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Wunderkinder in mirror are larger than they appear

Composer Nico Muhly took a break between operatic world premieres to order a daiquiri and talk to our own JJ about height, haters and flight path. [Capital New York] (Photo: Peter Ross)


  • 1
    OpinionatedNeophyte says:

    Is that you, Ms Channing?

  • 2
    Will says:

    I found the last paragraph most interesting of all. I know the adoration for tradition among so many traditionalists in the audience, but the fact that Muhly celebrates the freedom of his interpreter from any and all previous associations, her opportunity to invent the character herself, seems very right.

    I do remember Renata Scotto, who worked some of the most tradition-bound repertory in opera, saying that she stayed away from recordings from the past at a time when many opera lovers were advising young singers to listen to Mme. X, Mme. Y, and Maria to learn how to do it right. Standing up for the individuality of each interpretation is what ultimately gives us great performers.

  • 3
    Krunoslav says:

    I recall Andrew Porter taking Scotto to task for saying she didn’t want to hear, while preparing CECILIA, the recordings made by Muzio (the creatrix) with Refice (the composer) conducting, likening it to an aspiring Amalia in MASNADIERI refusing a coaching session with Verdi and Jenny Lind.

    Surely there must be some balance between that attitude and those of several of today’s young singers who have told me they “pattern on” Renee, Juan Diego, the Three Tenors and so forth.

    But it *is* true that singers who have engaged with contemporary works and worked with living composers and librettists often show a keen sense of style and language in their work. Stefan Zucker makes this point about Olivero; and-- among Americans-- I would cite Phyllis Curtin, Donald Gramm, (yes) Beverly Sills and Joyce di Donato (plus, in regard to English diction and word projection at least, a number of other HGO Young Artist graduates, like Chad Shelton). Elisabeth Soederstroem, Maureen Forrester, Geraint Evans (not a singer I care much for vocally but his words “lived”) and Marshie Mark’s beloved Galina Pavlovna furnish some non-US examples.

    • 3.1
      marshiemarkII says:

      :-) :-) :-)

    • 3.2
      marshiemarkII says:

      By the way Kruno, did you see the clip of Norma that Camille put up a few days ago, Sunday I think. I thought Galina Pavlovna’s tone and weight was perfect, beautiful actually, but as she went up, she turned shrill (OK by me in a dramatic role) and flat, which was definitely not OK. Was I listening correctly or was it the “emotion” of the moment? as I was rather agitated by the other discussion. I posed the same question to Cara Camille, but she sems to have left us for a while again, greatly missed of course!

      • 3.2.1
        Krunoslav says:

        MM--To paraphrase a wise poster here, saying “Galina Pavlovna sings shrill” is like saying “Galina Pavlovna sings Shostakovich”. That kicked in by the early 60s, and certainly most Soviet sopranos after the immortal (not ‘undead’, like la Gheorghiu) Antonina Nezhdanova:

        tended to that same sound up there.

          marshiemarkII says:

          But Kruno, I rather love me a shrill soprano, how could have I been a Callas queen for almost 40 years otherwise :-)
          What I was complaining with Galina Pavlovna in that Casta Diva was the flatness as she went up, and in particular that last note, that’s why I was asking whether I was not listening correctly, I mean that seriously really.

          Now for a real shrillfest, the Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk has to take top honors, right? And I love that recording!
          Thanks for Antonina, I rather liked her actually.

          Camille says:

          Beautiful. What a crystalline line.

          Spasibo, Kruno che non mente, as I have heard this name but knew not a voice to go mit.

      • 3.2.2
        Camille says:

        MarschallinMarkII--I have been tired out, after spending six hours at La Guardia only to turn around and catch a cab back to the palazzo. It would happen I had chosen a snow day in October to get outta town. Likewise, I had the considerable thrill of going through TSA lines twice for one flight. Vexing at my age.

        So happy to have given you happy memories of Galina. It is very interesting,what she does as she ascends the scale; such a clean legato otherwise.

        As before, C.

  • 4
    Batty Masetto says:

    “my sense of my own output is completely no bird’s eye, at all”

    Huh? Maybe meaning bird’s eye, as in fermata? No bird’s eye view? No brand-name frozen peas & carrots?

    It appears I am beginning to lose contact with ze English language as she is spoken…

    • 4.1
      m. croche says:

      Stick a “view” before the comma and you’ll be able to make some sense of this.

      There’s a running debate in journalistic circles about how much one may “clean up” the speech of an interview subject, turning the Brownian motion of everyday speech into something that reads coherently on the page. JJ seems to have taken a decidedly “non-interventionist” approach to capturing Muhly’s stream of thought, but I’m not sure that the results do anybody any favors.

  • 5
    verliebtenmadeleine says:

    Wait, he’s 6’1″? I had assumed he was short, too…

    • 5.1
      louannd says:

      I’d kill for those eyebrows.

    • 5.2
      Sempre liberal says:

      I saw him at the MET one night, wearing a very long coat, and I had always pictured him as short. I was convinced he was on stilts under the coat, but then he turned around and it was all lean torso and legs -- no stilts.

      Very cute.

      • 5.2.1
        A. Poggia Turra says:

        He seems to be one of those people who photographs differently, in the sense that the angle makes a difference -- other published photos DO make hime seem dumpy and schlumpy (not that there’s anything wrrrrrrong with that) ;)

        On a related note, I ask a favor of La Cieca -- please pass along to JJ my thanks and compliments on the article about “What’s Missing from ‘Company'” -- brilliant analysis.

    • 5.3
      Buster says:

      My theory is that people think he is short because Jamie Cullum is.

  • 6
    bobsnsane says:

    He’s old enough to drink?

  • 7
    sterlingkay says:

    Librettist/Director Bartlett Sher? Shocked that JJ would make such a mistake in print. Craig Lucas, of course, wrote the libretto for TWO BOYS. That’s the kind of mistake La Cieca usually jumps up & down about when the scribblers at the NY Times make it. I’m sure it was an editor’s error :)

  • 8
    louannd says:

    Caitlyn Lynch is one of the dark sisters? She has a marvelous lyric coloratura voice. I guess we won’t be able to hear this piece, or will we?

    • 8.1
      butterfly mcqueen says:

      Dark Sisters’ premiere run takes place in NYC starting next week, Nov. 9, presented by Gotham Chamber Opera. Caitlin Lynch is indeed one of the sisters…

      • 8.1.1
        louannd says:

        Thank you BM, I was hoping it was recorded and broadcast somehow but I am guessing that is not going to happen. Would love to hear it!

        I have heard Ms. Lynch (who is recently married I saw somewhere) sing both Fiordiligi and Konstanze out here in the provinces, and she was the highlight and obvious star of both of those productions. No problems at all with those Konstanze arias. The duet with Jonathan Boyd as Belmonte (another provincial American “star”) was, well, stellar.

        Here is the Fiordiligi/Ferrando video:

        and “Per pieta”

  • 9
    sfmike says:

    That was a lovely piece, and I apreciated that that you left in the messiness of the run-on sentences which were half the fun.

    And the reason we all thought Muhly was short is because of that boyish, pixie face. Interesting to read that it’s on a tall body.

  • 10
    operaassport says:

    He’s such a cutie pie. I’d like to take him home to mummy.

  • 11
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    I still struggle getting my mind to pronounce a”J” when it sees hly.
    A trip to the Emerald Isle might be necessary to fix that.

  • 12
    A. Poggia Turra says:

    Interesting that the night before the ‘Sisters’ premier, Muhly is going to give the Satyagraha pre-performance talk:

    If anyone goes, please report (both on the content, and also height/eyebrows/etc ;)

  • 13
    zinka says:

    Before he became a werewolf…are you telling me that Steven Goeffreys does not look like Nico Muhly???????????????

  • 14
    PokeyGascon says:

    Nico blogs and references JJ’s interview.