Cher Public

Greene mentions

The usually competitive cher public did not, for once, leap at the chance to flaunt their knowledge of operatic trivia, hmmm. And so, La Cieca is delighted to name as winner of the Winner Takes It All competition littoraldrift, even though his (her?) answers were only almost completely right.

The final Met performance of Teresa Stratas was, in fact, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny on December 9, 1995, though about the other facts about her career littoraldrift was spot on.

The National Council class with the ready-made Ariadne cast La Cieca was thinking of was that of 1968, when the winners included Jessye Norman, Ruth Welting, William Cochran and Gwendolyn Jones, though the citation of the cast from the “jackpot year” of 1988 was at least as valid.

And, finally, Marilyn Horne and Jerry Hadley did record that duet, but they were not winners of the Auditions of the Air. However, Rise Stevens and Robert Merrill did win that competition and recorded the Berlin duet as well.

But, as the saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes and opera trivia, so congratulations to littoraldrift, who should email La Cieca to receive tickets to the  concert in the intimate ambiance of WQXR’s Greene Space, hosted by Eric Owens on March 11.

  • It’s funny. I never knew that Jessye was a National Council Audition winner. All her bio info has always pointed to her win at the Munich competition the following year that launched her career.

      • Thanks, Cieca. Interesting that Jessye sang “Voi lo sapete”. I wonder how she sounded. Years later, Cavalleria became one of her only complete Italian opera recordings and one in which she was stylistically all wrong. I’d be interested to hear how she sounded at that young age, singing the music “straight” as it were.

        Also interesting that Judith Forst was also a finalist that year.

        • Bianca Castafiore

          Jessye’s Santuzza was as wrong as her Carmen and Salome… Thankfully all studio recordings and not staged…

          • Ilka Saro

            I am a huge fan of Jessye Norman’s. What a gorgeous voice! It felt like velvet stroking my ears. And even though she had a fascinating onstage presence, it was totally wrong for certain roles. Norman is REGAL. Santuzza and Carmen are not. And even if Salome is royal, she is not a grande dame.

            I remember watching Orson Welles give an interview where he talked about “King” actors. There are certain actors who could play kings. Norman played Queens par excellence.

          • I’ve heard more of her Carmen than her Salome and I agree that she wasn’t dramatically suited to either role. However, I would say that Santuzza was a bigger misfire because she just didn’t have the affinity for Italian music (unless it was by Mozart or Haydn of it was liturgical like her truly great performance in the mezzo part of the Verdi Requiem).

            Her Carmen was eccentric and too grand but she still did some lovely things musically. She had a flair for French and German music (and lots of experience with Strauss) which at least meant that she could bring something to those roles as a musician.

            With Santuzza, all she had to offer was a great voice but no innate sense of how the music should go (never mind dramatically identifying with the character).

          • Porgy Amor

            Her contribution to the UN GIORNO DI REGNO probably goes in the same pile — the sound but not the style — but I’m glad to have it all the same. The subsequent career made it a precious curio. Of course, what I love most about that set is Cossotto (who had it all), and one also gets Carreras in the brief window before the gleam began to wear off. When I eventually saw this opera staged with lesser lights, I was inevitably disappointed.

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Yes, it’s true that La Norman was famous for her “queenliness” and “grandeur”. The only caveat I’d add is that sometimes it bordered on “mannerisms”, which is something I can’t stand in Reneigh…

            I saw her live only once — an Ariadne at the Met in 1993 — she had lost lots of weight then, but the voice was still rich and gorgeous and enormous. That night, Swenson though stole the show with a stunning Zerbi.

            Of course I have seen tons of Jessye on tv, so many concerts with the NY Phil. and others.

          • Porgy: What about the Il Corsaro that Jessye recorded with Caballe and Carreras? Have you heard it?

          • armerjacquino

            I’ll put in a word for Norman in Verdi. I have a recording of AIDA from 1973 where she and Cossotto tear. The house. Down.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I’ve got that Corsaro with Norman, Kashania. It’s more or less exactly what you’d expect -- well sung, but the wrong voice for the role and as you said above, a sense of style that is something completely different from what we expect and what is ideal in Verdi. Inevitably there are compromises, because her voice just didn’t open out at the top in the way we’ve come to expect of Verdi sopranos. She gets round the twiddles in ‘non so le tetre’ pretty well, even when they skip up to a high c, but they don’t come over as expressive ornaments like they do from Callas, more successfully negotiated challenges.

            I absolutely love and adore Norman by the way, she’s one of my very favourite singers.

          • Though Aida wasn’t a great, natural fit for her, I do think it is probably her best effort in the classic Italian rep. She sang it a few times, including her American debut at the Hollywood Bowl (that Camille mentioned) and her La Scala debut in ’72. I have that live ’73 Aida (from Paris?) with Cossotto and it is pretty good. Cossotto is the real star of the performance, IMO, but Jessye definitely has her moments. She even manages the ascent to high C in “O patria mia” well (she had a better time with her high notes when singing piano, I think).

          • Isn’t it interesting how the same performance can strike people differently?

            I find Norman’s Carmen a little too self evident and indulgent (can we please speed up that Habanera like 7 notches?) but not entirely wrong. I find it grand, powerful and a bit dangerous. The final duet is my favorite of all the Carmen recordings. The way she hurls “je l’aime” back at Jose when he asks her if she loves Escamillo is both defiant and grand at the same time.

          • Bianca Castafiore

            In addition to the Aida, she also sang Selika, which is also kinda strange, but she was a young singer back then…

          • Bianca: I’m not sure if I would call the Selika a strange choice. Portraying a queen in a French grand opera (a role often taken by Falcons) seems pretty spot on.

        • Camille

          Speaking of ‘La Jessonda’ as I am wont to call her (as Jessys is just too small a name for her grandezza)—I chanced to hear her in a broadcast out of Hollywood Bowl in far away 1970 as Aïda. Not her role. Glad she dropped it tout de suite.

          She sings a damn fine Euryanthe, however, and I don’t know by what sleight of hand she managed it. I chanced to hear her about twelve years ago in concert at Carnegie Hall with Jimmy accompanying her. A magnificent and exquisitely accomplished recital.

          • Ilka Saro

            I remember in his review of Ariadne, Donal Henahan referred to Norman’s “special onstage grandeur”.

            I met her briefly at the theater in 1994. She was so charming, and quickwitted. It was at a performance of “Twilight in Los Angeles”, a piece by performance artist Anna Deavere Smith. Smith had interviewed Jessye Norman about the Rodney King riots (Norman was in LA at the time), and Smith included a portrayal of Norman as part of the piece. It was quite a night to meet La Norman!

          • traviata136

            I never saw Jessye but I love her recording of Faure’s Penelope.

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Do you all remember the concert she did with Jane Glover, “Women of legend, myth and royalty” or something like that? That was a cool concert. I think she sang Haydn’s Arianna, Barber’s Cleopatra and I can’t recall who else…

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Oh yes, here’s a number of that concert:

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Another one:

          • I love that concert. The way she sings the aria “Mon coeur” is a great example of charisma, IMO. One may not agree with her slow tempi but how can one not respond to her magnetism? The way she sings “à voler dans tes bras”, carrying the breath into “Ah! réponds” is not only a great example of breath control but also a very individual take on the aria. I also like that she doesn’t break up the final “Je t’aime” like most singers.

      • oedipe

        I saw Jessye, among other things, in a wonderful one-woman show, a double bill of Erwartung/La voix humaine at the Châtelet in 2002.

        • Bianca Castafiore

          Hopefully it was better than the tacky Met production they did just for her…

          • oedipe

            It was minimalist and didn’t interfere. Jessye occupied the stage enough.

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Sorry, what the Met erected for her was Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung. I still have the VHS I made from the TV transmission, I don’t think it was released commercially. It was quite pathetic in my view.

          • Ilka Saro

            I was at the opening of that Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung. It was odd, and not a major evening at the Met. I remember Ramey being quite good. I can’t remember if I bought standing room, or whether I was “paper” but I remember there was much murmuring about how many people at the opening were paper.

            But having a lot of paper in the house is not necessarily an indication that a piece is second rate. In the previous season (1988 I think) I got paper tickets, not once but twice, for the Pelleas with Van Dam and Von Stade, which was sensational, even if it wasn’t much to the taste of ticket buyers.

          • Ilka: I think you make a good point. The Bluebeard/Erwarthung pairing is now practically mainstream programming at houses all over the world. But around 20-25 years ago, it was considered scary programming. Few names strike as much fear in the hearts of classical music and opera lovers as Schoenberg. I think many are surprised by what a powerful theatrical experience Erwarthung can be but they approach it tentatively.

            In Toronto, we had a Bluebeard/Erwarthung staging by Robert Lepage (his first operatic effort) around 20 years ago and audiences were quite apprehensive. But the production was such a hit (it went on to the Edinburgh Festival) that it won audiences over. People who had doubted that they could survive the Schoenberg half of the program were blown away by it (Lepage’s brilliant staging played a part). It has since been revived twice here.

          • There’s nothing second-rate about either Bluebeard’s Castle or Erwartung. Yes, Samuel Ramey’s Bluebeard striptease (complete with bald cap) induced some snickers, but neither production sank its opera. It’s not as though Americans have the luxury to be particularly picky about the staging of either work.. If people didn’t attend Bluebeard/Erwartung at the Met, it was because they were frightened off by the works themselves.

          • Ilka Saro

            I’m glad I don’t remember the bald cap. I do remember Ramey’s wiry shirtless frame. But what stood out for me was the moment where Judith opens the door to the lake of tears, and Ramey declaimed “Tears, Judith” so wrenchingly.

          • I had forgotten about the bald cap as well (the wig comes off at 4:20).

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Well, I didn’t say Keszakallu/Erwartung were tacky, I said the Met’s staging was. I like the Keszakallu a lot actually.

            The Lepage staging traveled to the Brooklyn Academy and I saw it there, with an undistinguished cast, but the staging was phenomenal. At the end of the Keszakallu, his wives (male dancers actually) had swam into the shallow pool off-stage and appear on stage by rising from the water. It was quite a coup de theatre.

            The set for Erwartung was (I think) the same, with two huge walls meeting at a sharp angle at infinity. Props, furniture and dancers would appear hanging upside down from the rafters or sideways through windows… Was the Woman the only sane one in an upside down, crazy world? Or was she insane, deranged, delusional? The whole thing was dark, phantasmagoric, surreal, insane. That’s why I was a fan of his early work, incl. the 7-hour play “The streams of the River Ota”, and why his Ring is such a disappointment.

            The Met’s staging in comparison was so bad. When the door opens to show the Bluebeard’s dominion, they had a projection of the space shuttle, moon and planets from outer space, for example. Tacky. In Erwartung, Jessye got on all fours (with a bloody dress), rearranged candles on a piano, and played with and kissed a dummy. It was bad.

            This reminds me that I once saw the work of another Quebecois choreographer, Robert Desrosiers, who I liked a lot but then he presented some awful full-lenght event in NY and I never heard of him again…

          • Bianca: Your description of the Lepage Bluebeard/Erwarthung is spot-on. It was chiefly due to this production and reading positive things about his other theatrical projects that I was so excited by the prospect of his Met Ring. Of course, that turned out to be the disappointment of the century but we’ve already been down that road.

          • Bianca Castafiore

            kashy, do you know the work of Desrosiers?

          • Bianca: Considering that I had to google Desrosiers, I’d say “no”.

          • Camille

            Speak of the Devil!!! Sirius will be broadcasting the double bill of Erwartung/Bluebeard’s Castle at 3:00 p,m.!!

            I have never heard it so am so glad it happened right at this moment.

          • Camille: You’ll have to listen really carefully to hear Jessye’s high C at the opening of the fifth door. ;)

          • Camille

            I’ll BET!!! Goody gumdrops, is it like a clap of thunder???

            My husband, M Camille, heard this some time before I met him and could not stop talking about it all—for the great impression it made on him. I am so pleased I happen to look at Sirius at this exact moment to find it, too, as I’d just been struck in your clip, with Jessye’s TREMENDOUSNESS iwith a side of Awesome Sauce as she Commands poor debbil Sam to “Open the Final Door!!!!!!!!”

            It starts NOW!!!!!!

          • Camille

            Oh dear—you weren’t being ironic after all, kashania. It was hard to hear but I was in another room. Everything else is pretty loud. Oh dear.

          • Well, her high Bs and Cs were never very loud (especially after the first decade of her career) and by the time of that broadcast (1989), the note really wasn’t in her range. She does make up for it with her “Open the Final Door!!!”

          • Camille

            Just now I played it back again. Even sitting in front of the computer with it blasting FFF, I could just BARELY discern a little peep up there.

            Oh well. Can’t have it all.

            The orchestra is so FFF or FFFF at that point it doesn’t really matter all that much, except to us high note freaks.


          • Camille

            Happily enough, La Jessonda did have a great big loud high B natural in Erwartung, however! I just don’t know what happened in the first instance. I am guessing she mislaid her high C that day or dropped it at the stage entrance.

            Anyway, a real tour de force performance and something which I would just love to see staged again. Didn’t the dreaded Nada Michael have some kind of information a while back on her website that she will be singing Bluebeard’s Castle at the Met? There won’t be any high C on that occasion either!

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Now that I think of it, in the Lepage, Bluebeard’s wives at the end were two men (in skirts) and a woman emerging from the water; do you recall that, kashy?

          • Camille

            Bianca, why are you giving up your Sat. Nite perf.??
            To fight with Nerva?

            Are you having it out with her à la Jets vs. the Sharks that nite?

            Tonight. Tonight, won’t be just any nite….

          • Bianca Castafiore

            Cammillerrima, *I* do not fight with cleaning ladies.

            I’m washing my hair — that is more fun than this. Not interested in hearing poor Giordani strangle himself over this score.

            Here’s a review of the double bill:


          • Bianca: I do remember Bluebeard’s brides emerging from a pool of water (it was a great effect as you say) but from where I was sitting in the gods, I thought they were all women. That was back in the day when the COC was performing in a big barn of an auditorium and didn’t have its new (and much more intimate) opera house. Your revelation that some (or all) were men in drag is new to me.

          • Camille

            I am very sorry you are not going, Bianca!!

            Poor Giordani really didn’t strangle, if that is what you are afraid of.
            It was not anything like the Enée.

            Right now I am listening to you and Nerva sing Elektra and it is GOOD!

            Don’t be mad at me!
            your fan!

          • Porgy Amor

            Desrosiers played himself or a version of himself in one of Robert Altman’s last films, THE COMPANY, a behind-the-scenes drama about the Joffrey Ballet. His “Blue Snake” was performed in the movie. I remember an awkward moment in the DVD commentary by Altman and the film’s star, co-writer and co-producer, Neve Campbell. Altman was talking about how the audience was likely to react to a scene in which Desrosiers instructs the dancers, and he said something like “And now we have this gay guy…” Campbell, sounding wary, interrupted, “Desrosiers is straight.” Then Altman tried to walk it back but made it worse, saying that of course he knew that (I don’t think he did), and Campbell tried to help him out by talking over him and saying, oh of course, the audience might *think* otherwise, and Altman said, “Because he’s this ‘flying fairy’.” Campbell wisely moved on. Heh.

  • la vociaccia

    Am I the only one who wonders what 21 year old Teresa Stratas must have sounded like singing “Sola, Perduta, Abbandonata”(As she did at the 1959 Council Concert)?

    • Jack Jikes

      No you are not -- I would sell my soul to the devil for that very privilege.

    • armerjacquino

      I love Stratas in the right rep, but I fear the answer to that question at that time would have been ‘wildly overparted’

      • Bill

        Arnerjacuino -actually Stratas sounded
        fine in the aria in 1959 , sufficient voice emitted from a small frame, pure on pitch vocalization and sung with great feeling. She
        stood out to be sure. I still believe Stratas was the best Komponist I ever heard at the Met
        which, unfortunately, never heard Seefried or
        Jurinac (or Ludwig for that matter) in the role. Stratas was a cherishable artist, though prone to cancellations.

      • Jack Jikes

        Give me Stratas in ANY rep. My favorite Salome -- the Stratas video.

    • Stratas liked to dabble in heavier throughout her career but I’m surprised that she sang what I would consider the heaviest section of Manon Lescaut at such a young age. Still, even if she was underpowered at the climaxes, I imagine that she must have been quite moving in the aria.

      • Ugh, that should be “heavier rep”.

      • la vociaccia

        I have this feeling that Stratas wasn’t underpowered, though. There is something…very different about her voice (and technique). She knew things that other people didn’t. Her recording of the Verdi Requiem in 1965 has this C that just crushes everything. I don’t think there’s anyone alive who sings like Stratas

        • armerjacquino

          • la vociaccia

            ha! great minds etc.

          • I had no idea Stratas sang this. Am listening now. Thanks!

        • la vociaccia

          here is that libera me

  • zinka

    Zinka missed her chance to kick the whole thing…This is hilarious….Christina is due to come to a comedy program….

    • Buster

      She is a lot of fun. Eva-Maria Westbroek sang at her party:

  • Camille

    About Jessye: Putting this here as this thread has a long string of comments about her, rather than on Intermission Thread as she will be appearing at the Apollo Theatre on March 23 at 8pm in: ASK YOUR MAMA: 12 MOODS FOR JAZZ.

    And from the blurb I just now happened to open up:

    “Langston Hughes’s epic poem “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz” comes to life again in a deep collaboration between acclaimed soprano JESSYE NORMAN and Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman. This Manhattan School of Music Harlem Nights event offers JESSYE NORMAN, Nnenna Freelon and The Roots with the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Sinfonia with George Manahan as conductor.”

    Tickets $35, $55, $75, $125 APOLLO MAINSTAGE

    I’m guessing we are all talking about her for good reason. Break a leg, Miss Jess!

  • Bianca Castafiore

    Does anyone else love that Jenufa from Glyndebourne, I think, with Roberta Alexander and the very severe Silja as her stepmother? I think Alexander was a rather under-appreciated artist. Vocally not the most beautiful or lushest sound but I always enjoyed her acting, including vocal acting. Her Jenufa was quite touching to me, at least on video.

    • Camille

      Bianca dearest•

      I am still a little upset you won’t be shining the light of your Great Emerald down upon us poor mortals tomorrow night from the parterre box. Oh well.

      Roberta Alexander sings a quite good Vitellia in a Clemenza di Tito which is heard from time to time on Sirius. She sings quite admirably and intelligently that famous pitfall “Non più di fiori”. Lots of recordinga of Mozart operas, I think on Philips.

      I shall dress down tomorrow night as the Shining Star shall not be in her box. No reason to go glam


      • armerjacquino

        I love that Glyndebourne JENUFA and have often flown the flag hereabouts for Alexander, a lovely and underrated singer.

        Did she really record ‘lots’ of Mozart operas? I have the Davis IDOMENEO (Philips) and the Harnoncourt DON GIOVANNI (Teldec) but haven’t come across any others.

        Of course, the other thing she recorded with Harnoncourt was Salieri’s PRIMA LA MUSICA, with its aria that delves even lower than ‘Non piu di fiori’…

        • Buster

          A real pity she never recorded Pamina -- I have never forgotten her in that role, the best I have seen her do on stage.

          • Hippolyte

            Speaking of Alexander (and Lipovsek), there’s that very odd CD of highlights from Handel’s Giulio Cesare conducted by Harnoncourt where Alexander sings a couple of Cleopatra’s arias (and Lipovsek a pair of Cornelia’s), but Lucia Popp pops up as Cleopatra in the final duet.

            I can only assume that a complete recording was started with Popp, she was replaced by Alexander and then the entire enterprise was canceled, and the bits that were recorded were gathered together and released on a single CD. It’s a nice recording with the only snippets ever of Paul Esswood’s Cesare. There’s no date on the recording but I assume it comes from 1985 when Alexander, Lipovsek and Harnoncourt did Cesare at the Theater an der Wien with a baritone, Benjamin Luxon, as Cesare. There’s a video of the performance out there but I haven’t seen it.

          • armerjacquino

            I read an interview somewhere where Alexander talked about having to learn the whole thing in three weeks, so I don’t know if it was connected to some stage performances.

            It’s all very odd, though- why not just re-record the duet?

        • Bianca Castafiore

          More about Roberta Alexander.

          Years ago, I read this interview, and I’ve forgotten about it. It’s from 1998 and she shows wonderful musical intelligence among other things.

          Also I did not know she sang Jenufa at the Met in English, at about the same time she sang Bess:

    • Buster

      Roberta Alexander is in the new Patrice Chereau Elektra, with Evelyn Herlizius, Waltraud Meier, Adrianne Pieczonka, and Mikhail Petrenko.

      The Netherlands Opera is doing the Gambler next season, and they are still looking for a Babulenka. They really should hire Miss Alexander.

      • rapt

        Now I REALLY understand armerjacquino’s earlier observation about the generally remarkable casting of the 5th maid! Alexander gave a master class and recital in my small town about a year and a half ago. Even apart from the singing, the charm, intelligence, and stage presence were overwhelming. Then she sang, a number of popular songs. Her “Did you ever cross over to Sneeden’s?” had me sobbing in the space of a few minutes; don’t think I’ve ever had that reaction to a song.

  • oedipe

    <IDoes anyone else love that Jenufa from Glyndebourne

    Yes, I do.