Cher Public

Moon and stars

One of the major complaints about the five year casting system (as well as the shared productions by different companies) is that operatic events are rarely surprises anymore. You thought Diva So-and-So and Divo This-and-That were great in Composer X’s “________”? Well, prepare to see them in that exact same opera and exact same production in London. And New York. And Munich. And Vienna. And so on and so forth. 

As I’ve said previously, La Bohéme is an opera that’s proved stubbornly difficult to shoehorn into the five-year casting/director/production syndrome. Casting is often filled on a rolling basis, and whoever is available can drop in for a trip to the garret. But this season of Bohémes at the Met has to be unrivaled in terms of non-stop cast-change advisories.

On the Mimî side first-cast cycle Ekaterina Scherbachenko sang one performance and disappeared, and second-cast cycle Kristine Opolais chose Munich and Manon Lescaut over Mimí and the Met. The second-cycle Rodolfo, Ramón Vargas, canceled his entire run, and no fewer than four Rodolfos have subbed for him: Bryan Hymel, Francesco Demuro, Charles Castronovo, and finally, tonight, Michael Fabiano.

Fabiano came to the attention of many opera fans with the film The Audition. He was the cocky villain of that piece. He was good, and he knew it, and wasn’t afraid to express his confidence in his own greatness on camera. Since that film his career has had a meteoric rise, and in the process he’s acquired a fan following that’s perhaps unheard of for a tenor under 30. He’s sang smaller roles at the Metropolitan but tonight was his (unexpected) major big effing deal debut, in a sense. Reason #1 for opera queens to get excited.

Reason #1 is usually enough to make this an Event. But Michael’s MBEDD happened to converge with another Event, which was the major big effing diva return,. Angela Gheorghiu started off during the Gelb reign as a darling. She cooed about him in the presses. She showed up when she was supposed to show up.

I saw her several times in those “golden” years (2006-2009): in Bohéme, in Traviata, and finally, La Rondine, which she sang with her ex-husband Roberto Alagna. Oh I remember it so well. They seemed so in love. In the last scene as Magda peaced out on Ruggero Alagna sobbed loudly and clung to Gheorghiu and I cried with him.

But their relationship crashed and burned, and so did her relationship with the Met. After three major cancellations (Carmen, Romeo et Juliette, and Faust) the invitations stopped and she only appeared in New York in a one-off concert performance of Adriana Lecouvreur. Two measly Mimí’s were all she got this season. But considering she hadn’t appeared since 2010, this was a MEDDR of the highest order.

With that being said, sometimes when MBEDD’s and MEDDR’s are combined, the performance gets lost in the mix. Everyone is just on such an adrenaline high that people barely remember how anyone sang. Thankfully, all the buzz and all the adrenaline and all the people-spotting (Aprile Millo!) didn’t detract from the fact that on every level, this was also a majorly effing great performance.

No one was bad, everyone was on their A game, and what could have been a formulaic, tired, mid-week-mid-run zillionth Bohéme instead became the kind of thing where the audience for once stayed in their seats after the performance for huge ovations, multiple bouquet throws, and much happiness all around.

This was the first time I heard Fabiano live. I have to admit that before I heard him tonight, I thought he was a very good tenor, with a great range and pingy high notes, but that there was something slightly generic about his timbre. I guess in my mind Major Voices have Major Quirks, and Fabiano’s voice was so quirk-less. He has no prominent vibrato, no slightly strange attack on the high notes, etc. If it’s possible for a voice to sound Instagram-ed, that’s what his voice sounded like—so filtered and smooth, it was unnatural.

Well after tonight, these reservations are gone and I’m fully in with all the people at the stage door calling him Mr. Fabulous. First of all, his voice is a lot bigger than the average lyric tenor Rodolfo. You sense that Rodolfos and Nemorinos are not the end, but the beginning for this voice. It carries easily over the orchestra, the ensemble, and the long-held high notes truly have that exciting squillo that I dare say would have made Cosima Wagner screaming “bravo.”

He’s not yet an “actor” in any sense but he’s already so comfortable on the stage. His wig was a combed back chin-length concoction that gave him the appropriate hipster look. “Che gelida manina” offered a stunning high C and (I just have to include my new favorite phrase), good old-fashioned “perlaceous portamento.” (Thank you, crazed Angela Meade fan.)

Gheorghiu is now of a certain age, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she sashayed into the garret. She’s by far the most sexually aggressive MimíI’ve ever seen. She managed to make a coughing spell into a come-hither “you may admire my beautiful cleavage” moment.

She was also closer to Mürger’s petulant diva in Act Two. When Rodolfo didn’t buy her that necklace, she didn’t simper sweetly, but snapped that pink bonnet against her skirt and shot Rodolfo a terrifying ice glare. Of course she’s worked out the death scene better than anyone—the exact moment she whittles her voice down to a whisper, the audible snatched breath, the limp arms, and the dramatic bonnet drop.

Her voice sounded breathy and underpowered in “Si, mi chiamano Mimî,” with an over-use of glottal attacks in the lower register. Turns out she was saving her voice for a beautiful, floated, and, yes, loud high C at the end of “O soave fanciulla.” Well of course. She wasn’t going to let Mr. Fabulous take that moment. From then on her voice warmed up and at the end of the day, it’s still one of the most enchanting sounds in the business. Soft-grained, warm, and ingratiating.

She knew it too. She indulged in some typical Angela ppp note-spinning and very, uh, unique sense of tempi (which a befuddled Riccardo Frizza tried to follow), but she’s one of the rare voices that can get away with that kind of indulgence. “Sono andanti” was absolutely gorgeous. Fabiano and Gheorghiu probably met only a few days ago, but their voices blended together in a very special way. If you were annoyed by Angela’s mannerisms and quirks before the performance, this would have done nothing to change your mind, but if you’re a fan (like me) it was great stuff.

Susanne Phillips (Musetta) was such a relief after Myrtó “Please Make it Stop” Papanatisiu’s excruciating performance. Phillips has a naturally light, sweet, fluttery voice, and a wholesomeness that makes Musett’s antics humorous and not simply shrill and shrewish. Maybe she was propelled by the MBEDD and MEDDR to give a little more, because her Musetta also indulged in more shoe dramatics than I remember from her last year, and she threw her hat in Angela’s direction. She also got a huge ovation after “Quando m’en vo” and beamed directly at the audience in a “I’m having my own Major Effing Big Deal” moment that was endearing.

