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May I have the envelope please?

Our Own JJ (not pictured) is delighted and humbled—well, delighted anyway—to have been chosen as the namesake for a series of semi-apocryphal awards just announced by Musical America.

82 comments

  • 1
    tannengrin says:

    these are lovely and quite spot-on but no award deserving its name is worth anything without a physical trophy. What would be a good design for the JJ Award? And what will it be colloquially known as? the JO Award?

  • 2
    phoenix says:

    Although the intro to this thread did not evoke much interest in me -- I suggest anyone who likes a good read click on the link -- it turned out to be one of the better showings from this House. The author has obviously had plenty of time to reflect on all these productions/performances.
    -- Question: Are the Award Categories the same every year? -- or do they change depending on the nature of candidates at hand?

    • 2.1
      La Cieca says:

      I think we can all be grateful that there is no permanent category of “Best Opera to Premiere this Year at the Met Based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.”

      • 2.1.1
        phoenix says:

        for once, i most certainly agree with you -- unlike a most famous performer on parterre, i have no husband whose favorite Shakespeare play is La Tempesta -- in fact, I personally disliked the play so much that the only tempesta it aroused was my anger at having to read it
        -- Glad you are flexible enough to create categories for the candidates instead of the other way around -- even though your statuettes may not rake in too much at Sotheby’s next century.

        • 2.1.1.1
          TShandy says:

          Wow, what a pronouncement. The Tempest has been performed for over four hundred years and Harold Bloom said, “it stands as one of the most evocative and moving explorations of human possibilities and limits.” Sorry your anger was so aroused.

          • phoenix says:

            No apology necessary, TShanty -- believe it or not, I wasn’t on the standing room line at the Globe 400 years ago. And with no intention to take the Bloom off Harold, my anger was not directed at the highly regarded academic position of La Tempesta, but at the fact that the academics required me to read something I already had tried to read and hated -- I don’t like Shakespeare very much, Shanty, nor do I care that much for Mozart & Britten. I don’t see anyone else on this site apologizing for their personal likes & dislikes, personal preferences, so neither will I.

        • 2.1.1.2
          Camille says:

          Haha! Vecchio Volpone! Caught ya in the act!

          Thanks for tipping me off in the chat , blue and Clita!

          I’d like you to know I am no performer, phoenix!

          Yours truly—

          LaDonna Summer Traviata

          • phoenix says:

            no performer? Outrageous! You are not only a performer, your are the stah of the pikshuh -- and not being a famous person, you are are gratuitously more than sufferable -- take my word for it. Since you do not seem to be able accept your own success, I will have to become El Pretencisio and start dropping names in your praise: since the unfortunate passing of your only living rival, Kitty Carlisle (I saw her for the last time sitting in a box next to Martina Arroyo at that Dom Sebastien Eve did at Carnegie Hall 200?) we have been honored with your guest performances here -- no farewells permitted, only return engagements allowed -- long may you triumph!

          • Camille says:

            Haha! Kitty Carlisle WAS my only rival. And how could you have known my husband loved, even meeting her once whilst catching a aeroplane! I came perilously close to becoming a divorcée at that time….

            OR, Basta Roberti. Put down that peacepipe you’ve been smoking, firebirdman!

            I decided I more or less liked your Liudmila. Rather would hear her as Lady Mac or Abigaille, however. Reminds me of the dear, departed Dimitrova somewhat.

            Glad you heard the swoosh in the passaggio of Mattila, too!

            Sincerely,
            LaDonna Summer Traviata

        • 2.1.1.3
          Camille says:

          Hey phoenix! My husband LUVS to read Harold Bloom so lay the blame on Mame!

          • m. croche says:

            I blame Harold Bloom for so enthusiastically praising Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian”. It may be the Great American Novel, but (even after all these years) I still haven’t had mastered my gag reflex enough to make it through more than 50 pages or so.

          • Camille says:

            Hi m.!

            Are the dragons letting you loose?

            Hope all goes well in the Golden West.

            Harold Bloom, along with Tarushkin and Charles Rosen are the household gods. I used to be able to say that in Latin and have forgotten, unfortunately.

            By the way, don’t neglect Maria Nemeth’s Sulamith! A marvel of wonderful singing.

            Mucho spasibo

            LaDonna Summer Traviata

      • 2.1.2
        The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

        La Cieca,

        “and accompanied by the bloodless Ades score”

        Bloodless?

        That’s it?

        How many times did you listen to the EMI recording before attending the premiere of this nuanced and beautiful opera?

  • 3
    grimoaldo says:

    These awards deserve to win some sort of award for best awards.
    I am particularly pleased to see “Atys” chosen as best opera production. I have been watching, listening to,enjoying William Christie and Les Art Florissant’s “superb, splendid” performance of Atys since 1987 one way or the other. Baroque opera, often spoken of on this site and elsewhere as “boring, repetitive, stuffy, antediluvian, ancient,” etc etc etc, is nothing of the kind given the right performers and production.

    • 3.1

      Baroque opera (at its best) is nothing of the kind. period.

      • 3.1.1
        oedipe says:

        Obviously, this is a minority opinion around here, I’m afraid.

        • 3.1.1.1
          m. croche says:

          My impression is that opinion here is about evenly divided on the subject of so-called “Baroque” opera. Perhaps La Cieca can launch one of her polls.

          • oedipe says:

            Well, do you include Enchanted Island in the so-called “baroque” opera category? That may make a difference to the poll result.

          • The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

            m. croche,

            “Rameau’s orchestration was one of the most sophisticated of the time – an inspiration to Gluck and many later composers – and yet Rupert Christiansen can only hear “monochromaticism

            Yes, but is ‘masterly or sophisticated orchestration’ enough?

            Isn’t there more to the appeal of music than its being striking and original? What about the experience of being overwhelmed by its beauty or by its truthfulness in the representation of emotion?

          • m. croche says:

            Don’t bother addressing questions to me, WP.

          • The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

            m. croche,

            “Don’t bother addressing questions to me, WP

            Why are you so touchy?

            I only know one Rameau opera very well, Castor and Pollux. And while I can’t say that I found it overwhelming I’d really like to develop more of a taste for these earlier operas.

          • phoenix says:

            I don’t know what everyone else goes through, but it’s practically impossible for me to say I 100% like or dislike all works/performances from a loosely defined ‘period’ of time. In spite of the fact that I wasn’t on the standing room line 400 years ago, when I’ve attended live performances of baroque works it is almost always an enjoyable experience. They seem to have been written for sheer entertainment and relaxation and that’s how most of them come off for me. I am not skilled enough to discriminate for against the pieces of a specific work in performance, but the total effect of the performance is usually very satisfying -- and I am not talking about the smorgasboard mess Enchanted Island -- I am talking about a complete work by a specific composer in his own style with singers who can sing.

          • grimoaldo says:

            “when I’ve attended live performances of baroque works it is almost always an enjoyable experience. They seem to have been written for sheer entertainment and relaxation and that’s how most of them come off for me.”

            Yes, very true. Handel, living and working in London for most of his life, said “To please the English you must give them music they can tap their feet to.” Obviously some of Handel’s works have higher aspirations than that, but foot -tapping tunes, gorgeous melodies, amusement, is always high on the agenda.

          • phoenix says:

            grim, we forgot to mention the fact that they are also not terribly difficult to sing -- one never has to worry about the soprano not achieving her climax!

