Cher Public

Things no general director actually says of her own free will for $500, Alex

“I am thrilled that operatic superstar Denyce Graves will join the cast of The Mikado, singing the role of Katisha.”  [Lyric Opera of Kansas City]

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Quanto deeply loves ALL Katishas. Denyce with belt the hell out of “Ye torrents roar, Ye tempest howl” Here’s hoping that without a doubt she’ll rise triumphant over all.

    • Camille

      Here, Quanto, 4 U!

      I guess a lot of our Britishers have seen this; it looks like a boat load of fun.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Next to having a time machine to attend one of the original performances at the D’Oyly Carte, this remains among my favorite Mikados. Sullivan’s mastery of the first act finale, with all it owes to grand opera, is always uplifting.

        • Camille

          Quanto, I want to thank you for more fun than I EVER had in San Francisco!

          With tears of laughter,

          Late seventies stoner movies are still the best!!!!!! Thanks a jillion!

          • Quanto Painy Fakor

            It’s a far cry from the soul-less eyes of Paul Ryan.

      • Arianna a Nasso

        Check out the credits -- Susan Bullock as Peep-Bo! I wonder if Flagstad and Nilsson had similar preparation before taking on Isolde and Brünnhilde.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Flagstad sang a fair bit of operetta in her earlier years. Bullock has, of course, already sang Isolde and Brunnhilde, so this is more respite than preparation for her.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Sorry Arianna, my chronology was a touch confused.

      • A. Poggia Turra

        Sad to realize that this production was telecast on PBS, shortly after it was shown in the UK. This was whwn PBS cared about the arts, instead of doo-wop music, antique uctions and middlebrow programming fluff.

        The production also traveled to Los Angeles, where the (then new) LA Opera played it at the Wiltern Theater, with Dudley Moore as Ko-Ko and LA “house mezzo” Marvelee Cariaga (sp) as Katisha.

        • Camille

          It was “MarvAlee”, APT. I have seen her name in print a hundred times, only reason I know. She was married to the Times writer, Daniel Cariaga, if I am not mistaken, and turned in many, many a fine performance over the years.

          Am I remembering correctly that she got a big break as Magda Sorel in The Consul, under the personal supervision/direction of Menotti at one of the Spoleto Festivals? Or am I just making schite up??? Dunno anymore.

        • reedroom

          She was my first Fricka in the Seattle Ring in 1976! I think she did Waltraute and the 2nd norn too; she returned several times to Seattle’s Ring; and also sang Kostelnicka here--WAAY back in the day…

          • Camille

            I had Diane Curry as a Fricka in Das Rheingold in about ’80. About turned to stone, like Der Kaiser, from boredom. No direction. Very static.

            Do you remember the Johanna Meier Isolde in the early eighties? She san so loud and great in Act One. Then in Act Two it was practically whispered. I always wondered about what the hell happened to her at the intermission! Did Brangäne really deug her backstage, I wondered?

            Sooter was the Tristan. Don’t remember the rest.

          • Camille

            DRUG her, I meant.

            Let me find my glasses…

          • reedroom

            That Tristan in the ’80’s was touted as being really great, but I wasn’t yet sophisticated enough to notice (I think I was a HS junior). I think I just didn’t “get it” yet. But I heard Meier as the Kaiserin at the MET in ’88 I think, and it was the bomb!

          • Camille

            Yes, there was a freakin’ big deal of réclame about that Tristan und Isolde but, really, that was because, at that time, it was a pretty ambitious project for the Seattle Opera and everyone was pretty keyed up about it. I cannot remember much at all about Sooter, other than he was not bad. The extremely noticeable lack of volume which occurred in Meier’s voice, from Act one to the second Act was really disturbing. They were all trying their damndest and giving it their all. I bought a pair of earrings from that production—one face is T and the other I—which I only recently unearthed and was quite shocked to have found, after all these years.

            Seattle Opera was a brave, pioneering little company. Glynn Ross deserves a lot of credit for having the guts it took to get it going. Afraid that Jenkins now long tenure has eclipsed some of Ross’s true worth and grit, which deserves to be remembered. I remember Roberta Peters in a 1964 Lucia di Lammermoor, at the beginning of it all, so they tried hard to get good singers from the start. And NO one knew what the hell opera was in those days in Seattle!!! I remember the Pikes Place Market in near ruins and headed toward condemnation, if you can believe it. That took great moxie, skills, and determination plus mucho $$$$ to turn around!!!

