Cher Public

The magnificent amber daughter

Happy 79th birthday to dramatic soprano Dame Gwyneth Jones!

Born on this day in 1926 soprano Joan Sutherland

Happy 82nd birthday soprano Danica Mastilovic

Born on this day in 1934 mezzo-soprano Trudeliese Schmidt

Born on this day in 1937 soprano Patricia Brooks

  • PCally

    Was just watching the Bayreuth Tannhauser with Jones. Absolutely incandescent, beautiful to looking at, and in solid voice to boot. Easily the finest Brunnhilde of her generation, even taken her vocal flaws into account. Happy Birthday!!

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      That Tannhauser is one of the best things she ever did, I think. She’s superlative in both roles and her acting is sensational.

    • danpatter

      I agree, she was magnificent! She thrilled me every time I saw her, and the huge sound she could make was incredible. I saw her in the Ring, Turandot, Parsifal, and Elektra. I enjoy her recordings too. Happy Birthday, Dame Gwyneth!

      • Chenier631

        Happy birthday to the great Dame Gwyneth Jones!

        Truly one the all time greats, a true “hochdramatisch” soprano. It is one those true force of nature voices you simply had to experience live. Hers was easily the biggest soprano voice I ever heard. I was fortunate to hear her in several of her signature roles, such as Elektra, Brunnhilde, the Dyer’s wife, Kundry, Turandot, Minnie, the Marschallin, and Lady Macbeth.All spectacular.
        There is simply no one today that can come close to her in this repertoire.
        Yes, the picture of her above is from the movie “Quartet”. I thought it was absolutely charming and moving.
        From me, a heartfelt “Brava” to Dame Gwyneth, for all her sensational performances!

        Chenier631

      • DermotMalcolm

        I’m enjoying the birthday celebration for one of a handful of my favorite artists (poets, filmmakers, composers, and Gwyneth) in any field. As for the huge voice, it may be explained a bit by something she said in a conversation on the New York radio station WQXR in the 70s or 80s. It went something like this: “As a girl, I would climb up to the tops of the Welsh hills and sing into wind to hear my voice.”

        • DermotMalcolm

          Sorry, need another word there (“the” at “wind”):
          “As a girl, I would climb up to the tops of the Welsh hills and sing into the wind to hear my voice.”

    • PCally

      Wish there was a video of the bohm salome and Boulez parsifal. She’s in uneven voice in both but it’s obvious that she’s electric nevertheless.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        I keep reading that she’s in uneven voice for that Salome and I just don’t hear it -can you point to a passage in the score that she doesn’t sing brilliantly? I seriously think she’s on amazing form throughout, and I do acknowledge that she had her iffy moments -- she’s a favourite singer of mine, but it isn’t blind love. But the Salome is better and more consistent than the Boulez Brunnhilde, IMO -- any of the 3. I also prefer it to stuff like the Giulini Leonora which I think suffers from a certain passivity and a bit of white tone here and there. She’s 100% switched on in that Salome and in faultlessly healthy voice, as far as I can hear.

        Similarly, I think the Kundry is pretty brilliant -- I don’t hear anything to complain about.

        There are plenty of bumps and problematic corners in all her available Turandot performances, even more in her Isoldes, and certain moments in her Elektras and later Salomes that crave one’s indulgence, but I just don’t get this idea that her singing is wanting in the Bohm Salome or, really, in the Boulez Parsifal (although she is certainly not in quite as robust form in the latter).

        • PCally

          Cocky, to be sure the voice is quite beautiful in bit recordings and I think both are admirable. But i hear lots of squal and shrillness in the salome final scene that isn’t there in the beginning. And I find her attempts at piano rather pallid (and flat bedsides). And in both recordings her lower register is noticeably less stronger than her upper register. She’s basically talking some of the lower sections in the salome. She hardly sets a prescidence in this and she’s finer than many salomes (leagues ahead of behrens IMO) but there are several women who gives just as much and sing the role better. Regarding the kundry, it’s just not the color I like for in the role, to bright and soprano sounding for my taste. Also, similar to Rysanek and Silja, I genuinely think one can’t really grasp how dramatically effective they are onstage just by listening to them (they way you can with callas or waltraud meier). None of them are word painters and I miss textual specificity and nuance when listening to them. That’s just one opinion obviously, but I think jones is basically just sort of intense in a generalized sort of way in those recordings (same with her ortrud) that wouldn’t be apparent if one could actually SEE her and her incredible expressive face and body language.

