Cher Public

The gleam of his smile

Earlier this year when the Met announced its 2015-16 season, the fall revival of Verdi’s Il Trovatore looked pretty routine– except the first US Leonoras of reigning diva Anna Netrebko. Few would have predicted that Friday night’s prima would turn out to be one of the most thrilling—and moving–performances heard at the house in many a season.  

Anticipation turned dark a few months ago when the shocking news came that Met favorite Dmitri Hvorostovsky, the scheduled di Luna, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He immediately canceled all engagements for the next months and sought treatment in London. There was no announcement about the upcoming Met Trovatore run, but few probably expected that he would be well enough to appear. However, last month brought word that he would return to New York for the first three shows!

Doubters had been reassured lately by photos and videos on social media showing a happy-and-healthy-looking Hvorostovsky rehearsing and clowning around with friends and colleagues, so the atmosphere at the opera house before Friday’s performance was electric. When he did first appear from out of the shadows in the middle of the second scene, a huge roar went up from the packed audience and conductor Marco Armiliato stopped the music and joined in the jubilant applause himself. A clearly moved Hvorostovsky basked in the moment and momentarily broke character to acknowledge the love.

Toward eleven o’clock during the final bows, the cheering house rose en masse when the Siberian baritone loped onstage for his solo bow. The thundering roar continued for several minutes as he gestured his thanks to the audience. After the remainder of the cast and the conductor had appeared, groups bows ensued until the irrepressible Armiliato pushed Hvorostovsky out of the line for another solo bow and, in a stunning coup, several dozen white roses were flung onto the stage from the pit by members of the orchestra. Trovatore is not usually an opera that elicits tears, much less by its di Luna, but on Friday evening many in the theater, including an otherwise radiant Netrebko, were seen openly weeping.

Astonishingly no allowances needed to be made for return of Hvorostovky’s glamorously neurotic Count to the still-effective David McVicar production that he had premiered in 2009. If anything he sang better than ever, the voice big and beautiful. The long lines of “Il balen” were spun out with his signature elegance and enviable breath control but also with a minimum of the “huffing and puffing” that had occasionally crept in over the past few years. It was surely as good a performance of Trovatore as he has ever sung. But his return was not the only reason to cheer.

I admit that I wasn’t all that thrilled when I saw that veteran mezzo Dolora Zajick was again to be the Azucena, a role she has sung many times around the world. Through no special planning I happened to be in New York City in October 1988 and caught Zajick’s Met debut in this very role. Not having heard much about her, I was struck then by her unsubtle cyclone of a voice, particularly in an evening marred by Eva Marton’s hapless Leonora and Luciano Pavarotti’s distracted Manrico. In the many years since, I have admired rather than loved her remarkable consistency and vocal health and probably taken it very much for granted.  But during Friday’s performance I think perhaps I finally came to love Dolora!

Even at 63 and after 27 years at the Met—where is there an Azucena anywhere today to compare to hers? Although the middle of the voice—never her strong suit—has gotten smaller and needs to be carefully managed, that indelible chest register and shining top (which would still be the envy of more than a few sopranos) continue ring out with power and bite. And over the years she has continued to refine her crazed gypsy—there was no trace of the routine as she once again recounted her mother’s immolation in a mesmerizing “Condotta ell’era in ceppi.” Another high point was an “Ai nostri monti” sung with an eloquent nostalgia that was quite affecting.

As her temperamental son, Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee sang boldly if blandly. This was my first in-house experience with Lee whose Manrico occasionally got lost on a big stage otherwise loaded with so much high-voltage star power. While he’s tall and handsome, his generic acting consisted mostly of pained looks toward the Family Circle and wide-open arm gestures. The bright, lean voice doesn’t have much individuality but he did deliver a sensitively shaded “Ah si, ben mio,” though he might work on his “fake” trill. Just one verse of a vigorous “Di quella pira” followed, capped by brutally loud, if exciting acuti (and an amusing grunt), but one wishes he hadn’t dropped so many measures of music to prepare for that climax.

As the much-coveted Leonora, Netrebko got off to a rocky start. Her rich soprano sounded thick and heavy in the rapturous recitative leading up to “Tacea la notte” and the sweeping aria itself was decidedly earthbound, riddled with pitch problems. A misjudged cadenza at its conclusion didn’t prevent the adoring audience from giving the piece a long, loud ovation. The cabaletta (both verses) was an improvement but a hoped-for unwritten high D-flat to conclude the trio didn’t materialize. Leonora’s wonderfully expansive lines in the convent scene failed to soar, and one went into intermission fearful about the demanding scena that dominates the second half.

When Leonora arrived at the prison with Ruiz, Netrebko had become transformed. The recitative immediately preceding “D’amor sull’ali rosee” (some of my favorite music in the opera) announced that the world’s most famous soprano had at last come into full command of her sumptuous instrument. The hushed aria itself was a ravishing marvel of silken trills and heaven-sent pianissimi. The subsequent “Miserere” began with a frenzied climb halfway up the gate of prison bars and was frightening in its desperate intensity.

She vividly differentiated the two verses of “Tu vedrai” to convey Leonora’s growing desperation to free her bandit-lover. The subsequent blazing duet with Hvorostovsky sizzled with barely repressed sensuality as she manipulated the smitten Count to realize her scheme—the duet’s usually hectic conclusion has rarely been so thrillingly imbued with wild-eyed triumph. Although Lee tended to bellow in response, Netrebko dominated the final scene with finely arching lines of spun gold as Leonora succumbed to her tragic sacrifice.

A number of times during this special evening one earnestly wished for a more imaginative and precise conductor than the indulgent Armiliato. While I know many singers are happy to see this busy routinier smiling back at them from the pit, on this occasion, particularly during the evening’s uneven first half, he was hard-pressed to keep his forces together. Numerous coordination problems with the chorus were particularly jarring. Things worked better in the often inspired third and fourth acts, but sadly one never felt that Armiliato had much to say about Verdi and Trovatore.

Hvorostovsky appears with this same cast just twice more; those who can’t catch them in the house are exhorted to attend next Saturday’s HD transmission. He returns in February for four more performances, but with a different Leonora and Manrico. Netrebko, Zajick and Lee are joined by Vitaliy Bilyy as di Luna for a pair later next month before Antonello Palombi spells Lee for the fall’s final fall Trovatore on October 17.

Photos by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera; video via YouTube.

  • Thanks as always for your perceptive review, CC.

    Sorry that Netrebko took a while to warm up but glad that she eventually nailed it. And very moving about Hvorostovsky.

  • RosinaLeckermaul

    I wouldn’t be so hard on Lee. After hearing a series of really awful Manricos over the past few years (Fraccaro, Berti), it was a relief to hear Lee in the role. It’s not the most flexible voice, but with the exception of Alvarez, there’s no one around who could sing the role this well. We don’t have Bergonzis, Tuckers or Domingos waiting in the wings. I wish Lee wouldn’t spend most of the night in a kind of crouch — legs apart, knees bent — but I take it that’s how that slender frame can make such a big noise.
    I too like the McVicar production until the final scene, which takes place in the largest, oddest looking prison cell I have ever seen, and one from which it would be easy to escape. More focused lighting would help the final scene.
    Right on about Armiliato. Hard to tell whether he was leading or following. Did he know? Perhaps having the score would help.

    • gustave of montreal

      When I saw Trovatore at the Met, centuries ago, I had the misfortune of hearing Kurt Baum. Enough said.

    • ML

      … with the exception of Álvarez, there’s no one around who could sing the role this well.

      Aren’t you forgetting someone?

  • Camille

    I agree with Rosina about Lee!! He is not perfect, perhaps, but he is trying very hard and so much better than tenor X, Y, and Z out there, and the most junior member of the cast, too.

    This is a Trovatore no one who loves this opera should miss and I am just delighted to see this review of opening night, as I am so moved to hear of all the love shown for our dearest Dima, whom we cannot do without.

    Bravi tutti!!!

  • Rowna

    Such a great opera week for the Met. I decided to make a clip summarizing all three prima (and making many boo boos like forgetting names of people and operas), but heck, you get what you pay for :)

  • Tulip

    Great night at the met!,!

    Not mentioned in this review, Stefan Kocan as Ferrando was a great vocal presence with that super Bass voice of his!

    • Rowna

      Tulip -- in under 10 minutes was hard to mention everyone appearing in 3 operas. And I tried to stay as positive as possible. I know many on Parterre are big fans of Kocan, but I am not one of them :( Sorry.

      • Krunoslav

        Me neither. He was good in RIGOLETTO but second-rate in IGOR’.
        He was not on the words, and he all but ignored the triplets.

        Not bad, but not great.

        • Porgy Amor

          I don’t really get him either. He’s a nice-looking guy with a little bit of stage flair, but he hasn’t sung anything at the Met that didn’t make me want to hear Belosselskiy or Zeppenfeld instead. That certainly includes the Ramfises a few seasons ago.

          • He has a pretty bad wobble. Not a good sign for a singer who’s not at all old.

            • Tulip

              He sang a beautiful Gremin and I think it is an old school, special voice.

              Everyone has their preferences of course, but there is absolutely no wobble -- on that I disagree.

            • Bluebeard

              Perhaps he doesn’t have a “wobble,” but there’s no denying that his voice is often unsteady in any music where the orchestra is anything more than muted (Gremin’s aria is very lightly orchestrated). His Commendatore is a typical problematic performance I see him give so often at the Met:
              Rather than sounding threatening, his forcing that sound just makes him sound older and tired. I really don’t understand why so many younger basses who perform this role think that this is an appropriate way to sing it. Yes, the Commendatory is older, but that doesn’t mean he needs to sound crochety. I’ve always found his scenes as the opera’s most haunting, so shouldn’t we expect someone who can truly fulfill this score? When one considers the fact that it was common practice originally to have a bass double up as both Masetto and the Commendatory, I’d imagine both roles were meant for a much lighter voice than we have come to expect nowadays. Kocan’s no Kurt Moll, so why would we expect him to try to sing it that way?

            • AhLaMaledizione

              Bluebeard, if by “unsteady” you mean, “beautifully supported” I agree. If by “problematic” you mean “solid”; again, I agree. I know you implied that Kocan can’t hold his own amidst heavy orchestration, but I am certain you meant “he can” and “he does” “he does hold his own amidst heavy orchestration” which, again, I am in complete agreement. And you’re right, Stefan Kocan isn’t Kurt Moll, which, you guessed it, is precisely why Kurt Moll’s voice doesn’t come out of Stefan’s mouth when he opens it to sing. I’m so glad to see that we agree on so many things. I find it refreshing and, tbh, rather comforting. But, Poison Ivy, “he has a pretty bad wobble” is just factually wrong, like “Poison Ivy is the best Batman villain” is just factually wrong. Or, “Natalie Dessay is a world class talent is just factually wrong”; or, and this is my final example, “most of you know exactly what you are talking about and I defer to your clearly superior judgement as far as this art form is concerned” is just factually wrong.

            • la vociaccia

              I wouldn’t characterize throaty, ungainly and unspecific of pitch to be ‘of the old school’ but that’s just my opinion.

            • Rowna

              It just astounds me that so many people think he is so good. There are many mediocre and worse singers at the Met. He isn’t awful by any stretch, I just find it surprising to hear so much good buzz about him.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              I’ve never heard of Kocan, but I think he is thrilling in the above clip from Don Giovanni. If this is representative of his usual work, I don’t get the criticism of him.

            • Kocan has the hugest low notes I’ve heard (albeit not in person). His low F as Sparafucile is effortless. And if I recall, he even growled an interpolated low B-flat in PRINCE IGOR. Previously, the lowest note I’d heard was Moll’s C in Act I of ROSENKAVALIER.

            • la vociaccia

              Well it’s not representative of the work I’ve heard from him. I’ve heard him live four times now and he never sounded as good as he does in that Giovanni clip. Prince Igor was especially crude and hoarse.

            • I was in the house. I didn’t hear a wobble at all. I really like his timbre and ease on the bottom. My complaint would be laziness with the “little notes and turn” in this aria.

          • Camille

            I don’t really get what this is all about.

            Does anyone recall the HORROR that preceded him as Prince Gremin? He did that role very well and made a very interesting variant to the usually aged arthritic graybeard they have sing the role, and a pretty picture with the late, great Poppy, who was truly ill and struggling at those performances.

            Now, in the rehearsal I heard on Tuesday evening, he didn’t sound all that clear or delineate the music very clearly in his opening volley “Abbietta zingera”, but I chalked that up to being first up to the bat and getting his voice going. In the third act, after I’d moved to a new place in the house, he sounded just fine. So I really don’t know what this is about but god knows there is much, much worse out there, like the fellow he replaced in Eugene Onegin, who was beyond belief. Whatever.

            • Camille

              “He did that role very well..” meaning Kocán, of course, not his predecessor.

  • Contessa di Luna

    I listened, hoping for the triumphant return of amazing Dmitri, and was more than overjoyed. However, I must say Stefan Kocan rocks! I have never heard him or anyone sing Ferrando better.
    Dmitri, as your voice sounds better than ever, so may your health become better. We wish all good things for you.

    • Krunoslav

      ” I must say Stefan Kocan rocks! I have never heard him or anyone sing Ferrando better.”

      MUCH better Met Ferrandos have include James Morris and John Cheek, back when I was a lad, and more recently Willard White (2002-03) and in the current production Kwangchul Youn (2009) and PT fave Alexander Tsymbalyuk (2010).

      • DellaCasaFan

        I’ve just finished listening to the first two acts, thanks to a generous Parterrian. It’s all fine if someone appreciates Kocan, but Ferrando’s entrance aria was truly wobbly and his voice sounded old and worn out. Far from his impressive Sparafucile a year or so ago.

        • aulus agerius

          Not sharing DCF? Maybe you encourage your benefactor? Pretty Please. Otherwise we wait til Tues nite which is not too bad.

          • manou

            aulus -- I think you will find that Betsy_Ann_Bobolink is a munificent benefactor to all Perterrians.

            • manou

              PArterrians dammit!

          • DellaCasaFan

            aulus, manou correctly pointed to Betsy_Ann_Bobolink, indeed a wonderful benefactor. I hope it is all right that I point to his e-mail address that he provided when the inquiry was made about the Met Trovatore. I don’t know how to link to the specific comment but you may find it close to the bottom of this page:

          • DellaCasaFan

            aulus, I’m also going to e-mail Betsy_Ann_Bobolink about your query just in case s/he doesn’t see it.

          • DellaCasaFan

            I’ve heard back and, of course, it’s fine with Betsy_Ann_Bobolink. Please e-mail me at or to B_A_B at if you are still interested to hear it. Sorry for waiting :-)

      • PushedUpMezzo

        High hopes for Roberto Tagliavini as Ferrando in the upcoming Amsterdam/Paris production. He is doing Colline at the Met some time soon. This very fine account of Attila is from Verona, but the Teatro Filarmonico rather than the Arena. The wig is probably not intended to be viewed in close-up.

  • Batty Masetto

    Bilyy was a very acceptable Miller last night in SF. Not sure whether his voice will carry as well in the Met Barn; it was not the loudest thing onstage.

    To fill in the rest of the blanks: Fabiano was in splendid form, a bigger sound than Bilyy, with a lovely “Quando le sere al placido.” Crocetto was a bit of a disappointment – musical and sensitive, with a mostly lovely sound though the top could get a bit shrill. But sadly, a lump physically. While Fabiano staggered around dying in 50 different shades of grand guignol, she behaved like she was going to expire from an occasional gas pain. (The staging of that whole scene was a farce, though I have to attribute much of that to the assistant who actually directed the production; whatever one may think of Zambello, her Personenregie is usually strong, while the interaction here was beyond terrible.)

    Semenchuk was very effective in her ungrateful role and sounded very good. Daniel Sumegi was a blowzy Walter, not at all in the same vocal form he showed just a few years ago as Fafner and Hunding in the Ring here. I have no beef with Silvestrelli in the right roles, his big raw sound seemed appropriately Wurmish. Luisotti conducted with reasonable verve.

    Apart from the abysmal last scene and the WTF monumental horse, the staging was not nearly as bad as I had expected. It was certainly more attractive, lively and expressive than the stultifying Covent Garden production with Bruson, Ricciarelli and Domingo that can be seen on YT.

    • Camille

      Lumpy Luisa.
      Oh no thank you, please.

      Now so glad I didn’t stuggle and sacrifice to get there. Saving my airmiles for Don Carlo next summer. Who else is singing? Stoyanova, Pape, Kwiecien. Oh yes, please count me in.

      • grimoaldo

        Hi there Batty and Camille, nice to “see” old friends!
        I was at Luisa Miller last night too, went specially to see Fabiano and boy was it worth it. I loved his 50 shades of grand guignol, wow does he throw himself into his acting, and he looks so good, so slim and dashing and his s-i-n-g-i-n-g, oh my god, sheer ecstasy. Agree with Batty about Corcetto.
        It is the first opera I have seen for more than a year, the last one was Washington Concert Opera’s “Il Corsaro” with Fabiano, who knocked me out.
        I started working two jobs all the time, that is when I am not working three and do not have time to listen to broadcasts or watch livestreams or take part in chats any more and a series of horrible broadcasts of my favourite operas made me very depressed so I took a year off from the art form altogether. The extra income from working like a crazy person is enabling me to go on opera trips like this one to see Fabiano in SF, soon I am going to Philadelphia to see Lisette Oropesa in Traviata and very excited to be going to Berlin for the first time next month to see Alagna in “Vasco de Gama”, the original version of Meyerbeer’s “L’Africaine”. I will deffo be in SF for the fab Fabiano in Don Carlos, maybe Camille and Batty and I can meet up!
        Love from your old pal

        • Camille

          grimoaldo carissimo!
          What a wonderful surprise! I was just about to send an APB out for you as I had been thinking of you SO much in the last few days since I’d see the Trovatore, which I urge you to get to the nearest cinema to see and hear this coming Saturday.

          I am just exhausted from my opera bender and must fall into bed now, but had to salute you and to let you know how much I had remembered you during this Trovatore because of your defense of the play it is based upon. Please make every effort to attend and to hear it, for it all sprang into life in such a way as I had not seen it ever before.

          Much good luck and love to you, and yes, by all means, I will be in San Francisco to hear the Don Carlo next summer without any doubt and would love to find you there.

          much love and good things to you, mon ami-

          P.S., please let us hear all about the Vasci de Gama, something I would love to see. The last I heard Alagna he was singing very, very well, always better in French, naturally.

        • antikitschychick

          Grimoaldo!!!!! So nice to hear from you!!! So glad you enjoyed Fab in Luisa Miller too. Hope you enjoy Traviata (I will be going to the free screening with friends and classmates from school :-D) and your first trip to Berlin!! Yay!!

        • Batty Masetto

          Grimmy! So glad to hear from you! Would be delighted to see you for Don Carlos, let’s please figure out a way to be in touch.

        • Cicciabella

          Grimoaldo! Welcome back! (x3)

          • manou

            Il Ritorno di Grimoaldo in Patria! Very glad to see you back.

          • John Anderson

            Really pleased to see you again.

            • grimoaldo

              Thanks for sweet messages everybody!

  • PushedUpMezzo

    So pleased for Mr Hvorostovsky, the original silver fox. We do rather take him for granted; but there is really nobody else out there today who can spin such a gorgeous long Verdian phrase. Will hie me to the HD. Off topic, the ROH Gluck Orphee with Florez was utterly captivating -- well just a tad too much St Vitus in the choreography. Lucy Crowe’s soprano is getting amazingly lush. And Florez, exuding much more emotion than I’ve seen from him before, seemed quite in sync with JE Gardiner, apart from an attempt to slow down the reprise of Che faro (or whatever it is en francais). Considering most of the singers were either below or in front of the undulating Monteverdi Orchestra, ensemble was superb. Not often you can say an evening (or rather matinee) with the Chevalier de Gluck just sped by, but it did today,

    • Lohenfal

      It’s J’ai perdu mon Eurydice. I much prefer the French version, with its extra ballet music, so I’m looking forward to the BBC broadcast on Oct. 24. Thanks for the review.