The quality of the lower male voices was also a factor in making this not another ho-hum Bohéme. David Bizic (Marcello), Matthew Rose (Colline), and Alessio Arduini (Schaunard) were all in better voice than the previous performance I had seen. Rose in particular gave an outstanding rendition of the “Vecchia zimarra,” so much so that one overeager fan at the stage door gushed “I want to be your overcoat.” Only John del Carlo (Benoit/Alcindoro) seemed impervious to all the MAJOR EFFING DEAL surroundings, seemingly content to do his comprimario thing. Frizza tried and failed to follow Gheorghiu all night, but probably because of this factor, led an energized, vigorous performance.

The stage door was buzzing tonight. A little girl and his mom were patiently waiting for “Mr. Fabulous” to emerge. Angela’s entourage of about a dozen people required several trips to load the huge bouquets into the town car. Her boyfriend was there, patiently ushering people into the Met so they could have their moment with Angela without Angela having to brave the elements. When it was my turn, she was pretty much everything I expected her to be. Of course I gushed and asked her to sign my Adriana Blu-ray.

“Will you sing this at the Met?”

“I don’t know. Ask Mr. Gelb,” she snapped.

For a moment the chill was definitely not just from the sub-zero New York temperatures. But then she snapped a selfie with me, and we’re both smiling. Notice the white fur trimmed jacket with matching gloves, and a whole new set of stage makeup and earrings. Just ignore the mousy face next to her.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    PI,

    You’re fabulous too! Excellent critical review of the highest order. Congratulations, and thank you.

  • peter

    “If you were annoyed by Angela’s mannerisms and quirks before the performance, this would have done nothing to change your mind, but if you’re a fan (like me) it was great stuff.” I guess I am not a fan because it drove me crazy.

    Wonderful review though Ivy. You’re going to clock in 100 Boheme reviews pretty soon!

  • Lady Abbado

    Thanks Ivy, great review! They should hire you for the NYT…

  • Evocative and entertaining review, Ivy. Thanks.

  • quibbleglib

    Great review. Perhaps the most effective performance of Boheme I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing live.

    One question to some of our more vintage pareterrians who might have been at the performance last night: how does the size of Fabiano’s voice in the house compare to the size of the voices of some of the great tenors of yore? I’m thinking particularly of Pavarotti, who was so famous for this role, but also perhaps of Corelli (of whom I was reminded at times by Fabiano’s timbre in certain passages), Di Stefano, and any others whom y’all might have seen in the house.

    I thought Fabiano’s voice was the perfect size for this role, but I’m interested in how it might compare live to some of the others I adore but have only heard on records.

    • Lady Abbado

      I wish somebody recorded Fabiano’s Che gelida manina last night, to listen to it more carefully and compare it with the golden standard, which, for me, is:

      But nothing from last night on Youtube, at least not yet…

      • Why would you want to compare a living and currently active artist with a corpse?

        • Lady Abbado

          On Sirius Fabiano sounded really gorgeous last night and took me by surprise, but part of my impression might have been shaped by the too high stress and adrenaline I got from Angie’s return!
          So, I would love to listen to it again in a cooler mode, to see if I like it even better than my current favorite (the Pavarotti one I posted). If yes, I’m happy to redefine my golden standard for this aria.

          I’m guilty of comparing the dead with the living all the time when it comes to renditions -- why? I guess it’s fun (I can’t do that with pop singers because they don’t sing the same repertory) and I feel I learn a lot by doing so. But I don’t think I’m biased to favor the dead over the living or vice-versa. Case in point, of my favourite top four soprano voices two are dead (Cerquetti and Tebaldi) and two are alive (Gheorghiu and Caballé).

          • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with comparing singers, even if they are from different eras. It is a compliment to Fabiano that his Rodolfo might warrant comparison with Pavarotti. To me, he is the most exciting young tenor out there today. I saw his Rodolfo in Toronto twice and he was thrilling.

            • I think Fabiano and Pavarotti have very different voices though. Fabiano’s voice is the type that I think in a year or two will outgrow Rodolfo. It’s not the typical sweet, lyric tenor voice. It’s rather big, stentorian voice will be ready for Il Trovatore and whatnot soon. Pavarotti I only saw in the final years but what I heard was a remarkably well-preserved classic lyric tenor.

              I mean this was from 1999, and you can hear how the years and years of control over his instrument managed to preserve a voice that sounded youthful, sweet and fresh even though her was over 60:

            • sorry this was from 1996. But he was still over 60.

            • Oh, I agree completely. If I were to compare Fabiano to a singer of yesteryear, it would be Corelli, not Pavarotti. Corelli had the more spectacular and richer voice but they both have “heroic” voices with lots of squillo and ringing high notes.

        • quibbleglib

          Why not?

          And Lady Abbado is not comparing an active artist with a “corpse.” She’s comparing an active artist who is currently receiving rave reviews for his portrayal of Rodolfo with an artist who set the standard for the same role in recent years.

          This type of comparison isn’t so much a question of volition as it is a natural consequence of the fact that a person hardly ever reacts exactly the same to two different artists. The comparisons occur within one’s brain whether or not one verbalizes them. And in an industry like opera, where a majority of the players have been trying to hit the same endpoints for centuries (e.g., giving a compelling performance of La Boheme, performed annually since 1896), shouldn’t such comparisons be expected?

          Asking why someone would “want” to compare currently active singers with singers of the past is a little silly, and a little bullying, isn’t it? Why don’t you just come out and say what you mean: “I don’t *want* you to compare currently active singers with singers of the past.” And then explain why in the hell not.

        • ailsamegan

          I wonder what you’ll think of Renata Scotto when she’s dead !!
          We can all appreciate someone’s artistry even although they are dead.
          Greta Garbo is dead but that doesn’t mean I should stop watching her films -- they can still be relevant

  • davidhenry

    So can we now cue the press release from Gelb recognizing Fabiano as an artist on the brink of a major international, a la Sonya Yoncheva last month, and get him on to the schedule? What kind of alchemy precisely is needed to achieve such a thing? Booking in other houses?

    • Lady Abbado

      I think Gelb already has big plans for him. I don’t think it was a coincidence that he was the one (ultimately) chosen as Angie’s pair for her MET return. PG hoped to trigger a big bang from pairing them, and, judging by Ivy’s review, he got what he hoped for.

  • skoc211

    Lovely review!

    I’ve heard some people complain that Gheorghiu was inaudible last night, but I was in the second to last row of the Family Circle, all the way in the corner, and I didn’t have any trouble hearing her. I did find it frustrating that it seemed she was conducting herself in Act I -- I don’t know if I’ve ever heard such a drawn out “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” -- but it was still beautifully sung, if self-indulgent. It’s as if she knew this was a big night for Fabiano and wasn’t about to let anyone forget who the true star was. Despite that, she and Fabiano had great chemistry and I found Act IV and her “Sono andati” particularly moving.

    Happy to have finally gotten the chance to see her live -- she cancelled on me during the first run of Rondine -- and experience Fabiano’s triumphant night.

  • Gualtier M

    I was with Ivy and yes, in toto in what a wonderful evening. However, I will disagree with Ivy in rating Fabiano’s acting much higher and Gheorghiu’s singing much lower, even she opened up and warmed up after saving and marking in Act I. I think Fabiano is a wonderful actor -- intense, natural, involved, detailed and he knows what the text is about every moment. He relates well to others onstage. Grigolo is doing much more “acting” every moment but a lot of it looks forced and histrionic, whereas Fabiano is very natural and grounded.

    Gheorghiu has lost a lot of tonal body and projection in the middle of the voice though the top is still there when she wants to project it. But there was a dryness and hollowness to the voice which is due partly to age and also to “saving” too much in the middle for many years now. She also looks like a pretty but definitely middle-aged woman now. Somehow I think the series of NP’s with Kaufmann are not going to happen -- especially “La Wally”. It was like a canny veteran using every trick in the book to put it over and you admired the knowledge while feeling that the whole package wasn’t there.

    • Lady Abbado

      Gualtier, do you care to elaborate for an ignorant like me how can “dryness and hollowness to the voice” can be caused by “saving too much in the middle”.

      From all the reviews I have read recently, she is usually praised for how well she preserved the voice, and this is usually attributed to two factors: careful choice of repertory and sparing the voice too much to the point of being “ungenerous”. But the sparing part is seen as the cause of her still great voice, whereas you claim that the sparing damaged the voice.

      I’m genuinely curious as to your causal reasoning.

      • Gualtier M

        It is similar to what happened to another vocal preservationist Kiri Te Kanawa -- they hold back the tone in the middle. It affects the support and with age the tone dries up. The sound seems to be bottled up in the throat a lot of the time and more breath than resonance. Frizza was holding the orchestra down for her as well as trying to figure out her tempos phrase to phrase.

        Anyway, according to official reports she is five or six years younger than Hei-Kyung Hong but I saw Hong and she sounded much younger than Gheorghiu did last night.

        • Lady Abbado

          Interesting & thanks Gualtier. Your description of possible problems with the middle voice reminds me of a comment by a Parterrian (either “the Kid” or “Bill”) about Gheorghiu’s Adriana in Vienna earlier this year: he was worried about her middle voice and he said that she may have the same problem Anna Moffo had: still great top but a weakening middle (and he added that’s a recipe for disaster, if memory serves me well).

    • Satisfied

      Gualtier M:

      I entirely agree with your assessment, and if I had your way with vocal description, I would have said it myself. Your statement about marking was particularly spot-on: moments last night felt as though I were at a dress rehearsal rather than a full performance.

      I also think you are entirely correct about future new productions. She just *might* be able to scrape out an “Adriana Lecouvreur,” however, if so she would need to once again be that “canny veteran using every trick in the book.” “La Wally,” on the other hand, is probably a lost cause.

      • Gualtier M

        Thank you and forgive the typos. BTW: Gheorghiu is very musical and has a lot of ideas -- she is not boring at all and the death scene was chillingly acted. You saw each and every stage of her realization that life was slipping away and the soul leaving the body -- even the eyes “blowing out”. The last act was best because the vocal frailties made sense in that context.

      • Lady Abbado

        Well Satisfied, if Angie had been indeed scheduled for Adriana she wouldn’t have replied to Ivy’s question: “I don’t know; ask Mr. Gelb”. That reply tells me that she would accept such an offer, but that she hasn’t been offered it yet.

        Besides, if we are talking of a new Adriana production, it would have to be something different from the current ROH/Liceu/SFO/Vienna coproduction, and one way to make sure it is different is by choosing a different soprano for the title role.

        Maybe by then Radvanovsky will get bored with bel canto and will want to do Adriana? In terms of vocal volume she has exactly the opposite of Angie’s problem -- she’s too loud (to me anyways). But it would be exciting to hear her essay the role.

        • john

          If you do get a new Adriana in New York, it’s bound to be Netrebko since she’s planning to do the role in Rome. I agree that Gheorghiu isn’t a likely candidate at this stage. The last few times I’ve heard her- most recently as Mimi -- she sounded very unwarmed up for the first half: horribly out of tune, breathy and small and with an overload of lingering, ppp effects which were both self-conscious and self-defeating given her under-supported vocal state. I don’t know whether she is still capable of pulling out the stops. Her recent stuff on YouTube still sounds good, even if the top isn’t quite as easy as it used to be, but her voice is so naturally beautiful and recording-friendly that it’s hard to draw general conclusions. She’s always given 100% on cd, increasingly rarely live. When was her last really great night? Tosca 2011 in London, for the dvd? I can’t think of one more recent. Personally I think I’m just going to stop going -- the disappointment is increasingly painful whenever I attend because the voice is so special, and the delivery so stingy.

          • Satisfied

            Well said, John. Though I will admit to throughly enjoying her Adriana concert performance at Carnegie (but that may have been mostly due to Jonas). I feel that she’s no longer worth the “will she or won’t she” buzz anymore. I personally don’t care if she shows anymore: I’d rather book someone I know will show and be amazed by then take a chance on another mediocre performance from Angela.