          • armerjacquino

            When I was first getting into opera Jones was reaching the end of her heldensopran career and I couldn’t stand her- there were various out of tune ‘In Questa Reggia’s at galas and that awful version of ‘Memory’ for Opera For Africa, so I had her in my head as someone who sang loudly out of tune. Then when I was 16 I saw her as the Dyer’s Wife and was just staggered by the sound and by what an actor she was.

            So- long story short, and bearing in mind that I’m not a Wagner fan (ooops, marshie, I went all unsolicited again) I kind of revisited her recorded legacy having changed my mind. And I’d say the greatness I’ve seen in her is her Marschallin on DVD (my favourite interpretation of the character- she is devastated to lose Octavian but she’s off to find another) and her studio Leonore for Bohm, where she solves the lyric vs dramatic conundrum of FIDELIO by being, in 1970, slap bang in the middle.

            • olliedawg

              armer…: I, too, saw Jones as the opera bug began to bite. It was sometime in the mid-80’s, it was “Rosenkavalier” at the Met, and it was Battle, Troyanos, and GJ. Troyanos blew me away — and GJ was, and still is to this day, THE most beautiful Marschallin I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know much then (and probably still don’t compared with y’all), but I thought she was perfect for the part: regal, gorgeous, with just the right amount of vulnerability and class to make everything she did seem incandescent. I didn’t think she had a great voice, but that wasn’t the point. That evening, those 2 canny pros opened my eyes to what opera is really about: total commitment, impossible beauty, and non-stop fabu.

            • mjmacmtenor

              I first encountered GJ on video in the 70s -- the wonderful Senta, the Tannhauser double cat (and the Venus body suit), and the wonderful Marschallin. Something about the reflective nature of the character really brought out the beauty in her voice. I admired her voice was wa cpmoved by her acting. Howver, In later years, she seemed to develop a wide and slow vibrato (drive a truck through). I remember a particularly difficult In Questa from a Met gala. I thought her best days were behind. Then, in the early 90s, i saw her in as the Dyers Wife (LA Opera). She was phenomenal! Life, in the house, the vibrato was not intrusive (something I noticed about other singers as well). The power of her voice was amazing. I remember one spot where she hit a low note in chest (G?). I felt like I was hit by a truck -- Ina good way.

            • mjmacmtenor

              Pardon for my stubby fingers -- double act (not cat) among other typos.

        • I have a handful of recordings of Salome but find myself only listening to that Böhm with Dame G.

          • Those who know the Bastille will know what I mean when I say hers is the only voice I ever heard filling the place to such an extent -- you had the impression, sitting near the front, you could hear it bouncing back off the rear walls.

        • mrsjohnclaggart

          I saw that Kundry, dress and first two performances. It is the greatest Parsifal I have ever seen. Boulez doesn’t have a “late romantic” richness of sonority and underplays the rhetoric, but the sonorities he achieved (having fired the players he hated) were miraculous, his pacing had TOTAL musical logic, so it didn’t seem a second too long, his phrases were utter poetry if evanescent leaving one afraid to breathe. I thought Gwynnie was so mesmerizing and sexually alive and complex (a rough draft of Lulu almost) that some typically erratic singing, especially trying to keep her voice collected since Boulez would not slow down even a hair for her big moments (though she asked him to) wasn’t important and the grandeur of line and tonal mass and silver in act two was astounding.

          I loved King, a singer I admired, but that was perhaps the greatest I saw him, and Crass was glorious, improbably beautiful with a breathtaking singing line (his career was shortened by increasing deafness), but his Dutchman was astounding, his Sarastro (at the opposite end of the spectrum) magnificent and his Bach singing indescribably beautiful. He would be more widely known as a great singer had he been able to keep going at the same level for longer.

          The Salome was unutterably wild, not so well sung when I saw her do it, but so death-defying that it didn’t matter. However, anyone who likes the work MUST have Reiner/Welitsch 1949 as a first choice, and Goltz/Keilberth 1948 as a second.

          Reiner does things with the only OK Met orchestra that are entirely and indescribably unbelievable; he takes insane risks and they follow him totally. It builds with incredible power but has endless nuance, variety of attack and wit and the end will leave anyone sensitive on the floor. She is astounding, even if as early as ’49 she takes some shortcuts, rushes the beat and speaks some.

          Goltz is beyond belief in 48, a glorious, luscious sound, one suspects much bigger than Ljuba (she has a harder, tougher sound in her Decca records in the 50s, including the amazingly conducted Krauss Salome) and she is an unhinged interpreter. That recording has ME as Herodias, Inger Karen, the last word in vicious horror, but she sings, Aldenhoff as a stunning Herodes and the massive sounding Josef Herrmann as The Baptist. Keilberth was no Reiner (or Krauss) but does very well with the stunning Dresden orchestra.

