Cher Public

Big Daddy says bull

“Margaret, what is it Big Daddy always says when he’s disgusted?” asks the immortal Big Momma in dear Tennessee WilliamsCat on a Hot Tin Roof, which Maggie answers, “He says bull when he’s disgusted.”

Well, your own Big Momma (i.e., La Cieca has been speaking to a Met insider (pictured) about certain recent headline-grabbing events. The insider says, “Bull!”

Now, remember, La Cieca is simply quoting her informant’s information and opinions here:

First I’ll start with the Gelb announcement.


They are in an utter panic as to whether Levine will even be able to remount the podium this season, and what happens in the future. Wilford is not helping matters whatsoever, and Levine’s [difficult] brother acting as liaison makes it all the worse. There are contenders, top among them Nézet-Séguin, who although rumored last season as a potential gentle lead-in replacement was taken out of contention when Philly offered him the Music Director position. [However, changes of events in Philadelphia] might lead Nézet-Séguin to the Met much faster than he, or Levine, thinks….

A certain Golden Girl essentially ended her Met career with that fall production…. From what I understand, all future offers that are not actually contracted have been pulled without discussion. All contracted performances on the table for the next few seasons are being given to the diva as a choice: if the administration feels the repertoire is appropriate and the Golden Girl can still sing it (and those roles are very limited as far as admin. is concerned) she can retain them but must prove in rehearsal that she can actually still sing them. Her choice with the other repertoire they had planned for her is that she gracefully pull out, or she will be unceremoniously bought out of the contract and replaced with little explanation other than vocal or “health” issues….

You might be wondering what happens with the upcoming second addition to the Ring Cycle. With Levine most likely off the podium, a Brünnhilde completely incapable of singing the part, a Wotan who has yet to get though a [production] of Walküre in a house half the size without canceling the majority of performances, and a production twice as long and technically the most complicated of the four that did not have the luxury Rheingold had with rehearsals in the fall, full scale panic has set in…. The one last thing I’ll say about the Golden Girl is that considering what has been occurring concerning her future, don’t be surprised if several others are already in line or being courted to take her place at this very moment as she is the centerpiece of the production and everyone knows she can’t sing it.

One last thing, which I know you won’t want to hear being a fan, Gheorghiu canceling the entire run of her Juliettes claiming illness (for a month, really?) has sealed her fate at the Met.

  • Bill

    Despite all the rumors I surmise that Voigt will sing the scheduled Walkuere Bruennhildes for this Spring at the Met. It is not as if she has not had time to
    study the role. She had been contracted to sing her
    first Bruennhildes for Vienna a number of years ago and I guess after studying the roles decided long in advance not to do the Walkuere and Goetterdaemmerung at the time but stay only with the Siegfried Bruennhilde. Eva Johanson then was contracted to do Walkuere and Goetterdammerung performances. Much later on much shorter notice Voigt also dropped out of the Siegfried and Stemme who was the Sieglinde in the cycles agreed to sing the Siegfried Bruennhildes as well at the premiere and thereafter. Stemme had a great success in Siegfried and will eventually move up to all 3 Bruennhildes in Vienna in future seasons.

    So Voigt, for at least 5 years now, has had
    Bruennhilde on her mind and obviously has studied it
    carefully. That her middle register now is not particularly attractive and she has definitely had
    pitch problems as Senta last season and as Minnie this year, may make Voigt less attractive to the ear in the Walkueres -- but most of the other Bruennhildes
    around other than Stemme, even if available, may not be much superior to Voigt. She has been marketed for these Bruennhildes for a long time -- to drop her probably will not net the Met at this stage a more attractive alternative. People will go to hear Voigt even if she is not longer at her best -- She is a known singer. The Walkueres are surely sold out for this season no matter who sings what. Few other potential Bruennhildes, at this time, would be free for an extensive rehearsal period and all the freed up performances. So I go with Voigt -- in her current vocal state, if it is not dream casting, it is unlikely to be a disaster even for bloggers such as I who heard Flagstad in the role (my first performance opera ever back in 1951).

    It would be my assumption that Urmana, who is in
    general demand, would not be free in any case. By the way Judith Nemeth of Budapest and sometimes of Bayreuth, normally a Mezzo (Kundry, Ortrud, Venus), has sung some Walkure Bruennhildes in the last couple of years -- the top may not be
    perfect for the role, but she has a sumptious middle voice and is attractive on the stage. She has some engagements in Budapest upcoming, I think Kundry at Easter and I doubt that Gelb would want to take a risk with a singer virtually unknown to the American public, no matter how talented. Plus I think if the Met management does bounce Voigt out of her scheduled performances without her consent, it would boomerang against Gelb -- Voigt is a known and popular singer and she has has developed a following at the Met this last decade or two.

  • uwsinnyc

    Well said Bill. For the host of practical reasons you describe above, it seems likely that Voigt will perform the run. It would not make sense to replace her, and even if they did there’s no guarantee the replacement would be any superior. And I can certainly think of a lot of alternatives who would be much worse.

    While I am no huge fan of hers, I don’t think she quite calamity-laden adjectives frequently hurled at her on this site are warranted.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Then she always has this to take her mind from Valhalla

  • phillyoperalover
    • phillyoperalover

  • MM2 it’s nice to read your spirited defence of la Hildy and of course I will always agree with you as long as you don’t tread on La Birgit accidentally in the process (God I love that woman!). Keep fighting the dragons- I will always be right behind you with the fire extinguisher :)

    • marshiemarkII

      Ruxie, my long lost love, you know that La Birgit was my first love, as I was a Wagnerian Queen at age 8! and my first Met opera ever was with La Birgit in Gotterdammerung, as a teenager trekking to New York from Boston, and staying up all night to get the tickets. And in 1989, the Met Opera Club had a Birgit Lovathon and there was MMII accompanying, yes La Hildy, so we go a long way, with the big girls.

      Pssst, can you believe Harry’s favorite conductor is Silvio Varviso????????????????

      • Harry

        Well when MM2 makes such a false unsubstantiated statement as “Pssst, can you believe Harry’s favorite conductor is Silvio Varviso????????????????” it proves one special point.
        I certainly did not make such a statement.

        I was merely touching on any situation where any rabid fan’s biased opinion as to ‘who was actually responsible for vocal performances considered less than best’ should be questioned and why. Parterre is a site for ‘loving singers’ not so much conductors. I remember , sitting down with an opera repetiteur who had worked internationally . It was an eye opener as he dispassionately spoke of the virtues and faults of some famous singers that he had ‘run through things’ with.
        Are you willing MM2 to also admit Brehens had faults…all singers had / have them?

        For posterity: the finest presentation she ever gave on records in my book was the Strauss Salome with Von Karajan.It stands equally alongside the Nilsson, the Caballe and the Studer versions. Then it was ‘a step too far’: her recorded Electra, as well as her Bernstein Tristan leaves a lot to be desired. Like so many other singers, she got tripped up in her recording of Nuits d’ Ete. In the first two songs -able to handle one but not the other. As for her Brunnhilde’s,( I have heard the various -- Solti/Brehens Ring of 1983, the DG Levine and the EMI Sawallisch ones) -I find the nervous ‘shaky gear box vocal change qualities’ of her voice is always a check, to be reckoned with. And no amount of ‘applied color or attempted expressive acting’ with the voice -- would mask that absent fact of sheer even weight throughout her range. Now let’s not start blaming her Siegfrieds as well…. as the conductors. It all belongs to a desperate time of ‘publish (record) or perish’ in any then promising star’s sense of upward trajectory. Many ‘make do, for the time’ recordings from that period, will simply vanish forgotten -- into thin air as time goes on.
        To me, Brunnhilde is a seamless, fully formidable dramatic voice a la Varney , Flagstad or Nilsson securely ready -- for ‘anything at any moment’. With Brehens, ‘one sits listening -- noting the shortfalls here and there, -knowing there is someone else worth listening to…. much better. So why should one, waste one’s time?
        ‘The best is the enemy of the good’

        • luvtennis

          Oh Harry.

          I feel the same way about Behrens. I have to admire her dedication and her artistic commitment. I have to admire some of her singing -- there are some really interesting bits in her Brunnhilde and Isolde and the Salome is sublime.

          BUT, the voice sounds so threadbare at times. There is no plush, no substance. Sometimes, I sense that the entire instrument was a construction of smoke and mirrors. (Absolutely NO insult to her memory intended.)

          That said, the top could be extraordinary. Her commitment to the composer and her craft is palpable in most everything she left.

          In the final analysis, FOR ME, the instrument and the technique were not sufficient to realize her artistic intentions. The timbre of the voice -- gray mostly, sometimes silvery, occassionally cloudy -- just does not SPEAK to me.

          • mrsjohnclaggart

            Beloved luvtennis you are a beacon here on the foggy damp streets strewn with the stinky efflux of the bizarre but persistent (well, you did mention Gormenghast, the Behrens phenom here must be some kind of PEAKE of the worship of Fuchsia Groan).

            And Harry, keep your chin up, I defend you on another thread (not that you should need it or care but I did, since my engorged corpus is rotting away and that takes time) — but who can find those threads?

            For ye twain and Camille adorata I provide a souvenir picture of me and Mae Enad Magilligutty as The Countess (me) and Susanne in the Letter Scene from Figaro, we are performing in Alice Goodman’s Arabic translation (heavily influenced by Mallarme) with some Aramaic phrases since she is an ordained priest — for some reason she keep using Talitha Koum, words spoken — allegedly — by our Lord and Savior when he raised a girl from the dead doncha know — it’s usually translated as “Arise and know glory ye pure soul of innocence” or some such but it really means, “you go, girl”. The frauds who compiled the canonical gospels, rewriting over and over for two centuries (and no one knows of course who the original writers were or what they were called, the names are all made up) needed to provide local color in their historical novels and so they used graffiti.

            “Talitha Koum” is found scratched in stone all over Palestine, some of the stones carbon dated to well before “the time of Our Lord”.

            Being good soldiers Mae Enad and I speak the words we are given by our trandslatrix through we know her other great influence to whom she is equal, Baudelaire, would disapprove.

            Here, we are singing ??? ????? ???????, you can figure that out…


          • mrsjohnclaggart

            The translation of the ‘letter duet’ into Arabic that I used did not print on Parterre, alas!!! Don’t let Al Qaeda know!!!!

  • Marshie my own -- how could I not love a man who kept company with La Hildy, who not only adores the Viking diva but has SEEN HER! I tremble with delight. :)

    Re the pssst -- there’s nothing about dear Harry that I can believe- but I’m glad to see he has stopped sitting in the corner eating worms and is now contributing again. He needs to get things out of his system…and as helping him can only be akin to doing the Lord’s work…we can only be blessed :)

    • Harry

      Now Ruxton ,you can stop playing an sanctified , armored Joan of Arc…to MM2’s ‘horned’ attired Valkyrie. I am the ‘lost cause’. One of opera’s Devil Advocates. I now fully understand the real meaning of a 18th Century drawing: of ‘Dandies in a box at the Opera’.. One poor thing has fainted with the vapors, and his friends are furiously fanning him with lace handkerchiefs. I can only assume he was given word that one of his friends had actually met the performing Baroque diva, he was besotted with. The shock was too much.

      Reminds: of those over the top ‘pets’ who today, faint at some rock star’s concerts shrieking out to a friend : “They really really spoke to YOU….You touched them?” Ditto…shall we say ‘Hildy’!
      We do all understand such idolatry predicaments, around the opera scene. Smile now.

      • armerjacquino

        Google Translate strikes again.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Google Translate might manage to make more sense of the above than I can. I’m just reeling in shock that iolatry predicaments got away without having some floating inverted commas stuck round it.

  • iltenoredigrazia

    What’s happened to John Frederick West? He sang some distinguished Siegfrieds at the Met a few years ago.

