Headshot of La Cieca

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Feline AIDS continues unabated

“[J]udging singers in their 20s is truly difficult, especially with so much at stake for the finalists, including a $15,000 cash prize for each winner. Comparably gifted pianists in their 20s are much more likely to be technically assured and finished performers. Operatic voices, though, need long nurturing. Most young singers are still working out elements of their technique. Inevitably, the judges for these auditions are assessing the potential of the finalists as much as their actual performances. Moreover, as was made clear by the documentary film ‘The Audition,’ which followed the last round of the 2007 competition, performing in this concert could not be more high-pressure.” [Need You Ask?]

80 comments

  • operablogger says:

    Co-winner Ryan Speedo Green, although a Virginia native, is currently a Denver resident and a member of the Opera Colorado Young Artists Program. He advanced to the finals in New York by winning the Colorado/Utah regionals, the same venue through which Alek Shrader became a winner a couple of years ago.

    Interestingly, many people here felt Green should have placed second to a long-time local favorite, mezzo Megan Marino. Thus are the vagaries of vocal judging. But as DiDonato said, this is hardly the only path to the big time — and it’s also no guarantee of success.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      • operablogger says:

        Nice find, QPF. This appears to be from last summer, although he sounded pretty much the same in both the Denver Met districts and regionals — resonant tone, decent breath control, somewhat weak lower register (he was actually billed as “bass-baritone” but only sang bass repertoire), and a fair-to-middling job of interpreting exactly what he was singing.

        • ilpenedelmiocor says:

          Where’s the legato, not to mention phrasing?
          This aria is an interminable bore without it.
          German also execrable.
          But oh well, he won.

    • Fritz says:

      “Well now, they often call me Speedo
      But my real name is Mr. Earl.”

      • Lucky Pierre says:

        well, at least it’s not ryan lemonjello green…

        • operablogger says:

          You just prompted me to think of former major league pitcher Mark Lemongello, originally from Jersey City. I remember him as a former Astro, and then found this blurb when I looked him up on Google:

          He played for the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays [1976-79]. He is the cousin of singer Peter Lemongello. In 1982, Mark, along with Manuel Seoane, was arrested for the kidnapping and robbery of his cousins Mike Lemongello, a former professional bowler, and Peter Lemongello. Mark was sentenced to ten years probation after he pled no contest to the charges.

  • Bluessweet says:

    Tony the T has reviewed the MET auditions and found everything is quite all right, I think you’ll say.

    Two of the finalists and his favorite of them are from the Philadelphia schools (Curtis and the AVA.)

    Here’s a link to his review:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/arts/music/the-metropolitan-operas-grand-finals-concert-review.html

    While Bill has given us a list of European singers that might be good candidates for the Met on another thread, the Western Hemisphere has not been too shabby in producing our own candidates as well.

    My question is this: It would seem that we need a lot more training to produce an acceptable voice than, say, sixty years ago. Is it just my impression or are opera singers coming to maturity a good deal later nowadays?

    For example, the winning soprano, Michelle Johnson, is in her mid to late 20’s and is completing only the third of a four year post graduate course. Many of her colleagues, including Olivia Vote, a mezzo and another third year student who has performed in concert with Ms. Johnson and in the Philly Opera’s Romeo and Juliet as Gertrude, have also completed Master’s degrees. By the time they are done schooling, they are approaching 30. How much of a career does that leave, if we start complaining about the condition of the voices people such as Fleming, Voigt and Matilla, just into their fifties?

    When you consider that we are still waiting for Angela Mead to “mature” at 33, where indeed are we headed, to a grand career of one year at the top?

    BTW, regardless of anyone’s opinion of Mr. Tommasini as a critic, he sure can spot a “gracious” lady. In my own opinion, Ms. DiDonato has the graciousness to deserve a noble title. Of course, as an American, she really doesn’t need one. Here, it’s as one acts, one is.

    • Bluessweet says:

      Sorry, the link was put there before this posting of LC’s I was going to post on the last thread and forgot to remove it.

    • chevalierdupin says:

      I would wager, Bluessweet, that one of the central issues has to do with the time a young singer spends observed by a teacher. 50+ years ago until as far back as we can remember, young singers would often have much closer and familial relationships with their teachers (and great teachers were much easier to come by than they are nowadays) who would begin cultivating the voice early on with good, solid technique. Many of the great singers now retired or passed on worked with just one person for the majority of their developing years, but the fact remains that having that close attention and consistent adjustment of technique as the voice physically matures and grows is what allowed those great singers to tackle roles that today are considered far too mature for people in the 20′s and even 30′s. The idea of allowing a 19-20 year old girl get up and perform Lady Macbeth as Regina Resnik had done at that age, and with great success (I have a recording of the first aria which is flawless) would be considered child abuse today! I believe an additional contributing factor as to why young singers often do not get the amount of training as they need to (and I might add that the university/conservatory system is not exactly the best breeding ground for opera singers as so many focus too much on recital music rather than opera, so having a masters degree or post-master’s program does not automatically infer that one is a great technical and stage-prepared singer) is that private teachers charge upwards of $130-200 for an hour session. Far be it from me to suggest that those individuals not earn their livelihood, but the fact remains that a singer who is not yet working constantly doesn’t necessarily have the income to afford more than 1 lesson per week, and often young singers who are out running from gig to gig are not given the opportunity to check in and make the necessary adjustments with the help of trusted ears; they have to rely on their own, and this is a huge problem because many do not know how to self-diagnose and find the solutions to the challenges that the human voice consistently throws their way as they age and as they take on new repertoire.

      One has to also take into account that singers in the past would often be engaged for long periods of time in one area, or would tour with a given company; they would receive rehearsals with conductors who knew how to treat and cultivate voices. Now, the industry demands that successful singers spend more time in airports than on stage, and this is enough to wear anyone down particularly if one’s profession depends on two tiny sensitive muscles in one’s throat prone to far too many variables that change day to day, place to place. We live in a high-speed world and opera, an old-world art form, is expected on every level despite the consequences to come along.

      This is a much deeper discussion but these are some of the biggest points to be made.

      • Bluessweet says:

        Well, all this perhaps true, especially the fact that an undergraduate degree is no preparation (as it should be, considering that, at 22, an earlier generation would be singing (maybe only small roles) in a respectable house. However, the way AVA does it 6 or so years later is with a total enrolment of 27. Talk about limited admissions.

        The undergraduate degree, these days, seems to merely allow someone to say they are willing to stick around for four years of “stuff,” so they might get their name on a list of those to be interviewed for the “next step.” Sort of like the movie “Being There.”

        No High School graduates need apply.

        • Uninvolved Bystander says:

          Actually, Steven LaBrie had just turned 18 when he came to AVA. High school grad; no college.

      • ilpenedelmiocor says:

        Agreed on all points except muscles: membranes.
        The muscles move the (arytenoid) cartilage which moves the membranes.

      • Camille says:

        Monsieur le Chevalier Dupin,
        All I can do is applaud you for bringing these murky facts to the clear light of day. I couldn’t have stated it as well and I’m grateful to read my own thoughts written by my better.

  • Bosah says:

    OT: Tweet from Deb Voigt today:

    @debvoigt
    Walkure presentation at the Met today. We’re off and flying!!

    (Maybe not totally OT, given that Voigt’s a past winner)

    • OpinionatedNeophyte says:

      The met has either decided she’s good to go for this run of performances or this is the most comprehensive self promotional twitter campaign since the dawning of @SarahPalin.

      • Bosah says:

        Well, it is true that Voigt is one of the most effective Met tweeters. And, btw, often hysterical (even borderline wacky). ;)

        • Lucky Pierre says:

          well, the met seems to be skating on thin ice at this point. time is running out for a plan b… unless voigt has found a miracle potion for her voice.

          • Lily Bart says:

            Everyone seems to be assuming that her vocal capabilities are the primary criteria for her singing this role. The Met’s HD presentations demand a Brunnhilde who is a ‘star’ and looks the part. Debbie does and she can sing ‘most of it.’ You vocal connoisseurs are not the meat and potatoes of the Met’s income, unfortunately.

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            she looks the part? really? good luck with that. unfort. it’s not just the voice. she can’t act shit either.

          • Lily Bart says:

            Yeah, as far as the Met is concerned, she looks the part. Not to me, but I’m not the Met.

          • richard says:

            Yeah, I find Voigt very self-conscious and almost uncomfortable on stage. It’s like she feels this pressure to be some kind of “stage animal” and it’s just not in her.

      • Bosah says:

        ON -- follow-up tweet from Deb below….

    • Bosah says:

      And, the latest from the Voigt Tweet Machine:

      @debvoigt
      Just left Brunnhilde costume fitting. Love, love, love it!! Had helmet and shield, too!

      (This, btw, has sent a number of her followers into Voigt-Brunhilde flail mode. Very fun to read -- esp her responses.)

  • Camille says:

    It is “”Banquo’s aria and not “Banco’s”, the last time I checked, Mr. T., but I do congratulate on the lack of the usual “husky”, “dusky”, and “earthy”.

    • ianw2 says:

      Nope. The names were (are?) Italianised. Verdi used ‘Banco’.

      http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bhr5405/large/index.html

      • Camille says:

        Really, I will go check and am very very sorry to have confused the issue, ianw2, so thank you for your clarification.

      • Camille says:

        I just checked, and by gum, it is Banco. I cannot believe that I would forget something like that, as once, like poor Yorick, I knew Macbetto well.

        Well, I had best go look for Moedl now, as soon I will be joining her. Thank you correcting my misperception.

        • ianw2 says:

          Haha, sure. I’m not usually fussy about these things but am currently obsessively listening to the Abbado Macbeth with Verrett and it is SO GOOD.

          • Camille says:

            hummm, is it really? I am always intending to listen to it and never have. Good old Shirl almost did it it Rome when I was there, but she got terribly ill, so she didn’t happen, but Dimitrova and Connell did. Who is the MacBeth, again? Mr. Bruson sang it in that production I saw. Thanks ianw2.

          • ianw2 says:

            For some reason last week I decided I wanted to become better acquainted with Macbeth (no idea why), and this was the recording recommended to me- that was the only reason I chose it in all honesty- but its neat. Macbeth is Cappucilli, Ghiaurov is Banco and a young up and comer named Domingo is Macduff. La Scala orchestra & chorus.

          • Camille says:

            I always liked Mr. Cappucilli. I have a really scary one with Sinopoli conductingand Mara Zampieri doing an excellent Lady, along with -I think- Renato Bruson. Zampieri has been much maligned in these pages but she was an intelligent, artistic singer, and in the beginning the voice was good. It got a little whack, later on. I mean, I watch her Fanciulla with the audio off. Acting is wonderful.

            Thank you very much for all this information. Have you tried the Callas recording from -- what 1953 or so? -- with Enzo Mascherini. She’s one hot scary mess. Different voice all the time.
            I heard Guleghina, back when she still sang, give a decent to good performance in Carnegie with OONY, too. Too bad she’s lost her once wonderful voice. It was quite something back in the day.

          • Belfagor says:

            The divine Shirl turned me from a keen opera-teen to a raging opera-buff -- I saw her as Norma, Tosca and Dalila in three consecutive seasons at an impressionable age and it did the strangest things to me . Of course you’re obsessed with that Macbeth recording -- many of us were/have been/ still are……! Regret to my dying day I never crossed the manche to Paris to see her in her signature role in c. 84 -- it was before the chunnel……..

          • ilpenedelmiocor says:

            Cappucillli, Verrett, Ghiaurov, and Domingo.
            To die for.

          • MontyNostry says:

            The all-time great recording of Macbeth — not even mentioned by the august Gramophone magazine when it ran an obituary of Verrett …

          • MontyNostry says:

            But why are we all in italics?

          • Porgy Amor says:

            I like the Abbado Macbeth too. Next to Muti’s with Cossotto, it is my favorite one released that year.

          • Camille says:

            Now I am so glad this has all come to pass because of my Banquo/Banco boo-boo. You all have convinced me of it! I shall finally get to hear old Shirl Girl, after having been so disappoonted before. Her departure from the Rome Opera was quite a scandale, but I won’t go into it. Thanks for all the recommendations and especially if Monsieur Monty approves -- well, it could only be top drawer!

          • kashania says:

            That studio recording of Macbetto is wonderful but I find Shirley even more exciting in the live performance from La Scala (also with Cappucili and Abbado). I believe it`s on the Unnatural Acts of Opera. Simply sensational.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Shirl even leaps out of a fuzzy video on YouTube

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            is there a reason cappuccili only sang one perf. at the met?

      • Camille says:

        you know, ianw2 — I am flummoxed as to why he did Banco to Banquo, Fleanzio to Fleance, Duncano to Duncan, but then keeps Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Macduff, and Malcolm. I mean, this is starting to bug me now. Especially as that Fuggi, regal fantasma scene has “Macbetto” repeated several times (I believe that’s the scene). There are also these: Dama, Medico, Domestico, Araldo, Sicario, and good old Ecate.

        Why Duncano and Not Macbetto (consitently), Macduffo or Malcolmo? It’s all funny, but I wonder why and how these choices were made. There’s a Malcolm in La Donna del Lago as well, and I seem to recall he’s called “Malcolm” there, but NOW I no longer trust my memory.

        I suppose La Signora Macbetto doesn’t make the same impact?

        Confusa io son, e son donna e son curiosa. A scone for your thoughts, anyone.

        • ianw2 says:

          I was wondering the same thing. In the score I posted above, ‘Lady’ does seem to become ‘Dama Macbeth’ at times but the -eth suffix isn’t particularly Italian at the best of times. Pure hypothesis on my part, but Verdi may have felt that renaming the title character/s from Shakespeare, who he revered, may have been a step too far BUT lost this scruple a decade or two later with Otello (but not Falstaff!).

          Or, since he changes to Macbetto in the music, maybe he just thought that keeping the original Shakespeare names in the title and cast list may be a better advertising move.

          (but can you imagine an opera with a character called Macduffo?!)

          • Camille says:

            Yes I can, as it is no more strange to me than DuncanO!

            Okay, it says MACBETH on the score, why did he not retain OTHELLO? Well, okay, its DECADES later and he was the biggest composer in Italy. I guess by then the whole thing didn’t matter.

            Anyway, it’s a curious thing how they deal with English names in italiano. Anna Bolena? Maria Stuarda? Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra are okay but those weird things they do in Lucia and Puritani, like Arturo Talbo, etc., are funny. Of course they were composing for persons in that same language and wanted them to understand the words, so funny anglicized names had to accommodate the comprehension levels of those audiences, not to mention the singer’s abilities.

            Sticky wicket. Better drop it right now. Thanks for your thoughts. I guess that someone has done a whole dissertation on all of this stuff, anyway, so maybe we could look that up.

            Oh, one last thing, I happened to find a copy auf deutsch of Schiller’s Luise Miller and he changed the LuisE to LuisA for his opera. I believe there was an umlaut over the U of Luise, but don’t trust my faulty memory anymore and don’t want to spread rumours about that lovely, tragic creature. The last trio being one of my favorite Italian death scenes.

          • Batty Masetto says:

            Camille, the probable answer is that Otello, etc. were already well established as the characters’ names in Italian (Rossini already had an Otello, right?). The Italians began translating Shakespeare in the 18th century. I think “Macduffo” would be fun, sounds like a character from a Farrelly bros. movie.

            Also, no umlaut for Schiller’s Luise Miller, but the play is called Kabale und Liebe (which sounds a whole lot better in German than “Intrigue and Love” does in English).

          • Camille says:

            o thanks, Batty, just saw this now and must hurry to sleep, to sleep.

            Otello explanation does make a great deal of sense. I see that now.

