Headshot of La Cieca

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Annagnorsis

Our Own JJ (not pictured) debuts in the pages of the New York Observer with a look at the highlights of the fall season.  It’s all about the Annas, except for a solitary Nico.

105 comments

  • umangialaio says:

    As to the FroSch, the main strength may well prove to be Vladimir Jurowski who conducted it beautifully last spring at Concertgebouw with about the same cast.

  • Constantine A. Papas says:

    AN’s Verdi album has soared in sales, like her other over 40 CDs and DVDs. Her discography’s getting vast and expanding, and record companies must be making good money on her. Bartoli and Netrebko are probably the best selling classical singers nowadays. Netrebko, albeit not a perfect singer, is destined to be “the SOPRANO” of the first part of the 21st century, no matter what opera patricians opined. After Callas, nobody talked about the next Milanov, Tebaldi, Sutherland, Gencer, Nilsen, etc., but only about the next Callas. After Netrebko is gone, they will talk about the “next” Netrebko. Some, for various reasons, hate her guts. One opera patrician recently commented on this blog that “Netrebko was one of the worst Tatyana he had ever heard!” For me, an non-musical plebian, opera would benefit if they were more Netrebkos around. But what do I know?

    • la vociaccia says:

      Not true, not true, and not true. People talked about the “next leontyne price,” (Leona Mitchell, Indra Thomas when she started out) people certainly did talk about the “next sutherland,” (June Anderson, Angela meade has gotten that a few times) Aprile millo was talked about as the “next Tebaldi/Scotto” (I heard both), Freni was talked about as the “next Albanese,” and so on, and so on. I can only think of one singer called the “Next Callas,” and that was Sylvia Sass. We know how that turned out.

      • armerjacquino says:

        I agree with you that Constantine is talking nonsense, but there were other ‘next Callas’ contenders. Suliotis, most obviously, but also Aliberti and Miricioiu- and I’m sure there are others who don’t spring immediately to mind.

        • FomalHaut says:

          Aliberti…I think she took the Callas obsession a little too far; even trying to imitate the wobble in the top notes. Her gospel jaw is also incredibly distracting (most prominent towards the tail end of her career).

        • Bill says:

          amerjacquino -- Sass as well -- the early years
          she was quite promising so people compared her
          to Callas. There was another one as well, Tiziana Fabbricini who I saw once as Violetta,
          and Pailetta Marrocu seen once as Fedora.
          I liked the voices of Suliotis and Sass early
          in their careers -- Alibeti, Fabbricini, Marrocu did not have very attractive voices (but then neither did Callas all of the time).

          • armerjacquino says:

            Bill- yes, I didn’t mention Sass because la v had already done so.

            • Bill says:

              amerjacquino -- sorry, I did not see
              Sass’s name until later. I suppose of
              all those would-be Callas replacements
              listed above, Sass was the only one who
              could sing and record Strauss’ Four
              Last Songs credibly. Most of the others
              (including Callas herself) would be
              painful to hear in that sort of repertory.
              The problem is most of these singers got
              into heavier stuff far too early without
              enviable techniques and their careers,
              at least as major international singers,
              did not last long (but then Callas really
              did not have a terribly lengthy career either -- and she was singing heavy roles
              such as Gioconda quite early -- Callas had dramatic talent and an enviable technique which could allow her (at a certain stage)
              to be very attractive in Puritani etc.
              When I heard Callas’ Met debut as Norma
              (the first I had ever heard a note of her
              singing anything) I was surprised that
              the voice was smaller (and tighter) than
              I had expected.

        • kashania says:

          And let’s not forget Gherghiu who devoted an entire album comparing herself to Callas.

    • If they are great singers and great actors, by all means, let’s have them; we do need them.

      If they are a technical mess, with sloppy diction and sloppy musicianship but packaged with a great ass and a magnificent set of tits; well, then we don’t need those.

      Not all the “acting” in the world will make up for sloppy musicianship and sloppy text delivery. But what do I know?