  • Feldmarschallin

    Cannot wait for the Thais in Salzburg. Someone please stage this opera for this woman. Yes, those are c’s and d’s. I doubt anyone has sung this as beautifully as she has.

    • PCally

      She sounds georgeous here, those top notes are unbelievable. Wasn’t aware she could even go that high. Combined with her physical glamour, sounds like the role will be a perfect fit.

      • Feldmarschallin

        Yes perfect fit since you need glamour for that role. And a great top which she has. I think she would also be a great Luisa Miller.

        • PCally

          Yes, someone needs to cast her as Luisa (someone hopefully being the met casting department). I believe Munich has a pretty wonderful guth luisa production doesn’t it. I remember seeing Stoyanova in it a few years ago. She would fit in perfectly I believe.

          • LT

            Future Met has her listed for Luisa Miller for 2017-18.

      • Indiana Loiterer III

        Who’s scheduled to direct?

        • Indiana Loiterer III

          Never mind, I see it’s going to be a one-time concert performance with Domingo as Athanael. Pity. Thais needs a grown-up production by someone like Herheim to carry it off…

          • Feldmarschallin

            Yes Herheim would be great and I would love to hear Yoncheva as Daphne as well. And in 10 years she might want to look at that other Strauss role her compatriot made her own.

    • gustave of montreal

      difficile ! Géori Boué omitted those high notes on the old recording and so did Leontyne Price in Chicago in the ’50s.

      • everest

        I’m not disputing this, but how do we know that Price didn’t sing the Ds in the final duet of THAIS at Chicago in 1959? I am not aware of any recording from the run. She did sing the D at the end of the Mirror Aria in other live concert performances.

        Of course, if you were there or have spoken to someone who was, that’s good enough, I am just wondering as I have never come across a discussion involving people who attended any of those three performances.

    • Rowna

      Just in case anyone on this site has not seen or heard this . . another Thais . .

      • messa di voce

        One of the great duet recordings of any opera.

        There are rumors that the Met is going to revive Thais for Yoncheva.

        • Is Yoncheva’s voice really big enough for Thaïs at the Met? When I saw her she was singing Poppea in Lille.

          • LT

            That was more than 3 years ago and a month later she did Leila in Pecheurs at the Bastille (a theater with much poorer acoustics than the Met). So, not sure how “last time I saw her” can be an argument for vocal size. Some people may have last seen her in La Serva Padrona.

          • Since then she has sung Boheme, Traviata and Otello at the Met. Though I guess since these performances didn’t happen in Lille not many people heard them.

            • Yoncheva’s voice is definitely one of the most well-produced, well-projected voices on the scene today. In terms of actual vocal size it’s not a “large” voice in the way Netrebko or Goerke have “large” voices but I never have any problems hearing her.

      • stevey

        Another magnificent final scene from Thais, here. Nelly in all her glory! Enjoy!

      • Rudolf

        “Thais”
        I would also recommend the French recording with Renee Doria and Robert Massard.
        And … I am fond of Sills’ (late in her career) studio “Thais”. Malgre tout.

        • Buster

          Doria is great, a pity she always seems to be conducted by Etcheverry . I also love the Thais highlights disc with Jacqueline Brumaire and Michel Dens. It is on CD, but a little hidden as a filler on the first edition of EMI’s Jongleur de Notre Dame.They left it out on the reissue, unfortunately.

      • John L

        Maybe “getting bitten by the Massenet bug” is a bit too strong, but I’ve been intrigued by that final scene of Thais. Of course that solo violin tune is truly hypnotic. Of the three posted here and a few other videos I’ve come across on youtube (Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson, Beverly Sills and some baritone), I think I like Dorothy Kirsten best. I’ve actually never heard of her before. Is it just me or do all of the baritones just sound so bullish (the guy singing with Yoncheva, Robert Merrill, Thomas Hampson).

    • la vociaccia

      Yoncheva is glorious; poised, opulent and effortless. Cannot say the same thing for the baritone in that video.

      • Feldmarschallin

        Anyone who can sing this aria with the beauty and charm
        which she has should also do Rosalinde.

        • Lohengrin

          ….together withe Jonas! Tey where on stage together in Mörbisch 2013, singing Operetta.

