Headshot of La Cieca

Cher Public

  • steveac10: But Pecheurs is an even easier sell. Especially if you can cast a baritone and tenor who have six... 6:53 PM
  • MontyNostry: There is a big profile of Herlitzius in the August edition of Opera magazine, which is... 6:39 PM
  • Orion: Fine with pleasure Grimoaldo, and will read also Manou’s report too ;) I will give you my... 6:24 PM
  • Camille: Exactly what I had in mind! Now, let’s hope he doesn’t try to strangle her... 6:20 PM
  • DellaCasaFan: Buster, these are fantastic hits for the first run. It took me more than one listening for a... 6:20 PM
  • grimoaldo: Yes we are interested Orion (some of us anyway) please report ( I hope manou will too)! 6:05 PM
  • grimoaldo: “CuirassR 21; is not a word you hear very often, it brings to my mind “This tight... 6:01 PM
  • Orion: Kashaniar, I read your comment with great interest, because I know that many people have the same... 5:58 PM
  • Stendhal: Your comment is a perfect example of ideological thinking that has become accepted as fact by... 5:54 PM
  • Cicciabella: She could take a fashion tip from Brünnhilde. This lovely cuirass only costs $525, peanuts for a... 5:16 PM

Lady in a cage

Sometimes it seems as though DVDs are released just for the sake of filling a hole in the catalogue. Considering the lack of anything truly distinctive in this 2007 production of Verdi’s La forza del destino from the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, that would certainly seem to be the case here. (If anyone is wondering, the hole in the catalogue I am referring to is a modern HD version of the standard 1869 Forza with a recognizable cast.) 

The production, by Nicholas Joel, is traditional in setting and old-fashioned in staging, meaning that the acting is generalized and blocking chiefly concerned with making sure the singers are front and center, always able to stare straight at the conductor. That’s not to imply though that this opera necessarily suffers terribly by this treatment. The only oddity is the three-sided cage which is meant to be Leonora’s hermitage in the final act.  I suppose this liberty was taken for symbolic value, but any notion of that is dispelled when Carlo walks around one of the sides to stab her (defying Verdi’s stage directions) while Alvaro is inexplicably unable to find his way in.

As Leonora di Vargas, Violeta Urmana turns in an impressive performance that shows off the dramatic power of her voice, emotional commitment, and clear diction.  A tall, statuesque woman, it is a pity she is not costumed more flatteringly, but nonetheless she has a dignified and noble presence. Her tone, though not unlovely, is unvarying and often constricted. But more crucially her singing lacks the transcendent, spiritual quality of great Leonoras such as Renata Tebaldi and Maria Caniglia, which elevates this opera above its ludicrous plot.

Thus, much of the monastery scene with its glorious soaring lines remains earthbound. That is not to say this is an inadequate performance; it is simply not a great one. For all the muscle and metal in her voice, Urmana can sing with affecting vulnerability and lovely floated pianissimo, and is especially moving during “La vergine degli angeli” and “Pace, pace mio dio”. She is also not afraid to dig into her chest voice, which she uses to good effect in Act 1.

Marcello Giordani, singing his first Don Alvaro, begins the opera looking and sounding uncomfortable in the part, cutting off notes and rushing lines, but settles in as it progresses.  As is often the case with him, his acting is generic and singing inconsistent, with high notes varying from trumpeting to whiny.  Nevertheless, he sings with fervor and style, and tenors suited to the Italian spinto repertoire aren’t exactly growing on trees.

The quality of the cast deteriorates after that, starting with Carlo Guelfi‘s Don Carlo di Vargas.  Guelfi’s voice is not the most reliable or distinctive, but it gets the job done. It is appropriately dark, but often dry and wobbly.  As the solemn Padre Guardiano, Roberto Scandiuzzi can be a trial to listen to because despite having an attractive lower register, the voice spreads obtrusively from the lower-middle upwards.  Likewise, Julia Gertseva’s spunky Preziosilla suffers from a pronounced wobble and is challenged at the top.

Unfortunately, the serviceable, bland conducting of Zubin Mehta does not do much to make up for the overall weak cast.  He tends to be metronomic and mechanical, resulting in a generic, square interpretation that lacks the brooding urgency and tension that should pervade the opera.

For lovers of this haunting yet problematic opera, is this DVD a necessary addition to your collection? Considering that it features a solid Leonora among a second-rate cast in a production that is unlikely to offend (or excite) anyone, it is merely a satisfactory stop-gap until a more ideal version is released.

61 comments

  • WindyCityOperaman says:

    Yes, the Muti CSO Otello was a concert version, but Guelfi’s Iago was so undistinguished it almost didn’t exist.

    BTW, anyone else notice there was NO soprano soloist at the royal wedding ceremony today? William and Kate didn’t have their “Kiri”.

    • armerjacquino says:

      They did have, according to the BBC, ‘their favourite motet’ though. Hey kids, what’s your favourite motet?

      • Melot's Younger Brother says:

        Something that’s got a good beat and that you can dance to.

      • Edward George says:

        Alas, singers at royal weddings ain’t what they were 30 years ago. Yet another decline in standards.

    • operaddict says:

      Did anyone notice that the Obamas weren’t invited???

      • La Cieca says:

        Rush Limbaugh did, and you. The rest of the world bothered to find out the truth which is that Prince William insisted upon what he called a “people’s wedding,” with a guest list comprised of friends and associated connected with the more than 20 charities he works with. (Since the prince is not the heir to the throne, his wedding is not defined as a state occasion, so there is not such strict protocol about who must be invited.)

        There are only a very few heads of state who were invited to the wedding, in fact.

        • Pu-Tin-Pao says:

          OT: I thought I heard on the news a couple of days ago that only heads of state of Commonwealth countries were invited to the royal wedding. I also believe that ambassadors for non-Commonwealth countries were invited. Interesting article:

          http://www.talkafrique.com/news-flash/why-the-king-of-swaziland-has-royal-wedding-invite-but-obama-is-not

        • operaddict says:

          How nice! However, I wasn’t aware of Rush’s knowledge of that. But I believe you are mistaken, dear Cieca.
          The prince is indeed heir to the throne. If his father, Prince Charles, who is already 62, were to suddenly die, William would be next in line when Queen Elizabeth passes away.
          The word on the street is that our POTUS offended the royal family, and was barred from the proceedings on orders of the Queen of queens, Herself.

          • ianw2 says:

            No. The Wedding was a ‘private occasion’ (UK taxpayers only paid the security bill) as William is the Heir Presumptive, not the Heir Apparent (Charles). As APT explains below, if Charles was dead and William was the Heir Apparent, the Obamas (along with every other head of state of which the UK has diplomatic relations) would have been invited. If you want to talk snubs, its pretty well known that William has an intense dislike of Blair after Blair’s autobiography, hence Blair not being invited, but Major and Thatcher were.

            The only heads of state invited to this private occasion were foreign royals (who are usually all distant relatives anyway) and heads of state within the 16 realms of the Queen.

          • bobsnsane says:

            yes he sent back that bust of Churchill

        • Melot's Younger Brother says:

          The Obamas will be making a state visit to the UK in May. It was thought two trips would be overkill.

      • brooklynpunk says:

        …and if they had been..I bet you would have complained about that, as well…..LOL!!

        • Often admonished says:

          The official reason was they would have made security -- with all those crowds -- impossible and/or insanely expensive. Also they will make a UK state visit in May.

          • A. Poggia Turra says:

            This tis the correct answer. HM the Queen, and more importantly the Buckingham palace staff, were VERY upset at the high-handed security that surrounded the state visit of George and Laura Bush (and let me make it clear, while there is plenty to blame Bush for, nothing in this matter was directly his fault).

            Apparently the Secret Service and the US military police (who are responsible for security for the the Embassy, the Ambassador’s residence and so on) were VERY high-handed and made extraordinarily intrusive demands.

            And on the matter of succession, William was second in line at the moment of his birth. However, protocol dictates that the wedding of an heir who is not first in line is NOT considered a “state event”. Therefore, Charles and Diana’s wedding was a state event (Reagan was invited, but sent George HW and Babs Bush in his stead), while the Prince Andrew/Fregie and Prince Edward/Sophie weddings were not state affairs.

            having said all of that, if Harry Windsor and Mrs. Claggart ever join in connubial bliss, all bets are off :D :D

          • Feldmarschallin says:

            actually Nancy Reagan was also present at the wedding of Charles and Diana. I didn’t know that the elder Bushes were also there but I still remember seeing Nancy looking stunning in a beige Valentino with matching hat. Sarkozy like Obama was not invited and neither was Angela Merkel since La Cieca already mentioned this was not a state wedding but a private affair. No snub at all and I am sure everyone was glad not to have the added security at a family wedding if you have heads of state of all the countries since it would be much more likely to try and stage an attack. If only royals and family friends and some officials from the dominions are there they can save a lot of hassle.

