hers was the first performance of it I ever liked). She has an unusual sounding voice that most people probably will find sort of esoteric or unconventional, but she puts the emotion right into the tone better than most anyone else I ever heard. I have her DVD of Verdi’s la Battaglia di Legnano, but I guess she figured that since they were going to release it commercially on DVD, she tried to be a bit too vocally cautious in it and she doesn’t let loose like she does in most of her wild live performances… but still I kept that la Battaglia DVD because it has all her qualities (I usually donate these awful DVD’s to the local library book sale, but I kept hers because of her bizarre unconventional yet very involved style). Yes, when she sings she sometimes (but not always) goes all over the place & rewrites the score a bit, i.e. she is not a great bel canto technician by any means… but she is often cast in roles (servant girls, peasants, etc.) that take advantage of her inherent qualities, vocally she is sort of like an operatic Anna Magnani (although Matos is actually a blue-eyed blond in physical appearance). You can get a sample of her video clips here:

        http://www.elisabete-matos.com/

        • Camille

          Yeay phoenix!!! Thanks for giving us all a bit of Matos lore.

          I actually ADORE a piece from La Dolores, a duet, which I know for years, and I believe I have heard at least a part of La Dolores, when I came out, but can no longer recall her voice. I’m going to the website right now to see what she’s like. In any case, I’m sure she will be interesting.

          How’s your Fedora coming along. Oh no!!! You decided to do a Zinka and go for the Maddalena, righto? Good. Do as your heart leads you.

        • Camille

          phoenix! She even looks like a younger Debbie.
          The Fanciulla bit I heard had a great high C. She is kind of interesting, all right. I urge everyone who wants to hear Fanciulla to go to Matos website to give her a listen, as she’s good.

          • I am still under shock for the senescent Minnie of Deborah Voigt, so since two friends of mine are coming to NY for Christmas and they want to go to the Met for their very first time, I decided to get tickets for Fanciulla with Matos. In any case, I couldn’t subject two Italian novices to an English language Magic Flute or Pelleas…
            I am excited about Matos.

          • Camille

            Well, my mean husband says she sounded like a retired star of the Yiddish vaudeville, so senescent is indeed the correct word here.

            I abhor the fact it will probably be impossible to attend the centennial celebration on Friday because the quality of the singing, as heard the other evening, is absolutely unacceptable to me. Here’s hoping that Miss Matos will be given an early debut.

            I am very, very sorry for Miss Voigt but I feel she is in deep denial and needs to be urged to step down.

          • Camille

            I cannot find the thread upon which richard and I were conversing about possible current Minnies, so I’ll stick it here.

            At Teatro Massimo in Palermo, besides the already known Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, there is a young singer by the name of Meagan Miller who will be singing the part, on precisely December 10th, the anniversary. She is, now I remember, someone who sang very well in the Met Auditions about ten years ago (1999). Her website is:

            http://www.meaganmillersoprano.com

            Apparently she has just sung Ariadne to some acclaim in Vienna, no small feat for an American. As her background is an awful lot of Mozartian roles, one wonders how this youngish singer will cope with Minnie?! Here’s wishing her well and may she triumph in the part!

          • dioti giocondi

            Ercole you cannot be as shocked as I am. Debbie sounded like 90 years old in the first act and when the top opened up, it was shrill and nasty in so many ways it was not funny, off pitch, approximate, and at the end of Act II inaudible. Really really sad. You’d have to go back to those vile performances with Diva du Jour at parterre.com Leontyne Price for a similar level of filth. A really really smelly night at the Met. Poor Debbie has to hang it up before she is kicked out screaming, unlike smelly Ms Price who overstayed her welcome by what, 40 years?

        • Thank you Phoenix! I’m really really impressed by what I’ve seen and heard of Ms Matos.

          Not as wild as I was led to expect, actually. Voice controlled beyong hope in our spintoless days. There’s lots of passion and the text is meaningful, always, even if it’s not quite the RIGHT text :)

          There’s something weird about her stage bearing, with those wild eyes. But she seems like a very generous, giving performer, with the voice mostly intact.