    • Rudolf

      In 2008, Torino staged a most interesting “Thais” with Barbara Frittoli in the title role. Noseda conducted. Frittoli was very good. The men, alas, disappointed. Especially Ataneli. But the scenery, the costumes, the lighting … a feast for the eyes. Snippets can be found on YouTube. :)

  • Lady Abbado

    Joan Sutherland -- Com’è bello, 1977:

  • Will

    I wonder if Sutherland ever got tired of so frequently being costumed in those monumental, heavy costumes.

    • I don’t think so. I remember an interview with her saying that her unusual body build (extremely wide jaw, wide shoulders, block-like torso, and height) made her difficult to costume so she preferred costumes that gave her a resemblance of shape.

      Many of her costume choices were recommended by her husband.

      • messa di voce

        And Barbera Matera.

  • Operngasse

    I only heard Gwyneth Jones live once. It was a Carnegie Hall performance of Beethoven’s Ninth. AT that point in time one never new in what vocal estate she was going to be, and that night she was in top form. It was the NY Phiharmonic, and notwithstanding the orchestra, chorus, and four soloists, at some times it appeared that the only sound I could her was her soprano soaring over everything else. Truly magnificent.

  • Rowna

    I am just a tad miffed that today we celebrate the birthday of Dame Gwyneth Jones, in highlights, and yet another Dame, Ms. Sutherland gets to be in the also rans. I dunno . . anyone out there think there is someone else who will ever sing like her again? I am not talking of late in her career, but early, when her crystal clear technique could do Handel or Lucia equally well. When the greatest voices of the 20th century are listed, I can’t imagine her name not being there.

    • PCally

      Rowna, I have to admit that I’m a little cold towards most of sutherlands singing. Bel Canto is far down in terms of favorite rep and singers like callas and scotto make the music speak in a way that grabs my attention and doesn’t let go, not to mention their scrupulous musicality. Sutherland sounds georgeous and she’s a more pristine singer than someone like caballe (who I think is often vague and sloppy), but I never get a real sense of drama or character from her. Where she scores with me is her first donna Anna, early Handel, and turandot, all done for different conductors. She gives a lot more temperamentally speaking in those roles then she does in her bel canto roles.

      As far as jones is concerned, I’m not someone who is unconditionally a fan. I find a lot of her post 1980s performances truly atrocious, and not always just vocally. Her DVD Isolde is almost unique in terms of how poorly sung it is and for someone who is such a physical actress, she does traditional park and bark performing which, considering the sorry state of her voice, pays no divedends whatsoever. Still I’ll treasure her, not least because she more or less served as my introduction to the operas I mentioned above and in the elisabeth especially brought so much energy and (important) detail and nuance, not something people tend to mention when discussing her. Also as a child I was one of those people, unfamiliar with wagner, who immediately conjured up the fat lady with the helmet when thinking of opera. After waltraud meier, jones more than anyone else helped dispel that image totally and made me appreciate the theatrically of German opera.

      • rapt

        I have to post this, possibly my favorite Sutherland selection--at least, the one that most reliably makes me smile--and a case of perfect casting, too. I don’t know the operetta, but apparently Crusoe’s girlfriend lands on his island in pursuit of him but pauses to sing about how she is the queen of the ball. I can’t imagine the wackiness carried off better, and it makes me regret that Sutherland never took up Andrew Porter’s observation that she’d be a great Mabel in Pirates of Penzance.

        httpsv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuM8nkzHPqM

        • rapt

          Let’s try this again--

      • Rowna

        Dear PC Polly, I am not sure that anyone will be interested, but I have so much to do today (travel 400 miles for starters) I thought I should start my day with a little fluff. Growing up surrounded by music meant instrumental music mainly. I was a total snob and didn’t even know it. Once I got around to discovering songs, early opera, etc. voices like DFD were my gods, because I found their musicianship impeccable. Then I heard Tebaldi and everything changed. I began my journey of the love of the voice. Next in line was Bjorling, followed quickly by Wunderlich and then a flood of German singers. (Wasn’t the German rep better than the others?) My least favorite style of opera was Bel Canto. I couldn’t even imagine how it was popular! I always fell asleep during Lucia, the standard being -- save money on all singers except the soprano and just let the music do the talking. Then about 2 years ago I decided I needed to get much better acquainted with the big Bellini’s. My amazement is that imbedded in a lot of filler is some great composition. Aside from creating those gorgeous melodies I find the meandering chord progressions more interesting than those of early Verdi. And for ensembles, well, the writing has stood the test of time, hasn’t it. So now I adore bel canto and JS as she began her career was perfect in the roles she made her own. I was lucky enough to hear her Met debut season as Norma, which, believe it or not, I don’t think is her best Bellini. So for moi, can you give bel canto another try -- with unbiased ears? Full disclosure -- my fav is Puritani, followed closely by Norma.

