Cher Public

Winged victory

“A wayward bouquet conked Kristine Opolais on her noggin during the ovation Friday night in La Rondine—but that was the only mishap in the Latvian soprano’s spectacular Met debut. Her coolly glamorous voice rose to the many challenges of the role of Magda, a Parisian courtesan who tries to live out a fantasy of finding true love in Puccini’s 1917 opera.” [New York Post]

  • Nerva Nelli

    Who thought to bring Ion Marin back> Was this some sop to an originary-envisioned Gheorghiu?

    • Lady Abbado

      Hmm, soon it’s the three year anniversary since La Gheorghiu last performed at the MET (Traviata, 21 April, 2010). Gelb’s curve of forgiveness seems to be rather flat.

  • grimoaldo

    It was originally supposed to be Angela, wasn’t it? and yes I expect that is the reason for Marin being the conductor.
    I saw the first night of this beautiful production at Covent Garden when it was new

    wow, as long ago as 2002? seems like yesterday, with Alagna and Angela, the whole audience was transported to heaven.

    Glad Opolais and the Met are having a success, they would seem to need one pretty badly, judging from yesterday’s Trovatore which I just listened to on BBC iplayer:

    BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting all of Verdi’s operas over the year, so far in the last couple of weeks I have heard a most enjoyable Lombardi from Florence, Simon Boccanegra from La Scala, quite sublime at least in parts, a thrilling Vespri from Vienna and now an almost comically bad Trovatore from the Met. I saw Berti and Blythe in Trov with Dima and Radvan in San Francisco about five years ago, Blythe was wonderful, he was ok, yesterday she was atrocious, what’s up with that? Hideously flat singing quite in the Popsy/ Nadja league.Hard to decide whether Berti or the baritone made uglier sounds. I loved Meade in the Vienna Vespri, yesterday she sounded very fluttery and cracked twice.
    Pitiful that this travesty of Trovatore is representing that magnificent work in the BBC’s complete Verdi series.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    JJ: “one of Puccini’s most dazzling scores” YES! That’s just the right adjective to describe this opera, which is so often derided.

  • MontyNostry

    Glad Opolais has the JJ seal of approval!

  • Will

    Thank you JJ for not trotting out the tired old dismissals about “Puccini’s stepchild,” or apologizing for Rondine’s operetta roots. The score is, as you say, dazzling with a wealth of melody, great ensembles interesting characters (especially Punier — there’s a lot going on there under the surface) and, of course, THE aria.

    So glad Kristine had a great debut. The MET needs her.

  • operapun

    I am a little surprised, I listened to the video that the Met put up of the final rehearsal and thought that Opolais was pretty good. To be honest, I personally thought she sang it maybe a little too overdramatically.
    I don’t remember hearing about or seeing any other singer getting flowers thrown at them whenever I have attended this season.
    Then again, I have no idea how the Met audience works sometimes. I remember seeing this seasons Figaro premiere and the audience giving the cast a standing ovation.

  • Will

    Operapun, you do realize how totally meaningless standing ovations have become in the last couple of decades? I think sometimes people jump to their feet after a merely adequate performance to convince themselves they’ve seen something that justifies the amount they paid for the tickets.

    • operapun

      Yes, it’s confusing sometimes to hear the audience’ s reaction. At this point, I am not really sure what can be considered a “success” at the Met since the audience is so unpredictable.

    • In my experience, standing ovations seem compulsory in Amsterdam. I have never attended a performance there without a standing ovation -- including one for Nadja Michel. It’s a bit like a variation on a Ronnie Corbett joke … Police to Ronnie Corbett: “Now sir, can you tell me what you were doing on the night of May 17th?” “Ah, I remember it clearly, it was the night they didn’t have a standing ovation at Netherlands opera.”

      • Grimgerde2

        There’s a long tradition in Amsterdam of audiences standing up to applaud at the end of a performance -- I doubt the term ovation as is seen in other countries applies.

      • marshiemarkII

        Grimgerde!!!!!!!! so wonderful to see you back! it’s been a long time. I hope you are back to stay!

        • Grimgerde2

          Marshie sweetest, thank you -- I’m always lurking furtively around here despite the lack of comments.

  • Signor Bruschino

    Any word on what she is singing in future seasons at the Met?

  • operaassport

    I saw her Rusalka opposite Vogt a couple seasons ago and was totally stunned. She’s wonderful!

  • oedipe

    Well, I am sorry to say that -at least in La Rondine, and in Puccini in general- Opolais’ cool Nordic sound leaves me completely cold. I prefer Gheorghiu’s warm, nuanced, sexy Southern sound.

    Also, I hope that in the actual performance she has some chemistry with her partners, because on the Met little videos she behaves as if she were on stage by herself, she looks at no one and interacts with no one. Poor Marius Brenciu is treated like her rehearing pianist, instead of the complice that he is supposed to be. But then, what do I know, it’s all subjective anyway.

    • manou

      Opolais was quite superb in Butterfly at Covent Garden, and also a very remarkable actress, incredibly touching and quite able to make you believe that she was a small and delicate Japanese fifteen years old girl.

      • phoenix

        ‘a remarkable actress’ -- but a great singer? It’s too soon to judge, I suppose … but from the audio broadcasts I have heard with her (Butterfly, Suor Angelica & Rusalka) with the exception of the Rusalka, she wasn’t that impressive. But I said the same thing about Dorothy Kirsten until I heard her in Fancuilla and Louise. So far, I have to agree with Œdipe -- I prefer more heft in the voice than I have heard from Opolais. But the ultimate test is how she sounds live in the House. The mics obviously are not quite able to adequately capture her cool, opaque tones, but she seems to possesses a keen enough sense of intonation, projection & balance of volume. Rondine is not really a good Puccini test role, but Butterfly is. I am already fedup with the overhype they are giving Opolais (even my ISP provider has a review of her Met Rondine stuck up on the mainpage) but since her Rusalka was excellent … and since apparently people still have to be told what is good and what is not … .

        • oedipe

          I am already fedup with the overhype they are giving Opolais (even my ISP provider has a review of her Met Rondine stuck up on the mainpage)

          But Phoenix, the Met NEEDS a new hot, glamorous star like Gheorghiu, they need her badly and quickly, so they have to rush things. But, unlike other Parterrians, I don’t believe it’s that easy to fabricate stars of a certain type. I saw/heard Opolais in the Aix Don Giovanni and I liked both her acting and her singing. The Rusalka was very good too. But not La Rondine to my ears, especially with such competition.

        • mercadante

          Very tough crowd here. Week after week I hear excellent performances on the air tht are skewerednor at best given a huge “meh” around here. It seems that:

          1) No one has ever sung in tune since man began to walk upriight unless it was by sheer accident.

          2) Every singer has a disturbing vibrsto/tremolo/wobble that is evidence of lousy technique and the harbinger of complete vocal destruction. Emma Kirkby’s rivsls Supervia’s.

          3) No singer is ever audible, or audible in all registers. Flagstad and Nilsson combined would be drowned out by a mandolin.

          4) All singers have ordinary, generic, unindividual sounds. “I couldn’t pick Maria Callas’ voice out of crowd if you put a gun to my head”

          5) All singers over 30 are on their last legs and should have retired. All singers under 31 are attempting roles prematurely and will burn out their voices.

          6) No singer in history has ever had a decent technique. Reports of Farinelli are totally suspect.

          7) No one can trill

          Leading to: “Sure Mdm X sings with legato, equalized registers and has some sense of style, but she is always out of tune, has a voice lacking in individuality and a sound I just don’t like, and has a vibrato bordering on a wobble indicative of a faulty technique, and while I think she’s past her best and should have retired at 18, I think her taking on Barbarina at 31 is premature and dangerous for her voice. I heard a soprano sing three notes while washing dishes when I was walking down a steet in Riga and the MET should hire her immediately to take over the entire run in Mdm X’ place. Either that or the MET should hire Lucrezia Bori. The fact she’s been dead a half a century should mske contract negotistions easier”.

          • armerjacquino

            You forgot that nobody has been able to sing Italian opera since Soviero, that Gelb hates exciting singers, and that casting is now done solely on the basis of looks.

            Although actually I don’t think the general tone here is as bad as all that. There’s plenty of genuine enthusiasm for current singers, even if the peanut gallery sometimes shouts the loudest.

          • Clita del Toro

            Mercandante, so, what else is new?

          • phoenix

            Do you expect all of us to hail every mediahyped blond Baltic beauty debutante arriving at the Met as something remarkable? Grande Parterianni: don’t be left behind! There’s still time to run out and get a bottle of L’Oreal Super Blonde Sublime Mousse before the next performance of Rondine -> get with it!
            -- The difficulty is mine, not yours -- I have not seen L’opolais’ impressive acting. I read that some of you have seen her live -- and some also have special intuition that foretells great glories, but unfortunately the rest of us haven’t and don’t. It isn’t that I doubt your word -> but until I hear the actual vocal proof (in a more substantial role than Rondine) from the cavernous Met, this audiophile remains a somewhat doubting Thomas. I do wish her well and hope she succeeds & has a great career here -> as apparently she has already had in Europa. She has my favorite kind of voice, but so far I don’t hear the consistently smooth legato I’m looking for. Of course I would have a great deal more to say if I had heard her as Elsa, Eva or Elisabeth, but for now, ‘It’s too soon to judge … .’

          • Camille

          • phoenix

            It pays to read When I saw L’opolais’ Onegin DVD mentioned above, I went onto utube to see if any of it was there and found this -- also realized I had heard the original broadcast from Riga when it was first done. From this clip I can hear what I like about her voice (full extension above the passagio) and what I don’t like (awkward legato maneuverings in the mid-lower voice below the passagio). At any rate, I’d rather hear L’opolais in this role than many of her competitors --> she did this final scene (my favorite in the opera) very much as I like it to be, so here’s hoping she improves on what she’s got already:

          • manou

            To all necrophiliacs out there -- please listen to the clip Camille posted and tell me whether you think justice is done there to one of the most beautiful pieces of music there is (the quartet and tutti at the end of Act II). Even allowing for the fact that recording techniques were in their infancy, it seems to me that this is pretty dire, and also that the soprano should reinstate the “ng” after her name.

            Older is not necessarily always better.

          • Buster

            Lucrezia Bori sounds so alive to me here that I find it hard to believe she is no longer amongst us. To my ears, this is vivid, stylish, and beautiful singing.

          • phoenix

            Ah, so it is again -> we all hear with different ears. At any rate, congratulations to both manou & Buster for having the courage to listen to La Bori -> I don’t.

        • So … Phoenix have you heard her or not?

          • phoenix

            No, Ivy, I never heard the famous Spanish diva Bori -- however, I am now at the age that I don’t bother with things I have grown to dislike over the past half century, which includes abysmal sounding live 1930’s radio broadcasts for one and Puccini’s La Rondine (under any circumstances) for another. As I wrote above on January 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm in my comment beginning with ‘a remarkable actress’ --> “from the audio broadcasts I have heard with her (Butterfly, Suor Angelica & Rusalka)” --> so yes, Ivy, I have heard her but I have not SEEN her, which is apparently the gist of the revelation (as usual, correct me if I’m wrong)… by the way, have you rushed out for your bottle of L’Oreal Super Blonde Sublime Mousse yet?

          • Nope, have a ticket for the matinee performance.

          • Clita del Toro

            Phoenix, never heard of Bori--e strano. She sang at the Met from 1910 to 1936 and was very famous.


            Lucrezia Bori was born in Valencia, Spain. Her real name was Lucrecia Borja y González de Riancho and her family were reputed to be descended from the Borgias.
            Her voice had a unique timbre and transparent quality unlike any present-day singer. She studied in Milan with Vidal and made her debut at the Teatro Adriano in Rome as Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen in 1908. in 1911 she sang Octavian in the Italian premiere of Der Rosenkavalier at La Scala.
            Her career at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, where she became one of the great and unforgotten favourites, began during the Met’s first visit to Paris, in 1910 (June 9; Manon Lescaut). It would last until 1936, although from 1915 to 1921 she stopped singing due to nodes on her vocal cords. She appeared a total of 654 times. She was famous for her portrayals of Manon in Massenet’s opera; Mimì in La bohème; Fiora in L’ amore dei trè rè; Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande; and Violetta in La traviata.
            Her farewell gala on 29 March 1936 was one of the great events at the Metropolitan. Bori sang scenes from Manon and La traviata, with contributions from Flagstad, Melchior, Rethberg, Pinza, Ponselle, Martinelli, Tibbett and Richard Crooks.
            She continued to perform in recitals and record for some years after her Metropolitan retirement; she can be heard, for example, in “off-the-air” recordings of a Hollywood Bowl concert from 1937, singing “Si, Mi Chiamano Mimi” and “O Soave Fanciulla” with Tenor Joseph Bentonelli, with the LA Philharmonic under Otto Klemperer. After her retirement from singing she was elected to the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera Association and became chairman of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
            Bori was a supremely elegant and finished practitioner of the lyric art. Neither a great tragedienne nor the owner of a particularly rich voice, she was memorable because of the exquisite individuality of her style. Her manner on stage was uniquely detailed and evocative. She died in New York.

          • phoenix

            Thanks Camille. The only thing I remember about her was from a late, old friend (he was a doctor) of mine from my youth telling me he was working as an intern at Roosevelt Hospital when Bori came in and died there in 1960 -- he also told me that when he was a boy he remembered the operafan friends of his parents referring to her as “the Queen of the Opera”.

          • Clita del Toro

            I guess Phoenix was being facetious.

          • phoenix

            ‘facetious’???? Me? About what? I have it upon the highest recommendations of the neighborhood hags around here that L’Oreal Super Blonde Sublime Mousse is truly unsurpassed!

          • Clita del Toro


    • operapun

      Yes, I think that’s what I was struggling to articulate earlier. Gheorghiu’s performance seemed more nuanced, more expressive to me. It felt like she understood more what she was singing. The rehearsal video just me like Opolais was singing very loudly, not necessarily remembering a bittersweet memory.

  • Glad to hear of her success. She is a terrific Elvira in Tcherniakov’s Don Giovanni.

    • Wish I could agree dear Kashania but her constant clipping of the notes is really irritating -- spoiling an otherwise fine performance.

    • Clita del Toro

      Sorry Kashie, but this is not first-rate Mozart singing. I listened to the aria without watching because her overacting (whether it was she or the direction) was too distracting. She rushes through the aria without much feeling for the music.

  • No blows to the head. But here’s the review of Monday night’s ‘Rondine’ on ‘Superconductor.’

    • armerjacquino

      Not to be That Guy, but I’m pretty sure you don’t mean to say her acting ‘supplanted’ her voice, although I guess it’s something that could be said of Michael or Poplavskaya…