Headshot of La Cieca

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She declares witheringly

“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural dress size. Dress size is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern vocal pedagogy is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, vocal pedagogy produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.” [The Telegraph]

170 comments

  • Jessye is one of those singers for whom the esoteric term “Falcon” is actually well applied, at least in my opinion.

    She never was a dramatic Soprano, though she did sing some of that rep, but she also was not necessarily a mezzo, though she did sing some of that rep too. The fact that she did a lot of French (and thus Falcon) roles would almost beg that classification be applied.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      I disagree. My own pet theory is that she was actually a contralto. But it’s a fruitless exercise trying to apply a label at this point, it isn’t as if she’s going to take advice and start exploring new roles as a result. She sang what she sang, how she sang it.

      • Regina delle fate says:

        Well, my experience of Jessye in Opera bears out what you write Cocky: Ariadne, both Dido(n)s, Cassandre and Jocasta in Oedipus Rex on stage. I missed her RO Tannhäuser-Elisabeth and her Sieglinde at the Met. And I think she had long dropped Aida from her rep by the time I saw her on stage. How many other roles did she sing? In the theatre, I mean, not recording studio.

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          Off the top of my head, Emila Marty, Kundry, Elle, whatever her name is in Erwartung, and Judith. No doubt I’ve missed plenty.

          • Hippolyte says:

            Norman’s two great 18th century heroines: Gluck’s Alceste (which I believe she only sang in Chicago where I saw it) and Rameau’s Phedre (in Hippolyet et Aricie at Aix).

            • kashania says:

              The Phedre from Aix has recently shown up on YouTube. She was doing this role around the same time as Cassandre/Didon. I’ve watched around half of this and is she is glorious voice.

            • Hippolyte says:

              The Aix Hippolyte is remarkable, not just for Norman’s sovereign Phedre but also for Jose van Dam’s superb Thesee.

          • armerjacquino says:

            Alceste, Countess Almaviva, Mme Lidoine.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Where did she perform the Countess? It sprang to mind but I wasn’t sure she’d done it on stage. Was it in her early Berlin days, or did she keep it in her repertoire later on as well?

            • kashania says:

              Yep, in Berlin. Not sure if she sang it again later. She also sang Elsa at some point (I thought she had only recorded it). Also Purcell’s Dido (staged) and Idamante (in concert).

          • m. croche says:

            whatever her name is in Erwartung

            The character’s name is “Die Frau”. Though it might be fun to choose another one for her. Wilhelmina Worrypants?

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

            Uh, the character in “Erwartung” is called Eine Frau or The Woman.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Die Frau in Erwartung. Did she actually sing this in the theatre as opposed to concert hall. I should’ve remembered Emilia Marty and Kundry. Again I was unaware of Elle in the theatre.

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          Wikipedia has a list, but doesn’t differentiate between those that were studio only, erroneously claiming she performed them all. The one surprise, for me, was Donna Elvira. I am sort of wildly approving and skeptical all at the same time over that one.

          • grimoaldo says:

            Do you know where there is a “reliable source” that lists the roles she performed onstage Cocky and I will fix that. Or if you know yourself you can fix it, that list is not sourced right now anyway and as you say it is wrong. Or anybody else here tell me which roles she sang onstage and which only on recordings and I will fix it.

            • grimoaldo says:

              I changed that list to say “some only on studio recordings”. I suppose if you record a role you have “performed” it, in a sense.

          • armerjacquino says:

            The Elvira was very early- beginning of the 70s at the Hollywood Bowl.

    • la vociaccia says:

      I think we covered this. She was SATB.

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    Any Londoners who wish to discuss Fach and repertoire with Jessye personally can do so on 19th July:

    http://www.roh.org.uk/news/meet-jessye-norman-at-the-roh-on-19-july-2014

    I love the way the announcement sort of vaguely gives the impression she’ll be singing 2 performances of La Boheme that day.

    • MontyNostry says:

      Why, my deuhhh chap, you didn’t know she had taken Alcindoro into her repertoire?

      • oedipe says:

        The 2pm Bohème needs all the help it can get (in addition to the half price tickets that were put on sale by the house).

        • Regina delle fate says:

          Well, as I said, Oedipe, Ermonela, despite her many RO appearances, is not really a star. I’m going to that performance as it happens.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            I’m off to the opening night of Norma that day, but might swing by for a glimpse of Jessye first.

        • Regina delle fate says:

          Also there’s far too much opera on in June/July over here. A so-so-cast 40th anniversary revival of the 1974 Bohème -- Ricciarelli/Domingo/Wendy Fine/Peter Glossop when it was new -- was always going to struggle. I wonder if they hoped people would book it by mistake thinking they would be seeing Ange and Grigoletto.

          • manou says:

            There certainly is a lot of opera -- but do try to fit in The Turn Of The Screw at OHP. Chilling and unforgettable.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Everything at OHP is chilling!

            • MontyNostry says:

              You need a pashmina like the Kensington ladies, Cocky dear.

            • manou says:

              I went on Thursday -- warmest evening of the year.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              First time I sang there was in Queen of Spades, in which I had a heavy shirt, trousers and boots, plus overcoat, hat, scarf and gloves. I will never forget the first tech, when it was 29 degrees. There were performances though where I felt very grateful to be so wrapped up. The last time I sang there, I was costumed in shorts and a t-shirt, and naturally it was freezing cold for the whole of June that year. Fortunately, as an audience member, I can make my own choices, but it nearly always seems colder than I think it’s going to be, and my teeth end up chattering. Hope the weather for the 2 performances of Norma I’m seeing will be as balmy as it was for Manou.

          • MontyNostry says:

            But Regina, it’s a ‘classic’ production. Still, they call the current Tosca a ‘classic’ production too (for which read: ‘revived at every opportunity, even if it’s rather mediocre’.)

            • armerjacquino says:

              It’s a problem for opera houses, this, isn’t it? No point replacing the Copley BOHEME with another straight-down-the-line traditional production- waste of money. And yet something a bit more regie-ish might not sell as well. So we end up with things like the Jonathan Kent TOSCA, which is basically the Zeff production seen from the other end of the room. As someone pointed out to me the other day, this is how the Met ended up paying for two consecutive near-identical productions of TRAV, from the same director.

            • MontyNostry says:

              I think the trouble with that Jonathan Kent production is not that it is traditional, but rather that it is just not very good -- especially in Act II with everyone constantly sort of lined up across the front of the stage and moving sideways to get to each other. Act III is much better, though. I don’t know what you do with Bohème. That Copley production is distinctly whiskery (I found it all vaguely embarrassing when I saw it last year, though it is full of solid stagecraft, of course), but I can’t see a Herheim cancer ward version packin’ ‘em in year after year.

            • La Cieca says:

              Well, actually the Met ended up with two Traviatas from the same director because the General Manager of the Met, who was trained in the scenery department of the company, was unable to look at set renderings and form an accurate impression of what the completed sets would look like. So he fired the Flimm/Wonder team, presumably paid them off, pulped the sets and costumes that had already been built, and then was left with the prospect of having to present a new Traviata with less than eight months’ lead time and most of the budget already spent. So he had to turn to Alberto Vilar, and the only director/designer who was both available and attractive to Vilar was Zeffirelli.

              When people talk about Peter Gelb’s failures at the Met, I keep waiting for the story of a new production of a standard opera that ends up limping into the theater minus the announced conductor, director, designer, tenor, baritone… and without either the first announced soprano or the one chosen to replace her. (The production that arrives, by the way, should be one of the most expensive in Met history, and one uniformly savaged by the critics.)

              Just to recap: Volpe planned to create a new Traviata as a vehicle for Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, with Vladimir Chernov as Germont, production by Juergen Flimm, designs by Erich Wonder, and conducted by Simone Young. What he delivered was Patricia Racette, Marcelo Alvarez, Haijing Fu, Franco Zeffirelli sleepwalking, and james Levine slumming for the first four performances before handing off the show to Carlo Rizzi. And all this for $4 million, in addition to what had already been wasted on the aborted Flimm/Wonder staging.

    • Guestoria Unpopularenka says:

      She’ll be singing the role of Schaunard.

      • kashania says:

        You’re all wrong. She’s singing Musetta down an octave down and replacing “Quando me vo” with “Lucky to be me” (complete with a wide accompanying smile).

        • kennedet says:

          kashania, the next sound you here will be sirens coming to arrest you for obstruction of character. Get your opera frocks assembled. You are sentenced to 90 days of hearing Ms. Norman sing Stormy Weather for soloist only with a SATB arrangement, written by la vocaccia from your jail cell. Take that!

      • Camille says:

        No, Guessie. I have heard from reliable sources it’s Parpignol.
        She’s bringing her Girl Scout Cookies instead of the toys this time out, too!

    • armerjacquino says:

      I also love the way they keep reminding us it was written by a WORK EXPERIENCE STUDENT.

      • MontyNostry says:

        …. “a tuition-free performing arts programme”. Looks like work experience is pretty tuition-free too.

  • Clita del Toro says:

    I heard that she was learning Preziosilla.

  • Krunoslav says:

    Mama McCourt, Amelfa, Lauretta, Aminta.