    • manou

      PuM -- I am going to this next week and also saw the very good Nozze yesterday with the delightful Ellie Dehn, Hartig, Schrott on very good form and also Degout as the Count (pas degoûtant du tout). As my mother’s music teacher used to say “Che coccolo quel Mozart!”.

      I also saw Florez at the “Insight” event where he disclosed that the worse thing about the Orphée was “the pipi” (sic), as he is onstage all the time and found it difficult to have to perform without a euphemistic comfort break.

  • Conchita

    Saw this performance last night and I must say CC is generous and good-natured to be so receptive to what was mostly a mediocre performance by all, with the possible exception of DH, despite his health condition. Netrebko is a facsimile of a great singer, with moments of beauty and so many weaknesses that the end result is, at least for me, always disappointing.

    • Tamerlano

      A facsimile of a great singer?

  • Great review, I was there last night and agree with a lot of what you said. Like Christopher I wasn’t taken with Lee’s performance at all. I found his lack of musicality depressing.

    Anyway I was also at Anna Bolena this afternoon.

    My write-ups of the two performances:

    • For an idea of the dropout that Rad/Barton took, I found their LOC performance:

      Compare this with Netrebko/Garanca in Vienna, where no drop-out is allowed:

      • LT

        What do you mean by “not allowed”?

        • Conductors either allow singers to drop out or they don’t. I mean can you imagine anyone trying the big drop out for Muti?

          • LT

            Firstly, I don’t actually hear any difference in the drop-outs in the two videos. They both seem to pause for the same amount of time.

            The conductor of the Vienna Bolena is Evelino Pido. Hardly a Muti in manner or clout.

            • Ok well today’s drop out was longer than the Chicago video. But I can’t believe you can’t hear the difference between the two videos. Netrebko and Garanca never actually drop out before their high C. Both Barton and Rad do.

          • CwbyLA

            Are you talking about the less than 1 second dropout before the last high C?

            • In the LOC performance it’s a rather short dropout. But it’s noticeable. In the Met performance today it was way longer and more prominent.

              Again, the dropouts this afternoon were from everyone, all afternoon.

            • LT

              I don’t actually mind when singers pause for a moment as we can actually revel in the (usually) delicious orchestration leading up to the climax.

            • Well different strokes for different folks but I find an obvious and lengthy dropout to be very unmusical and it’s one of my pet peeves. It’s especially annoying when the dropout is for an interpolated acuti (and even worse when the acuti is not even a good note).

              I mean there’s different degrees. For instance Michael Fabiano takes TWO dropouts in “O mio rimorso.’ I find the one at 4:05 to be very sudden, abrupt, and jarring.

              In contrast Alfredo Kraus’s drop-out is much less obtrusive because it comes in the final bars of the cabaletta:

              By the way I love MF and think he has an absolutely wonderful voice, but think that the rendition of “O mio rimorso” would have been even more wonderful without that dropout.

          • pirelli

            But with Muti there would be less acuti (lol) so less need for dropouts. ;-)

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              That’s why the philistine obsession with interpolated high notes is so foolish. In primo ottocento style, a cadenza would be improvised, written or commissioned by a singer (sometimes from the composer — read Gosset for confirmation or look at manuscripts of the period in which singers who had worked with the composer notated decorations and small variants).

              The place to insert a cadenza is signaled by a fermata. Many of these cadenzas have survived. Very high notes could be included in a musically appropriate way if the singer wished, but the aria would end on the tonic, as written and as appropriate grammatically. When interpolated high notes are shrieked out and held for dear life at the end of an aria they create dissonances that people who could hear would have experienced as hideous and stupid at the time.

              If Muti and other puritans are wrong it is in refusing to embrace fully the style in which these works were presented, which did indeed include cadenzas at the appropriate places, also both verses of arias and cabalettas, the second verse decorated according to well understood conventions; and all those transitional passages that are part of the musical grammar employed by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi up to works like Vespri would be included.

              They are often cut even in “complete” versions, as are second verses and when second verses are included they are not decorated (the Haitink video of Traviata from Glyndebourne IS an absolutely complete version of the score and includes all verses, but none of the repeated material is varied even in modest ways (Violetta — Marie McLaughlin — oddly, given the rest of the performance, is allowed a short Eb6 at the end of “sempre libera”).

              Muti’s first Traviata recording, the best in my opinion is also absolutely complete but entirely without decoration for repeated material or grammatical niceties such as appoggiaturas and small decorations. He does use a very sophisticated agogic technique in the pathetic scenes that avoids every serious moment sounding like a waltz or mazurka or march (as in Toscanini, who also makes the hideous cuts in transitional material which causes the composer to sound like an amateur, although of course he IS Verdi). And one could argue there is some rhythmic ornamentation or freedom allowed the singers (made best use of by a worn sounding but compelling Renata Scotto).

            • Porgy Amor

              Mrsjohnclaggart, that EMI Traviata is a favorite of mine too. It just seems to be better and better through the years, while others I used to like begin to fade. Besides what Muti offers (which is considerable), the three principal singers, stylish in their own right, seem to be listening to each other and getting a real rapport going, especially Scotto and Kraus. I heard her remark in a recorded interview once that she thought of him as a brother, they went back so far.

      • First of all, the little quarter rest or whatever it is just before the high C so just that -- a rest. They both take the same rest. And the high C is interpolated anyway, The duet doesn’t end that way in the score. Easy enough to check since it’s on IMSLP.

    • uwsinnyc

      great reviews, Ivy and yay- nice to have your reviews to read!

    • This was my first experience with Mr Lee. It’s funny how 2 opera goers can go to the same performance and hear different things.I said to my companion regarding Mr.Lee”He will be nice to have around as a “house tenor” when starrier names and voices are unavailable.” I especially remarked on the “sensitivity” with which he sings. I found his use of dynamics and phrasing to be lovely. I found his sound not to have intrinsic beauty and I wished for more heft. He’s the type of singer I wouldn’t by a ticket to see but If he happened to be in the cast of an opera I was going to I would be pleased.

  • LT

    Fabiano’s one was way too early. It was an obvious mistake. He’s like “oh, shoot, I was supposed to repeat this once more”.

  • The Met has shared an in-house video of the Trovatore ovations, including the white roses. Wonderful.


      • Donna Anna

        Kash, thanks so much for sharing this. I think it was Ivy who wrote that this is an example what we love about opera. Wow…we heard the ovations over the radio and this just bears it out.
        Excuse me while I wipe my eyes.

    • chicagoing

      The review suggests Mr. Lee might have gotten lost onstage amidst all of the other star power, but does the ovation footage also reveal Ms. Netrebko momentarily overlooking the fact that Mr.Lee has not yet taken his final bow as she reaches out to join hands with the cast to begin the group bows?

  • Camille

    Since this was buried deep in my notes on Trovatore I posted several days ago and don’t want it to get lost, I am reposting it her.

    As I find the last act of IlTrovatore one of the greatest challenges to the soprano, who must be in command of so many positive qualities which are rarely combined altogether successfully and because this music is so exquisite, this book LEONORA’S LAST ACT: Essays in Verdian Discourse, by Roger Parker and published by the Princeton University Press as part of the Princeton Studies in Opera, helps one to understand more clearly just exactly what transpires musically, It is a excellent collection of essays on various Verdian themes, and of particular interest to this opera, the last essay featured in the collection, Chapter eight, titled again “Leonora’s last act: Il Trovatore. Also of interest, Chapter Four is on Leonora’s Last Act from La forza del destine. There are various and sundry topics filling in the others, possibly of most interest would that of Chapter Seven, (entitled “Lina kneels, Gilda sings”) in which Mr Parker compares the cabaletta which began life as Lina’s in Stiffelio and transmogrified into Gilda’s in Rigoletto. This was first presented in an article of the great Mr Philip Gossett, whose birthday we did not celebrate yesterday or the day before, I’ve just noticed.

    In other news, Mr Gossett, the MET still seems not to be doing that extra material for Percy and Anna, hard to say as I am not sufficiently familiar with this music, but what was played seemed rather shorter to me than what it would have been had the work of Mr Gossett which is now in the regular score, had been played and sung. I’ll listen on the broadcast to see if the MET has made any concessions. Probably not.

    My experience of Anna Bolena yesterday was not a very positive one and I have decided as a general policy to keep my negative experiences to myself, as in discussing them and rehashing it all, I only become more unhappy about it all. Since it is impossible to undo what was done, or sung. I would rather allow it all to float down the Hudson of my memories.

    Plácido domingo to all and to all a big haste luego.

    • Camille

      Thank you, Madam Cieca, for your kind assistance in my fumbling ineptitude. Molto obbligato.

      The information could be of interest and use and it would have been a shame for it to have been lost because of my habit of sitting down to the keyboard without my ugly spectacles.

  • Krunoslav

    Local Booster weighs in:

    “The soprano Anna Netrebko, whose association with Mr. Hvorostovsky goes back to the days when they were young rising stars in Russia”

    [Sheerest fantasy. She made her career at the Kirov/Marinsky; he did not, not until much later-rather, in Novosibirsk, and then abroad.]

    “Ms. Radvanovsky’s technical command in this daunting Donizetti role was flawless. She is a true inheritor to the Callas approach to Bel Canto repertory in that she seizes upon these works as powerful and personal music dramas.”

    “Ms. Radvanovsky sings with wondrous command of subtle shadings and vibrato. **Making every word matter**, she infuses each phrase with urgency and emotion”

    ‘ except for a couple of insecure passages Mr. Costello sang with robust sound and impetuous fervor.’

    What *can* one say?

    • armerjacquino

      That’s really poor. When Hvoro won Cardiff and kickstarted his international career, AN was all of seventeen.

      • Krunoslav

        “Hvorostovsky sang only twice with the Kirov Opera in 1988 and 1991, when they could afford him”

        Netrebko made her Kirov debut in 1994…

    • I’m a Rad fan but this is hyperbolic and even false. Even at her best, she does not do much with the words. I haven’t heard anything more than a couple of clips but I think that Anna Bolena is probably the least congenial to her voice out of the three Queens. Maria Stuarda, with its higher tessitura and greater reliance on lyrical singing will be better, and the RD Elisabetta is the best fit.

      • Camille

        cher kashania —

        your perspicacity is amazing and you would best be employed by the United Nations in some capacity or another, for such is your Solomonic wisdom, not to mention your evenhanded diplomacy and tact.

        “I Was There*, as others are wont to say around these parts and have to say that, after her estimable and very considerable achievement in Norma, this was a letdown. She was, however, competing with the spectre of one Anna Y. Nebs, whose shadow stalked the stage. The Maria is placed in a much higher space and I do think the Elisabetta will go best of all as she has not only no previous competition in the roles, all the pre-publicity has identified her with the role of Elisabetta.

        Also, and this is a job for Herr Krunoslav, some of the advertisements mention that Sondra is the first soprano to affront “all three roles in one season, something no one but La Bubbles has previously accomplished”. Now, is that so? I was under a general impression that she had premiered them season after season and possibly combined a couple of queens in one season or there was some overlap.

        Again, kashania, you win the prize.

        Happy Thanksgiving, coming up soon, I gather.

        • Camille: It’s funny about Netrebko’s Anna Bolena. I liked her in it very much both in the Vienna performance and the Met one. I think her weaknesses in the passage work, while real, were overstated by some. And she has improved as a singer in the last couple of years and would probably give an even better account today. But the funny thing is I know people who were critical of her performance who still hold it up as one of their favourite Netrebko roles. She not only brought real glamour (both vocal and stage) to the part but also a certain “je ne sais quoi” that has become even more apparent when compared to Rad. It’s a shame she didn’t want to do all three roles. Mind you, when Gelb was talking to her about all three, the voice wasn’t as big as it is now and she probably felt that Elisabetta would be too heavy. But oddly, she said that Maria Stuarda would be too light (or words to that effect) even as she continued to sing Norina and Adina.

          Anyway, I’m glad that Rad is having the opportunity to essay all three roles this season, and I know she will improve with each role (her Elisabetta in Toronto, while not flawless, was truly exciting). But I can’t help think that Netrebko doing all three roles could be even better. And while I’m busy telling you what I can’t help thinking… I can’t help thinking that Rad would be a natural Turandot.

          • Camille

            I absolutely agree with you about the overstatement of weakness in the passage work. She had considerably cleaned up her act in this role, as she knew she had best do so.

            Yes, it is quite peculiar she would continue with Adina, in particular, and eschew the Maria Stuarda, but she seems to be a creature of instinct and intuition, so therefore. And I think your idea about La Sondra and Turandot is quite an intriguing one. It needs someone absolutely rock solid and sure with those high notes and who can seemingly pull them out of the air. That, she has got. Also she has the force to dominate the chorus/orchestra in those fortissimo moments. That is interesting, as I had never associated her with this type of repertory. Mostly, I think a lot of the wrong people sing this part and it has to be essayed by those favored with the naturally high placements, and acuti, no matter whether they are “dramatic” or not. The music is plenty dramatic enough for god’s sake. Just sing that!

            I am going to be dogged in my determination with this opera, though, and will submit to several more performances and of course, you have the Listen Live coming up in a couple weeks. That reminds me, I have to call Sirius!

            Anyway, I hope you have escaped from the Principessa di gelo this time, o Principe di Persia!

            Hodah Hafez! (well, you know what I mean!) xxx000

            • luvtennis


              I agree with you completely regarding Turandot. And why have you not listened to Wilson’s recording. You agree that it is the PERFECT Turandot. Full in the middle register and capable of rising to stunning high notes. But in truth, Wilson is the rare Brunni that is a perfect Turandot. So many dramatic sopranos today are pushed up mezzos -- and that simply does NOT work in Turandot.

            • Camille

              Salut luvtennis!

              I am saving my first impression to be one in the theatre, it’s alive! Then afterward I will go to the recording. Not that I dislike Bocelli but still, I wonder how he will hold up singing with her. I will be getting the Netrebko fiancé that night so will be getting a big bang for my buck! Also will be hearing the Liù, with whom I am going on a blind date on October 8th, therefore it promises to be the most potentially interesting Turandot I have heard in years. I avoid it like the plague as I so dislike that horrible staging. I may go to see Lise Lindstrom as I am so interested in her as well.

              There was a newsbit here a while back about Wilson’s October 3rd contract in DC for Rienzi being bought out. Now, either she may sing October 3rd or perhaps she is on standby for the entire series of Tannhäuser, as the announced cover, Meagan Miller has bowed out due to pregnancy, and Wilson has sung Elisabeth, albeit quite some time ago. She would certainly be up to singing with Botha! So, I am watching that.

              Did you hear her Amsterdam Concertgebouw Isolde? Rock solid! I believe it is on the Netherlandisch radio for still some time. You must hear it. Ask Buster or Cicciabella for the link!!

              Don’t worry, I am watching La Jen for you and hoping she lives up to h opportunity.

              Stay tuned! Best regards--Camille

            • Luvt: Like many, I am most curious about Jennifer Wilson’s single Turandot at the Met. But let’s not forget Lisa Lindstrom who has the ease on top and a silvery tone that suits the character very well indeed.

              This is how she sounded 6 years ago at the Met:

            • Camille

              Luvtennis--before I get busy and forget—here is the link by which we heard Wilson’s formidable Isolde from Concertgebouw a week and a half ago. I do not know if it still woks but will perhaps give the direction. Hou really should listen in.



    • Camille

      What *can* one say?

      Nulla, silenzio

      • luvtennis

        Thank you, Camille! Please send Clita and Marshie my regards!

  • Krunoslav

    Oh, and

    “As Manrico the clarion-voiced South Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee, who has done exceptional work at the Met since his 2010 debut as Verdi’s Don Carlo, gave a fearless and stalwart performance.”

    • Camille

      I happened to see about his second or third performance at the MET, in the 2010 Don Carlo, and was rather pleasantly shocked by his “fearless and stalwart performance”, at THAT time.

      Now, I am wondering if the habit of singing rather loudly and forcefully over the interim of these years is contributing to a slight decline in his powers. Nothing I have heard since is quite as good, I am sorry to say, as I rather liked him a lot in the beginning.

      • mrsjohnclaggart

        I once somewhere mentioned about Rads Norma that she had so much to offer that it was a shame no one had told her how to make something of the character’s dilemmas and seize the emotional moments, the obvious ones even, such as “son io”, or “egli!? Pollione?” And that she sang the last act very beautifully (the nights I was there) yet was too general in each section for them to accumulate into something powerful and profound. Better her on those nights at least than so many others. And yet I had to wonder if the opera was so dead, so foreign to her, to the conductor, to her coach that no one had told her what the words meant in a deep sense, what the underlying make believe was? Or if she didn’t care and only wanted to get it right (and from a vocal point of view, a few rough moments to the side, she did).

        Time was when the author that Krunoslav quotes would have been automatically fact checked about Anna and Dima and told to drop it if he had no evidence. The paper was proud of its accuracy in all areas. But… opera? Who gives a shit?

        • Camille

          Mrs Claggart! SHE’S ALIVE!!!!!!

          “Who gives a shit?”

          We do.

          Ravdvanovsky sings in the way she does in large part, I would suspect, because of having learned HOW to sing with a node on her vocal cords, one which came about as a result of having been intubated as an infant. She apparently had such a strong set of pipes, she was able to learn how to sing and start a career in spite of this obstacle. She had the node operated on about ten or twelve years ago. I am not making this up, you know, to defend or justify her performances, for there is an article in some periodical, google will tell you, from the time of her San Francisco Il Trovatore, in the autumn of 2009, which finally explained what it was she did and why she did it, at least to me.

          The words, well, it is endemic with a lot of American opera singers, isn’t it? They create the sound and paste apply the words/phonetics afterward.
          She ain’t the only one.

          All I can say about her Norma, and I sat up very close and had my opera glasses along mit, was that she was applying herself 100% and whatever she did do, she gave it her all. It remains the one satisfactory experience I have had of her singing up to this time, including Saturday’s performance.
          I am hoping for the best with the Maria and the Elisabetta and also hope she will have sufficient rest and recuperation time in-between these engagements to contemplate the differences in the roles.

          Mrs. Claggart, thanks so very, very much for your small, delectable essay on the traditions of cuts, etc. Brava, diva!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Krunoslav

            Barely recalled from my youth

            • Camille

              “Why are you so anxious to be the one to DO IT?????”

              “What do your interests recommend? Absolute destruction of this thing.”

              “That’s how it can travel over the City without anyone seeing it!”

              “Get those cameras outta my face, please I have no comment….”

              “He coulda killed you…do you know why he didn’t kill you?”

              JEEZ, I coulda come up with sumpin’ better than that! Gad movie dialogue and acting styles have certainly changed.

              “YOU— NO! BANG< BANG< BANG!! Stop firing!!"

              oh yes, I remember Sharon Farrel very vaguely now.

              Thank you for that blast from the past.

              NOW THEN, did Bubbles sing all three Queens in one season? Young minds want to know.

            • luvtennis


              Kruno -- I love ou!!!!Myy first memory of the movies is seeing this in a double bill with A truly bizarre and disturbing movie called Equinox -- O Mary, don’t ask,

              No wonder I have no children!

            • luvtennis

              Actually, it was the sequel to this movie that I saw -- “It’s Alive Too???”

              Dear Lord -- I was scarred for life!

        • luvtennis

          Good to see you posting again, Mrs. JC! I have been anxiously awaiting a new post on your blog!!!!

          What gives?

          And I must note, wasn’t Grisi also accused of not making much of the words (despite the fact that Italian was her native tongue?) In other words, haven’t there always been two types of Norma’s? Giris-Normas and Pasta-Normas?

  • zinka

    Went VIRAL all over the universe…..The most gorgeous video imaginable