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On this island

“The Valerie Masterson of our generation!”


  • 1
    Krunoslav says:

    Lucy Crowe is an excellent singer (as Masterson was an excellent singing actress), but the idea of her singing Gounod’s Marguerite in anything larger than a small house version of the piece is silly.

    Maybe Our Own Rupert needs to listen to the Church Scene and final Trio again?

    Or maybe this?

  • 2
    grimoaldo says:

    There will never be another Valerie Masterson, she was unique, the best Gilbert and Sullivan soprano in recorded history and regarded by G&S fans the world over who know nothing of any other kind of opera as a living legend, a superlative Mozart and Handel singer, adored in France for her singing of French opera and finished her career by making a lot of successful “cross over” recordings of musical theatre pieces.
    A beautiful woman with a beautiful voice, perfect diction and total command of the stage.

    • 2.1
      Krunoslav says:

      I saw Masterson in this when I was maybe 6 years old:

      Later in ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD and much later in SOLOMON and ORLANDO.

      • 2.1.1
        grimoaldo says:

        Yes Kruno when I was around the same age I saw her play Yum-Yum onstage in that production and then many many times in almost all her roles at ENO and ROH and made special trips to France to see her there also.
        I saw every single performance of Julius Caesar with her and Janet Baker, that is what turned me into the Handel fanatic I have been ever since.

          Regina delle fate says:

          Who’d have guessed, Grimoaldo? ;)

          • Sanford says:

            I saw MAsterson sing Antonia in Hoffmann at the LOC in the early 80s. She was fantastic. The rest of the cast wasn’t too shabby, either. Ruth Welting as Olympia, Marilyn Zschau as Giulietta, and Alfredo Kraus as Hoffman.

  • 3
    Hippolyte says:

    Lucy Crowe will be in Toronto performing in Peter Sellars’ production of Handel’s Hercules during the entire ROH Faust run, not that she would have any business singing Marguerite (awful opera anyway), particularly when she’s never sung anything heavier than Gilda.

    • 3.1
      ML says:

      How much larger exactly is Gheorghiu’s voice than Crowe’s? LC projected Sophie firmly and clearly in Munich, a house the same size as ROHCG.

  • 4
    willym says:

    Just wondering where the Masterson quote came from and how exactly it fits in with the tweet? She was a remarkable singer and actress -- I recall seeing her in Aix in an exceptional Alcina with Eda Pierre, Berganza and Murray conducted by Leppard. The previous year I saw her when she had replaced Illena Cortubas as Matilde in Elisabetta and had a great success -- almost overshadowing Caballe. I recall the audience in the Roman Theatre in Arles going crazy after her first aria.

    Whatever the intent of the quote our “generation” could do worse than have another Valerie Masterson

    • 4.1
      grimoaldo says:

      “The previous year I saw her when she had replaced Illena Cortubas as Matilde in Elisabetta and had a great success — almost overshadowing Caballe. ”

      That was what started Masterson’s international career. All the reviews raved about Valerie and she told me (I was an adoring fan and used to go and chat to her after her performances) that Caballe called her into her dressing room with the reviews spread out on the table and said “What about this then?” Valerie couldn’t say anything and just sort of smiled like “I didn’t write them”. The next performance was supposed to be filmed and televised all over Europe but Caballe cancelled it so it was never recorded. I asked Valerie if she thought that was because Caballe was jealous and she just shrugged.
      I don’t know if people appreciate how remarkable it was that Masterson went from being a Gilbert and Sullivan singer with D’Oyly Carte to an acclaimed international opera singer, it had never been done before, they were considered two utterly different genres and the opera world was very snooty about Gilbert and Sullivan artistes.

      • 4.1.1
        willym says:

        @Grimoaldo -- I’m not sure if people always appreciated the difficulty of much of G and S. Listening to the older recordings of D’Oyly Carte the quality of the singing is quite remarkable -- but then it was often the only option for an English opera singer at the time. And sadly church hall performances gave the impression that it was “easy” music.

    • 4.2
      ML says:

      Must have been some earlier statement by Rupechri.

    • 4.3
      Regina delle fate says:

      Willym -- I saw her as Cleopatra, Romilda, Konstanze, Countess Almaviva, Fiordiligi, Pamina, Comtesse Adèle, Manon, Marguérite, Juliette, Mireille, Louise, Micaela, Leïla, Marschallin, Gilda, Violetta, Mme Lidoine, Alice Ford, Valencienne, Woglinde, Waldvogel, in some of these roles several times. I can’t remember a single less than first-class performance, and she remains unsurpassed in my experience as Cleopatra and Manon. When she was singing, the huge London Coliseum was full to the rafters.

      • 4.3.1
        Regina delle fate says:

        Also Governess in Turn of the Screw, and a small part in the wp of Henze’s We Come to the River at the Garden, which is the most ENO artists could hope for at the time -- Anne Evans and Lorna Haywood were often RO First Ladies in the Flute -- unless someone famous cancelled at the very last minute and an ENO singer had to go on -- Norman Bailey for Hubert Hoffmann’s Sachs, Rita Hunter for Ligendza’s Senta (that must have been a challenge to the costume department), Evans for Kiri and Neblett’s Rosalinden.

          grimoaldo says:

          Masterson did “graduate” to leading roles at ROH eventually,as we said with Faust for instance and among others, notably Handel’s Semele for which she won the Evening Standard award for outstanding achievement in opera, in the John Copley production which has been presented numerous other places.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Oh yes, thanks Grim -- I can add Semele to my list for willym! Ruth Ann Swenson was also a delight in that production.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Grim -- I expect she got the Semele at Covent Garden on the insistence of the conductor, Charles Mackerras, who was her biggest champion at ENO during his music directorship, and conducted her in Julius Caesar, Xerxes, Romeo & Juliet, Traviata, the Magic Flute et al. He ruffled a few feathers when he chose Masterson for the EMI Opera-in-English recording of Traviata over Josephine Barstow, who had created the then ENO production under another conductor.

            • grimoaldo says:

              Yes the Mackerras-Masterson partnership was the very pinnacle of musical achievement as far as I was concerned, I saw almost every performance of those ones you mention and even at the time felt very fortunate to be there.
              Mackerras also chose her for Fiordiligi in Aix and he and Masterson even performed together in The Pirates of Penzance in one of the last seasons of D’Oyly Carte, years after she had left the company, she went back as a special guest appearance for two performances and he was the guest conductor.

      • 4.3.2
        willym says:

        @Regina -- how fortunate you are I only saw her the twice but when talking with a friend in London this morning he mentioned that her Governess in The Turn of the Screw was as remarkable as any of her Handel, Mozart et al. So I’m really at a loss as to why she is mentioned in this item.

        I think what we are all forgetting is that she is a Brit and didn’t have a big New York career so she has two strikes against her in certain quarters. I can’t see any other reason for the xenophobia unless it is to engender comment and up the click count!

  • 5

    If that was supposed to be a diss on Masterson, I’ll let her do the talking (as it were)and throw some share of her own.

    so, what was it that was said about Ms. Masterson?

    • 5.1
      grimoaldo says:

      I went to Paris to see Masterson in Faust with Alain Vanzo and Jose van Dam, I adored her but even so I never thought that one day there would seemingly not be anyone in the world who would be able to sing the part. Also she did Faust at Covent Garden with Kraus and Nesterenko, glory, glory days.

      • 5.1.1
        Regina delle fate says:

        I think that was the first time, I saw the old Copley Faust, I missed Kiri and Freni as Marguérite, alas, but “our Val” shone in the company of Kraus and Nesterenko, with better French than both of them. She was a star in Paris -- with roles such as Manon, Marguérite, Juliette, Mireille -- long before she was accepted as such at Covent Garden. Those were in the Palais Garnier days -- a smaller house than the ROH. Of course, she might not have impressed at the Met, the only opera house that “counts” on this website. For some anyway.

          grimoaldo says:

          I think she first appeared in Paris in The Coronation of Poppea with Jon Vickers and Gwyneth Jones (!) as Drusilla. I remember during rehearsals for a new ENO production Paris called ENO in the morning and asked if she could come over and sing Constanze in Seraglio that night as their star had cancelled. ENO said no, she had to stay at the rehearsal. Paris called back at lunchtime and asked again, ENO still said no, at teatime Paris phoned again and begged, saying they couldn’t find anyone else. ENO said, oh, all right, rehearsal is nearly over now anyway, Masterson was given a police escort to the airport, re-learned the German text on the plane, which she had not sung for about ten years, was thrown onstage where she was glad to see her friend Ryland Davies as Belmonte who muttered the blocking to her under his breath.
          She had a huge ovation and big success, things like that never bothered her a bit, in fact they just made her think rehearsals were a waste of time, she would get very nervous when there was a big build up to an opening night and constantly be told “Such and such a VIP or legendary star is coming.”

          • armerjacquino says:

            they just made her think rehearsals were a waste of time

            Oh, please don’t tell me that! I hate to hear that kind of idiocy coming from artists I admire.

