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Cross purposes

In spite of sounding like an indelicate football injury, I Lombardi alla prima crociata was only Giuseppe Verdi’s fourth opera. The nifty “Introduction to…” on this new DVD release from C Major to honor the Maestro’s approaching bicentennial includes some very interesting facts about the work.

Its premiere at La Scala in 1843 solidified Verdi’s reputation following Nabucco and was his first work to be performed in the United States. After significant revisions in 1847, including a translation into French and retitled Jérusalem, it was also the composer’s first success at L’Opéra. 

It goes on to impart the dispiriting information that it stands near to the very end of of the popular performance scale of Verdi’s works at number twenty-two. This is a shame because in spite of its four acts and eleven scenes suffering from some major operatic sprawl, it is a spirited work with stirring ensembles and beautifully rendered choruses.

When I saw that the Teatro Regio di Parma was the partner in this ginormous project to produce live performances of all of Verdi’s works it gave me pause. Historically the home theatre of Verdi and Arturo Toscanini it hasn’t actually been on the forefront of operatic world centers. This production proves why.

Conductor Daniele Callegari entered the pit to what I thought was an unusually cool reception until I realized this jewel box doesn’t accommodate that many people.  As the brief prelude begins the curtain parts and we are almost immediately transported to 1950’s Italy and the land of the semaphore gesture. It’s opera for the deaf. It wouldn’t be so bad if we had Renata Tebaldi and Mario del Monaco up there with voices set to stun, but no such luck here, I’m afraid.  What we do have is a decidedly B-list cast of singers about to give it to us old trouper style.

I’ll spare you the plot which is so convoluted it makes Trovatore appear as uncomplicated as Jack and Jill.  Suffice to say that the lovers, Oronte and Giselda, don’t even appear on stage together until Act III Scene I and by the time the next act rolls around he’s singing his lines post mortem. Meanwhile, we’ve still got another 20 minutes to draw this epic to a conclusion.

Bass-baritone Michele Pertusi, who plays the villain Pagano, manages to leave the stage with most of his dignity intact.  After a very wooly start in Scene I his voice clears itself up enough to make a solid impression during his big scena in Act II,”E ancor silenzio!”.  He’s certainly got long-breathed phrasing which neatly match his wide-open gestures to prove he’s feeling emotions “this big!” He starts the opera dressed exactly as the Mandarin from the Zeffirelli Met Turandot and then ends it garbed as one of the Sith Lords from Star Wars. Along the way he sustains not only a religious conversion and the loss of an eye a là Wotan, but a wicked bout of alopecia to boot.

Roberto De Biasio sings the secondary tenor role of Arvino, the heroine’s father. He’s got a sturdy voice that tends to the monochromatic. The only reason I can figure why he ends up with top billing on the box cover is that they’re listing by order of appearance.

Our friend Francesco Meli—from the Vienna Bolena with Netrebkohere is the hapless Oronte. He shambles onto the stage in a wig that makes him look like a cocker spaniel and proceeds to sings as loudly as he possibly can. More acting with the arms, flapping them about so much I thought surely he would take flight.

I don’t care what pitch he’s singing (apparently neither does he), but his phrasing is square and his technique effortful. Once he’s warmed up he gets even louder but always manages to get the biggest applause of the evening every time he stops singing. (Does his mom get comp tickets?)

Which brings us to Dimitra Theodossiou as Giselda, who should be way more exciting than she actually is. She certainly has the technique for the role and it’s a killer.  She sings all that high piano stuff in the fake place and she’s definitely been watching her Aprile Millo videos at home because she’s holding her arms aloft in that familiar gesture of “Descend to me, ye spirits of sopranos past!”

The director even pays her the great compliment of bringing a drop curtain down behind her so she can sing her last act cabaletta,”Non fu sogno!” directly to the audience. Alas, to no avail. Her performance just never takes fire or displays even the slightest signs of being demented. Sadly, the director seems to think she looks sincerest on her knees.

The entire opera is performed in front of a giant stone wall designed by Paolo Bregni with pastel drawings projected on it to suggest the various locations of the plot. When the chorus gets particularly martial, suddenly we go into the Junior High School “Horrors of War” PowerPoint presentation with lots of concentration camp victims and Picasso’s Guernica. You don’t have to knock me over the head.

During the great choral opener to Act III , “Gerusalem,” the wall at the back finally reveals itself to be the actual Western Wall with a line of modern-day Orthodox Jews davening upstage while the chorus sings. Though not exactly relevant to this action, this scene provides a touching moment in an evening almost completely devoid of pathos or drama.

The Director, Lamberto Puggelli, seems more than happy with having everyone line up at the front of the stage and sing out at the audience, with no need for frills like interaction or character development. Lighting by Andrea Borelli isn’t up to first world standards but you have to admit it’s colorful.

Since the chorus gets some of the best music in this piece, I wish the Parmigiani had been up to the task. They look to number about 50 total but rarely sing with gusto and never, ever take their eyes off the conductor. There’s also some seriously half-hearted banner waving that is not to be believed.

The costume plot of Santuzza Cali aspires to include every color of the spectrum, sometimes all at the same time, like some tie-dyed muumuus for Mme. Theodossiou from the Beatrice Arthur collection.

Callegari leads a strong performance from the pit and the orchestra of the Teatro Regio certainly knows how to play Verdi. He does nothing exceptional besides keeping everyone together and certainly doesn’t seem to be inspiring anyone to better themselves.

The concert master plays the violin prelude to the great trio in Act III quite well, winning a solo curtain call. Sadly, his name is not to be found on the end credits or in the booklet or on the box. I’d sue.

Picture and sound are very good and I believe all these titles are being released on DVD andBblu-ray simultaneously. Inspite of a nearly empty shelf when it comes to this opera I don’t think I can recommend this one except to die-hard completists. Not that there’s anything wrong with an old-fashioned stand up and sing kind of evening—except when it almost completely lacks inspiration and excitement.

28 comments

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    Amazon thinks I should buy this, because I bought Oberto, which is actually quite a sensible thing to say. Normally they say I should buy Russel Watson, because I bought Kirsten Flagstad.

    • phoenix says:

      Kurwenal -- please enlighten me on the Oberto DVD from this same Verdi series -- I am considering getting it but reading your comments in the past years, I would value your opinion above all others.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        You flatter me. In my view, this Oberto DVD is not perfect, but I nevertheless heartily recommend it.

        I think Herlitzius is probably one of those divisive singers who you either love or hate. Being a whisker sharp seems integral to her sound, the timbre isn’t conventionally beautiful, or conventionally anything, and her style might be too generous/intense for some. I think all of these things are easy to accept in say Elektra but get accentuated and are less usual in Verdi. So you’ll have to make up your own mind about her (if you haven’t already -- I know you’re an avid broadcast listener), but personally I think she’s wonderful. All of the above notwithstanding, the basic technique is incredible and she can manage the long Verdi bel canto lines, awkward leaps and all, without any trouble at all, and with a great deal of feeling and sensitive dynamic shading. Dramatically she is very committed, and is got up to look oddly like Bette Davis in jezebel with flaming red hair.

        Marianne Cornetti is the seconda donna and I have to say she does a good job. She’s a lot more static, but then the role is too. Some of the coloratura isn’t as clear as it could be, but it is a far cry from the wayward mess she has become -- she is more than respectable here.

        Carlo Ventre makes a fairly disgusting sound, but I sort of respect him for it -- he never apologises for it or does anything peculiar to make it more attractive, and I really admire that. If I made a noise like that, I’d completely screw myself up trying to cover it or add resonance or something, instead of which he just lays it out like it is, kind of like Rockwell Blake (he’s not in Blake’s league or anything, and they aren’t remotely comparable in other respects -- Ventre is very much a spinto). Anyway, he’s kind of graceless and doesn’t do much more than get the job done, but he is able to get round the notes well, and that’s praise-worthy because it’s awkwardly written. The character is unsympathetic, and the role is shorter than the others, so I think he’s perfectly OK.

