Cher Public

Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first misattribute

Born on this day in 480 BC playwright Euripides.  

Born on this day in 1865 librettist Carlos Fernández Shaw

Born on this day in 1902 librettist Montagu Slater

Born on this day in 1907 bass Nicola Moscona

Also born on this day in 1907 soprano Jarmila Novotná

Born on this day in 1923 tenor Sándor Kónya

Born on this day in 1928 tenor Spas Wenkoff

Happy 63rd birthday soprano Kathryn Montgomery-Meissner

Also Happy 63rd to baritone and actor William Shimell

  • WindyCityOperaman
  • Parsifalito

    Goodmorning to all parterrians!
    celebrating the birthday of Elektra’s orginal creator, here is a me critical review of a Strauss -- ELEKTRA concert-version performance, given 10 days ago at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest! Enjoy!

    “Last Sunday’s Elektra performance at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest proved to be as an exciting musical souvenir as the first-class cast and orchestra promised it would be. Since it was only a concert-performance I had the big opportunity to focus more on the musical/interpretation aspect, thus being unbiased due to a potentially catastrophic “regie” (which is nowadays very often the case in central Europe, latest example being the atrocious new Elektra productions in Vienna and in Dresden). In other words, better listen than watch! In any case, being seated in the first raw of the gigantic (seating 4060 spectators), grandiose during the Communist time but now shabby “Sala Palatului”, I had the pure joy to appreciate thoroughly the full cast appearing on stage.

    Elena Pankratova in the title role was, to a big extent, a reason per se to assist this event, since it was my first time hearing live this Russian soprano who is actually having an important career in Europe. Dressed in a rather unsuccessful –for the occasion– gown, Pankratova took the stage radiating waves of self-determination in the aim of achieving a personal triumph. And this, judging by the final applause of the Romanian public, she had, at least to an extent. Her instrument is big (not huge) with no significant vibrato or pitch problems and the voice is round, warm, and very reliable. I was first quite pleased with her very decent german diction, untill some rather awkward parlandos (e.g. “ich hab ihm das Beil nicht geben können”) where she was betrayed by a slight (definitely NOT as in Silvia Sass’ case) slavic accent. In addition, I sometimes had the impression, especially during fast dialogues, that she still didn’t know very well the part, or that she still wasn’t in full command of it. Indeed, from what I know, she has sung the part only in Dresden, which makes her still a newcomer. On the interpretation side, she surely seemed to be quite involved in the drama, being indeed the more energetic and active of all her co-singers on the merely one square meter that she disposed next to the maestro’s podium. However, I never saw any sign of a “refined” and deep interpretation, neither did I feel that she could potentially deliver much more dramatically during a staged performance. The whole acting/singing approach was somehow heavy, slightly provincial, “déjà vu” and “aufgesetzt”. With other words, she surely can and will bring a random “amateur” public to a standing ovation, BUT don’t have such high expectations if your reference is Borkh, Varnay or Jones. To sum up, and with all due respect, Pankratova is a very good but not great Elektra, and we definitely will be hearing her in this role over the coming years.
    Anne Schwanewilms is a singer that I have already heard and was always puzzled about… It’s also a singer of whom I have had a very bad cracking experience when I saw her as Kaiserin in Salzburg in 2011. It’s very much true that she represents a “Geschmackssache”, meaning that you either like or dislike her. I tend to belong to the latter category but I will try to comment on here as objectively as possible. Before that, I have to underline that Chrysothemis IS –according to my humble opinion– THE more demanding role in this opera. The tessitura lies higher than Elektra’s, she has more high Cs, and she often (especially in the final scene), has to compete with a thick orchestration. Add to this the facts that the character lingers dangerously between dreaming and hysteria, as well as that she constantly leaves and retakes the stage (whereas Elektra never gets away from it, remaining consequently in the drama) and you have the perfect killer-role. On the dramatic side, the extremely tall and beautiful German singer has a lot to offer, satisfying even a demanding opera goer. Her approach is not at all hysterical (forget the sublime hysteria of Rysanek), but there is an underlying, tacit and intelligent commitment in it. Her Chrysotemis is elegantly static, emotionally involved and suffering “de profundis”. On the whole, her presence and her look reflect a certain romantic intoxication (e.g. the way Senta, and partially, Elsa, should be) that offers mesmerizing moments. Getting, now, to the vocal part, things get very perplex, resuming up to the word “uneven”. The voice is quite metallic and has by no means the warmness you would expect for the role. While hearing her strained singing I was constantly thinking “why is she doing this to her and to her chords?” And of course, as I always mentioned, high notes didn’t always soar… There were at least 3 big cracks (e.g. her final “zurück” when leaving the stage with the Mägde before Aegisth’s enter). On the other hand, in the final scene, her “bei meinem Bruder stehen” and her final “Orest” cry were there, on the pitch, cutting brilliantly through the loud orchestra. I left the concert hall once again puzzled about Schwanewillms…. I really don’t know whether that’s her fach… From the other hand, she does possess the metallic edge, the volume and the stamina that Strauss’ scores require. She is like a new (and, by the way, looking very much alike) El. Schwarzkopf who is trying to surpass her limits. From the other hand, this “unevenness” is a standard characteristic of great singers, nevertheless not during a one and sole performance as this is here the case. Summing up: a singer to be taken serious of! To make up my final mind about her I would like to see her in two crucial and opposite roles: Marschallin and … Isolde.

