Cher Public

Mamma mia

Goddess Anna Caterina Antonacci takes the “Sophia Loren” starring role in La Ciociara, a new work premiering at San Francisco Opera in June, 2015. The Marco Tutino/Fabio Ceresa melodrama is based on the novel that also inspired the 1960 film Two Women, the one that won Loren the Academy Award. Francesa Zambello, sigh, directs.

Antonacci also stars that summer in Les Troyens opposite Susan Graham and Bryan Hymel in a David McVicar staging conducted by Donald Runnicles. Further highlights of the season include Norma (Sondra Radvanovsky), Partenope (Danielle de Niese, David Daniels) and Susannah, with Patricia Racette as the teenaged heroine.

  • Susannah, with Patricia Racette as the teenaged heroine.

    And all the coments about Racette’s age (and her unsuitability for the role) start in 3, 2, 1…

    Other famous Susannahs:
    Sandra Radvanovsky, who was 33 when she sang it for LOC.
    Renee Fleming who was 40 when she did it at the met in 99
    Phyllis Curtin, who was 34 when she premiered the role and was 41 or thereabouts in the VAI recording
    Cheryl Studer who was 39 when she recorded the role (subbing for the 55 year old Stratas, as I learned not long ago in these very pages)

    So, yea, I wonder what is SFO thinking when they hired someone older than 25 to sing this part.

    • peter

      And we’ve never had a soprano sing Madama Butterfly in her 40’s or 50’s even though the character is supposed to be 15 years old.

    • TrevorNone

      I completely agree, Lindoro, but frankly I’m just relieved that we’re only being subjected to one Racette washout next season as opposed to the FOUR we have to endure this season. It’s unpleasant to say the least.

      • Absolutely agreed.

        • Baritenor

          Out of the two thusfar, she was kinda miscast in Mefistofele, but pullled off Dolores Claibourne real well (though I admit I have a biased preference for Cathy Cook in the second cast.)

          • TrevorNone

            I can’t say that I agree with you about Racette having pulled off Dolores well. However, I hesitate to comment on the performance at all given that she had such a ridiculously short amount of time in which to prepare. Kudos to her for not wholly ruining the show, I suppose, but I completely agree that Cook was far superior, both in her character portrayal and her vocal capabilities. I do give Racette props for bravery, as I can’t imagine that many singers would take on such a challenge. However, I wholeheartedly resent the management for making it seem necessary for her to do so. Losing Zajick was a real blow, but Catherine Cook is well known and well liked by SF audiences, and Gockley should have let her take the reins for the entirety of the run. Even though she’s not a “big name,” she knew the piece, did a stellar job with it, and has the correct mezzo-coloring which was so desperately needed to balance out the occasionally painfully high pairing of Vera and Selena.

            In truth, I think I would not mind Racette nearly so much were it not for the fact that I feel I am constantly being subjected to her utterly run of the mill performances. She occasionally turns in decent performances, and even I found her Butterfly of the past (not the present, mind you) to be one of those role defining interpretations. So because of that, if once a season I had to sit through a performance by “good ol’ reliable Racette,” that would be okay. But the fact that she seems to be in non-stop demand throughout the major houses in North America startles me, to say the least. She had the HD Tosca, for goodness sakes! With all the sopranos in the world, they gave it to her. I simply don’t understand that. And it was every bit as awful as one would have predicted it to be. Wobbles city at the top of the voice, and completely uninspired throughout the entire performance. I hate to say it, because she seems hardworking and isn’t known for throwing tantrums, but Europe seems to have the right idea by keeping her far, far away.

      • messa di voce

        Racette will also be singing the daughter in La Ciociara.

        • MontyNostry

          Well, didn’t Sophia Loren play both her mother and her younger self in an autobiographical movie? And, as she herself has said, she owes her ageless beauty purely to olive oil.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

    • The problem is not that Racette is not 18. The problem is that she has to begun to sound quite old. I’ve been a fan of sorts, and once or twice heard her give truly great performances, but the top has started sounding like late Sills.

      • MontyNostry

        I guess the question is whether the performance will be of a quality to overcome any issues with suspension of disbelief -- and of whether Racette can bring something transcendental to the part.

        As I’ve said on here before, I don’t see anything special about Racette -- though she is clearly a good professional -- but the SFO obviously thinks she has something outstanding to offer.

  • peter

    40s and 50s, that is.

  • Satisfied

    Love me some Antonacci…2015 summer planned!

  • grimoaldo

    I saw a lot of great stuff at SFO a few years back -- Ariodante with Susan Graham, Rhinegold with Richard Paul Fink and Stefan Margita, Simon Boccanegra with Dima and Vitalij Kowaljow, spring to mind, lots of others, but for the last couple of years there has not been a single thing I have thought “I wish I could be there”.
    Not so with this season -- Norma with Radvan, Vargas in Ballo, the Trojans, *Partenope*!!!, hooray, a delightful masterpiece somewhat along the same lines as Serse (Xerxes), more or less a comic opera with wondrous music all the way through, Antonacci in a world premiere, and my new pash Oropesa in Figaro, those I would all luuuuv to see.