    • MontyNostry says:

      I was listening to the radio the other day and a performance of Rusalka’s Song to the Moon came on. It immediately sounded to me like a second-rate, sluggish voice with an uninteresting personality behind it. Guess who it turned out to be? Not one of her best recordings, by any means, but I just don’t hear the magic in what she does.

      • Bill says:

        Monty -- well I can not guess who your Rusalka
        turned out to be. A few days ago the very
        aria was played with Lucia Popp on WQXR in
        New York. The voice is lovely though maybe
        a little light for the role but floated in
        heavenly fashion. My favorite Rusalka was
        Gabriella Benackova who had it all -- one of the most beautiful voices of the last generation
        (and still occasionally on stage such as in
        Salzburg in smallish roles).

        • Regina delle fate says:

          Bill -- Benackova’s Rusalka is still my favourite complete recording -- Ochman’s Prince is outstanding too -- and I was lucky enough to see her in the Met production with Heppner. At Covent Garden we had her twice as Tatyana, once, I think, as Mimi and twice as Fidelio, which was not a perfect fit for her. But I often looked at the Vienna schedules and was green with envy. She seems to have sung her entire rep there. Sad that Covent Garden did not get around to mounting Jenufa and Katya for her. Do you know if she ever added Makropoulos to her rep. She’s Adelaide in the Salzburg Easter Arabella next year. I’d love to see that.

          • Bill says:

            Regina -- Benackova added the Makropoulos
            to her repertory late in her career (of major
            roles) and sang a premiere in Brno of he opera
            but only a couple of times. I was supposed to
            see Benackova in that production in a subsequent performance during a Janacek festival in Brno but she cancelled and an American soprano sang the role (credibly but
            I have forgotten her name). I believe
            Benackova sang Fidelio with great beauty of tone (and no trouble with any notes when I heard her) but she was not the type of dramatic
            Fidelio (Rysanek, Moedl, Jones) which emits that something extra to make for an extraordinary
            evening despite Benackova being more note perfect than the other three mentioned above.

            I was able to see Benackova in Jenufa, Katya,
            Rusalka, Libuse, Fidelio, Ballo, Andrea Chenier, Fliegender Hollander, Otello, Boheme,
            Ariadne (exquisite), Pique Dame, Verkaufte Braut -- but missed her
            Tatiana, her Elisabeth in Tannhauser and other roles. her Marguerite in Faust also misssd
            and when I went to see her as Elsa she cancelled and Studer sang instead. Her higher notes always blossomed radiantly -- never heard her on a bad night. Of course in the Slavic
            roles she sang, particularly Czech operas, she
            was unmatched and her Rusalka etc remains the standard against which all other singers in her roles must be compared these days. I believe that she curtailed her career internationally due to
            illnesses in her family but am glad Salzburg
            (at least) is willing to accept her in character parts so she does not completely fade from memory as so many singers do when their after their retirements. She is about
            the same age as Gruberova, 3 months younger.

            • Hippolyte says:

              Benackova’s Emilia Marty in its entirety:

              I heard her first US Rusalka in 1987 (six years before the MET production) with OONY and Queler. She had canceled the originally scheduled concert in March (along with her MET debut as Micaela) and it was moved to May at Avery Fisher. It remains one of the most glorious portrayals I ever heard--I remember floating out of Fisher thinking I had never heard anything so beautiful in my life. The Libuse with Queler was also miraculous as was the Jenufa with Rysanek at Carnegie, although I find the recording of it on BIS hard to listen because of Rysanek.

            • damekenneth says:

              I agree completely re Benackova, Bill. She was an absolute favorite of mine and I so regret I was not able to hear her in more roles. Such a terrifically beautiful voice.
              To Hippolyte: B’s first US Jenufa -- with Rysanek! -- actually was in 1986 at San Francisco Opera. Mackerras conducted, I believe Racette was in the cast. It was the most emotionally harrowing opera performance of my life. I kicked myself for years that I did not check it out earlier in the run so that I could have seen a few more performances. Benackova was ethereal and enthralling. Rysanek was… well, I am still trying to recover from the end of that second act! And Mackerras’ conducting really made the most of a very powerful and beautiful score.

            • Krunoslav says:

              damekenneth,

              Let’s not forget Wielsaw Ochman, a magnificent Laca at both SFO and Carnegie.

              Patricia Racette was not in fact in the cast, but the Old Shephrerdess was another Adlerista: Deborah Voigt.

            • damekenneth says:

              Krunoslav, absolutely right. I had mistaken Voigt in that cast for Racette. Racette was on my mind because she did the next outing of Jenufa as…. Jenufa! (And I agree about Ochman. He was quite good as well.)

            • Hippolyte says:

              Thank you, damekenneth, for correcting a mistake I didn’t make. My post talks about Benackova’s first US Rusalka, not her first US Jenufa.

          • Buster says:

            Regina, we get another semi-retired greatness as Countess Adelaide soon, so I relistened to the part closely. It is horror to sing, and she does not get a single interesting line. Even the Kartenschlägerin has more character. It is just a lot of kvetching, while waving your arms frantically. I don’t see the appeal.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              I remember a (very funny) interview with Anne Howells, who was always very glamorous in the part, who said the part she enjoyed most was when Elemer or Dominik or Lamoral -- I can’t remember which -- tells her she is more beautiful than her daughter! I think that was the only reason she liked the role, apart from the fee, of course.

          • CarlottaBorromeo says:

            Actually Covent Garden DID mount Jenufa for Benackova (or at least cast her in the role for the new production in 1986). Unfortunately after two days of rehearsal she had spotted what a total fraud Yuri Lyubimov was and she departed to be replaced by Ashley Puttnam

        • MontyNostry says:

          It was the lady who has became the main theme of this thread.

          I love Lucia Popp (as regular readers will know), but I don’t think that EMI CD of Slavonic arias captured her at her best. Be?a?ková did have something special in her sound (never saw her live sadly), but I particularly this Czech singer in the aria. It has a simplicity and sincerity that I have never heard from any other singer.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRLUY2HEgIc

          • armerjacquino says:

            My desert-island recording of the RUSALKA aria is Mattila on that late 80s Philips recital under Pritchard which marked the end of her early difficulties. It’s just breathtakingly beautiful and has exactly the right moonlight and stillness. She’s sung it elsewhere but never as well as that- making it all the more absurd that that recital is impossible to get hold of these days.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              I got it in Gramex recently, AJ!

              Mine is Fleming, I’m afraid. I’m always being told I should like Benackova more, though.

              It’s too bad Sutherland never recorded it, I think her shimmering sound would have been just right, and doubltless the Czech would have been crystal clear and flawless.

            • kashania says:

              I once heard the final duet from the Fleming/Heppner recording of Rusalka and the two of them sang rather gloriously if I recall.

            • Walther von Holzhaufen says:

              Both new and used copies are available at amazon.com.

    • Feldmarschallin says:

      But isn’t that new Verdi Album rather mediocre at best? This is supposed to be the singer of the 21st century. She has good PR that I give her. It is the first album I bought of hers and I was very disappointed.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I agree Feldmarshallin. I heard some of it on the radio the other day, and listened to a few of the preview clips on amazon, and mediocre is about right. I do think though that all of it would sound better if she hadn’t been quite so closely miked. It really does pick up every lump and bump, and no singer in the world would sound good in those circumstances. Still, she makes very heavy weather of things like the Bolero, I’m surprised they couldn’t get a better take of that number in particular.

        • armerjacquino says:

          Try the whole thing, or a few 79p tracks from Amazon. I think you’d like the Tu Che Le Vanita (although not many people round here did) and the TROVATORE stuff.

          • La Cieca says:

            Please! What are you trying to do here, combat prejudice with knowledge?

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              What prejudice are you talking about? If you’re still on about Mrs JC’s, perhaps you’d be better off directing your comments to a place where he was specifically mentioned.

              I’m perfectly capable of forming my own views about Netrebko -- I’ve seen her live and enjoyed her several times, and I have a few of her recordings. I have, on the whole, mostly enjoyed her singing until now, and have said as much. I have listened to some of this album, I agree with Feldmarschallin’s far from unique opinion that Netrebko is mediocre on it, there is zero prejudice at play here.

            • La Cieca says:

              Yes, you’re perfectly capable of forming your own views about Netrebko’s album, despite not having heard most of it. You have the valuable power of judging things in advance, of, how shall I put it, pre-judging them?

              But by all means, continue being defensive: obviously a lot less trouble for you than actually investing an hour in listening to a recording about which you feel you simply must publish your opinion.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              I don’t think it’s so much me being defensive as you being weirdly over-sensitive, for whatever reason. A reasonable person would allow an opinion formed on hearing some tracks in their entirety and clips of all the others.

            • armerjacquino says:

              Wow, time out. Unfair, la C. You heavily imply that CK is someone who has an anti-Netrebko agenda and who was never going to like the Verdi album, and that’s just flat out not true. I know he and I have attended the same Netrebko concerts in the past, and he was as enthusiastic about them on here as anyone.

              It’s perfectly acceptable to form an opinion based on hearing a few tracks, if, as here, it’s made clear that it’s only on the basis of a few tracks.

            • La Cieca says:

              I think I picked up a whiff of dismissal in the way the original comment was stated and that’s what I reacted to. That “whiff” is my own perception of course. I do think it’s premature to apply a word like “mediocre” to an album one hasn’t even heard all the way through.

              What can I say? I like the generosity of the singing on this album, and I continue to feel that Netrebko has a real gift for “portamento” in the classic sense, how one moves through a vocal line from start to finish. There is grandeur in a lot of this singing that I don’t hear from just about anyone else today.

              Other people don’t hear that, I suppose, though I’m not really sure why.

            • grimoaldo says:

              I haven’t heard the album, I agree with phoenix on the first page, to me “Tu che la vanita” for instance is not something I particularly want to hear out of its context in the full opera. I really only enjoy obvious party pieces like the Shadow song from Dinorah or similar on recital discs. But Nebs was glorious in the Salzburg concert of Giovanna d’Arco.

            • armerjacquino says:

              Grandeur’s a great word. Glamour, too (tonally rather than visually. I find it odd the oft-stated idea that a load of gay men should overrate Netrebko because she happens to be pretty).

          • Feldmarschallin says:

            I thought the Don Carlos was the weakest actually and that the Innigkeit lacked completely that I want in this aria. She is supposed to be suffering and tormented but here you don’t feel at all for her. Stage experience would have also helped but that it seems is not important anymore.

            • DurfortDM says:

              I agree with the Feldmarschallin, of course. Pretty easily the worst track on the CD, almost completely (or even completely) devoid of any emotion. I do think Cocky is right that the recording is not at all flattering, the vocal material is still very much there and I certainly think the voice is tremendous.

              Trebs is by no means merely a PR creation and is indeed one of the great voices and performers in front of the public today. Obviously the PR machine has taken advantage of her talents to make her into a mega star far beyond even what her very considerable talents might warrant, but I can hardly blaming the from trying to make the most of what they have available.

            • armerjacquino says:

              She is supposed to be suffering and tormented but here you don’t feel at all for her.

              Ah, but I do. It’s YOU who doesn’t. These things- suffering, torment, ‘innigkeit’ are so subjective. I find the aria detailed and moving, even though I am aware I’m in a minority (that ‘of course’ is a little dismissive, Durfort…)

            • tiger1dk says:

              In my view the worst track is the Bolero, sung so slow and heavy that it looses all elegance. Btw, I would consider myself a fan of Ms Netrebko and also found her singing in Giovanna beautiful.

      • Regina delle fate says:

        FM -- I think mediocre is a bit harsh. She certainly doesn’t have the Innigkeit of a Harteros (not mention Freni or Jurinac) in the Elisabetta aria and she makes a bit of a pig’s ear of the Vespri Bolero. You can tell she’s learned most of the rep for the recording, and it might have been better if she had waited until after performing Giovanna d’Arco, Leonora and Lady M on stage -- but clearly there are promotional reasons for that. The appearances in these roles will undoubtedly boost already healthy sales (especially in your part of the world, it has to be said). But I think by recent Verdi album standards, the singing is quite glamorous if not always entirely stylish, but there are loads of great Verdi sopranos about whom one could say exactly the same thing, and a lot of stylish ones who don’t have anything like the quality of Netrebko’s voice. My problem with her is that it’s not a distinctive quality, but a bit all-purpose and generic, but they may being hyper-critical. She is clearly one of the finest sopranos around. It’s a pity that Harteros isn’t making a Verdi album this year, but who else are you really itching to hear on disc in a recital programme built around these roles? Carmen Giannatasio? Frittoli? Maria Agresta? Daniela Dessi? I can’t say any of those set my pulses racing, and there is enough to admire in Netrebko’s Verdi disc, even if she sort of glosses over the small notes and her style can be sloppy. She isn’t the first and won’t be the last. :)

        • Bill says:

          Regina -- it is my guess that Netrebko has that
          enviable trait on stage which is so important
          when heard in the opera house -- PRESENCE. Every time you see her you are watching her every moment. Jeritza (one of the greatest of all
          prima donnas) apparently had that -- her recordings do not present half of what she apparently was on stage. Netrebko is remarkable to this effect and that coupled with a beautiful voice and great personal beauty and the feeling she engenders that she is really happy to be on the stage make her a big star.
          And she is undoubtedly one of the most important
          opera stars we have at the moment -- not matter what she is singing. Innigheit of course is
          something else -- (probably Nebrebko’s “Ach ich fuehls” (and she once sang Pamina in her early days) would not compare at all favorably on records with the great Paminas of the past.
          If and when Netrebko ever gets around to Don Carlo (which would surpise me) she may develop the feeling for Elisabeta’s 5th act aria with a stage appearance. At this stage, even if her
          Verdi aria CD is, in some minds, flawed (and not every fantastic Lady Macbeth of the past
          was equally good in Don Carlo -- and vice versa to be sure) it is the area in which Nebrebko, with an expanded voice, will be treading and
          one must rejoice that a fine (if perhaps slightly flawed in to some minds) Verdi soprano is emerging when there is such a dearth of quality available in these Verdi soprano roles during this era. The CD will sell -- and later when Netrebko takes on some of these roles, one can test her live performances and see (in person) what she is all about.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            As ever, Bill, your comments are judicious and nuanced and much appreciated. I think you are not too far from La Cieca on this -- an imperfect singer maybe, but she still has a huge talent and a lot to offer in this repertoire. As you say, how many Lady Ms make equally good Elisabettas and vice versa? I can only think of one in my opera-going lifetime -- Scotto, but doubtless we could nitpick her into mediocrity in both of those roles, too, given time. She made some horrible noises as Lady M, no doubt, but for me she is unforgettable in the role -- I never saw her Elisabetta live, but I guess it wasn’t as seamless as Freni’s or Ricciarelli’s -- and I can’t think of another major interpreter of the part in recent years who understood the bel canto dimension of much of Verdi’s writing. Netrebko isn’t Scotto, but she has some things that Scotto didn’t have. Oh for a perfect world where sopranos have everything…..

            • armerjacquino says:

              Other Lady M/ Elisabettas: Rysanek, Jones, Zampieri. So just the uncontroversial ones then…

              And of course Verrett always maintained that her part in DON CARLO wasn’t ‘that one with the eyepatch’…

            • Krunoslav says:

              Thanks Armer. There have been many more who sang both roles, including your idol :) Jo Barstow!

              Martina Arroyo sang both (her Lady M very soft-grained) and so did Gilda Cruz-Romo (Lady M not at the Met, but she got very good notices) and Rita Hunter, Adelaide Negri, Leyla Gencer, Margherita Grandi, Hasmik Papian, Elinor Ross, Elizabeth Connell, Ghena Dimitrova, Marisa Galvany, Maria Guleghina, Mary Curtis-Verna ( Lady M in Cincinnati), Sylvia Sass and counting.

              Surely Monastyrska will get around to DON CARLO(S), and Poplavskaya bring her famed technical aplomb to MACBETH.

    • semira mide says:

      Alex Ross doesn’t seem to like the Verdi album.

      http://www.therestisnoise.com/2013/09/dud-of-the-month.html

      • Porgy Amor says:

        He has the brevity down, but that’s not nearly snide enough or dense enough to be a tribute to Robert Christgau. I think Ross is too inherently lucid and gentlemanly for that. It would look more like this:

        “Now 41, waddling but not yet wobbling, airbrushed to extraterrestrial lengths, precariously poised between bad returns to what she used to sing and bad previews of what she hopes to sing, the Putinite glamour girl esslays Joe Green in 14 tracks. Forget Maria Callas; Maria Chiara is beyond her. She doesn’t reward concentration; there’s little evidence she can do it herself. Boycotting could only have been more painless if Gergiev had conducted, and at least then the conducting would have been good for laughs. Here, those are provided only by the Manrico of Rolando Villazón, still banished to the echo chamber for spoiling La Vapida’s big night. The aughts were a long time ago, kids.” Then there would be a picture of a turkey or a bomb with a lit fuse.

  • antikitschychick says:

    OT: just wanted to let you those that don’t know and might be interested that there will be a live stream on Youtube tomorrow at noon (eastern time) of a Verdi Requiem w Lumi, Saimir Pirgu, Ekaterina Semenchuk and Rene Pape conducted by Papanno :-D I believe its some sort of festival performance. I just received the Requiem I ordered w Herr Jonas, Anja H. Pape and Elina Garanca today…the bits I’ve seen so far sound fantastic. I shall watch the rest tomorrow, so if ya’ll don’t hear from me after the 2nd performance its cuz I OD’ed on Verdi Requiems :-P

    Here’s a link to the vid:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyaoDchoXd0

    • la vociaccia says:

      Anti-K, please, PLEASE…we’ve been over this…She is and shall remain, The Mona Lyla

      :)

      • antikitschychick says:

        hmmmm….I like the name Lyla. It’s pretty :-D

        HOWEVER, the moniker I chose is shorter and easier to type :-P :-P :-P

  • Constantine A. Papas says:

    Souliotis sang Lady Macbeth in her 20s and was gone in her early 30s. Millo, the spinto of her generation, went into hibernation after 10 years. Netrebko, after 18 years- since her US debut in SF- sings in all the big houses all over the world before sold out audiences. She has close to 45 albums to her credit, and her voice, albeit darker, has expanded in size and color. These are accomplishments that define an opera singer for the ages to come; and she’s only 41-year-old! Netrebko could have become an-one-night-stand like Boccelli-singer, amassing zillions without any pressure, LOL all the way to the bank. Her commitment and dedication to her art is something that she should be given credit for.

    • la vociaccia says:

      No one is arguing the fact that she is a successful singer. I’m disputing the made-up narrative about Callas being the ONLY soprano people would strive to be compared with; especially the completely untrue statement that no one tried to be the next Tebaldi, or next Scotto, etc, etc. Whether or not said singers lasted as long as Netrebko is irrelevant.

    • FomalHaut says:

      I respectfully disagree. Netrebko will be infamous in the Operatic history books. The first ten years of her “big career” were widely dominated by poor repertoire choices (coloratura and Bel Canto roles) that were ill-suited for her voice and technique, intensified by a perceived lack of interest in the music and studying, admitted by the artist herself (Source: CNN doc.). Netrebko is a unique interpreter and a charismatic performer, but musician she is not.

      • perfidia says:

        To me Netrebko is a great voice in search of a musical personality. I wonder what kind of mentoring she had in her early years, because it doesn’t seem she had a forceful musical personality guiding her and helping her shape her considerable gifts, especially on the technical side of things. And I wonder if she has good guidance now. When you are that famous, a lot of people are afraid to tell you things. I don’t think we have teachers like Estelle Liebling anymore. She rang up Sills after a performance of “Faust” to tell her her trills in the “Jewel Song” were sloppy and she had to come to the studio next day to work on that. Sills did.

        • La Cieca says:

          Or, at the very least, Sills’s publicist told Sills to say she did.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

          I think it’s very likely that story about Sills and Liebling was true. Beverly was always striving for attention to detail in her singing even though her jet-setting schedule was so taxing. I was with her one day in rehearsals, when she returned from a run-out to do a Lucia. She was tired from the flight, but told everyone how relieved she was that she had sung what she considered to have sung her “best Lucia ever. So, I don’t have to worry about that anymore,” she said. Sorry I don’t remember which city in which that Lucia took place, but it was in 1970 or 71. And Perfida is absolutely right. Often, friends of famous people often don’t want to rock the boat.

          • La Cieca says:

            The point surely is not whether Sills had that early morning session with Liebling (Sills enjoyed working in the studio almost more than performing, so it was no big sacrifice) but rather that she and Edgar Vincent made sure that the story was repeated and published, as a token of her dedication to her craft, to her work ethic and I suppose to her patriotism as well. This little tale helped to solidify the horribly damaging American myth that opera (and art in general) is all about hard work, depriving yourself, making yourself miserable.

            In Sills’s case, the “misery” didn’t communicate so much, in part I think because she was honest enough to realize that, all things considered, she was a very lucky woman, and perhaps more obviously because, as she explained it, she made the choice to be “cheerful” despite her troubles. But I do think this “misery” attitude taints our appreciation of most opera singers today: if a soprano doesn’t at least make a show of how overworked she is, how exhausted at the end of the day, how unhappy she is that she has sacrificed her personal happiness for the sake of art, then it follows that she can’t possibly be any good.

            So we have a whole generation of artists who communicate no joy, no pleasure in singing, only a Puritanical sense of grim duty, as if they only took the job singing at the Met because their first career choice, tending leper children in India, wasn’t hiring that week.

            A big reason I enjoy Netrebko as an artist is that she enjoys what she is doing: a detail here and there in the singing may be imperfect, but what projects from the stage (or the speaker) is joy in the beauty of the music. I honestly think that sort of joy is so alien to most Anglo-Saxon opera audiences that it scares them: she must be doing something wrong if she’s anything but grimly determined.

            Again, I think Sills in some small way contributed to this mindset: by casting herself in her PR as an underdog who triumphed through sheer determination, the message was sent that “determination” was the quality that makes for great art. Certainly Sills was determined, but that was only incidental to what made her so exciting and popular an artist. (That, I am pretty sure, was that same “joy” we have come to mistrust: if the singer is having a good time, then obviously she’s shirking some important responsibility like her Marchesi exercises or something.)

          • messa di voce says:

            Supposedly Sills was pushing the Met to hire Netrebko in “ina” roles long before the War and Peace.

  • pobrediablo says:

    Sonya Yoncheva made her Lucia debut in Bastille on Tuesday in a concert version because of a union strike. Apparently she got a standing ovation after the Mad scene :O

    • antikitschychick says:

      she is def one to watch.

      Of the bits I’ve heard on YT, I very much liked what I heard; I even think she’s slightly better than Anna Prohaska, even though they sing different rep.

    • oedipe says:

      Apparently she got a standing ovation after the Mad scene

      No no, “standing ovation” is an expression that doesn’t mean much any more. “Standing ovation” doesn’t even BEGIN to describe the audience’s reaction to Yoncheva’s performance last night. People went wild, they shouted for 10 minutes and the only way to stop them was for the conductor to start again, over the applause. I don’t remember experiencing anything similar in years. I was sitting right next to Karine Deshayes (dressed in jeans, BTW) and she screamed like mad too.

      It’s true that the people who had chosen to attend, in spite of the strike (and didn’t ask for a refund or an exchange because of the concert version), were very motivated. I’ve never experienced such silence in the audience as when Sonya sang the Mad Scene, as if people had stopped breathing.

      Now Yoncheva is FAR from perfect: her high notes are often unwieldy, she sometimes has a breathy sound that many will deem un-kosher, etc. But the communion she established with the public on Tuesday is hard to describe, you had to be there.

      • pobrediablo says:

        Wow, very interesting. I hope she comes to the MET soon (and in a good role). Thanks for the insider information. Another question, were they wearing costumes and did a same staged performance or was it really a concert version?

        • oedipe says:

          Yes, Pobrediablo, you are right: the leads were wearing costumes and did their best to act without the sets. So it was actually something between a concert and a staged version. Michael Fabiano, especially, is getting good at this, the poor guy: it seems every time he sings at the Paris Opera he has to deal with a strike and gets to sing a “semi staged” version!

          As for good roles Yoncheva could sing at the Met, that’s a no-brainer, really: Manon, Thais, Ophelie. She has zero competition in those roles today, IMO. BTW, apparently she will be singing La Juive in 2016 in Münich with Alagna. Dynamite casting!

      • Buster says:

        Thanks, Oedipe, great report. After Marina Rebeka cancelled her Amsterdam Lucias, I hoped for Yoncheva, but we now get Jessica Pratt. Yoncheva will be Minkowski’s Marguerite, though, not bad either!

        • Feldmarschallin says:

          Kurzak cancelled her Wiener Violetta and Rebeka will sing instead. Maybe it is getting too hot for her in Wien now with the situation or maybe she is just sick.

          • Enzo Bordello says:

            Some clarification needed here: Kurzak was contracted to sing 4 performances of LA TRAVIATA this month at the Wiener Staatsoper. She sang the first 2, to generally excellent reviews. She canceled the last two and Desiree Rancatore sang the 3rd performance and Rebeka sang the 4th and final performance. She is, in fact, “just sick.” And it’s not even pregnancy related. Just a bad cold. There is no “situation” as Alagna’s ex and Kurzak showed up for the opening weeks of the season, did their jobs and acted professionally. Alagna, in fact, strengthened his already positive relationship with the Staatsoper and its audience by stepping in for an ailing Lance Ryan as Don Jose in CARMEN this month.

        • semira mide says:

          Buster, you are lucky to get Jessica Pratt. She has a lovely voice and she really knows how to sing bel canto! “Warming up” for your Lucia by doing “La Sonnambula” in Bari. It will be transmitted live via telecomitalia.com on Sept 17th. You might try to catch it.

        • pobrediablo says:

          Yoncheva will not be singing in Faust. She decided the role is not suitable for her.

  • Ilka Saro says:

    The picture from the ENO production is intriguing! The lighting and composition remind me of peredvizhnik paintings. I look at other photos from the production, and I am not sure whether that is intentional, or merely fortuitous. Won’t see the show until 12/2. Can’t wait!

    • Batty Masetto says:

      One never knows what one will learn on this site. I’d never heard of the peredvizhniki before, Ilka, thanks for the mention!

  • grimoaldo says:

    Excuse the diversion from the topic of discussion --

    “Verdi vs Wagner: join the debate
    On Sunday at 6pm, Stephen Fry is chairing a musical debate that pits two of music’s greatest opera composers, both celebrating their bicentary years. You can watch the sold-out event live with us here”
    http://www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2013/sep/12/verdi-vs-wagner-stephen-fry-debate-watch-it-live?commentpage=1
    “Come Sunday, the gloves are off as Philip Hensher argues the case for Wagner and Norman Lebrecht advocates Verdi, helped out by live musical examples from the Southbank Sinfonia -- and you can watch the proceedings live from 6pm, musical bleeding chunks and all, with us here at theguardian.com/classical.”