    Agnes Baltsa’s Klytämnestra was a sheer joy to watch and listen. Undoubtedly her commonplace drawbacks are there as always: idiomatic german, a rather soubrette than mezzo sounding ton, lots of parlato… Nevertheless, first, this issues have been there since many years and never impeded her from having the great career she still has and, secondly, this veteran (47 years of career so far) is clever enough to make best use of them. If I am not mistaking Baltsa first sung Klytämnestra in Tokyo in 2005. In these 10 years, the role became a calling-card for her, singing it around many big houses in Europe. I have seen my compatriot at least 5 times in this role (first time being in Athens in 2007) and its obvious that it is now a paraderolle for her. During these years I haven’t noticed any specific changes in her approach. However she looks and sounds nowadays even more confident and professional. Baltsa will soon be 71 old, currently looks maximum mid 60s, and from what I heard and saw, she has at least 10 years to go, at least if she intends to. Its interesting to add that Baltsa was laureat of the Enescu Competition in 1964! Elegantly dressed and with a hairdo that reminded a blond “Cruella de vil” she took the stage as a lioness who had just escaped from a cage. Although rather static, her singing/talking and her whole body language was genuine and extremely expressive. Her approach to the role is solid and clear and I would identify it as a “herodias” approach. Her Klytämnestra is neurotic and regal in the same time. She reflects a woman that was and still is pretty (never to be forgotten that Klytämnestra was indeed the sister of the Belle Helene). Admittedly she tends to portray a rather demonic, egoistic and ruthless character (like Jean Madeira’ Klytämnestra), than one plagued with guilt and raising sympathy (à la Rysanek). Despite her still “special” accent she makes great things out of the text, of which she has total command. I was amazed seeing maestro Weigle lip-singing ecstatically along with her during the dream monologue. A special remark should be done to her laughing at the end of the scene, which was a performance per se. Add to this the fact that Pankratova had just taken a short break out of the stage and that leaves Baltsa alone on the stage laughing at her daughter who was not there. A true stage animal! At the very end of her scene, while exiting the stage, she turned for a last time towards Pankratova, her eyes radiating hatred, and soared a last menacing and electrifying laugh. A breathtaking Sternstunde!!! A great artist!
    René Pape’s Orest provoked mixed feelings to me… I had heard many times this artist in the Berliner Staatsoper during the 90s, that is before he acquired a big-opera star-status, and, although he definitely is a fine singer, I always thought that he is somehow overestimated. His contribution to this performance did nothing than reconfirm my belief. Starting with, I should mention the fact that he was the only soloist that appeared with a partitura which he constantly consulted… Secondly, he looked a bit abstracted, out of place, tired and slightly bored, like if he had 5 concerts in a row and this was just one of them. I also constantly had the feeling that I was facing someone singing oratorio than one of the most drama-filled scenarios ever written. Of course, there was nothing negative about the voice itself who still is impressive and majestic. But, then again, who said that opera is just about voices?
    I had never heard Ulrich Ress live before and he was, admittedly, a pleasant surprise. Beautiful and healthy voice, good articulation, correct role-approach. Everything that you would expect from an Aegisth was there. The only remark I could add is that his murder-scene cries were somehow lacking stamina and passion (which of course is sadly very often the case in this role).
    Last but not least, concerning the orchestra (Bayerisches Staatsorchester) and their maestro, Sebastian Weigle, I can only do a very laconic comment: the Bavarians know their job very well, and they accomplish it wonderfully! A thrilling evening! Bravo a tutti!

    • gustave of montreal

      Parsifalito: did they use the Strauss gigantic orchestra or the reduced version? Its scored for a large battery of various clarinets Eb, D, C, Bb + two basset horns, heckelphone, Wagner tubens, contrabass trombone etc.

      • Parsifalito

        As far as I can tell it should have been the gigantic one!

    • spiderman

      Interesting what you say about Schwanewilms. She might be one of the most-cracking-singers around (I still love her). I think this comes from two sources: When you read (or listen to) interviews with her she is talking about her technique which is about trying to sing with as little effort as possible and little preasure on the vocal chords but that causes a lot of risk. However I have the feeling that -- as a former mezzo -- she just doesn’t have that natural super glorious top register and so her high notes depend on her daily disposition and form. Sometimes she can hit even quite good high c’s, sometimes not.

