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Ladies in their sensitivities

This week, I was pleasantly surprised to find an envelope from La Cieca in my mailbox. Inside I found two contrasting CDs of soprano arias, one of Verdi and the other of Mozart. As someone who thinks Verdi is the greatest composer who ever lived and who feels pretty meh about Mozart, I expected to love the Verdi and be bored by the Mozart. I wasn’t far wrong.

The first CD is Krassimira Stoyanova singing Verdi arias. The program is as follows:

 

  • “Ritorna vincitor” from Aida
  • “D’amor sull’ali rosee” from Il trovatore
  • “O fatidica foresta” from Giovanna D’Arco
  • “Morrò ma prima in grazia” from Un ballo in maschera
  • “Tu puniscimi, o signore” from Luisa Miller
  • “Teneste la promessa… Addio del passato” from La traviata
  • Tacea la notte” from Il trovatore
  • “Non pianger, mia compagna” from Don Carlo
  • “Pace, pace mio dio” from La forza del destino
  • “Tu che le vanita” from Don Carlo
  • “Salce” and “Ave Maria” from Otello

My first impression the first time through was that it’s the right voice for this rep but there didn’t seem to be much drama.. .nothing seemed to be at stake for any of the characters. Listening for the second time, though, I must say, I’m finding nuances I missed the first time. Ms. Stoyanova has excellent control of her instrument so that she’s able to display good dynamic contrasts and she can float a lovely line above the staff. Also, like Moffo’s, there’s a certain innate plangency to the voice that works well in this rep.

The Aida selection is lovely but in the “D’amor sull’ali rosee,” her trill is passable but no more. However, the aria is beautiful. She opts to skip the high D flat in the cadenza and she sings the cadence come scritto rather than up the octave. I rather like the high option in the cadenza so I was a little disappointed.

She does a beautiful job reading the letter in the Traviata but misses an opportunity for drama on the words “e tardi”. I kept thinking of the exceptionally dramatic reading of Violetta by Ileana Cotrubas on the recording with Domingo and Kleiber. Her plangent tone serves her well in the “Addio,” though.

I only wish that she had been a little more adventurous in her choice of arias. All but two of the arias are standard, the two exceptions being the Giovanna D’Arco and the “Non pianger, mia compagna.” I would have enjoyed hearing sing selections from, say, Alzira, Il corsaro, and I masnadieri. But all in all I really enjoyed this album, and she is someone I’d like to hear a lot more of. She is accompanied by the Munchner Rundfunkorchester ably conducted by Pavel Baleff.

The other album, the Mozart, features a singer I’ve heard of but never heard, Marina Rebeka. Our very own John Yohalem pointed out in a review of Rossini’s Mosè that her coloratura reminded him of Christina Deutekom. I dare anyone to listen to this album of Mozart arias and not think of Deutekom as well. In spite of that, I really enjoyed this album.

She says in the liner notes, “Mozart is a world apart, a world of huge variety, of different personalities… “  and certainly sings a wide range of Mozart characters, covering both Queen of the Night arias and Pamina’s aria, “D’Oreste, d’aiace” from Idomeneo, the countess’s two arias from Nozze, and even “Martern aller Arten!” By and large, the album is beautifully sung.  She has a lovely voice and uses it well for the most part,and when the role demands it such as Elettra from Idomeneo, she can be quite dramatic.  (This piece seems to lay a little high; she can get a little shrill in this aria.)

The final selection on the disc is the Entführung and as in the other selections with coloratura, her Deutekomness (a word I just coined) surfaces. I went to YouTube to see if she sings coloratura like that all the time and the answer seems to be yes. I enjoyed this album but with reservations.

My biggest question is whether oes she sing any of his music better than any other singers  currently performing this rep and I would have to say that no, there are other singers who sing all of this stuff better. Is she bad? No. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to hear her.

On the other hand, I would definitely choose to spend an evening listening to Ms. Stoyanova.

46 comments

  • coloraturafan says:

    For my money the best recent Soprano disk was Elena Mosuc’s Donizetti Heroines. Glorious bel canto singing.

    • NPW-Paris says:

      Sabine Devieilhe’s “Le grand théâtre de l’amour”, a Rameau recital, has given me a lot of pleasure.

    • kashania says:

      Mosuc is doing an in-concert Guglielmo Tell at the Toronto Symphony next season. I’m definitely going!

    • antikitschychick says:

      despite the wide vibrato, this is indeed very good. She could use a bit more subtlety and dynamic variation (and the tempo could be a tad quicker) but her tonal quality is excellent, the legato is good, there is evenness throughout the range, etc. Thanks for sharing coloraturafan :-D .

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I love a good wide vibrato. Your comment has caused me to make a mental note to listen to this as soon as I get home from the office!

        • antikitschychick says:

          lol well, you know, I will admit that at certain moments I do find it appropriate, as long as its not excessive…then again what’s considered excessive is totally subjective isn’t it? :-P

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Now that I’ve listened to this and a couple of other Mosuc bits, she seems to be in that dangerous position of having a fairly big and very free voice but without the physical strength or fitness to support it very well -- it feels like it could go wayward at any moment, and she doesn’t seem to be very good at firm consistent tone, it’s sort of either a disengaged pianissimo, or everything she’s got. I like her though, she’s exciting.

            • FomalHaut says:

              For me, Mosuc’s vibrato has loosened with age and she is guilty of making ugly sounds in the middle and chest voice, exaggerating and shrieking in some places. While the disc as a technical accomplishment, I got the impression that she was simply marking until the end, waiting to release the E flat. I feel that she makes little contrast in the characterization of the various Donizetti (as well as Bellini, Rossini) Heroines, leading them to all sounding alike, which becomes tiresome quickly. Opera News recently put out a review of the disc, stating (something like) that it should be listened to in periods.

  • antikitschychick says:

    aha! Just as I had inquired if Stoyanova’s album had been reviewed, lo and behold a review :-D . Thank you Sanford. Wondering if we can listen to some excerpts anywhere?
    Looking at the selections, I agree that the rep seems pretty standard/safe but prob suits her voice well…and she’s very fortunate to have been given the chance to record some albums, which is something that is becoming more and more of a luxury these days. I can think of any number of sopranos who also deserve an opportunity such as this and are not getting it. Also, this is exactly the kind of rep *a certain other soprano* should be singing and I do hope she is taking notes :-P .

    • Archaeopteryx says:

      Glad to read that review. Stoyanova is a wonderful artist and I always loved her for the lack of stardom whilst delivering first-rate performances, vocally and stylistically. That the choice of rep is a little bit standard should be pardoned, if you look at her first album on Orfeo, “I palpiti d’amor”, there is a vast number of lesser known arias (including an aria and cabaletta from “La battaglia di Legnano”, which is one of the best things I’ve ever heard from her). I think she tends to record only arias from roles she sings or has sung on stage, and this is a very honest way imho. I hope we get more Belcanto with her; her Anna Bolena from Vienna sounds fabulous (at least on YT), and her Maria di Rohan on Opera Rara is outstanding. She would be the ideal Norma, uniting top notch technique with a personal style full of integrity and respect for the role.

  • Guestoria Unpopularenka says:

    Ritorna vincitor must be in preparation for her first Aida with Muti this December. I can’t really picture her in the huge ensembles but we’ll see. She’s not a stage animal and doesn’t have the fireworks but has a profound musicality that works best for me in the subdued moments i.e. Desdemona. She is a violinist by trade, has worked in orchestras, so that shows.

    Rebeka’s career is a complete mystery to me. Such a cold, uninvolved, often petrified performer. Her brute voice lacks fluidity, accent is very strong, and has the same expression from beginning to end. Definitely not a fan.

    • Archaeopteryx says:

      Sooo looking forward to hear Stoyanova in Aida. I hope she gets the right partners for that!

  • Hippolyte says:

    I have heard Stoyanova in pretty much everything she’s sung in NYC since 2001: Valentine and Lida with OONY (also a OONY Gala where she sang part of the final scene of Anna Bolena), Nedda, Violetta, Donna Anna and Mimi at the MET and Desdemona with Muti and the Chicago at Carnegie Hall. In every case, I’ve found her an admirable artist but not a very compelling or charismatic one. The voice is individual and beautiful but the top has become carefully managed. I heard the broadcast of her Vienna Ariadne and found it quite disappointing: the freedom and expansion one wants at the top was missing. I’d be happy to hear her again but I don’t feel an urgent need to do so.

  • Buster says:

    Great review, Sandford. It is always interesting to read what a singer thinks. Loved your Deutekomness a lot, too.

  • Pia Ngere-Liu says:

    Re Deutekom- I listened to the Studer Attila yesterday and cannot get Deutekom’s Odabella put of my ears. Maybe it was the first cut, I don’t know. Opinions?

  • Feldmarschallin says:

    Well I wanted to watch the Mosuc but found this instead by Coloraturafan….Thanks.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRWN9dXN51M

    • A. Poggia Turra says:

      Mosuc’s Luisa Miller from Aalto Theater Essen, I think):

    • Hippolyte says:

      also known as “19 reasons sopranos should never sing Rosina”!

    • armerjacquino says:

      Here’s Mosuc being brilliant, and rivalling Dessay and Nebs as an actor- a self-harming Lucia, such a good idea:

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        That gets extremely hard to watch! Looks like a great production, the lighting especially is brilliant.

        • Will says:

          Tough indeed to watch but a really scary and compelling concept and performance. And for once, Lucia’s death is from something other than last act disease. I also love the original scoring for glass armonica--it lends a weird and ghostly quality that’s especially right for this production.

          On a less exulted level, who is the baritone playing the brother? I’ve always found the baritone voice to be the sexiest of all, but he’s just plain hot all over.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Is that the brother? I thought it was the Arturo, but that was just my assumption.

          • NPW-Paris says:

            This looks like Brussels, in which case:

            Conductor: Julian Reynolds. Production: Guy Joosten. Lucia: Elena Mosuc. Edgardo di Ravenswood: John Osborn. Lord Enrico Ashton: Angelo Veccia. Lord Arturo Bucklaw: Jean-François Borras. Raimondo Bidebent: Giorgio Giuseppini. Alisa: Catherine Keen. Normanno: Carlo Bosi. La Monnaie orchestra and chorus. Glass harmonica: Sascha Reckert.

  • armerjacquino says:

    Since this thread is at least touching on the idea of vocal acting vs stage acting vs theatre vs opera, I hope this isn’t too OT…

    Here’s a video which gets to the nub of a lot of our arguments about opera as drama, or opera as vocalism. T-S and Raftery are both singing this very well. They’re both ‘acting’ up a storm. But- and I think this is important- I don’t believe either of them for a second. Do we need to believe singers on stage, or is ‘going for it’ enough, vocally or dramatically?

    Discuss.

    • antikitschychick says:

      AWESOME rendition of the Trovatore duet!! They are both on fire here…AND the Baritone is HOT. Thanks for sharing armerj :-D .

    • Rowna says:

      My 2 cents: I think it depends on why you are going to the opera. If I hear singing like this, I am in heaven. (Full disclosure -- I am a big AT-S fan.) I think that in this excerpt there is “enough” acting to take me out of my cushioned seat at the theater and send me to another world. No amount of great acting combined with mediocre musicianship or vocalism can do that. It would be a wonderful world if all great opera singers were equally good as actors, but as we all know, that isn’t the case.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Having finally been able to watch this Trov clip, I think I know what you mean AJ -- Tomowa-Sintow’s port de bras is terribly elegant but doesn’t look remotely like the natural actions of a person in this situation. Her primary concern seems to be her legato (which is absolutely AMAZING in this) while Raftery churns out fabulous tone the whole time but can’t think of much to do beyond pacing and clenching his fists. I feel like Raftery in particular hasn’t done any work to internalise his character’s situation and doesn’t know what to do with himself -- it feels very much like they’ve quickly agreed some very basic blocking and just got on with it. TS is slightly better but it all feels a bit stylised. They just don’t seem as if they’ve had those conversations that would take place in a modern rehearsal room over the course of a week about who they are (or done the work themselves either -- Callas probably didn’t have those chats with Corelli either, but either through private work or sheer instinct always seemed to know exactly what her journey was at any given moment), and as a consequence no, I don’t believe them either. The contrast with Vaness below is striking -- she knows exactly who she is. As sheer singing though it is fabulous and I love TS even more now, so thank you for posting it.

      • antikitschychick says:

        Yes it’s most definitely stylized but the singing is Amazing and she especially is really committed to her part. It’s hard to not be thrilled by their performance. It’s definitely old school but I think present day singers can learn from this. Not a lot of performers are that graceful onstage.

        • armerjacquino says:

          Yes- between the two of you, I think you’ve got it. It obviously works (whatever grim seems to think I meant) but the question is why. The quality of the singing + the commitment takes it over the line. So I guess the answer to the original question is that ‘yes, going for it is enough’?

          • armerjacquino says:

            Also, thank you both (and Rowna) for actually addressing the question I asked.

      • grimoaldo says:

        I think it’s silly to compare anyone as Leonora in Trovatore with anyone as the Countess in Figaro. One is a very natural situation that we have probably all been in -- “why doesn’t he love me like he used to instead of screwing around?” and the other is a very extreme, wild, unnatural though not impossible Gothic romance / horror story. What are the “natural actions of a person in this situation”? who has ever really been in that situation “don’t kill my boyfriend, here you can have my body, excuse me for a minute while I pop this poison pill from the secret compartment of my ring”? of course it is going to be stylised.

        • armerjacquino says:

          I didn’t compare the two. Someone asked me what I meant by ‘believe’ (an odd enough question as it is- don’t we all know what ‘believe’ means?) so I posted an example of dramatic commitment which I also found totally credible. It was an answer to a new question, not a response to the previous one.

          Other people seem to have understood this.

          • williams says:

            Hi Amerjacquino, I really wasn’t trying to be difficult with my “believe” query. I was just trying to get a better feel of what you were asking. You raised a fascinating subject and perhaps the quotation marks made my attempt at responding indelicate. If you reread my comment I hope you will see that was the case. Always enjoy and am educated by your postings.

            • armerjacquino says:

              Oh please, I didn’t impute any malice or mischief, was just rather confused. Sorry in return if my response looked grumpy.

            • manou says:

              Will you two stop it now -- you are in danger of giving Parterre a good name.

  • williams says:

    Amerjaquino: could you explain a bit what you mean by “believe?” When we attend any kind of staged performance, opera or otherwise, do we not suspend disbelief? We fall under the spell of the actor or singer but, after all, we know we are in a theater. I’ve wept like a baby at silly potboilers of verismo opera but didn’t really believe what I was witnessing. It was my willingness to succumb combined with the commitment of the singer/s that made the moment emotional for me. Is that the gist of your query or is it otherwise?

    • armerjacquino says:

      Well, here’s what I mean by ‘believe’- the very great Carol Vaness, giving it socks in Dove Sono. An actor and a singer.

      • williams says:

        Wow. I do remember a Tosca in the mid ’90s featuring Vaness & Pavarotti both in uncharacteristic voice. Luciano had a pronounced buzz as if singing into a bad microphone & Carol sounded like she was begging for water in the Sahara. They carried on bravely and he gave one of his better acting turns. It was a fascinating and thrilling evening. When Floria dispatched Scarpia several socialites in the boxes actually whooped!

      • grimoaldo says:

        I don’t really get the “I don’t believe it” comment for the Trovatore duet either. “Dove sono”,a lament for lost love and a faithless partner, is just easier to believe than a highly wrought Gothic drama with the heroine exclaiming “Open my veins and drink my blood, trample on my corpse, but let the Troubador live!”and then swallowing a poison pill from the her special ring. Absolutely fantastic performance from Anna T-S, thank you for posting it even if you somehow meant it as a demonstration of something bad.

        • armerjacquino says:

          I didn’t mean it as ‘a demonstration of something bad’. It’s obviously ace. I meant it as a trigger to discussion about naturalism and credibility.

  • Guestoria Unpopularenka says:

    Verdi Requiem from San Diego tonight at 7pm PST on KPBS.org with Stoyanova, Blythe, Beczala and Furlanetto. Massimo Zanetti conducts.