Cher Public


Here, for the first time in 40 years, the CBS telecast of the April 21-22 gala honoring the retirement of Sir Rudolf Bing.

  • La Valkyrietta

    Roberta Peters was a wonderful Gilda, among other roles. I still remember the marvelous sound of Sherrill Milnes the first time I heard him as the herald in Lohengrin. What a joy the Bing era was for a lover of opera, and by that I mean principally of great singing, not of a bunch of nonsense on stage. After having gone to Rigoletto and Die Walküre at the Met this week, I particularly miss Bing. Thanks for the clip, and thanks for the memories.

    • armerjacquino

      ” by that I mean principally of great singing, not of a bunch of nonsense on stage”

      I know someone you’d get on with.

      • oedipe

        I can actually think of a bunch of people, Armer.

        • La Valkyrietta

          Yes, I’m sure. To be not totally unfair, Stephanie and Martina, for example, were great to see last night, but the comparison favorable to Bing stands. Also, someone who knows Luisi should perhaps grate some ginger in whatever he drinks :).

          • Bianca Castafiore

            La Val, did you not like Dalayman? I was not terribly impressed by Serafin, who was good but not memorable in my view, but Dalayman really woke me up (it was a rather perfunctory performance overall). Serafin was however better than the Siegmund and Wotan though…

          • La Valkyrietta


            I did like Dalayman… My objections to her have more to do with stage business than singing. For example, in her appearance to Siegmund, she comes quickly on stage from the left and advances briskly some three or four meters before starting to sing. Callas said, “Do not move your hand unless you follow it with your heart and with your soul”. That dictum she meant to apply to legs and feet too, I’m sure. Still, I liked the way Dalayman sang that scene. It was not a memorable evening, but I have indeed seen worse. I think the conducting and the stage business could be improved by the same artists. Sometimes I think the machine demands too much attention, or distracts it, and the artists maybe think the machine will carry them, and it doesn’t. It is still monstrous, it is still noisy when it moves. The machine kills artistic creativity.

  • A. Poggia Turra

    Programming note:

    Today at 19:30 CEST, Nebs Dmitri and Dmitry under Nelsons in Eugene Onegin live from the Wiener Staatsoper on ORF OE1:

    • redbear

      I went there and there was also a button to get the last seven days of programming in high quality sound. Concerts literally every afternoon and night. On France Musique you can do the same for thirty days. Click on “Concerts.” “Sunday in the Park with George” is up with the composer’s new orchestration for full orchestra -- only one sample. I guess there are others national stations around. You can never have a moment without music for the rest of your life!

  • MontyNostry

    The photo at the top of this thread is fascinating. Moffo seems to have made sure to place herself centre stage, highly visible in white, while Price and Rysanek seem to be shrinking violets at the edge of the stage. (I guess those two never sang together. Just imagine the top notes that would have been flying around!) Who is that in red next to Moffo?

    • rapt

      Perhaps Gabriela Tucci?

      • MontyNostry

        Having checked with Google images, I think you could be right, rapt. I wouldn’t recognise either her face or her voice. Having watched the tail end of the video, I would say Moffo definitely saw her positioning as strategic! I prefer the shot from an angle where Bing is more or less framed by Grace and Leontyne.

        • Simon Blackmouth

          Wasn’t this staged? Wasn’t everyone assigned places by either the director, Sidney Smith, or Met management?

    • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

      The lady in red is Gabriella Tucci. I haven’t read all the posts so if someone has already mentioned this, please ignore. Renata Tebaldi was scheduled and announced to sing the OTELLO duet with Corelli and Dr. Bohm. I don’t remember the exact reason now, but I believe she was ill and cancelled. Zylis-Gara substituted for Tebaldi in the OTELLO duet.

  • La Valkyrietta

    He was not free of sin, and the biggest one in my book was not telling La Divina, “mi casa es su casa”, but the ovation by the public and by singers received on his farewell gala was well deserved.

    • An equally big sin of his was casting Hans Hotter (while in his prime) predominantly as a bass. The greatest Wotan of his time sang exactly two performances of Rheingold. He was cast as Hunding (!) in Walküre.

      Hotter did get to sing Dutchman in Bing’s first season but for all I know, that bit of casting was already in the books by the time of Sir Rudolph’s arrival. A huge blind spot for the celebrated impresario.

      • La Valkyrietta


        Yes, I agree, good Wotans are hard to come by, and outstanding ones should be strongly pursued by opera managers. I can think of other sins, how about not renewing the contract of Helen Traubel in 53? A last act of Walküre with her and Hotter is what opera dreams are made of. Still, I rather remember Bing for the good, and there was much of it.

        Your recommending the current Sieglinde, Martina Serafin, was spot on, thank you. I went last night, she was well worth listening live.

        Another opera dream…Maria as Brünhilde and Leonie as Sieglinde…

        • Podlesmania

          Where did I read that Legge wanted to record Callas’ Brünnhilde & Tebaldi’ Sieglinde? Maybe in here in Parterre…

          • Probably in one of the self-serving and almost completely fictional interviews Legge so often gave later in life.

          • Podlesmania

            Here, cara Cieca, I found the article, I knew I didn’t dream about it! is from the time of Tebaldi’s demise:

          • armerjacquino

            Some bizarre writing there. I love the reference to Tebaldi’s childhood polio followed by the line ‘She actually survived’. No kidding!

          • Podlesmania


        • Oh yes, Hotter and Traubel in Walküre would’ve been the greatest. Bing was much better to Verdi than he was to Wagner (a reflection of his personal musical tastes).

          Glad you liked Serafin. I liked her on the broadcast but it sounds like other members of the cher public who were there last night weren’t terribly impressed. And it appears that Delevan comes across better on the radio than in-house.

        • I can think of other sins, how about not renewing the contract of Helen Traubel in 53?

          Traubel broke the “exclusivity” clause in her contract, which specified that she had to obtain permission from the Met to perform in the New York area during the Met season. (These were nightclub appearances, not opera performances, but still she was technically in violation of the terms of her contract.) She didn’t sing opera again anywhere after 1953 so far as I can tell, so it seems that Bing’s assessment of her future with the company was fairly prescient.

          Furthermore, all we know if that there was no agreement between the Met and Traubel for 1953-54 or afterward, not that there was no offer. Bing may have offered a contract that Traubel turned down.

          • RosinaLeckermaul

            Traubel used to appear on tv clowning around with Jimmy Durante. Bing thought that was undignified. He also temporarily fired Robert Merrill for appearing in the film ARRON SLICK FROM PUMPKIN CREEK.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor

          • la vociaccia

            In her appearance on What’s my line, when asked whether or not she is an opera singer, Traubel responds: “Some say I is, and some say I isn’t,” and then when asked if she sang at the Met…well watch it yourself. she’s a scream

          • La Valkyrietta


            I thought Serafin was wonderful in the first act. At one point even Leonie came to mind and I thought I would faint if se screamed when Nothung was retrieved. She was also quite good in the second act. It was in the third act that she disappointed me a bit. Maybe tired? Things happen. I put the blame on the tenor and the conductor. I liked Delavan more in the second act than in the third. Perhaps he was better the day the opera was broadcasted.

            La Cieca,

            I don’t remember details on contracts between the Met and Traubel, which I possibly have read. She was singing in night clubs and even did a Broadway musical and most probably all that was beyond the allowed limits. I just think in 53 she was extraordinary. She did an MGM musical in 1954, ‘Deep in My Heart’, and her rendition there of the song ‘ Softly’ is priceless. Had I been the Met manager, I would hound all available funds to offer Helen more money than clubs or Broadway. But I know, it is easier said than done when you actually have the job.

            Still. Did Bing fire Melchior? He might have. Melchior also liked Hollywood.

          • Camille

            And this to consider, she was born in 1899. By 1953-54 she was perhaps tired of the heavy sledding involved with Wagner.

    • The_Kid

      i can think of quite a few things bing did wrong:

      1. firing traubel and melchior. ok, traubel was maybe replaceable, but melchior wasn’t. like that crazy sorority girl wrote: YOU. DO. NOT. DO. IT. You do not fire the Heldentenor of the Century just to make a point.

      2. i know beverly sills isn’t a big favorite here, but there seems to have been no reason to not hire her when she was in her prime except for bing’s whims.