            Anyway, you should be happy to live in the Seattle of today and not the one I first saw, which was still the Wild, Wild West. The saloons and girley shows on 1st Avenue went on for a couple miles!! Now it is all Disneyworld.

            best to you in the Pacific Northwest! Very green and beautiful but I cannot handle rain!

    • operadent

      The Japanese equivalent of “Hear! Hear! Hear!”

    • Camille

      Here, Quanto, this is from a better version, according to Monsieur Camille:

      Katisha to follow!


      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Delightful! Here’s the whole megillah:

  • perfidia

    Is she going the Varnay character role route? (without the Varnay years and years of glory, of course). I love the idea of her giving a master class, but then again, after what Pavarotti did at Julliard, the bar got set pretty low.

    • Evenhanded


      Why would you love the idea of Graves giving a Master Class? She never knew much about how to sing correctly, so I can’t imagine what she might say to young singers. Even in her earliest recordings, the special quality of her voice was apparent, but it was never a polished technique. There was a hole in the middle from the very beginning, and it just got worse throughout her very brief prime. My grandmother could squall her way through Katisha were she so inclined (no doubt, so could Famous Quickly). I’m not saying that’s the way the role SHOULD be played, but frankly, what else might Graves bring to the stage at this point?

      • Camille

        And with Famous Quickly there wouldn’t even be a problem about colour and tessitura or even the right day of the week, for that matter! She would just *BE* Katisha, and FOR THE AGES!!!

      • perfidia

        I love the idea of her giving a master class precisely for the reasons you listed, Evenhanded. What is she going to teach them? Image and good representation trump working on your technique?

        • la vociaccia

          I heard at one of the Juilliard master classes Pavarotti told a tenor that he needed to sing one part as if he were “taking a dump.”

        • kennedet

          It’s a shame!! Gorgeous, stage presence,sexy. What happened !!! Singers are always told: Nothing trumps technique.

      • The_Kid

        Let us not forget that Katisha was created by the wonderful British contralto Rosina Brandham, to whose art W. S. Gilbert gave this tribute: “Rosina of the glorious voice that rolled out as full-bodied Burgundy rolls down – Rosina whose dismal doom it was to represent undesirable old ladies of 65, but who, with all the resources of the perruquier and the make-up box, could never succeed in looking more than an attractive eight-and-twenty – it was her only failure.”
        A well-sung Katisha can be wonderful. I don’t think Mme. Graves can do that at this point of her career.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          I’d be fairly doubtful. Last time I heard Graves, it wasn’t the traditional set of short-comings we expect from any past-it diva, like a wobbly top and a hole in the middle. It was fuzzy toned to be sure, but mainly just really out of tune, everywhere, which would be no more acceptable for Katisha than it would be for Klytamnestra.

          • The_Kid

            Yes, KC, and this has been a pet peeve of mine: the appropriation of contralto/mezzo roles by superannuated or voice-damaged sopranos. now, the contralto bit is understandable (especially if a soprano transposition is available), since true contraltos usually come once per generation, but aren’t there enough good mezzos around? stephanie blythe did a wonderful katisha: why not ask her to re-create it? or give some young mezzo a chance to show her stuff?
            IMHO, there are 3-4 situations in which such appropriation is justified:
            (1) natural deepening of voice with age (along with proper maintenance of middle and low notes): regina resnik, for example…
            (2) a borderline mezzo who decides to cross over once and for all (mid-career Varnay, for eg her Ortrud)
            (3) exceptional acting abilities (Jones, Rysanek, Moedl)
            (4) existence of a proper soprano transposition coupled with unavailability of a mezzo or a contralto to do the role justice.

            Something tells me that Mme. Graves is trying to go the Regina Resnik route: we will see if she attempts Lalume in “Kismet” next!

        • “A well-sung Katisha can be wonderful.”

          Indeed, re Felicity Palmer’s legendary Katisha.

          from 57:30

          • Act 2, if anybody’s interested

          • The_Kid

            Did Eileen ever sing any G&S? CF, do you know of any such recording?

          • No, Kid, don’t think so :(

          • Camille

            Kid, I went on a big search this morning looking for Eileen in G&S and found zero. There are a lot of nice little Irish ditties, though beautifully sung.

            Then I could not resist the gentlemen of Japan and watched Mikado through the Happy Palmer. She was GRANDE and most amusing, you were right Cerq/Farr!

            I will keep on looking as Eileen sang EveryThing. Just not G&S, it would seem.

            Incidentally, in 2001, at the late lamented New York City Opera, there was a black and white version of The Mikado~~~I got suspicious and checked and it was indeed directed by Jonathan Miller. However, not even rotely as funny and clever and delightful as the ENO version, a veritable marvel.

          • Camille

            ReMOTEly, etc….

          • I simply adore the mock-posh English and the fact that you can get every single syllable, though of course it is all rather blown up. But the “hour of gladness” and the Willow song are strangely moving. Very 3 dimensional.

          • Thinking of it, its a well damn hard job being both grotesque and moving, and a feat that is rarely achieved in theatre, cf Dame Flott’s Grande Duchesse.

            See from 4:00. Again, I find Flott here both grotesque and moving, the business with the knife expertly and poetically handled.

          • Brrr Flott’s last (and very beautifully shaped) “J’avais recu du ciel” is suddenly REAL. As is the last, heartrending “mon Dieu”. And this is exactly what gives the character its 3rd dimension.

          • armerjacquino

            I saw that production in its first run. It’s a shame about Garrett: her performances in this, and as the Vixen, and Offenbach’s Eurydice showed the promise of someone who could have been so very much more interesting than the professional Northerner and synthetic media personality she became. Bottone was incapable of ever giving a boring performance, and was terrific here. I think Eric Idle is more popular outside the UK than he is here, and I find him hugely irritating and his little list the opposite of funny.

            And of course, Palmer is sublime.

            My one regret is that this video features the dullish Ethna Robinson rather as the third little maid, rather than the wonderful Jean Rigby. In fact, the storm scene from the first run of the Miller RIGOLETTO with Rigby, McLaughlin and Tomlinson is still the most exciting rendition I’ve ever seen. It’s on YouTube if you want to look for it: I won’t post it here for fear of tedious Vicarishness.

          • MontyNostry

            Gidon Saks (who must have been very young at the time) camps up his Mikado rather well here.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Was was wrong with Pavarotti’s masterclasses at Julliard? When were the one’s you’re talking about? I’ve seen some o YouTube from the 70s (or possibly early 80s) which if memory serves were from Julliard, and I thought they were pretty informative and very interesting. The one he gives on Colline’s coat aria is really useful.

      • Camille

        I didn’t hear a “masterclass”, per se, but a more informal type of open audition in Miami, 1978 (after a series of Elisir d’Amore performances), and do not recall any specifics other than just basic common sense about opening sufficiently and aboutt the importance of diaphragmatic support, naturally. It was all rather seemingly simple and straitforward to him with no fancy esoterica and no admonitions about visiting the nearest restroom.

        He seemed a simple and decent fellow back then. He was an exceedingly nimble Nemorino, so light on his feet! Wish he would have shared that secret with Botha!!

      • perfidia

        Well, I watched the whole thing on TV. This was during the Met Centennial telecast (That was fun!), and when he advised on stuff he knew (like Nemorino’s aria or one of Cavaradossi’s) he had great things to say. Nothing really insightful, but as Camille said, sound, practical advice. But anyone who sang anything he wasn’t familiar with got nothing. To me the nadir was the woman who chirped “Casta Diva” and was told she was perfect. I think the whole thing was more about cashing in on Pavarotti’s popularity than teaching anything. They had a bit of a Domingo masterclass after the whole thing was over, and the contrast was not day and night. It was like coming out of a black hole and falling into the heart of Alpha Centauri.

  • derschatzgabber

    Didn’t Helen Traubel play Katisha opposite Groucho Marx as Ko Ko in old NBC TV abbridged Mikado?

    • manou


      • Camille

        Her diction is so wonderful and for such a Big Lady, she could surely shake a leg.

        She is also wonderful in the biopic about Sigmund Romberg “Deep in my Heart”. She dances with the GREAT José Ferrer in that one. Lots of fun.

    • operangelo

      Operangelo says:

      Denyce Graves gave a master class at Boston University several years ago -- that year we had also Fleming, Voigt, von Stade, Stilwell, the late Hadley as well. Denyce was the worst. All she could say was “open, open. Do you understand? You have to open.” That’s it! She has a natural voice -- un emcumbered by vocal technique.

  • tannengrin

    Is she going to borrow her costume from the Met’s Turandot production, as Ms Blythe seems to have done here?