            The play of Schiller that I bought for a dollar at a used book store really does say Luise Miller on the front, and yes, of course it was Kabale und Liebe (I do so love that name!), SO, when I find this playbook, I’ll send it to you for your further examination. Along with truffes. or would some nice tropical fruit do?

            Mit viel Liebe,
            Kamille und Liebe

        • grimoaldo says:

          Verdi kept the title of the opera “Macbeth” out of respect for Shakespeare but it is not a word that could be sung in Italian as Italian has no “th” sound and so he is always referred to in the sung text as “Macbetto”. Lady Macbeth is never referred to by name in the sung text neither is Malcolm. Banquo is again a word that would be very hard to sing in Italian so it is changed to Banco. Curiously, in the apparition scene one of the visions tells Macbeth “Da Macduff ti guarda” but the character is otherwise referred to in the sung text as “Macduffo”. I am not sure why they changed “Fleance” to “Fleancio” as the name is never sung in the opera, maybe they planned to have someone use his name and then changed their minds. Birnam wood becomes “Birnamo” the one time it is sung.
          As Batty says, “Otello” was already familiar as a name through the famous Rossini opera when Verdi wrote his late masterpiece.

          • MontyNostry says:

            grimoaldo … a question. Why would ‘Banquo’ be harder to sing than, say, ‘dunque’? (We could have that famous comic duet ‘Banquo io son’.)

          • grimoaldo says:

            Good question Monty and I don’t know except to say that probably it was felt that it would be easier for Italian singers to say “Banco” instead of “Banquo” which would be something they were not used to.

          • MontyNostry says:

            As Shalamar used to say, “Take that to the Banco”.

    • OpinionatedNeophyte says:

      Amen.

      • luvtennis says:

        The Verrett/Abbado/La Scala recording is perhaps the best reference recording for most tastes.

        But I loves me some hootylicious Zampieri.

        The best Lady EVER. Even better than Maria since she sings the entire role.

        • Camille says:

          oh, I just noticed this, after my posted my little ad for Zampieri tolerance.

          I think she is one of the only ones who sang it the way Verdi described he wanted it to be done. There are numerous markings for when he actually wanted the singer to sing (voce spiegata) and a lotta, lotta sotto voce stuff. Very radical for them days. i don’t know what Mercadante was up to, maybe he was going something similar, but Bellini really tried to start something with La Straniera, and well, didn’t really continue.

          • Camille says:

            sorry, can’t type today. Meant to say “after I posted” and “Mercadante was DOING something similar”. Need to hire a secretary.

          • Bill says:

            Camille -- whatever one thinks of Mara Zampieri
            (and I found her to be an exciting singer even with three different sounds, one in the lower
            register, one in the middle and then her higher notes) she was the last truly exciting
            Tosca I’ve heard -- and that was quite some
            years ago.

          • Camille says:

            Darn it, I can’t find the right segment that features la Zampieri’s beautiful singing of “O Patria Mia”, in this film, but this is a wonderful film for operaphiles by the wonderful, magisterial, one and only, Maestro Fellini, so I include it. Maybe I’ll succeed in finding the clip in which she sings the Aida, exceedingly well.

            E LA NAVE VA -- 1983 -- Federico Fellini, with Janet Suzman as the legendary diva Edmea Tetua, whose voice is sung by Mara Zampieri.

          • Belfagor says:

            I do love that live recording of Mercadante’s ‘Il giuramento’ from Vienna, that appeared on CD a year or so back, with Zampieri, Baltsa and Domingo -- though I can’t say I’ve listened to it analytically -- is the opera really that short, or is it cut to shreds?

          • semira mide says:

            Thank you Camille, for posting the clip from “E la nave va”! The April issue of GRAMOPHONE has a special on film music, but it hard to beat the music for/in this film. Bravo Fellini(as usual) and thank you,Camille.

          • moritz says:

            Zampieri’s “O patria mia” is in the actual funeral scene -- and yes, it’s beautiful indeed!

          • Camille says:

            Moritaz — I send you a HUGE kiss of thanks for tracking that down — I was about to depart on my youtube quest to find it, when I found you had already found it.

            As this shows, Mara Zampieri was truly a classically trained, and had originally the most marvelously ben intonata (well-tuned) cantilena, at least in this particular instance. She made such a case for Lady Macbeth, with her scrupulous regard of Verdi’s markings. I hate those shouting mezzos that scream their bloody flaming fool heads off, as there is so much particular detail in this score and Verdi slaved to bring out many effects which are high-handedly disregarded so many times. Just scream and get it out, is the impression I get from many of them. And if quella maledetta Michael sings Lady M. @ the Met, I will be standing outside with my placard, protesting her. It won’t come to pass, however, as surely the end of the world will take place before that happens.

          • Feldmarschallin says:

            I heard Zampieri sing Aida and I shall never forget the voice soaring over the complete orchestra and chorus of the triumphal scene. Varady had also sung the role along with many others but Zampieri had that fantastic huge top that cut like a laser. How she could take that huge voice down to a mere wisper was amazing. I shall never forget the first time I heard her live in a Ballo on Allerheiligen 1981 with Lima and Cappuccilli in Ballo. That was a glorious night as well and all three were on fire. How lucky was I to have my first Ballo with those three all in great form.

          • Camille says:

            Gnaedige Feldmarschallin!

            I do envy you as I had opportunity to hear Lima sing Gustavus in the mid-eighties, albeit with a different cast, and he was just terrific! Sorry he’s forgotten now.

        • ianw2 says:

          Also, because I’m shallow, I also like the happily dated cover art. I tend not to own multiple recordings of the same opera (shallow, yet also strangely loyal) but perhaps in due course I will have to check out all these others.

          I’m much more of a 20th century repertoire man, so I’ve found it quite a startling experience to be so sucked into a Verdi recording (not talking smack about Verdi, just that he’s not my usual go-to on the iPod for opera).

          • La marquise de Merteuil says:

            Now e la nave va is one whack movie!

          • Belfagor says:

            Hated that movie when I was young -- love it now -- I hadn’t accessed my inner dowager at that point.

          • Camille says:

            Madame la Marquise — it’s'whack ’cause it’s a movie on Italian crack, i.e., il Melodramma!

            Belfagor — get phoenix to sign you up for “The Dowager Quarterly”, as he kindly has done for me. Much pearl clutching, but no Mohicans allowed.

          • Camille says:

            Speaking of another ‘whack’ movie by Maestro Fellini — I submit his 1978 “Prova d’orchestra” for consideration. In light of what is going on at this very minute in Italy, it’s quite presciently relevant as well as giving great pause that it was released 33 years ago.

            Concluding scene — persevere until minute five, please --sorry the portugues subtitles may be confusing. Just ignore and follow the music….

    • Lucky Pierre says:

      what? no cool nordic colorings? no strapping?

      • Camille says:

        all the cool nordic colourings were in the pique dame.

        there was no strapping, cause no Dimitri, DAMN!

        • Lucky Pierre says:

          the strapping ones are guarding the met entrance, as you come in and hand your tickets to the ushers…

          • Gualtier M says:

            Lucky Pierre, the tall blond you like who checks the bags with the baton is the son of James Naples, who is the house manager at the Met. I would not mess with or make any indecent proposals to baby-faced blond football player usher because his daddy will turn you into mincemeat.

          • Lucky Pierre says:

            gualtier, how dare you! i do not make any indecent proposals to baby hunky boys, no matter how strapping they are. all my proposals are very decent. must i send my boyfriends arpad and attila to have a talk with you?

            and btw, should i try his daddy then?????

            and btw 2, do you know who the compact, muscular asian wrestler one is (filipino maybe???)???

  • KennethC says:

    Exactly! I find it hard to believe that Tony T. wrote an entire NYTimes article without once using the word “strapping.” Poor man, he must be under the weather or something.

  • manou says:
  • manou says:

    (I was trying to stop the pesky italics…)

  • dallasuapace says:

    Test

  • Camille says:

    I like the italics.
    I think La Cieca put them on so she can separate out comments when she is away, to see what the proverbial mice are up to whilst the momma cat is on reisespass.