      3. firing astrid varnay, which left the met with only margaret harshaw as heldensopran until nilsson took over.

      4. saying stupid stuff about singers’ levels of education in interviews (i read this in a book, and beverly sills ripped him a new one for this comment)

      other things that i find odd:

      1. insistence on hiring flagstad (although at that point she didn’t bring anything to the table that varnay and traubel couldn’t have).
      2. not hiring gertrud grob-prandl when nilsson stayed away from the US….is this chronologically right, BTW? not sure….
      3. hiring those dreadful Mittel Europa Mezzos, while ignoring local talent.
      4. also, didn’t talented ‘house-singers’ like Steber and Munsel get a raw deal from him?

      Comments from people in the know will be appreciated!

      • Again. Melchior was 60 during Bing’s first season and well past his prime. He refused to attend rehearsals, which put Bing in the position either of saying Melchior was a special case, more important than other singers, or else de facto declaring that attendance at rehearsals was optional.

        Like Traubel, Melchior never sang opera again after leaving the Met. In other words, Bing was the last one to give them a job in opera.

        Sills was a blind spot on Bing’s part, but I think at least part of that is hindsight. The last time he sat down to plan a season was 1970-71, at which point Sills had only recently made her big international breakthrough at La Scala. Other than that, she was essentially a star of the New York City Opera with a very hard-working press agent. He had on his roster two star sopranos who sang Sills’s repertoire, Caballe and (especially) Sutherland, and for all we know there was pressure from Sutherland’s management to keep Sills out of the house. Bing did make a couple of beginner-type offers, the sort of contracts most singers are offered for a first Met appearance, and Sills turned them down. I don’t think by 1970 everyone was so sure that Sills would be a superstar; at that point she was still something of a ”
        well kept secret” at NYCO.

        Varnay he should have kept on, but apparently he just didn’t get her. Bing did hire Martha Mödl for three seasons.

        The tactless interviews were tactless, but General Managers can either be namby-pamby and noncomittal or else they can be opinionated. Guess which type of GM gets more media coverage for his theater?

        Kirsten Flagstad was an immense star internationally, a favorite Met artist who had been absent from the theater for a decade, and very much in the news due to the political disgrace of her husband. Hiring her meant bringing a great artist to the Met in the Indian summer of her career, presenting a hot ticket, and, perhaps not least, making a political statement that the Met was dedicated to art and not to political prejudice. (The later presentation of Marian Anderson had a similar symbolic weight.)

        Nilsson cut back on her Met appearances in part as a result of the debacle of the Karajan Ring, which first lost its conductor-stage director and then had the Siegfried postponed by the fall 1969 strike. She continued to sing at the Met through the spring of 1975, three years after Bing’s departure, at which time she canceled further engagements in the US due to problems with the IRS. At any rate, Nilsson’s absence from the Met was not Bing’s doing and therefore finding a substitute for her was obviously not his responsibility.

        The mezzos were a way of saving money, or maybe someone liked how they sounded. You can point to similar weaknesses in any opera house at any time.

        Those talented “house singers” in my opinion got new leases on life from Bing. Steber was a sort of general-use soprano and Munsel a second-tier coloratura before Bing. He refocused Steber’s career as an artistic Mozart/Strauss singer. She sang five new productions including three Met premieres in her first 10 years at Bing’s Met.

        Munsel transitioned into a singing-actress soubrette, with four important new productions and 100 performances over her next eight seasons.

        Let’s remember too that Bing brought Renata Tebaldi to the Met, which is one thing, but also kept here there for 18 seasons and over 270 performances, a longer tenure than she had in any other opera house in the world. And that example can be repeated over and over again: Cesare Siepi, Joan Sutherland, Birgit NIlsson, Franco Corelli…

        • La Valkyrietta

          It should be mentioned that Sills was a big favorite in Boston, very popular. I remember seeing her many times at the Boston Opera in Norma, Traviata, Lucia. Also she appeared at Tanglewood, In Abduction. I think with Bing there was some complication with the three queens that decided matters. Bing had planned the three Donnizetti operas with Caballé, but NYC Opera and Capobianco got ahead and did them first. Bing was furious and cancelled that plan as at the time two sets of triple queens did not seem commercially feasible. That might be the reason Sills ended up not making her Met debut during his tenure.

