Cher Public

Oh, signor Johnson

La Cieca is going to go out on a not very long limb here and say that Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West is a great role for Jonas Kaufmann and may well turn out to be one of his three or four greatest. The evidence is all there on YouTube. There is one odd thing, though.

Did the director think Nina Stemme was playing Giorgetta in Il tabarro?

  • Kilian

    It’s been mentioned before but probably they originally wanted to insert this (and the song ‘Have an eggroll, mister Johnson’)into the score:

    • Internet won!

      • operaassport

        I thought she looked like the sidekick in one of those MGM musicals of the 40s. A cheaper looking Betty Garrett, sort of.

        Spot on on JK, but I thought she was all wrong for the role or the other way around.

    • antikitschychick

      YES! I thought she was totally channeling Bette Midler as well and I loved it! The wig complemented her eyes and was am appropriate aesthetic touch to signify the fieriness/fierceness of this role. I still can’t quite comprehend how anyone is able to sing it tbh. Its SUCH a killer vocally! Nina sounded like a superwoman throughout the performance. Jonas sounded great too but I don’t think his role is as demanding.

      • Flora del Rio Grande

        Nina S. looked to me like Orphan Annie 40-years later! She certainly sang it well enough and her acting was good. But Vienna should be ashamed of themselves for making her look like such a comic strip character in blue denim bib overalls and that awful red wig. Gosh! She is supposed to be relatively attractive, yes? Better costuming and wig would have helped a lot. I thought after the high-C in ‘s’amavan tanto. . .’ (sp?), was out of the way, Stemme’s voice smoothed out, any roughness was gone and she was vocally excellent. Jonas was fine -- good vocal fit for him, and he’s a cut-above as actor. Conductor Welser-Most — pretty good; he got the big things right, though we are not talking about Italian music making, are we?! The production was certainly agreeable — this whole package should come to the Met. Still, I’ve never seen a FDW production that equaled the original Hal Prince show — Chicago, Los Angeles, it made the rounds and I loved it.
        One nice detail in the Oct 5 perf at Vienna was the touching and playing with a deck of cards lying on a table of the Polka Saloon. Had not seen that done before; nice bit of internal ‘telegraphing.’
        What a splendid opera is FDW! I love it more every time I see it; for my old ears it is Puccini’s finest score, most original and most emotionally effective. I think the pentatonic tonal base of the score has lots to do with its success: give it a kind of far-out feeling, yet warm! Wish we saw it more often. Not too many women can successfully sing Minnie. But Stemme is one of them, and I applaud her in spite of Vienna’s costuming. Well, of course, Racette has not yet sung it (that I know of) (:)

        • Porgy Amor

          Agreed. I have affection for all of the Puccini operas from Manon Lescaut to the end, even Rondine, but Fanciulla and the Trittico are my favorites. Those are the two that got better and better for me, even though I had liked them from the first. He was getting into interesting things in that period.

          What a splendid opera is FDW! I love it more every time I see it; for my old ears it is Puccini’s finest score, most original and most emotionally effective.

        • antikitschychick

          I agree the overhauls were unflattering. On the other hand, Jonas’s costume was perfect imho.

          I liked the singing overall but I did have some reservations about the production that I posted on last week’s intermission thread. I’ll re-post it here since we now have an entire thread devoted to this performance:

          I thought Nina Stemme sounded absolutely fabulous with a strong, flexible, gleaming middle and powerful high notes, even though hers is a very Wagnerian-style Minnie…and idk why she kept wincing and making the high notes look so labored…she had no need to do that because she sounded great in this fiendish role. And I thought she pulled of the red wig well :-D.

          Jonas looked very handsome in his cowboy outfit and sang VERY well (even though he only really had like 2 arias but w/e). I love how he sings in Verdi and Puccini because the general sound is not as fussy as when he sings German and French rep. There was one high note that sounded a bit pinched but he sang with a beautiful legato and good Italian compared to the rest of the cast.

          And OMG I want to fly away in an air balloon with Jonas!! LOL That was an appropriately kitschy touch, although I think it would come off better in a bigger house…

          Nina was somewhat frantic in her acting approach and there was hardly any physical or eye contact b/t her and Jonas which made their love affair seem a bit stifled and affected, although watching them roll around on the floor was fun lol.

          The production was not bad but not great either…there was a nice contrast between the costumes and the sets color-wise but some of costumes seemed anachronistic, such as the leather trench coats. The acting by all the chorus members with smaller roles was surprisingly very good and the orchestra played well so I concur that the conductor did a fine job.

          I did not care for base-baritone Tomasz Konieczny in the role of Sheriff Rance. He is a formidable singing actor and he has a great upper extension to his voice but the lower range of the voice sounded nasal and his Italian was unidiomatic. Perhaps he fares better in German and Slavik rep.

          As an aside, its very easy to see how much Puccini’s operas have influenced film. Tbh I didn’t feel like I was watching an opera because I don’t feel this work can be disassociated from its wanna/would-be-movie-ness. I really think the particular context and scope of most Puccini works require a more ample space than an opera stage provides in order to be dramatically effective. I feel that for the apposite representational illusions to take place the action should ideally “escape” the artificiality prevalent from the lack of space and/or cognitive distances we would normally associate with vast, mountainous landscapes. I’m afraid I didn’t get that impression from this performance; I actually thought the production limited the scope and emotional range of the performance because it was so specific in its use of props that there was literally and figuratively no room for imagination and so I felt I wasn’t ‘let into’ the performance.

          The air balloon for instance really amplified the entrapment of the set because as the main camera zooms out at the end of the performance, the rectangular shape of the stage inevitably becomes pronounced since we all sort of have a marked tendency to construct patterns and shapes out of what we see ‘before us’, making the focal point of the (‘square’) image being projected look extremely small and 2-dimensional. Granted I was watching a filtered experience of the performance, which makes for a limited viewpoint, but I had the same impression when I saw Turandot live at FGO. Puccini operas need spacious stages such as the Met’s imho.

          I also find the libretto caricature-esque in its simplicity and the style of orchestral and vocal writing a bit overly-sentimental, so I wasn’t as enthralled as would have liked to have been. Perhaps other performances will change my mind.

          Oh and also, I now know where Andrew Lloyd Weber got his music of the night melody from :-P.

          • Flora del Rio Grande

            Antikitsch: If you will forgive me, Jonas was not wearing his “cowboy outfit..” Everybody always calls this opera a “cowboy” opera -- it is NOT. Most of the men are gold miners in Calif. mid-19th C. Dick Johnson is a n’er do well, a thief probably, and the law is after him. He has zero identification with cowboys. Puccini calls him a ‘greaser,’ a Mexican. So. . . just thought I’d mention this; happy to see your appreciation of FDW. It is a very special opera in my view. And, just in parting: Turandot IS kitsch; FDW is not, it is a masterwork.

            • antikitschychick

              lol no need to apologize for pointing out an important fact Flora, though I do appreciate you being so polite.

              The thing is, you would never know he is a miner judging from this production would you? I mean, he does carry around a gun all the time and sports a bandanna. That to me screams “cowboy.”

              I’ve been meaning to get to watch another performance of Turandot as I could hardly see anything when I first saw it performed live. Luckily there is lots available on yt so I shall get back to you on that ;-).

            • manou

              The overalls did require an overhaul.

  • Porgy Amor

    Even closer to Teresa Stratas in the same production.

  • La Valkyrietta

    :) :) :) Ma ride meglio chi ride la risata final, and Minnie got her Dick in a poker game regardless of whether she looks like la fanciulla de Paris or la fanciulla di Seattle.

    • manou

      Or the Ronald di MacDonald.

  • RosinaLeckermaul

    I loved this performance. Not only was it beautifully sung, it was very well acted. THe director did what a good director does — get the best, most convincing performances from his cast. No ironizing here, thank heaven!

  • aulus agerius

    His effort in singing and acting, though admirable in itself, is too apparent; it is not artful. He does not make it seem easy. Thus, in spite of the leather pants, the boots, the hair and handsome face, his Dick J is not particularly sexy. It’s better just to listen to him, but it still doesn’t work for me.

    • antikitschychick

      I honestly think he might just be having a hard time shacking off the fidgety Wagner roles he’s been portraying as of late. (I don’t mean the roles themselves are fidgety but the particular manner of playing the roles as per the directors for some of the productions are).

      • antikitschychick

        ugh meant SHAKING of course. Typing fail.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      I don’t think opera singing can ever look effortless in close-up. It does take a lot of physical effort. Combining that with real acting isn’t easy.

      • skoc211

        I must disagree. This was the first video that came to mind when I thought of a singer looking effortless in close-up while still giving an emotionally moving performance. I know she’s far from everybody’s cup of tea, but I was left speechless the first time I saw the complete mad scene -- both from the singing and acting.

        • antikitschychick

          I COMPLETELY AGREE. She is absolutely spell-binding in this role. The mad scene from the 2004 performance in Spain is just “it” for me. Not a worthy enough adjective to describe that.

        • diva2themax

          She was GLORIOUS as Ophelie. The Liceu performance is one of the most hauntingly beautiful performances i’ve ever experienced.I was so sad she canceled when she did it a few years ago at the Met.

