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Il sacro fuoco

Here’s recent Met debutante Liudmyla Monastyrska in that ultimate “furibonda” role, Abigaille in Nabucco, which she’s currently performing at the Royal Opera.

Why this “inert corpse of a production” dresses the leading lady as Magda Sorel is anyone’s guess. Is Abigaille’s look an hommage to Maria Callas in I Vespri Siciliani?


  • 1
    Camille says:

    “What is my name? Abygail. Age? Thirty-three…why don’t you understand…?”

  • 2
    antikitschychick says:

    Someone had posted the entire performance on yt and I watched the whole thing before it was taken down…
    ITA with you Cieca re: her costume; it’s hideous and just plain unflattering…the Harry Potter School of Wizardry called and want their robe back!! Seriously though, its like they didn’t even try, or had zero budget in the costume department…
    the production is also lame and honestly had I not read the plot ahead of each act I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue as to what was going on…I’m usually pretty open minded when it comes to productions but I gotta say I was sorely disappointed by this one. No arc or vision whatsoever!
    The singing, on the other hand, is what salvaged the performance. She in particular sounds absolutely glorious. Her high register is insanely good. Also,anch’io dischuiso was sung very tenderly with great phrasing. Can’t wait to hear/see her in more roles, even if I have to go to the Ukraine and freeze my ass off in order to do so!

    Leo Nucci I thought was really great also both singing and acting-wise. He and she were the most captivating on stage.

    • 2.1
      la vociaccia says:

      I saw this when the whole thing was on youtube as well. La Monastyrska was particularly fabulous in the Act I trio “Io t’amava,” with a gorgeous pianissimo high C at the end

      • 2.1.1
        antikitschychick says:

        Yes it was!! Its too bad there isn’t a video of the trio on yt :-/ I’m guessing there will be after the ROH broadcast though.

  • 3
    scifisci says:

    Wow! The high B and C before the plunge to the low C depths are defined and confidently sung as they are meant to be, rather than the usual desperate B/C quartertone screaming most sopranos manage. Indicative of her amazing accuracy and security overall in this impossible sing. Not to mention the gorgeous cantabile singing. Too bad about the fake trill (I jest of course!).

  • 4
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    The video, of course, is from the recent La Scala performances of this production, not from Covent Garden. Judging from her wonderful Lady Macbeth and this Nabucco, it is a pity that Monastryska’s huge talent and artistry has to be subjected to directors (and even some conductors) who have no idea how to nurture her to become better. I hope she knows that she’s putting up with a lot of crap. The fires are spectacular though, and so is she. The pairing with Domingo for the next performances should be wonderful.

  • 5
    bassoprofundo says:

    She has a fantastic voice, no doubt. Although I would pay out of my own pocket for her to go to a teacher that would help her distinguish vowels. They all sound like one general “uhhh.” If she could sort that out she could really be in the Netrebko stratosphere, at least vocally.

    • 5.1
      antikitschychick says:

      thanks for the mp3 clip basso :-D. It will def be going in my Ipod.
      I do think she’s well on her way to reaching the ‘Netrebko stratosphere’ as you say, though appearing in productions like this doesn’t bode very well for her image…star sopranos need some level of ‘glamour’ and Netrebko would never be caught dead in that costume but, hey, I can appreciate differences in approach…maybe she just wants to sing and doesn’t really care about all the fluff, or doesn’t want to come off as shallow, which I do think AN is symptomatic of at times.

    • 5.2
      MontyNostry says:

      In many respects she does sing very well indeed, but I just find there is a sort of gassy, matte quality in the tone colour that prevents it from being thrilling. Obviously it’s a big sound, but, even in the flesh(and I’ve seen her live three times), it doesn’t gleam or ring the rafters. And her diction is definitely a bit mushy.

      Dimitrova was less refined, perhaps less conscientious and not always very interesting when it came to phrasing or utterance, but the sound was viscerally exciting and, in the lower reaches of the voice, really rather beautiful. Is Monastyrska’s voice maybe a bit more like Guleghina’s -- a soprano I have only seen live once, as Maddalena in a concert performance of Andrea Chénier about 15 years ago? They are both slightly ‘felted’ in texture.

      • 5.2.1
        la vociaccia says:

        Did it really not ring when you saw her? I was in the family circle and it seemed pretty well projected to me- pianissimi and all. I’m the first to agree that the vowels leave a lot to be desired as far as color, and I think that’s what leaves you cold. But for sheer power, I (obviously) think she’s plenty thrilling

          MontyNostry says:

          No -- it seems a sort of cannon thud to me as opposed to an ear-rattling roar! I feel very ungrateful each time I hear her, since she ticks lots of boxes (power, accuracy, distinctive colour, ability to sing quietly as well as loudly -- and I think she looks good on the stage too, even if she is not a great actress). Of sopranos in a broadly similar vein, Gorchakova didn’t have the same technical capabilities and was notably shorter at the top of the voice, but she did have similar amplitude and a much more gorgeous sound -- somewhere between Jessye and Ghena, I always thought.

          • manou says:

            Monty -- would you like my ticket for this:



          • MontyNostry says:

            That’ll be the, er, day, manou, but very sweet of you all the same. I have to say that I don’t find his music at all offensive -- it’s quite pretty in its understated, rather static way, but it doesn’t exactly set me alight. And when he talks he’s totally sincere — precious, but sincerely precious.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Talking of the Wiggie,I am looking forward to a delicious concert of Fauré piano quartets at the end of the month, though, with an all-star cast.

      • 5.2.2
        antikitschychick says:

        “I just find there is a sort of gassy, matte quality in the tone colour that prevents it from being thrilling.”

        Funny. I think I know exactly what you mean by that description since that was very precise word choice Monty. I also detect a touch of brass in the tone but I think that’s precisely what I like about it lol. Its round, supple and distinctive, but without an edge and/or that metal quality Dimitrova and most dramatic sopranos have have…its also not as fluffy/opulent as, say Renee’s or AN’s but it has a touch of that jazzy sultriness esp. in the lower middle which I also like…she does seem to also have a very nice speaking voice, though that’s not necessarily a marker of tonal beauty.

  • 6
    la vociaccia says:

    Get it while you can:

    National opera of Ukraine, 03.03.13


    Amonasro -- IVAN PONOMARENKO



    Ramphis -- SERGHEY MAGHERA


    Choir and Orchestra of National opera of Ukraine


    (This is acts II and III)

  • 7
    Cocky Kurwenal says:

    Seeing this on Saturday- can’t wait.

  • 8
    Feldmarschallin says:

    That picture of Callas is also from a rehearsal as can be seen since she has the score in her hand.

  • 9
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Botha has cancelled an Otello in Munich on 6 April du to illness. His replacement will be the Lithuanian Kristian Benedikt:

    Hopefully without the pitch problems and maybe he could listen to Tamagno before then.

  • 10
  • 11
    Lady Abbado says:

    Here’s the best Abigaille ever -- Ghena Dimitrova:

    • 11.1
      spiderman says:

      Here’s the best Abigaille ever — Julia Varady

      • 11.1.1
        RobNYNY1957 says:

        Varady is a funny one. I saw her three times as Donna Elvira at the Met in the late 1970’s (Bonnyng; Sutherland, Morris, Tourangeau, Brecknock, Monk), and she just couldn’t seem to find her stride. It was not the right role at the right time. Then she started singing much more demanding roles and was fantastic, still retaining much beauty and flexibility, but cutting through like a dramatic soprano in roles like Abagailla and Senta. And yet Donna Elvira appears to be her only role at the Met.

    • 11.2
      Belfagor says:

      Scostati, profani!!

      How come there’s no mention of Elena Souliotis??

      • 11.2.1
        MontyNostry says:

        … or (before the Vicar gets here) Pauline Tinsley, the only previous in-the-flesh Abigaille of my experience before Lyudmila last week.

          Belfagor says:

          and how was Pauline Tinsley? Pre-empting the Vicar’s patch again I did hear that Elizabeth Vaughn was a pretty formidable Abigaille too……..

          Bianca Castafiore says:

          You forgot Rita Hunter?

  • 12
    La Valkyrietta says:

    La Divina had not lost weight in 1951 when she did Vespri. I wish she would have done it again later as the sound in the recording is not great, but she is fabulous. Later on because, she said, “she needed the chin for expression” she lost weight. The wonderful photo La Cieca posted is from a rehearsal of Vespri. Here is another one in character.

    • 12.1
      antikitschychick says:

      oh wow…she’s barely recognizable in that pic…but looks pretty nonetheless and most importantly, I bet she sounded great :-D

      • 12.1.1
        messa di voce says:

        Can you imagine what’s going through the minds of the choristers around her?

          antikitschychick says:

          lol not really…they all seem to be focused on different things, except for one dude who seems to be staring at her intently…she wasn’t the living legend she became after she lost the weight yet when that pic was taken so it was prob business as usual no?

          • She might have not been the living legend, but she was not a new comer either. The public at La Scala was all to aware of the diva, and she basically came to la Scala to receive her crown, having leafy created quite a stir in other important house.

            And the pic is from 52, not 51. Just for the sake of accuracy, since the production opened on 12/7/1952

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Hon Lindoro, the Vespri is from 1951! The Macbeth is 1952

    • 12.2
      marshiemarkII says:

      Vally, the old Vespri was in wretched sound indeed, but the new Myto is in ASTONISHING sound! don’t miss it. It is definitely a new tape, as the old tape was so awful there was only so much they could do it, kind of like the Vestale (a tragedy the sound is so bad), the Istituto Italiano has done a super job cleaning, but you can only do so much with a horrible master. The new Vespri is sensational, and I wrote about it here a year ago or so. I was in ecstasy to have such a great performance in good sound.

      • 12.2.1
        La Valkyrietta says:

        Thank you. Myto. I should think of replacing my vinyl records.

          marshiemarkII says:

          Vally vinyl???? wow you saved a lot of money on the Vespri then. Since the CD era there have been numerous digital “improvements” over the original horrible master, and sucker MMII bought all of them, hoping against hope that they would be better, and alas same old shit. Until this new one, voila a new tape! it is really astonishing the difference. Same thing with the greatest Norma ever, from La Scala 1955. That was never all that bad, but the new tape is sensational, also on Myto. Same with the Lisbon Traviata!
          They have it all in a new inexpensive series, you can get on Norbeck Peters for less than $6 a CD!

          Talking about new tapes….. I am still waiting to hear what was left in Christos Lambrakis’ apartment shelves after his death. He supposedly had everything! including the Tristano e Isotta complete from La Fenice. It’s been a couple of years since he died and so far nothing is surfacing………

          • La Valkyrietta says:


            I used to collect records in the past much more than I do now. These days I mostly waste time on computers :). There are so many hours a day has. In any case you have made me very curious about these Myto issues. A friend of mine who really collects a lot of records has several issues of the Callas Vespri, but he does not have the Myto one. His favorite is Testament, and he does say it is better than my vinyl :( , which I don’t doubt. The Testament is from a Harewood tape. When you say the Myto is a new tape, would it be the same tape they used in Testament? Also, what date was the Myto released?

            Mercé diletta amicha for your very interesting feedback.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Vally, ah rimembranza, I was also a vinyl queen when I was in college, and this discussion brought memories of my first copy of the Scala Norma on BJR records, remember them? I’ve had like six or seven copies of that Norma on CD, and finally the new Myto is a dream come true!!!!

            Regarding the Vespri, I just checked and it is from 2009 (most new Mytos started around 2008 until now) and says on the cover “Complete Opera from a New Source”. The sound is incredible. Do not know if it is related to Harewood/Testament, but it might be the same source because Harewood had the best collection ever. He was the only person who allegedly had the Tristano e Isotta, however, I heard later that he got it from Lambrakis. Now I sat with Lambrakis for the Opening of the Prinzregenten in 1996, and the next day I ran into him at the Munich Airport. But I never got to ask him any of this, as we were planning to meet later in Greece for the Behrens Medea he was putting together. It never happened, and I never saw Lambrakis again. He just died a couple of years ago, so soon his treasure trove will be available? Imagine the Tristano…….with Max Lorenz….

          • La Valkyrietta says:


            My fried’s Vespri on Testament was remastered in 2007. I have sent him your reply, so he will probably get the Myto which is from 2009 as he does actively collect. Can’t wait to hear about his listening experience. Another Vespri he has is on the Golden Melodram label, but the Testament has much better sound.

            I got my three record vinyl Vespri -it is on something called Pensanze Records, no date of release on the box or disc labels- in the early 70s. On that decade, and before and after, I got all recorded Callas, I am sure, on vinyl, unless something escaped me, but I tried not to allow that. Later when CDs appeared, I duplicated some recordings.

            On another parterre topic someone commented about old recordings, and why not get newer ones of people you can see. Well, I saw maybe ten years ago Sondra at the Met in Vespri. I loved her, and being in the house and hearing Vespri live, and it was nice to see Ramey too; twenty or so years earlier I saw Deutekom, and also Caballé, which I loved. My friend has many Vespris, but I only have Callas’. What can I say? If I am not going to go to the house, and will have to listen to a recording of Vespri, well, La Divina parla al mio core.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Vally, birds of a feather, of course. I had every Only Maria on vinyl also, and then duplicated everything on CD, sometimes several labels of the same thing, like the Berlin Lucia, still waiting for a version without the horrible glare in the Mad Scene. Strangely enough Myto has never issued that, in their old or new catalogue (soemthing about “right”?

            Yes Golden Melodram is one of the versions I had of the Vespri, and it is definitely the old version, very bad constricted sound. The new is miles better.

            If you are a Medea queen as I suspect you might be. I am certainly THE Medea queen :-) Myto has the big trio Dallas 58, Covent Garden 59 and Scala 61, all with God Vickers!!!! and in absolutely amazing sound, check them out. I got them all last year and was in heaven for about a month…..Also the two 1955 Normas, and the Lisbon and London Traviatas all in fantastic sound. Alas the Scala 54 Traviata and Berlin Lucia still not available in good sound……If you ever hear of a good one let me know please.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            (something about “rightS”?) ugggh

          • La Valkyrietta says:


            Is there a Callas 54 Traviata? Are you being kind or am I losing my mind?

            I will not swear to my records, but I think there were Callas Traviatas in 53 and in 55, but not in 54. There was, though a Chicago Callas Traviata in 54, is there a recording of that Traviata? If so, I don’t have it. If I hear of a remastered Traviata from 53 or 54, or of a remastered Berlin Lucia, I will report. Thanks for the remarks on the Medeas.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Sorry valley it’s the 1955 Giulini I meant. The 1956 with Raimondi is in good sound. But no 55.

          • La Valkyrietta says:

            Yes, the 55 Giulini is what you meant. I see how you might have made the mistake, as that was early in the year, in May, and since the 55 Norma was in December you probably just thought 54. Sometimes years don’t follow the music. It was not a fatale errore. Cheers.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Well it was just a typo :-)

  • 13
    kashania says:

    “There’s ‘so bad, it’s good’. Lower down the scale, there’s ‘so bad, it’s bad’. And, right at the bottom, there’s Daniele Abbado’s production of Nabucco.”


    • 13.1
      MontyNostry says:

      It was a pretty shoddy production. Not a moment of excitement in it; little distinction between Jerusalem/Babylon or Hebrews/Babylonians; Hebrews portrayed purely as victims when they are a proud fighting people too; a cop-out when it came to the idols (which just didn’t fit in with the concept) — and dreary, unflattering costumes for both divas. Funnily enough, the best moment was Nucci’s entrance. He made a convincing little banal dictator.

      • 13.1.1
        Bianca Castafiore says:

        Well, I have to say, I don’t really like Nabucco, I find it a huge a bore, but I always go because I want to see the poor soprano crash and burn… Abigaille’s music is always exciting and you never know what the soprano is gonna do. I’ve seen the Met’s current production three times. Back in 2005 (?), Gruber gave a ridiculously exciting performance — I was shocked in act I, her voice just soared above the entire chorus at the climax of the (first?) scene when Nabucco conquers the Hebrews. She was just in great form that night and there was less of that ugly, marble-gargling sound she sometimes had. (This was before her unfortunate Aidas a couple of seasons later, which were just voiceless and atrociously bad.) Then Guleghina a few years later — the sound was leaner back then than today but she was rather “lazy” and refused to do the octave leaps in the first aria. Btw, she was so thin back then, and Gruber as Aida was almost anorexic… Then the fabulous Matos two years ago, just a huge, huge bright sound and no problems with the coloratura at all.

        Btw, they changed the staging the last time! One of the better coups de theatre in this production was Nabucco’s entrance, atop a ram-headed chariot ramming its way through the doors of the Hebrew temple. But now, he simply walks in with two soldiers… I wonder if the chariot had mechanical problems????

  • 14
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    • 14.1
      marshiemarkII says:

      My GOD!!!!!!!! Quanto, where can one get a DVD of this??????????????? I am a dyed in the wool Medea QUeen like no other and this is one of the greatest Only Maria performances that ever existed!
      I must have a DVD

      • 14.1.1
        Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        I don’t know if it was commercially released. It’s a very clever video for sure. You can download it and play it on any number of devices or burn it to plastic if you must, but that will not improve the resolution of the photos.

  • 15
    Famous Quickly says:

    This young woman is clearly the best to come along with a Ukranian background since--leaving aside modesty--me. And I could sing Abdallo *tomorrow*--it’s a question of color and tessitura.

  • 16
    uwsinnyc says:

    the clip is nice- but it is troubling that she is singing Nabucco at all

    I heard her as Aida at the MET earlier this season- the voice was lovely but too many excursions as Nabucco can change that quickly. Plus the voice didn’t have an “edge” despite being large.

  • 17
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Can’t tell the players without a program!

    At least they gave Leonie one of those Devo Whip it hats

  • 18
    Bianca Castafiore says:

    And here’s a very lovely one:

  • 19
    antikitschychick says:

    and here is some much-needed costume advice from dear AN…she tells it like it is!!