Headshot of La Cieca

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Swiss you were here

The Pierre Audi production of Guillaume Tell has opened at De Nederlandse Opera, and the staging (destined for the Met* circa 2018) has been pronounced a “triumphant success.” There’s a glimpse of the show after the jump.

* “Vermutlich das passende Konzept für die MET in New York, die diesen Rossini mitproduziert hat und die kulinarische Oper liebt.” — Opernnetz

131 comments

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

  • As for Tell conductors -- the world has missed an opportunity when Abbado did not conduct this in the 80s, regardless of cast trouble. Now I guess the work is too long for him, and anyway he is past Rossini.

    Muti is a great Tell conductor but his official live recording is wrong in all kinds of ways, language being one of them. Pappano has done well in concert, but there are heinous cuts in his recording and the Mathilde is unacceptable. Maybe Minkowski or Antonini?

    • semira mide says:

      I couldn’t agree more that not having had Abbado conduct Tell is a big loss. Abbado’s understanding of Rossini is unsurpassed. Not sure about the work being too long for him, but it’s true that his heart is in “his” youth orchestra. It would be wonderful if he could train young conductors as well.

      I think the Muti Tell DVD from La Scala is terrific. Listening to it one forgets how long the opera is. From the opening it is clear that he has a command of the arc or sweep of this enormous work.

      I really can’t see the problem with it being sung in Italian, although people who are attached to the French version would of course feel otherwise. Muti always makes the words mean something.

      • jd says:

        I too love the Muti Tell recording. i have listened to it over and over, finding new delights each time. Not so thrilled with Chris Merritt falsettos, but Cheryl Studer did a good job. Other women good too. Muti is unsurpassed in his grasp of the rhymthmic propulsion and melodic arc.

    • itrinkkeinwein says:

      I wonder if Muti could be lured back to the Met for “Tell”? It’s far enough into the future; he has never done the French and now surely would love to (as counterpart to “Moise”); and Rome probably couldn’t put the elements together. This might be the vehicle!

  • Camille says:

    The West Eastern Divan Orchestra broadcast from Carnegie Hall LIVE is just now commencing. The Beethoven Second Symphony followed by his Ninth Symphony.

    Over WQXR and WQXR.org. Shalom and happy Sunday to all.

  • Buster says:

    The chorus was great -- best opera chorus in the world. John Osborn is a miracle. I also loved, loved Marina Rebeka, an uncommonly youthful sounding Mathilde, who nevertheless had no problems making herself heard over the orchestra, and the masses op people on stage. She was also the only convincing actress. Not much happens on stage, people climb on, or in, structures looking like houses, a boat, and rocks. The evil ones act sort of kinky, rather ridiculously so most of the time. The shooting of the apple was crap, Jemmy tilting her head, and the apple fell, that was it. The finale looks stunning, though. Paolo Carignani conducted it all very well, I thought.

  • oedipe says:

    Belfagor,

    Are you saying that, because fashions are changing, tenors who are presumably well suited to sing Arnold, also make great Aeneas? So in the future we will eagerly be waiting for the Aeneas of JDF, Brownlee and Osborn? And if Hymel is the ideal Aeneas (an opinion which I don’t share), why couldn’t he be an ideal Otello? After all, Vickers sang both Aeneas and Otello. And what about Osborn or Brownlee singing Radames? Couldn’t fashions change in that direction too? After all, the role requires a valiant high register; or, Hymel has a valiant high register, that’s his main claim to glory and that’s what people heard and liked in his Aeneas. Why not Radames, after all?

  • oedipe says:

    Very interesting conversation about the nature of sensual pleasures (beauty, good food). It reminded me of a little anecdote: I had a charming and witty British colleague who was married to a French woman, was living in France and enjoyed “la bonne chère”. I once asked him how he explained the huge difference in quality between the French and the English cuisine, after all these centuries of living next to each other, like (step) siblings. His reply: But my dear, chez nous one is NOT supposed to enjoy food, it’s only ther for subsistence.
    The conversation on this thread also made me conclude that Proust could not have savored his madeleine, nor the memories of eating it, had he been born in am Enlish speaking country.

    One of the most important events in the history of the world took place in 1520-50: the Reformation. The lands of the Reformation have been the most successful in the world, economically, socially and politically. But, what Max Weber so famously called the Protestant work ethic does not go together well with hedonism. Hedonists are busy savoring life’s pleasures for the pleasures’ sake, so they neglect concentrating on the ethic of salvation. Catholic countries (france in particular) are hedonist. They have a lousy work ethic. The only way hedonism is acceptable in Reformation countries is as a reward of personal success, as a status symbol: if you have succeeded in life you deserve to eat in expensive French restaurants, you buy antiques and you may wear expensive French or Italian clothing (if you are not afraid of looking too Latin, that is). As La Cieca and others pointed out (though they didn’t say it was a Protestant notion), beauy per se is mistrusted because it can make people forget the essential thing, which is the salvation of the soul. Actually, Adorno built his whole theory of modernism on the idea of avoiding beauty per se in art.

    But is this a “fundamental truth”? Is hedonism fundamentally wrong just because it interferes with the work ethic and the Protestant ethic of salvation? I remember an article that Philippe de Montebello published in the WSJ on occasion of his retirement from the Metropolitan Museum. he was talking about the importance of art in the world and gave as an example his feelings the first time he visited the marriage chamber in the Palazzo Duccale in Mantova, with its Mantegna frescoes. There is nothing religious about these frescoes, but still, he was so elated by their beauty that he told himself, for man to be able to create such extraordinary beauty per se, there MUST be something transcendental out there. I had seen those frescoes not long before reading the article and I had the same feeling of spiritual elation in their presence.

  • La Cieca says:

    And if Hymel is the ideal Aeneas (an opinion which I don’t share), why couldn’t he be an ideal Otello?

    Because the two roles are very different in tessitura, pacing, balance of voice to orchestra, and many other factors?

  • Belfagor says:

    Well, that’s a very complex one. I’m not talking ideal, I’m musing on what seems to get cast at the moment. There seems to be a tendency for a lighter, more clarion voiced sort of tenor, who has the agility for Rossini, and yet can negotiate the French style and language with more sense of the idiom. The French Grand Opera parts are hard to classify, as the genre itself is international -- many of its composers, and most of the composers we hear today, are Italians writing in French (Rossini, Verdi -- and also Donizetti.)

    I do see Berlioz at a tangent to that tradition, two removes from Rossini and one from Meyerbeer. I’ve never been that convinced by heroic tenors as Aeneas (Vickers conquered it quite idiosyncratically) -- many bigger voices do have the heft for the heroic moments, but bruise the much more delicate, bel canto moments. And it is a mistake to equate the Berlioz experience with Wagner, for, despite his massive orchestra, he orchestrates much more transparently (when accompanying singers) than the thick impasto of Wagner, or the brute excitement of middle period or late Verdi. Berlioz might be a bad example -- of course -- as his vocal writing does not quite belong to either tradition -- and it struck me, while listening to Hymel recently, that parts lie implausibly low. But I do think a lighter, more forwardly placed voice copes with it better than a heavyweight -- and a voice closer to the Rossini tradition may be the way to cast this role.

    Same thing happens in Verdi’s ‘Vepres’ -- the act 5 tenor solo, with its stratospheric end (taking in top C’s and D’s) is a nonsense for a heroic voice. Chris Merritt, when much younger did the rounds in these roles, and acquitted himself (mostly) well. Even if he did have his manhood noisily and thuggishly questioned by a La Scala first night audience, when Muti opened the season with him in it (late 80′s) and he essayed the killer phrase in a kind of falsetto.

  • luvtennis says:

    There are more considerations than simply volume!

    Verdi deemed Adelina Patti a wonderful Aida. I cannot imagine him approving of her for Forza or Ballo. But of course, there used to be many singers who excelled in both…. So Hymel might be the type of Aeneas who is totally unsuited to other roles in the heroic rep.

  • Regina delle fate says:

    I imagine that anyone who heard Georges Thill sing Aeneas -- presumably he never sang in a complete performance of Les T -- would have found Vickers less than ideal. Gregory Kunde was nothing like Vickers and certainly less than ideal but his performance in Paris was a success on its own terms and Hymel appears to have garnered high praise for the part at the Met. He probably shouldn’t be singing it just yet. His top seemed pretty terrific in Robert Le Diable in London despite a slight crack on, I think, a C. Again he’s young by today’s standards in tackling such an exposed role in a prominent theatre like CG. I wish he were singing Arnold in London.

  • Camille says:

    Let us recall the hard, cold fact that Le Comte Ory and Arnold Melchal (not to mention Eléazar in La Juive), were all written for the same person, the great ADOLPHE NOURRIT. He, the author of La Sylphide. And portions of La Juive, for hat matter.

    Now let’s all put that in the water bong and try smokin’ it.

    See: Henry Pleasants—The Great Tenor Tragedy, Amadeus Press, Portland, Oregon.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Because if Hymel sang the Verdi Otello now he would be an ideal has-been in 10 years.

  • semira mide says:

    I’m not so sure how much we should read into those operas being composed for the same tenor.

    Pavarotti was a superb and thrilling Arnold( the best I’ve heard, and I’ve heard many) but according to Pavarotti’s own admission he loved Rossini but Rossini didn’t love his voice type.

    I simply cannot imagine how compromised a Pavarotti Ory would have been had he been so foolish as to have tried it. Although I admit I would have loved to eavesdrop had he ever sung the introduction to the final trio in private!!

  • Camille says:

    For That matter, it is Arnold MelcThal.

    Dropped my t’s.

    Merci, Gualtier, for bringing out some of the detail of that book. He studied with Donizetti, no less, in bella Napoli, and the results were varied and not ALL bad. Who knows what really threw him off that rooftop? Maybe it was an accident? Who will ever know.

    A true tragedy.

    And yes, I do believe my belovèd Hector would have had his socks shocked off by the Vickers voice as Énée! Not what he imagined at all.

    I feel the most compassion for tenors of all singers. They have a torturous path, balancing and covering and pinging and getting the squillo squealed. It must be hell at times and I do wonder how they able to get it together at all.

  • Gualtier M says:

    Just a note: we don’t know what kind of voice Nourrit would have by today’s standards. He is known as the first romantic tenor and the first dramatic tenor but he might not have had a dramatic tenor voice in the Vickers mold. (BTW: I suspect that Berlioz would have been astonished and not in a good way by Jon Vickers’ voice and style as Enée.)

    What we do know about Nourrit is that he sang the high notes in a voix-mixte or falsetto tone. When Gilbert-Louis Duprez emerged and sang the “ut de poitrine” or high C from the chest, Rossini didn’t like it. He said it sounded like a capon with its throat being cut and felt that Nourrit’s mixed head voice approach was more musical and appropriate. Unfortunately, if you read the Pleasants book about Nourrit’s decline and death that Camille referred to, Nourrit tried to change his voice to conform with the Duprez approach and met with disaster. Nourrit went to Italy and darkened his voice (le voix sombrée) and encountered vocal difficulties. What was probably a long battle with manic depression and the cancellation of the premiere of Donizetti’s “Poliuto” triggered his suicide.

    Anyway, Nicolai Gedda sings Enée wonderfully on a 1969 RAI broadcast and also sang Arnold and Benvenuto Cellini (a Vickers role with Sarah Caldwell in Boston) in the sixties and seventies. This was contemporary to Vickers -- many felt his voice was a better fit for French opera than Vickers. My take on Hymel is that he has the pingy top of a Gedda but the middle is darkening and broadening in an interesting way giving it some Vickers-like solidity and color. Hymel’s selling point is his brilliant easy top -- at this point he would not want to compromise this by singing a lower heavier role like the Verdi Otello. (Rossini Otello might be interesting though). I remember Hymel from four or fives years ago when the middle was dry and wooden despite the ringing high notes, so clearly his voice is developing and growing. A friend who saw Hymel’s Enée at Covent Garden said that he had improved noticeably and was singing with less strain than he did in London.

    Vickers is sui generis and isn’t a model for the fort ténor repertoire. His approach is idiosyncratic and worked for him -- not for everyone else. Attempts to cast other Otello and Wagner tenors as Enée has produced unhappy results.

  • Camille says:

    A very mild and lovely rumination on a subject la beauté that I hold dear, for manifold reasons. Thank you for your gracious thought on the subject, and thank m. croche for having raised it in the first instance.

    There is, incidentally, a long paen to BEAUTÉ in Gustave Charpentier’s pendant to Louise, namely, his much later work from 1913-14, Julien. Rather late in the day for that type of aestheticism but there it is.

    I miss M. de Montebello. I adore that man.

  • Camille says:

    And here is the ADORABLE Lambie King Himself, as Arnaud:

    One thing is for certain: one need never worry about ‘what if the high C’s don’t come out’ with this muchacho guapo, he has them in spades.

  • Nerva Nelli says:

    Yes, and at the recent Met ORY prima they were next door to screams.

  • itrinkkeinwein says:

    Wrong voice type, imho.

  • Camille says:

    Oh dear, is that so, Nerva? Of course, as I was not there and only heard the opening aria on the car radio and could not really judge for certain, but it seemed that the voice was constrained in some way—was he ill? I would hate to hear of him going under.

  • Camille says:

    He was ill with a chest cold, Nerva, as was plainly heard in his brief interview at intermission yesterday.

  • Gualtier M says:

    Merci Camille. The first Arnoldo Melcthal in London was Giovanni Battista Rubini -- another tenor who produced his upper register in an extended falsetto. It was one of his most successful roles. I think by the end of Rubini’s career in the 1840′s he was something of an anachronism and audiences found that voice production really effete and strange.

    BTW: the first Otello in 1888, Francesco Tamagno was a famous Arnold in “Tell” -- one of his signature roles that showcased his stentorian high C’s and C sharps. These probably sounded very different from the high notes of Nourrit and Rubini.

    As for lambie-pie Florez -- I was really bothered by the loud C’s and D’s in “Le Comte Ory”. They were nasal and blaring and were wrenched out of the musical line and milked. The music needed lightness and float. Florez’s piano and voix-mixte dynamic is the most attractive aspect of his singing and he should have adhered to the older school of French singing and produced most of his high notes in voix-mixte.

  • Gualtier M says:

    Camille, Philippe de Montebello has become a television personality -- he is one of the regular correspondents on the PBS program NYC Arts that plays on Channel 13 Sunday around noon. He does a lot of interviewing museum curators, etc. and branches out as host from time to time.

  • semira mide says:

    It is most unfortunate that Florez is best know for his C’s. The most beautiful things he has sung at the Met were not those “C’s”, thrilling as they may be, but his exquisite “Una Furtiva Lagrima”, the trio from at the end of Comte Ory, among others.

    High C’s it seems to me have sort of become the opera equivalent of figure skating’s “Triple toe loop -double salchow quadruple lutz”, or whatever they call those things. They are expected, but they shouldn’t define the performance.

    I did not get to hear Florez live in this run of Comte Ory, so I have not experienced the unpleasant C’s and D’s. I venture to say that he hasn’t “tanked” ( his “off nights” would still be worth it to me) because I heard 3 performances of “Matilde di Shabran” last summer in Pesaro and his artistry,vocalism,and understanding of Rossini were stunning.

    But the Met’s Tell is still a ways off. JDF was interviewed somewhere ( don’t remember where) and expressed a reluctance to travel when his son gets older. It is something to keep in mind; he may not wish to sing at the Met when that happens.

    The Met will find a good tenor, I’m sure. It really is the conductor we have to worry about.

  • messa di voce says:

    They were much better in the house in subsequent performances compared to what I heard on Sirius opening night. I don’t think his voice broadcasts well.

  • bassoprofundo says:

    Where does he live? Peru!?

    I wouldn’t want to spend too much time away from that Barbie either!

  • bassoprofundo says:

    It’s not about high C’s. Arnold is not like any other Rossini tenor. It’s much, much heavier. For example, Arnold has to sing this duet, and then the trio right in succession. JDF can’t do it. Especially not at the Met. You can’t pussy out of singing like this:

  • Camille says:

    That Barbie already has her Ken doll so Hands Off, BP!

    Angela will be up for granbs soon—now that would be a challenge and a tale to tell.

  • semira mide says:

    I agree that Tell is not “about” the C’s. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve heard Florez do Tell in Pesaro this summer.

  • Nerva Nelli says:

    I was in the house opening night and they were markedly unpleasant. Possible he was “off” but otherwise it didn’t sound like it.

  • Camille says:

    Thanks. It’s too bad my husband won’t allow a television in the house in New York.
    Well then, I’ll see Monsieur de Montebello in my dreams, instead. At any rate, I am so happy he has not retired into a splendid villa at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, in contemplation with his Muse and eschewing the outer world. He has my undying love for that Ingres exposition.

  • Gualtier M says:

    You don’t need a tv when you have a computer, Camille -- welcome to the 21st century. Watch NYC Arts here:

    http://www.nyc-arts.org/

  • Camille says:

    Overthrow the patriarchy! Down with Barbe-Bleue! Sisterhood is powerfull!!

    I’ll never join the 21st c., Gualtiero-studente-sono-e-povero-M., though.

    Thanks for the link. I’ll drool over PdeM on my computer en privè.
    Mucho spasibo!