Cher Public

An open letter to Sarah Billinghurst

Before you depart the Met at the end of this season, Ms. Billinghurst, you have the chance to do some good for both the Met audience and James Levine.  

You need to get started right now lining up a replacement for Deborah Voigt as Marie in Wozzeck. Look at the track record: Voigt has canceled all her opera engagements since last spring’s Ring. By the time she is scheduled to sing Marie, there will be a ten-month gap between her opera performances. And Marie is a new role in a style she has not sung before. Remember what happened with Ortrud?

Levine is notoriously diffident about protesting miscast or superannuated singers in “his” productions, particularly if he has a long history with them. To the outside observer, it seems like he would rather have an opera performance ruined by a bad performance rather than suffer the embarrassment of having to fire a singer he considers a friend. So let’s just take it as stipulated that Jimmy’s not going to do it. That means somebody else has to step up.  For the (reported) half million you’re pulling in from the Met this year, maybe you should play bad cop for once and not always make Peter Gelb be the villain?

Karita Mattila has a gap in her schedule that could reasonably allow her to substitute as Marie, but world-class singers don’t keep two-month holes in their calendars for long. She’s just added Marie to her repertoire at the Royal Opera, winning strong notices.  Another possibility is Anne Schwanewilms, though casting her would mean her having to reschedule two recitals, so a more likely choice would be Evelyn Herlitzius, who could squeeze in the Met performances before a couple of Maries in Vienna.

The thing is, you know that Jimmy is not going to act on this, and, frankly, Voigt’s recent statements about her future career sound increasingly delusional. Be the adult here, Ms. Billinghurst, and do what’s right for the Met.

  • Buster

    Did not Voigt recently sing Erwartung? That is certainly a similar assignment, perhaps an even harder one. Any witnesses?

    • Camille

      Yes, she did, Buster — last season or the one before, with the New York Philharmonic. It was to have been broadcast at a later date over the local radio, WQXR I believe, and was even announced by the ever-charming Alec Baldwin, but at the appointed hour something else was played. No explanations.

      At this time I must explain to you that, alas, I did not make it to the Baden Baden opera concert as I had planned and I do apologize for the lack of program me to be sent to you therefrom.

      If the path to hell is paved with good intentions I am well on my way. Ik hou van je, Camille.

    • Sheldon

      Yes, it was the summer before her Annies, and I was there. Although I am not a huge fan of Schoenberg, I enjoyed DV’s performance. I don’t know about the airing or non-airing of that concert, but I obtained a CD of it later from an enterprising couple of fellows on the internet, and it certainly included the sort of voice-over introduction you ususally hear on a broadcast.

    • Buster

      Thanks for your report, Sheldon, and thanks Camille! Have you been to the Frick yet, to say hello to the Girl with a Pearl Earring?

  • Trappedinoperahell

    Voigt talks about singing Wozzeck:

    “I thought I had reached the point in my life where I wouldn’t be learning new repertoire, but not so. The roles I’ll be taking are a little lower, and don’t require four hours of stentorian singing, but do require a musical intelligence and wherewithal.

    “Marie is going to be a challenge. Dramatically she will be something I can really get my teeth into, but the music is very thorny. I’m enjoying the process and nervous about it at the same time, and that’s probably a healthy place to be.”

    • Clita del Toro

      Oh, that’s reassuring.

    • peter

      I’ve never been a great admirer of Voigt but I do wish her well on this assignment. She may not have the perfect voice or temperament for this role but I really don’t see how she is going to detract from the performance and I would be very surprised if she cancels or is replaced. It’s a conductor and director’s opera. It can still pack a wallop without the perfect cast.

    • operaassport

      “A musical intelligence.”

      I wonder if she realizes how funny she sounds?

      No, I’m sure she doesn’t. She’s not a bit self-aware.

      • Noel Dahling

        Insulting this woman’s intelligence never stops being fun for you, does it?

    • antikitschychick

      here’s another detailed interview where she talks about an upcoming autobiographical theater piece and her memoir:

  • Quanto Painy Fakor
    • Porgy Amor

      Her interviews are always can’t-miss events, I will give her that. The outfit and styling in the photo are a bit “George Lucas movie.”

    • grimoaldo

      She also says she doesn’t appear in Munich because they have “crazy” productions and she would not appear in something like their Trovatore which turns the opera into a joke.
      “Sie haben hier so verrückte Produktionen. Wenn man mich fragen würde, im „Trovatore“ zu singen – vielen Dank, niemals mit Angela! Wir können mit der Oper doch keine Scherze machen. Bitte nicht, hört auf damit!”
      Even though the Intendant is her fan and follows her around adoringly all over the world-
      “Der Direktor ist ja mein Fan! Ich verehre Nikolaus Bachler, und er verehrt mich. Überall auf der Welt hat er mich schon gesehen.”

      • Feldmarschallin

        Aber man sie ja nicht gefragt sondern eine andere die sich die Oper gewünscht hat und die einen Riesenerfolg gehabt hat.

        • Regina delle fate

          Hehe FM, Deine Lieblingsdivadujour!

          • Feldmarschallin


    • messa di voce

      Or as the Goggle translation puts it:

      “A fabulous figure wants to be cared for, especially if you put in skin-tight dresses like Angela Gheorghiu. In photos they did in the late afternoon but no more desire.”

  • Cocky Kurwenal

    I’ve just posted about it on the intermission thread, but I’ll add here that I saw Mattila’s Marie last night and it was pretty searing stuff. You’ll be on for full on Kunst Diva histrionics if you do get her in New York.

    • Regina delle fate

      Cocky -- the night I went there was a good bit of Stimm as well as Kunst -- in fact more Stimm than most Maries I’ve heard at the ROH.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Perhaps I am misusing the term, but then I find people do generally anyway -- the prevalence of Kunst doesn’t imply an absence of Stimm, for me at least. I just mean that she held nothing back, and didn’t concern herself with trying to keep the singing beautiful.

        • Regina delle fate

          Ha Cocky -- she was demented, for sure! But I think Herlitzius is a genuine Kunstdiva. The Stimm is a bit gnarly, but she’s a fabulous Buehnentier! :)

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I think the thing with Herlitzius is that although the voice can be downright unattractive, and it’s all about the devil-may-care emotional involvement, she nevertheless has an absolutely first rate technique. That’s why I think the whole Kunst/Stimm debate is a bit of a non-starter, because most of the Kunst divas I can think of had amazing voices and fantastic techniques. Martha Modl is possibly the only one I can think of who always seemed to be flailing about wildly, from a technical point of view, but produced thrilling performances all the same.

  • phoenix

    If only Sarah had booked this Charlotte: