Cher Public

See the pretty diva in that mirror there

The diva must be a Diva in Adriana Lecouvreur. Fact. Certainly Cilea’s music is sumptuous if not subtle, and Colautti’s libretto colorful if not always coherent. But you absolutely need a prima donna that has captivated the audience before they even enter the theatre. If the role, more often than not, is sung by sopranos at the end of their careers, it would scarcely carry much clout for a fresher-voiced unknown.

Perhaps Angela Gheorghiu is not always a perfect vocal fit for Adriana in this Royal Opera House performance from 2010, but she wears the role like a couture gown.

Like Tebaldi before her at the Met, Gheorghiu convinced the Royal Opera House to mount the opera for her – unlike Ponselle, who left the Met after being denied a production. Relying on one singer this heavily is certainly not without risk. Tebaldi canceled most of her run due to vocal crisis, and in his memoirs, Bing spills more venom on Adriana than any other debacle in his tenure.

This is the kind of opera that tends to polarize: it boasts gorgeous melodies with endless high notes, as well ridiculous plot devices that would make the writers of any daytime soap blush. Based very, very loosely on historical figures, Adriana is a Parisian actress who is in love with a tall dark stranger named Maurizio. As it turns out, he is also having an affair with a (married) Princess to finance his political and military ambitions as the pretender to the Polish throne.

After lots of intrigues involving darkened rooms, locked doors, and mistaken identities, Adriana and the Princess have a showdown at the theatre (following the Act III ballet, naturally). Fast forward to Adriana’s birthday, and the actress is in a foul mood, which only worsens when she gets a present from Maurizio returning some flowers she had given him.

Only it turns out that Maurizio had regifted them to the Princess, who had sprinkled some poison on them, and then sent them back to Adriana. This is all far too much for even Adriana, and after a lovely aria, a gorgeous duet, and a bit of a mad scene, she expires in Maurizio’s arms.

Gheorghiu’s identification with the role is clear throughout. Her acting, emphatic, unrestrained, and stemming from an age before HD, creates a woman with a tenuous grasp on the boundaries between the stage and reality. The music sounds particularly beautiful in her voice, albeit lacks the ideal heft; even on DVD she sounds underpowered in the low passages. But she caresses the phrases, and the high notes float effortlessly over the orchestra. This is music that she loves, and she basks unashamedly in the role.

If this is a diva showcase, we are given a supporting cast that is even more tantalizing. Jonas Kaufmann delivers not only a vocally seductive performance, but perhaps one of the most in-depth portrayals of Maurizio on record. He understands the sleazy ambiguity of the political manipulator, a man who has all the women in his pocket, but is really only in love with his political ambitions.

Next to Gheorghiu, his interpretation seems practically naturalistic, and he has a knack for using the score to motive his physical movements. His signature darkly-hued tone suggests a man that is weighing every word, and never revealing his true face to anybody. The high notes – in particular the stunning pianissimi – are the real money shots, and leave no doubt as to why he is in such demand.

A princess from the moment she steps onto the stage, Olga Borodina  captivates the eye even when she moves very little. Vocally, she keeps her large mezzo under tight control, spinning out a powerful wall of sound that remains beautifully centered. This is a woman to fear, but also one that deserves pity.

Alessandro Corbelli is a sympathetic Michonnet, a role that serves mostly as an observer despite some half-explained side plots involving poisons and diamonds. He has the unusual capacity to deliver a character role convincingly while actually singing the notes in the score. The voice has a burnished, friendly tone that serves as a dash of reason in this ornate confection. The rest of the supporting cast is equally adept, creating fun little moments that add beautifully to the melodrama.

Pulling everything together is Mark Elder at the podium. Despite the convoluted libretto, the score is no cakewalk for a conductor. The tempi and time signatures are constantly changing abruptly with the swelling of emotions, and Elder does a magnificent job keeping everybody together. After the last chords fade, the camera catches him mouthing a heartfelt “thank you” to the orchestra.

David McVicar manages to carve a narrative out the convoluted intrigues of Adriana with clarity. This is a reading filled with imagination, managing to avoid both the Regie and the Traditional camps without settling for a dingy compromise. The production team appears to have worked remarkably cohesively on this – a short documentary about the production shows a unity of vision that is reflected in the staging.

