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Old testament

La Cieca hears that the Ravinia Festival in 2014 will do a novel take on Strauss’s Salome, setting the work in Milan’s celebrated “Casa di Riposo per Musicisti Giuseppe Verdi.” Featured in this unusual performance will be the recently-nubile Patricia Racette in the title role, with Gabriele Schnaut and Wolfgang Schmidt as her grandparents.

133 comments

  • Constantine A. Papas says:

    Age not withstanding, Salome is traditionally associated with heavier dramatic voices, and certainly not coloratura. I saw Anderson in HD, and she was good. And Maria Cebotary (some classified her as soubrette)sang Salome to acclaim in her mid 30s. I think she died before she turned forty.

    • Feldmarschallin says:

      Yes, Cebotari died at age 39. What an Ariande, Marschallin and Kaiserin she would have become had she lived. She was supposed to make her Met debut in 1950 as Elisabeth in Don Carlos but died before it could happen in 1949. I wouldn’t say she was a soubrette and she also sang Turandot. Her Susanna is sublime and one of the best.

      • Bill says:

        Cebotari was so beloved in Vienna that
        as I mentioned earlier she samg 177 performances of 18 leading roles in that short span alone.
        She did sing Ariadne there (alernating with Anny Konetzni and Maria Reining. She sang mostly he Figaro Countess but also Susanna -- she also sang
        in operettas there, made films as well. I was
        unawsare that Bing wanted her for Elisabeth in Don Carlo -- but, if so, her tragic death in 1949 explains why we had Delia Rigal. Her Salome
        can be heard on a pirated disc from a Vienna
        Opera 1947 performance at Covent Garden though the
        sound is not at all good (and Hoengen was ill and could hardly sing that night). She was essentially a lyric soprano but had the heft for
        Turandot, Salome, Donna Anna, Butterfly but also sing Traviata, Gilda and modern operas. She was originally a high soprano and sang Aminta in the
        World premiere of “Schweigsame Frau” in Dresden. She began as an actress as early as 1926 at the age of 16 and made her operatic debut as Mimi in Dresden in 1931. After she died Clifford Curzon adopted her two sons (her husband and father of the boys was G. Diessl, an actor). Her original name was Cebutaru and she was born an Austrian in Kishinjow/Bessarabien but of Romanian heritage.

        • la vociaccia says:

          Bill- if I understand correctly, Delia Rigal sang the 1950 Don Carlo opening because Elisabetta was turned down by (coincidentally) Dorothy Kirsten. Perhaps Cebotari was supposed to debut some time later in the run. Apparently Bing was initially very impressed with Kirsten when he visited the Met prior to his inauguration season, and was subsequently very irritated by her refusal of an opening night star role

          • Clita del Toro says:

            That was dumb on Kirsten’s part. We had to put up with that awful Rigal. I saw her in DC. and she was not good. Where on earth did they find her? An Jussi was in the cast. Jussi and Kirsten would have beed good together.

            • Clita del Toro says:

              Nasty iPad!,,,,

            • la vociaccia says:

              Clita- It was unfortunate, but as Kirsten herself has said, her willingness to say ‘no’ allowed her to maintain her instrument well past the normal sell-by date. She was still able to sing a very good Tosca at 69! Not that singing Elisabetta would have done her in, but she probably thought that if she pushed it she would be retiring from her high-lying soprano roles in her 50s, not her late 60s. Also bear in mind that she had already shaved off almost ten years of her age, and needed to keep up that youthful timbre!

              And yes, she and Jussi are a divine couple

            • Clita del Toro says:

              Vociaccia. Thanks for the duet. But, Isn’t Manon Lescaut a more taxing role than Elisabetta? And remember in those days they didn’t do the
              Fontainebleau scene. Well, it was her choice. She would have looked very good in the role too.

            • Flora del Rio Grande says:

              Clitina: I may have a clue for you. As I have posted here, Harshaw told me Kirsten “had trouble” with the role of Louise in 1947-48 esp. act III, which she found too heavy and could not support a good tone.
              She did sing some more Louises (New Orleans, San Francisco), but years later. So if Bing was offering her a medium-spinto role such as Elisabetta in 1949/50, she and her musical coaches might very well have thought it too risky. Verdi is generally so exposed and there are many moments in Don Carlos where E. has to carry a big line in ensemble or duet that may have seemed too much for DK at that time.
              I thought her Tosca recording with Mitropoulos was immature as a conception and vocalization on Kirsten’s part; her voice recorded with a rather thin sound, to my ear; it seemed much fuller and more colorful live in the house. By the early 1960s,
              with Kirsten in her early 50s, she was the mistress of knowing how to use her voice in heavier roles. The 1950 Verdi for Bing could have been just too soon, and she was wise to say no.
              Here is my fave Kirsten anecdote, which I guess everyone here knows, but: Friends had been urging DK to attend Callas’s Tosca.
              She refused, saying what’s the point? Finally, she did go and hear it. She was rather non-commital during the performance, but afterwards when asked what she thought, DK gave a classic reply, “She doesn’t do anything I don’t do!”
              I find that wonderful! And I found DK wonderful except for one thing: she was a rabid Republican conservative of the present-day right wing type. I just try not to think about that.

            • Clita del Toro says:

              Flora thanks for the interesting insights and ifo about La Dorothy’ s choices. She was a smart lady.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              This is interesting -- I once read an interview with Tebaldi in which she said that Elisabetta was regarded as a very heavy role in her day and she never sang it onstage, although by modern standards she would have had plenty of voice for the part. Did Milanov sing Elisabetta? Callas did in Milan but nowhere else as far as I am aware, and at Covent Garden the role went to Brouwenstijn who was best known as Fidelio and a lyric Wagnerian. I wonder when the pure lyrics started singing Elisabetta. Jurinac?

            • La Cieca says:

              Divas’ explanations of why they never sang this role or that are mostly self-serving, even in the cases of the more estimable and less barking mad type of divas like Tebaldi and Kirsten.

              One big reason a lot of sopranos turn down the soprano part in Don Carlos is that it is, relative to the effort required to sing it, ungrateful. Her big “memorable” aria does not occur until the fifth act, by which time a lot of the audience are either tired or else (assuming an intermission before this act) have left the theater entirely. Unlike another last-act soprano aria, “Pace, pace,” Elisabeth’s aria is quite long and structurally complicated, so it requires a good deal of concentration from the audience to make its full effect, and it ends quietly, which is of course dramatically correct, but it tends to discourage really hall-shaking applause.

              Further, as written, Elisabeth is at best the third most interesting character in the piece: Phillippe and Eboli are both spectacular parts, and the baritone role is very handsomely written, with a sympathetic death scene.

              So it’s hard to make a big effect as Elisabeth: Trovatore and Forza and Otello, among others, offer the soprano more return on her investment.

              In a way, this same argument can be applied to the role of Aida: an extremely hard sing in an opera that even a pretty good mezzo can steal. (And if the tenor doesn’t completely fuck himself over with his first aria, he’s competition too.)

            • Krunoslav says:

              Milanov,not on the Met rister in 1950-51, refused Elisabetta because “the big aria” came too late in the evening, after everyone had left”. In those days the Met andVienna still barbarically cut the first aria in half, and (more room for debate here) didn’t play Act One. so…

              Steber sang Elisabetta as of December 1950. She was surely a “juicy lyric” even if she ventured Minnie and (eventually) Cassandre.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Thanks Cieca and Kruno! What you say seems absolutely obvious on reading it, but hadn’t occurred to me. Maybe because I love Don Carlos so much I couldn’t imagine any soprano not wanting to sing in the opera unless they felt it was too heavy for them. But you see into the minds of these devious divas! :)

            • MontyNostry says:

              In her autobiography, Crespin mentions that she turned down an offer from Karajan to sing Elisabetta because -- if I remember rightly -- she felt that the part didn’t get going till Act V and that Eboli would steal the show. But I guess public opinion of Don Carlo(s) has moved on since the 1960s. I do find it gratifying that fellow parterrians share my particular love of both Don C and FroSch, works that have both sometimes been a bit undervalued by the operatic orthodoxy.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              But see above re Diva explanations being self-serving -- surely Crespin would have had an almighty struggle on her hands to sing a beautiful and graceful Elisabetta.

