Cher Public


Where does the time go? Your doyenne (pictured) is thunderstruck to realize it’s Sunday again (so soon!) and therefore time for another discussion of off-topic and general interest subjects.

  • Camille

    Today is Saint Cecilia’s Day, the patroness of music

    A million pardons, ianw2.

    Having been to Saint Cecilia’s church and burial site in Rome, I would like to recommend it highly to anyone from any religion or background. It is a beautiful place pervaded with a calm and true harmony of devotion to the saint. There are usually concerts given on her Name Day.

    • grimoaldo

      Händel Ode for St Cecilia’s Day,Les Arts Florissants,cond Paul Agnew

      • WindyCityOperaman

    • armerjacquino

  • zinka

    EARLIEST TEBALDI!!! w.Merli,1945…..I never knew of this!!!!!!

  • efrayer

    Benny Hill at the Met’s Ballo production. Regietheater run amok!?!? What think you?

    • My issue with this review is that so much of it based on “should.” That is, the writer expects to see A, B, and C, and then when the production doesn’t deliver A, B, and C, it’s the director’s fault.

      For example:

      Isn’t Oscar supposed to be a page, a young teen at best? He’s too young to be smoking. Or have a goatee.

      Well, that depends. In the real-life court of Gustav III, yes, a page would likely have been a young boy. But Un ballo in maschera isn’t a documentary, it’s a work of fiction suggested by an historical incident. At any rate Alden doesn’t pretend to set the action in that precise milieu any more than, eventually, the librettist Somma did. History is at most a jumping-off point for an independent work of art.

      So, no, if you’re not doing an “authentic” Swedish court (which in any case would have next to nothing to do with history) then you don’t need an “authentic” (i.e., traditional) Oscar. The words and music Oscar sings are consistent with a slightly older and more sinister character than the adorable little page you expected to see; the only real issue is that Alden didn’t happen to deliver something that matched up with your preconceived notions.

      To my mind, one of the main tasks of a director is precisely to challenge these sorts of preconceived notions; that is, it’s his job to try to make the audience see the work from a different angle or in a different light. Maybe you don’t agree that this is what a director is supposed to be doing, that’s your opinion. What I don’t care for, though, is the attitude that the director just is too dumb or too misinformed to know such obvious bits as how old Oscar is “supposed” to be, like Alden was trying to do a traditional Ballo but just was too incompetent to realize that nobody wore fedoras in 18th century Sweden.

      I also get extremely weary of this “oh, I’ll never see a real Ballo, poor me” posturing. The Met has now done exactly one non-traditional production of this opera in its entire history, and people are screaming like somebody pissed on the Mona Lisa.

      You go to a lot of trouble in your piece to make fun of know-nothing audience members around the cream and sugar table, but honestly, what you write makes you sound every bit as closed-minded and provincial as those you mock.

      • Satisfied


    • grimoaldo

      I’m glad you enjoyed the music efrayer, Ballo is indeed a glorious work.
      You can see two wonderful “traditional” performances on youtube, I know it isn’t anything like being at a live performance, but can still be rewarding --
      Covent Garden with Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Piero Cappuccilli:

      Met with Pavarotti, Aprile Millo, Leo Nucci:

      • Bianca Castafiore

        grimy, do you not know the greatest Amelia ever???????

        • grimoaldo

          I agree Arroyo was wonderful Bianca but the blogger I was responding to wanted to *see* a “traditional” production of Ballo, which is why I posted the links to those complete youtube films of staged performances.

          • Porgy Amor

            I don’t know if the whole performance is on YouTube, but let me add a recommendation for the Salzburg DVD conducted by Solti. I cannot get on board with the Amelia of Ms. Barstow, but the rest of the cast is up to it, and it is a grand old show to which Schlesinger brings an eye for detail. It has aged well. (Some would disagree with me about Ms. Barstow, of course. I once read a review in one of the British mags that allowed, “No, perhaps, [Soprano X] is not an Amelia of the Callas/Barstow class, but…”)

            That Abbado/Covent Garden above is musically even better, quite wonderful really. It is one of the 1970s performances that make a strong case for Katia Ricciarelli even in a role that should be too big for her. In both arias, she’s very moving, very personal in her response. I wish the DVD version’s English translation throughout were not so stingy. (This is also the case with the ROH’s HOFFMANN and FANCIULLA, both with Domingo, on the same label.)

            Going even further back in time, there are always Bergonzi and Stella from Tokyo in the late 1960s.

          • armerjacquino

            Ricciarelli is to Barstow as the Sistine Chapel is to my shed.

          • Nerva Nelli

            “Ricciarelli is to Barstow as the Sistine Chapel is to my shed.”

            Brilliant. Dame Jo should be about ready to play Ada Doom, who saw “something nasty in the woodshed”!

        • The_Kid

          I dunno….Arroyo is wonderful, of course, but there *are* some pretty darn good amelias…

          • The_Kid

            not to forget…….

      • I was wary of the Ballo score for many many years and then I saw the 1989 (1990?) Met / Levine and got hooked. He is so great in finding the right balance between the light touch needed for the friolous ensembles and the dark tinta which inhabits the score. Solti, for example, is way too heavy in handling articulation and his 1980s studio recording is patchy and slack beyond belief. In the ensembles the (gorgeous) singers are left to their own devices and it sound so vulgar. Muti IMo is plain uninteresting and so on.

        Levine is let down by an unimaginative Enrico and a rather peculiar Oscar but the rest are so great and it holds together fantastically, scenes and acts conceived in a single arch.

        Abbado is more or less on the same level, both live and in studio and Toscanini is an interesting listen.

        Barstow -- Ugh.

        • Porgy Amor

          CF: I do agree on Solti. I did not keep the studio recording you mention, and even though I recommend the Salzburg DVD, I would like it even more if Muti or Abbado had said yes when asked to step in after Karajan died (they had both declined, as had Chailly [?]). What he does there seems to me at a high level of competence, but it’s not ideally stylish or agreeable to my own set of prejudices. He tends to hack and slash at it.

          • warmke

            I don’t wish to jump to the defense of a long dead maestro, but I did see him rehearse and perform often in his last decade, and would note the Mo. Solti’s extraordinarily physical style of conducting wasn’t really sustainable for a man in his 70s and 80s, and this is why many of these performances lack the greatness of his earlier performances. You could see he was really tiring visibly. and really losing control. Same with Karajan, but his style was so amorphous that the orchestra always did much of the work anyway and when he declined, it was picked up by the orchestra. Plus Karajan’s giant willpower.

            This is what worries me if Mo. Levine returns -- he really always has had an extraordinary physical control, and if that’s gone, I’m not sure how the slack can be taken up by the orchestra.

            Conductors can decline with age, despite the common belief. t=This is why many give up opera, it requires real technique; symphony work can be done with careful choice of repertoire and rehearsal.

          • MontyNostry

            Solti’s Otello from the ROH in the early 90s (Domingo, Kiri, Leiferkus) also shows him attempting to do the Verdian thing and failing. It comes over as conscientious and overemphatic. Still, I’m not too keen on his Strauss either …

        • By Enrico I meant Renato, of course…

  • MontyNostry
    • Regina delle fate

      Monty -- she hasn’t sung that many major roles at Covent Garden. Turandot and, er, ….I think she sang Berta or an odd Valkyrie a while back.

      • MontyNostry

        Lebrecht has to mention Covent Garden because he once wrote a book about it and is probably attempting to flog a few more copies. He is nothing if not purposeful, even if he knows even less about opera than about other forms of music.

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Born on this day in 1876 composer Manuel de Falla

    Happy 84th birthday soprano Pauline Tinsley

    Happy 79th birthday composer Krzysztof Penderecki

    Happy 77th birthday tenor William Lewis

  • zinka

    Who else sounds like Siepi on the low notes..and never lost her E flats. Marisa is doing as well as one can after George died last week..but she is surrounded by loving people….

  • Krunoslav

    I found something interesting in an old OPERA issue from 1969: the plans for the 1969-70 Met season that was considerably altered by labor negotiations which delayed the opening until 12/29.

    Included in the things that did NOT materialize that season are some things that eventually came about in altered form and a few Met “never happeneds” (marked *), like a Suliotis Met debut. For example:

    ONEGIN *Stewart, *Lear, *Shirley, Tozzi, Grillo; Skrowaczewski

    FANCIULLA *Collier, Domingo, *MacNeil, Giaotti; Cleva

    MACBETH Milnes, *Suliotis, *Alexander, Tozzi;

    SIEGFRIED (NP): Thomas, Nilsson, Stewart, Stolze, *Kelemen, *Grist, Chookasian, *Ridderbusch*; *Karajan

    DER FREISCHUETZ (NP): Konya, *Janowitz, Mathis, Macurdy; *Boehm; *Schenk

    BORIS (NP): Ghaiurov, Gedda, *Kabaivanska, Tozzi, Corena, Dooley, *Forst; *Mehta

    Plus one stray “never happened” casting: Jean Madeira as Federica

    • armerjacquino

      You can guess which detail here I already knew. By the time the production came to be mounted, it was with Lorengar.

      • Krunoslav

        Yes, I knew you would know that!

        Lorengar and Mathis got the most acclaim; little went to the conductor or director, Leopold Ludwig and Rudolf Heinrich--originally annunced as Schenk’s designer.

        Lorengar was still an excellent Agathe when I heard her in 1985 at San Francisco with William Johns (not bad) , Michael Devlin (excellent) and our doyenne’s beloved R. A. Swenson (best thing vocally I ever heard from her).

        What was in the air in the late 60s that people thought that Vishnevskaya and Kabivanska, fabulous artists that they were, were apt casting for Marina Mnishek?

      • The Vicar of John Wakefield

        Where was Miss Ava June????

  • Krunoslav

    Um, Vicar dear, in those days the casting problems were Bing’s predisposition for cheap Balkan talent, his reliance on some of his old Central European connections for advice (hence Alois Pernerstorfer as a Met Sparafucile, and for that matter any Met career for Leopold Ludwig) and also some of his associates’ predilections for pulchritude in its various forms:

    The Met 1950-72 surely could have used-- if not the perfectly decent Ava June, some other British-based singers. Geraint Evans and David Ward were the only ones regularly employed under Bing, with an occasional “in” like Michael Langdon (one Ochs) or--with the Karajan road show- Veasey and Reynolds. Harper or for that matter June would have been better as Ellen Orford in the 1967 GRIMES than the miscast Lucine (and for that matter they might well have used Phyllis Curtin, who sang some later shows).

    Margaret Price, Gwyneth Jones, Stuart Burrows and Gwynne Howell found their way to SFO early on, but Bing ignored them…

  • zinka

    I see no reason why tenor David Poleri should get so upset..just because he will win at cards..Gimme a break,David!!!