          Not a bad Casta diva too, at least she gets the fioriture right and that’s more than one can say of most performing Normas today.

          • Kinda reminds me of a latin Behrens, with voice in much better control, those faux naive gestures…

          • phoenix

            Don’t get too enthused… I don’t know what Matos is going to be like at the Met that night. Sometimes she is absolutely wonderful, like better than almost anybody else, and then other nights she has a rough time of it and just rewrites the score… but she’s always interesting to me, no matter what she does.

    • I’m also a soft touch for this opera. The ending always tugs at me as much as Butterfly and Boheme.

  • zinka

    Let me give you my impressions of last night’s Met Fanciulla, which on Thursday will be presented as celebrating the 100th anniversary of its debut in 1910, with a fairly nice cast of Caruso,Destinn, and Amato (which friend’s father saw.):
    I truly love this opera, which not all opera fans appreciate as much as I feel they should, for it contains so much beautiful music (Gee..Did I hear shades of an act one Turandot chorus near the opening of act one, so even Puccini, like Andrew Lloyd Weber, has stolen some music from Fanciulla.
    I cannot keep track of all of the miners and other small parts, but I can say that outstanding were Edward Parks as a most sympathetic Larkens, and Jeff Mattsey as Jose Castro, who called for “Aguardiente” in a wonderfully powerful way. Over the years, I have picked out some fine voices even in small roles (like that of the wonderful Patrick Carfizzi, who should be back doing leads.).
    The first part of the Minnie role are rather talky, and Voigt had to warm up, but when she arrived at the aria, and especially in the scene with Johnson, I began to hear some of the most radiant tones, beginning with the words, “Ma il primo bacio…” and by act two she produced sumptuous and brilliant top notes, dramatic low tones, and on stage was tremendously effective in a very difficult role.
    My beloved Marcello Giordani (sporting a real mustache) was his usual brilliant self, with his trumpet-like top notes that are always so easily produced, his warmth and feeling for the Puccini line, and his excellent stage deportment. (Boy, they sure beat him up a lot!)
    I was most impressed with baritone Lucio Gallo, a skinny guy with a voice that sounded “miked,” something i love in singers (see under Cossotto,Radvanovsky,etc.).He was a superb Rance, save for one or two slightly gruff top notes. The Met seems to be getting some fine baritones these days for the more dramatic roles. (We had so much of Juan Pons, we are starved for the good stuff.)
    On Wednesday, the Marcello Giordani Foundation will be honoring dear Virginia Zeani, with whom I spent some time last night, and I am so glad to see her after quite a while,as she lives in West Palm Beach Florida, and our conversations are usually by phone. She surely deserves the honor, being of of the great divas of the past, and a fine teacher, not to mention a beautiful human being.
    Viva Puccini! He tugs at your heart strings every time.
    Sincerely, Charlie

    P.S. Giordani was kidding about “Deeeek” Johnson..I told him the story of when Minnie (VERA) in the Gran Scena act two looked at Deeeeek’s crotch, and said, “Che c’e di nuovo..Deeeeeek!” He loved it!!!!!!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    It’s amazing how people have come to tolerate mediocrity at the MET.
    Casting Voigt as Minnie in this centennial production is inexcusable.

    • dioti giocondi

      Agreed Quanto, but casting Price as Ariadne or Manon Lescaut was equally laughable, though in different ways if you know what I mean.

  • Bluessweet

    OT: here’s a report on the Met auditions in Philly, which took place last Saturday. My SO and I were there from beginning to end. We did not stay (after seven hours) for the results to be announced but The Academy of Vocal Arts, the host, was kind enough to send me the winners.

    First, there were 33 contestants who actually took part, with four drop-outs before the start.

    There were entrants from as far away as Texas and California but the crew was largely Philadelphia based.

    Women made up a good portion of the entrants but faired poorly in the final results. Anyone not affiliated with AVA or the Curtis Institute may as well have stayed home. Ok, these are, after all, the top schools in the region but there are several colleges and universities with good voice programs as well.

    Here’s the names of those going on to the Regionals in Washington DC.

    AVA
    Zach Borichevsky, (Tenor)
    Christian Bowers, (Baritone)
    Scott Conner, (Bass)
    Norman Garrett, (Baritone)
    Ryan Kuster, (Bass-Baritone)
    Nicholas Masters (Bass)
    CURTIS
    Joseph Baron (Bass-Baritone)
    Christopher Tiesi (Tenor)
    J’nai Bridges (Mezzo)

    I’d say ANY ONE of these singers could sing at the MET tomorrow!

    A few of names that I thought deserved to be on the list include:

    Julian Arsenault, 22 Baritone, Curtis
    Daniela Pedi , 29 Soprano, Philadelphia*
    Siddartha Misra, 29, Tenor, Temple U.
    Diego Silva, Tenor, 22, Curtis
    Chloe Moore, 27, Soprano, AVA
    Joshua Stewart, 23, Tenor, Curtis

    The wonder of the production of world-class singers from a four block walk in Philly seems to be in fine shape to continue.

    *Daniela Pedi, soprano, from Catania, Italy, has won numerous national and international competitions and has appeared in both concerts and opera productions. In 2010 she attended (the) Marcello’s Master Classes at the “Academy” in Catania. –-
    Per: http://www.marcellogiordani.com/news/newsitem.php?i=91

  • DonCarloFanatic

    OT. Here’s my report on the La Scala prima:

    An HD simulcast in a movie theater is not the venue from which to seriously critique operatic voices, and I am hardly qualified anyway, so I’ll refrain. The crowd in Milan today liked the new production of Die Walkure. There were few boos, although scant applause was given to the heldentenor, Simon O’Neill, whose voice cracked a few times and who seemed both awkward and unconvincing as an actor. Why the costume or makeup people didn’t cover his graying hair with a wig or a spray, so there would be at least a pretense that he resembled the young Siegmund he was portraying, remains a mystery. Hunding had unabashedly white hair, but that worked for his misalliance with the visibly younger Sieglinde, the popular and accomplished Wagnerian, Waltraud Meier. The audience applauded her enthusiastically. She isn’t young, either, but she knows the role and she gave it a credible reading. She also was garbed in a simple long gown suitable to her character, instead of burdened by the ridiculous costuming suffered by others, notably Nina Stemme as Brunnhilde. Both Hunding and Siegmund had black lines drawn on their faces. Symbolic? Perhaps. Ridiculous? Yes. But the height of Italian absurdity was reserved for the Valkyries, those most masculine and physically active of women. They wore froufrou chiffon-and-sequined swathed ball gowns of great girth. Stemme’s even had a long train. Perhaps it was Fashion Week in Milan.

    What of Wotan? Vitalij Kowaljow was convincing as the frustrated and loving father, not so much as a god capable of real anger. Ekaterina Gubanova as Fricka was well received, but I confess I was half-asleep during her finer moments. That part of Die Walkure always sends me into a reverie. Basically, this was mostly well-sung and well-acted.

    But I have serious reservations about the production. In addition to the costume issues, when spring arrived, the panels on which Hunding’s cottage was projected changed to all white, with vertical bars hanging in the doorway. Not a speck of green in sight. This did not suggest spring to me in any way. Other sets, such as they were, were mixed media moving projections, writhing statuary, and, for rock, a batch of crates Kowaljow had to climb up and down. He did so with agility, but what set designers never understand is that it detracts from the drama to create a scene that offers singers such an obvious opportunity to break their legs. The Valkyries had trouble negotiating the pretend rocks with their massive skirts. The final tacky touch, the magic fire scene, had Brunnhilde beautifully draped on a rising bier, with red lighting increasing on and around her. If the opera had ended thus, it would have been uninspiring but acceptable. Instead, twenty or so objects that strongly resembled cafeteria heat lamps descended toward her, dripping what was perhaps burning oil. The effect was unintentionally hilarious, although no one laughed.

