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The Beatrice generation

Beatrice di Tenda was a problem child, Vincenzo Bellini an alternately protective and disparaging parent. If he had lived to write another dozen operas this might not matter, but this work of 1833 was his penultimate piece; two and a half years later, the young Sicilian was dead, not yet 34.

The melodies of Beatrice thus come from the same rare and gorgeous fount as do those of Norma and Puritani, and if you love her sisters, you should certainly save a date for Beatrice. Her next big date in this neck of the woods comes tomorrow night, when the Collegiate Chorale and the American Symphony Orchestra present the opera at Carnegie Hall.

Beatrice has not been professionally staged in New York since the mid-nineteenth century, but concert performances like this one have been memorable: Joan Sutherland made her New York debut in the part at Town Hall in 1961 under the auspices of American Opera Society, an occasion so enthusiastically received that it was encored at Carnegie. (One of her co-stars, a stranger to Sutherland, was an American mezzo named Horne, also making her New York debut.) In 1988, Opera Orchestra of New York revived it for June Anderson.

Beatrice is a love quadrangle, not unlike Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (same librettist: Felice Romani; same original diva: Giuditta Pasta, also the first Sonnambula and Norma). Filippo, Duke of Milan, has married Beatrice, widow of a condottiere, so he can get control of her late husband’s mercenary army. But now he’s fallen for Agnese, the mezzo.

She, however, has a thing for Orombello, a dense young courtier, who in turn aspires to Beatrice. Beatrice wants nothing to do with him, but the Duke sees his chance to rid himself of his wife. The trial scene is a big Bellinian confrontation, and the prayer trio before the executions is one of the great Bellini tunes. But, this being a Giuditta Pasta vehicle, it doesn’t end there: Beatrice departs to her death but she goes out breathing cabaletta fire.

In the cast Wednesday there will be several names to draw attentive voice fanciers. Singing her first Beatrice will be Angela Meade, who has been thrilling in dramatic coloratura roles from Vienna and Wexford to Caramoor and the Met. Michael Spyres, impressive in virtuoso parts by Rossini and Meyerbeer, among others, will sing Orombello. I got a chance to put a few questions to each of them.

parterre box: Angela Meade, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing/hearing you sing in Ernani, Norma, Semiramide and Anna Bolena. Would you say that “dramatic coloratura” is your fach? Or would you say they do not fall into such a category? What similar parts, besides Beatrice (and Mercadante’s Virginia – which I heard on the radio and hope you will sing again), are you aiming for, do you feel your voice and style have the particular qualities suited for? Do Mozart’s Countess and Verdi’s Leonora fall into a similar place?

Angela Meade: I don’t like to put myself into a box, but most of the roles I sing would fall under “dramatic coloratura.” I have also had great success with roles people would classify as “full lyric”: Mozart’s Countess or Agathe in Freischütz. The parts that I feel particularly well suited for are the great bel canto and early Verdi roles tackled by Sutherland and Caballé. The Countess and Leonora fall into a similar place vocally because I approach all roles I sing with a bel canto technique.

A lot, the majority, of what I’ve done has been at major houses and festivals, but among those roles, the general public seemed most drawn to me as the Countess in Figaro, Norma or the Trovatore Leonora.

pb: Beatrice was criticized at the time of its premiere as having a story too similar to that of Bolena – a soprano who must die because her husband has fallen in love with another woman (mezzo of course), and therefore entraps her with an ardent tenor. I was very impressed with your acting of Anna, which seemed very personal, very individual. How would you say Beatrice’s story differs from Anna’s? Should the singer aim for different appeal?

AM: Even though the circumstances seem extremely similar, the two women are very different. Anna was totally driven by her desire for the throne and ended up in a situation she couldn’t control or reverse. Even though we feel pity for Anna’s predicament and death, we also feel she is just a bit to blame, that she gets what she asked for. Beatrice, on the other hand, is a victim of circumstance. She was happy in her former marriage and when her first husband and only love were taken from her, she felt obligated to marry the duke of Milan. He was marrying her only for her money and power and that he would dispose of her the first opportunity he got. Her music arouses the sorrow we feel for her.

pb: Beatrice never seems to “state her case.” She is innocent of adultery and angry at her fate, but we never learn what she does want out of life – unlike Anna, who consciously set love aside and sought the throne. Do you find Beatrice an undramatic story? If so, how, as its interpreter, do you compensate for that factor?

AM: I don’t find her undramatic at all. I think her story is even more exhilarating because she does nothing to provoke the attack on her.

pb: When the bel canto repertory was being revived in the 1960s, opera companies were cautious about trusting their appeal. The custom then grew up of concert performances of forgotten works, and these have been immensely popular and important. Is it easy to learn complicated roles for just a performance or two? Is a concert performance as rewarding to you, as a performer, as a fully-staged one?

