Cher Public

Mad woman

Mike Richter, via CD-ROM, takes us back to the golden age of concert opera in New York City, i.e., 1966, with Il pirata starring Montserrat Caballé.

Bellini: Il Pirata

“On 25 April 1966, the American Opera Society followed up its spectacular introduction of Montserrat Caballé with this performance.”

Conductor: Gianfranco Rivoli
Imogene: Montserrat Caballé
Gualtiero: Bernabe Marti
Ermesto: Licino Montefusco
Adele: Sylvia Khatchadourian
Itulbo: Lawrence Davidson
Goffredo: Herbert Kraus

  • Hippolyte

    Well, sort of. The spectacular intro was presumably the April 1965 Lucrezia Borgia (an opera being done at the Caramoor Festival this weekend). The actual follow-up was Caballe in Roberto Devereux in December 1965 with this Pirata then the next April.

  • Glory be!

  • Mike Richter, wherever you are, I hope you are warm, happy and surrounded by amazing music. We can never thank you enough for the legacy you have left us.

    • perfidia


    • danpatter

      Sad to relate, Mike Richter, one of the nicest and most generous persons I ever met, died several years ago. For many years he wrote a weekly blog covering operatic and vocal music. He also published CD-ROM compendiums of huge amounts of operatic treasures, collectively called The Audio Encyclopedia. They may still be available on Image Mogul, but I am not sure.

      I corresponded with him for years and was privileged to visit him once in his home in Los Angeles and spent one of the most delightful evenings of my life. He played one treasure after another. I and many others still miss the one and only Mike Richter.

  • brooklynpunk


  • Krunoslav

    And just last night I was enjoying a B H Haggin essay in which he derides Harold Schonberg for saying that Caballe was purely a lyric soprano, “a coloratura ‘faute de mieux'”) on the basis of her BORGIA recording-- and for finding BORGIA what he expected to find it, full of empty showpieces, when it is in fact full of good, proto-Verdian and exciting music, one of Donizetti’s most accomplished scores.

    Haggin had limits of his own judgment, but he is most interesting to read on the subject of his fellow critics, particularly Schonberg, Martin Rich and Winthrop Sargeant, all of whose judgments I have read clearly deserved the ignominy he heaped on them.

  • La Valkyrietta

    Thank you. I hope MMII and Camille, who have been quiet lately, don’t miss this historic Montza Bellini.

    • Camille


      I suffer from a severe allergy to Señor Martí’s ululations, or as I have always called him, “El Jamón”. Listened many a time to their joint studio recording of this interesting but rather ungainly work, but perhaps he fares better in this recording, so I shall give it a probe, when there is time.

      Their joint zarzuela duets album was a great delight of mine for many a long year. There, his sound does not rankle me as much. To wit, the delightful duet between Duquesa Carolina and Javier from the maravillosa Luisa Fernanda

      Tell MMII (should you happen across Herself wandering in Jackson Heights, sola, perduta ed abbandonata) that I shall be back more in the autumn, for now I am terribly preoccupied with an enormous project I am intent upon completing this summer.

      Love and chocolates,
      Camille Beauchamps de Pleyel

      • La Valkyrietta

        Madame Beauchamps de Pleyel,

        Enchanted that you have deigned to drop a few lines. I share your horror of Barnabé in opera, he is more palatable in zarzuela, but often La Caballé chose him as partner, what can one do. Something similar may be cooking at this time for those who like Anna but not particularly the guy from Azerbaijan.

        I will remember to relay your message to MMII, but I am not at all sure I will cross paths as I hardly ever go to Jackson Heights, but I will try to force myself one of these nights to search for the arepa lady.

        Cluizel sardines and Teuscher truffles,
        Wotan’s forgotten offspring.

        • Camille

          Pour vous, La Valky—Mr. Chocolate!


          • La Valkyrietta

            Ah! Jacques Torres, merci. I need some Taittinger Brut truffles for dealing with unwelcome depression.
            Best wishes on the successful completion this summer of your enormous project.

            • Camille

              Ha! I’ll need it, for Es muß sein!!!!

              Where does one obtain Taittinger Brut truffles, pray tell??

              I don’t mean to be so stringent but this time I have got a lot on my hands and I have been made “an offer I cannot refuse”, if you know what I am sayin’……

              At the very least, last year we had three (3!) Bellini operas, an event not likely to repeat itself within our lifetimes.

              Say hello to the third of we three weird sisters, Madame Marschallin Claudine de la Silva de los Hapsburgos, and take care of her

              Bis Euryanthe, when I shall re-emerge from Leonora’s Grotto.


            • La Valkyrietta


              I must say I’m not sure I understand your post here. Where to find Taittinger Brut truffles, did you really ask? Well, by clicking in the right place on the link you posted, you get to this page,


              Product Description
              A mouth-watering combination of milk chocolate, fresh cream and Taittinger Brut La Française champagne. These champagne truffles rise above the rest due to their inclusion of real champagne, one of the few champagne truffles to do so.

              And there you can order them on the mail. Perhaps you can also find them at one of the Torres retail stores.

              Sorry I could not find a Caballé Chocolate Soldier.

      • kennedet

        I recall a story in which Caballe took voice lesson for about 10-12 years, spending the entire lesson singing multiple kinds of vocalises and vocal exercises. I have heard of this method before, in ancient days, and I understand afterwards you are able to sing anything in the repertoire. This is fascinating to me on so many levels. I can’t imagine any student or teacher having to teach that method today! Can you imagine! You can barely get some students to attend voice lessons…let alone spend the entire time singing vocalises. You certainly can hear how it has paid off with Caballe because she is in complete control of breath and every dynamic. The voice ain’t bad,either. What an artist!

        • I seem to recall reading somewhere that Roberta Peters sang clarinet exercises.

          • kennedet

            Incredible! I believe it.

            Speaking of good singers: Are you Sanford Sylvan of the Cosi Fan Tutte and Marriage of Figaro productions reimagined by Peter Sellars fame? I saw those performances at SUNY @ Purchase in the 90s. What an experience! It was an exciting time for opera! Well, “Shut my mouth”! Those were controversial times for Peter Sellars and I was amazed at how short he was when I asked for his autograph.

            Only on parterre box!

            • I am not, in fact, Sanford Sylvan. But I am a baritone.

            • kennedet

              OOOps! “Open mouth, insert foot”. I’m sure you’re a very fine singer, also. Well, thanks for letting me reminisce.

            • Camille

              Aw, com’ON, Sanfordissimo!!!!! Don’t ounture our balloons!

              Let us dream on…and on…………


            • Camille

              Puncture, that is.

              Night blindness.

            • Krunoslav

              And here I thought you were Former Governor Mark Sanford of the “Appalachian Trail”… :)

            • Looks as though I lost my bet….

            • kennedet

              This is a tough crowd. Blame it on my age Sanford. I always do. Although, it doesn’t seem to be working here. “This too wil pass”.

            • la vociaccia

              10-12 years of vocalise sounds almost mythical now, but I know of some teachers who make their students drop rep for a stretch if they have a few serious technical kinks that hold them back from their otherwise matured musicality. It’s generally a bad idea in any musical discipline to compartmentalize development. I went to school with a lot of pianists who spent most of their formative years drilling Czerny and they could play pretty much anything but had no idea how to do Chopin rubato

        • Caballe (born 1933) graduated from the Liceu conservatory in 1954 and sang her first professional engagement in Basel beginning in 1956. Unless she started those vocalises and vocal exercises when she was ten years old, the numbers don’t add up.

          The “ancient” method may possibly have worked in the early to mid 18th century when operatic performance was almost completely a matter of sheer vocal virtuosity. In other words, the students practiced gymnastics for however long it took to master all the tricks, and then went out and made a living doing whatever stunts composers threw at them. This sort of approach would not work now or even in Caballe’s early days, because it leaves out so much that is important to operatic performance: mastery of languages and various musical styles, for example.

          Perhaps one reason students are a little less than enthusiastic about attending voice lessons is that they don’t always have $200 to spare every time they step into the studio, particularly when the 50 minute hour is sometimes taken up with the pedagogue taking cell phone calls from his more famous students in vocal distress on another continent.

          • kennedet

            Cieca, I want to make one thing very clear. I certainly might have some facts confused but I would never make up any fabrication on this blog. I have too much respect for you and what many of the people contribute on parterre box and I have learned a great deal. Forgive the sentementality but this blog is important to me. My only recall was a possible documentary that I saw on Caballe sometime ago where my former comments were stated. I,now will research it and get back to you and apologize if I am mistaken.

            I totally agree with you regarding voice lessons and I happen to know a have a friend who made the exact claim of a voice teacher when he attended college (I’m not making this up) but vociaccia also has a point. I remember pianists who can play concertos but can barely sight-read a hymn or a simple accompaniment.I thought it was because they mistakenly thought they were going to have careers as concert pianists and did not need to focus on anything else.

            • kennedet

              Cieca, I was able to get Caballe’s biography and she studied voice with Eugenia Kemmeney during her Conservatory days, who only allowed her to sing scales and physical exercises in order to strengthen the abdomen. Although, she didn’t study for 10-12 years, she states that she has used her technique for decades. Sorry, for the confusion. Many students left the Kemmeney’s classes because they thought she was mad but Caballe continued.

          • Indiana Loiterer III

            The “ancient” method may possibly have worked in the early to mid 18th century when operatic performance was almost completely a matter of sheer vocal virtuosity. In other words, the students practiced gymnastics for however long it took to master all the tricks, and then went out and made a living doing whatever stunts composers threw at them.

            …or that they themselves conjured up. After all, they were expected to improvise their own ornaments, which is something we generally don’t demand from present-day singers. So they had to know something of musical composition; Tosi is quite emphatic on that point.

            • Yes, I should have said that in the first place. The point, though, of the singer’s ability to compose (or to improvise on the fly) was primarily vocal display.

            • Methinks that word “primarily” is doing an awful lot of work here. Ornamentation in opera (as in, say, jazz) is an opportunity to display musical creativity and intelligence, to intensify the feeling of a particular line (particularly important in building an aria to an emotional climax).

            • Since there wasn’t a whole lot of jazz singing going on in the early 1700s, I don’t quite see your point.

            • The reference to jazz was to help people understand how ornamentation could be related to musical goals other than vocal-pyrotechnic stuntmaking. We take it for granted that the jazz performer will put their own personal stamp on the material and that good jazz solos will use this ability to “tell a story”. You can take out my parenthetical remark and the point still holds.

          • The “ancient” method may possibly have worked in the early to mid 18th century when operatic performance was almost completely a matter of sheer vocal virtuosity


  • manou

    Well “Mad Woman” might also apply to this

    • Cicciabella

      I wish Ms Netrebko and Mr Eyvazov long-lasting personal happiness and professional success.