Cher Public

The dark is light enough

Our Own Coloraturafan salutes the summer festival season with a compilation of Ladies Macbeth singing “La luce langue.”

  • Rowna

    I can’t believe that no one has chimed in on this one. Logan D has done a great job giving us first class singers performing one of the toughest Verdi arias, and we get to hear these interpretations, one after the other. Some of the singers that are included are ones I have heard often, and I just don’t care for them -- either it is the sound of their voice, the fluctuation of their vibrato, or something that I just can’t put a finger on. But since Dillon wanted to hear from us -- here goes: Starting with Callas -- she will always be the standard by which other singers will be judged: from her detailed attention to text, to the thrill of her voice rising, and her negotiations from high to low, often exaggerating the breaks in her voice. Ms Verrett, in my opinion, was perfect for this role, The dark timbre of her voice and smooth transitions from bottom to top are only part of the package she delivers. Her stagecraft was also very first rate. And that brings us to Ms. Nebrebko -- a singer I so admire. I thought she held herself very well against these giants. I am not sure how she will sound in the house as to me, her voice has a lighter quality. But age is darkening the top of her voice and her technique is very secure. She is a smart singer and does what she knows she can do well. As for the others, it wasn’t Ms. Gencer’s best outing. Ms. Sass, a fast burning flame, was demonstrating very well, how to wreck a voice in 10 minutes. Overall, I admire all these women -- this is one bitchy aria. It’s not quite like singing Batti batty . . . Good start to a Sunday for me :)

    • DellaCasaFan

      Oh, sorry Rowna for misspelling your name… It was entirely accidental. I enjoyed reading your comments.

      • Rowna

        I have a weird name DellaCasaFan -- no prob -- and I misspell everything -- even my kids names!

  • DellaCasaFan

    I’ll also chime in. Thanks to Coloraturafan for these selections. I am with Rawna about Shirley Verrett. She rightfully took La Scala by the storm in this role. Her Lady is the lesson in style and interpretation. Callas is, well, Callas. Fascinating and either you like her voice or not (I do), but at least for me there is no question about her dramatic instincts in this aria.

    I’ll skip the remaining sopranos, most of whom I found generally good though not great, to comment on Anna Netrebko. I was hugely disappointed with her Verdi album but I still think she has a great potential for the Lady. Her dark timbre, thrilling high notes, comfortable lower register (to my ears) should all fit the role well. My issue with Netrebko is the lack of dynamic range, unconvincing characterization, and problematic trills. The first two are still evident in this “La luce langue” and the trills were often smudged or ignored in the other two Lady scenes on her Verdi album. I found it interesting that Feldmarschallin had similar issues with her Salzburg Lady the other night. Nonetheless, given her vocal potentials suitable for this role and her evident passion for it, I look forward with great anticipation to her Lady at the Met this fall.

    The one Lady Macbeth that I would love to hear is Christine Goerke. I think she would be thrilling in this role.

  • actfive

    Chiming in: you just can’t beat Callas in this piece! Distinctive phrasing, and the musical bloodlust that she conveys on the last rising phrase always gives me goosebumps. Liked Netrebko and Verret as well, and Dimitrova for pure voice, but the dramatic thrust of the piece is fully realized only by Callas, IMHO.

  • Pousette

    What about Liudy? I wish she was doing the Met Lady instead of Netrebko.

    • Regina delle fate

      Liudy is a really dull actor, unfortunately. I’d say the dullest I’ve seen at Covent Garden -- they include Grace, Dmitrova, Barstow, Scotto, Connell, and Urmana -- though she has all the notes, of course, and the voice per se is exciting to hear.

  • Mariendel

    Well… I agree with previous posters re Callas. She really does own this role. But for camp factor ya gotta give it to Dimitra in that last clip -- from the tiara (crown?) to the fondling to the super long held high notes and the gratuitous holding on for applause at the end -- my God she knows her audience and how to work it!!

    • Clita del Toro

      Well, after The Only Maria (who I never saw as Lady Macbeth) my favorites are Rysanek and Zampieri (never saw her either). I did see Verrett’s Lady in DC with La Scala. She which was excellent. Her Vieni t’afftretta, etc. was very exciting, and for me was the highlight of her performance.

      • Feldmarschallin

        Well Clita we have the same favorites for the Lady: Callas, Verrett, Rysanek and Zampieri who I did see several times in the role. Also saw Jones, Connell (under Muti), Dimitrova, Guleghina, Serjan and now Netrebko who sang it in München not Salzburg. Berlin is not the same as München and Salzburg is not the same as München either. :)

      • Clita del Toro

        PS I haven’t listened to coloraturafan’s clips yet, which I will do this afternoon!

  • Camille

    Coloratua fan, you are my ideal, perfect parterrian.

    Actually, there is a lot to say here but I have no time right now. Nebby’s voice is beautiful and she did better than what I originally feared for her, but it’s still in the embryonic stages. Time and practice and getting a better grip on the line will help. Not having a conductor who will indulge her tempi and will keep a forward propulsion, hopefully, will be a part of the solution.

    Still and all, Adina to Lady Mac is a hell of a broad jump. Lest we forget, though, Giuseppina Strepponi was known for her Adina and she sang (not well because she was not well, from all reports) the first Abigaille.

    Thank you so much for your true devotion to the lyric art.
    It proves to be nothing short of awe inspiring.

    • RE: Netrebko. I’ve never heard her give it so much from a purely vocal amplitude perspective. Her chest is sounding better than ever but the high notes have not lost their gleam. I agree that she can still improve in terms of command of line but this is very promising.

      After years of very careful role choices (in terms of vocal weight — not that Elvira and Anna Bolena are careful roles), she has jumped straight into one of the most dramatic parts she could sing. The Trov Leonora seemed like a natural progression but most would not have predicted a Lady M so soon.

      I think that identifying dramatically with a role is driving her decisions. She has skipped Desdemona because she doesn’t find it interesting. And she’s staying away from Tosca (for now, at least — I hope she gets to it later). But I assume that Lady M speaks to her.

  • The_Kid

    hi coloraturafan, what a nice compilation! thank you :)

    personally speaking, i rather prefer a mezzo-ish Lady M. The zweischenfach ladies sing this role very well (Varnay, Verrett etc.), and this was one role where Callas’ idiosyncratic voice was a definite plus. The Wagnerians, in general, give great renditions of this aria, usually with great power, altho’ sans a trill or two. If you’d permit me, here are some other Ladies Macbeth whose contribution to the role need to be celebrated…

    Christa Ludwig:

    Martha Modl:

    Elizabeth Hoengen: httpv://

    Astrid Varnay:

    ….and finally, the first complete recording of the opera, Margherita Grandi: (this is all I can find from her on YT!)

    • The_Kid

      ugh….typos. “great rendition of this role, sans a trill or two…”; “….FROM the first complete recording…”…anyway, y’all get the picture! :P

    • DellaCasaFan

      The_Kid says:
      “The zweischenfach ladies sing this role very well (Varnay, Verrett etc.), and this was one role where Callas’ idiosyncratic voice was a definite plus. The Wagnerians, in general, give great renditions of this aria”

      Right. There is much to admire in the German affinity for this opera, from its revival in the 1920s to their remarkable tradition of Lady M. I heard two recordings with Astrid Varnay, one in Italian and the other in German, and she is terrific on the both. It’s a minor detail, but I believe that only she (in her German-language Berlin performance) and Monstysrka observe those difficult staccato lines as marked in “Vieni t’affretta”.

      Along the lines of zweischenfach ladies, Pauline Viardot’s Lady Macbeth at the British premiere comes to mind. I think some great Ebolis can also be exciting as Lady M. It is regrettable that Simionato never recorded the role…

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      I don’t think I’d call Varnay a Zwischenfach lady -- she was a dramatic soprano who took on some Zwischenfach and mezzo roles as she got older and the top became less reliable, which she was able to do by virtue of her very thick middle and lower registers. But the point is it was a linear thing, she didn’t spend her whole career poised between 2 Fachs -- for a good 20+ years she was an out and out soprano, and she took on Lady Macbeth during this time.

    • mia apulia

      thanks for this, kid

    • mia apulia

      I remember a broadcast from the Met in the 60’s with Irene Dalis, too; I was impressed at the time but who knows what I might think today!

  • Porgy Amor

    Somebody’s gotta do it.


    • Fiorenza (my FB friend :)) is in thrilling voice here. I do like mezzos in the part except for one thing. The very low notes, especially that low B early on, sound too easy for mezzos. Hearing a soprano go down that low, with a raspy or hollow tone, gives the piece more urgency. Hearing a big, plummy sound at the bottom takes away some of the danger.

  • ernestlow
  • two candidates for your consideration. The first is Marilyn Zschau. There’s no record of her Lady Macbetn but her she is singing from Attila.

    The second is Aprile Millo. Here’s her Sleepwalking scene.

    • coloraturafan

      I have a video of Marilyn Zschau in Les Huguenots from Australia Opera 1981 with Joan Sutherland.

      • phoenix

        Upload it -- but let us know where it is. Thanks for all your work!

        • coloraturafan

          Maybe an idea for a future parterre posting would be a Meyerbeer tribute?

          • phoenix

            Sounds like great idea. However:
            -- This is a private site open for public comment. The owner of this site keeps on posting negative comments about the inferior quality of Meyerbeer’s music, but I know there are several of us Meyerbeer enthusiasts who comment quite a bit on this site.
            -- coloraturafan, I’ve never heard of that Zschau Valentine de St. Bris performance you mentioned above. I only have a few recent live Meyerbeer performances and some of the old ones (the ones in good sound) from years ago -- all audio only -- some from video audio.

            • coloraturafan

              Interesting, I had not given much thought to that… Personally I don’t see Meyerbeer as inferior, certainly not to the point of not appreciating his artistry on some level at least. But then again, I am just a “coloratura-fan” hahahaha, and I am not a “serious” opera aficionado anyway… or at least some have said.

            • phoenix

              That you specialize NOW in that style of singing is your privilege and choice -- it’s a personal hobby -- you don’t have to follow the dictates & criticisms from anyone else. That you understand & appreciate music of other genres indicates to me that you have good taste.
              -- Looking forward someday to hearing that 1981 Huguenots (if only in my dreams).
              -- Thanks for all your posts and Best wishes!

          • The_Kid

            Speaking of Meyerbeer, another Wagnerian soprano who’d have been an ideal Lady M. would be the sadly underrecorded Gertrud Grob-Prandl: with her limitless upper register, powerful high notes, and capacity to sing ‘florid’ music (she sang Robert the Devil, hence the Meyerbeer connection), she’d been a killer Lady M. Did she actually sing it? Does anyone know?

            @coloraturafan: if you’re doing a Meyerbeer compilation, may I request one featuring the Raoul-Valentine love duet from ‘The Huguenots’?

            • phoenix

              Thanks, Kid -- despite a bit of awkward playing in the pickup orchestra, this is one of the best versions I’ve ever heard. Tempi just right.
              -- Here is another version from France (1953, before the postwar Teutonic takeover of French music establishment). Note the squillo brightness in the voices:

            • The_Kid

              thanks for the french version: i couldn’t play that one, but i found the same recording on YT. very…french. :P

              here’s the classic corelli-simionato one, BTW.

            • oedipe


              Of course, hearing a French opera sung in the French style, in perfectly clear French without a foreign accent shouldn’t happen to a dog! And happily these days opera houses (with the exception of some irrelevant French stages) are doing their best to prevent such unfortunate situations from ever happening again.

          • Regina delle fate

            You’ll get lifelong devotion from Grimoaldo, coloraturafan, but might incur the wrath of the Doyenne…..sarcasm, at least.

            • manou

            • There seems to be soe misunderstanding here. My issue is not with Meyerbeer’s music (which can be very entertaining and, on occasion, thrilling) but rather at the incessant whining among Meyerbeer fans that there is some dark conspiracy at work preventing his works from being properly performed, working from the belief that if these works were indeed properly performed (i.e., with cast consisting of the most famous and most expensive singers in the world, in the most lavish and expensive productions conceivable), then suddenly the world would wake up and say, “But of course! Mozart, Gluck, Wagner, Verdi, Meyerbeer! Now could we have overlooked this towering genius for so long? The only possible explanation is a cabal of Wagnerians!”

              My position is that Meyerbeer’s operas are in many ways clever and in many ways original, but are not in just about any meaningful way “genius.” The main reason with these pieces’ lack of stature is that they only occasionally attempt to be any sort of musical drama; rather, they are a hodgepodge of spectacular moments, a sort of operatic Ziegfeld revue. They are fascinating historical artifacts and they have great camp potential. But they are in no way lost masterpieces, and I don’t have a lot of patience with people who insist that they must be, except we just don’t give the shows a chance.

            • grimoaldo

              He has it already (lots of clips of June Anderson unavailable anywhere else but on his site) but yes, I would love a Meyerbeer comp!

            • grimoaldo

              That was meant as a reply to Regina who said that highly esteemed Coloraturafan would earn my undying devotion with a Meyerbeer compilation.

  • Cicciabella

    Thank you, coloraturafan, for yet another fantastic compilation. Maria should have changed her name to Mary Macbeth. Sass saddens me: that Sprechstimme-from-the-grave is so ugly, but not in a good way. Urmana gets full points for text clarity. Verrett and Cappuccilli in this performance: what can one say except: “Viva Verdi!” and “Grande Abbado!”

    As to a Meyerbeer compilation: pretty please if you find the time. It is true La Cieca does not like him, but she would not deprive us of the pleasure, I’m sure.

  • Cicciabella

    Also: zinka’s right about Marisa Galvany. What a meaty voice! Very satisfying.

    • Clita del Toro

      Yes, Galvany’s Met Norma was a camp and quite exciting.

  • The_Kid

    actually, i have been reading about these star-studded casts that some of us think would finally get Gli Ugonotti the recognition it deserves, but i haven’t seen any actual lists here. maybe some of the parterriani would step up to the challenge, and chalk out such a cast list (with singers who are still performing)?