    • Baritenor

      Hmmm…well in the past few years, we’ve had a killer Ring Cycle, an absolutely Thrilling Il Trittico, A stunning Tales of Hoffman with Polenzani, Brandon Jovanovich’s sensational Lohengrin, Bryn Terfel’s Falstaff terrific revivals of Serse and Figaro, and a stunning production of Nixon in China.

      Mind you we’ve also had dreary productions of Giovanni, Cosi and Fanciulla del West, and quite a lot of warhorses trotted out a few performances too many. Gockley has a stratagy where he brings out an “A” opera once a year and does like 15 performances of it with alternating casts. This year it’s Boheme. Last year was Barbiere (with two very good casts) and the year before that, Tosca (which they’re bringing back as a quick cash cow this season).

  • oedipe

    And since we are on the subject of age: America (or, more exactly, SFO; the Met needs another 10 years or so) is “discovering” Antonacci, at the tender age of 52!

    • [Fact-check needed -ed.]

      • -Ed.

        I’d like to fact-check ya, but I just washed my hair.

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        Wikipedia gives Antonacci’s birth date as 05 April 1961.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          I think the fact that needed checking was whether the Met had ‘discovered’ Antonacci for itself. They did cast her quite some years ago, but then what with one thing and another it came to nothing.

    • Agnese di Cervia

      At what age the MET “discovered” Magda Olivero?

      • Camille

        La divina Magda was a mere 64 years young when she made her debut as Tosca at the Met, if recall correctly from what I’ve read.

        She owes her incredible longevity, in part, to her vegatarianism and the practise of yoga, or so I have also read somewhere. Perhaps it is all good genes.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          Actually, it was just a few weeks after she turned 65 (I was there). Born: 25 March 1910; Met debut (“Tosca”): 02 April 1975

          • Camille

            Lucky Jungfer!!!! Thanks ror the exact information.

            Kuessies! Thank you so much for your wonderful weekly offerings.

            Oh yes, the other night I saw Baryshnikov do a portion of Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite and I must say he was just as good there as everywhere else his magic foot lights.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              Thank La Cieca for offering me a regular forum to announce my Mixcloud postings. We have some interesting things planned for the coming weeks…

              You saw Baryshnikov? Live? Is he still dancing Tharp at 65? Where was this?

            • Camille

              Oh good heavens no, Jungfer, it was only on television—taken from about twenty years ago. Didn’t mean to get you all excited over the idea he was peeforming! I had just never come across this particular performance before. Sorry, Jungfer.

        • oedipe

          So there, stop picking on Domingo, everybody: he is only a few years older than that!

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            Domingo will turn 73 on 21 January. I’m going to hear him as a “baritone” for the first time tomorrow in “I due Foscari” at Theater an der Wien. Anybody else going?

            • Clita del Toro

              Plamingo: Yuch, poo and vom!!!!!

          • PetertheModest

            He is amazing for his age.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              And amazing he was last night, a week before he turns 73. I think “I due Foscari” fits him better than any of the well-known operas he’s taken on as it remains a true rarity among Verdi’s operas (that being said, this was the first time I heard him live in a baritone role). There is no big aria – no “Di provenza” or “Il balen” – that we all know and have heard with 100 different true baritones so, with no one to compare him to, he pulled it off extremely well. He was in excellent voice – holding on to high notes and showing a true command of Verdian style – and had absolutely no vocal problems whatsoever. (Today, I listened again to the rather disastrous “Il balen” from Berlin just a few weeks ago and can’t believe it is the same singer.) I just missed the contrast in the duet with the tenor (the superb Arturo Chacón-Cruz) and in the ensembles which featured a rather weak basso (Roberto Tagliavini), so there was no low end for balance. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it all. Also, the Lucrezia, Davinia Rodriguez, has one of the weirdest voices I have ever heard, sounding at times like the worst/campiest parts of Suliotis, Gencer, very late Callas (hollow and covered), and Deutekom, but with the volume of Gwyneth Jones, and, oddly enough, extremely musically accurate for the most part. ORF is broadcasting it on Saturday night, but unfortunately I won’t be home to tape it (I’ll be at “Don Giovanni” at Staatsoper with Villazón as Ottavio).

  • Cocky Kurwenal

    Goddess? Are we really that excited about Antonacci? Respectable artist to be sure, but I didn’t realise she’d achieved that rare status around these parts.

    • MontyNostry

      I think it’s her rarity value in the US, Cocky. I’ve only seen her a couple of times. She’s a good performer, but she hardly sent me into raptures.

  • sfmike

    It’s a fabulous looking season, except for all the Puccini which is not a problem for me since I have declared a personal sabbatical from that composer for the next 10 years.

    Racette is a great performer. You either like her voice or you don’t, but I always have, and as she’s gotten older she’s gotten smarter musically and dramatically too. She was the best thing in “Mefistofole” at SF Opera this fall, and her last-minute “Dolores Claiborne” role assumption was one of the most amazing theatrical high wire acts I’ve ever witnessed. Give her credit.