            ….hello Anna!

            Ivy: I’m glad you enjoyed the show and Angela, but my enchantment with her is gone.

            • Satisfied

              Then should have been than, but you all got what I meant! My kingdom for an edit function!

            • Lady Abbado

              Satisfied:

              Well before seeing her last night you kept showing up here telling us that you don’t give a damn about her, that you go for Fabiano, etc. So I think that what you heard last night was just as much a result of your prejudgment against her as it was genuine new input.

              Of course, the irony is that you seem a perfect example of cognitive dissonance: you keep trashing her and telling us how bad she is and how you don’t give a damn about her…yet, the very fact that you bought tickets to see her (Fabiano was a late replacement for Vargas) and that you spend so much time trashing her suggests that you do give a damn about her, in a twisted kind of way.

              Maybe you are one of those who love to hate her? Or maybe she bewitched you a long time ago and now you struggle to break out of the spell, still unsuccessfully?

            • Satisfied

              Lady Abaddo:

              Please get your facts straight. I understand you’re a devotee to the shrine of Angela, but each of your representations against me are unsupported.

              To begin: I purchased tickets to last night’s performance when the box office opened for the season BECAUSE of Angela (the only other revival I purchased tickets for on that day was Carmen with Jonas). So no, I did not go into last night with a fatalistic perspective as to her performance.

              As to whether she would show, yes, I was skeptical. And I have a handful of experiences with her personally at the Met to justify that skepticism. Indeed, it’s been 4 years since she made an appearance at the Met, much of that time was a result of scheduled performances Lady Angela decided not to appear.

              And please enlighten me: when do I “keep trashing her”? Aside from being skeptical that she would show last night, I have not spoken negatively about her abilities as a singer, aside from my very specific comments about her performance last night. I didn’t realize commenting from the house on the night of her return -- albeit negatively about Dame Angie -- would be considered “trashing.”

              I get it, you worship her. And listen, I really did love her at a certain point, but the talent is no longer there. Whether her talent was ever enough to justify her lack of professionalism, I suppose, is its own dispute. That said, I was hopeful that her return to New York (especially considering the rumored futures contracts) would be a triumph. Sadly, it was not.

              As for my thoughts on Fabiano: listen, I was fortunate enough to see him in Santa Fe in Traviata and longed to see him again in a full production. I’ve maintained that, well, if Angie don’t show, at least I have a first class reason to keep (nearly) 300 seats. I am so glad I did: I am so glad to have seen his amazing performance last night and I look forward to his future career achievements, especially at the Met.

        • Lohengrin

          New interview with Beczala / Maurizio:
          “Haben Sie außer dem Lohengrin noch andere neue Rollen vor?
          Sogar sehr viele… „Luisa Miller“, Premiere 2018 an der Met, und dort auch „Adriana Lecouvreur“ in der sehr schönen Inszenierung, die Sie auch in Wien gehabt haben.”
          No mention about Adriana….

  • Ivy, this is an entertaining review, and your sheer in art is heartwarming. It made me wish I’d been there!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    On 29 November, someone has posted this on Youtube

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      She must have excelled at sight reading in school.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor




      • Rudolf

        @ Quanto Painy Fakor
        Sigh … late Lucia Popp … her Swan Song, as they say. Thank you for bringing back memories of this exceptional artist.
        :)

  • arepo

    My Liege: You done did it again! Love your writing. Very expressive — very entertaining.
    I am not sure I can picture the chemistry between Angela and Michael after Angela and Jonas. Hot, hot, hot.
    Just like I haven’t found a better match together than Rolando & Nebs.

  • quibbleglib

    Excuse this for being so off topic, but does anyone know if there is still a complete Manon Lescaut (video) with Kaufmann and Opolais on YouTube, and if so, what sneaky title it has been posted under? Thank you!

    • Rackon

      I can’t post a link via phone at the moment but the complete ROH ML is on YT as ManLes or suchlike. Premier Opera also has it as a dvd.

  • alejandro

    damn! I wish I had seen this!! GAH!

  • Many thanks for all the kind comments. A couple of points:

    I didn’t ignore Gheorghiu’s vocal “issues” (if one can call them that, since she’s been singing for 20+ years and there’s likely to be wear and tear on any voice). I don’t recall for instance her relying so much on glottal attacks the last time I heard her. And there were times she sounded underpowered. I thought though that what she did have to offer trumped what was no longer there.

    Also, I self-identify as a fan of AG’s. If you didn’t like AG before, I doubt you would have been won over after this performance. She certainly has her quirks and mannerisms and it’s one of those things you accept or don’t.

    As for her future, she sings a lot of concerts, and let’s face it, Adriana isn’t a role I could see Yoncheva or even Netrebko accepting at this point in their careers. It rightly or wrongly has a reputation as a vehicle for divas of a certain age. The Met badly needs a new production — the one it has is falling apart (quite literally). I think Angie is the best candidate for Adriana.

    • Satisfied

      I wouldn’t rule Anna out, she’s shown some interest in AL.

      • Lohengrin

        Would make sense since her good friend Beczala is announced to be Maurizio.

    • alejandro

      I want to see Yoncheva try to make that Pelly Manon catch fire. I think she’s really special.

    • tiger1

      Vhile I quite enjoy Adriana, I could not help smile a bit when reading “The Met badly needs a new production [of Adrina]”. With all due respect, Adriana is not such an important opera that an opera house (in my view) will ever “need” a new production. Maybe an opera house will like one because it has the perfect stars for it -- but it is not an opera like e.g. Figaro that a major opera house need to have a decent production of.

  • isoldit

    while Adriana may be seen as a vehicle for an aging diva, it definitely is not. Olivero was doing the role from her late 20s, It requires a singing actress who understands Italian and knows “la parola,”, not just producing sound, In addition to Olivero, Scotto, Kabaivanska, Albanese and Tebaldiand Freni all had huge successes with the role. recently in Italy, Dessi has been successful (though I find her boring) It requires a great singer, steeped in the Italian style who understands that the text is as important as the notes. The reality is, with the exception of Kabaivanska and Soviero, there have been very few non-Italians who have been successful in the role. AG was really underpowered and quite boring in the role, both at Carnegie Hall and in CG.

    • Feldmarschallin

      What about Frittoli or has she retired completely?

      • RosinaLeckermaul

        She’s still scheduled for DON CARLO at the Met this Spring.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Oh dear.

          • Camille

            Oh, you needn’t worry about it. It’s in flu season and she will become “ILL” and there will be a last minute substitution of Penelope Daner.

            You know, Feldmarschallin; you could bend Frau Harteros arm on our behalf and we could have one terrific Elisabetta here instead.

            Povera Frittoli, maybe she will have recovered somewhat? I recently heard a clip of her singing the final scene from Thaïs, and she even got the fearsome top D’s, and only a few years ago, too. Hopefully she will be better then the last Don Carlo, which was a trial to listen to, I am sorry to say. A most lovely Desdemona and Trovatore Leonora. Beautiful gestures.

            • Feldmarschallin

              Well Camille she seems to be happy here and has enough work. You know the problem with her husband and the travelling. Here it is so easy to get around. This weekend opera in Dresden for me and then back on Tuesday and then on Friday I go to Prag for the weekend to visit friends. It can be all done very reasonably. But Harteros seems happy in the München, Salzburg, Milano, Berlin, Dresden and Wien houses. The Met is cutting costs anyway. As they say ‘Außer Spesen nichts gewesen’.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              Lianna Haroutounian is singing a grand total of 1 Don Carlo during Frittoli’s run. Maybe she will get to do the all if the latter becomes malata.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              What exactly is the problem with her husband? The word that he’s ill has been around for a long time. Is that true?

            • Satisfied

              “Guestoria Unpopularenka says:
              What exactly is the problem with her husband? The word that he’s ill has been around for a long time. Is that true?”

              I’m also curious as well.

            • Camille

              Feldmarschallin is travelling this weekend so can’t answer but I can add this much: her husband is quite a bit older than she. What the precise ailment is, I have no idea. Old age is enough of a trial as it is.

              It is perhaps too bad for us here in the States but I do admire her for sticking close to home.

            • manou

              It seems her husband has Harterosclerosis.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              Camille, being old is not a diagnosis. There should be something more to it.

            • Gualtier M

              Guestaria, there was talk that Harteros husband had a severe stroke back in 2011 when her heavy canceling started.

            • manou

              In that case, I must apologize for the tasteless joke.

        • Krunoslav

          Lianna Haroutounian is slated for the April 15 show and I bet she sings a lot more of them. for that matter, the Met could ask Sondra Radvanovsky to spring in, or Tamara Wilson who sang a lovely Elisabeth de valois in Houston.

          But perhaps Mr. Gelb. will offer us Shcherbatenko, Poplavskya, Papatanasiu, Gallardo-Domas or one of his other Looks 10, Voice 3 babes in the role.

          • Guestoria Unpopularenka

            I don’t think any of the names you mentioned in the second paragraph are ever coming back.

          • armerjacquino

            Not fair to Scherbachenko (sic). She may have had a bad night as Mimi, but she has sung at the Bolshoi and La Scala and was spectacular in winning Cardiff. Just because someone has a bad night in NYC it doesn’t instantly disqualify them from being a singer.

          • Yes, I am sure that Gallardo-Domas, who last sang a standard opera role over five years ago, will feature prominently in the Met’s coming seasons.

            Under Gelb, she has sung one engagement eight seasons ago as Butterfly (which almost certainly was contracted during the Volpe regime) and then a single performance of the role in a repeat of the Anthony Minghella production in 2009. She was asked to do the revival because Minghella expressed the wish that she should repeat her portrayal. So maybe she should defined as “one of Gelb’s Honoring the Wishes of the Dead 10, Voice 3 babes?”

            Honestly, for someone who complains about Zinka’s repetitiveness, you have more than a touch of the broken record in your own online persona.

            • MontyNostry

              And, to be fair to Gallardo-Domas, she had a real intensity and her voice, when not being stretched, was rather lovely. Even when she won at Cardiff (and I was in the hall), I thought Scherbachenko was less than world-class, though. Beautiful cheekbones, however.

            • I remember hearing Gallardo-Domas’s Butterfly and thinking that, despite the pronounced wobble and some strain, the basic vocal quality was rather lovely. And her was quite expressive. Never got to see her.

            • her “singing” was quite expressive

            • Krunoslav

              Gallardo-Domas was a lovely artist. I don’t mean to imply that she;s coming back.

              I was too scattershot, but my point was that there is a managerial tendency to declare that attractive Star A and attractive Star B will be the rocks on which the Met will be built. Several of these have crashed and burned, Galardo-Domas the first example and Poplavskaya maybe the most damaging. I hope and trust Opolais and Yoncheva won’t follow suit-- the latter was quite impressive as Mimi. Grigolo and Schrott- pretty dubious already.

              But there’s a pattern at work.

            • there is a managerial tendency to declare that attractive Star A and attractive Star B will be the rocks on which the Met will be built.

              Yes, Anna Moffo and Mary Costa have a lot to answer for.

            • messa di voce

              attractive Star A and attractive Star B will be the rocks on which the Met will be built. Several of these have crashed and burned, Galardo-Domas the first example”

              But Gallardo-Domas was never a “rock” on which Gelb was going to build his Met: she was brought in at the last moment when PG decided to open with the nelw Butterfly probably because no one else was available, and, as far as we know, was never offered anything else by the house. Similarly, most of Popsy’s big roles were filling in for the originally planned stars. The others are pretty much non-entities as far as the Met goes.

              You’re trying real hard to make an anti-Gelb point, but it just doesn’t hold.

            • steveac10

              “Yes, Anna Moffo and Mary Costa have a lot to answer for.”

              As do Farrar, Kirsten, Stevens, Peters, Corelli, Battle and a host of other revered Met stars over the last century or so. They should be ashamed to have been engaged.

              Given the choice between two singers of roughly comparable artistic merit, an impresario would be nuts not to pick the more attractive one.

            • Messa, my impression was that the long-range Met planning for that 2006 fall season included a revival of Butterfly with Gallardo-Domas, and that she was then moved into the new production. But for whatever reason, nobody said, “Let’s find a pretty girl, never mind if she can sing, and foist her on the public in a new Butterfly

              Meanwhile, the singers named in the original comment are singing now (or were singing when they were cast by the Met) all over the world. Myrtò Papatanasiu, in the couple of seasons before arriving at the Met to wreak havoc on Western civilization with her Musetta, sang Iphigenie en Aulide and Traviata in Vienna and Don Giovanni, Alcina and Cosi fan tutte in Paris.

              It’s not like Peter Gelb is picking up these girls on street corners.

            • Krunoslav

              At the time, Gelb spoke of Galardo-Domasa s just the kind of artist he wanted to help (sic) introduce real theater to the Met.

              Cieca, the Met never based any artistic plans on Mary Costa and you know it.

              ‘As do Farrar, Kirsten, Stevens, Peters, Corelli, Battle and a host of other revered Met stars over the last century or so. They should be ashamed to have been engaged.

              Given the choice between two singers of roughly comparable artistic merit, an impresario would be nuts not to pick the more attractive one.”

              Yeah, those all people could all SING REALLY WELL, unlike Poplavskaya or Papatanasiu.

              many other good looking singers from Pinza to Novotna to della Casa to Stratas to Milnes could be added.

              It’s nice when it happens that a singer worth building projects around looks great and I do see what that has become more important. However, alongside the people you mention, Met managements had ‘rocks’ like Destinn, Caruso, Gigli, Matzenauer, Warren, Milanov, Tucker, Bergonzi, MacNeil. Very few such making it to HD land these days in romantic roles, which is what makes Botha’s presence such a puzzlement.

            • Fine. Tell me, then, using only knowledge that would have been available to you in 2011, who should have been singing a stock repertory revival of Boheme at the Met this winter, and please note that your selection for Mimi should be limited to sopranos who have not in recent memory had an off night in the theater.

              Honestly, this is veering into Brian Kellow pissy-queen territory.

            • Krunoslav

              How about as potential Mimis for this season, besides Yoncheva and Opolias who are clearly Met material, and Hong (despite the shade thrown in her direction)

              Anita Hartig (whom the Met did well to bring in last year]
              Nicole Cabell
              Ana Maria Martinez
              Carmen Giannattasio
              Corinne Winters
              Maria Agresta
              Mary Dunleavy
              Ailyn Pérez
              Pumeza Matshikiza

              Some of these singers have been at the Met and not asked back for reasons that elude me.

            • steveac10

              “Some of these singers have been at the Met and not asked back for reasons that elude me.”

              Some it’s clear why -- Cabell had numerous opportunities to make an impression early in the Gelb years and never caught fire. Most of her reviews were fair to middling. Dunleavy (whom I greatly admire) has been at the Met for 20 years without ever becoming a draw. She’s still on the roster every season -- at least for cover gigs.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              Pumeza?? Seriously? She’s not a real opera singer. I’m not even sure she’s ever been in an opera, let alone had a leading part in it.

            • messa di voce

              But Krunoslav, to support your argument, they have to be good singers AND fat. So who on your list meets those requirements?

            • Krunoslav

              Guestoria, you really are an ignorant jerk and nothing more;

              Pumeza Matshikiza

              From / To Opera Role Location
              Oct 14 Concert Soprano Paris(CE) C: Voronkov;
              Sep-Dec 14 La boheme Mimì it Stuttgart C: S Hewett; D: A Moses
              May-Jul 14 La boheme Mimì it Stuttgart C: S Hewett / Drömann; D: A Moses
              Dec 13-Feb 14 Die Zauberflote Pamina Stuttgart C: Sandner; D: Konwitschny
              Oct 13-Jan 14 Falstaff Nannetta it Stuttgart C: S Cambreling; D: A Moses
              Sep-Oct 13 L’Ecume des jours Isis fr Stuttgart C: S Cambreling; D: Wieler / S Morabito
              Dec 12-Jan 13 Die Zauberflote Pamina Stuttgart C: Sandner; D: Konwitschny
              Dec 12-Jul 13 L’Ecume des jours Isis fr Stuttgart C: S Cambreling; D: Wieler / S Morabito
              Jul 12 Don Giovanni Zerlina it Stuttgart C: Antony Hermus; D: A Moses
              Dec 11-Feb 12 Le nozze di Figaro Susanna it Stuttgart C: Sandner; D: Nigel Lowery
              Nov 11-Apr 12 Der Freischutz Ännchen de Stuttgart C: Handschuh / Willem Wentzel; D: A Freyer
              Oct 10 The Kiss Vendulka cs Wexford C: J Kyzlink; D: Gieleta

            • Krunoslav

              “But Krunoslav, to support your argument, they have to be good singers AND fat. So who on your list meets those requirements?”

              Bullshit. I was answering Cieca’s query, not promoting “my argument”. It helps for Mimi not to be fat, though some less than svelte Mimis have been very effective.

              Another qualified Mimi:

              Elizabeth Caballero, whom Met audiences have heard only as Frasquita.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              No need to take out on me your frustration for having been mocked yet again. I am not your mother or feline companion. You should find other ways to deal with your anger issues.

              Well, that’s a very impressive resume there… An ensemble singer in the German provinces.

              She does have a nice voice but no technique, terrible accent, phrasing is non-existent. So, no, she has no business on the stage of the Met.

              Anyway, she’s doing a lot of crossover concerts and seems to be pushed heavily by her recording company.

            • Krunoslav

              Guestoria, I certainly don’t consider myself capable of being mocked by a poster like you for whom I have no respect.

              You said Pumeza Matshikiza was not a real opera singer and had never sung an operatic role and you are, as so often, 100% wrong, and if you care to consider leading roles in Stuttgart with renowned producers and conductors real qualifications, it is your prerogative o be stupid and wrong yet again.

              Some of Matshikiza’s colleagues in these little provincial endeavors you are poo-pooing:

              Ed Lyon, Roland Bracht, Sylvain Cambreling, Albert Dohmen, Ana Durlovski

              Others in the Stuttgart ensemble w/guests she’s been appearing in;
              Dimitri Platanias, Sebastian Catana, Mlada Khudoley, Scott Hendricks, Katarina Karnéus, Andrew Schroeder, Andrew Schroeder, Marina Prudenskaya, Georg Nigl, Christiane Libor, Stefan Vinke, armer favorite Lenneke Ruiten, Matthias Klink, Christianne Stotijn, Catherine Naglestad, Renate Behle, Pavel ?ernoch, Angela Denoke, Christian Curnyn, Cyril Auvity, Gaston Rivero, Adina Aaron

              Maybe you are one of those to whom opera means only Gheorghiu and Domingo; other people live in the real world, and know something about it.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              I didn’t mock you. Others did.

              Didn’t waste my time on the rest of your rant. Good night. Hope you wake up a better person tomorrow. :)

            • Krunoslav

              Zero chance of that in your case.

              True or false:

              ‘Guestoria Unpopularenka says:
              Pumeza?? Seriously? She’s not a real opera singer. I’m not even sure she’s ever been in an opera, let alone had a leading part in it.’

              Answer; FALSE.

              Bye!

            • MontyNostry

              … and Pumeza started off on the young artists’ programme at that minor European theatre the Royal Opera House, London. She has a glorious voice, but I’m not sure, to tell the truth, whether she ultimately has what it takes to be a great opera singer. I haven’t heard her in the flesh since she left for Stuttgart, but each time I heard her, I felt the repertoire wasn’t quite right for her. The same occurs to me when I have heard her more recent recordings. The voice is somehow lacking in flexibility. Hard to explain. A marmoreal quality.

            • Poking my nose in to say that this Denisov fanboy loved the radio broadcast of Stuttgart’s L’Écume des jours.

            • A. Poggia Turra

              The July 2012 ‘Don Giovanni’ in which Pumeza Matshikiza sang Zerlina was live-streamed on (what was then called) Arte LiveWeb.

              I found her singing and (especially) her acting very good -- in Andrea Moses’ production, she very effectively portrayed an empowered bride who “wore the pants” in her relationship with Masetto.

            • MontyNostry

              Here’s a case in point with Pumeza. I know that a Royal Variety Performance with a mic is hardly a true test of an opera singer’s capabilities, but I feel that, with all the talent and training she has — and she is now 35, so she should really be at or near the height of her powers — she should be able to do a better job on ‘O mio babbino caro’.

            • MontyNostry

              Forgot to post the video …

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              And here’s her earth-shattering Mimi that will provide the bedrock foundation for a new era of babe-free casting at the Met.
              Again, she has an attractive timbre, but what about the rest? Is she really better than those other singers that were given as an example? Not to mention that Stuttgart opera has only 1,400 seats, almost 3 times less than the Met.

            • MontyNostry

              As I say, it’s a few years since I last heard her in the flesh, but the tone is more than attractive -- it has an unusual immediacy and an almost physical texture. It actually gave me a shock the first time I heard it (she was singing Barbarina’s little aria in a young artists’ concert at Covent Garden back in 2008). But there is always something missing from the singing. Very tantalising!

          • Bluevicks

            ”Grigolo and Schrott- pretty dubious already.”

            While I would tend to agree about Schrott’s ”dubiousness” (he was one of the worst Don Giovanni in recent memory IMO), I think that Grigolo was a an excellent Nemorino at ROH some weeks ago. His voice seems to have regained some brilliance and he seems less prone to pushing (at least from the time being). And his interpretations became more refined as well. Hopefully, he would stick to a repertory which would suit his voice (so exit the Duke, Mario Cavardossi etc).

      • Camille

        That is an excellent suggestion, as Signora Frittoli did not seem to have much left past a B flat, or at most, a B, when I hard her as Vitellia. She has the most beautiful and expressive hand gestures and understands “l’accento” that is so necessary for this role which is set in a very low tessitura for soprano. A high note of A flat in the first aria and an A in the second, ith two B flats seconded by the tenor in duets. That’s it. It is meant to be declaimed and a great understanding of the art of declamation and the coliur and shading of words, along with great acting, I would say, are way more important than the actual “bella voce”. That is how Olivero got away with it. She was a mistress of all those thjngs and more. That is why Olivero made fun of Freni as Fedora, too, come to think of it!

        Anyway, I was lately subjected to late in the day Guleghina as Adriana, and that was ludicrous, so anything is an improvement after that. But someone who absolutely “dice la parola” is the main thing.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Yes I think Frittoli would be the best choice since you almost need an Italian for that role. And especially Netrebko’s Italian leaves a lot to be desired even if she has the most oppulent voice of the three (Frittoli, AG being the others). But Elisabetta in Don Carlos is past her capabilities I think. Camille I am off to Dresden early tomorrow morning for several operas and some days sightseeing and the Striezelmarkt. Should be nice since it is more springlike than pre Christmas with the weather.

          • Camille

            Gute Reise!
            Und vielleicht guten eßen mit dem Dresdener Stollen,

            Allerliebste und gnädige Prinzessin von Werdenberg!!

            • Feldmarschallin

              Vielen Dank und die sind berühmt für ihren Kreuzkammstollen. :)

        • williams

          OK Camille-I’ll nibble at you bait. Your erudition notwithstanding I’m flummoxed by your reference to Olivero’s denigration of Freni’s Fedora. What is the genesis of this? The estimable JJ seems, many moons ago, to have agreed and I’d appreciate his or our beloved doyenne’s remarks on the subject in addition to yours. I will remain grateful to my dying day that I attended Freni’s Fedoras at the Met.

          • Camille

            I am frankly neither a Fischermãdchen, leaving bits of Velveeta as bait, nor especially erudite. Just an ancient mélomane, as are many others on this site, but thank you all the same.

            To get to the gist of this matter, the reference to causus belli Olivero vs. Freni, is taken from THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MRS. JOHN CLAGGART, which I read either here on parterre or quite possibly on opera-l, where I will migrate occasionally to see if Mrs. Claggart is still within the land of the living. It is HER story, (she and her twin brother were shipped off to La Scala to report on this subject by OPERA NEWS, ca. 1996-7) and as she spoke with Signora Olivero at La Scala at the time of Freni’s appearances there, you’d best ask HER about it. The catty crap about La Freni was not reported in the official Opera News article, as I now recall, but was later recounted here (parterre) or there )opera-l). I wasn’t there, and am an innocent bystander in this case.

            As Anna Russell said, “I’m not making this up, you know”!

            Anna Russell, whom I had the fortune of catching at the tail end of her comet, did the funniest take on Nabucco; it had the audience screaming and rolling in their seats, if not the aisles of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, ca. 1981-2 A.D. She really was as funny as you heard on her recordings. I’m so glad I was able to catch that one performance.

      • Frittoli as Adriana is a great idea. Her top is too precarious now for a lot of the roles she used to sing. But she still has a lovely voice and the proper style. And she has some of that old school diva acting going on too.

        • Lohengrin

          AL will come 2018, then she will be 51. Not the best age for that role.

          • Really? I thought 51 was just the right age for sopranos taking on that role!

      • Frittoli is IMO a poor choice for Adriana because she tends to sing everything in an undifferentiated covered tone and she has “dead face,” very unexpressive and always looking like she is remembering a pet cat that died several years ago.

    • Guestoria Unpopularenka

      I think Adriana is much more the prima donna than that dilettante Tosca. Not only does she have gorgeous arias and duets, but there is the Fedra recitativo (IMO best performed by RK) and the confrontation with the Princess (who needs to be played by a red-hot mezzo). Fedora Barbieri was a great fit for the role.
      It’s one of the most beautiful operas in my view. Yes, the storyline is a complete mess, but the main idea is clear, and that’s all that matters.

      And I think this duet between RK and the much under-valued Florence Quivar is simply stunning.

      • Oh yes, I vividly remember RK’s big bow on the front of her dress. This telecast was one of the first things I saw as a youngster first getting into opera. I took a liking to Quivar and the Principessa from then on. Would love to hear Barbieri in the part. I love Obrasztova, Simionato and Borodina in the part.

      • Camille

        Yes, well, Guestoria, it may well have been nice in concert but in actual performance, she did not really cut the mustard, sorry to say to Raina fans, as when I saw her perform it in March/April 1985 at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome and it was quite underwhelming, if extremely competent, nonetheless. She certainly had her public who babbled excitedly about her, but I wasn’t.

        There was a lack of a larger-than-life aspect or that extra *something* was missing…I don’t know how else to describe it. Only other Adriana I’ve seen was a curiously cast Teresa Zylis-Gara, whose voice I have always admired a lot, but brought zero to the role. In fact, Faith Esham brought more to Mademoiselle Dangeville or Jouvenot or whatever her name is, than did Zylis-Gara, in all her platinum blonde beauty. Never saw Mirella except on the Scala video so I don’t know what she did at the MET.

        I would like to see a great Adriana once in my life.

        • This was a great Adriana with the added perk of a very young, stunningly handsome, fresh voiced Carreras. My college room mate and I dropped acid and stood through this performance. Ah, the the things we do when we’re young.

          Metropolitan Opera House
          March 17, 1978

          ADRIANA LECOUVREUR {40}

          Adriana Lecouvreur……Renata Scotto
          Maurizio…………….José Carreras
          Princess di Bouillon….Fiorenza Cossotto
          Michonnet……………Louis Quilico
          Bouillon…………….Ivo Vinco
          Abbé………………..Andrea Velis
          Jouvenot…………….Alma Jean Smith
          Dangeville…………..Shirley Love
          Duclos………………Pauline Andrey
          Poisson……………..Paul Franke
          Quinault…………….Andrij Dobriansky
          Major-domo…………..Donald Peck
          Dance……………….Pauline Andrey
          Dance……………….Suzanne Laurence
          Dance……………….Ellen Rievman
          Dance……………….Marcus Bugler
          Dance……………….Jack Hertzog

          Conductor……………Jesús López-Cobos

  • Gualtier M

    Anyone go to the Saturday night “Boheme” with Gheorghiu and Fabiano and care to comment on it? Anyone go to both and compare them? Thanks.

    • diva2themax

      I went last night & it was beautiful! Angela was in great voice imo. Very coquettish acting, beautiful phrasing, COMPLETELY AUDIBLE for those that like to complain about that. I did sit in orchestra rear but I heard every note she sang. I really did love it. Michael Fabiano was amazing I’m really happy to finally have experienced him live. The audience loved him his applause was huge. From all of the chattering during intermission & in the ladies room (lol) people were loving it. I’m really happy to see Angela again in NYC hopefully she comes back more often her voice is one of my favorites.

      • jacobelli

        I was there last night also and I cannot believe that diva2themax and I were at the same performance. I was sitting in the Side Orchestra, Row U (in front of the overhanging boxes, not under them) and Angela was NEARLY INAUDIBLE most of the time. It was a constant strain to try to hear her, and at times her voice disappeared completely. All of those sitting around me experienced the same thing. It even seemed that in their duets at times that Fabiano was deliberately trying to hold back a little so as not to drown her out. It was like she wasn’t even trying to be heard. It was really inexcusable and unforgivable. How ironic that there was months of speculation concerning whether or not she would even show for these performances, and when she does show up she can’t even be heard.

        Fabiano, on the other hand, was excellent, and he received the loudest ovations of the night. Interestingly, Angela was greeted with applause when she made her act 1 entrance (which I don’t think happened on Wednesday), but in the curtain calls at the end it was Fabiano who was met with the roar/wave of bravos. Angela received enthusiastic applause also, but not like Fabiano. He was clearly the star.

        I’ve never seen Angela live before, so I don’t know if this is par for the course or if she is now in decline, but either way I will NEVER go to see her live again.

        • diva2themax

          Funny how things are I was in Row Y right in the middle left side & my friend & I had no complaints on audibility. We spoke w/ the people in front & next to us no one said they couldn’t hear her nothing but praise for her & Fabiano. I heard every note from everyone on stage. Yes Fabiano was louder but she wasn’t drowned out. He was really fantastic I can’t wait to see him again in anything lol.

  • jacobelli

    It’s weird. We weren’t sitting that far from one another and yet we had totally different experiences with regards to Angela.

    I agree that Fabiano was great, though. He’s the reason I went. I managed to get a Rush ticket and I’m glad I did. The others in the cast were very good also, especially Bizic and Rose.