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Ancient German virtue of bravery gone missing

In a press release, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein at Düsseldorf has announced the cancellation of its  controversial new production of Tannhäuser after “many” audience members at the premiere claimed they had to seek medical attention for “psychological and physical stress.” The weasliest words follow the jump.

“Im intensiven Gespräch mit dem Regisseur Burkhard C. Kosminski haben wir die Möglichkeit der Abänderung einzelner Szenen diskutiert. Dies lehnt er aus künstlerischen Gründen ab. Selbstverständlich haben wir auch aus rechtlichen Gründen die künstlerische Freiheit des Regisseurs zu respektieren.” [Emphasis added.]

241 comments

  • zinka says:

    Yes indeed,Bert Lahr- Sherrill Milnes as to the passaggio and i NEVER comprehended why people totally disregard this and praise him for so long.He was wonderful early-on, but even then, as with Moffo, you hear the very slightest “warning of things to come.” I respect Milnes as an artist and I loved him in the beginning,but I am sorry..i never understand what i call “blatant problems’ as with (here we go again) Leontyne, who remains such a “monument” that she dare not be touched negatively.Sorry, I tell it as i see (hear) it..and you wouldn’t want me to be a fake..would you??? Have mommy’s day to you mothers…..Charlie

    • MontyNostry says:

      Milnes was the first major baritone whose sound I got to know and I completely recognise what you are saying about that ‘yawning’ quality. (I now wonder whether it came from wanting to sound like Leonard Warren -- not that I don’t think Warren had a fabulous voice.) The funny thing is that it is an idiosyncrasy one can become fond of, just like Leontyne’s blues-y portamenti or Joanie’s regurgitative vowels. Maybe it depends on what one takes in with one’s operatic mother’s milk. The idiosyncrasies of singers one first hears as a grown-up are a lot harder to tolerate!

    • la vociaccia says:

      But you don’t see the contradiction in complaining about Leontyne’s “blatant problems” when you constantly fly the flag of flawed voices as being too “interesting” for the met? I’ve heard you on dozens of occasions defend singers by saying that flaws make them special or some such, and yet you are dismayed that people look past the occasional flaw in Leontyne. Olivero wasn’t perfect, Berti isn’t perfect, and Theodissou sure as hell ain’t perfect, but you love them, warts and all. What’s wrong with people loving Price in the same way?

      • zinka says:

        I ansoltely agree that I love a lot of “flawed” voices/.BUT for me the difference is the following:

        ONLY ONLY Fleming in POP music9see:Under the rainbow) and leontyne in general do “crazy unvocal things” that i feel stand out as totally bizarre, compared to EVERYONE ELSE..I understand weighing things dierently..but what i hear in Price sometimes is a total CAMP..and yet, the next moment she can sound fabulous.I do not think I ever heard ANYONE who withing 10 min.(her farewell) could sing a patria Mia for the ages..and then retreat into a “funny” duet w.Estes…but look..we are all different in our approach..my best CH

    • kashania says:

      Like Monty, Milnes was my first major baritone. I’ve always recognised his technical shortcomings (especially in the passagio) while recognising his many virtues as well.

    • luvtennis says:

      Frnakly, I find your posts disturbingly juvenile and just weird.

      Yes, Milnes did have a yawny sound in that part of his voice. His instrument was not nearly so uniformly well-knit as Merrill or prime MacNeil. But he had other things to offer. So what is your point.

      Reading a post like yours makes me embarrassed to be a voice-lover.

  • MontyNostry says:

    OT, but I just came back from a very kitsch concert given by Angela Gheorghiu with Teodor Illincai at London’s Royal Festival Hall. The programming was all over the place, as was quite a lot of her singing -- and in spite of having the score in front of her, there was a major cock-up at one point in ‘Tu che la vanità’ where she came in a bar late and carried on that way for several more bars before it all came back together. (Anja Harteros has nothing to fear from her in that aria!) And she wore three shmattes like you have never seen, including an assymetric black lace number with a false see-through panel, ruching, a tassel, a split up one side and a kind of bracelet thing of black feathers with another piece of lace attached to it. Unbelievable.

    • oedipe says:

      Monty,

      Can show me some examples of shmattes you DO like? I am curious.

      • La Cieca says:

        I’ll play! I’ll play!

      • MontyNostry says:

        oedipe, it depends what sort of shmattes we are talking, but Ange’s last night really were of extraordinary, over-elaborate tackiness.

