Cher Public

The world on a string: talking to Jamie Barton

American mezzo Jamie Barton, who has steadily been winning fans in the US over the past few years for her rich and nuanced singing, took the international opera world by storm last weekend by winning both the Song Prize as well as the overall prize in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Watching her final program of arias from Adriana Lecouvreur, Hansel und Gretel, and Berlioz’s Les Troyens, along with a song by Sibelius, it’s hard to imagine how the international jury that included Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Dame Felicity Palmer, Neil Shicoff and Håkan Hagegård could have chosen anyone else. 

Born in Rome, Georgia, the 31-year-old mezzo returns to this fall to the Metropolitan Opera where she made her debut as The Second Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in 2009 to sing Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma opposite Angela Meade. Barton took some time away from traveling and relaxing after her double-barreled win to answer some questions by email for Parterre Box.

DeCaffarrelli: Competitions seem a necessary evil for most singers these days and you’ve done particularly well at them, having also won the National Council Auditions at the MET in 2007. Is there a particular talent or skill to doing well at these? I know you share a manager with Nicole Cabell–the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World—did she give you any advice or insight into negotiating that particular event?

Barton: I think the greatest piece of advice I’ve ever been given in this career came early in my training: “Take your time.” For me, this translated into doing things when I was ready to do them. I think this is especially important for voices that take a little while to bloom: I was never going to be able to win one of the larger competitions before my mid-20s because my voice was still going through growth spurts and figuring its way out!  But, I think this is all a round-about way of saying that I think, having given myself the time to grow, I also gave myself the time to learn what I need to succeed in competing: a calm mind, well-prepared music, and an absence of “the noise” (as Ms. Price would call it).  I think these things feed into me being able to do my job, which is preparing something that would please an audience and make them curious to see me again.  So far, that formula has worked for me!  And yes, Nicole did send advice… everything from telling me about her experiences with the competition to a note before the competition started just to wish me luck!  She’s not the only one either: Leah Crocetto, Ryan McKinny, and Quinn Kelsey were all very helpful too.  It’s good to have multiple points of view.

DeCaffarrelli: American singers are often praised (and sometimes damned) for being able to sing most everything well. During the competition, it was often remarked that you brought an unusually varied and interesting repertoire: Sibelius, Donizetti (in French), Berlioz, Humperdinck, Cilea, etc. Was this a conscious decision to highlight your versatility or have you always sung an eclectic variety of music?

Barton: I’ve definitely always sung an eclectic variety of music, partially due to what was available for my voice at a younger age, but also because I enjoy finding rep that is a bit out there.  It’s easier to be able to interpret freshly, and fewer recordings also means fewer opinions on the way something “has” to go.

DeCaffarrelli: From remarks by radio and television commentators along with posts online, it seemed clear from the first night that you were the odds-on favorite to win at least one of the prizes. Did that buzz get back to you and, if so, did it have any effect on your concentration/preparation? Were you aware any of your fellow competitors trying to get you to sit in drafts, etc.?

Barton: Honestly, the only buzz that really got back to me was that of friends contacting me to congratulate me on what they were seeing online.  But, I tried to stay fairly insular on purpose… I kind of feel like if I let in the opinions (good or bad) it distracts me from being able to think rationally about how I’m performing.  And no,  the other competitors were nothing but kind and professional.  Of course, we all wanted to win, but one of the pluses of having competitor colleagues that already have a few years under their belts in the career is that, for the most part, everyone is very friendly.  No matter how much we each want to win, the competition only lasts a week or so and we will be colleagues within the business for many, many years to come.  I think most performers would prefer to be friendly to the people they’re going to spend time with on gigs on the road– it just makes it easier when you’re away from you home, bed, spouses, and children/pets!

DeCaffarrelli:  In addition to your wins at Cardiff, 12-13 was a banner season for you from your show-stopping appearance at the Richard Tucker Gala at Avery Fisher Hall which was later televised over PBS…

…to your acclaimed Agnese in Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda at Carnegie Hall with Collegiate Chorale to your first-ever Mahler #3, performed in Venezuela with Gustavo Dudamel, as well Magdalene in the new production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Lyric Opera of Chicago. How do you top that? What upcoming projects can you share with us that you are looking forward to?

Barton: 2012-13 was definitely a banner year, and one that (for the most part) came as a surprise!  Many of those gigs were booked last minute.  This next year does not disappoint at all, though–my first leading lady at the Met in Norma, my first Fricka with Houston Grand Opera, my debut with the Cleveland Orchestra–all of these are very big steps for me professionally, and I’m really looking forward to them!

DeCaffarrelli: Every singer seems to dream about singing a particular role or roles, for sopranos it always seems to be either Violetta or Tosca. Are there roles that you covet and would like to tackle over the next decade of your still young career? Didon? Kundry? Eboli? (Attention, worldwide intendants!)

