Headshot of La Cieca

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A great maestro gives an interview

Though Margaret Juntwait may have caught him pitifully unprepared, James Levine did say a few words for those lovely people among the Sirius audience last night during the intermission of Ariadne. Those of you who missed this singular event may want to take a peek after the jump.

Jimmy speaks!

62 comments

  • mrsjohnclaggart says:

    I can’t imagine what you mean. Veriano Luchetti sang only as a tenor, his roles included Gabriele, Arrigo in Vespri, Canio, Turridu, Ismaele in Nabucco, the tenor in Verdi Requiem, the usual Puccini roles, Forza and Rodolfo in Luisa Miller, among others. I saw him do all the roles, I’ve listed by name (though not the Forza, though no less than Mo. Muti told me he was the best of the tenors he conducted in the role). He was better than Domingo and Carreras in all of them. He had a good top (if you’re being ironic, imagine suggesting that either Domingo or Carreras had good high notes!!!), a wonderful, very Latin timbre and a tremendously intense temperament, far more than Domingo, and though I have seen that claim made for Carreras, I never saw him as anything but a provincial screamer, carrying on when the voice was shot. Luchetti had severe emotional problems following a personal tragedy and that ended his career.

    As for Midsummer Marriage, I find it personally a glorious score with a great part for me (Madame Sosostris named after the psychic in the story of my life, The Waste Land) but with a really silly text (a problem with Tippett, mostly a take it or leave it problem). I adore the Knot Garden, which I saw with everyone’s fave, Jo Barstow (she was actually wonderful in that) and the great Robert Tear as Dov, the openly gay character (a brave choice for Tippett at the time, hard to imagine now), who has a sublime scene in act two, which is woven around the beautiful Schubert song, Die Liebe Farbe, as Strauss weaves the three Muses’ lullaby around another Schubert song, An Mein Klavier.

    As for others, I think Heliane is a hell of a lot of fun but ridiculous, though it’s an interesting study in arrangement, variation style, as the entire musical substance is based on its only great tune, Psyche Wandelt (Lotte recorded it twice, gets the triplets wrong the first time, but one wants Maria Reining too because I AM she). I actually think Tiefland has a lot more to offer and it was of course the opera of my first named role, Nuri, until I graduated to my destiny, being a soprano sfogato, Marta.

    As for Malipiero my faves are the quasi-symphonies, about which I’ve written before on don’treadmrsjohnclaggart@parterre.com. I especially like his treatment of my life, Sinfonia del silenzio e de la morte (an early work), I also like “Elegiaca” (also a symphony), and I just love his home grown serialism, such as in “Quattro partite: dalla primavera all’inverno” and Notturno di canti e balli.

    I’ve only read the score of L’Orfeide, I’d be willing to listen to it.

    • armerjacquino says:

      That’s the problem with Tippett- wonderful music, awful mawkish libretti. My parents disgraced themselves at a 60s CG ‘Midsummer Marriage’ (Joan Carlyle and co, the cast that ended up being recorded) by giggling their way through Sosostris’ monologue because they couldn’t quite believe that anyone remotely involved in theatre would think that a fifteen-minute monologue sung FROM THE WINGS was a good idea. As a sidebar to my moaning about CG prices, I should add that my folks got to see an awful lot of very good opera in the 60s because my dad was a BBC staffer and therefore got CG tickets for FREE. Sigh, them was the days.

      The only Tippett opera I’ve ever seen live was THE KNOT GARDEN in the 80s, when I was worried that I didn’t understand the complex story. Now that I’m no longer a teenager, I’ve realised that there wasn’t a right lot to understand. Anna Steiger played the Barstow part (quite a relief, as Barstow’s horrid voice has always been kryptonite to me) and did a great job, although I’ve always thought it very unfair that someone could be the daughter of the exquisitely beautiful Claire Bloom and Rod Steiger, and end up looking like her dad…

      • mrsjohnclaggart says:

        Oh, I’ve seen Anna Steiger. As the young say, ’nuff said. Well, there IS King Priam, which I’ve also seen but I didn’t enjoy it musically. I really couldn’t tell what he was doing and it was VERY noisy (someone named Norrington conducted, when I saw him attack Beethoven in Boston later, I understood). And I’ve seen the Ice Break. But let’s not go there, though the many liked it.