    • marshiemarkII

      Jon Frederick West sang, last year, a very respectable Siegfried in Gotterdammerung at the Washington Opera. In fact it was more than respectable, as the voice was in very fine working condition throughout (up to high C in act II). I first saw him for the Opening of the Prinzregenten in 1996, and I thought he was a fabulous Tristan, especially in a very powerfully sung Act III. I thought he was really going places, and then he came to the Met and all I heard was vituperatives (I was not there, so pure hearsay) for Tannhauser and Siegfried, I think. So I approached the Washington GD with great trepidation. And to my great surprise and enjoyment, both West and Theorin gave very good performances, not for the ages, but really really good for today.

      And talk about regie-theater. Since the money had run out for the production, it was presented on a dark empty stage with the most minimal of props, frequently just music stands, but the characters entered and exited within the specs, and of course attempted some (or a lot of, depending) acting, and the result was stupendous. The Immolation was especially gorgeous, with Theorin just standing center stage on an otherwise empty dark stage with some very subtle lighting effects. It was stunning, because it was all ABOUT THE MUSIC! It didn’t hurt that Theorin, in addition to sounding really good, looked magnificent in a black dress that was perfect for the solemnity of that sacred music.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        I must say I don’t really get the universal groans that seem to greet the mention of Jon Frederic West either. If anything, while still having the requisite decibels and stamina, he seems a touch more lyric than your average Heldentenor, which only leads to gains in terms of timbre, line and the ability to get the job done.

        • luvtennis

          This sums it up for me, Cocky.

          What little I have heard of West is knee weakeningly bad. Not to single him out of course! Most of the tenors singing Siegfried today have voices that are unpleasant for me to listen to for any length of time. Stig Anderson, West, Ryan et al -- we tolerate them because there is nothing better out there, but let’s not pretend that they are anything by awful substitutes for the real thing.

          If there were a worldwide catastrophe that caused all the great pianists in the world to lose their fingers, would we acclaim the remaining duffers simply because that’s all we had? I wouldn’t. I would listen to them and castigate them at every opportunity in the hopes that something better would eventually come along.

          • grimoaldo

            I saw West live once. and believe me, once was enough, as Tristan in the then new ROH production. It was in 2000 with Gabriela Schnaut as Isolde. Anna Picard reviewing in The Independent can speak for my feelings:

            Tristan had a blue box at one side of the stage and Isolde had a red one:
            “Each cabin ….contained a comedy parody of a Wagnerian singer: short, round Tristan (Jon Frederic West) in the frumpy, weather-girl royal blue cabin, and big, rectangular Isolde (Gabriele Schnaut) in the chat show scarlet cabin. And there they stayed….with an 85-minute duet for a second act, it was hard to ignore the flat, smack-in-the-face, Shanghai-opera-on-steroids sound of Schnaut or the neurotic, Broadway vibrato of West….it is reasonable to demand more than just a very loud voice from Wagnerian singers, so I wonder how long this type of casting will prevail.”

            It was the sort of evening that you never quite recover from, excruciating tedium and discomfort, so yes, the mere mention of the name Jon Frederic West does indeed make me moan and shudder with horror.

      • marshiemarkII


      • Sheldon

        I heard Jon sing Siegfried in the final cycle for the old Schenk Ring back in May of 2009, and he certainly sounded respectable in the house to my untrained ears. Good to hear that he also acquitted himself respectably at the WNO.

  • marshiemarkII

    Wow, we made it 300!!!!
    Now I am off to the gym, more later

  • Signor Bruschino

    Thinking of this Voigt conundrum, and knowing how casting snafu’s has been something Gelb has used for publicity (eg, the notorious Heppner / Voigt T/I where we had a new Tristan or Isolde for every perf), do we think the changes will be something that happens after the premiere? keep the MET in the news (at the key time when subscription renewals are needed?)… or would does a Brunhilde fiasco overshadow a potentially great debut of Westbroek and Kaufmann’s Siegmund (hopefully a modern Vickers / Rysanek) and would those artists be annoyed at their potential triumphs being overshadowed by anothers fiasco?

  • Nerva Nelli

    “Not gorgeous the way young Behrens was in those days…”

    “You should have seen the Atlantic Ocean back then….”