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Things go better with Coote

Sophie Koch, a mezzo-soprano favoured by the current management over Brits Alice Coote and Sarah Connolly, sang Charlotte very intelligently and musically, without ever suggesting a woman on the brink of losing self-control.” [The Telegraph]

41 comments

  • armerjacquino says:

    I will never understand why it’s fine to moan about Americans not being cast by the Met but awful when someone British does the equivalent.

    Yes, that’s a stupid, parochial comment (typical Daily Telegraph, in other words) but its own thread? Seriously?

    • CruzSF says:

      Perhaps we resent that we picked up the nasty habit from our parent country? I don’t know, honestly.

      • A. Poggia Turra says:

        I think that the complaint has *some* merit when the ‘imported’ singer performs poorly (and especially so when the role is not the lead role).

        International houses have a role in exposing new talent to their audiences, and vice-versa, but the singer should be able to deliver a competent performance (hopefully better)

        • armerjacquino says:

          I’m afraid it’s not always that logical/reasonable though. One commenter here recently protested the casting of Janis Kelly, despite the fact that she was chosen by THE COMPOSER HIMSELF.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Me voici!

            Yes, the COMPOSER HIMSELF who conducted his opera rather weakly and also sanctioned the use of the nearly extinct-voiced (Yank) James Maddalena as Nixon.

            Sorry-- Miss Kelly may have touched British hearts in that inimitable Helen Field isn’t-it-moving-shame-about-the-sound way and might have pleased John Adams--but I found her singing wan and lackluster.

            Sorry you don’t grasp that such an opinion is possible. But Maddalena was the real scandal. Nationalism has nothing to do with this.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Re: Janis Kelly — it must be nearly 30 years ago that a colleague of mine (a singer herself) said that Kelly was an example of a singer making a career with no voice to speak of. She has done very well, considering.

  • brooklynpunk says:

    With all due respects to our doyenne, as PERHAPS silly as The Telegraph’s passing comment alluding to the “snub” of British singers…I actually didn’t take it as meaning a whole lot… not nearly as much as the way some folks sometimes do when the conversation has to do with American vs European/brits…..

    I didn’t get the feeling that the reviewer felt his British manhood was under attack from “foreigners”, in other words…….

  • I’ll take Coote any day for any role over the other two.

  • CruzSF says:

    Here’s something I’m not joking about: Coote was fab as Charlotte in SFO’s Werther last fall. She was the highlight for me on an otherwise dreary evening at the opera. (And remember, she was a last-minute substitute for a fired Garanca.)

    • DurfortDM says:

      I like Coote. Didn’t Garanca quite, though? I think she had a Euro tour. Not sure but seem to recall something along those lines.

      • CruzSF says:

        Given that Garanca announced tour dates conflicting with her SFO contract — several weeks before saying that she had quit SFO and after Gockley said that she was fired/let go — I’m inclined to believe Gockley’s version. But I don’t know for certain and haven’t seen any info from a credible 3rd party about the matter.

        • DurfortDM says:

          I wasn’t familiar with the timeline, just had a vague notion that there was to be a San Francisco Charlotte and then there was a tour and at some subsequent point Gockley said something nasty about Elina.

          From this vague awareness I inferred that it was Elina who had an opportunity to do a much more lucrative tour (surely at least twice as much per performance in addition to some $$ -- or better yet Euro -- for KMC and savings she would have incurred over the rehearsal period and protracted run in SF). It did seem odd that she would PO an important house like however fast her star might be rising at the moment. Still, not sure why Gockley would want to fire her either. It’s weird.

          In any case its unlikely that she will be appearing there any time soon (certainly not under current management) and you people really loose out. On the other hand Stemme’s Brunhilde should be ample recompense and you deserve to pay a penance for having lucked out on this.

          • CruzSF says:

            I think Gockley had to fire her to save face, since Garanca had indicated she’d chosen the more lucrative path over an existing contract.

            If penance (for something) is required for landing Stemme, then I’m willing to pay that. She was incredible last summer. Let’s hope she’s as good this year, too.

  • Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

    Do American journalists say this kind of thing, or is it confined to Parterrians and other bloggers?

    Either way, it seems silly. The likes of Coote and Connolly are surely not missing out on gainful employment simply because Sophie Koch is engaged for a half-dozen or so performances at ROH just now. Besides, is it healthy for a singer to be over-identified with one house throughout their career?

    And our American friends can relax. Since the start of 2010 I have seen six operas in Europe and all have featured top American talent: Deborah Polaski, Latonia Moore, Franco Farina, Catherine Naglestad, June Anderson, Robert Dean Smith, Stephen Gould. In Ireland, Angela Meade was the hottest ticket since Florez and Calleja at the Wexford Festival. Next month, I get to hear Gary Lehman in a new Tristan (co-prod Stuttgart) in Lyon.

    Some of these have managed to squeeze in the odd appearance at the Met in that time, some not. But isn’t it good to have an ad-hoc exchange programme, both on-stage and behind the scenes, too?

    • Hippolyte says:

      No Lehman for you--he was replaced a bit ago by Clifton Forbis for the Lyon Tristan in June.

      • Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

        You are right, Hippolyte. I ought to have listened to myself when I posted here last week that Operabase is not completely reliable. Before posting above, I did a quick check on Operabase (which listed Lehman) rather than the Lyon Opera site, which continues to list Forbis (as they had at the time we booked). Either way, American though -- and I am looking forward to hearing him.

  • Melot's Younger Brother says:

    Do any American critics “moan about Americans not being cast” in print?

    • armerjacquino says:

      I was referring to a fairly widely-held opinion on this site, MYB, rather than to critical opinion.

      • Melot's Younger Brother says:

        I think there’s a difference between what’s said on Parterre and what I see often in newspaper and magazine reviews from the British press. I think it’s kind of funny. I recall an Opera magazine review of a German Meistersinger from a couple of years ago (I’m sorry, but I can’t find it in my pile). The critic went overboard praising a couple of British singers who played minor roles, while virtually ignoring the Sachs, Walther and Eva.

        • peter says:

          That review was written by the Vicar.

        • armerjacquino says:

          Yes, I agree that there’s a difference between blogging and the printed press. But the double standard I was talking about is one which exists HERE.

      • mrsjohnclaggart says:

        I am sending you the Della Jones Rossini recital from Chandos, Amerjacquino, I thought of you as I found it under the toilet today (I give a levee so naturally mine is elevated). I think the issue(s) in USA are that once upon a time when English idiots who got jobs through the strategic milking of their prepuces at Opera and Gramophone would rave over any UK nonentity who came along, and Americans, automatically granting the English in general an intelligence they no more deserve than any other group in general, would be fooled into thinking this or that non contender was worthy of respect.

        Then the Brit centric Met casting department at the Met, starting with the grotesque, wooden toothed Joan Pigpen who left her perch to her ‘something’ (that didn’t reproduce but is he her nephew, ovary, who knows?)Jonathan Friend, who had the good sense to service Mo. Levine, would hire seventh and eighth rate UK gobblers when third and fourth rate Americans were available (and some first and second rate ones too).

        Leaves some people bitter. But Della is an example of ‘great’ UK singers, so one read. She is “in the style of Supervia”, so said the finally defunct John Steane called home by Master Lough — perhaps you don’t know Supervia — Marston has just issued four volumes of her — but while worship may be an extreme position in re Supervia, the idea that Della had anything like her distinction or flair is preposterous. Della’s chugging and burbling through that music with a very ordinary tone is quite an experience (but one can hear the ‘tenor’ (sic) Gerald Finley as Dandini, a basso role, in the Cenerentola finale.)

        Sic semper Chandos!!!

        • armerjacquino says:

          No, I’ve never heard of Supervia, is it a kind of cake? Maybe one day I’ll get to hear a real live opera. I like that song from the car ad.

          • La Cieca says:

            Now, children, let’s not spoil this lovely day with sniping.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Sorry La C/ mrsjc.

            I was only being playful, no offence was meant.

          • mrsjohnclaggart says:

            None taken, beloved, well not QUITE beloved Amerjaquino (at Parterre my adored ones now are Scifisci after his knowing Marinuzzi, Caniglia AND Big Renata, Reedroom, Clita though he tempted me to undignified meltdown yesterday with a link to a place I DAST not name), The Marquise with whom I had a fabu exchange about Hasse, his counterpoint, and cadenzas right and wrong off Parterre, Regina, Louann, ON, and the hearty perennial Luvtennis — in his honor I listened to ME, the greatest Martha Moedl and Windgassen in Siegfried from Bayreuth ’53 ALL DAY (Keilberth, Hotter, Kuen et al), she is fantastic, has all the high notes, and since she and Wolfgang were having a hot adulterous affair at the time that final scene is ON FIRE — after those Parterreans, there are many others I enjoy.

            (I am writing in the style of Fishy-Dishy in his auto bio, when he talks about going to a lunch at Mr. Legge’s house, full of great colleagues, he names them with the highest praise, and details about great performances he has seen them give — “there was that giant among us, Hans Hotter, an amazing singer of lieder and a good reason for any baritone NOT to consider the heavier Wagner roles, and then there was the great Swede, Gedda, except I do him a disservice, since there was no known language or style in which he couldn’t sing beautifully, and of course the breath taking beauty Anna Moffo was there, she had a voice to match her magical looks, and my young friend, Count Waechter, a voice so beautiful I could only marvel” and so on. Then he goes on to discuss his recording schedule. At the end of the page he writes, “oh yes, there was also Schwarzkopf, a capable HOSTESS!!!!”

            About Supervia, well, one never knows nowadays who has heard whom anywhere. The Marston releases are for specialists (with money) and FOUR VOLUMES is quite a lot of Conchita, even with Michael Aspinall (English) telling us in his notes that she didn’t have pitch problems. Well, maybe not amongst the Romulans, Mickey, but down here on earth she gets mighty flat mighty fast when she has to go above her massive chest adjustment. And I was piping CD 4 of Volume 4 to little Grace van Cutsem through an ear piece as she stood on the royal balcony, and you saw what the 18th song in a row in Basque did to her!!!!

          • armerjacquino says:

            Ha, that DFD story is wonderful. He was one of the first singers I was aware of because my parents loved him. They saw him in one of the first performances of the War Requiem (my mother grew up in the Midlands and remembers, as a toddler, watching the Coventry Blitz from her garden as orange lights in the sky).

            I still think some canny record company bod should come up with a tribute WR, perhaps for Britten’s centenary, which mirrors the three nationalities of the premiere- Netrebko, Kaufmann, Keenlyside maybe.

            I recently bought a live Ansermet WR from the early 60s which gives us a clue as to how Harper must have sounded at the premiere (the predictable answer is ‘not as good as Vishnevskaya’). However, it’s worth picking up for an extraordinary ‘Les Illuminations’. Ansermet is on fire and the orchestral playing is more exciting than any I’ve ever heard in what is one of my favourite works- but Danco, in wonderful voice, makes absolutely nothing of the words and sings the whole thing at the same unwavering mezzo forte. Such a missed opportunity.

            Sorry, I’ve just realised that this post is wildly OT.

          • mrsjohnclaggart says:

            Do you have the video of the War Requiem World Premiere, Amerjacquino? Where Fishy-Dishy CRIES at the end and Sir Peter has to comfort him whilst (I’n being English today) Ben looks on puzzled? Yes, it is the divine if short primed Heather (but that note complete pirate Idomineo with her, young Jessye and Colin all in their primes is really amazing).

            MY fave Illuminations are the original recording with Sophie Wyss (might be a pirate), Felicity Palmer, Jill Gomez, and Ian Partridge who CAN’T have known what the songs meant!! I also like Bob Dylan’s “You gonna make me Lonesome when you go” (I am guilty also of liking the early Pears, to whom “Being Beauteous” was dedicated, aber nateurlich!!!).

          • armerjacquino says:

            I don’t have that video, no, and didn’t know it existed. One to add to the list.

            I’ll have to check out those Illuminations you mention, too, I’ve not heard any of them. My collection of the work, along with the Danco mentioned above comprises Harper, Lott, Soderstrom and Hendricks (both of those last two caught a little late).

            I also have a wonderful, vivid, and beautifully sung recording by The English Tenor Everyone Here Violently Hates. I know he sings a lot of things he oughtn’t but his Schubert and his Britten I find wonderful.

          • mrsjohnclaggart says:

            Oh, I have the Voldemort recording too, and like it (you see, we have something in common, after all!!!). I also have Lott (but I have a fatal weakness for her, she seems to be hated here too) and that Soderstrom too, because of Our Hunting Fathers, which I like quite a lot.

          • armerjacquino says:

            I’m just plundering YouTube to see what versions they have there that I might have missed. Currently checking out a complete performance with Laura Aikin, who sounds terrific but (offensive cliché alert) appears to have No Gay Friends.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            “I still think some canny record company bod should come up with a tribute WR, perhaps for Britten’s centenary, which mirrors the three nationalities of the premiere- Netrebko, Kaufmann, Keenlyside maybe.”

            As la Claggartessa mentions in passing, there was no Russian singer at the premiere, thanks to Kremlin meddling: Harper sang it, not Vishnevskaya. Just wanted that reinforced, since usually Armerjacquino, whatever our disagreement on taste or issues of Brit-dominated casting in the US, is accurate.

            But for the three nationalities that Britten deemed suffered the most (!!!) during the war, what about using:

            Anja Harteros
            Daniil Shtoda
            Roderick Williams

        • Harry says:

          Mrs John Claggart: Yes you said it right. Smack on the nail! Della Jones…that vocal clapped out locomotive, has wrecked many a recording. Like the opera Beatrice Cenci, and countless other recordings. Yet the Gramophone for instance has always kept raving over the ‘head drilling darling’. The mere sound of that voice…….!!!! Have many people even got ears drums left?

          amerjacquino: We only have to go back a few decades and see the English had a corporate (with the record labels) stranglehold on what was being recorded. Every last bit of cow pat shit they could muster from their provincial paddocks, to shove and squeeze through the microphones. Be it church pew singer or some ‘remarkable long lost English composer’ being marketed as full price material. It detracted badly from those amongst them, that were first rate.

  • Koch was not a bad Charlotte in the Werther wecast with Jonas Kaufmann we watched about a year ago. The same webcast that had all those over the head shots that had us proposing a drinking game.

    If I remember well, this telecast was released on DVD and gathered some very good reviews.

    I am not inclined to take the Telegraph too seriously on this. The comment just smells enough of playing to coloquial politics than actual complaining about a performer. It is almost like “anyone but a Brit would have sucked.”

    • ducadiposa says:

      I haven’t heard Koch in the role but the reviewer might have a point based on my recent experience of Coote as the Composer here in Toronto. I’d of course read much about her, the beauty of her voice, her electric stage persona, and all of that seems to be true. She’s not afraid to take risks with dynamics, with her declamation of text, and she produces a beautiful, clean, vibrant sound throughout her range. I’d love to hear her as Charlotte -- a very different role mind you. The reports on Villazon so far seem to be positive -- that he’s managed a very respectable “come-back” of sorts. Really hope he is able to sustain it this time.

      • armerjacquino says:

        Coote’s recent recording of ‘Frauenliebe und Leben’ is quite wonderful. The only time I’ve seen her live was as Sesto in a rather dull ‘Tito’ at the Coliseum directed by David McVicar who, surprisingly for such an inventive director, was fresh out of ideas. She sang exquisitely, especially in ‘Deh per questo istante solo’.

  • Arianna a Nasso says:

    This is such a frequent issue with Mr. Christiansen that I just ignore it. I don’t notice it as much with the other London critics.

    Never mind that Connolly was at the Met during the Werther rehearsal period and Coote is singing the Composer in Toronto currently. And that Sophie Koch is a fine singer, especially in her native language.

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    The other thing is that Alice Coote is scheduled for performances only next month, in Cendrillon (alongside DiDonato and Podles), so I’m not sure what he’s moaning about.

    The ROH does seem rather indifferent to Connolly, who so far has only sung Dido. I don’t know what future plans there are for her -- probably a few. She is a fine artist and all that, but equally she’s not exactly indispensible.