            • MontyNostry says:

              Crespin is pretty ruthless with herself in that book (for a diva, anyway) … but you could be right that, by the mid-60s or whenever it was, the upper part of her voice was getting a bit recalcitrant. But as far as colour, weight of voice and style goes, she would have been wonderful in the role. She recorded both Tu che la vanita (in Italian) and (ideal for her slightly later self?) O don fatale, I think.

            • Gualtier M says:

              Mirella Freni with Karajan started the current craze for Mimi weight Elisabettas in “Don Carlo”. Cotrubas sang the role and also Nuccia Focile was down for a revival at Welsh National Opera I think. Really ridiculous. It is a spinto role.

            • MontyNostry says:

              I’m with you, Gualtier. As I said earlier this year, I even found the admirable Harteros lacking some weight and amplitude in the role.

  • TenorPitcher says:

    OH. MY. GOD.

    Someone has got to save us here in the U.S. from Patricia Racette. I feel like she’s everywhere I turn. She is single handedly threatening to ruin San Fran’s entire season. I’ve said this before -- she seems like a nice and hardworking lady, but HER VOICE IS SO AVERAGE. And her “acting” leaves a lot (everything) to be desired. I honestly wonder sometimes whether she actually likes what she does for a living, because she seems to lack any sense of passion for her work. She used to be an amazing Cio Cio San, and her Jenufa was quite good, too. She should have stuck with those.

    • la vociaccia says:

      Well I can only say I disagree. I think her acting is excellent and sincere and (for me) extremely poignant, and she seems to love what she does a lot. I don’t really understand how one is supposed to make a career out of ‘sticking with’ two roles you didn’t mind her in

      • meowiaclawas says:

        La vociaccia, I couldn’t agree more. I saw her in Butterfly at the Met a few years ago and I sat in my chair during intermission and silently cried. She was very touching to me.

        • operaassport says:

          I agree. Her Butterfly at the MET 2 years ago was very moving. It is an average voice but she manages to do so much with it. I’m fine with that.

      • phoenix says:

        la voci I can only disagree with you -- not because of any of the specifics that mention above but because of La Racette’s mostly UNDISTINGUISHED performances in more recent years -- albeit approximately once or twice a season she gives a memorably excellent performance.
        - Particularly mediocre is HER VERISMO (I saw her in the role but heard only 1 performance all these years that was first-rate Tosca -- from Houston). The Met Saturday afternoon radio/HD broadcasts she has given in this present 21st century were awful but at least she has lowered the bar of good taste so more and more low calibre mediocrity such as her can get exposure. La Racette made her debut at the Met in 1995 with over 150 appearances there since. It’s time for her AND the other two members of the former great MetMedia triumvirate (Voigt and Susan Graham) to find something else to do.
        - The last thing I heard from La Racette I considered top worth listening to was her second Madame Lidoine last May from the Met, although in the Saturday radio broadcast her Lidoine was as mediocre as she usually is.
        - Someone on this site mentioned that she sang Mathilde excellently at SFO in the 1990′s -- she still has a Mathilde vocal tone -- is that kind of voice suited to Tosca & Giorgetta?
        - The House Singer at both the Met & SF is a position that requires reliability and she is reliable in that she rarely cancels (as much as you wish she did) but her reliability does not extend to high performance quality.
        - Enjoy her Maddalena da Coigny this season, folks!

        • Is that kind of voice suited to Tosca & Giorgetta?

          well, i have a copy of the Trittico telecast with her and i can tell you that her Georgetta was well sung, and also very sexy. She made me wish i was a lesbian and she was single because i would have done her in the middle of the stage.

          So, to answer your question, yes.

          • phoenix says:

            You must have a great fan of Anna Moffo’s Tosca, Lindy!

            • Never heard it, unfortunately; but what would be the problem? Not the first coloratura to have taken on the role at the end of her career; Scotto and Zeani jump immediately to mind, and Gheorghiu is certainly not a dramatic soprano and she is making the rounds in the role and many people like her interpretation.

              Dorothy Kirsten proved quite amply that you do not have to have a huge voice to do the role well.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Did Scotto sing Tosca on stage? At the Met?

            • Porgy Amor says:

              Only on the tour. Eight of her nine performances in the Met archives were from the spring of 1984; there had been a single Central Park performance in 1981.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              Regina, Scotto sang eight Toscas with the Met on tour in 1984, but never at Lincoln Center. These performances were preceded by a single concert performance in Central Park on 16 June 1981 with Domingo and Milnes which is available (complete; very rudimentary video quality) on YouTube:

              I know she did some Chicago performances -- I had a broadcast on tape which has gone missing -- but really have no knowledge of where else she may have sung it.

        • armerjacquino says:

          A pedant writes: TOSCA, an opera about the rich and powerful set 100 years before it was written, is not a verismo opera.

    • Camille says:

      Did you hear the Tosca last night? That wobble should be living in the Casa di Riposo. No “acting” can compensate, for me. It will be all right in some soft phrases and inevitably, it starts up the car alarm again.

      “Io quella LAHAHAHAHAHAHA-ma gli piantai nel cor” was the nadir.

      • Camille says:

        I was speaking of the Sirius broadcast on Wednesday night, not the HD repeat, just to be clear. Probably understandable that the performance AFTER is not going to be on par.

        Still, it was Wobbles City.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      I think you’ve been rather spoiled, if your idea of a ‘so average’ voice is Patricia Racette.

    • kashania says:

      I think Racette’s voice is better than average but it’s true that it’s not glamorous or even distinctive. Still, it’s a fine voice I think. As has been said, it’s what she does with the voice that is remarkable. I found her Met HD broadcast of Butterfly to be very moving.

      • ducadiposa says:

        More than agreed. I hope I get to hear her live one day, but certainly the HD Butterfly was extremely moving. To me, it was acting of a very high order. Specific and not at all routine and her voice served everything she did dramatically. I prefer that any day to some ideal (does it exist today?) from the past. Honestly, who else can you name today who sings the role more “beautifully” and with as much insight?

    • Milady DeWinter says:

      I feel badly for Racette -- she’s a hard worker, and musical, and gives 100%. But the voice has never thrilled me either, and now, it seems the voice is totally crapped out at the sustained top.

      • MontyNostry says:

        You don’t need to feel badly for her. She’s done very well for herself and continues to do so. (But she does nothing for me either!)

        • Regina delle fate says:

          Monty -- she’s one of those “useful” artists who, if New York had the equivalent of ENO, would probably have spent a lifetime traversing the entire lyric rep through a now already long career. A sort of US Ava June or Lorna Haywood, both admirable artists, but not exactly superstars. I think American companies are probably more loyal to native US artists than their counterparts in Europe to their own national singers, and Racette has been bigged up in houses like Houston and San Francisco. I’ve seen her in both St Louis and Santa Fe in which contexts she seemed a star. And she was an excellent Liu for Welsh National Opera and Katya for ENO. I can think of several roles, Ellen Orford for example, in which she would be well cast at Covent Garden (apart from Roocroft, there isn’t an obvious British candidate for that role at the moment), but I think one craves something a bit more exotic and temperamental for Tosca at a house like the Met. I’ve only seen it once there -- or to be precise two acts of it there, with Guleghina, Richard Leech and James Morris. Even in ragged voice, Guleghina had something of the diva temperament for the part. Wasn’t Racette supposed to sing Tosca at the Garden not so long ago? Or was that Butterfly?

          • MontyNostry says:

            I think she was meant to be Butterfly -- then replaced by Opolais and (for one performance only) Nizza. What’s happened to Roocroft, by the way? She seems to have disappeared.
            I can’t help feeling that, if Racette were a British or Commonwealth singer (Vicar, where are you?), she would be less of a favourite on here … She is a ‘gallant’ performer, a good professional, but I just don’t hear any magic in what she does. I think the first opportunity I had to hear her was a broadcast of Don Carlo from the Met back in 2006 and I was seriously disappointed.

  • pobrediablo says:

    By the way, Santa Fe audiences will hear Salome with Alex Penda in the future.

  • Constantine A. Papas says:

    I saw the HD encore of Tosca last night. Racette was OK. Her vibrato-excessive at times-was somewhat bothersome. And her acting was not consistently convincing. She was a better Butterfly than Tosca. Gagnidze was amazing from every angle- voice, acting, etc. He reminded me of Scarpias of yesteryears ( McNeil, Milnes?). And Alagna’s clarion was good.

  • degan says:

    I saw that HD of Tosca too. Alagna was best but nothing memorable. Gagnidze was ok. But Racette was a total mess. It was quite frustrating that the role of Tosca at the Met is cast with such singer. Many sopranos can do better than that. The Vissi d’arte was totally out of tune, totally flat, out of breath. I haven’t headed such a bad Tosca aria in a long time.
    Having in memory my last live Tosca, Gheorghiu at Vienna who was really fantastic, this was really sad to listen to. Not to mention the high C in act 3 that was a big wobble on a B. It hurts my ears when singers are that much flat as Racette in this Tosca (or for example Netrebko when trying to reach the E flat in Lucia)!

    • -Ed. says:

      I decided to save $25 and skip the Tosca HD broadcast, even though it’s prolly my favorite opera. I didn’t care for the production the first time I saw it, Alagna is not a particular favorite, and I’ve seen Racette too often. Honestly, for years she seemed to be in everything at SFO. I like her, but enough already.

      • Flora del Rio Grande says:

        Ed. I left the Tosca bdcst after Act II. A retired Met singer, sitting close to me, quickly walked out after Vissi d’arte; mistake! She should have walked out before it! Poor Racette; I have admired her over the years, but now it is “take the money and run time.” The pushed the voice badly in T. Act II -- she just wore out during the aria, the bulled her way through the final phrases with a result of no color, a few notes actually dropped following the yelled Bb, and some sag of pitch. The pitch for the high Cs was never clearly defined. She is singing repertory much too heavy and has for years. There is always a price to be paid for that; ask Steber!
        The last good singing I heard from P. R. was 2009 “The Letter,” the Morevec
        opera at Santa Fe; she was in fine form and did the whole thing up well. Singing a hundred Butterflies will wear down a voice — just ask Geraldine Farrar. I wish Pat well, but I am not going to spend much more time listening to what she has to offer these days.

        • Bianca Castafiore says:

          Well, I did not catch any of the current “Toscas” at the Met, but I can tell you that her singing at the “Priggionero” by Dallapiccolla this past summer was not the disaster many of you are making it out to be. So all these obituaries you are busy writing sound quite premature to me. Many Parterriani were there and they can tell you that she was in quite good form, and I believe, it was even reviewed here.

          For what it’s worth (probably not much), here’s AT’s take on it:

          http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/08/arts/music/philharmonic-and-gerald-finley-in-il-prigioniero.html

          Hopefully her current troubles in Tosca are temporary.

  • Bianca Castafiore says:

    Well, I won’t repost the link here (lest it gets quickly taken down) but go to the Antonacci thread and see/hear for yourselves. You may not like Racette but don’t tell me she’s finished. Really?

    • Flora del Rio Grande says:

      Bianca, just listen to the technique and the pitch
      and decide for yourself. I’ll admit always lots of
      subjectivity in this kind of thing.

      • Bianca Castafiore says:

        Dear Flora, I admit it’s not perfect but it’s not the disaster that some above (such as TP) say it is, certainly not in the Voigtian dimension.

        I have to say, compared to her Tosca last season, the vocal production is a bit bumpier and less smooth; also, there have been changes to the staging and I feel she’s overdoing the melodrama a bit, but overall, it’s still a very good performance. Watch how she slaughters Scarpia, stabbing him ferociously. Do you want to compare her with the Met’s next Tosca, Miss Rad????? She’s not getting any younger, like all of us…

        Alagna too sounds not as fresh as before but still a very distinctive instrument of note.

  • Feldmarschallin says:

    Regina I think it might be Herlitzius who is singing Elektra at La Scala next season. I wish we had her as Färberin here but hopefully she will be the Elektra here. As much as I like Stemme she isn’t demented enough IMO.

    • Regina delle fate says:

      Well , FM, Stemme was certainly not demented enough for Salome, so I have moderate expectations of her Elektra, although she will sing the music very well. Goerke was also not really demented enough and her German is only so-so. Yes, Herlitzius is the Scala Elektra, and in Dresden in January. I have tickets for that! :) Is München planning a new Elektra? I saw the Wernicke production with Linda Watson in Baden-Baden. She is an ok rather than exceptional Elektra, but Thielemann was outstanding. He conducted a wonderful Elektra at Covent Garden -- I think with Behrens and Polaski alternating as Elektra in the 1990s -- one of his first UK appearances. He seems not to like us any more.