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Over the moon

Mariella Devia will augment her already vast bel canto repertoire next year with the role of roles: Bellini’s Norma. Her debut in the part is scheduled for Bologna in 2013.

187 comments

  • deviafan says:

    In the end, Devia fans will love her Norma (although, I doubt anyone but a diehard fan will really care much one way or another). However, I am unsure if she has the voice left for this role. I think it is ironic that the picture posted here is from the 2010 Calgari I Puritani, where Devia struggled so badly in a role that at one time was one of her signature roles.

    This is a situation when the singer should know better the limits of her voice. Now, had she tried the role 10 years ago, then we might have witnessed a great thing.

  • Baritenor says:

    Can we have a talk about reality here? This seems like a natural place to do it. I suspect that I live in a very different universe from many of those who have posted on this thread, because when I see this list, I am actually kind of excited.

    Perhaps it is merely a question of volume. I live in San Francisco, and I can’t afford to go to New York on a whim. I can’t afford to go to New York at all, in fact. I’ve been there six times in my life, at no time longer than for a period of 5 days. So perhaps I just don’t get the privileges that come with being a New York-based opera fan, the privilege that at any given day there is at least one opera being performed somewhere in the greater Manhattan area. I’m more used to a ten or fifteen opera a year diet, and so the fact that a company like the Met is still at full operation, churning out 218 performances of 28 operas is, to a degree, mind-blowing. If I did my math right, and there is no guarantee that I did, considering I have a degree in Music, that’s 27 full weeks worth of performances, so this season announcement gives you New York or New York-accessible opera-goer the ability to opera-go every night for a little over half of a calendar year. Do you have any idea, any idea at all, how lucky that makes you?

    Now I am not saying that you have to be satisfied with the season. There is certainly stuff that I’m not a fan of (Maichidze in Ory, Erdmann’s Susannah, the return of Voigt as Brunnhilde) and I could and do roll my eyes at the absence of Strauss and Britten from the proceedings. Yes, there are problems with the casting. I suspect a lot of them can be blamed on the practice of booking singers 5 years in advance, which after several years in the industry still makes no real sense to me.

    However, the reaction here to this leaked announcement is completely out of proportion. The last page and a half of ranting comments would make one believe that in planning this season, Peter Gelb has committed a crime against humanity. Wait…. Not just a crime, a litany of serial operatic rights violations! Such as:

    The Wagner Bicentennial is being neglected for the Verdi bicentennial, not counting the momentous task that is putting on a Ring Cycle in addition to the rarely-revived Parsifal, which in itself means more chorus and orchestra rehearsals that would usually go into an opera production.

    No wait, it’s the right amount of Verdi but none of them are less popular that would be incredibly expensive to rehearse, relearn and remount and probably wouldn’t sell great and are hard to cast.

    It’s all the same old humdrum operas, forgetting of course, that we get Parsifal and Les Troyens and Clemenza di Tito and Francisca di Flippin Rimini for the first time in years.

    There’s not enough performances Post-Verismo, Slavic and Baroque rep, forgetting that the Met rarely does more than two or three Post-Verismo, Slavic and Baroque shows a year because Post-verismo, Slavic and baroque operas have the unfortunate side-effect of not selling very well.

    They’ve hired dastardly British singers like Alan Oke to sing a fiendishly difficult role like Caliban in the Tempest, while there’s excellent American tenors waiting in the wings, ready to go on, like…uh…well, it’ll come to me.

    They hired that singer who sucks instead of the ones who you like, y’know, like that one who generally sings only in Europe because the fees are better and she doesn’t have to travel as much.

    They’re daring to bring back that new production you hated so much, because of course Gelb is cheap enough to think that if he paid for an expensive new production he should at least give it a second mounting rather than mothballing it forever because it wasn’t a critical success.

    Worst of all, Peter Gelb has planned a deliberately boring season so he can safely reap financial rewards.

    This last one actually offends me as an artist, and I don’t get offended easily, especially in the vitriolic no-man’s land that is the Internet. But No one in this business, not Peter Gelb, not Placido Domingo, not Robert LaPage, not Fabio Luisi, not anyone anyone ANYONE in this industry all the way down to the guy singing the Customs Officer in a tiny production of La Boheme performed in a high school gymnasium in a town somewhere in Idaho with a population of about 12, sets out with the intent to bore their audience. That is the absolute worst-case scenario for any member of an artistic community, and to assume that people do not care if they bore us as long as they are financially solvent is anathema to the fact that they are artists.

    Is this season as exciting as it could have been? No. As someone pointed out, it was probably planned in 2008 when the financial outlook of the country was even more excessively grim than it is today, and companies were closing right and left. Are yet there are still enough exciting operas, exciting casting, exciting conductors, exciting productions both new and old and not to mention the excitement of going to Lincoln Center, where most opera fans only can dream of going live, and hearing what may be the finest opera orchestra and chorus in the country perform to make it worthwhile to go. I would LOVE to hear you explain to me why it’s not worth it. I’m sure you have all sorts of reasons why this season isn’t up to your exacting standards of the perfect opera company, but the reality is putting on opera? Not easy. It’s expensive and difficult, and if Peter Gelb managed to find the wherewithal to plan this season at a time when America didn’t know if we were facing another 1929 or not, I say more power to him.

    Mind, I’m not asking that you all nod your head and start chanting, “all hail Gelb!” There are issues with the season, and I gave my two cents above. But the entitlement here is getting to me. The feeling seems to be “There are a few casting errors. THE MET IS DEAD TO ME!” Well, then, stay home. I’ll be there trying to enjoy myself.

    I’d like to close this unnecessarily long rant thank Iphigenie for taking the unasked-for and for all I know dangerous step of leaking the Met’s entire season to us gift-wrapped in a bow for free. I mean, we were in serious danger of running out of stuff to complain about.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      I agree with you, Baritenor, and Armerj sometime earlier in the thread- there is actually stuff I would cross the Atlantic to see, despite being in the privileged position of living in London and being able to see any production I like at ENO or the ROH.

    • m. croche says:

      There’s not enough performances Post-Verismo, Slavic and Baroque rep, forgetting that the Met rarely does more than two or three Post-Verismo, Slavic and Baroque shows a year because Post-verismo, Slavic and baroque operas have the unfortunate side-effect of not selling very well.

      I think this is problematic both with respect to the facts assumed and the reasoning.

      I seem to recall that both From the House of the Dead and The Nose sold out -- both post-Verismo, both Slavic, so I call two-fers on them.

      I’ll grant that Khovanshchina may sell fewer tickets than La Boheme. But an artistic institution worthy of the name doesn’t just care about putting people’s butts in seats, but also about what goes on in the heads of the attendees. A balancing test is required, and the quoted paragraph above doesn’t provide one.

      If one decides to mount a season containing 7 mature operas by Verdi and 2 of Puccini’s, why, instead of filling in some of the resulting lacunae, do you stage Zandonai?

      The upcoming season is unbalanced in a way that suggests that the company (and I guess its audience, if we follow Baritenor’s logic) lack(s) musical curiosity and artistic flexibility.

    • ianw2 says:

      Thank for you being a voice of moderation.

      I agree that its not the most thrilling of seasons, but the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments was getting a little silly (we’re hardly in LOC territory here).

      I can only assume that Sher and Lepage were both contracted (along with the revival of Ory) several years ago, before anyone realised exactly what they were dealing with. If you’ve got JDF coming all this way, may as well go ahead with it according to plan.

      Slavic operas are still a rarity in the US- so that the Met has done successful productions of the Nose and Dead in the last few years (and, from memory, has a Makropoulous and a Bartered Bride coming up) is nothing to sneeze at. And let’s not forget last year’s Boris and the upcoming toe-tapping crowd-pleaser Khovanschina. Of course there’s always room for more (Jenufa!), but when has the Met not been a big Verdi house? And I find it hard to stomach moaning ‘why aren’t they doing Lohengrin?!!’ in the season where they have three complete Ring Cycles AND an excitingly cast Parsifal.

      I could happily whinge about the lack of American opera (quelle surprise), or that terrible Rondine is taking up valuable space, or that the only new-ish opera is by another fucking brit (haha), or that I’m surprised not even one Strauss sneaked in (and let’s not even start on Erdmann) but I’m really not prepared to lose my shit over the leaked season just yet.

      I guess it comes back to how much leadership an opera company should demonstrate, amplified x1000 when you’re dealing with something as unwieldy (Croche- I think you’re expecting far too much in the way of ‘artistic flexibility’- I’m sure Gelb & Co would love a cost-free, easy way to jettison a stinker like Ory) as the world’s largest house. There’s not an awful lot I’d jump on the plane to see, but I’m still pleased I’m living in the world where one can say “we’ve just heard the mystical conclusion of Act I of Philip Glass’ astounding opera Satyagraha, in the revival production at the Metropolitan Opera”.

  • ianw2 says:

    Re-reading your post, I see you also hit on the old favourite observation that so many Parterriat will say “of course there a no good Verdi singers nowadays” then in the next breath “why is the Met ignoring Vespri????”

    • grimoaldo says:

      “I suspect a lot of them can be blamed on the practice of booking singers 5 years in advance, which after several years in the industry still makes no real sense to me.”

      It seems to me that that just doesn’t work any more if it ever did. They miss a some new talent at its peak and end up with a lot of people performing roles that they would have been excellent in ten years earlier.

      “No wait, it’s the right amount of Verdi but none of them are less popular that would be incredibly expensive to rehearse, relearn and remount and probably wouldn’t sell great and are hard to cast.”
      This is referring at least in part to my comments and they do not appear in the order they were written so I will say that I did start out by noting performances I was looking forward to. However the Met has a long and noble tradition of bringing lesser-known Verdi works back to public notice and it is a shame they are not doing anything along those lines in the first part of his bicentennial year.

      “They’ve hired dastardly British singers like Alan Oke to sing a fiendishly difficult role like Caliban in the Tempest”
      What I wonder about here is why Ian Bostridge who I saw create this part at the premiere of The Tempest is not doing it at the Met. His performance is what I remember the best from the whole show, he was quite definitive I would say. Did the Met not want him or did he not want to do it?

      “They hired that singer who sucks instead of the ones who you like, y’know, like that one who generally sings only in Europe because the fees are better and she doesn’t have to travel as much.”
      I don’t think it is unreasonable to criticise a company for presenting singers or any kind of performers who suck even though you cannot tell them who they should have instead that would be available. They are supposed to put on good stuff not stuff that sucks or, even worse, present performers that they know are gonna suck because they sucked the last time or two (or twenty). As Dr Johnson said “You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables.”

      • Camille says:

        Love a man who quotes Dr. Johnson, yes I do and thank you, too.

      • Baritenor says:

        I would consider Ballo in Maschera to be considered a “lesser known work.” It’s fairly popular, yes but it lags pretty far behind the popularity levels of, say, Trovatore and Otello. This may be ar reflection of my personal feelings, but I’ve never considered it Verdi at his A game.

        I suspect Ian Bostridge had no burning desire to return to the murderously high tesatura of Caliban after six years away from the role. Unlike Keenlyside and Cynthia Sieden, I don’t think he was involved with any of the productions and revivals. (In Fact, when was the last time he sang in staged opera?) what raised my eyebrow was the unexpected absence of Cynthia Sieden from the cast list. Frankly, I didn’t think there was anyone else who could actually SING the damn part! What is known about Audrey Luna?

        • Clita del Toro says:

          Baritenor: It’s okay for you to think of Ballo in that way, but I LOVE Ballo. It’s one of my very favorite Verdi operas, ever. And I know others like it too. It’s a great opera--so, it’s not as popular as Trovatore--neither is Falstaff>?>?>?>?

        • kashania says:

          I agree that Ballo is not as popular as Traviata or Trovatore but, in my books, it is certainly on par with those works in terms of quality. In fact, there’s far more humanity and depth of character in Ballo than Trovatore.

      • oedipe says:

        “They hired that singer who sucks instead of the ones who you like, y’know, like that one who generally sings only in Europe because the fees are better and she doesn’t have to travel as much.”
        I don’t think it is unreasonable to criticise a company for presenting singers or any kind of performers who suck even though you cannot tell them who they should have instead that would be available.

        The slightly scandalous question I would like to ask is the following: if, for a given opera, a company only has available ‘performers that suck’ , should they still go ahead and stage that opera?

        This may not be a big issue in the case of the standard rep. After all, a lousy revival of La Bohème or La Traviata will not hold a lot of sway over people’s opinions about these operas, since most opera goers will sooner or later get a chance to see better casts.

        But when it comes to rarer works, things are more complicated. Mauled by ‘performers that suck’, these operas will appear to the first time listeners as boring and devoid of interest, with the unfortunate effect of not selling very well and, even sadder, being put back on the shelf for the following decade or so.

        So here is my question: is it better to stage these rarer operas even with ‘performers that suck’, or is it preferable to do so only if you can cast them properly? This is not an idle question: for some reason, the cool ‘It-thing’ to stage these days seems to be Les Troyens. But good Berlioz singers are few and far between. Granted, one may find a number of singers who have all the notes; but the style and the ability to bring this music to life? Actually, I would say that it is at least as hard to find excellent interpreters of Berlioz -and of much of French opera with the exception of Carmen and Werther- as it is to find excellent Verdi singers nowadays.

        So, maybe having a somewhat skewed rep is not such a bad idea after all. IMO, in addition to the standard rep, the types of rep that a house like the Met can -and does- cast properly these days are: the Russian rep, most of the German rep (though arguably not the Ring), much of the ‘Warsaw Pact’ rep, the modern, much of the belcanto, some of the baroque. Forget French opera (which many people dislike anyway).

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        Bostridge couldn’t sing what Ades wanted, so it’s no surprise he isn’t part of such a high profile new presentation of the work. Sieden isn’t the only soprano with that kind of facility up top and having seen her do it 3 times I really didn’t find her terribly impressive. I do appreciate that the tessitura and awkward lines are simply crazy- what would have really made her exceptional and incontestably impressive would have been if the words had been clearer and the lines cleaner. It was a very respectable achievement, but I also don’t find it difficult to imagine it being performed at least as well by another singer.

  • Salomanda says:

    I’m ok with next season. I’m glad that the first Parsifal I’ll see live has a good cast, excited to see La Rondine, Troyens and Francesca live for the first time. I’m also bummed about the lack of Strauss; I could have sworn Die Frau Ohne Schatten was happening in 2013, but maybe that’ll be in the 2013-14 season.

    All in all it’s not all that exciting, but there’s some stuff to look forward to.

  • Clita del Toro says:

    I love Troyens, but am turned off by the cast, especially Giordani. I’d rather hear a cracking Heppner any day!

  • Clita del Toro says:

    And, if they fuck up Parsifal, I will be totally disgusted.