Cher Public

Sometimes just pretzels and beer

“Nobody wants to spend three or four hours of their life sitting through a mediocre opera performance, especially when you consider what tickets cost these days. But mediocre means ‘average,’ so, statistically speaking, if you go to the opera a lot, it means you’re going to be confronted with middling performances more often than not. You have to kiss a lot of frogs, right?” Our Own JJ crunches the numbers at the Met and LoftOpera in the New York Observer. (Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

  • I wonder what JJ found disappointing in this production which he praised highly when it premiered. Was it that the revival didn’t do justice to the production? Or has he revised his opinion?

  • Our Own JJ

    I think the answer is strongly implied in the review: “the singers are mostly left to their own devices.” Either Mr. Hytner did some very detailed character work with the artists back in 2010 that was not done this time around, or possibly the 2010 cast (Alagna, Poplavsksya, Keenlyside) are simply better actors than their equivalents this time around. But there just wasn’t very much going on dramatically in this revival. The physical production remains mostly handsome, though this time around it becomes noticeable that there seemed to be no money left over for the final third of the opera. (Philip’s study was more sparsely furnished than Carlo’s prison cell.)

    This goes back to something I’ve said repeatedly, i.e., that “production” doesn’t mean “sets and costumes and lighting design” but rather the acting performances that are developed in the rehearsal room.

    • Thanks for your feedback. I got the “mostly left to their own devices” criticism but was seeking clarification. Mine certainly wasn’t meant to be a “gotcha” observation. And yes, I agree that a production is more than just sets and costumes and that the premiere had a strong group of singing actors (well, expect Smirnova).

    • Our Own JJ

      A corollary point here is that a production that is relatively austere (which this one is, except for a big of gilt in the Auto-da-fe) tends to throw a lot of focus on the individual acting performances. This can be a glorious thing when these perforamnces are detailed and extremely heartfelt, or it can be a curse if the acting is cursory — because it’s under a magnifying glass the whole time.

      One detail that bothered me a lot this time around was that Carlo doesn’t escape from the prison at the end of Act 4: Eboli swoops in, and he heads for the door, but stops when the Inquisitor arrives. On “Vi prostate innanzi al Re, / Che Dio protegge! A terra!” Carlo joins everyone else in genuflecting to the King. Surely this makes nonsense of the rest of the opera: under what must have been redoubled guard, how did Carlo make his way to San Giusto to meet Elisabetta?

      • That is strange about Carlo’s escape (or lack thereof). I can see the staging delaying his escape until everyone bows to the King because that would allow the audience to see the escape better — it’s often a moment that gets lost among the crowd. But having Carlo join everyone else is puzzling.

  • parpignol

    great review of Don Carlo--
    Nezet-Seguin was sensational; made great stuff out of the ensembles, the garden trio, the act 4 quartet; generally swift tempi, I thought, and the urgency of the Grand Inquisitor’s scene really carried Morris through; wow, he sounded good in this role! Furlanetto very great again; can he do this forever? Hvorostovsky and Frittoli mustered their resources very successfully; he especially in act 4, she in act 5; Tu che la vanita was moving, but I thought she was even better in the marziale and “lassu ci vedremo”and THEN unexpectedly she had a great final high note for the opera; and wow, Lee, what a splendid sound; but was he little more lost in the production this time than last time? Philip’s sparsely furnished room: in the Dexter production he did have a really impressive desk. . . nevertheless, these four hours did not feel long to me; ah Verdi!

    • thirdlady

      Could someone explain to me under what circumstances, exactly, the Met orchestra is “sometimes recalcitrant”?

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        If they have little respect for the conductor for good reasons.

        • thirdlady

          And how would that would be expressed by the orchestra, exactly?

          • Quanto Painy Fakor

            You hear it and the conductor thinks he’s just marvellous. Fortunately the MET orchestra knows what the singers require and can often do things to help why the conductor could not avoid a particular situation. How is it expressed? By knowing glances, body language indiscrete comments, sometimes even formal protests to management.

  • Camille

    With every passing year Dima increasingly resembles an instructor from Hogwarts, so much so, that it is beginning to worry me, and especially so after hearing him sing Rubenstein’s The Demon, which was given in Moscow about a month ago and which I just lurved to death. Seek it out online, all Dima LustHabers, you won’t be sorry you did!

    • Rowna

      I didn’t see this year’s production, but caught it a few seasons back so I knew what it looked like. This is what it sounded like over the Met’s lifestream, IMHO:

      • Rowna

        ARGHHHHH! I hate autocorrect -- that is “livestream” and when I answered the quiz that night I typed in Turandot but it was spelled, Turnabout.

        • Camille

          Turnabout is fair play, Rowna!

          Don’t worry—Autocorrect is the Devil that plagues us all.

          Hoping you had a nice Passover.

          • Surely autocorrect can always be turned off? If you write in several languages it really has to be or it gets completely out of control.

            • Camille

              How do you turn that off? And ITALICITIS!!!!!??????

            • Google usually knows how to do these things. I have autocorrect off everywhere because of switching between English and French all the time and sometimes into a bit of Spanish or Turkish: autocorrect makes it impossible.

            • manou

              If you change the language on your keyboard, auto-correct changes accordingly. Interestingly, if you have a Mac, the Message function which connects to your iPhone knows instantly what language you are typing in.

        • Camille

          Yes, I agree with you regarding Frittoli. It was SUCH a relief not to hear her battered voice this time and to hear capability, still, as an artist limning out the line of the music, and a great deal of that credit may go to the conductor, for his support in helping to shale the music. No one sings the kkng line of the ascending phrase of “Non pianger, mia compagna”, all the way up and down again, an ability I first noticed long ago with her Donn’Anna, and one of the reasons for my esteem. I hope she will continue to recuperate.

          It was a lot the same for me as well, as I heaved a huge sigh of relief and listened to the end. Poor Maestro Maazel was well past it when he conducted this last. I was very sorry for him but it was a miserable couple performances I attended and they made me unhappy. On the fifteenth we will go to the performance with the new soprano, tenor and mezzo, so as to have a fresh breath of air. It is such a great work. I love it unequivocably, even in Italian.

          I will always miss Poplavskaya in this, however. A great Act V scene of an impossibly difficult scena. She made it live, with great intensity and pathos, and then, the voice was not so far gone….

          Felice primavera a Te, Rownissima!

          • Camille



          • PCally

            Camille, how was the Donna Anna. At this point I’m so used to her in the role and I never saw her as Anna. Can’t really imagine it tbh.

            • Camille

              This drove me to the Archives (marvelous invention, thank you!), as it was long ago…January 2003, to be precise. En bref, she was elegant. Both musically in the longer than normal ohrasing of this difficult role and in her person in stage. She played the noblewoman well.

              Now, I rather liked her Elvira a little more, which I’ve only heard in HD. She still managed to be a dominating force and to maintain some dignity rather than to play it totally for laughs, as do some, and which is entirely okay by me considering the original classification of this role.

              The Vitellia was also very commanding and interesting but alas the voice was in trouble, apparent illness at that time.

              That’s all I can recall at the moment, PCally.

            • PCally

              Thanks Camille, my fondest memories of her are as Desdemona but Mozart seems to be the optimum composer for her.

            • Camille

              Oh, yes, I agree about that Desdemona. It was very lovely, in what? 1999 or thereabouts? I thought she would be the next BIG thing. A beautiful Willow Song and Ave Maria.

              Well, it is what it is now. At least I am grateful that this production finds her in much better form for she is a gracious performer.

            • PCally

              The first round was 1999 with Domingo. Then I saw her again in 2004 with Heppner, the voice was still lovely I thought.

      • Sempre liberal

        Thanks for the review, Rowna. It was great chatting with you in la casa della Cieca. It was a fun crowd last Monday.

        I did go this past Monday. Furlanetto was even better, and the ovation seemed like it went on for ~2 minutes. Frittoli held it together nicely, and while she was on the quiet side compared to Y. Lee (dude must have an amp in his larynx), there was minimal wobble, and her Tu che le vanita was better than the prima.

        The curtain calls were fun to watch.

        1) Dima took about a minute to even come out for his curtain call (it was like he created dramatic tension) and got a thunderous ovation (he was superb on Monday).
        2) Furlanetto got rapturous applause. (The entire orchestra stayed during the curtain call and vigorously applauded him).
        3) Y. Lee was also heralded loudly.
        4) Yannick N-S and orchestra were zestily applauded. The orchestra sounded the best I’ve heard them all year, and YNS has some wonderful approaches to Verdi, including judicious and sparing use of rubato, quick pianos to begin a new crescendo, and the full range of volume at his disposal. He and the orchestra really were one.

        I took a colleague from work who had never seen Don Carlo, and she cannot stop talking about Furlanetto.

        DC is the best drinking opera too, since you can have Champagne before the opera (France), Prosecco at first intermission (Verdi/Italy), and Cava at the 2nd intermission (Spain).

        • Rowna

          Thanks for your first hand account, Semper. I am very much wanting to meet you. If I ever get back to Met for an opera, we would have a chance to
          experience one together. You can write to me at Hope you are enjoying the warming weather :)

      • Lohengrin

        Hi Rowna,
        did You watch the Salzburg-Videos?

        • Rowna

          No Lohengrin -- is there a link?

          • Lohengrin
            • Rowna

              Thank you Lohengrin -- some good video for this weekend!

            • Lohengrin

              Waiting for Your review nest week. I was lucky to have been there!!!!!!!!!

            • Ilka Saro

              I just watched a snippet of the Pagliacci. Caught Jonas singing “Sperai tanto il delirio” from the end. As usual, what is striking about Kaufmann is not just the virile singing, but the interpretation, which in this case is a little non-standard. With Kaufmann, you get the sense that Canio is rejected not as a husband, but as a lover. Not as an old-man-who-should-have-known-better, but as a man who believed he was satisfying her. The first half of his apostrophe seems ardent in the same way Rodolfo or Mario Cavaradossi might be if they felt betrayed. Fascinating! It makes perfect sense, but it never occured to me it could be interpreted this way, because that’s not how I am used to seeing it.

    • I have asked for The Demon in Brussels next season.

      • Camille

        Really? Is the Demon responding to your request?

        You can hear the entire thing online and it is really Dima doing his bad thing. I loved it.

        • Only in concert, but I’ll be glad to have it.

          • It was that or Adriana Lecouvreur.

  • La Valkyrietta

    Thanks La Cieca for being able to write such wonderful reviews. I completely agree with all that was written about the conductor but could not word my praises more eloquently. He made the evening, mostly (after Verdi, of course). I think I love this opera more than you because I look forward to spending another four hours of my life on it :lol:, mainly for the conductor, but also to see and hear the Armenian girl live.

    I wonder. Any thoughts on Ricardo Temura?

  • “… statistically speaking, if you go to the opera a lot, it means you’re going to be confronted with middling performances more often than not”. You can say that again. And sometimes it’s obvious there’s no point in staying after the interval.

    • Camille

      Do you suppose we could start a little support group for those of us who “leVe at the interval”? I get roundly abused by Monsieur Camille and lectured to within an inch of my life if I even get up and leave before all the applause is ended. Mind you, I stay to the end applauding if I have seen something exceptional but I have no compunctions about leaving if it really and truly grates my nerves and ear so badly it gives me pain. Life’s too short.

      How is April in Paris? You don’t know how much I wish I were there — so tell me something about how intolerable the allergy season is, ou quelque chose de mauvaise.

      • Camille

        “Leave”, not levitate.


        • It’s that time of year when you have to pawn your valuables to take out the next season’s subscriptions. The Paris opera opened the ball this year. I just paid La Monnaie. The Champs Elysées has just published its schedule so I imagine the literature will be in the letter box soon, along with the amounts to be transferred…

          Oddly -- for I don’t think it should be this way -- the disappointment at mediocre performances is much greater when they cost a lot. And indeed I’d say I feel more demanding when I’ve paid 200 euros in Paris or NYC than 40 euros in Prague or Budapest…

          • (E.g. 195 euros for that foul Entführung -- barely audible and a total eyesore).

            • I was so severely pained in the butt by Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin at the Châtelet I might well have levitated to escape if I could have: there was no interval, the organizers weren’t daft…

            • Camille

              No, the organizers are not daft!

              Why was it so painful. I want to know because it is coming our way in a season or so and thus far I have not been that taken with her music. Tried to love that opera about Émilie Whatshername at Spoleto, and didn’t.

              Is this the opera with a woman getting raped, as I had a very intelligent composition student who had seen it give me the scoop and he was not happy about it.

              Don’t forget the Gellert Baths in Budapest et bon voyage!

            • I don’t remember a rape. Perhaps I went to sleep? In Sellars’ production it was the slowest thing I’ve ever come across in the house, and the libretto is in French and unfortunately it’s a language I understand.

            • A friend calls it “L’Ennui de Près”.

            • Even though I lived in Turkey and go back to istanbul every year, I’ve never been in a Turkish bath.

            • Camille

              “L’Ennemi de Près” aka “The Frenemy Opera”

              Then try out a Hungarian bath instead.

              I have never heard anything but raves about Turkey, from every imaginable type of person. Did you like it as well? Their food is good, at least those restaurants I have frequented here in NYC.

            • Camille: I find Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin quite ravishing and not a whit boring.

            • I think Istanbul’s the world’s greatest city. And yes, the food’s good if you work at it to steer clear of tourist places.

            • “Boring” is a very subjective thing. I often have to be informed when something is boring because I can be riveted by what others find boring.

              I think L’Amour de loin is gorgeous and though I don’t personally find it boring, I can certainly see why people refer to it as such. Basically, it’s like Pelleas (another opera I love) without any of the exciting parts. ;)

            • I get much more bored during second act of Barbieri (or most Rossini comedies) or Cosi than I do Pelleas or L’Amoir.

            • manou

              …or Parsifal without the persiflage.

            • Daisetsu Suzuki, mentor to John Cage, had a maxim that went something like this: If you find something boring, continue doing it for 5 more minutes. If after that you continue to find it boring, do it for 20 more minutes. If it’s still boring after that, continue for 2 more hours. Continue at the task until it no longer seems boring.

              I generally find that when people find an opera boring, it is their own fault.

            • A late friend of mine (who incidentally wondered how anyone could take an opera called “Percival” seriously) was often asked, after he retired, if he didn’t get bored. “I *like* being bored” was his reply.

            • And speak of the devil!

              Saariaho’s bioluminescent “Emilie”, starring Camilla Nylund, will be broadcast on Finnish radio at noon, ET this Saturday, April 11.

        • I feel more demanding when I’ve paid 200 euros in Paris or NYC than 40 euros in Prague or Budapest… and conversely way more indulgent in the latter. Will be back in Budapest for Jenufa soon.

  • Ilka Saro

    I agree with JJ about Morris. As Grand Inquisitors go, he wasn’t particularly domineering. Just carping.

    The GI doesn’t have to have a beautiful voice. But he has to come across as a force to be dealt with. Best one I ever saw at the Met was Sergei Koptchak.

    The irony for me is that I think Morris was the best King Phillip I ever saw. Not the most nobly sung, but by far the best played. A real brute, who liked blaming the church for his cruelty and feeling sorry for himself. Furlanetto got the sorry-for-himself part down, but wasn’t all that kingly. And Furlanetto has a much more beautiful voice than Morris ever did. But in his day, Morris held my attention always through his acting and his musical interpretations.

    • Ilka Saro

      Whoops, I got my wires crossed. It seems JJ approved of la Morris’ performance. Well, I still didn’t.

      • Camille

        Well, that’s still okay. We all get our titties in a tangle or our balls in a bunch around here. Too easy to do.

        I didn’t think Morris was particularly menacing or characterfull as the Grand Inquisitor, a part I just love as it REEKS evil and Verdi’s hit on the hypocrisy of the church, but he was a damn sight better than as Oroveso the season before, aside from those pesky F’s he glanced off of just as quickly as he could. Also, I remember his Filippo and it was my general impression that he was brutish and not too kingly in this role—surprised to hear that reaction from someone else. The Furlanetto Filippo which has been so highly praised and which has been a ‘meh moment’ for moi, seemed to have improved this time--but his vocalising of the role is quite peculiar to me. I will be able to tell more after I go on the 15th. He succeeds in the character roles, Silva just marvelously well, Leporello, and whatshisname in Simon Boccanegra far more, but that’s my take on it.

        Interesting observations.

  • Ilka Saro

    I also love the Grand Inquisitor scene. I don’t know how the French goes, but just this morning I was contemplating how manipulative he is. Here is my summary of the dialog:

    King: I need your advice. Will I get support and absolution from the church if I kill my son?
    Inquisitor: Yes. Is that all?
    King: Yes.
    Inquisitor: Now its my turn. Friends of heretics are heretics. Posa is your friend. Hand him over.
    King: I don’t want to hear this.
    Inquisitor: Then why did you want to talk to me?

    Well, the answer is actually that he wanted to talk about his son. He never invited a discussion of Posa. The Inquisitor is forcing the King’s hand by playing all his cards and then acting like it’s the King’s fault. “Well, you let me in the room, right? You asked for it.” The Inquisitor knows that he is totally out of line, and is banking on the King’s precious obsession with deferring to the church. And the Inquisitor played wisely, and the King didn’t call his bluff. What mess!

    • parpignol

      of course it’s crucial in Schiller, and easy to pass over in Verdi, that the person Philip really cares about, more than his son, more than his wife, is Posa-- one of the many strange and brilliant aspects of the drama. . .

    • Camille

      Well, as it happens, I have one half (where’s the other volume, dammit???) of the CE and the conversation goes like so:

      Comte de Lerme, le Grand Inquisiteur, Philippe

      Le Comte de Lerme:
      Le Grand Inquisiteur!

      Le Grand Inquisiteur:
      Suis-je devant le Roi?

      Oui, j’ai recours à vous mon père, éclairez-moi.
      L’Infant remplit mon cœur d’une tristesse amère,
      L’Infant est un rebelle armé contre son père…

      Le Grand Inquisiteur:
      Qu’avez-vous décidé contre lui?

      Tout…ou rien!


      Qu’il fuie…ou que le glaive…

      Eh bien?

      Si je frappe l’Infant ta main m’absoudrait-elle?

      La paix du monde vaut le sang d’un fils rebelle.

      Puis-je immoler mon fils au monde, moi chrétien?

      Dieu pour nous sauver tous sacrifia le sien.

      Peux-tu fonder partout une foi si sévère?

      Partout où chrétien suit la foi du Calvaire.

      La nature et le sang se tairont-ils en moi?

      Tout s’incline et se tait lorsque parle la foi!

      C’est bien!

      Philippe Deux n’a plus rien à me dire?


      C’est donc moi qui vous parlerai, Sire!
      Dans ce beau pays, pur d’hérétique levain,
      un homme ose saper l’édifice divin.
      Il est l’ami du Roi, son confident intime,
      le démon tentateur qui le pousse à l’abîme!
      Les desseins criminels dont vous chargez l’Infant
      ne sont auprès des siens que les jeux d’un enfant;
      et moi, l’Inquisiteur, moi, pendant que je lève
      sur d’obscurs criminels la main qui tient le glaive,
      pour les puissants du monde abjurant mon courroux,
      je laisse vivre en paix ce grand coupable…
      et vous!

      Pour traverser les jours d’épreuves où nous sommes,
      j’ai cherché dans ma cour, ce vaste désert d’hommes,
      un homme, un ami sûr… Je l’ai trouvé!

      Pourquoi un homme? Et de quel droit vous nommez-vous le Roi?
      Sire, si vous avez des égaux!

      Tais-toi, prêtre!

      L’esprit des novateurs chez vous déjà pénètre!
      Vous voulez secouer de votre faible main
      le saint joug étendu sur l’univers romain!
      Rentrez dans le devoir! L’Eglise, en bonne mère,
      peut encore accueillir un repentir sincère.
      Livrez-nous le marquis de Posa
      [ed. note: sung ppp]

      Non, jamais!

      Ô Roi, si je n’étais ici dans ce palais aujourd’hui:
      par le Dieu vivant, demain vous même vous seriez
      devant nous au tribunal suprême!

      Prêtre! j’ai trop souffert ton orgueil criminel!

      Pourquoi l’évoquiez-vous, l’ombre de Samuel?
      J’avais donné deux Rois à ce puissant empire,
      l’œuvre de tous mes jours, vous voulez la détruire…
      Que viens je faire ici? De moi que vouliez-vous?

      Mon père, que la paix redescende entre nous.

      La paix?

      Que le passé soit oublié!


      L’orgueil du Roi fléchit devant l’orgueil du prêtre!


      Well, this was a real pain in the ass to type out but I did because it is my FAVE scene in my fave Verdi opera, so it means a lot to me and hope it will clarify some of the issues at issue. You can ask Madame manou for the translation because my own is strictly the non-kosher variety.

      The first time I saw it, William Wildermann (I think that is how you spell his name) was the LGI. He wore a shocking scarlet gown and he was One Big CREEEEP! I’ll never forget him and I never saw that man again! This is such a powerful and brave thing to have written in 1860’s Catholic country societies, and admire Verdi so much for having le due palle for standing up to the almighty church in this manner.

      (I hope I didn’t once more bugger up my italics.)

      • Camille

        oh NO — Italics CLOSE!

        • Camille

          Where’s the Harry Potter charm against Italics???? BOO!!!!!

          • Camille

            End Italics!!! Supercalifragelisticexpealidocious!

            please stop, Italics!

            • Camille

              La Cieca, wave your magic wand to END ITALICS!!!!!!!!!!! por favor!

            • Italics or not, a very good read. Thank you.

        • Italics are fixed -- you missed only one “close italics” which is actually quite good, well above average for hand-coding.

          • Camille

            Thank you so much Mamma Cieca! Now I won’t throw myself into the Canal!

            I was so wrapped up in those lyrics as they are so important to the drama and wanted to get the message out to the troops as what Verdi was so daring.

            Mercy Buckets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I felt like I was in Vertigo!!

      • Krunoslav

        And here is the Schiller in translation, thanks to Project Gutenberg:

        SCENE X.

        The KING and the GRAND INQUISITOR. A long silence.

        Say, do I stand before the king?

        You do.

        I never thought it would be so again!

        I now renew the scenes of early youth,
        When Philip sought his sage instructor’s counsel.

        Your glorious sire, my pupil, Charles the Fifth,
        Nor sought or needed counsel at my hands.

        So much happier he! I, cardinal,
        Am guilty of a murder, and no rest——


        What was the reason for this murder?

        A fraud unparalleled——

        I know it all.

        What do you know? Through whom, and since what time?


        For years—what you have only learned since sunset.

        KING (with astonishment).
        You know this man then!

        All his life is noted
        From its commencement to its sudden close,
        In Santa Casa’s holy registers.

        Yet he enjoyed his liberty!

        The chain
        With which he struggled, but which held him bound,
        Though long, was firm, nor easy to be severed.

        He has already been beyond the kingdom.

        Where’er he travelled I was at his side.

        KING (walks backwards and forwards in displeasure).
        You knew the hands, then, I had fallen into;
        And yet delayed to warn me!

        This rebuke
        I pay you back. Why did you not consult us
        Before you sought the arms of such a man?
        You knew him: one sole glance unmasked him to you.
        Why did you rob the office of its victim?
        Are we thus trifled with! When majesty
        Can stoop to such concealment, and in secret,
        Behind our backs, league with our enemies,
        What must our fate be then? If one be spared
        What plea can justify the fate of thousands?

        But he, no less, has fallen a sacrifice.

        No; he is murdered—basely, foully murdered.
        The blood that should so gloriously have flowed
        To honor us has stained the assassin’s hand.
        What claim had you to touch our sacred rights?
        He but existed, by our hands to perish.
        God gave him to this age’s exigence,
        To perish, as a terrible example,
        And turn high-vaunting reason into shame.
        Such was my long-laid plan—behold, destroyed
        In one brief hour, the toil of many years.
        We are defrauded, and your only gain
        Is bloody hands.

        Passion impelled me to it.
        Forgive me.

        Passion! And does royal Philip
        Thus answer me? Have I alone grown old?
        [Shaking his head angrily.
        Passion! Make conscience free within your realms,
        If you’re a slave yourself.

        In things like this
        I’m but a novice. Bear in patience with me.

        No, I’m ill pleased with you—to see you thus
        Tarnish the bygone glories of your reign.
        Where is that Philip, whose unchanging soul,
        Fixed as the polar star in heaven above,
        Round its own axis still pursued its course?
        Is all the memory of preceding years
        Forever gone? And did the world become
        New moulded when you stretched your hand to him?
        Was poison no more poison? Did distinction
        ‘Twixt good and evil, truth and falsehood, vanish?
        What then is resolution? What is firmness?
        What is the faith of man, if in one weak,
        Unguarded hour, the rules of threescore years
        Dissolve in air, like woman’s fickle favor?

        I looked into his eyes. Oh, pardon me
        This weak relapse into mortality.
        The world has one less access to your heart;
        Your eyes are sunk in night.

        What did this man
        Want with you? What new thing could he adduce,
        You did not know before? And are you versed
        So ill with fanatics and innovators?
        Does the reformer’s vaunting language sound
        So novel to your ears? If the firm edifice
        Of your conviction totters to mere words,
        Should you not shudder to subscribe the fate
        Of many thousand poor, deluded souls
        Who mount the flaming pile for nothing worse?

        I sought a human being. These Domingos——

        How! human beings! What are they to you?
        Cyphers to count withal—no more! Alas!
        And must I now repeat the elements
        Of kingly knowledge to my gray-haired pupil?
        An earthly god must learn to bear the want
        Of what may be denied him. When you whine
        For sympathy is not the world your equal?
        What rights should you possess above your equals?

        KING (throwing himself into a chair).
        I’m a mere suffering mortal, that I feel;
        And you demand from me, a wretched creature,
        What the Creator only can perform.

        No, sire; I am not thus to be deceived.
        I see you through. You would escape from us.
        The church’s heavy chains pressed hard upon you;
        You would be free, and claim your independence.
        [He pauses. The KING is silent.
        We are avenged. Be thankful to the church,
        That checks you with the kindness of a mother.
        The erring choice you were allowed to make
        Has proved your punishment. You stand reproved!
        Now you may turn to us again. And know
        If I, this day, had not been summoned here,
        By Heaven above! before to-morrow’s sun,
        You would yourself have stood at my tribunal!

        Forbear this language, priest. Restrain thyself.
        I’ll not endure it from thee. In such tones
        No tongue shall speak to me.

        Then why, O king
        Call up the ghost of Samuel? I’ve anointed
        Two monarchs to the throne of Spain. I hoped
        To leave behind a firm-established work.
        I see the fruit of all my life is lost.
        Don Philip’s hands have shattered what I built.
        But tell me, sire, wherefore have I been summoned?
        What do I hear? I am not minded, king,
        To seek such interviews again.

        But one
        One service more—the last—and then in peace
        Depart. Let all the past be now forgotten—
        Let peace be made between us. We are friends.

        When Philip bends with due humility.

        KING (after a pause).
        My son is meditating treason.

        And what do you resolve?

        On all, or nothing.

        What mean you by this all?

        He must escape,
        Or die.

        Well, sire! decide.

        And can you not
        Establish some new creed to justify
        The bloody murder of one’s only son?

        To appease eternal justice God’s own Son
        Expired upon the cross.

        And can you spread
        This creed throughout all Europe?

        Ay, as far
        As the true cross is worshipped.

        But I sin—
        Sin against nature. Canst thou, by thy power,
        Silence her mighty voice.

        The voice of nature
        Avails not over faith.

        My right to judge
        I place within your hands. Can I retrace
        The step once taken?

        Give him to me!

        My only son! For whom then have I labored?

        For the grave rather than for liberty!

        KING (rising up).
        We are agreed. Come with me.

        Monarch! Whither

        From his own father’s hands to take the victim.

        [Leads him away.

        • Ilka Saro

          Both the French and the Schiller are very interesting! The French because it indicates that the Italian translation is really pretty directly derived from the French, down to a lot of the rhymes.

          So in the Schiller, Posa is already dead? All the Inquisitor can do is whine to Phillip about not being included? Then it looks like Phillip has already had his way, and all he wants is a sign off on killing Carlos that he knows the Inquisitor will agree to anyway. So basically, Phillip has his way in the Schiller. Totally the opposite of the Du Locle and company version, where Phillip’s own equivocation leaves him hogtied by the Inquisitor. After everyone sings for a while.

          • Camille

            Very interesting. Thank you.

        • manou

          It seems even Philip was unhappy with Placido.

  • Squillopian Tube

    Any thoughts on whether I should attend the matinee Saturday with Hvorostovsky or Wednesday for Haroutounian’s debut?

    • Camille

      It is not only that Haroutunian, about whom we have heard much of in the impossible role of Hélène in the London Vêpres, but there is the tenor Tamura, and the mezzo Krasteva, all whom are making their first appearances in their roles, too. If you LURVE Dima (as I mostly do except when he is lurching for Big Breaths) you might go see him as Ackaerstrom in the upcoming Ballo in Maschera. You will get Salsi who does not Satisfy on the fifteeneth. Or maybe he will in this part. Thus far, he’s been dried turkey four days old, for me. Maybe he’ll recover some baritonal oleaginousness. Not sure Rodrigo needs it, though.

    • parpignol

      I heard Haroutounian sing this role in London under high pressure: replacing Harteros, singing opposite Kaufmann; and she made a big success of it; of course Covent Garden is a smaller house, but I’d certainly go hear her again in New York if I could. . .