          • A. Poggia Turra says:

            Feldmarschallin -- thanks for the information re: Nancy R.’s attendance -- although I am surprised that she chose Valention over her beloved Galanos (I for one agree with V over G)

  • Donna Anna says:

    I enjoy reading these reviews and I wish there were opportunities to see them without having to make a purchase. Netflix, in its efforts to promote live streaming, lists only one opera dvd from 2010 and nothing from this year at all. Our public library is even worse. Any suggestions--other than youtube?

    • armerjacquino says:

      It’s not really what you asked for, but I’m a huge fan of the Met Player- such an array of wonderful performances in audio and video.

      I find YouTube fine for auditioning potential DVD purchases.

      • mrsjohnclaggart says:

        How amaing to see someone mentioning THE VERY GREATEST Renata Tebaldi in her most amazing role and the GREAT Maria Caniglia. Surely these, one feels, must be forgotten as is wretched Old Mrs. John Claggart.

        (“Every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably” — Walter Benjamin. Then he took an overdose and died to escape the Nazis. Rescue arrived about six hours later and would have saved him. He was writing about ART generally not two old divas and a nonentity but the thought has its relevance).

        Mrs. Claggart is extinct most especially since Amerjaquino blithely refused to introduce her to Harry Windsor, destined to be her bridegroom. ‘Twould have been a DOUBLE wedding yesterday had that evil fairy not interposed himself.

        One can see Big Renata on the Napes video but her two great documents are Florence ’53 with Mitropoulos (EVERYWHERE) and Scala 55, (WALHALL) an amazing performance with Pippo, godly, as is she. Maria Caniglia is on the astounding Marinuzzi with Pasero as THE Guardiano (best heard on the Warner pressing of the first Cetra release). Maria sings of a lot of it in tune, actually (like her Desdemona with Martinelli in the best of several great Met Otellos with Martinelli, and her Francesca conducted by the GREATEST Guarnieri who even Mo. Muti describes as a miracle though his idol Toscanini and mentor Votto HATED Guarnieri who LOATHED AND DETESTED THEM as Mrs. Claggart does Exxxx-- what is that noise? WHAT?

        Scifisci is clearly formidable but has not seen Stemme, Licitra and the GREATEST (irony), Alistair Miles in the Vienna Forza also conducted by Mehta. Despite her sensitive attempt, the worst performance the work ever documented.

        I believe my sister Gorchakova and husband Gregorian and my odor model Gergiev are on the Kirov video of the original St. Petersburg version, which I saw live, watching my death as time for several hours collapsed. That is on DVD (not HD perhaps). But perhaps my new idol means something else.

        • Clita del Toro says:

          I saw Big Renata sing Leonora at the met when she first did the role there. She was wonderful, probably the best I have seen in person. Huge, gorgeous voice at that time.

          Late Zinka was just okay, and I liked Price’s Leonora, but Renata was it for me.

          • mrsjohnclaggart says:

            Never saw Zinka bring it off, but she was old and I was young so perhaps earlier… (I hate ALL her pirates in the role but that is me). Lee did not have the richness mid voice or the powerful lower range. Isolated moments were wonderful but the whole was somewhat compromised, though one appreciated her soaring ease in the Covent Scene.

            Poor Caterina Mancini was horrible (having been pretty good in Trovatore the year before, huge, gorgeous voice coming apart during that performance in Philly, next engagement was as CONTRALTO in Messiah done in commemoration of JFK, I assume Rescigno, a very nice man, doing her a favor).

            I enjoyed Stella live, and Leonie gave it a good scream. At one point Birgit wanted to sing it. I liked Tucci very much.

            At one of the many Arroyo performances, where she was abysmal despite the marvelous basic quality of her tone on good days, an old man turned me and said, “I saw Ponselle, and this girl is BETTER”. Keep that in mind when you read the scum on Opera-L.

            I enjoyed the GREATEST Raina Kabaivanska and may be among the few who has the complete in house tape of her first performance chez Met (she was breaking up with her then boyfriend, who however made the tape and recorded the three way fight between her and Carlo on one side, and the Romanian baritone Herlea on the other, someone who EVERYONE hated, and the reason Franco would not come on after the Garden Scene in the b’cast Forza), I also enjoyed Mary Curtis (Verna).

            But I bet Clita’s faves were Rachel Mathes and my twin, Sharon Sweet, in those storied performances where Placido Minge lowered THE ENTIRE ROLE with that greatest and most illustrious musician Jimbo Levine conducting.

            Then there were three great Varady performances in Munich with the thrilling Luchetti, yet someone here posted there were no better Alvaros in the 80′s than the Minge (Luchetti was eight times, no ten times better, and Martinucci, Giacomini and la Scola if not Golden Age were better, so was an aging Ferraro, huge voice, always dismissed because of those Callas documents but in fact pretty impressive live).

            But s/he has not LIVED who has not heard Slatinaru and Voigt as Leonora.

          • armerjacquino says:

            How funny that the Mancini Messiah should be mentioned twice in a week- I bet it’s never been mentioned on here before!

          • operaddict says:

            One of my all time favorite Forza recordings is the one from New Orleans with Zinka, Del Monaco, Warren and Wildermann. Walter Herbert conducts. It is simply astounding singing. And interestingly, the Maestro plays the overture AFTER the first scene. It really makes sense to do this…at least to me.

          • IngeK says:

            Raina Kabaivanska sang Forza? Oh would I have given anything to have heard that. I only heard her live a few times and not in operas that would have been my first choice. She was stunning. Lucky you to have heard her. Those memories should go a long way, Mrs. Claggart.

          • kashania says:

            I’ve only started to appreciate Milanov in the last few years and have come to realise that the secret is to stick to performances prior to the early 50s. She could still produce some really resplendant sounds in the early 50s. But by the mid-50s onward, the singing became more and more uneven. There is a ’53 Forza with Milanov/MdM/Warren that is really very good.

            I only have Tebaldi’s studio Forza MdM/Bastianini/Simionato but I’ve heard so much about the live ’53 recording with Mitropolous.

          • kashania says:

            operaaddict: I see that you’ve already brought up the New Orleans Forza. Sorry I missed your post. I think that performance was one of La Cieca’s Unnatural Acts. And yes, you’re right about the overture! It works very well after the first scene.

          • iltenoredigrazia says:

            Kabaivanska sang at least one performance of Forza at the Met in the fall of 1964 with Carlo Bergonzi. If my memory doesn’t fail me, Joan Grillo was the Preciozilla.

        • Harry says:

          That original St Petersburg Forza del Destino with Gregiev on CD and video is a true full-on stinker. The men -- both tenor and baritone -seemed to behaving like they were having a tired voiced, scream bitch fight.

          Nor should we mention the ‘effort’ of Carerras and Plowright on CD either. Whatever possessed DG to record such 100% filth as, Verdi’s ‘The Flush of Dysentery’?

          Oh!The pain: that some of our ears have suffered over time.

          • bobsnsane says:

            I M surprised, Harry! -- I really enjoy that performance myself….. I dunno…
            And overture after thr first scene is inspired!

        • iltenoredigrazia says:

          I agree with the top rating given to the ’53 and ’55 Forzas with Tebaldi.

        • Bill says:

          Mrs JC -- Milanov was my first Leonora back in
          1953 when Bing revived the opera (with the overture not at the beginning of the opera a big revelation and scenery of Berman which updated the opera 2 centuries -- a great novelty) and though I always felt Milanov was somewhat of a sloppy singer there were moments when she sang so exquisitely and in the convent scene, she was in her element. Tebaldi, a few years later, was much better throughout, probably the best Leonora I can ever expect to see. I enjoyed Stella a great deal in Vienna (with di Stefano) and one evening it was Gerda Scheyer who had come from the Volksoper and sang with a thinner voice, but very musical and was not totally outclassed by di Stefano, Simionato and crew. Leontyne Price was admired by many but I was never an overwhelming fan of hers.

          The last Forza I saw was the first night of the new production at the Met where Domingo took over the role of Alvaro as Pavarotti was unable to learn the part. Sharon Sweet was the Leonora and the entire production, both visually and musically was such a boring turnoff that I have since then not had the courage to attend another Forza anywhere (certainly not the current production in Vienna where everyone is a cowboy).

          Vienna has had, since the war, some very impressive Preziosillas including big names such as Simionato, Cossotto, Christa Ludwig, Jean Madeira, and an even more formidable list of Padre Guardians -- Ludwig Weber, Frick, Christoff, Ghiaurov, Siepi, Talvela, Moll, Raimondi, Furlanetto,etc. but without a topnotch Leonora, Carlo and Alvaro these days,
          I imagine almost any Forza anywhere might well be a tribulation that even you, Mrs. JC, having witnessed countless Forzas and Die Macht des Schicksals might not be willing to endure. Still, after Don Carlo, it is one of my favorite Verdi operas.

          • Bill says:

            Sorry -- Bing revival of Forza was in 1952.
            Tebaldi, however, did not sing in Forza at the Met until 1956

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Bill, I agree about Milanov. She was my first Amelia in Ballo in 1955? with Anderson as Ulrica. Incredibly uneven singer at that time.

            When Tebaldi did her Aidas (FABULOUS!) at the Met in 1955 (Mario Ortica’s debut as Rhadames), Bastianini and Thebom?) the Milanov group had to admit that Renata’s Aida was as good or better than Zinka’s (“except for the Oh Patria mia,” of course) ??? lol
            It took me a while to appreciate Zinka and sorry I missed her in the very early 50′s. Would have loved to see MdM and Zinka in Aida.

          • mrsjohnclaggart says:

            Bill!!! Adored one!!! I AM Gerda Scheyer!!!!! Leave it to you to bring her/me UP, and I don’t mean as a cat does a fur ball. I saw her do Tosca and VIOLETTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But in those days I realize now, a dame of the ancien regime, decomposing as I write, though large enough for that to take a while, many, many people had something going on, even if they weren’t among the greats.

          • iltenoredigrazia says:

            The 1952 Met production omitted the “tavern scene” (Act 1, Scene 2?). They played the overture at that point to provide a break before the “convent scene.”

        • scifisci says:

          MJC: The Marinuzzi recording w/ Caniglia was my very first and I’m so glad it was. It is a tradition of old-school conducting non-existent today. I felt a bit uncharitable in comparing mehta to marinuzzi, but the comparison really does show everything that is so wrong about mehta’s conducting in this rep. No forward momentum, no taking time and giving it back…just metronomic vertical conducting. You only need to compare the string introduction to ‘madre pietosa vergine’ to see the world of difference….or the le minacce duet, or the whole of act 1, or the finale, etc.

          I often wonder what happened to that taut yet free type of conducting (Beecham, walter, etc.) not just in opera but classical music in general as the 20th century progressed.

  • Clita del Toro says:

    I love Forza a lot. But between boring Umana and strangulated Giordani, you couldn’t get me to listen to or watch that DVD. Quelle merde!

    • Porgy Amor says:

      …and they (Urmana and Giordani) are the best things about it. Guelfi’s got nothin’. Ugly sound with no heft or thrust behind it. At least playing a villain this time, so able to pass off the pinched, “sneering” sounds he makes anyway as some kind of expressive device, though I assure you, they are there when he’s Boccanegra discovering his daughter too. None of the virtues anyone may look for to partially salvage a performance that is unpleasant to hear, e.g. individual phrasing, textual investment, compelling acting/stage presence. He speaks Italian, he doesn’t have memory lapses, and he can carry a tune. That’s about it. The supporting cast is poor. And Mehta’s conducting…what’s happened over 40 years? Whatever one thought of his Aida, Trovatore, and Requiem early on, they at least were energized. This is limp, desultory an account of a complete Verdi opera as I’ve ever heard charged to a famous name. The pits.

      • kashania says:

        I saw Guelfi’s Amonasro at the Met. You’re absolutely right. A convincing snarl is about all he has going for him. That combined with good acting made him a passable Amonasro (though barely). I wouldn’t want to hear him in a more substantial role like Don Carlo. And Simon, what a horrible thought!!!

  • Clita del Toro says:

    I threw the Gergiev CD of Forza into the garbage!

  • Clita del Toro says:

    Mrs Claggart: LOL Never saw Mathis or Sweet in anything! I saw Stella’s debut in Aida, but don’t remember her singing Froza at the Met??

    • mrsjohnclaggart says:

      I saw Stella on my first visit to Vienna, then when she had lost a lot, a decade later in Rome. A lot of pizazz. New Orleans does the Met version, that was based on the German performing ed that Bing knew and insisted on (he had been working in Dresden when it was first given conducted by Nazi loving Busch who lied about that in USA as Lott’chen Lehmann did, translated by Werfel, later killed by Alma Mahler, his wife). No Inn Scene, so overture substitutes and covers big scene change as well as lack of intro-mission. Heavy cuts in Camp scene and cut of Sleale duet. That was done at the Met (now and again Sleale cut was opened depending on the tenor) until Bing left.

      • brooklynpunk says:

        Mrs JC:

        “conducted by Nazi loving Busch who lied about that in USA”

        With all due respects…can you elaborate on that charge?. According to Michael Kater’s “The Twisted Muse”, while Hitler himself was opposed to Busch losing his position ( although it happened anyway); and that Busch would have prefered to remain and prosper in his native Country, Kater still asserts that Busch was a “believer in Democracy” and ” destained the Nazi philosophies”

        I’d be very interested in seeing your proof that such was other-wise-thanks!

        • mrsjohnclaggart says:

          It was Adolf Busch who hated the Nazis and left immediately, when Hitler was elected, with all his children. He did so not knowing how or where he’d live or support them.

          Fritz was fired from Dresden for repeated breach of contract about which he had been warned for years (he took very long not negotiated leaves of absence to collect high fees guest conducting), not for being anti-Nazi.

          He was supported for years by the Nazis, who sent him, highly paid, his family living in luxury, on a propaganda tour of South America to promote Nazism. He was happy to do it.

          It was only years after the Nazis finally could not dislodge loyal party members (he had not joined the party and it wouldn’t have mattered by then) who had the great appointments in the country.

          I believe he declined Aachen as beneath him, so a certain Karajan who was not recognized as a Party member was made to join to get the job (an earlier card with a signature obviously not his, issued when he was both under age and an Austrian citizen has never been fully explained. Though he stopped talking about the Nazis, he did deny he knew anything about that earlier card. Significantly or not for you, Karajan never gave the Nazi salute, though Busch did, Karajan claimed he had severe bursitis and couldn’t lift his arm that high. Karajan never returned the mandatory greeting of ‘Heil Hitler’ that anyone heard at least, he would say, “Hi, ja”. (This was told me by both Gruemmer and Moedl.)

          The Nazis hated Karajan so much not withstanding their use of him to inflame and manipulate Furtwaengler, that they planned to send him to the Russian front, as they did the music journalist who wrote the infamous “Wunder Karajan” article, where he was killed.

          That was when Karajan fled with his wealthy part Jewish wife to the distant castle of his Italian male lover, a poet living with his mother.

          Busch, like Lotte had many friends on the far right, but like her later claimed to be a refugee. Though his leaving (initially for South Amercia) was an understandable and practical decision given the international situation) he was NEVER a refugee. He claimed he didn’t understand why Toscanini who had been a friend turned on him. But Toscanini learned the whole truth as did others.

          Busch was not a terrible villain by any means but like a lot of people, was certainly an opportunist who for a very long time saw nothing wrong with the Nazis.

          • Bill says:

            Mrs JC -- Gruemmer would certainly know
            about von Karajan as he discovered her
            when he was director of the Opera at Aachen and her husband was a member of the orchestra. Von Karajan discovered Elisabeth Gruemmer at a party in 1940=41 where she happened to be singing something and Karajan pressed her into joining the opera at Aachen. She was not a professional singer at the time and if anything, had ambitions to act but not to sing publicly Aachen then was considered an important stepping stone to more prestigious German/Austrian opera houses. Aachen had a wide repertory of all the important German operas plus Verdi, Puccini etc. They did operas of Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, Smetana, Wagner, Strauss, Humperdinck, D’Albert at the time so a young conductor had a great opportunity to learn and practice a large repertory. There was a fized ensemble and some important guests and equal opportunities to work with the Cathedral Choir which was quite famous in Oratorio etc.
            Gruemmer joined the company one year after
            Karajan had hired Seefried so for a couple of seasons both of these young sopranos were singing there together though aside from the famous Walter Felsenstein Falstaff conducted by von Karajan with Seefried as Nanetta and Gruemmer as Alice Ford, I do not know which operas as Seefried sang some Gruemmer roles at the time, Donna Anna, Agathe and Gruemmer sang some eventual Seefried roles such as Octavian.
            Karajan then went on to Berlin (asking Seefried to go with him but she refused), Gruemmer eventually went on to Berlin via Duesseldorf and Seefried directly to Vienna.
            Both made guest appearances in Dresden at the time.

            Mrs. JC is most likely correct -- Nazi party membership was probably essential for von
            Karajan to have attained his post in Aachen where he went from Ulm about 1934.
            In a smaller theater such as Aachen probably all the artists knew of everyone’s activities, both musically and politically -- so there then is no reason to doubt what Gruemmer (or Moedl) observed and related to Mrs. JC. Many artists
            in opera, theater etc. had to make political
            compromises to work -- and even if one had
            political convictions which opposed the Nazi regime -- one could not merely flee the country at the drop of a hat -- travel was documented, papers examined. A few singers, such as Tiana Lemnitz (who also started in Aachen as did Margarate Teschemacher) was known as a fervent Nazi -- von Karajan was ambitious to be sure, and cleverly knew what was probably best for him and his career at the time.

            I do not know a great deal about Fritz Busch in Germany. He was director of the Dresden Opera for nine years until 1934 when Karl Boehm was selected to replace Busch in Dresden.

          • brooklynpunk says:

            thanks, Mrs JC-very interesting- I am somewhat obsessed with what Artists did/ -or still do ( or didn’t do) under repressive regimes such as Nazism

          • bobsnsane says:

            “That was when Karajan fled with his wealthy part Jewish wife to the distant castle of his Italian male lover, a poet living with his mother.”

            What?

    • kashania says:

      Clita: I’ve been listening to a live Aida with Stella, Di Stefano, Simionato and Guelfi, with Votto conducting. It is exellent! The act two scene in Amneris’s chamber is fabulous! Stella and Simionato have great chemistry.

      I think this video is from the same production:

      • mrsjohnclaggart says:

        No, No, no, this has been discussed before. This is from JAPAN. The whole thing is said to exist (Borso is Radames, and you could do a lot worse). I have bits of the rest of it on video and complete sound. FUN FOR YEARS. The Triumphal scene is complete video. Stella was incredible at her best (and NONE has an excuse for being without her Minnie on the very good VAI DVD), her Aida with Franco from Naples, the INSANE Aida (very thrilling and the crowd goes mad), her in house prima Butterfly at the Met (I saw two, later incredible and I AM Vicki D and Big Renata and the GREAT Raina as Butterfly), her Tosca live (the best all around I have ever seen and I am not worthy to be Big Renata who was wonderful and yes I saw Callas ’58 and ’64) and that fab LP she made with Taddei and Serafin (well it has Poggi but it’s still thrilling) and one MUST HAVE her Verismo arias on Testament. Now, I will ride some horse and dream of Harry Windsor, who, however, judging from stills, is ALSO going bald.

        • kashania says:

          Thanks for the clarification, Mrs. JC! You’re right, the video is from Tokoyo and the recording I have is from La Scala. Stella does the best “pieta, pieta” after daddy’s big outburst in Act III. And Votto is right there with her.

  • poisonivy says:

    I love the 1963 recording with Mitropoulos, but when I want FORZA, I pop in my video of Tebaldi, Corelli, Bastianinni, and Christoff and I’m in opera heaven. First of all, I can’t believe how convincing they are in their roles — not a false note among the cast, and none of them besides Christoff was known as a singing actor. When Renata puts her hands together in prayer, this girl whose father (Poison Ivy Sr.) taught her to HATE all organized religion, becomes a staunch believer. The radiance of her voice, her persona, and the idea that thoughts of salvation really were part and parcel of her whole being, amazing. Corelli is hot and sings like a god, and although by 1958 Bastianinni had burned some of the nap off his voice, still, great performance.

  • Will says:

    I have always loved Forza. Here are the four I have seen and heard live in the house:

    12,30,61 MET Farrell, Vanni, Tucker, Merrill, Hines, Corena, Sgarro; Schick
    12,21,64 MET Kabaivanska, Grillo, Bergonzi, Herlea, Giaiotti, Corena; Santi
    3,24,84 MET Price, Jones, Giacomini, Nucci, Giaiotti, Fissore, Laciura; Levine
    4,5,96 MET Voigt, Scalchi, Larin, Chernov, Scandiuzzi, Pola, Seneschal; Levine

    So yes, Kabaivanska did sing an excellent Leonora at the MET. And mention by MrsJC of Tucci brings back many happy memories. She was always a favorite of mine with a lovely voice; I was deeply saddened when the top began to fade and become problematic for pitch, but a lot of Italian sopranos seem to go that way.

    To clarify the situation on the Bing/Siedry Forza “edition”: The entire inn scene was cut as a vast amount of the military camp scene. Preziosilla was limited pretty much to the Rataplan and was cast with a comprimaria, a big mistake. I suspect that the main reason for gthe savage cutting was to eliminate Preziosilla as much as possible.

    Yes, the overture was reduced to scene change music between scene 1 and the Convent scene and the rest of the opera was cut and rearranged variously as singers’ whims and conductors’ priorities came and went. Sometimes you got the second Carlo/Alvaro confrontation, sometimes not. Sometimes you got Melitone and the beggars, sometimes not. I believe the Rataplan was sometimes cut as well, the scene ending as the crowd moved in around Melitone gthreateningl and the curtain just fell and that was that. Disgraceful. The New Orleans live recording is clearly a complete import from the MET: cast, cuts and rearrangements. Getting the young Norman Triegle as Papa Calatrava is a nice little bonus, however.

    In 1984 Price said good-bye to the role and for the occasion, the MET finally — FINALLY — built the unused scenic design Eugene Berman had made for the Inn Scene. Isola Jones was cast as Preziosilla and the opera was given pretty much complete, as I remember. It was about time.

    • iltenoredigrazia says:

      I thought the inn scene was reinstated (and the overture played at the very beginning of the opera) in the mid 1970′s. The production was “refurbished” at the time with Vickers and Arroyo in the key roles. (Amara sang the broadcast.)

      • richard says:

        ITDG, you are right. The changes were made for the 1975 revival:

        Met Performance] CID:240240
        La Forza del Destino {156} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/17/1975.

        Metropolitan Opera House
        January 17, 1975
        Revised production

        LA FORZA DEL DESTINO {156}
        Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave

        Leonora……………..Martina Arroyo
        Don Alvaro…………..Jon Vickers
        Don Carlo……………Cornell MacNeil
        Padre Guardiano………Bonaldo Giaiotti
        Preziosilla………….Nedda Casei
        Fra Melitone…………Gabriel Bacquier
        Marquis de Calatrava….James Morris
        Curra……………….Cynthia Munzer
        Mayor……………….Richard T. Gill
        Trabuco……………..Paul Franke
        Surgeon……………..Arthur Thompson

        Conductor……………James Levine

        Production…………..John Dexter
        Set designer…………Eugene Berman
        Costume designer……..Peter J. Hall
        Choreographer………..William Badolato

        La Forza del Destino received nineteen performances this season.

        [Verdi's Inn Scene was performed for the first time since the 43-44 season.
        Eugene Berman's unrealized design for the 52-53 production was used.]

        • iltenoredigrazia says:

          Good, I can still remember things!

        • scifisci says:

          19 performances! I can’t even imagine how many performances Boheme, Carmen, etc. would get per season if forza was getting 19. Back then was the Met doing the same number of total performances and/or operas per season as they are now?

  • iltenoredigrazia says:

    I think that was the time when Martina Arroyo’s career sort of came to an end. She was having back troubles and cancel several performance. Didn’t sing at the Met for a while after that is my recollection. (That’s why I remember Amara singing the broadcast.)

    Something tells me that the Met had actually announced a new production of Forza for that season but couldn’t get the money and settled for a revision.

    • richard says:

      I was never a huge fan of Arroyo so I never followed her that closely. But she did go on several seasons after these early 1975 Forza. I heard her do a Gioconda later that year which I thought was surprisingly good; she seemed to find a link with the somewhat silly character and make her sincere, and she sounded good.

      But then I heard her a few years after that in an Andrea Chenier and thought she didn’t sound good at all. Her middle voice, never her strongest point, seemed to have vanished. And after another year, was gone from the MEt until the 80s when she sang a few more Cavs and Aidas in 1985-86 or thereabouts.

      The last time I actually heard her live was at the Met Centennial Gala and I thought she sounded good there, much better than the Chenier I saw about a half dozen years earlier. So perhaps she had some vocal , or as you say, some health issues that interfered with her career in the later 70s.

  • Clita del Toro says:

    Trovatore on Saturday: They are “discussing” Rad’s singing and the HD on opera-l. Some found Rad’s singing buzz saw-like, frequently off pitch, fluttery, and generally hard to take. Others like Idia Legray found her performance divine and inspiring (my words), especially the D’amor--and don’t want to actually hear the singing.
    Others blamed the radio for emphasizing the off-pitch stuff. Others give examples of singers who sounded better in person, blah, bla blah--like Nilsson, Rysanek, etc. We know the routine. One lister even thought that Tebaldi sounded off pitch (tops) only on the radio. Not true!!

    Personally I have always rooted for Rad and wanted the best for her and us--like a real Verdi soprano for a change! I am, unfortunately beginning to lose hope. I heard both her Sirius Leonoras this week was was not happy. For those who complain about radio evaluation of performances, I did see her Leonora a few years ago at LOC in the same production. It was just a good performance, the highlight of which was the D’amor and a few other sections. But, it was uneven. Whereas Price (and Callas) make every note count musically and dramatically in the recitatives, duets, trio, etc. Rad does not. Her performances this week were, uneven and unfortunately, not as good as the one at LOC.

    I am still rooting for her and will probably see her Aida next season at LOC, but the thought of her Norma scares me. Let’s hope I am wrong.

  • operanut says:

    Back to Forza -- just bought a DVD with Caballe and Carreras. Once bought it on VHS from one of our pirate companies -- terrible tape. I hope that the technical aspects of this DVD are better than those of the video tape I bought. They were so terrible that I was unable to play the tape from beginning to end. Haven’t played the DVD yet. Hoping for the best.