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Once in half a lifetime

Then and now: the “Dio ti giocondi, o sposo” duet from Otello, as telecast 34 years apart: September 25, 1978 and October 27, 2012.


  • fryingpanface says:

    Botha’s psychotic Teddy Ruxpin interpretation was very compelling.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    I’ll take the Zeffirelli brocades! Fascinating comparison for various reasons. Love Scotto’s fearless exit through the darkness into the wings.

  • jatm2063 says:

    Fascinating watching both videos, and fascinating to listen to the first video.

    I actually much prefer Scotto, even though I often don’t care for her singing I really like this very much for many reasons, not least because I think it is some of the most beautiful sounding singing I have heard from her. The costume is interesting, perhaps a bit unusual close up, but I like it and I think it probably looked lovely from the audience’s perspective.

    Fleming I find entirely believable, sincere, and committed as an actress and she sings it prettily. But the voice is simply too sweet and soft grained to convey any sense of passion through the vocalism. It’s very much the American concept of the sound of a Desdemona -- a pretty, slender voice with a pale yellow timbre that burns at a lowish temperature. Great for Mozart, some Strauss, and certain French operas, but underwhelming in Italian repertoire.

    I don’t like her costume either. I think it makes her look like a school marm volunteering at a midwestern Renaissance Fair, and that it also makes her look OLDER. Maybe they were trying to make her look pure, but that’s silly. Desdemona is no virgin. She likes big black soldier types.

    I must however give Fleming very high marks indeed for giving as fully of herself as she does when she is partnered with this Otello, who like her is much too softgrained for his part vocally (much more so than she in fact) and simply an inept, awkward, and ungiving actor who could not have been fun to do this with.

    Who is this person?

    I suppose he is trying pretty hard, and after all he IS singing Otello at the Met and doing this role is not vocally easy for anyone and it’s probably harder to act this role convincingly compared to many others, but there isn’t enough voice and he doesn’t understand how to move his body to get the right look for the character. His physical size is not the problem, it’s how he uses his physique. He doesn’t understand how to move and position his body, his arms, etc. in order to create the right physical presence (one might say look instead) for the character he is playing.

    And then there is his voice, which sounds like it might make for an okay Rodolfo in La Boheme.

    Jon Vickers is fabulous. His voice, even late in his prime as it is here, is uniquely suited to the part. Many tenors have tried to walk that same path but they just can’t get to that sound quality. And I love the way he acts it as well. I wonder how he and Scotto got along? Were they great colleagues or bitchy and competitive toward each other?

    Thank you La Cieca for a lovely evening of listening and watching.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      You’ve got Botha’s voice wrong. If you heard it live you wouldn’t start thinking along the lines of ‘okay Rodolfo in La Boheme’. He’s thoroughly convincing as Otello, Lohengrin, Tannhauser, Emperor etc in terms of heft. I agree he lacks temprament for Otello, and one could argue the colour isn’t Italianate enough for its relatively wide-spread sound and lack of squillo (although this didn’t bother me when I heard him in the role), but it is not a light voice by any means -- quite the reverse.

      • jatm2063 says:

        That’s Botha? Oh dear. I didn’t recognize the voice and I have heard it live once about 7-8 years ago as Radames (I believe it was with Andrea Gruber in what was possibly her last performances, or near to last performances as Aida). I thought he was slightly too light for that as well, but I stand by my assertion that vocally he hasn’t got enough cut or ring to the sound for an Otello.

        To each his own of course and I absolutely respect your opinion.

        The acting is still totally unacceptable in today’s TV oriented universe.

        And why doesn’t someone just say to him, “Look fat boy, if you lost a bunch of weight, not only would you LOOK better, but you would probably become more comfortable in your own skin and be able to act better as well. So no more cheesecake and here’s a gym membership.”

        • Clita del Toro says:

          I am sorry, but it is not Botha’s “acting” that is the real problem. I know some here think that he has a major, wonderful voice. He may, but I find his singing as Otello totally lackluster and uninteresting--so dull , as a matter of fact, that I could barely listen to the clip. I am not crazy for the timbre of his voice either.
          Rennay’s singing was better, but she is not really a very convincing actress. Scotto is really into the role; Rennay merely sings it and goes through the motions of acting.

          I saw Botha’s Lohengrin at LOC and found it merely okay as I did his Sirius broadcasts.. I won’t write the tenor off as of yet. I need to hear more.

  • marshiemarkII says:

    And MMII holds what may be a record of having seen each and every single one of the Vickers/Scotto performances. No words can do justice to having been THERE in the house!
    How many of the current queens were there for that?

    • jatm2063 says:

      Darling, I am not nearly old enough to have been there!

      How’s your arthritis today? Are you taking your blood pressure medication? Don’t forget to have your Metamucil with dinner and then off to bed at 8 p.m. sharp!

