Cher Public

Simon, pure

There are singers with utterly gorgeous voices who don’t know quite what to do with them, and there are singers with great technique and intelligence who lack the voice to create a totally satisfying performance. And then there is Simon Keenlyside, the most popular artist on your alte Jungfer’s Mixcloud Web site (his Winterreise is second in number of “listens”—approaching 900—and has been “favorited “ 12 times; only Netrebko’s Manon Lescaut has reached a larger audience.)  

In almost a half century of attending opera and vocal recitals, I have never experienced an artist as complete in every aspect as Keenlyside. From Wozzeck to Onegin, from Hamlet to Pelléas, from Rodrigo to Billy Budd, the man is consistently flawless, but hearing him in recital—alone on a bare stage—is revelatory. I can think of no other contemporary singer able to connect with an audience as he does (and I was lucky enough to be at this recital). As clichéd as it may sound, it seemed as if he made eye contact with every audience member, as if he was singing just for you.

I was also at Wiener Staatsoper on the unfortunate evening in December 2014 when Keenlyside collapsed onstage midway through Act II, scene ii of the opening night of a new production of Rigoletto (one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had in a theater; I still wonder why the performance was not halted) and, as I have been told, subsequently withdrew from all performances through at least September, and possibly as late as January 2016, when he is scheduled for his role debut as Renato in Un ballo en maschera on the same stage.

I know you all join me in wishing him a full recovery, but until then, I will post more of his performances in recitals and in opera to tide us over.

Simon Keenlyside
Malcolm Martineau, piano

Wiener Konzerthaus
20 November 2008

En sourdine
Notre amour
Fleur jetée
Madrigal de Shylock
Le papillon et la fleur

“Histoires naturelles”
Le paon
Le grillon
Le cygne
Le martin-pêcheur
La pintade

Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
Aus meinen Tränen sprießen
Rie Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne
Wenn ich in deine Augen seh
Ich will in meine Seele tauchen
Im Rhein, im heilihen Strome
Ich grolle nicht
Und Wüßten’s die Blumen
Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen
Hör ich das Liedchen klingen
Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen
Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen
Ich hab’ im Traum geweint
Allnächtlich im Traume she’ ich dich
Aus alten Märchen winkt es
Die alten bösen Lieder

HUGO WOLF: 2 selections from the Mörike-Lieder
FRANZ SCHUBERT: Ständchen from “Schwanengesang”

  • redbear

    “I am happy to confirm that Nicolai Gedda is still alive. I talked with him several minutes ago. @Codalario” (Tweet from Alejandro Martínez, an editor from the Spanish classical music magazine Codalario)

    • gustave of montreal

      The great Nicolaï would be 90 now.

      • armerjacquino

        The great Nicolai *is* 89 now. No ‘would be’ about it. Born 11 July 1925.

    • Ekaterina

      Was a great stir about this rumor -- one feels sad when the last ones of a very talented generation are going.Still he has some time left -- people are happy about NGedda

  • DeepSouthSenior

    Does anyone know precise details about Keenlyside’s health and/or vocal problems? My apologies if I’ve missed info posted here.

    • PCally

      I’m also curious is there is any specific diagnosis.

      • armerjacquino

        There may well be. I’d say the cancellation of the year’s engagements allows him a great big ‘leave me alone’.

  • Ekaterina

    Winterreise of SK and E.Ax was really wonderful- wrote about it in Philarmonica journal --
    And of course opera characters are quite gripping and thought-and-feeling provoking, the largest part of my book on philosophy of music is based on them. Though in the age of showy glamour this can be appreciated only by a limited audience -- but it does not make the balue of this art less.

  • tiger1

    Some of the last song of Dictherliebe seems a bit too low for Mr Keenlyside -- I wonder why they were transposed so much since he has absolutely no problem in the upper part of his voice. I seem to remember that Dichterliebe is written for tenor and that in the version for baritone some (but now all) of the songs are transposed down.

    • Milady DeWinter

      The classic recording by Ernst Haefliger, accompanied by Erik Werba, is my gold standard for the Dichterliebe. It’s not the beauty of the voice (although he did have some) but the tight collaboration between him and Werba, and Haefliger’s ease of production from top to bottom, and very natural way with the text -- not overly fussy, very attentive to the emotionalism of the poems, but not over the top. A difficult balancing act between the psychology of the poet and the wandering tessitura.

      • Krunoslav


        Very fine choice, one of the first I ever heard. Another tenor set I’ve enjoyed: Petre Munteanu with Franz Holetschek.

        • Krunoslav

          Best tenor ‘Dichterliebe” performance I heard live (maybe best tenor recital too, along with an all-Schubert Prégardien/Gees evening in 1999 in Philadelphia): at San José State in 1991, Peter Schreier and Armen Guzelimian. ‘An die ferne Geliebte’ was also done.

          • Milady DeWinter

            I totally agree, Kruno about the Pregardien Philly recital -- I was there as well. As you know, Haefliger also did the “An die ferne” on that old set with Werba, who assists him through the pitfalls of the Beethoven beautifully. A very simpatico collaboration.

  • RudigerVT

    I agree.

    I saw him in the marvelous Spivey Hall outside Atlanta. I’ve not seen *that* many world-class singers in recital. My touchstone experience, though, was as a voice student attending the regional NATS convention/contest in Denton, TX. In (of course) a large church (with nice acoustics, mind you). It was packed. It was only fledgling singers and our teachers. Geek out.

    Anyway, while she is one of those, you know, “singers’ singers,” she was spellbinding without being demented. Her Chansons de bilitis was frankly, humidly erotic. I think we were all sitting there touching ourselves. Or wanting to.

    Mr. Keenlyside was all that. AND demented. I think it’s one of the finest performances I’ve ever experienced. I feel very lucky.


    • Grane

      Sorry, Rudiger, did I miss something? Who was your humid soprano?

      • RudigerVT

        Oh dear! Elly Ameling.

        • mia apulia

          I heard her once in a recital in a not-too-large auditorium and she was, as you say, spell-binding. When I heard her in a larger room and with orchestra she was much less interesting, sometimes even inadequate and dull. And the fine recital was sort of you-had-to-be-there singing; I was never anywhere near as moved by her recordings as I was by that one recital, which was unforgettable, one of the best recitals I have ever heard.

        • Grane

          Ah! Yes, I love Elly.

  • antikitschychick

    Poor Nicolai; I hope the false news about his passing didn’t cause him any distress, though I suppose that’s inevitable. Best wishes to Mr. Keenlyside as well and thanks for sharing this wonderful recital with us JML.

  • JustinTime

    I was very sad to see how it happened for Simon K during this Rigoletto in Vienna. A shame that the performance has not been stopped … Wish he could recover quickly, he is a nice artist.