Cher Public

More news from the future

Here La Cieca has scarcely returned home from a very pleasant concert performance of Pipe Dream (feeble show, attractive songs, fine cast) and what should she find in her inbox but an alert from the Playbill Club. You know, that online service that offers discounts on shows that aren’t selling so well. But this is the first time she has ever seen the Playbill Club offer… well, see for yourself after the jump.

Should you Playbill Club members (and you know who you are) be interested in enjoying the 25% off vocal stylings of Nadja Michael, here’s the link. In the meantime, what’s your take on this latest bit of Met marketing strategy?

  • Nerva Nelli

    They should be *paying* people to listen to this Thane and his Lady.

  • Batty Masetto

    By an unhappy coincidence, driving to the grocery store I tuned into Sirius just as the Divine Ms. M. was achieving the climax of her Sleepwalking Scene.

    I have to give her credit -- her high D-minus-thirty-three-and-a-third won points for local color. It’s the closest I have ever heard a human being come to the sound of a bagpipe.

    • Belfagor

      Well all of this talk on la Michael makes me wonder why companies have overlooked this lady -- has anyone come across her live? Cecile Perrin. I urge you to listen to these extracts from Macbeth -- they’re quite wonderful in my view.

      • Belfagor

        She was not my only discovery -- and this really belongs on the Massenet thread -- but remember what a surprise the exhumation of ‘Esclarmonde’ was? Well, there is another large grand opera by Massenet that has been slumbering unnoticed: ‘Ariane’ -- it’s a grand opera in 5 acts with obligatory ballet -- a format well past its sell by date by 1906 -- but never mind the bottles, its the wine that’s important. The music blazes -- and really changes the perception of Massenet’s last decade as a composer who wrote less and less notes -- it’s unbelievably vehement in places, and much more organic than the earlier grand operas Roi de Lahore, Herodiade, & Le Cid -- There’s a recording from its only outing in modern times -- 2008 at the St Etienne festival and you can get a rough in house recording from opera passion -- lots of stage noise but a goodish acoustic -- incidentally Cecile Perrin is Ariane, a monster role that is lyric, dramatic and most volatile -- this is how I came across her.

        I would strongly recommend it -- as it’s Massenet’s centenary year it seems a shame that this piece won’t get taken up. It’s long -- almost 3 hours and has huge soprano, dramatic mezzo/falcon (Phedre), and tenor role (Thesee) , and a prominent contralto part (Persephone). There’s a SIZZLING duet full of illicit passion in Act 3 -- and the last act really soars.

        • Krunoslav

          Joyce di Donato sings “Ô frêle corps… Chère Cyrpris” from ARIANE on her recent Grammy-winning CD:

          • Belfagor

            Yes, this is a beautiful aria, and it’s haunting modal theme -- with that slight nod to Faure is one of the recurring themes in the opera. There’s also a Massenet album with Rosamund Iliing and Bonynge which includes three more of Ariane’s arias, which is useful but a little bit generalized compared to this ravishing account. Not sure Di Donato would scale the whole role, as it is very soprano-y and in places, highly dramatic, with register plunges and highly melodramatic parlando.

        • iltenoredigrazia

          Now that we have rediscovered or reinvented the concept of a pastiche, I would suggest putting together a pastiche of Massenet’s operas. Get the highlights from the operas mentioned above plus Le Jongleur, La Navarraise, etc., tie them together with some sort of plot and voila, an evening of enchanting music without all the complaints about Massenet being too this or too that.

          I suppose the same could be done with Gounod. Or just take the Verismo operas as a group and make a pastiche with them.

          • oedipe

            Well, how about Wagner? (Duck)

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            This has already been done in the ballet world- Manon, a staple of the Royal Ballet rep, is pretty much just what you describe, and it works brilliantly. Sylvie Guillem in her day came up with pretty much the best performance of anything I’ve ever seen in this role.

          • manou

            Cocky -- indeed. A very clever montage of various Messenet operas (Le Cid, Chérubin, etc…but also “Ouvre tes Ye.


          • manou
          • It’s been done with Offenbach. For the Bicentennial, Ireland gifted us with the incredibly funny CHristopher Columbus which is available in a sparkling recording from Opera Rara.

          • Belfagor

            Well I guess all this opera stuff sounds the same, so we could save time by compiling a Verdi evening, or a Donizetti one and fill out an evening with the highlights……mmm!

            Massenet is not a great composer, he was over-productive, and seemed to quite often wrote the first thing that came into his head, but he could be a very good one, and what is striking about his operas is their distinctive and individual auras (what Verdians refer to as ‘tinta’) -- so to combine a bit of ‘Navarraise’ with ‘Jongleur’ would, I think, not really gel. He really could transform himself from opera to opera.

            Mind you ‘Enchanted Island’ left me feeling very uncomfortable, as it seemed to me that premise was that all this old music sounds the same, so we should stitch it all together and no-one will notice, or care.

      • calaf47

        I heard Ms Perrin last March 2011 at the Vienna Staatsoper in AIDA. She was magnificent.Her floated high C in “O Patria Mia” was amazing…but she had the power to dominate the ensembles. I had never heard her before…but she was thrilling.

        • operalover9001

          I was at one of those Aidas too, and she was undoubtedly the best Aida I’ve seen live (granted, the only other one I’ve seen was Micaela Carosi). The thing is, she has an absolutely enormous/well-projected voice -- she was floating notes in the Act 2 final ensemble and just covering everyone else, including Smirnova as Amneris. The size of her voice meant that she could actually shape her music instead of just pushing. She also had great control of her voice, which I hope she’ll keep if she starts singing roles like Lady Macbeth.

          • MontyNostry

            “The size of her voice meant that she could actually shape her music instead of just pushing.” Could someone please relay those words to today’s three highest-profile ‘Verdi baritones’: Hvorostovsky, Hampson and Keenlyside.

      • Buster

        Cecile Perrin was Minkowski’s Senta fifteen years ago -- the Scottish version, in which her music lies higher than in the revised version. Wonderful singer, went back several times to hear her, Minkowski, and the Messiaen Academy.

  • Porgy Amor

    I’ve been spending too much time at the monitor, I think. I read “Pipe Dream” as “Pique Dame.”

    Somewhat related to this thread and the other one about a former/future mezzo: If you can find the below DVD for 25% off (or thereabouts), it’s worth a look. I found Tcherniakov’s production too fussy by half when I watched it, so I’m surprised at how well it’s settled with me since then. It doesn’t all work, but the best parts stay with you in a haunting way. And Urmana is very good! Her mild stage presence, which often has the effect of dulling interest, actually works for this version of the character.

  • CwbyLA

    Just saw this. Don’t know if it had been posted before. Labor walk-out delays, alters Renee Fleming’s Fresno concert

  • That ain’t nothin’. The Met is slashing the prices of tickets to *GASP* the Lepage Ring. The dirt on Superconductor, where I sit on watch, guarding the house….

    • FragendeFrau82

      Wasn’t cycle 1 less expensive from the get-go? Interesting note (to me): my ticket for Walküre in cycle 3 has $140 = seat $110 = contribution printed on it. I that’s my little contribution to the Machine.

      • iltenoredigrazia

        Don’t forget to claim that contribution when you do your income taxes !!!

        • FragendeFrau82

          You know what, I think I will! every little bit and all that…

  • Will

    In truth, the MET began offering half price tickets on day of performance at the kiosk in Times Square quite a while ago. But marketing cut rate tickets this way is something new. If they make too much of a habit of it, they risk undercutting the MET Ticket Service and Box Office that sell at full price with, in the case of Ticket Service, a lot of fees if the public decides to wait for the prices to be cut just before an opera’s run starts.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      The London opera companies have been doing this for a long time. The ROH often announces cut prices for the top price seats. Last season I saw MAGIC FLUTE from a prime orchestra seat for 75 pounds and got vouchers for free champagne as well. The ENO also often has cut price seats and is often on the half price line. So what the Met is doing is not particularly revolutionary. I don’t think the people who are able to pay full price will start waiting for bargain tickets. I’m just sorry to see that they have cut back on the number of inexpensive Family Circle seats in their new, more complicated pricing policy for next season.

  • MontyNostry

    I should cost NADA to see Nadja.

  • MontyNostry

    No trill, but very exciting.
    Did you see this bio of her, Belfy? She must be in her 40s.

    Cécile Perrin entre au Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, dans la classe de Madame Régine Crespin, en 1988. En 1991, elle obtient un Premier Prix de Chant à l’unanimité, puis, en 1992 un diplôme d’Art Lyrique à l’unanimité dans la classe de Bernard Broca. Elle intègre ensuite le Studio de L’Opéra de Lyon.

    Elle fait ses débuts sur scène en 1992 dans le rôle de Pamina de La Flûte Enchantée à l’Opéra de Lyon, avant de chanter La Princesse et La Chauve-Souris dans L’Enfant et les Sortilèges de Ravel à Bruxelles. Cécile Perrin obtient alors plusieurs prix à des concours internationaux tels que Marseille, Marmande et Toulouse.
    Elle est invitée par les Chorégies d’Orange pour être Anna dans Nabucco de Verdi, puis elle aborde le rôle de Dano dans Armida Abbandonata de Jomelli. Elle est ensuite Elvira dans Don Giovanni de Mozart à l’Opéra de Nice, la seconde Fille Fleur dans Parsifal de Wagner à l’Opéra de Montpellier, Hilda dans Sigurd de Reyer à l’Opéra de Marseille, avant de revenir à Orange pour incarner La Grande Prêtresse dans Aïda de Verdi.

    Cécile Perrin incarne le rôle de Senta dans Le Vaisseau Fantôme en tournée en Hollande sous la direction de Marc Minkowski avant d’interpréter à Radio-France La Mort de Cléopâtre de Berlioz, le rôle de Thanasto dans Brisëis de Chabrier à l’Opéra de Rennes, La Prison de Landowski, Shéhérazade de Ravel et la Messe Solennelle de Berlioz à l’Opéra des Flandres sous la direction de Marc Minkowski.

    Elle est également invitée au Théâtre des Arts de Rouen pour interpréter le rôle titre de Thaïs avant d’être Vitellia dans La Clemenza di Tito au Grand Théâtre de Tours. En concert, elle interprète le rôle de Marguerite du Faust de Gounod à Anvers, avec l’Orchestre National des Flandres. A l’Opéra de Paris, elle est Anna dans Nabucco et la Première Dame dans Die Zauberflöte.

    Cécile Perrin est invitée à l’Opéra d’Avignon pour le rôle de Donna Anna dans Don Giovanni, rôle qu’elle interprète également au Festival de Lacoste, ainsi qu’à l’Opéra de Dijon pour incarner le rôle de Konstanze dans L’Enlèvement au Sérail, rôle qu’elle reprend à l’Opéra de Nancy. Elle interprète ensuite le rôle de Musette dans La Bohème à l’Opéra de Nancy, chante sa première Fiordiligi dans Cosi fan tutte au Festival de Saint-Céré, Musette dans La Bohème à l’Opéra de Toulon, la Comtesse dans Les Noces de Figaro à l’Opéra d’Avignon, à l’opéra de Toulon et au Grand Théâtre de Tours, Donna Anna à l’Esplanade de Saint-Étienne.

    En concert, elle chante le Requiem de Gouvy avec l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, le Requiem de Dvórak à Antibes et le Requiem de Mozart au Festival de Lacoste.

    • Belfagor

      Thank you -- she’s very busy -- as she should be on these showings!

      • Chanterelle

        Festival de Lacoste?? Some credits are best left off the vitae.

        With computer speed problems haven’t listened to the clip but I’ll take it on faith that’s she’s wonderful. So why is she singing in second tier houses or lower? Is she even under management--that’s not obvious from following links on operabase or from googling her name?

        • manou

          Lacoste is a little town in the Lubéron -- a crocodile free town.

        • oedipe


          I had a hard time deciding whether to focus more on the Festival de Lacoste, or the Festival de Saint-Céré, or the Esplanade de Saint-Étienne. Not to mention the Marmande international competition…
          The lady definitely needs a better manager/PR person!

          • Chanterelle

            Lacoste is indeed a lovely little town of old stones and herb-scented hills, complete with Marquis de Sade landmarks and scorpions that like to hide in your shoes overnight. At least Mme. Perrin chooses pleasant vacation venues for her appearances.

            Operabase lists a Dutch management company for her, but she’s not on their current roster.

            I guess when she graduated conservatory 20 yeas ago they weren’t stressing media and PR the way they do now. Tree falling in the forest…

    • Bianca Castafiore

      I have come across Mle. Perrin in one of those Ariane clips — was Podles in it? Not sure how else I found those clips. But isn’t Konstanze a coloratura role? So she’s a dramatic coloratura soprano? Can she sing Rossini & Bellini AND Wagner???????

  • Gualtier M

    BTW: glutton for punishment I took advantage of the $20 seats offered by the blessed St. Agnes of Varis and checked out George Gagnidze’s one Macbeth performance last night in place of Hampson. MUCH better thank you very much. Big juicy voice, rich resonant middle and amplitude without pushing and barking. Lots of legato line, tonal juice and a nice fruity resonant timbre. Just what the doctor ordered. Nada was carrying on rather excitingly (she was on) but the coloratura was as smeary and approximated as ever. The Sleepwalking Scene was again pitchless and capped by a really strident screamy but marginally less squawky D flat. The elderly lady seated next to me physically flinched at the D flat and put her hands over her ears. Told me that since the orchestra doesn’t double the voice in the “Una macchia” scene, Nada has no anchoring and couldn’t find the pitch. This woman gave her a year or two of career -- I didn’t have the heart to tell her Nada has been singing this way for 6 or 7 years and is scheduled far into the future.

  • scifisci

    It seems as though the MET’s ticket sales haven’t recovered since the recession first hit. I remember that Gelb’s first (or was it 2nd?) year produced quite a marked increase in ticket sales from Volpe’s last few years, which were particularly lackluster, it’s too bad that hasn’t continued.
    Also, what I find interesting is all this nonsense about the schenk ring being guaranteed box office gold. I had a friend see GD from the very last time the MET did the schenk ring for $25 through the weekend rush ticket program. And you wanna know where he sat? Orchestra Row J on the aisle.

    • Gualtier M

      The Varis weekday rush seats are purchased before the season starts -- I think after subscriptions but before the individual seat sales. The weekend rush was a later addition and she bought up a bunch of unsold tickets for weekend performances. So that was an anomaly. BTW: I went to all three cycles of the final Schenk Ring (due to the messy late substitutions for Brewer -- lots of role debuts). Anyway, it was packed and there were very few or no empty seats.

      • mandryka

        They gave away hundreds of orchestra seats to the matinee Schenk ring cycle that season. There was a raffle much like the one they had for weekend seats, announced on the website. I “won” two seats for each of the Ring mat perfs, for 25 per. Total “value” of the orchestra seats was over 500 each. 4000 worth of tix for 200. I know several others who won, and the list of winners published on the web site was several pages long. Well does the Met know the art of “Papering the house”. They do it most nights.

  • Camille

    HEY CIECA! Thanks for piping up about “PIPE DREAM” — which I have been curious about for years and never expected to get a chance to see or hear!

    Two summers ago, Monsieur Camille and I even drove down to Monterrey and saw the whole Cannery Row area, now totally tricked out and Disneyfied, save a few remnants here and there, plus a nice little museum. It was hard to imagine the lives of those poor souls in the carnival atmosphere that reigns there today…

    Off I go to NYCC to get my tickets so a big shout out of TY, LaC!

    • Bianca Castafiore

      Camillerrima!!!! Did you go to the aquarium there? That’s my favorite thing to see in Monterrey.

    • Last year after seeing Herr Jummy Jonas, Mrs. louannd and I drove down to Monterrey, and visited Cannery Row. We made the mistake of dining in one of those lovely establishments. Some of the worst food I have ever eaten.

      • m. croche

        You are indeed fortunate only to have consumed bad food. The neighboring city of Carmel has the highest density of bad-art-for-sale of any place in Christendom. ( There are also enough houses in Hobbit-style to fill the Shire.)

  • oedipe

    Apropos of Michael: she will continue her jet-set scream-fest next season at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, where she will sing Cherubini’s Médée in the Warlikowski production (co-prod with La Monnaie).

    But all news is not bad, as the TCE will be staging next season three Medeas: in addition to the Cherubini, there will be Pascal Dusapin’s Medea (produced by Sasha Waltz) and Charpentier’s Médée (produced by Pierre Audi, with an excellent cast).

    The TCE 2012-2013 season is now on line. There will be only 5 staged operas, as against many operas in concert form. Several attractions, though, including what will arguably be THE event of the next season in Paris: Fauré’s rarely heard Pénélope, with Antonacci and Alagna.

    • Camille

      WHAT? Penelope, at LAST?????

      Omigod, Paris, here I come!!

      Thanks a heap, oedipe!!!!!

      • iltenoredigrazia

        That Penelope cast does look very inviting.

    • redbear

      I just got the season booklet for the Opera-Comique. It is also interesting, starting with John Blow’s “Venus and Adonis” in the original language with subtitles. “David et Jonathas” of Charpentier with Bill Christie and Co. and “Ciboulette,” operetta by Reynaldo Hahn in February. The double-bill of “Il Segreto di Susanna” and “La Voix Humaine” with Antonacci starring in both(!) and “Le Roi d’Ys” with Koch as Margared. Cinderella (Cendrillon) but this time Pauline Viardot’s opera-comique for pianos and voice (she was the muse of Gounod, Berlioz, George Sand and Turganev, the program says). Season ends in May with “Marouf, Savetier du Caire” by Henri Rabaud.

      • oedipe

        Indeed, Redbear. Lots of good things to see/hear, if you make sure to avoid the Paris Opera! There is also the impressive lineup of operas in concert version at the Salle Pleyel:

        Schönberg, Erwartung (Boulez; Polaski)
        Massenet, La Navarraise/ D. Alagna, Le Dernier Jour d’un condamné
        Bartók, Le Château de Barbe-Bleue (Goerne)
        Wagner, Tristan & Isolde (Nina Stemme)
        Lully, Phaéton
        Tchaïkovski, Iolanta (Netrebko)
        Offenbach, Les Contes d’Hoffmann
        Haendel, Belshazzar
        Ravel, L’Heure espagnole/L’Enfant et les sortilèges
        Berlioz, La Damnation de Faust
        Haendel, Le triomphe du temps et de la vérité
        Bizet, Les Pêcheurs de perles
        Adams, The Gospel According to the Other Mary (Libretto by Peter Sellars)
        Haendel, Agrippina (Jacobs)

    • oedipe

      P.S. I wonder if, in this environment of reduced budgets, theaters have begun to outsource proof reading to…(take your pick).
      For his recital at the TCE, Joseph Calleja will apparently have a VERY original program:

      “Hommage à Mario Lanza:
      Nessun Forma, Vesti la Guibban, E luceran stelle, Because, Be my love, A kiss, Santa Lucia, O sole mio…”

  • 25% off vocal stylings of Nadja Michael

    Perhaps this is a guarantee that Mme Michael will sing 25% less?

    • iltenoredigrazia

      I hadn’t realized how many Macbeth performance had been scheduled for this season. Macbeth is usually mounted when there is a big name soprano available and more often than not a big name baritone too. I guess the Met scheduled it for Hampson and then looked around for someone available and willing to make a fool of herself trying to sing this extraordinarily challenging role. They probably knew from the beginning that it would not sell well.

      I have to say that I have seen more empty seats at some Met performances this season than I recall ever seeing. Long rows of empty seats at the performances of Ernani and Khovanshchina that I attended.

    • Clita del Toro

      Last night, Nada Michael sang her usual Screechwalking Scene with a fabulous Scream-flat at the end. Her Vieni t’affretta was horrible as well. Leonora Da-Pin Yenta, who was there, said that she got a good ovation. Nada has just three performances to go. I am surprised that she has not cancelled one of them. We can only hope.
      Gagnidze was sooo much better than Hampson--an excellent Macbeth. I was surprised after hearing only his Scarpia, which I found just okay.

      • Clita del Toro

        OOps I meant the Gagnidze was an excellent Macbeth, not Hampson.

        • Bianca Castafiore

          Gagnidze sang MacBeth this week? No one told me that. Was he scheduled for MacB.? That was not listed in the season program. I’d gone to avoid Hampson. (Unf. there’s no avoiding La Screech.)

          • Bianca Castafiore

            And Gagnidze was the best among the lower male voices in Khovanschchina, with a much more sonorous voice, and much more color and nuance, than Ildar and Kotscherga.

            And he was a very good and moving Rigoletto recently.

      • Camille

        “…her fabulous SCREAM-flat…”

        Clita, you should have that TM’d!!!



  • whatever

    if the question is: what’s one’s take on the marketing strategy …

    as a (VERY) frequent “scourer” of websites and papering services in search of discount codes, i laughed out loud when i saw the first two offers ($240 and $153.75). imho, the venn diagram of the people who seek out discount offers and the people willing and able to shell out 240 bucks for an opera ticket is pretty much the null set.

  • operacat

    I have received “buy one, get one halfprice” offers from the Playbill Club all season. I think specifically for MADAMA BUTTERFLY, KHOVANTSCHINA, BARBER OF SEVILLE, MACBETH and a few others.

  • Don_Dano

    Well, I don’t know how much of the Met audience is made up of us “out of towners”, but the Met 09/10 season and 10/11 season didn’t motivate me to make a trip to NYC, (although I now wish I had made it to Anna Bolena).

    I will make it next season for Parsifal and Don Carlo.

  • brunettino

    Newbie Question: What does it mean to “paper the house”? Does this mean tickets are given away or sold at deep discounts somewhere? If so, how does one get these? ;)
    [For realz, no snark question!] Thanks all.

    • armerjacquino

      Papering the house= issuing complimentary tickets or ‘comps’ to make the auditorium look fuller than it is. Usually given to industry types, journalists, or family and friends of the cast, company or crew.

    • ianw2

      Each company has its own mysterious processes, but generally you have to be related or friendly with someone on or offstage, or be a loyal volunteer or donor.

      Though I somehow got on the DC comp list through no effort of my own, and then just as mysteriously slipped off it again six months later.

  • Will

    armerjacquino: and schools! It is very common to give tickets to students from music schools, high schools and colleges, the latter two in the hope that the audiences of the future may be developed thereby.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    AP Interview: Mezzo says opera tough business
    By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press – 2 days ago
    VIENNA (AP) — Vesselina Kasarova’s repertoire ranges from Donizetti to Wagner. Critics rave over her voice and her character depictions are the gold standard for young singers aspiring to opera stardom.
    Asked recently if she would again become a singer from her present perspective at the top, she shrugged.
    “Maybe not,” she said. “Maybe I would have become an actress.”
    The opera stage would be a poorer place without Kasarova — but with the path to success rocky and the fight to stay the best exhausting, the famed mezzo-soprano is ambivalent about whether the pros of the profession outweigh the cons.
    Such doubts might appear puzzling to opera goers who have experienced the versatile 46-year old Bulgarian on stage.
    Her singing appears effortless, burnished and warm in the lower registers and as clearly textured and free-flowing as clover honey up top — a voice New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini described in 1999 as “unforgettable and deeply affecting.” Her dramatic skills are superb, letting her master even pathos-ridden roles without being maudlin. She owns the stage — and seems to do so naturally.
    Trained as a concert pianist before she opted to study voice, Kasarova, who now lives in Zurich, Switzerland, gained attention in the late 1990s, first with the bel canto works of Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti.
    She debuted internationally at the 1991 Salzburg Festival in Austria as Annio in Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito.” Since then, she has appeared on many of the world’s major opera stages and expanded her repertoire to the point where she is equally at home with the works of Wagner and Richard Strauss, French opera, lieder and oratorios both live and in the recording studio.
    But Kasarova says the ease she projects is hard work. The road to success, she says, is paved with sacrifices that can be as minor as doing without ice cubes in her drink to save her voice and as emotionally tasking as missing out on birthdays and other family occasions while on the road.
    “Sometimes when I think of all that I do for my voice, I think I don’t want to go on,” she said, during a stop in Vienna, where she will perform works by Mozart, Donizetti, Tchaikovsky and Verdi with Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova at the Austrian capital’s gilt Musikverein concert hall April 30.
    She says that after 10 years on stage, most singers develop common cold-like symptoms year-round, “because we breathe in dirt, dust and odors” while performing. Ailments affecting the breathing passages occur as frequently for singers as joint problems for professional tennis players, Kasarova explains.
    And like athletes in a fiercely competitive environment, some singers turn to drugs to perform instead of opting for a rest. But the gain is only short term.
    Overuse of steroids in the form of cortisone is common, say singers and doctors treating them. The treatment masks problems with inflamed vocal cords but the problem worsens to the point where operations may become necessary. That, in turn can change a voice — and even ruin it.
    Tenor Endrik Wottrich first outed the pressure and resulting abuses behind the opera curtain in 2007 after harsh criticism for canceling a performance of the Wagner festival at Bayreuth, Germany, because of a cold.
    “We are faced with the choice of performing and being attacked because we sing one false note, or being attacked because we are taking care of ourselves,” he told the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
    To deal with their tensions, “soloists are taking beta blockers to control their angst, some tenors take cortisone to push their voice high, and alcohol is everywhere,” he said.
    “The real pressure is no longer good old stage fright but comes from a new dimension that has penetrated opera — it now lives from glamour, and normal human mistakes are a disruption in such an environment.”
    Kasarova describes cortisone use as “an infernal circle” that sometimes becomes an addiction. Others, she says, abuse sleeping pills to try to escape stresses of performing that have grown in the past decades as stages get bigger, orchestras louder and opera seasons longer than ever.
    Singers now get paid by the performance, meaning no money for no shows. The best are now in demand all year round, leading to exhausting globe-trotting. And even those who avoid long-distance travel often have little time between the late spring end of the subscription season, the start of rehearsals for summer festivals, and tours promoting their own recordings.
    Adding to the pressure in this telegenic age, opera star allure now depends as much on looks as voice. To meet the challenge, American soprano Deborah Voigt underwent gastric bypass surgery, reportedly losing nearly 50 kilograms — more than 100 pounds — after being fired from a 2004 London production of “Ariadne auf Naxos” because she couldn’t fit into the costume.
    Back in the 1960s, when life was slower on and off stage, singers “focused on a career that lasted for years,” says Kasarova. “Today, everything has to happen quickly — if you don’t play the game you are soon replaced.”
    Still, it is possible to last and grow. Kasarova, who has been recognized as world class for more than two decades, says her inner voice has helped her avoid traps that she says some colleagues have fallen into by allowing her to recognize that every voice — and singer — has his or her limitations.
    But she, too, has suffered from her demanding profession.
    Her speaking voice is a light soprano, giving no hint of the power and color it is capable of in singing mode. But there is a sudden catch in it as she speaks of past family events — “my son’s first communion, birthdays” — missed because of a gig somewhere else.
    “I’ll never forgive myself for that — never,” Kasarova declares.
    Her son, Yves Lucien Kaufmann, is now 13, giving Kasarova somewhat more time to focus on performing than when he was an infant. Back, then, she says, trying to be both a loving mother and a diva was a Herculean effort.
    “He flew with me, he was only three months old, and I was in New York,” she recollects. “I hardly slept all night, and then rehearsal the next day from 10 a.m till 1 p.m and then from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Where did I get the energy?”
    Then she catches herself.
    Yes, life is hard. But, she says, it can also be intensely rewarding.
    “It is impossible for a normal human being to experience what I sometimes have experienced on stage,” she says of the highs generated by the exuberance of an audience that is on its feet and cheering wildly moments after the curtain falls on a perfect performance.
    “I receive intense energy from communicating with the audience,” she says. “The audience takes a lot from me but I also take a lot from them.
    That’s opera, she says — “taking and giving.”
    George Jahn can be reached at
    Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

    • Nerva Nelli

      “Critics rave over her voice and her character depictions are the gold standard for young singers aspiring to opera stardom.”

      The idea that anyone would say this TODAY of this mannered singer with separated registers, poor French and embarrassingly narcissitic “acting” beggars belief.

      • MontyNostry

        It took me a moment to realise you were referring to Kasarova rather than one of several other ‘great’ female singers of today.

        Back in 1996 or so I bought Kasarova’s first CD without knowing what she sounded like — it had been raved about in Gramophone. It soon found its way to the famous Gramex second-hand store (where it might have been picked up by Cocky K).

  • Loge

    My parents saw Pipe Dream during its first week. They mainly saw it because Helen Traubel was in it.