Cher Public

F. and Furious

Has it been a year already? Apparently so, because the honorees for the eighth annual F. Paul Driscoll Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence, or as they are colloquially  known, the Opera News Awards, have just this minute been announced. The five superb artists who have made an invaluable contribution to the art form this time around are sopranos Mirella Freni and Dawn Upshaw, countertenor David Daniels, baritone Simon Keenlyside, and bass-baritone Eric Owens. The eighth annual FPDAOAFE ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 21 at the Plaza in New York City.

  • Nerva Nelli

    countertenor David Daniels, baritone Simon Keenlyside, and bass-baritone Eric Owens

    “So a Jew, a black guy and a *feygele* walk into a bar…stop me if you’ve heard this one…”

    • This one I have actually heard, a long time ago…

      Walking on the streets of Berlin one day in 1931, a young agent for the Komintern spots an unemployed fellow begging on the streets. After a little conversation, the Komintern recruiter learns the man’s story: black, Jewish and gay, it was very hard for this starving fellow to make his way in the world.

      The Komintern agent gives the guy a poke in the chest and says, “Ach, you’ve had a rough go of things -- why not become a Communist and join us?”

      At which point, the black, gay Jew looks up sadly and says, “Tja! Nur das fehlt mir!”

    • armerjacquino

      There was a nice variation on this old meme the other night when Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah won their athletics golds: ‘A ginger, a mixed-race woman and a Somali asylum-seeker walk into a bar, and everyone buys their drinks all night’.

  • sfmike

    For once, I agree with them, particularly in the case of the two ladies. Mirella Freni was a goddess late into her career and I don’t think I have ever heard anything but a great performance from Dawn Upshaw live.

  • Phantom Violist

    Is Owens the youngest to have been so honored?

  • guy pacifica

    La Cieca, I bow down to your Photoshop skills. What an amazing image as your banner. I work in a design and writing studio and we would hire you in a twinkle for your design dexterity. Is it in fact Photoshop that you employ? Professional curiosity only.

    Hugs and kisses.

  • armerjacquino

    OK, surely the game now is to find an opera they can all do together…

    • sl

      Count Almaviva -- Keenlyside
      Countess Almaviva -- Freni
      Susanna -- Upshaw
      Figaro -- Owens
      Cherubino -- Daniels

      The Marschallin -- Freni
      Octavian -- Daniels
      Baron Ochs -- Owens
      Sophie -- Upshaw
      Faninal -- Keenlyside

      (The Presentation of the Rose could be a bit gruesome.)

      • armerjacquino

        Ha, those were the exact two operas I thought of, but I couldn’t bear a CT as either Cherubino or Octavian…

        FLEDERMAUS maybe?

      • Nerva Nelli

        Ottavia – Freni
        Nerone – Daniels
        Seneca – Owens
        Drusilla – Upshaw
        Ottone – Keenlyside

        Add a Poppea who can do more than dance and you’re in business.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Apart from being a nice singer, what is Dawn Upshaw’s claim to Outstanding Achievement?

    • armerjacquino

      Hurray, a new game!

      Apart from being really good in that film, what is Jean Dujardin’s claim to an Oscar?

      Apart from running faster than the others, what is Usain Bolt’s claim to a Gold Medal?

      Apart from winning the election, what is Obama’s claim to the presidency?

    • soubrettino

      IMHO maybe as a new/modern/American music champion and/or pedagogue?

    • Enzo Bordello

      Upshaw is the finest Melisande of my experience and she was also an outstanding Susanna. She is a champion of new works and has commissioned her fair share of them. She is fluent in a large repertoire and many styles. A final selling point for me is she regularly programs a set of Stephen Foster songs in her recitals (deliciously flirtatious in “If You’ve Only Got a Moustache” and wonderfully tender in “Ah! May the Red Rose Live Alway.”)

      Upshaw was regularly sneered at by the Met queens during the 1990’s for her androgynous look and what some perceived as a sanctimonious attitude toward music and performing. She also caused a stir in a joint interview with Cheryl Studer and Patricia Schuman (ironically for OPERA NEWS) in which the 3 ladies indicated they were not interested in the vocal past and the history of who sang their roles. All of them protested they had been misquoted and taken out of context. I believe Upshaw actually wrote a rebuttal which was eventually published in the letters section of ON.

      All that aside (and I must say the mysogynistic aspect was repugnant to me), I think she is deserving of this award. Certainly more than some who have been chosen.

      • Chirper

        I remember that Opera News joint interview very well--it was published in advance of the ladies’ appearance in Don Giovanni. If memory serves, there was a very elegant photo of them on the cover of ON; however, the photo that accompanied the interview showed all three of them wearing Groucho glasses and mustaches.

        The letter to the editor was signed by all three singers, who protested that their rationale for not making a habit of listening to earlier recordings of singers in the Don Giovanni roles had been omitted from the interview (avoidance of unconscious imitation). It was eye-catching, to say the least, to see all three names under that letter. I’m a veteran of print interviews, and I tend to believe the three ladies, given how some of my quotes have been hashed up and edited.

        That having been said, I also think Dawn Upshaw is entirely deserving of the award. She was a terrific Susanna and Anne Trulove, and her appearance in “Ainadamar” was absolute dynamite. Androgynous? Don’t make me laugh.

      • Enzo, I am not an upshaw fan and I can not tell you how much I agree with you, dawn Upshaw has been a force in the creation and performance of new works and for that alone, she is more than deserving of this award.

        Regardless of what anyone thinks of her singing (me included) I can say that along with Freni and Silja, I can not think of anyone more deserving of this price since its inception that her.

    • steveac10

      It’s not just her championing new and obscure repertoire -- she was a genuinely engaging presence on stage. Yes, the voice itself is not much more than serviceable, but she is and was an artist. Nobody graduates from Countess Ceprano to major roles at the Met as quickly as she did without some merit. She also had one of the last major recording careers for a “classical” singer. I was in the record business for most of the 80’s and 90’s and she was a major force in that industry -- and always with less than obvious material. She sold more records during her prime than 95% of the post 1980 stars, Really only the TENORS, Battle and Bartoli outsold her.

      • whatever

        and, if memory serves, her recent accomplishments were achieved while battling — successfully, one presumes — a very serious disease. surely the stamina she exhibited during her illness, and the dignity she publicly displayed throughout the ordeal, merit some consideration in her selection.

  • sl


    Elektra -- Freni
    Chrysothemis -- Upshaw
    Klytaemnestra -- Daniels
    Orest -- Owens
    Any/all of the other parts -- Keenlyside

  • Buster

    Pelleas et Mélisande:

    Mélisande: Dawn Upshaw
    Genevieve: Geneviève
    Yniold: David Daniels
    Pelleas: Simon Keenlyside
    Golaud: Eric Owens

  • PushedUpMezzo

    Mia Bella Donna

    Eliza Farniente : Dawn Upshaw
    Il Professore Higgins: Simon Keenlyside
    Il Colonello Pickering: David Daniels
    Alfredo Farniente: Eric Owens
    La Signora Higgins: Mirella Freni

    • lucy brown

      Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!
      And now, please don’t let Renay record Io Avrei Potuto Ballare Tutta La Notte…

  • blanchette

    Mezzo—Eliza Farniente- genius funny.

    • armerjacquino

      A pedant writes: Farpoco, surely?

      • PushedUpMezzo

        Filosofo ragioni.

        • armerjacquino

          Ma prego. Che gentilezza.

          • PushedUpMezzo

            Ta luv
            Learnt my gentilezza from Professor H.
            Comes in handy in my flower shop.

  • operaassport

    Eric Owens? Seriously? What, exactly, has been his significant contribution to opera? I’ve had erections that have lasted longer than his major career.

    Upshaw’s contribution to new music is significant but I never saw her give a performance of standard repertory opera than was anything less than white, colorless, and dull.

  • brooklynpunk

    ” I’ve had erections that have lasted longer than his major career.”

    Well, then—as the warning on the television ad urges for those who have to rely on that ‘lil blue pill-- “Call your doctor if you have an erection lasting more then 4 hours”

    Can you be any more CRASS—AND DOWN -RIGHT NASTY, concerning Mr. Owens??( then again, seeing the source of this comment—I ain’t surprised in the least..!)

  • blanchette

    you know, I just happened to look back at this post and even with my sketchy Italian I knew farniente was do nothing as opposed to do little- but I didn’t care- farniente just sounds funnier….so hats- or hat- if I were wearing one- off to you anyway-- it really tickled me.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Since Italian is being flung around, would anyone care to enlighten me as to the social difference between a fanciulla and a ragazza? Google Translate is not up to it.

    • MontyNostry

      Isn’t fanciulla an older, slightly more elevated term? As I understand it — and this is just something I was once told by an Italian — the word lost currency after the Fascists made plentiful use of fanciullo/fanciulla in their youth programmes.

      • picchiettati

        Dear DCF and Monty,

        «Fanciulla» is indeed older and more elevated. put it best: «a word that is now rarely used, limited to discourse of elevated or joking tone».

        «Ragazza/ragazzo» is «who is in the age of adolescence or youth». In my experience, vocative use of «ragazzo/ragazzi» («Ciao ragazzi») would be the equivalent of «kids» in American English («Hey, kids»).

        Monty, I did not know about that Fascist fanciullo/a fact—thank you!!

    • oedipe

      Not much difference, really. ‘Ragazza’ is the more general term. ‘Fanciulla’ is somewhat outmoded, it has a connotation of ‘virginity’.


      Sinonimi: adolescente, damigella, donna, bambina, bimba, giovane, nubile, ragazza, signorina, vergine, compagna, ragazzina, fidanzata, pulcella, pulzella


      Sinonimi: adolescente, amore, bambola, bella, damigella, donna, filarino, giovane, nubile, partner, pupa, donzella, cameriera, commessa, signorina, sottana, teen-ager, vergine, aiuto, aiutante, compagna, amata, fanciulla, giovinetta, ragazzina, fidanzata, innamorata, figlia femmina, giovanetta, giovincella, lavorante