          • skoc211

            I bought tickets solely to see her sing the mad scene at the Met, however due to a delayed flight I bought tickets to the Met’s “Hamlet” solely for her Ophelie. Ultimately I was unable to make it to the performance due to a delayed flight from Phoenix -- it wasn’t until later that I discovered she had canceled on the whole run. It was probably for the best because by 2010 she really wasn’t in the vocal shape to sing the part.

            That said her performance of the mad scene at the Liceu is one of the landmark performances in my personal experience and introduction to opera. Vocally astonishing and emotionally devastating.

  • I have not watched the whole thing yet, this weekend was a little busy. i did take the time to listen to the Or son sei messi and i have to say OMG, this was amazing. I have to concur, Johnson fits Kaufman like a tailored suit.

    • Operngasse

      I’ve only listened to the first half, but I completely with the singing critique.

      As to the sartorial splendor, Dick fits him like tailored leather. This production has more leather than this year’s Folsom Street Fair.

  • La Valkyrietta

    Nina is no Tebaldi, not by a long shot. Why make her look like a bull dyke? I admit she has the voice, much better than Voigt was in the role. But Jonas is something else. The role could have been written for him. Opera, some say, is the complete art form. And here Jonas is music incarnate. Have they gotten into the habit of changing the names of operas? In the way of, say, changing the locations such as Mantua to Las Vegas? Even if not so, I will always think of this production as “Il Divino Fanciullo del West”.

    • MontyNostry

      Maybe the director thought Minnie should have been getting it on with Wowkle. Ug!

      • operaassport

        More like getting it on with a wookie.

    • Bluevicks

      Yes, but then one could also say that Kaufmann is no Corelli ”by a long shot” either (even though in his interviews, Kaufmann seems to think that he is the best artist somewhat). But are such comparisons really useful?

      It’s not that I’m against comparisons per se (in context of performance traditions they could be quite interesting) but I don’t think that they are informative as far as individual performers are concerned. Why do we compare current singers with the legendary ones from the past? First, the comparison is likely to be invariably negative for the current singers and second, it ignores the fact that the operatic ”golden age” included mediocre performers as well (Kurt Baum anyone?).

      So, I think that Stemme and Kaufmann are best evaluated on their own terms with regards to the score requirements. Personally, I’m afraid that neither of them were able to give something memorable but the performance as a whole was competent enough. And even though I don’t like Kaufmann’s singing generally, I have to admit that he was far more successful in this role than in anything he has sung over the previous year. I don’t understand the ”music incarnate” part however. How can someone be ”music incarnated” when he is unable to let the music breath?

      • FragendeFrau82

        Please point me to an interview in which Kaufmann says he is a better singer than Corelli or any singer from the past.

        • La Valkyrietta


          No, no Coreli or Bergonzi. But Jonas is alive today and singing, and he is wonderful.

          Yes, if you want to delight in the pas, here is divine Franco,

          He is divine, the best, except for Bergonzi, but a dream. Still, if you want to see someone live, there is Jonas. Thank God for Jonas.

          • FragendeFrau82

            Valkyrietta, my comment was aimed at Bluevicks who doesn’t like Kaufmann. I don’t care about that, there are plenty of singers not to my taste either.

            But the implication that Kaufmann spends his interviews saying he is better than any singer of the past annoyed me, so I am asking for a citation.

            Not that Jonas needs defending from armchair internet or youtube critics. It’s just that every now and then a comment is so bitchy I have to respond.

            • la vociaccia

              Fragendefrau- the interview in question is now predictably being twisted a la “Dessay thinks she’s better than Sutherland and Callas!!!!”

              What Jonas said was that he loved and admired Corelli, *because* Corelli was clearly in love with his voice and this sort of love was evident in his interpretations, especially when he would make vocal decisions that were rather self indulgent.

          • Bluevicks

            Dear Valkyrietta,
            Maybe you won’t believe me, but I would like to ”delight” in the present as well. The trouble is that I didn’t hear a really satisfactory Fanciulla for more than 20 years now (I don’t like Domingo’s performance at all :-( ). But I like your idea of Bergonzi as Johnson…

            As for Kaufmann’s comments on Corelli, I would give you the whole citation since you suspect me of ”twisting” words for some reason:

            ‘”Of course, I do also listen to recordings. Some of my favorites for the Italian repertory are Corelli because he was so obsessed by his own voice. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily look at him to find the perfect interpretation and the prefect taste, but vocally, yeah, he’s really something” (Operachic, 2010)

            I may be dense, but I don’t see where Kaufmann ”loves and admires” Corelli here. My thoughts on this could be found in the post to Fragendefrau so I won’t dwell on it. I would just add that if Corelli was really ”in love” with his voice then it must have been a bizarre kind of love: by many accounts, Corelli didn’t like the sound of his voice and found it quite ugly….

        • Bluevicks

          Dear FragendeFrau,

          I understand that you are irritated, but I would be grateful if you could quote me accurately in the future. I didn’t say that Kaufmann ”spends his interviews saying he is better than any singer of the past”. I also didn’t say that Kaufmann considers himself as a better SINGER than Corelli. All I said was that Kaufmann considers himself as a ”BETTER ARTIST”. It’s not as if my sentence was that ambiguous anyway…

          As for your question, I would try to satisfy your curiosity as much as possible even though I have the feeling that I will ”annoy” you again:

          -- 1) In the French opera mag Diapason (september issue), Kaufmann states that Corelli’s Manrico was ”one-dimensional” despite his ”rich, beautiful and powerful voice” since he was ”never intimate or fragile”. Unlike Corelli however, Kaufmann didn’t want to rely on the ”heroic” side alone and intended to include Manrico’s ”vulnerability” and ”tenderness” for his mother (or so he says).

          If Kaufmann thinks that his interpretation of Manrico is far more interesting/better than Corelli’s then good for him. The problem however, is that while Corelli could be many things, being ”one-dimensional” wasn’t certainly one of them. In fact, he was one (if not the most) dramatically responsive artist of his generation in the Italian rep. To verify this, it’s enough to consult any of the live recordings he did between 1956 and 1967. Kaufmann’s statements are also unintentionally funny when one considers his fussy, rough and labored Manrico in Munich this year. If he is really as intelligent as some of his fans say he is, then he may be well advised to not encourage any comparison with Corelli. It would certainly not turn to his advantage….

          Interestingly, Kaufmann comments are quite similar to those Gheorghiu made about Callas and Tosca (”To my taste she didn’t understand the role. I think she was all the time furious, hysterical. I want to be much more feminine and have moments when I make decisions and have power”). The difference is that Gheorghiu was vilified for it while Kaufmann’s comment was taken for granted. I find this quite puzzling. Maybe, I’m still not understanding the sacred-cow mentality…

          -2) In his ”Meinen die wirklich mich” interview book, Kaufmann states that there are two aspects to opera singing: the ”sensual-animal” and the ”spiritual” (personally, I think that such a dichotomy is just silly but what do I know?). Quite predictably, Corelli (and Metternich) end up in the ”animal” category while Grummer and Ferrier are assigned to the spiritual one. Finally, Callas, Wunderlich, Ludwig and ”many others” are supposed to combine both aspects equally (it’s not clear on which basis such categorizations are made but for some reason, Kaufmann seems quite sure that ”low tones appeal more to the soul”).

          After having reduced Corelli to the animal level, Kaufmann speaks about his experiences with stage directors, his role assumptions at important opera houses and the evolution of his profession. Throughout the whole book, Kaufmann presents himself as a responsible artist whose main commitment lies in the sensitive and meaningful interpretation of the score. The contrast to Corelli, who supposedly is only able to produce ”geil” tones at the ”animal” level is complete.

          -3) In his Operachic interview, Kaufmann admits that Corelli’s recordings in the Italian rep are his favorites ”because he was so obsessed by his own voice”. Of course, he wouldn’t ”look at him to find the perfect interpretation and the prefect taste” but ”vocally, he’s really something”. By contrast, Kaufmann presents himself once again as a sensitive artist whose main concern is to find the best way to interpret a role with respect to the composer’s score.

          I gave you three examples where Kaufmann states that he is a better ARTIST than Corelli. The picture which emerges from Kaufmann comments is quite clear: Corelli is a self obsessed, self absorbed singer whose appeal is limited to the ”animalistic” aspect of his voice. He has no taste, no notable interpretative capacity, no soulful or ”spiritual” expression and his role accounts are one dimensional. The only reason to like Corelli is that he had a very good voice. By contrast, Kaufmann is supposed to be an intelligent, sensitive artist and musician who works constantly to enrich his interpretations and who seeks to understand the context in which an operatic work is written.

          Certainly Kaufmann is entitled to his opinions. And he is not the only one to make idiotic comments about singers from the past. However, the assumption according to which Corelli was just about voice is a big canard (and not a particularly fresh one at that). His dramatic responsiveness, passion and commitment to the roles he sang on stage is widely recognized. And above all, he used all the resources of his voice to draw deeply human characters. He had his faults (like any one else) but his interpretative abilities are not questioned anymore (you could compare the last scenes of Ernani by Corelli, Bergonzi and Del Monaco: the results may be quite instructive).

          I don’t know why Kaufmann thinks that he could use such as smelly canard for his own benefit. At the very least, it shows that he lacks intellectual and musical curiosity. At worst, it could suggest that he is developing a quite big and uncomfortable (tenor-like?) ”melon”. In all cases, the worst I can wish him is to acquire at least 1/10 of Corelli’s technical, interpretative and abilities.

          It’s not likely to happen though.

          • FragendeFrau82

            I appreciate your extended reply. Since I interpret your examples differently I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    It’s already been pulled from YouTube. I hope those of you who wanted it acted quickly enough.

    • antikitschychick

      no it’s still up, I just checked ;-).

      (I don’t want to post a link for fear of jinxing it but its still there).

  • DonCarloFanatic

    You’re right. I found it, but not through La Cieca’s link.

  • danpatter

    A fine performance of a great opera. The best I’ve seen since I saw Jones, Domingo and Diaz singing in Hal Prince’s production in Los Angeles. I didn’t like the two gimmicks at the end. Why are the lovers carried off by a gay pride balloon? All I could think of was, “I can’t come back, I don’t know how it works!” Just bring on a couple of Clydesdales and let them ride away as written. And I don’t think Il Sceriffo is going to shoot himself, either. But it didn’t ruin a most enjoyable performance.

    • Porgy Amor

      Besides those things, danpatter, I didn’t like the non-appearance of the Jake Wallace (the singer was excellent, from what I could tell). It was partially salvaged by the guy getting closer to the radio and tilting it eagerly and a little sadly, as if to improve the reception, but I’m not wild about the idea of that role being a “Heavenly Voice/Priestess” offstage opportunity.

      I loved this performance as a whole, though.

  • La Valkyrietta

    I can’t find it now. I tried. I won’t ask what the link is now, I don’t want to jinx you all. I recommend it. I watched it complete and enjoyed it, in spite of the less than feminine Minnie on the first act, how can one conceive of that appearance being all the miners’ sweet heart? Today I wanted to see Jonas in key scenes, and “Addio mia California” on a balloon again. It is sort of a nice Oz like touch. I think all wrong. The West is horses, ask John Wayne. But what can you do, directors want to do things. And you get the voice of Jonas from up high. Also they made a big to do about the nostalgic miner singing on the radio in the first act. Well, I think his singing there in person is more appropriate. Still, I did not mind too much the updating in this production. All it needed was a miner in some corner playing on a slot machine. I’ll try youtube every now and then, hope I can catch it again.

  • La Valkyrietta

    I loved this Fanciulla, but if I were to take only one clip from Fanciulla to a desert island, I would take Tebaldi in it. I was fortunate to see her. She was certainly something. I would take her even over Jonas. Love her.

  • La Valkyrietta

    I love Jonas, and I would madly like to see him in this. But do you all remember Bergonzi? He and Tebaldi would make this Puccini opera be the best in the world.

    • antikitschychick

      I Luvs me some Corelli! Such a beautiful and thrilling sound…I like Jonas too and I think he has finally hit his stride. He is sounding pretty fabulous in the Italian Spinto rep…and we get to see him in Werther this season.

  • Foreign Princess

    “Thank God for Jonas,” yes you are right! So many of the tenor who was supposed to be the next great tenor, and it did not happen. They did not know how to sing, or maybe have personal problems, which is true it is very sad, and then the voice goes. We have waited 25, 30 years as one after another fell! Cura, Alagna, Licitra, Villazon…but in Jonas, there is voice, artistry, good acting, the intelligence also, and he leads his life as a mature person. It is always when you hear about him, about the singing, not getting into fights with the theater, not body building, not about romances or hitting women. Always doing new things at the right time, not too much too soon. He can sing in a perfect style German, Italian, French. When such a singer should appear, it is like the musical promise that is coming true, when you had given up.

    • La Valkyrietta

      Foreign Princess,

      Yes, wonderful. Love Jonas. Better than Cura, Alagna, Licitra, Villazon…Jonas does deliver, wonderful, and he has endured. I just hope the Met gets more of him in the right things. Am I too flattering if I say he is the XXIst century Corelli? Maybe the phrase is absurd. But Jonas is something the Met ought to pursue and cultivate. He is good!

      • Porgy Amor

        I had been a quasi-doubter in the Italian rep, but that Johnson sounded to me as though a new phase had begun since I checked in last. The singing was direct and unaffected in a way that his Cavaradossi was not, to my ears (I heard him only in the Carsen production at Zurich with Magee and Hampson). It was the best tenor singing in Fanciulla I have heard since prime-time Domingo.

      • antikitschychick

        well, he’s pretty much a Met regular isn’t he? On his personal website he attributes his rise to fame to his Met debut as Alfredo in La Traviata so he has good rapport with the company.

        And I’m sure they’ll book him for Otello when he finally gets around to singing it, if they haven’t already.

        TBH though there is a huge scarcity of good dramatic/Spinto tenors today which also adds to his profile (I mean who can sing Otello well besides Johan Botha and Antonenko?). IDK what has happened on that front but I really hope we get through this rough patch soon.

        • Porgy Amor

          I wonder what the record is for first-rate active Otellos at a given time, though. Bearing in mind that every Otello from the first one has had detractors, and there are people who don’t think Domingo was first-rate, don’t think Del Monaco was first-rate, and so on…if the sole criterion for our purposes is someone who has sung it to widespread acclaim (which would get PD, MdM, McCracken, Vickers, Vinay, et al., into the club), how many at one time is a reasonable expectation? I think this is always going to be one of those “There are so few/no good ______” roles, like Norma in the other thread. Giulini persistently avoided the opera because, in his estimation, there was no suitable Otello voice. He had heard Renato Zanelli, and no one measured up, and he was going to wait for another Zanelli or not do it. Quite a powerful tribute to Zanelli, considering the long life and career Giulini had, and the famous ones he surely heard (and worked with in other operas).

          I do get it, though. That really is the best voice I have heard for it, in the excerpts we have.

          • antikitschychick

            But weren’t all those tenors you mention contemporaries of each other more or less? Giacomini was another great one too.

            But point taken about resisting the urge to over-generalize.

            Wish I could watch the video, but I shall have to wait til I get home from work.

            • Porgy Amor

              But weren’t all those tenors you mention contemporaries of each other more or less?

              Yes and no. They (Vinay, Del Monaco, McCracken, Vickers, and Domingo) all were singing professionally for a time in the 1960s, but not as Otello. Vinay had made the switch back to baritone by the time Vickers started singing it live; Del Monaco had set it aside before Domingo took it up (and Domingo had set it aside before Antonenko took it up), et cetera.

              There would have been a period of overlap for Del Monaco/McCracken/Vickers from about 1963 through 1972, and one for McCracken/Vickers/Domingo later, but it gets back to the point — we never have an abundance of the “front-line” Otellos. So if Botha, Antonenko, and Kaufmann are all doing it at the same time at some point, we may be doing pretty well, at least in raw numbers.

              I wasn’t criticizing you for a generalization; just musing. It’s a beast to cast.

            • antikitschychick

              Ok I see what you mean, thanks for the explanation.

              Otello is a definitely a beat of a role to sing. Totally agree with you there.

            • antikitschychick

              *BEAST of a role darn typos!

          • Clita del Toro

            I saw all three as Otello, MdM, Vickers and McCracken (and Uzunov). Each was outstanding in his own way. Then came Plamingo, a forced, non-Otello, IMO, and that was it for Otello and me. So until another comes along besides Antonenko or Fatso (I did see a pretty good DVD of Cura in the role) ta-ta OTELLO.

            • Porgy Amor

              I, on the other hand, never got the appeal of MdM, and I probably should refrain from comment on McCracken, having heard him in performances that may not have been the best guide. I loved both Vickers and Domingo, and I have seen or heard more of the latter than any others. Botha…not for me. Antonenko may yet get there. It has come up here before, and what I have heard strikes me as promising but dramatically skin-deep (or makeup-deep, as it were). He has not been the outstanding element in the two performances I know.

          • antikitschychick

            finally listened to the recording you posted Porgy. Alls I have to say is WOW. What a voice and WHAT an interpretation! Thanks for sharing that.

      • oedipe

        La Valkyrietta,

        Your sweeping statement that “Kaufmann is better than Alagna” (just like that, in everything, no contest!) reflects your personal likes/dislikes, it is not an absolute truth.

        Can you give a list of all the roles in which Kaufmann is/has been better than Alagna? (As a reminder, or in case you don’t know it: Alagna has sung over 40 roles in his career.)

        • La Valkyrietta


          Thank you for the comment. I do have a tendency to word my preferences as general truths and that is absurd. But to be fair, I was just replying to Foreign Princess and agreeing with her. Actually I prefer Alagna and Villazon to Cura and Licitra whom I would place last in that group, but that is my personal preference. In NY I would tend to see anything by Jonas and only would go to an opera with Alagna if there is another motivation, such as the opera, the production, the soprano, etc. I grant you, it is my personal preference. I have never seen Alagna in the role that captivated me to Jonas, his Siegmund.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Oedipe there are such sweeping statements that can be made. I can also say that the French fashion is the best in the world. I indeed have many books on designers and histories of design houses going back to the House of Worth. The only exception I make and he showed in Paris was Valentino. Take all the German, American and even Italian designers (except for Valentino) for one Dior, Balenciaga (born in Spain yes but it was a French house) or Lanvin. I have heard Alagna in various roles and I will take Kaufmann who is the whole package and can sing Italian, French and German roles equally good over Alagna anyday. But Crespin is without rivals in Troyens. :)

          • oedipe


            Again, this is YOUR taste -though not MINE- and not an absolute truth!

            I have heard both Kaufmann and Alagna in several roles, and I can “state” that Alagna has no equal in most of the French roles he has sung, because of his UNIQUE MIX of a timbre that’s perfectly adapted to the French rep, his intonation and attention to coloring every word he utters, his idiomatic “ligne de chant” (Kaufmann ALWAYS has a German intonation in French); all this combined with a very Latin intensity and commitment in incarnating and acting his characters. Besides, he is not exactly the most unattractive man I have seen on an opera stage!!!

            I also prefer Alagna to Kaufmann in a number of Italian roles (Cavaradossi, Manrico, Maurizio), because of his unaccented Italian, his idiomatic Italian style, his Latin temperament and the fact that his voice has a lot of squillo.

            Alagna has never sung a German role, so no comparison is possible there. But just for good measure (unlike some of the JK groupies here) I’ll state I very much liked Kaufmann as Siegmund, I thought he was a great Dick Johnson, and I LOVED his Lohengrin.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              I agree with you Oedipe, I find Alagna a far more appealing artist than Kaufmann, and a better singer, actor and stylist as long as he’s in an appropriate role (things like his Radames really did just seem like too much for him, and his response was just to shout and bawl all evening).

            • oedipe

              Cocky, I agree with you that Radames is not a good role for Alagna. But…all is relative!

              And I take this as an opportunity to kvetch:

              The Paris Opera is in the middle of a completely-sold-out run of Aida, an opera which hasn’t been seen here in 45 years. Don’t ask why it’s been so long, I have no idea!

              Without even beginning to touch on Olivier Py’s production (which is creating a big fuss, unsurprisingly), let me talk about the casts: there are 2 alternative casts, both unsatisfactory. The Radameses are (sort of) OK -Alvarez and Dean Smith-, but the Aidas and Amnerises are quite poor. The first cast has Dyka (atricious!) and d’Intino (whose middle register has become very worn); the second cast has Garcia (who is slightly better than Dyka, but that’s not saying much) and a certain Borcheva (who?), very bad, apparently. Where are Monastyrska or Moore, or He when one needs them?

              But it can be worse! Yesterday I watched a few minutes of the Vienna Aida with Kristin Lewis and Giordani. Don’t ask…

              So, what are the available choices for Radames these days? Alvarez, Dean Smith, Botha (who at least can sing, rather than scream, the notes); or worse: Giordani, Berti, Todorovich…No wonder Alagna gets so many offers to sing Radames, considering the available alternatives out there!

            • 45 years?? Good lord!

              Agreed about the scarcity of tenors capable of a good Radames. Kaufmann could probably do it very well but there’s only so much of him to go around. Botha can sing it well but lacks the Italianate tone and is a lump on stage. Berti (whom I’ve only heard as Calaf) has the voice but is a dull singer.

            • la vociaccia

              Well, Carl Tanner was a pretty decent Radames. The instrument isn’t glamorous but he’s a tasteful singer and didn’t fall into any spinto-traps (bawling, bleating etc.) Other up and coming spintos like Massi and Montsalve have great voices but very precarious technique.

              Maybe Kaufmann, but I think he would actually sound great if he went back to some Mozart. Dick Johnson sounded pretty good but it seems like he has to spend a lot of voice to get through it. I’d rather hear him as Tito than a voice like Polenzani (Chicago’s Tito this season)

            • Bluevicks

              What impresses me with Alagna as well is his projection. In the theatre his tone may be not particularly big but it could be heard with great clarity in almost all corners of the opera house (according to my experience at the very least).

    • la vociaccia

      Before oedipe jumps in I’d like to point out that Alagna, in French music, completely delivered on the promise, and in that respect has not fallen. Heavy italian spinto rep? Maybe not, but I wouldn’t put him in the “disappointment” category

      And bringing up Licitra is a bit untasteful…

      • Foreign Princess

        la vociaccia,

        Licitra is the saddest of all. No one was more than me wishing him the best success when he sang Manrico and Cavaradossi in the beginning, and he had so much to give. The voice had the “ping” and real Italian tone, and so maybe not the best actor, but neither was Pavarotti, and they were always right in it and could get you to care. But what happened then? If you hear the recordings and see him later, like Forza and Calaf at the Met, it was as 25 years had gone when it was not 10. Even the New York Times critic who says good of EVERYBODY, he writes “over the years he has squandered his talents.” That was years before he died. This was all I mean when I say he disappointed.

        Now he is dead, and that is much worse than singing badly. If he sang well or not well, he would still have died in the same way. But we cannot say, Oh Licitra, he was going from just one great success to another and then the accident took this top tenor from us. That is to be sentimental. Even obituaries say he had a great beginning and went wrong somewhere. Maybe you see him one time and he was not bad, another time you wonder why he even went on the stage.

        • manou

          “Now he is dead, and that is much worse than singing badly. ” Not necessarily -- for some Parterrians anyway.

          • Porgy Amor

            Ha! That broke the somber mood.

            I watched the upload of the Muti Trovatore a while back, when that opera and one of the singers in it were being discussed here. At the time the Sony recording was released, I had thought it was a good but not world-beating cast and that the main selling point was the Scala forces in very high-energy form, as well as the opportunity to hear the score note-complete in a very “clean” edition (none of the time-honored shenanigans on which Muti frowns, such as the tenor horning in on the soprano’s last line in the convent scene). While my 2001 assessment of the cast probably holds up vis–à–vis all Trovatore casts on records, they impressed me on the revisit. Everyone sounds good, and Frittoli, Urmana, and Licitra were rarely better or as good in years afterward. Actually, if I were ever making a case for Urmana and Licitra for someone turned off by her soprano excursions or his uneven later singing, that performance would be Exhibit A.

        • Clita del Toro

          One tenor who Licitra kinda reminded me of— and one who was much better, was Flaviano Labò. They have been recently mentioning him on opera-l. His was a big, gorgeous spinto voice in a small, cute guy. I only saw him early in his Met career.

          • Porgy Amor

            I believe Labò holds the distinction of singing Don Carlo in the first five-act (but significantly cut) commercial recording, conducted by Santini in the early 1960s and quickly eclipsed by the Solti/Decca.


          • Batty Masetto

            Gosh, Flaviano Labò. Yes, lots of voice in a small, attractive package. I saw him only once, many years ago in a Turandot with Anita Valkki. (We were disappointed she wasn’t Birgit, but no doubt would kill to hear her today.) But I don’t remember him having anything like Licitra’s now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t inconsistencies.

            Both of the principals, however, were totally overshadowed by the Liù, a young soprano I’d never heard of named Teresa Stratas.

            • Clita del Toro

              Well, the Turandot was in ’66. I first saw Labò in 1957 in Forza. I don’t know how his voice sounded nine years later in the Turandot.

            • Batty Masetto

              I liked him, though, Clita. It’s just that Stratas kind of dazzled the two of us who went that time.

      • oedipe

        La Vociaccia,

        Thanks for being the lone voice of fairness in this groupie fest.

        But do you find this not-so-veiled hint tasteful?

        It is always when you hear about him, about the singing, not getting into fights with the theater, not body building, not about romances or hitting women.

        • Batty Masetto

          getting into fights with the theater, not body building, not about romances or hitting women

          Yes, thank goodness we never hear about Bobby A. ever getting into that kind of nonsense.

          Oedipe, mon vieux, the broken record is getting tiresome even for this Alagna-admirer and francophile. Yours is not a voice I would like to tune out, but I’m starting to find myself doing it all the same.

          • oedipe


            That sentence should never have been written, and is totally out of place in a post meant to glorify Kaufmann:

            1. At least one (probably two?) of the items on that “factual” list is nowadays in the hands of lawyers and could be prosecuted as libel.

            2. Why do Jonas groupies feel an irresistible need to launch personal attacks against Alagna? Do they really believe this will make Kaufmann look better?

            3. It not “always about the singing” when it comes to Kaufmann: a few years ago, when Gheorghiu was spending more time with Kaufmann than with her husband, the French grapevine was abuzz with talk not related to his singing.

            I am surprised you don’t see the problem. Unless you approve of the bashing -both personal and professional- in that post (which would explain your lashing back at me); but then, you shouldn’t call yourself an “Alagna-admirer”.

  • La Valkyrietta

    Licitra’s terrible death is a sad thing. I feel badly for him and lament he had the end he did.

    Death is something that will happen to all of us, not just tenors.

    Here we always discuss singers and their voices, regardless of whether they are dead of alive. Some live to their seventies, or even over a hundred, good for them, I guess. Others die young. Licitra lived to be 41 which is young for a tenor. Björling lived to 49, and that was also young. Some have died even younger than Licitra. Wunderlich died at 36.