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A multiplicity of mezzos

Wonder no more! Says the Met press office, “Elina Garanca has withdrawn from her 2013-14 Met engagements because she is pregnant with her second child, who is due this winter. Garanca was originally scheduled to sing Octavian in three performances of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier and Charlotte in a new production of Massenet’s Werther. Two star mezzo-sopranos will replace her in these performances: Alice Coote in Der Rosenkavalier and Sophie Koch, making her Met debut, in Werther.


  • 1
    Opera Teen says:

    Not the worst way it could have ended, but I’ll sure miss Garanca.

  • 2
    Podlesmania says:

    I’m very happy about Elina Garanca having another baby: a loss for us, but for a great occasion! Sophie Koch, for what I know is a reliable & dedicated artist: I saw her once singing Adalgisa to Gruberova’s Norma, and I felt that it was pretty much the best of the evening (or rather afternoon, I think it was).

    • 2.1
      Fifi Figaro says:

      Sophie Koch was a wonderful Fricka in the Munich Ring this summer.

      • 2.1.1
        Feldmarschallin says:

        Personally I thought that Elisabeth Kulman was better in January. But a ‘wonderful Fricka’ might be a bit much. Granted she was much better this summer than last summer or at the start of the Ring. Koch was fine as Charlotte.

  • 3
    Chanterelle says:

    Kaufmann and Koch paired in the Paris Werther in 2010, before she started singing Wagner. Here’s an excerpt:

    • 3.1
      bassoprofundo says:

      “Kaufmann and Koch paired in the Paris Werther in 2010.”

      Do people talk like this in real life?

      • 3.1.1
        blansac says:

        Are there really assholes like you in real life?

      • 3.1.2
        operaassport says:

        I recently watched the BBC restoration of the coronation of Elizabeth 2nd and I loved it when the BBC presenter, Richard Dimbleby, said right before the actual crowning:
        “The moment of crowning is come.”

        Yes, people talk like that.

    • 3.2

      Oh, we watched here in parterre when they did the live webcast. we even had a drinking game: take a drink every time they do an overhead shot from the stage.

  • 4
    Will says:


  • 5
    Will says:

    PS — My “YES” was meant as a reply to bassoprofundo, not to to blansac. I have noticed that in this system, you can click reply under a particular comment but your own comment does not necessarily appear there.

  • 6
    MontyNostry says:

    Koch certainly outclassed Villazón at Covent Garden a couple of years ago. That being said, I wish her French was a bit more French, as it were. I don’t have oedipe’s profound understanding of French prosody, but her words lack the immediacy and life I hope for from a native speaker. Still, the voice is lush and she is a beautiful woman (more sympathetic than Garanca too).

    • 6.1
      oedipe says:

      At the time of the Bastille Werthers, Koch was relatively little known in Paris, having sung mainly in Germany and at the ROH. Someone commented on a French opera forum after one performance:

      “C’est une belle interprète de Charlotte. Elle est de quelle origine?”

      • 6.1.1
        Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

        Wow. No wonder the Met does not employ French singers if it can help it, eh?

          oedipe says:

          Unfortunately, for this emergency, no non-French singers were available, or could be bought out of their contracts, so they had to settle for Koch (after having successfully avoided her for a number of years).

      • 6.1.2
        manou says:

        Nice Koch tale, oedipe.

          MontyNostry says:

          Don’t be a Kochlöffel, manou.

          • manou says:

            Actually -- I am cheating because Sophie’s name is pronounced Koche.

            I did love “she has nothing Toulouse”, by the way.
            And refrained from adding Lot Wreck.

            • Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

              Please leave Félicité out of this, manou.

              BTW I heard a radio broadcast last year which went with -ck, not -che.

              Maybe she should change her name to Koc’h?

            • manou says:

              Dame Flott? Surely not a wreck yet.

              Maybe Sophie should change her name to (Mouche du) Coche.

      • 6.1.3
        Hippolyte says:

        It’s remarkable that Parisians have such short memories since Koch did both the Composer in the Pelly production of Ariadne auf Naxos and Concepcion in his L’Heure Espagnole in Paris in 2003-04, and both were televised:

        Presumably she wasn’t a favorite of Mortier (did everyone also forget Renee Fleming?), but she was doing major French roles in Toulouse (Mignon and Margared in Le Roi d’Ys) during her absence from the Paris Opera.

        And she was scheduled for a MET debut in 2008--as Nicklausse--but the production was shelved to accomodate Marcelo Alvarez’s decision to stop singing Hoffmann.

      • 6.1.4
        roseducor says:

        Sophie Koch sang Rosina at the Bastille, and the Composer in Ariadne as well as Conception in L’Heure espagnole at the Garnier in the early 2000s

    • 6.2
      Porgy Amor says:

      I wish I found her sympathetic…or much of anything, rather than a competent, color-within-the-lines blank. In the head-to-head of those two Charlottes, in the two performances I have seen, Garanca is annihilating.

      I would never be able to find this, but in that “Reunion” feature in Opera News, Koch got dissed a few years ago by some retired diva whose calling card had been all the women in Hoffmann. Maybe someone else can fill in the name? She talked about a terrible Manon (?) she had seen on French television (not Koch, of course), and then she mentioned that the then-recent Werther production (Kaufmann and Koch) had not been as bad, but still pretty bad, and concluded: “If that girl was a mezzo, I’m the pope” (or similar).

  • 7
    kashania says:

    Based on her Komponist, I’d say that Coote will be a great Octavian.

  • 8
    Archaeopteryx says:

    Go, go, go, Alice and Sophie! Great opportunities for both of these great ladies.

  • 9
    Hippolyte says:

    It’s fascinating to see how these things are managed: clearly the MET had to get Koch out of several engagements including a new production of La Favorite in Toulouse (on whose website she is still listed)

    and presumably also Octavian at Theatre des Champs-Elysees in a visit to Paris by the Bavarian State Opera--the performance is scheduled for March 18, three days after the Werther HD.

    • 9.1
      MontyNostry says:

      I would have thought it’s tougher to find a good replacement for a Léonor than for a Charlotte. But I suppose Sophie thought she had nothing Toulouse. haha!

      • 9.1.1
        MontyNostry says:

        Maybe Jamie Barton can step in. She does a great job with ‘O, mon Fernand’.

      • 9.1.2
        oedipe says:

        I would have thought it’s tougher to find a good replacement for a Léonor than for a Charlotte.

        It is. Last season’s La Favorite at the TCE had a miscast Alice Coote as Léonor. This year the TCE is doing the Italian version, with Barcellona. I have high hopes for Barcellona, but I don’t know if she would be as good in the French version.

          kashania says:

          I don’t know how she’d be in the French either but Barcelona should be very good in the Italian.

          • oedipe says:

            Indeed, and I am really looking forward to it. The others in the cast are JDF and Jean-François Lapointe.

            But it’s a concert version, and it’s one of those difficult choice dates one gets in Paris: on the same date (Dec. 18) there is a (sold out) concert conducted by Boulez, and it’s such a rare opportunity to see him these days.

          shoegirl says:

          The French version is better, it’s a pity they don’t have Barcelona doing that. She was sensational in Donna de Lago at the ROH. I could imagine there are few things she cannot do justice to.
          I was at the TCE Favorite and must admit I enjoyed Coote as Lenor, when she does get a shot at female romantic roles she can ham it up a bit, she sometimes overacts, which is necessary for pants roles but not for lady ones. Still she’s a lovely, punchy Oktavian, especially good at working the ensemble moments. It’s a bit of a sparse production, that Favorite. I hope they do so something to brighten it a little.

  • 10
    zinka says:

    ORRRORE! Just saw Coote in Mozart arias at Phil.Hall..NOTHING special..Sindram does one..but i am afraid Coote in no way will come up to the Octavian standards set by Rise, Graham,etc.

    Koch is great on the video of Werther..

  • 11
    Chanterelle says:

    Surprised no one has mentioned Coote as Octavian in the 2005 Maximillian Schell/Gottfried Helnwein production in LA, the one with the blue bunnies:

    She held her own against a rather overwhelming production.

  • 12
    Flora del Rio Grande says:

    If I may horn in for just a moment, not to interrupt the colloquies of you
    learned ones, I need some advice: I’ve seen reports of the Warsaw ‘L’amore
    de tre re,’ glowing reports -- and I understand Polish Radio has released
    a two-CD set. I am keen to have it, but only the Polish Radio website seems
    to offer it, and alas my language of Poland is rather unpolished. I am stumped!
    Anyone know of an English or French-speakng record source that might
    carry such an item? UK sources I’ve quizzed refer me to Polish Radio. No help.
    (It’s a marvelous opera, I am keen to hear a modern recording; I last heard it in the 1960s with Kirsten in SFO and she was a model of eroticism. Long ago, far away.)

    • 12.1
      phoenix says:

      Flora, amici! What a pleasure to find a kindred dinosaur who remembers those Kirsten Fiora’s at SF War Memorial in the 1960’s. I worked at the operahouse at the time -- perhaps you did?
      -- And even greater to find someone who (appears to be) a fellow Montemezzi fan. The wonderful Warszawa Tre Re can be heard here:

      Montemezzi’s La Nave (La Scala 1918), which I like just as much, can be heard here (but unlike the balanced acoustics in the Warszawa Tre Re, this is a house tape):

      An excellent review of this performance & a summarization of La Nave by John Yohalem can be found here. I recommend reading it if you haven’t already:

      • 12.1.1
        Camille says:

        Thanks a lot fenice. I missed it because of the Damn Hurricane!!!!
        Talk about die Macht des Schicksals!!!!!!

        Another L’amore dei tre rei is a RAI production, featuring that verista straordinaria, Clara Petrella and a bunch of guys I’ve forgotten.

          Nerva Nelli says:

          Brava Clara P.! You do well to forget Amadeo Berdini (Flaminio), but Renato Capecchi (Manfredo) and Sesto Bruscantini (Archibaldo) bear recalling, for style if not for sheer oomph.

          I would have loved to have heard this event, which included the creator of Avito:

          Metropolitan Opera House
          January 2, 1914
          United States Premiere

          L’AMORE DEI TRE RE {1}
          Montemezzi-S. Benelli

          Fiora……………….Lucrezia Bori
          Avito……………….Edoardo Ferrari-Fontana [Debut]
          Manfredo…………….Pasquale Amato
          Archibaldo…………..Adamo Didur

          Conductor……………Arturo Toscanini

    • 12.2
      orlando says:

      A few other possibilities, in addition to the YouTube L’Amore mentioned above--

      There was a studio recording made in the 70’s: Moffo, Domingo, Elvira, Siepi; Santi. It’s OK. Siepi is very good, Domingo and Elvira are OK, Moffo is not so good. There are used copies available on Amazon.
      Amazon also has a Bregenz Festival production from 1998. I’ve never heard that one.

      Berkshire Record Outlet has airchecks and videos of a few productions, going back as far as Pinza and Grace Moore in 1941, another with Kirsten in 1949, all the way up to Roberto Scandiuzzi, Francesca Patane, et al in the present day.

    • 12.3
      Dominatrix says:

      A number of years ago, I was lucky enough to spot a 2 disc CD of this opera conducted by Montemezzi himself at the Met on 2/15/41 with Ezio Pinza, Grace Moore, Charles Kullman & Richard Bonelli, singers who were incredibly popular back then, but with exception of Pinza, are not remembered that much today. Alas, the store is long gone, as are most of the classical stores. It was great to go to this store which was on Clark Street in Chicago & just peruse all of the classical CDs, which also had a lot of older performances, like this one. Of course, the sound is variable with a lot of static, as it was most likely copied from the radio broadcast & then digitally remastered by Eklipse. Historically, this is important, as it gives a sense of what the composer had in mind. The opera premiered on March 10, 1913 at LaScala in Milan conducted by Tulio Serafin & on Jan. 2, 1914 at the Met conducted by Toscanini. The set only includes a brief description of the Acts, with a bonus track of Pinza in arias from Il Barbiere di Siviglio, Don Giovanni & La Forza. No libretto. Pinza is his usual wonderful self & Grace Moore’s voice is very beautiful — sort of reminds me of Tebaldi. If I could ask Tebaldi any question, it would be why did’t you sing this opera, especially since Serafin was her mentor. I also wish the Met had produced it for her as well. Maybe she was asked, but wasn’t sure about it. I recommend this set for its historical importance if you can find it and don’t mind the static. I love the music, so don’t mind it.

      • 12.3.1
        phoenix says:

        Unfortunately (and I personally think wrongly) at that time (at least in the U.S.A.) the role of Fiora in Tre Re was considered to be only suitable for trendy, Hollywood type starlet singers -- bona fide fabricated by myth & media. Such don’t QUITE seem to exist anymore nowadays. It was only 50+ years but times have changed a great deal. In those old times, Tebaldi was not considered a great actress (but I always thought she was, albeit an interpretive one more of the ‘method’ school). The impression I got from Kirsten was that she thought she was supposed to do Fiora like a grand diva but by the time I saw her Kirsten’s middle voice (where much of Fiora’s music lies) was already dry and rather wooden sounding. When I read the libretto I knew something else was missing -- to entice the obsession of the 3 kings, Fiora (although she cheated on her lovers) would have had to appear to be sincere, guileless, charming & disarmingly accessible to the Tre Re AS WELL AS the audience -- i.e., not be on a glamorous pedestal.

          armerjacquino says:

          phoenix, I never saw Tebaldi live but whenever I listen to her caught live I always think she must have been a compelling actor.

          “Tre assi e un paio!” -- nuff said.

          • phoenix says:

            Si Señor -- È Vero!

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Most of the people I know who heard her would disagree, a lot,much as they liked her voice and found her generally charming.

            FANCIULLA live was desperation time, and produced exciting results.

            Compelling *presence*, perhaps yes. Actor, I tend to doubt it.

            • grimoaldo says:

              I never really liked Tebaldi’s singing very much, she always sounds flat or flattish to me, but I was quite amazed when I saw this performance on youtube from her very peak, Forza del Destino, Naples 1958. While it may not exactly be “acting”, with stylised use of hand movements and conventional gestures, she certainly does not just stand there and sing her music as many did at the time and still do, and she listens to the text Corelli is singing and reacts to his every word, showing quite marvellously in her face and body the character’s feelings at every moment.
              I also love the way she declaims “Orrore!” when Alvaro says he has the pistol not to shoot her father, but himself:

            • kashania says:

              And let’s not forget the Tosca with Mitropolous (who seemed to bring out the best in her) and Tucker/Warren. Don’t know about her physical acting, but it’s all there in the voice. The performance (1956) was recorded around the same time as her studio Tosca but is a world apart in terms of excitement.

      • 12.3.2
        Buster says:

        Charles Kullman is a fabulous Walther on the 1939 Met Meistersinger -- my favorite singer in the part.

  • 13
    zinka says:

    My dear Mr.Gelb,

    You know that I spend a lot of money on Met tickets, only to learn at various junctures, that some singers have the nerve to get themselves knocked up, thereby cancelling performances and severely disapernting die-hard fans like me. In this new case of Mme.Garanca, I know for a fact that Joyce Di Donato is busy, Christa Ludwig is retired, and Maria Olzewska is dead. Therefore I submit that you need to make a few slight changes in your ticket refund policies, which at this moment applies only to getting money back in case an opera is changed, and that happens as often as Lois Kirschenbaum fails to show up for a performance.
    I therefore submit the following alterations in your policy:

    1. Money will be refunded if any leading singer (who cares about comprimarios?) who falls into the category as “expecting” (sopranos,mezzos, and maybe one or two countertenors) is forced to cancel a performance or more.

    2. Any singer who cancels because of coming down with a case of that rare Roumanian disease (affects the mind) known as “Angelitis or Gheorghitis will also cause an instant refund.

    3. At the conclusion of an opera (and tapes will prove it), if anyone fails to sing an ENTIRE role ( e.g.-Act two of Aida w.Alagna last season), patrons will be allowed to either get their money back or get a free BOX seat for a future show.

    4. Since most of us “cognoscenti” know most of the words to operas, especially Italian ones, if any singer forgets more than 5 words at a given performance (or fakes it and substitutes Italian recipes, a refund will also be forthcoming; this syndrome is affectionally known as “Merrillitis.

    I do not fear the wrath of the Met and so I am signing my real name, and i hope you will follow through with my ideas.


    Alex Rodriguez