    The La Scala audience received conductor Daniel Barenboim warmly. He gave a short speech at the beginning, which someone else must translate from the Italian, in which he quoted the Italian constitution on the arts, I believe. The audience applauded him strenuously for that. The movie theater I saw this in, in suburban northern Virginia, had about 25 people in the audience, an all-time high for any Opera in Cinema events I’ve attended on a weekday.

    Have I reviewed the externals and ignored the most important part, the singing? I can only comment on what I feel qualified to talk about.

    • Jay

      Was achin’ to get to Herndon today, DCF, but didn’t know anyone who could go (no car here). C’est la guerre.

      Camille pointed out that before the performance Barenboim read Article 9 of the Italian consitution, which declares the state must protect Italy’s historic heritage and cultural landscape.

    • Camille

      Bruennhilde sort of resembled a hamburger under heat lamps at the end.

      I agree pretty much with your objections about the production. I found it rather trying after the dynamic San Fran one I had seen. The tenor was really pretty good, I wish they would have sprayed that gray right out of his hair, too!

      Mr. Barenboim stated his concern for the future of the arts in this country and proceeded to read Article IX of the Italian Constitution, which essentially states the arts should be promulgated and cultural patrimony be preserved. We need Ercole Farnese here to be more specific.

    • I’ll be going up for Friday night’s performance and after the staging mess that was Rheingold I’m a bit apprehensive. I’d love to know why Pape backed out???

      Barenboim’s words -- roughly translated and my Italian being what it is, it is roughly, were:

      Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: I am very happy to conduct once again the opening of La Scala on December 7th and I am very honoured to have been declared its Maestro Scaligero. To that end, but also on behalf of all my colleagues who play, sing, dance, and work not only in this magnificent theatre, but in all theatres in Italy to express to what extent we are deeply concerned about the future of culture in our country and in Europe, and permit me, I would like to remind all of you of Article 9 of the Italian Constitution: The Republic promotes the development of culture and scientific and technical research. Protecting the landscape and the historical and artistic heritage of the Nation.

      Sadly he was preaching to the politically converted in the case of President Napoletano who is committed to the arts but powerless to make policy. And ironically most of the Opening Night audience at La Scala -- or any other night for that matter -- were the people who put the current government in power and support them.

      • Camille

        Grazie, willym. Buona fortuna e buona caccia!

        Perhaps Mr. Pape objected to that silly makeup and wig.

  • Billys Butt

    I just read Tommasini’s “Fanciulla”-review in the Times. As usual when he writes about Voigt, it’s laughable. I wonder how much she pays him. My favorite part is when he says “Ms. Voigt moved me deeply during my favorite passage in the opera, the moment in the love duet when Minnie, thinking about what she has accomplished (after all, she does run a business and is beloved by the campers) confesses to the worldly Johnson that she has had only “30 dollars’ worth” of education. Then, in a tender phrase that Ms. Voigt sang disarmingly, Minnie says, “If I had had more learning, who knows what I might have been?” Clearly, Tommasini identifies with Minnie here. If HE would have had more learning, he would have been a better writer and critic. Or he might have been a saloon owner. He couldn’t be a worse critic. Everybody in the opera world knows that Voigt is finished. It’s just a matter of time. Tommasini’s comment “I cannot think of a soprano who could sing any better this demanding role” is absurd. Obviously he hasn’t heard Westbroek’s Minnie (who is at least a 100 times better than Voigt), and he has no imagination to picture Nina Stemme singing that part (she is scheduled to sing Minnie in Stockholm). Also Elisabete Matos sings it a lot better than Voigt. I just find it very sad that nobody in the MET management seems to care about great singing anymore. Or maybe they just don’t know what great singing is. Otherwise -- how could they sign up Voigt for Minnie and Brünnhilde? It’s ridiculous.

  • Bill

    Billy -- Nina Stemme is also scheduled to sing
    Minnie at the Wiener Staatsoper in the future. The tenor will be Jonas Kaufmann -- do not know which
    season.

  • Signor Bruschino

    question- there was talk about a new production for the centennial… does anyone know who (director wise) was engaged?