Barton: Oh yeah… there are definitely roles that I just can’t wait to get to try.  The first ones that come to mind are Eboli, Amneris, Didon, and Léonor (c’mon… somebody do a La Favorite!)  Outside of these sorts of women are some really fun things; I’d love to sing a Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress, and although I’m not the typical body type for this, I really feel like I’d sing the heck out of a Carmen.  In concert, I’d really love to get to sing a Dream of Gerontius, Mahler #2, or an Alto Rhapsody (although it’s not too easy to find someone with a men’s choir raring to back me up!).

Barton’s discography is still fairly small at this point but includes leading roles in two baroque works recorded with Ars Lyrica of Houston, Hasse’s Marc’ Antonio e Cleopatra and Domenico Scarlatti’s La Dirindina. She also appears in recordings of three contemporary operas, The Refuge by Christopher Theofanidis, André Previn’s Brief Encounter and Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket.

Photo: Jonathan Timms

  • Ah la Civetta

    What an instrument, and what a lovely lady. I’ve conversed with her on Twitter and her joy for singing and life is just infectious. I wish her all the best!

    I know some viewers were saying dear Karita was not so enamored with La Barton, but I think she was probably in the minority, there.

  • MontyNostry

    Excellent interview. If only such intelligent questions (and answers) were the norm!

  • Camille

    Brava, bravissima to a true artist with not only the technique but the voice to become something GREAT!

    And hell YES to the Léonor in La Favorite!!!

    • mjmacmtenor

      The MET did a La Favorita (in Italian) in the 70s for Verrett with Pavarotti and Milnes. Maybe they could pull it out of mothballs in the near future. Beczala and Calleja are candidates for the tenor. Any ideas for a baritone?

      • Ed

        Baritone? Domingo, of course. Is there any other???

        • grimoaldo

          I see that clicking on the red-linked name “Ed” takes you to a site which advertises “Premiere Opera is your source for rare and historic operatic recordings on DVD and CD with the world’s greatest singers like Placido Domingo” (among others).

          • armerjacquino

            And?

          • grimoaldo

            Never mind aj, if “Ed” sees that he will know what I mean, it is not worth explaining.

      • Bill

        mj -- I had read that the Met was planning, sometime in the future, of reviving La Faborita
        for Elina Garanca. No other news on casting.
        The last time I saw this opera was in Vienna
        with Urmana and I did not find the opera all that interesting actually despite a few attractive
        melodies.

      • MontyNostry

        They should think about Dimitri Platanias, who is singing Paolo to Hampson’s Boccanegra at Covent Garden currently. I missed his Rigoletto in London last year, but it’s a real ‘Italian’ sound and, for a house the size of the Met, more for Donizetti than Verdi, perhaps.

      • Krunoslav

        They should do it in French, in which it was written!

        Ludovic Tezier made a *big* success of it with Alice Coote ( oddly cast) this year in Paris, with Marc Laho channeling Vanzo pretty well in the tenor lead but not acting much.

        • oedipe

          Have you seen/heard the TCE Favorite, Krunoslav? To say it got “mixed reviews” would be diplomatic. One review had the title “La Favorite rate complètement son retour à Paris” (http://www.ilteneromomento.com/la-favorite-tce) and some bloggers refer to it as “la calamiteuse Favorite“. Tézier was very good indeed, but Coote was completely miscast and Laho lacked personality and his voice sounded somewhat worn. As for the staging, it was panned by everybody.

          But the TCE is not giving up: there will be a concert performance of La Favorite on Dec. 18, 2013, with Barcellona, Florez and Jean-François Lapointe. Looking forward to it.

          • oedipe

            Oops, the December concert performance will be the Italian version, so I should have written La Favorita. (The Italian version should be easier to pull off and the cast is more appropriate too.)

          • Camille

            Merci, autre fois, Monsieur œdipe, for having reminded me of that blog-il tenero momento, as I’d completely forgotten about it.

            Now I don’t feel so bad about having missed that La Gioconda!

      • Well, the Met could finally give a big assignment to Quinn Kelsey. He hasn’t worked there since a Shaunard and Monterone a few seasons ago.

        • mjmacmtenor

          Great idea! Put Michael Fabiano in as the tenor and it would be a great trio of exciting new voices. You could add Angela Meade for a Trovatore quartet.

    • kennedet

      Agreed Camille. I would love to hear her live. I have a tendency to mistrust recordings but what an exciting artist and a wonderful performance!! I also, loved the personality which I think always helps especially in these days of mass media. I shouldn’t make comparisons but she reminded me of a young Marilyn Horne with that “creamy, mellow, velvety sound” that you get from Mezzos.

      • MontyNostry

        Funnily enough, I hear more of (young) Marilyn Horne in Daniela Mack’s sound. I get a bit of Christa Ludwig in Jamie Barton’s timbre, albeit with more steel and less Schlagobers.

        • Camille

          Steel magnolia.
          Georgia, you know, and not the one from the former USSR, either.

        • kennedet

          Okay, Monty. I had to research Schlagobers. Sounds yummy.

          Interestingly enough, one of the main reasons I mentioned not trusting recordings, is because of my experience hearing Marilyn Horne live. I’ve always loved her voice but was very disappointed when I heard live. It was in a wonderful acoustic(The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, about 100 years ago.)Her projection was almost completely lost and it was with piano accompaniment!!