  • La Valkyrietta

    To answer my own question and based on the scant clips in youtube, Ricardo Temura does not seem on the level with Bergonzi, Corelli or Kaufmann by any means, but I am eager to be proven wrong. Still, I thank immensely dear Camilleississima for first calling my sttention to this different cast next week (I never keep up with things as I should) which is not to be missed if you like Don Carlo. I can’t believe I will be seeing the Armenian girl Met’s debut exactly 41 years after I held for a few seconds Maria’s right manina. “O ciel!”

    • Camille

      O La Valkyrietta querido,
      Did you indeed buy a ticket for Wednesday? Let’s hope for the best and not a repeat of today’s dire disaster.

  • Tristan_und

    Anyone else at the matinee today? Absolute FILTH from Tamura replacing Lee. A real fiasco. AND it was radio broadcast as well. What an embarrassment for the Met!

    • Camille

      No, but I listened in, and have tickets for Wednesday night when he was originally scheduled to sing and am now lighting candles for the health of Lee as I will just be sick if I have to sit through my BELOVED Don Carlo and listen again to the likes of what was heard today.

      I am trying to recall when I have heard a similar fiasco. It must have been very hard on Frittoli and Hvorostovsky to sing duets with that tenor. Ohimè, morir mi sento.

      • Bill

        A previous blog had some information about Tamura
        and the fact that he has sung in Germany and
        has a repertoire of some 50 roles. Something
        must have been wrong with him during this Matinee performance. No tenor who sings so consistently flat and off pitch could have had any sort of consistent career. Nor, I suspect, would the Met
        have hired a tenor in the first place who was
        not capable of at least putting on a routine
        performance -- he was engaged not only as an apparent cover but for 4 performances of a title role on his own right. Frittoli in the first intermission backstage cursory interview (Tamura was also part of the interview) indicated that
        they had had at least some rehearsals together
        so if Tamura was always so consistently
        unpleasant to hear at that time, surely the
        Met would have had a backup tenor available
        someplace. What happens for the next four
        performances of Don Carlo (with several role
        debuts) regarding Tamura’s status remains to be seen.

        Camille -- there have been other vocal fiascos,
        sometimes even with celebrated singers, when they have been embarrassingly off form. It is rather tragic for this tenor, if he indeed is normally much better than what we heard on the broadcast
        that this performance on the air is preserved
        for posterity.

        • Camille

          I have no information so will have to wait for some definitive word to come forth, if it does.

          I remember one such other shocking performance, another tenor, Chris Merritt, in his 1997 Rusalka, and it was so upsetting as he had been a great singer.

          Perhaps whatever was upsetting him will have calmed down by Wednesday and I certainly hope so as I can not tolerate this again and will have to leave at the interval again. The real tragedy here is someone has paid nearly $500 for a ticket to this performance and the MET is constantly begting for more money. For what? For this?

        • Porgy Amor

          Tamura’s Tannhäuser:

          “Nessun dorma” (better than the above):

          What we heard today was certainly not nerves. I’m sure nerves were not helping, but there was a physical issue. He may even have been as sick as the tenor he was replacing.

          It was the most distressed performance I’ve ever heard in a Met radio broadcast. The poor guy just had nothing by III/i (with Eboli and Rodrigo), and then a period of rest after III/ii seemed to do him good, but he burned up the meager capital accrued in the prison scene. The sounds I heard in the “Addio, Madre!” portion of that last duet with Frittoli will be burned in my brain forever.

          I’m just relieved for him that he didn’t get the Carlo Bini treatment, because that announcement of indisposition came very late in the day. He had a gracious audience.

          It’s a shame, because I could hear in the work of YNS, Frittoli, and Furlanetto the qualities that are getting this revival good reviews.

          • armerjacquino

            Just a little side issue on this subject- I was in a tech rehearsal all day yesterday and logged into la casa della cieca just before being called to the stage. I left it open so I could see what was being said about the broadcast when I came back (in order to help me decide whether to listen to it on the BBC website later). I had a couple of rehearsal breaks but none of them long enough to join the conversation.

            So go easy on ‘lurkers’, those of you who were complaining. There are all kinds of reasons why people might be logged in without posting.

            • turings

              Oh and point taken about lurkers, armer. Hope your rehearsals went well!

            • armerjacquino

              Thank you!

              Tomorrow’s BBC broadcast is now scheduled to be ZAUBERFLOTE from the ROH. I could have sworn they were going to broadcast the DON CARLO, they generally broadcast all the Met matinees. I wonder if it’s been pulled?

            • manou

              I guess this is aimed at me as I have been upbraided by La Cieca on the subject of lurkers (having ungraciously asked for the old format back without being grateful enough for the present one).

              There has been one instance of somebody (you know who you are) copying and pasting selective bleeding chunks of the chat on another website, which is very unpleasant. And I do dislike the fact that we do not know who those 40 odd people are who are silently listening in. If they could be identified, I would not mind at all.

              I just want to know who listens to me.

            • The issue, Manou, was that in the old format, people were able to lurk, but the participants had no idea they were there. So the only real difference is that now you can see that number: there probably have been lurkers all along.

              That said, following the end of the Met Saturday broadcast season, I will start researching alternative chat interfaces.

            • armerjacquino

              manou- it’s not aimed at you specifically- several people mentioned the subject.

              I’m confused, though- I don’t see why signing in as a guest, under whatever name one wishes, is any more secure than just reading the page. If I’d signed in as ‘12345’ or whatever, would you have felt less spied on?

            • armerjacquino

              It comes down to the old, unbreakable law: don’t put anything on the internet that you aren’t happy to have seen by anyone on the internet.

            • manou

              La Cieca -- first of all I should say I hope you are quite recovered and able to see in 3D again.

              I am sure you have other fish to fry than to research different platforms, and if it was indeed the case that anyone had access to the chat completely unseen, there is evidently nothing that can be done and we must put up with whatever format is available.

              armer -- you do make a good point about signing on with whatever name takes your fancy, and it is often the case that some chatters adopt a nom de keyboard different from that of their alter ego on Parterre.

              Maybe I should just relax about the whole thing. If people want to know what I had for supper yesterday, that’s fine with me.

            • manou

              P.S. -- salmon.

