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It is what she would have wanted

Due to wellness, it is with deep contentedness that Marina Poplavskaya will after all dance the ballet of “The Red Shoes” sing the role of Alice in Robert le Diable at the Royal Opera contrary to the earlier announcement of a cast change.


  • 1
    bluecabochon says:

    I’ll be across the pond and hope to see for myself what this is all about.

    My real reason for commenting is to commend our Doyenne on the brilliant use of quote and photo of one of my favorite actors ever, the greatly under-appreciated Anton Walbrook. :)

  • 2
    Camille says:

    Oh thanks be to g-d! I thought Little Vicky was dead!

  • 3
    blanchette says:

    not by me blue- love him. -- why do you want to dance? -why do you want to live? my FAVORITE movie

    • 3.1
      bluecabochon says:


      • 3.1.1
        Camille says:

        A kind of impossibly beautiful film. Never could be repeated again and maybe it shouldn’t be. It means a very great deal to me and hoping many others may somehow or another see it.

        Looking at it again after many years I see it not through a pretty pink tulle haze nut in an entirely different manner. In spite of all, it still holds deep and tender resonance for me, from several aspects.

        Put on the red shoes, Vicky.

          Camille says:

          A pretty pink hazelnut, it looks like!

          The nut should be a but.

          Belfagor says:

          All of Powell and Pressburger’s output in the 1940’s is extraordinary -- some of the strangest, most durable movies in the history of cinema -- ‘Red Shoes’, ‘Black Narcissus’, ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ -- aka ‘Stairway to Heaven’, ‘I Know Where I’m Going’, ‘A Canterbury Tale’, ‘Colonel Blimp’ -- one after the other, a stellar run…..

          • bluecabochon says:

            That’s beautiful, Camille.

            “Black Narcissus” is one of my favorite films, watchable over and over again, hugely for the performance of Kathleen Byron as the mad sister. A perfect film all around.

            I took a film class while in college and Michael Powell, a friend of the teacher, came to one class to lecture. We were shown so may of his films during that term, even the crazy “Peeping Tom”. Belfagor is right -- what an unusual output of films, to say the least. “Colonel Blimp” is an interesting film, with Walbrook again, Deborah Kerr, and the wonderful Roger Livesey and his distinctively smoky voice.

            Powell had an eye for the (red headed) ladies, buy he sure could pick wonderful leading men -- David Farrar, Walbrook, LIvesey, David Niven.

            Powell and Pressburger made a version of “the Tales of Hoffmann” in 1951, a wonderful oddity worth seeing:

          • bluecabochon says:

            Trying again:

          • bluecabochon says:

            Crap! Can someone do this correctly as I can’t?

          • messa di voce says:

            Totally agree. I AM Wendy Hiller in “I Know Where I’m Going.” The finale of “Canterbury Tale,” where all the threads of the diffuse story line are woven together in a blaze of patriotic glory, is overwhelming.

            And then Powell finished his career with “Peeping Tom,” one of the creepiest films of all time, one that makes “Psycho” look like something out of Beatrix Potter.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Kathleen Byron! She was in a TV play by my mother in the 70s, which I watched on video years later. So she lodged in my mind as a calm, dignified, sedate older lady with silver hair.

            I got quite a shock the first time I saw BLACK NARCISSUS!

          • Belfagor says:

            oo yes, that scene with Kathleen Byron in civvies and the lipstick is still, after all these years, very strong stuff.

            There are so many indelible moments in these films, once seen, never forgotten -- the build up to the duel in ‘Blimp’, and then at the crucial point the camera floats away out into the night, fabulous!

            The only one I’ve never seen is the version they did of ‘Fledermaus’ -- ‘Oh, Rosalinda!’ -- an old teacher of mine helped with the music on that production and thought it was dreadful -- does anyone know it? The 50’s films tend to be much artier and less extraordinary…..

          • Gualtier M says:

            BTW: let me recommend the latest restoration of “The Red Shoes” on Criterion blu-ray. They actually too each layer of the three-strip technicolor negative and digitally restored it frame by frame. The effect is a little bit too good -- the image quality is so very precise and sharp you are seeing things you never saw before. For example, Marius Goring’s maquillage is quite evident giving Julian a slightly trannyish aura. Walbrook is less Elizabeth Ardenized and more natural looking.

            Also in the scene where Julian and Vicky are declaring their love on a Monte Carlo hotel balcony overlooking the sea, you can see some buckling of the fabric of the “sky at dusk” backdrop (this was studio shot obviously). All these details would have been smoothed over in the softer image of the projected celluloid and earlier transfers done from final prints.

            On the other hand everything else from Moira Shearer’s titian hair to the Monte Carlo seascape to the Oliver Messel sets have never looked more glorious.

          luvtennis says:

          I have shown this movie to some pretty muy mas macho guys and they have ALL loved it.

          There is something so haunting about it. Have you noticed that there are some movies that have the petit madeleine effect on you whenever you see them? This movie effects me that way. As do many of the great Hitchcock films and -- in my opinion on of the greatest films ever and a hugely influential one -- Night of the Hunter.

          My favorite scene is the Swan Lake with record player!

          I highly recommend Dead of Night another marvelous picture from the same artistic team, I believe.

          Good to see you actively posting again, dear Camille.

  • 4
    javier says:

    Wasn’t Damrau cast in this role at some point?

    Poplavskaya does not seem right for this role.

    This roles evokes artists like Scotto, Anderson, Miricioiu, and Sutherland (although she just recorded the first scene). Sopranos who excel in bel canto.

    Why cast someone who sounds sick when she is well? Further…how did she know she would be sick in December and what makes her think she is better now?

  • 5
    bigred60 says:

    She was a train wreck in Philadelphia for the Verdi Requiem. I hope she is better?????

    • 5.1
      Porgy Amor says:

      Poplavskaya is polarizing, even more than that is true for most opera singers. I Googled, curious about her train-wreck performance, and the first two reviews I found were full of praise for her. One called her “the evening’s star…every phrase felt like a personal confession,” and praised her high notes and her dignified presence. The other mentioned that her “powerful voice filled the hall” even though she had been announced as less than her best (allergies). It continued in the “If this is what Poplavskaya sounds like when she’s sick, then [etc.]” vein.

      I’m not taking a side; I didn’t hear the performance. At the Met and elsewhere, I have found her an inconsistent singer who has good dramatic instincts, and whose musical phrasing has perception and individuality. So I might prefer to hear her over a soprano who is a better singer in some unarguable ways.

      • 5.1.1
        armerjacquino says:

        The only time I ever heard her live she was also announced as indisposed, as Anna in the CG DON GIOVANNI. This was a few years ago, before she was as (in)famous as she is now, and -- believing that this was a young singer who was ill -- what I thought I heard was someone carefully and rather nervously guiding a vulnerable voice through a difficult part. She made some lovely sounds and acted compellingly, but there were moments when it felt like the voice was only barely hitting the notes through sheer force of will.

        I have often wondered since how ill she was that night, because those moments of beauty interspersed with moments of near-disaster seem to be her MO.

          MontyNostry says:

          My most recent experience of Popsy was in a concert performance of Il viaggio a Reims at Covent Garden with other alumni of the house’s young artists’ programme. She was in the star role or Corinna, which really needs very beautiful and virtuosic vocalism if it is to come off — the elegiac arias are rather overstretched. She got through them by the skin of her teeth, but not dishonourably. I am no fan of hers (I avoided The Tsar’s Bride the other season because of her), but there was some artistry going on and she hit all the notes, even if it never felt comfortable. As has been said on here many times, one is constantly aware of the way her voice is being managed. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed her singing (she is not a singer to ‘enjoy’), but it wasn’t excruciating. That being said, why the ROH insists on trying to build her into a star, giving her plum roles that never quite suit her, is a mystery to me. She strikes me as a singer who is never going to develop beyond her current level.

          • La Cieca says:

            I don’t know that the “building her into a star” quite applies here. Alice is a second lead: plenty to sing, but definitely not the star female part.

          • MontyNostry says:

            I know that we have differing views on Madame P, Signora Cieca, but what I mean is that, for several years now, the ROH has been positioning her as a favoured choice for major roles and/or high-profile new productions (eg Onegin, Don Carlo, Tsar’s Bride, Traviata, now Robert) when there are more reliable/sympathetic singers who could do just as well or probably better in the roles in question. The London public is hardly panting for Popsy. She somehow remains a curiosity. It reminds me of the ROH’s Elena Kelessidi (remember her?)period.

          • mercadante says:

            Actuallt in the 19th century Alice was considered he starbpart and Isabelle secondary. If you look at the performance history of the opera houses, all the star singersbsang Alice, none sang Isabelle unless they started with Isabelle and graduated to Alice.

            Things changed with 20th century revivals as some of Isabelle’s music was featured by coloraturas and thus it seemed more familiar, showy and thus the lead part. Alice’ s music suffered from cuts and came off second.

            Similar to Hugenots; Valentine was always yhe star role, the Queen secondary, but with the 20th century emphasis on “O beau pays” there was a shift in impression. The Queen was seen as at least co-lead, one of the ‘sept etoiles’ of the night.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Monty is right La Cieca, the Royal Opera has put far more plum assignments Poplavskaya’s way and it really does seem as if it’s motivated in part by a desire to claim their young artist programme has produced a star. Katie Van Kooten is another example, Monty, as well as Kelessidi, of somebody who suddenly got an awful lot of top notch work for no readily discernible reasons.

          • Belfagor says:

            I saw her in ‘Tsar’s Bride’ -- definite commitment and presence, and a very mannered handling of the long drawn out phrases, a catch in the breath here, a quirky snatched word there -- by the time we got to the end of the opera I realized that we had not been given a single phrase ‘straight’, so I wondered whether it was a ploy to cover up basic technical shortcomings. Not sure I’d recognize her voice without the visuals.

          • oedipe says:

            C’mon, Marina has an idiosyncratic singing style (I hesitate to call it technique) that makes it instantly recognizable. Whatever one may say about her, Popsy is unmistikably “different”.

          • oedipe says:


          • phoenix says:

            Cieza, why are you looking for argument from me so early in the morning? You know Alice, like Valentine in Les Hugenots and Fides in Le Prophète, is the leading female role in Robert le Diable -- as listed on the frontpiece of Meyerbeer’s original score. Queen Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots, Berthe in Le Prophète and Isabelle Princess of Sicily are the secondary roles. Jenny Lind-Goldschmidt (who knew what she was talking about -- she grew up in poverty sans Goldschmidt) states in her memoirs that her favorite role was Alice.

          • La Cieca says:

            Given that this ROH revival of Robert will open during the 19th century, your several notices of performance practice during that era are precisely on point.

            The company originally cast Diana Damrau as Isabelle, so it’s obvious which role they think is the lead.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            That argument would stand La Cieca only if the ROH didn’t have the attitude towards Poplavskaya that they appear to have (and for which you have some sympathy don’t you, given how you have rated some of her performances?).

          • MontyNostry says:

            As I’ve said about her before … Popsy’s Rachel in La Juive at the Barbican, which represented her breakthrough back in 2006, was impressive in its way, but I felt at the time that she: i) wasn’t ever going to deliver something better than that and ii) was going to be difficult to cast … What would actually **suit** her voice and persona? I won’t say “I told you so…” Or maybe I will …

          • MontyNostry says:

            Cocky, re Kelessidi. If you read the egregious Matheopoulos’ second DIVA book, she pretty much takes personal credit for lil’ ELena’s career, such as it was — and for clearly putting her sorceress-like pressure on Peter Katona to take Kelessidi on, even thouhgh the latter hadn’t gained her spurs in Darmstadt, or wherever, which often seems to be a criterion in his casting policy.

          • grimoaldo says:

            “the ROH’s Elena Kelessidi (remember her?)”

            Yes I do rememeber her, unfortunately, rather a good comparison in some ways with the horrid Popsy, in that Kelessidi was cast in roles she simply could not sing at all, such as Sonnambula, ghastly.
            However Kelessidi seems to have been a ROH aberration, she did not go around the world ruining operas as Popsy does, and in some of the things I would most like to see, French grand opera, Verdi rarities at Covent Garden, the Met, LA Opera, so on and so on.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Yes, I remember it well, Monty. I read the first book before I really knew anything or had been to many performances. I read the second book once I was regularly going to the ROH, right at the point when Kelessidi was in EVERYTHING and that’s when I realised I musn’t take anything that woman writes seriously!

            Kelessidi is shortly to return to our shores for Opera North’s Otello. I wonder how she has developed -- she actually got pretty favourable reviews for her outing in something obscure in Bregenz last year. Can’t say I’m wondering all that hard though -- it always seemed OK but completely unexceptional.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Kelessidi also got a decent review in Opera for her Ranyevskaya in Paris in a new Cherry Orchard (can’t remember the composer’s name). I think the Helena/Elena constellation arose because H felt strongly about E’s plight as an ethnic Greek in Russia.
            Talking of strange casting of Amina at the ROH, how about Cotrubas c 1980? Lovely singer, of course, with an appropiately elegiac note in the voice for Bellini, but hardly a queen of bel canto fireworks.

          • oedipe says:

            The composer of the Cherry Orchard (en russe) is Philippe Fénelon.

  • 6
    zinka says:

    Still another GENERIC soprano who gets it all….What a world!!!!!!

    • 6.1
      messa di voce says:

      What genre does Poplavskaya represent?

      There are lots of criticisms that can be made of her singing, but “generic” is the last one that could be made.

      • 6.1.1
        zinka says:

        Generic means “Who is she??”…..NO REAL INDIVIDUALITY..See under Scotto, Zeani, Stella,Tebaldi,etc…..

          armerjacquino says:

          I’m with messa on this one. There are many, many, many valid criticisms that could be made of Poplavskaya, but in all honesty a lack of individuality really isn’t one of them.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Agreed. The Pop Tart’s an outrageously flawed vocalist in many ways, with no concern for verbal values (not much even in Russian, it seems) or legato lines, but she is hardly anonymous--that psychopath affect comes to but few.

            Kovalevska-- now THAT is a generic nonentity…

          RosinaLeckermaul says:

          Good Lord! Are you saying that Tebaldi and Scotto had no real individuality???

  • 7
    Rowna says:

    The Red Shoes is one of my all time favorite movies.

  • 8
    Rowna says:

    And re Popsy -- not my favorite, but she is a compelling actress and very in touch with the characters she portrays. I wouldn’t use the word generic, I would say more -- colorless.

    • 8.1
      RosinaLeckermaul says:

      I have seen Popsy in a variety of roles, most recently TSAR’S BRIDE, and have found her a bland stage presence. She faded into the woodwork in that production. Even the mad scene wasn’t very mad.

  • 9
    Camille says:

    It ain’t over ’till the Red Poppy Shoes sing.

    More importantly, who is singing the role of Isabelle, as she has the more important arias, at least. And how many cuts will there be, I’m wondering.

  • 10
    Camille says:

    A fantastic rendition of the Sicilienne from Robert le Diableby the turn of the century tenor, Leon(ce) Escalais. Try to bear with the piano, for it’s worrh it.

    There is also an “Asile Heréditaire” as well that should be heard.

    • 10.1
      Vergin Vezzosa says:

      Oh thanks Camille. This is starting to get me in the mood for Robert, although I thought this week would be reserved for Mozart with both Clemenza and Cosi to see. The replacement for Damrau while she is sitting on her egg is the American soprano Jennifer Rowley who, as I mentioned on another thread somewhere herein, made a VERY favorable impression on me singing Maria Di Rohan on very short notice at Caramoor about 3 years ago. I read that she also did very well in that Telemann thing that the former NYCO did somewhere last winter or spring. I hope that she comes through and I have a sneaking feeling that she will.

  • 11
    Milady DeWinter says:

    But of course, when Roberto il Diavolo was given at the Maggio Musicale around 1967, it was Madame Scotto as Isabella who stole the show, and with good reason. She was in formidable voice and seemed to interpolate a high D or E at every opportunity. Veteran mezzo, nearly comprimaria Stafania Malagu was assigned the much cut role of Alice. But I do wonder a bit about the casting traditions -- all those Cinti-Damoureaus and Marie Cabels seemed to have had a field day as Isabelle, yet Cornelie Falcon and Jenny Lind became stars as Alice, who doesn’t even get to sing “Robert, Robert, toi que j’aime”. Madame Popsa surely has a lovely tone or two in her voice, I just haven’t heard them yet.

    • 11.1
    • 11.2
      actfive says:

      Milady is soooo right. I think this is Scotto’s finest recorded performance. This is one CD that I listen to over and over, wondering how she did it.

      • 11.2.1
        Milady DeWinter says:

        Scotto is really in fabulous voice for this. There was a period from the later 60s into the mid-70s when she seemed to have it all in balance -- formidable coloratura skils, secure top notes to E natural, the abiltiy to take on heavier roles. Yes, there was always acid in the tone, but what a complete singer she was then. And a thorough stage creature.
        From that same period she recorded an album of virtuoso concert arias, piano accompanied, by Donizetti, Rossini and Bellini that is one of my favorite Scotto “go-to” discs. Rossini’s cantata “Giovana D’Arco” and Donnizettie “Rammenta o bella Irene” are highlights of the disc, which I have not seen recently on cd. If you can find it, even at a price, take out a second mortgage (after all, with the Democratic sweep, things are looking up!)and buy it!

          kashania says:

          Thanks for your post. I must seek this disc out. I hope it’s available on amazon…

          • Milady DeWinter says:

            It is on Amazon, kashania, but only in a used vinyl edition. (Not that there’s anything wrong with vinyl -- I still have quite a collection and no matter what they say -- it’s mostly “warmer” than digital. When I put on La Anderson and am in another room in the house, you can hear the ‘ring” in her top tones that rang through the Met auditorium. Like a big bell. If you use “rossini giovanna d’arco” as your search term, you’ll get 2 pages of hits; it’s on page 2.

          grimoaldo says:

          End of Robert/ Isabelle duet Scotto and Merighi:

          Same passage, Anderson and Vanzo:

          Scotto “Idole de ma vie”


  • 12
    HiCsAPlenty says:

    Is anyone of the London-based Parterrianni privey to information regarding choice of edition the ROH is using? More over, are they going to allow Bryan Hymel to show his stuff at the top of Act II in the famous “Mario Aria” written for the great tenor by Meyerbeer when he took over the role from Nourrit? Its a wonderful piece of music! There is a clip on youtube of Chris Merrit singing it in a recital from Pesaro (I think) in the 80’s. There is also a great article recalling an interview with Merritt about the aria when he first performed it with OONY (also back in the 80’s, I believe). I’d be VERY curious to know if its being done. Wasn’t this production originate around the vocal talents of Damrau and Florez? If so, I would expect that aria to be added!

    If your are curious about that interview with Merrit. Just google “Meyerbeer Mario Aria” and it should be the first thing that comes up.

    Thanks for the info!


    • 12.1
      Camille says:

      Yes, I would also love to know more, if anyone pleases! Also, why is this production of such a comparative rarity not being broadcast? Or IS it and I have misunderstood (I hope).

      • 12.1.1
        grimoaldo says:

        The aria Meyerbeer wrote for Mario at a revival starts at about 16:00 Camille:

        It is beautiful and spectacular, with Meyerbeer’s very individual and characteristic instrumentation, how anyone could fail to enjoy Meyerbeer’s music when it is performed as wonderfully as it is here I do not really understand.

          Camille says:

          Thanks, grimo. I will bookmark it and go back to it when I return to NYC as I have the music at the appendix of the score. Very interesting.

          Yes, it requires superb vocalisation. Therein lies the rub!

          • HiCsAPlenty says:


            I’m VERY interested to know what version of the score you own that has this aria in it as an appendix?

            I own the aria in a Barenreiter Anthology of Tenor Arias… but have never seen a score that has this aria in it.

            Perhaps I’m missing out on a great source of vocal material from this wholely under-appreciated (IMHO) composer. Most of the scors that I find of complete Meyerbeer operas are so old they are litterally falling apart, or they are published by Kalmus, which is most cases is like not even having a score at all.



          • Camille says:

            Only too thrilled to respond C’s, as I do all I can to promote Robert the devil love, but the score resides in NYC and I am currently in my villa in the country. If I don’t know that I can induce mon cher époux into locating for us, so I will have to wait until the first week of December, upon my return to the troubled Big Apple.

            I CAN tell you this, however, it is a score I bought from an antiquarian dealer when I was in Europe-Netherlands, to be exact. I have referred myself to the front page of a similar score of the Huguenots and l’Africaine, last year or so when OONY performed the latter. The publishers were—oh good god—Brandus & Dufours or something like that or some incarnation of that firm for it changed hands many times. It was from sometime between 1855 and 1870, from what I can deduce from Wikepedia on the subject of those publishers.

            I will let you know when I get back, as M. Camille is always very, very busy and I will be glad to divulge any other interesting facts. The score is bound in leather and still in good condition and is one of my prizes, so I am only happy to discuss with you, C’s, who benefited us all so grandly with those LISTS!

            Yours truly,
            Camille of the Meyerbeer Liebhabers Society

          Vergin Vezzosa says:

          Agreed, agreed, agreed. This one is new to me. When was it written for Mario? I would guess well into the 1840s. Love it. I must say that I have been almost overwhelmed by Meyerbeeriana today, something which I previously would have never anticipated but about which I am deliriously happy.

          • HiCsAPlenty says:


            Here is the address to article I refer to above:


            In it you will find another link that will take you to an interview with Chris Merritt about his discovery of the aria in the mid-80’s. I think its very interesting!

            Hope this helps,


          • Vergin Vezzosa says:

            Responding with many thanks to HiCs below for the listed links. Yes, I found them VERY interesting and really appreciate your kindness in forwarding them. VV.

          • Vergin Vezzosa says:

            Oops….ABOVE, not below.

      • 12.1.2
        operalover9001 says:

        I’m pretty sure it’s being broadcast. They’re also filming it for DVD release.

          Camille says:

          Mille merci!

          I referred myself to some list of HD broadcasts for the ROH season and I sis not see it included. Thank heavens they are. Such a rarity — I couldn’t imagine them NOT doing it!

          • operalover9001 says:

            De rien, madame! I don’t think it’s being included in the HD broadcasts for this season, but there will be a radio broadcast. It will also be filmed. Maybe they’re doing it like Troyens (i.e. available online for a short time, cinema broadcast the next season).

  • 13
    • 13.1
      Vergin Vezzosa says:

      Phoenix, friggin’ fantastic clip. I’ve never made it to the end of that video because the quality is so generally poor (I have a VHS tape). IMHO this trio is one of the few moments in any of the Meyerbeer operas that equals the great, great, great duet that closes the 4th act of Huguenots. Thanks.

    • 13.2
      Bianca Castafiore says:

      fenice, who’s the tenor? I’m also not familiar with LaGrange. Merci beaucoup.

      • 13.2.1
        armerjacquino says:

        Lagrange (no second capital) sang a superb Poulenc STABAT MATER for Harmonia Mundi a few years back. That’s not on YT, but lots of her (rather good) bel canto and coloratura stuff is.

          Bianca Castafiore says:

          Grazie, amberjack! I’ve noticed some pretentious people like to capitalize names or portions of their names in America, you know, like Van Der Walt, whereas in Holland it’s simply van der Walt. I wasn’t sure how her name went, but since she’s French, that makes sense. You know, like a certain fake diva, she used to go by Nerva Van Der Nelli at one point, then she changed it to Nerva La Nelli…

          I shall check out more of Lagrange, she sounds great here.

          • Camille says:

            Bianca van der Castafiore — oder

            Bianca la Castafiore?!

            Or was it Blanche Dubois?

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Bianchissssima and CammiBelle I love this! should MMII become Marshie van der MarkII, it would give such Beethovenian air, no? or would Marshie La MarkII sound more like the also fallen woman that she is?

            I think just for tonight with the Giallo Canarino Tiara she will be Marshie Van Der MarkII.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            I hear Ildar will be at the Cosi tonight also, eat your heart out gurls!!!!

          • Camille says:

            MarschallinaII tm—

            Don’t leave home before you don this trinket, which I am lending to you especially for the occasion!

          • marshiemarkII says:

            CammiBelle you ARE a treasure. Marshie Van Der MarkII (deep voice on, jaw firmly locked) will be wearing her Bird on a Rock brooch firmly on her bosom, and thinking of you as she ascends (or more like descends) the grand staircase!

    • 13.3
      Bianca Castafiore says:

      Oh never mind, I did some research, it’s just Rocky…

    • 13.4
      phoenix says:

      Glad you liked it!

  • 14
    bluecabochon says:

    Thanks, Oedipe!

    Armer, that’s a great story. Mum was a playwright? How wonderful. :)

  • 15
    grimoaldo says:

    Boris Christoff was Bertram in that cut and Italianized Roberto with Scotto MiLady and he too was formidable as the recording shows.
    Whatever one thinks of Meyerbeer’s music, Bertram is a great vehicle for a star bass, is there really no one better than the dull John Relyea to do this part?
    The success of Robert le Diable was due not just to the work itself but the superstar performers and the decor, etc. The original production had Nourrit in the title role,the great bass Nicolas Levasseur who sang many of the Rossini bass roles in Paris, Laura Cinti-Damoreau, who wrote a textbook on singing still used today as “Classic Bel Canto Technique” and kept a notebook in which she wrote down embellishments for bel canto arias used today for authentic performance practice. An early change of cast brought the debut of Cornélie Falcon, aged 18, in the part of Alice. Meyerbeer wrote a new aria for the tenor Mario who made his debut as Robert in a revival in Paris, which made him a superstar. When Meyerbeer heard Falcon as Alice at her debut, he pronounced his opera at at last “complete”. Jenny Lind made her British debut in the part of Alice.So Robert le Diable does not have to have singers who are already famous, but it does need stunning stars.
    The lead role in the ballet of ghostly nuns was danced by one of the greatest ballerinas of all time, Marie Taglioni, with choreography by her father, and elaborate stage machinery causing the ghosts to appear and vanish “magically”. The ballet was the first of the ballets blancs with the ballerina and the corps all dressed in white, it created a sensation and led to many others of that type. The adaptation of the original choreography made by August Bournonville for Denmark is preserved.
    There are two famous paintings of the ballet of ghostly nuns by Edgar Degas, one in the Met in NY, the other in the V&A.
    Liszt’s wonderful piano tour de force Reminiscences De Robert Le Diable became his trademark calling card, it is tremendous fun:

    Robert le Diable is a very important work historically not only for opera and music but many other fields of art and also social history. However, it needs spectacular presentation with amazing performers to do it any sort of justice.

    • 15.1
      Batty Masetto says:

      Just for the ballettically illiterate like myself, who couldn’t help visualizing nuns in tutus(???) when Grimmy mentioned the first “white ballet,” here’s one of the Degas views:

      I wonder how much leg the ballerinas were able to flash in those habits?

      • 15.1.1
        SF Guy says:

        There’s no pointe to this concept!

      • 15.1.2
        grimoaldo says:

        Thanks for the link to the pic Batty -- several things I find interesting about it -- the stage action is fuzzy and impressionistic, dreamlike, but the orchestra and front rows of the audience are depicted with more clarity and realism.
        The picture illustrates how the players in the orchestra were on the same level as the first rows of the audience until Wagner sunk the orchestra into a pit at Bayreuth.
        Also amusing that Degas places a gentlemen in the audience very prominently in the picture who is using his opera glasses not to watch the stage but looking up at someone in one of the boxes.

      • 15.1.3
        Camille says:

        If dead nuns in tutus is not an early regie konzept I don’t know regie.

        If it were done well I would defy all gravity and leap over the pond to see it in a thrice.

        I look forward to the Robert Report from all attendees.

      • 15.1.4
        Gualtier M says:

        Batty, the nuns would have worn the romantic tutu which is longer than the short stiff “plate” tutu that you see in later classical ballets. The romantic tutu is long and comes down to just above the ankle. It is not stiff and starched like the “plate tutu” but is of diaphanous tulle that moves with the body. The ghostly nun ballet in “Robert le Diable” provided the inspiration for romantic ballets “La Sylphide” and “Giselle” with their “white acts” where the spirit heroines are surrounded by their supernatural sisters who all dance in white. Adolphe Nourrit, the original Robert le Diable penned the libretto/scenario for “La Sylphide” -- he was also a poet.

          Camille says:

          Salve Gualtier–
          As Marie Taglioni once again danced to the choreography of her father, which has since been lost. Nourrit was quite the man of the theatre and his terrible early demise was the greatest tragedy.

          It all transpired in early 1832, so following the overwhelming success of Robert. Giselle was not for quite some time later, in the early forties. I cannot get that Paris Ballet production out of my mind. What an experience it was for me, perhaps the most grateful evening in the theatre I have had in Ages.

      • 15.1.5
        Camille says:

        Thanks for posting this Batty boo-boo, as I did not know it resided in the Met or have been past it in a hurry.

        There is another famous painting in the Met of Louis Guéymard in his role of Robert. There is a prominent gold chain in this painting which The Museum modeled the bracelet portion of a watch which they sold. I almost bought ot once but felt it was a little too clunky for a little old lady such as petite moi.

        Next time I am at the Met I will be go hunting for it!
        Baci perugina—
        Kamille Tee

    • 15.2
      Camille says:

      In re Robert, and taken from Patrick Barbier’s wonderful book as translated in English as Opera in Paris 1800–1850 A Lively History, an accounting of some of the first performance:

      “In Act 3 of the premier of Robert le diable in 1831, a support carrrying a dozen lit lamps crashed to the floor and barely missed Mlle Dorus as she went onstage. In the same act, Mlle Taglioni, who was lying stretched out on a tomb like a statue, barely had enough time to jump to one side to avoid a poorly attached cloud-curtain when it fell noisily onto the stage. Finally, in Act 5, the singer Nourrit, who had to live in order to marry Isabelle, seemed to be carried away by the heat of the action and fell through a trapdoor in pursuit of the devil. Fortunately, stagehands had not yet removed the paadded mattress that had just cushioned the fall of Levasseur, who was playing Bertram. Seeing Nourrrit land just after he had, Levasseur asked, ‘What the devil are you doing here? Has the denouement been changed?‘. Finally, as if nothing had happened, Nourrit climbed out and pulled Mlle Doris forward to acknowledge the applause of the audience. Far from being troubled by such a cascade of mishaps, the audience gave the singers an ovation that assured the success of Meyerbeer’s opera. All the same, the next day La Gazette de France felt obliged to reassure its readers that ‘no one was killed or wounded’.”

      Lively history, indeed!

      First published in France as La vie quotidienne à l’Opéra du temps de Rossini et de Balzac: Paris, 1800–1850. Hachette.
      Translated into English above by Robert Luoma and published by Amadeus Press

      • 15.2.1
        grimoaldo says:

        Those are very interesting anecdotes Camille, thank you for posting that.
        More “Robert” arcana --
        W S Gilbert achieved success early in his career by writing full length “extravaganzas”, parodies of popular operas of the day. One of them was “Robert the Devil, or, The Nun, the Dun, and the Son of a Gun” which made a star of actress Nellie Farren, playing the title role “en travesti”,and specialised in playing male roles. Gilbert’s parody of Robert le Diable opened the new Gaiety Theatre, had a long run, was often revived, and toured the provinces continuously for three years.
        Gilbert puts new lyrics to tunes by Meyerbeer, Auber, Offenbach and others.
        The work opens with the tune of the brindisi from the Meyerbeer work as Robert eats dinner and smokes cigarettes (very naughty, especially as the part was played by a woman) as the chorus sings
        “Oh dear—oh dear his soup is vermicelli.”
        Robert has to steal a magic branch, not from a convent in Gilbert’s parody, but from the chamber of horrors at Madame Tussaud’s, where the figures (described in the stage directions as “clumsy wax-work, their
        faces very pink and white, blue dots for the beard, eyebrows very distinct, eye-lashes
        very marked and very far apart. They wear clumsy wigs and palpably false whiskers,
        and stand about in stiff, constrained attitudes” haha, Madame Tussaud’s was obviously just as crap back then as it is now) come to life at midnight. Robert dances a ballet with a waxwork Lady Abbess and waxwork ballet girls, takes the magic branch, but then breaks it, destroying Bertram’s power. Bertram is told he will be transformed into a waxwork himself but begs his son Robert for mercy to the tune of “Old MacDonald had a farm”:
        “Pity me, Robert, now you know
        That I your father be!
        For if I’m taken down below,
        What will become of me?
        With my vices here—with my vices there—
        Here a vice—there a vice—everywhere a vice!”
        But his pleadings are in vain and he becomes wax as the company sing to the tune of “Voici venir, Paul, Boum et Puck” from Offenbach’s Grande Duchesse:

        “Among the dead men down you go —
        Down to the wax-work of Tussaud—
        You can’t do much more harm, you know,
        Safe in the walls of a waxwork show! “

          Camille says:

          Very funny, the Nun, the Dun & the Son of a Gun!!

          Isn’t Iolanthe, the only work of theirs I’ve seen, based somewhat on the ballets blancs, what with all these fairy children jumping around the Queen of the Fairies and such? The children of the San Francisco Children’s Ballet was just adorable in that part. It was such a good production and I thought it was just the out of town tryout for NYCO. No such luck.

          • grimoaldo says:

            Robert the Devil is Gilbert by himself before he started working with Sullivan, and yes Camille, the fairies in Iolanthe are to some extent take offs of the sylphides and willis etc in Giselle and so on. The Queen of the Fairies was originally costumed exactly like Materna as Brunnhilde in the original Ring production, so Gilbert carried his operatic parodies over to the G&S works.

          • Camille says:

            I see now, grimoaldo, better where Gilbert was coming from as I wS blissfully unaware of his previous background as parodist. Well, I guess if Offenbach was doing it succeeding so well, why another hand at it.

            I’m sure that W. S. Gilbert would have been a most welcome addition to parterre!

  • 16
    MontyNostry says:

    Kasper Holten gives us the lowdown on the Popsy position. Perhaps she wanted to get her fee up.

    Robert le diable -- Cast change amendment

    6 | 9 (mat) | 12 | 15 | 18 | 21 December 2012

    Last week we announced on our website and social media that Marina Poplavskaya had made the difficult decision to withdraw from The Royal Opera’s production of Robert le diable. She made this decision due to a medical condition, on the advice of her doctor, and in order to accommodate the difficult task of finding a replacement as early as possible.
    However, after further consultations and examinations, she is now advised that it will be possible for her to continue with the rehearsals and performances of Robert le diable without any risk, and that any necessary treatment can carry on meanwhile or be postponed.
    Marina Poplavskaya, The Royal Opera and I apologize for any inconvenience that the earlier announcement may have caused. We are all more than thrilled that she will be able to take part in this production as planned and I am sure you will have a truly wonderful time watching this grandest of grand operas.
    Yours sincerely

    Kasper Holten,
    Director of Opera

  • 17
    Milady DeWinter says:

    But of course, grimoaldo -- I should be taken to task for not mentioning the other diva of the Florence Roberto -- Christoff is magnificent and Mr. Reylea will be hard-pressed to match the great Russian in diablerie. And of course, although you’d never know it from the pared-down Italian version performed in Florence, there is also a saucy co-starring tenor part (Raimbaud) in the cast. There is practically no end to the innovations and sensations Meyebeer conjured up for this, his defining hit (although, truth be told, Huguenots, Dinorah, and L’Africaine are all superior works, imo). And do remember, the dancing nuns are dancing lasciviuos nuns, for they are the wraiths of nuns who in life broke their vow of chastity. Milday auditioned for the part of lead wraith, but alas, found she had never taken an official vow and was thus ineligible to dance the oft-omitted pas du phallus.

    • 17.1
      Camille says:

      Pas du phallus????!!!!!!!!! Diablerie?

      Milady, I thinks I LUVS U!!

      Grand merci!

    • 17.2
      armerjacquino says:

      Mr. Reylea will be hard-pressed to match the great Russian in diablerie

      Christoff sang many great parts in Russian operas, but as a proud Bulgarian I’m not sure he would have appreciated being referred to in this way…

      • 17.2.1
        armerjacquino says:

        Not that *I’m* a proud Bulgarian, you understand, that was just poor syntax, but what I… never mind.

      • 17.2.2
        Clita del Toro says:

        PULLLLEEEEZE, no one can even come close to Christoff.
        Reylea-- NON!

        So why even bring it up. Wishful thinking==e sogno! Addio del passato!

  • 18
    Milady DeWinter says:

    Mille grazie, cara Camille. And armerjacquino -- pardonez moi pour my Bulgarian Boner viz. the great Christoff.I seem to be caught in penile reference mode.
    Not for the first time.

  • 19
    Camille says:

    Some one at Intermezzo named sjt had this to say about the production, that all it now needed was for Florez to make reappearance and for

    “…Damrau to decide that a breast-feeding Isabelle’s OK and we’re all set…”

    Thanks for the thought, sjt, lol!

    • 19.1
      Vergin Vezzosa says:

      Goodness gracious, what an avalanche of fascinating information on this thread today. I feel like I’ve been at an extended music history seminar conducted by the foremost experts in the field. Fabulous! So entertaining! BTW, I share Camille’s concern that the nuns be lascivious enough. I will ask ROH for my money back if they are not at the very least topless (I know -- hard to dance that way). And maybe include some naughty hunky friars in the mix to satisfy everyone’s tastes.

    • 19.2
      Porgy Amor says:

      SJT…possibly the delightful Stephen Jay-Taylor, who writes for Opera Britannia and is a not-infrequent contributor to fan forums? He has a way with a quip. Read his review of the premiere of Turnage’s ANNA NICOLE if you have not.

      • 19.2.1
        grimoaldo says:

        Definitely it is Stephen Jay-Taylor, I recognise his inimitable style especially in his comments about the prospect of Relyea as Bertram:
        “Strangely, the one cast member who’s never been in doubt or contention in this major exhumation is the one who should have been, from the word go: John Relyea, an unresponsive lump of lignite on stage, as the opera’s real lead, Bertram. Ramey, he is not. Alastair Miles he is not. His Berlioz Mephistopheles I saw at the Met was the most phlegmatic, “where-am-I-is-this Tuesday?” sort of eyes glued to the pit performance I ever recall encountering, with all the seductively sulphurous charisma of left-over semolina.”