Cher Public

La povera mia cena

“Puccini’s Tosca is what is known in the trade as a ‘bread and butter’ opera, which in general is a fair appraisal. It’s something familiar and unthreatening you consume while you wait for the main course (e.g., next month’s new William Kentridge production of Lulu) to arrive.” [The Observer]

  • Dear La Cieca,

    completely off-topic, would you be so kind as to email me privately? I have been, unsuccessfully, trying to contact you for some time. Thank you.

  • perfidia

    I am so glad to hear the good report on Voigt. That would be a great reinvention if she could make that transition.

  • Gualtier M

    As for “Pirates of Penzance” -- I voted with my feet and left in the middle of Act II during a really miserable duet between Frederic and Mabel where Hunter Parrish sounded like a sick cat.

    Master Voices (Collegiate Chorale) had an opportunity to cast young opera singers and restore the piece to its original intent with pristine musical values and decided to go low brow and lowest common denominator.

    I think the culprit here is that 1981 Joe Papp NY Shakespeare Festival production that played Broadway with Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith and (the wonderful) Kevin Kline. I saw that Wilford Leach production on Broadway (transferred from Central Park) and it was fun and irreverent and done with style. Actually Rex Smith and even Linda Ronstadt could actually sing decently. The whole idea of using Broadway and pop voices in G&S and playing it like borscht belt low comedy with shtick galore stems from that production. Almost every production now uses that NYSF production as the template. The old G&S style is out the window unless you see it in England.

    Hunter Parrish wouldn’t have gotten a job in the chorus of the D’Oyly Carte let alone sing Frederic. Parrish I thought was amateur hour -- bad even in a high school production in terms of singing and acting. Someone like Michael Slattery would make a fine Frederick or any of those young tenors graduating from MSM, Mannes and Juilliard. Philip Boykin as the Pirate King has operatic training but looked seriously underrehearsed and wasn’t on top of the patter and more obscure lyrics. Julia Udine sounded really thin to me but pretty -- like an undeveloped voice with potential. Lauren Worsham has both opera and Broadway cred and would be a perfect Mabel. Hodge as Major General Stanley had a sense of the style -- British dahlings -- but couldn’t do the fast patter as well as the late, great George Rose. Voigt I found good humored and relaxed and was fun as Ruth -- I wonder if the music was raised in keys because it actually is a contralto role and the lowest part of her range has sounded more hollow and empty than ever recently. She sounded fine and even was amusing in dialogue.

    BTW: Voigt stated in her “Voigt Lessons” show and it is probably in the autobiography as well that she did lots of musicals in high school and college with local theater company and even some larger regional companies. Things like the Abbess in “The Sound of Music” and Nettie Fowler would be a great fit. Her favorite role in that period was Agnes Gooch in “Mame” and she could still do it.

    Nice to read La Cieca being flattering and supportive of Deborah Voigt for a change. Big difference from what has been previously published on this site.

    • grimoaldo

      That performance of “Pirates” sounds truly ghastly. I guess it would have been,umm, interesting, to see and hear Voigt’s take on Ruth but as you say, that part, as well as the other “old lady” roles in G&S, was written for a true contralto, I can’t believe it would really have been a good fit for her.
      “The Pirates of Penzance” was originally a Broadway show, it was the only G&S to have its world premiere in New York. Gilbert, Sullivan and their producer D’Oyly Carte were upset that the previous work of the collaboration, “HMS Pinafore” had been a humongous hit all over the US but since there was at that time no reciprocal copyright between Britain and the US, the hundreds of productions all over the US of “Pinafore” did not earn them any money. The only way to get royalties from the US was to premiere the work there, which is what they did.
      So it made sense for that Papp production to reclaim “Pirates” as a Broadway show, it is as much a part of US theatrical history as British. But at least, as you say,those actors could sing their music.It’s not quite true that “The old G&S style is out the window unless you see it in England.”
      The New York Gilbert and Sullivan players do the pieces in more or less a “traditional” style, and sometimes with delightful results-
      There is a lot of operatic parody in the music of “Pirates”, just compare the roulade sung by Mabel at her entrance “Yes, tis Mabel!” with the flourishes of Violetta on “Giorir!” in “Sempre Libera”, it is a direct take-off. And the chorus “Come friends who plough the sea”, transformed into the glee club drinking song “Hail hail the gang’s all here” in the US shortly after the premiere, is a spin off of the Anvil Chorus. Lots of other operatic parody in the music, the part of Ruth owes something to Azucena, here is the creator of the role, Alice Barnett,in the original production --
      I have always wanted to see a performance that would bring out the operatic parody by casting real opera stars, let’s say Pretty Yende,Bryan Hymel and Dolora Zajick in the parts with the most opera send-ups in the music, Mabel, Frederic and Ruth, and just tell them “Forget G&S, you are playing Violetta, Manrico and Azucena”. A concert such as this one would have been a good opportunity for that, they could have used some of the performers from the NY G&S players, who do have a good sense of the style, for the character parts.

      • armerjacquino

        But how could Yende and Zajick possibly improve on Auger and Modl?

        • grimoaldo

          Haha, yes, very true, a real collector’s item that, but the fact that it is in German makes it perhaps of appeal to an even more specialised audience than it would otherwise be.
          Here is a very abridged version (if it loads, if not anyone who may be interested can just look it up on youtube) of the D’Oyly Carte production they did from post WWII until they closed in 1981, everything, every little move and gesture exactly the same for all those years except of course the performers changed.
          It has a tenor who does seem to think he is singing Italian opera which makes it funnier, and is a precious relic of two of the greatest G&S performers ever, the incomparable Peter Pratt as the Major General, who seems to have been brought into the world for the express purpose of being superlative in the “patter” roles in G&S, and the magnificent Donald Adams as the Pirate King,who did these roles for decades and decades and then in his 60’s enjoyed a second career in leading opera houses as a character bass. He was looking forward to making his Met debut aged 67 as Quince in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, when, sadly, he suddenly died.

          • SonnyLaTromba

            Donald Adams did indeed sing Quince in Midsummer Night’s Dream at Covent Garden, as part of a fine cast that included a teenage Mark Rylance as Puck. I also remember seeing him at ROH in Boris Godunov, but in that case memory might be playing tricks on me! His Peter Quince was masterly, and really well sung. Besides that he was the loveliest of colleagues.