          The wonderful aspect of Bing’s times is the singers he brought. I remember Simionato as Amneris, for example. Or the first Mozart I ever saw live, with Lisa Della Casa. The delight of a Berganza Cherubino. Elizabeth Soderstrom. A constellation indeed! The Gala is a fabulous sample, but there was even more in those years. Thanks, Bing.

          • Interesting about Bing’s plans for Caballe’s Tudor Queens. We have her Maria Stuarda and Elisabetta from her prime but not her Anna Bolena (which came too late).

            As ever, La Cieca’s erudition on Bing’s tenure is appreciated.

          • Bing had planned the three Donnizetti operas with Caballé

            Or so he said, later. In fact, during her long career at the Met, Caballé sang exactly two new productions, and only one of them (Luisa Miller) on Bing’s watch. If the Met and Caballé had been both really keen on presenting bel canto in New York, they could have done Lucrezia Borgia, Il pirata or La donna del lago, but the only other project devised for the soprano at the Met was Vespri siciliani (which was a late substitution for a new production of Un ballo in maschera in 1974.

            I think it far more likely that the “Queen” operas were among a lot of other projects in casual discussion but no real plans were made for whatever reason. When it came to to write a self-justifying memoir, Bing took the tack of “oh we had all sorts of lovely things in the works for Miss Caballé before that naughty Beverly Sills screwed everything up.”

        • armerjacquino

          I don’t think by 1970 everyone was so sure that Sills would be a superstar; at that point she was still something of a ”
          well kept secret” at NYCO.

          This is fascinating. By the time I came to opera Sills had retired, but I’ve always been under the impression that she became a star with the NYCO CESARE scheduled opposite the opening of the New Met- cover of TIME magazine and all that. Am I just falling for the mythology?

          • The Time cover was in November 1971, that is, after Bing’s final season at the Met had already begun. Note that even with negotiations between Sills and the incoming Gentele starting as early as 1971 (during his “observation” year with the company) her actual debut with the Met had to wait three more seasons, until the spring of 1975, so busy was her schedule by then. Between 1969 and 1971 Sills made the transition from “very important singer to watch” to “superstar.”

            “Nov. 22, 1971”

          • Camille

            And I remember another magazine cover --was it not Newsweek? — from the summer of 1969, emblazoned with the legend “Yankee Doodle Diva”, or some such nonsense.

            As well, I remember my first sighting of Sills, in the fall of 1967 in a music department of a school in Los Angeles, a poster advertising her in Giulio Cesare. She was a very BIG deal out in L.A., from that time on and Bernheimer wrote her the most fulsome and extravagant reviews—the kind which would have made even TT blush.

            So, not that well-kept a secret. Even in the wilde, wilde West.

          • manou
        • Tubsinger

          Judy Garland “revived” vaudeville, in her engagement at the Palace, which ran from October, 1951 to the following February. (It had been strictly an RKO movie house since 1932.) There’s a pirated recording from her closing night, where she introduces Melchior and welcomes him up to the stage, as he was slated to take over from her with some sort of personal appearance. He joked with the audience about his opera career at the Met, something about having ‘come in with a bang, and going out with a Bing.’ The audience laughed, knowing about the public altercation between Bing and certain singers. Melchior was many seasons away from his prime at that age, to La Cieca’s point, but Bing did tend to have a sniffy attitude as to “his” singers appearing in popular entertainment. Not sure how he would have cottoned to Flagstad appearing in Bob Hope’s movie, in the mid-30s, singing Brunhilde’s entrance…

        • The Vicar of John Wakefield

          “And that example can be repeated over and over again: Cesare Siepi, Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilsson, Franco Corelli…”

          Yet just one performance for Michael Langdon, a mere handful for Monica Sinclair and none for Shacklock, Shuard or Shaw!

      • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

        I can think of a lot of things we’ve all “done wrong”, certainly including myself. Bing is dead and unable to defend himself. I worked with him a little and he was a fascinating and remarkable man, of superior intelligence, unbelievable charm (half Viennese/half dry British), devastating humor and the kind of gentlemanly, courtly manners, and for lack of a better word, “class” that simply doesn’t exist anymore. He was neither saint nor devil. He was an active, living presence to me, not something out of an history book.

        Melchior (whom I worship) was no longer young (vocally or otherwise), was tending towards obesity and no longer cut a particularly heroic, theatrical figure onstage (Bing had announced he was trying to bring improved theatrical values to the opera), was identified with the l’ancient regime at the Met, hated to rehearse, and already was dabbling with nightclubs, Hollywood and various clowning appearances on TV: all factors calculated to not exactly put him at the top of Bing’s “retain” list. I can’t remember exact details but I believe Bing did not take action until Melchior actively flaunted some specific, reasonable term of his contract. Bing was new and establishing his Management. Melchior was openly rebellious and uncooperative. Bing made an example of him, which was a calculated (perhaps regrettable) but understandable managerial decision, especially given that this was not the prime Melchior of the mid-1930s.

        Kirsten Flagstad had been absent from the Met and the USA for many years. To a degree not remembered today, there was public and press controversy about her return but her name (and voice) still brought incredible, almost unimaginable lustre to the Met’s roster. Flagstad insisted as a condition of her return that Traubel be given her own RING Cycle, to which Bing complied. Bing said it best himself: “Asked by the press to justify my action, I said simply that the world’s greatest soprano should sing in the world’s greatest opera house.” Personally, I would have been thrilled to hear Flagstad in 1951, whatever she “brought to the table”.

        Sills: In a different way, Bing missed the boat, misunderstood and mishandled Sills as he did with Callas. However Bing was BIG. He made a few very BIG mistakes. But one has to balance out the extraordinarily high general level of his 22-year regime with the few blunders, Callas probably being the most massive. First of all Sills, after being around and suffering a long slog of never quite making it into the bigtime, was just hitting the bigtime as Bing was getting ready to retire. She was not yet quite the “superstar” she ultimately became. He just may not have liked her and her entourage. The public image of “Bubbles” was exactly that, a public image. She was very talented but incredibly ambitious and had a very powerful management/public relations team which leaned heavily on lots of gaudy press coverage, which Bing may have found distasteful. Or it just may have been something he didn’t want to have to deal with, especially at the end of his regime when he was, I think, a bit tired of it all. He also had Sutherland in his back pocket and may have simply felt no urgent need. Sills and Bing ended up on friendly speaking terms.

        Nilsson was on board from 1959-1972, a very long time, devoting large swaths of her yearly calendar to the Met, at undoubtedly stupendous financial cost to Bing, but she was worth every penny. She stayed on a few years after Bing retired but then taxes kept her out of the States for awhile. It’s not like there weren’t other Wagner sopranos on Bing’s roster before and during Birgit’s reign: Modl, Varnay, Bjoner, Välkki, Rysanek, Harshaw, Traubel, Borkh, Goltz, Nordmo-Lövberg, Crespin, Grummer, Lippert, Schroder-Feinen, Ligendza, Meier, Silja, and many others were all there at one point or another. Few stay or last as long as a Nilsson.

        Mittel Europa Mezzos? Ignoring local talent? Like Irene Dalis who was in every goddamn broadcast? Mignon Dunn, Nan Merriman, Jeanne Madeira, Rosalind Elias, Mildred Miller, Sandra Warfield, Nell Rankin, Shirley Love, Marcia Baldwin, Nedda Casei, later Grace Bumbry, Shirley Verrett, Jackie Horne? Oh, and Marian Anderson?

        The public comments about singers’ education/intelligence were terribly unfortunate and mistakes. He should have remained silent.

        I don’t know if Bing ever entered into serious negotiations with Grob-Prandl but she claimed in her Rasponi interview that she never lacked for a full calendar of European and South American engagements and was constantly busy to the point of overwork. She probably was simply already under contract somewhere else. She never sang at Bayreuth either as she was always booked elsewhere. I think she even said in the Rasponi book, “The Met had Nilsson, they didn’t need me.” Or words to that effect.