    • Clita del Toro says:

      Marshie, I did see Scotto and Vickers in Otello, but don’t remember it very well. I don’t even remember if they were in the same performance together. But, I love them both.
      I did see many Otellos before that— from 1955 on—with singers like Tebaldi, MdM, Warren, Gobbi, VdlA, Rysanek, McCracken, Uzunov and Tucci.

    • marshiemarkII says:

      Oh Clitisssssima Adorata wow you surely had your share of magnificence too. Of course what would I give to have been able to see the Leonie and the greatest Renata. YOU had them all!!!!! I grew up as a young queen with the MdM Karajan recording, until I discovered the greatest Jon Vickers and never wanted to listen to anyone again, until today….who can ever sing the Spento è quel sol, quel sorriso, quel raggio che mi fa vivo, che mi fa lieto, with that magnificent and so right, just perfectly right glotto on lieeeeeetoooooooooo. He was heavens, pure opera, the essence of music.

    • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati says:

      @MMII: Yes. Saw Vickers and Scotto in OTELLO at the Met and, more interestingly, at a UN Day Concert where I and my friends were seated about 15 feet away from them and really could observe every facial expression. I’ve seen most of the leading gentlemen of the last few decades: Del Monaco, Vickers, Cossutta, McCracken, Atlantov, Domingo and others plus excerpts from Corelli and Bergonzi. Gobbi was the best of the many Iagos I saw and Tebaldi the best of the Desdemonas. This clip of Botha doesn’t really do much for me. Nothing especially interesting from a musical standpoint. Earnest but inhibited by both bulk and an inability to really use and sculpt the words.

      • marshiemarkII says:

        Cara Bene you and Clita are the luckiest gurls in the world for having seen the greatest Renata!
        Amazingly I saw all of the men you saw, except the great DelMonaco, though I grew up with the Karajan recording since like age 12 (precocious little queen!) and MacCracken (mercifully I never saw him). And I don’t see on your list the great Vinay, whom I saw as Iago a couple of times, and one performance in which he switched from Iago to Otello for Act IV!!! It was supposedly his farewell to the stage and MMII was in diapers :-) but she remembers well….

        Were you also at the UN Day when Obraztsova sang? what was it like 77 or 78? Those were the days!

        • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati says:

          @MMII: Yes, I was very fortunate to have seen Renata many times (Adriana, Tosca, Boheme, Falstaff, Manon Lescaut, Gioconda, Otello, Chenier, Fanciulla, and concert versions of Mefistofele and Wally.) I worked for her management (CAMI) and knew her a little. Regrettably I never saw Vinay, an estimable singer in whichever range he performed. I honestly don’t remember the UN Day Obraztsova concert. It’s possible I was there. But I knew her a little (again the CAMI connection) and in fact was sent outdoors to warn her as she approached the hall of an impending anti-Soviet demonstration in Carnegie Hall at a Spivakov violin recital and try to divert her from entering the hall. It’s a long time ago but I vaguely remember the plan of the demonstrators was to let loose live mice in the Hall. She was walking down Seventh Avenue, having made the turn from Central Park South when I intercepted her and in a combo of Italian and French warned her. Since she survived the Siege of Leningrad, she basically just pushed up her sleeves, snorted and preceded even more boldly to Carnegie. A mere demonstration or a few mice weren’t going to stop HER! We all joked that she’d just EAT the mice for hors d’oeuvres! To this day I vividly and fondly remember the Polish Scene from BORIS with Obraztsova and Atlantov, when the Bolshoi Opera visited NYC (1974 I think?). Neither singer was known here then and the 2 of them just sang wildly at the top of their lungs in a veritable storm of passion. Very exciting to hear 2 big voices going at it hammer and tongs.

        • marshiemarkII says:

          My Carissssssissssimo Bene where have you been all my life. I adored your story of the great Yelena walking down 7th Avenue like the Marina of Minsk that she was, a Royal Princess, and a patriot!!!!!! That must have been the time when she was staying at the Navarro Hotel, right? I have a beautiful Yelena story that yours brought back memories of. During the Adalgisa run, it coincided with Christa Ludwig’s Kundry with the greatest Jon. Since Yelena was going to do it a couple of years later, she was very intent on listening to the broadcast, so she invited this young queen (talk about swooning) to her suite at the Navarro to listen to the broadcast with her. While listening, and talking in the same French/Italian, I even sort of helped her to pack a gorgeous Boulle that she had bought at an expensive antique shop, and was shipping back to Moscow. When it was over I was walking in Central Park like it was made of clouds……..

          Of course that was the last time I saw Yelena until her return to Carnegie Hall in 1988, and then her replacing Livia BOOdai for the Trovatore with Big Luci and Dame Joan. What days were those……….Unfortunately those protesters had eventually succeeded in driving her magnificent artistry away for the following nine years! depriving New York of her prime in Kundry!, Venus!, Eboli, possibly Salome and Tosca and even Cavalleria……Can you imagine?????