        Abdrazakov is amazing. I really never realised he could be this impressive and exciting. He has a long aria and cabaletta towards the end of his role which ends thrillingly, and he has lots of charisma throughout. It has revolutionised my view of him, I will no longer think of him as a perfectly useful bass-baritone who seems to be in everything, but rather as a major presence on the opera stage today.

        The production is effective if kind of perfunctory. The chorus gents are a touch raw. The best thing about it all for me though, other than Herlitzius, was the piece itself, which I didn’t know. Turns out it’s full of great numbers which are exciting, moving, thrilling and beautiful by turns.

        • phoenix says:

          Muchas gracias Kurwenal -- spontaneous, perceptive & lucid: just as I thought you would be.
          - Now we have to find somebody (or maybe Cieza has found somebody already) to review this other Oberto DVD from Parma 2007 with Pentcheva, Sassu, Sartori & Parodi:

          • willym says:

            I saw this production at the little jewel box theatre in Busetto back in 2007 and made a few observations of it at the time: http://willyorwonthe.blogspot.ca/2007/11/oberto-conte-diwhat.html

            It was all a great adventure -- our car had broken down so I took the train to Parma -- spouse stayed home in Roma with the broken car and sick puppy -- and then, because there was no other transportation to get there a very expensive cab ride to Busetto through the very pleasant country side. After the performance I had dinner at Carlo Bergonzi’s hotel/restaurant next to the theatre. A daunting experience for many reasons, not least of which was being the only solo diner in the room and placed at the head of the large baronial room against an elaborate tapestry and illuminated by an overhead pot light. Then a taxi ride back fraught with adventure due to the late hour and the fog covered landscape, several wrong turns but a charming driver who delivered me back to Parma safe and sound. It was one of those operatic evenings that remains in my memory -- the chance to hear Verdi’s first opera (if less than memorably performed), that incredible little theatre, the atmosphere of the town in which he lived, the landscape of Emilia-Romangna and even that uncomfortable dining experience made for an exceptional night. And Parma -- well until you have tasted culatello with warm local flat bread, fresh butter and a glass of a malvasia, if you’re a ham lover, you haven’t lived! http://willyorwonthe.blogspot.ca/2007/10/heres-damned-ham.html

          • phoenix says:

            Thanks willym -- your review verifies the impression I got from the clip above: that it a ‘distinctive’ performance -- in the DVD version, your beloved Irene Cerboncini is replaced by United Classica’s Francesca Sassu as Leonora.

        • kashania says:

          Carlo Ventre makes a fairly disgusting sound, but I sort of respect him for it – he never apologises for it or does anything peculiar to make it more attractive, and I really admire that. If I made a noise like that, I’d completely screw myself up trying to cover it or add resonance or something, instead of which he just lays it out like it is

          Interesting observation. I also admire singers who do this. Christine Brewer does this on one of her English language arias discs that I have. It’s not that she has an ugly sound. But she refuses to compromise the words and the vowels in an attempt to always produce a full, rounded tone. Some notes end up sounding a bit sour but there’s an integrity to it.

          Jay Hunter Morris did a bit of that too as Siegfried. There were times when he produced an unattractive sound when he could have easily tried to cover the sound.

          • Bianca Castafiore says:

            I have not heard the recording you mention, but I’m now listening to Ventre in Gustavo III (from the Teatro San Carlo in Napoli), with Matos, Diadkova and Stoyanov, conducted by Palumbo. I don’t know about disgusting sounds, but I find his voice has a lot of character and even beauty (certainly more than Blake’s). You are right about the non-apologetical approach — I think if he tried to straighten it out, it’d come out boring and generic.

            My only exposure to Lombardi is the video from La Scala (?), with Hurricane Dimitrova (in awful costumes and wig) singing up a storm, and Carreras. Ventre’s tone actually reminds me a bit of Josep’s, they have the same plaintive quality and color.

