Cher Public

Baby the reine must fall

To celebrate the opening of the 2015-16 opera season, I’m beginning this new series of “pirate-casts” with a great opera: Berlioz’s Les Troyens in a rare 1972 broadcast in English from Covent Garden featuring the luminous pairing of Janet Baker and Jon Vickers as Didon and Énée.  

Based on the warm response to my recent series about my long affection for live recordings, La Cieca asked me to present each Thursday a gem (along with perhaps an occasional rhinestone) from my collection. We hope they will complement the marvelous programs Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin has been providing on Mondays.

The lively discussion about Dame Janet several weeks ago on her 81st birthday centered on her concert repertoire. But I always found her to be an extraordinary opera performer also and searched out many of her radio performances and broadcasts. Those who fault Baker for her French will have no cause for complaint in her searing portrayal here of the tragic Carthaginian queen, a fascinating contrast to her much-loved recording of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.

Berlioz: Les Troyens  (In English)
Royal Opera, Covent Garden
7 October 1972

Cassandra- Josephine Veasey
Dido- Janet Baker
Anna- Heather Begg
Ascanius – Anne Pashley
Aeneas- Jon Vickers
Coroebus- Robert Kerns
Narbal – Stafford Dean
Iopas – Francis Egerton
Pantheus – Richard van Allan
Hylas – Derek Blackwell
First Soldier – Michael Rippon
Second Soldier – Paul Hudson

Conductor – Colin Davis

For listening convenience, this towering work’s two sections are presented in separate players.

La Prise de Troie:

Les Troyens à Carthage:

  • PushedUpMezzo

    Thanks so much for this. I read about these 1972 performances in my youth. This was Baker’s second set of Didos at Covent Garden. She famously stepped in for Veasey in 1969 having only sung the role in English with Scottish Opera. On that occasion I think she sang in English with the rest of the cast singing in French.

    Enjoying it very much apart from the slight impression of jolly D’Oyly Carteishness when the chorus are in full flow. Baker is quite unmistakeable and in excellent voice.

    Here is a Covent Garden programme (thanks to for your listening pleasure with details of the 2 casts during that run in 1972. Veasey had earlier sung Dido with Jessye Norman as Cassandra.

    • Sciarrone

      Thank you for this. I was at the performance a few days earlier--literally fresh off the boat in England. It was my first experience of this opera and the combination of Vickers and Baker unforgettable and very exciting. I was privileged to hear Baker several times in opera at Covent Garden and can confirm that seeing her in person was an exceptional experience.

  • PushedUpMezzo

    I just bought a ticket for the Bieto Tannhauser in Antwerp next month. Judging by the images on the site I expect it will be quite tame compared to (say) the S and M version of Otello. Let alone the vocal acrobatics promised for Mahagonny!

    • Buster

      I’ll be there for the Sunday matinee -- first Schager was announced for that performance, but now al of a sudden we get Fritz, who is fine too. Do you get Dasch?

      • Feldmarschallin

        Dasch I could hardly hear as Elsa in Bayreuth. She seems to be one of the few where the voice gets smaller after they have a child. Vogt was the only interesting one in the Lohengrin cast but the production was worth the trip.

        • Buster

          How was the Tristan und Isolde? I just read a great review of Herlitzius’ Berlin Parsifal concert:

          • Feldmarschallin

            Herlitzius was amazing as Isolde. From the first moment she was Isolde and her two high C’s in the seoond act were much better than in the earlier performances. Yes the H on Preis was still cut short but the way she does it it doesn’t bother me. She was asked for Kundry next summer but said declined. The whole cast was rather good. Gould could be a little more imaginitive with the words but he has a good sturdy voice. Zeppenfeld was also very good as Marke if not in the same category as Pape. The production was not as good as the Castorp Ring or Neuenfels Lohengrin. It was ok. Quite dark at times and I think next year I will skip the Tristan and go to the single Götterdämmerung and Parsifal. I did spend 6 hours at Wahnfried and you need that time there if you want to see everything properly. Took a 45 minute break for lunch at a Vietnamese restuarnt close by. The virtual partitur is amazing and spend alone more than one hour down there. You can pick out individual instruments, compare conductors and much more. syou all the leitmotivs. In the Neubau they have pictures of all the conductors, costumes from all the different eras (Cosima, Winifried etc) and the miniature sets of productions, then also a movie theater and two areas where you can listen to music. Upstairs then more pictures and stories. Siegfriedhaus is open as well and the main house is totally redone. I thought it was too sterile and didn’t care for all the white cloth hanging over the furniture looking like the family was away on holiday. But do get the headphones which are free and I got there early at 9.45 and was the first in line then for tickets which are 8€ and let you come and go as you please. Frienly staff and I wrote in the book that there should be more chairs where one can sit down. The lady at the desk said she knew that and that the architect always makes things without thinking that real people actually might want to sit down once and a while. The place was full by 11.30 and it was the day between performances so of course others had the same idea as we did. We saw many of the people who we had known from the performances or from the talks at 10.30 by the superb Dr Sven Friedrich who happens to be the director of the Wagner musuem. We went to these talks every morning and they are an introductory to the evening performance and are free.

      • Camille

        Buster--or Cicciabella, too--would you be toing to the Tristan und Isolde in two more days featuring Jennifer Wilson als Isolde? If you do, please report back as I wiuld be interstd in the current status of her voice.

        Dank U!

        • Camille

          The one this Saturday at Concertgebouw with Jaap van Zweden conducting, that is.

          • Camille

            How wonderful, and thanks to both of you. I am hoping for the best and will greedily look forward to listening to this unexpected boon.

            Achtung, LUVTENNIS! Listen up!

            • Buster

              Last minute cast change: Ian Storey replaces Clifton Forbis.

            • Camille

              Yes, Buster--we just heard him announced. Uope he is not ill as he was in the Rienzi here with OONY.

              So pleased to be able to hear this and thank you so much and here is a big kiss!

        • Buster

          I have to work, Camille, but it will be broadcast. The other three Wagner operas van Zweden did there all came ou on CD, so I guess this one will too.

        • Cicciabella

          I’m going, entweihte Götter permitting, and will report on the live experience. As Buster already says below, look out for the internet stream.

        • siegmund

          Listening to the broadcast and Wilson sounds very good to my ears, a real Wagnerian soprano , she sometimes reminds me Flagstad.

          • Camille

            OMGOTT! I thought the same thing and could barely believe the thought “she sometimes reminds me Flagstad” myself, especially in the lower voice.

            Well, LUVTENNIS, I hope you are awake by now as I don’t know if it will be repeated or not, so I hope you catch it.

            I look forward with greatest anticipation to her Met debut, either on October 3rd as has been rumored, or that date in November, I forget exactly when. Let’s see how she gets through the second act.

            I’m glad you said it first, siegmund, as I was frankly afraid to even think it!

            • lorenzo.venezia

              @Camille: I wanted to report back to you, re: Vogt’s Lohengrin— I never really warmed to Vogt’s recorded sound, but in person, in the festspielhaus, all I could think was “this is the voice this music was written for” —and of course the haus made love to his voice, but, as miraculous as the acoustic is, as widder Claggert points out, it can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (I had plenty of examples of that during the Ring). Vogt was brilliant, thrilling, assured. His “Heil dir, Elsa” floated over solo organ tones was sublime.

            • lorenzo.venezia

              oh, also, I’ve been a HUGE wilson fan since I heard her Gotterdammerung Brunnhilde in Firenze (the Fura del Baus with Mehta). It was truly glorious.

            • Camille

              Oh good, lorenxino — I am so happy you had such a great experience to celebrate your Big That is a moment worth living that long for. I can JUST imagine that “Heil dir, Elsa”, and as it should be rather than the troubles which poor Ben always had with that phrase, it always churned my guts with anticipation when he approached it as it just wasn’t really there for him, and it does need to float, as you note.

              Yes, I am beginning to wonder if the cancellation of Jennifer Wilson’s October 3rd performance as Irene in Rienzi in Washington DC is because she will be made available as a last minute cancellation for Turandot, on the same date, but for the entire run as cover,or possible prima, of the Tannhâuser which begins on the 8th of Octobe,r as Elisabeth is in her repertory == no idea if active or not, but still.

              Ancora una volta Tanti Auguri, caro lorenzo.venezia!!! Many happy returns of the day, too!!!


            • lorenzo.venezia

              @camille: I’ve never been much of a Botha fan, but his Siegmund was immense and detailed while the delicate Siegmund-cello passage was melting. His “Walse”s wouldn’t challenge Melchior for length but they rang out bright, sustained and pure gold (and, no, he wasn’t asked to move around a lot). BTW, Petra Lang’s Ortrud was totally sensational, insidious and galvanizing, musically sung, powerful, precise, and downright spooky.

          • Cicciabella

            She sounds great in the house: very warm middle voice, secure top. Galumphing A’s and B flats. The tenor flew in yesterday without time to rehearse, so I won’t hold anything against him. Flagstad probably had a bigger voice, but Wilson stays calm and does not compete with the orchestra. Jaap van Zweden is kicking ass. Fingers crossed for Act II. How lovely to know parterrians are with us via airwaves and in spirit!

            • umangialaio

              Quanta luce nella sua voce! Habemus Isolde(m)?
              Excellent conductins as well.
              Anmsterdam beats Bayreuth 2 to 0.


            • Cicciabella

              OMG How have the Met and Bayreuth not hired Wilson yet? Are they crazy? Fantastic Impatience and Liebesnacht. Pity she’s not partnered properly. Anc is it just me, or is Falk Struckmann singing better than ever?

            • Camille

              Jawohl, Cicciabella. You said it.

              I really liked Jaap van Zweden’s tempi, rather fluent and singer friendly. While I was out of the room there seemed to be a cut of some sort but I was busy and don’t know where it commenced and ended. Hoping Ian Storey will rally in the last act, MAH…..

              Dank U Wel, Cicciabella! it is a thrill to know you are there witnessing it in person, the Concertgebouw being my second favorite hall in the world, I so wish I were there along mit!

              LUVTENNIS!!!! wake up!!!!! I hope you can get a repetition of this!!!

            • Krunoslav

              Even though Wilson has a scheduled TURANDOT performance-- and, I would argue, is no more or less familiar a name to opera-goers in NYC as Lise Lindstrom (people DO know who Stemme and Goerke are), this is how the copy reads on the web site’s page about the cast. What would it have cost them to add Wilson’s name? Nothing. But hierarchies are enforced, decency be damned.

              “Christine Goerke, Lise Lindstrom, and Nina Stemme, three of opera’s greatest dramatic sopranos, take turns in the title role of the proud princess of ancient China, whose riddles doom every suitor who seeks her hand.”

            • Camille

              Right. Unfair. I object. Where is LUVTENNIS to get her equal rights?

              The Brangäne (Ms Prudenskaya) is quite good, if unsubtle in the NachtLied, but who cares).

              I am not betting on the same quality as Turandot as this Isolde seems far more suitable but I may be pleasantly surprised.

              At any rate, a HUGE sigh of relief to hear someone sing Isolde with a relaxed, composed vocal emission. It is tortue to sit there and watch those others force themselves through it.

              Horch! Die Herring singt Mild und Leise……….

            • Camille

              Or maybe she will get some Elisabeths in der Tannhäuser.
              I wish her every success and hope she gets a big break here.
              A remarkable voice and technique.

              Luvtennis, all these years you were right, g-d bless U!

            • Cicciabella

              Thank you, Camille, for listening. Luvtennis and others will be able to listen to this on demand for a while. Wilson’s technique is really amazing: breath support like steel. Alas the Tristan was quite voiceless long before the end of Act III, but everyone was grateful he flew in to save the day. I think Wilson’s in her late forties, but finally the Met and Bayreuth have woken up. Although, as you say, she’s probably much better heard in Wagner than Puccini.

            • Camille

              Cicciabella, I had a hard time tracking this comment back down and sorry for the delay but I had to say YES, I thought Falk Struckmann sounded very good indeed, and in fact, BETTER than he has been sounding for a while, a big relief. He has always been someone I have enjoyed as he is a good actor AND he sang well, but there was a bit of a falling off period. Now he sounds better than ever.

              Yes, I really liked Jaap van Zweden’s take on T&I. A Tristan for the 21st century, no indulgences.

              Also, and this is very tardy, I was very struck with what you had to say in re Jonas and the Puccini album — it was line for line and word for word, just what I had been thinking. Rinunccio, really??? At this point? But the Dick Johnson and other things were really well done, and the idea about him as Edgar really has me intrigued. What a feat that would be this day in age, to have a MET prima of a Puccini opera. Only Der K could pull it off.

              Happy to hear more thoughts about the performance on Saturday from you. Ian Storey was, believe me, on his good behavior compared to his Rienzi here a couple years back, but, well, he was “ill”.
              Dank U!

            • Cicciabella

              @Camille Struckmann got a thunderous applause. I thought Van Zweden got even better in Act III, but, since we could not hear the tenor at all as soon as more than four instruments piped up, it sounded more like a symphony than an opera. The poor guy also kept his eyes glued to the score, which did not help matters. I guess you could hear him on the live stream. Wilson also sounded fuller and warmer from Act II onwards. I did not like Prudenskaja as much as you did. Impressive instrument, but she was just loud, loud, loud most of the time. I think Brangäne’s more interesting than that. But she has loads of vocal talent and was a very good Erda in the Amsterdam Ring.

              So the Met has never staged Edgar? A project that needs to be headlined by a star, as you say. Anita Rach would make a smouldering Tigrana.

            • Camille

              Oh Anita Rach would be PERFECT! Great idea. Now I would like to nominate Latonia Moore as the Fidelia, as she has sung it before in one of those one-off concerts here in NYC, and there is a you tuber out lying about in the fields somewhere……

              Now, whom would we have as Frank? I think a Barihunk might be in order…………..?

              Oh, and Prudenskaya (kana?) is LOUD, but that is better than not being heard, but I certainly think that the Warnung requires a real degree of finesse and skill that most of the singers who yowl Wagner just are not capable of these days, so I give them a discount. I frankly don’t recall what Michelle DeYoung did, in the last set of T&I which transpired here. She was very good in her characterization, however.

              Anyway, let’s get a petition together to Der Gelbster to put on Edgar for us, as Der Jonas would be a HIT! Knickers und ales!

              And where is LUVTENNIS???? Has he not heard this transmission yet?

  • PushedUpMezzo

    I’m going on October 7 and staying overnight as it will be a very late finish if it starts at 7.30. It’s Dasch and Fritz that night. Haven’t heard her recently. Fritz was pretty impressive vocally in the Amsterdam staged Gurrelieder last year. Do you know if anybody recorded it or if there are any plans to revive it?

    • Buster

      Please do report back, if you feel like it. I get Liene Kinca instead of Dasch. Fritz was a great Emperor in the Leipzig Frau too, but he is a little wooden on stage.

      Don’t know about the Albrecht Gurre-Lieder. One of the best things he did in Amsterdam. Have you heard the Markus Stenz one -- great cast!

      • Feldmarschallin

        Well of the Bayreuth performances they were variable. I liked Vogt, Herlitzius, Milling and Koch the best of the singers. Kampe had a great night as Sieglinde and sang much better than she ever sang in München. Botha just stood there and did nothing. Foster is a mixed bag. She can sing the Bögen and has a voice that is not used or worn but does absolutely nothing with the text or role. Cosima would not have been happy. She also is a horrible actress and happens to look like a man in drag. Same figure, big woman but not fat but no curves. But some of the casting in the future seems questionable. A 57 year old Eva who has never sung the role before and is very matronly on stage is not my ideal. Certainly the role of Eva is not difficult to cast. Pankratova and Goerke both no spring chickens either and both who you better read the text before very well because don’t expect anything from them in that regard. All these years Bayreuth didn’t hire fat sopranos and no all of a sudden. Well it is still 5 years off and we all know how fast things can change there. Vinke was quite good as Siegfried after he warmed up. In the beginning I thought that they might as well had kept Ryan but after he warmed up he was quite good. Glorious the conducting of Petrenko and Thielemann.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Also Foster’s voice is not very large. I always wished for more sound and thought that if she sounds this small in Bayreuth I would certainly not want to hear her in München which is much larger. But nice that she has no wobble and not hooty. But not really my type of Brünnhilde.

        • Buster

          Thanks -- I just got a ticket for the Wiesbaden Elektra next year, because I really want to see the production (Rebecca Horn), and Soffel’s Klytaemnestra. Foster will be the Elektra….

          • Feldmarschallin

            Just be warned it is a small voice. I thought Kampe had more volume in the Walküre than Foster.

            • Camille

              Hello Feldmarschallin. I was thinking of you yesterday as was watching a film made in München. Good to know about Foster as I must be careful to avoid her and get Stemme, if I indeed do go to Washington DC in the spring to hear the last half of Der Ring with Stemme, alas perhaps not what she was five years ago now as Brünnehilde but probably better than what you describe Foster.

              How is your Garten? Leaves falling yet or are you still in a heatwave there.

              Kindest regards,

            • Camille

            • Feldmarschallin

              It is cooler now Camille but going to get warmer this weekend. My tomatos are are abundant this year. Lots of Brandywine, Ochsenherz, Yellow Submarine, Goldene Königin, Quadros and two more sorts from Rome. Making soups and sauces for the winter. Have Thielemann tonight with Bruckner and Beethoven. The leaves have been falling here since August since apparently the trees let them go early when they don’t have enough water. Yes an old Stemme is better than a younger Foster.

            • Lohengrin

              Waiting for Your Tomato-Party!

        • Krunoslav

          Die Goldene Königin hat gesagt:

          “All these years Bayreuth didn’t hire fat sopranos and now all of a sudden. ”

          Maybe in your daily nightmares you’ll be transported back in time to complete Wagner performances by large, great Wagnerian stars like Lilli Lehmann, Nordica, Gadski, Kurt, Matzenauer, Kappel and Traubel and be rendered unable to hear a single note that comes out of their mouths.

      • PushedUpMezzo

        Well I’ve just been informed that the Amsterdam Gurrelieder is safely in the can and due out on DVD before Christmas. Can’t wait. I threw caution to the winds and came over for the weekend. Verdi Requiem in Concertgebouw on Friday, the Tristan on Saturday and Rosenkavalier this afternoon. We ended up with Nylund, Ganassi, Pirgu and magnificent basso Roberto Tagliavini as soloists after cancellations by Stoyanova and Kowaljow. Apart from that bass who will make the part of Ferrando unusually interesting in the forthcoming Trovatore, the surprise was Nylund who seemed galvanised by Albrecht in the Verdi and the Rosenkavalier, floating the most beautiful pianissimi and singing with great subtlety. Pirgu still seems to me to be oversinging. Concur with all the raves for Wilson, and Falk Struckmann. Storey did his best and never forced, but was often inaudible. The orchestra and chorus were on fire. I also loved the new Rosenkavalier, which was surprisingly poorly attended. Modern dress, with much emphasis on comedy, but some clever sub-text involving flowers and the passage of time. Very witty updating of the Presentation of the Rose to an over-the-top engagement party in a marquee with a mirror ball. Another Irish mezzo Ocxtavian walked away with the show in my eyes -- Paula Murrihy, recently under contract at Frankfurt. Nylund very stylish looking like a bored older Grace Kelly and Peter Rose was anything but the traditional Ochs. Happy 50th Netherlands Opera!

        • Cicciabella

          Glad you enjoyed the Rosenkavalier, PUM. Loved everything about it myself. Murrihy was indeed a wonderful Octavian. I also liked Müller’s Sophie, although her top can sound steely cold. Gloger and the design team have done a great job on the production. And Albrecht is just wonderful in Strauss. Unfortunately, it’s not a very popular opera here: many complain that it’s too long and wordy. It’s a pity Stoyanova cancelled the Verdi Requiem: I’ve heard Nylund in a Requiem with YNS and she was really good.

  • Camille

    This is a thrill! Thanks a million!

    Dame Janet SHOULD be seen and heard, ’tis true — for I never understood her appeal until I saw her, and then was totally transfixed and amazed at what she did — however, this very important and famous set of performances are in a league all there own and it is a wonderful boon to be able to hear them in this manner.

    And thank you so much for your own grand generosity, Mr CC.

  • Thanks so much, Christopher. I expect to be rather distracted at work for the remainder of the afternoon.

  • oscar

    Thank you Christopher! Troyens is one of my favorite operas and I’ve always thought Veasey was a more natural Cassandre than Didon.

  • PushedUpMezzo

    I’d love to find a copy of the Covent Garden gala in honour of Lord Drogheda of similar vintage. It was the only time I saw the great double act of Resnik and Gobbi in the Reverenza scene from Falstaff and maybe his last appearance there.

  • zinka

    Belem Amparan 9/10/11 STOLE the show in “la vecchia Madelona” Chenier aria…but she did not fare well in bigger parts.

    In “Voce di donna”it is gorgeous…but the broad after her is a bit good.

  • Feldmarschallin
    • Camille

      Oh, THAT—-yes, La Cieca made me an offer I could not refuse and thereby handed over my engraved invitation to Herself, for she HAS to be there, you know…..sigh!

  • Donna Anna

    Wenn unser Anna hochzeit macht….

    • Bill

      According to some interviews, Anna Netrebko’s
      wedding is being planned for December 29, 2015 in
      the Belvedere Palace in Vienna with 250 guests. I am sure as the wedding date approaches there will be alot of press coverage in the Austrian and German tabloids
      where one can keep abreast of the alleged upcoming event.