      • Parsifalito

        I totally agree with you. As I mentioned… the word “uneven” summarizes everything about her. Nevertheless she is a very interesting singer

    • tiger1

      Dear Parsifalito, You wrote that “Chrysothemis IS –according to my humble opinion– THE more demanding role in this opera. The tessitura lies higher than Elektra’s, she has more high Cs, and she often (especially in the final scene), has to compete with a thick orchestration.” Well, Chrysothemis does not even have one high C (her highest notes are a Cflat and some Bs). And the part of Elektra is perhaps double the lenght of the part of Chrysothemis. And you can hardly call the orchestration when Elektra sings Donizettian. So I really wonder what is your basis for finding Chrysothemis the more demanding role.

      • Parsifalito

        Its interesting to read what Rysanek sais in the epic biografical book “40 Jahren Operngeschichte”. Having sung both parts (and of course the third part as well) Rysanek clearly points out that the younger sister is the most difficult to sing, to act and to portray for the reasons mentioned above.
        As for Elektra herself, the role is scenically rather (I would say VERY) static (Borkh and Herlitzius excluded) with the exception of the last tanz which -- FAR bei being a 7-schleier-tanz- is usually equally statically and often even ridiculously performed (e.g. Watson, Connell, Marton, Secunde, Polaski… the list is big and excludes Gwyneth!).Its true that Elektra never leaves the stage, but, first, that hepls the singer to stay IN the drama and secondly, she does have two long on-scene pauses (her mothers and her sisters monologues). Poor Chrysothemis has to RUN in and out of stage constantly and and she does have to compete with a thick orchestration and chorus at the end. Lastly I surely haven’t sung any of these parts, I do respect your pont of view, but I definetely would take serious an experts point of view (and thats Leonie’s).

        • tiger1

          Is there not a tendency for singers to believe that the part they are singing is the most important and difficult? A close relative of mine sang Madama Butterfly and her Suzuki kept saying, when they were together in the wings, how difficult Suzuki was, how important she was for the story etc.
          As I understand it, Chrysothemis was the main part of Ms Rysanek (notwithstanding her forays into both the two other main parts) and it is maybe only natural that this is how she views the parts.
          It is saying, in my view, that (i) the cuts traditionally made to Elektra is to help the person singing Elektra, not the person singing Chrysothemis and (ii) that it is much more seldom to see a Chrysothemis that cannot sing the part than an Elektra that cannot sing that part.
          I have noticed that you do not answer about the high Cs -- I will not rub it in (c;

          • armerjacquino

            Is there not a tendency for singers to believe that the part they are singing is the most important and difficult?

            Maybe, but recency would indicate that if Rysanek were suffering from the kind of vanity you suggest, she’d have said Elektra or Klytemnestra so as to big up her more recent achievements.

            It’s possible to overanalyse- if Rysanek said she found Chrysothemis harder to sing than Elektra, it’s probably because she did.

            • tiger1

              Ouch! (c;

              I was not implying vanity on the side of Ms Rysanek but rather an unconscious preference.

    • Camille

      This was really very interesting to me to read, Parsafalito (love your name), but I was to busy with my own bullshit yesterday to get back to you. Interesting because, I too, have had experience of the singer Anne Schwanewilms which somewhat mirrors your experiences.

      That is to say: I have seen her twice in concert performance as Chrysothemis and two or three incomplete performances of Die Kaiserin in FRohSCH, and have been both very impressed AND perplexed by her. Ultimately, she won me over and I esteem her highly but not without some reservations, especially about those acuti, or the lack thereof, in her performance as Die Kaiserin which has really GOT to have that glittery, steely and relentless top, otherwise, and this is just for me, the conception of her as an otherworldly, fairytale-type character doesn’t work. It is that EXtra high tessitura that makes her an Extraterrestrial, visiting our dingy planet Earth.

      Now, this quality Frau Schwanewilms didn’t have much of. She has a very particularly interesting and unique timbre, though, that one either accepts or doesn’t. From what I’ve heard of her Elsa in a Lohengrin she sang in where ?Paris--?? with Klaus Florian Vogt, she would sound about PERFEKT in this role. She is intelligent and quite interesting to watch as she does unusual things in her characterizations, at least she did with her Chrysothemis at the NY Philharmonic concert, a terrific occasion which I will always remember.

      Now, I had not known at all that she was a mezzosoprano at one time and that really surprises me as I don’t hear the usual tell-tale signs of P.U.M. So she has disguised herself most intelligently but, apparently, smart as she is, those extreme acuti can’t be faked.

      Anyway, thank you so much for reporting in on this singular Festival event as it is very interesting to hear about these other, out of reach places. Recently someone wrote, was it olliedawg? a long piece about seeing an opera in Sweden which I haven’t finished reading but was grateful for. I wish more people would write in about opera in, say, Japan or Dubai or Down Under, or Venus or the Moon, for that matter, as it is very instructional for us to all remember there is a wide, wide world of opera out there, and although we are here in New York City, the center of opera here in the U.S., or the BIGGEST anyway —- there are artists and works being performed out there that we should all know more of. It is a wide, wide, wide, wide world of opera. And mad.

      • Camille

        Oh, and I would certainly agree that Leonie Rysanek, die Heilige, is an EXPERT on the opera of Elektra, as how many singers have sung all three roles? (a job for Krunoslav) BUT, she sang the Titelpartie only for recording/video and the Klytemnestra was a very late in life addition, after she had sung umpteen performances of this opera. and had golden opportunities to observe the role sung by the very best representatives of the role (Oh, I am so glad you mentioned Jean Madeira, as I really like her very much in the role).

        For me, despite the hardness of Elektra’s part, and all the physical stuff she has to sustain and sing, then to finish off with that really Dumb Dance at the end (at least that’s how it generally comes off), Klytemnestra has the most difficult role, because of the nature of the music which is getting into very atonal waters. A singer of my acquaintance who performed the role once told me it took eighteen months to two years to learn the part, e.g. That, plus the fact she has got to be a fantastic actress to really pull it off! I am AMAZED and highly gratified that Agnes Baltsa is still able to pull this off successfully and my hat is off to her. Brava, diva! Only Plácido gives her a run for the money for longevity, I reckon.

        Chrysothemis has more of the grateful music, generally speaking, but, really, NONE of it is easy. I suspect Leonie Rysanek may have said this because Chrysothemis was the role she was most identified with for decades, and therefore may want to add a little lustre to the patina of her formidable legacy. I mean, a singer’s vanity and all…..

        Look at the score and maybe you will agree, I don’t know.
        Anyway, just a thought. A great work; I love it, Dumb Dance and all.

        • Parsifalito

          Good morning Camille and thank you for the reply! I never would have thought that Schwannewilms started as a mezzo. Amazing! I would love to hear as Elsa (die “kleine Isolde”), and also as Isolde.

          It would be very interesting to do a research concerning those singers that have sung all three Elektra-parts. From what I can remember now, there are only 3 ladies that have done it: first Rysanek, then Jones, and lastly Marton. Rysanek may have sang the leading role just in studio for the grandiose 1981 film, but she is the only of these three ladies who is more associated to and remembered in all the three parts. Her involvement in the piece was very intense and spans over 43 years (1953-1996) and, in addition, she is the only one with commercial discography/videography in ALL three parts (about 10 references totally). Ironically, when an average german opera-goer thinks about the tile role, the first image thats embedded in his mind is from the 1981 film.
          The list of the singers that sung just two of the parts is rich: Varnay, Mödl, Bjöner, Sass, etc.
          Nadine Secunde, Alessandra Marc, Eva Johansson and Luana de Vol have all sung both sisters and they are -theoretically- all still “around”. In other words they qualify for the drei-rolen-record. Can you think of any other?

          • tiger1

            When you say Jones, Parsifalito, I assume you are referring to Dame Gwyneth Jones. But I think you are mistaken, as far as I know she never sang Klytamnestra, only Chrysothemis and Elektra (a late assumption was Herodias but that is another kettle of fish, I would say). Of course, I could be wrong.

            • Parsifalito

              Hallo tiger1! Dame Gwyneth did sing Klytaemnestra in a concert-version of Elektra conducted by Edo De Waart in Hong Kong on September 19th 2005. The title role was sung by Susan Bullock. The critics for Jones’ Klytaemnestra were poor and, therefore, she never sung the role. She most probably did this attempt just to fullfil the “3-roles-achievement”.
              She sung Herodias in Vienna in 2012 and that wasn’t (vocally) a happy moment either. But then again, Herodias is not Klytaemnestra.

            • She probably sang all three on the same evening because the others were sick.

            • Krunoslav

              Dame Gwyenth also sang Herodias in Baltimore in 2004 opposite Nina Warren’s tolerable Salome and Chris Merritt’s pretty strong Herodes. She was largely inaudible but waved her hands a lot and looked great.

  • Krunoslav

    ‘René Pape’s Orest provoked mixed feelings to me… I had heard many times this artist in the Berliner Staatsoper during the 90s, that is before he acquired a big-opera star-status, and, although he definitely is a fine singer, I always thought that he is somehow overestimated. His contribution to this performance did nothing than reconfirm my belief. Starting with, I should mention the fact that he was the only soloist that appeared with a partitura which he constantly consulted… Secondly, he looked a bit abstracted, out of place, tired and slightly bored, like if he had 5 concerts in a row and this was just one of them. ‘

    Pape’s usual mode of the last decade, i.e. after the genuine successes which have rendered some unable to call him anything but ‘the great bass” on his every bored, phoning-it-in appearance.

    • ML


  • JohninSeattle

    Tailor to patron: You ripa dese? (Euripides?)
    Patron to Tailor: Yeah. You menda dese? (Eumenides)

    I’ll show myself out…

    • Camille

      Please don’t!

      At least I loved them.

  • steveac10

    The Met front page now has a short video with an excerpt from Goerke’s In Questa Reggia. Sounds(and looks)very promising. It’s a pity the Turandot live stream is not from her performances. Buzz from the dress is that she was killing it. It’s also apparent from Goerke’s twitter feed that she is very well liked by the chorus and orchestra(as is Nezet-Seguin).

    • reedroom

      Always liked her, from her debut here in Seattle years ago. Heard the FrOSch on the radio/Sirius and was mightily impressed. Sounds good on the Met homepage video but is slightly flat to the orchestra. I have not doubt she will hit it out of the park--she’s a smart musician.

  • Camille


    LAST NIGHT, New York City………

    No, it is still not Fashion Week here in NYC, (nor was I celebrating Yom Kippur as I belong to the Church of Beethoven), but was the Final Dress Rehearsal, which was exceptionally given during the evening hours as the house was otherwise dark, of that timeless and beloved chestnut, ‘The Apotheosis of Belcanto’ as I am won’t to call it, Il Trovatore and here are my impressions of THAT Girl from Krasnodar and The Sec-say Guy from Siberia…..

    Through the kind intervention of a gracious doyenne, I was invited to attend the Dress Rehearsal of this great Verdian work, and as it turns out—SO glad I did, as it was — Camille CRISWELL PREDICTS — a Really Big Show and a BIG HIT. If you are down in the dumps from suffering through a bummer of a First Night, well here’s hope, I promise!

    These are my Notes and not a “Review”, and as seen from Orchestra Row K (first half) and Grand Tier for the second half.

    (Lovers of Brevity, be forewarned: go elsewhere)

    Maestro Marco Armiliato commanded the troops of the gallant Metropolitatn Opera Orchestra, and its equally gallant and hardworking chorus as directed by Donald Palumbo.

    Stefan Kocán was the Ferrando. He looked good but sounded a little muffled from Orchestra K. Maria Zifchak, the *Thelma Votipka* of the 21st c., was the Ines, doing standard Ines fussing about and sympathetic inclinations towards her mistress.

    Anna “The NEBS” entered wearing a wine-coloured gown (burgundy or merlot, ich weiss gar nix but La Cieca would certainly know!), and the reason I make note of this is because of her VOCE sounding exactly like the dress, wine-coloured velours. Beautiful, soft and dark, and with a minimum of chopping phrases, my pet peeve. At the cadenza of this bellissima cavatina, “Tacea la notte”, (so notably used in the film Luna, even if the preposterously posed Jill Clayburgh lip-synched her way through), she sang the ‘Antonietta Stella’ version, a turn, which starts on a B flat and goes up to a D flat, which she sang not at full mast but softly and, as she did so sank down to the ground as if in a trance of this mystical love, a great effect. One knew this Leonora was a goner from the get-go! The “Di tale amor” was notable for its rythmic crispness and well-executed staccati, a notorious pitfall for the soprano—just listen to the various versions of it, as sung by Clara Cluck-a-Lot! She has obviously been working very hard with someone. The trills sounded quite real, as well, miracle dicta, and she took the high option on both sets of the cadenza, meaning no descent to a low A flat. Standard end to cabaletta, none of those monkey-business cadenzas as are sometimes inserted.

    Then Dima (‘THAT Guy from Siberia’) came in and we loudly bravoed him and he cracked a little smirk. He was looking very serious (I was inspecting him through my opera glasses from Row K, anxious about his health as I and half the world have all been; he seemed to look okay but because of the makeup one could not really tell that much). I wondered if he would sing out fully (the guy before the opera reminded us, Duh, that it was a rehearsal and singers would and could mark if they so desired), and yes, he DID. He sounded like his usual self, if a little woofy at times. That’s okay. Dima can woof me any old time.

    I had actually forgotten whom the tenor was, so when Younghoon Lee came on I was pleasantly surprised. He sounded pretty good and looked well in the part: tall, and the ardent young lover, and has a pretty lock of hair that falls over his face at times, nice effect/affect. The trio ensued in the usual manner with the usual small cut toward the end, and Anna did not take the high D flat (not written anyway but beloved of sopranos AND tenors, of course!) Maybe she will in performance. Stay tuned.

    The anvils, the bare chests, the floozies and the gypsies and THEN—as she has been doing for nigh onto the last thirty years, Major DOLORA came on. Now, one may, or may not, like the particular timbre of her impressive instrument (and the middle register, around F5 to a C5, is just all sorts of weird intonation) MAH! You gotta give the old girl credit as she still honks it out as LOUD AS EVER, and she is now — as the excitable little young lady behind me said “She’s 63 years old!!!!” Yes, it is remarkable that thirty years down the pike she is still throwing babies upon the fiery coals….Replacing all her replacements, i.e., Stephanie Blythe, [pacem.] She even makes an attempt to “trill” in “Stride la tampa”, well kinda, anyways, she shakes her stuff at you. She and Lee interacted very well together and she sure saves the makeup department a lot of work ’cause basically all they have to do is slap that wig on her and tell her to go out and be OLD! Easy-peasey! (I can do THAT, too!) Major Dolora did NOT take the written high C in the cadenza of the duetto with Manrico (much to my chagrin as I would have loved it — maybe she is saving it for performance) but she was especially coo-coo and menacing to him. Little Azucenas in the audience, take notes!!
    [n.b. --Zinka Milanov used to always ask the audience that — “Are there any little La Giocondas out in the audience?” politely, and of course reflecting the spotlight right back on her own tiara! I just read about it — ask Our Own zinka!]

    Then came Dima and his big “Balen”. No, I am not imitating he’s a whale or has a whale of a sound, either. He sounded as per usual and took that G5 they always stick toward aria’s end, but a bit diminished and/or mixed registration. He then sang the cadenza with the same G but in full voice, as if to convince himself, and us, that it’s all there. It is. We bravoed him big-time. Who doesn’t love the guy from Siberia? And if you don’t, please STFU as he is ill and undergoing treatment and needs all the love and support he can manage to get. So grateful and happy that he made it through to these performances and that the one on the third of October will be preserved.

    The convent scene went as usually. Anna did not sing the little thingey to Ines (“Degg’io volgermi a Quel”), a mini-masterpiece less than a page ong, exactly the way I like it (that would be April Millo, 1989, just sublime), but it was still perfectly fine and the coloratura effects in the ensuing ensemble were little brilliant flashes of light, like so many little goldfishes darting in and out of the swim, and just as they were meant to be, and in tempo. Younghoon/Manrico sang the final “Sei tu dal ciel discos” along with Anna, a practice I thoroughly dislike! it is written for soprano alone but it is such a fabulous line and so grateful that the tenor just has to jump in—I wonder where and when that practice became acceptable? Julian Budden to the rescue on that one.

    INTERMISSION —-- Artificial resuscitation was necessary for my gracious doyenne, as she was fainting from delight!

    We migrated, at the insistence of Our Gracious Doyenne, up to the first row of the Grand Tier, or as I call it, the ‘Big Beast’ Level. From there, Stefan Kocaáan’s voice miraculously tripled in size! Either that, or someone went backstage and told him “Sing out, Louise!” Go figure. Dolora was mad, bad, and sad,--no, not like Lord Byron—but cackling and mugging and throwing punches and spitting at El Conde as she departed, chained and enraged. Maybe OTT and all but a whole lot of fun and it got the message over even if a whole lot of honking went on and not a lot of vocal finesse, but who cares, right? There were a couple places in “Giorni poveri vivea” that could have used a touch or two but I’m not complaining of a woman who is “She’s 63 years old!” God, I remember when I thought that was ‘old’!

    Now, back to Manrico and Leonora, who at this point has abandoned the velvet and the habit and has on the cutest little red kerchief over her head—no more a lady-in-waiting to La Reina de España is she, nor the penitent prospective Bride of Christ, but a Bad Gurl on the Run, just like most of us here at parterre, right? Now, for some reason, maybe the change in my seating--? Younghoon sounded pretty good in “Ah sì, ben bio” but not quite good as previously. Maybe he was saving back. There is no real squillo (again, ask zinka) in the voice and he was reaching, it seemed, a little hard and cut out all the preliminary passages leading up to that notorious C “All’armEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!”, we all know and love to death (thank you, Rossini, for giving Giuseppe the idea for that one, too!) The best thing was when he took out his sword from its scabbard and did a little karate grunt (HUHHHH!!) as he did. Very cute and effective.

    Okay, now it is “La NEBS” show in earnest. The famous, notorious, and glorious fourth act of Trovatore, where a soprano can really show her stuff.

    [If you would like to read more about this act, as it has special importance, I highly recommend the book Leonora’s last act: Essays in Verdian Discourse, by the eminent Roger Parker, an edition from Princeton Unversity Press]

    The “D’amor sull’ali rosee” was littered with loverly trilling and the phrases were beautiful, if cut just a little shorter than I would have preferred, i.e., breathing before and after the “Ma…”. The quality, though of the voice, however, was at times other-worldly and even ethereal. It sounded as if she were spinning a great imaginary net in the sky to safely catch her beloved Manrico, all wispy cobwebs of impossible lovesick dreams. She did not do, of course, that come scritto ninth leap upward to the D flat in alt, but the conventional oppure and ended with her own cadenza rather than what is written, and which I did not recognize. As there are as many as one may imaginify up, go check out the Ricci cadenza book sometime to see what I mean. (One of the best is a low option which the great soprano of the turn of the century Madame Félia Litvinne sang, singular and stunning in its impact.) The high C near the end of the aria was just gorgeous and held long and velvety in texture. I cannot emphasize the velvet quality enough. Brava, and I am sure it will only continue to grow and refine as the interpretation progresses. The Miserere was pretty good, if not quite as good as the aria. She did NOT take the “Leontyne” interpolated high C, thank god, as I hate that one! She did, in compensation, climb up the jungle gum and hang BY ONE ARM whilst singing “Sento mancarmi!”, HIGHLY EFFECTIVE! The cabaletta was especially good and fierce, both verses, and she varied the second one in intelligent manner, singing it more softly at times to reiterate her firmly held conviction she would “die for love”, something Leonora is doing from the first in this opera. Very well studied and done.

    This cabaletta is instrumental in making Leonora a three dimensional figure and I’m so grateful it has been reinstated as it is KEY to understanding Leonora and her fate. She shows her true grit and puts her money where her mouth was in the first act -- )per esso, per esso morirò”).

    Duet with Dima. On her knees. Imploring like a poor woman locked out of her own life WHO will do anything, ANYthing to “salva il Trovator”. He grabs her and runs off with her, intent upon his violation of that Lily of Love, Leonora. Very good in all the florid passage work, again, very tricky stuff. Dima huffs and puffs with the best of them, menacing and nastiness to the marrow.

    Dolora and pseudo-son do a lovely prison scene. “Ai nostril monti” is light and lovely and lilting as it should well be. Leonora comes in and does her thing — note — to me, it was obvious she had been mauled by THAT baritone! She sang “Prima che d’altri vivere” in a way which I have never heard before, ending the penultimate and final notes on an “Ah!” vocalization and it worked fine. I wondered why I had not heard it performed thus before as it is a hard phrase and people work all sorts of maneuvers to manage it. They all sing, as before, straight through to the end. Dolora does NOT linger long on that high B flat of “MAAAAAA-dre!”, but steps down right away. That’s okay, she is giving plenty for rehearsal. Dimitri goes to Leonora’s corpse and looks as if he has intent to necrophiliasize, as maybe all he did before was to muss up Leonora’s hair!!


    We give huge rounds of bravos with La Doyenne screaming “Brava, Diva!” so loudly that La NEBS looks up and smiles. She had come onto the stage doing her big “Howdy folks!” Wave, which I just love about her, for she is as thrilled as we are.


    The thing which I liked SO much about her Leonora, aside from consistently beautiful singing and diligent work on this difficult role, is her conception of who Leonora is: the death-devoted love votary and wild girl rebel. She makes Leonora into a red-blooded woman instead of the stiff, stick-up-her-ass Lady she is, or was, usually portrayed as in die Alten Zeit, and which always has bothered me as, if one attends to looking at her lines with even a cursory glance, one may see that Leonora is as much death-in-love obsessed as Isolde.

    BIG hit! BIG audience favourite and even Armiliato’s often routinier conducting wasn’t routine this time around but full of verve and crisp tempi which held everyone together in the big ensembles and duets.

    A Night at The Opera which is sure to succeed and to please and an absolutely marvelous Leonora from La NEBS. I am very happy for her, for, as a famous singer I once played for told me, “If you can sing Leonora well, you can sing anything”. It would also, therefore, bode well for the anticipated Norma. Also, notably missing was the huskiness, or faintly heard vibrato and overly-darkened sound one heard in her Lady Mac. As good as the Anna Bolena was, this is more mature, relaxed, and assured. She has a most wonderful voice and that dreaminess in her swoon of love in the first act cavatina was a thing of singular beautify which I shall not ever forget. Thank you, Anna Y. Netrebko, and may all goo things come to your in your upcoming marriage.

    I DO so hope this description will help the hearts of others of the parterriat, who, like me, were left unsatisfied by the opening night volley of the MET. This gave me that most precious of all gifts, HOPE, and helped to heal my old and sorry heart of its Noël Cowardesque ennui.

    And especially dedicated to my friend, La Valkyrietta, an old school broad, like me.

    Love and kisses

    p.s. — may g-d forgive me all my typos on this day of atonement and may g-d especially strike down and smite my sworn enemy, Mr AUTOCORRECT!

    • Camille

      p.p.s. — Livestream for the prima of Il Trovatore will be broadcast this Friday, the 25th of September in the usual place at the usual time.

      • ML

        Brava … mit den Fehlern.

    • manou

      This is so entertaining that I am quite sure that whoever is up there will forgive you the typos, and I do as well, as some of them were particularly lovely ( “Sei tu dal ciel discos my runaway favourite).

      • Camille

        HAHAHAHA!! I didn’t catch that one yet! I am SO SO SORRY, however, that I wished Anna Netrebko a whole lot of “GOO” in her upcoming marriage, however.

        Also, pretty sure that Anna Y. NEBS wouldn’t mind a good disco in the sky, either!!

        Merci, Madame. Votre nom est… La Vigilance!

        • manou

          I can understand the perplexity of Lord Autocorrect when confronted with disceso.

          • Camille

            Yes, he also doesn’t like ‘mirabile dictu’

            The ‘goo’ is on me, however.

            If I could, I’d hire you as my editrix, but I cannot. Peccato!

            • Camille

              Musical error must be corrected:

              Dolora singing in middle voice wiuld be from F4 to C5 and
              Dima would naturally be singing a G4 and not a G5.

              And Dima was not ‘*imitating”‘ a whale. Sigh. “intimating” was the intention there, sigh.

              The Girl can’t help it. Sigh.

              Anyway, it is a great show. Go! You will get a big bang for your buck.

            • Camille

              Sorry, his name is Yonghoon and not YoUnghoon. Nor Younghound, for that matter. That one is my culpability but Mr Autocorrect performed the bris on AprilE’s name, not I.

              Also: looking at my information sheet from last night, it informs me that Ms Netrebko’s costumes were specially made for her and not the originals which were worn by Radvanosky. I thought not. Particularly that first gown, the wine-coloured one, which colouration suited her to a particular felicitous perfection.

              Sorry, there are so many errors but if I correct it first I’ll never hit SEND.

            • gustave of montreal

              So after all this verbiage, how was the performance ?

    • JohninSeattle

      “The thing which I liked SO much about her Leonora, aside from consistently beautiful singing and diligent work on this difficult role, is her conception of who Leonora is: the death-devoted love votary and wild girl rebel. She makes Leonora into a red-blooded woman instead of the stiff, stick-up-her-ass Lady she is, or was, usually portrayed as in die Alten Zeit, and which always has bothered me as, if one attends to looking at her lines with even a cursory glance, one may see that Leonora is as much death-in-love obsessed as Isolde.”

      THIS. A 1,000 times THIS.

    • What a fabulous write. Merci bien, Camille chere.

      I, too, don’t care for the interpolated high C in the “Miserere” but I do love a Leonora who takes a D-flat (or C-sharp) in the duet with Di Luna (on “Lo giuro a Dioooooooo”). Did La Nebs take that one?

      • Camille

        Oh, good catch, principe (hey, they are playing your song tonite!). NO, she did not sing it, but then she eschewed many such options and it may be because it was a rehearsal…singing on your interest and not your capital and all that rot. That note is just a plain C6 at that point. I, too, like that note if sung with great and emphatic conviction and not as a display of high notes. Only Leontyne can get away with that C in the Miserere, in my estimation…somehow she makes me like it.

        Manrico also sang his cabaletta in key. Sometimes my ear gets tricked, especially as the MET tunes SO high, so I hummed the note sotto voce until Leonora came on and sang a note I knew to be a C. It was.

        Got my ticket to see/hear La Sondra in her maiden voyage here as Anne of the Thousand Daze….looking forward to that big confrontation scene!!

    • Cicciabella

      What a pleasure it was to read this, Camille. I look forward to the matinee broadcast. And how wonderful that Hvorostovski is back on stage!

    • Buster

      Great piece, Camille.

      • A great read indeed. Thanks Camille.

  • Camille


    Where is it? Has it been cancelled? I’ve gone on through parterre and the MET website and both say NEXT UP: Il Trovatore, Tuesday Sept. 29th.

    • LT

      It’s on Sirius.

  • Camille

    Serious? I thought La Cieca only put up chats that were available via webcasts and Listen Lives. My mistake. TY, LT. I am reinstating mine soon, but not tonight.

    • LT

      It’s always only one performance a week on the website.

      • Camille

        Yes, so I have noted now but why did La Ciechissima post it to the list if it is Sirius only?

        Oh well, one more thing to tet done before the frost gets on the pumpkin.

  • gustave of montreal

    Any lucky person going to hear SIBERIA as advertized above ?

    • Camille

      Are you going to the Elektra in November, gustavo? I’m am thinking of going to that one as it promises to be excellent.

      I might go to Siberia but frankly, the score has never appealed to me that much when taking a look at it. Maybe I should look it over again. …..

  • Cicciabella

    Having recently complained about about a non-CD review in The Guardian recently, I now feel to need to congratulate her on this interview with the fascinating Alfred Brendel:

    • Camille

      Dank U so much for this as he is one of the greatest stars of my own personal pantheon. I just love him and luckily saw one of his last concerts here in Carnegie, maybe not his best but still, it was him. A wonderful artist and sui generis.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Precious talent

  • Quanto Painy Fakor