    • 3.2
      The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

      grimoaldo,

      Baroque opera, often spoken of on this site

      Here are a few from the archives:

      “I’m happy to remain outside the realm of those superior people who think opera ended with Gluck. Those creatures who think that early and baroque opera is the bees knees. Oh, I know plenty about baroque opera. I just find most of it overly repetitive, dull, clinical, some sort of academic exercise. It’s not about lack of knowledge but disdain”

      “To me, a few masterly arias aside, the rest of Handel’?s compositions are pompous, monotonous baroque bombast and vocal mouth wash gargling, after teeth brushing”

      “Baroque opera consists mainly of a succession of da capo arias. This form is in three parts. A first section followed by a different one which in turn was followed by the markings – da capo, “from the beginning.” This repeat was expected to be ornamented and embellished by the singer. This resulted in lots of musical fireworks often at the expense of art”

      • 3.2.1
        grimoaldo says:

        Don’t know who those quotes come from wistful, but the third one absolutely does not apply to Lully’s operas.
        Here is the complete Atys from Les Arts Florissants:

        “Baroque” is a long period of musical history, there are many forms of Baroque opera, they vary widely.
        That third quote from someone who does not enjoy 18th century Italian opera seria, only one form of Baroque opera.

  • 4
    kashania says:

    Aside from the astute observations in this piece, it is just plain enjoyable to read.

  • 5
    Patrick Mack says:

    Hilarity! Brava!

  • 6
    Bianca Castafiore says:

    I’m sorry but JHM’s voice was certainly not “tireless” in the GD I attended…

    I do agree that Khovanschina was the sleeper hit of the year, too bad it was so poorly attended…

  • 7
    Nerva Nelli says:

    That would be “Ms. Deborah Allen” to you, Cieca!!!

    Good choices, though I would say that Christie, stylist though he be, was a *major* disappointment (yet again) in the Met pit for ENCHANTED [COBRA] ISLAND, and his failings occasioned much complaint in the pit and backstage. Free of space constraints, I’d also add Pisaroni, Oropesa, Costanzo and Claire to your vocal high honor roll on that show.

  • 8
    The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

    phoenix,

    ”They seem to have been written for sheer entertainment and relaxation”

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by that but in my limited contact with baroque opera aficionados they are definitely the snobbiest in my experience.

    Gabriel Parra speaks for me here:

    Is it really so surprising? I don’t think so. Let’s be honest here and call a spade a spade. First and foremost, Baroque operas are usually mind-numbingly boring. Most of these works went unrecorded during the
    first 60 years or so of recording history for a very good reason: very few of them are actually of sufficient interest to merit the expense required to produce such recordings. While the audience, in the universe of CD shoppers, for say, Beethoven symphonies is small, those
    who are actually deeply interested in this particular corner of the repertoire may number at most a few thousand worldwide. There are more people in the world, for instance, who like to be defecated on for
    kicks, and that’s considered deviant. Those who get turned on by Lully, Rameau, Charpentier and, dare I say, even Handel operas are deviants of a different sort. I worked for one of these small baroque groups in
    Boston once and, let me tell you, they were some of the most disturbed and disturbing people I have ever had the distinct displeasure of associating with. Do you remember “Deliverance”? Same kind of people.

    Scary.

    Pieces which had been relegated to the dustbin of history were picked up by these musical vagrants to justify their existence (you know, the rejects who couldn’t make it in a real orchestra or compete with real
    singers) and presented as worthwhile “lost gems” as so much scrap and refuse dressed up to look like a fine meal but remained nonetheless the desiccated corpses of “music” that would have been better off dead and
    unheard and undiscovered. If I hear one more note by Spohr or some such malcontent I swear I will never send another penny to my local classical music radio station.

    Secondly, and this relates to the “musician”-rejects who use the relative novelty of such music to justify their existence, the utterly inferior level of musicianship has obviously caught up to them. Not only are the scores they perform exceedingly bad, their execution is perhaps worse. Why anyone would want more than one version of, say, Rodelinda--unless, of course, they happen to be a musical deviant--is beyond the scope of human understanding. That there is still a market for YET ANOTHER Beethoven symphony set is clear, although it is clearly diminishing. However, the marketplace can scarcely bear one Rodelinda, let alone two or more when one performance will never be radically
    better or more interesting than another, both because of the inferior music and inferior musicians involved. That this segment of the industry, dominated by aging HIPsters, is suffering a slow but not unwelcome death, is hardly surprising.

    • 8.1
      louannd says:

      A new low, even for you WP.

      • 8.1.1
        The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

        louannd,

        A new low, even for you WP

        In all honesty I totally forgot to edit out his pointless scatological remark.

        I apologize.

        • 8.1.1.1
          grimoaldo says:

          With that post wistful, you are now firmly on my “ignore” list from now on.

          • The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

            grimoaldo dear,

            With that post wistful, you are now firmly on my “ignore” list from now on.

            I sincerely apologize for that.

    • 8.2
      phoenix says:

      wistful palestinian, you have outdone yourself! Many thanks for your reply!

      • 8.2.1
        The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

        wistful palestinian, you have outdone yourself! Many thanks for your reply!

        Excuse me, phoenix, but why are you referring to me as “palestinian” ?!

        • 8.2.1.1
          phoenix says:

          It’s late at night and I must have made yet another dreadful syntax error. You know the UN recognition of Palestinian statehood was all over the news today -- your last name is hard for me to put together for some reason, I keep trying to make it something that it isn’t, anything except what it really is -- sorry if I have offended you. (DISCLAIMER: sorry only if you are not actually a famous person masquerading as a pelleastrian -- if so, forget it -- famous people are insufferable).

          • The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

            phoenix,

            “It’s late at night and I must have made yet another dreadful syntax error. You know the UN recognition of Palestinian statehood was all over the news today – your last name is hard for me to put together for some reason”

            Understood.

            “Sorry if I have offended you. (DISCLAIMER: sorry only if you are not actually a famous person masquerading as a pelleastrian – if so, forget it – famous people are insufferable)”

            Wait, what? Come again?

  • 9
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Late entry:

  • 10
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    La vida breve from Valencia 2010:
    http://vimeo.com/54160238

  • 11
    ianw2 says:

    I am trying to talk myself into walking to the local arty cinema on a Saturday morning which is going to be as hot as balls to catch a delayed (very delayed) Met Tempest tomorrow.

    Whilst I really love the piece, I’m really struggling to convince myself to go through with it, so the dubious award didn’t help (plus side: air conditioned cinema! already paid! down side: can’t be arsed, test cricket).

    • 11.1
      Cocky Kurwenal says:

      How many times have you listened to the EMI recording? If you haven’t properly prepared you may as well stay home -- fundamental truth.

  • 12
    The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

    grimoaldo,

    “To please the English you must give them music they can tap their feet to” — Handel

    “Foot -tapping tunes, gorgeous melodies, amusement, is always high on the agenda”

    Maybe this is part of the problem… ?

    I prefer Debussy’s words:

    “There’s too much singing in opera. My characters endeavor to sing like real persons, and not in an arbitrary language built upon antiquated traditions. The blossoming of the voice into true singing should occur only when required. No developments merely for the sake of development”

    • 12.1
      grimoaldo says:

      Wistful, you quoted someone calling people (like me) who enjoy, or love, the music of Lully, Rameau, Marc Antoine Charpentier and Handel deviants, vagrants, disturbed and disturbing and compared us to a gang of hillbilly rapists in an old movie.
      This on an website dedicated to opera.
      I am not going to communicate with you any more, there is no longer any point in addressing questions or comments to me.

      • 12.1.1
        The Wistful Pelleastrian says:

        grimoaldo,

        Jeez, I didn’t even pick up on that section!!

        Honestly I’m so sorry about that… :-(

        Look at all my postings over the past year and half on parterre. Do I ever discuss sexual topics or gossip or private lives or anything else? No, I have no interest in any of that stuff.

        I copy and pasted without carefully reading that middle section.

        Again I am very sorry.

    • 12.2
      No Expert says:

      For Heaven’s sake, Handel is the master of them all. Just accept it and move on.

      • 12.2.1
        Clita del Toro says:

        No Expert, right. Everyone doesn’t have to like everything, no matter how great.
        I would never disparage Baroque opera just because I am not especially fond of it or because I don’t know it well. On the other hand, I don’t mind making fun of certain singers, great or not so great. ;+)

  • 13
    Camille says:

    La Cieca—
    Couldn’t the awards have a slightly longer name, like :

    The JaJo Awards

    Or

    The JamJor Awards
    For instance?

    The JameJord also works, no?

    I dunno, just trying to come up with something catchy.

  • 14
    manou says:

    La Cieca, could we please have detailed and precise instructions on the immensely complex subject of “Copying And Pasting“, a technique so arcane that it may lead to unforeseen disasters such as Doctoring Quotes To Remove Unhelpful Comments, Failing To Notice Scatological Comparisons, and even in the worst cases Temporary Blindness to Offensive Content?

    Even the most experienced Copasters (or Copouters as they are sometimes known in the industry) can also fall foul of the Unattributed Quote, a minor but disturbing error.

    • 14.1
      bluecabochon says:

    • 14.2
      Batty Masetto says:

      Meantime, inexperienced birders should beware of the Common Muddle-Headed Sapsucker, whose borrowed plumage may lead them to mistake it for the Thoughtful Intellectual, a much rarer species.

      Apart from its habit of adorning itself with other birds’ feathers (which it pokes into the most peculiar places among its own drab fluff), the Common Muddle-Headed Sapsucker has a further behavioral oddity: in a reversal of the behavior of the cowbird, which lays its eggs in others’ nests, it takes other birds’ eggs and plants them in its own. But since it has no clue about what’s inside them or how to incubate them, they usually rot, fouling the nest and indeed the entire neighborhood. Homeowners are well advised to encourage these birds to nest elsewhere.

      • 14.2.1
        Camille says:

        Batty— thou dost strike the fear of a wrathful deity in mine heart!!

        I shall be on the lookout for that dread bird and stand firmly and well-advised.

        Thank you and don’t forget my recipe, please!

        Love

        LaDonna Summer Traviata

        • 14.2.1.1
          Batty Masetto says:

          Camille my love, your old email address no longer works.

          Please email me from your current address and I’ll send that recipe.

          • Camille says:

            I am sorry but had no idea as I had not been there awhile. Tomorrow I shall attend to the matter.

            Love, Camille

  • 15
    kashania says:

    17th century French opera is much different than the more typical Baroque opera (by Handel and Vivialdi) that people are used to. The works of Lully and Charpentier are closer to Monterverdi in feel. They are like sung plays, with heavy emphasis on the text and mostly continuous recitative. There are few excerpts that one can take away from these pieces but the overall experience can be absolutely mesmerising and dramatically more vital than operas by Handel (wonderful as the music may be). There is far less emphasis on vocal displays so a singer is not going to be able to show off in the same way as in an 18th century Italian opera. I would love to have seen Atys

  • 16
    uwsinnyc says:

    This is the first I’ve heard that Makropoulos was supposed to be Mattila’s farewell. She’s not that old at all and far too young to be retiring?

    On a tangential note of singers who might consider retiring, I saw Olga Borodina’s Amneris last night. Great and terrible performance at the same time.

    • 16.1
      m. croche says:

      Borodina’s Marfa last season sounded good to me -- and the reports from in-house were similarly positive. I look forward to the Akhrossimova of her twilight years (a fella can dream, can’t he?)

      Too bad that two of the most successful outings last year, Makropulos and Khovanshchina, didn’t receive HDs. Oh well, we’ll always have Dessay’s Traviata to treasure.

      • 16.1.1
        Maury D says:

        Truly, in Khovansch. she couldn’t have sounded better. Probably there are some roles she should let go. It happens to everyone. It doesn’t mean they should retire.