          • Camille

            You are right not to trust recordings. I never ever ever make a final judgment about a singer until I hear them live, and under hospitable performing conditions.

            As a girl I worshiped Dame Joan. Then I went to see and hear her. What a shock! I went happily back to my beloved recordings and never strayed hence.

            Some singers are born recording artists and others are born stage artists.
            A lucky few are both.

          • armerjacquino

            Gruberova is the most telling example, I think, of the difference between live and recorded performance. Her voice is SO beautiful in-house, something that has rarely if ever successfully come across in recordings.

          • Camille

            It is also a ballet by Herr Doktor Richard Strauss, which I have really never listened to, so here it is for all and sundry:


            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enPAcMK80d0&sns=em

            In the Netherlands, they call it “slagroom” and it is the most heavenly confection imaginable—the stuff which angels dine on, no fooling!

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Gruberova is my best example of this too AJ. Was never anything but irritated by her until I heard the sound live in the hall.

          • In the Netherlands, they call it “slagroom”

            By a curious coincidence, that is also what parterre.com is called in Great Britain.

          • MontyNostry

            Signora, are you referring to its occupants or the things people say in here?

          • Camille

            Is that truly so, Cieca????

            Oh, me meschina. I take all the slagroom back!! Mi dispiace tanto!!!!!

            Oh hell, call it whipped creme room instead!!!!!

    • Camille

      There was a discussion of Jamie Barton on opera-l which I happened onto while looking for something else—to wit-––a couple posters heard her as more than just another mezzo but as someone who could potentially be a hochdramatisches Sopran, in the one instance, and as a voice who encompassed contralto, mezzo and soprano all in one, in the other instance.

      Now, I don’t know about that, but I do know that is one hell of a High C (yes, it really is a C, mirabile dictu!!!) in a climactic phrase of the cabaletta to “O mon Fernand”, and that does give one great pause.

      As well, I heard her sing the role of Agnese in Beatrice di Tenda, which is one of those seconda donna type roles (Raina Kabaivanska sang it, too, with Sutherland, I believe, to give you an example), and which tessitura she navigated quite well and intelligently. I was sitting up toward the front of the hall and was able to observe her closely, as well, and there was no tension nor apprehension in any of her singing. She, coupled with il mio diletto, Michael Spyres, were the high point of that largely dreary evening.

      It is my hope she will take that level-headedness and technical security along with on what could be a very memorable career, if all goes as it should. About the Carmen: yes, Marilyn Horne did sing it, she of a similar build and body type and at the Met, too, however, those were other times. These days, it would really help if she got down a couple sizes smaller. If it is size vs. the voice, however, I would stick with the voice, as her ability to interpret and communicate the essence of the text clearly and warmly, is exceptional.

      You go girl!

      • Clita del Toro

        Cammie, your email is not working. I sent you several and they don’t go through??

        • Camille

          WHAT?
          WHEN???

          I have just been lazy, Clitters, and busy, too!

          Try again, right now, and I shall see if it comes through!!!!

          Xoxoxozozoxoxoz

          CammieBad

          • Clita del Toro

            Just emailed you.
            Sorry, it comes back: “Delivery Status Notification (Failure)”

          • Camille

            Okay. I got you.
            I have NO idea what is going on. You are ine of my VIP, along with Monsieur Camille and one other and I received mail from M. Camille a couple hours ago.

            I am investigating and sending you a trial balloon again. Did you receive this morning’s missal???

            Puzzled Cammiest
            xoxoxoxo??????!!!

          • Clita del Toro

            I did get yours.

          • Clita del Toro

            Send me one now.

          • Camille

            I just did, Clitters, entitled “E-mail MayDay!”

            I got a copy of what I sent to U so maybe you received it this time???

            Dunno. Maybe it’s sunspots! Or leopard spots!!

            Out, out damned spot!!!!

  • She blew me away when she sang at the Richard Tucker awards. She was so much better than Garanca when singing that aria. She also was a lot better than the award winner that night Ailyn Perez. I had expected much better from her but I got nothing.

    • antikitschychick

      ITA!!! (although I didn’t know Elina sang that aria lol)

      BRAVA JAMIE!! :-D

      And-hell-to-the-YES on Carmen (perhaps in concert :-P)…
      she’s seems to be very down-to-earth and level headed about her career and it was so sweet of her to take the time to answer these (very good) Q’s…thanks DeCaffarelli!

      • manou

        “…although I’m not the typical body type for this, I really feel like I’d sing the heck out of a Carmen.”

        Je me les sers moi-même avec assez de verve
        Mais je ne permets pas qu’un autre me les serve.

  • Ah la Civetta

    What an instrument, and what a lovely lady. I’ve conversed with her on Twitter and her joy for singing and life is just infectious. I wish her all the best!

    I know some viewers were saying dear Karita was not so enamored with La Barton, but I think she was probably in the minority, there.