          • Bianca Castafiore says:

            La Ghena:

        • stevey says:

          Thank you for this wonderful review, Cocky. Oberto has long intrigued me… the ‘due donna’ are one big reason. My God, a cursory glance at a partial discography reveals names that leave me salivating: As Leonora- Maria Vitale, Angeles Gulin, Ghena Dimitrova, Elizabeth Connell, Maria Guleghina, and of course Herlitzius. (All big voiced, meaty sopranos just like I like ‘em!!) And their Cunizas are no slouches either- Elena Nicolai, Viorica Cortez, Ruza Baldani, Violeta Urmana, Denyce Graves, and Cornetti. To me it sounds like it could be the stuff that dreams are made of! And then, of course, the other reason is for the fact that it’s ‘raw’ Verdi, and as such something of an enigma… who knows what we can expect?? I think the reasons are the same as why I am drawn to ‘Titus Andronicus’ (which I guess might be considered ‘raw’ Shakespeare). Alas, however, I do have a soft spot in my place for ‘Titus’… whereas ‘Oberto’ has never done a thing for me… I don’t really know why. But I will definitely check out this DVD, and so thank you!

          Re: Herlitzius. I absolutely love her, and wish there were more like her. She’s such a SMART performer, and singer, and yet the same time is so absolutely visceral. I don’t know why but an analogy to a much more extreme version of Waltraud Meier (“Waltraud Meier Unleashed”??) springs to mind. The voice is not by ANY means conventionally pretty, squalliness is always a factor and I think each listeners opinion as to Herlitzius and whether they like or dislike her depends on the amount of squalliness each of us finds acceptable to our respective ears. I might be able to make the same argument in regards to Sondra Radvanovsky, and each listeners tolerance level for vibrato, or ‘flutter’ in a singers voice. (Another ‘similar difference’ between the two could be said that Radvanovsky tends to flatness whereas Herlitzius tends to sharpness. Anyway…).

          I get something of a charge (an annoyed one) when I read people critical or dismissive of Herlitzius who wax rhapsodic about Dame Gwyneth Jones as I find so many basic similarities between the two artists that it’s striking- both have these almost animalistic stage presences that draws your attention to them whenever they’re on the stage, neither have voices that could be said to be conventionally beautiful, or easy to listen to (Jones with the huge vibrato, never fully under control it seemed. Herlitzius and the acid sqalliness), both are also slim, physically striking women (Jones with her mane of blonde, then silver hair. Herlitzius with her shock of wild red), neither are afraid to ‘get ugly’ in a role, and of course, both have these absolutely huge voices that simply command attention. I think one key difference in comparing the two is that I believe Herlitzius has more command and control, more ‘awareness of her voice’, than Dame Gwyneth did.

          It’s interesting, I first became interested in knowing more about his Herlitzius singer simply through the syntax used in describing her in reviews:
          “Pretty sound or no, it’s wonderful to encounter an artist so focused on wringing every drop out of a performance.”
          “there was an extraordinarily flammable, self-consumed quality to her stage presence that is very compelling. It made me wonder – is she like this all the time?” (that was actually from our long lost Squirrel)
          “phenomenal, but unsettling”
          “when she unleashed her stentorian acuti, the physical “presence” of these notes in the auditorium was an exciting experience in itself”
          “to listen to and experience this singer at full throttle is an almost overwhelming experience”
          “Evelyn Herlitzius doesn’t perform, she incarnates the characters she sings.”
          “A perfect combination of vocal power and interpretive intensity.”
          “Nilsson-esque missile-like acuti that could fill a hall twice larger”

          All of this made me sit up and say “WhoTF?? This sounds like quite an artist!”. I then had a friend who saw her Erwartung at Carnegie Hall, the only person I have somewhat known who has experienced her live. Her response when I asked what she was like I’ll never forget, and confirmed me absolutely as this singers committed ‘fan’. She said she was: “an almost overwhelming experience…. like, to the point of almost uncomfortably so, but in a good way. I don’t know. She fucked me up, that’s all I know. She was awesome…” And, to me at least (we’re all different, of course), that’s what I dream of experiencing through a singer- these singers that have the ability to make notes and sound that we lay people can only dream of, and as such affect as as only they can.

          Then I went looking around online for photos and such and found that in almost every photograph I found from a live performance she looked like she was having some kind of fit- wide eyed, intensely active and physical, manic, hysteric, (shades of Rysanek, all…), with the red hair flailing. Pictures that when you looked at them made you want to ask “what the hell is up with her???” That kind of physical abandon to a role is a gift to be able to experience, that it also comes with a vocal abandon that is equally massive yet seemingly still within her control (something that artists such as the mature Scotto, and Malfitano didn’t have… factors which strangely made me love their performances even more. Perhaps I’m an opera sadist…) is so rare as to be precious.

          I suppose I just look at the roster of Met artists today (I’m using the Met simply because that seems to be a common denominator in which we all share to some point), and I can’t find any female singers who can offer either similar intensity in performance and command of the stage, and vocal power. Stoyanova is vocally impeccable, it’s a magnificent voice. We luxuriate in it. DiDonato is technically superb, but her personality is ‘winning’. Similarly, Netrebko’s voice is a joy to hear, and she commands the stage, but it is her charm, her idiosyncratic ‘Anna-ness’ that we like and (I think) is such a part of her star power. Dessay (in her prime) threw herself into her roles with commitment and all of herself, but her personas were quirky, neurotic, on-the-edge-of-cracking, never strong, and Poplavskaya challenges us, demanding that accept or at least respect her for exactly the artist that she is… and isn’t- and an enigma not really because of her voice. Herlitzius commands your attention almost in spite of yourself, which I think is where the ‘almost overwhelming’ comes from. The only other artist that I can think of to compare is Anja Silja and for me there can hardly be higher praise. I LOVE watching Silja sing, almost to the point where I wonder if I may enjoy her performance more if the sound were not as noticable! I likewise will always remember reading the reviews of the Queler-Benackova-Rysanek ‘Jenufa’, specifically that which referred to Rysanek and her embodiment of the Kostelnicka, even in the concert setting. To get that from someone- physically- while they’re also expressing that character so well vocally (which of course only the tiny fraction of the population that are trained opera singers can do) is the stuff of magic. For me, anyway… :-) So to take an artist that can combine to a pretty good degree the acuti of Nilsson, the physical presence and sheer size of voice of Jones, the acting abandon of Rysanek, and the absolute immersion and commitment of a Silja is for me nepenthe for all the tail-twitching bimbos currently (dis)gracing our stages, as well as the ‘game’ Elektras giving their ‘valiant’ performances, all up to the lurches and leaps and grasps at ever high C.

          Forgive me, all, for going on and on about this artist like this. Dramatic sopranos are my favorite things in opera, and I am buoyed by the resurgence and rise of Christine Goerke. Likewise, I am reveling in the ‘Pax Stemme’ we are experiencing in opera houses across the world right now- she is a phenomenal, phenominal artist. I just think that Herlitzius deserves to be heard more on this side of the great pond, and that we deserve to hear her.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Stevey! It seems we have a great deal in common. I bought the Oberto DVD basically because I was craving recordings of Herlitzius, and so far there are so few commercially available, so the fact that I enjoyed the whole thing so much was a bonus.

            Dame Gwyneth Jones is more or less my favourite diva after Callas, but alas I never got to see her when she was still a force to be reckoned with. The existence of Herlitzius makes me feel a whole lot better about that, because I really feel that now we have our own huge voiced and viscerally exciting dramatic soprano in our own time to take her place. It’s inconvenient that she remains in continental Europe most of the time, but I traveled to Amsterdam last year to see her in Elektra and I was not disappointed. I can’t wait for that recording to come out later this month.

            I agree that Herlitzius is far more in command of her voice than Jones was -- truly, Herlitzius is a technical marvel who didn’t seem to tire at all in the Elektra I saw. I think it’s this absolute freedom in the command of her voice that allows her to be so intense on stage and in the way she sings. I disagree however that Jones’s voice was not conventionally beautiful -- it was the singing that became less beautiful, fairly quickly, but the timbre in all her Verdi work in the 1960s is lush and gorgeous in my opinion, and that same voice remained gorgeous to me throughout, with the exception of the top b-natural and c which did rather come to resemble sea gulls or train whistles.