          You are a treasure, you MUST post more often!

        • marshiemarkII says:

          Oh Bene and having been at CAMI, you must also have lots of stories of my adored Hildegard who was with CAMI until 1993, when she made the mistake of her life (yes even SHE could make HUGE mistakes) to go to the ante-room of hell….

  • MontyNostry says:

    Talking of Desdemonas (Desdemone?), it was interesting to hear Harteros in a recording from Covent Garden the other day, with Antonenko. (I didn’t see it live.) Rather than a soft-grained sound like Fleming’s, hers, at least as recorded, has some edge — not onlike Scotto in that respect, though the voice is fuller and more naturally spinto-ish.There were occasional wobbles and tuning issues and she did some deliberate crashing into the chest register … but it all added up to a very exciting flesh-and-blood portrayal. Even though she’s German, it sounded much more Italianate to me than, say, Fleming, or even the blessed Margaret Price (one of my all-time fave singers).

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Those Harteros ROH Desdemone really were something, Monty. She is capable of producing a sound that is completely soft grained and then adding the edge you mention when called for in either slight or massive quantities. Phrases in the love duet that started on say a top g could seemingly come out of nowhere, piano but still house-filling, and then grow. She was a magnificent and rather subtle actress too.

      Personally I wouldn’t ever use the word wobble, but then I do have famously high tollerances for these things! It’s true that at points of great intensity she will press the voice rather, but I like it.

      • MontyNostry says:

        Cocky, I regret not seeing her -- I thought about picking up a ticket fairly near the performance dates and nothing was available. I would have liked to see Antonenko too, who was fab in the Trittico she cancelled. I wasn’t that desperate to see it, however, because (and I have confessed this here before), Otello as an opera has never really done it for me.

        It’s not exactly a wobble, and yes, it’s exciting! I wasn’t really complaining. (I even like little Renata’s proper wobble sometimes, though Callas’ distresses me.) In any case, one is less aware of such things in the theatre than on the radio. All in all, she sounds nearer to the real Verdi thing than most of the contenders over the past 20 years or so.

        • kennedet says:

          I also have a passion for Renata Scotto. I think it’s difficult to find a singer with the insightful interpretations this great soprano has given us through the years. However, I cannot agree with the term “proper wobble”. I don’t think we must tip-toe around the word. It is clearly a voice defect and her pitch oscillation was too wide and too slow causing a wobble at the end of her career. If we are lovers of great operatic singers….and i know this subject is subjective; voice defects must be corrected or we should not accept voice problems when they appear….no matter how much we love the artist.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Try telling that to an OnlY Maria queen like myself. I think the wobble is an integral part of the interpretation in the case of the Maria Callas in Paris recital, or the second Tosca. I honestly cannot imagine Pleurez pleurez mes yeux without that wobble. Now in other singers it can be of course from irritating to horrifying, and when it turns to screeching, Lordy!

          • kennedet says:

            Marshiemark II, I wouldn’t try to dispute your comments regarding Maria Callas and her wobble. It would be pointless. However, your love and comments denote that you cannot be truly objective about this great artist.

          • MontyNostry says:

            kennedet, there is no point in trying to be objective about a great artist — too much emotion is involved and it is the indefinable magic that makes a great artist great. (I speak as someone who admires and understands Callas’ artistry, but generally gets little pleasure out of listening to her sing, except where descending chromatic runs are involved, which no-one since has done better.)

          • kennedet says:

            Granted MontyNostry. I agree. My comment was to signify that a voice defect (wobble) is what students and teachers work endlessly to eradicate from vocal production. It is not easy to fix this problem and it must apply to anyone who has the misfortune of having it…there are no exceptions.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Kennedet, of course I see your point, and if you are a voice teacher (yes?) I laud you for the discipline and integrity you bring to the art!

            But I was only half jesting, and also half very serious, and Monty I think caught it best. When you are in the presence of a Maria or a Rysanek or a Behrens, you are into the whole package, and small imperfections (specially in the theater though I never saw Callas live) completely disappear. The Leonie pitch! totally irrelevant when you are in front of that Sieglinde or that Kaiserin or that Ortrud. Behrens when she was on, was an unstoppable force of nature that left you dumbfounded after a Gotterdammerung or an Elektra, she had the sacro fuoco!, but even when she was not in good voice, she still made up with the inherent musicality and depth of interpretation. And I was very serious when I said that even the wobble in Maria was incorporated into that miraculous phrasing, that eventually made you feel it is part of a larger architectural total, such was the force of her God given musicality!

            But clearly none of those examples are worthy of imitation in a young singer. They need to learn the craft impeccably before they put their own personal seal to their artistry.

  • juilvoc says:

    Poor Botha… he is so painful to watch in terms of acting. I feel pity for him. It is truly sad that he is so incredibly inhibited by his weight and his inability to be truly comfortable in his body. That’s the root problem of why he’s unable to connect to anyone onstage and why he waddles around the stage flailing his arms and making cartoon-ish faces; he can’t do much else. It’s just too bad that this was Renee’s Otello for her last Desdemonas at the Met :/

    • oedipe says:

      Botha’s weight is not his only problem, not even his biggest problem. His Otello is schematic, has no depth. He has a nice voice and all the notes, but there is no character development in his singing. And his facial expressions consist of ONE look: tight lips and bulging eyes, to show he’s mad and getting madder.

      In this Met Otello HD, the only nuanced singing and acting, interesting and emotionally-charged characterization came from Fleming, IMO. Struckmann sang and moved well, but his unsubtle Iago was as cartoonish as the Otello. I did like Fabiano as Cassio.

    • SilvestriWoman says:

      I can no longer look at Botha without thinking of Mom’s remarks after seeing the Otello Live in HD: When Otello stabbed himself at the end, she thought he was going to pop.

  • OMG I can’t take it. I knew Fleming would be wonderful in that role, it is a great role for her and her singing is wonderful, committed and devoid of all the annoying mannerisms. When it is all said and done, I think Desdemona might be counted as one of Flemings great roles, if not the greatest.

    I can not even begging to count the many ways Botha was just the wrong choice for that part. He sang all the notes, but there was not one phrase. He could have been dictating his shopping list to his personal assistant, for all he cared. There was no connection to the text, nor did he take care to project the meaning of it. And to top it all, he could not act. What was with the head shaking? Was he having a minor seizure?

    Say all you want, but seeing this makes me miss Domingo’s interpretation, even if it was a minor third down (or as Horne would put it: “down a step and a half”)

    • Clita del Toro says:

      LA: If Desdemona is Fleming’s greatest role, that’s not saying much about her career. lol
      She is far from the best Desdemona I have ever heard although she does sing the role very well, and without the usual mannerisms.

      I have never been a fan of Domingo’s Otello, but it was much better than Botha’s.

      • Well, I never said she would be remember as one of the best desdemonas ever. Not when you have the likes of Scitto, Freni, Tomowa and Tebaldi.

        But in terms of HER singing and Her career. Stacked against HER interpretations (I know, I know) Desdemona is probably her best; mainly because it showed her at her best. I would probably say that only Rusalka and the Marschalin could be considered better, but then, those roles did give her the opportunity to endure in scooping in ways that Desdemona does not.

        We are in agreement, a Desdemona for the ages she is not.

        • Clita del Toro says:

          LA You are right. I was half joking. I love to make fun of Rennay.

          I might give her Rusalka, but her Marschallin can’t compare with Della casa, Crespin, Schwarzkopf or Söderström’s, IMNSHO! ;+)

        • armerjacquino says:

          Don’t forget that until she dropped him from her rep, she was a major Mozart singer.

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          I think Thais was a real stand out for her as well. But there are opportunities for scooping in any repertoire, if you are that way inclined, so their absence from the Desdemona was a choice she made I’d say, whether consciously or not.

          • kashania says:

            She did some sensational singing in the Met Thais telecast. I’m not a fan of the piece but it was definitely a high point in Fleming’s career.

          • manou says:

            Yes -- I saw her in Thais at the Met and also at the ROH (in concert). She was sensational and got the reticent Covent Garden crowd to give her a standing ovation. Definitely one of her best roles. I also like her Tatiana.

  • hochstelust says:

    Botha’s voice is at best, dull and at worst, completely unlistenable. I found the clip extremely difficult to watch especially after seeing Vickers’ extraordinary performance in the first video. Botha’s acting is utterly execrable. In terms of Desdemonas, I think it’s difficult to compare Renata and Renee. They have very different approaches. I don’t agree with the assertion made already that Renee is underwhelming in Italian music. She is a fine Traviata and is probably the best Desdemona around right now. However, I worship Renata so I prefer her performance.

    • Clita del Toro says:

      hochstelust, I loved Tebaldi’s Desdemona early on. By the late 50′s-early 60′s, I was not so fond of it. Her voice had lost that wonderful bloom by then.
      VdlA’s Desdemona was absolutely wonderful as well. Those were my two favorites in the role.

      • Bill says:

        Clita -- Tebaldi was a luscious Desdemona back in
        1955 and she stayed fine even late in her career
        except when being pressed on the higher notes which had hardened considerably.

        Other fine Desdemonas I have particularly liked
        included Zylis Gara, Margaret Price, Ti Kanawa,
        and the gorgeously sung Desdemona of Benackova -
        also Freni and Tokody was excellent as well and Caballe sang it beautifully (even though she
        had some trouble getting into the bed in the
        4th act.) In general Desdemona seems to be a role which is
        not frequently poorly sung -- or poor singers
        do not try to essay the role. It is also a role in which non-Italian singers seem to shine as brightly or more brightly than many Italian singers.

