Cher Public

Excuse ex machina

The Machine malfunctioned tonight in Siegfried at the Met, only one performance behind schedule. La Cieca is told that the final transition to the “Valkyrie Rock” could not be completed.  “Just as Siegfried was starting his climb, multiple planks thudded into ‘down’ position.  Lots of shouting into walkie-talkies.  The set never moved again,” a witness IMed parterre. No injuries are reported.

Another eyewitness says that toward the end of the interlude Deborah Voigt walked on and lay down on the stage apron, and the remainder of the performance was played there. Apparently the same problem cropped up as on opening night, i.e., the revolving planks ran into the stage elevator and tripped the fail-safe device, but this time the set could not be restarted in time. The “magic fire” effect continued through the (uninterrupted) finale, it is reported.

Another audience member has just contacted La Cieca, offering the opinion “I think they cannot do this show ever again.”

  • Thinking about the machine, it’s a shame that Lepage, Gelb, and the Met put all their eggs in one basket. Despite his lacklustre direction, Lepage is still capable of some astonishing stage wizardry. Imagine if the same budget had been spend on actual sets and fully used the Met stage as opposed to just the front half.

    • toitoitoi

      Yes. Just yes. And yes again.

  • Liz.S

    Just heard a rumour that Met is trying to replace orchestra members with robots? Are they daft or it was a bad joke…?

    • blansac

      It’s all true I’m afraid.

      There’s an article about it here:

    • They may be daft, but that was my article, and my joke. Whether it’s bad, well that’s a matter of taste….
      Had lunch with another writer today and telling him about the clinks and clanks of the Machine…he gave me the idea so if you need someone to blame, blame him!

  • toitoitoi

    Meh. Who goes to opera for the sets -- unless it’s something glorious? Sorry, I’m unabashedly old school; I think the set should serve the singers, rather that the opposite. Hell, otherwise we could just all go to Disneyland and probably save a few bucks. It’s not hard enough to sing like that, without two-ton metal bars swinging at your shins? The problem with this is that all this set wizardry may well have put the dear old Met into the red -- very red- to a tune that can’t be resolved without an angel of Bass-like proportions, or bigger. And red is NOT this year’s black for non-profits. Funny bookkeeping; we’ve seen that one, and how it comes out. Not all the butts in seats, or even the DVD rights, will bring a happy ending.

    • operaassport

      The sets should serve the opera, not the singers. If all one is interested in is the singers and not the drama of a theatrical experience you might as well just listen on the radio.

      • toitoitoi

        But why must we choose? Isn’t good design also functional design? There’s a line between a challenging set to work on and one that’s like something out of a Stephan King novel. The whole thing is starting to feel like the classical version of Spiderman. I LOVE the drama of the theatrical experience, but it’s not enhanced by the distraction of wondering who’s going to have to wing it the next time something malfunctions. That isn’t where the drama ought to be. PS I also hated the sets for Thais…but just because they were so damn ugly.

  • philomel

    Not to be pedantic, but the failure of the machine the last 2 times was due to standard, 40 year old Met technology not operating when or how it was supposed to. Not that the machine is perfect, but it is pretty much doing what it’s told to. Also, to the poster embarrassed about failing ‘American’ technology, tho’ technically correct, should make no mistake; for better or worse,the hardware on this show is 100% French Canadian.

    • papopera

      There is no such thing as “French Canadian” unless you share two nationalities or two passports, one from Canada and one from France. The word is CANADIAN period (.)
      You probably mean a FRENCH-SPEAKING Canadian which is quite superfluous the ethnicity of a citizen has nothing to do whatsover with the Met’s machine.

  • mrmyster

    phil: what are you talking about? There is nothing “standard, 40 year old Met
    technology” about the Le Page machine, and forty years ago computer software/
    programming were not giving any instructions to ‘stage machinery’ at the Met.
    Murphy’s Law seems to be ruling stage management at the Met. If someone in
    the front office gave a damn, it could be corrected by replacement of certain inept management. Where is Volpe when we need him?
    I have to wonder if five years from now there will be any of this Le Page production left? Quite possibly not. I’d be delighted to see, as someone suggested, the previous production refreshed and returned to service. That is, if there are any singers adequate to the task five years from now. It is beyond my understanding that Gelb puts Voigt on stage in anything, when with some planning and purpose, Mme Stemme could have sung the Brunnhildes. He was just lucky on Morris!

    • iltenoredigrazia

      Oh boy, now you’ve awaken the Furies.

    • philomel

      MrMr- Without disagreeing with the thrust of your argument, I will just point out that the ‘Machine’ does not function in a vacuum. It operates in conjunction with much of the standard, old-school Met stage machinery you’ve come to know and make fun of. In this particular instance, we’re talking of the lifts (yes, the same ones that almost offed HB). One of them did not do what it was supposed to do, so the machine could not do what it was supposed to do. I do realize that this is a fine point, and I don’t want to diminish the bitch-fest fun, but in this instance, it wasn’t the machine’s fault.

      • mrmyster

        phil -- I have no problem with that; I thought later, after writing the above, that I should have mentioned human error was really at theheart of the matter, and at whatever level you wish. Failure in designconcept all the way down to pushing the wrong button at the wrongtime or equivalent. Maintenance, breaking parts, mechanical stress -who knows? But it appears lots is wrong, and to an extent it may very well be “the machine’s fault.” In any case, I truly feel for those singers.
        As I’ve mentioned on here time-to-time, I am a great admirer of
        Mr Gelb’s marketing vision and skills — and that is worth a lot! But,
        frankly, my admiration stops about there. His non-handling of the ongoing Levine situation is, well, just a shame; his taste and his lack of respect for the traditions of singing leave a lot to be desired. His biggest weakness seems to be in the musical area — staff, certain artists, choices
        in production styles and concepts (ouch! I hate to write that word), and
        so on. I think his history at the Met will be seen, ultimately, as a positive
        one, but with artistic shortcomings.
        Thus, I’ll say this & then shut up: the La Page approach to this Ring
        production is flawed, it is just not working out, it is turning out to be a
        nightmare to realize and run — and its either got to be radically revised
        or junked. And that is one helluva lot of money probably wasted -- too
        much. Perhaps this is a minority view, but it seems more evident
        with every passing glitch. We’ll see how the full sequential run of Ring
        operas goes next spring — that could make it or break it.
        Good night; sweet dreams of Joseph Urban!

        • messa di voce

          “his lack of respect for the traditions of singing”

          Evidence, please.

        • I would be very concerned if I had a ticket to the full cycles. The runs of Rheingold, Walküre and Siegfried have all had significant problems with the machine. (The night I saw Walküre, there were no technical glitches on stage but there was still an incessant beeping for 45 minutes of the first act). So, if they can’t get the machine to behave when doing several Siegfrieds in a row, how are they going to get things running smoothly when they are switching from one opera to the next? I suppose that they can take all the lessons learned from the initial runs and apply them to the cycles, but I’m not so sure.

    • uwsinnyc

      oh yes, i hadn’t even thought of that— why didn’t they get Stemme? She would have been wonderful.

      • Stemme was actually hired for it, but Gelb read on Parterre that everyone likes her and can’t stand Voigt, so he personally flew to Stockholm and ripped the contract from Ms. Stemme’s trembling hands and tore it to pieces, cackling as he did it, “I’ll show those queens a thing or two!” At least that’s the version I heard.

        • ianw2


          I heard he only hired Voigt because he doesn’t like opera and casts based solely on how they’ll look on the side of a MTA bus and the HD.

          • Krunoslav

            Maybe Anny Koneztni was unavailable?

          • uwsinnyc

            Yes, but surely Nina Stemme is MTA bus-worthy.

          • marshiemarkII

            Yes but how is her B in Act II of GD :-)

        • mrmyster

          Oh Maury! You are so insightful. We humble regard the mighty power of Parterre! I had lunch today with a very proper Santa Fe matron, and she brought up the name of Brad Wilbur, and asked me what I thought of the
          Met’s point in forcing to close his forecasts of Met future seasons. You could have knocked me over with a spoon. Imagine such people reading
          the opera blogs. Will wonders never cease?

          • mrmyster

            Make that ‘humbly regard.’ Sorry. Typos are so bad bad bad.

          • Gualtier M

            One thing to remember -- Levine would have had some say in the casting of Brunnhilde and it would have been done five or six years ago. Back then Debbie was just taking off the weight from the surgery and everyone thought her vocal problems were temporary. Levine knew Debbie but didn’t know or care about Stemme (who wasn’t doing Brunnhilde then anyway) and less about Jennifer Wilson or Lori Phillips or Janice Baird. Levine had worked with Debbie and thought she would have the stuff.

            We know now that Voigt and Heppner were problematic but back six or seven years ago, that wasn’t so obvious. Then we thought that Voigt and Heppner would be the next Flagstad and Melchior.

          • iltenoredigrazia

            Jannice Baird he should have known.

          • marshiemarkII

            But carisssimo Gualtier, it was a big gamble to think that an American, with no particular good command of German, would be able to carry off Brunnhilde, at the Met, in a new production to boot, for her first assumption of the role. That was a huge mistake, not to send her to hone her skills at a German house, ideally not Vienna or Munich, and sing it a lot to get comfortable with the role. I am not talking about the size of the house, as Debbie’s voice was plenty sizable back then, but to LEARN THE CRAFT in relative peace and away from prying eyes. There could have been places like Stuttgart, Frankfurt, even Berlin (either Deutsche Oper or Unter der Linden) and why not, even Mannheim, Klaus Schultz could have taught her a thing or two. But you have to admit it was awfully pretentious to think she’d do her first ever, with just a few weeks of rehearsal at the Met, to get it into her voice. All of this is moot anyway, because her current voice is definitely not up to the part anywhere, and because she worries so much about voice production, she cannot do anything with the words (let alone KNOWING the words, God knows I know more of the words of Walkure Act III than she did on that version posted here in the spring) so she would never be among the greats!. And to a whole lot of people, Behrens set a standard at the Met that will be hard to replicate by a singer far better endowed than poor Debbie is at the moment. It is very sad, she was a fantastic Sieglinde in 1997, and a very good Chrysothemis. Behrens was very fond of her and asked me about her as late as 2008. And she is a lovely lovely person, I met her in Buenos Aires and last year I attended a dinner party where she came on the arm of Francesca Zambello. She looked really beautiful and petite and is a very sweet person. But I saw her a couple of weeks later in Fanciulla (I was forced to attend, I really dislike the opera, sorry) and it was horrible, more than anything it was a real dud. Not much hope after that.

          • iltenoredigrazia

            marshie has an interesting point in that it takes a lot of guts for anyone to sing the Brunnhildes for the first time at the Met. And with all the publicity accompanying a new production. Then again, DV sang her first Isolde in Vienna…

          • messa di voce

            She also had at least the Siegfried Brunn scheduled in Vienna, but cancelled. So, at least one other major house thought she was reasonable casting in the role.

          • Vienna hired Eva Johansson to sing Brünnhilde last season so I wouldn’t put too much stock in their wisdom when it comes to Wagner casting. (I’m not a big fan of Voigt but to my ears she is considerably better than Johansson, actually.)

          • messa di voce


            You really missed the point of the discussion. Casting at every other house in the world is wonderful, but at the Met it demonstrates a “lack of respect for the traditions of singing.”

          • Bill

            U. Zerbinetta -- actually when the new
            Vienna Ring was planned, Voigt was to
            debut all 3 Bruennhildes. After a certain
            time it was announced that Voigt had changed her mind and would only sing the Siegfried
            Bruennhilde and Johansson was engaged for the oher two as a substitute for Voigt. Then, before the first Siegfried, Voigt dropped out of that as well and Stemme, who had sung the Sieglinde in the Walkuere premiere was engaged to replace Voigt for her first ever Siegfried Bruennhilde and had a success. Stemme will be singing all 3 Bruennhildes in Vienna in the future. Now it is Dalayman for the current Ring conducted by Thielemann (20 minutes applause for his Rheingold the other night according to the Viennese Press). Had Voigt
            not changed her mind, and sung the Vienna
            Bruennhildes as originally planned, she would
            have come to the Met with at least some
            experience with the roles -- but even that
            probably would not have helped salvage what is
            obviously a voice currently in distress with little hope that vocal improvement can be foreseen for the future. Perhaps it is time
            for Voigt to consider undertaking character
            roles which are less demanding vocally but will
            keep her on the stage for another decade.

        • You forgot the part where he triumphantly declared his hatred of opera.

      • Bianca Castafiore

        Or Janice Baird? Lori Phillips? Jennifer Wilson?

        What does Gelb know about singing?

        • uwsinnyc

          I have a question-- Given the difficulties of singing/casting the role of Siegfried, are there any places within the role that can be cut to make it more singable?

          Yes I know Wagner would turn over in his grave, but if it makes a difference between having a mediocre, overly stressed tenor versus someone who can more comfortably traverse the role and whose focus can be beyond merely getting through the evening with voice left, we may all be winners in the end.

          Also, how does the Siegfried role in Gotterdammerung compare with the one in Siegfried?

          • marshiemarkII

            Much more dramatic in the heldentenor sense, obviously dramaturgically also.

          • Uwsinnyc (had to copy that down) -- there has been a trimmed-down version of the entire Ring -- 18 musicians and 10 hours instead of 15 (or 13 if it’s Bohm conducting). Up until after the war the Ring was heavily cut, esp Siegfried and Goetterdaemmerung, I’m not sure whether in Bayreuth too. You can hear the cuts in the Met broadcasts with Melchior etc. Personally, I think cutting Wagner is unthinkable, but maybe that is because I’m a product of the late 20th century, and the tendency for authentic / complete performances etc.

            The Siegfried tessitura, on the whole, can be described as Helden/agilita tenor. Quite high most of the time, it requires some kind of agility akin to coloratura + that Helden quality. And of course, immense stamina. The Goetterdaemmerung tessitura is completely different, eons more problematic, with whole scenes where the tenor is required to sing like a baritone (esp. when he masquerades as Gunther, but also some interjections in the 2nd act). Then comes that ludicrously difficult passage in act 3, as he retells his adventures, where the tenor has to mimic the bird cry. That is sheer folly of Wagner’s part, not to mention the horribly exposted B flat close to Siegfried’s exit in act II, which no tenor gets right, not even Melchior.

          • marshiemarkII

            Carisssimo CF, isn’t the note you mention in Act of GD a C? I don’t have a score handy but I’ve always heard the “the messed up C in Act II with Jerusalem” in the video, that could never be fixed because of the accident.

            It is incredibly difficult of course, but I did hear JF West sing it perfectly in Washington in 2009!!! He was in very good voice throughout. Very variable singer of course, his Tristan at the Prinzregenten Opening in 1996 was stunning, and then got booed at the Met for all and sundry shortly after. Go figure.

          • OpinionatedNeophyte

            CF (or anyone who knows) did Wagner ever write about or acknowledge the difficulties he posed for the human voice, particularly in Gott? Did he imagine that the same soprano would sing Walkure, Sieg and Gott despite the different vocal writing. I know that our vocal categories (mezzos-sopranos etc) meant different things in Wagners time the only example I know is that Amneris-Adalgisa were often sung by “sopranos” back in the day. I’m genuinely curious though what Wagner really expected?

          • ON -- I don’t think HE even knew what he expected.

            MMII -- you’re right! I was looking in the wrong place in my score, and anyway the role is written (Eulenburg) in the C clef. Yuck. First there’s a B flat then there’s a C. EEK.

          • lorenzo.venezia

            ON, there were certain singers Wagner routinely wrote for, because they would/could sing his music, or some of it. But only Lohengrin and Tannhauser were routinely performed. And the Ring was written over such a long period (with the big hiatus after Sieg. Act II) and rarely performed that the available voices changed. He always had big trouble finding tenors although sopranos were more willing to throw themselves into the sacro fuoco of his madness. You get a sense of the difficulty of his finding singers in “My Life” if you can hack it, but it’s such bullshit otherwise that it can be hard to take (dictating his white-washed memoirs of the Wesendoncks to Cosima?? pleeeeze…)

          • marshiemarkII

            OpNeo, Wagner must have gone a bit berserk when he wrote Act II of Gotterdammerung. There is possibly no other music more difficult to sing like this sequence (and how glorious it is!):

            Heil’ge Götter, himmlische Lenker!
            Rauntet ihr dies in eurem Rat?
            Lehrt ihr mich Leiden, wie keiner sie litt?
            Schuft ihr mir Schmach, wie nie sie geschmerzt?
            Ratet nun Rache, wie nie sie gerast!
            Zündet mir Zorn, wie noch nie er gezähmt!
            Heißet Brünnhild’ ihr Herz zu zerbrechen,
            den zu zertrümmern, der sie betrog!

            And I mean sing it as Wagner intended, with the full RAW chest on Geschmerzt and then gerast and then back up again. It is INSANE. Most sopranos simply disappear in the bottom to preserve the cleanliness of the top. In recorded history, the only ones that do it as Wagner intended are Frieda Leider with Furtwangler (1936?) and of course you know who!
            Similarly in the Allrauner Raechender Gott phrase right after the most exposed and brilliant B. The whole act is insane for the soprano.

          • iltenoredigrazia

            I’ve read that Melchior made lots of cuts on all his roles including Tristan and Siegfried.

          • marshiemarkII

            ERRATA: I mean “gerast” and “gezaehmt” are the lowest notes, “geschmerzt” is not particularly low.

          • Speaking of the tenors for whom Wagner wrote his heroes… Were they singing the high notes with head voice or chest?

          • Byrnham Woode

            You cannot cut SIEGFRIED to a significant enough extent to benefit the tenor and make what is an impossibly difficult role more manageble.
            Obviously you can cut a verse or two of the forging scene, and part of his exchange with Wotan. Such cuts used to be common, but neither cut will appreciably ease the burden. It’s simply a big, difficult Mount Everest that certain singers aim for.

