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In the kingdom of the blind

Which veteran artist delivers doubly sad news this week, canceling an opera that was written for her?

182 comments

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    This makes Fiordiligi sound like a piece of cake!

    • CwbyLA says:

      Holy cow! I listened to him recently in Verdi’s Requiem with LA Philharmonic. He was very impressive. I think he was the best among all 4 soloists.

    • soubrettino says:

      Who the f*ck writes like that? Is it Handel? He really is a crazy man. But I guess if the notes is in the voice it’s really not issue, but what a crazy line to sing.

      • kashania says:

        Amen to that. And people thought Verdi was tough on Abigaille with that two-octave plunge!! This whole area is a series of two-octave leaps and plunges.

        • FomalHaut says:

          Yes, but the orchestration is so thin in that excerpt. Abigaille and Lady Macbeth have much denser orchestras to sing over.

    • tornado12 says:

      Personally I think this recording does the aria much more justice:


      First of all, it is live and I heard him do it (I think the low B-flat (in modern pitch A! :O ) was even better in Hamburg than in Paris).
      Maybe his voice isn’t as dark and all velvet like D’Arcangelo’s but it is much more musical and there is ornamentation (that one high B-flat doesn’t count). Btw, he was also great as the Protector in “Written on skin”. And he will do Alberich.

      • soubrettino says:

        [low Bb/A comes out] -- laughs hysterically, slow wall-slide and slinks back to the basement.

        I know there are voices that just live down there, but it still makes me scream (in a good way). It sounded like vocal fry (as opposed to projected note) though… but of course this is just a recording. But I do love the rendition more than D’Arcangelo’s. Thanks.

        • grimoaldo says:

          Yes it is Handel and your reaction soubrettino “It makes me want to scream” is just what he is aiming for, it is sung by a man-eating monster “Among the shadows and the horrors” -- “Fra l’ombre e gl’orrori”.

          • tornado12 says:

            “it is sung by a man-eating monster”
            and that’s why I like Purves’ rendition more. It has to be a bit ugly. Also, as I said, when I heard it live in Hamburg he actually sang the low B-flat/A. There was a broadcast of this and I think there is even a CD planned, so we’ll hear.

            • oedipe says:

              And let’s not forget that there will be a concert version of Aci, Galatea and Polifemo on October 23 at Lincoln Center, with Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert d’Astrée, though with Laurent Naouri as Polifemo. No idea how good he will sound as compared to Purves, but you do get to hear the excellent Delphine Galou and Sonya Yoncheva.

            • Hippolyte says:

              It’s not hard to determine how Naouri sounds as Polifemo since he recorded it with Haïm in 2002 with Sandrine Piau (replacing his wife) and Sara Mingardo: it’s on Virgin Classics--soon to become Erato.

            • oedipe says:

              That was 11 years ago though…

            • Hippolyte says:

              I have more reservations about Yoncheva than I do about Naouri, but Galou will be perfect.

            • Fidelia says:

              I love Purves. Heard him for the first time in “Written on Skin” and since then, with everything I’ve been able to dig up on you tube, have been impressed both by his musicality and his ability to project a character. For me, D’Arcangelo doesn’t even come close.

  • tornado12 says:

    Anyone else here who longs for a Netrebko-Beczala Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk? I think Katerina would be an ideal fit for Netrebko’s voice. Also Opolais would be an option… What do you think?

    • MontyNostry says:

      Would Beczala make a good macho bastard, though? He always seems rather gentlemanly to me. Maybe those who saw his Duca will have a view on this.

      • tornado12 says:

        I actually think that a person which always seems gentlemanly can excel in a role such as this. It is a challenge but it’s fun to play and sing. Netrebko would be perfect. But almost certainly she is too much of a diva to play such an indecent role. Sadly. Also, Beczala wouldn’t work with a good director, so let’s find another tenor.

        • Camille says:

          Was Galina Vishnevskaya “too much of a diva”???
          Ich denke nein, and she did it!

          To wit:


          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tjxFLl2Mgo&sns=em

          I saw Malfitano roll all around the stage as Katerina and it was pretty good and it got really good when the Sonya (Victoria Livengood) got into the act. If anything, a bigger bitch than the Katerina, hard to believe!

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Personally i think Vishnevskaya was over-kill in everything I have heard her do. Too much of a diva, too much of everything- and nothing to like!

            • Camille says:

              Hee, hee--that is why I like her! That, and that clucking effect!

            • Camille says:

              Maybe this will help, or maybe not! At any rate, sure to draw MMIItm out of his silken trine morbide.

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBjGbT1iDH8&sns=em

              I find both wonder and terror in the above, but that suits me just fine.

            • Belfagor says:

              Decca reissued a DVD of the 1966 Soviet film of the expurgated ‘Katerina Ismailova’ with Galina -- it was post dubbed I think, and she is in way too much vocal close-up (it’s very searing!) -- but her acting is amazing, and her demeanor and expression when she goes to pull Sonyetka into the waves is completely authentic -- terrifying!

        • Porgy Amor says:

          Beczala does have his directorial opinions with which we can agree or disagree (as also with Furlanetto, Kaufmann, Van Dam, Riccardo Muti, et al.), but he has not refused to work with all good directors. He is not even completely anti-Regietheater. When an Opera News interviewer asked him about the Planet of the Apes update of Rigoletto, he defended it long after he had any responsibility to appear in it. The comment I remember is “This monkey business, it’s really not so bad.” (His colleague Diana Damrau has been less charitable.)

          As to Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Westbroek and Ventris under Janssons were brilliant. I have not always liked Martin Kusej’s work, but here he found an appropriate vessel and made a believer of me, and everyone in the cast was so brave, so unedited. A great production, top to bottom.

          • Vergin Vezzosa says:

            Per LaC. last March, there will be a Met revival of Lady Macbeth of M. in 2014-15 with Westbroek.

          • antikitschychick says:

            I first came across this production a few years back in my Opera History class (or history of Opera rather) through another student’s presentation, during which she showed a clip of this perf and our professor loved it. I too found it very intriguing and I like Westbroek..its long been on my “must see” list but I haven’t gotten around to it yet lol.

            • Porgy Amor says:

              I believe you will find it delivers on the promise. The DVD also has a one-hour feature in which everyone gets to talk at length, even cast members who have fairly small roles. The British singer of Aksinia, Carole Wilson — of whom Kusej asks a lot in the rape scene — is delightful here, with such a great attitude.

              I hope Westbroek does appear in this role at the Met, because I don’t think she has yet been seen or heard to best advantage there. Her “silent scream” near the end of Kusej’s production of the Shostakovich would make my list of the great opera-on-small-screen images. (I’m sure it was equally memorable for those who were there in the Netherlands, where this was a sensation).

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Nice to see more Carole Wilson love on here!

              I saw Westbroek in this role at the ROH -- she was really excellent. It was quite some time ago though, before there was any hint of strain in her high notes.

          • antikitschychick says:

            well that does it then Porgy as I loves me some special features. Just added it to my cart on Amazon :-D . Thanks for the extra info.

          • antikitschychick says:

            Cocky: who is Carole Wilson??

            • Porgy Amor says:

              Carole Wilson is a mezzo who sings a lot with the British companies, but also all over Europe. Most often she is in smaller roles (companions on the order of Marthe in Faust), but she has also appeared as Venus, Cassandre, and the whole of the great Verdi mezzo-bitch triumvirate.

              Aksinya in the Shostakovich opera is one of her well-traveled specialties, and as I said, she is very courageous in the Kusej production, which requires full nudity of her. Aksinya’s assault is very violent and graphic. (Amusing package warning on the DVD: “This performance contains stroboscopic light effects, nudity, and scenes of a sexual nature.” I love that they led with the “stroboscopic light effects.’)

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Thank you Porgy for filling in.

              She sings with a really disarming directness and simplicity, I think, with no hint of an ego -- rather an unusual way to approach the bigger roles in her repertoire, but as Porgy says she is in a lot of demand in the smaller roles that call for a lot of personality, which she does at the ROH, La Monnaie, Netherlands etc. But she is also a super nice and really fun lady.

            • MontyNostry says:

              I’ve only seen Carole Wilson as Ulrica at Holland Park and I thought she was really impressive. She should be more famous!

            • Porgy Amor says:

              Cocky: But she is also a super nice and really fun lady.

              That was my impression too. In her interview on the Kusej Lady M of M, while talking about the rape scene and how “the gentlemen of the [Nederlands] chorus were exactly that — gentlemen,” she is wearing a black T-shirt with “DIVA” in big glittery letters across the chest. I loved her immediately.

        • Be zalma won’t work with a good director… What kind of none sense is that? Yes, I know he said some stupid things not long ago, but since when does that equate that he won’t work with a good director?

          • tornado12 says:

            If that is so, than it’s even better. I can’t imagine a better fit for Sergei on today’s stages.

      • Camille says:

        Very astutely observed, Monsieur Monty, as per usual.

        A million times would rather watch the wonderful Mr. Beczala through a gauzy romantisch-laden lens, like this one:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7APrC9GaGzw&sns=em

        Though, I find the suggestion for Netrebko’s Katerina just about perfekt!
        Tear up the stage floor.

        • DonCarloFanatic says:

          Why is Beczala wearing a raccoon draped around his shoulders?

          He needs a gay friend. Or a gay friend with better style.

        • Feldmarschallin says:

          While watching that video I do wonder if Genevieve used part of that animal for one of her menus. Someone the collar is too short on the sides in my opinion. Hopefully it tasted better than it looks.

      • kashania says:

        His Duca was very suave. I think he’d be a credible Sergei dramatically. I think Netrebko is a brilliant choice, not just because of the music and the Russian language. But I think that dramatically, it would really suit Netrebko’s acting style.

        • tornado12 says:

          …and she even gets one high C-sharp with almost no coloratura. Now we have to search for a good Boris. Who could it be? And then we can propose it to certain opera houses for a new production. ;)

  • blansac says:

    Grandage Figaro axed for the Met’s 14-15 season. Richard Eyre to direct the new one.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/arts/music/richard-eyre-to-direct-figaro-at-the-metropolitan-opera.html

    • Vergin Vezzosa says:

      I liked many things about the Eyre Met Carmen and found the Grandage Don G. a total bore despite some good singing from the men (the women were horrible). My reaction to this news is therefore “Goody”.

      • Porgy Amor says:

        Agreed. Except that for me, the only total write-off of the women in the Don Giovanni premiere cast was Erdmann as Zerlina. I remember Rebeka as a voice of quality but uninteresting as a musician and actor, and Frittoli as displaying various vocal problems but certainly a strong grasp of style and the ability to communicate things about her character (this could stand as my review of every performance I have heard from her in the last five years). If you combined the strengths of the two of them, there would be a really good showing in there.

        But, agreed on the central point — Eyre > Grandage, so far, in opera at the Met.

        • kashania says:

          Agree about the women. Rebeka’s voice was quite striking and really grabbed my attention at first. But as the performance progressed, I realised that I wasn’t really getting much from her performance aside from the raw vocal material.

          And “total bore” describes Grandage’s production perfectly. Eye’re Carmen wasn’t for the ages, but it was a good production (aside from that forced tableau at the end with the bull).

          • Vergin Vezzosa says:

            kashania and Porgy A. -- I too found Rebeka’s voice “striking”‘ but unfornunately not in a good way. Maybe it is just my ears, but I hear a mercilessly bright monochromatic sound, glaring but somehow also cold. Like harsh florescent light or the bare lightbulb in the interrogation scenes in old noir movies. Agree about Frittoli who I really liked up to a point in time but who has turned so shrill in her last several outings that I now will try to avoid her. As she is rumored to be cast in the Met French Don Carlos in 2014-15 with Kaufmann, Keenlyside and Furlanetto, I can only hope that Gelb and/or Levine will take a second look and cast someone else in much better vocal shape as Elisabeth.

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              I just heard Rebeka as Violetta and I certainly have no desire to hear her again anytime soon. I heard that same bright and penetrating and grating sound, certainly not something you want in a Violetta. And at the end she died a very healthy death. Have seldom heard a Violetta in such robust voice at the end. You certainly didn’t feel for her at all.

            • oedipe says:

              Maybe it is just my ears…

              No, it isn’t.

            • kashania says:

              See, I like a bright penetrating sound, especially for a role like Donna Anna. But, she needs to learn to colour the voice better. I can’t imagine her being an ideal Violetta.

              As for Frittoli. It seems to me that she only had a few years when her voice was really working for her. And she was totally worth hearing then. Now, she has a good sense of style and the basic vocal material is still attractive. But I’m never carried away by her performances. I, too, wish for a different Elisabeth in that long-awaited Met Don Carlos.

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              Well Kashania I also like a bright sound for Anna and my ideal Anna is Welitsch with Grümmer not far behind but those two were classes ahead of Rebeka who was just shrill with no beauty of the tone either. Two other Annas that I really like are Sutherland on the Giulini and Price with Karajan. All 4 sang opposite Schwarzkopf’s Elvira who I find the finest Elvira on record. Varady was my best live Elvira in which she was better than as Donna Anna which she didn’t sing that often.

            • kashania says:

              FM: Oh, I adore that Wellitsch Donna Anna. One of the most glorious sounds ever.

            • Liz.S says:

              Here’s one more vote wishing for a different Elisabeth
              (I agree with everything VV and kashania said about Frittoli)

            • Porgy Amor says:

              Frittoli is a singer for whom I have a weakness. Even in the best years, the 1990s and early aughts, there were things not to like about the voice. The lower register was, at best, weak and colorless, and there was the prominent vibrato that microphones would make even more prominent. But she was/is one of those Italian sopranos who could get me on her side, and in this world in which even the great stars in her roles clumsily pronounce the words and otherwise seem disconnected from what they are singing, this means something. She is smart and thoughtful; she carries herself in a sympathetic way; she can tell a story.

              But the years are the years, and as more of them have piled up, those considerable virtues have had to stand for more, with that vibrato loosening and widening. I watched her poignant and eloquent but vocally parlous Micaëla in the Eyre Carmen when it was new (I love that production, by the way), and I experienced a sadness at the opera that was new to me: I was hearing someone who had been one of the rising stars when I started following opera, and I sensed she was going to be teaching somewhere before too long. (I am not counting singers who flamed out quickly, just the survivors.)

            • Vergin Vezzosa says:

              Porgy A.- what a lovely post about Frittoli. As I said before, I also admired her a lot for quite some time for many of the same reasons that you have stated and will always retain some really good memories of her performances. Time can be cruel, and in her case, it has been. But I think that she has earned our respect and hopefully will ease out gracefully. BTW, I am also apprehensive about her rumored 2014-15 Nedda in the new Sher (Jeez Louise, what are they thinking?) Cav/Pag with Alvarez.

            • kashania says:

              Porgy: A lovely post, indeed. You’ve made me want to go back and listen to some of her earlier work.

            • Camille says:

              Here’s a start:

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

              I love this entire production. Everyone is at the top of their game. Hope the rest of it is sill on YouTube but this is a start.

              Frittoli is always an artist.

            • Porgy Amor says:

              It is, Camille, in two parts. I know this because it came up last night as a suggestion while I was watching Tcherniakov’s group-therapy production with Popsicle. I hope posting it here will not get it pulled.

              This is the Trovatore that mrsjohnclaggart recently blogged about, recalling it as a great revelation (mostly for Muti’s conducting).

              More commercially available “best of Frittoli” picks: Fiordiligi (1996 or so, with Kirchschlager and Schade), Desdemona (Domingo’s farewell to Otello), Alice Ford (there are as many as four on DVD, but her best showings are the earliest — the ROH with Terfel and even better the Busseto with Maestro, Antonacci, and a young Florez in the cast). Most of those were, like the Trovatore, conducted by Muti.

            • Porgy Amor says:

              “Maestri” got autocorrected to “Maestro.” I was referring to the esteemed Italian baritone, although, of course, a Maestro is involved in the performance too.

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              Well I don’t understand why the Met doesn’t hire Pieczonka for the Elisabeth in Don Carlos. She sings both versions and lives in Canada now and is always glad when she gets engagements close to home. And not even mentioning one Elisabeth who is not available for the Met there has to be other alternatives who are better than Frittoli. What about the Dutch Barbara Haveman? Stoyanova is another option who got good reviews in Wien.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              For whatever reason, I have only ever had 1 opportunity to hear Frittoli live, as Alice Ford at the ROH with Terfel when the house re-opened, and she was excellent, but I wished at the time that I was seeing her in a more exposed role.

              I love her Mozart arias disc though. Rather like Vaness, in her best years she had so much vocal freedom that she just sailed through the difficulties like they were nothing. That goes hand in hand with the rather prominent, getting-on-for-slack vibrato which is a sound that generally appeals to me but which I can well understand would put some off.

              I think the voices that are the most free of tension are those which require the most physical fitness to keep supporting, and unfortunately that means they often start to come apart at the seams earlier than others.

            • oedipe says:

              Frittoli sounded surprisingly good (I admit I had been skeptical) and was an elegant, convincing and moving Adriana Lecouvreur at the Liceu Barcelona in 2012.

              The video quality is not great but gives an idea:

            • kashania says:

              Thank you for the Frittoli clips. I’ve bookmarked them for listening later.

              I second FM’s endorsement of Pieczonka as Elisabeth. She was very sympathetic in the Toronto Don Carlos a few years ago. What’s more, she has steadily improved in Italian roles (she was always a natural in Strauss and Wagner). Her last Tosca in Toronto was the best I’ve heard her in Italian rep.

            • Gualtier M says:

              Interesting bit of gossip -- I am Facebook friends with Olga Borodina. Olga was listing herself as divorced. Well -- she just got remarried -- TO ILDAR!!! There was a photo of them deep in each others arms. Olga says until death do us part, this time. Yes, she and Ildar are back together and for good. I don’t know what Barbara Frittoli and Natale de Carolis are doing. Frittoli lists her current city as Milan. So anyway, change partners and dance…

            • Buster says:

              Barbara Haveman was terrific in the Konwitschny Don Carlos. But everyone in that production was at the top of their game, including Nadja Michael.

  • Satisfied says:

    My reaction to this news is: ain’t buying it.

    Someone at the Met, or perhaps Grandage himself, thought (knew, dreaded, was horrified at the thought…) that bringing over a mixed-reviewed Figaro for opening night was not a good idea, especially on the heels of that tepid Don G.

    Love both Eyre and Grandage as theater directors, but neither has caused me to experience a wonderful night at the opera. After the brilliant Budapest Festival Orchestra “production” this summer of Figaro, I wish Eyre best of luck. That said, I fear, like the Grandage Don G in 2011, his full staged Figaro will be eclipsed by memories of a concert-performance staging by the BFO.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

  • antikitschychick says:

    count me among the Frittoli admirers. Judging from the yt videos, it is obvious that there’s been a vocal decline in recent years but she is a very formidable artist with great style as was pointed out (she sings with immediacy and a clean, if a bit wobbly vocal line). She also happens to be a serious and dedicated artist who is more concerned with the quality of her performances rather than having some big pr/money-making machine behind her which I really, really admire.