        • mia apulia

          Although in many way I prefer Callas, Caballé, and others in various roles, Sutherland spoiled for me anyone else’s performance in Puritani, probably for all time

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Somebody has to be first in the list. They’re both great voices.

    • DerLeiermann

      Well, Gwyneth Jones is still alive. She might still get those happy birthday wishes and know she’s still loved by her deareast public.
      (Not suggesting she reads Parterre, but in general, in real life, you know)

    • Vergin Vezzosa

      Rowna, totally agree. Cocky, agree that they were both great voices. Disagree that one has to be first. Apples and oranges, silly to compare. Both are/were among the greatest at what they did.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        But it’s a list.

    • armerjacquino

      Rowna, you needn’t be so offended on Sutherland’s behalf. It’s not a question of ‘also rans’. It’s just that sending good wishes to a living artist surely takes precedence over marking the birth of a dead one.

  • DerLeiermann

    Gwyneth Jones was amazing in the german repertoire, I’m sure everyone knows that. Here’s my favorite video of hers (Here she is singing Verdi’s Il trovatore, one of my favorite arias in the repertoire!! and she’s very good, I find it very interesting to think how her career could have been had she decided to go into the path of Verdi as opposed to her Wagner ways!)

    Happy birthday, grandisimma donna! Che immensa artista!*

    *EEEff I spoke german, I would say it in german for it feels more appropriate.

    • DerLeiermann

      By the way, is that picture of Madame Jones from the Dustin Hoffman movie?

      • PCally

        Yes, Quartet is the name of the movie. It’s rather mediocre IMO and not much happens.

        • DerLeiermann

          I think I might actually watch it tonight. Watching movies with opera related plots it’s a pleasure of mine. Mostly because most of them are laughably bad.

    • John L

      That was pretty nice actually. I guess that was when she was younger and before singing all that Wagner. Nice dynamics and pianissimos. Good enough flexibility. Nice color on the chest notes.

  • Keikobadspeaks

    The amazing thing is that Dame Gwyneth hasn’t yet retired from the operatic stage -- she will make her role debut as the Countess in Pique Dame in Braunschweig, Germany the coming March.

    • uwsinnyc

      I am always amazed by the sheer longevity of some singers, and Gwyneth Jones is on the top of the list there.

      she was one singer I wish I had heard live.

      • Keikobadspeaks

        For us who aren’t living in Europe or the other major operatic centres, I’m afraid we can only rely on recordings and, to some extent, YouTube.

        In this connection, it’s regrettable that 2 of her most famous assumptions -- Turandot and the Dyer’s Wife -- are not represented in the catalogues.

        • marshiemarkII

          Except that the Farberin IS represented in the catalogues:
          On video no less, from the Paris Opera 1980, in an all star cast, stunning performance, conducted by Christoph von Donhnanyi.
          It can be had from “House of Opera” or even better (cheaper) from the Berkshire Record Outlet (www.broinc.com). The audio I believe has been provided by La C from the Unnatural Acts series, so seek and thou shalt find :-)
          Good luck!

  • DerLeiermann, Gwyneth was my first Desdemona in that amazing recording with James McCracken and she is stunning. So is he, I might add. That final scene after he kills her is devastating.

    • DerLeiermann

      Thanks for the recommendation, Sanford. I think I found the album on spotify (Bless!)
      I’m listening to it right now, some interesting tempi. I was also surprised to find out DFD is singing Iago.

      Here’s the link to the album on spotify EEEf anyone else is interested.

      https://open.spotify.com/album/4ULY9T12zRVXH6Oo8adFOT

      • DFD is the weak link. I think he was terribly miscast in Verdi.

        • Krunoslav

          Agreed. Posa listenable, Rigoletto misconceived (but otherwise the Kubelik set is tops).

          The Iago, Germont and Macbeth are all risible, ditto Scarpia.

          • Porgy Amor

            Don’t forget Falstaff. He isn’t high on my list of the recorded ones there either — nuance overload in the absence of tonal reserves. That’s really a conductor-dominated set (Bernstein), and his approach doesn’t wear very well either. It’s never dull, but he pulls it about too much.

            • Krunoslav

              Yes, to me that Bernstein set is just a non-starter, with the superannuated-sounding Fenton and skimpy-voiced Nannetta. And DFD is indeed hammy and ham-fisted.

          • armerjacquino

            I quite like his Scarpia. Not the ideal voice for the part obv but always interesting. In fact I think that set is underrated all round. Nobody screams over Cav’s body like Nilsson does.