Dominating Charles Edwards’ set design is a baroque theatre that is used both as a literal theatre, and as a metaphor for the melodramatic antics of the characters. Brigitte Reiffenstuel creates beautiful period costumes, although they tend towards the overwrought in a ballet sequence that is already one of the weaker moments in the production.

Adriana has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, next to the paperback pulp novels and the plastic box of Ferrero Rocher. Delicious, unnutritious, and perfect for a moment of respite on a rainy afternoon. This DVD is the perfect choice to curl up with and enjoy unabashedly: a stellar cast, a staging that is clever without being pretentious, and a cast that is clearly enjoying every moment of the production.

  • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

    My guilty pleasure is a Great Big Ballotin of Leonidas choccies. [Yep, even the marzipans.] That white chocolate coffee-flavoured manon is the business! Sadly, they don’t do a violet cream -- perhaps in deference to Adriana’s memory? -- but no worries, Marks and Sparks is close by for those when needed.

    • manou

      Godiva? Neuhaus? Maison du Chocolat?

      • rysanekfreak

        For me, it’s an entire can of Almond Roca. Adriana L = Almond Roca to me.

      • brooklynpunk

        …give me a frozen Snickers Bar, anyday…!

    • oedipe

      OK guys, here are my picks: de Neuville, Jeff de Bruges, Joséphine Vannier, and the crème de la crème, Valrhona.

      • MontyNostry

        Maison du Chocolat truffles are outstandingly good (if extortionate) -- and generally I don’t even like truffles very much. But maybe they are too much in good taste for Adriana.

        These are more kitsch and really scrumptious.

        • manou

          …forgot Prestat truffles. Yum.

          • MontyNostry

            For possibly the first time ever, manou, I have to disagree with you. Prestat truffles are too sticky and cloying … a bit like the last act of Adriana.

            That is where the Maison du Chocolat truffles really score. They aren’t sticky at all.

          • manou

            I could not bear the slightest disagreement between us Monty -- the Prestat truffles will have to go.

          • MontyNostry

            Votre serviteur, manou … But these will have to be the first to go.

          • MontyNostry
          • manou

            I never liked the Charbpnnel choccies -- my husband’s grandmother always gave them to us (and ate most of them too).

            The banoffee truffles sound too revolting for words.

          • manou

            Charbonnel -- naturellement.

          • Batty Masetto

            Perhaps they should be lightly killed, and sealed in a succulent, Swiss, quintuple-smooth, treble-milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose.

          • manou

            OK -- I am feeling distinctly queasy now.

          • armerjacquino

            Crunchy Frog!

          • MontyNostry

            Charbonnel & Walker are so Queen Mum.

          • manou

            …”If we didn’t leave the bones in they would not be crunchy.”

          • oedipe

            Give those crunchy things the boot! Or rather, the escarpin (a George Larnicol all-chocolate specialty):


          • MontyNostry

            But the macarons would go off before the shoe.

    • Batty Masetto

      Ooooh, violet creams! I haven’t thought about them in years. (Hard to find this side of the Pond.)

      • Camille

        California ChocoHounds:

        not to be missed

        • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

          Camille, and everybody, thank you for your suggestions. Two thumbs up to oedipe’s choices, and I am now determined to investigate rysanekfreak’s and brooklynpunk’s suggestions. I chose Leonidas simply because they are not made by hand, hence utterly vulgar and therefore a guilty pleasure; whereas I consider most of the above suggestions to be intrinsic to virtuous good living.

          manou, I once lost brownie points for bringing a grande dame some Godiva because, like Fifty Shades of Grey, they are “so easily picked up in airports”. Honest to God. I am a snob myself, shunning the excellent Neuhaus, not because they too can be got in transit nor indeed because they translate into Finnish as “Uusitalo” but because their ingredients list continues to mis-spell Irish whiskey by dropping the ‘e’ as if it were Scotch -- tut tut.

          For the Wexford Festival I make my own truffles, thank you VERY much. When at the Berliner Staatsoper I recommend dropping by the semi-operatically-monikered Fassbaender & Rausch on south Friedrichstrasse (and now that they’re camped in the Schiller-Theater you can pick them up on the food floor at KaDeWe after a groaning plate of Dialog Vom Lachs and at least one glass of Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV); and for La Monnaie it’s a mandatory trip to the Place du Grand Sablon where you have the long-established Wittamer and, bang opposite, relative newcomer Pierre Marcolini. [Note to Prom-goers: he’s also on Lancer Square in Kensington].

          Camille, have you ever had Mrs See’s candies? An American friend brought some to my late mother and the effect was seismic -- in a purely sybaritic sense, of course.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Marcolini has a London store now? That’s splendid news. I had a tough 3 months working at La Monnaie the year before last, and frequently relied on Marcolini to cheer me up!

          • Nerva Nelli

            “the semi-operatically-monikered Fassbaender”

            The father doubtless had tattoos on a par with Nikitin’s, though he doubtless hid them whilst at Lewes.

            The daughter…. ya know…

          • Camille

            SEE’S????? “Orrore, che mi consigli tu? No! No! Giammai!!!”

            The minimal age requirement for the consumption of See’s candies is 85. Not there yet.

            Wine jellies, anyone?

            Baltsamic— do you oft pour yourself over fresh strawberries? I’ve never quite developed the taste for it, somehow.

          • Batty Masetto

            Now, now, Camille, I will not hear a word in disparagement of our beloved See’s. See’s may not be Recchiuti, but it doesn’t pretend to be either, and it’s very very well made stuff.

            We allow ourselves a box about once every two years. The effect on waistlines is, indeed, seismic.

          • Camille

            Batty Baby! What are you doing up this early?

            You WOULDN’T really eat a box of See’s would you???? An Escoffier like thou!

            I used to drive by their world headquarters on the way back from LAX or Long Beach. Never had the urge to go in for their free factory tour, mit chocolates. They give out free samples in their little shops in malls these days. Some of them are tolerable and they have improved somewhat, BUT….

            What are you cooking up this summer? Any novelties or just old faces?

          • Batty Masetto

            Hairy work load these days, Camille.

            No really, See’s is an honest local (Oakland) mom ‘n pop operation that made good. Like Peet’s -- did you see that Peet’s just sold for $1 billion? We used to get coffee from Mr. Peet himself in Berkeley back when there was only the 1 store.

            On the agenda this summer: my first coulibiac, and a mousse d’écrevisses.

          • Camille

            1 billion? Did Peet’s sell out to Starfuck’s? I hope not.

            When I briefly stayed in Berkeley, many an aeon ago, I frequented that Peet’s store, as I also did on Fillmore Street in SF a scant while ago. It is their teas I generally prefer, however.

            I don’t want you working too hard! It’s not good for your health or your coulibiac. Be happy and well and may the petals always fall softly on you in Petaluma.

          • brooklynpunk


            Peet’s would rather go into BANKRUPTCY , before they “sold out” to Starfuks…LOL…!!-- it will be a cold day in hell, before that ever happens…!


          • A. Poggia Turra

            See’s peanut crunch = affordable nirvana :)

            It’s only sugar-free for me these days, unfortunately. See’s does carry a decent line of s/f chocolates -- the dark chocolate almond is quite tasty.

          • MontyNostry

            Cocky, Marcolini certainly used to have a shop in Kensington -- off Ken Church Street, but I don’t think it lasted. Talking of Brussels, Wittamer’s viennoiseries cheered me up on a wet Saturday and Sunday the other week.

          • PushedUpMezzo

            Elizabeth Shaw and Jo Malone (Occitane if you must)

  • Great review. I bought this DVD and loved every minute of it. Certainly my top guilty pleasure opera.

    • actfive

      Saw this at my local movie theatre & loved it! Very good review, Manrico. Great chemistry between Kaufmann & Angela…

    • mrmyster

      well said miss ivy, it is a fine review BUT one thing -- “endless high notes?” Not any Adriana that I know. In fact, it is famous history that both Ponselle and Tebaldi (and for that matter Freni), aspired to Adriana late on as their high notes were on the wane and they were, in that sense, not taxed by the role.
      I love that opera -- with the right singers. Gheorghiu is ideal, to my taste, better than Tebaldi on several points. Not sure we have a charismatic A. L. today, however, aside from Angela. Kaufmann was ideal; when will we see his likes again? And I want to hear Patricia Bardon as the Princess, don’t you?!!!
      While I am at it, the Irish mezzo Bardon’s singing at Santa Fe this summer is perhaps the best of the season! And I had never heard of her before, oddly enuff. Sorry she’s not coming back next season in La Donna del Lago — we get the Kansas City Belle, La DiDonato, instead. Gulp! But catch Bardon when you can; her voice is big and colorful and wide ranging and I have rarely heard a singer give so much. She is a wonder.

  • I do love this production, especially musically. The four leads are all fabulous, with special kudos to Gherghiu and Kauffman. Gherghiu, in particular, exudes a lot of charisma. Borodina doesn’t bite into the role the same with Obrastova or Simioinato do but she displays a restrained elegance that is admirable.

    • MontyNostry

      I wish I’d seen Borodina -- it was the (perfectly decent, but uninspiring) Schuster the night I went to a performance of the show. Still, it would have been nice to have been able to **hear** Ange in her first aria … And the last act was like a re-run of her Violetta in the now venerable ROH production.

      • MontyNostry

        By the way, in the theatre I thought Corbelli was the star of the show. Such style.

  • MontyNostry

    By coincidence, I just read the review of this production of Adriana in the January 2011 edition of Opera magazine. “Two comments heard at the champagne bar in the interval: 1) ‘A sense of occasion, money spent on sets and costumes, two great numbers in the first scene — that’s why I come to the opera.’ 2) ‘This opera — what a load of bollocks.'”

    • armerjacquino

      They’re kind of both true, as well…

  • A. Poggia Turra

    FF, are you sittting down? Photos are up on Intermezzo of the upcoming Salzburg Ariadne, and one scene has the Kaufmeister in a “cat”suit!

    • FragendeFrau82

      APT, I did enjoy the full set! Perhaps he is meant to be Bacchus/Liberace?

      From the rats to the cats!

      • FragendeFrau82

        Seriously, Poggi, I’m delighted to see him back on stage and can’t wait to hear/see whatever of this production turns up online!

    • Oh my heavens! Meow!

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      He looks a lot like Cheetara out of Thundercats.

      • Great. Now you’ve got that theme song stuck in my head!

  • phoenix

    Question for the visually observant -- the cover of this DVD shows (what I presume is supposed to be) Angela in profile -- sporting a Poplavskaya beak? I don’t remember Angela having one before…

  • A. Poggia Turra

    For anyone who missed the Arte Live Web presentation of the Andrea Moses ‘Don Giovanni’ from Stuttgart, the SWR Fernsehen site (the originator of the telecast feed) has a compilation of excerpts and imges from the seven camera positions used during the telecast, including backstage (during the performance) and in the Schlossgarten out front the opera house (also mixed with taped interviews) :

  • Cocky Kurwenal

    I loved this in the theatre, and although I thought Gheorghiu, Corbelli and Kaufmann were all wonderful, it was Borodina who made the biggest impact on me. I think it was because I hadn’t heard her in years, and had never really realised before what an extraordinary instrument she has.

    Since the inaudibility mantra has been repeated, I’ll have to repeat my denial- at no stage did I have the slightest difficulty hearing Gheorghiu the night I went, even in her first scene where in places she did use a very light, heady sound, because it was still supported on free breath.

    • Regina delle fate

      She’s not Little Renata, though, Cocky.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Well, thank heavens for that!

        • Enzo Bordello

          I know I’m going to regret asking this but what, pray tell, was so deficient about Scotto’s Adriana? She was magnificent in a 1981 Houston Grand Opera production I saw. I sat way upstairs and it was amazing how she got every vocal and dramatic detail to register in Jones Hall, a hopeless barn of a theater.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            It was a deliberately flippant comment, Enzo, not meant to pass any kind of serious judgement over Scotto’s Adriana, which I’ve never heard -- I just dislike Scotto altogether, that’s all.

    • manou

      Thank you Cocky. I will risk a rift with Monty over this because he is in the “can’t hear Gheorghiu” camp, and like you I am in the “can hear her very well and like what I hear”. Camp Truffles are one thing, but I cannot give way here.

      It was a beautiful friendship, though…

      • MontyNostry

        Ah, manou … Maybe it was because I was in a cheapish seat at the back of the balcony stalls., but my impression, when she made her entrance, was that she could have sung louder for the plebs, but she sort of couldn’t be arsed. I’m afraid that I have always sensed a lack of generosity in her singing(as I do in, say, Schwarzkopf’s singing), and I do like me a generous singer!

        • oedipe


          ONE tête brûlée in a family is plenty enough.

    • parpignol

      I have sometimes thought that Gheorghiu did not project well at the Met in New York, but when she sang Adriana at Carnegie Hall every note came across clearly, and she held her own, very audibly, with Kaufmann.

      • I once sat in the last row of the Met’s rear orchestra (the worst possible acoustics in that house) for Gherghiu’s Violetta and I could hear everything. Was she relatively quiet compared to some other singers at certain points? Absolutely. But I don’t get the “inaudible” thing. Perhaps it’s just hyperbole.

        • manou

          Or earwax.

        • parpignol

          I think inaudible is the wrong word; and I haven’t heard her sing many many times, but I’ve found her singing seemed more or less forceful on different occasions; I can remember, say, a brilliantly clear Juliette, but, on the other hand, what seemed to me a somewhat pallid (or maybe cautious?) performance in Simon Boccanegra (both in New York); regret to say that I’ve never heard her sing Violetta live, and I know it’s one of her signature roles; just out of curiosity: did she sustain the soprano line over the ensemble and chorus in act 2, scene 2?

          • Yes, she did sustain the line, but that wasn’t too surprising. After all, her upper register is the strongest part of her voice and I find that higher pitches always carry better.

  • manou

    Ok -- apologies. It should read ……like what I hear camp”. Truffles….

    I am writing this on an iPad in a former Abbaye near Salon de Provence (en route to the Choregies d’Orange). My typing skills need refining -- not to mention the constant fighting with the d*mn predictive text.

    • Rory Williams


      1. Navigate to Settings --> General --> Keyboard
      2. Touch Auto-Correction --> OFF
      3. Rejoice

  • MontyNostry

    Don’t worry. The truffles were pretty camp!

    • Batty Masetto

      Not as camp as the violet creams.

      • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

        Batty, I am so with you! Given that our birthdays are so close in time, I intend to honour thy date by “camping out” for tickets at Wexford in late October, fortified only by my comme-chez-soi truffles with just the merest magnum of Mount Difficulty Pinot Grigio to see me through.

        Cocky, Monty -- glad to know you are aware of Brussels’ finest. I sampled the Kensington Marcolini as far back as Sept 2005 on the Prom evening of Bruckner 8 (VPO, Eschenbach) and an on-line search suggests that he is still there. And yes, Wittamer is the best chocolate shop going as far as I am concerned -- not that some others are too far behind.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Sadly, my online search, corroborated by Monty above, suggests it has closed down, which is a pity.

          • mrmyster

            Si si Cock, thank heavens twice for that!
            Oh, and for Violet Creams, try the candy
            maker Todos Santos in Santa Fe (on line);
            they make their own chocolate from the
            bean up, and if they don’t carry it already
            they will custom make what you want. They
            are the best candy maker I know in the US;
            even better than Karl Bissinger of St Louis.
            And . . . you’d be surprised how good Sees
            can be -- to walk past their store in Palm
            Springs and catch whiffs of what’s going
            on inside is like a peek into Paradise! I
            am no longer allowed (by the doc) to go in!

  • manou

    Merci cher Rory (the predictive text prefers Merck Cher Rory). Nice to hear from you.

  • zinka

    I refuse to buy any Angela material..(Want her cd’s???) since she is almost inaudible… these dvd’s are fake……

    • Clita del Toro

      Yeah, you had the same problem with Jussi. Perhaps you should have you hearing checked. Lol. Loud does not necessarily =good.

      • grimoaldo

        “Zinka” has also been insisting on various opera forums for at least ten years to my knowledge that you couldn’t hear Leontyne Price.
        I have seen Angela numerous times in London and San Francisco as Violetta, Marguerite, Magda La Rondine, Amelia Grimaldi, Juliette, and heard her loud and clear every time, not only was there not the slightest problem hearing her every note, it did not even occur to me that there was a hint of a problem with anyone being able to hear her.
        Did not see the Adriana however.
        Angela is great.

        • OpinionatedNeophyte

          I think I just realized who that cray-cray Youtube poster who appears on every Leontyne Price video is…thanks again parterre.

          • luvtennis

            I don’t think that’s Zinka. There is another poster from OperaL who I suspect is the culprit.

            Frankly, it is not worth fighting about. In truth, as more of those MET recordings are released, Lee’s legacy grows.

            I was listening to the MET Tosca and a live recording of the Ballo with Bergonzi. It is amazing, but Lee is very nearly as perfect live as she was in the studio. It’s almost laughable. Wonder how she did that….

            BTW, I have been listening to a lot of Tebaldi and Zinka lately. And I have concluded that their recordings simply do not capture what made them special (with very rare exceptions).

            My biggest problem with Renata is simple -- she sings everything soooooo slowly. More damagingly, her singing line always seems to meander. I so rarely hear her take command of the music. She always seems to be reacting to it, passive almost in her approach to music making. Perhaps it is her sense of rhythm? SHe can certainly be very forceful during obviously dramatic moments in the libretto, but she rarely finds the drama in the MUSIC.

            Clita: Did you get this impression of her live?

    • armerjacquino

      This is what always happens when Gheorghiu is discussed here. Loads of people give their personal experiences of having heard her perfectly well from the back of huge opera houses, then someone ignores all that and says, definitively, ‘she’s inaudible, of course’. Same with Bartoli.

      • PushedUpMezzo

        True on all counts. The only time I have heard her right through was a Boheme in Vienna about 5 years back. Still a great vocal artist, ditto Cecilia. It’s all about using what the Good Lord gave you…..

      • SilvestriWoman

        First of all, I’m not ragging on Cecilia. That said, when did she last sing in a house of at least 1,500 seats? Zurich appears to be her favored house, yet it’s quite small, at least by American standards. If memory serves, it’s been some time since she sang at the Met.

      • Well, there is inaudible and inaudible. In solo passages, expeciially those either lightly underscored or else fairly high in tessitura, Barolti’s voice projects well. In ensembles, not so much. At the Met, she sang La Cenerentola opposite Ramon Vargas, and in their first act duet she was in fact mostly inaudible when they were singing in sixths and thirds.

        Gheorghiu varies. There are some nights when she seems to mark the first act or two and even though she is mostly audible, the voice seems very faint and distant. Fortunately, even on this sort of night, she generally lets the voice out more in the second half of the opera, for example the big ensemble in Traviata act 2 and then the last act.

        Other nights Gheorghiu gives rather more earlier on, though even then there are odd lines here and there that sort of recede.

        What this amounts to is that Bartoli has made much of her career in mezzo roles in which the tessitura centers on a relatively weak part of her voice; Gheorghiu’s voice has a sort of ethereal, veiled quality that is wonderfully haunting but often lacks the bright edge that helps a lyric voice make an impact in a big theater.

        • messa di voce

          AG has become increasingly stingy as a performer, both vocally and emotionally.

        • rapt

          Wow! I think both LaCieca and Poisonivy have done an amazing job of capturing the quality of a voice with precision and clarity, usually left to the single, stock, one-size-fits-all adjective (Nordic gleam, anyone?) or to subjective fantasias (by which I don’t mean that responses to voices aren’t always subjective, but that efforts to describe them can seem to degenerate into uses of language that seem largely private). What models to follow!

      • Gheorghiu the times I’ve heard her isn’t “inaudible.” She just chooses to mark the more “unimportant” parts of the score, and saves her voice for what she considers are the money moments. She does have some trouble warming up, and her opening aria is usually somewhat muffled, but basically, I think she just conserves her voice to the point where it’s like marking.

        But on the other hand, there’s something appealing and sexy about the soft, whispery quality of her marking. It’s like … the vocal equivalent of bedroom eyes. It’s like you strain harder to hear her, sort of the way you would lower and soften your voice towards a lover. Can’t describe it, but it’s sexy.

        • diva2themax

          Perfect description! I’ve heard her many times & would never describe her as inaudible. She def. preserves the voice for big moments & I can appreciate that.

        • Nicely put, Ivy.

  • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

    Camille, when it comes to strawberries, the silver- or gold-topped bottles of aceto balsamico are yer only man. Failing this I simply grind some good ol’ pepe nero over them. [Cream, never]. The price differential is ginormous, granted -- a teeny-tiny bottle of the dusky nectar costing more than many a Bordeaux cru classé; but, following my recent Italy trip* I am stocked up on both, the pepper coming from a Conad supermarket in Magione near Lake Trasimeno, Umbria and the vinegar from -- where better? -- Fratelli Tamburini in Bologna. We only grow gooseberries and redcurrants in our garden, but strawberries are easily sourced around here (and they are a Wexford speciality to boot).

    *I await word from Ercole as we must compare notes over the alternate casts for the Firenze Traviata in late June -- not to mention the demonstrations (yes, plural) against work practices at the Teatro Comunale. Such, er, fun!

    • Camille

      Very kind and accommodating of you to provide me with these tips regarding the silver and the gold — of course, now that your bring it to mind a vague recollection does seem to re=assert itself.

      You sound like an awful lot of fun to me, and please do say hullo to that dear man, Ercole Farnese, from me if you compare notes.
      Would you mind tucking me into your picque-nicque basket to Wexford, along with your truffes? You sound just like the perfect opera=going chum to me, and, If you like, I shall oblige by bringing along an assortment of Mrs. See’s, specter of my girlhood.

      Hopefully, Camille

      PS — Can you advise me on the BEST Irish WhiskEy??? I usually have bought Bushmills………

      • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

        Salvé Camille!

        Let me insist that I am a mere wino through and through; however I defer to Those In The Know who assure me that Bushmills (I now understand being pronounced Bush MILLS rather than BUSH mills as I always understood) is a leader, especially their Black Bush.

        Diehard republicans will insist on Dublin’s own Jameson’s. I am slightly acquainted and inclined to agree. However the apparently unhip Power’s is a fruity gem and frequent taste-test champ, and if you want to flash the cash, then it’s either Green Spot (the best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at a whiskey aficionado friend’s house) or else the wonderful Midleton Very Rare from east County Cork.

        For now I cannot quite bring myself to endorse Tullamore Dew, as it is no longer distilled in my old County Offaly home town; however the distillery seven miles up the road in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, has been re-opened lately. As you might imagine, anything from there gets a sentimental vote from me; indeed I had a glass at the astonishing Pavilhao Chines on Lisbon’s Rua Dom Pedro (Bairro Alto) back in March. And word up is that Tullamore wants to distil whiskey again and is seeking planning permission -- I’ll keep you (and Neuhaus) posted!

        We will discuss Wexford again -- would LOVE to link up with you, or indeed many a Parterriano (if not quite all of us!!) should the opportunity arise… x

        • Camille

          O glory be and Erin go Bragh!!!

          I will never say BUSHmills again, as these ignorant Yanks have taught me to!

          If you are ever in NYC for St. Paddy’s Day, I shall escort you to Frank McCourt’s favourite watering hole which flows a river of rather dégoutante green beer on that hallowed day. Fun but disgusting. There is a pub in Queens called Molly Bloom’s which holds an annual Bloom’s Day Fest. Once, my husband attended a reading with nonetheless than Fionnula Flanagan reading Molly--a great treat!

          Well then, as I am also a mere wino through and through, we shall be well matched. These days it is copious amounts of California cheap pinot noir, ostensibly for the amounts of resveratrol. Least, that is my ‘bella scusa’. There is nothing like getting it straight off the old vineyard, as I once did in Italia

          Dewmore I have not done but I shall take all your prescriptions underserious advisement. I am also a great lover of Armagnac but never know nor keep track of the names, hélas!

          Anyway, i shall dream of Wexford and wines tonight, and very happily so. Thank you so kindly for all your very informed advices.

          Cead Mile Failte!

          • DurfortDM


            Argmagnac!!! Yum!! Fabulous with cigars -- a Bolivar Corgona Gigantes or Robusto for example. The vintage stuff is quite of out of my price range for the most part but a Larressingle XO or VSOP is I have to slum it will do quite nicely. The Labaude (both XO and VSOP) is a bit less consistent in my opinion.

            The Italian stuff is great, especially Piedmont, though Barolo is of course the ultimate food wine and requires the products of the soil (furry as well as leafy and mushrummy ones, of course) and it can be capricious but quite superb at its best.

            I have not, frankly kept up with my single malts as I should but have some affection for Ardberg and Glenfarcas, The Macallan is very good but a shade overpriced.

            I am most grateful to Balsamic for introducing this discussion and hope that both he, you and indeed Mr. Camille are having a wonderful summer.

          • Camille

            Ich muss schlafen, just like our Freundin Kundry.
            However, I must say good night to Mr. Durfort DM and will report back in tomorrow with Balsam in the form of a casque of Armagnac.
            Bis morgen, lieber Herr Durfort!

          • Buster

            A day without Armagnac is like a day without beer.

  • stevey

    My problem with La Gheorghiu has nothing to do with inaudability, but that she presents herself as a completely loathesome egomaniac, so bloated with conceit and immersed in her own greatness that it encompasses psychopathy, and even at times a complete separation from reality (the Met “poisoning”, anyone??)
    I know it shouldn’t matter, nor should I care- the artist should be appreciated for the art, right? But her personality and her conceit- the artist as PERSON, if it were- has reviled me so thoroughly as to have created something of a divide in me, and I can’t in good conscience bring myself to support in any way, or even (and this I recognize is a blot as to myself) APPRECIATE , her or anything that she does.
    And yes, perhaps I am the only one who’s missing out here… but- whether I should or not- I do feel good in knowing that I’m standing up against what I feel to be behaviour and personality unbecoming not only an artist, but a person, and that is antithetical to who I am.

    • manou

      There was an instance where Gheorghiu abused you thoroughly?

      An in the case of “the artist as PERSON”, what is your take on Nitikin?

    • oedipe


      Gheorghiu has often used her clout in support of young Romanian artists, few of whom have access to the deep pockets and bulldozing power of the American and Western European PR machines. She has also publicly given advice to the young generation about personal assertiveness and the keys to professional success. Now, I suppose you think this is yet another manifestation of her unbecoming chutzpah, but this means a lot to youth who feel that talent and ability are trumped by the place where you are born.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Where are you getting all this from, Stevey? Are you an industry insider who has worked in some capacity with Gheorghiu? If not, I’m going to assume you’re in receipt of the same amount of information about her as the rest of us, and while she seems to me like ‘a bit of a diva’ in perhaps the J-Lo sense of the expression, and somewhat prone to canceling (although she has never cancelled when I’ve had a ticket, unlike Netrebko, Harteros and Fleming), I don’t really understand what there is in the public domain about her that could revile you so thoroughly, as you put it.

      Singers such as Price and Bumbry, even Dame Joan at times have left me with an impression of feisty ego-mania in interviews, even more so than Gheorghiu.

  • zinka

    More on Angela..You see, I must be “grabbed’ by a voice….small or large….but very few singers just have voices that go nowhere..very few actually..Beside Angela…Jennifer Larmore, Martina Arroyo, sometimes the great Dmitri Hvorostovska, Carlo Colombara…and maybe one or two others..but a tiny tiny number…A shame…Angela is great on CD..and i did like her once..butshe HERSELF said that she wants to “take it easier”….Like anyone else??NO WAY!! They give every night…

    • MontyNostry

      zinka — Just so I understand, are you saying that the voices of the four singers listed don’t/didn’t carry very well? If so, I can understand what you are saying with Larmore and Hvorostovsky (who both seem to have ‘dead’ patches in their voices), but it surprises me with Arroyo, whom I never saw live, but whose voice — as recorded — sounds resonant, if not always brilliant. Colombara is not a singer I know much about, apart from an Alvise on DVD.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Difficult to decipher the meaning, but certainly it is surprising to read that Arroyo had a small voice, if that is indeed what I am reading. Also difficult to reconcile with her record for the highest number of Met opening nights or whatever it is -- given the placid interpretation style, there has to have been something thrilling about her, and I’d always assumed it was sheer refulgence and gloriousness of voice.

        • I agree that Arroyo wasn’t always an interesting interpreter but the voice itself was most impressive. This recording of the Ballo duet with Pavarotti captures a very exciting performance from both.

  • arepo

    La Cieca:
    You outdid yourself with your beautifully crafted appraisal. You hit all the high notes yourself of this wonderful and memorable production.
    Gheorghiu has never been in better form and more “Gheorgeous” and Kaufmann shined in his perfection of Maurizio. The man is a natural stage animal through and through. His expressions and his emotions add so much to a so-so role that he almost steals the show.
    The two of them supply a chemistry rarely witnessed to this viewer (save a superb Villazon-Netrebko R & J! And that’s saying a mouthful!)

    And Monty Nostra:
    I couldn’t agree more with your accolades on Corbelli. Never have I been more thrilled with the Michonnet role than Corbelli’s interpretation.
    He was simply superb from his gentle, giving manner directed at a woman he silently adores, to his all-encompassing characterization.

    This is a DVD to be collected.

    • Your kind words are generous but misdirected: the author of this review is Our Own manrico.

      • arepo

        La Cieca:
        Oops! Please forgive me.
        I must be more aware of who says what.
        However, you still turn a rather neat phrase often.

  • Camille

    Once and forevermore—

    Cilea’s choice. Adriana in excels is.