            Anyway, I’m already planning to go to Rome next October to see Herlitzius in Turandot. I really think she’s one of a kind. I’m also looking forward to Goerke’s ROH Elektra which I think is in 2013 -- I hear she was really something in the role recently.

          • stevey says:

            Cocky, it’s wonderful to hear back from you, and equally delightful to find a kindred spirit in regards to just what and who turns our proverbial cranks, as I echo your sentiments completely!

            You’re absolutely right about Jones. Though I know it probably wouldn’t be a favorite of everybody’s, one of the discs that I find myself- regularly- going back to is Dame Gwyneth’s studio Medea under Gardelli. I absolutely love it and- to my neophyte ears, anyway- it seems to be the perfect time to bask in the wonder of Dame Gwyneth as the power, the beauty, and the steadiness, are all there.

            My cup runneth over regarding your upcoming Herlitzius Turandot!!! I’m aware that the role has been in her repertoire for a while now, but still it’s something of a head-shaker for me. Cold, unfeeling, rigid, ‘Ice Princess’ La Herlitzius definitely isn’t!! The role I’m dying for her to undertake is Lady Macbeth- I think she’d be absolutely phenomenal, in every way. Oh, to hear her cut through and ride over that wonderful ensemble to close act 1!!! I do notice that it is in her crosshairs, though, so there is hope. I also notice with piqued interest that among other roles she says she intends to add to her repertoire (in addition to Verdi’s Lady) include Minnie, Gioconda, Tosca, 2 that make me kinda go (!!)(??)- Fedora and Adriana, AND Cherubini’s Medea, which I think would be AWESOME. And, interestingly still, I notice in this interview that the two roles she says she’s most excited about are Tatyana (huh??) and Emilia Marty- talk about disparate roles! Well, I’ll support her in whatever she undertakes… and hold out hopes that that Lady Macbeth isn’t too far on the horizon, and that maybe, just maybe, La Herlitzius might for whatever reason decide to pick up the score of ‘The Fiery Angel’ and ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ and start to get ideas…… ;-)

            I actually have recordings of Herlitzius’s Elektra both from La Monnaie in 2010 (with Westbroek, Soffel) and Amsterdam in 2011 (with Nylund, Schuster) as well as Goerke’s first assault on the role from Barcelona (with Uhl, Henschel). I’d be happy to send you copies of whatever you’re interested in hearing, if you like (an offer which also applies to all of my Parterre brethren, of course… ;-)

            I also note that a few years ago, Herlitzius enjoyed another resounding triumph in a role of an opera that intrigues me, but have very little first-or-secomd hand knowledge of as yet, that being the evil Eglantine in Weber’s ‘Euryanthe’ (with quite a starry cast, apparently- Camilla Nylund and Gabriele Fontana splitting the eponymous heroine, and Klaus Florian Vogt as the Adolar (it’s with shame that I confess that I don’t think I’ve even so much as acknowledged my one recording of the opera, with Fontana and Christine Brewer leading the cast…). Eglantine is apparently a very Ortrud-esque kind of role, which for me is a great place for any opera to start… (I really should get off my ass and give it a listen sometime….)

            Anyway, nice to hear from you and I hope all is well over on yonder end of the cold, blue ocean!! :-)

          • Buster says:

            Stevey, are you going to her Chicago Isolde in February? Act two only, but with her and the CSO that should be a blast:

            http://cso.org/TicketsAndEvents/EventDetails.aspx?eid=4838

            She recently started to sing Lieder recitals too, I hope she will do one here eventually.

          • Bill says:

            Cocky -- Stevie. Herlitzius I have only
            seen twice -- one was a Fidelio in Vienna some
            years back and though she as such had no
            problems with the vocal aspects of the role,
            nor the intense dramatic aspects, I felt it as a failure as I did not much like her uneven voice which was all over the place. Last year
            I encountered her again in Vienna as the
            Dyer’s wife and she was much improved -- not
            really a beautiful voice, but the combination
            of her ability to sing the role, to act
            incredibly well made her the Faeberin of choice
            these days I suppose. I do not know what her
            Turandot would be like but we have to remember
            the role is not only about decibles (While
            Grob-Prandl had a success with the role with
            her huge voice so did Maria Cebotari who was
            more a lyric) but nuance and of course a
            strong top.

            I had heard Jones so many times in a great
            variety of roles though not all of her
            Italian offrings -- the first time was in
            Vienna in Feb 1966 when she made her debut
            replacing Nilsson as Fidelio -- there was not
            a trace of a wobble. Sometimes she would
            start off cruelly in uneven vocal shape and then suddenly get complete control of her
            voice and give an amazing performance. In
            one Ariadne in Vienna she replaced Janowitz
            which was an initial disappointment but then
            Jones went on to sing the performance of her
            life -- total control of the voice, not the
            slightest hint of a wobble, every vocal nuance
            secure in all ranges -- it was a revelation -
            the audience new it, Jones knew it and she
            was awarded a tremendous ovation at the end
            of the opera with numerous curtain calls.
            Stemme ( quite the best around these days
            for certain roles ) as Ariadne paled in comparison to that performance of Jones.

            I do feel, based upon two live hearings of Herlitzius, that despite the strengh and size of her voice and her intensity in performance, that she will not be an overwhelming favorite
            with every operagoer.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Bill, I think you’re absolutely right -- I said at the beginning I think she’s a divisive artist, she is always going to have detractors and for perfectly good and valid reasons.

            Stevey -- she will make an amazing Lady Macbeth! She’ll be very well served by her easy top as you say and it would be amazing to hear it soar over the ensembles. I’m really glad she is interested in singing more Italian roles -- she really has the command of the line required and she should find more opportunities to display it. Some of them are slightly surprising, but you know what? I can imagine her playing the teenaged Tatyana rather brilliantly. It won’t be the sweet sound we’re used to, but then Vishnevskaya had a gigantic and (to my mind) not especially pleasant voice, and had some success with the role! I have a personal soft spot for the role of Fedora because it was what I saw the second time I ever went to the Met, with Mirella Freni who is another singer I adore. Associated as the role is in my mind with a voice tending toward the squalid with a very generous vibrato, as dear old Mirella was by then, the thought of Herlitzius singing it computes rather well for me! I have completely different preconceptions about Adriana though which I’m finding harder to imagine. Emila Marty would be great, and Minnie seems to work especially well for Wagner/Strauss specialists (cf Stemme).

            Funnily enough, I listened to Dame Gwyneth’s Medea just the other day, which almost never happens. I’m not such a fan of the piece, but her performance really is incredible, firing on all cylinders while she was still absolutely secure. Speaking of Lady Macbeth, have you heard hers from the mid-70s with Muti? Mind blowing.

            I would absolutely LOVE to hear the Herlitzius Elektra from La Monnaie. Having spent a couple of months there the year before last and got used to the extremely generous acoustic, I can only imagine she made even more of an impact in it than she did in Amsterdam. Do drop me a line at cockykurwenal @ yahoo dot com.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Steven, Cocky et al Herkitzius fans

            Yes, she’s a genuine Kunstdiva -- I’ve seen her twice as Brunnhilde and Faerberin and once as Ortrud and Elektra. I’m going to catch her Kundry in Berlin in Jan. for those Europarterrimans who can’t get to her Chicago concert Isolden she’s doing a pair of staged performances in Essen of all places next summer. And there’s her Scala Ortrud upcoming with Jonas, Harteros and Pape -- presumably it’ll be Live in HD-ed sometime before Christmas. She’s also doing Kundry to JK’s P in Vienna around the same time as the new Salzburg production with Schuster and Botha (Thielemann conducting). That Turandot in Rome sounds intriguing -- she’s been singing it in Dresden, but she’s taking her life in her hands presenting her Principessa in Italy. And, yes Stevey -- she’s very reminiscent of Gwyneth, although the sound is not quite as big and voluptuous as the Dame on a good day -- and I heard quite a lot of those. The “Grannie-Get-Your-Gun” Minnie at the Garden that I attended was not, alas one of those, but it was, I think, her last new role at Covent Garden -- a tad too late. I’m not sure I’d want to hear Evelyn’s Fanciulla either -- she’s older than I imagined, but she was a house singer in Dresden for years.

          • Porgy Amor says:

            I heard a poor-quality recording of one of Dame Gwyneth Jones’s Minnies, but I don’t believe it was the ROH “Granny Get Your Gun” one. Domingo was the bandit and I believe it was recorded in Los Angeles. I was more impressed with her than I was expecting to be, because it was on the late side. She was so eloquent at times in her treatment of the music and words, as in the Bible lesson, that I felt I could see the performance she was giving on stage in my mind’s eye. I wish she had recorded the opera or better yet had been filmed in it in her best years; it was a good role for her.

  • phoenix says:

    Listening to a specific singer over a number of years (decades?), there are almost always some very satisfying performances to recollect among many clunkers. I feel Theodossiou has given some excellent showings -- as well as some very dissatisfying ones. Since she was usually quite active with recorded media, many of them are available for perusal. There is a so-so utube Lombardi with her from Santiago (1999?) which to my ears doesn’t sound much more exciting than the review above.
    - My favorite Lombardi with Theodossiou is the 2001 Cremona live peformance (on Dynamic CD) with Massimo Giordano & Giogio Surian. The major difference between Mme. Theodossiou’s Giselda in the Cremona performance and the others is that she sang with a great deal more wild abandon in Cremona AND she did sound ‘demented’. Her ‘high piano stuff’ is not so much in ‘the fake place’ when she stops worrying about sounding pretty. I understand that some purists accused her in the Cremona performance of provincial melodramatic tactics but I, for one, cherish her performance for the energy & excitement she generates. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any utube clips of her in this Cremona performance, but there is a nice clip of Massimo Giordano singing Oronte’s aria you can find on utube and on Amazon mp3 sample.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Sometimes I think people use the word ‘provincial’ when what they really mean is ‘distinctive’.

      I don’t know Theodossiou’s singing at all, I really must check her out.

      • MontyNostry says:

        Cocky, Theodossiou is at the Wigmore next Monday, 14th Nov.

        • Bianca Castafiore says:

          Years ago, a Theodossiu fan and follower gave me a CD of one of her early Normas in Greece. I thought she was ok but nothing special. Since then I have not really changed my mind. She can give some demented performances but the voice has gone through a lot of wear and tear:

          (that’s Ildar btw as Attila)

  • grimoaldo says:

    June Anderson, Carlo Bergonzi (at age 71, substituting for an indisposed Pavarotti) and Ferruccio Furlanetto, sing the great Act Three trio at the Met gala celebrating Levine’s 25th anniversary in 1996:

    Sheer heaven.

    The clip does not include the beautiful mini violin concerto that introduces the trio, so here it is:

  • Porgy Amor says:

    The one (singular) from this series that I want to see all the way through, so far, is the UN GIORNO DI REGNO. I have had a fondness for that ill-fated little confection ever since I heard the recording with Norman, Cossotto, Carreras, and Wixell. I’d like to see it staged. I believe Pier Luigi Pizzi did the honors here? Here’s Anna Caterina Antonacci (LOVE!) in a clip from the DVD.

    Sspeaking of Cossotto, below is something I’ve never bothered to see, because I already have so many videos of this opera, and I assumed Cossotto would be past it (at least, declined from 1966 Verona and 1973 Tokyo) and the other principals are not singers I know well or have followed. But I ended up watching long stretches of it tonight on YouTube, and I’m wondering if it isn’t a contender for the best DVD bet out there, in that it’s a musically strong performance that doesn’t call for tolerance the way some of the older ones do (it’s not fuzzy-looking, black-and-white, badly recorded, worn, cluttered with huge Japanese subtitles one can’t turn off, etc.).

    • Mrs Rance says:

      Thanks -- quite wonderful by Antonacci. I love that scene from Un Giorno. I love Montserrat singing it on her Verdi Rarities album.