“Women are lucky if they get a good 10-year run with these big parts like Brünnhilde and Isolde.” [New York Times]
Though keeping the timeline a little vague, Ms. Voigt spoke courageously of suicidal despair, alcohol abuse and a low point of her life, when she “jumped into a bottle and went into a 35-hour blackout.” That is long enough, she said, “to fly around the world” or “to sing two ‘Ring’ cycles,” referring to Wagner’s epic four-opera “Ring des Nibelungen,” in which she has been appearing at the Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Voigt shared with her audience what she called the eight words that saved her life: “My name is Debbie, and I’m an alcoholic.” She followed this admission with an elegantly unsentimental account of the pop standard “Smile” (“Smile though your heart is aching”).
Varnay’s first performance of Brunnhilde: Met, Dec 1941.
Varnay’s final Bayreuth Brunnhilde: summer of 1967.
I never cared for Voigt’s voice or appearnaces, but she’s not as bad as this:
And here I thought that we had been informed by the expert of all experts that all that was required to sing Isolde was a comfortable pair of shoes.
good point… and a miner’s helment for Brünhilde!
Some details of Voigt’s cancellation of the Washington Tristan don’t make sense to me.
She had already been there rehearsing for a while.
Did no one on the staff at the opera hear that she was having trouble with it?
Why did they wait until 1 week or so before the opening to replace her?
Also, did they already have Irene Theorin standing by?
I can’t believe that Theorin, at the top of the opera season, just happened to have a few weeks free.
Although not well known here in the USA, she is much in demand at many of Europe’s top opera houses.
I am curious……
I don’t think there is any great mystery here. They hoped Voigt would be better, they were giving her a chance and they let it go as far as they could.
Theorin’s first booked engagement of the season was Elektra in Paris, opening towards the end of October -- she’s not doing the final performance presumably so she can go to Paris and get in a month of rehearsals.
I was at Domingo’s first Otello in Paris in 1976 (with M. Price and G. Bacquier, Solti conducting). The common wisdom was that it would ruin Domingo’s voice and spell the end of his career.
It may have been his first Moor *in Paris* but I believe he first did the role in Hamburg in September 1975- under Levine’s baton.
It’s all recounted in his autobiographical My First 40 Years. He was very clever in becoming the world’s leading Otello without really fielding a full-scale Otello voice.
Has anyone else seen these disappointed and upset reader comments under the articles about the Voigt/Theorin/Zambello development? The gist: “Zambello should have shown more respect for a great artist; I was promised the world’s greatest dramatic soprano, and that’s why I bought my ticket; Deborah Voigt is the only soprano I’d drive to Washington to see; Theorin might sing well but she won’t be able to make me feel for the character the way Debbie can, and I don’t care about a blandly perfect performance,” etc.
Had I been holding a ticket for this (not that I would have bought one pre-replacement, even if I were in Washington), I would have been pleased with the substitution. But it doesn’t seem to cut any ice that it was a supportive friend of Voigt’s who, obviously, could hear that it wasn’t going to go well for her, and that Voigt herself has expressed relief. It just goes to show that everyone has enthusiastic fans.
Those are interesting reader comments you mention. It’s easy to forget that the level of knowledge and insight on this website doesn’t represent the average operagoer’s. When I saw Voigt in GD at the Met in early 2012, I was so taken aback by her poor vocal state that I practically had a meltdown and bothered all the people sitting near me about it. I can’t say they liked her performance but they didn’t find it that objectionable. Many Met patrons just assume that, since it’s the Met, it must be great. Some in the Washington audience may be no different in that regard. They would rather hear the famous Voigt than the unknown (to them) Theorin.
Oh, yes. Going to the HD screenings out in the hinterlands is a lesson in the power of famous names and bold claims to shape impressions. If Peter Gelb appears on screen beforehand and says they’re about to hear the world’s leading dramatic soprano, many in the audience (who don’t have a shelf of Ring operas at home; maybe this is their first or second) assume Voigt is as good as it gets in this music. Dessay’s Violetta in the Decker production was as vocally parlous and worrying a performance as I have heard from that theater — I sat there tensed up the whole time, thinking it could go down in history the way the notorious Moffo and Schwarzkopf broadcasts did — but Dessay was warmly applauded by most around me. There were even cries of “Bravo!” after the “Sempre libera.” The intermission chatter all seemed to be about her moving performance. The only negative remarks were being aimed at Willy Decker.
I hope none of that sounds condescending toward these audiences. I am glad when people get something out of a performance, even if I cannot. But a frame of reference does make a difference. Sometimes having one means we enjoy a performance for different reasons (a neophyte isn’t going to be able to be bowled over by, say, “idiomatic phrasing” or “revelatory use of portamento”)…and sometimes it means we enjoy one less, or not at all.
If anyone else from Parterre is going to be at Tristan at the Kennedy Center tomorrow and wants to say hi, I will hang out around the big bronze bust of JFK in the foyer a little before the show and during intervals, wearing a blue and white striped jacket.
…et une orchidée à la boutonnière, grim?
(you can’t miss him)
Porgy, your remarks sound extremely condescending towards the audiences you are referring to. Surely you realize that, and I doubt that
it makes much difference to you. Why should it? Everyone knows there is virtually no civilization west of the Hudson! Goodness, what a chilling
Why not follow Ann Romney’s example and say “You people. . .? “Frame of reference?” I wonder what that means; it could mean anything. Oh, and while I am on it, how often do you hear ‘idiomatic phrasing’ or ‘revelatory use of portamento (whatever that means)?” I wonder, is there a 47% group in opera? Wow! Gives us all something to aspire to.
Tut, tut Porgy; you should be a little more careful. You are sounding kind of like a latter day Joseph Kerman!! Sorry, nothing personal.
Well, Flora, amici, I suppose I have been “told.” Unless that was satire. It is difficult to tell at this hour.
Which part of that doesn’t sound condescending?
“Those hicks were so unsophisticated that they liked it when the should have hated it.”
Nah, I’m sticking to my guns here. I reread what I wrote and I still don’t think it’s condescending. As I said, I don’t think it’s a bad thing when someone gets something of value out of a performance — if they feel Voigt “makes (them) feel for her character,” or that Dessay is “so moving,” when the music is not being sung well in some objective senses. Some number of years ago, I wouldn’t have been as sensitive to the things that go into bad performances either, having no frame of reference (I know that that phrase bewildered Flora the last time). I’d like to think I would have been able to notice when Dessay’s voice was failing her, as it did several times in the performance, but I wouldn’t have had as many great, good, and satisfactory Violettas for comparison.
Nothing condescending about your post, Porgy. It’s a surface argument to suggest you’re being a snob. It IS all about frame of reference. And frankly, that can be the case anywhere, be it Manhattan or New Mexico.
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