AM: A lot of my career thus far has been learning obscure or relatively obscure operas for one or just a few performances (Beatrice, Virginia, Lombardi, Armida, Semiramide, Roberto Devereux, Anna Bolena, even Ernani which isn’t done very often). I love the challenge actually. I think I would be extremely bored if I only sang a few roles. I think it keeps me aware and it keeps me learning and I don’t find it any harder learning a role for one performance than for 20.

Concert work is just as rewarding, because if you can still move the audience and stir something in their soul without the help of sets, costumes and staging, then you’ve more than done your job.

It is my hope some of the obscure operas will be done with more frequency. Beatrice is a gorgeous score. A lot of people think it’s not staged because the story is improbable, but it’s based in historical fact. If we can stage Anna Bolena, then we should be able to stage Beatrice.

pb: Michael Spyres, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing/hearing you sing Raoul in Les Huguenots, Arnold in Guillaume Tell and Baldassare in Ciro in Babilonia; you have also recently sung Auber’s Masaniello, and you have spoken of Nicolai Gedda, who cut across many repertory boundaries, as a role model. Do you see yourself as more a grand opera tenor or the sort of lighter voice suitable to early Rossini roles?

Michael Spyres: To be honest I don’t put much thought into whether I am this type of singer or that type of singer. I always try to interpret the role to the best of my abilities. I also tend not to categorize myself simply for the fact that all of these categorizations came about b.c. (before Caruso) and people’s perceptions about sound and singing are very different than they were in the nineteenth century when these ideas of fach categorizations were formalized.

This being said, I do find myself more at home in the bel canto style simply for the fact that one must use every tool in one’s arsenal, i.e. voix mixte, chest voice, mezza voce, and above all. dynamics! Over the last decade every country has had their own idea of what type of singer I am and which repertoire I should be singing, so you can see how hard it is for me to make my mind up on this subject. In Germany I have sung Mozart as well as dramatic Rossini. In Austria I have sung Bach, dramatic twentieth-century German repertoire, Verdi and operetta. In Italy I have sung early music, Mozart, light Rossini as well as dramatic Rossini. In France and Belgium I have sung Mozart, French Grand Opera, Bel Canto, Bernstein and more heavily orchestrated composers such as Berlioz. In the States, I’ve sung Puccini, Donizetti, Rossini, and now Bellini! Everyone has an opinion and a lot of those opinions are correct when put into the correct context.

pb: Do you alter much in your technique when you address Raoul, say (or Vasco da Gama), as opposed to a lighter bel canto part such as Orombello in Beatrice di Tenda?

MS: Technique is a bit too broad a term for me. Different roles always come with different demands for the voice since virtually every role was written with a different singer in mind. The only changes in vocal emission one must account for while switching between repertoires is to calculate the proper amount of stamina when singing the extremely demanding roles. I spend a lot of time calculating how much of the role is written within the mid-range tessitura and I adjust accordingly by singing fortissimo sparingly. As a singer one must always strive for the most healthy and properly produced sound at all times. Vocal affectations and colorations should only be used in very specific moments and then only for a dramatic effect (such as the “hook”) and never as the rule of thumb.

pb: Do you feel the bel canto composers have special things to teach about the art of singing, the use of vocal resources for dramatic effect, that would impress a modern audience or help a singer in performing the music of later composers?

MS: Absolutely! More so than any other time period, the composers within the bel canto era understood that the repertoire lent itself to the live drama as the audience and performers became intertwined with these seemingly superhuman vocal demands. The singer is totally exposed and cannot hide, and thus is forced to show you the audience all of their cards. To be fair though, Bel Canto composers were very good at acknowledging vocal capabilities and they adjusted their orchestration accordingly.

Even towards the latter part of the nineteenth century, composers such as Verdi were meticulous in their insistence on dynamics. For instance Verdi would write five f’s as well as five p’s in a score. Once you study this and put it into context you understand how much of a master he was in his knowledge of the human voice, because not only does this type of orchestration and vocal writing lend itself to healthy singing but it also helps keep the listener engaged with the ebb and flow of the vocal line as well as the drama on stage and within oneself.

Singers and audiences alike have become lazy and bored with bel canto and the art of singing has taken a back seat to volume. Being loud is now the goal and this has overshadowed the essence of why opera exists, to be intellectually stimulated and transported to a different world, to have all your senses caressed, not for someone to stand with a bullhorn like an doomsday preacher on the corner that entertains us for a minute or so.

Don’t get me wrong! I do believe that volume is important within operatic repertoire but often opera singers nowadays sing only forte and it is just a way to mask a poor technique which is conversely found within most early music singing where there is a tendency to never sing with one’s fully supported voice and thus singers reserve themselves to using falsetto.

Listen to singers of the past who had extremely ample volume but equal artistry. I challenge anyone to hear the recordings of Caruso, Pertile, d’Arkor or Melchior and tell me they sang like our modern “technique,” which is a forced low larynx shout that allowed them to only sing forte! Just because one can sing loud doesn’t mean you have to all the time.

pb: Of course bel canto should be sung differently from later music, and with so much smaller an orchestra to “cover” the voice, a great deal more of the work depends upon the singer. Should it be listened to differently? Staged differently?

MS: You’ve brought up an interesting point. I believe bel canto should be listened to in a different way than, say, Puccini or late Verdi. One should not expect Verismo frequencies nor the volume of sound that came later. Also the acting style and the sheer drama needs to be taken in context. Bel canto was a transitional period and was heavily censored so they were many more constraints on the topics and characters involved. No longer were operas about gods and demons and the heavens; this was a time of transition to having demi-gods such as kings and queens, and this gave way to verismo which turned us everyday humans into the center of the drama.

Staging should always be first and foremost acoustically mindful. I don’t agree with the standing still method of singing and acting. Bel canto lends itself to movement of the body. Of course there are moments one must remain idle because of the vocal demands, but they are few. An analogy for bel canto and verismo is of when the electric guitar came about that can bathe our ears with glorious sounds never heard before; now who would ever listen to an acoustic band with the same mentality as an electric band? We must take the responsibility to listen differently as well as have different expectations within the context of each music.

pb: As a character, Orombello comes off as a rather brainless figure, lacking the personality of the three other leads. He seems to have no inner life. How do you, as an interpreter, make up for a character who might not be dramatically sympathetic? Do other Bellini roles attract you, as figures you could make more of?

MS: As I said before, it is all about context. At first glance Orombello does come off a bit daft, but this is done for a reason. Characters such as these are much like those of commedia dell’arte or even the ancient Greek theater, because while they as individuals might not be that interesting each character fits within the puzzle piece of the larger dramatic work. If every character was exceedingly complex then the larger dramatic theme would be lost.

In Beatrice di Tenda, the entire drama centers around the precious gift of life that is taken away under false pretences. There are only a few hours to fit everything in, and so it is the audience’s job to realize a back story with a character like Orombello. I enjoy this type of drama much more than verismo because it assumes the position that the audience is educated and doesn’t need to be fed every detail about why the character should be interesting. Actually I haven’t studied many other Bellini roles, but I promise I’m not just lazy, as Orombello is the forty-fifth role I have studied!

pb: How do singers keep a modern audience’s attention in what is essentially a vocal work without the connecting thread of staged drama?

MS: I believe an audience member has to look it as an opportunity to hear some beautiful music and incredible vocal talents that can convey a different type of drama than its staged counterpart. Think of it as an old time radio show where you get to be the director of the film within your mind.

pb: Have you varied the “written” music (as was expected of any singer in the bel canto repertory) to suit your particular talents? Whose help do you go to when you are devising ornamentation, or do you work out those matters for yourself? What would say are the particular strong points of your voice that you (like any singer) attempt to highlight?

MS: I have made minimal changes to the score because of the character of Orombello. Many people are under the false impression that bel canto is only about vocal fireworks and how many notes one can hit. Every variation should be within the context of the character one is portraying.

For instance, when I was rehearsing Rossini’s Otello, the great Raul Gimenez heard me preparing the role and commented “Why are you doing so many variations? Do you have a reason or are you just trying to show off?” He then added “Otello is a militant, power-hungry character in Rossini’s Otello, with very little of the drawn out mental torment as Verdi’s. You must always reflect the true nature of the character you are portraying. Always have a reason!”

With this in mind most of my vocal variations tend to gravitate towards featuring my extended range which is typical in the “baritenori” repertoire that I specialize in. I have made up all of my own ornamentation for certain roles and worked with great experts such as Will Crutchfield and Philip Gossett on other pieces. The most fun I had with variations was in a baroque opera, Mazzoni’s Antigono which I performed in Lisbon. I had the pleasure of working with Enrico Onofri, who is a skilled violinist and a baroque expert, and he wrote variations for me that extended from D2 up to F5.

pb: What are your thoughts on the rather controversial question of listening to other singers’ recordings when you are preparing any role?

MS: I absolutely listen to other singers in fact I am adamant and almost obsessed with old recordings. Recordings have taught me so many invaluable lessons, such as there is no such thing as perfection! I usually listen to live recordings as they are a way for me to judge how the opera should sound. I understand the concern that many people have in not wanting to copy what someone does but that is our job as an artist, to collect ideas and assimilate them and make it new through our unique artistry.

I know that a lot of people want to think that they are the first person to come up with a musical idea but the truth of the matter is they have not done their homework, by which I mean listening to every available recording you can get your hands on so you can be sure that your idea is original.

One very important thing to keep in mind though when listening to a recording is acoustics. You must realize that live sound is always going to be different than with recorded sound. Recordings are great for understanding practices and getting new ideas about the inanimate object that is the music in front of you. I am very fortunate to have a huge advantage in my voice category simply for the fact that Nicolai Gedda came before me.

pb: When the bel canto repertory was being revived in the 1950s and ’60s, opera companies were cautious about trusting their appeal. The custom then grew up of concert performances of forgotten works, and these have been immensely popular and important. Is it easy to learn such roles for just a performance or two? Is a concert performance as rewarding to you, as a performer, as a fully-staged one?

MS: Actually this type of repertoire is quite easy for me to learn as it is formulaic. But the devil is within interpretation and the ability for everyone to convey their thoughts in a simultaneous and homogeneous manner. I have now sung quite a bit of bel canto so it is a bit easier for me than someone who is trying out this repertoire for the first time. Rubato can be very tricky!

Concert performances are quite rewarding because they allow me to focus on my voice first and foremost, whereas in a staged performance my emphasis is always towards the acting. I believe by doing both concert and staged performances one becomes aware of different sensations and mind sets which leads to a more well-rounded artist—and after all isn’t that what we are all striving for?

Photos by Dario Acosta (Meade) and Stephanie Berger (Spyres).

105 comments

  • Camille says:

    Lastly, can anyone say absolutely for sure if Beatrice di Tenda has ever been given SINCE the famous American Opera Society debuts of Sutherland, in what? 1961 0r 62, in New York City? Has Queler ever given it, or some other smaller group?

    Just curious. Thanks.

    • Camille says:

      Here is a section of that historic performance in 1961, including the trio and scene and aria finale:

      • almavivante says:

        Oh, to have been there in 1961! However, I must say that when Joan learned something it was set in stone. This performance is virtually identical to her commercial recordings of both the entire opera and the finale. So in an odd way I almost feel as if I WAS there.

      • kashania says:

        Sigh! Is there anything more glorious than Sutherland’s singing from the early 60s? And the music is really quite lovely. Is there complete recording of this performance?

    • Gualtier M says:

      http://www.operaorchestrany.org/about_history.html

      1988-1989
      Oct. 27

      Bellini -- Beatrice di Tenda

      Anderson, Zseller, Kiurkciev, Tumagian

      • almavivante says:

        That performance was in 1988???? I brought my OONY libretto from that evening to Carnegie tonight, just in case the Collegiate Chorale didn’t supply a text (they used projected titles, which were very readable), but I never looked to see the copyright date on it. Really?--24 years ago? The next sound you hear is me sighing…

        I remember nothing at all from that performance, though I’m sure I must have enjoyed it. Tonight’s had me riveted, due in no small part to the conducting, which moved the score along at quite a clip, and ensured that the melodrama never once grew static. And all four principals were so good they deserve to be dubbed “the Beatrice quartet.”

      • La Cieca says:

        Also know as “The Night of the .07 Stars”

      • Camille says:

        Very kind and accommodating of you, Caro Nome del mio Cor, and I appreciate it. Had I had the MOXIE, I would have referred myself to that page and saved you the trouble, but I clearly didn’t feel like it. At any rate, I am chagrined with myself for not reading properly all of the article, in which Mr. Yohalem has clearly stated this performance was given in 1988.

        My bad.

        Thanks Gualtier. At any rate it was illuminating to others, no doubt.

    • stevey says:

      Hi Cammie love!! As usual, I’m late to the party, but I did want to chime in and help you out a bit re: performances of ‘Beatrice’ given since Sutherland.
      It actually HASN’T been all that neglected, and the list of divas that have performed the title role is an august one! While, indeed, apart from the Anderson performance one of our friends has listed below, Beatrice doesn’t seem to have graced any more North American stages (until now) that I can find, Europe has seen it’s share. A cursory look at whatever I’ve come up with reveals that London, Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, Zurich, Argentina, and Monte Carlo have all had a run of Beatrice at some point in time or other, Barcelona has actually had two (Adelaide Negri being it’s first Beatrice, Devia its next 13 years later), while within Italy La Scala has run it 3 times (starring Gencer, Cecilia Gasdia (who I never quite ‘got’) in the early 90′s, and Devia most recently), Venice twice, Turin, Bologna (Mirella Freni being the Beatrice here), Palermo twice, and Catania.
      And, just in case anybody may be curious, the Beatrices for all of these productions are these heavy hitters: in addition to Sutherland, and of course Gencer, we have Angeles Gulin, Freni, Negri, Mariana Nicolesco, June Anderson, Gruberova, someone named Doina Palade, Lucia Aliberti, Devia, Gasdia, Clara Polito, and now, La Meade. Quite a list of ladies, I say!!!
      My very best wishes to you, as ever and always. I hope that all is well and happy with you and yours… :-)

      • Camille says:

        hello stevey dear!

        Actually, I did know of many of those others, Gencer, Freni, Gulin--whose recording I have--and Gasdia, even, whom I didn’t “get” either, but I don’t care. I think the huge reclame she had after that Maria Stuarda or Anna Bolena at Scala was the big deal for her. I saw her once in concert, in Rome, and wondered what all the shouting was about. What actually I was wondering about were performances in NEW YORK CITY, and that information did sooner or later come out. There are myriad little companies that come and go which are always putting on something ambitious, and I wondered if anyone had gotten up the gumption to attempt Beatrice, that is all.

        I will listen to la Polito, a kind of operatic Monica Bellucci(!), after I recover from last night’s naufrauge.

        Beatrice is never going to be able to get out of her closet if she isn’t treated better than what she was given yesterday evening.

        Hahaha! I think you are up to a covert request from El Quizmaster for another guessing game, with the parade of names you’ve mentioned above!!!! Du kluger, du!

        All for now, and keep up the good work, stevey.

        best and very kindest regards from
        Camille

  • MrGuy1804 says:

    It’s a shame that Angela Meade has come to represent the plight of the overweight female opera singer. Dolora Zajick and Stephanie Blythe have shown the public this season that being bigger doesn’t mean they can’t be incredibly compelling. Despite the praise Mrs. Meade has been showered with, I thought her performance was the worst of the four principals vocally and dramatically. Jamie Barton (who was bravoed by Joyce DiDonato who was in attendance) buried Meade when they sang in unison and her sound had much more core and musicality. And Spyres sounded uncharacteristically safe to me. His character doesn’t get to do much, but he actually sounded ill to me. Or in poor voice. Barton and Pallensen (who sang respectably with his rather unexciting instrument, even popping up to a high Bb) attempted (not always successfully) to engage dramatically, but Angela Meade didn’t even really bother acting like she was acting. She just stood there. Like a great big, unmusical, wobble-having, sparkly blue lump. The extent of her involvement with the text was furrowing her eye brows and singing pianissimo high notes that emerged from directionless, smeared phrases before descending back into her artificially darkened and generic sounding middle register. The tip top notes (except the self-indulgent pianissimos) were strained and unsteady. She looked as though she had no idea what she was singing about. At all.

    She was awful.

    I really hate being a fogey who hates everything, but I just refuse to believe that Meade is really the best singer around in that repertoire. Her bio made her sound like she was Ponselle come back from the dead. All it demonstrated to me was that a lot of these competitions are shams, and that being a decorated singer has not a damn thing to do with delivering the goods on the night of a performance. I’m not saying that she doesn’t have potential, but she doesn’t seem at all up to the task of tackling the high profile assignment she is handed so readily. No one can be Montserrat and Sutherland, but is it too much to ask whether we can at least have sopranos who aren’t boring as bat shit?

    • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      Other celeb sightings tonight: Fabio Luisi at the Andrea Bocelli concert in Brooklyn.

    • louannd says:

      Thank you for the review.

      • MrGuy1804 says:

        To finish off the “review,” I thought the choir and orchestra sounded decent and I heard no major screw ups from either ensemble. The conductor kept things moving, but you really do need imaginative singers in this repertoire.

        I was just really hoping (but not expecting after witnessing her overrated Ernani last season) to be wowed by Meade after reading her pretentious responses.

        You’re welcome.

        • scifisci says:

          Mr.Guy, it’s hard to take seriously anything you’re writing when you include so many personal insults. It almost sounds like the bitter ramblings of someone who lost a competition to angela meade or something.

    • Vergin Vezzosa says:

      I was also there tonight and and found the performance largely, if not entirely, at least satisfying and at many points excellent. I also enjoyed MrGuy’s review, which I regard as some kind of parody, perfectly describing, in an alternate universe kind of way, exactly the opposite if what actually happened IMHO. Chacun a son gout.

      • skoc211 says:

        Thank you, dear. The performance I went to was beautifully sung. I can only imagine that MrGuy had his Sutherland recording shoved so far up his ass that he was rendered incapable of appreciating a thrilling and moving performance from Meade.

        The first act had its spotty moments, but the second act was powerful and stunning.

        Brava to Miss Meade. It was a complete triumph.

        • atalaya says:

          I can’t figure out the intense dislike for Meade either. While I don’t attribute the vitriol to the anti-large women misogyny that occasionally appears on Parterre, it does seem that Meade rubs some people the wrong way on a personal level.

          Apparently it is a surprise that larger singers can be compelling…
          “It’s a shame that Angela Meade has come to represent the plight of the overweight female opera singer. Dolora Zajick and Stephanie Blythe have shown the public this season that being bigger doesn’t mean they can’t be incredibly compelling.”

          Attacking her bio…
          “Her bio made her sound like she was Ponselle come back from the dead”

          Physical appearance…
          “Like a great big, unmusical, wobble-having, sparkly blue lump.”

          Stage manner…
          “And please do not bend over, butt to audience, to grab your water bottle when you have a big high note coming up.”

          Seems like whatever Angela did she was going to get trashed. It went far beyond a musical critique to finding anything that could be criticized. The hatred really does border on parody.

          • MrGuy1804 says:

            To the contrary, it is no surprise that large women can be fantastic operatic artists. It’s just unfortunate that as a large woman who has openly spoken about the discrimination she has faced due to her size coupled with her oft-stated belief that singers of all sizes must demonstrate their ability to sing the pants off the score above all else, that she gave such a paltry performance. It’s been her calling card since she first came to attention in The Audition documentary. Musical values above dramatic ones. “I’m big, but so was Caballe remember?”

            It makes me mad. You don’t get to ride on the coat tails of the many fabulous women who came before you who may not have looked like supermodels.

            She’s not boring because she’s big. She’s boring because she’s boring. And someone who has had the unprecented ascension she has had in recent years (making her pro debut on the stage of the MET, Beverly Sills Award, Tucker award, etc.) should be able to put up or shut up. And if not she should accept engagements that are not beyond her artistic and vocal capabilities.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Mr.Guy--it was one fucking performance--why go apeshit? I saw Joan’s Beatrice in 1961and was not that impressed either. So Meade is not a great Beatrice. Singers are not always at their best--and this is a new role for her.

            If you want “boring” you should have seen Joan in Le Roi de Lahore in Vancouver, BC. It was funny too.

          • manou says:

            apeshit, batshit…what’s with all the animal excrement?

          • Clita del Toro says:

            I guess Parterre needs to buy a pooper scooper.

          • Enzo Bordello says:

            In Sutherland’s defense, she sang that concert BEATRICE DI TENDA on the same day she learned her mother died. She was a trouper.

        • Krunoslav says:

          To me it was neither a complete triumph nor the shameful rout described. Meade has prodigious talent and sang a lot of her music well, if blankly; she needs MUCH more verbal specificity and tone color to live up to (and enliven) this kind of a part.

          People want A DIVA and Meade is not that, yet; maybe the temperament just isn’t there, though she did suggest it can surface at the Caramoor NORMA.

          Jamie Barton, though, a few hard high notes aside, really rocked. THAT’s a concert performance with some oomph.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Kruno--if Meade can sing a good Norma (which I haven’t heard) and an excellent Anna Bolena (which I did hear on Sirius and which a friend did see and loved), there is obviously something important there. I don’t know why certain people won’t leave her alone.

          • Krunoslav says:

            Clita--

            I thought the Bolena was good (not excellent, not by the standards of a Miricioiu or Sills or Scotto, let alone Callas or Gencer), but similarly underinflected. Best thing I saw her do was Agathe at AVA. There is *definitely* something there vocally but definitely room for improvement, and I think good coaching helped that Norma a lot.

            Phrasing, phrasing, phrasing! That’s what I want…

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Kruno, how would you compare Netrebko’s Anna with Meade’s?

          • Krunoslav says:

            Anna has a more individual and beautiful timbre and more temperament. Angela perhaps offered a more “evenly” sung rendition of the music. Both were quite good, neither indelible; but Anna certainly makes more impact onstage, and at least tries to color the text more.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Thanks Kruno. Btw, I did see Scotto’s Bolena in Philadelphia and it was very good, not a Callas, but….

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Actually Sutherland does not need any defense. She was one of the all-time great singers. She was never a great favorite of mine, but she was unique and I don’t think we will ever see the likes of her in the near future or perhaps, ever.

          • Camille says:

            Clita, are you chatting with Tito tonite?

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Cammiest Dearest, i cannot listen and chat ce soir. But enjoy Titus.
            I will chat on Sat if I can stand to listen to that same cast again.

            xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo=amore

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Cammie, btw, a friend in NY sent me a DVD of a film called “Just the Two of Us.”
            The blurb says, “Living next door to each other they could only dream--until their husbands left…”
            Hmmmm. On the cover are two hot, sexy women with big boobs--”lonely housewives.” Total camp. I hope the film is as good (or bad) as the illustration.

          • Camille says:

            Clita, gulp, are you trying to tell me that you are actually a daughter of Lesbos????

            nol comprendo.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Cammie_--LOLOL

          • Camille says:

            Clita, i wuv U & nitey-nite!

            I have had it with opera and am going to sleep now.

            Have fun with your lonely housewives, Clita!! Didn’t know you were THAT kind of girl!

          • Camille says:

            You are right on the money, krunoslavovichnik—

            It was neither fish nor fowl.

            And Jamie was a lot of fun.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Cammie, the film stars Madeleine Walters West and Lorna Hansen Forbes in their first lesbian roles. They told me that it wasn’t easy to be put in that situation, but they grew to like it as the filming went on.

          • Camille says:

            All it took was a gallon of vermouth cassis to do the trick!!

            Be careful with those bad gurls, Clita, as they may put dangerous ideas in your head and upset the applecart of your happy home.

            I have to read about poor dead Vincenzo. I am thinking that maybe I will drag my poor husband to that McNally play at City Center “Golden Age”, just for the vicarious thrill of being with Vinnie on that night long ago of the Puritani prima.

            We’ll see.
            Now, good night sweet prince Clita, For I shall see you on the morrow.

            XXXOOO 4 evah.
            Say hi to mrs jc, should you write her. I love her & miss her. Always.
            Cammiecitalinda

  • stevey says:

    I am so looking forward to the reviews, as they come in from everybody, regarding this performance of ‘Beatrice di Tenda’. I have taken up my time with trying to reacquaint myself with this opera (and sort-of be there ‘in spirit’, as it were) and it really is just wonderful. Listen to this extended concertato from act 2, don’t you just love the orchestra getting whipped up into a frenzy, then leading into the ‘Ite entrambi’ ensemble??? The whole opera is full of fun moments such as these…

    Likewise, and from the same performance… I know I posted this on here earlier, but in reference to ‘post-Gui’ ending, here it is- in a great performance by Clara Polito. I wanted to post this in regards to the previous discussion about La Gruberova ending the scene (and the opera) with a beautiful, interpolated high note on the final ‘Addio’. I think you’re going to LOVE Ms. Polito’s!!!

    And here’s hoping that a good time was had by all. We need more of Bellini’s ‘Beatrice’ and it’s sordid cast of characters!!!

    • armerjacquino says:

      Oooh, Polito’s an interesting singer. And her bio launches her straight into one of parterre’s favourite controversies:

      http://www.clarapolito.com/chi_sono.html

      Studied with, roles include, etc etc etc. Then there’s a list of the directors she’s worked with. Directors but no conductors…

      • Buster says:

        There is a whole list of conductors: Luciano Acocella, Paolo Arrivabeni, Giampaolo Maria Bisanti, Bruno Campanella, Laurent Campellone, Roberto Gabbiani, Marco Guidarini, Vito Lo Re, Antonino Manuli, Günter Neuhold, Mariano Rivas, Marian Vach

        • armerjacquino says:

          You’re absolutely right, what an idiot I am. Too early in the morning for white-on-black italics, obviously!

  • jrance says:

    Agree with MrGuy 100%…Meade is a one-color voice, ill-sorted technique and no sense of drama. And please do not bend over, butt to audience, to grab your water bottle when you have a big high note coming up. So un-gracious. Barton’s top in her offstage opening aria was so strained and metallic. She was OK later, but the role is better suited to a soprano. The tenor has an interesting timbre, the baritone over-parted. Left at intermission.

  • Evenhanded says:

    Well.

    It is very nice to see that some here found much to enjoy in the Beatrice at Carnegie Hall last night. Sadly, I haven’t time to post a thorough review (that will appear elsewhere, in due course), but I was extremely disappointed.

    How sad that skoc211 thinks that someone must have Sutherland’s recording embedded in the ass area in order to have found some things to criticize last night. What a classy comment.

    Meade was pretty much a disaster, IMHO. Is the opera scene in NY truly so desperate for a new diva to worship that they must set aside all discernment and heave their devotion at Ms. Meade? Is it because of the adventurous repertoire she sings? Frankly, I wish she’d leave it alone if she can’t be bothered to learn the appropriate style and find a way to inject some personality into her singing.

    The voice has gotten even larger since I last heard her: it also is blowsy throughout most of the middle in which she consistently oversings. The sound has no core, and the high register is almost completely disconnected from the rest of the voice. She doesn’t “act” at all -- not even with the voice -- no tonal variety, no inflection, no use of the texts. I would give her a C+ at best -- mainly for being game enough to give it a go and for not embarrassing herself. Pitch was good and she was solid, in a nondescript, workmanlike way. VERY disappointing.

    Barton has a thrilling voice. She was miscast in this soprano role, but handled most of it very well (excepting her entrance scene -- the undoing of most mezzos who tackle the role). She generates about 5 times the volume of Meade, and covered her soprano colleague completely whenever they sang in unison. Spyres showed good potential, and was the only member of the cast to pronounce the language decently and attempt to actually color his words. I was quite impressed with the young Pallesen -- though he was a size too small for this role and needs more seasoning as a performer.

    The biggest disappointment involved the astounding amount of music CUT from the score -- leaving a hodgepodge of themes and motifs. Some of the cuts were horrendously jarring -- even connecting disparate harmonies without so much as a nod toward continuity. Horrid. By my reckoning, somewhere between 30-40 minutes were cut for this performance, including about 90% of the very nice overture that should have begun the evening. Bagwell’s conducting was a nightmare -- absolutely amateurish. Once again, it is clear that conducting bel canto effectively is very challenging and one needs to be thoroughly schooled in the correct style. Bagwell missed dozens of opportunities to enhance the drama and help smooth out the damage done by the cuts, but he clearly hasn’t the vaguest clue about the correct performance practice and/or bel canto line, phrasing, and dramatic flow.

    For this listener, last night’s performance rated about a 5 out of 10 for overall quality. Bellini’s Beatrice still awaits a performance that will unveil its true colors and beauty for NY audiences.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      These specific criticisms of Meade’s vocal production are entirely consistent with how she has always come across to me, though I have not heard her live.

    • scifisci says:

      Evenhanded, have you ever heard Meade in any other performances? Was the beatrice perhaps just a bad night for her? I’ve heard her numerous times and have always felt her voice and technique to be pretty excellent. I have actually never understand the extreme negative reactions to her, since to my ears, she has a very uncontroversial voice. I could see people wanting more tonal and phrasing variety, but the actual voice itself has always sounded quite healthy when I’ve heard her. Keep in mind, the last time I heard her was the wonderful caramoor Norma….perhaps things have changed since then?
      And cocky: you should probably hear her live, the voice is large and plush, and sounds very different than it does in recordings.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I’d believe you without argument, scifisci, if it weren’t for the fact that Evenhanded basically took the words right out of my mouth, based on his live experience. I will certainly take any opportunity that presents itself to hear her in person, but she isn’t showing many signs of coming to London any time soon. I am very curious about her and I would like to like her. She just sounds as if she’s barking up the wrong tree in terms of repertoire, to me -- I’ve said on here before that I think the issues would all resolve themselves if she sang Desdemonas and Boccanegra Amelias instead of this dramatic coloratura rep. Her Trov Leonora is a step in the right direction, IMO.

  • MrGuy1804 says:

    Personal insults? Her performance was bad. Period. I iterated my feelings on the matter bluntly, but not without objective criticism.

    I’ll be waiting for your defense of Fleming from the numerous insults hurled at her on this website since you are so keen on policing these comment sections for injustice.

    • Vergin Vezzosa says:

      “…boring as batshit” is still a personal insult in my book. More later about the performance when I have time.

      • Feldmarschallin says:

        speaking of batshit the batshit crazy senator DeMint is leaving Congress. Good step.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        Batshit is rather fascinating stuff -- causes all manner of exotic and complex viruses.

      • Vergin Vezzosa says:

        I’m not sure whether to put this here or on the “bonnet” thread, but it is ending up FBOW here. OK, as promised, here goes some belated thoughts on Beatrice. The astute and awe-inspriring review by JY on the other thread pretty much sums up my similar evaluation of the performance last night, although I felt somewhat more positive about Meade and considerably more critical of Bagwell.

        To summarize, I thought that Spyres was outstanding in that he sang with secure beauty and elegance as is appropriate in an opera of this period even in an ultimately thankless role. Pallesen was a pleasant surprise and was totally unknown to me until now. Although generally a bit underpowered for this role, he came through very successfully when needed and clearly possesses an attractive, well produced voice with a good sense of appropriate style. Barton, also unknown to me until now, is VERY impressive, although I agree with JY she might have considered toning down a bit considering the context of the opera in which she was singing and her colleagues for the occasion.

        Which brings us to Ms. Meade. While I certainly recognize and respect that in matters of taste opinions will differ, I personally find her singing generally appealing and occasionally exciting and, unlike certain others who have posted herein, wish her all the best. My admiration is however qualified by several concerns, more artistic than vocal. A little background (sticking to beloved Bellini) -- I found her Caramoor Norma most impressive in its lyrical expressivity but found it lacking in the fierceness required in the Act I finale and the confrontation duet with Pollione in Act II. Beatrice was the opposite. I thought that she was very effective in the aggressive Act I duet with Filippo and elsewhere but curiously passive in the telling introspective passages which are virtually unique to Bellini, especially in the 3 Pasta roles. She needs to put it all together at this stage in her career but, based on this performance, she has not quite done so. Additionally, I worry that she is increasingly relying on the repeated high pianissimo notes, a la La Caballe, tossed in here and there to win over the audience. They may be very effective when used judiciously, but verge on coming across as a vocal “trick” when overused.

        This is getting kind of long, so I will be short with the rest. Bagwell, IMHO, has no clue about conducting a Bellini opera. I strongly agree with Evenhanded’s thoughts on this as well as the cuts (see below). It moved along but sounded more like a rather crude reading of an early Verdi work from the time of around Alzira, Maybe this has something with Meade’s performance -- she sounded like she was singing Lombardi, Ernani or Foscari more than Bellini.

        Finally, the cuts were atrocious. They were needless unless required to start the benefit dinner after the performance on time, hardly a valid excuse. Here and there, big and little, they were everywhere. Then biggest casualties were the first act finale and the fantastic second act ensemble (so admired by me and Stevey) both having their cabalettas cut in half, destroying the musical architecture of the scenes in which they occur.

        Nonetheless, the star of the evening was the sadly short-lived composer from Sicily. My guest, casually familiar with opera but not a regular or expert, turned to me at the end of the performance and said simply and genuinely ” The world needs more Bellini”.

    • scifisci says:

      In the course of “criticizing” her performance you called her a big fat pretentious blue lump. I’m sorry, but no matter who the singer is (fleming included--though I fail to see what she has to do with this), if you use that kind of language while trying to describe a performance, you lose a lot of credibility.