Cher Public

Phoning it in

“Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine and Puccini’s Suor Angelica…. Cast Features Nuccia Focile, Rosalind Plowright, Maria Gavrilova in her Seattle Debut”

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    In this brilliant new double bill “Elle” ( the star of the Poulenc piece) tries desperately to contact her lesbian lover Agelica who reclused herself in a convent after she discovered that she had been artificially inseminated by the demented Elle. The scenario is continued in Puccini’s one act opera where we discover that Angelica has secretly been having an affair with Suor Osmina, who used to work as a groundskeeper in a harlem in the middle east before her sex change operation. This is a radical new concept staging by the husband of the famous verista Diana Soviero will be attended by Dr. Frasier Crane, who has been the consulting psycho-pharmacologist for the project.

    • ianw2

      A good start, but I’d like to see some Erwartung worked in there.

      • reedroom

        Too late: Erwartung and Bluebeard double bill was done here in the Lepage production several years ago.

        • ianw2

          No, no I don’t want a double bill I want a three hour pastiche with Joyce DiDonato as Sycorax. And maybe some of the Zorn Machine de l’Etre.

          • Good news: JDD will sing ALL the roles (with a few transpositions) in the new pastiche “Bluebeards Erwartung”, also known as “The Three Faces of Di”.

          • luvtennis

            Correction: ” Three Face of Di-Do…”. Duh.


    • Belfagor

      what cunning little vixens!

  • OperaTeen

    Sort of tired of these “Women on the Verge” double and triple bills. If you’re going to do it, at least pick different operas than these two…

    • ianw2

      Pastiche- c’mon, The Disenchanted Elle- I dare you.

    • Satisfied

      Have you seen many?

    • bassoprofundo

      You’re a teenager, how can you possibly be “tired” of it already?

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Yea, he hasn’t even seen his 500th performance of The Medium yet.

        • Satisfied

          Not really the issue. I’m only a decade-ish past OTeen and, well, my point: let’s not get too cynical too soon.

          ….that, and I sincerely doubt OTeen has seen that many “‘Women on the Verge’ double and triple bills.”

          • Satisfied

            But still love ya boo!

      • whatever

        does one need to experience too much of something first-hand in order to be entitled to conclude that it’s being overdone?

        plus, he did say “sort of” … i don’t have my teen-geezer dictionary to hand, but i think that means something to the young ‘uns.

  • redbear

    The “Vox humaine” was just done at the Comique in Paris with Antonacci. She delivered as usual! The other part of the program was Il Segreto di Suzanna which shows she’s as gifted in comedy as she is in tragedy. At the top of the season here. Speaking of Erwartung, my weekend in Lyon will include three operas on the theme “Justice/Injustice.” The new opera, by Thierry Eschaich, “Claude” is adopted from a Hugo story. The libretto is by 83 year old ex-Minister who was instrumental in ending the death penalty in France. Erwartung is part of a double bill with Il Prigioniero done by Fura dels Baus’ Alex Olle. The Fidelio is by a California video artist (Regie is old hat. Now we have artists giving their impressions of opera -- this one is in outer space -- literally.) You can see why Lyon is a house on the list of finalists for the new Opera Magazine annual awards.

    • redbear

      The new opera, “Claude” is on tomorrow (Thursday) night live 8pm CET

      • oedipe

        I am glad Claude will be on Arte, because the run is sold out in Lyon. Thanks for reminding me about the broadcast.

        But you need to give some more background than this to our Parterre friends, some of whom view the Lyon Opera as merely a place occasionally subsidized by the Met to try out its own projects.

        The 83 year old former Justice minister who wrote the libretto to the opera is Maître Robert Badinter, one of the most important French political thinkers and writers of the post WW2 era. He is and has always been very left wing, outspoken, controversial, and a great fighter against the death penalty. He is married to the equally famous Elisabeth Badinter, one of the most important feminist philosophers since Simone de Beauvoir.

        The libretto is based on a novel by Victor Hugo and deals with the horrors of prisons in the 19th century, but also with the timeless theme of the violence of judicial systems bent on breaking people who don’t “fit in”, as well as the immorality of the death penalty. It is also a love story, between the main character and another prisoner. The production is by Olivier Py and, from what I’ve seen, it looks very good.

        Now, it so happens that the Lyon run is taking place against the background of the Parliament vote to legalize same sex marriage. Needless to say, this added to the “buzz” surrounding the opera, even more so when the current Justice minister, Christiane Taubira, came to Lyon to see one of the performances and was met by a group of vociferous opponents of the new law.

        Why am I going into all these details? For one thing, there is precious little INFO about French language opera that ever crosses the ocean, let alone the operas themselves (Saariaho in homeopathic doses, maybe?); the world of contemporary opera seen from America seems to be largely monolingual, English, with the rare occasional German or Spanish (Latin-American) interlude.

        Here is a taste of it:

        • ianw2

          Actually the issue of contemporary opera, amongst all your usual Marianne butthurt, is an interesting one.

          I certainly think there is less inclination for a company to spend a shitload of money on a commission, which will probably have one heavily-papered run and then disappear, if its not in the audience’s language.

          Adams has tinkered with Spanish and Glass with French, but I can’t think of many other new works which were written in a language other than that of the premiere house (Korean Unsuk Chin wrote in German, but she’d been living there for years and the commission was from Munich; same with Finnish Saariaho and French).

          Daniel Catan! He wrote in Spanish for Houston.

          The only other recent one I can think of is Wainwright’s affected French for Prima Donna, but that did give the Met an excuse to pull out so it all worked in the end.

          Asides from the house’s interest in getting something in their own language, it’s probably also better for composers- who may get two operas in their lifetime if they’re lucky- to be writing in a more familiar language.

          Americans (and Australians) have some the highest percentages of monolingualism in the world, is it really that weird that an American house trumpeting its American commission would want it in English? French composers aren’t exactly lining up to set Greek or Sinhala texts. Worldwide, until you have someone of the Ades-Adams-Saariaho stature, there is a certain amount of provincialism in announcing new work.

          • oedipe

            Not necessarily talking about new commissions. Glass, Adams, Benjamin are being staged in France and and elsewhere in Continental Europe. Birtwistle has been staged in France too. Adès will be staged in Salzburg. There may be other American and British names that I can’t think of right now. Catan, to take a Latin American example, has also been staged in France.

            Aside from Henze, which are the contemporary non-American or non-British composers that are present on American (and Australian, I might add) stages? How many productions of Saariaho’s works have there been? There is nobody of the Adès or Adams stature? Really? How about Peter Eötvös? Or Philippe Boesmans? Are Francesconi or Manoury so inferior to, say, Heggie? Not good enough for America?

            It looks like a one-way street, from America to Eorope, but not vice-versa. (The Brits do show some interest in non-English language operas.)

          • ianw2

            Saariaho has been performed in the US. L’amour de loin was a joint commission between Chatelet and Santa Fe. In fact, Santa Fe have been a very vocal champion of Saariaho, they also programmed Adriana Mater.

            By ‘stature’ I meant international reputation, not necessarily quality (though I think all three are very fine indeed). Adams has long had a front in the Netherlands and the UK as his toehold into Europe (he does not, for example, feature nearly as prominently in Germany and Austria as Ades, who has Rattle as his champion).

            There are thousands of American composers who have no presence in France (or Europe at large). It is a one way street in both directions with a few notable exceptions- the Saariaho, Ades, Adams of the world. Glass is the Beloved Old Man of music now and gets performances everywhere.

            The advantage that British composers- like Birtwistle and Benjamin (and all the way back to Vaughan Williams who studied with Ravel) have is that is geographical, when compared to the US (even more so with Australia, or, god forbid, anywhere in Asia). Its much easier for someone from Lyon or Paris or Aix to check out a work in London or Opera North than it is for them to check out something at St Louis, Long Beach or Chicago Opera Theatre (Santa Fe is a notable exception, but then it happens during northern summer and has a pool). And vice versa.

            While we’re talking one-way streets, it is also fascinating how many American composers chose to study in Paris under fearsome Nadia Boulanger and that was also one way.

            Apart from the international lion of Adams, how many American composers feature on French concert platforms? IRCAM would chuck a fit if someone like Torke, Higdon, Whitacre or Daugherty popped up.

          • oedipe

            French composers aren’t exactly lining up to set Greek or Sinhala texts.

            Philippe Fénelon has lately composed one opera in German and one in Russian. (After that, whether one likes his music or not is another matter; I don’t.)

          • oedipe

            how many American composers feature on French concert platforms?

            Oh, but there was a time when the trendy French ADORED Steve Reich and Morton Feldman, in addition to Glass, of course. And John Cage was God! That was also a time when there was widespread interest among young people (students especially) for contemporary music. Stockhausen and Xenakis had the power and popularity of opinion leaders. Nowadays, not so much.

  • FragendeFrau82

    oedipe, thank you for the additional info and the trailer. But do you really think that prefacing every single post with snide remarks about “some people on Parterre” or “American opera goers” is really the way to interest more people in French opera and French opera singers? Who wants to be condescended to all the time?

    • oedipe


      I see your point of view. But allow me to differ as to WHO is doing the condescending. I found it condescending, for instance, that the only times the Lyon Opera was ever mentioned on Parterre (other than by me or another French-based poster) was to designate it as a playground for Mr.Gelb. I also found it condescending when a poster (no names) told us once that nothing significant has happened in French culture since WW2. There are other examples too. Am I supposed to grin and bear it so as not to disturb some people’s sensibilities and set opinions?

      But let me ask you this: do you find that what I am pointing out is NOT true? Shouldn’t a sad and unfortunate situation, if real, be discussed?

      • scifisci

        Equally sad and unfortunate is the all too true stereotype that the french are condescending and arrogant. Oedipe, let me say that I find your postings to be valuable and often totally in line with my own artistic preferences and sensibilities, but I find the chip on your shoulder to be too large and too annoying to ignore. I happen to be an American who loves french opera (yes, even the baroque!) and culture. In fact, it seems that many here enjoy it though you refuse to believe it. What many French I have known don’t seem to grasp is that America is a “nation” of 300 million people but not a nation in the truest (i.e. French) sense. We are not a homogenous people and especially in the big cities, full of a diversity of backgrounds and cultural heritage. For you to assume everyone on here is some kind of anglo-centric jingoist is beyond ridiculous.

        • oedipe

          No Scifisci, I make no such assumption. I lived in America full time for many many years and I know much more about the country than you think. But there ARE such things are prevailing opinions among groups of people, and the posters here form a “group of people”. Now, if you tell me that my reading of these prevailing opinions is faulty AND I see evidence of this being the case, I would be all too happy to admit that I was wrong. So far, I am rather unconvinced.

          As for homogeneity, things always look more homogeneous from a distance than from closer by: France is NOT a homogeneous country. Not only are there ethnic groups who have lived there for ever but have their own language and cultural heritage (Basques, Bretons, Corses, Alsaciens, etc.), but there are many more recent immigrants from North Africa, Black Africa, Indochina, and so on that represent large percentages of the total population today.

          And just for the fun of it, here is the Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, debating the same-sex marriage law with a right-wing opponent in Parliament:

          • scifisci

            yes Oedipe I’m well acquainted with the diversity of france. That you have a population of formerly colonized peoples in and of itself does not mean much. My point can be summed up like this. As any non-caucasian person has experienced, even if you stick only to major cultural centers in continental europe, you will invariably have to suffer some casual indignity that in the US may happen also, yet here it would be considered racism, whereas where you live it is simply accepted. Exhibit A would be the link on the other thread to a german ad for nagano conducting parsifal where wagner has “chinky eyes”. ANYWAYS, none of this was my main purpose in responding to your post in the first place. I think you should perhaps be open to the idea that any anti-french sentiment here on parterre may a) be in your head or b) be the direct result of the chip on your shoulder.

          • oedipe

            even if you stick only to major cultural centers in continental europe, you will invariably have to suffer some casual indignity that in the US may happen also, yet here it would be considered racism, whereas where you live it is simply accepted.

            How can you make such a sweeping statement, without any solid factual basis, with more than a hint of a superiority complex and, in the same paragraph, tell me that if I EVER see condescension or arrogance with respect to France on Parterre it’s either “all in my head”, or “a chip on my shoulder”?

          • rapt

            scifisci, your portrayal of France seems to me unfair (as must any that generalizes so broadly about the character of an entire population). Eugen Weber’s Peasants into Frenchmen might clue you in to some of the diversity that oedipe speaks of, which predates and coexists with the issue of post-colonial immigration. It sounds as if you might have had some painful experiences in France, for which I’m sorry; but making claims about a unified national character seems to me a dangerous kind of response to pain. As for contesting relationships to racism, I suspect that these relationships are just as complex in France as in the US.

          • A. Poggia Turra

            Speaking of French political matters, is there any truth to the rumor that Veronique Gens is preparing to run for the French National Assembly on the ticket of the far-right National Front?

          • oedipe

            Beats me!

          • Buster

            Of course not, Veronique Genest you mean?

          • rapt
          • scifisci

            I really don’t see how what I’ve written is so inflammatory. I mean come on there are entire legitimate political parties in Europe that push a white supremacist agenda. And god help you if you wear a headscarf. It always amuses me to see how outraged people, especially Europeans, get when confronted with their own blatantly obvious racism. That’s not to say every European is racist but rather that it is a pervasive strand in European culture. And rapt, thank you for your concern it is very much not appreciated. I’m neither a child nor a wilting violet and I can assure you any unpleasantness I have experienced personally is dealt with on the spot.
            Oedipe, as with all great prevaricators, you have managed to still evade the issue.

          • oedipe

            Gens, Geneste, même Geannette, n’est-ce pas!

          • bassoprofundo

            scifisci: anyone who thinks racism isn’t widespread in Europe has probably never spent any amount of time there. But of course, the “racism” in Europe isn’t the same as the “racism” in the States. It confuses people, so they tend to make comments about things they don’t understand. Just as an example: almost everywhere I have spent time in Europe, gypsies are generally hated and scorned. It’s not even controversial; almost everyone feels disgust at gypsies. They don’t think of it as “racism.” It’s just their way of life.

          • armerjacquino

            Ah yes, ‘Europe’. That homogenised entity. Thank god nobody is making any ignorant generalisations in this discussion of racism.

          • bassoprofundo

            I’m comfortable making that generalized statement about Europe on this occasion, yes. Generalizations aren’t always wrong.

          • oedipe


            What makes you feel so confident about America’s superiority to Western Europe -and France in particular- in attitudes toward racism? And since you’ve touched on the subject, do you have these feelings of American superiority in other areas, such as the quality of education, access to health care, access to culture, social justice?

          • armerjacquino

            I’d get a little less comfortable if I were you, basso.

            I don’t presume to speak for the whole of Europe, but your statement “gypsies are generally hated and scorned. It’s not even controversial; almost everyone feels disgust at gypsies. They don’t think of it as “racism.” It’s just their way of life.” is egregiously, offensively untrue of the part of Europe I live in. Like everywhere, there’s the odd racist idiot, but travellers’ rights are enshrined in law here and racism against them is just as taboo as any other kind. So that leads me to conclude that you don’t have a fucking clue what you’re talking about. Capital G in Gypsy, by the way, unless you’re trying to be offensive.

            I’ve been to New York a few times. By your logic that would seem to make me an expert on Missouri.

          • ianw2

            Oh, and can’t we just agree that every country is racist in its own special way?

            And that everyone is just as prickly about it when the spotlight turns on them?

          • Nerva Nelli

            Maybe it isn’t Veronique Gens but Rocker Verastique who’s joining le Pen???

          • scifisci

            oedipe don’t try to put me into your jingoistic american box cuz I don’t fit. Firstly, when did I ever say anything about American superiority? You seem to be reading that in everything I write…perhaps that says more about you than about anything i’ve written. Regarding racism, we have it here too but as I pointed out it’s different and less overtly acceptable. Regarding healthcare, appreciation of high culture, education, the environment and infrastructure, I am very much the first to point out the US’s deficiencies in these areas compared to other countries, especially those of western europe. As someone who has lived in major cities around the world, I believe I have quite a balanced and perhaps too harsh view of the US. Again, my main point out of all of this is that you are treating every american on here like some caricature, and it is very much not appreciated.

        • DonCarloFanatic

          Just put me down as “some kind of anglo-centric jingoist.”

          The U.S. is a BIG country. Some of us never get to another continent because it takes a lifetime to explore this one. Do people post on Parterre claiming a sense of ill-usage because the San Diego Opera isn’t mentioned often?

          Never been to Lyon. What happened to the final “s,” by the way?

          • manou

            Like Marseille, Lyon never had a final “s”. But that is small beer net to the fact that Egypt, in Arabic, is called Masr. And Cairo is also called Masr in the vernacular.

            Confused? You will be.

          • manou


          • oedipe

            There was never a “final s”.

            It is not a question of Lyon not being mentioned often, it is a question of it being mentioned CONDESCENDINGLY, the rare instances when it WAS mentioned.

            Do you think ignorance is bliss?

          • ianw2

            Masr/Egypt is nothing compared to the Monaco/Munich italiano conundrum or Mexico/Mexique.

            But I live in a place which considers Woolloomooloo a legitimate place name.

  • mozartFreak

    Excuse me? Are all you people in New York, London, Vienna, and so forth just being snobby and bitchy? I live in the Pacific Northwest. La Voix Humaine has never been presented by either Portland Opera or Seattle Opera. I love Poulenc, and would gladly sit through Suor Angelica to see “Voix.” For more Poulenc information, neither company has presented Dialogue of the Carmelites more than once. There are opera lovers other places than New York/London/Vienna/Paris. Have a heart and don’t be so snarky when a regional company presents a rarity!

    • Camille

      Only once? Then I feel fortunate to have caught that performance of the Carmélites in Seattle back in about ’90. It stood way above the one I saw at the MET about ten years thereafter, and had just been recalling of late those performances, in light of the upcoming trio of performances at the Metropolitan. I saw a lot of things in Seattle at one time and some of them were meh, and some were pretty good, and a couple, this Carmélites and the Rusalka were as good as or better than their Met representations.

      You never can tell where you will find something unique, unusual, or even blindingly good and oughtn’t to rule out performances in out of the way or regional houses.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    … Drittens das Boxen nicht vergessen:

    • Batty Masetto

      Thanks a million, Quanto, for this little dose of the old Parterre spirit. Things have been so snarly-gnarly around Parterre just lately that I’ve found myself seriously missing the musically literate fun that used to be one of our hallmarks.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        I’m always searching for interesting Youtubies and there are thousands of them. You’re welcome. This one is relevant because it’s never performed, but could be part of an interesting double or tripple bill.

        • Camille

          Yes, very interesting, QPF.
          Perhaps it could be done with just the concluding scene of Fanciulla “Una partita a poker, se vincete…”

          Swear to g-d the “Arbitro” sounds a lot like Ira Siff and I think his line
          “Quando Vi dico “break” — Separatevi” should become La Cieca’s new byline.

        • Batty Masetto

          It’s absolutely hilarious, besides being fun music, but I can’t see a non-Italian cast and chorus bringing it off, can you?

          • bluecabochon

            “Boxe Ragazzi!” That will be my rallying cry from now on. :)

          • Batty Masetto

            For the time being at least, I think mine’s gonna be “ma quando sòna er gonge?”

      • marshiemarkII

        Carisssssimo Batty, don’t know if you saw my paeans to you, in some earlier thread, but I just LOOOOOVED so much your contributions to the Parsifal threads, I learned so much from them!

        • Batty Masetto

          Why thank you, Marshie. It was all done aus Liebe zur Sache.

    • Here is your companion piece. Is there such a genre as “Historic Camp”?

  • Will

    Question concerning the MET’s Carmen revival this year: did Andrew Richards show up and sing his scheduled performances and, if he did, how did he do? I don’t recall seeing comment here, and there seems to have been no Times notice. Thanks for any info.

    • Camille

      Will, yes, he did show up and sing one performance -- the debut -- quite sick --there was the usual bitching and moaning and groaning about it, but it was established that he was really sick and not “ill”. I am thinking he did sing a subsequent performance but not truly sure about that. Someone else can perhaps fill you in. Perhaps la diva zinka knows--just trying to get the ball rolling on this one. I felt truly sorry for the guy.

      • tinhtraiviet

        Andrew Richards only sang one performance of Carmen (broadcast on SirusXM). For his second scheduled performance he was replaced by Jose Cura.

  • Will

    Thanks, Camille and tinhtraiviet. His recent history has been full of withdrawal and cancellation. His work in Europe has been successful in the past in repertory where we need successful tenors, but something seems to be very wrong these days.

    • louannd

      I don’t read German but it looks like Andrew Richards is currently performing in Bieito’s production of Parsifal in Stuttgart. He is still listed in the cast for an April 14th performance and into May.