    • MontyNostry

      I don’t think Karita was much enamoured with anybody. She started off being all smiley and positive and got more and more frazzled.

      • David

        Poor Karita, for me her comments lacked a certain, well, colour. I would definitely have liked much more, shall we say, colour.

        • MontyNostry

          David, without wishing to make an off-colour comment, I hope her insights didn’t colour your judgement.

  • luvtennis

    I hope Ms. Barton reads these wonderful posts!

    I have not heard her live and there are only a few youtube excerpts, but the Tucker performance was quite extraordinary. Not simply because the voice was beautiful and technically secure -- it is -- but because you can tell that the singer cares about singing beautifully and securely.

    I also love how relaxed her body is when singing -- typically a sign of technical security.

    I would encourage Jamie to really focus on the concert and recital repetoire (I bet she is extraordinary in the Sea Songs by Elgar!!!). I just don’t think there is as much room in opera today (certainly not in many European houses) for a singer with her commitment to technique and beauty of sound.

    Not that she is not wonderfully communicative -- she is -- but the communication is intrinsic to the singing and arises from her mastery of legato and dynamic control.

    I just have a hard time envisioning such an old-school singer in the context of an interventionist style production.

    • armerjacquino

      Barton sang some of Sea Pictures in her Cardiff heat.

      • luvtennis

        Thanks, aj. D’oh!

    • eisle

      Hey Jamie, Sieglinde is yours.

    • Batty Masetto

      Oh lordy, the Baleful Broad Brush of Maazel sweeps past yet again.

      Barton seems a smart, determined and resourceful young artist. She may not be ready to do Dessay’s Broadway moves from GC, but why on earth would you want to encourage her to stay off the stage, even in adventurous productions? Blythe, for example, was entirely convincing and at home in the Alden Ballo, and at no time was she required to sing from a stance that would have been out of place in a production from 1950. Same for Willard White and Gabby Schnaut in the BSO’s Babylon. (Etc., etc., etc.)

      • Camille

        Interesting, that, to me, Honey Battybooboo, what you said about Ms. Blythe in Ballo, to me. She was terrific on the stage and into her character. It worked. I went to hear it the night Amber Wagner had her one performance as Amelia. Her body type, in THAT part, coupled with her lack of stage experience, did NOT work for me, nor translate very well over the orchestra. Maybe just a lack of experience. Maybe that certain body types are better in certain roles.
        Ich weiss gar nix.

        How’s the petting zoo doing? Is it in the Redwoods? If so, I might consider deigning to set foot thereabouts!

        Grosser Kuss!

        • Or maybe certain performers (especially relatively inexperienced ones) are not the most natural “stage animals.” This is not a condemnation: there are plenty of singers for whom acting is not quite second nature who have through application and rehearsal become very fine actors indeed. (A sterling case in point is Birgit Nilsson.)

          • Camille

            Righto, Cieca.

            Stage animals, the Gwyneths and the Leonies, the Malfitanos and Dessay— are kind of rare, and lots of people really have to work at it and then become worthy stage critters of some sort. And some work and work and work at it, and don’t. The harder RF worked at it, the more it didn’t work—at least for yours truly.

            Most everyone is sort of middle of the pack, and has learned as they go along, it would seem. The right director or coach, at the right time, coupled with the perfect part, can effect a turning point for that fortunate few.

          • Batty Masetto

            And we also shouldn’t forget that Birgit was entirely willing to do a striptease, take flying leaps and spectacular falls, or roll on the ground when the occasion called for it.

            Didn’t seem to harm her vocal longevity.

            Not everybody is Birgit (sigh). Nor would I want JB to hurt herself trying to emulate her. But an artist who never takes risks is unlikely to grow much.

            Luckily, from the snort snippet above, it sounds like the young lady has a head on her shoulders and isn’t afraid to take on an intelligent dare.

          • Exactly so. Some singers have natural acting talent while others don’t (and some others really don’t). For me, the important thing is that a singer tries hard to act, even if he/she isn’t a natural. Some singers are very good at taking direction and can really blossom with the support of a good director.

            Take Marcelo Alvarez. The guy is not a good actor by any means. Yet, in David Alden’s Ballo, one could see how hard Alvarez had worked to realise Alden’s vision. The final result was hardly Brando, or even Tom Cruise. But one could see a singer enthusiastically engaged with the staging and working hard to bring it to life. Radvanovsky also did some of her best acting in that production.

            On the other hand, Johan Botha does things his way. He pops his eyes out here and there, makes an occasional physical gesture, and one can tell that he thinks that’s quite enough.

          • Camille

            Alvarez is a really choice example, at least for me. In the Trovatore, which I only saw in HD, I didn’t care for him, AT ALL. In the Ballo, which I saw both in the theatre and the HD, he was a Changed Man. And all for the good, too.

            It shows that EVEN a tenor can change and grow and learn and stretch. In Mr. Alvarez’s case, it was not only most welcome but also quite admirable a step up in the right direction. How much of that was David Z. And how much of it was self-directed, I would not know, however. Certainly, he lost weight by his own effort.

