Cher Public

Sumptuous feast

Long-time parterre fave Catherine Malfitano takes the stage at Manhattan School of Music in a new role, Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music, May 12-14. (Photo courtesy the Baron de Signac)

  • Ilka Saro

    Reading this, I thought, “Madame Armfelt? Malfitano’s not old enough to be a grandmother!” Then I realized it is my OWN age that I didn’t want to remember. I am old enough to be a grandfather, even if I ain’t one. ;)

    I doubt I will get a chance to see this, but Malfitano has given me a lot of pleasure over many years. Obviously more years than I care to remember…

    • olliedawg

      Cathy Malfitano ALWAYS delivered a great performance — the sound might not have been the best, but she was more than committed, and knows how to put on a show. Good on her to keep on trouping.

  • Ilka Saro

    Best I ever heard of her was her 1985 Juliette here at the Met. Yes, sometimes her voice was not perfect, but in that Juliette it was a blazing diamond. I’ve never been satisfied by anyone else in the role.

    • Camille

      Yes, I know what you mean about those Juliettes as I’ve heard them over Sirius and they were excellent, as was her Roméo.

      That red dress shown above is forever emblazoned in my memory for those three performances of Vec Makropulous I saw and heard in 1998. One of my happiest experiences ever in the theatre. She was, honest to g-d, on fire. A great performance.

      One of last times I heard a great favourite of mine, the terrific comprimario, Mr Anthony Laciura. Their scene together was a delight.

      • steveac10

        I feel the same about her Antonia. Nothing since has come close. She has a 20 run as a lyric -- you can’t really blame her for embracing her inner kunstdiva later on.

        httpsv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jqm0OGV_7LI

        • Camille

          You gotta get the “s” outta the equasion or it won’t work!

          Let’s listen. I never heard her in this role.

        • Krunoslav

          I heard about a 12 year run as a lyric before the bad singing started, and agree that after the initial years ( say, the NYCO TURANDOT or SAINT OF BLEECKER STREET) text was never a priority.

          Antonia her last vocally pleasing thing at the Met, though I did enjoy the Katerina Ismailova and Katya, though as has been said Matila and Benackova *sang* the latter much better. Some things- Kundry and Lady Macbeth at LOC-- just a mistake.

          • armerjacquino

            You know what? Fuck anything being a mistake. She tried things, she sang sings, some of them worked, some of them didn’t.

            Dear lord above us, defend artists from journalists.

            • Krunoslav

              Sorry, don’t agree that artists’ choices are perforce above criticism.

              Not that they shouldn’t take risks. But risks have consequences, like Chicago audiences hearing a poorly sung Lady Macbeth (though worse was to beset them when Nadja M. rode into town).

              Bravo to you if you decide to go and play Volumnia in a modern dress CORIOLANUS with Geordie accents.. If it sucks, one can applaud your daring yet still say it was ultimately a mistake, no?
              For the play and the audience, if maybe not for your growth as an artist?

            • armerjacquino

              Yeah, you’re probably right. I was just feeling a little defiant.

          • PCally

            I have a hard time imagining she acted Katya better than Mattila

  • Love Catherine Malfitano. That’s great news.

  • sfmike

    Love Catherine Malfitano. This is great news.

  • williams

    Her Salome in 1996 was one of the most overwhelming things I’ve ever witnessed on stage.

    • Ilka Saro

      Never saw her Salome live. I have only seen it on DVD — from Berlin — and I agree totally. Rivetting.

      • williams

        Her immersion into the role was jaw dropping. A demented and chilling night. Memories of her at the foot of the Met stage, drenched in blood & awash in sweat, her diaphanous costume clinging to her body while she sang out to the rafters are indelible.

  • Camille

    Um, La Cieca, please—although it pleases me no end to see that particular arm of hers described as “armfelt”, alas, Madame’s surname is “ArmfelDt”. Rare to catch you in a boo-boo and I know you would not want her unarmed by the wrong name. I guess you were in a hurry to go Easter egg hunting.

  • aulus agerius

    The 3 performances at MSM are free of charge :-)

    • Ilka Saro

      “The 3 performances at MSM are free of charge” Working in HIV Prevention as I do here in NYC, the acronym MSM is loaded with double-entendres. That MSM performances are free of charge is even better.

  • PCally

    I feel like I’m committing some sort of heresy writing this but I’ve never really understood what all the fuss over Malfitano was about. I’m obviously missing something because everyone I know who has seen her worships her but both times I saw her live (as Emilia Marty and Katarina Ismailova) her voice struck me as small and colorless with no real attention paid to the text of dynamics and her acting was almost grotesquely over-the-top. I thought Karita Mattila and Eva Maria Westbroek especially sang and acted rings around her when they performed these roles here. Both videos of her Salome rubbed me the wrong way and in both I think she’s totally overshadowed by Leonie Rysanek and Anja Silja respectively. No disrespect is meant but I’ve never responded to anything she’s done.

    • Krunoslav

      Look for THE SAINT OF BLEECKER STREET which also has terrific work by di Giuseppe and Soviero. She is wonderful in that. The Servilia with Tappy, Neblett and Tatiana is at least interesting.

      I agree that a lot of what was praised later was self-conscious hamming, not too connected to the words; she could also be very arch ( Gretel,Marzelline, Therese/Tiresias). Antonia suited her wonderfully though.

      • PCally

        Thanks for the recommendation and I’ll be sure to look for it, especially since Soviero is in it (I’ve never seen her in anything).I’ve actually seen the Servilia and honestly can’t remember anything about her in that video so I’ll have to watch it again. I’ve read some amazing reviews of the Antonia (Peter G. Davis in particular raved about it in multiple write-ups). I guess part of my problem is that I find her voice monochromatic and overly bright. I know she was less controversial as a lyric soprano but I can’t really picture her voice in any of those roles either.

        • Krunoslav

          “especially since Soviero is in it (I’ve never seen her in anything)”

          Set yourself down a spell for something magical:

          • Camille

            Zinka called—she wants her videos back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
            !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!&&&NOW!

            • Ilka Saro

              To paraphrase Moses: She will have to pry those videos from my cold dead hands ;)

      • Camille

        The Saint of Bleeker Street is AWESOME! Could. Not. Believe. It.

  • mjmacmtenor

    A classic role for aging divas. I saw Glynis John do Madame Armfeldt in a revival in LA in the 90s, Then, of course, there is this classic by former soorano, then mezzo (now baritone).

    • mjmacmtenor

      Soprano. Not soorano

  • The_Kid

    Ooh, let us not forget the other (non-operatic) Mme. Armfeldts: Sian Phillips, Margaret Hamilton, and Angela Lansbury.

    • The_Kid

      …..my favorite, however, is the ever-mysterious zarah leander, who sings it in the bass-baritone range in German production. Listen if you dare LOL

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5FWeZbNyrg

      • The_Kid

        • mirywi

          Domingo should try this one on too.

          • PushedUpMezzo

            If you believe all you hear, Domingo has a fairly good acquaintance with “Liaisons”.
            I would love to hear what key La Malfitano selects for the number.
            As I’ve moaned before, the only chance I had of hearing her Salome live was about the only time she cancelled and we got the wretched Helen Field.
            Other interesting Armfeldts --
            That great New York export Elisabeth Welch in a 1990 studio recording that also has Sian Phillips as Desiree and the up-and-coming Prima Donna Janis Kelly as Anne.
            Angela Baddeley (Mrs Bridges in Upstairs Downstairs), who succeeded Gingold in the first London production. Her sister Hermione B had been Gingold’s sparring partner in West End revues years earlier.
            And don’t forget dear Stritchie, who took over from Dame Angela.

  • danpatter

    She’s an incredible artist. I first saw her in Cincinnati as Lucia, of all things, and she delivered a fine performance, perhaps a bit overacted but better that than a cypher. She skipped the first E-flat in the Mad Scene, but sang it so magically I didn’t care. When she sang the last E-flat, she omitted the grace note B-flat usually sung before it (I think it’s called an acciaccatura but not sure), just jumping directly from the B-flat to the E-flat. I had never heard it that way, and I liked it.

    The last performance of hers I saw was in Houston -- The Macropoulos Case, and she was honest-to-god sensational in that thrilling production. Long may she prosper!