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Crowning glory

To imagine that I have anything new to say about Maria Callas’ 1957 performance of Anna Bolena at La Scala is sheer pomposity. Enough ink and pixels (along with some blood and tears judging by the fervency of the Callas Cult) have been spilled. La Scala’s Memories series has released a handsome hardcover book and CD set, commemorating the evening with the original program, essays, libretto, and plenty of pictures.

To say the least, it was an exciting night: a gala with stars, enormous sets, and a major comeback for a neglected bel canto queen. Callas was joined by Giulietta Simionato (Giovanna Seymour), Gianni Raimondi (Riccardo Percy), and Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (Enrico VIII), with Gianandrea Gavazzeni at the podium.  

The program notes admit that “for some of the voices it was perhaps not a good night, one or two high notes were maybe less controlled,” but that has not stopped this recording from being an important benchmark standard. Quibbling aside, it doesn’t get much better than this.

With its generous thirty or so pages of pictures, this release fills in some holes left by the tragically slim Callas videography. We get pictures of La Divina in action from various angles, the grandiose sets in all their glory, as well as some backstage candids of the cast. The book portion includes the original program notes, written when Anna Bolena had lapsed in the repertoire. A Met simulcast this is not, but we get the idea.

While the packaging of the set radiates luxury, the rest of the contents fail to deliver. The most significant fault is in the audio, which sounds identical to the widely released EMI edition. The sonics are murky, without much sympathy for anything high or loud, and several other available remasters are preferable.

Equally unfortunate are the essay translations, which can be called slapdash at best.  Classical music fans are usually ready to forgive sketchy slipcover translations; this, however, is a hardcover book, not a stapled leaflet. That the Italian essays by Angelo Foletto bulge with facts at the seams of their word count, doesn’t help. The English versions appears to have been punctuated by a francophone, and stylistic inconsistencies, creative spellings, and a pseudo-intellectual tone, make for rather bland reading. It’s best to stick to the pictures.

This is a landmark recording that most opera fans will want in their libraries – but better to forgo the packaging and search out a remaster in better sound. You don’t need frills when you have singing like this.


  • 1
    BobbyMadison says:

    Wonder if it will explain why Rossi-Lemeni sounds like he gargled with Drano before the performance…

    • 1.1
      Nerva Nelli says:

      “Wonder if it will explain why Rossi-Lemeni sounds like he gargled with Drano before the performance…”

      Why should that night have been different from all (well, *most*) other R-L nights? Wasn’t Siepi to be involved at some stage? Clabassi is certainly better than R-L on the radio performance with Gencer.

  • 2
    OperaTeen says:

    I got this recording back in September and I can really agree with the points you brought up. The idea of releasing all these Scala titles is such a good one but the sound quality on almost every one is near “unlistenable”. I wish that it could be different because this has the potential to be a perfect recording!

  • 3
    Melot's Younger Brother says:

    Which label features the best remastering?

    • 3.1
      marshiemarkII says:

      Melot, I am listening through sheer serendipity to the new Myto remaster and it is simply SENSATIONAL. The sound is beyond your wildest dreams and La Divina sounds just as it should, it is as close to perfection as you can get given the conditions. If you like the ONLY Maria you should get all the reissues (from 2008 on some as recent as 2012), the Traviatas the Medeas, the Normas, sheer heaven. And no I do not nor have I ever worked for Myto :-)
      Just a crazy Maria Queen.
      BTW most of them can be had for less than $10 for a two CD set, but this Bolena I got for $18, which seems the cheapest available. But of course worth every penny.

      • 3.1.1
        marshiemarkII says:

        I am listening now to the final duet Ah questa infame…. and I have to agree with Grimo, this is really one glorious, magnificent score!!!!!, But you really need an ONLY Maria for this. No one else can ever do justice to it the way she does it! Ah fuggi fuggi o sei perduto…., there is ONLY Maria…..

      • 3.1.2
        marshiemarkII says:

        The above came in wrong place, it’s of course Trovatore

    • 3.2
      marshiemarkII says:

      Cocky, Kashie, I just went to the Norbeck, Peters & Ford website, and lo and behold my dream come true!!! The most glorious Trovatore ever sung is right there in remastered Myto sound!!!!!! I am talking about Scala 1953 of course. My copy is on the way, so I’ll let you gurls know when it arrives how good it is. As you may recall the original was also on Myto, and it was pretty good for the time, etc, so I can’t wait to hear it in even better sound.

      By the way, do any Maria Queens here know anything about a remastered and completely restored Vestale??? The sound was horrible before, I ahve it on Melodram, and supposedly there is a new fabulous version, but it is not on Myto that I can find. Anybody knows??????

      • 3.2.1
        kashania says:

        Marshie: Thank you for reminding me about this performance which I’ve not heard. Where did you order it? Neither Amazon or Berkshire has it.

          marshiemarkII says:

          KAshie, the only ones who have it so far (it is THAT new) is Norbeck Peters & Ford, here:

          It’s a good thing you didn’t get it in the older version (it was already OOP I guess). This one is even better, as the sound is remastered. It is brand brand new. I just got my copy last night, and I am still swooning.

          • kashania says:

            Thank you, dear! I’m on the site now. Anything else I should order while I’m at it?

          • marshiemarkII says:

            well as you can see in the rest of this thread, the three Traviatas, the three Normas and THE THREE MEDEAS!!!!!!!! :-)

            They are all astonishingly good! The Norma from La Scala would be the next TOP CHOICE if you can do only one though.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Oh and the Anna Bolena, of course, that started this thread, is also spectacular.

          • kashania says:

            Thanks. I ordered the Lisbon Traviata (which I heard years ago but have never owned — a real hole in my library) as well. And bless ’em, even with the addition of a second recording, the shipping (all the way to Canada!) is still five bucks. I’m going to have to visit that site more often!

          • Rory Williams says:

            Wow, Marshie, you are bad for my Visa bill. I didn’t know about this site. There goes Rory’s lunch money! ;) I haven’t bought many of these kind of things because a couple I got so far elsewhere were so bad sound-wise I couldn’t really get past it, and I don’t know how to suss out which will be listenable. I ordered the Trov. Thanx for the guidance!

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Carisssssimo Rory, stick to the new Myto re-releases, they are in a 2cd format with the black and white pictures of the only Maria. Not to repeat, but the 3 Traviatas/Normas/Medeas are a must as is the Anna Bolena. I can guarantee the amazing sound. The Lisbon Traviata is really exceptional, because the previous sound was truly unlistenable, no matter how great the performance! and now they have found a new tape directly from the radio archives. Similarly the Norma Scala 55, a most glorious performance, and available in not too bad sound in general, but with a horrifying patch of radio static at no less than teneri figli!!!! it used to kill me, why didn’t it happen at one of the choruses :-) but at the only Maria, at her most tender and beautiful!. Well the new Myto is completely clean, presumably a new tape? It is amazing!
            Anyway those ten should keep your bill under control for a while….. :-)

          • Rory Williams says:

            You clearly overestimate Rory’s weekly lunch money, Marshie! More like keep my bill in hock! But I’ll try these one at a time. I have a dub of the EMI Lisbon Trav that someone gave me, and my prob with that is, as much as the rotten sound, that it should really be billed as “La Traviata, with Javier Somebody as The Prompter (also appearing, Maria Callas etc.)” The giant screaming prompt for “E strano!” always makes me laugh well loud. [Callas’s thought balloon: “Well, I KNOW!!!”]But … through all that static, she still rocks me. Can’t wait to hear these, in sequence [$$$ ;)]

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Carisssimo Rory, next time you are in NYC let me know and maybe MMII can bequeath some of the older versions of her ONLY Maria collection. After all why does she need three or four version of the exact same opera??? Seriously, I’d be happy to share some of the duplicated items, that way the lunch money situation can be improved….and the ONLY Maria can continue rocking your life…..

          marshiemarkII says:

          Speaking of which, cara Cieca should let them know how much business if going their way because of parterre, and maybe they should recompense her for all this free advertisement. This thread should be exhibit A :-)

    • 3.3
      marshiemarkII says:

      Gurls gurls gurls, attenzione!
      I just got my brand new, spanking clean, Trovatore and the sound is simply ASTONISHING!!!!!
      I just got through D’amor and it sounded like the ONLY Maria was singing right in my living room. It is an astonishingly good transfer, cleaned up of the smallest imperfections. What a divine job they did, it is a miracle to be able to hear THIS glorious performance in THIS glorious quality.

      Now I can die Seliger als ich gelebt……

      • 3.3.1
        Camille says:

        Marschallin, you referring to the remastered Myto one from above?
        She does not take the written high D flat does she, as in Mexico City?

      • 3.3.2
        marshiemarkII says:

        Yes, yes, Camilllisssima Belle the Trovatore from above, Scala 53.
        You are right she doesn’t take the D-flat, but the flow is so even, the voice working so well, it seems unnecessary :-)
        In Mexico she sounds more like Gioconda, and the sound is a bit sourish, while here is pure sweetness and gold. Her very last lines, she sounds almost like an instrument doing those melismas. I’ve always LOVED this performance, since my cranky LPs in college (I remember listening to this to get ready for the Met Opening 1976, with Scotto and Pavarotti) but this sound is unbelievable, and it costs all of $11, at NP&F per above!

      • 3.3.3
        marshiemarkII says:

        Every singer in the world should listen to this, to understand what it means portamenti, and The Grand Verdi Line.

          Camille says:

          Yes they should and thank you so much marschaIIina. Believe I have heard it but no longer recall any other than Mexico City.

          Who puts out the best transfer of the London Norma, my favourite? There is an ancient pirate tape of Norma scaligera ’55 whose ending is the end of the world--il fine del mondo?

          Happy that you have found and they make you so happy. Yes, the art of portamenti, integral to good singing, are lost in a wide sea of scoops and gloops. Will it return?

          marshiemarkII says:

          Camilllisssima Belle, all of the three great Normas (Rome/RAI, Scala and London) have come out within the last year, with London the latest one. Again, incredibly interesting that you mention the London as your favorite, because young Marshie was a Dame Joan queen, and couldn’t hear of the ONLY Maria, until she met someone in college, a graduate student who is no longer with us, who introduced her to the London Norma, with the “tears” right in the voice, in the Deh non volerli…. Marshie was instantly hooked and there was no going back. It was a tiny room in the Harvard Law School dorms…… Ach the memories….

          Today I think for sheer intensity the La Scala would take the top honors for the Deh non volerli… but why choose? all three are fabulously remastered.

          The new Traviatas also come in threes: Lisbon (sensational), London and Scala 56.

          And the greatest trio of them all: the three Medeas Dallas, London and Scala 61. Strangely enough Myto has not issued (that I know of) the Scala 53 with Bernstein (arguably the best).

          A treasure trove if there ever was……

          • Camille says:

            Thank you, dear Marschiettina. I shall bookmark this so as to lose die Auskunft.

            I, too, was a vestal vergine in the temple of Our Lady Joan. Until I came crashing back to earth in a deadly freefall after the first performance I saw her in. After that, I only listened to the recordings, which are, many times and as I once read in an Italian review of her sound, quasi metafisici.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Mia Carissssima, my first live St Joan was in I Puritani in 1976, with the greatest Luciano, and by then I was such a Maria Partisan Queen that I wouldn’t allow anyone else to touch HER roles, so all I did was pick on St Joan’s problems (diction, droopy-line, etc) without realizing I was seeing historical performances….. Ah youth wasted on the young. Then I saw her Lucias at the Met, same, and in 1985(?) I escorted the greatest Hildegard for the Bolena, which was really not very good…… and the last was the wretched opening night of Trovatore in 1988, with the Pav and Livia BOOdai, and St Joan was equally awful, the whole performance sung in a kind of disembodied tone that was very annoying….. and then for the broadcast a miracle happened, and she was singing like in 1959, a simply glorious D’amor. It was awesome, and that was it.

          Feldmarschallin says:

          yes that and her beginning of the quartett ‘Addio mio patria’ from Vespri. That is one of the most astonishing things where you can hear what she was about. The line and legato and dynamics are bliss. The voice sounds at its most beautiful.

      • 3.3.4
        Cocky Kurwenal says:

        Thank you for bringing this to my attention MMII, I will try to get hold of it straight away -- I only have the studio Trov.

          marshiemarkII says:

          Wonderful Cocky! I’ve always found the Karajan D’amor (in particular) very disappointing, either she wasn’t in good voice, or he was just weird, but there is absolutely no comparison between that set and this Scala, which is absolute heaven on earth, and Stigniani is no slouch either, what legato she had also, and the huge voice, even the tenor is good, those were the days!!!!!

          Sound-wise, you will find that the voices are really forward (most specially the ONLY Maria :-)), and now even cleaner, and for a pirate off the radio is not any more “boxy” than the Karajan. I’m sure you will love it!

  • 4
    chicagokok says:

    The best sounding recording of this performance is either the BJR LP version, or the not so long ago released DIVINA CD of the performance, which used the same source as the BJR LP. There is no competition.

    • 4.1
      danpatter says:

      You are absolutely right, the recent DIVINA release of this performance is the one to get. It comes with a downloadable book of pictures, essays, etc. You can also download the performance (or get the CDs) in the best possible sound. is the website.

  • 5
    WindyCityOperaman says:

    Still the biggest mistake EMI made by not doing commercial/studio versions of Callas’ Anna Bolena, Macbeth and Vestale instead of Aida, Boheme and Manon Lescaut.

    • 5.1
      danpatter says:

      You are so right, WCO, especially VESTALE, which is easily one of the greatest performances of her glorious career. Alas, the broadcast sound is wretched, though a recent Fanfare review touted the La Scala Memories edition as a definite improvement over previous issues.

  • 6
    papopera says:

    “puntuated by a francophone” sure he wasn’t chinese or hebrew trouduc?

  • 7
    The_Kid says:

    Speaking of Anna Bolena:
    1. Which audio-recordings (except for this one, and the Joan Sutherland one) are worth purchasing?
    2. Has the role ever been recorded by any German dramatic soprano?
    Thanks :)

    • 7.1
      marshiemarkII says:

      Kiddie, if you want modern sound you should RUN to get the sublime Anna Netrebko who was astonishing live at the Met! you can get it in full blu-ray glory.

      Don’t know about specifically “German” dramatic sopranos, but the american Olivia Stapp was a decent singer of the German repertoire, a presentable Elektra at one point, and was a very very good Bolena at the NYCO early 80s. MMII was there of course, and saw more than one performance so it must have been good :-)

    • 7.2

      First choice must be Beba with Verrett, if you can still get it on Westminster. There’s also a Decca recording from 1969 which is currently unavailable but has a great cast (Horne,.Pavarotti, Ghiaurov) but Suliotis has too much fun, if you know what I mean. The Theodossiu / Ganassi you can safely pass. I rather like the Vienna Netrebko / Garanca but Enrico and the tenor are meh.

      • 7.2.1
        Nerva Nelli says:

        “There’s also a Decca recording from 1969 which is currently unavailable but has a great cast (Horne,.Pavarotti, Ghiaurov) but Suliotis has too much fun, if you know what I mean.”

        The cast (save for the drunken shipping heiress) is indeed great--let’s not forget Our Own Janet Coster and Stafford Dean!-- but the excellent Percy is in fact John Alexander, and not Pavarotti. The latter sight-read his pretty wonderful way through the Sutherland/Bonynge MARIA STUARDA recording, however.

    • 7.3
      Nerva Nelli says:

      You know who sang Anna Bolena in the late 60s in Germany? Teresa Zylis-Gara. Much as I love her singing, I find that a little hard to imagine.

      I’d go with the Sills/Verrett for completeness and then acquire the Callas (and the Gencer) pirates.

      Sutherland: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz in this role.

      • 7.3.1
        The_Kid says:

        The Sills-Verret: just got it (well, borrowed it). Seems awesome so far.
        I still prefer Sutherland as Anna over Edita, Olivia, Luciana, Nelly (like Michael, I never call anyone Butch or Nelly unless that is their name! LOL), Caballe etc. Devia is, of course, awesome. Having said that, I *LOVE* the last “Pietaaaaaaaaaa” that Gruberova sings! :)
        I wonder why Sills and Farrell didn’t AB together, the way they did MS….

  • 8
    The_Kid says:

    thank you :) i am not a huge fan of the netrebko version, and i can borrow it from the library anyway, so i am probably gonna give that a miss (unless that was sarcasm, in which case i’d giggle uncomfortably and retire!). yes, i do like olivia stapp as bolena, especially the “coppia iniqua” bit……just looked it up.
    i will have a dekko for the other suggestions….merci beaucoup.

    • 8.1
      marshiemarkII says:

      Kiddie there was no sarcasm on my part, so no need to retire yet :-) in fact you are just great!

      I saw Netrebko live at the Met Opening last year, and she was simply glorious in every way imaginable, I swooned for weeks after, it was a revelation! I think her magnificent voice does not record well, as the sort of covered quality (at times) in the theater carries gorgeously while on recording is kind of smokey and pale. She is also a stage animal, and you have to see her live to appreciate the full package, as well as the enormous size of the voice. I now LOVE the Vienna DVD, but more so because I know her live work. I also happen to adore Garanca, so for me that DVD is pretty heavenly all around, but I think Netrebko might be even better served when the Met DVD comes out, though the mezzo is no match for the divine Garanca obviously

      • 8.1.1
        The_Kid says:

        thank you :) yes, i like Garanca a lot, although she can be a tad too….generic?….from time to time. She reminds me a bit of Conchita Supervia: superb voice, but too perfect from time to time. However, I’d much rather listen to her than to Bartoli, whose attackos seem just plain weird to me.

          MontyNostry says:

          I was listening to the radio the other day and a recording of ‘Non più mesta’ came on. I wondered whether it might be Berganza — it was definitely a Latin sound — but the tone wasn’t pretty and rounded enough and the coloratura wasn’t all that great. It turned out to be the young, pre-wild idiosyncrasy Bartoli, and really nothing very special!

          Milady DeWinter says:

          Oh Dear,
          as my first foray into the rarified atmosphere of parterre, fount of so much knowledge, wit, and wisdom, I hate to strike a sour note.
          But I will -- vers Le_Kid re: Garanca’s voice reminding you of Concita Supervia. Surely you jest? Supervia’s wonderful art was indeed near perfection, especially for a mezzo in the 1930s before the bel canto revival of the 50s and 60s.
          But the voice itself? With that trademark hyperspped vibrato -- how is that remotely similar to the coolish timbre of Garanca?
          Just wondering.
          And greetings and blessings upon you all. For now.

          • The_Kid says:

            Hi, I agree about Supervia 100%. I guess, what I meant was, Garanca’s voice, like Supervia’s, often reaches a degree of perfection, and then….stays there. that’s it. perfection, all set. not that it is anything to be sneezed at (Nellie Melba, anyone?), but IMHO mezzos need to be a bit more idiosyncratic to have a lasting impression. Remember Bruna Castagna? Oralia Dominguez? Hertha Toepper? In terms of pure stimme, no where near Supervia. However, in terms of vocal interpretation, they did produce gems from time to time that seem to light up my little room.
            But, hey, I am 27: what do i know? :P

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            I have to say that I don’t get reverence for Supervia at all. Obviously I do tend to fixate on voice, and sometimes technique, so that tendency informs how I respond to Supervia, but I think her vocal production was so compromised, at least as far as it comes across on record -- maybe it could be ignored live -- that she is easily surpassed by many contemporary mezzos, and many in the years between her age and ours.

          • Feldmarschallin says:

            I do like Garanca quite a bit but find the one major thing which sets her apart from Supervia is the charm of Supervia. She has more charm and personality in one little finger than Garanca. You see a woman in front of you when you listen to her Rossini for example. Garanca is much more cool but after having heard her Oktavian in Paris I must say there is no better one that sings the role today. I first heard her in Salzburg as Dorabella and was blown away by her voice. We can be very lucky to have her and di Donato singing today. I would take both over Susan Graham who was never my cup of tea and whose Oktavian left me cold. Many who heard Melba live including some of the great critics of the past when they actually had great critics say that Melba was near perfect but the voice does not come across that well since it was so large and brilliant. Let us also not forget that she had been singing for over 20 years before she made her first recordings. But the way her voice sails across is something else with that ease and purity and her trill is impeccable.

      • 8.1.2
        marshiemarkII says:

        Well Bartoli is a caricature and a pathetic joke so no need to make that comparison :-)

        I do agree with some of your pints on Garanca. The voice is gorgeous and extremely well schooled and hence well-produced. Her Bel Canto CD is a dream of gorgeous singing. The problem however, is her repertoire, what the hell was she doing trying out Carmen for example? what a waste of a glorious instrument!
        Her home should be as a classical singer with lots and lots of Bach, the Passions, Oratorios, Lieder, followed by every Mozart and Haydn imaginable, and then with that armor concentrate on Wagner and Strauss!!!!!! with a strong side dose of German Lieder (Brahms, Schubert, and of course lots of Strauss and Berg). She could easily become a historic singer in the mold of say Christa Ludwig. She has all it takes, what the hell is she doing singing Carmen?

          marshiemarkII says:

          pOints of course ugggggh

          Cocky Kurwenal says:

          I think Garanca is a gorgeous singer with a stunning technique. The trouble is that the mezzo repertoire, particularly the lyric mezzo repertoire, is so small, especially if one is going to fixate on opera like nearly all singers tend to these days thanks to market forces. It isn’t difficult to see why she sings Carmen, given the ensemble/seconda donna nature of many of her other roles, and I have to say I thought she did a good job of it when I saw it at Covent Garden. It’s a really problematic and uneven piece, but it was great to see her take the stage and be a great prima donna, and I thought it displayed her to good advantage.

          I’d love to see her as Octavian. We nearly had her as the Composer in London before she decided not to add the role to her repertoire. I’m not sure what that says about her long term plans -- maybe she will do it in the future. I can also imagine that it may have had more to do with the tessitura than the weight of the role, so perhaps some Wagner isn’t out of the question at some stage. Imagine what a stunning Kundry she could be, with the right acoustic and conductor!

          oedipe says:

          I think Garanca would likely be great in the German rep -operas, oratorios, lieder, and what not- and her German is excellent, but her recordings, her projects and stated new role desires are centered around French and Italian operas. It seems she would have loved to be Latin herself…

          Milady DeWinter says:

          Well thank you all for your comments re: the Supervia/Garanca discussion.
          Oh “Kid” -- 27?? I’m jealous! I’m not saying I’m old, but I did sing in the chorus with Belle Silverman in Sarah Caldwell’s Boston production of “Daughter of the Regiment” many moons ago. Of course, I was an enfant prodige, but nevertheless, my vocal interest in singers runs the gamut from Tetrazzini to Rachael Gilmore (full disclosure: yes, I am a total coloratura queen, and, more importantly, a full-on Callas Queen.
          Also: I will have to watch out for those annoying little typos. Sorry about that. I don’t think there is a way to go back into a post and edit, or am I incorrect? Any suggestions from parterre veterans?)

          Kid -- I share your somewhat neutral reaction to Melba -- sure, we can hear superb technique, but the acoustic process was not kind to her voice (unlike say, Tetrazzini or Galli-Curci). But if you can get a hold of her electric recordings of the Germont pere/Violetta duet (with the very young John Brownlee, I believe) you can hear some of the rose petal-like quality of the voice, even in her 60s, that must have made her special “live”.

          As for Garanca, I don’t know: a superb voice that somehow does not grab me beyond its basically lovely timbre. I agree with the other posters who think that the German rep and some French may be her strong suit. I’m thinking Mignon, Cendrillon, eventually Charlotte, and also lots of Mozart, with plenty of art song and lied. Her Carmen was impeccably sung, but left me entirely cold, nay, frost-bitten.
          For all her musical acuity, I find her ultimately bland.
          Oralia Dominguez! -- now THERE was a mezzo who grabbed the music by the cujones and went to town with it. Or wherever you go when you have musical cujones on, um, or in, hand.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Eventually Charlotte? She’s been singing it regularly since at least 2008 in Munich, Vienna, Baden Baden and San Francisco, with a Vienna reprise coming up in the spring.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Longer than that, even: the Vienna DVD with Alvarez is from 2005.

          • CruzSF says:

            Correction, Cocky: Garanca didn’t sing Charlotte in SF. She was either fired or withdrew, depending on whose camp you believe.

          • Krunoslav says:

            Dallas Opera gossip holds that Miss Dominguez grabbed other things by the cujones as well..

          • The_Kid says:

            hi, i see plenty of cute guys here. maybe MdW, too? :)

            forgot to mention rita gorr: another fav mezzo. did she ever play favorita?
            i also like patti, (actually, both of ’em!) even in her very late recordings. wonder what jenny lind would have sounded like!
            a callas-queen i am not. i acknowledge her artistry, and salute her achievements, but i am not keen on her voice. i suspect that part of this feeling is from reading crude comments on YT on every opera video as to how callas would have done that better. i mean, from “le veau d’or” to adele’s laughing sing…one comment! “singer is a dog, callas would have been better”. this just pisses me off big time.

            Anyhoo, excuse the rant. Here’s MdW (possibly?) in all his glory (?)

          • The_Kid says:

            ooops, wrong video!

  • 9
    Milady DeWinter says:

    Oh, thanks for the update on Garanca and her singing of Charlotte for ages. I guess my lack of interest in her is evident by virtue of that blooper.

    • 9.1
      oedipe says:

      Just for info, another role assumption for Garanca: Didon in 2013 in Berlin. I, for one, would be very interested in hearing it.

    • 9.2
      marshiemarkII says:

      I like your “style” milady, please keep on piling on the camp!!!!and we were in Boston at the same time, as I had to suffer those same performances with Belle S and Sarah C :-)
      I also LOVE Dominguez, cOjones and all, that she dispalys to all in the spectacular Amneris with the only Maria in Mexico C.

      Oedipe, Didon is certainly a step up for dear Elina, finally some quality music :-). You are right she does look like she’d rather be Latina, apparently even speaks fluent Spanish. So what’s next Reggeton Duos with Daddy Yankee???? It could actually be good fun :-)

      • 9.2.1
        Clita del Toro says:

        Dominguez is also on a Verdi Requiem (de Sabata) with Schwarzkopf, di Stefano and Siepi.

      • 9.2.2
        marshiemarkII says:

        Yes Clitisssssima cara, that is a great set for all concerned, except cara Betty B, who is way out of her depth!!!!!! wasn’t that supposed to have been the ONLY Maria????? Imagine that!
        Same with the Karajan legendary video from La Scala, that I believe should have been Tebaldi!!!!!!! but she chickened out for one reason or another. Now that would have made it the greatest Requiem ever recorded hands down, no?

    • 9.3
      Vergin Vezzosa says:

      I think (probably per the late lamented MetFutures site) that Garanca is supposed to be doing Charlotte with Kaufmann in a rumored new staging in NY in 2013-2014.

      • 9.3.1
        Camille says:

        Is that at all certain, for it would be wonderful if so.

        Does anyone know anything further?

    • 9.4
      Camille says:

      I would like to hear La Garanca as La Favorite as in the original en français.

      Marshie, start yowling now as I don’t care. I love Donizetti (not all of it) and the divine Nerva was correct in calling you out on that one!

      You Wagnerites will never forGEEF Donizetti as your Meister had to work as copyist/arranger for his score whilst scrounging about for employment in Paris 1840. Tant pis pour LUI!!! I am certain he picked up a thing or three from studying the last act of Favorite. [Not mentioning the fact he stole outright the idea of the opening of Meistersinger from Halévy’s La Juive!!!]

      At any rate, Mme. MMII, if this disparagement of il geniale maestro bergamasco continues I shall be constrained to hike up my skirts, don my cha-cha heels, whip Dem Golden Earrings outta my ears and take the hidden razors from within my beehive to do battle TONIGHT, TONIGHT……..!

      As ever--camilla la brutta bimba

      • 9.4.1
        marshiemarkII says:

        Carisssssima you are too much, I think the idea of Don and Carlos really turned you upside down :-) :-) :-)
        It did me actually! and I am fantasizing of seeing Don and Carlos, going at it at the tune of Elina and Daddy, in a fiercely hot reggeton duet in the background, on a NYC rooftop!

        In any case I LOVE La Favorite, as I love the bergamasco’s tragic output in almost its totality, I just have an allergic reaction to Don Pasquale (imagine my one and only performance at the Met in 1980, for the farewell of America’s favorite soprano…..) and to a lesser degree the Elisir, though there I admit there is a tune or two that are lovely. I *had* to see it twice last season, and it was not that bad :-)

          Camille says:

          SORGI, sorgi——--ora ti perdono!

          All is now understood and forgiven. I remember that broadcast with “America’s Favorite Soprano” of them thare days and recall the Horror! Not pretty at all. One performance like that can put one off an opera for life.

          Shoulda seen La Nebby in her cute little pink bustier frolicking with Mr. Kielbasa. That was FUN!

          marshiemarkII says:

          But it wasn’t la Nebby with the Kielbasa last season but Damrau, not exactly an Italian charmeuse, that glassy voice drove me to distraction. I had to go because Layla Claire was in it, though not exactly in a stellar part :-)

          This Opening Night I’ll definitely skip. Much as I Love la Nebby. All that expense last year for new black tafetta at Barney’s, and already idle for this year. Here I was expecting la Nebby in all three queens, every year new opening, and she is not even in the Stuarda, let alone Opening Night, tant pis.

          • Camille says:

            MarshieII—why don’t you wear that black taffeta to the New Year’s Eve prima assoluta of Maria Stuarda? That would put it to good use. Just a thought.

            I avoid Barneys unless there is a sale. Even then one must be as sly as a gazza ladra! And all the confusion of that eternal renovation. Gad, when will it end.

            Have just now listened to the refreshing Glyndebourne production from 1960 of I Puritani with a very freshly minted Diva Joan. Ercole Farnese, our long-lost and beloved reviewer did a piece on it in December 2010.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            But Camillissima, I don’t expect to be in NYC for New Year’s Eve, will be out of the country, so the black tafetta schmattas will have to continue in their ewige schlaf, in a bay-windowed closet :-)

          • Camille says:

            Oh now it is apparent what is wrong: they need Siegfried to kiss them awake. Gotcha!

      • 9.4.2
        Vergin Vezzosa says:

        Also a Favorite lover. I hope that I wasn’t just dreaming, but I think that I recall that someone posted here not very long ago that Garanca will be doing Favorite or Favorita at the Met a few years down the road. I think that the info was based on an interview she gave recenty.

        If it happens, I also vote for the French. Saw it in SF in 1999 with Giordani at his very best, Ganassi and Chernov and it was really very exciting.

        PS -- the creator of Die Walkure also lifted the germ for the magic fire music from La Juive -almost note for note.

          Camille says:

          Sonia Ganassi—--what is the reason we hear so little of her in the States. My sole acquaintance with her work was as Elisabetta R. In Maria Stuarda, which was filmed in a theatre in Italy at least a dozen years ago. She is scheduled to sing Giovanna Seymour in the WNO Bolena soon to transpire. I am tempted, as I disliked that claustral set and production, with those restrictive clothes last year.

          Well, we shall and soon enough. Wondering if they would drag out the old production. Oh no what am I thinking-- it would all be new, new,, new. Hoping your knowledge is correct, VV. hey! I just listened to Sutherland sing your song an hour ago. Bellissima.

      • 9.4.3
        marshiemarkII says:

        Mia cara Camillissssima Belle, now ***I*** have a bone to pick with you cara. It was not the great Meister who had to pick a thing or two from the great bergamasco, but no less than the immortal Joe Green. I am listening to the new Myto Poliuto with only Maria (what else is new :-)), and I nearly fell of my cama, I thought my player had flipped out and exchange CDs, as I was listening to the end of Teco io sto. Then I realized that Joe Green had lifted verbatim the coda of Teco from Poliuto!!!!!!! it’s a very shameless copy/paste job, wow I am shocked!

        I guess there were no copyrights laws back then? So the bergamasco is the real master of a lot of things apparently. I wonder what happened to wonderful ardath_bey, he’d be able to enlighten us on all of this (plus I love his politics :-))

          Camille says:

          Oh, the immoral Joe Green? He would have not have been able to become what he eventually evolved to at his greatest [Don Carlos, Requiem, Otello and Falstaff] had he not built his empire upon the bones of povero Gaetano, coupled with the prize pet of Clarina Maffei and an instrument of the revolution. He became great, but would have happened if:

          1) Rossini had kept on writing and kept off the foie gras;

          2) Beloved Bellini had not very suspiciously died alone, at the age of 33 and had been able to develop the skill he was showing in Puritani;

          3) Povero Donizetti had not gone miserably and tragically insane. Verdi did go to visit him in the asylum and it made him unhappy. Rosine Stoltz took the rap for years that she nagged andharrassed him to madness, in all fairness, she was a piece of work. It wasn’t she though. It was sixty plus operas and a dead wife and the censors all primadonnas of either sex and moving from country to country. Northern Italy to Southern to Paris to Vienna whilst composing and sick. Poor, poor man!!!!!

          Dunno about ardath the bey——-maybe he is off somewhere magical.
          Something tells me he will show up for the prima of l’Elisir d’Amore, however--it is his fach.

          Nite mme Marschallin. If you ever see of hear mrsjohnclaggart, please do give her my love. She is a great soul but just have problems that drive her to excess. We all are in this ship of fools together.

          Nitey night and don’t let the bedbugs bite!

          PS--Poliuto I saw with OONY about ten years ago—Fabulous Fabio Armiliato and Martile Rowland —I remember Fabio singing his socks off and that a part of the end of I think second act sounded like AÏDA!!!!! In fact, it was kind of a shocking similarity.

          Well poor old Joe Green didn’t have Mayr to help him out with his misical formation.

          Grosser Küss! ICH BIN MÜDE, TETRACH!

          • Camille says:

            Oh, I forgot Mercadante, too. And Pacini, maybe.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Mille grazie carisssssima, most enlightening indeed. No 1 I am kind of glad for foie grass but No 2 makes me deeply unhappy, as you know I worship the glorious sicilian, and can only imagine the glory that could have come our way.

            I just listened to the end of Act II, and didn’t hear any Aida, I think you mean the same I indicated, namely the Ballo in Maschera glorious duet (Teco io sto), the very end… Oh qual soave brivido… to be very precise :-)
            Bella e buona notte a te cara Camille Belle

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Yes Mercadante…. I saw his Il Giuramento at Avery Fisher (Eve Queler maybe?) with a stunning Mara Zampieri that just knocked your socks off with something like 5 high Cs!!!! and those glasses!!!!. Young Marshie had no idea what CAMP was, until someone had to explain to the poor innocent the meaning of those glasses :-)
            And it also had a very young Agnes Baltsa simply stunning also. What days were those!

          • Vergin Vezzosa says:

            Regarding kind Camille’s No. 2 and its effect on J. Green’s development, it is especially tantalizing to ponder what Bellini would have done since he actually left a few hints. To follow my beloved Puritani for Paris, he had signed a contract with San Carlo for 3 operas -- an adaptation of Puritani for
            Malibran and 2 new works with librettis by Felice Romani with whom he had reconciled after a blowup at the time of Beatrice di Tenda. Bellini himself suggested Un duel sous Richelieu (which Donizetti later set for his most Verdian opera, Maria di Rohan) and Gustave III (which of course became Ballo). Oh, to think……..

          • Indiana Loiterer III says:

            Gustave III? I doubt the Neapolitan censors, among the strictest in Italy at the time, would have allowed a king to be assassinated on stage. Probably a frustrated Bellini and Romani would have ended up anticipating Mercadante’s Il reggente by a decade or so, leaving (as before) Verdi to show how such a subject really should be done.

    • 9.5
      Milady DeWinter says:

      Caro Kid -- lol -- very cute -- thank you for doing your research and finding that clip. I am not one of those cute guys, but I WAS a cute guy then, somewhat younger than those gents dans le regiment surround our Bubbles,- I was a mere peasant lad who was part of the group that swept her offstage in a cart at the finale of Act I.
      MdW never forgets a kindness. And speaking of such, MdW must thank the kind poster who last Dec 29 posted a birthday video tribute to my beloved Mado Robin on what would have been her 93rd birthday.
      And, car0 Kid, I will, for the present, overlook your allergy to la voix de la Callas -- I DO understand your reaction. Perhaps in time you will see the light- merci beacoup and happiest of Labor Day long weekends to you all. And do forgive my tardiness in responding -- my computer was felled by l’esprits du mal and I only this morning got back online.
      Baisers a tous!

      • 9.5.1
        The_Kid says:

        Hi MdW, I hope you and your computer are in fine shape now :) A mere peasant lad isn’t my style, but a seasoned raconteur who seems to be full of interesting stories of the glorious days of yore most certainly is.
        I do like Mado Robin, BTW. Lakme and Olympia, especially.
        As for Callas, well, maybe things would have been different pre-YT, but I do not think that these days any one would fall for that “assoluta” nonsense. I mean, within a few hours, I can hear Lee Price sing Aida, Joannie sing Lucia, Big Renata sing Leonora, Birgit sing Tosca,….which leaves us with Medee, Norma, and Violetta, and even the last one is a toss-up. So, yeah, I give you Norma and Medee, although Gencer was no lightweight as Medee, either. So, re: Callas-worship- thanks, but no thanks :)
        Have yourself a wonderful long weekend. Here’s what I’m listening to while reading Aiden Shaw’s bio and sipping a vod&ton!

          Clita del Toro says:

          Kid, “within a few hours,” I can even eat an apple and a banana. Or an orange. So what?

          What does YT have to do with the term, “assoluta”— render it obsolete?
          After all, Callas does not sing all those roles simultaneously?? You can listen to them within a few hours as well.
          I can even listen to Callas one hour, Tebaldi the next and Scotto the next. What a concept!

          Too bad that Callas sang so many roles so well. She gets a spanking for that.

          Birgit’s Tosca, been there saw that. More of a camp than a melodrama.

          I just watched part of Traviata on PBS. Could not bear the sight of Dessay and Polenzani and have come to hate that production.

          • The_Kid says:

            First of all, IMHO was implied, but disrespect wasn’t. So, if that did not come through, mea culpa. I apologize.
            Having said that, here’s the point I was trying to make: there ARE singers (both pre- and post-Callas) who have sung all these roles successfully. So, will they all be hailed as sfogatos? If the answer to that is yes, then I have nothing else to say, because the whole issue then boils down to Soprano X singing roles alpha through omega, or Soprano Y singing ’em, and so on. Which is purely a matter of taste.
            By “assoulta” I was implying the ear-marking of certain roles as “assoluta” roles. In which universe is Gemma di Vergy a more difficult role than Elektra? Or Elisabetta (Roberto Devereux) more challenging than Kundry? However, my understanding might be imperfect, and I am certainly open to instruction.
            Also, except for a matter of personal preferences (which is above all criticism or comments, and deserves respect if not agreement), why would I listen to Callas as Isolde, Turandot, Mimi, Santuzza, Elettra, Butterfly, Rosina, or Amelia when I can, in 2012, listen to Flagstad, Nilsson, Victoria de Los Angeles, Mirella Freni, Lina Bruna Rasa, Behrens, Licia Albanese, Marilyn Horne and Maria Caniglia (or, if you prefer, Ljuba Welitsch with Mirto Picci, admittedly an idiosyncratic choice) sing these without even having to buy the albums? Am I my making my point a bit more lucidly now? Callas did a lot of things moderately to very well. Others (not one person, but a different artist in each case) left their marks upon certain roles indelibly, (as did Callas for Norma, Medee, Anna Bolena etc.) and thanks to modern technology, we have ALL of them available instantly, whereas in, say, 1985, one would have to at least get all the albums to listen to the different interpretations. IMHO, this accounts for part of Callas’ popularity.
            As for Nilsson’s Tosca being camp, well, obviously I wasn’t there, so I will take your word for it, but she sounds fabulous, nuanced and fierce (in a non-drag-queen sense). I do like Callas’ interpretation, but do not find it uber-special, and her tone never agrees with me anyway. Again, a matter of taste.
            Whew, that was a long post. Anyhoo, I’d like to wish all of you a very happy long weekend. Your posts are almost always awesome!

          • kashania says:

            Kid: As I said, everyone has their tastes and I certainly don’t expect everyone to love Callas. But it was the dismissive nature of your previous post that I found objectionable. The only thing I will ask is: Why pick absolutes at all? Why not listen to Callas and Tebaldi (and Price and Milanov) as Tosca? And I’m not touching the apples and oranges question of which is more difficult: Elisabetta or Kundry.

            BTW, I think you’re new here, so welcome! It’s a great place to chat and learn about opera.

          • grimoaldo says:

            “Why not listen to Callas and Tebaldi (and Price and Milanov) as Tosca?”

            Or you could do something really wild, like go and see it rather than just listen to recordings made forty, fifty, sixty years ago --
            like, oh, for instance


            “Music director Nicola Luisotti, “one of his generation’s most accomplished Puccini conductors” (Opera News), leads two astonishing casts.

            One stars Angela Gheorghiu, “in a part she seems to have been born to play” (Opera Today) and “who, like Tosca, is a born diva” (The Independent, London)”

          • kashania says:

            Hey, Grim. No need to hit me with that argument. I go see every live opera I can in my city (and sometime even travel to see it).

          • grimoaldo says:

            I know kashie I was not directing that specifically at you, more at the attitude that a good prima donna is one that’s dead or retired and also putting in a plug for AG as Tosca.

          • Krunoslav says:

            “why would I listen to Callas as… Elettra”

            In this case the salient question, whether you meant Mozart or Strauss-in-italiano, is alas not “why” but “how”..

          • kashania says:

            Grim: I love Gherghiu and think she has the style and temperament for Tosca. I just find her voice a bit too light for the part to put her up with the greats. I don’t think there are many sopranos who can sing a great Tosca these days.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            I have no problem with people who don’t like Callas’ singing or voice or with those who think she is totally mediocre. I am annoyed with people who throw around terms like “Callas worshiper” or “Callas widow” simply because we appreciate her singing and art.
            I have seen everyone and their grandmother sing Tosca, but the two best, imnsho, were Tebaldi and Callas. I know that was a long time ago, and that’s too bad. I would love to see another great Tosca, so find me one.

          • grimoaldo says:

            Such a looooooooong time ago, although not in the Tebaldi/Callas era, I saw Raina Kabaivanska as Tosca with Pav and Peter Glossop at Covent Garden. She was totally great as far as I was concerned so I would say that I saw one great Tosca at least. I would love to see AG do the part, every time of the numerous times I have seen her live she has rocked the house and I have loved her.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Herewith due rebuttal of the notion that Gheorghiu is too light for Tosca, as usual.

          • manou says:

            “Gheorghiu is too light for Tosca” is an enduring Parterre meme, usually from people who have never heard her sing it.

            Not forgetting “Gheorghiu is inaudible”, of course.

          • kashania says:

            I did not say that Gherghiu is too light to sing Tosca, just that I think she’s too light for me to consider among the very greats in the role. It’s true that I’ve not heard her sing it live, only on recording and broadcast. I would jump at the chance to see her to do it live.

          kashania says:

          Every has different tastes and all (like preferring Nilsson’s Tosca), but I find this line terribly dismissive:

          I do not think that these days any one would fall for that “assoluta” nonsense.

          “These days” wouldn’t be what they are without Maria. Just sayin’.

          • The_Kid says:

            hi, thank you for the welcoming words. yes, i hope to learn a lot about opera from y’all. so there!
            a few things to clear up:
            1. i didn’t imply that callas sang elektra, i was just giving examples of diverse roles that could potentially be sung by one soprano, although i admit it is a bit weird to imagine the same soprano singing mimi and elektra.
            2. live opera: alas, that option is available to only a few of us. geography, my dear chap. geography.
            3. “Callas widow”: i would never use that term unless under great provocation, but don’t you think that in all fairness, some mad Callas fans do ask for it? I am yet to see Renata Scotto’s fans or Beverly Sills’ fans posting insulting comments on YT videos of other singers.
            Well, that’s my piece, and I said it! :)

          • Krunoslav says:

            “1. i didn’t imply that callas sang elektra”

            Well, not to be too pissy (since your points are interesting, Kid) but you certainly did, since every other role you mentioned was in Callas’ recorded and or /stage rep (“why would I listen to Callas as Isolde, Turandot, Mimi, Santuzza, Elettra, Butterfly, Rosina, or Amelia”) and in fact you even specified the ambiguous “Elettra” as such. I think maybe rhetoric too has different generational filters, increasingly so in the internet age?

            “i was just giving examples of diverse roles that could potentially be sung by one soprano, although i admit it is a bit weird to imagine the same soprano singing mimi and elektra.”

            True enough. I recall an account by Andrew Porter of a Klara Barlow recital in which she sang a Mimi aria and then later Elektra’s monologue. Eva Marton recorded both Mimi arias.

            But Florence Easton, that repertory devourer and rule-breaker, coached Elektra with Strauss and sang it at Covent Garden; six years later she was singing Mimi in Chicago, and she recorded the first act aria and also “O soave fanciulla” opposite Giulio Crimi, the tenor with whom she created GIANNI SCHICCHI.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Not to mention Zschau, the Musetta/Elektra.

          • Krunoslav says:

            And Scotto, the Mimi/Musetta/Klytemnestra!


          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            I knew we’d end up playing this game. Flagstad sprang to mind first -- I’m sure I read that Mimi was one of her early roles before she took up Wagner and hit the big time, and of course she recorded at least the recognition scene from Elektra.

            The Kid’s earlier Kundry/Elisabetta (in Devereux) comparison would probably be harder, although of course Callas so nearly could have -- I really, really wish she had included it in her Donizetti roles.

          armerjacquino says:

          within a few hours, I can hear Lee Price sing Aida, Joannie sing Lucia, Big Renata sing Leonora, Birgit sing Tosca,….which leaves us with Medee, Norma, and Violetta

          Yeah, but who else can you listen to in every single one of those roles?

  • 10
    Vergin Vezzosa says:

    Yikes! It’s LIBRETTI. Sorry.

  • 11

    You know me, I just HAD to put my two cents over the “assoluta” business. Assoluta means sfogato, basta. That is to say, a dark soprano (or a mezzo-soprano, even) with a typical coloratura extension, up to E flat (a true coloratura is supposed to hit an F). And by proxy it means, of course, a soprano who is really able to do justice to the drammatico d’agilita roles (and we can all name them). So yes, Callas was an “assoluta”.

  • 12
    The_Kid says:


    Not being pissy or anything, but I looked up the drammatico d’agilita roles, and came up with:

    Abigaille ( Nabucco , Verdi )
    Gemma ( Gemma di Vergy , Gaetano Donizetti )
    Imogene ( The pirate , Vincenzo Bellini )
    Lady Macbeth ( Macbeth , Giuseppe Verdi)
    Leonora ( Il Trovatore , Giuseppe Verdi)
    Mary Stuart ( Mary Queen of Scots , Gaetano Donizetti)
    Norma ( Norma , Vincenzo Bellini)
    Odabella ( Attila , Giuseppe Verdi)
    Semiramide ( Semiramis , Gioachino Rossini )
    Ines de Castro ( Ines de Castro , Joseph Persians )

    I am not sure if Maria Callas sang/recorded Gemma, Maria Stuarda, Odabella (except for ‘O nel fuggente nuvolo’), Semiramide (except for ‘Bel raggio lusinghier’), or Ines. Also, if we go by numbers, Beverly Sills and Joan Sutherland probably sang as many of these roles in equally important venues. So, are they to be called Assolutas, too? How about Eileen Farrell, whose sheer repertoire is mind-blowing? Just wondering!

    • 12.1
      operalover9001 says:

      Sills sang Stuarda, and Norma (only in smaller houses). Sutherland sang Stuarda, Norma, and Semiramide. And yes, people consider them to be assolutas as well. Farrell is slightly different -- she had a huge range of roles, but she never really focused on bel canto roles as much, and the ‘assoluta’ label usually applies to bel canto roles.

      • 12.1.1
        Clita del Toro says:

        Sills did sing Norma and quite nicely, but she was really not a Norma! I saw her sing the role in Boston in the early 70’s.

    • 12.2
      Clita del Toro says:

      Kid, i don’t get your point. Labels like “drammatico d’agilita” don’t really mean that much. Sfogato, schmogato!

      Btw, Sills had a much lighter voice than Callas or Sutherland. She was a lyric or coloratura who pushed her voice into the heavier roles.

    • 12.3
      kashania says:

      I guess there are two ways of defining a singer. One is to focus mainly on the singer’s voice and ability. And the other is to define the singer by the roles she sang. As Clita points out, Sills sang a lot of dramatic coloratura roles but that doesn’t mean she had the voice of one.

      On another note, there’s composer with the last name of Persians? And he wrote bel canto opera? Must go googling…

      • 12.3.1
        kashania says:

        Ah, Giuseppe Persiani.

          Camille says:

          He was either the husband or father (can’t remember which and no time to google) of the soprano Fanny Tacchinardi-Persiani, the first Lucia di Lammermoor. All I can remember off the top of my head, dear.

          • The_Kid says:

            ah, the hunt’s afoot…..daddy, hubby, or Chinatown? :P

          • Camille says:

            Oh my! This so alarmed me that I took it upon myself to sort it out.

            Nicola Tacchinardi, tenor and teacher, was her Father, whereas Giuseppe Persiani, composer, was her husband. Upon her marriage to Signor Persiani she appended his name to her own surname, in time honoured diva fashion. A great and important diva of the Romantic Opera era and the creatrix of not only the aforementioned Lucia, but also his Rosamunda d’Inghilterraand Pia de’ Tolomei.

      • 12.3.2
        Clita del Toro says:

        Right, Kashie.

        Look at Scotto, who was labeled a “lyric-coloratura.”

        Singing roles like Gioconda, Lady Macbeth, Norma and others were a stretch. In that way she was no Callas, who was exemplary in each of them.

    • 12.4
      Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Calling Callas an assoluta doesn’t mean there can’t be others. It gets applied to almost anybody who does a reasonable raft of bel canto roles plus a decent smattering of spinto roles -- pretty much anybody who can sing a top e-flat, manage some coloratura tollerably well and come up with enough spinto thrust for Act II of Tosca has been described as an assoluta at some point. I do think the notes above high c are an important part of the definition, which would exclude Farrell. I think in all fairness it can be applied to Callas, Sutherland and Gencer, and you can make a case for Caballe (even though I’m contradicting myself about those top notes there), possibly Sills although as others have said I think she was too light for the label to really stick, and maybe Devia although I don’t think she rouses enough general excitement.

      • 12.4.1
        Nerva Nelli says:

        “Calling Callas an assoluta doesn’t mean there can’t be others.”

          Cocky Kurwenal says:

          Indeed Nerva, I just saw a similar claim about Simone Kermes in an amazon customer review -- somebody has let her record yet another CD, would you believe.

          • armerjacquino says:

            I only realised the other day that the TROVATORE featuring Kermes and the remains of Herbert Lippert is a COMPLETE recording! I thought she’d only worked her special magic on the Act 4 scena.

            God ALONE knows what the Act 1 trio sounds like *shudder*

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Wow, Cocky,

            This is what happens when the words “diva” and “Callas-like” get applied indiscriminately.

            Kermes, Lippert and — let me guess, Dagmar Peckova as Azucena and Olaf Baer as di Luna?

          • Clita del Toro says:

            I just listened to the Simone Kermes’ D’amor…. from Trovatore. What the F! it’s just too weird. I especially liked the thrilling Miserere. I’d like to hear her Aida and Isolde as well.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Nerva: Simone and Herbert are joined by Yvonne Naef and Miljenko Turk. As Caruso said, it’s an opera which requires the four greatest singers in the world.

          • kashania says:

            Simone Kermes’ D’amor.

            What an absurd thought! When is she supposed to bob up and down?

          • sl says:

            I bet she works those trills!

          Camille says:

          “chokes with laughter”.

          • luvtennis says:

            We have already mined all the comic gold to be offered by the Kermes Trovatore. You all are just jealous biatches.

            You need to accept that fact that La Kermes is the pre-eminent Verdiana of her day…and on her planet.

            I have it on good authority that Tu Vedrai was staged as a Britney Spears music video, complete with back-up bobbers, er dancers. Music drama will never be the same.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Can the Kermes FORZA and BALLO be far behind?

      • 12.4.2
        The_Kid says:

        Thank you, that makes sense. I’d definitely call Gencer and Sutherland assolutas then! :)

        BTW, is Beatrice di Tenda an assoluta role?

          Hippolyte says:

          Speaking of Beatrice, Angela Meade is singing the opera at Carnegie Hall on 5 December with Collegiate Chorale--no other casting so far.

          • Camille says:

            Thanks SO much for early notice of this, Hippolyte!!! It will be the first opportunity EVER which I have been afforded to hear this opera! I’ll have to hunt around for my old call me crazy gal, Angeles Gulin, to brush up on it first, though.

            Maybe I should go looking for another—-debate: Joanie or Junie—which?

            Merci autre fois. M. Hippolyte!!!

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Camille Belle, Angeles Gulin!!!!!! now THAT was a HUGE voice, I saw her Met debut! what a tragedy she died a few months later, she was easily twice as big as Dimitrova, and such a warm sound, not the metallic edge of Dimitrova.

            Yes of course I was at Carnegie Hall in 1979 for Montsy, I saw EVERYTHING she ever did in Suck City from 1977 (with a few before such as the Boheme with Luciano in 1976 and the Vespri) until the horrifying Don Carlo in 1985, after that probably nothing (not that she did much more after that in Suck City anyway)

          • Camille says:

            What was La Gulin’s debut role?

            She is also on a recording of Stiffelio, with Mario del Monaco and fairly impressive. I do not know a lot about her except that a friend of mine called her “una pazzarella”. Don’t know the whyfore

            Do you remembde the pandaemonium at the Caballé recital in ’79?

            Oops, we are being OOQ’s and had better stop.

          • peter says:

            Camille, Gulin’s debut (and only Met performance) was as Elena in Vespri. I was there as well and remember it to be one of the biggest sounds I’ve ever heard but it was a mess above the staff.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Gulin was in Vespri and I think it was a single performance, basque I would have gone for more had there been more (but I am not sure of that). She was pazza alright, like Elizabeth Payer-Tucci and Bianca Berini, but aren’t they all to one degree or another?

            Yes I do recall the pandemonium for la Montsy, I was probably one of the loudest queens doing the howling, as at that point I was one of the fiercest Montsy partisans. At that time there was Montsy, Leonie and Yelena Obtraztsova and no one else….. (no “Greatest Behrens” yet until the sublime Fidelio of 1980 with Jon Vickers)

          • marshiemarkII says:

            basque = becasue ugggggh

          • marshiemarkII says:

            becasue = because, real ugggggggghhhhh!

          • Camille says:

            Thanks, ragazzi! Shame it did not work out with Gulin, though.

            Her daughter, I think Angeles Blanca, is not quite in the same league.

          Camille says:

          Hi Kid.
          You are certainly a brave one, butting heads with this crowd!!

          I do hope this posts, a book by a Mr. Geoffrey S. Righs on the so-called “Assoluta Voice”. I have yet to read it. A list of very specific rôles is included which is meant to either define or categorise this voice. Let’s see if it prints out:

          The Assoluta Voice in Opera 1797-1847

          Geoffrey S. Riggs
          0 Reviews
          McFarland, 2003 -- Music -- 263 pages
          It is unusual for styles in opera to carry over from one era into another. It would be even more unusual for one eras characteristics to linger two generations into the next. Yet this is precisely what happened during the first half of the nineteenth century, when the intricacies of the fleet bel canto style were combined with the Romantic eras heroic declamation and formidable orchestral emphasis resulting in the creation of the assoluta voice. This work traces the emergence of the impressive vocal writing that resulted from the marriage of the bel canto and Romantic eras. It also covers the uniquely versatile divas who were given the opportunities to make their mark on opera from the time of Cherubini to that of a young Verdi. Here, both the wide-ranging vocalism in the scores themselves and the artists capable of performing this style are referred to as assoluta. Chapters consider Luigi Cherubinis Mde, Gioacchino Rossinis Armida, Carl Maria von Webers Oberon, Gaetano Donizettis Anna Bolena, Vincenzo Bellinis Norma, Donizettis Gemma di Vergy and Roberto Devereux, the time of transition in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Giuseppe Verdis Nabucco and Macbeth.
          Preview this book »

          Good--it did. I do not know by what authority Mr. Righs makes such claims for these specific rôles nor what research he has exhaustively done to pronounce on this literature however there is precious little written as there is, at least nowadays, and therefore appreciated.

          Hope this helps out a little in this discussion and more precisely narrows down the category.

          • Camille says:

            So sorry to mistype Mr. RigGs’ name twice. NOT RigHs!!!

            Butterfingers camillamalafemmina

          • Camille says:

            Oh, and to clarify the opera after Cherubini’s name, a mistake on the webpage and not mme. Butterfingers’, it is his MÉDÉE, not MDE!

          • The_Kid says:

            Mme Camille, that book seems to be very hard to get. The Uni where I work has a pretty nice music library, and the local public library too is wonderful, but I failed to find the tome in either establishment :P

            Also, the role choices seem to be rather odd. Plus, doesn’t he also talk about something called assoluta manque, in which he places Kundry and Odabella? I could never get his logic, really (at least from the Google Books preview).

            I consider Ethan Mordden’s Big Five (ELEKTRA, TURANDOT, NORMA, ISOLDE, THE 4 BRUENHILDES) to be a much more valid yardstick for measuring the diversity of dramatic sopranos, although it favors the Teutonic repertoire over the Italianate one.

          • The_Kid says:

            oh, and here’s a treat for all of us: Hojotoho with impeccable legato, sung by someone who created, of all things, M. Butterfly!

          • operalover9001 says:

            I’ve always found it fascinating how those two Butterflies had such different repertoires -- Storchio sang Mimi, Micaela, and Lodoletta, whereas Krushelnytska (I hope I spelled that correctly) sang Salome and Elsa…

          • Camille says:

            Kid, they probably have it at juilliard book store. They have most everything. I am not entirely convinced by his argument and would like to know more about where his research is based upon and why these particular roles are chosen. Well, Gemma is a bitch of a score, making Lucia look like a piker in comparison.

            Let me know if I can help. I am glad to do so.

          • The_Kid says:

            Thanks, Mme. Camille. Very kind! :) Hope this week finds you in the very best of health and cheers.

  • 13
    Milady DeWinter says:

    Kid -- you are indeed brave to tackle the “assoluta” topic within these “walls”.

    Not all assolutas are assolutely persuasive as we have seen from the plethora of discussion -- plus the term has somewhat morphed since the days of Mme. Callas, who truly must take pride of place for re-discovering the fach.

    However, if you want to visit a wax museum of vocal assoluta horror at YT,(and who doesn’t occasionally? After all, it’s nearly Halloween) do search Ms. Adelaide Negri.

    Oh, the terror. She actually (allegedly) gave some decent performances at the Met (including a broadcast Norma, which MdW has not yet hear via pirate Cd or Sirius archival) and is (or was)evidently regarded as goddess in her native Argentina.

    And on a more personal note, alas, I am still doctoring the lumbar area with steroids (thank you for asking)and my home computer issues, which I thought had been resolved via three hours of “expert” tech services with Comcast, have not yet been resolved. But the good news is that the service call hinkmaster, (yes, I actually had to get an in-home service call) said all I need is a new ethernet plug’n’play card plopped into the mother board and all should be well.

    • 13.1
      The_Kid says:

      MdW: hope your lumbar problems soon become a thing of the past, and cute PC repairmen shower you and your PC with the attention you both deserve. In the meantime, enjoy the “Hojotoho” posted above, while I recover from Adelaide Negri’s Beatrice di Tenda, which, in all honesty, doesn’t seem to be any worse than June Anderson’s.

      • 13.1.1
        marshiemarkII says:

        Oh, watch out for my dear buddy Grimo, Kiddie, now you are really playing with FIRE!
        Thank God you like the greatest Behrens :-)

          grimoaldo says:

          It’s ok marshie, I am used to people not liking my beloved June, what my opinion would be of her had I not seen her live many many times I do not know.
          “para el gusto las flores, para escoger los colores”, an expression I learned today!

          • Camille says:

            June sends you her love--

            Check out this video on YouTube:

            I was delighted to have found this as only two years or so before I had seen her sing this role at La Scala and shall never forget it.

          • Camille says:

            Grimoaldo dear—just now I have finished viewing La Junie’s Sonnambula and I must insist you see it at ONCE! [if you haven’t already]. The last scene is so affecting and tender, sad and beautiful, that I am sure it was all what Bellini could have wished for.

            Altogether a lovely and lovingly rendered production with everyone holding their weight in worthy fashion. Raul Gimenez (Elvino), Roberto Scandiuzzi (Count Rodolfo), Corinna Vozza (Teresa). Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, 1988.

          • grimoaldo says:

            Thank you for the sweet message Camille, I am so glad you enjoy that video, I have watched it hundreds of times I suppose, especially June’s first aria and the finale. The lady who plays her foster mother looks so perfect!
            I hope you are fully recovered now!
            All best from grim

          • grimoaldo says:

            And while we are on the subject, I really recommend everyone/anyone to check out that first aria and cabaletta Come per me sereno, starts at 16:14, June at her beautiful, stunning best.

          • Camille says:

            I might have known!! Haha! I was so thrilled to find it and to see my much beloved jewel box teatro again, too!!

            Yes, I too thought Corinna Vozza was exceptionally good as Teresa, a comprimaria part but one which must exert so authority and gravitas, as she did.

            I shall return to this gem many a time. The romani certainly did love La Junie, as one can hear on this recording. It makes me remember all those dear old souls I spent many happy evenings in the Galleria with enjoying so many works. How they loved it all and how they were so truly devoted. It was so touching to witness, not to mention, instructive.

          The_Kid says:

          Whoa, I DO LIKE June Anderson, just not in the BdT I heard. All singers have off days, I guess….and I think the recording was pirated, too. I like her Marie with Alfredo Kraus in “Caregiver of the Regiment” (sorry if that sounds ageist), and her Cunegonde with Christa Ludwig as the Old Lady.
          I like Behrens too, but evidently not as much as you do, MMII. But we won’t open THAT can of worms :P Like some of the ONLY MARIA gang here, I like ONLY BIRGIT in some roles, and I am gonna stick to it! :)

          • Milady DeWinter says:

            Milady de Winter is delighted that the Kid (among other fine folk here) is a fan of Miss Anderson and that she need not dip into her bejeweled evening clutch to dispense any lethal bonbons.
            I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Miss Anderson live during her prime, mostly as Gilda, Lucia, and Violetta, and let me tell you, that voice in the house had a ring that made the chandeliers chez Met tingle with delight. I suspect the Beatrice di Tenda was just an off-night.
            I heard Miss Anderson in an off-night too -- the notoriously ill-advised “Fille du Regiment” production which was revived at Mr. Pavarotti’s insistence in the late 90s, when he was no longer up to the task, even with transpositions. Miss Anderson was not happy to be cast in that disaster, and her performance was singularly lacklustre, more an editorial comment on her part than any diminishing of her astonishing resources. Have you heard her more recent forays as Daphne and Salome (en francais, certainement): astonishing state of vocal preservation.

            MdW can understand, however, that some auditors found a certain, shall we say, “dullness” in Miss Anderson, and in that, she shared a commonality with equally lantern-jawed co-eval, Miss Sutherland, whom I admire vastly, but whose middle and lower range was also inclined to opaqueness and what MdW can only describe as a certain “school-marmish” quality. No big deal, a great artist. Just an observation.

            The effect of Miss Anderson’s performances were sort of a cumulative “wow” -- when she went into full high gear, splendor reigned. And in that, she also shares honors with the only other “serious” coloratura to continue the Callas/Sutherland/Sills line, and that is Miss Mariella Devia. Also a bit on the dull side, but only at first pass.
            Technically every bit the peer of her illustrious predecessors, Devia possessed perhaps the rarest asset of all: a soprano whose tone actually became lovelier the higher she ascended. Without Devia and Anderson (and MdW also acknowledges the contributions of the talented and apparently ageless Gruberova -- but that’s another story), I’m afraid the whole line of accomplished coloraturas with something to say would have vanished.

            The once charming and thrilling Miss Dessay did not truly fit the bill in the Italian repertoire, nor does the still fresh-voiced Miss Damrau.

            And we will not deign to discuss the highly touted but woefully ill-prepared Miss Machaidze as a legitimate contender of anything beyond Musetta lest MdW be compelled to dig into that dangerous evening clutch and cast dire vapors towards the Georgian Geschreistress.

          • Camille says:

            Milady De —

            What a capital idea! The bonbons, I mean.

            Now I am wondering whether Connie Corleone styled cannolis could some way be stashed as well, to lob off on misguided Regie directors?

            Thanks. Judith Leiber, here I come.