        Until Steber became older and hard to handle she had a fine career under Bing’s regime with many plums (VANESSA – world premiere), new productions (COSI, ARABELLA), Saturday afternoon broadcasts, good casts, good conductors, etc.

        • Nerva Nelli

          Much of what you say about Bing is true, but in re mezzos…

          Nan Merriman never sang at the Met; Mignon Dunn, Marilyn Horne and Shirley Verrett all three talked in Stephen Rubin’s THE NEW MET about how the Bing regime had belittled and ignored them (while honoring Elena Cernei and her ilk), Warfield ( not a major voice) was hardly encouraged by them either, and only returned for a handful of Dalilas, mainly in the Parks, because her husband James McCracken had a bit of clout.

          Resnik too was in her mezzo years initially undercast by Bing, as she has said so often!
          Hence, Jane Rhodes, Belen Amparan and the underpowered-for-the-house Kerstin Meyer as Carmen.

          Bing eventually saw the point of keeping Dorothy Kirsten around (he had let her contract drop) since Rigal and Stella and some of his other imports did not work out as he had hoped.

      • The_Kid

        oh, and what’s the story with eileen farrell?

        • WindyCityOperaman

          Eileen said no to Bing too many times according to her autobio. The last straw was the premiere of Berg’s Wozzeck -- he wanted her for Marie (she had already made the premiere recording in German) and she didn’t want to relearn it in English. It didn’t sound like she was too crazy about him in the first place.

  • zinka

    Resnik “stole it’ with the hilarious “Chacun a Bing’s gout’ and Nilsson’s Salome finale was stupendous…..It was a great night.

    • armerjacquino

      No argument re: the Salome finale. But I think the Resnik number must have been one of those ‘had to be there’ moments. The rewritten lyrics just ain’t funny.

      • MontyNostry

        … perhaps the colour and tessitura no longer suited her.

  • Bianca Castafiore

    I have not watched the video yet but I remember once owning this on LP. Also, I recall seeing a color photo of the final stage tableau in Opera News magazine and so proud I could identify some singers. From the tiny pic above, I can even tell Paul Plishka in the second row (it’s that hair!).

  • zinka

    Regina’s Takeoff on Bing was HILARIOUS….One of the funniest lines was “but ask Corelli TWWWWICE>” The way she says “TWWWS” was so funny….She came out as Orlovsky..It was a great night!!!!!

  • zinka

    Merrill’s “Finalmente” was STEREO!! Tucker’s toupee was bought on sale at the 99 cent store..BUT LORD..NOTHING like this today..NOTHING!!!!!!

    • MontyNostry

      One of my all-time YouTube favourites. They always make me thing of two ganze machers from Scarsdale having an argument outside shul — but the singing and the passion! What I wouldn’t give to hear that kind of thing live these days!

  • armerjacquino

    Oliviers: Best opera production goes to EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH at the Barbican. Outstanding achievement in opera to Hymel for LES TROYENS.

    • armerjacquino

      Oops, wrong place.

  • Krunoslav

    My first Met diva, when I was barely sentient: Martina Arroyo in ERNANI! With, um, Corelli, Milnes and Giaotti.

    First Met diva performance I actually remember: Crespin as Carmen! With, um, Domingo, van Dam and Ricciarelli.

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Speaking of Roberta, look what I found!

    She also touted Maxwell House and American Express in her time. BTW, how has she been feeling lately?

    I want to commend OperaTeen on learning about singers of the past. Years ago I knew a young man who was well-versed in post-WWII Italian divae and was knowledgeable about all the singers who debuted at the Lyric in the 1950s. By the same token an accompanist friend of mine had a pupil who didn’t know who Joan Sutherland was. Wow!

    • MontyNostry

      That comment about ignorance of Joanie reminds me of an article I read about the (serious) Australian-born composer Brett Dean. As far as I remember, he was writing his first opera, Bliss, premiered in 2010. He wanted to write a trio and needed some pointers on how best to do it, so someone suggested he take a listen to a forgettable little number from Rosenkavalier. Apparently he had never heard it.