        • oedipe says:

          You ain’t answering my question, Monty. I want to see examples of the good, the bad and the ugly.

          • MontyNostry says:

            I’m trying to think of some contemporary divas, rather than dead/retired ones. Ailyn Perez looked very good at a Rosenblatt recital when she left her evening dress at the hotel by mistake and sang in a cocktail number!
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1vmsdkcR-4
            But you can’t really see it on the video.
            Harteros looks quite good here
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwZOXC6_4fE
            Young Korean soprano looks cute
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mljU-_cTECs
            The very pretty Valentina Naforni?? looks elegant
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDkV02Mg8dg
            (All this one-shoulder stuff!)
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDkV02Mg8dg
            Of course, Jessye had a lot of style, though she was hardly mannequin-shaped.

          • Buster says:

            Annick Massis always looks stunning:

            She even looks great in a nightgown:

          • oedipe says:

            Thanks Monty. Here is my point of view about singers’ (and others’) fashion sense.

            Firstly, what we agree upon: I have always found Norman a stunning woman with an original, distinctive style.

            Secondly, what we disagree about: I don’t find the other ladies attractively dressed. They are the opposite of distinctive; they all wear basically the same solid-color dress, draped in a plain manner and with a strap on one shoulder. They look similarly bland and proper.

            I can deal with solid-color dresses if they are not the dull basic type colors. I need something more interesting, both in terms of hues and of draping. I like to see fine craftsmanship, not something that looks mass produced.

            A couple of examples: Peretyatko in an antracite-color elaborately draped dress, with one shoulder strap decorated with a beaded, fine lace ornament:

            http://tinyurl.com/crk8qbn

            And here is Peretyatko again, with a superb outfit that fits her like a glove. The color is changeante and the draping detail is absolutely exquisite:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O39TgqPrSsc

            Nobody hits a home run every time, but I have seen Inva Mula wear some stunning dresses: no draping, but elaborately hand-crafted outfits with overlaid motifs in relief. Here is an example, though the video is poor quality. The video was made a short time after she gave birth to her youngest child:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg21OCqP5VU

            In general, instead of the standard solid colors and nondescript draped fabrics, I would rather see exquisite (i.e. Italian) fabrics and fine, elaborate craftsmanship. And last but not least, the garment MUST FIT. I don’t care if it’s fashionable or not, if it’s poorly cut and/or it doesn’t fit your body, don’t wear it! For instance, I have seen even Fleming -arguably the best dressed American singer- with outfits that didn’t fit her: poorly cut jackets that were too narrow at the shoulders and gaped on the bosom.

            Now to the subject of Gheorghiu. I must say I am sick and tired of hearing how poorly she dresses. I like some of her looks, I dislike others, but that’s not unusual for somebody who is in the public eye. Rarely have I seen her wear clothes that look awkward on her body (and here I could insert examples of lousy dressers). And sometimes she is superbly elegant. I suspect the more likely explanation is that her dress style looks “foreign” to American (and British) eyes, thus it is deemed offensive. I can’t comment on last night’s outfits, which I haven’t seen, but these recent outfits look to me like French/Italian elegance: perfect fit, elaborate and distinctive fabrics, glamorous designs:

            http://tinyurl.com/ck3skeu

            http://tinyurl.com/d5wt9zl

            http://tinyurl.com/cev2m77

            http://tinyurl.com/c9hjpuf

            http://tinyurl.com/cyfy88z

    • manou says:

      I was there too, Monty, and can only agree about the absolute tackiness of Gheorghiu’s frocks (the strange thing is that the programme had a variety of pictures of her looking extremely elegant and understated). She also had far too much makeup on and her hair was tweaked about in three different horrible concoctions.

      The first outfit was a high neck (but backless) silver sequined dress, with the added shine of a myriad Swarovski crystal explosion on the bust. It also boasted exaggerated pointy shoulder pads from which flowed pale grey chiffon sleeves down to the floor, anchored by double black long tassels on each side. Her hair was piled up in a very ageing chigon.

      Next came an indescribable (although Monty tried his best) black number with “see-through” asymmetric panel, frills, bits of lace and the feather bracelet somehow attached to the dress with more lace. Oh -- and plastic tassels. It was strapless, which had the bonus of showing off one of la G’s best features: her lovely shoulders, but seemed to be held up more by hope than structure, and required a lot of tugging upwards. Her hair (and some borrowed from others) was loosely tied back.

      Then came an inexplicable scarlet thing -- yards and yards of loose and flowing polyester satin with puffy sleeves and only one gold border at the hem. The hair(+) was by now flowing all over the place. She appeared in it to sing La Vestale, which might have been a pun on la vestaglia. Or not.

      I enjoyed most of her singing -- it was indeed a different line-up to the usual lollipopery, and just as I was saying to my husband “well at least it was not a Babbino caro evening”, she came in and sang it as an encore in the most affecting and lovely way.

      Teodor Illincai was loud. Very loud. And not exactly sophisticated and nuanced. A furious Frenchman in front of me phoned a friend at the interval and said “tu as bien fait de ne pas venir, il est AFFREUX!!!”

      • MontyNostry says:

        manou -- you described the couture better than I ever could, though I thought the red smock thing had silver trim (which reminded me of some kind of mad tallit, strangely enough). Illincai has good material, and he is sympathetic, but he should go to a different teacher. Does his sound remind you a little of Giordani? I thought Ange sang flat a lot of the time and that the voice only really took off towards the top of the stave. I was too close to the stage (as the guest of someone who has professional access to good tickets!), so the voices were too ‘in yer face’ without much space around them. I even wondered when Illincai first came on whether there was a little electronic enhancement going on -- he seemed to be in Surroundsound.

      • MontyNostry says:

        manou -- do you think the Wicked Queen in Barbarella inspired the black number (though the asymmetry was an inspiration of Ange’s designer)?
        http://s144.photobucket.com/user/Samwanda/media/BLOG%20Barb/Barbarella234.jpg.html

        And did you notice there was a little dangling cross sewn on at calf height onto the red smock? Was this some kind of anti-vampire measure?

        Her biography in the programme is also some kind of weird masterpiece … The Germanic use of tenses is especially odd.

        • MontyNostry says:

          And the silver Turandot-style opener had a bit of Princess Aura (Flash Gordon) going on
          http://i500.listal.com/image/471408/500full.jpg

        • manou says:

          Yes, there was a hint of Wicked Queen, but mostly it looked (a memorable Frasier quote) as if it might be accessorized with a lamp-post and a public defender.

          I was sitting very close too, and did notice the flimsy little cross (fleur-de-lys?) on the red monstrosity -- I didn’t think it was visible further back.

          Whatever was going on with the little tenor (haut comme trois pommes) -- my eardrums were assaulted.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Well, if not as eloquent as Frasier, I have hinted at something similar before when it comes to Ange’s signature style. It’s a shame, because she ought to look quite gorgeous, especially as she is nicely plantureuse.

            But it has to be said that Teodor’s suit jacket was nicely cut, even if his trousers were too long. The stand-up colour with the velvet tux was a mistake, though.

          • MontyNostry says:

            stand-up *collar*, I mean.

          • bluecabochon says:

            “Wicked Queen”…I love it!

            The red dress is terribly unflattering but it’s silk satin, not polyester. It reminds me of ethnic costume -- something vaguely Spanish or South American, but there’s way too much material and that mass of witchy hair is definitely the wrong look for her at this stage. I also have very dark hair and a few years ago realized that it was time to break up the unrelieved flat color that was starting to look harsh; past a certain age, it’s more aging than striking. It’s her signature look, but I would like to see her lighten up her hair a bit and soften her makeup so that it’s not so pancake-y and flat.

            AG is a gorgeous woman with an unbelievable figure, who clearly spends hours in the gym and is perfectly groomed and coiffed at all times. Even in a T-shirt and jeans she looks glam and sexy. I love her diva attitude and presentation and her many stunning outfits, but she is at a transitional stage where she is performing more frequently now after an upheaval in her personal life and has an opportunity to alter her style to appear more current. I would hate to see her stuck with the same look 5 or ten years from now.

            I wish there were a better picture of the black dress, and am curious about the silver one. The young man could have worn a tuxedo or tails, which would have matched her level of evening glam.

          • manou says:

            Exhaustive research provides pictures of the offending object:

            http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.517569064966227.1073741837.118438574879280&type=3

            Having said that, it is perfectly true that Gheorghiu in a beautiful woman with a fantastic figure (and shoulders). And nobody sashays like she does.

          • bluecabochon says:

            Thanks, Manou -- on her FB page? Exhaustive -- I should have looked! The silver dress is very odd, and those black tassels make no sense, other than as weights to keep the sleeves from floating away. Every element is fighting another -- the metallic embroidered material vs. chiffon jacket/sleeves, and the black tassels (why not white, if they must be there?).

          • MontyNostry says:

            The silver one seems to have a design made up of CDs.

          • oedipe says:

            Bluecabochon,

            Gheorghiu does NOT go to the gym.

            …an opportunity to alter her style to appear more current.

            How do you define “current”? Is the picture below “current”? Can you give me some examples of 47-year-old singers who look more current/younger?

            https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=531238836932583&set=a.531238793599254.1073741852.118438574879280&type=3&theater

          • bluecabochon says:

            Oedipe, scusi, I meant her hair and makeup style.

            If she truly doesn’t go to the gym, how fantastic for her that she LOOKS as if she does.

          • manou says:

            I am with oedipe about Gheorghiu not visiting the gym, having just seen Nadja Michael’s sinewy arms on the Macbeth streaming yesterday. Compared with Nadja, Angela has none of this muscular definition and looks completely natural.

            [How long before papopera pops up to complain about this long exchange?]

          • oedipe says:

            OK. I too think AG looks better with less makeup and lighter color lipstick.
            As for the figure, it’s just good eating habits.

          • MontyNostry says:

            … and good genes. But I do wonder whether there has been a little enhancement of the poitrine in recent years.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            My partner saw Gheorghiu for the first time ever the other day and immediately expressed horror at her hair colour, pronouncing it far too dark for her, just as Bluecabochon did above. It is time she re-visited this issue -- she got away with it when younger, but she could look a great deal more sophisticated if she went for a more forgiving, softer colour.

            My first thought on seeing that bizarre silver concoction and chignon which Manou rightly described as aging was that it was another attempt to emulate Callas -- it looks a bit like it has a cape or something, and brought to mind La Divina’s 70s world tour look.

          • manou says:

            Here is Angela without the borrowed hair, looking much better

            but yes -- softer coloured hair would be an improvement.

            Of course, even the T-shirt has bling…

          • armerjacquino says:

            The most stylish woman I know is a firm advocate of the NO LONG HAIR AFTER THIRTY rule, which would see off quite a few opera singers…

          • oedipe says:

            C’mon Armer, you are AGAINST conservatism in opera productions -and rightly so- and FOR it when it comes to hair?

            Here is 67-year old performance artist Marina Abramovic (who is the scenographer/director of Ravel’s Boléro at the Paris Opera and who I wish would do some opera productions too). She has great hair:

            https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151571716610912&set=pb.300806525911.-2207520000.1368540753.&type=3&theater

  • agent says:

    Perhaps the company (which has done BRILLIANT work in recent seasons) shut the production down because the audience has had enough of garbage Regie like this and just wants to NOT see art destroyed by egomaniacal directors? I wish more audience would make a fuss when they are insulted like this.

  • Lady Abbado says:

    A very interesting twist in the story of Gheorghiu’s walking out after the first act of Tosca in San Francisco: Roberto’s wedding ring was the trigger…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/frontrow

    • MontyNostry says:

      Interesting interview (though she is vaguely terrifying), but it’s a shame no-one on the production team realised that ‘D’amor sull’ali rosee’ is from Trovatore, not Traviata. Still, they begin with the same two letters, so that’s OK.

  • Camille says:

    Angela Gheorghiu has almost always delighted me with her sense of style and chic/i>, whatever reservation I may have had about her singing, so it distresses me to hear of this troika of faux pas. Perhaps she is overcompensating, for the sorrow she must surely feel about the dissolution of her marriage? There is the little matter of menopause which looms menacingly upon the horizon, as well, a real threat to a diva’s reign.

    Whatever, but when was it last you heard a primadonna speak of “soul” or “God”, when speaking of his/her respective singing? I would be willing to forgive her many a peccadillo, for that reason alone.

  • Poison Ivy says:

    Speaking of fashions, I saw the Baz Luhrmann adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Critics be damned i love it.

    http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-great-gatsby.html

  • manou says:

    (Probably) the last word on frock horrors, here is The Times (firewall) review of the Gheorghiu cocert:


    Hilary Finch
    Last updated at 12:01AM, May 13 2013
    Rated to 3 stars (out of five)

    The first frock was silver and looked as though all her CDs, and more, had been sewn together in a glimmering, body-hugging appliqué. The second was black net, black tassels and black feathers. And the third a voluminous, swishing kaftan, as glossy and scarlet as lips and nails.

