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Lady for one day

“But the part [Anna Netrebko] seems most excited about is Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s treatment of Shakespeare’s Scottish play. ‘It is coming, but not that soon,’ she said. ‘As a soprano who sings Lucia di Lammermoor, I have the high notes and the trills. No problems there. But going into the low registers is lots of work’.” [Wall Street Journal]

91 comments

  • Regina delle fate says:

    Rutter was far from extraordinary at Grange Park -- she was game and did a decent job in a tiny theatre. I think most of the UK reviewers judged it accordingly, unless you can find one that she was Callas, Sutherland and Caballe rolled into one….

    • The Vicar of John Wakefield says:

      THE TELEGRAPH
      Norma, at Grange Park Opera / Roberto Devereux, at Opera Holland Park -- review

      The season begins with a triumph from two inexplicably underrated sopranos.

      By Rupert Christiansen

      4:03PM BST 04 Jun 2009

      The summer festival season gets into gear as two inexplicably underrated sopranos triumph in testing bel canto roles. At Grange Park, the technical demands of Bellini’s Norma hold no terrors for the extraordinary Claire Rutter, who embraces the meditative hymn of “Casta diva”, the coloratura fireworks of the confrontation with Pollione and the Gluckian sublime of her final self-sacrifice with an ease, command and tonal splendour which I haven’t heard equalled for a generation.

      • grimoaldo says:

        In unexpected byways of the internet, one finds some truly fascinating manifestations of the endless possibilities of humans to display bizarre behaviour. Nerva/ the vicar’s fixation apparently has led him to acquire an encyclopaedic knowledge of British operatic activity from around the time of the early 20th century until today with a staggering knowledge of minutiae such as every British singer who ever sang in the US, all reviews of British operatic performance, every singer who ever appeared with Sadler’s Wells / ENO, and all, apparently, so he can make mocking comments on this website. Such a negative way to use the ability he obviously possesses, I hope he applies his talent in some more positive manner elsewhere.

      • Regina delle fate says:

        Well, it was at Grange Park, which uses the same pool of as Opera North and ENO, rather than Covent Garden, and the recent history of Norma in the UK is not exactly an illustrious one: Nelly Miricioiu (a tad late) at Covent Garden in concert and at Holland Park on stage, as well as mezzo soprano Yvonne Howard for English Touring Opera, so it’s possible that Christiansen hasn’t heard a better Norma in a generation. Rutter’s GPO would have given the last Norma I heard at the Met -- Hasmik Papian -- a run for her money, though possibly not at the Met. It was a sturdy, decently sung performance, a bit too verismo for my taste. Rutter is a good house-soprano type, but plenty of those have international careers today….

    • manou says:

      Regina -- it was unwise to ask for it :

      http://www.bachtrack.com/Bellini%27s+Norma+at+Grange+Park+Opera+Festival

      “I have first hand experience of this in that my mother and father took me to see Callas sing Norma in Paris in the 1960s when I was just seven years old, so I went to Grange Park’s performance on Friday with mixed expectations: Norma is one of my very favourite operas, full of glorious melodies, set-piece arias and wonderful ensemble parts, but an English country house production couldn’t be that good, could it?

      The answer was a resounding yes. Claire Rutter’s singing of Norma was superb, with clear diction, plenty of expression and beautiful tone: Rutter was also able move the dynamics from the soft and intimate to the loudest fortissimi (in the showpiece aria Casta Diva) without losing expression, intonation or tone. Her acting was more than credible throughout the range, and in satisfying contrast to a Callas-like performance, I felt that I was there to see and hear the character of Norma rather than to see and hear Claire Rutter.

      with apologies.

      • Regina delle fate says:

        That’s why I don’t read the Telegraph! Ah well I heard her Norma and the reviews I read were considerably less gushing. My comparison would have been Elizabeth Vaughan on a not-so-great night. Except Vaughan had the sense not to sing Norma. Suzanne Murphy’s Norma was more convincing than Rutter’s.

      • Nerva Nelli says:

        Grazie, Manou. How amusing that Grimoaldo thinks one has to hunt obsessively for this kind of “Our Own” thing--Rutter’s being a more *artistic*, ***self-effacing*** Norma than Callas’ portrayal… :)

  • Archaeopteryx says:

    Well, I am waiting for Anna Caterina Antonacci to sing Norma, after all. And let’s remember that Devia will do it next year. As for Lady M, I would like to remind that Jennifer Larmore sang it splendidly in Geneva this year, therefore I think from a mere vocal point of view Netrebko would be quite able to tackle that role. But if she has the bitchiness and grandeur for the role, I don’t know. I stick to Larmore and wait for her Cherubini Medea, which is coming up soon.

  • isis00 says:

    I’m an AN fan (I think she is fantastic in the bel canto rep, and she’s a doll in real life), but I don’t see anything good from her singing Lady M. Yes, the role has coloratura, high notes, and trills, but it also has dramatic soprano-type moments, frequent dips into chest register, and it is a bear to sing, stamina-wise. This is the kind of role, along with Abigaille, that has killed promising and well-loved soprano voices. She also said in that WSJ article interview that she “forswore Gilda” -- yes, a difficult role to tackle, but can’t be more difficult than Lady M!

    As far as her tackling Manon Lescaut, but not Butterfly, Tosca, or Suor Angelica, I’m confused, as they are all the same Fach (lirico spinto), so the same voice who sings Cio-cio-san would also sing Angelica and Manon. Those are not roles for lighter voices, and she would do well to keep her Puccini to Mimi (can be sung successfully by a full lyric, which I believe that AN has become vocally) and perhaps Liu.

    This trend of singing anything and everything that you want to, without regards to vocal preservation and longevity, is baffling to me. I get that singers want to be versatile, and there is always room for it within one’s Fach, but to go from Adina and Lucia to Manon Lescaut and Lady M is a gigantic leap. Leaps like that can ruin a voice and, in some cases, lead to effectively ending a bright career. I’m not advocating being frightened in choosing roles, but there’s something to be said of being a specialist in a certain rep, and being wonderful at it, while sustaining a long career. That’s what the great singers of the past did, and it kept them singing for decades.

    • kashania says:

      She’s gradually moving into lirico-spinto territory and I’m glad she’s doing it. I think her voice has grown into those kinds of roles. But while I’m not sure about her opinion on Tosca, I know that she said she’s not doing Butterfly or Suor Angelica (or Desdemona) because she’s not interested in them. It’s not that she can’t sing them.

    • La Cieca says:

      This trend of singing anything and everything that you want to, without regards to vocal preservation and longevity, is baffling to me.

      Then you would have been baffled by most of the history of vocal performance. The idea of the narrowly defined fach developed relatively recently and is a century old at most. When Verdi, Bellini, Donizetti and even Puccini were writing, there was no artificial “lirico spinto” category. Yes, there were some voices that were very light and some voices that were very heavy. But in general sopranos (and other singers) picked and chose roles that suited them, dropping and adding parts as the voice matured.

      Frankly, this notion that “vocal longevity” being based on what is sung rather than how it is sung is not only nonsense; it’s dangerous. It would be perfectly possible for Anna Netrebko to sing Aida, for example, or Amelia in Ballo, but only with the understanding (which anyone in the 19th century would have assumed as a matter of course) that the role would be sung in her voice, on her terms: in other words, she would not be expected to sound like Martina Arroyo or Birgit Nilsson or Renata Tebaldi, but rather like Anna Netrebko singing these words and notes.

      In fact, of the parts Netrebko discusses in the interview, the only one that is out of the fairy narrow range of lyric soprano is Lady Macbeth, a part she plans to leave until later, and presumably will not sing very frequently anyway since the work is done relatively rarely. If turns out the part is uncongenial to her voice, she can always “retire” it as she did Violetta a couple of seasons ago.

      On the whole, I think it a wonderful thing that Netrebko has an appetite for interesting new roles instead of the stingy approach that characterizes a lot of singers: “No, I won’t sing that, and I won’t sing that, and I won’t sing that, because I want to retire at 60 with my voice in perfect condition.” In perfect condition for whom?

      • isis00 says:

        La Cieca, there are many singers who’d argue with you that singing anything and everything is healthy for the voice. Leontyne Price stayed strictly in the lirico spinto category when she performed live, and left going out of her Fach to recordings. Same for Joan Sutherland, Richard Tucker, Cornell MacNeil, Tito Gobbi, Jessye Norman, for example.

        Those singers who did stray out of their vocal comforts for the glory of singing larger-voiced roles, paid a heavy price for it. When the fantastic Anna Moffo, who excelled in the bel canto genre (Violetta, Lucia, et al) ventured into Butterfly and other heavy roles, she damaged her voice to the extent that she had to retire from singing. When Renata Tebaldi, one my favorite Puccini and Verdi heroines, attempted to sing Violetta and Minnie (at separate times), she had vocal issues that, thankfully, she was able to keep at bay by returning to the rep that her voice was suited for.

        It’s always good for a singer to have an appetite for interesting new roles. But would you ask Juan Diego Florez to try singing Rodolfo or Cavaradossi? Would Jonas Kaufmann be well-advised to sing Count Almaviva in Barber? Today’s trend of flash-in the pan is becoming so commonplace, singers and people such as myself are being ridiculed for being “limiting”. I’d rather retire with my voice in good condition like Price did, rather than trash it all in the name of trying every role ever written, because who wants a 10 year career when they can have 25 or 30 years, even 40?

        • armerjacquino says:

          Yes, the singers you mention stayed within fach and had long careers. But it’s more complicated than that. Freni and Scotto were both leggeros who forced themselves into heavy spinto rep and sang successfully into their sixties. Rysanek flung her voice about as if there was no tomorrow and sang EVERYTHING, and she had a long career too.

          • The_Kid says:

            Not to forget La Nilsson, who sang the heaviest repertoire imaginable (Isolde, Bruenhilde, Turandot, Elektra, Dyer’s wife, Lady Macbeth, not to mention her Mozartian and Verdian forays), and sang it well into her sixties! Also, she wrapped up her career with Elektra and Dyer’s wife, roles that sopranos in their prime struggle with. The clip below shows she kept her high notes well into her seventies!

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            The point really though, The_Kid, is staying in Fach. Even if your Fach is the heaviest repertoire imaginable, by general consensus the most healthy thing is to stick to one, which Nilsson largely did.

        • Camille says:

          Ah, question— how is it Anna Moffo “retired from singing” as a result of having so injudiciously sung Madame Butterfly…? Me ne meraviglio….

          As evidenced by the following, Madame Butterfly—as sung in 1956, well before the start of her Metropolitan Opera—was not only well within her capabilities but, in fact and indeed, the very role that catapulted her to stardom in Italy and started her ascent on the international level.

          Un bel dì, vedremo, RAI telecast of 1956, starring the wonderful Miss Moffo

          Miss Moffo in the terrible ending to Butterfly, entirely holding her own

          I have not checked the Met Archives to see if she perhaps sang a late in career poor performance of Butterfly—I’ll leave that to others—however, I think there other problems, including husband number one, that lead to her retirement.

    • messa di voce says:

      “This trend of singing anything and everything that you want to, without regards to vocal preservation and longevity, is baffling to me . . .
      That’s what the great singers of the past did, and it kept them singing for decades.”

      It’s not a trend, and it’s definitely not what singers of the past did. Skim through “The Record of Singing” and just notice how many of the greats were shot by the time they were 40 (Farrar and Destinn were two that come to mind). And then there were singers like Patti who went from Amina to Carmen to Aida and lasted forever. You just can’t make rules about how voices are going to hold up.

      • CwbyLA says:

        Why is vocal longevity so important anyways? One of the most exciting singer, Maria Callas, didn’t last long, did she?

        • Porgy Amor says:

          Well, no, but while Maria Callas had a lot of things coveted by later divas who sought to emulate her (vocal expression, stage presence, questing musical/dramatic intelligence), I don’t think anyone has ever said, “I want to make choices that will allow me to sound like Maria Callas did in her late thirties when I’m the same age.” Vocal longevity is important because most singers want to keep sounding their best and being kept on the rosters of the major houses in significant roles, well into their middle age.

        • oedipe says:

          Because when we come across something good we want it to last for ever.

        • kashania says:

          And with Callas, it wasn’t so much her choice of roles (though singing Brunnhilde in your early 20s isn’t going to preserve your voice) as it was the way she sang, how much she sang, and the combination of her dramatic weight loss followed by the years during when she abandoned her discipline while enjoying the high life with Onassis.

          • The Vicar of John Wakefield says:

            I see no cause for anyone,--still less a (presumably) Slavic person--to get cheeky about Browning Mummery, along with Lionel Cecil one of Australia’s finest tenors and a damn sight less cheaply latinate than such Pinkertons as Gigli, di Stefano, Bergonzi and that portly fellow.

        • The_Kid says:

          well, that doesn’t mean that all sopranos have to make that terrible choice, does it? also, why not talk about melchior, whose heldentenor was impeccable well into his seventies, or schumann-heink, who created erda and klytemnestra when other artists retire from the stage? while a lot of people derive pleasure from a picturesque ruin after a flash in the pan, others enjoy greater satisfaction from a prolonged and well-preserved career. one suspects that even divas wouldn’t consent to ruin their voices so early just to please some of their more disturbed and obsessed fans.

          • Krunoslav says:

            Kid, not to contradict your point (Mattia Battistini, Helen Donath and Mark Reizen are other examples of incredible vocal longevity) but while “the Schumann-Heink” created Klytemnestra in 1909, she most certainly did *not* create Erda!!! RHEINGOLD saw the light in 1869, with the Munich-based contralto Emma Seehofer (who created Schwertleite the same year) as the first Erda I. Schumann-Heink was then 8 years old! SIEGFRIED came out in 1876, with mezzo Luise Jaide creating Erda II.

            Cheers!

          • The_Kid says:

            yeah, sorry, that was my mistake, kruno :P

            however, she did sing erda at the met in her seventies, did she not?

          • The_Kid says:

            Oh, and Alfredo Kraus, too. Didn’t he record a Traviata Alfredo where his “dad” was younger than him? Now, THAT is vocal longevity!

          • Porgy Amor says:

            Kraus was either seven or nine years older than the portrayer of his father, Renato Bruson, on that Muti TRAVIATA. I’ve seen Bruson’s birth year given as both 1934 and 1936. He was either the youngest of the principals or he was the same age as the Violetta (Scotto).

            Not that it’s that unusual for the baritone to be the youngster in the trio. The Prêtre/RCA recording lines up in a similar way: Milnes is slightly younger than Caballé, significantly younger than Bergonzi.

          • operalover9001 says:

            There’s also the Te Kanawa Traviata, where Kraus is 35 years older than Hvorostovsky…

          • Porgy Amor says:

            Somehow that early-1990s Philips set was off my radar. I did not even know Kiri had recorded this opera complete. I don’t imagine the recording is the best work of anyone involved (including Mehta). But The_Kid may have been thinking of that one rather than the Muti that I mentioned.

            The Muti/EMI is a controversial set that I like more and more through the years; I would never ditch it. There’s more of interest to revisit than there is in some sets where the Alfredos have more juice to their sound, and the Violettas better control over theirs. Kraus and Scotto sound no longer young, but their partnership and rapport have reached a very convincing level. One feels they’re listening to each other and letting the next line be shaped by what has just been sung by the other; it all seems to be happening.

          • Krunoslav says:

            “Somehow that early-1990s Philips set was off my radar. I did not even know Kiri had recorded this opera complete.”

            Neither, to judge from Kiri’s lacklustre performance, did she.

            On the Toscanini TRAVIATA, Merrill is about 13 years younger than Peerce, and (if 1913 is her correct date of birth, which some dispute) 4 years younger than Albanese.

            And though he doesn’t necessarily sound it at 26, Sahara-timbred John Brownlee was younger than Dame Nelie Melba at 65 (!) and Browning Mummery--with that name doubtless a Vicar favorite--at 38.

          • isis00 says:

            Well-put, Kid. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels that vocal health and longevity should be more important than burning like a short term fire and then dying out.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Netrebko is about 41 years old. She made her Covent Garden debut 12 years ago, after I don’t know how many years garnering a following in Russia. She is well past the point where she could be in any danger of being described as a flash in the pan by anybody who has been paying attention, and at exactly the right point to trust in her vocal security and endowment and start exploring heavier repertoire.

      I wouldn’t call her a full lyric, I’d call her a heavy lyric. I don’t really like the word spinto for her, because I just don’t hear it among all that plush velvet in her sound, but I’m splitting hairs- I like the idea of her singing spinto repertoire very much.

      I think the danger with Lady Macbeth for her is pushing her middle register and putting the top out of balance as a result. But it isn’t as if she won’t be coached by the best in the business- I’m sure somebody will point this out if she doesn’t work it out for herself. In any case, her top sounded so preternaturally easy and beautiful the last time I heard it, soaring through the top line of the Vespri trio, that I don’t think she has anything to worry about in any Verdi role except Abigaille where I think she lacks the metal pure and simple, and the lightest ones like Gilda which she has rightly dropped. I’d love to hear her Odabella.

      It isn’t as if she’s going hell for leather after these dramatic soprano roles anyway- another new role she has coming up is the Figaro Countess. I do wish she’d investigate some more German rep though… Salome for instance.

      • Nerva Nelli says:

        ” Comment on Lady for one day by Cocky Kurwenal

        Netrebko is about 41 years old. She made her Covent Garden debut 12 years ago, after I don’t know how many years garnering a following in Russia.”

        Cocky, we in New York are often upbraided for statements like this as being “Metcentric”. It would not take too much web research to find out the Netrebko made her San Francisco Opera debut in 1995- the real start of her international career at a high level, even before the pinnacle of the ROH…

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          Must Try Harder. I happen to have the ROH collections in my favourites and felt it made the point well enough- I saw no reason to continue searching for other statistics. It wasn’t my intention to imply that careers are defined by success at the ROH alone, and I don’t think that’s a tendency of mine at all.

          • Camille says:

            Lady Mac? How about Luisa Miller for starters?

            Nerva, I truly think Cocky used the ROH as a handy standard of reference, much as you or I would use the MET, nix???? And that’s all. Please.

            Lady Mac is mostly sung poorly and inelegantly sung in the middle, anyhow. Verdi was extremely specific about a lot of it–-i am speaking of the great long duet with MacBeth--that much is sung in sotto voce and rather declaimed. “A voce spiegata” is the term he employs for the points he clearly wants ‘sung’. Same for Sleepwalking Scene.

            I mean to say that subtlety is not Netrebko’s strong suit. Why the hell she persists in these roles and doesn’t give us a balls to the wall Tosca or Salome beats the tar out of me.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            OK, sorry!

            I don’t think of myself as especially Metcentric either…

            Anna should try Giovanna d’Arco. And how about Amelia Grimaldi, then we could argue about trills!