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What a day for an auto-da-fé

Teresa Berganza is the latest superannuated superstar to jump on the “I hate regie” bandwagon, calling for stage directors who do not share her “religion” to be put in jail. How Spanish is that? [Le Figaro]

32 comments

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    This is my favorite mezzo-griping:

    • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      More attitude…

      • Bill says:

        Berganza was a brilliant Mezzo in her prime.
        Her recording of Gluck arias (on LP -- do not know if it was ever transferred to CD) is sublime, a touchstone as to how Gluck should be sung. On recording, one of my favorite Carmens (along with de los Angeles). Some of her recorded Mozart
        is exquisite -- clearly Zwischenfach -- She
        certainly is entitled to her opinions having been one of the most important Mezzos of her era.

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          That’s one opinion. But speaking as somebody who came to opera by the time Berganza had finished, and knowing her only through recordings, I have to say I have never understood why she is supposed to have been such a big deal. The timbre in the middle seems to have been very lovely, and she could do very accurate, quick coloratura (clearer than Horne, Bartoli, DiDonato or pretty much any other mezzo I can think of). But at the same time the top seems to have been seriously compromised from as early on as the g at the top of the stave, and all the Mozart I’ve heard from her has been brittle and tense with unsatisfactory legato and a lot of compromises. For all her coloratura prowess, the voice really wanted for flexibility when it came to sustained phrases that traversed her upper passaggio.

          To be absolutely fair, the lyric mezzo is a Fach I don’t seem to understand -- so many of the so called greats sound like interesting but poorly produced voices, to me, and Berganza is firmly in that category along with a number of other universally loved artists I just don’t get.

          • Tubsinger says:

            I feel that Berganza’s technical command was second to none. Her recording of Mozart arias, very early on, has flawless triplets and trills in “Come scoglio” such as I don’t think I’ve ever heard elsewhere. I also agree with those that feel her singing, as recorded, could be rather cold and efficient. I think her Cenerentola with Abbado is an example, and I prefer Troyanos as Carmen from the same period to hers. She rarely sang opera in the US, and she canceled out of the one concert in which I was to hear her.

            If one takes the biography of Caballe published several years ago at face value, she was tolerant of non-traditional stagings of certain operas in which she sang in Spain towards the end of her career, up to a point. But I’ve heard that Kraus was always a cranky and prickly collaborator--and probably would have brooked no crap from regie directors today. Berganza is probably typical of her generation in her dismay. Noel Coward heavily criticized post-WW2 British dramatists for being vulgar, far too obvious and violently realistic. I can’t remember which playwright wrote back to him to remind him that Coward’s “The Vortex” shocked theatergoers in its day and that he should understand that generations bring changes to the arts. We can buy a ticket or we can choose not to.

            • Bill says:

              When Berganza was first making a name for
              herself in the mid-1950s (1957 as Dorabella
              in Aix) the light Mezzo was not as prevalent as currently. Cherubino had been sung much more often by sopranos (Jurinac, Gueden etc.), Rosina in Barbieri usually had high sopranos singing the role, Sesto and other Mozart Mezzo roles were not performed as often as now. Mezzos were just beginning to snag the Komponists and Octavians from sopranos -- some of the Dorabellas (Anday, Hoengen, Thebom, Ludwig) of that era and the past were Mezzos who sang heavier repertoire than Berganza would dare to attempt. So did Simionato who essayed Cherubino but also Amneris etc. Even Cenerentola operas were not performed as frequently as nowadays The von Stades, Trudeliese Schmidts and the many others
              who followed Berganza may not have used
              Berganza as an example, but did follow to
              an extent in Berganza’s footsteps. So in a sense Berganza was a postwar pioneer
              (I saw Mildred Miller with some frequency at the Met but seem to have little memory of her actual voice except in the Alto Rhapsody). I believe Berganza was an
              important singer and I liked her voice and
              particularly her ability to sing effectively in Gluck (not as easy as it may seem) and Mozart, even, at least in recording, jumping into some soprano territory. I also rather like her recorded Carmen. In the 1950s and 1960s it was
              rather uncommon to have these extreme
              regie productions though Met audiences would start clucking if a new Bjoerling/de los Angeles Faust was transported to the 19th century or a Milanov Forza was staged
              in a century later than perscribed. But the sets, costumes, staging, were hardly
              extreme in any way. So to old school singers what one now sees all over Germany and elsewhere on stage these days may grate the nerves. When Eva Marton as Ortrud was asked in the Katarina Wagner new staging of Lohengrin in Budapest to be sitting on a
              toilet in one scene, Marton responded (so I hear) “Das tue ich NICHT” -- it did not
              happen though the actual production was
              fascinating at times, occasionally tedious, but at other times imaginative and absolutely thrilling when Lohengrin appears and the Soviet forces of the Hungarian Revolution are (temporarily) triumphantly
              pushed back while somewhat simultaneously the Berlin Wall falls. But no toilets
              appeared and Marton’s Ortrud was spared
              that indignity. A singer like Berganza or
              Tebaldi probably was never confronted with anything that extreme and I can understand that some of one sees currently would be quite distasteful for artists of the past.

          • Often admonished says:

            What you appeared to have ignored (as so many do now!) is the supple phrasing and above all the legato. If you can find “Ch’io mi scordi di te” (conducted by Pritchard) or the first Sesto (for Kertez) you will hear musical lines spun with incredible ease and (more importantly) deep feeling.

            Later Berganza is not so special -- the second Cherubino has too many gear changes to give any aural impression of youth -- but anything recorded up to about 1966 is gold.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              I do believe I mentioned the legato specifically. And in bemoaning the inflexibility of her voice (by which I mean how one moves from one note to another without interruption to the air-flow at whatever tempo -- it has nothing to do with coloratura facility) I think I probably paid due attention to the supple phrasing, or lack thereof as I see it.

            • Often admonished says:

              …or lack thereof as I see it.

              If you need to see rather than hear it, that’s gonna be a problem.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Thanks ever so much for your incisive contribution to the discussion. I feel completely differently about Berganza now.

            • grimoaldo says:

              Beautiful!

              Stunning!

          • Phoenicia Pomegranate says:

            Are you kidding? Are you FUCKING kidding? Have you even HEARD her Come scoglio? A top that’s “seriously compromised”? Jesus Fucking Christ, in that recording her top is more secure than almost any other singer who recorded that aria, soprano or otherwise.

            • La marquise de Merteuil says:

              Phoenicia -- I have to agree -- although I like her Come -- the high notes are over sung … had she continued in that vein I’m not sure how long she would have lasted. She is definitely singing on her interest. But I’m happy to disagree on this. Here is my fav Come from our Montse who according to an eyewitness account turned up the night before the recording not having looked at the music for a few years and produced this…

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvf-hXhFz8g

            • La marquise de Merteuil says:

              Of course I mean not singing with her vocal interest …

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Whew -- what a relief to discover that a woman with such ludicrous antediluvian opinions about regie was rubbish all along!

    • WindyCityOperaman says:

      Speaking of WSS, everyone get up and dance!

  • Amnerees says:

    Amen Cocky Kurvenal!

    I heard Berganza everywhere, here and in Europe, and I could never understand what all the hoopla was about. And she certainly eschewed those high notes, even when they were traditional and sometimes when they were in the scores. If Joyce diDonato had been around, Berganza might not have been heard anywhere. (Forgive vulgar comparison.)

    Aren’t there just too many mezzos around anyway? So many are merely sopranos or contraltos without the necessary good notes at either end of their voices. This goes for “light baritones” as well. How many singers in these two overcrowded categories actually bring any really great musicality, insight, or--for want of a better word--carisma to their performances?

    As for La Berganza’s religious convictions. Does anybody with a brain care? Perhaps she should make friends with Pedro Almadovar for a little excitement.

  • tannengrin says:

    Ah, the Spanish temperament. Gotta love it.

    Here’s a much more ‘moderate’ approach:

    httpv://bcove.me/5eu235sf

  • La Valkyrietta says:

    Looking forward to Levine next month. Will Susanna be as exquisite as Teresa? I certainly hope so.

  • operaassport says:

    Love her but … You can’t take anyone seriously who lumps all “regie” into the same pot. Like with most things in life, there’s good regie and bad regie. It’s time to examine each production on its own and not as part of some plot to destroy opera. Art must live and breathe and be constantly open to different interpretations. How can anyone not believe in that?

  • Amnerees says:

    Thanks for the video, Tannengrin. Not much new news there, but wonderful to watch and listen to. Of course, it just happens to feature two of my favorite singers. I’d love to know the ONE production that Dame Janet says she was dissastified with. (I suspect she may have willfully forgotten a few others.) Also, it was good to hear her praise Raymond Leppard, whose contributions to the performance of early opera are much underestimated.

  • Buster says:

    After seeing the Losey Don Giovanni, I wanted to hear all three woman in it live. Berganza was the first one I succeeded to, in a Zarzuela evening with string orchestra. Great concert, she was relaxed, and in superb voice. Loved her.

    • Gualtier M says:

      Buster, Berganza for me is sublime in Spanish music. I also find her inexpressive and blank-faced interpretively in Italian and French opera. Put her in a zarzuela or a tonadilla and the girl is on fire. I met her once after she won an honorary award in the Licia Albanese/Puccini Foundation Gala. She wryly observed that she wasn’t much of a Puccini specialist during her career (recorded Suzuki for Sinopoli). Don’t think she even sang the Musico in “Manon Lescaut” as Cossotto and Bartoli did. Anyway, I begged her afterwards to sing a Spanish recital in NY mentioning that the Spanish Consulate had presented De Los Angeles and Lorengar in NY recitals. She said she wasn’t politically connected to the consulate but she still sang recitals and would love to give one in NYC. Most people then thought she was totally retired. Also many critics were writing as if Cecilia Bartoli had single-handedly revived the Rossini mezzo repertoire ignoring not only Berganza but Supervia, Tourel, Horne and Simionato.

      • Gualtier M says:

        Some Monsalvatge:

      • Phoenicia Pomegranate says:

        Gualtier, thank you for mentioning Jennie Tourel. She was singing the Rossini florid literature before most people in her day even knew it existed. She was a most expressive artist. Get her Debussy Cinq Poemes de Baudelaire if you can find it. Incredible. And her Ravel Sheherazade (in either of her two recordings with Lennie) is a treasure. Her contribution to the Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music at the opening of what was then Philharmonic Hall in 1962 is no slouch either. It’s no wonder she was Bernstein’s favorite singer.

      • Buster says:

        Thanks for that story, and the clips, Gualtier M. She last sang here in 2007, but I did not dare to go anymore -- preferred to remember her like this:

  • La Valkyrietta says:

    Already in 1984 she was saying,

    “I think that the kind of performances that are being offered to audiences nowadays is worse than it used to be.”

    http://www.bruceduffie.com/Berganza.html

  • semira mide says:

    Totally OT, but apparently Claudio Abbado is going to conduct the Verdi Requiem in Firenze Sept 22nd. Worth looking into if you are in that “neck of the woods”. No idea yet of who the soloists are going to be.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says: