Cher Public

An unweeded garden that grows to seed

When Mojca Erdmann’s new debut CD for Deutsche Grammophon was reviewed in the September issue of Opera News, the disc’s cover art showed the lissome German soprano in a thin, revealing white dress, lying on a bed of roses.  The album was then called Mostly Mozart.  When that review questioned the titling, DG must have gone back to work.  The current cover shows the same over-the-top cover art, but it’s now called Mozart’s Garden. 

The disc contains eighteen tracks, all featuring pieces by Mozart and his contemporaries Salieri, Paisiello, Holzbauer, and Johann Christian Bach, almost mind-numbing in their sameness.  Aside from an effort to bring some fire to Zaide’s “Tiger! Wetze nur die Klauen” and Salieri’s “Pere barbere, arrache-moi la vie!”  from Les Danaides, Ms. Erdmann’s singing is rather limpid, bland, general, and lacking in emotional or musical insight.  Much of this CD will likely be coming soon to an elevator near you.

Ms. Erdmann has a fresh, pretty light lyric soprano and fancies herself a Mozart specialist.  She is always on pitch, but never manages to put any kind of personal stamp on the lovely arias that she undertakes.  The Idomeneo arias are approached in exactly the same way as the Figaro arias and the Don Giovanni arias—there is no sense of character change between Ilia, Susanna, and Zerlina.  All three characters lack passion and emotional depth, substituting a rather tired, depressed quality.

The voice itself has little warmth, often white-toned and brittle in the higher register.  I also have to say that the singing seems “all about her”—there is little sense of singing to someone, and her vocal choices seem calculated and not arising from the music itself.

Perhaps the weakest track is Erdmann’s effortful approach to “Ach, ich fühl’s” from Die Zauberflote, sung at a funereal tempo apparently chosen by Erdmann herself.  In the notes accompanying the CD, Erdmann is quoted as saying

What interests me most of all is how exactly [Mozart] intended his tempo indications to be interpreted.  Above all with Pamina I’d love to know whether it would have worked for him if the aria were taken really slowly.  Although it says “Andante”, it has to be as slow as this for me.  If I sang it any quicker, there would no longer be any emotional depth in it.

Well, besides this being the height of presumption, the result is a turgid, dreary reading so disconnected and choppy that it achieves no effect at all.

Andrea Marcon and the period instrument specialists of La Cetra Baroque Orchestra Basel play quite beautifully and have a unique sound, but it can’t lift this disc off the ground.  One fears that Ms. Erdmann is being over-hyped and under trained.  Looking great in a revealing little shift on the cover may sell some CDs, but it does not make a convincing case for Ms. Erdmann’s being called “A Muse for Mozart.”

  • Yet another completely useless recording. Boring, bland, expressionless voice with a heavily accented Italian to boot. If this soprano looked like Luisa Tetrazzini (so as not to offend any living divas), D.G. would have never given her a contract.

  • tannengrin

    besides the -- apparently -- questionable quality of the singing… La Cieca and many fellow parterriani seem to have photoshop skills that much surpass those of the DG guys responsible for that cover shot … It looks like something Henry VIII could have done with Anna Boleyn post decapitation to make little Lizzie believe that mumsie is quite fine, really.

  • BachBach

    Opinions on the packaging, the photos and the repertoire just don’t matter because, simply put, this is not good singing. Wasteful.

    • Clita del Toro

      Girls, it’s just the beginning. We are in for a lot more shit like this!

      • BachBach

        But there’s no reason for it! There are many wonderful (and even attractive!) singers out there with a voice and something to say with their music. Maybe labels need to consult with some serious musicians before investing time and money trying to push this crap.

    • I can’t really see what’s so wrong with the dress. Fashion was making quite an effort to force us all (female persons) to wear white this earlier this year, it looks on trend to me. The pose, of course, is another matter, as is the messy hair. But if she were standing up I think the dress would be fine.

      Whenever someone like this comes out with a CD I always think WHERE is Ekaterina Siurina’s recording contract? I just watched the most recent Salzburg Don Giovanni DVD and her Zerlina is wonderful.

      • Nerva Nelli

        “I can’t really see what’s so wrong with the dress.”

        Maybe for a CD called THE LAST WEEKS OF KAREN CARPENTER.

        • Clita del Toro

          LOL

        • Camille

      • Mrs. Stephen Costello got generally wonderful reviews for her Zerlina. Here is a TV promo clip of Manon from Spain along with VG and his perfectly coiffed eyebrows (Ailyn’s eyebrows are much nicer):

        • MontyNostry

          We love Ailyn. That’s a much more beautiful voice than Netrebko’s, if you ask me!

          Grigolo sounds like a woman when he talks — never mind those eyebrows! In fact, I think he is Victoria Villaroel reborn.

  • Clita del Toro

    There must be a reason for it: money, ignorance????

    • BachBach

      Ignorance I guess, I can’t imagine they’ll make any money on this.

  • Nerva Nelli

    Yes, why not have Julia Kleiter or Ingela Bohlin or Lucy Crowe (of Staffordshire) make such a disc? They all look nice and they can actually SING.

    I have never heard a worse Met Zerlina than Erdmann, and that is saying something when one thinks of… better not to say.

    • MontyNostry

      I agree about Kleiter. She is a superb Zdenka on the DVD of Arabella from Zurich with Renee (in the one role I genuinely enjoy her in -- mostly, anyway). I was given a copy of the Erdmann CD, listened to half of two tracks and gave up. At least Dancing Dani puts a bit of character into her Mozart, even if she sounds scratchy and glassy.

      • Camille

        Dancin Dani’s maestra di ballo.

  • Clita del Toro

    Or Lady Gaga! A wonderful CD of Wolf Lieder.

    • operalover9001

      And yet that would be more interesting…

  • papopera

    Mozart Garden and mostly Mozart et al, we needed that, can’t do without.

  • Will

    That slow and lugubrious approach to “Ach, ich fühl’s” is one I have heard too many sopranos/conductors adopt. It’s one of several moments in the second act of Magic Flute that I don’t look forward to — I think of it as the Sominex Aria.

    • armerjacquino

      Barbara Bonney always used to say that Pamina sets the tempo for ‘Ach Ich Fuhl’s’ with the proceeding spoken lines ‘Mehr… als tod’. Erdmann would have trouble saying them that slowly.

  • 98rsd

    I wish someone would explain to me why she has a major international career. Based on what I heard and saw opening night of this production, she is a very minor singer indeed.

    • 98rsd

      Sorry--meant the new Met Don Giovanni.

  • manou

    It gives me no pleasure to direct people to this notorious website (of effete knives) fame, but this

    http://commandopera.com/2010/02/14/miss-mojca-erdmann/

    is worth a look in this context.

    • armerjacquino

      Is it effete-knifey of me to point out that he could do with a lesson in the use of the apostrophe?

      Probably, but that’s the trouble with being pompous- other people get to be pompous back.

      • manou

        He could do with a lesson in the use of the English language.

    • grimoaldo

      Thank you for pointing that out manou. I find this passage particularly charming:

      “The soprano range? Global it seems. There is Miss Angela Meade from America, Miss Elza van den Heever from South Africa, and then there is Miss Mojca Erdmann from Germany. Without question these three young soprano’s are certainly more comfortable essaying different points within this sphere.”

      More comfortable essaying points within this sphere?
      OK. Whatever.

      • rapt

        Assailing different points with this spear?

        Assaying different pints of this beer?

        Sashaying en pointe to this bier?

        • Camille

          HAHAHAHAHA!

          I like “Sashaying en pointe to this bier [beer]” the best! Danke!

        • manou

          rapt -- molto divertente.

      • Camille

        HUH? What does that mean in English?
        Are they assaying points on Siegfried’s speer?

        No comprendo nada.

      • manou

        I am afraid this guy is a pompous, grandiloquent, overblown and euphuistic windbag.

        You might infer that I am not very fond of him.

        • grimoaldo

          Euphuistic!
          I learned a new word today!

          • manou

            I am sometimes afflicted with a severe case of sesquipedalianism -- maybe I caught it from Mr Commando’s blog.

          • lorenzo.venezia

            are we to infer that, in addition to being a prime-time bloviator, he is very well endowed??

            [ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Euphues, the name of a character in John Lyly’s prose romance of the same name (1578–80), from Greek euphu?s ‘well endowed by nature,’ from eu ‘well’ + the base of phu? ‘growth.’[

    • oh manou…thank you. I could not make it through the Haydn clip. I wonder if she plays the violin any better than she sings?

      • mia apulia

        she was playing the violin, they just grafted on the words

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    I spotted her months ago as another songbird people are trying to promote as accomplished artist. Boring.

  • Camille

    I wonder what Cerquetti/Farrell would have to say about all this?
    Is this failed HIP, maybe, that’s not coming out right.?

    Just wish C/F would weigh in.

    What time is it in Israel?

    • Hi Camille, the terror is here.

      Curious that DG should choose to sign and promote such an obscure little singer. A very good Adele and Blondchen no doubt, and perhaps good for baroque and light Schubert / Faure, and that’s that.

      She sang a very special Zaide for the 2006 Salzburg Zaide / Adama production. It was moving and intimate, one of the best Ruhe Sanfts I have heard in the last 10 years maybe. But I think the production was special (infuriating for some) and maybe she was inspired. Her Amsterdam Blondchen was good, sparky and fun, well sung. And that’s all I think. Not a good choice for big
      house Zerlina, as I think the low tessitura for the ensembles puts lots of strain on such a light leggiero. I’d prefer a high mezzo / Zwischenfach / bigger leggiero in large houses, such as indeed Miah Persson. Erdmann should be a good Zerlina for Zurich, for example. NOT at the Met.

      I’ve heard bits and pieces of the current album and I was underwhelmed for various reasons. As somebody said above, it is a crime that Erdmann gets signed, while infinitely superior artists, such as Lucy Crowe, Ekaterina Siurina, Ingela Bohlin or Julia Kleiter, are not. All of them are special in different ways. Not so Erdmann.

      And on the leggierissima soprano note, I’m waiting for the next Intermission feature to write something (maybe lengthy) about an astonishing discovery, the best recording of Zauberflote that I have ever heard. But bearing in mind that 1) people here tend to consider Zauberflote as an awful bore 2) 70% dislike for more slender singing style / HIP perfs, maybe I’ll refrain from doing that :)

      • peter

        CF, which recording of Zauberflote is it? You got our curiosity.

        • Buster

          Kweksilber?

        • The Kujiken, now on Brilliant and super cheap. I have never heard the overture played like this. And the cast sounds like a real troupe, like something you could have stumbled across in late 18th century Vienna, at least that’s how it sounds to me. There’s a conformity of style, not a feeling that singers were flown from all around the globe. And the tempi are absolutely perfect 99% of the time (apart from the problematic transition to the final C Major).

          Suzie Le Blanc is sheer magic, a classy Pamina in a very instrumental style (I refuse to call it white tone singing). For very small houses, such as was the Theater an der Wieden. The brothers Genz are delightful, each suffering from slight instability (never off pitch), but complementing each other lyrically and beautifully. It’s like a vintage oil painting, beautifully restored. Isolde Siebert is, for once, utterly musical and interesting text-wise, not just aiming for those high Fs. A curious voice, not completely steady most of the time. I think people who like Edda Moser’s take on the Queen should like this. Even Hauptmann is OK and not over blustery.

          Overall, the orchestra is simply superb. Anti-HIPs will call the string playing ‘scrappy’, but I think it is wonderfully elegant and defined, lovingly articulated. Notice the prominent trombones and the beautiful horn playing.

      • Camille

        What? You, my darlings, the mesdames C/F, a terror?
        Have you been renamed Robespierre?

        I thank you for your moderate adjudication of this seemingly pleasant and well brought up, very pretty and photogenic young lady. Maybe the Zaide WAS something special and inspired the faith in her that DG has shown.
        I cannot help but to feel sorry for her somehow. A moment of glory in the sun, and all that….
        As well though, wouldn’t she make a good Papagena? You are certainly correct about her Zerlina getting lost in a big house, as per my Sirius broadcast hearing the other evening! Yes, Mia Persson may have been far better served by this role, rather than what I hear was an unfortunate turn as Fiordiligi. ( She was fine as Gretel, e.g.) Right again about casting a mezzoish or lyrical mezzo , what with the ensemble singing lying so low.

        Another kleine Mozartkugel question: I was listening to Anja Harteros in Idomeneo and wonder about her Donn’Anna, too. Mr. DurfortDM has recommended I give some attentive listening to her and am making the effort. I’ve listened to some Verdi and remain pleased but slightly skeptical. Also, internet YouTubes have to be given a major bargain basement discount. Non mi fido!

        Did you see luvtennis’ review of the Dusolina Giannini Aida over on this week’s Intermission? All for now, and thank you so much for your gracious consideration and reply to me, teuer Herz. C.

        p.s. — who could consider die Zauberfloete an awful bore?

        • Well Anja sings the *** out of Elettra. Idol mio is breathtaking. But she is an uneven singer, if an exciting one. Her Wiener Staatsoper Alcina for Minkowski has some really gorgeous singing along with some horribly flat phrases. You might say, filth and dementia combined. Her Ombre pallide, however, at an outrageously slow tempo, is not to be denied its brilliance.
          Have yet to be convinced by her Verdi. My probelm probably…

          Now I haven’t seen the review and I will look for it since I admire Giannini (but love Arangi-Lombardi, and that is different). I always mix up the Radameses -- Lindi for Giannini and Pertile for Lombardi? Or is it the other way round? Anyway THE coupling seems to me to be Pertile (a genius) and Lombardi. And who;s the one with Irene? So confusing. Anyway Molajoli is a v v good conductor,IMO better than Sabajno, as is evident from his scintillating Falstaff with the great Rimini.

          • Camille

            Filth and dementia is the croce e delizia of my ancient days.

            I see what you mean. The voice does not sound properly knit together to me, A gifted performer. I hope she keeps it together, grows, and doesn’t cancel any more performances and piss off too many people because she is at least interesting.

            Thanks, my C/F.

            Now I am confused too about Giannini/Arangi-Lombardi and who sings what but I do remember irene M._Cattaneo singing the Amneris with Dusolina--by the way, the mother of actor Giancarlo Giannini, of :Swept Away” fame. I too think Molajoli’s conducting is very good, and yes, Pertile was a f—--king genius!

  • Nerva Nelli

    “What time is it in Israel?”

    Time to vote Bibi and the Likud crazies out of office and stop building new housing for American fanatikim and Russian opportunists on the West Bank.

    • Indeed. Unfortunately I’m not running the establishment, nor would I want to. My fierce desire is to have been born away from the sticky Jewish religion, and certainly away from this horrid little place I’m living in, perhaps in some nice country in upper Europe, or preferably Barcelona. But there you go.

      • brooklynpunk

        …. the “sticky Jewish religion…”….??

        …Even for a major Agnostic Jew , ( who has has major run-ins with the ultra -orthodox crowd in Israel) such as my self, that is pretty damn offensive…….

        • m. croche

          Too much charoset?

          • manou

            Too many bitter herbs.

          • m. croche

            I’m now seized with the mad hope that the question “Too much honey in your charoset?” appears in the next Nicholson Baker novel.

        • Umm. Being a complete agnostic myself (not atheist, for otherwise I cannot explain the phenomena of Mozart / Bach / Monteverdi) and a lover of personal freedom, I have absolute apathy for Judaism as it is interpreted by the orthodox sect. And living next door to it, seeing the way it consumes the state step by step, is horrifying. That’s what I meant by ‘sticky’. Sorry for have offended.

      • oedipe

        When Prozac went off patent, the (former) Finance Director of Teva -which was to produce the generic version of the drug- said at a conference I attended that the good news was now Prozac could be supplied cheaply to everyone in Israel…

    • Camille

      Nerva,
      I am sorry to have irritated you and dogged your heels because I am your fan.
      I will desist.

      Olga will NOT give up Ildar, and that’s FINAL!

      Contritely,
      Camille

      • marshiemarkII

        Say WHAT???????

      • marshiemarkII

        er ist mir ewig, ist mir immer
        :-)

        • Camille

          MarschallinaII!!

          I just happened to catch this at this very moment!

          I had it out with Olga and it was NO DICE, or even TRE KARTY with her, as far as getting Ildar out of her cougar clutches.

          By now you have doubtless seen Nerva’s take on the last evening’s proceedings and I hope there was something in it that pleased you. Maestro Luisi was the star of the evening for Camille.

          Ich bin muede, Tetrach, und muss schlafen!
          ?
          Camille

          p.s. — how did you think “Sei mein” went?

          • Camille

            oh, too bad — the question mark was meant to be a heart — it got lost in cyberspace.

            Alles gutes gnaedige Marschallina!!

        • marshiemarkII

          Oh Camille Belle, Ach ich fuehl’s , mein ganzen Herz for Ildar, I only have eyes for him and von ihm im maechtigster Minnne :-)

          Nerva was a bit too cruel to poor Debbie in Extremis, the poor girl means well, although the way she sounded at the Opening of Fanciulla last year was worthy of the most Implacabile of wraths from our Dea. I did not listen to it last night, so I can’t say how the Sei Mein went (how was the poor boy?), but in the clip I put with Behrens from Munich, poor Kollo is as nasty as all the others. Don’t know why it is written so awkwardly that nobody can do it right. And yet Big Ben H, in 2008 was just so so glorious……..But what sublime music this is.

          I am obsessing over the teufel motif. I am waiting to hear from you and/or Caro CF, why Wagner used that descending interval, that in medieval German music represents the Devil, for that most sublime moment. Wagner used it first in the Beckmesser music in Act II and then again here. It is so mysterious, he talking of light, she talking of annihilation (Nacht der Vernichtung) and the music the Devil, go figure. But what music!!!!

  • well, call me presumptuous but I agree with her that a slower tempo suits Ach Ich fuls better. I am no fan of the current (however musicologically correct it might be) idea that the aria needs to be taken at a fast tempo.

    Listening to the aria as she is singing it, the tempo is not that much slower than the one Lorengar used to sing it, or Price (both of them) or many other sopranos.

    • Bill

      Seefried with Furtwaengler (Salzburg 1951) is one
      of the slowest Ach ich Fuhls and one of the most poignant. Tiana Lemnitz takes just as long -- both sopranos had the technique and the legato necessary to bring it off and with glorious tone. It is a
      lament -- no need to rush the aria if the soprano
      has the breath control.

      • Feldmarschallin

        well Bill you just named my two favorite Paminas. I adore both Lemnitz und Seefried and both are unsurpassed in ‘Oh Herr, ich bin zwar Verbrecherin’, especially the words ‘der böse Mohr’. In more recent times both Popp und Röschmann were glorious even if not as good as the first two. But even Julia Kleiter und Genia Kühmeier are miles above Erdmann.

        • Krunoslav

          May I add Helen Donath to the Pamina honor roll?

          Meanwhile, who but Tony T would refer to an established singer all over the world as “Peter Mattei, a rising Met star”?

          • armerjacquino

            Inevitably…

            (not exactly Andante either, I know, but that’s Klemperer for you)

    • armerjacquino

      It’s marked Andante. No getting away from that.

      • ianw2

        Ah but Aj, who marked it Andante? That’s the question that will keep the HIPPos up at night.

        My preferred Flute recording is indeed the Klemperer. I don’t think there’s a slower one on record, but it somehow works (having someone like Popp who can linger happily on top F’s helps, I suppose, as opposed it to as it usually is: hanging on for grim death). Even Pa-pa-pa survives its dirge like pace.

        • Everybody should hear Kujiken’s tempo in the recording I discussed above. For me, THAT is perfect.

          • BachBach

            Let’s not forget that the root of the problem here isn’t the tempo, it’s the tone.

  • OpinionatedNeophyte

    Ugh. Listening to her makes me long for Roberta, Lucia, Reri, Rothenberger, Kathy, light lyrics who brought fire, passion and *charm* to these roles. Not this joyless dirge music. What’s kind of hilarious is that all three were gorgeous and stylish, Grist in particular. Why must we suffer bland, bland, beauties today?

    I’d rather have this garishly costumed, but perfectly sung (in German) Letter duet starring none other than Gwyneth Jones and Rothenberger from the sixties. Did anyone else know that Jones sang the Countess? Between her work here and Jessye’s take on the role, maybe its secretly for dramatic sopranos?

    And for fun, the wonderful Reri showing Mojca how its done.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    How does she pronounce Mojca?

    • Moytsa

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Like what they hide on passover?

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          Oliver: Please sir, may I have another piece of Moytsa?