            • Lohenfal

              Armer, I don’t recall ever seeing the Met Don Carlos on the BBC listings, which I check about once a week. Did the people at the BBC have some prophetic awareness of what would happen and decide on Zauberflöte as this week’s offering? In any case, they didn’t “pull” it because of the mishap. DC was, however, on several other European stations yesterday.

            • armerjacquino

              manou- I am seeing something lightly grilled, with some new potatoes and watercress, and a glass of crisp white wine on which the condensation is visible.

              Lohenfal- that’s a relief. It would be horrible for the poor guy had the Met pulled his broadcast from distribution. My natural curiosity is battling with any sense of decency at the moment: I want to hear what happened, but I don’t want to rubberneck.

            • manou

              armer -- we so need cameras, as well.

            • Rosemont

              Hello everyone. All the discussion about lurkers prompted me to finally log on and post a comment. I am often one of them during a broadcast. Although I’m an avid opera goer and amateur musician, I don’t have any professional or academic training related to opera. I’ve learned so much from all of you, appreciate the links posted, and often laugh out loud at the commentary. I’m just a little intimidated by all your experience and expertise (you can also sometimes be quite mean to each other, and I’m a sensitive enough soul that I dread being attacked for saying or asking something stupid). I hope we lurkers aren’t shut out. I’m perfectly willing to log on. I just don’t often feel I have much to contribute to the discussion. Anyway, I wanted to speak up for those of us out here who have no sinister motives. We just enjoy the site and the commentary very much. Thanks.

            • armerjacquino

              Elegantly put, Rosemont. Welcome!

          • turings

            I agree, Porgy. It only made it worse that this wasn’t a famous singer having an off night, where at least you know what they are capable of – this was a new singer, who was clearly not well enough to perform, being left exposed on stage for four and a half hours. Speaks poorly of the Met, that they would put a singer, a cast and an audience in that position.

            I did enjoy Furlanetto, Frittoli and Hvorostovsky though the struggles of the tenor obviously had a knock on effect. YNS actually commented on this on Twitter in response to a tweet:

            Volleys of kudos to @nezetseguin for keeping a firm grip on the reins of a difficult #DonCarlo this afternoon! #VerdiWinsAgain #IronMaestro— Joseph Newsome (@voix_des_arts) April 11, 2015

            @voix_des_arts Thank you. Not easy for anyone…— Yannick Nézet-Séguin (@nezetseguin) April 11, 2015

          • Camille

            Yes, thank you, he sounded sick but we had the experience of another singer last week, Mr Calleja, who was obviously unwell, but still perfectly capable of fulfilling his singing role in a professional and competent manner, (apparently with tracheitis, no less, and my good wishes for his recovery as he has a beautiful voice) and not compromising entire scenes with incorrect intonations and just flat out wrong notes and further distressing his partners and making a big, complicated opera all that much more difficult for the conductor to hold the reinns on.

            What I would like to know is this: where was the “C” tenor, as in the cover tenor????? As Tamura was in the “B ” cast, was he the ONLY official cover for a protagonist, name part leading role, at the Metropolitan Opera, supposedly the leading opera house in the world (according to their own assertions)? Aren’t there probably at least two or three tenors on the UWS capable of filling in an emergency type situation? I would tend to think so.

            I will never buy another ticket to another performance on good faith again, as I am going to have to suffer through that Wednesday performance, wearing EAR PLUGS. No subscription for me, based on yesterday’s experience, and back to subscribing to Sirius so as to vet every single thing I consider going to live in the theatre. It was a horrible experience.

            • Camille you are aware that you can walk up to the box office and exchange tickets right if you’re so unhappy?

            • Furthermore, I don’t understand why this means you’ll never again buy a performance on “good faith.” Uh … isn’t every ticket you buy in a way a performance bought on good faith? Cast is subject to change, singers get sick, they have bad nights, and sometimes (yes, it happens) an unknown or not-famous singer can knock it out of the park. So it didn’t happen to the poor cover on Saturday. Exchange/sell/donate your ticket if you’re so miserable.

              But please stop the dramatics over one ticket. Jesus Christ.

            • I wonder what the extenuating circumstances were behind the scenes? Like why did the Met not have another cover when having two covers seems to be their norm?

              But I would like to add some perspective. Yes, Tamura suffered audibly and extensively throughout much of the performance. And yes, he was playing the title character so it’s kind of a big deal. However, the rest of the performance was very strong, with the surrounding cast delivering performance ranging good to very good, and maestro YNS delivering a masterful reading.

              Frankly, I’d rather hear a performance like Saturday’s Don Carlo than one in which there are no vocal trainwrecks but also no notable performances by anyone else.

            • I don’t know. Maybe there was a second cover who was also sick, or maybe there was a second cover who, on the basis of Lee’s apparently feeling fine as of Friday, was released to give a performance somewhere else. Or maybe, since Lee has until now had a very strong track record of good health, it was decided that one cover was sufficient.

              Tamuro says he got the call to go on at 9:00 AM. Three hours on a Saturday morning is not much time to try to find a tenor who sings the five-act version of Don Carlo, and, again, for all we know, Tamuro when called said, “Sure, I’m fine,” whether he actually felt that way or not.

              And you all know very well that if, say, Roberto Alagna had been flown in to sing the broadcast, the web would still be clogged with whining about how the fabulous Tamuro was denied his one chance at Met stardom because Peter Gelb hates opera.

              It was a dreadful situation, but such things are not always easily remediable through even the most assiduous application of hindsight.

            • manou

              Ivy -- it seems to be that you are being a little ungracious to Camille. We all know her style, which is prone to hyperbole and definitely has no truck with understatement.

              Maybe you have been too censorious this time. You should think of her post as emotional -- and operatic.

            • operaghost7

              Kashania, having two covers is not the norm and in fact it is rare.

            • operaghost7: Thanks. I had heard that it was the norm at the Met but I could be wrong.

            • bluecabochon

              I have heard on good authority that Mr. Lee will be singing on Wednesday, barring a last-minute calamity, if that helps Camille’s nerves. :)

            • manou


            • Camille, fear not any wrong tune,
              For Wednesday you shall have Yonghoon.
              With tears of joy and squeals of glee,
              Let us welcome the returning Lee.

          • damekenneth

            “It was the most distressed performance I’ve heard in a Met radio broadcast.” Well, I remember vividly a broadcast performance of Otello in the 70’s with Cassilly and Zylis-Gara in which Cassillly’s voice simply collapsed during Act 1. (He was replaced in subsequent acts.) The love duet was so striking, with Zylis-Gara spinning the most beautiful lines I’ve heard in that role and Cassilly hoarsely croaking out “sounds” that were increasingly frog-like. It was sad and a reminder of how human we all are, even great singers. Cassilly always had, to my ears, a not especially beautiful voice that was nevertheless like steel. To hear him in such distress was upsetting but something to be forgiven. I’d give this Don Carlos a break. Singers don’t always know at the beginning of the performance how their voice will fare. Sometimes a simple cold can enhance the placement, whereas a little further down the line the same virus can bring the voice to its knees.

            • Bill

              We all have experienced performances at the
              Met and elsewhere in which a singer was
              so unwell that it compromised the entire
              performance -- sometimes replaced after an
              act, sometimes soldiering through the entire

              The Met may not be as fortunate as some opera houses in Europe. If Vienna has a singer
              who in the morning is unable to perform,
              they probably have one or two ensemble
              members sitting in Vienna ready to perform --
              or a call to Munich, Budapest, Bratislava,
              Graz or Milan may find a singer prepared to sing the role who can get to Vienna on time
              for the curtain. In the case of Shicoff’s
              illness for one La Juive in Vienna this season as they could not find a ready
              replacement, they simply changed the opera
              and I have been at several Met performances
              in the distant past where that occurred
              Christa Ludwig’s only Fidelio at the Met replaced a scheduled Elektra. Once Milanov sang a Tosca instead of another scheduled opera I think with Tebaldi. The first
              Ariadne ever Broadcast from the Met came on unexpectantly when if I recall a Fliegender
              Hollander could not be put on. Yes, an opera house normally has to refund tickets if an opera is switched but I think many
              patrons would rather here a presentable
              performance of a different opera than
              a disastrous performance of a scheduled
              opera. Or another case -- the first
              Turandot I ever saw in my life which was
              at the city opera, Frances Yeend could not sing so she was on the stage mouthing the words and acting while a separate singer who may not have been fully prepared to go on stage sang the role from the orchestra pit.

              And Camille we do not yet know whether Demura will be presented in the next
              Don Carlo or not. If he is truly ill, the
              Met has time to fly in someone from
              Europe if no Don Carlo can be found in the USA. Do not despair as of yet… sometimes credible solutions can be found
              and an acceptable Don Carlo can be located --
              to sing the role -- it is an opera in the repertoire of almost every major opera house in the world (unlike La Juive for example).
              I guess the most distressed singing I ever
              heard was a 1966 Tosca in Vienna -- di Stefano, who had been in fine voice the
              previous 3 months in a large variety of
              roles in Vienna, simply, as the opera began,
              could not sing and of course the house was
              packed with his admirers. He sang almost
              all the higher notes an octave down and
              at the end of the first act was replaced by
              a house tenor, Giuseppi Zampieri. It was
              the Vienna debut of the unfortunate Marie
              Collier who was not received very well in any case and never again appeared at the
              Staatsoper. Actually neither did Di Stefano who cancelled the upcoming Carmen premiere and was replaced by James King. So that
              dismal first act of Tosca was Di Stefano’s farewell to the Staatsoper -- but boy was he wonderful the previous month in Butterfly,
              Ballo, Forza, Traviata and just previous to that as Canio.

              As damekenneth suggests Demura probably did not know until he began singing the Saturday
              matinee that his voice was in such distress and then if no other cover was sitting around, what else could he do but continue to try to sing. if he stopped, the broadcast would abuptly stop, a worse scandal for the patrons in the house and the listeners around the world.

            • mjmacmtenor

              Speaking of a last minute switch up -- there’s a famous story of NYCO in Los Angeles (back in the day). Sills was supposed to star in a gala performance of one of her specialties but got sick. Since this was a special (extra $$) show, they could not just do anything. Sills put in a call to San Francisco, where Birgit Nillson just happend to be -- would she like to make her NYCO debut in Tosca? She flew in to save the day -- and btw the tenor also making a debut was a young guy named Jose Carreras. If only all such cast changes worked out so well. Then there was the story of Nillson and the Tristan with 3 different tenors at the met, but that is for another day.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              mjmacmtenor: I never heard this one. Sorry to contradict you, but I believe Carreras’ NYCO debut was as Pinkerton at New York State Theater in 1972. His first ever Cavaradossi was there on a Saturday afternoon on 07 April 1973. Marilyn Horne was across the plaza singing Rosina for the Met “Barbiere” broadcast, so we all got standing room tickets to both ($1 at NYCO, $1.85 at the Met) and ran back and forth so we could hear both of Cavaradossi’s arias and “Una voce poco fa” (the Met was still doing “Barbiere” with two intermissions).

            • Il Conte di Drewski

              I remember Ricky DiGiuseppe telling me the story of his famous ‘Werther’ jump-in during a lesson. He and his wife Lorna were all decked-out for the premiere in tails and gown when suddenly he received a tap on his shoulder: ‘Mr. Bing would like to see you’

              He went backstage and figured he would have to do the same song-and-dance he always went through, which was getting in make-up and costume and having Bing slowly walk him by Corelli’s open dressing room, patting him on the shoulder and saying “you’ll be great, in bocca al lupo”

              99% of the time, this tactic worked and Corelli would jealously spring up and agree to sing. Not this time. He simply didn’t know the part well enough. So, despite having sung a complete dress rehearsal of ‘Cavalleria’ that afternoon at NYCO, Ricky went on for that premiere and scored a success. He had so many great jump-in stories, and many of them involved him doing two performances in one day (jumping in for Cassio at night after a ‘Fille du Regiment’ matinee) The man was just a machine.

            • mjmacmtenor

              Well, I may have been wrong about it being Carreras’ debut. It seems it was in 1974 ( so he was pretty new ) and apparently the Angelotti was some guy named Ramey(!).