            • Krunoslav

              ” Nobody screams over Cav’s body like Nilsson does.”

              Let’s not forget Phyllis Cannan. “Bags of voice!”

            • armerjacquino

              Just once, just ONCE, it would be nice to offer an opinion without you instantly popping up to make a snide remark based on my nationality and a set of prejudices you know damn well I don’t hold. Just once.

            • Krunoslav

              But Phyllis Cannan is Scottish.

            • armerjacquino

              Not sure what point/joke you think you’re making but it doesn’t work as either. Now do please find some traffic to play in.

            • manou

              Some are Scottish, some are skittish.

            • Krunoslav

              We Celts start at Hadrian’s Wall.

          • Porgy Amor

            The Rigoletto is the one I like best, although it is an unusual performance of the role. Part of it is that FiDi apart, that set is, as Krunoslav says, tops, so he gets by as an exotic element of it. He and Scotto are so poignant in their duets, seeming to find a place to meet in the middle of the different musical worlds from which they come.

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Many comments here! I SAW Lulu (the operative word) but will say nothing about it here. Gwynnie had one of the great voices of the second half of the 20th century. She began as a mezzo, Pigpen whose horrific casting, general incompetence and personal viciousness (her joy was destroying singers) made her one remarkable figure among many at the Met, before then was a singers’ agent.

              She evidently told Gwynnie that “only sapphists can occasionally make big careers as mezzos if they are not Italian with body odor, but a glorious looking Welsh gul (English pronunciation) who sang dramatic soprano might be Huge were her voice big enough”. (Approximate quote).

              I’m not sure to this day how Gwynnie managed to secure her high notes (as say, the very greatest Martha Never Say Die Modl never did: “What do you mean ‘how did I sing?” I opened my mouth and hoped something would come out. Sometimes it didn’t.”). But she did. The huge soaring quality of tone brought throughout the range, with hall filling pianissimi and deafening fortes were stunning in the late sixties.

              She was thrilling in Trovatore at La Scala of all places where no one knew who she was, she stood beside Nilsson and almost matched deafness creating for deafness creating at her Met debut and in an early appearance at Munich shook the walls. Her sound then was firm, glorious in color and mostly steady (that perhaps she wasn’t absolutely secure was betrayed early ONLY by a touch of spreading on sustained notes). She was charismatic and emotionally overwhelming.

              She then had some kind of vocal crisis, since I am an old lady, I think there she had a car accident and a bad relationship with one of those vicious creatures with penises but am not sure about that.

              Some thought she wouldn’t come back since her performances right afterward were apt to be strident and intonationally wayward. She did recover in time to televise an astounding Senta in English for BBC (the tape exists) and then just months later to the be the greatest Brunnhilde of her time from 1977 until 1994 or so.

              I saw the second season of Chereau (I had sneaked in but knew Friedelind and Pierre, long story, and got comped for Siegfried and Gott). I was just stunned, though she was vocally imperfect and sometimes hit or miss (I think the records/DVDs are not entirely accurate since they were made in the studio next door, in a hurry, with a fair amount of bad feeling — at one point M. Chereau who was forced to cede control of what was shot to Brian Large walked out in a rage).

              I remember after the Walkuere standing around in a group of girls with Friedelind Wagner who was playing the popular Bayreuth game of that era, “I spy with my little eye a Nazi, rich and happy”, and “I spy with my little eye THREE Nazis two fat and happy and their son, why, he only killed 500,000 or so”. Someone complained about some of Gwynnie’s less happy moments and Friedelind said, “you all LOVE MODL and VARNAY” (and we did, we did) and SHE (Gwynnie) is like them and will be the last.”

              She was right. Her complete Rings at the Met in the 1990’s, a lifetime later for a hochdramatischer were astounding and BETTER sung!!

              There is much more to say and for the now forgiven Armerjaquino her Marschallin especially in Munich was unforgettable, singular and is well captured on DVD with the great C. Kleiber, a man in those days of ENDLESS physical allure that a certain widder with ENDLESS anti-allure plotted to possess.

              Joan was among the greatest singers ever to be documented, period end of argument. The records may or may not always capture that, but it is true nonetheless. And I don’t want to see someone picking his or her nose, saying, “well I heard her three months before she retired and she wasn’t all that”. For one thing, she probably still was.

              Forget the singers in Rigoletto, the arguments will go one forever, I have never EVER heard anyone understand the work as Kubelik does, period. It is a revelation every time and there is nothing like it.

              AND, although I think hearing Tosca more than eight times in forty years induces retardation and advanced Alzheimer’s (one can look around and see evidence), Nilsson is ASTOUNDING on that record. It is a little improbably one of her best.

              Bernstein’s 64 performances of Falstaff at the Met with their so-so orchestra was (and on tape remains) a revelation. The recording was a miscalculation.

            • grimoaldo

              Thank you mrsjohnclaggart for another fascinating post, wonderful insider / backstage info!
              ” I SAW Lulu (the operative word) but will say nothing about it here”
              Oh,I wish you would. Are you going to say something about it somewhere else?
              “Gwynnie had one of the great voices of the second half of the 20th century.”
              Hear, hear!
              “She then had some kind of vocal crisis”
              I did not see her before that, but many many times in the 80’s and 90’s in many different roles, some people in London could not take the variable quality of her singing after this vocal crisis, but to me she was uniquely enthralling.
              ” the greatest Brunnhilde of her time from 1977 until 1994 or so….Her complete Rings at the Met in the 1990?s, a lifetime later for a hochdramatischer were astounding”
              Yes I saw her at Covent Garden in the 80’s and 90’s in quite a few Ring cycles, as both Brunnhilde and Sieglinde. Fantastic.
              Also as Elektra, Dyer’s Wife, Isolde, Turandot, and others, great great great every time.
              Turandot -- that’s another one, sorry Ivy, that having seen Jones and Domingo at ROH in that I have no desire to see it again. What would be the point, no way it could be as good. That is the way I feel anyway, Ivy said she couldn’t understand that way of thinking, it is not really a thought but a feeling, I just don’t feel like it, I would rather remember that stunning evening than perhaps dilute my memories with another performance of it.

        • kennedet

          Why Sanford because it’s so different from what you’re used to hearing therefore it must be inappropriate?

          • First of all, it goes without saying that it’s simply my opinion so others might not share it. To me, DFD always sounded like a lieder singer regardless of what he was seeing. I don’t think his voice ever had the heft needed for Verdi nor the Italianate sound or style. He was quite remarkable in lieder. But when you consider men like Milnes, Cappuccilli, Siepi, Merrill, et al, do you really think DFD was in their league?

            • kennedet

              DFD never produced the standard or international accepted “operatic sound” (whatever that means). I just think it’s unfair to label him as a “weak link” unless you are commenting on his interpretation of the role. No, he doesn’t produce a manufactured operatic sound. He uses a natural sound and changes styles according to the genre, not his vocal production. Yes, it’s not a widely accepted way of singing but some of us believe in it. I think DFD is in a league with the best of them.

            • armerjacquino

              I’m not sure I understand. Surely you can’t be saying that it’s unfair to criticise someone on the basis of the voice, the sound they make? Because that’s pretty fundamental. Interpretation is important but to suggest it’s the only criterion it’s fair to judge a singer on is bonkers.

            • Rowna

              Re DFD: He was perfect as Telramund in the great recording of Lohengrin with Ludwig as co-conspiritor. He was a great singer with a good enough voice. I heard him live several times. However, he didn’t have an Italianate sound. But the Germans sang a lot of operas in German, not the original language. German Carmens, etc. sound odd just as French operas sound odd in Russian. I get it that if you hear DFD as Rigoletto it is going to disappoint you if you were expecting Italian style, I have read a lot of negative comments on this thread about him, and I just don’t get it. Can’t we appreciate artists for their individual gifts?

            • armerjacquino

              Rowna- of course we can appreciate artists for their individual gifts. That doesn’t exempt them from criticism of their less successful ventures. DFD was for me one of the greatest lieder singers that ever lived. In the operatic rep he was undoubtedly a great singer of Mozart (one of my favourite Almavivas), Strauss, Wagner and Beethoven. To say that his Verdi and Puccini is less successful (although, as I said above, I quite like his Scarpia) doesn’t negate any of that.

            • la vociaccia

              The way people get so bent out of shape over reasoned and respectful criticisms of a singer whose reputation is all but canonized (DFD) and yet don’t bat an eyelash when virtually unknown and clearly overmatched singers get excoriated to the tune of several dozen comments (*cough* Ricardo Tamura) is quite mind boggling.

            • kennedet

              I should have said I disagree with your labeling of DFD as a “weak link”.

    • In 1969 my first boyfriend took me to see Dame Gwyneth sing Desdemona at Covent Garden. He was Dame Gwyneth’s nephew so after the performance he took me backstage to meet her. I heard her live in the 70s, 80s and 90s and although she was noted as being very variable, I always caught her on top form. Nevertheless, I find simply listening to her can be uncomfortable, but the experienced is transformed when there is a visual element.

      • everest

        Even in the later years, when she was on the voice remained quite glorious, not just with great volume and a brilliant top, but with exuberance and joy in singing throughout. The 1989 Met Ring she did was stupendous, the ones in 1993 slightly less so, though still great. The stand alone Walkures in late 1992 did not, however, find her at anywhere near her best.

        It’s hard to describe what made her visual appeal so strong. One thing she did on stage was really listen to the other singers. As Elektra in San Francisco in 1991, in Andrei Serban’s production, she really listened intently to Klytamnestra (Dernesch), waiting, judging the right moment to jump in. You could see something similar as Kundry in Act I in NY in 1995. Paying attention to others on stage really made her own singing seem spontaneous and embedded in the drama.

        • PCally

          How were those met kundrys. The one review I’ve read says she was awful but I’ve never heard anything else about them.

          • everest

            Pretty unpleasant vocally, except for the last ten minutes of Act II, where she again soared.

            A problem was that, at least near the end, the middle and lower voice just weren’t very strong. Since that’s where so much of Kundry lies, it was a problem. Even in the Elektras, which were generally incredible, the Recognition Scene was the least effective part, for that reason.

            • everest

              Oh, and the 1995 PARSIFAL also offered us the chance to hear James Courtney’s Amfortas!

            • la vociaccia

              That Parsifal also featured a couple notable debuts (along with a handful of other small roles sung by soon-to-be leading artists).

    • samson got a buzzcut

      And her death scream is terrifying! Dame Gwyneth was never afraid to give a bloodcurdling scream when required to do so. Too bad that so many sopranos don’t bother with Desdemona’s scream today though it’s actually written in the score.

  • manou

    Again -- genius headline. Could we have a “genius headline” button in the new improved Parterre?

  • Sir Ferris

    I agree about the headline, though in truth, it took me a while to figure it out. (Was the voice preserved, as if in amber? Was Gwyneth Jones a Miss Tarkington before her marriage?) Fear of being exposed as impostors and illiterates may be what keeps some of us in our lurker status!

    • La Jones once gave an interview in which she talked about the meaning of the name “Elektra,” which, she explained, in German means “bernsteinfarbig,” i.e. “the color of amber.” She considered why a girl should be given such a curious name, and reasoned that it must have had something to do with her appearance, e.g., her hair color.

      This is why in some productions of Elektra Jones chose to wear a blond wig. (It was also a flattering choice her her, I think: in the traditional black wig she looked distractingly like Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest.

      • grimoaldo

        Well Sir Ferris, I couldn’t figure it out at all until La C explained it (and you also have to recognise a now perhaps somewhat obscure novel by Booth Tarkington or film by Orson Welles “The Magnificent Ambersons”), we are not all as clever as manou to be able to work it out by ourselves (and if there were a “like” button here -the idea of which does not enthrall me -- I would “like” almost every single comment of the deliciously witty and clever manou, so she can just take it as read.)

        • manou

          Ne sono lusingata.

  • Magpie

    Was she ever a Lyric?
    I heard her twice. A great Frau… and an insane Elektra. She was definitely a dramatic soprano. My mother heard her early in her career (60s), at least 10 times, and she has always maintained that she was a “Lyric with heft”
    My mother mentioned that she was a particularly good Desdemona..
    Did anyone here hear Jones early in her career share that same opinion?

    • Feldmarschallin

      Well I heard a Butterfly and it was certainly the loudest Butterfly I have ever heard but she was not very good. But I heard her in one of my best opera performances ever and she was in stupendous form that evening as die Färberin and then I went to Genf to hear one of her first Elektras and she was also in incredible voice. Elektra and Färberin were her two best roles in my opinion.

    • uwsinnyc

      Magpie ,
      that raises an interesting aside: when is someone a ‘true’ dramatic soprano, versus simply a soprano with a very big voice? Put another way, is it volume the ultimate decider of dramatic soprano status?

      There are some singers today with massive voices — Lise Lindstrom, Sondra Radvaonvsky, who one doesn’t think of as dramatic sopranos per se , even though the voices, in decibels at least, can surpass most singers who are.

      • uwsinnyc

        I forgot to say I love your mom’s term, Magpie: “lyric with heft”. I’m going to start using it.
        May be one of our vocal experts can expound on the issue further.

    • PCally

      Perhaps when she was younger, she was more a spinto than a dramatic soprano, but by the end of the 1960s she seemed to move on from that pretty quickly (I’ve always found it interesting how early she added kundry to her rep). When I think of “lyric with heft” I think of someone like mattila or schwanewilms.