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Les vêpres de Westchester

The big news from Bel Canto at Caramoor’s presentation of Les Vêpres Siciliennes last Saturday is far from unexpected: This wonderful score, a five-act grand opera composed to a French libretto, sounds much better—and, incidentally, makes a lot more sense—when sung in the original French words to which Verdi composed it. Even sung in American French. (The most exciting performance I’ve ever attended of it, however, was Die Sizilianische Vesper, auf Deutsch, in East Berlin, a riveting Walter Felsenstein production that omitted about forty minutes of the best music.)

Will Crutchfield’s picked company of soloists and chorus (the latter from his Bel Canto Young Artists) sang and played with fervor worthy of the occasion. The four leads were not of the very highest international rank, but close enough and ardent enough to give us a fine notion of what a full-scale Vêpres might be. This ran to three and a half hours of music. On a humid night at over eighty degrees, there were fewer early departures from Caramoor’s Venetian Theater than might have been expected.

Verdi scholar Julian Budden has called the version usually heard, I Vespri Siciliani, “one of the worst [libretto translations] ever perpetrated.” Aside from the mangled accents falling on the wrong syllables, the story points are more confusing than they need be, the characters less rational, the labyrinthine plot even murkier in Italian. Yet this is the score published by Ricordi and, therefore, on the plea of expense, performed at the Met and every other American (or Italian) opera house that has given the piece.

Only Vincent La Selva’s New York Grand Opera, back in 1999 in Central Park, has ever presented the French original on American soil, and that was with microphones and mediocre singers. Preposterous as its story may be, Les Vêpres contains a lot of terrific music composed at the peak of Verdi’s powers, immediately following the great trifecta of Rigoletto, Trovatore and Traviata. It deserves better in public performance than the Italian translation permits. We should be carried along not alienated by the political myth here enacted.

The singers performed with tolerable French diction and a proper regard for Opéra grandeur. Turkish bass Burak Bilgili won the most admiration among the men; he was simply the loudest, but singing, never braying. Procida, the arch-conspirator who represents the insatiable desire of the Sicilians for liberty (business) and vengeance (pleasure), even during the false happy end that occupies most of Act V, must be irrepressible. “O toi, Palerme” (a popular favorite that has never stirred my heart) was robust and well oiled, his conspiratorial whispers in the cabaletta clear to the last row.

Marco Nisticò had the sinister presence of Verdi’s villain-turned-parent, Guy de Montfort (a bad-guy goatee helped), and his baritone is smooth and robust, but in his soliloquy he lacked the heart-turning warmth that can give this opera an illusion of humanity.

John Osborn, Henri, also properly hirsute for his character (a rebel’s long hair), nailed the only high D Verdi ever wrote for a tenor. He sang with a persuasive sense of line and no shrillness in a role that races between dramatic outbursts and elegiac passages. Some of the most forceful declamation seemed to call for more push, more support than Osborn can easily produce, but this was a creditable performance of a heavy role on which more famous tenors (Nicolai Gedda) have stumbled.

Angela Meade wore a little tiara and spangles on her dress, appropriate to a Duchess in exile and, even more, to a diva on a roll. Folks adore her hereabouts, a fact that seems to have made her feel more secure on stage, and she capped her performance of the “Bolero” by tossing her wedding roses one by one to the crowd during the ritornello—is that Diva or what? She seemed happily unembarrassed by her avoirdupois and eager to change moods (Hélène is often troubled, to say the least) and run around the little stage area.

Her lovely voice, which Maestro Crutchfield treasures (Norma, Semiramide), was less cold and less separated into rival components—a thin, lofty top, a detached, hearty chest—than has been the case during her recent essays at Lombardi and Beatrice di Tenda. She has never quite struck me as a finished product, and the signs that she is willing to work on her lacunae indicate a winning professionalism. She has the voice to be big and the guts to be big.

As Hélène, Meade was cold and fiery at once in her battle-cry in Act I, tender in her duets with Henri (ducking some high notes in the prison scene—but who needs them?), delicious if not string-of-pearls perfect in the chromatic runs that conclude “Ami le coeur d’Hélène,” with plenty of voice left for the famous “Bolero” (no high E, but Verdi didn’t compose that note). Then, as in her Met Ernani, she tossed caution to the winds and sang the concluding trio with powerhouse authority, easily matching Osborn’s frenetic outbursts and Bilgili’s menacing threats. I hope Meade, who has previously sung the role in Vienna, will be considered worthy of a Met revival—en français, s’il vous plaît!

Maestro Crutchfield led the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in an unflagging, thrilling performance, often holding the dramatic scenes tautly together at the expense of breaks for applause that would have been de rigueur at La Grande Boutique. He was supportive to his singers, slowing down at some tricky moments—but not halving the tempo during the “Bolero,” as Caballé used to demand! The double choruses of which Verdi made much use in this opera were well-drilled and exciting. The almost invariably omitted “Four Seasons” ballet was not too much of a drag—the “illustrative” orchestrations were intriguing, and we all sympathized with the program for “Summer”: “The nymphs, invited to dance, say they are too hot.”

Why is this opera, so full of charged situations and gorgeous melodic solutions, so much less known than her sisters of Verdi’s middle period? Much of the problem is the gimcrack libretto. Verdi spent much of his time reading plays, scouting for likely libretti. With the exceptions of Nabucco and Aida, his most successful operas are based on hit plays, from Schiller to Shakespeare. If he had lived twenty years longer, no doubt we would have an operatic Hedda Gabler or Cherry Orchard, perhaps even a Salome or Tosca. But Les Vêpres was not based on a play.

In the 1850s, having completed Luisa Miller, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata (all from hit plays), Verdi had his first crack at the grandest opera house of all, the Paris Opéra. For this commission, he demanded the most famous of Parisian librettists, Eugène Scribe, hoping for something on the order of Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète.

At the climax of that opera, just as Jean of Leyden is committing the sacrilege of proclaiming himself the son of God, a voice from the crowd cries out, “Mon fils!” It is his mother, Fidès. The crowd goes wild. To escape being torn to pieces as a messianic fraud, Jean is obliged to deny his mother, and she must deny him. The crowd is joyous, and only we, the audience, are aware of—and distressed by—the agony of the principals. That pinpoint where the excitement moves, at one syllable, into heart-rending pathos awed Verdi. He wanted a moment like that so bad he could taste it, and would try for it again and again (with “figlia” in Boccanegra, “Renato” in Ballo, “mio padre” in Aida). He begged Scribe for another Prophète.

But Scribe was a weary old man. He fobbed Verdi off with Le Duc d’Alba, a libretto whose score Donizetti had left uncompleted. Alba, set in Antwerp, has a pinpoint moment, when a crowd of oppressed Flemings is quelled by the appearance—the mere name—of Alba, the Spanish general who terrorized the Low Countries in the 1560s.

Leading the revolt is the vengeful daughter of the executed Prince of Egmont, and her youthful Dutch admirer, Henri. But Henri learns that Alba is his father, and Alba, the monster, becomes a doting Verdian parent. Rather than betray his girlfriend, Henri hurls himself between her fatal dagger and his dad. Thrilling, yes, but over much too soon. Besides, Verdi did not feel that his genius responded to Dutch beer-halls and insisted the show be moved to some revolutionary event in a sunnier clime.

The “Sicilian Verspers” was the massacre, in 1282, of a French army that had been occupying the island for fifteen years. Unfortunately, there was no monstrous “Alba” figure in this legend to chill the blood of educated audiences with his very name, and no martyred “Egmont” either. Suitable substitutes were invented, but they are cardboard fictions whom singers must labor to bring to life, not unlike the situation in Trovatore but shallower, less focused. Verdi has made a tighter case for his mazy characters in Trovatore, absurd as they may be.

The historical “Vespers” massacre is said to have broken out just as the bell for Vespers rang on Easter Monday, when a French soldier pestered a bride going to church in Palermo and her husband knifed him. (The church “of the Vespers” still exists, at the opposite end of town from the church that inspired Szymanowski’s King Roger.) The Sicilians slew everyone in Palermo who could not pronounce the word “ciciri” (which defied the French tongue), their spouses and children as well. (You can find the matter explained in Steven Runciman’s elegant The Sicilian Vespers.)

The incident with the bride actually occurs in the opera, a few minutes into Act I, but just as the Sicilians are about to fly at the throats of their oppressors, “Montfort’s” appearance terrifies them into submission. No wedding bells ring, no daggers draw blood. But the massacre is the drama’s raison d’être and, four acts later, after every manner of melodious delay, we get it in the neck. Takes two minutes. The curtain falls on gore. Henri, the patriotic Sicilian, being (since Act III) French by birth, is murdered with his father. Hélène, as his bride, is also doomed. You see the problem: However fine the music, the entire action might seem like filler. But such wonderful filler! Especially if the French libretto is used and, as at Caramoor, passably pronounced.

Director Steven Tharp, who kept the rumbustious plot remarkably clear, made, in his lively introductory talk, two small errors. He cited Les Vêpres for “the only a capella quartet in Verdi’s operas” (there’s one in Luisa Miller that’s better and more difficult to sing) and “the only father-son duets in Verdi,” in contrast to the many famous father-daughter duets. But in the original, French Don Carlos, there is such a duet, the wonderful threnody sung over Posa’s murdered corpse by Carlos and King Philip. Cut from the later versions of the opera, Verdi recycled it for mezzo and bass as the “Lacrimosa” in the Requiem. I hope it will be sung in Caramoor’s next operatic project, Don Carlos, on July 26.

For those insatiable for bel canto and undismayed by humidity, the afternoon before the performance was filled, as usual, with preliminary concerts relevant to the theme (Verdi in Paris), sung by Caramoor’s excellent Young Artists. There were two, covering “Italian Composers in Paris” and “The Paris Opera,” presenting works by Piccini, Sacchini, Cherubini, Spontini, Donizetti, Auber, Halévy, Meyerbeer—even Verdi. (What! No Mercadante?)

Among the singers, the most polished were Jennifer Feinstein, Noah Baetge and Cameron Schutza in a trio from Donizetti’s Elisabeth; Baetge again, with a fine messa da voce flow, in “O toi que j’ai chérie,” the seldom-heard aria Verdi composed for an 1864 revival of Les Vêpres (not as good as the one it replaced), and Elise Brancheau, Sarah Nelson Craft, Paul Han and Nicholas Masters in a quartet from Auber’s Le lac des fées.

Masters and Nicholas Altman, in a conspiracy duet from Donizetti’s Marino Faliero, demonstrated the roots of Verdi’s low-male-voice machismo, and Joseph Beutel sang Meyerbeer’s once popular “Piff! Paff!,” a song about the delights of shooting your religious enemies that might, like the sentiments it expresses, return to fashion.

159 comments

  • guy pacifica says:

    I had never heard Vepres/Vespri in its entirety before, and so have followed this discussion with interest (I’m also a fan of La Meade, having seen her a number of times in her native habitat out here in the PNW). So I have spent most of the day at work listening to a really excellent YouTube recording of Vepres from the Naples Opera, from 2011. The orchestra is especially wonderful, and most of the singers are likewise excellent, particularly Gregory Kunde as Henri and Dario Solari as Monfort. If there are other lurkers on the site who like me didn’t know what the fuss is about, have a listen to this (you’ll need 3+ hours for the entire experience, but that’s what a long workday is for). This is prime Verdi in the mold of Don Carlos, wonderful music and tense drama interwoven with genius.

    • grimoaldo says:

      Very interesting, especially as it is in the original French. I listened to a little of it, sounds excellent.
      You can hear la Meade with Kunde in the Italian translation in a splendid performance from Vienna :

    • Camille says:

      Thank you very, very much for this one guypacifica. As yet I had not gone hunting and had contented myself with my old Opera Rara recording, as best as I could.

      Do people still grow moss on their limbs from all the ongoing rainfall there as in the olden days when I lived there? Makes for a beautiful terrain but far too much rain for me.

      • guy pacifica says:

        Well, it is frequently grey and damp here, but at least our weather doesn’t routinely kill us. In fact, it seems to me that over the years the weather here in Oregon has become warmer and dryer, much like everywhere else on earth. Except here, it’s not such a bad thing. Not yet.

  • laddie says:

    I must try one of those concoctions…just bought a bottle of Lillet, now to find the Plymouth gin. :)

    • Batty Masetto says:

      They are delightful, the only martini-family drink I really enjoy. Hendrick’s works well too. Try a twist of orange peel instead of lemon.

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

        Cocktails? And I missed the conversation??? My all-time favorite is the classic Negroni, which is impossible to screw-up:

        1 part gin (use the good stuff)
        1 part Campari
        1 part sweet vermouth (preferably Cinzano Rosso)

        Stir over ice (never, ever shake!). Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of orange.

        I found this incredible bar called Ruby in Kobenhavn in November. It’s an unmarked townhouse on a canal and you have to ring to be let in. It’s modeled after an English gentlemen’s club of the 1920s and has a series of small rooms on two floors with fireplaces and period antique furniture. I and my best friend curled into huge overstuffed leather chairs after a concert and were waited upon by our manservant, Rasmus. We tried the house specialty and were speechless: the most amazing cocktail I ever tasted. Just as my friend said, “Do you suppose, if we ask them nicely, they would give us the recipe?” Rasmus came over to us and said, “Since you gentlemen are enjoying The Rapscallion so much, we thought you might like to have the recipe” and handed me a piece of paper with the recipe handwritten. Life sometimes doesn’t get any better. So I give you:

        The Rapscallion

        8 cl Talisker 10-year-old single malt scotch
        4 cl PX (Pedro Ximémez sherry)
        ½ ml Ricard Pastis (yes: ½ ml, NOT cl!)

        Stir over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of lemon zest. The ingredients are essential: no substitutions! I use a small plastic syringe to measure the pastis.

        So what cocktails were you discussing before I came on?

        • laddie says:

          I enjoyed a singularly delightful negroni at Sauce in San Francisco a few weeks ago. If you like your manhattens, old-fashioneds, and negronis, this is apparently the place to go.

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            I used to visit San Francisco at least once a year when I lived in America, but my last visit was in 1998 (or was it 1997? I went for the world premiere of “A Streetcar Named Desire”). I haven’t been to the States in a decade, and San Francisco seems so far away, nine time zones. Wien is SO not a cocktail town, so I do a lot of home bartending for friends.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Renee made a badass Blanche in that opera, dude!

        • laddie says:

          Thank you Jungfrau -- I love making novel and classic cocktails!

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          Jungfer, the classic Negroni is my favourite cocktail too, which like you I enjoy in the American ‘up’ fashion, rather than the more authentic over ice in a tumbler that you get if you order them in Italy.

          The trouble is, if you order one in London anywhere outside one of the big old hotels, you almost always have to explain the recipe and method too, which can be frustrating. Wein may not be a cocktail town, but they knew what they were doing at the American Bar when I was there last year!

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Kurwenal, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to write down the recipe for a Negroni – and how hard is 1 plus 1 plus 1? The American Bar in Wien? You mean that dive off Mariahilferstraße in the 6. Bezirk in the back of a kind of seedy hotel… the Graf somebody or other… which plays Rat Pack music? I love that place, but the prices of cocktails are insane. I used to go there rather frequently – in fact, they would start mixing a Sidecar as soon as they saw me enter the room – but it is sooooo easy to run up a high tab there. It’s now strictly reserved for out-of-town guests. I mean, they get something like €12 for a Negroni, and I can buy a liter of Campari in the supermarket for about €10! So I tend to lure people back here rather than go out – it’s comfy and god knows there’s enough music to listen to! And no smoke (when will Austria learn?).

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            No Jungfer, I don’t think I do mean there. I mean here:

            http://www.loosbar.at/kontakt.html

            It seems it is more correctly referred to as Loosbar, but all the guide books refer to it as The American Bar. I forget what we paid, I’m sure it is a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s a charming one (and it was pretty difficult to find anywhere with much atmosphere in the evening, I’m afraid!).

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Oh Cocky the memories you bring…… that bar is near the antique shop where I got my magnificent bust of Richard Wagner, the last time I was there, it’s near the Augustines Church, right?

            For atmosphere though, there is plenty of it in Vienna 7 (Neubau), it’s very gay, a bit like the Village in NYC? and talk about memories, oh how I wish I could go back to Vienna one day, Jungfer you are a lucky gurl!

          • Buster says:

            I am going to Vienna in August. Since I have never been, I watch an episode of Kommissar Rex a week, to prepare. This one is just fabulous: Bring me the Head of Beethoven:

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Kurwenal: I doubt if any echte Wiener has set foot in the Loos Bar in several decades. It is totally a tourist trap, overpriced, and they water down the drinks. It is smack in the middle of the 1. Bezirk right off Kärntnerstraße, the “main street” of Wien. This is actually the bar I meant (the sign on the entrance says “American Bar” under the actual name:

            http://www.castillo.at/en/

            It really is the best cocktail bar in Wien and has a truly amazing selection of whiskey from around the world – I once had someone on a ladder for 10 minutes searching for a small batch boutique bourbon. But it is expensive. The bar is quiet nice, actually, and far enough away from the 1. Bezirk that it doesn’t get many tourists, and the bartenders are truly artists. That being said, I am dipping into my first Negroni of the evening (up, of course, with an orange wedge).

            marshiemark: the Loos Bar is not near the Augustinerkirche (which is between Staatsoper and the Hofburg) – rather it is within spitting distance of Stephansdom, in the other direction. Also, the 6. Beziek is generally regarded as Wien’s gay zone, and has the vast majority of gay bars, cafés, and clubs (and men).

            Buster: “Kommissar Rex” went off the air in 2004. You’d actually do better by watching Richard Linklater’s extremely intelligent “Before Sunrise” with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and, of course, “The Third Man” (there is a cinema here – the Burg Kino – which screens it ever day!). When are you going to be here in August (and why August, when there are no performances except in Salzburg and some of the smaller rural festivals)? I am an excellent tour guide (if anyone is planning a visit to Wien, I would be more than happy to help with recommendations and possibly show you the city), but I am only here for a few days at the beginning of the month before I head to Bayreuth for 10 days, then 10 days of vacation in Napoli, and then four days at Grafenegg, so I am essentially gone from 09 August – 09 September.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            My cara Jungfer, that Bar I think it is still within the area between the Graben and the gate to the Hofburg, right? and the church is to the side of that. And in between there is a wonderful music store with lots of partitur (Wagner especially) and CDs and so forth, and lots of little antique stores that were my perdition :-)

            And yes the 6th is much more GAY per se, but the 7th is very genteel gay :-) , again with lots of antique shops and nice restaurants everywhere, and the organic food store, and the gorgeous 18th C architecture. I stayed on Siebensterngasse, hence my memories, there was a famous beer hall right next to my apt building that made it a bit noisy at night, but what splendor, the inner gardens and the trees, a SUBLIME city indeed!

          • Buster says:

            Thanks a lot for the tips, and the offer, Jungfer. I’ll be in Vienna for the museums, mainly, and travel back via Nürnberg and Bayreuth where I will see Fliegende Holländer on the 20th.

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Buster, we will just miss each other. My Bayreuth “Holländer” is on 13 August, followed by the “Ring,” so I will be returning to Wien on the afternoon of 20 August (and leave for Napoli four days later). You will definitely enjoy the museums here, and the courtyard of MuseumsQuartier is just a great space to hang out in the summer (and the bar serves a killer Cosmo).

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Lieber marshiemark: How do I make this brief? Graben begins at Stephansdom. If you start there and walk to the end of Graben and make a 90° turn to the left onto Kohlmarkt, it will take you to Michaelerplatz and the rear entrance of the Hofburg complex. If you then make another 90° turn to the left onto Reitschulgasse, it will take you to the Augustinierkirche. If you construct a triangle from the beginning of Graben, Michaelerplatz, and the Augustinierkirche, Loos Bar falls just outside of it. Döblinger (the music shop) is just a few steps up a side street off of Graben, on Dorotheergasse. Loos Bar is on Kärntner Durchgang, right off Kärtnerstraße, about 70 meters before you get to Stephansdom and the beginning of Graben. D’ya get all that? Indeed, there are many antique shops in that area, but it’s that way with the whole city within the Gürtel.

            Perhaps I am predisposed to the 6. Bezirk because I have lived here in a lovely, quiet mid-19th century building since 2001 (within walking distance of Theater an der Wien and Staatsoper), and I love the diversity of the little ethnic food shops on and restaurants on Gumpendorferstraße (Turkish, Iranian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, etc.), plus I am very close to Naschmarkt.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Jungfer, no doubt -- but as tourists with no local knowledge, we were reliant on guide books for suggestions as to where to get an aperitif. However, I could spot a watered-down negroni at 30 paces, and they weren’t.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            OK d’accord now carisssima Jungfer, yes all those antique shops within the Gürtel were my perdition, ufff so many glorious things, but at least I giot my over-scale bust of Richard Wagner that is now part of the shrine in my apt :-)

            I used to walk through the 6. to get to the opera house of course, Mariahilfer and all that, oh the memories. And there was a pillow shop on Siebensterngasse that I am still kicking myself for getting only one, thinking I’d get the other one for the pair, upon my return, and I never have and probably never will :-(

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            marshiemark, do you recall the name of the shop on Siebensterngasse, or what the cross street was? I could easily check to see if it’s still there and find out if they have a Web site or catalogue which I could send to you by post. Or if you want, you could send me a photo of the pillow you bought and I could see if it has a sister waiting for you.

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Kurwenal, please let me know when you next plan to visit Wien and I will personally escort you to the most soignée joints in this burg.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Oh carissssissima Jungfer, you are a sweet angel. But this is it, I do not remember the name of the shop. I kept the receipt so tightly guarded, that I no longer can find it. I’m sure it’ll turn up when I least think about it. OK I stayed at No 23, and right next door there was a Brocante store with all kinds of Viennese memorabilia, I found a lovely bust of Beethoven there. Across the street, there was a wonderful antique shop, with Russian Icons and some medieval stuff, religious art, and regular 18C/19C antiques. Going toward the museums on the same side of the street, there was a furniture shop, with pillows on the windows. All pillows had likenesses of KATZEN, which I adore, and were made of very good quality Hungarian tapestry. So I got one, thinking that two might not fit on the plane carry-on luggage compartment, but since I’d be back in a year or so, I could complete it the following year…. Alas it never happened, and now I have a lonesome cat waiting for his companion. If you could find the name of the store, I could call them and have them ship it to NYC, and would be the happiest queen in New York :-)
            There were many types of CAT Pillows so any one different from the one I already have would do. And mind you, the last time I was there was 2008, so in five years the store might no longer exist, or no longer sell cat pillows, but if I am lucky, everything will be exactly as before :-)

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            marshiemark, sweetie, this is Wien: we have shops that have been selling the same stuff since 1908 and still have “K & K” on their shingles. I love a challenge and Siebensterngasse is not that far from me. I shall have a look in the next days.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            OH Carisssssissssima Junger you really are a sweet angel!

          • manou says:

            Jungfer -- the Viennese have their shingles engraved? Ouch! Surely it’s a painful enough condition?

        • damekenneth says:

          Dear Jungfer,

          Thank you for the information on the nameless bar in Kobenhavn. My husband and I have a summerhouse in Denmark and, when we are in the capital (our house is on Jutland), we can never find a good place to eat or drink. (Well, there’s NOMA, but we cannot really afford another mortgage.) Denmark is not really a cocktail country, so we keep a martini shaker at the summerhouse (I do prefer my negroni shaken and up except on hottish days.) It’s nice to know that now I will be able to find a cocktail out on the town.

          Also, I agree about Gumpendorfer Strasse. It’s a favorite street of mine in Wien, very characterful, and I love the 6th generally. One of my favorite restaurants is Kontrapunkt on Windmuhlgasse. I would love to meet when next I am in Wien.

          Best,
          Ken

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Lieber Ken, the “nameless” bar in Kobenhavn is called Ruby. Did you get to look at the Web site (I posted the link somewhere above)? It’s entirely in English and goes on for days, with page after page of poetry, short stories, and cocktails. It’s very close to the Thorvaldsen Museum. You just need to know the address as there is no sign for the bar. As they explain on the Web site, they are difficult to find but the best things in life are worth searching for.

            And by all means, please let me know when you will next be in Wien. I might even be able to help you score some tickets if you give me enough advance warning.

            Ciao baba!

            P.S. My apartment is about 20 paces off Gumpendorferstraße, between the U4 and the U6.

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Ken -- my bad! I never gave the Web link to Ruby. It is rby.dk. Do check it out and flip through the pages by clicking on the lower right corner.

      • laddie says:

        My plan, Mr. Bats, is also to experiment with my beautiful herbs in my beautiful vegetable garden.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          Jungfer, Jungfrau -- es ist egal! Keine Sorge! You should check out the long and playful Web site for Ruby:

          rby.dk

          If you are into herbal concoctions, check out the page on their seasonal drinks.

        • Batty Masetto says:

          I mentioned to my hubby that we’d been discussing vespers on Parterre, and lo, one just materialized at my left hand.

          Marriage does have its advantages.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          There’s something called the “Herbaceous D” which is described as “O.P. Andersson Aquavit, Yellow Chartreuse and lemon are shaken with fresh parsley, mint and dill. Think of this as a Danish mojito and a delightful alternative to the longstanding classic.” Unfortunately, they don’t offer the recipe.

          • laddie says:

            No recipe, no problem. I love experimenting! Danke, JML.

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Zum Wohl, laddie (and attentive husband -- lucky you!).

          • damekenneth says:

            Cher Junger Marianne,

            First, I would love to meet when I’m next in Wien! Thank you for your openness to that.
            Second, the above Aquavit cocktail reminds me that I had created quite a delicious acquavit cocktail that was a bit similar and which I occasional substitute for my nightly negroni when on vacation at our place in Denmark:: a base of gin, lemon juice, bit of white wine and a splash of a good dill aquavit. The aquavit -- “snaps” in Danish -- we get at our local fishmonger in Ebeltoft (our local town) is exceptional and its addition makes such a refreshing cocktail.

            Look forward to descending soon on Ruby’s!

            Ken

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Ken, are you reading my mind? I just literally fixed my first Negroni! Thanks for the tip. I shall look for a dill aquavit when in search of Saint Germain tomorrow (and Marshiemark’s cat pillow – don’t ask!). I am starting a data base of Parterre Box cocktails.

            I am envious of your place in Denmark! I actually had a reasonable year-round getaway on da Jersey Shore for many of the years I lived in NYC, but have never found an equivalent here, but I seem to spend my summers bouncing from one festival to another from July through early September (Grafenegg ends on 08 September this year; I will be there for the last four concerts with Gatti and the Concertgebouw doing Mahler IX., Salonen and the Philharmonia, Bychkov and München, and Orozco.Estrada leading a Verdi Requiem).

            Instead of Salzburg, I am actually squeezing in a rare Real Vacation – that is, no opera! – this year with my best friend and hetero soulmate (it was he with whom I shared my first Rapscallion at Ruby when we went to Kobenhavn, mostly to see Andrew Bird at Amager Bio; yes – gasp! – I love rock ‘n roll and indie rock).

        • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

          Be careful!

  • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

    Oops: that’s Batty with the hubby! Sorry! And I’m not even drinking tonight!

  • Vergin Vezzosa says:

    Want to add my voice to thank Will C. for putting together the wonderful Vepres last weekend and John Y. for the excellent review and the many parterrians for the many inciteful and educational comments that have already been posted. I have always found Vepres/Vespri from start (the magnificent overture) to finish full of “gorgeous invention” and “thrill after thrill” as Herr Lick described earlier. Especially with the ballet included, it has also struck me as one of Verdi’s most glamorous works, understandable given the venue of its birth. Was also very pleased that Ms. Meade was so effective in a role which obviously suits her particularly well. I have generally been a fan of Meade since early on (Beatrice Di Tenda mostly excepted) and am pleased to see that she appears to have dropped what seemed to me in the past artificially motivated vocal “tricks” (attempts at quasi-Caballe-
    esque pianissimi) which distracted from the real communicative line of what she was
    singing. Osborn, while not completely consistent through all of his ranges, was a positive revelation to me having heard him only once before, unfortunately lost in one of the secondary tenor roles in the Met mess known as Armida. Although there are some differences in their respective singing, I am amazed at the emergence at a about the same time of Osborn, Hymel and Spyres who are all starting to excel in the same repertoire. Power to all of them. Hope like others that the good reception of Vepres at Caramoor will lead to Gelb putting it into one of the open slots at the Met the nextt few years.

    • semira mide says:

      “the Met mess known as Armida” that about sums it up!
      Next summer Armida will be restored at the ROF 2014.. hopefully that can remove the bad taste. Too bad it can’t be transmitted in HD to all the people who THOUGHT they saw Armida from the Met.

      • Sanford says:

        I liked most of Armida. I thought the tenors were all wonderful. And I liked the production a lot with the exception of the dancing demons. The biggest problem for me was the incredibly miscast Renee.

        By the way, Meade hasn’t entirely forsaken the pseudo-Caballe piani, as she sang them for I Lombardi.

      • Camille says:

        Semira mide cara,

        After having staggered on home after the Armida HD repeat, all I can think is this: what is this opera REALLY like?

        And what and where is ROF, if you please.

        Stumped and stymied Me

        • marshiemarkII says:

          CammiB! here you get it from someone that hates Rossini (i.e I am not a Rossini queen :-) ). ROF = Rossini Opera Festival? which I assume is in Pesaro?
          Just saying carissima……
          I am in a major Vienna-missing mood, a bit sad and depressed, all this talk of Vienna……

          • Camille says:

            Go eat some Sachertorte mit extra Sahne!!

            Exhausting, that tenor-a-thon. Too many tenors!

            Gross Kuss

          • marshiemarkII says:

            No Torte let alone extra Sahne for MMII CammiB, imagine the extra pounds…… orrore

          • damekenneth says:

            Hi dear Marshie, how are you holding up in this dreadful heat and humidity? I had a long walk to the upper west side (towards my place) from E. 18 this morning and was really bedraggled by the end.
            I agree about being in a Vienna mood. It’s become one of my favorite places to be. Somehow, I’m always longing either for Venice or Vienna!

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Oh my carissssisssima Dame K, please don’t even mention this disgusting heat and humidity, can you believe, last night I walk into the gym, that had been pretty pleasant till now, and there was NO AC!!!!!!!! somehow the thing was broken, and had to work out for two hours in a basement on 42nd St, with no AC, it was like punishment for all my sins :-) . So today I had gelato :-) just so that I absolutely have to go again tonight, and hoping in dear God that they have fixed the thing. This morning it was pretty pleasant as I left my place, but this evening it is pretty dreadful again, and will be leaving my air conditioned office for that gym!!!!!!.

            Oh all this conversation of Vienna has made me so nostalgic, and a bit depressed. Back in 2008, there were some gorgeous neoclassical apartments under renovation in a gorgeous building on Burggasse, right across the street from you know who. I came back to NYC seriously thinking that I might consider buying one of those, thinking ahead to a time I might not want to live in New York anymore, and retire to a gorgeous city like Vienna. Now I couldn’t even think of ever going back there, without having the memories overcome me with grief……

            When are you going to Denmark? it sounds absolutely wonderful! I had some of the most wonderful experiences there, but that was so many years ago……

        • semira mide says:

          Camille,

          MarshiemarkII is correct. ROF = Rossini Opera Festival and it IS in Pesaro. The festival has been around for 30 years and has been a partner in restoring/reviving most of Rossini’s operas.

          I’m not sure what a Rossini queen is -- would that apply to Beethoven?

          Armida is not my favorite Rossini opera although it can be thrilling when performed well. The Met production suffered from an Armida (Renee Fleming)who simply was not up to the task.She had performed it in Pesaro in 1993 to great acclaim btw. The conducting for the Met’s Armida was simply clueless,which is the kiss of death for a Rossini opera.

          Armida will probably be broadcast from the ROF next summer. Tickets will be hard to come by.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Carisssima Semira, there are E-flat queens, high C queens, trills queens, roulade queens, and of course Donizetti queens, Rossini queens, Verdi queens, and yours truly, the one and only Wagner queen :-)

          • Vergin Vezzosa says:

            Please don’t forget us Bellini queens!

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Oh Beatissssima Vergine, how could I??????? Not only you but la Carissssima CammiB also!!!! Orrore, plus MMII other than being a Wagner queen is also most definitely a Bellini queen! so please accept my apologies in sisterhood :-)

          • Camille says:

            Good for you Vergine, you are on the job for us True Blue Vinnie Believers!

          • Camille says:

            MarshiemII—your punishment, should you err again, will be forcibly fed cannolis!

          • Camille says:

            Yeah, semira mide, all that I knew.
            What I did not remember was that the acronym, which would appear to be an contraction of anglo terms, was the ACTUALLY name of the festival. Seems queer as f*ck to me an Italian festivale della lirica would be given this name, other than the obvious reason of appealing to an international audience, which of course is by force majeure.

            I guess I don’t care for the weird creeping-in of angloisms into Italian, or Hallowe’en there, either. Just disjunct, that’s all.

          • marshiemarkII says:

            CammiB Guai that your imprecation already had an effect. MMII has sinned!!!!, she went to visit her best friend who is unwell, and upon leaving his home, sees the GROM by Columbus Circle, and gorged on a gigantic gelato. [Just remembering that I Still owe cara Bianchissssima (where is she) and queridisima Manou the prize, remember?]
            so now with those extra pounds MMII will be unable to lure those bubbles, so desired…
            Oh and they are opening a new French Pastry Shop right next door, that looks DIVOON, Maison Kayser something or rather….. uffff at this rate MMII can kiss those bubbles goodbye for ever now…

          • Camille says:

            Marshie, marshie, marshie!!!
            You can have a sorbetto at GROM and that won’t kill you! Just don’t buy a vat of gelato and have panna (Sahne) on top. And forget about the Sachertorte unless maybe at Café Sabarsky.

            Don’t be TOO hard on yourself or you will go bingeing on antiques.

            What would Hildegard do? Huuuuum?

            GROM once in a great while won’t kill you and it is more fresh and wholesome than nasty Tasti Delite!

            Don’t worry, be happy, it’s Summer!! You can sweat to the oldies!

            Frau Cowbells

  • Feldmarschallin says:

    Jungfer weißt Du wann die GP von Don Carlos in Salzburg ist? Werde mal versuchen dort für Meistersinger am 30.7 eine Karte zu bekommen.

    • Feldmarschallin says:

      Habe jetzt bereits alle Daten und Uhrzeiten für Salzburg. Danke trotzdem.

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

        Liebe Feldmarschallin, es tut mir leid, aber Salzburg ist nicht in meine Pläne in diesem Sommer (ich war dort für Ostern und Pfingsten). Zwischen Bregenz, Bayreuth, und Grafenegg – und meinen Urlaub in Napoli – hab ich keine Zeit. Warscheinlich nächsten Sommer (außer wenn ich endlich nach Tibet oder Kamchatka fahre…).

  • -Ed. says:

    My new favorite cocktail was introduced to me by a magnificent bartender in Austin. Muddle fresh lemon zest and fresh thyme, add 1oz St Germaine and 1oz Dolin dry vermouth and a couple ice cubes. Strain into a glass, and top with chilled champagne.

    • laddie says:

      WUNDERBAR! I love thyme and I love St. Germaine. THank you!

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

      I am running out in the morning and buying a bottle of Saint Germain! I haven’t used my monthly Gutschein for Wein & Co yet. This sounds heavenly. Just three quick questions: Do you mean a cocktail glass or a champagne flute? And roughly what is the proportion of champagne to the 2 ounces of spirits? Finally: does it have a name?

      • -Ed. says:

        The cocktail is called 75 Years In Provence and can still be found listed on the website for Hopfield’s in Austin, though the ingredients have been altered since I was last there. Marvelous little watering hole, if you’re ever in Austin do look it up.

        It was served in a champagne flute as I recall, at least that’s how I serve it now. Any pretty, smallish stemmed glass you happen to like. Not much champagne, perhaps 3 or 4 ounces (sorry I don’t know the metric equivalents). I agree, St Germaine is divine, lovely all by itself.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          Ed, thanks for that! As for Austin, I haven’t set foot in the USA for a decade, and in Texas since 1987, so it’s highly unlikely I shall be able to sample 75 Years in Provence at the source! Metric equivalents are no problem: for cocktails, I just break it down into parts and use centiliters (like a Negroni is 4 cl each of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari). There is a fabulous Web site which converts just about anything you can think of, and is a great tool for me, particularly in cooking:

          http://www.onlineconversion.com/

  • Camille says:

    Can we start up a Happy Hour around the Box?

    Thank you for your Negroni recipe, Jungfer.

    Did you mix up one of theose for Oktavian and Sophie on their wedding night? Or was it you that slipped a mickey to Baron Ochs?

    Tschüßi mit Küssi
    Kamilletee

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

      Zu heiß für Kamillentee! Aber herzlichsten Dank für die Bussi! I think a Happy Hour on a regular basis would be a nice entr’acte, especially given the number of alcoholics… I mean fans of fine spirits who have made this thread especially long and fun (and ongoing).

      We’d need a La Cieca-sanctioned name and time. Is the bar on the south side of the Met’s Grand Tier still called the Serpentine Bar (boy, does that date me!)? I recall many years when we referred to it as the Barracuda Pit: five minutes there and no matter how much you were enjoying a performance, somebody would come along and rip it to shreds and tell you (and everybody in earshot) how much better it was when Maria sang it in John Ardoin’s shower in 1958, and that he had the tape to prove it.

      And about that wedding night und der Sache Ochs: weiß ich überhaupt nicht! Meine Lippen bleiben geschlossen (zum ersten Mal).

      • Camille says:

        Und meine Lippen sie küssen so heiß!!

        Ooh, heute die Barracudas sind DAPERTUTTO in die Internet

        Jungfer, if EVER I am again in Wien, Wien, nur du allein, I will find you, as you are MY KIND of Jungfer—FUN!!!

        Heißen Küssen!
        Kamilletee

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          Please let me know when you plan your next visit: I always enjoy meeting people (especially those who share my sense of humor!).

  • Archaeopteryx says:

    Dear semi ramide, Do you know by coincidence who is singing in that ROF Armida next year? Thank you!

    • semira mide says:

      I have no information about the cast for Armida ROF2014 yet. I will certainly post here when I do although I don’t imagine I’ll be the first to know. I do have a “dream cast” in mind, but there are so many factors I don’t even dare speculate.

      I will post some ROF 2013 updates here later today.

      • Archaeopteryx says:

        Cool, thank you. My dream cast in the leadintg lady is of course DiDonato, but I doubt she will sing at ROF. Maybe Jessica Pratt, or Sonia Ganassi if they’ll persue the path of casting mezzi in the Colbran roles.

        • Nerva Nelli says:

          Damn straight JDD would make a badass Armida.

        • A. Poggia Turra says:

          IIRC Pratt sang Armida at Garsington a couple of years ago and received good reviews.

          Also, will the 2014 be a a new production or a revival of the 1993?

          • manou says:

            I saw Jessica Pratt at Garsington -- she was certainly promising and I liked her a lot.

          • semira mide says:

            In reply to A. Poggia Turra’s question: It WILL be a new production of Armida at the Rossini Opera Festival in 2014.
            According to the ROF press conference on June 6th, there will be two new productions: Armida and Aureliano in Palmira.
            No public announcement on singers yet.

      • semira mide says:

        As in past years,the opening nights of the featured operas at the Rossini Opera Festival will be transmitted on RAI3 (streaming audio).L’Italiana in Algeri and William Tell will also be transmitted on Euroradio, which I don’t know much about.

        L’Italiana August 10 20.00 local time
        Guillamume Tell August 11 18: local time ( note early start)
        L’occasione Fa il Ladro August 12 20:00 local time.

        A festival “follower” is featuring a “count-down” on travelforopera.com. You might give it a look. I hope to send tweets from the opening nights and will follow with some short observations not sure where I’ll post them yet.

        BTW Jessica Pratt had a wonderful success in 2011 with “Adelaide di Borgogna” and “Ciro in Babylonia” as well as a recital in 2012. I have no inside info, so it is simply fun to speculate!

  • Archaeopteryx says:

    Thank you for that wonderful review. Will there be anyone going to the Don Carlos at Caramoor? It’s my favourite mezzo lady Jennifer Larmore singing there…

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    Interesting (to me) mystery: here is a clip of Rosa Ponselle singing Verdrai carino from what the poster claims is a 1934 Met performance:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjf9094v34w

    However, on searching the archives, I can only find Ponselle listed as Donna Anna, in all the Don Giovanni performances she did. Do we think the archives are incomplete, or did she just randomly annexe the aria because she liked it, rather like Dame Joan with Tornami a vagheggiar? I wondered if it was from a gala, but there was only 1 in 1934 in which Ponselle was involved, and it was a very bizarre sounding affair that didn’t include this.

    Also interesting is the contemporary review of her first performance as Donna Anna, which sees it very much as something she is ready to do because she has already done Vestale and Norma. I find I don’t disagree with the idea that Donna Anna is, in fact, tougher than Norma, if we’re talking a really first rate Donna Anna.

    • Buster says:

      It is Editha Fleischer, Cocky, not Rosa. This is the complete performance:

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        Really, Buster? It crossed my mind that it might not be Ponselle singing, but I dismissed it -- the voice seemed rich enough and I was convinced it had her mannerisms!

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          Listening again it clearly isn’t Ponselle. Doesn’t have the plushness or the unassailable legato. Had me fooled though!