        But as we’ve said before on dontreadmrsjohn claggart@parterre.com, you HAVE to have Jo’s Kate, in Kiss Me, because it is the ONLY note complete recording of the score with what is actually the original orchestration precisely rendered (despite the claims made on behalf of one other ‘complete’ recording). Unfortunately, the two leads are horrible. WHY can’t destiny behave and give us a great complete Kiss me Kate, with original orchestration? Let’s call up the Koch Brothers (but then, the style is dead, now. Would you get Daniel Radcliffe as Fred?) I AM Kiss Me Kate, I think it’s the greatest. I actually like the TV b&w telecast (kinescope, VAI) from 1957 with Alfred Drake and Pat Morison, the originals, even though they cut It’s too Darn Hot. I hated the revival with that moronic rewrite (unnecessary) and that stupid rescoring, and those ‘people’ who missed the style totally. Ugh.

        I’ve seen Jo Barstow do Chrysothemis, Fidelio and LEONORE IN FORZA (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) the last, in English. But one did in those days have Pauline Tinsley, who I saw do the Dyer’s Wife in English with Norman Bailey (it was actually very good, I must say). We’ll always have Pauline Tinsley!!!!

        • armerjacquino says:

          I don’t have that Kiss Me Kate (what a shame Stratas cancelled, she was wonderful in Showboat) but like you I love the show. One for Renee and Bryn? Let me make it very clear that I’m joking.

          I know what you mean about the film, but I still love it because Ann Miller is why.

          • mrsjohnclaggart says:

            No, no, I’m not talking about the film, I mean the much hyped b’way revival, later also done in London (maybe 2000?). They rewrote and rescored. Assholes.

            I’d suggest my husband Hugh Jackman for Fred (though he’s a high tenor naturally) but Patti is too old for Lily — Victoria Clark? I don’t wanna see NO ONE mention Kelli O’Hara. I think that style has all passed away (Cheyenne is too queeny, not that Hugh is all that butch, but Cheyenne, now peddling his ass for a pilot, is a very gifted singer in the right style.)

          • armerjacquino says:

            Audra McDonald for Lilli and Kristin Chenoweth for Lois.

            NB this revival would have had to have taken place in about 1998.

    • Often admonished says:

      The jumble sale (castoffs from TS Eliot, Jung and Wm Blake) that is the libretto of Midsummer Marriage shouldn’t prevent us from enjoying Tippet’s greatest vocal music.

      And Veriano might have had secure top notes but what did it matter when they were the size of a pea?

  • kekszakallu says:

    I have donned my titanium armour in preparation for correcting my hero Mrs JC. Isn’t the “Psyche wandelt” aria from D’Albert’s “Die toten Augen”? Quickly runs away and hides in nuclear shelter.

    • mrsjohnclaggart says:

      You’re right, Blue Beard!!! For some reason I had D’Albert on my mind, maybe because of Lott’chen. Naturally, Das Wunder der Heliane is by Korngold and has a great Lotte recording of Ich ging zu Ihm (well, she screams a lot but it’s fun), which I have sung often. It is also hysterically funny as a text. I love the first meeting between Heliane and “The STranger!!!!!!!!!!!!”, where she shows her feet first!!!!! And then the erection/resurrection at the end!!!

      I’m afraid I like the symphony in F sharp (his only symphony but it is the only symphony in that key except for the Tenth of Mahler, the adagio of which he quotes, however if you like the ultimate Cooke completion of Mahler — I think this is number three — I recommend finding the Rattle Berlin live b’cast, which is amazing and very moving), the Violin Sonata, the chamber music especially the String Sextet and the suite for strings and piano left hand, and the songs especially the Songs of Farewell. Of the stage works I get the biggest bang out of Die Kathrin. Taste, you know, individual.

  • Byrnham Woode says:

    I adore Tippett, particularly MIDSUMMER MARRIAGE and KING PRIAM. The others are wonderful too, and I’ve been lucky to see Boston productions of KNOT GARDEN (students) and THE ICE BREAK (American premiere -- thank you Sarah Caldwell!). And Colin Davis brought CHILD OF OUR TIME and THE MASK OF TIME to the Boston Symphony (world premiere for the latter).

    I bumped into MIDSUMMER quite by accident, when I was visiting London in 1970 and had nothing better to do than see this reputedly indecipherable opera at Covent Garden -- with the cast that was then recording the piece. Loved it. Bought the recording early. Saw it at NYC Opera some years back, where they replaced Tippett’s indecipherable scenario with another indecipherable scenario. Oh well.

    Now we hope Opera Boston will make sense of the piece (“Now is this nonsense at it’s noon”, as one of the characters notes near the end of act one). I hope they get a really good choreographer -- the dance music is the glory of the score. And Boston is full of lots of good chorus folks, which will be needed.

    Someone said to me that “Tippett should never be sung in the language of the audience”. That may be true. So Opera Boston can help by providing subtitles only in French, German and Italian.