      • wesherd

        Be that as it may (he WAS seen in a performance of Rosenkavalier in Berlin late in 2012), the trio in Bliss ended up being one of the highlights.
        And, as we know, Hab’ mir’s gelobt also inspired Britten to pen some of his most inspired music (the ladies quartet from Peter Grimes).
        AND, being THAT as it may, how should a contemporary composer busy with his own composition and promotion find time to investigate the (for many of us) standard operatic repertoire anyway?.
        All the best music has already been written (although Mr. Dean’s latest oeuvre about the last days of Socrates was very impressive), and I’m very happy to busy myself with what we already have.

        • All the best music has already been written

          How many people, over the centuries, have said exactly this? Some people even said this before Der Rosenkavalier had been written!

          • wesherd

            WE are not living before the time of Rosenkavalier!

          • MontyNostry

            I just think the Rosenkavalier Trio is a great piece of music (I’m not saying everything in the entire opera is great) that every musically literate person -- particularly a professional musician who is undertaking to **write** an opera -- should know, even if not intimately. It’s a bit like saying you don’t know the Moonlight Sonata.

          • I think you missed my point. Le me try again. People have been predicting the end of the world for a couple thousand years. Hasn’t happened yet.

            People have been saying “the best music has already been written” for hundreds of years as well. Older generations routinely look askance at the work of younger composers. So when I hear someone say “the best music has already been written”, I don’t feel like I’ve learned something about the actual state of music today. Instead, I’ve only learned something about the mindset of the person who writes that phrase.

      • ianw2

        Before he become a full time composer he played viola in that little scratch band the Berlin Phil. I’m reasonably certain he’d come across some Strauss in his time, even if it wasn’t the Opera Greatest Hits. There isn’t a set curriculum for writing an opera (why stop at that trio? can one truly write a love duet without ample study of Pur ti miro?)

        • MontyNostry

          ianw2 -- I knew that Dean had been in the Berlin Phil. Even more reason for being surprised at his ignorance of the Trio (I can’t remember if Poppea came up in the article too).

          • ianw2

            A lot of composers write viola music without spending time with the Hindemith sonatas (or harp pieces without settling down with some of the interminable Salzedo). I don’t really think the idea that a composer ‘ought’ to know certain repertoire before they attempt to join it is a strong one.

            As it turns out, a lot do, but even then if you compared their lists they’d probably be vastly different in content. To paint Dean as musically ignorant because he supposedly didn’t, off the top of his head, identify the Rosenkavalier trio seems a pretty cheap shot.

          • MontyNostry

            Anyway, I wasn’t saying there was a curriculum for writing opera, it’s just that it astonished me that he should never have heard one of opera’s greatest hits -- and a piece that always used to be a staple of the more cultured interviewees’ lists on middlebrow mainstay Desert Island Discs.
            And admitting to it in an interview!
            (I will refrain from coming out with any dodgy viola jokes, though.)

  • wesherd

    By the way Monty, Brett Dean is writing a Hamlet for Glyndebourne.

    • MontyNostry

      Do you think he’s ever listened to anything by Ambroise Thomas, then?

      • ianw2

        Why on earth would anyone want to do that?

        • Belfagor

          Ambroise Thomas didn’t write Hamlet, he wrote Omelette…least that’s what it sounded like the only time I ever heard it sung (at ROH with Keenlyside and a fresher voiced Dessay)……and remember what Chabrier said

          ‘There are three types of music: Good music, bad music, and Amboise Thomas’s music’.

          Brett Dean will face competition from Franco Faccio (libretto by Boito no less), Thomas, and Humphrey Searle

        • ianw2

          I owe an apology! For some reason I read ‘Hamlet’ as ‘Hansel und Gretel’ (no, I have absolutely no idea how either).

          So that does make Thomas a slightly more logical choice, if only for a What Not To Do With Hamlet. But Thomas’ Hamlet has about as much relationship to the play as Giulio has to Pliny the Elder, and there’s nothing in the music that other composers didn’t do so much better. I’m still convinced that the only reason Thomas did Hamlet was because he wanted to do Ophelia’s mad scene (admittedly, a lip-smackingly good temptation for many a composer) and had to figure out what to put around it.

          Brave move by Dean, I have to say. Bloody difficult play to set to music. Just for starters, what to do with ‘To be or not to be’?

          • MontyNostry

            All in the best possible taste: