Cher Public

I could go on gavotting

It’s taken more than a month for La Cieca to return to the Regie to the Rescue competition thanks in part to the generous wordage of the cher public. But, as the above Garlandesque image implies, it’s Rysanekfreak who takes the prize for a pop-cultural extravaganza overlaid on modest little Mignon.  Our next Regie Rescue follows the jump.  

In honor of tonight’s season-opening extravaganza, and in what perhaps may be interpreted as something less than “in honor” of Bartlett Sher’s contribution to the festivities, La Cieca now asks you, the cher public, to devise a Regie scenario for L’elisir d’amore, the more detail the better, with the goal of making the opera as lively and entertaining as the text and music will allow. The best attempt at fulfilling this tall order (as judged by La Cieca’s blue ribbon panel of experts) will win a coveted Gift Card.

All entries must be date-stamped prior to midnight on Wednesday, October 3, and the decision of your doyenne’s panel is, as always, utterly final.

  • tannengrin

    For starters, I always thought it was a missed opportunity NOT to include the full Tristan into Elisir (I know, I know,, that WON’T make it much livelier…), or at least have Adina do a Liebestod rendition, since it is likely the singer’s only occasion to ever do a Isolde on-stage (Are there ANY Adina/Isoldes out there?).

    • armerjacquino

      I can think of two Amina/Isoldes, but Adina is more of a stretch. Krunoslav will know.

      • Krunoslav

        Armer, I can’t think of any definite Adina/Isoldes; Florence Easton could have done LIEBESTRANK in her REGIMENTSTOCHTER days (but I don’t know that she did). Did Anne Evans or Johanna Meier do Adina *very* early in their careers, perhaps at conservatory? My other thought is Eliane Coelho, who has sung Isolde in Brazil; early on in her Volskoper days she did Norina and Fiorilla, so no reason she could not have done Adina--but again, no proof. Did Lilli Lehmann or Johanna Gadski do Adina early on?

        We *do* have an Adina/Kundry in Renata Scotto!

    • la vociaccia

      Malfitano could have done a Liebestod in the middle of Elisir. AJ, are your Amina/Isoldes Cheryl Studer and Lilli Lehmann?

      • armerjacquino

        Studer and Callas. Although yes, I guess Lilli goes on the list too. Did Caballe sing a complete SONNAMBULA or did she just do ‘Ah, non credea’ all over the place?

        • la vociaccia

          Of course! I forgot that Callas sang Wagner like it was no big deal when she was in her mid twenties.

          I was sure Caballe sang the whole thing, but I think you’re right, she just did Credea/Giunge and called it a day. OT, but I was listening to this earlier. People have opinions about Montsy, but if you can sing Salome at 23 and have a career as long as hers…

          • almavivante

            Thank you ever so much for this clip. Of course I have her commercial RCA recording, but I had no idea an early Salome of hers existed. Thrilling, absolutely thrilling, to hear this dramatic soprano with agility--the rarest of rare birds--sing this most voluptuous, perverse scene!

          • la vociaccia

            Yes! I never truly understood how other-worldly her vocal talent was. It’s easy to falsely surmise that she was a bel canto specialist who grew into dramatic rep, when in reality she had been there/done that with Strauss before she uttered a note of Donizetti.

          • MontyNostry

            I presume you’ve spotted this too, from a little later -- with pictures

          • The_Kid

            OK, pet peeve: why do people keep on insisting Callas sang the Wagner heroines as if they were something she could just wake up and sing in the middle of the night? I am sure she did a competent job. The fragments on YT, “Mild und liese” and “Ich sah das kind”, reveal IMHO a italianate reading, with too much drama and sans that monolithic sense of statuesque grandeur that is the Irish Princess’s hallmark, nor is her portrayal of Kundry fraught with that sense of savage moral/religious combat and crisis of faith that one would expect to find in so tormented a creature.
            IMHO, MC tried these roles (just as she did Turandot), found those were not her cup of tea, and moved on to more favorable rep. In other words, I wouldn’t say she sang, say, Norma and Isolde with the same success and musicality/ drama. So, to imply that she tossed aside these notoriously difficult roles because they were too easy for her (i am trying not to put words in people’s mouths, sorry if it seems that way) is an insult to the many great singers who immortalized these roles.

        • operalover9001

          The_Kid: Not trying to be argumentative, but I’d be interested in continuing this discussion. First of all, why does Isolde have to be sung with statuesque grandeur? Especially in the first act, Isolde is overly dramatic and wants the ocean to kill everyone on the ship and so on. I’m not saying that Callas’ portrayal is the best (not that we’d be able to know anyways), but I think a more passionate, younger portrayal of Isolde is perfectly valid. And secondly, I don’t think anyone is saying that Callas is among the best Brunnhildes, Kundrys, or Isoldes -- it’s just that she is one of the few singers who have managed to sing both heavy Wagner and lighter bel canto (two complete extremes) with relative success.

          • Porgy Amor

            Further, would an “italianate” reading of Isolde or Kundry have displeased Wagner, based on his comments on the record? I’m not generally one of those “It’s what the composer would/wouldn’t have wanted!” people (about stage productions, singers or anything else), but it’s worth considering here. That aside, I find what we have of Callas’s Isolde and Kundry quite fabulous, and I love Gui’s conducting too.

          • Camille

            I love the Callas Kundry because, for once, it is sung.

            Course, maybe the fact it is sung in Italian perhaps helps the matter.

            And perhaps, if Wagner had written his libretti in Italian it would have even been FAR more singable altogether and the Bayreuth bark would never have seen the light of day.

            I know, if pigs could fly.

          • The_Kid

            Dear Opera Lover, I am sure you aren’t being argumentative: after all, I have always depended on the politeness of strangers :)
            I think Isolde’s drama is Epic Drama as opposed to Human Drama; her fury is the fury of elements straining to be unleashed yet held imprisoned by fate. I dislike it when “Nay, order him: pray, understand it:—. I, Isolda do command it!” is sung like Lucia about to throw a hissy-fit, or Carmen showing her assets and cadging a favor. I do not know if many Callas fans will agree with me, but the excerpts that I have show her to be overblown and hysterical rather than magisterial and authoritative.
            As for Kundry: dear Mme. Camille, am I to understand that you imply that the several marvellous Kundries of yore (Moedl, Rysanek, Ludwig, Gorr, Crespin,Flagstad, Varnay, Barbro Ericson, Waltraud Meier, Yvonne Minton) did not *SING* the music? Surely, fair lady, you jest!
            My main problem with Callas’ Kundry is her complete lack of identification with the quasi-religious aspects of the roll. She sings it like a gangster’s moll, like Bonnie and Clyde. No, her Kundry wasn’t even good, let alone great.
            Finally, the impossible act of singing heavy and light rep together: why not talk about Selma Kurz, who sang the very lightest coloratura roles and also jugendlich dramatich roles, So?omija Kruszelny?ka who created the revised Butterfly but was also a wonderful Walkuere Bruenhilde, and last but not the least, our very own Leonie, who sang Gilda and Bruenhilde in the same week?
            Callas was a very important torch-bearer of a time-honored tradition of talented singers successfully tackling seeming inconsistent roles at the same time. Unlike what some people out there would have us believe, she did not invent the tradition, nor did it die out with her.

          • Camille

            Oh Kid, I did not notice this till now and don’t have time to go into it other than to say that I found The Callas singing of Kundry very musical and well phrased., but then she was a real musician and that was her particular gift. My Favourite Kundry was Flagstad—-but of course never saw her and everyone always laughs at me for that one, anyway! Ha, as if I cared.

        • la vociaccia

          The_Kid, I wasn’t implying that she tossed them aside because they weren’t hard, I’m simply in awe of someone who can sing Isolde at 26 and then have incredible success as Amina and Lucia etc. I think it’s impressive that anyone can sing Isolde by forty, let alone before thirty. So that’s all I meant by it -- no insults intended.

    • I supposed there’s still hope that Simone Kermes could do it!!

  • Brava, Rysanekfreak. I don’t know Mignon at all (and so, missed some of the references) but I was still entertained by your write-up.

  • havfruen

    So the setting should be a pharmaceutical company. Adina should be the daughter of the recently deceased CEO. Nemorino should work in the mail room ( if such things still exist) Dulcamara should be a Nobel prize winning scientist ( full of hot air and with a questionable research record -- not the first for a Nobel winner btw) Belcore should of course be the CEO of another pharmaceutical company intent on a hostile take-over. The details are still spinning in my head.

    • armerjacquino

      I was thinking of a club kid, ‘Party Monster’ vibe. Dulcamara is the local dealer, Belcore is drugs squad, and the Elisir is of course GHB/liquid ecstasy.

      In this version I guess Adina would be a drag queen (the furtiva lagrima is in fact mascara goop). At no point would anyone wear a top hat.

      • Camille

        “At no point would anyone wear a top hat.”

        I’ll drink to that—bottoms up!

  • Camille

    Well, I THOUGHT that was di Donato’s mug on Judy’s body and it so confused and disturbed me that I had to rush back to the past thread, from whence, with memory refreshed, all has now been made clear, in this, the best of all possible worlds. Whew!

    Rysanek, that was truly a capolavoro you created. Chapeau bas and deep genuflections are in order.

    Leonie would be proud.

  • BelCantoDiva

    Well there WAS the L’Elisir with Bryn Terfel doing a really funny impersonation of Elvis. Oh wait, I think The MET stole that idea for Rigoletto!

    • Often admonished

      Impressive, much fuller tone than his recent Wotan or Scarpia.

      BTW from The Guardian blogs to a review of Bryn’s ROH Rhinegold: “Bryn will no doubt shout his way through this performance as his other technique -- whispering -- doesn’t have much of a place here.”

      That nails it, alas.

  • tancredipasero

    Having bailed out of Elisir in boredom, i’ll give a quick account of Act One. Boredom mostly due to Bartlett Sher -- is there anybody who respects him as an opera director? This looked like any overacted high-school musical -- anything to keep people in frenetic motion, zero finesse or comic timing, and not very careful attention to the story. Adina and Nemorino are presented as Musetta and Marcello -- long-time lovers who are on the outs currently, but whose inevitable reunion is obvious from the start. They are seated *à deux* at Adina’s reading table, and it goes from there -- their freedom in touching each other would read, even in a contemporary setting which this seemingly isn’t, as that of people who have clearly spent a good deal of time in bed together… And why not? Mightn’t they have? I guess so, but it sorta removes the only charm the slender story has.

    Much unclarity throughout -- Dulcamara, Belcore and Nemorino seemed to run through all possible attitudes towards one another in no particular order. I’d call it sub-professional, actually. The funniest part was Belcore singing about the fact that he’s refraining from using his hands *while* employing his hands to strike Nemorino.

    Netrebko did well what she always does well -- producing totally open-throated, totally relaxed upper-middle and high notes without a hint of strain and with a lot of honest beauty -- and did poorly what she always does poorly (agility passages -- not too prominent in Act One -- and Italian pronunciation). There’s not much color or interest in the middle, and not much in the way of phrasing. She should really stay with the repertory where most of the phrase-shaping is built in to the orchestral score and the music mostly just needs a beautiful voice slathered onto it. One wouldn’t want to judge her acting in this mess; she flounced and pouted vigorously.

    Kwiecen pretty much bellowed -- his voice is still handsome but already starting to show loose vibrato and dryness on the pumped-up high notes.

    Maestri -- if he were trying to sing Belcore one would probably have something similar to say about him, but it was a pleasure to hear a Dulcamara whose voice could ride the high tessitura, and a genuine (and very big) Italianate sound. Some roughness and iffy pitch, but not more than is usual for buffo parts.

    Polenzani -- really impressive for the way he keeps the voice free and collected in the difficult F to A region on top. I sort of regret not staying for his big aria. Also: attractive tone and *non-phony soft singing* -- the timbre stays consistent, the notes connect into a line. And he has no trouble singing full voice without strain. I think he deserves a lot of credit -- this kind of medium-light lyric tenor often turns dry and patchy in middle age. He shows no sign of that. Overacted like everybody else, but what’s he gonna do?

    Benini -- sloppy and boring as usual. A prediction: When Michele Mariotti starts doing bel canto operas here, the decades-long Met tradition of weak conducting in this rep will be broken (and the people who don’t realize what we’ve been missing will realize it). No predictions as to how he will do with Carmen (well, one hopes) but he is definitely the guy for making Rossini et al lively, precise and elegant, and bringing real life to the orchestral participation, *while* breathing with the singers, etc.

    Bottom line, though -- the show as a whole has the charm of a very stale Whitman’s Sampler, and except for checking in with Polenzani’s estimable progress I can’t see much reason for attending.

    • louannd

      Judging from the chat room response, I’d say pretty much everybody agreed with you- for the entire broadcast. Thank you for posting.

      • grimoaldo

        Well I went to another Donizetti opera tonight, Anna Bolena at Washington National Opera with Sondra Radvanovsky and Sonia Ganassi and it was certainly not boring! It rocked! The production was excellent, the supporting cast very good, the audience applauded wildly all the way through, the conductor several times had to give up waiting for the audience to start applauding and just started the music anyway.
        I can’t help comparing it with the other recent performances of Anna B I saw/ heard, though not live, the Vienna one which I watched on youtube and the Met’s opening last year, I only heard the Met’s live stream of the opening night. I’d say tonight was better than both of those, partly because of Ganassi, who was splendid. Beautiful refulgent tone and sang with a lot more feeling than Garanca in Vienna ( and I cannot even remember the name of the singer who did Giovanna at the Met, she was very boring, I cannot be bothered to look it up).The Act Two duet between Ganassi and Radvan was fabulous, terrific, listen you hardcore opera fans out there, it is worth travelling to DC to see that live, you don’t get many chances to see and hear something like that.
        The tenor tonight was Shalva Mukeria, sort of a constricted voice but he nailed all his high notes and his prison scene with the aria “Vivi tu” was very good, in contrast to the Met prima with Stephen Costello struggling pitiably with the music and cracking, I remember that Manuela whatshername said he looked terrified and wondered why they wanted to put him through such torture. Torture! Giving a singer a great big juicy aria to sing at the Met! .
        Owen Gradus was the King and was very good. The production was simple and effective, basically consisting of wooden panels being shifted around. Very nice costumes.
        I know Radvanovsky is very controversial, a lot of people here don’t like her. I made a conscious decision to listen for whether I could hear her singing flat, and I could not, except for one quick high-esh note that maybe did not quite get there. Maybe I am tone deaf or something when it comes to her, people insist so vociferously that she does not sing in tune that it makes me question if there is something wrong with my hearing, all I can say is that although it has bothered me with quite a few singers in the past when they have seemed to me not to be singing in tune, with her I don’t hear it and that seems lucky to me because I loved her performance tonight, thrilling, beautiful singing all the way through, wonderful top notes and exquisite soft singing, something I always love in live opera performance, when a singer holds the audience spellbound through soft singing, which Radvan can definitely do. In comparison to Netrebko, who I did not see live as Anna Bolena, I agree with Anne Midgette “And Radvanovsky, rhythmic issues and all, is a better fit for this part, with her laser-clear voice and thought-out character portrayal, than the otherwise marvelous Anna Netrebko”.
        Sorry Anna N lovers but I thought she was quite dull through most of that opera, shooting out sparks only in the “Guidici ad Anna” end of the first act and the final scene whereas Radvan was riveting all the way through. I can’t wait to see it again, I shall go at least once more, there are several more performances, last one on Oct 6.
        I remember Manuela H said she couldn’t wait for the executioner to arrive at the Met’s Anna B, JJ in the NY Post said the show seemed to go on forever and there were many comments along the lines of “God what a boring opera”. Well tonight it lasted three and a half hours and the time flew by for me and I heard several other people saying the same thing.

    • phoenix

      What a marvelous read this is tancredi -- a real ‘criticism’ for once, not just another obsequious tribute from another sycophantic NYC newspaper critic or ambitious online blogger. Keep it up!

  • La Valkyrietta

    Well, I was in the house and enjoyed the singers, though certainly I miss Freni and Bergonzi. I would not like reggie with this, but rather more peasant charm, pre-Marx peasants. The hat is silly. The conducting was weak.

    There was a lady in the audience going down an orchestra aisle with a huge gown, out of a traditional first act Traviata, I still wonder how she managed to sit.

    Can you believe the wall calendar for 2013 is all the machine? I hesitated, but I got it because I always do. Oh well, maybe I’ll just store it and put some firemen on the wall :).

    The bar had two reds, no Bordeaux, and it is L’Elisir. Oh well.

  • Clita del Toro
    • Camille

      Very good review, however.

      Say, I have an idea. Let’s ship TonyTom to DC and bring the Midge back to NYC.

  • Porgy Amor

    What, so few takers? I’m just going to run with the whole TRISTAN concept.

    The curtain opens on a blackened stage. No music. The tenor who will be our Nemorino is singing the Young Sailor’s unaccompanied song. The only other figure on stage, a beautiful soprano (Isolde/Adina), is miming a growing irritation — in character, but which character? He is singing well, but then he cracks and flees the stage in embarrassment. The lights come up. Isolde/Adina yells “Again?” The maestro, all sleek confidence, runs over to soothe her. It was a dress rehearsal. Jaunty ELISIR overture begins.

    Nemorino is an aspiring tenor who in love with the soprano in the TRISTAN production. Studying the libretto and score, she comments on it to the company with amusement. She is way out of his league — a polished, worldly diva who studied with legends. His voice is small, his musical education and technique second rate. He has as yet sung only comprimario roles.

    Belcore is an autocratic maestro who is also the de facto stage director. An actual stage director (mute role) is seen being overruled in every matter. The baritone in his appearance and mannerisms may suggest, at different times, Riccardo Muti, Herbert von Karajan, Valery Gergiev, and others. Though he wears a wedding ring, Belcore has a history of liaisons with his leading ladies, and he wants Adina/Isolde to be his latest conquest. Giannetta is the buxom, none-too-bright portrayer of Brangaene. The villagers are miscellaneous members of the company.

    Dulcamara is a disreputable vocal “fixer,” part vocal coach and part physician, who shows up at the opera house to offer his services. His actual credentials are mysterious. The words of his song are altered slightly — or maybe just the subtitles are — as he promises singers in trouble everything from gastric bypass to the painless removal of nodes and cysts, as well as “freedom from Fach.” (I’m starting to see this as something sung in English, as some rhymes are starting to come to me. “Freedom from Fach” could rhyme, badly, with, “troublesome back.” With every problem he names, he could hold up a portrait of a real-life famous singer who suffered from the condition, the implication being that he helped them.)

    Nemorino/Young Sailor, dreaming of moving up to heavier roles and forming a musical and romantic power couple with Isolde/Adina, falls for the pitch and takes pills dispensed to him by Dulcamara. When Adina and Maestro Belcore next encounter him, he is under the influence, but oblivious enough to no longer suffer inferiority and performance anxiety in Adina’s presence. In a showstopping moment for the (real) tenor, the “Lllarala la la la” bit gives way to the phrases of the Young Sailor’s song that gave him grief at the beginning of the opera, and then it segues into Tristan’s Act III music. Adina and Belcore are impressed, but also annoyed by the erratic and disrespectful behavior.

    In the second half, Belcore tries to get rid of his rival by conscripting into some kind of young artists’ development program that would send him overseas. But then, disaster. The scheduled Tristan will be unable to sing. (We never saw him, but it is possible he trusted the quack Dulcamara and regretted it.) Belcore encourages other women in the company to stroke Nemorino’s confidence; only he knows the part of Tristan. Adina, feeling her chance has gone by, develops a late-Callasian wobble, but rejects Dulcamara’s ministrations, realizing this is her unhappy heart and not faulty technique or advancing age. She and her (new) Tristan ultimately end up together on the stage and off; Belcore is already considering the musical and romantic potential of “Brangaene”; and Dulcamara is off to another house to harm or help a new batch of singers.

    • louannd

      Very nice. Strangely reminiscent of Zimmerman’s production of La Sonnambula, but I don’t say that to insult your ideas.

  • Porgy Amor

    Grazie. I was not sure whether I was phoning it in (“the world of the opera!” having been done so much) and it was just reheated Carsen. But I wanted someone to dig into this thing. If I landed at “bad, yet elaborate and somewhat aware of the badness,” I was willing to settle. :-)

  • sm

    Here are my program notes for Elisir
    Dulcamara: Representative of a well-known multinational cosmetic company.
    Adina: Local girl with a nasty skin condition.
    Belcore: Bisexual S and M leather guy.
    Nemorino: Recovering alcoholic.
    Gianetta: local lesbian librarian.
    Setting -- suburbs of Bristol at the present time.
    Act one
    Nemorino, a recovering alcoholic relates his love for Adina, a local girl with a nasty skin condition. Frustrated by her lack of success with the boys Adina has retreated into a world of romantic fiction which she reads aloud to her friends. Belcore arrives in full leather gear and military kit -- open to all new experiences; he relishes the challenge of chatting up the loveless Adina. The worried Nemorino tries to warn her off the fetishist, but she is already looking out gear, and says she wants to try a new sexual experience every day. Dulcamara and gives a slick demonstration of his products unfurling a life-size photo of Jane Fonda. The local girls encourage Adina to try some for her spots, but Nemorino asks for something to help his sex life. Dulcamara gives him several bottles to take and Nemorino plunges into his alcoholic ways to Adina’s fury, who says she is going to join up with the fetishist leather guy Belcore in six days. Nemorino thinks that once he has slept off the wine, Adina will come back to him. Belcore is texted by his mates that there is a big party in the adjoining city and so Adina must join up with him now or the whole thing is off. Nemorino is panicked and returns to his therapy group but asks Dulcamara for another bottle.
    Act 2
    Adina’s skin complaint is miraculously cured and preparations for the party are in full swing with leather queens and lesbians are arriving in full bondage attire for the celebrations. No sign of Nemorino, and Adina is beginning to feel uncomfortable in her leather gear. Nemorino appears, depressed, with a hangover from the day before, he asks Dulcamara for a bottle, but no money, no deal for the representative. Belcore finds Nemorino intriguing and attractive, and suddenly sees the possibility of having both Adina and the local boy. He praises the life of his military leather group and tries to get Nemorino to try on some gear. Nemorino still needs some cash and Belcore thinks that for a few pounds the boy will be his, and gets him to sign up for the group. Nemorino slinks off to buy a bottle from Dulcamara.
    Local lesbian Gianetta is discussing with the local lesbian group the fact that Nemorino has just inherited a fortune and could be a good surrogate. Nemorino appears and is amazed to find himself surrounded by courting lesbians and thinks Adina will be a pushover for his charms after his success with these girls. Adina sees him surrounded by the Sapphic wenches and thinks he may be bisexual after all. Meeting up with Dulcamara, he explains to her that Nemorino has been saving up for love potions and has sold his body to the leather group to buy more, all for some local girl. Adina realizes that the leather world is not for her and that Nemorino’s love is true.
    Nemorino enters and downs a bottle of wine and puts on a DVD of his favorite movie, weeping gently as he sings “una furtiva lagrima”. Adina come in carrying all her leather gadgets and Nemorino’s military gear, asking him to give it all up, but Nemorino is determined to join up with Belcore and his gang unless he finds a better offer. Adina finally admits her desire to settle down and have kids. Nemorino is thrilled, and supported by his alcoholics anonymous group falls in the arms of Adina. Belcore knows there are leather groups in other towns, and Dulcamara claims total success for his products -- samples of which he throws into the audience.
    The sponsor’s cosmetic Products are available at the in-house shop on leaving the theatre.