            And many have had appreciable succeses, though none have dominated the role as well as Lauritz Melchior did. Still, I wouldn’t be without the accomplishments of such Siegfrieds as Max Lorenz, Ludwig Suthaus, Set Svanholm, Wolfgang Windgassen, Siegfried Jerusalem, Rene Kollo, William Johns, Alberto Remedios, and even Jon Fredric West and Toni Kramer, brief thouh their prime years were.

            The role in GOTTERDAMMERUNG is equally as dramatic but better paced, and not as long. A few tenors have sung just this part, but by and large if you are going to sing SIEGFRIED, you are going to be asked for GOTTERDAMMERUNG too, and generally together.

            When asked why this role was harder to cast than Siegmund, James Levine once replied “Siegmund is two acts. Siegfried is two days.”

        • Gualtier M

          Lori Phillips is a cover for Brunnhilde and is on the roster this season. Baird didn’t impress as Brunnhilde in the Seattle Ring. I think the Met might think of hiring her in something other than Wagner. She might make an interesting Salome or Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk or something. Stemme is in demand all over the world and hasn’t been treated well in the past by Met management.

          The idea with Friend and Billingshurst is often -- “well we have Voigt and a few second raters -- we don’t need this other person.” Similar to “we have Ruth Ann Swenson and Hong and a few new girls from the Met finals -- we don’t need that Anna Netrebko from the Kirov”. Things happen and frankly keeping any first-rate talent around is a good idea. I would have like to have heard Stemme as Tatyana and Eva in “Meistersinger” over Solveig Kringelborn who seems to have disappeared now only six or seven years after her voice did.

          The case with Jennifer Wilson is mystifying and probably has to do with her weight. Maybe she gave a bad audition for the Met.

          • iltenoredigrazia

            John Fredrick West is listed on the roster for this season.

          • david515mi

            Another name to watch in the role of Brünnhilde is Christine Goerke, who just had a staggeringly successful run as Elektra in Madrid. The voice is at this point in time absolutely huge.

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Hogrefe is also listed in the roster.

        • Clita del Toro

          marshiemark;I am not a fan of Fanciulla either, even thought the score is touted as Puccini’s best. But, I do like it more than that awful noisy opera, Turandot!

          • marshiemarkII


            Clita adorata, you and me, I am embarrased to admit everytime I have had to attend a Turandot, the last time with Andrea Gruber, from the first row in the orchestra, imagine the noise!!!! How I longed to be home listening to Bach instead :-)

  • uwsinnyc

    “Personally, I think cutting Wagner is unthinkable, but maybe that is because I’m a product of the late 20th century, and the tendency for authentic / complete performances etc.”

    CerquettiFarrell, I would agree with you in general. But when the question becomes one of unthinkable versus satisfactorily singable, I think one has to consider compromise. Especially in a big house like the MET.

    Having said that, I quite liked Jay Hunter Morris even though the voice was small.

    • I have problems with cutting Wagner as well, yet it is interesting that the greatest heldentenor of the 20th century, Melchior, always performed Tristan and Siegfried with cuts. Yes, it’s true that cuts in Wagner (and opera in general) were much more common back then. But it is funny that the man with the most natural heldentenor voice ever captured on record always sang the roles with cuts. Meanwhile, we expect singers with half the voice that Melchior had to sing these roles in big houses uncut.

      • marshiemarkII

        Kashie, but the greatest heldentenor of the 20th C was JON VICKERS!!!!!!!!! Period final :-)

        Now Melchior might have had a true heldentenor sound and all that, but that by itself does not guarantee amazing stamina (I am not saying he didn’t have ANY, please). Likewise, Nilsson, probably the most famous hochdramatischsopran of the second half of the 20th C might have had a brilliant trumpet of a voice, both on records and in the house, but in live performances she betrays very obvious tiredness, to wit the Immolation from Bayreuth on Philips with Karl Boehm. She is completely breathless in the final pages, barely touching the notes, very unlike her otherwise good rendition for Solti, in the studio, of just a couple of years earlier. Even more telling, she NEVER EVER did the Ring in one week (Bayreuth style), at the huge barn of the Met, quite the contrary, she always very carefully planned lots of rest in between. This does not speak of out of the ordinary stamina. I saw her late in Gotterdammerung (1975), plus I was hallucinating half of the time, it was my first time ever at the Met, so I’ll refrain from commenting, on a kid’s first time experience.

        • Clita del Toro

          Markiemark dearest, I love Vickers too, saw him in many roles,; but he never sang Siegfried as far as I know--nor did he sing Tannhaüser. Siegfried is a must for a Heldentenor, imo. Not that getting through Siegfried makes one a true Heldentenor.

        • Marshie: Vickers was definitely the greater artist but I was talking more in terms of vocal endowment. But then again, you knew that! ;)

        • Bill

          MarshiemarkII -- What of Max Lorenz ? Many considered Lorenz the finest of heldentenors,
          not Melchior. Listening to them, I would
          probably prefer either to Vickers.

          And for those commenting about cuts -- Melchior
          did not cut his roles in Wagner performances, the conductors or opera house managers did --
          It was quite the custom in the 1930’s and
          1940’s for Wagner Operas to be cut -- even
          much later when Siepi sang in Parsifal at the Met it was cut and when Siepi went to Vienna
          later in the same season, Parsifal was uncut so
          siepi had to learn some additional music.

          • IdiaLegray

            The first Wagner I hear at the old Met in the late 50s and early 60s was cut, sometimes drastically. The first PARSIFAL I attended (Bohm, Vinay, Dalis) started at 7:15 and ended in time for me to get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in time for a midnight bus. The first TRISTAN I heard Bohm, Nillson, Vinay) began at 7:45 and ended before midnight. The last act lasted less than an hour. This wasn’t only because of Bohm’s tempi. Wagner wasn’t all that was drastically cut -- FORZA without the inn scene, LUCIA without the Wolf Crag scene, for instance in addition to internal cuts.

          • Clita del Toro

            Bill, I had a friend in the 50’s an older “gentleman”(one of the many) who told me that Lorenz was the best of the Heldentenors, better than Melchior. I didn’t believe him. I still haven’t heard enough of Lorenz to make any kind of judgement. But I love Melchior, Suthaus, Vickers, Jerusalem, Vinay and others. I used to like Set Svanholm, but now I am not so sure???

          • marshiemarkII

            Bill, dear, I am not all that familiar with Max Lorenz unfortunately. I have several Rings from Bayreuth that I will need to dig up, now that you mention him. As always I agree with Clita, I really really like Suthaus from his Tristan outing with the greatest Kirsten and the greatest Furtwaengler, his Act III is superb, still no Vickers in my book though :-)

        • marshiemarkII

          My adored Clita and Kashie, it is of course true that Vickers never sang Siegfried or Tannhauser (I don’t ever want to remember the vile rant of the worthless egomaniac in Munich :-) ), but he did sing Tristan and HOW!!!!!! I obviously never heard Melchior live, but I cannot imagine anyone ever sounding larger or fuller than the Tristan I heard in Chicago in 1980 (?), not to mention the dozens of times I heard him at the Met as Florestan, Parsifal, Otello, or even an Act II of Tristan with Nilsson. He completely smothered her :-) . It was the most overwhelming male voice I ever heard. The glorious Ghiaurov came was close…..

          • Nerva Nelli

            Marshie II, the fact that Vickers was the loudest singer YOU ever heard and the fact that you adored him does not perforce make him the greatest Heldentenor of the 20th century.

            Besides Melchior and Lorenz, there were Jacques Urlus, Paul Franz and Ivan Erschov.

            Vickers never sang Walther either; Melchior did, though not ofetn after 1930, I believe.

            Nor does Nilsson’s pacing of the RING in her 50s at the Met-surely a matter that Bing had a major role in deciding-- does not seem to me t be a valuable toll to tarnish her reputation in favor of your Incomparable Standard ( in fact as opposed to Rapturous Memory, maybe the most uneven major Wagnerian singer of the 80s).

          • Nerva Nelli

            sorry for the syntactical mess; multitasking

          • Wonderful that you were able to work in your daily dig at Marshie even whilst multitasking.

          • kv505

            Vickers sang, please correct me if I am wrong, many Tristans, but most with cuts. He RECORDED it complete, but rarely performed the whole thing. I heard him sing Act II in concert in 1981 in Tanglewood (with Jessye Norman) and I have a bdcast tape that runs out at the beginning of the King Marke monologue. The large (“standard”) cut in the middle of the love duet was there.

          • marshiemarkII

            Nerva, multitasking or not, you need better reading comprehension. I was speaking about the widely known recording of Gotterdammerung with Dr Karl Boehm from Bayreuth 1967. Last time I checked that was considered the summit of Nilsson’s prime years.

            Don’t know why you bring Bing into this, as Birgit sang the first Gotterdammerung of the Karajan production in 1974, correct? The problems were related to Karajan leaving the production, etc. Bing certainly gave her toppest of billing at his farewell gala in 1972. Now I saw Nilsson live from 1975 onward, which meant not again until the 1980 Elektras, the Wagner Concert with Estes (Walkure III and Immolation), the Tristan Act II with Vickers, and the Farberin. I have not commented much on those, because she was very clearly well past it, as it can be heard plainly in the Elektra video, I saw all four performances in the theater.

            The Incomparable is a sobriquet that the French bestowed on Behrens after her first Elektra in Paris (L’Incomparable) and repeated by Opera News in their Tribute after her tragic passing. Martin Mayer at the Met also called her in 1989 “there has been no one like her”. She was very variable in the 1990s, singing Brunnhilde and Elektra everywhere, after suffering a life-threatening accident and a vocal crisis. But I’d posit that she was quite reliable in the 1980s, to wit she was also called “The Trouper”, because of her complete lack of false prima donna airs, and willingness to work on anything and everything that made artistic sense, as a team player.

          • grimoaldo

            Marshie you referred the other day to Behrens singing the Walkure Brunnhilde in London and I couldn’t understand how I missed that so I looked it up and it was one Proms concert. I was wondering if you know why she never did any complete Rings in London?
            I cannot help being very influenced by great performances I saw live and so it is Dame Gwyneth
            who to me was the incomparable Brunnhilde of those days. Although Behrens is of course very good in the videos and recordings I have seen and heard to me she does not equal Jones but that might have been very different had I seen her live in the role.

          • marshiemarkII

            Grimoaldo, that is a very good question. She was extremely fond of London from her early years, her first Fidelio with Vickers was at the Royal Opera in 1976 and later the Salome in 1979. And then nothing for all of the 1980s. In 1990 she had a Royal Command Performance at the Royal Opera with a Beethoven/Wagner concert that took place immediately after the first major physical/psychological aftereffects of the accident. She was not in good voice and got through by the grace of God, I was there. Still she was invited back for Tosca, the next year, which as you may imagine was not for everyone’s taste. There were no more offers. She was still in great demand everywhere of course, Vienna’s new Ring, Berlin in the Ring and the stunning comeback as Elektra at the Met. Eventually Haitink called her personally to ask for a Ring in London. She was very touched, and they found common time only after the closing of the house for renovations, so it was with the Royal Opera in exile as it were. And the Walkure was at the Proms as you say, and got really great reviews (“Football stadium sized quadruple fortissimo ovation” said one of the reviews) and then the Gotterdammerung was even further in exile, as it was in Birmingham, again people in attendance have described that as a stunning performance (remember wonderful Grimgerde here? He was there). And that was it. The last things was the Elektra that was in the theater and several people here seem to have loved, most notably my beloved Cocky. It is a real shame she sang so little in London, because she really loved the city, and some of the most consistently moving tributes and remembrances on her passing came from Britain. She clearly had a lot of fans there.

            Last I want you to know that Hildegard and Dame Gwyneth were extremely fond of each other, from their earliest days in Paris, for that legendary Frau. Dame Gwyneth never failed to go to wish toit toi toi before every single performance during the 1989 Ring at the Met, in which they were each other’s covers, and Dame Gwyneth also went to hear the Behrens Lieder Recital at Carnegie Hall in 1996, and later went backstage to congratulate her. I have a gorgeous picture of the two that I need to digitize so I can share with you all.

          • Nerva Nelli

            I donlt want to intride on a rich fantasy life, but the reason OPERA NEWS used the header “THE INCOMPARABL;E HILDEGARD” relates to the resonances of that title with a widely known phrase pertaining to someone else:


            I certainly would not deny tha Behrens was a committed and “personal” artist, and in that way “ther ewas no one else like her” in the way that there was no one else like Borkh, Rysanek, Ludwig, Moedl, etc.

            But to be “reloiable” in the sense of showing up to perform, admirable as it is in this day of Angelic whim, is not the same thing as “reliable” in the sense of showing up and delivering quality results every time.

          • Nerva Nelli


          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I saw the Walkure with Behrens in London. It was at the Albert Hall, but I dont recall it being part of the proms. In any case, it was very frustrating for me that Behrens was singing all 3 Brunnhildes in Birmingham, but only Walkure in London, leaving us to make do with a perfectly ok Dame Anne Evans. Behrens was very moving, I particularly remember the War es so schmallisch passage. Her rapport with Sir John Tomlinson was wonderful, and everybody was in tears by the end of his farewell.

            I did find the ROH Elektra in 1997 extremely powerful and I have very vivid memories of it (Mattila was also great). I was 17 years old and sitting my final school exams, and I saw Dame Kiri the following evening with Solti in Boccanegra- it was quite a weekend for me!

            The other time I saw Behrens in London was an Erwartung at the Royal Festival Hall, and that was the occasion on which I really gained an appreciation of the sheer size of her voice- the fact that she was still audible through the most OTT orchestral climaxes despite not having much ‘cut’ to the sound in the conventional sense was extraordinary.

            MarshiemarkII, re Lorenz, I am certainly no expert but he is sensational opposite Varnay in the Götterdämmerung from the Kielberth Bayreuth Ring, which I believe is very late for him.

            You are so right about that DVD of Nilsson’s Met Elektra- hideous singing, I had to take it straight back to the shop and exchange it for something else- one wonders why they released it.

          • grimoaldo

            I’m sure you are right Cocky, my mistake, I see Albert Hall and think Proms but they were there not for the Proms but during the renovation of the opera house I now understand.

          • marshiemarkII

            Cocky, she only sang Gotterdammerung in Birmingham, unfortunately those were the two Brunnhildes that could be scheduled, so we cannot say she sang a complete Ring with the Royal Opera. But she was in great voice for both performances, so the memories is what counts. And you were lucky, that the Elektra was with the mighty Thielemann, how envious I am that I never saw that! I can imagine those two, and of course Mattila must have been sublime also, as I saw her in 2002 at the Met and she was astounding as Chrysothemis. So you did get to see a few glimpses of heaven in your youth :-)

            The video of the Nilsson Elektra does a disservice to Nilsson more than to anybody, but that is marketing for you, just cashing in on the name. But we did get to see the divine Leonie, and that makes the DVD worth it. Oh the live performances were amazing, Leonie, in her late prime, was like a volcano!.

            Thanks to you, I have been listening to the Lizst Lieder, for a second weekend in a row, and what gorgeous songs….. She is really amazing in the Loreley, that final pianissimo is sublime. And the Jean D’Arc is like a Wagnerian Concert Aria, magnificent! The last one is very emotional for me, as she would play the piano version herself on her piano………..

  • Signor Bruschino

    There have, as of Monday night been 15 performances of the first 3 operas. Just from memory, were there two major Rheingold malfunctions (the first two performances with Rainbow bridge just not working), 2 Walkure incidents (Debs slip and the Valkyrie problem) and now in the 2 performances of Siegfried, 2 major set malfunctions.

    So 40% of the performances in the last 14 months have had problems… Maybe they needed an advent calendar production- those seem to work (well, not artistically)

    • iltenoredigrazia

      And all 15 had backstage noise ?

      • uwsinnyc

        and you didn’t include the long delay in the HD transmission

  • such a deep discussion!!!!!!!!!!! they need more engineers who love opera

  • Byrnham Woode

    Re: Cuts in Wagner. Until very recently, they were commonplace, excpt in Bayreuth. All the major artists from before the war, all those we treasure, were accustomed to performing with cuts. It’s a factor we should always consider in analyzing how well a singer has paced him or herself through one of these major undertakings. It remains a point of contention even in Melchior’s biography as to whether he ever sang TRISTAN uncut.

    The MET began insisting on completeness when Jimmy Levine took over. Even so, the MET still takes a large ensemble cut in LOHENGRIN -- one that has also been taken at Bayreuth in all performances since 1954.

    Without wishing to be pedantic about it, these operas cannot be cut. Both for musical and dramatic reasons, they need to be given complete, and those who haven’t the stamina for it (either performers or audience) need to do something else.

    Besides, there is no way to cut TRISTAN or SIEGFRIED (whatever) and make it “short”. All you will do is save maybe 10 or 15 minutes off of an already long evening. And if the principals have any business in this repertory at all, they will figure out how to pace themselves through the works.

    Robert Tuggle, the MET Archivist, believes there were occasional uncut stagins under Bodansky in the 1930s, but I haven’t found substantiation for that. SIEGFRIED in the 1975 Cycle was the only part of the RING with a couple of cuts in it, and by the next revival of that opera (1981) it was uncut.

    I am told, but have no proof, that Bayreuth took the 10 minute duet cut in ACT 2 OF TRISTAN for a couple of late 1960’s performances when a substitute Isolde didn’t know the passage. When Bayreuth toured that opera to Japan in 1967, the cut was taken -- and the singers were Nilsson and Windgassen!!

    • tancredipasero

      The only “substantiation” for the occasional uncut performances under Bodanzky in the 30s is that the Met advertised them as such at the time, so that people who wanted to hear the uncut versions could choose those nights. But there’s no audible substantiation, because Saturday afternoons were never selected for “uncut” treatment -- natural enough that, having a longer and a shorter version of the same show, they’d pick the shorter one on a day when another opera had to be given in the evening.

  • zinka

    These are the guys who manufactured the new Ring sets….