            • grimoaldo says:

              Well maybe it is an exaggeration, she told me she thought she was at her best when she just went out onstage and was spontaneous. I know she did not like rehearsing new productions for a month, she thought that was too long.

            • armerjacquino says:

              The thing about ‘going on stage and being spontaneous’ is that nobody else has a clue what you’re going to do.

            • grimoaldo says:

              The reason why I know how she felt about this is because I asked her how she could stand to do things like the Seraglio in Paris I described, it seemed to me something like that would make you so nervous you would just about die, but she told me, no, that was when she thought she was at her best, she thrived on things like that, it was a big build up to A Very Important Event that made her nervous.

    • 5.2
      Regina delle fate says:

      Well, it certainly looks like a diss on Masterson and Crowe, but it seems to have generated lots of lurve for both of them from Parterriani who don’t all think that British = Useless automatically. I guess some here think all British sopranos are like Vicar favourite, Susannah Glanville. When Crowe actually sings Marguérite at Covent Garden -- unlikely to say the least at present -- I think she might be hailed as the new Valerie Masterson. At present, I’d say Crowe is a very nice Handel and Mozart soprano. Her Gilda at Covent Garden was “promising” but unlikely to storm the world’s great opera houses. That said, I would much preferred to have heard her in ENO’s new production than the pale-voiced Anna Christy. Of course, when Rattray gets his mitts on the Met casting, no doubt it will be wall-to-wall Crowe, Bevan, Royal, Bostridge et al. Then you’ll all have something to complain about. :)

  • 6
    operaassport says:

    Lucy Crowe in Handel, anything after that no way …

  • 7
    armerjacquino says:

    Just as a US critic would be likely to wish for Perez or Oropesa at the Met.

    • 7.1
      La Cieca says:

      No US critic would “wish for” Oropesa as Marguerite without suffering the withering scorn of every American on Wrong voice altogether.AIlyn Perez maybe, though more likely at this moment in her career she might be offered the second half of the run; the Met would want a bigger name to open the series.

      • 7.1.1
        dr.malatempra says:

        Setting aside the issue of “name”, Perez was a brilliant Marguerite two summers ago in Santa Fe. She,and Hymel, lit up the stage.

      • 7.1.2
        armerjacquino says:

        Yes, my mistake. I should have specified that I was talking generically about ‘up and coming native singer’ rather than specifically about Marguerite.

          steveac10 says:

          To me, an artist of Masterson’s caliber would not prompt anyone to complain about her citizenship were she to be cast in an “international” house even today. I’ll be the first to admit I lapse into f’ing Brits mode almost reflexively, but it usually arises when secondary roles are cast from afar when locals are available and likely willing. Masterson had a talent that was worth importing (maybe I think that because I’m a sucker for a quick vibrato because it gives a certain gleam to the voice). Interesting that she thrived on G&S and things French. An unusual talent to be sure.

  • 8
    grimoaldo says:

    with Piero Cappuccilli in the final scene of Rigoletto

    with the incomparable Anthony Rolfe-Johnson singing “Happy We” from Acis and Galatea in a docudrama about Handel-

    I saw Rolfe-Johnson and Masterson in Abduction from the Seraglio at ENO every performance they did also, I don’t remember how many that was, about ten I think, heigh-ho, there is just nothing like either of them these days.

  • 9
    hamish says:

    Just over 50 years ago, as a student, I saw Valerie Masterson in G&S productions with D’Oyly Carte. She was a delight. After moving back to Canada I did not see her again, but I was happy to see how her career flourished. A lovely singer….blessed with good looks.

  • 10
    manou says:

    It seems that Pappano snagged a sought after ticket:

    • 10.1
      Cicciabella says:

      Anna wanted to prove to Tony that she doesn’t always cancel.

    • 10.2
      MontyNostry says:

      Maybe he was doing a Manon recce in case Cristine Opolais decides to upcancel her new production at Covent Garden with Jonas Kaufmann -- a second-rate gig, after all.

      • 10.2.1
        oedipe says:

        Now that’s an interesting question: is Opolais at the stage where she can afford to “upcancel” (anything, anywhere)? And should Opolais cancel, do you think many people would give a damn, let alone create the commotion that Netrebko or even Yoncheva are provoking with their cancellations?

          MontyNostry says:

          My impression is that Opolais is quite ‘hot’ in London, since people went wild for her Butterfly a couple of years ago and (if I’m correct) she hasn’t sung here since. Yoncheva isn’t yet a name in London, except for people who frequent Parterre. (Extraordinary how parochial the operatic world remains.) As I have mentioned before, her Musetta didn’t exactly hit the headlines last year.

          • PetertheModest says:

            Opolais can sing and act and looks good. She has all the potential assets to be a major star.

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              Well Opolais is a mixed bag so far. The Rusalka being excellent and the Amelia being horrible. Totally miscast as Vitellia with no low notes and a shrill screamed top but an ok Tatjana. I have a friend who thinks she is even worse than Poptarts but do not agree with him on that.

            • PetertheModest says:

              She is a good actress, though not as good as Popsy, but she is a better singer than Poplavskaya (but that is not too difficult to achieve). I quite liked Opolais’ Tatiana.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              tsk @ “Poptarts”!

            • ML says:

              Feld is correct about her Rusalka, Amelia and Tatyana.

          • manou says:

            Opolais came back after Butterfly for a rather disappointing Tosca. But she is certainly one to watch.

            • MontyNostry says:

              Ah, yes, I’d forgotten about that Tosca. I think it was sold out by the time I thought about getting tickets. Even though I think the production is pretty duff until Act III, I am rather looking forward to seeing Radvanovsky and Massi in it in June. I was disappointed Sebastian Catana pulled out: I was looking forward to hearing a high baritone in the role and I do find Bryn’s Scarpia rather dour, even if he has the vocal power.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Yes, Manou -- the Tosca was really not what everyone expected after the Butterfly. NY Parterriani don’t seem to have been overwhelmed by her Rondine at the Met, either. And FM clearly didn’t like her Amelia Grim-Aldi or Vitellia. I’d like to see Alex Penda as Vitellia, possibly in a smaller house than München or Covent Garden.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              I sometimes find myself doubting my memory of the Opolais Butterfly. At the time I thought it was amazing and have said as much plenty of times on here, and yet everything I have heard from her since on YouTube has been underwhelming, and certainly hasn’t indicated that she’s a singer of the calibre I thought she was at the time. I look forward to hearing her live again to sort this out for myself -- probably in the upcoming Manon Lescaut.

            • armerjacquino says:

              That’s the live experience, though, isn’t it? The Gruberova BOLENA I saw in Barcelona sounds pretty filthy on YT but it was thrilling in the house.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Indeed, but this way around I’d expect to be able to project my experience of her live on to the YouTube videos to some extent and be more or less as impressed. This sort of applies in the case of Harteros I think, who I don’t think creates a particularly strong impression through audio/video alone, but because I know how the voice works in the theatre I am bowled over by most of her work when I watch it on YouTube.

              I’m more familiar with the opposite situation, where I could be underwhelmed by audio/video of somebody, but much more excited by them live.

            • kashania says:

              Cocky: Have you seen her Rusalka (in Kusej’s relentlessly depressing production)? She is superb in it. But then, I also liked her Donna Elvira for Tcherniakov which not everyone else did.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Cocky -- I’ve felt exactly the same, though I enjoyed her Rusalka, less so her Tatyana in Munich. I was thinking of going for the Vitellia, but FM’s remarks on here, and some very sniffy German reviews, really put me off. And I didn’t want to hear poor Toby struggling. The last time I heard him in a concert, he seemed ok, but the music was nowhere as technically demanding as Tito’s. Se al’impero is a really difficult and I doubt particularly rewarding aria.

      • 10.2.2
        Regina delle fate says:

        upcancel -- lol -- is this a new word as of the Yoncheva pullouts?

  • 11
    DeepSouthSenior says:

    Lucy Crowe was superb as Servilia (at least in Live in HD) in the 2012-2013 “La Clemenza di Tito” at the MET. I thought that Crowe, Elina Garanca, Kate Lindsey, and Barbara Frittoli were an aural and visual feast in that production. Right place, right time, right mix of artists. I would never have thought of Lucy Crowe as Marguerite, though.

    Rupert Christiansen seems to be quite smitten with Lucy:

  • 12
    Baritenor says:

    Speaking of Lorna Haywood, anyone got memories of her worth sharing? I am too young (and too American) to have experienced her career, but I recently worked very closely with her when she directed Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicci at Opera San Jose and she was full of stories.

  • 13
    grimoaldo says:

    Was someone speaking of Lorna Haywood? I remember her, whether it is worth sharing or not I am not sure, mostly as Musetta in an ENO La Boheme with Valerie Masterson as Mimi and David Rendall as Rodolfo, in a production by Jean-Claude Auvray, Haywood was very good, flamboyant in the role,I brought some friends to see my beloved Valerie and they were knocked out by Haywood more than by her, which was not what I intended but I didn’t really mind. Also Rendall sang gloriously in those performances.