    • Nerva Nelli

      Stephanie Blythe was *fabulous* in this role at Arizona Opera, as was welcome UK import Neal Davies, pictured) as Ko-Ko. (They moved the duo act on to LOC.) Curt Olds as the Mikado was also very good-- maybe looking a bit too cute for the part, not something we find ourselves saying often around here.

  • sycorax

    Breaking news!
    James Levine to Return to Conducting at the Metropolitan Opera

  • Camille

    Thank you both, sycorax and suzyQ for the news we have been waiting for, at long last.

    • ianw2

      He hasn’t turned up yet.

      Though it’s interesting that they thought it prudent to include the doctors’ statements.

  • Dolciamente Pipo

    What you say about the grit and moxie of Glynn Ross is so true. I’m happy you pointed it out. People (with a degree of justification) disparage those early Rings, but tend to forget that in those days the Ring was not the ubiquitous commodity it is today. Sure it was primitive, but outside of Bayreuth and maybe NYC that’s all there was.
    Admitedly it was somewhat dull, but that was also back in the bad old days prior to supertitles. I know it’s considered heresey among the cognoscenti to say so but those things did wonders for Wagner comprehension. I’m positive that the fact that every opera company in the universe now has a Ring is due to supertitles.
    I’m so thrilled to be able to reply to a Camille comment, since I have to confess a slight crush. :)

    • Camille

      Good heavens, pipo!
      Watch your head around here as Camille is much despised and will get you in a heap of trouble!!!

      Thank you very, very kindly for your remark, however and I appreciate it deeply.

      Yes, the Seattle Ring in the seventies headed by Mr. Ross was the beginning of the whole Ring Thing, as we now know it. People forget. Yes there was the Met and Bayreuth, and many, many Walküres here, there and everywhere, but little backwoods Seattle really deserves a special page in the annals.

      Well, lots of Norwegians and Swedes there, so maybe it was a part of it.

      Bye Pipo and have a happy time on parterre and don’t let the trolls bother you.
      Appreciative regard from
      The Infamous Camille

      • Batty Masetto

        Camille is despised only by those who seemingly cannot express themselves without resorting to really shocking levels of banal vulgarity.

        By the rest of us, she is loved.

        • Camille

          Cher Batty Masetto

          You are a true chevalier.

          Big messy kisses,
          Méchante Fille

          Gotta go get my Alpine hiking boots on for the Alpensifonie! Yippee!!!
          More fun than the Matterhorn ride @ Disneyland!!! More later on today

          SMOOCHES mit TRUFFES

  • MontyNostry

    OT, but Noah Stewart is currently being interviewed on legendary BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs. The (female) interviewer is so far up his backside that you would think Caruso had come back from the grave. He is pleasant, but overly media-trained!

    • kennedet

      I saw his Radames at Glimmerglass this past summer. I thought he had the most beautiful plangent quality.He remarked afterwards and I agree that he should not have performed the role this early in his career and we have been told ad nauseum that singers should not attempt certain roles too early but this is such an undependable business and who can predict when the opportunity will occur again. I wish him the best.

  • MontyNostry

    … and it is so embarrassing (and misleading)the way these interviewers talk to him as if no African-American male had sung opera before, or as if no young singer had waited tables to make a living. Don’t these so-called journalists do their research? I don’t deny that it seems to be harder for African-American male singers to break through, but it just shows you how entrenched views and shameless PR spin combine to ‘make news’. And as for his being a protege of the divine Leontyne, it seems he got a few words of encouragement from her at a Tower Records signing …

    • Camille

      Gee, thanks for posting that feather boa-ed Awakening of Helena from the Divine Leontyne, MN.

      The first time I heard her sing that I nearly collapsed. I was yet a child and had heard nothing on earth or in the heavens anything at all like the sound of it. I have never forgotten that moment and, frankly, until I saw that boa, well I had never SEEN her sing it. So, thanks, my fine Sir.

  • MontyNostry

    Dear Camille, there are a couple of other stunning renditions from her on YouTube -- Munich in 1968 or so (which features on a Gala CD that is my all-time-fave Leontyne recital) and London in 1959, where the voice is wonderfully fresh.

    • messa di voce

      Totally agree, Camille and Monty. Even more than Summertime and Doretta’s aria, this was the party piece par excellent for Leontyne, from the 50s through the late 80s. She sounds like a woman who appreciates a good roll in the hay.

      • MontyNostry

        … and it also supports my theory that, if a young Leontyne turned up today, she’d be in demand for Strauss.