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Everybody rise! Rise! Rise!

Irina Lungu and Sonya YonchevaSays the Met press office: “Two rising young sopranos will make their Met debuts earlier than originally scheduled when they share the role of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto later this fall, replacing Aleksandra Kurzak, who has withdrawn due to pregnancy. Russian soprano Irina Lungu will sing the role on November 11, 15, and 18, and Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva will sing the role on November 21, 27, 30, December 4, and at the December 7 matinee. Kurzak is expecting a baby this winter with her partner, tenor Roberto Alagna.”  




  • degan says:

    I would love to hear both of them. Saw Lungu live in Traviata and Rigoletto. Liked her a lot. Good Italian style singing, unlike all those eastern block singers today. I prefer her to Kurzak, Peretyatko, Machaidze and Co.
    Yoncheva also has a nice voice, and above all Italian (Bulgarian) technique which I again prefer above non-Italian singers. Reminds me a bit of Gheorghiu what is a big LIKE.
    Heared Kurzak in her last performance of Traviata in Vienna 3 weeks ago. The voice had some issues above the staff. Let’s hope she will be fine in a few months.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      That’s sad to hear re Kurzak’s top. I thought the same when I saw her in L’Elisir at the ROH quite some months ago- makes me wonder if it’s a more ingrained, fundamental difficulty she’s having with the voice.

      • degan says:

        Unfortunately she had problem with the first act aria of Violetta. Everything above C was to much for her. On the Ds she was quite low, she didn’t even go for the E flat, not normal for a “lyric coloratura soprano”. Afterwards I talked to Marco Armiliato (conductor) who told me that it wasn’t her best day. I talked also to her, she was quite lovely and asked if it was obvious that she was pregnant. Them she sad it’s not that easy for her because of the pregnancy.
        That was the second performance, the 3rd and 4th she cancelled.
        A few days before Traviata I saw some clips of her recent Gilda from Verona with Nucci where she was also quite flat and breathy in “Si vendetta…”
        Hope that this is a pregnancy problem and not a real damage to the voice.
        I am not the greatest fan of hers but again, comparing her to all those young ladies, she is among the best with Lungu and Yoncheva.

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          The L’Elisir I heard was pre-pregnancy, in December 2012, so I’m afraid that although pregnancy might be making things harder for Kurzak, there were problems present that were unconnected with it.

      • Regina delle fate says:

        the new Rossini album is a very mixed bag, too, Cocky.

    • MontyNostry says:

      Maybe her problems are connected with Roberto’s staff.

    • quibbleglib says:

      I’d like to “hear” the two of them as well; I’d like to “hear” the two of them all night long!

  • Camille says:

    And the cancellations have BEGUN! Always one of the most exciting elements of any season, for me, at least.

    Well, Monsieur Œdipe should be most happy and satisfied about this development!

    • oedipe says:

      Absolutely, Camille! And the best part is that I’ll probably get to see live one of the performances with Yoncheva.

      Now, my wild guess is that she would have been hired for the whole run, had she not been otherwise engaged: she will be singing Violetta in Valencia till Nov.13, with Mehta conducting, and she seems very excited about the idea.

      • MontyNostry says:

        Hasn’t half the season just been cancelled in Valencia?

        • MontyNostry says:

          Seems like it’s three months’ closure next season.

          ‘Ahorrar’. Is that like ‘Keinen ahorrar’?

          • Poison Ivy says:

            Signora Verdi, Giuseppina Strepponi, also apparently sang quite literally up till her 9th month of pregnancy. She popped out the kid, gave the baby away, and got knocked up again. Wash rinse repeat — four babies in four years, all given away. Poor woman.

            • pobrediablo says:

              Why were they given away? They were that poor?

            • Indiana Loiterer III says:

              Strepponi never married, so it was rather a question of respectability; it was hard enough living with Verdi, but actually having a child by him would have given the game away.

            • Poison Ivy says:

              Strepponi had a variety of patrons who became her baby-daddies and if she wanted to sing, the babies had to be given away discreetly. When she met Verdi her voice was already in decline from the constant childbirth/stress. I believe they lived together and Strepponi curtailed her career, and yes, gave away more babies.

            • semira mide says:

              Strepponi certainly had a hard life ( I believe there is a biography in Italian if I remember correctly) but I think the situation is somewhat more nuanced than the discussion here.She and Verdi DID marry for one thing, and her situation with so many births in a row was unfortunately typical for women of the time.

            • Poison Ivy says:

              They married in 1859 — I believe that was more than 20 years after the peak of her career (around the mid-1830′s). Anyway the point was … all those babies! All given away :(

            • Camille says:

              A very good and helpful little introductory book (in English) on the harried melodramma life of La Strepponi:


              Surprisingly, she also bore a bambina by the composer Donizetti, called Adelia. She died and Donizetti wrote the opera Adelia for Giuseppina in recompense of sorts.

              By the time she was singing the role of Abigaille in the prima assoluta of Nabucco, she was in terrible vocal distress. This book cites a doctor’s certificate describing her vocal estate at the time of the performances and recommended she cease singing. Many, many other details including the very long and rocky road to their eventual marriage, a path littered by the fact Verdi did not care to be impoverished by or set upon by the responsibility of providing for all those children. It is a feat they ever managed to get married at all and they lived together subsequently such a long married life.

              There is a wonderful television series from Italy, early eighties, which is available on DVD, which dramatises many of these events, including the harrowing season when Giuseppina first went o stay with Verdi at his palazzo. The very wonderful English actor Ronald Pickip stars as Giuseppe and one of my favourite artists, ever, Carla Fracci, prima ballerina straordinaria, makes for a remarkably uncannily real-to-life Giuseppina. I was utterly enchanted by this series when first I saw it in early eighties and I am so happy to be able to watch it again now. Highly recommended.

              Giuseppina Strepponi certainly did have a hard scrabble existence early on, as the mainstay of first her family and then taking care of all those poor little bambini, but ultimately, she triumphed, and will remain among those prime donne of the nineteenth century most remembered and cherished, for the incalculable impact upon the works of the great Verdi.

            • Poison Ivy says:

              Here’s an interesting article:


              Singing six hours before giving birth. Wow.

  • Constantine A. Papas says:

    So La Draculetta is out of Alagna’s life for good.

    • oedipe says:

      Dr. Papas,

      ALL singers have a difficult life and a challenging profession, relying on those 2 fragile vocal folds, even the singers we have an antipathy for.

  • Gualtier M says:

    I was wondering why Kurzak was still listed as Gilda so long after the baby announcement. It must have taken a while for Yoncheva and Lungu to work out their schedules. It would also explain some of Yoncheva’s schedule lightening cancellations recently. She needed to make room for the Met.

    Nice to see some new blood in the light soprano ranks and singers who are rising rather than falling or never got it up in the first place…

    • Jamie01 says:

      It would have made Gilda’s death even more pitiable if the Duke had knocked her up. They’d just have to figure out how to hide her baby bump till Act 3.

      • oedipe says:

        Kurzak’s pregnancy will not be all that advanced in November. She will still have about four months to go. It’s possible that Alagna, who has to be back in Europe right after his Toscas, doesn’t want her to stay on in NY alone in her present condition.

        • Feldmarschallin says:

          That might explain why she is still listed as Gilda at the BSO. I was hoping for a cancellation here as well and would love to hear Yoncheva as Gilda. Since those Gildas are in two weeks I think had she cancelled them there would be an announcement already.

        • Chimene says:

          She’ll be six months pregnant in November -- the baby is due in February…

      • Chanterelle says:

        NYCO incorporated Jennifer Welch-Babidge’s pregnancy into the scenario for Lucia. It made sense. (here moment of silence for NYCO).

        • semira mide says:

          In Boston a number of years ago a pregnant Amanda Forsythe appeared as Tandcredi’s Amenaide. The production chose not to hide it, leaving me to wonder if Tancredi ( Podles)wasn’t wondering. But the singing was extraordinary.

    • Buster says:

      Lungu replaces Yoncheva in the Minkowski Faust. Happy to hear she is excellent. As for a silver recital dress, Sonya, study this:

  • antikitschychick says:

    I’ve heard Sondra Yoncheva on yt and I really like her voice. Hers is an agile but subtantive voice with a nice tone. Have not heard Ms. Lungu but will listen to the clip when I get home.

    Gilda is a tough role, so congrats to both ladies for taking on this assignment.

    If only Patricia Racette were also having a bb and either AN or Lumi would sing Tosca then the season would be set! :-P

    • Satisfied says:

      Yet more singers I would like to hear but who are in productions I cannot bare to sit through again.

    • MontyNostry says:

      Lungu was thrilling when she competed in Cardiff Singer of the World some years ago (though she didn’t get past the heats), but she doesn’t ever seem to have been invited to sing in the UK. She had a success as Gilda in Aix-en-Provence this summer and appears around Italy, including, I believe, at La Scala.

  • Satisfied says:


  • MontyNostry says:

    It seems (as I thought) that Lungu was born in Moldova rather than Russia. She certainly competed for Moldova, not Russia, in Cardiff. Maybe she has adopted Russian nationality.
    (I have a special interest in this as one set of my grandparents were from what is now Molodova!)

    • m. croche says:

      What’s hot in Moldova this season: ATEH, ossia Revelations of the Khazar Princess, a monodrama in three acts with prologue and epilogue, by Ghenadie Ciobanu. Nota bene: the composer is also a member of parliament and former minister of Culture.

  • pobrediablo says:

    I’m very excited about Yoncheva’s debut. I’m glad they were able to squeeze her in.

    Can I just say that I’m shaking my head at her scheduled debut as Musetta?! Seriously? They might have just as well given her Frasquita…

    • armerjacquino says:

      Musetta’s a traditional ‘debut’ role. Important, memorable, not too stretching. Ideal as a way of easing someone in and getting them used to a house without the pressure of a massive great lead. And Frasquita hardly has anything as prominent and starry as ‘Quando m’en vo’.

    • oedipe says:



    • Regina delle fate says:

      Yoncheva seems to be the “new” Machaidze. I think it’s a better voice and let’s hope she lasts longer.

      • oedipe says:

        Close, but no cigar! I take it back: not even close, a different species altogether!

        How many times have you heard Yoncheva live, and in what?

    • Regina delle fate says:

      She stole the show as Musetta at Covent Garden last season. One of the best in years, up there with Neblett and Karita.

      • MontyNostry says:

        I thought Yoncheva was lovely as Musetta at the ROH, but she made less impact than I expected. By the end, though, I did feel that Musetta is actually the most interesting character in the piece: she’s the only one who seems to go on any kind of journey.

  • diva2themax says:

    Anyone else went to Norma tonight? Sondra was spectacular she easily out sang everyone. I liked her so much i’m gonna try to catch Friday’s performance as well.

    • antikitschychick says:

      hey diva :-)

      I listened to the whole performance live last night via Sirius and I agree she was very very good, if not great (as I expected she’d be). There were no pitch issues, she sang with conviction, authority as well as pathos in the quieter moments, excellent coloratura and ravishing pianissimi. Antonenko was equally good with strong high notes and sensitive phrasing. I thought he sounded very sexy overall :-P

      Frizza also did a great job with the conducting and kept the momentum going with a fast but cohesive tempo…and he followed the singers well. At the beginning of Sondra’s Casta Diva there was a slight disagreement b/t the two because Sondra wanted to take a slightly slower tempo (a wise decision) and so he immediately responded.

      The one weak link in the casting for me was Kate Aldrich. I did not like her voice. The basic sound lacked a core and she sounded breathy and labored throughout the performance. Plus, the vibrato was prominent at times it caused her to pitch to waiver. She had a couple of good high notes but overall it was disappointing because Sondra was sounding so great, and they did blend during the duets, but there was definitely a palpable disconnect in the level of singing b/t her and Sondra.

      Oh and then there was James Morris’ wobble. IDK why the Met continues to offer him roles as he is clearly past his prime and it was just super distracting and unpleasant having to hear him sing like that imho.

      • diva2themax says:

        Totally agree about Kate. She sounded labored & just not appealing. She did blend well with Sondra during the duets but that’s the best I can say.

  • zinka says:

    GOOD! Kurzak’s voice too small.Nice quality but hope Lungu is better.

    What..a kid out of wedlock????What will Angela say???????

    What is this country cumming to?????

  • -Ed. says:

    Apropos rising singers, I’m going to the Pittsburgh Opera later this month to see Aida, where Latonia Moore (Aida) and Elizabeth Bishop (Amneris) will be performing. Y’all have had great things to say about both of them, so I’m excited. Plus they have former Steeler running back Franco Harris as the champion of champions lol! Life here in the provinces ain’t all bad..

  • redbear says:

    Rising singers? You can help as part of the larger jury and win a hotel stay in a very expensive city (Paris).
    (The money’s on Eva-Maud Hubeau, they say)