        • Clita del Toro says:

          Bill: I know now that Tebaldi was fine later, but at the time, her loud singing and edgy high notes really bothered me. She later on also seemed to struggle for her ppp’s at times and held her chin down when trying to hit high notes.
          I really stopped attending her performances after her first Adrianas, but did see her Gioconda after that.

        • marshiemarkII says:

          Bill Caro, amazing that you are the first to mention Margaret Price as Desdemona. It was another of those most overwhelming experiences I’ve ever had in the theater, when the Paris Opera came to the Met. She opened her mouth and out came pouring this torrent of golden molten sound, that was a thing to behold. I had seats way in the back of the Orchestra, and she sounded like someone had handed her over a megaphone, gigantic and so beautiful. For us poor queens that never saw the greatest Renata, that must have been the closest one came to that kind of experience. It made you forget instantly the monstrously ugly sets they brought, by that vile Svoboda, luckily he disappeared not long after. But M Price is way up there amongst the greatest for me, for that single performance

          • MontyNostry says:

            mmII -- I had in fact mentioned the blessed Margaret at the end of one of my posts earlier. But I’d omitted to mention Hilde in the course of the post, so you probably took no notice of it ;-)

  • Bluessweet says:

    Oh dear! We now have yet another “it was better, they were better” blast, or set of blasts. I never saw Vickers and what I saw/heard of Scotto did not/does not impress me. She was, perhaps, good enough in her younger days but came to New York as a mature “singing actress.” In the clip shown here, I loose all sense of Desdemona’s deeply, totally crush innocent love. Scotto looks, to me, as someone ready to have a serious fight with her hubby. Fleming looks more vulnerable (to me, yet again.)

    Soprano Voices? Different, but Fleming seems to more than hold her own against Scotto. I see no up or down between them, just different. (Scotto shreaked a lot more in some stuff though.)

    Botha? If bug eyed tremor is your bag for the emotional impact of Iago’s machinations, then he’s just as fine or perhaps better than the stern/mad portrayal we get from Vickers. Again, just different.

    Tenor voices? They both hit the notes, sustain the line and have pleasing tonality. Perhaps Vickers is a bit more “husky,” but Botha certainly looks like an Otello to me. I was prepared not to like him when I went to the HD broadcast, what with all the fussing about is weight and “inability” to act but was very pleasantly surprised. He was Otello to me.

    Struckmann? Sang well and made me feel he was an evil force. No complaints there.

    Michael Fabiano? Great young talent. Yet another AVA success.

    Costumes? The Scotto/Vickers ones were god awful, too much the type that might have been worn to a coronation. The new version’s costumes seemed more appropriate. At one point, Otello goes off to the side of the central action to change into a more elaborate over-garment (call it what you will) to receive the Venetian Ambassador. Seemed more realistic than to be parading around as if leading the Queen’s diamond jubilee ceremonies throughout.

    My SO and I came away very pleased with the performance. The “stupid little people” who attended this performance were also generally very impressed, although at the half, one woman did say that she thought Fleming was not up to her earlier standards. Afterward, without retracting that statement, she did express satisfaction with the whole thing and that was no longer a qualified satisfaction

    Everyone has a right to their own opinion but, sheesh, the dogmatism that one sees here is too much to be believed and I, for one, no longer take a word said here as other than horse apples.

    • Clita del Toro says:

      Bluesweet, Scotto came to New York as a “mature singing-actress” ? That’s a weird characterization of her at that time-at the age of thirty-one??? She was a wonderful SINGER at that time--she was the greatest Butterfly I have ever seen. I had also seen a great Gilda in Florence (1962).
      When people use the “singing-actress” label, I am always wary of what they mean by that.

      Review of her Butterfly:
      Review of Louis Snyder in the New York Herald Tribune
      A much-heralded Italian soprano, Renata Scotto, long heard about but never heard in New York, finally made her Metropolitan Opera debut Wednesday night in the title role of the season’s first performance of “Madama Butterfly.” It was an occasion for rejoicing, and there was plenty of it in the form of applause and welcoming shouts to the new artist, who above all, is distinctly an individual.

      Miss Scotto, as a prima donna, harks back to the days when it was assumed that, to be imported by the Met, you had substantial voice and experience, and the New York test was one of communication of personality. Wednesday night, Miss Scotto arrived with all three, and if she went her own way in portraying Cio-Cio-San-that is, outside the proscribed bounds of the effective Aoyama production-hardly anyone cared.

      For she sings musically and affectingly, with pathos and color and humor in the voice, in a manner to enfold the listener in the first row of the orchestra or the last row of the family circle, Miss Scotto is a singer for all price ranges. And they let her know it Wednesday night after “Un bel di” with as loud an ovation as has been heard in the House this or maybe even last season. It would seem to be a case of instant love between Miss Scotto and the New York public.

  • kashania says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by Fleming who gives a more dramatically credible performance than I imagined. Vocally, she is in very fine form and I don’t mind that her voice is soft-grained. I think Oedipe is right on the money about Botha’s limited interpretation, though I do like the voice very much.

    Vickers was a strange actor and he sometimes turns me off, however, this is a very intense performance. He and Scotto create an undeniable frisson. And the singing and acting are one unified whole.

    Thank you QPF for posting the Domingo/Freni clip. This is a sentimental favourite of mine as it was the first time I was introduced to the work (being quite new to opera at that time). While Vickers/Scotto are more intense, there’s a passion to Domingo and Freni’s performance that I find gripping. And like Vickers and Scotto, they have good chemistry.

    • armerjacquino says:

      One of my favourite Desdemonsa:

      • sorella says:

        One of my favourites -- Teresa Zylis-Gara as Desdemona:

      • marshiemarkII says:

        ArmerJ what would you think if I told you that I also saw all eight (I think) performances with Katia and the greatest Jon Vickers the year before the Scotto. And the queens were complaining that the voice, gorgeous as it was, and she beyond gorgeous physically, slim and elegant, was boring!!! Can you imagine, what would we give to have someone like Ricciarelli today. The voice big and full and the color and timbre just exquisitely beautiful. Of course Scotto shook the rafters the next year with her own stunning, though very sui generis version. In total I saw about sixteen Otellos with the greatest Jon, died went to heaven and came back :-)
        Then for the Opening of the Met 1979, it was Coca Cola and Cruz Romo. What a sad affair. Then in 1982 or thereabouts saw Atlantov with Kiri in Verona, and who was in the audience but none other than Renata Tebaldi!!!!!. I almost fainted!!!!! but the performance wasn’t that good, and that’s it, no more Otellos for Marshie.

        • Clita del Toro says:

          Marshie-dearest, I liked Ricciarelli a lot. I saw her in Ballo.
          I am with you on Coca Cola. His Otello ended my love of the opera for many years. I’d like to hear Antonenko’s, but I am not that excited about it. My Otello days are probably over.

          • sorella says:

            Antonenko’s Otello is still a work in progress, but on the basis of his performances at Covent Garden he is pretty close to a major portrayal. His scenes with Harteros worked wonderfully and she gave a tremendous performance both vocally and dramatically.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Glad to hear that, Sorella.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Oh Clitisssssima, I also saw those Ballos with Ricciarelli who was glorious. It was the time she was involved with Carreras, and the passion of youth showed in her singing. You remember she was really FAT, and then she became very slim, and extremely gorgeous, and the voice didn’t suffer one bit. What a pity she didn’t last that long, because she was really one of the greats. I recently saw in CAS a short clip of her singing O mio Babbino in like 1991 (?), with the three sopranos, and sad as it was, occasionally you still heard glimpses of that gorgeous instrument. She was still a beautiful woman, despite the natural lines that good ol’ Time had added to her face…..

          • grimoaldo says:

            The Luisa Miller with Ricciarelli and Bruson was 1979, here she is singing “Tu punicimi, o signor”:

            I will admit to having seen that live, although I do not really like to go way way back to those days as it might give the impression that I am very ancient, but it must be remembered that I was a mere infant at the time.
            She was perfect in every way as Luisa, one of the few times when I have seen a singer do a part that suited her physically, vocally and dramatically. And I saw her do this, surely her best role, three times, with three different tenors:
            Luisa Miller -- 19 June 1978 Evening
            a retired soldier Leo Nucci
            daughter of Miller Katia Ricciarelli
            (‘Carlo’, Luisa’s lover), son of Count Walter Luciano Pavarotti

            Luisa Miller -- 4 June 1979 Evening 7.30pm
            a retired soldier Renato Bruson
            daughter of Miller Katia Ricciarelli
            (‘Carlo’, Luisa’s lover), son of Count Walter Plácido Domingo

            Luisa Miller -- 8 June 1981 Evening 7.30pm
            a retired soldier Leo Nucci
            daughter of Miller Katia Ricciarelli
            (‘Carlo’, Luisa’s lover), son of Count Walter Carlo Bergonzi

            How amazing it seems now. Actually it was pretty amazing at the time too.

        • You can keep Ricciarelli, I would not wish her to come back unlessthereare some very specific ground rules:

          1. Get your breathing right. No more unsupported high notes
          2. No more heavy Verdi before you are ready. Forget about Aida, Amelia and Elizabetta for a while.
          3. You will sing more Mozart. specifically Fiordiliggi, Donna Elvira, Ilia and the Countess and as often as possible.
          4. You can have all the Rossini and Bellini that you want. Go at it like a starved on a New Year’s Eve buffet. You can have lots of Donizetti as well, it is good for you and good for the Verdi you will do.

          I know this is water under the bridge,but IMO Ricciarelli was another sad case of too much too soon and with a faulty technique. That woman had all the goods to make opera queens swoon, and she did, for all of what? 20 minutes? Don’t get me wrong, I love some of her work, but I find it frustrating that she crashed as soon as she did and awfully as she did because that was an instrument for the golden ages and it was squandered.

          Even her debut recording, which I have, show some early signs of what was to come.

          By the way, anyone know how to get a hold of her Gilda? I discovered a video of what I was led to believe was a complete Rigoletto that was done right at the beginning of her career, right after she wond the competition that launched her international career, 1971, I think. The clip is gorgeous.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            What about her sublime Sour Angelica? do you remember the RCA LPs that would make us queens swoon? What gorgeous full throated singing. I have never seen it on CDs, anyone knows?
            LA, of course not much to quarrel with your assessment. She did crash much much much too early of course, for some of the reasons you state.

          • The Angelica was released on CD. it was deleted several years ago and it is still available but for a premium:


            That been said, I have it on LP and I never liked it. What others interpreted as vulnerability I heard as unsupported high register. Now, an argument could be made that she made the best of it and it worked out that way,but when it comes to Angelica, last thing I want to hear is a woman struggling to get through the last 10 minutes because her technique can not help her. Those10 minutes are hard enough as they are to be compounded with poor support.

            I am working with a friend in Mexico to see if I can get a copy from the cd, unless someone else has it and would not mind. I would like to re listen and re-evaluate it, I think it is only fair. (That being said,she is going against Popp)

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Wow Mille Grazie LA, a bit pricey for a Puccini opera after all. I’s spend that kind of money only for Wagner. I’ll have to think about getting it though, if for no other reason that it brings instant memories of innocent youth (yeah even MMII was once innocent :-) ). On the other hand, once I saw Scotto at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston, I Literally thought had gone to heavens, this queen and several thousand other queens that just went totally completely berserk at the end.

          • armerjacquino says:

            I bought the Ricciarelli/Cossotto ANGELICA on CD from and it’s not wildly expensive there, so it might be worth taking a hit on the postage. I think it’s very, very beautiful singing but slightly lacking in intensity.

            I’ve become a bit of a Suor Angelica obsessive over the last couple of years: I’ve now got the Nizza and Scotto TRITTICOs on DVD, along with the Pappano/CG version and a single DVD of Gauci and Dernesch. As well as the Ricciarelli CD I also have Tebaldi, Scotto, Carteri, Popp and that weird Sutherland/Ludwig version. Oh, and Racette doing all three from the Met, which I got from the broadcast, and final scenes from Radvan, Sills and Soviero.

            Scotto,Jaho and Soviero are way out in front for me, but I have to say I find Popp’s performance hugely moving, if not particularly idiomatic.

          • Well, I am checking to see if I can find it “elsewhere” but it has been difficult. I am checking with my FB friends. Maybe someone here has a copy

          • manou says:

            Sweet -- rather than Sour:


          • sorella says:

            Lindoro I agree totally. There is a superb live recording of LUISA MILLER with Carreras and Bruson from 1976, which makes one regret what happened to her voice.

            There are several live recordings circa 1974-1978 where it appeared if she was getting to grips with her technique -- JERUSALEM ’75, TRAVIATA ’77 with Kraus,’TANCREDI ’78 with Horne, but sadly the promise was not fulfilled.

            I saw her sing in DON CARLO and OTELLO at Covent Garden in 1989 & 1991 respectively. She was in much better form in the OTELLO, perhaps the guiding hand of Maestro Kleiber in the pit worked some magic -- she held the voice together and her singing in Act VI was beautiful and very moving.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Manou you ARE camp, and as such a treasure of parterre (when are you and Rory getting married?)

            Likewise Lindoro and ArmerJ are also treasures for troubling to help me find that recording!

          • Now marshie, if you do get it, please share the wealth, as I have been wanting to register to it. Maybe I’ll just turn my lps into mp3s.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Lindoro, I just noticed your reference to Ricciarelli in Mozart roles. I don’t know how much Mozart she sang, but I have a surprisingly good Donna Anna from Geneva (alongside Raimondi, and with Maria Exing and a very young John Tomlinson as the contadini).

          • Amer, I can add several more to that collection if you want….. Send me a private email and I’ll tell you what I can add.

            I have to say that Popp is my favorite Angelica. I just cry and cry and cry. I got rid of the Sutherland. I just could not take it.

          • manou says:

            Glad to see that you know Rory is mine, MMII -- your attempts to wrest him away from me by fawning upon him and calling him adorabile have not escaped my notice.

            Ever since he has drunk a cup of l’Elisir d’amore della regina Isotta, he has eyes for no one else.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Ho Capito Carissssima.
            No more Adorabile then :-) :-) :-)
            MMII is getting too promiscuous anyway!

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Mozart is not the answer to everything. For a precociously mature and full voice like Ricciarelli had as a young singer it might very well have lead her to hold back and tie herself up in knots as it does countless other big voices who try it when young. I agree she should have got the instrument more on the body before she went for the big career, but I still think the likes of Desdemona and Mimi would have been the healthiest choices, not Mozart and Rossini.

            I agree with ArmerJ about that Suor Angelica- lovely, but somehow doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. It isn’t expensive on UK amazon though, so easy to get hold of- you’ll just have a slightly longer wait.

          • Amer:

            I firmly believe Ricciarelli was a Mozart Soprano. I have no idea what is it about Italian sopranos and Mozart that is as if they think that specializing on him is beyond them. In the past 15-20 years we have had a couple of amazing Italian sopranos who did Mozart early on and mysteriously dropped it like a hot potato. Daniela Dessi was an amazing Fiordiliggi for Muti and I think she did more Mozart but dropped it. I wish she would have continued that vein for longer.

            Same thing, if not as abrupt withBarbara Fritolli, who did some amazing Mozart early on, dropped it for Verdi and is not coming back to Mozart with Countesses and Vitellia in recent years.

            I can just imagine what a Ricciarelli Countess and Donna Elvira would have been, or an Ilia. Zefiretti lusinghieri would have been the stuff of angels.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Lindoro, of course I will if I do get it.
            In fact one of these days I will do a general clean up, and give away a lot of the Only Marias that I have in duplicate, sometimes several times, same performance, just different labels. I am sure there are some young queens, as MMII once was, that would appreciate them.

          • Cocky, I see your point, but I don’t agree with it 100%. The whole “Mozart can lead a singer to hold back” is a fallacy born on the idea that Mozart has to be sung in this precious manner, with this little bit of voice. Not so.

            Singing lots of Mozart did not lead Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Margaret Price, Lucia Popp, Julia Varady, Pilar Lorengar, Freni, and many others to hold back in any of their Puccini,Verdi, Strauss or Wagner assignments.

            Those who are hurt by Mozart are those who do not sing Mozart with their full voices and chose instead to hold back in order to make a sound that is ultimately unsupported because they perceive it to be “correct.”

          • grimoaldo says:

            “Barbara Fritolli, who did some amazing Mozart early on, dropped it for Verdi and is not coming back to Mozart with Countesses and Vitellia in recent years.”

            Fritolli starts a run of Clemenza at the Met on the 16th of this month.

            Vitellia: Barbara Frittoli

          • It would help if I spell check. It should have read “…and it is NOW returning to it…”

            Makes a huge difference doesn’t it?

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            You’ve misunderstood- I’m not advocating that they should hold back in Mozart, or saying that doing so leads them to hold back in other repertoire. I’m saying that a singer in that position, without a fully secure technique is tempted to hold back, and that’s when the problems start. All the others you mention were better set up to begin with in terms of healthy vocal production than Ricciarelli. As La Cieca put it so succinctly last time somebody said Meade ought to be singing Mozart, it’s not what you sing but how you sing it that impacts on your vocal health and longevity. I just think this knee-jerk suggestion of Mozart for anybody exhibiting problems is totally spurious.

      • kashania says:

        Thanks for the Riciarelli. Gorgeous.

        • sorella says:

          Crisitina-Gallardo-Domas’ Angelica in Harry Kupfer’s 1996 staging from Hamburg is intensely moving performance.

      • Hey, gots to talk t you. Send me an email. You can find it on my blog. (Click on my name here)

  • This is for Marshie. Excepts from that Angelica with Riciarelli available on YouTube:

    Confrontation scene, from Il Principe Gualtiero:

    Senza Mamma:

    Final scene:

    For whatever it is worth.

    Amer, send me an email…..

    • marshiemarkII says:

      Wow Unbelievable Lindoro! Thank you so much for troubling to find that. It sure did send me rocketing back to the Boston of my youth, where I bought the LPs. Many thanks again! another treasure of parterre

  • I saw the Met telecast. I liked Botha because he tried something different, a lyrical Otello. Therefore, the act 1 duetto was very good, really tender and full of love. He was completely different from the usual heroic war robot. In fact, his Moore looked like a warrior who is completely afraid about the whole story that might be happening in his bedroom.
    Otherwise, his ‘Esultate’ was loud and triumphant enough for our days.
    Indeed, some other parts were not impressive, but I rather preffer a tenor who’s playing a chicken character rather than a tenor who is afraid to sing this role. Why Kaufmann isn’t taking this role? Because he’s afraid of it. The same for the rest of all these Beczala, Villazon, Calleja with nice voices but playing only The Duke of Mantua and once in a while some Rodolfos and Marios.
    About Botha’s physical appearance… What about Pavarotti? He was just as fat and also a lyrical Otello.

  • Ha. Here’s a singing actress.

  • manou says:

    And here is an unexpected Desdemona: