Cher Public

The Beczala contradiction

So, Piotr Beczala (left) has gone and blabbed to Luister, which is some sort of Dutch glossy classical music magazine, that he’s not going to work with “stupid, idiotic and  far-fetched” directors like “Calixto BieitoHans Neuenfels and Martin Kusej,” no, don’t ask him, he just won’t do it.  

Well, La Cieca is all for free choice, even when the choice seems to be based on stupidity, and so she’s not going to insist that Beczala do anything he doesn’t want to do. What she will do, however, is question the “takeaway” from this statement, i.e., “because Beczala says these directors are bad, that’s proof that they are charlatans, because who would be in a better position to know these things than a singer?”

The problem is, it’s hard to define what “liking” a production means to the singers in it, and further I would suggest that the elements that make a production attractive to a singer are not necessarily those that appeal to an audience.

A singer’s experience of a production is not the same as the audience’s. The singer is required to be actively engaged in rehearsals, a process that is essentially invisible to the paying public. Even in performance, the experience of being onstage singing is vastly different from that of being out in the auditorium listening.

Singers are artists, and artists are at their happiest when they are in a state of flow, i.e., the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. This “flow” state requires a clear and worthwhile goal and a sense that one’s abilities can, with hard work, accomplish the defined task.

This “flow” state is the ideal condition of the rehearsal: the director has a particular effect in mind and the process consists of first communicating that vision and then the performers finding physical ways to express that vision visually. But for there to be the maximum of the ecstatic “flow” state, that process must be quite challenging. In other words, the participants in the rehearsal must exert all their energies in order to achieve that goal of “communicating the vision.”

If the task is too easy, the participants become bored; it the task is impossible, the participants become frustrated.

The performance process ideally follows a similar pattern: there is a goal to be reached in the performance, a combination of excellent musicality, vocal beauty and dramatic intensity. Because these elements are in some ways inimical to each other (how angry can I get before I start screaming?) the performance experience is a sort of balancing act: the difficult task is keeping all the plates in the air at the same time.

Now, note that both these processes, as described, are very much about “how” and not at all about “what” — that is, the performer’s experience in rehearsal and performance doesn’t have to vary much between a “traditional” production and an “Regie” staging, so long as the two tasks are roughly equal in the level of challenge they provide the participant.

Of course, this is assuming that the singers involved approach the acting aspect of an operatic performance as an artistic challenge and not as a necessary evil (“I’ve got to get dressed up in this silly wig and uncomfortable bodice and traipse around all night just so I get the change to sing ‘Dove sono’.”) In the case of that sort of singer, the one who regards opera as primarily a change to show off the voice, the intensive rehearsals and physical challenges in performance of the typical Regie production will seem a massive waste of time.

They don’t perceive the goal of creating gripping theater as a worthy one, and so the challenge of achieving that goal is meaningless. Of course, they’re going to be just as bored working in, say, a Giorgio Strehler revival in which every tiny gesture is minutely choreographed: the whole dramatic process means nothing to them, and the only real advantage of a “traditional” production is that it generally requires of them a lot less rehearsal time.

This is the singers’ experience of direction, the process. What the audience experiences is something quite different, the product of that process. It can happen that singers have a miserable time in rehearsal and performance and yet the audience loves the show; it can also happen that the rehearsal process is a time for jolly camaraderie the building of lifelong friendships, and the resulting production looks sloppy and meaningless.

So what I’m saying is, how singers experience a production is in most ways unrelated to how the audience experiences it. So in that sense, a singer’s opinion of a director is for the most part meaningless.

The exception here, an important one, is that there is a quality that immediately leaps across the footlights and automatically engages the audience. That quality can be called “passion” or “commitment” or even “joy,” the sense that what the artist is doing on the stage is the most important thing in the world he could be doing at that moment, the feeling that “this is what I was born for, to given this performance for you tonight.”

The fostering of this “passionate” emotional quality I think is very much related to the artist’s experience of rehearsal and performance..Or, to put it another way, if the rehearsals and, eventually, the performance, are flow- producing experiences, the artist’s flow-induced rapture communicates to the audience. And that “rapture” is independent of content: it could be a hoop- skirted Donna Anna quietly crossing the stage to address her Don Ottavio, or it could be a Klingsor in tattered underwear threatening Kundry with a flamethrower.

What I find silliest about Beczala’s statement (assuming it’s accurate) is that his experience with the directors he mentions is extremely limited. He really doesn’t know what working with Bieito or Neuenfels might feel like, and if he didn’t hit it off with Kusej in that one production of Don Giovanni seven years ago (one assumes, the tenor doesn’t go into any detail) is that still a fair basis for calling a whole group of artists such unpleasant names? One would think that, of all people, a tenor would be understanding how damaging unthinking stereotyping can be.

  • Buster

    Difficult. Nothing as depressing as having to watch a singer who is unhappy in a production. And nothing more exciting than watching a singer delivering him or herself to a director, and giving it all. So, actually, for me, singers can sink a production very easily, or make it look like a stupid, idiotic or far-fetched one. Beczala is doing many directors a big favor declining to sing for them. In the Listen interview he mentions he did in fact turn down a few offers from Amsterdam, because of “Regietheater.” I have heard him there once, though, at the Concertgebouw, in the Eva Lind Rosenkavalier, as the Italian singer. Very good!

    • A. Poggia Turra

      Interestingly enough, I heard him in the same role in the Konwitschny Rosenkavalier in Hamburg in 2002. Beczala sang well but looked extremely uncomfortable, as he sang shirtless, and although I am not one who demands that a singer needs to have the physique of a Men’s Fitness magazine model, PB was VERY out of shape.

      • CwbyLA

        If PB was out of shape and if he looked uncomfortable singing the Italian Tenor’s aria shirtless, why did the director make him do that? I am genuinely curious because I haven’t seen the production. Was him being shirtless important to Italian Tenor’s character in that production?

        • A. Poggia Turra

          Excellent question -- this is from memory, so the detail may be fuzzy:

          The production set each of the acts in a different time period. Act One was set in the rococo period, with most of the action (ncluding the entire levee) taking place on a huge round bed at stage center. In addition to the Marschallin and Octavian’s couplings, several incidental characters gathered around or on the bed, engaging in or watching verious sexual frolicking. When it is time for the Italian Singer to sing. he literally pops up in the center front of the bead (in the spot) closest to the stage front. After the song is over, he disappears back under the bed covers.

          To me, this suggests that the Singer is just another of the Marschalin’s partners. The suggestion is that Octavian is hardly her only lover or tryst-partner. The overall arc of Konwitschny’s premise was a loss of contol and depression on the part of the Marschallin -- so much so that she contemplates suicide. The act ends with her clutching a bottle of pills, but she never swallows them. Maybe she thinks that sex will ease the pain of the emptiness she feels (exacerbated by her husband’s abscences), but it obviously doesn’t

          • CwbyLA

            Thank you for the explanation

        • Well, if realism had anything to do with it, it seems Beczala was perfect casting for an Italian tenor with his shirt off, which is not, in general, a very attractive spectacle.

          • Bluevicks

            I may be particularly dense but erm…why ?

    • MontyNostry

      “The Eva Lind Rosenkavalier” … Was she one of the three armen adeligen Waisen?

      • Buster

        No, Sophie, of course, as was to be expected from a Wilma Lipp student.

        Hopefully Lind one day gets to sing the Marschallin, unlike Wilma Lipp, who, strange enough, never got around singing that part, but moved directly from Sophie to Jungfer Marianne. Lind is singing the Zeller Kurfürstin this summer, a role very similar to the Rosenkavalier Fürstin, so who knows?

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Was Wilma Lipp ever actually any good? The few bits I have heard of her have been just appalling.

          • Feldmarschallin

            Cocky try the Karajan Zauberflöte from 1950 or the Furtwängler from 1951. Lipp is quite good on both. Bonus is Seefrieds to die for Pamina almost as good as Lemnitz and Schöne.

          • Buster

            She is the only Martha I can listen to. A great Pepi on the Stolz Wiener Blut, with Hilde Gueden, and a very stylish Rosalinde (also for Stolz). Lovely Adela on the Krauss Fledermaus. Her nickname was Die blonde Callas.

          • Feldmarschallin

            Buster have you tried Erna Berger as Martha?

          • Buster

            Yes, I have tried her, on that wartime recording. Was not too fond of it, relentlessy fast, and Berger not at her most charming, which says a lot.

  • Ilka Saro

    La Cieca says “how singers experience a production is in most ways unrelated to how the audience experiences it.”

    This is very true.

    It is ironic that everything Cieca says is also true of the audience. The audience expects to participate in a flow as well. There is a huge and complex cultural tradition of what it means to be an audience member. And as is reflected on this thread, that includes a complex kind of authority over the meaning of the performances they see. Audiences are expected to admire, to tolerate or to deplore the performers, the directors, the designers, and to give full vent to expressing that.

    It shouldn’t be any surprise that Beczala has opinions about his colleagues (or, in this case, the people he proscribes from being colleagues). ALL performers have opinions. But we usually don’t hear them. This is partly because of politics. People involved in opera are involved in a hierchical community and you’d better watch your step. Really. But it’s also because the public really doesn’t want to know what you think. The public cherishes the idea that you think what they think. Expressing your own view is akin to breaking the fourth wall.

    That fourth wall is so powerful and so sacred. We are trained early on. We sit together in the dark on one side. We don’t speak or make sound or move. Anyone who does so is immediately known to be a rude idiot. Speaking, moving, making sound, existing, is for the moment entirely in the hands of the people on the other side of the wall, including the invisible director. Who has an opinion? The directors, designers, and everyone in the audience. Not a performer. The mistaken assumption is that if the performer doesn’t like the production or the direction, they wouldn’t be in it.

    The only thing that suprises me about what Beczala said is that he actually bothered to say it.

    • oedipe

      Ilka Saro,

      Interesting post! It highlights a very important reality: that what we do and criticize or approve of is bound first and foremost by convention and dogma.

      • Ilka Saro

        It’s been two decades since I’ve performed, and my career could be described at best as “obscure”. But it was always amazing to me how ready people were to come up to me after a show and say the most bizarre, incomprehensible things. This is how I learned that audience members often wish to believe that their opinion is yours. And the correct response, no matter what an audience member says, is “Thank you so much!”

        Any performer also knows that it is their job to perform whatever they are doing with “conviction” or “authority”. (Tricky words). No matter how much you may dislike what the director has asked you to do, you are the one on the stage. If you have an attitude about what you are doing, it will be you who looks foolish and incapable. But that doesn’t mean that all performers in a Bieito production appreciate his direction.

        (Personally, I think Bieito is fascinating.)

        The other thing people don’t take into account is that “acting the direction” is often not the biggest challenge to the performer. Staying with the conductor, listening to the orchestra and the other singers is probably more important, depending on the score. Why? Because you will instantly look like an idiot if you make a musical mistake. Dealing with acting a bizarre regie concept might feel like an additional nuisance, stressful, but still isn’t the only important problem an opera singer faces on the stage.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Papano adds his opinions: “Royal Opera music director rails at young opera stars’ ‘weakness'”

    • MontyNostry

      Pappano and the ‘Robert le Diable’ chaos. ‘…the American soprano Jennifer Rowley. Within a week of the first night, she was dropped: Pappano said he personally auditioned her and was confident she was right for the role, but as rehearsals progressed there was mutual agreement that she wouldn’t make it. “It wasn’t good enough,” he said. “It wasn’t good enough for Covent Garden.”‘

      Yeah, like Madame Poplavskaya hit-and-missing her way through the other soprano part in the opera was such a supreme piece of vocal artistry. And that’s why she’s now been cast next season in that walk-in-the-park little role Hélène. I think Maestro P should have kept his mouth shut on this whole issue.

      • oedipe

        Lucky Brits, you get to hear BOTH Poplavskaya AND Schrott -those paragons of French language opera- in next season’s Vêpres!

        But here is the icing on the cake: after her recent smashing Manons at La Scala as a substitute of last resort for Netrebko, Ermonela Jaho is coming back for a WHOLE RUN of history-making Manons at the ROH.

        • MontyNostry

          But Ermonela’s French in Manon will probably be better than Anna’s in Faust. (And will she wear the flaxen ‘Manet’ wig? Even Ange did, but has Anna ever gone blonde?)

        • You would think that the Musical Director of a company that puts Ermonela Jaho onstage, what, 30 or 40 nights a season, would be begging for more cancellations from singers instead of fewer.

          • MontyNostry

            Jennifer Rowley sets the record straight about the Diablerie last year.

          • armerjacquino

            In Jaho’s defence- her Angelica was genuinely stunning.

          • oedipe

            Well, that’s the problem: she is a Suor Angelica, NOT a Manon. But the ROH casting department doesn’t seem to care.

            Now that the Robert le Diable casting sh*t has hit the fan, people are beginning to ask why the ROH decided to stage that lousy opera in the first place. So, by extension, if they cannot have a Manon cast worthy of a top house, why revive that lousy opera? Why not do some Russian or German opera instead? They are SO much easier to cast!

          • armerjacquino

            Well, as with La Scala, a lot of houses are finding themselves trying to recast productions of MANON which were scheduled around a soprano who can no longer sing it.

          • oedipe

            Well, I see that Dessay is getting blamed for singing some roles she shouldn’t have sung (Violetta), and also for NOT singing other roles (Manon). The casting departments of the Met, La Scala and the ROH are for nothing, I take…

            IMO, the best long-term solution for the ROH is: Forget. French. Opera.
            Revive something you can do well, e.g. Britten or Russian, German, Check operas. And stick to Carmen if you must.

          • MontyNostry

            And I don’t think Jaho was **quite** a Suor Angelica. She was very touching, but her voice was distinctly on the light side in the theatre. But she is a valiant performer.

          • armerjacquino

            oedipe, how on earth am I *blaming* Dessay for not singing Manon? You asked why these houses were scheduling Manon, I answered, simply and factually. I like Dessay and have often defended her on here. You must have been looking the other way.

        • rossifigaro

          believe a. perez is scheduled for some of the roh’s manons. think she is doing traviata (with costello) and something else that i can’t recall at the moment.

          • armerjacquino

            She’s sharing Liu with the bafflingly overpromoted Eri Nakamura.

          • MontyNostry

            I’m with you on Nakamura, AJ. Her Sophie in Werther a couple of years ago definitely needed a slap. I wonder whether greater experience has at least taught her to stop pushing through her tone.

      • Well, what is Pappano supposed to do, say out loud, “We hired Daniel Oren knowing full well that he has a reputation as a bully, protesting perfectly good singers so he can cast his pets at the last minute, and since he’s about the only conductor in the world with such lousy musical taste that he’s willing to spend five hours of his life listening to a Meyerbeer opera, there’s no way we can replace him, and by the way, who the fuck cares because the only reason we did this miserable piece of crap is because we though Florez would sell a lot of tickets?”

        • Regina delle fate

          Haha , Maestra! Several very sharp nails hit bang on the head in that paragraph. Oren seems to be a fixture at Covent Garden. Why he was ever assigned Robert le Diable -- which needs a bit of help -- we will never know. Pappano’s in danger of making a fool of himself over this sorry saga.

          • Signor Bruschino

            Everyone has come across as a jerk in this- Pappano with his comments, and Jennifer Rowley’s ‘setting the record straight’ facebook rant- her response lacks class & dignity -- I don’t think anyone was sitting around focusing on LeDiable debacle until she brought it up again.

          • armerjacquino

            Maybe she thinks ‘class and dignity’ are less important than the truth.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I think Rowley’s response was admirable. Being perfectly straight forward is pretty classy, in my view. Whether people were focusing on it or not, she has every right to correct nonsense written about her if she wants to, and it isn’t as if she brought it up first.

          • MontyNostry

            I sort of think good on Rowley too. The ROH shouldn’t have fudged the issue (whatever it was, exactly) in the first place -- that they were fudging was quite evident from the way it was communicated. I expect the flaccid Oren had the ROH over a barrel because there was no-one else able to conduct the piece at short notice.

          • operalover9001

            I think Rowley’s response was very classy, actually. Could she have dressed it up and said “due to a difference in working styles etc etc”? Yes, but that’s not the point. Being anything less than completely direct would have created even more confusion, and not responding was not an option -- it would be highly damaging to her career if people get the assumption that she’s a notorious canceller on par with Gheorghiu or Harteros. In fact, I respect her a lot for her statement -- upsetting situation all around, and she responded without being overly defensive or emotional.

  • Feldmarschallin

    And now Elisabeth Kulman comes out complaining about the Salzburger Festspiele and how they want to cut costs by reducing the singers fees and fees which they previously have gotten for the long rehearsals periods. All can be read here…

    • Bill

      Feldmarschallin -- Kulman is an excellent artist.
      I read her comments this morning earlier and she
      is correct -- Salzburg is making it quite difficult
      and potentially very expensive for many artists
      in operas (with long rehearsal periods and extended performance times). Do not know how they handle
      Netrebko for example but apparently opera singers
      are willing to pay all these costs just for the
      prestige of being there. But both Welser-Moest and
      Kulman have complained of the bunching up of
      opera performances for an artist with not the usual
      3 days between performances to rest the voice.
      In the old days, however, some popular artists
      at Salzburg who were singing more then one
      role during the Festival sometimes had to sing
      say Fiordiligi one night and Susanna the next night
      if the schedule called for it. I do not know
      whether in other opera venues, artists are paid
      for rehearsal time and if they become indisposed
      and cannot sing a particular performance or series of performances, if they are paid anything for those performances or not -- at Salzburg apparently not. Kulman is much in demand in Europe and is a
      superlative Mezzo both in opera and in Konzert.

      • Feldmarschallin

        Yes I also agree with you and her on this that if one is required to be in Salzburg for rehearsals for 4 weeks one needs to get some sort of compensation. Of course certain artists might be able to combine the Bayerische Staatsoper for a performance or two since it is merely an hour by car or train and also during the same time. Jonas might even drive home after rehearsals but he has two Carlos lined up here during the Carlos rehearsals in Salzburg.

        • Regina delle fate

          FM -- it seems that Pereira is trying to run Salzburg like he ran Zurich but without the ensemble. He is probably making the upcoming singers bear the brunt of his cost-cutting, I doubt if he’ll try cutting Jonas’s or Netrebko’s fees. Most of the small parts and quite a few leading parts are cast with his old Zurich roster singers, who are presumably grateful for the prestige of appearing in Salzburg and aren’t earning big fees elsewhere. Is Elena Mosuc a big name anywhere outside Zurich?

          • Feldmarschallin

            Mosuc a big name? Not really. But she does get quite a few engagements in Zürich and therefore now in Salzburg. The Salzburger Ariadne originally had Damrau as Zerbinetta but then I think she was pregnant again and had to cancel.

        • decotodd

          It is customary that singers are not paid for rehearsal periods, only for performances (and if you call in sick, no $$). Covers are paid by performance as well. So is is understandable why some would object to long stretches of rehearsal especially for new productions. Singers must typically pay for their housing as well. Big names can book concerts or recitals or other one-off appearances if they choose, but it is the lesser-known, lower paid supporting cast who suffer most from lengthy rehearsals one would guess. Some of them are eager to take on multiple small roles in a couple of operas to maximize income.

  • zinka

    If more artists followed the great Piotr..then we might have some peace and calm…….Imagine:

    “Mme.Melba..please strip for us as Lucia!!!”

    Bravo to Piotr, my favorite guy!!!!!

  • oedipe

    It just dawned on me, by connecting a few dots here and there -Pappano’s comment about the frailty of star singers, such-and-such star’s tantrums, recent trends in casting at top houses that seem to be almost random, without much concern for the adequacy of the singers to the roles, as if the casting departments simply filled slots with whoever was on hand and under contract- that the days of star singers may be numbered.

    Pappano’s comment is especially striking. The star singers of today are pretty sickly human beings: they have crazy schedules, they are under too much pressure because of travel requirements, an unhealthy life style and the public’s exaggerate expectations, they are often sick because of frequent changes of environment and too much time spent on planes. Are they an endangered species? After all, many things have changed over time -the size of opera houses, the tuning of instruments, the audience’s hearing acuity- but the way the unamplified voice is produced has barely changed over time, it is a relic of the past.

    In the coming years the top opera houses may become more like, say, theater troupes or ballet troupes. The ballet troupe of the Paris Opera has a number of “star dancers” who can fill all the leading roles. They travel with the company on tour, but the rest of the time they stay put. They don’t have to juggle gigs or hustle to get them. When you buy a subscription to a ballet season you know ahead of time the names of the choreographer and the set and costume designer(s), but you don’t know exactly who will dance the lead roles. Cancellations are rarely an issue, since the “star dancers” are pretty much interchangeable.

    So one can imagine a time in the future when the international stars will be the stage directors, not the singers. The stage directors will be hired by the top houses on the basis of merit and fame, and people will come mainly in order to see the work of these directors. The top opera houses will put together troupes of good quality singers who will each learn a large number of roles so that they can be more or less interchangeable, even on short notice. Cancellations will no longer be an issue. These singers will be salaried personnel, but will cost much less than today’s stars. And they will be able to lead healthier, more normal lives than the stars singers of today.

    Just a thought…

    • Indiana Loiterer III

      The only problem with such a scheme is that singers aren’t quite as interchangeable as dancers. Otherwise, the resident companies you’re describing sound like the way things are or at least used to be in Germany. And the way the Internet is going, there’s no real reason for a singer to travel all over the place just in order to be seen by as large an audience as possible.

      Of course, stage productions don’t necessarily benefit from a have-promptbook-will-travel approach to direction. Historically, in the spoken theater, many directors have preferred to work with their own companies, or as close as they can get to their own companies.

      • Ilka Saro

        “Interchangeable” is relative. Dancers’ careers are considerably shorter than singers’, and often at a higher cost. Here in NYC, with the various ballet companies, there are dancers who will dance on broken bones in their feet etc. I see plenty of dancers who wind up with terrible arthritis, who are walking with canes by the time they are 40. To endure that kind of pain simply to complete a performance (and keep the understudies at bay) is not something most singers are ever asked to do.

    • bluecabochon

      Oedipe, I don’t go to the ballet that often but I will choose my date based on who is dancing at ABT, for example. All “star” ballet dancers are not created equal, any more than star singers are.

      Ivy goes to the ballet frequently and her reviews are quite knowledgable about this or that dancer’s strengths and weaknesses. I’m sure that she’ll chime in if she sees this.

      I agree that the lifestyle of today’s singers is quite stressful just from being exposed to people and germs from so much international travel, not to mention all that goes with living away from home and family for long stretches. I have no idea what the solution for that might be.

      The directors are already stars, like it or not.

    • oedipe

      When I made the parallel with the ballet troupe, what I had in mind was the European model, where dancers have more job security than in the US, and therefore their lives are less stressful (I doubt that many European dancers perform with broken bones just to keep the understudy at bay). And when I talked about “interchangeable dancers”, I meant it more from the point of view of managements, who regard them as such. For instance, you may prefer a certain Paris Opera dancer over another, but you don’t have much choice. The ballet season sells out pretty quickly and you don’t know who will dance on the date you are booking till sometime relatively close to that date.

      As for the interchangeability of singers, I think we are rapidly going in that direction: more and more, casting departments seem to think anybody can sing anything. And I am afraid that the audience doesn’t see the difference!

      Here is a clear example of what I think will be a growing trend: a number of people -on blogs and elsewhere- have stated their interest in going to see “the Herheim Vêpres” at the ROH. They want to see the opera independent of (nay, in spite of) the cast. So I think that opera managements may eventually come to the conclusion that star singers are a superfluous hassle.

      • Ilka Saro

        I see your point. That kind of interchangeability is more and more present in NYC. For instance, why would Dessay be considered for Violetta? Well, she’s a star soprano, right? It’s a star soprano part, right?

        I used to comment that the Met is the only Opera house that can turn a thoroughly unambitious season into a scandal simply by the casting. Except that so many people eagerly attend. Myself included. But then, I’m special.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      I think the way the unamplified voice is produced has changed over time, at least since sound recording became possible.

      • oedipe

        It’s all relative. The unamplified voice production has changed LESS than the other elements that go into a live performance (environment, instruments, sound systems, etc.). Unless I am misunderstanding what you are referring to?

  • opera-cake

    And yet, somewhat surprisingly, Piotr is not complaining about his Duke in the recent production of Rigoletto at the Met…

    His part in the Martin Kusej production of Don Giovanni was not scenically challenging at all! What is he actually complaining about? Perhaps he could tell us how he REALLY feels!

    Other than that I can only stand and applaud LaC for a brilliant article.

  • redbear

    The review said “des soirées les plus rafraîchissantes et les plus savoureuses de la saison.” The opera? “L’Opera Seria” of Florian Léopold Gassmann (1729-1774) at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées 10 years ago. It takes you backstage at a new production. Egoistic directors, penny-pinching producers and stupid singers are not new at all in opera. It is absolutely delicious.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Fabio Luisi weighs in on the situation with young singers by contacting Norman Lebrecht directly

    “Dear Norman,

    I think nobody, not even Tony [Pappano], came to the core of the problem, and we, as conductors, have to pronounce a very clear “mea culpa” in this.

    Most singers, especially the young ones, are simply too young, not prepared enough, with technical problems and they get the wrong roles.

    Take e.g. a good, young soprano who makes a successful debut with, let’s say, Micaela or Liu’. Some agent will eventually ask her if she could take over Violetta, then Leonora (Trovatore), at the end probably Butterfly or Tosca. ‘You know, darling, they are looking for a new, young and pretty Tosca in that international Opera House, director and conductor would love to have a new voice, they would love to discover a new star. That’s you!’

    It can work maybe a couple of times, if the orchestras are not too loud, if the director is understanding, if the conductor helpful (not looking for Magda Oliviero’s sounds). Of course, we do need Butterflies and Toscas, but are they the right roles for a young soprano? Definitely not. You can sing them of course, with a fresh voice, but not for long. So they start to cancel – and then they disappear.

    Gruberova ([photo] above) never accepted such roles (she sung even Violetta not very often) – and she still sings. If I read that the Nemorino-tenors are approaching Des Grieux (Puccini) or Cavaradossi, of course I am curious, but I already can see… it won’t last long. How many singers, Norman, have we seen “bruciati” by famous conductors? Freni and Butterfly? she was smart enough to do it only once (and, as soon as I know, never on stage), but she had a 40 years long career. Gruberova ditto.
    Best regards to all

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Modern social media sure has changed the way that performing artists interact with members of the press. If you’re interested in knowing what Susan Graham, Sarah Connolly, Lauren Flanigan, Christine Goerke and others think about Mº Luisi’s letter, read their comments on the Lebrecht site or post some of your own. But please let us know what you’ve said there.