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Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera

La Rondine, which began as a light Viennese operetta before being transformed into an Italian tearjerker, is not a natural diva vehicle, with its wispy emotions and clunky plot…. Yet despite the work’s slightness, Ms. Opolais seemed to live within it, growing in stature as the evening went on and radiating the kind of aura—one that demands that you watch her, and sympathize with her—that defines a star.” Once again, Zachary Woolfe nails it.


  • 21
    Clita del Toro says:

    I am listening to Meade in Trov now. The more I hear the less I like her. I am surprised.

  • 22
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    This guy is clearly on something. Nothing, except perhaps a ride in Disney’s Pirate’s Cove with animations going the anvil chorus and Shirley Verrett singing Azucena, or seeing the sacking of Troy appear around the bend, can compare wth the brilliance of the sound of a cheap electric piano underground:

  • 23
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Hollywood also has big plans for the talented Ms. Opolais

  • 24
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    • 24.1
      Clita del Toro says:

      QPF, you are flawless. LOLOL I loved the Carol Burnett part--too funny and Madelin Kahn was FABULOUS as was Harvey Korman. Thanks for making my evening. So much more fun than the awful Trovatore on right now.

      • 24.1.1
        Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        Grazie tanto! Yes Madeleine Kahn was flawless and Madeleine is also Magda’s name in the 1920 Vienna version of Die Schwalbe. I bet Kahn could have made Maw’s opera Sophie’s Choice an enduring success.

  • 25
    DonCarloFanatic says:

    I am listening to Trovatore now and the tenor is so labored it’s beyond belief. Actually, he sounds as if he’s got a cold in his nose.

    • 25.1
      Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      Try this instead:

    • 25.2
      guy pacifica says:

      Many opera performances start out shaky, then gather pace and end (as it were) on a high note. But that Trovatore gets worse and worse. By the end, it’s train wreck for everyone on stage. It’s the curse!

      • 25.2.1
        Satisfied says:

        Agreeing with ^ 110%

        I read the comments during the live-stream (after it was over that is, I missed the broadcast) and thought you ladies may have been a little rough on my girl Angela. This idea was only reinforced by a very pleasant first act this evening…by her alone. Then she joined the rest of the cast on their downhill plummet.

        I was always of the “Blythe-can-do-NO-wrong” camp, but I have since been proven wrong. Not one pleasant note from her all night and I physically cringed for her several times. The rest of the cast was grade-b in every sense of the term.

        One positive: the chorus was fantastic tonight, but considering the workout they’ve had this past month with Troyens and Stuarda, tonight was probably a cakewalk.

  • 26
    Vergin Vezzosa says:

    Just back from Trovatore in the theater. Having listened to the very rough Sat. broadcast, I was not sure what to expect in the house. My opinions of tonight: Meade -- I liked a lot of what she did, she did not sound so fluttery live, she needs to improve her choppy phrasing in the 4th act aria, and she was dramatically and vocally committed to the performance (unlike the concert Beatrice in Dec.). Markov -- also thought that he sounds better live, parts of his voice are quite beautiful, the 4th act duo with Meade was for me the high point of the evening thanks to both of them. Blythe -- seems largely, if not completely, recovered from whatever was the matter with her pitch on Sat. but I’m not crazy about the super-loud and often harsh approach that she takes for this role. I have liiked her more in the past. Berti -- no, no, no, “Ah si, ben mio” was the evening’s low point. Callegari -- very snappy with a lot of propulsion. Please re-hire.

    • 26.1
      Krunoslav says:

      “Blythe – seems largely, if not completely, recovered from whatever was the matter with her pitch on Sat. but I’m not crazy about the super-loud and often harsh approach that she takes for this role.”

      I’m sorry, but did you happen to notice that Blythe virtually recomposed her part (in Act II especially, but it continued through the final lines) to avoid most high notes, dropping some an octave? Throughout the evening she yelled, she screamed, she bellowed, she opened her mouth and nothing came out. A nightmare-- and I imagine for her as well.

      • 26.1.1
        marshiemarkII says:

        Is that really true Krunoslav? I hope it is temporary. I remember hearing Blythe as Mere Marie back in 2004 or 2005, and thinking that she might have a Brunnhilde or two in her, the voice so huge and clean the attacks!
        She is also still [relatively] young, no?
        Everyone has off nights, of course….

          Krunoslav says:

          Alas, yes. Let’s hope she’d just ill in passing. I don’t hear a Bruennhilde now that the top has issues but it’s been such a fabulous instrument thus far, at least up to about A flat.

          But this one called for a cover, Nioradze or whomever they’ve got. It may have been less pitchy than the prima, but many of the sounds she made were scary.

      • 26.1.2
        Vergin Vezzosa says:

        K. -- Yes, I agree about the recomposition and was actually relieved that there was no attempt to try the high final note that resulted in that squawk on Sat. What I was commenting on above was that the intonation issues have improved from Sat. when there were many passages that were bi-, multi-, or poly-tonal in terms of pitch in relation to the orchestra and other singers. And I obviously agree about the loud, harsh singing, in tune or not.

          tiger1dk says:

          I just heard a recording of the performance (the broadcast). I do not understand all the criticism of Meade, in my view she was by far the best of the four leads (the Ferrando was fine as well). The high piano note that is not commonly sung (the lower alternatives mostly favoured) after the high C towards the end of “D’amor sull” was stunning, I thought, for instance. Blythe, not really pleasant and some of the high notes horrendous (I do not really care that she skips the C in the cadenza, many Azucenas do that, although I find her rewritten cadenza clumsy, so much nicer just to skip the whole run starting on the C completely). Markov sounds dry and smallish on air, not really the voice you want for Luna. Berti, hmmmm, not really beautiful or interesting. Just now listening to the Guilini studio recording, what a difference -- Brigitte Fassbaender also problems with the high notes (and skips the C) but much more interesting and individual than Blythe, e.g.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            I thought the top d-flat you’re talking about from Meade was really ill advised -- so tentative, didn’t quite ring properly, and lead to breathing in some funny places and a general big black mark on the phrasing. I think the only sopranos who should go for the d-flat are those for whom it is really, really easy, which would probably have been the case for Meade say 2 years ago but sadly doesn’t seem to be any longer.

      • 26.1.3
        Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I’ve always thought Blythe was wrong to attempt Azucena and Amneris. I think the only Verdi roles for her are Quickly and Ulrica, she is much closer to a contralto than a mezzo and can’t cope with the tessitura of the higher dramatic mezzo roles.

          kashania says:

          Completely agree with this assessment, especially as she sounds now. I don’t know if she had the high notes for Azucena and Amneris early on but she doesn’t have them now.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            I have never especially liked Blythe in anything I have heard on the radio. Her Fricka was loud, but with little nuance. Orfeo was so-so. She was fine in Trittico. I didn’t hear Rodelinda. Her Verdi is not good and I don’t mean the short top. She seems incapable of singing mezzo voce or softly without losing much quality in her voice.
            Her voice may be a “force of nature,” but loud is really not my thing.
            I’d rather hear Kojack in the Verdi roles. lol

          • grimoaldo says:

            I saw Blythe as Azucena in SF in 2009. No the top notes were not there but I have never been one to let the omission of one or two notes spoil a performance for me and she was quite thrilling in the role in my opinion.
            And I loved her singing in Rodelinda.
            But the broadcast from the Met of Trovatore from Saturday was really shocking, she was embarrassing, horrible off key singing, that performance is really a classic train wreck, what has happened to her I do not know.

          • kashania says:

            To me, she is a stimmdiva through and through. And I find it exciting when she just lets it rip. No, not much subtlety but lots of thrilling sound. I think her best work was as the Principessa in Suor Angelica.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            “I saw Blythe as Azucena in SF in 2009. No the top notes were not there”
            What a pity grimo, because when I saw Blythe in 2004 or so, as Mere Marie, what impressed was the brilliance and firmness of her top As and Bs, and the evenness of her voice throughout. As you know Mere Marie is a very high tessitura role, typically a dramatic soprano, and while I was aware Blythe billed herself as a mezzo, I thought, this is one that can make the smooth jump up to dramatic soprano, up to and including Brunnhilde. Seems crazy now! Wow how the mighty fall…….

          antikitschychick says:

          I concur as well. I’ve never thought of her as a mezzo and I’m a fan. Her voice is large, even and possesses an exceptional tonal quality esp in the lower register. Also, despite her robust figure I don’t find her a bad actress. I do admire her efforts to take on roles that lie on the fringe of her capabilities BUT there is no doubt in my mind she is better suited to lower lying rep, and rather than take on standard rep roles pretty much owned by the great dramatic mezzos, she should exploit her unique range and find roles that are suitable to her particular strengths. There are many paths that lead toward greatness and they don’t all include the usual cannon of Italian roles.

          Camille says:

          Ulrica was just right for her. Quickly should be a big piece of cake, too.

          At the gala in the spring of 2009, Blythe was featured (along with Guleghina who pulled a rabbit out of a hat) in the Amneris/Aïda duet. At the time my reaction was “No.” Wrong, on many levels.

          I wonder as well what impact those Kate Smith recitals she is giving around the country might be having on her voice? It seemed to me in the bit I heard last Saturday that the wide open chest portion of the voice is being carried up very high. And, one sincerely hopes she would do something about her weight as her appearance limits her possibilities, tout court. Fine for the Komische Alt category Wagner, and old hags, but not for a whole lot else.

          • antikitschychick says:

            LOL @ Clita. Yeah there aren’t that many great contralto roles compared to those for soprano, tenor et al., which makes me think she should do more recital work and special “projects” a la Bartoli…and yes Ulrica was a good role for her…could you please elaborate on what role you refer to as “quickly” Camille??

          • peter says:

            Blythe has already sang Quickly at the Met during the 2002 revival of Falstaff.

          • peter says:

            sung that is

          • marshiemarkII says:

            “one sincerely hopes she would do something about her weight”

            Fully agreed CammiBelle, FAT is disgusting, it really is, and the greatest singer would be diminished by the unsightly appearance of all that lard on stage. Plus fat sometimes leads to madness, something about fat intoxicating brain cells, and making fat people have a bad end :-)

            On the other hand, what a pleasure to see a svelte singer like Opolais, it just immediately adds to the equation….

          • manou says:

            antikitschychick…..Camille is referring to Mistress Quickly in Falstaff.

          • DonCarloFanatic says:

            Leaps into the fat debate with two left feet.

            1. Yeah, it would be better for the health of every person if each carried no significant overweight.

            2. Being a behemoth should not excuse the person from acting with the body, not just the voice.

            3. Ultimately, it’s their choice, so why do we belabor this? Probably because they look so damn uncomfortable and it takes us out of the magic of the opera.

            4. Is this a Wistful argument to stay home and listen only to recordings? Hmmm…

            5. Let’s list all the smokers, alcoholics, and druggies presently ruining their voices and giving us bad performances. Also, the singers whose facelifts now prevent them from having expressions. Probably a longer list than the big folks.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

  • 27
    Buster says:

    Woolfe always reminds me of Squirrel.

  • 28
    casualoperafan says:

    RE: Opolais, the writeup surprised me because she struck me as another non-diva type, competent singer with a nice if not exciting voice who is focusing on the “focused” acting end but was actually rather uncharistmatic. When I looked at some of her YouTubes my attention wandered. To my ears not exciting for the Puccini repertoire

    • 28.1
      Lady Abbado says:

      I’ve also listened to several youtube videos of her (Rusalka, Butterfly, Liu, Tosca, Elisabeta) and find her timbre neither nice nor exciting.

      • 28.1.1
        La Cieca says:

        A possible takeaway here might be that mediocre quality videos played over tinny computer speakers do not deliver the same experience as live performance in an opera house?

          Quanto Painy Fakor says:

          Having high quality playback equipment connected to computers is the way to go.

          • La Cieca says:

            As a distant second choice to hearing the performer live in the theater, yes.

          • Lady Abbado says:

            Well, why would youtube technology would be unkind with this singer only?

            I very much enjoy lots of youtube videos for singers with beautiful timbre such as Cerquetti, Gheorghiu, Tebaldi, Bastianini, Herlea, Taddei, etc. Or maybe their voices are unusually phonogenic.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            Of course one should attend live performances if possible, but the issue of what is lost in various sound compressions is a much more important consideration (often ignored) factor these days with digitized and digital sound.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Quanto, Youtube has an additional problem. Recordings whether Analogue or Digital are equalized to a standard level. While a recording will NEVER sound like in the theater, and that argument has been going on since the beginning of the technology, at least you can safely assume that if you are listening to Maria Callas Norma in Mono EMI, it is going to sound like all EMI 1950s recordings, and with a well-established level of accuracy. And similarly with digital recordings. There is still a kind of sub-standard for each label. EMI kind of dry and boxy (even in stereo), Decca over reverberant and rich (like a rich over the top sauce) and 1970s DG the closest to a dream reproduction of the true sound. Their digital standards later went down the tubes. Still a fairly general level of quality at the macro level across labels and technologies that you can use for fair comparisons.

            With Youtube you not only have the problem of MP3 compression (already arbitrary) but when people upload videos they upload at an arbitrary volume level and equalization that is unique to each upload (the DA process really). The result is that in one uploaded video Madame X will sound rich and gigantic, and in another upload of the exact same thing, the sound will be thin and wiry and Madame X will sound like the worst singer in the history of the world. And that is totally uncontrollable, by any kind of standard or protocol! That I think is what La C is aiming at. The VARIABILITY of the medium quality, even for two uploads of the same exact thing, is such that it makes comparisons literally between pears and tomatoes in the best of cases! So as an approximation, and just a peak into a performance, fine, but to argue with someone who saw same in the theater, or even on a professional recording, is beyond ludicrous (or Nervian in new-speak :-) )

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            There’s no argument here. You’re quite correct. I know some very well-known singers who claim that recordings and videos posted on Youtube are purposely altered to make them sound in unflattering ways. Your explanation involving people who have no clue about how sound can be encoded is more probable.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Quanto, exactly!!!!!! In fact singers are paranoid creatures by nature, weird at best, remember the one that thought she had been poisoned?
            The reality is what you say in the last line. There is simply no control over how the encoding and uploading is done by each individual, with varying degrees of technical proficiency.

    • 28.2
      Clita del Toro says:

      All I have to go by are the you tubes of Opolais, so far. She may be the greatest soprano since Aida La Muffa, but only time will tell.

  • 29
    antikitschychick says:

    thanks for the clarification manou :-)