            Anyway, I have listened to the bitching, moaning & groaning, complaining, crying, vilifications, whineing and whingeings, too, for way too many years now about Alvarez, and I was happy to see him get his shit together. Keep on running with it, Marcelo, baby!

          • Camille

            Battybooboo—when did Birgit ever do a striptease?????
            In the Immolation Scene?

            Didn’t she have a dancer go on for her when she sang, so admirably, Salome??

            I am curious.
            Kamille Tee

          • Well, I think this photo indicates that Nilsson is doing her own dance.

            And Winthrop Sargeant remarks on the soprano’s first Met Salome:

            As for the famous Dance of the Seven Veils, it was done as tastefully and convincingly as circumstances permitted. After all, how many full-voiced dramatic sopranos heave really brought off this dance in such a way as to give the illusion of teen-age agility? ….Carefully coached by Alicia Markova, she limited herself to a few bodily twists and shakes, a little rolling on the floor, and a certain amount of waving of two or three, rather than seven, veils. There was not strip-tease effect. During this dance, she had on a black gown, which revealed only the sides of her legs, and she wound up as fully dressed as she started. Nevertheless, there was the distinct illusion that she was bent on seducing Herod and that she had the allure to do it.

          • Camille

            Oh, that is very interesting! And coached by no less than Dame Alicia Markova, too. Birgit sure looks like she is having a whale of a good time, g-d bless her always and forever.

            Still, I think I may have read elsewhere that she didn’t always dance it, but cannot recall where nor if it may have been another soprano I am remembering. Did Leonie always do her dancing??? Oh gosh, dumb question!!

          • Batty Masetto

            Camille adorée –

            I vividly remember reading in my misspent youth – I think in Time magazine, but it would in any case have been in some mainstream vehicle of probity because that’s all we ever got at our house – that she “gamely” peeled down to a “black corset” in one edition of Salome. I thought it was at the Met, but I guess not, because Winthrop Sargent wrote as La Cieca already posted above.

            (He also wrote: “I have never heard the role so magnificently sung. What surprised me, though, was that I have seldom seen it so magnificently acted.”)

            (That review is good fun for other lines too: Wm. Dooley’s costume, “which was made largely of ropes, suggested that he had recently undergone a collision with a tugboat.” Here’s the whole thing in the Met Archives: http://tinyurl.com/ke8r6zj)

          • MontyNostry

            “She had on a black gown, which revealed only the sides of her legs.” Do I remember reading that Birgit was rather proud of her legs?

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I’m not sure why this thread has gone off at a tangent about acting, because I’d be willing to bet that Jamie Barton is actually great at it. The physical freedom and relish in her Hexe and the astonishing dignity in her Didon in the Cardiff final indicated that we have nothing whatsoever to worry about in that regard with Jamie Barton. Her straight forward integrity seems to allow her to identify easily and authentically with whichever character she is portraying at any given moment.

          • MontyNostry

            Well said, Cocky. I usually find the fun and games stuff in Haensel & Gretel a bit of a pain, but she was completely convincing.

      • luvtennis

        Batty:

        I don’t disagree with you about that there will always be productions and houses that accommodate the great singers. The risk that I see is that she will get trapped in productions that are not singer friendly. It would be a waste of a voice and it is not like anyone’s last forever.

        Why should it be a controversial statement that in interventionist productions singers (as singers first not just performers) and beauty of singing is given less priority? Certainly, in the past times when singers ruled opera, directors and conductors took a back seat. The reverse is true today.

        And here is the problem for a GREAT singer in this environment -- they can do great singing in productions where due to the emphasis on the visual and dramatic their qualities are overlooked or diminished.

        • tornado12

          I really don’t think bad singing is caused by the stagings. Bad singing is caused by sloppiness which is the case with many of the singers today but also in the “golden years”. I mean why are the technical abilities for all instrumentalists a requirement, but as a singer don’t need to have them… I find it confusing. And then there comes a singer like Barton who can really sing. It cleans the ear. I mean why is a singer allowed to disregard the rhythmic structure in most cases?

        • armerjacquino

          I would hope that all productions ‘have an emphasis on the visual and dramatic’. Interesting the way you imply that non-interventionist ones don’t.

          • luvtennis

            AJ:

            Ideally, a production finds an optimal balance between the singing, the orchestra, the scenery, the direction, and the story. Most productions don’t hit this standard, and some don’t even strive for it. In past eras, there must have been many productions that did little more than stay out of the way of the singers. I think there are some productions today that go too far in the opposite direction. That has implications for singers and their development and careers. Self-evident. This is a harder world for great singers than say 1890 or 1960.

            Interestingly, my post really had nothing to do with the Barton’s physical presence by the way. She is a lovely woman.

      • CruzSF

        The vast majority of opera productions remain traditional. Barton will be fine following whichever path she chooses.

  • Papagena Dimitrova

    Having seen Ms. Barton as Mother Marie in the Cherniakov “Dialogues” in Munich, I can tell you that, not only can she sing the hell out of the role, but she can also take part convincingly in an unusual staging of an opera. (In this one, she had to strip to her bra in a dramatic moment…) Being thin has never made someone a good actor!

  • Camille

    And where in the name of all that is Holy, is Our Own LOUANND, of AZ&NM, in all these discussions of Jamie Barton??? She was the first person I remember speaking of JB, enthusiastically endorsing her as someone to watch, based on only having sung a supporting part—was it Marthe in Faust—in Santa Fe, a couple summers ago. I remembered it as she spoke SO highly of her.

    Louannd, call home.

  • Hippolyte

    For those who would care to hear Barton’s Magdalene from Chicago’s recent Meistersinger, the broadcast can be downloaded here:

    http://operalia-verdi.blogspot.com/2013/06/wagner-die-meistersinger-von-nurnberg.html

    The same site also has her 2nd Norn from last year’s Gotterdammerung from Munich:

    http://operalia-verdi.blogspot.com/2012/07/wagner-gotterdammerung-munchen-2012.html

  • Dominatrix

    Speaking about Barton, her timbre of voice reminds me a little bit of Anita Cerquetti, an Italian soprano. Who knows — maybe she’ll eventually sing dramatic roles which veer into soprano territory. The monetary temptation might be too great & there is a desperate need. But I’m disappointed she is cast as Fricka at Houston, because I feel Barton is too young for that role. You’re supposed to wait until you are an “adult” before tackling the Wagner Ring roles. I do understand that singers are usually grateful to get a job and Houston is major. But if her agent is just trying to get her a job here, a job there, all of it mixed up fach, that could work against her.

    • la vociaccia

      Define “adult.” Astrid Varnay sang her first Met Sieglinde at the age of 23. Leonie Rysanek sang her first (and only) Brunnhilde at the age of 24. I think 32 is perfectly mature enough to sing a Fricka

      • Jessye Norman sang Elisabeth for her professional debut at 23. And within the next three years she made major house debuts with Aida, Cassandre and Selika.

        Ultimately, it all depends on the voice and how it matures and how ready the singer feels. But I agree that it can be silly to starting shouting “too soon, too soon” at a 32-year-old. Yes, Fricka is Wagner but it’s hardly a punishing sing.

        • kennedet

          Norman is movie material!! I know many singers have had fascinating lives but Norman’s vocal career and larger than life personality from her beginnings to what she is doing now fascinates me. She truly is a “diva” with all of its meanings.

          • Camille

            That movie has already been made, and quite a while back now:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hsmoo97CVA&sns=em

            The young fan in the audience is obviously our Monsieur œdipe.

          • oedipe

            Memories, memories, I was young then…
            And you are right, Beineix most likely had Norman in mind for the Diva character.

          • kennedet

            Seriously!! I saw that movie and I had no idea he had Norman in mind!!! Incredible!! Thanks for the update.
            Wilhemenia is from Philadelphia!! Where is she these days??!!

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            I LOVE that film! I saw it several times during its initial run, got the soundtrack LP, and had Fernandez autograph it for me after she sang a Musetta at NYCO (back when there was a NYCO…). The film was shot in 1980 and released in 1981, and Fernandez is now 64 (according to Wikipedia) so she may have wound down her career. Despite the success of the film, she never had that big of a career.

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            kennedet, to respond to your query “Where is she these days?” the Wikipedia entry concludes with “Wilhelmenia now lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband Met Opera baritone Andrew W. Smith and has sung in the major opera houses of the world but not at the Met. Her full name now is Wilhelmenia Fernandez Smith.” According to the Met archives, it appears Smith’s Met career consists of two performances as Amonasro in 1989.

          • MontyNostry

            What would Jessye think about le zen de la tartine?

          • MontyNostry

            I actually discovered Fernandez **before** ‘Diva’- happened to see her in a concert performance of Luisa Miller in Paris and then saw her on a poster for the movie a couple of months later.

          • kennedet

            Thank you, Jungfer. Mille grazie. What wonderful memories!! I knew her in Philly as a teenager before her career when she was Wilhemenia Wiggins. I followed bits of her exciting journey when she did the Houston P&B with Donnie Ray Albert and Andrew Smith was the Crown. Well, it seems Crown ended up with Bess, after all.She sang Donna Elvira in Chatauqua years ago. I also have a recording of her “Carmen Jones”.

          • kennedet

            Monty, thanks for the information. I think she was also a product of AVA and I remember her telling me one of her diva stories…and I believe it….about how she auditioned several times for NYCO but Beverly Sills did not attend. She finally refused to sing until Sills came to hear her audition. I don’t know whether she did roles with them or not but I enjoyed the story.

            This is too good to be true. Anybody hear of Gwendolyn Killerbrew?? I’ll check You Tube.

          • MontyNostry

            kennedet -- I believe Killebrew is Tigrana on a CBS/Sony OONY recording of Edgar with Bergonzi and Scotto. Didn’t she also do some Wagner?

          • Hippolyte

            Gwendolyn Killebrew is the Gotterdammerung Waltraute in the video and audio recordings of the Chereau/Bayreuth Ring. She also was Brangane at Tanglewood when Norman and Vickers sang Act 2 of Tristan together there. She did the Walkure Fricka here and there.

            My greatest memory of Killebrew was from the old television series Evening at Symphony featuring the Boston Symphony. It was a 1977 performance of Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedict and Killebrew had been singing Ursule but von Stade was sick for the performance that was taped for tv, so Killebrew instead sang Beatrice--wonderfully.

          • kennedet

            The years are taking their toll!! Please forgive me. I meant Gwendolyn Bradley but thanks for the education regarding Gwendolyn Killerbrew. Parterre box is awesome.

        • Krunoslav

          Indeed. Matzanauer was 31 when she sang her first met Fricka (both operas). Homer was 33 for RHEINGOLD, 30 for WALKUERE.

          Not at the Met, Veasey was 34 when she undertook both operas.

          • Krunoslav

            Make that Homer *38* for WALKUERE…

      • Camille

        Adult means: when you are ready to define yourself on your own terms, offer it up, and then accept responsibility, gracefully, for the outcome and any consequences.

        A lot of people never even get close to that, some singers included.

        At her age there is absolutely nothing whatsoever to hold her back from a Fricka–which one?—for heaven’s sakes! If she were singing, say, Kundry, that might be a tad too much, to put it mildly. She could sing the hell out of that one, for sure. Someday.

    • la vociaccia

      Also, Rise Stevens sang Fricka at the Met when she was 24.

      • MontyNostry

        And Grace sang Venus in Bayreuth aged 24 too.

        • Camille

          And, in the soprano-ish version, too!

          She always said Madame “I never sang for Hitler” Lottchen tried to keep her in her Fach, er, the wrong Fach.

          Maybe La Grâce was right after all.

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            Go ahead, Camille: shatter all my youthful illusions. The next time I go out to Zentralfriedhof to prune Leonie’s rosebushes, perhaps I will not go around the corner to make sure that Lottchen’s candle is lit.

          • Camille

            O cara, carissima Marianna—--perdona, perdona!!!! You are such a wonderful addition to this “Whipped Creme Room” aka parterre box, and I would do nothing whatsoever to disturb your sublime and unperturbable brow!

            However, that’s the name of the book:
            http://www.cambridge.org/us/knowledge/isbn/item1174387/?site_locale=en_US

            Please, please—do not cease tending our beloved Leonie’s grave, on account of my bad.

            Yours penetentially—I am donning my Forza Leonora sackcloth as I speak—
            BadKamille

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Yeah, I think this is unhelpful and over-cautious, Fricka is quite a short role, has no high notes, and is quite well written. If you have the voice for Wagner, which Barton surely does, most of the roles in his mature operas are surprisingly congenial, not least because there are so many places you can breathe.

      I agree with Camille that she’ll probably be a great Kundry, and that she should probably wait 5 years because although Barton accumulates very little tension on a phrase by phrase basis and can release it quickly, Kundry’s Act II high notes come so thick and fast that she’d benefit from developing that inter-phrase recovery process further before she takes it on in the theatre. But how on earth is she going to do that if she can’t sing things like Fricka to help her get there?

  • MontyNostry

    A Cardiff connection here, so not totally OT …

    I just discovered that Welsh National Opera is staging and touring Roberto Devereux with the oft-slagroomed (see above) Alexandra Deshorties. My interest and curiosity has been aroused, since it will be touring to Oxford, so in easy reach of London. Do you think it will be worth a punt (Oxford joke there, haha)?

    There is also Anna Bolena with Serena Farnocchia and I rather like her. Not so interested by Maria Stuarda with Judith Howarth and Adina Nitescu.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      I had been wondering about casting for their Tudor trilogy, and would never have guess Deshorties in a million years! I’ll probably try and get to that.

      Never heard of Farnocchia, can’t muster up any enthusiasm for Howarth, or Maria Stuarda in general (although I’ll give it a go at the ROH next year).

      • MontyNostry

        I think it could be rather fun. I saw Farnocchia as Fiordiligi six or seven years ago and found her a very appealing singer, though I’m not sure she is ballsy enough for Anna B. (Her recent Norwegian Verdi Requiem, with Fabiano, seemed well sung, from what I saw of it, but there is something placid about her.)

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          Have you heard Leah-Marian Jones recently? When I first started going to the ROH in the second half of the 1990s, she was in EVERYTHING, but has disappeared of my radar since. Sara is a meaty role with an aria and 2 big duets, as well as ensembles, I sort of worry about them entrusting it to a former comprimaria who doesn’t seem to have got very far in 20 years. For all I know she’s fabulous though and seldom works because she’s bringing up children, or something.

          • MontyNostry

            I haven’t seem LMJ recently, but she always seemed a sound singer and she looks good. I tend to think of her as being a bit like Anne Mason, who has always garnered lots of praise for her appearances with companies like OHP.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Yes, you’re probably right. No reason not to go.

            (I went right off Anne Mason recently, reading her contributions to recent FB threads -- she gets more Jan Moir-ish by the day it seems).

          • MontyNostry

            Less is Moir. I’ve always found Mason’s voice a bit buzz-saw-ish, but she never fails to deliver the goods. Talking of OHP mezzos, the one time I saw Carole Wilson there, as Ulrica, I wondered why she isn’t more famous.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Carole will be thrilled to hear that. What did you see her in? It’s a funny thing, but standing next to her on stage it seems like a small, almost amateurish voice which she uses in a sort of artless, totally straight forward way -- she is 100% ego-free. Clearly it goes over the foot lights extremely well.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Duh, Ulrica, you said.

          • MontyNostry

            I just remember her Ulrica being very classy. It was an odd evening -- when David Rendall had to sing from the side of the stage for another tenor, who had laryngitis, I think. Amanda Echalaz was a strong Amelia, though she couldn’t float enough -- she’s got better at that since.

    • Camille

      Depending upon the current state of her vocal condition, and you certainly will NOT be hearing ‘the beautiful voice’, you could be in for an exciting evening with La Deshorties, especially in a big diva role such as Elisabetta. Aside from hearing her notorious performance in ABDUCTION from the SERAGLIO over the radio (which was not all that bad, a matter of de gustibus I felt), I have heard her but one other time, and in the theatre, as Valentine in The HUGUENOTS. She is what I term “interesting”, as a singer and performer. Now I am sorry I didn’t venture upstate to hear the MEDEA, which she ventured a couple summers ago.

      She is nowhere near the NADJir, if you get my drift….and an intelligent interpreter, to say the least. There is a review of HUGUENOTS from-when? Summer of 2009, I believe, in the Archives which you may peruse, or not. At any rate, here’s hoping I don’t end up with a face full of slagroom for having given her a good word or two. Cheers!

      • MontyNostry

        I might just book a ticket for Roberto Devereux based on that advice, Camille, even if it means having to shlep to Oxford.

        • Camille

          Oh dear, please do refer yourself to that review of her performance in Les Huguenots before you do — I believe it is written by John Yohalem, a reliably intelligent and experienced reviewer. As it does take “temperament” in spades for this role, on that count you may be assured you shall get your moneys’ worth! I do so hope you will get some more advice from someone who has heard her more recently, as I wouldn’t have you going all the way out to Oxford for a disappointing evening! If her voice is in order she could very well be an eccelente Elisabetta.

          You can always visit “Downtown Manhattan” while you are there..hahaha..I did love THAT!

          Bon voyage!

          • MontyNostry

            It’s only an hour to Oxford, dear Camille, and there is a choice of a fast train or a bus that provides a 24-hour service, I believe, and stops not far from my home. I might give Downtown Manhattan (or, more likely, its successor) a miss. It wasn’t that great back in 1980 …

          • Camille

            Very well then! C’est une aventure! Do let us hear about it when you do.

          • Camille

            Here is an old page that has some discussion on Alexandra Deshorties for you fellows. I don’t know that it is particularly pertinent to this case but it gives some idea of the, er, debate on Deshorties that has gone on here.

            http://parterre.com/2010/07/25/the-return-of-glimmertrash/comment-page-1/#comments

            Still hunting for the Huguenots review, but yet To find it.

            I hope she gets another chance and can leave the Schmach und Schande behind her. Like Marina the Poppy, she IS intense, but far less maddening and headscratching vocally. It is just not a pretty voice, per se, that’s all.

          • manou

            Here is La Deshorties (cover for Harteros) singing short extracts from Desdemona -- worth seeing for the wonderfully enthusiastic Pappano delving into the Otello music:

            http://www.roh.org.uk/news/watch-antonio-pappano-introducing-verdis-otello

          • Camille

            Here is another fruit of my archæological research on the HugeNuts;

            http://parterre.com/2009/08/24/massacre-i-hardly-know-her/comment-page-1/#comments

            It’s a shame the video of the Act IV love duet can’t be seen any longer.
            Still digging away….

          • Camille

            And here’s the last of the DeshortiesHasse, complete with a link to a JJ NY Post review and now I rest my case.

            http://parterre.com/2009/08/04/a-festive-burg/comment-page-1/#comments

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        There is in fact a favourable review of Deshorties in the current edition of opera. Unhelpfully, I can’t remember what of -- a contemporary work I think, which I had never heard of, and which didn’t stick in my mind for that reason. If it helps, I think Susan Graham may have been involved (although I read so many reviews today, they might have got muddled). Anyway, it had no complaints about her at all.

        • MontyNostry

          Argento’s Aspern Papers, Cocky. It says, if I remember rightly, something about her ‘allowing some brittleness’ into her tone when playing the older version of her character. Was that being gallant?

  • MontyNostry

    Scarily, I think the last opera I saw at the New Theatre in Oxford was a Glyndebourne Touring Falstaff in October 1981. At the time the theatre was decorated in red metalflake and had a nightclub downstairs called Downtown Manhattan. Sheer class.

  • zamusik

    congrats, jb!