    • 16.2
      Camille says:

      Sad to say, as I have loved her singing, but it is time for Olga to look into Uleica, La Cieca, and la vecchia Madelon, roles which don’t go much above a G4. The lower portion of the voice still rich, opulent and viable. It pains me for I wished she could have gone on forever. Perhaps by the time of the HD she will steadily improve? Here’s hoping.

      • 16.2.1
        Clita del Toro says:

        E strano, I thought Borodina was fine last night. If she messed up a few highs--doesn’t bother me. Rather hear her than Kojack.

        • 16.2.1.1
          la vociaccia says:

          Clita, what was your impression of monastyrska? I thought she was fab in house last friday

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Vociaccia: Monastryska: The plusses: I think she has a big, gorgeous, free, voice and sings the role of Aida beautifully for the most part. It must be exciting to hear that in person.
            That said, I found her performance/interpretation a bit on the cold side, lacking in personality and individuality. I would go to see her if she were singing in Chicago.
            I much preferred Latonia’s Aida last year. I was very moved and excited by Latonia’s Aida--not so with Liudmyla’s.
            I am, however, looking forward to hearing Monastyrska in other roles. I am sure she will be around for a long time.

        • 16.2.1.2
          scifisci says:

          I was at the second performance and felt borodina was only a shadow of herself. It was one of the great voices out there, but now it is just so unsteady even in the middle. The bottom of course remains luxurious. I find the description of her performance as great and terrible at the same time to be very accurate. She still has everything else, so she knows how to put the role over convincingly, but the voice is not what it was.

        • 16.2.1.3
          Camille says:

          Just a few high notes but important ones to climactic phrases. Still, the quality and texture of the voice to me is so beautiful, no, it doesn’t matter. I remember when those high notes were dynamite, that’s the only problem.

          • uwsinnyc says:

            yes the quality of the voice is still very rich. The singing however has developed an almost “desperate” edge where she seems to be lunging for notes much of the time.

            Also agree with Monatryska- (I was at the third performance)- the voice and singing were both first rate and the voice soared just the way an Aida should without sounding too heavy. Dramatically though, she was a tad too inert. but it’s easier to have the voice and develop lacking acting skills than the other way around!

      • 16.2.2
        Bianca Castafiore says:

        When I heard Borodina as Amneris in 2005, I almost fell out of my chair when she opened her mouth and the most opulent, rich, luxurious tone poured out. But even back then, she shied away from the highest notes (B flats?) in the Judgement Scene — she barely touched them and got off quickly. I’ve always thought that Amneris and Eboli were problematic for her due to a short top. But I still love that deep, wine-colored instrument of hers. Maybe I just love deep female voices since I also love Podles, Sementchuk and Garanca.

    • 16.3
      kashania says:

      I think Mattila’s farewell (to the Met, not to opera) stems from some rumoured frisson with Gelb. It would be a shame if she didn’t come back to the stage where she’s had such wonderful triumphs. Her rep is changing due to her declining upper register but she still has much to offer as an artist. I’d kill to see her as Ortud or Kostelnicka.

  • 17
    messa di voce says:

    Borodina is actually a few years younger than Mattila. They’re both dealing with repertory crises, brought on by rapidly shrinking tops. I think Mattila’s situation is actually more difficult: can she continue a career with just the Janacek roles?

    • 17.1
      messa di voce says:

      Actually . . . actually . .. actually . . .

      Hate it when I do that.

      La Cieca, we’ve been good boys and girls. Maybe you could give us an edit function for Christmas?

    • 17.2
      kashania says:

      I think she could also do Ortrud, Sieglinde, Ariadne and Kundry.

    • 17.3
      uwsinnyc says:

      I wouldn’t call Mattila’s a “rapidly shrinking top”.
      May be the very top notes perhaps.

      What surprised me when I heard her in Makropoulos case was how much smaller the voice sounded. Has anyone else felt that too?