    Should I be noticing, let alone telling you about all this? Well, yes, because a disproportionate part of Angela Gheorghiu’s performance is her act. If, in an evening of operatic arias, she has no single role in which to immerse herself, then she must cast herself as herself — and this she does superbly well. Never mind if Susanna’s Deh, vieni from Figaro is sung under the note, or if the eyes are glued to the score and a line or two still goes missing from Elisabetta’s Tu che le vanità from Verdi’s Don Carlo — the message is there in hands, eyes, lips. Presentation is all.

    And when Gheorghiu’s side-kick appears, a well-scrubbed, boyish Romanian tenor called Teodor Ilincai, she can stroke his blue velvet lapel, simper and snuggle up as Alfredo’s Violetta, Romeo’s Juliette (Gounod) and Fritz’s Suzel (Mascagni). Gheorghiu’s soprano, as ever immaculately honed, is unmitigated sensuous pleasure; but I wasn’t moved once throughout the entire evening.

    She was generous in giving Ilincai his solo spots — an E lucevan le stelle and a Nessun dorma that must have been heard in Greenwich. But the real stars of the evening were the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, who played with exceptional commitment throughout under the fluent direction of Tiberiu Soare.”

    • Buster says:

      Very funny! Hope she gets to review the Eurovision Song Contest too, with this Deborah Voigt lookalike:

      http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02503/bonnie-tyler_2503625b.jpg

      • manou says:

        Hilary Finch is to the Eurovision Song Contest as Wittgenstein is to Dan Brown.

        But you are spot on about the resemblance to Voigt -- and that is certainly not a frock to sunbathe in…

        However -- here is a bewitched Angela fan:

        http://tinyurl.com/bvuc5t9

        • oedipe says:

          Manou,

          You haven’t told us who you consider the bee’s knees in singer elegance. Monty is bewitched by Harteros. How about yourself?

          • armerjacquino says:

            I googled ‘opera singer elegance’ and up popped that weird Christmas tree Von Stade wore to sing Octavian at one of the Met galas. So I guess even search engines are hard to trust on this one.

          • MontyNostry says:

            I’m not bewitched by Harteros’s gear -- in fact, she is such a tall, good-looking woman that she has the potential to look really stunning as opposed to just pretty good, but she always looks quite elegant. Certainly the costumes in Don Carlo suited her very well.

          • manou says:

            Mise au pied du mur, I cannot really find examples of singer elegance because they vary so much. Gheorghiu can look stunning, but she too often falls into the trap of more is more (and even more). Fleming sometimes looks very good, but sometimes seems to be une bourgeoise endimanchée. Peretyatko is very slim and pretty and generally looks fine.

            I am not a lover of the one-shoulder look, but these I would consider elegant evening gowns:

            http://tinyurl.com/c6yn678
            http://tinyurl.com/brd9w8r
            http://tinyurl.com/c3sw3ju
            http://tinyurl.com/d4xykl4
            http://tinyurl.com/cvmaf9s

            of course, more often than not, there is this:

            http://setfa.net/images/b5mnz62ztkmh1o6ave8n.jpg

          • armerjacquino says:

            Am I alone in thinking that the swishy 70s thing Suliotis is wearing on the NORMA cover la cieca posted is kind of awesome?

      • MontyNostry says:

        But Bonnie Tyler managed to reinvent herself after a vocal crisis.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Gosh, Hilary Finch is pretty unimpressed with Antonacci later in that same review. Rather glad I didn’t move heaven and earth to go to that recital in the end.

      • MontyNostry says:

        Other people have raved about it. I have to confess I always find Antonacci’s singing a bit blank, though she obviously has a lot of physical presence. (I wasn’t there that evening, though the programme was very seductive.)

      • Buster says:

        Seeing her in Paris next month, as Pénélope!

  • Lady Abbado says:

    Voila…Gheorghiu’s offending silvery gown…

    • oedipe says:

      And here -in order to cleanse our eyes of the offensive, unsophisticated and aging Gheorghiu- is a fashion statement from some young and current-looking operatic talents:

      https://fr-fr.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=120153512541&set=pb.118032932541.-2207520000.1368527076.&type=3&theater

      • DonCarloFanatic says:

        Winners all, but their gowns all have too much fabric and are too fussy. None of these gals looks comfortable, and looking at ease in one’s clothes, thus “carrying it off,” is at the heart of looking glamorous. Gheorghiu’s silver gown is a mistake for the same reason. She usually looks glamorous because she wears the clothes; they don’t wear her.

    • MontyNostry says:

      I’ve got it! Beatrice Lillie in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

      • manou says:

        Funnily enough, Monty, that was my very first thought when I saw the gown -- but I could not find a picture of it on Google and did not trust my memory.