Cher Public

Enigma variation

Many of the whinier opera fans among us live to demand “Why isn’t X singing at the Met?” and for the past decade soprano Jennifer Wilson has regularly been the subject of such plaints. But on Thursday evening Wilson “finally” made a belated, disappointing Met debut as Turandot opposite the rather more satisfactory Calaf of another newbie—Yusif Eyvazov—who bowed at last Saturday’s matinee. 

Present-day financial exigencies have ordained that many houses schedule long runs of the ever-popular “bread-and-butter” operas, so this season Met audiences will see 13 performances of Tosca, 15 of both La Bohème and Rigoletto, and a whopping 16 of the ever-popular Franco Zeffirelli production of Turandot. If nothing else, these give audiences the chance to compare, say, four Toscas and four Scarpias.

Having attended the first with Christine Goerke and Marcelo Álvarez, I had wondered how Turandot would be holding up for the tenth. Paolo Carignani’s forces had a good night with the full-throated chorus particularly inspired in its ravishing anticipation of the rising moon in Act I. The antic Ping, Pang and Pong of Dwayne Croft, Tony Stevenson and Eduardo Valdes were a bit more ragged this time around but David Crawford, the potent new Mandarin, resounded.

Appearing at the Met for the first time in nearly six years, Hao Jiang Tian as a moving Timur was a definite improvement over the gritty James Morris, while the returning Hibla Gerzmava repeated her clarion Liù. Her flamboyant suicide lacked the hoped-for pathos but she sang with such plush beauty and stirring melodramatic flair that she won the evening’s biggest applause at the curtain calls.

Her nemesis unfortunately proved less compelling. Since her headline-grabbing jump-in for an ailing Jane Eaglen in Götterdammerung at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2005 (I’ve heard an in-house tape of it and she was spectacular), Wilson has been one of the more satisfying Wagnerians before the public. Her Brünnhilde in the La Fura dels Baus Ring from Valencia was so widely admired that Deborah Voigt’s sad misfire in the Robert Lepage production brought forth a volley of cries for Wilson to come to the Met. But a Wagner debut was not forthcoming; instead a single Turandot at the end of this fall’s run was scheduled.

As with many dramatic sopranos, the Puccini antiheroine has been a significant role for Wilson; it was the opera in which she made her stage debut in 2002 and she debuted with it at both Covent Garden and the Bavarian State Opera, the latter in a new production. Although her leading man most likely disqualifies it from serious attention from Turandot fans, her contribution to the new Decca recording has received a number of laudatory comments.

However, her “In questa reggia” on Thursday sounded unhappily small and tentative. Although she rose to taunt Calaf with imperious fierceness, the voice lacked the fire and commanding power one wants. While she could throw her head back and trumpet out the expected ringing high notes, the crucial middle was meek, the chest voice vestigial.

Her whitish soprano lacked the individuality to arrest one’s ear and her bland use of the text failed to illumine this knotty character. While she acted dutifully the icy princess, one felt little of the Turandot’s pain or fury. The transformative journey from virago to loving paramour lacked the emotional complexity that Goerke had brought to it, particularly in “Del primo pianto,” and she displayed little chemistry with her ardent, earthy Unknown Prince.

Even those who relish the round-robin of changing casts must acknowledge that replacements get no stage or orchestral rehearsal, and this soprano may have also been at less than her current best. However, one wondered if perhaps her first Met appearance had come a bit late for Wilson who is now nearly 50. (Yet another important debut awaits her in 2016 at Bayreuth in the surprising role of Sieglinde.)

Although the opportunity to finally see Wilson was the reason some came, others were curious to hear Eyvazov, a virtual unknown before Riccardo Muti chose him to be Des Grieux when he conducted Manon Lescaut in Rome in 2013. Next month the tenor will marry his Manon with whom he now often sings—that she is Anna Netrebko has thrust Eyvazov into an international prominence that might be eyed with suspicion. His fiancée missed his Met debut on Saturday but she was enthusiastically in attendance across the aisle from me on Thursday.

Did this Calaf belong on the stage or the Met stage or was it a grand gesture by the Met to please its leading soprano? Despite having to sing his pair of performances with two different Turandots and despite having appeared with Netrebko in Vienna the night after his debut (!!), Eyvazov performed credibly. While his dark, often throaty tenor shows few signs of beauty, it can be quite exciting. His rapid vibrato cuts like a knife and he hurled out high notes with abandon all evening.

The sound occasionally threatened to become occluded and while he didn’t display much imagination or nuance, he did endeavor to vary his dynamics, singing softly more often than some other Calafs. Rocking a man-bun, Eyvazov didn’t appear to be much of a stage animal, but he held his own after a rocky beginning which featured several “deer-in-the-headlights” moments. While one wouldn’t want to hear him in something like La Bohème, he may prove useful, particularly with more rehearsal and more careful musical and dramatic preparation, in many verismo roles.

Six more performances of Turandot arrive in January featuring the long-awaited Met return of Nina Stemme along with the first Met Liù of Anita Hartig, the highly promising Alexander Tsymbalyuk as Timur and, alas, Marco Berti as Calaf.

  • EarlyRomantic

    J Wilson already 50? And making her debut as Sieglinde at that age? So what happened during the previous, say, three decades?

  • Gualtier M

    I was there too. I actually find that Eyvazov possessed an attractive instrument with lots of potential -- there is a warm, bronzed color to it and he has an easy bright top. I find the basic color of the voice quite attractive. After he warmed up in Act I, he delivered solid ringing high B’s and C’s. (For those that care: he interpolated the high C in the “Riddle Scene” on the line “O Principessa altera” and held it -- it was narrow but true. He also hit a home run high B at the end of “Nessun Dorma” -- really two of them and the audience gave him an ovation)

    However, despite having a potentially “A” instrument, Eyvazov has a distinctly “B” technique. There is a nasality in the middle register and a buzz in the tone that gives it a braying quality. This would come and go suggesting that with training and polishing he could eradicate it. I also must mention that he is way better looking in person -- Yusif is seriously unphotogenic. The brown leather tunic cinched in his gut and the boots and manbun gave him height. He had a goattee beard and dark makeup that gave him a better jawline. (I have also seen him in the Met auditorium with Anna -- he looked perfectly presentable there too) Eyvazov moved well onstage and suggested the determination of the character. BTW: the program revealed that Eyvazov was born in Algiers, Algeria though his family seems to be Azerbaijani.

    A friend in the audience saw his debut on Saturday -- he said that last night was a major improvement and that Eyvazov improved marked from Act I to Act II last night. He really isn’t as horrible as the concert clips from Youtube with Anna would lead one to expect. However, he is young and has only been singing professionally for a few years now -- he is definitely rough around the edges and needs refining. But there is good basic material.

    Jennifer Wilson had the high notes but the sound was colorless and lacked impact -- the phrasing too had no thrust. The high notes were there but were not refulgent or full and the lower voice was colorless and hollow. No interesting delivery of text and in Act III Wilson didn’t color the tone warmer and more womanly after the transformative kiss. Wilson seemed well-routined and didn’t look scared but these one-off debut performances rarely favor new singers. You have one shot and if you bat it out of the park you have to wait another three or four years for a second shot -- if you get one and then it might be another cover performance.

    Hibla Gerzmava often sounded just as loud if not louder than Wilson and got the biggest ovation at the end. Second was Eyvazov and Wilson got a respectful but lukewarm third place. Lots of flowers thrown her way by fans I guess. Eyvazov was very attentive towards Wilson at their curtain calls.

    Anna was wearing a gold and black patterned dress with a bright blue-colored fur wrap with her hair up and long dangly earrings. She was polite and talkative with fans who came up to her.

    I think Eyvazov may be back but Wilson I doubt unless she triumphs at Bayreuth. It is a strange career -- she has these big successes and then is back singing concert Isoldes in Amersterdam or Copenhagen. She doesn’t build up any momentum in the big international houses. Some Abigailles in Vienna and then back to Belgium or Valencia…

    • la vociaccia

      Some Abigailles in Vienna and then back to Belgium or Valencia…

      So she’s a working singer. It’s not really all that strange of a career. She probably has concerts lined up in between- a Mahler 8 here, a Dvorak Stabat Mater there.

    • laddie

      Anna was wearing a gold and black patterned dress with a bright blue-colored fur wrap with her hair up and long dangly earrings

      When I read this description, it sounded terrible but then I saw a picture on FB and she looks absolutely gorgeous, a beautiful black and gold print with various bright colors mingled throughout. Beautiful, though I am less enamored of the fur piece.

      • manou

        Anna and her fiancé often look as if they have been styled by Homer (NOT Simpson). But she is always charming and fun and he seems nice -- which is all that matters.

      • Patrick Mack

        That fur piece turns that pantsuit into a Halloween costume.

    • PCally

      Is Wilson even that good? I’m waiting till I’ve seen her live but other than the top notes the voice doesn’t sound that interesting. Turandot is about the high notes but Brunnhilde and Isolde most certainly are not. She’s not particularly expressive and she doesn’t seem to move particularly onstage. Even within the limits of the Valencia staging, she’s totally apathetic to what’s happening around her.

  • marshiemarkII

    Jennifer Wilson had the high notes but the sound was colorless and lacked impact — the phrasing too had no thrust. The high notes were there but were not refulgent or full and the lower voice was colorless and hollow. No interesting delivery of text

    Carissssimo Gualtier, those were almost verbatim (maybe not as eloquently as you put it!) the words that I wrote re: the Valencia Ring, when a few here were raving about her, back what 3 or 4 years ago?. I’d love to read again what I wrote back then. Sooooooo, not surprised at all at your verdict, which I of course trust fully given your credibility!

    P.S. what was glorious Anna doing at the parterre if she was sitting in the orchestra? also doesn’t the Beczala missus look a bit pushy, trying to upstage none other than Anna Netrebko herself?!?!?!?!?!?! good luck, love HIM, but don’t like that photo pose at all for that missus…..

    • marshiemarkII

      Oh and Crocetto also sounded much louder and resonant than the poor Lise Lindstrom of recent ill-fated fame. What gives with Turandot ?!?!?!

      • PCally

        I haven’t seen Lindstrom live in a while but she seems to be having success after success. Certainly the finest Turandot I’ve seen live.

      • marshiemarkII

        Well you surely have seen what I wrote about her October 22 performance, confirmed by Milady who heard same on the radio (Thread on Racine 4 or 5 days back). It was quite simply one of the worst things I’ve seen at the Met in I can’t remember how many years!!!!!! she sure didn’t have a success that night, audience just too polite to boo.

        • PCally

          I haven’t seen what you wrote. If that’s the case then it’s a shame as I like her quite a bit. I hope to see Wilson live soon.

        • marshiemarkII
          • PCally

            Well perhaps she was having an off night.

            • PCally

              When I saw her the voice wasn’t tiniest in the slightest and while the timbre wasn’t the most beautiful it was perfect for the role. And she was a fantastic actress.

            • marshiemarkII

              Well you know, going on 40 years, going to the Met, if I know something is how voices sound and/or project at the Met, and I ALWAYS take into account the seat, as the Met has magnificent acoustics for the most part, but also a number of dead spots. For that Turandot I was at the very best acoustics in the orchestra (row T center), where I specifically used to sit for a particularly glorious Brunnhidle in the late 80s, 90s :-) just riding effortlessly over the huge Wagnerian roar underneath!

              Acting?!?!?!?!? the best acting Lindstrom did that night was the expression of terror on her face when Amor didn’t come out at the end, trouble is at that moment she is supposed to look happy :lol:

            • PCally

              Since were are not talking about the same night we had totally different experiences. As I already said, it could have been on off night or else she could just be past her prime. Her first Turandots at the met were in 2009 or 2010 (2010 is when I saw her) and she triumphed. That was five years ago. Things change. But yes when I went her acting was wonderful, full of detail and nuance.

            • marshiemarkII

              And believe me, everything was TINY that night. I had heard she had an inverted pyramid, with a volcanic top but not much below, so when she started In questa regia I said OK she will get better as she goes up, but it didn’t get better! The riddles were equally tiny, and only the Cs over the chorus and with her firmly planted on the apron finally could be heard, loud but not huge, or immense, or anything like that. In act III Del primo pianto (God I had heard Marton and Dimitrova make a meal of that!!!! not to mention the Only Maria in the recording) was again TINY, and then the Amor….. It was perfectly awful from beginning to end. Oh, and did I say the sound was fugly?!?!?!?!

            • marshiemarkII

              Our posts crossed :-) If you read that thread referred, I went specifically that night (with shrewish nasty doyennes who beat me up afterwards :-)) because she had been highly recommended here by people I admire a lot! so I am not surprised at what you say in reference to 2010, but I am talking about NOW, October 22, 2015

            • PCally

              Two things: first, at no point did or correct you nor say you were wrong. Just that we had different experiences.
              Secondly, 2010 was the last time I saw her as Turandot. I saw her sing Salome in Vienna last October and she was excellent overall. Not the ideal Salome timbre (it’s a bit dry) but up to the demands and wonderful dramatically, especially considering what a drab production is at that house. The audience felt the same way, though from what I understand Catherine Naglestad was even better when she sang later in the run.

            • Gualtier M

              Well my in-house informant (who is kind of like a male fully sighted Lois Kirschenbaum) told me that Lise Lindstrom was not as good as when she first sang the role back in 2009. I saw a weird cast with her in January 2010 because it was Charles Anthony’s farewell.

              Metropolitan Opera House
              January 28, 2010 Broadcast/Streamed

              TURANDOT {286}

              Turandot…………….Lise Lindstrom
              Calàf……………….Frank Porretta
              Liù…………………Grazia Doronzio
              Timur……………….Hao Jiang Tian
              Ping………………..Joshua Hopkins
              Pang………………..Tony Stevenson
              Pong………………..Scott Scully
              Emperor Altoum……….Charles Anthony [Last performance]
              Mandarin…………….Patrick Carfizzi
              Maid………………..Anne Nonnemacher
              Maid………………..Mary Hughes
              Prince of Persia……..Sasha Semin
              Executioner………….Antonio de Marco
              Three Masks: Mark DeChiazza, Andrew Robinson, Sam Meredith
              Temptresses: Linda Gelinas, Alexandra Gonzalez, Annemarie Lucania, Rachel Schuette

              Conductor……………Julien Salemkour [Debut]

              In 2010, Lindstrom in the middle register sounded like a Liu with a bad attitude but the top just kept expanding and expanding as the tessitura rose. She was a pretty and slim woman who moved well and seemed to know what she was up to onstage. I really wasn’t blown away by the voice. (I have heard latterday Gwyneth Jones, latterday Eva Marton in decent form, latterday Ghena Dimitrova in rejuvenated form in Central Park, the excellent Sharon Sweet and dozens of others like Audrey Stottler, Irene Theorin, Jane Eaglen, Andrea Gruber, Ealynn Voss, Martile Rowland, Maria Guleghina, Alessandra Marc Erika Sunnegardh, Anna Shafajinskaya, Adrienne Dugger and Ruth Falcon). I am a Turandot junkie, I guess.

              Wilson I felt ranked below Audrey Stottler and Adrienne Dugger (when she first sang it at the Met). Sharon Sweet was maybe the all around best sung. Lindstrom and Sunnegardh were similar in that they are inverted pyramid voices that are tiny in the middle but open up on top. Neither seems to have been young exactly when they hit the big time. Lindstrom is now six years older and has been singing stuff like Elektra (not Chrysothemis as formerly). So some wear and tear might happen especially in the middle.

            • PCally

              I’ll say that my love for Lindstrom comes with the caveat that I’ve only ever seen her, Eaglen, Marc, and Theorin in the role. Jones, Marton, and Dimitrova were before my time. Eaglen was awful, Theorin was fine but nothing special, and Marc had everything but the top which was tiny and strident. She and Eaglen made no attempt to act at all and Theorin was too small scaled, though effective. Maybe if I had seen some truly legendary Turandots I would feel differently about Lindstrom.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              Lindstrom’s voice, on the occasions I have seen her, was bigger at the top than it was in the middle- like lots of sopranos, but more pronounced. Nevertheless, it wasn’t tiny in the middle. She was a great Turandot at the ROH, but so was Theorin. I’ve seen quite a few there, but the very best was Gruber at her rather brief peak (which fortunately included an incredible Minnie, also at the ROH).

            • marshiemarkII

              I am a Turandot junkie, I guess.

              Oh carisssimo Gualtier, here we do diverge…… the best way to describe my attitude to Turandot would be to borrow Madame C’s immortal words about Tosca! If she would kindly authorize me to use them with respect to Turandot, I’ll say it with corresponding [TM] . I go see it now literally kicking and screaming……against my will!

              Nevertheless, I was once young and dumb, and saw almost every performance with Marton when the production was new, and Marton was already far from great, she had been truly magnificent in Boston in 1983 (either right before or right after the Met Centennial Gala, where she sang In questa regia of course), but by 1987 there was much wear and tear already, but she did sing a very beautiful Del primo pianto, which at the time I would listen to day and night with the Only Maria, so I was always looking for that amazing expressivity with the words, that fever! Later that season it was Ghena Dimitrova’s turn, and though her top was really no longer working well at all, it was an astonishing, shocking voice, THAT size, and that richness, and that phrasing (except the highest passages that were well beyond her, no matter!). She was awesome in so many different ways! Saw all 3 or so performances she did. Then I did not see it again until Dame Gwyneth’s 1995 or 96? and I won’t say much other than it was not a good role at that point, or I saw an off night. But those Cs in act II were immense alright! That was immense!
              And the last time was like 5 or 6 years ago when I saw Andrea Gruber in pretty good form (glad we agree on that one Cocky!), slim and very powerful-voiced, but it was another of these social/doyenne nights (why always Turandot, ugggh ?!?!!?!?!?) and we were sitting in the first row, and everyone was making fun of the Turandot that looked like Leona Helmsley, on a bad night! Of all of those, this poor lady Ms Lise was of course the worst! And what someone called it a “dry” voice , I just spare the euphemisms, and call it downright fugly! And to make it even worse, I saw it a few days after the sublime Netrebko’s Leonora (Sese), and sandwiched between those two astounding Tannhausers that was a truly religious experience, I was transfigured in both performances, and that trashy little thing in between, un sacrilegio estremo!

              By the way I guess I am the ultimate Gotterdammerung junkie, having seen it more than 30 times at last count :-)

        • mercadante

          Lindstrom’s Turandot debut “In questa reggia” is on YouTube and huge and easy it is. One can actually hear her sound reverberating off the walls of the auditorium, quite a feat. Just compare that to what you heard in the house.

        • Lohenfal

          Liebster MMII,

          I gather from your comments that you didn’t care for Mme. Lindstrom’s Turandot, to say the least. Interestingly enough, one of her performances was on my subscription, but I exchanged that months ago to get something better, namely Lulu. Has this experience really turned you against the piece itself? The Otello I went to a few weeks ago was also discouraging, but it didn’t cause to me like that work any less. On the contrary, it increased my respect for it, despite the rather shabby treatment it received in some of the casting and the awful production.

          BTW, it was a Met broadcast of Turandot that turned me on to opera, more than the others which I had previously heard. Considering that it starred Nilsson and Corelli, that isn’t altogether a surprise. I haven’t heard anyone quite so good in it ever since then, but I still enjoy an occasional exposure to this piece despite that. It isn’t as moving as some other Puccini, but still is an advance in many ways over his earlier works, both musically and in his use of a mythical subject.

          • mrsjohnclaggart

            I have sworn, kneeling in front of the altar with an immense statue in a room filled with incense and the smell of myrrh (the altar is to me) to stay away from these sorts of discussions this time at Parterre. You can’t win, of course. People like, love, adore, what they like, love and/or adore and my opinion, in that case, has no value, nor should it.

            But, “It [Turandot] isn’t as moving as some other Puccini, but still is an advance in many ways over his earlier works, both musically and in his use of a mythical subject”???????????????????

            WHAT? It’s old man’s work, horrifically dependent on music and styles lifted undigested from others. Puccini was heavily “influenced” always but absorbed his influences and worked them very cleverly into the overall fabric of what he was doing. But Turandot is NOTHING without Boris Godunov, the younger Stravinsky, Pierrot Lunaire, and Ravel. The horrendous tenor arias are copycat Lehar and Kalman except those two would have written them better and made a fresher effect. There is “no growth” in Turandot, there is “nothing good” in Turandot.

            (Does a composer HAVE to grow? Of course not. Mozart did not GROW in Don Giovanni, it is far less impressive than most of the music he wrote the summer before. Did he GROW in Cosi? Of course not. His skills were his skills at the time lashed to texts that did or didn’t reward them — a matter of opinion, surely).

            Puccini could orchestrate and make noise but so could Mascagni and is was MASCAGNI in IRIS (1898) who had used “Chinese” themes and the (romanticized) sound of a Chinese orchestra. Mascagni was the first Western composer to do that in terms of any Asian culture.

            (Puccini thus got the idea for doing the same though with a different country, Japan, for Butterfly. But his work in that is a marvel of invention, logic, the use of leitmotif and his ability to explore certain harmonic implications of his sources). Puccini with that shit, Toscanini, had gone to the first night of IRIS and BOTH had taken notes.

            When Puccini after the usual endless back and forth chose a subject with a Chinese background he went back to Mascagni. He STOLE various percussion effects, and expanded some orchestral choices but it is IRIS that is the work of great imagination and courage. Mascagni was a great talent, Puccini (who had been his fellow student and roommate) knew that very well.

            And what “mythical” subject? Puccini and his librettists went back and forth between two plays, the comic satire on women’s rights by Carlo Gozzi (set very well by Ferruccio Busoni who is MUCH closer to Gozzi’s sensibility). And the German adaptation of same by Friedrich Schiller, a wallow in woman hate and S&M.

            Sadly, Puccini was drawn more to the latter. In Gozzi, which his librettists preferred, Turandot is an intellectual snob, far more brilliant than her suitors, so she kills them. She wants above all in her court for women to be respected and when they achieve something, admired. But it is a COMEDY.

            Gozzi has Turandot talk to the men in the audience at the end of the play (no Liu is in it) and apologize for her fantasy, born of the inferior place women are automatically assigned. No one was killed, it was just make believe, but women’s gifts must be honored as much as those of men, “and we have certain other gifts…” Like all of Gozzi is it hilarious but sharply observed, and completely unsentimental.

            It is Schiller who emphasizes Turandot’s pointless and arbitrary cruelty and admires the “Unknown’s” WILL TO CONQUER (did I mention that Schiller was a queen?).

            The “Unknown” does, but he is as vicious and appalling a creature as Turandot in that telling (no Liu there either), though even so there are more humor and grotesquerie. No one addresses the audience, but Schiller makes it clear that “It is only a play” to quote the greatest Amercian Playwright, Terrence McNally (known as “Tiger” in his day) who is even now fucking Bob K who runs Opera-L with his iron dildo. K has his rat brains far up his ass and needs that dildo. “Why, Tiger, why?” I asked him. “Shit needs to be stirred, especially if someone thinks in it. I have become humanitarian with age”.

            Liu was the idea of the Librettists and publisher; she is the one character that reflects Puccini’s genuine sensibility. But still, compared to his earlier work in that style, it’s tired. There is no growth there at all. But he got stuck with her death. He lived two years after, in poor health but could have completed the opera. Instead, he left 13 pages of sketches IN PENCIL, not all have music, but some have brief notations on both sides of the page. They are largely illegible (I have seen them in the Ricordi archives, have you?). Alfano uses EVERY PIECE of music that is in the sketches and makes sensible choices about the shape Puccini apparently wanted the final scene to have.

            “La tua gloria”, which recurs in “Dal Primo Pianto” was written by Puccini, it is first sung by Calaf but Turandot repeats it as part of her aria, as Puccini planned. BUT HE COULDN’T WRITE THE ARIA! Alfano had to have recourse to a version of an aria in his own opera Sakuntela for the initial melody.

            WHY couldn’t Puccini complete the opera? Well, it wasn’t because Tiger wasn’t there to fuck him, (he had hemorrhoids) it was because TURANDOT AND CALAF as conceived in the opera are HORRENDOUS monsters, vicious sadists and grotesques! It was like asking Puccini to write a long love duet between Scarpia and Spoletta (come to think of it…) There are NO human qualities to bring to the fore, and there is nothing but animal sex implied in the story.

            “E Poi Tristano!!!” is one phrase Puccini wrote in his sketches. “And now Tristan”. He meant that he saw the challenge here at the very end of the opera was to make human and compelling these ghastly horrors and to show that their overwhelming, life-quenching LOVE redeemed and made them human after all. Who could possibly have brought THAT off?

            When Toscanini, in order to justify cutting Alfano to bits so his work sounds worse, said he had visited the sick Puccini and had heard him play THE ENTIRE FINAL SCENE, HE WAS LYING!!! When will the world catch on to what a pig that hairdresser was (as Varese called him). When Luciano Berio made a lot of money “completing” Puccini’s sketches he had nothing to work with and the result is thin and inconclusive. There never was anything there.

            There is nothing there in Turandot but noise; “In Questa Reggia” is nothing but melody by sequence so blatant that even Tchaikovsky on one of his bad days would have been embarrassed. So Turandot SCREAMS for what seems to be days (actually Birgit Nilsson timed the part, 15 minutes usually, 12 with “Dal primo pianto” cut). Big whoop.

            But no one has gotten this far, I am tired, so bring on Jane Eaglen to bury me. (The dirt must be eaten, then dug up by hand and piled on, then eaten again….)

            • laddie

              Well, I certainly will never be able to hear/see Turandot again in the same light. The Liu arias I always look forward to; they stick in my mind more than the other music (except for ND, but no one can help that). Thank you for your luminous thoughts.

            • Batty Masetto

              While I can’t really go along with Mrs. JC’s wholesale demolition, I completely agree that Puccini had painted himself into a dramaturgical corner.

              I don’t think Turandot herself is a monster. She’s merely brilliant, beautiful, and totally uninterested in men. She tells everybody loud (very) and clear that she’s got no reason or desire whatsoever to consent to the conventional gender role that the plot has predetermined for her. She’s willing to defend her freedom ferociously. But it’s not as though she actively goes out hunting men and slaying them. All the boys have to do to avoid disaster is STAY AWAY. Is that so very hard?

              Apparently, yes. All those miscellaneous princes, including Calaf, can only think with their dicks (and maybe their wallets). So along they come, and away they go. It’s not as though they haven’t been warned. Their testosterone-driven mania, with its inevitable consequences, is turning the country into chaos because they leave the government no time for anything but riddle ceremonies and executions.

              It’s interesting to notice just where the composer got blocked. Everybody agrees Liu is the real heart of the action. Turandot herself seems to be touched by her ardor. What I’d love to see some day is this: Back up only a few measures and start rewriting. Liu’s suicide gets prevented at the last minute. Rescued from the threshold of death, she recognizes Calaf for what he is. He gets what’s coming to him.

              And Turandot, having seen real love at work for the first time, marries Liu.

            • Lohenfal

              Mrs JC, I agree with only one part of your post: your comments on the difficulties Puccini had in completing the third act. The rest I decidedly don’t agree with. Puccini is hardly my favorite composer, but I think he was something more than a Mascagni imitator. As for the plot, it certainly presents some dramatic challenges, but it does have a mythical quality, whatever Gozzi and Schiller may have done with it.

              I remember that in a former post some time ago, you expressed a belief that Don Giovanni was only second-rate Mozart. You seem to have a need to indulge in revisionism. I don’t.

            • Krunoslav

              Speaking of McNally:


              Has another actual opera singer played this part?

              Anyone here go or planning on going?

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Lohenfal, looking at the score and what else the composer has done in the same period and making an INFORMED decision as opposed to using opera or music as THE BIG SLEEP is not revisionism. As I said, anyone is entitled to disregard a cranky old lady and my opinion doesn’t matter certainly when someone loves a piece.

              But love should follow examination and thought and should never be complacent. Not to hear the differences between the marvels Mozarts accomplished just months before, and the more ordinary Don Giovanni with its chaotic story and a fair amount of musical twaddle isn’t “anti-revisionism” it’s…

              Have you ever heard IRIS, studied the score, looked at how Puccini and others in Italy used his work? I didn’t think so. But go ahead and lip smack over your comfortable prejudices (and no, there is nothing MYTHICAL about a preposterous story that had its origins into two satirical farces, one a sadistic one that Puccini chose).

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Krunoslav I thought YOU were an opera singer who had done THE GREATEST PLAY ABOUT OPERA AND THE TRUEST REFLECTION OF MARIA CALLAS ever written. For aren’t you the great opera singer, Hibla Habla Krunoslava? My apologies if I am wrong. Poor Susan Neves, she was a very gifted singer with an imposing voice maybe a decade ago and for some years before then. A big lady, she never seemed to get a break. I wonder if she’s lost voice and body mass or if this is a “job’s a job” situation, which all people in the arts know about.

              I had repressed Leonie’s Tosca (and for someone above, I’ve never mentioned Leonie without noting that she was generally out of tune including in the boring comment where I mentioned her first Sieglinde within the first few sentences above, I didn’t mean or suggest that her live Desdemona was an exception). I do remember the one in ’79 in the house, which I think was a tribute to her where she was booed and left the country immediately. She was having a bad time from her entry, so even a chorister (he was quite experienced by then, having just celebrated his 51st birthday though like many the chorister his dread of being forced to retire led him to claim to be 39) could do a good job.

            • Batty Masetto

              Iris complete (Olivero):

              Vocal score (no full score appears to be available online):


            • mrsjohnclaggart

              This is in better sound, is a staged production and is more accurate musically. The score is the best reference.

            • messa di voce

              Great WTF? final curtain, and love Dessi’s very relaxed curtain call.

            • marshiemarkII

              Mein Gott!!!! I go away for a day and all the big gurls get on the fun, without me!

              My carisssimo Lohenfal, I am afraid that my detestation for Turandot long preceded the little piece of fecal matter that lady from California left on the Met stage last month. Sometime between 1987 and 1995, I had started to develop urticaria at the mere mention of the name. And to think that in 1983, I was so young and dumb that I and a few other queens trekked all the way to Newark International Airport to catch a People’s Express flight to Boston to see Eva Marton first US try at the role (maybe first ever since she was replacing you know who in Vienna around the same time) in 1983, at some rinky dinky theater in the Combat Zone. Shudder at the thought now.

              Madame C!!!!! you outdid yourself once again, with another astonishing masterpiece. While I was familiar with your demolition of the characters, what a bunch of idiots, morons and assholes, all of them, your musical vivisection and evisceration was revelatory, and most enlightening, many many thanks for passing down your wisdom! My only complaint is that such a master compendium cannot be reduced to the clever one liners you gave us for Tosca, so I really could never really borrow them, but they sure were an extraordinary education. Even better that it confirmed some of my reasons why I have grown to dislike that opera so much.

            • antikitschychick

              mrsjohnclaggart thank you for that illuminating and utterly hilarious post concerning Puccini’s travails and Turandot. I have not read the Schiller play on which the story is based but it wouldn’t surprise me that it’s sadistic and misogynistic. I admire Puccini’s orchestrations and melodies, but in terms of the characters and their motivations, I can’t say I’m a big fan. Many of them have no psychological depth, or “growth” as you say. That Gozzi play you mentioned sounds delightful. Am going to check it out. I’ve read a good amount of feminist literature and Philosophy but unfortunately I haven’t read that many feminist plays aside from A Doll’s House, Top Girls, The Homecoming, Death and the Maiden…what others would you recommend?

              And Batty Masseto, that’s a great alternative ending and it’s actually crossed my mind before that it would make the opera much more interesting if Turandot did in fact fall for Liu instead of Calaf, and now that you’ve taken it a step further by suggesting that they wed I’ve already assembled a cast in my head lol.

              Seriously, thank you both.

              Finally, wanted to add that I had the privilege of hearing James Morris as Timur the night I went and while yes, the voice is worn, it nevertheless resounded powerfully into the theater and it was obvious that his was once a great instrument. I was happy to have heard him at least once, if only to get a glimpse into a past generation that had a lot to offer…

              I honestly can’t recall if it was David Crawford or Eduardo Valdes I was very impressed with, but one of them definitely stood out from that trio of Ping, Pang and Pong though they were all good and didn’t overact. Apologies for leaving this out of my former post.

              Sorry to hear Jennifer Wilson didn’t have such a great success. It does seem that, being that she’s 50, the Met caught her too late and in a killer role to boot. But maybe she’ll get the chance to sing other roles; who knows.

            • antikitschychick

              travails *in trying to compose Turandot (and the general assessment of him as a composer).

            • armerjacquino

              Before the whole ‘the Met waited too long’ narrative takes a total hold, it should be pointed out that Wilson didn’t make her professional debut until she was 36.

            • PCally

              Also, to add that that, most singers aren’t at their best their first night. Since Wilson has only been given one performance, it’s possible the met just didn’t get to see her at her best. Beyond that I don’t think any singer has sung their best Turnadot in that particular production.

            • Milady DeWinter

              Thank you Mrs Claggart for my belly laughs of the day (they are hard to come by since Friday) reading your fiery denouncement of (chiefly, I believe) Turandot, the opry.
              I don’t hate it as much as you do, but then, I can get swept away with cheap sentiment and thunderbolt top notes (blame Cecil B. DeMille) if it’s sung well.
              And I am sorry, along with Marshie and the others, that Jennifer Wilson has arrived apparently too late for the party. Sigh.
              But you are perfectly right about the main characters lacking, at the very least, a little sympathy.
              Calaf practically tramples Liu’s corpse while unfastening his breeches and making a b-line to the Principessa, apparently also aroused with a little S & M and necrophilia.
              A shame that Puccini apparently really didn’t think through the libretto, and lost interest along the way. But there are some choice bits for vocal voyeurs along the way.

            • DeepSouthSenior

              Ok, I’ll grant that Puccini’s final opera may deserve a lot of the slicing and dicing it’s gotten here lately. But that giant thing on Turandot’s head in the Zeffirelli production makes it all worthwhile, don’t you think?

            • You left out one of the obvious influences: Die Frau ohne Schatten. Puccini was at the Italian premiere and surely took something away.

      • la vociaccia

        What gives with Turandot?

        Well there is hope from mine and Anti-K’s Ukrainian obsession:

        Hoping with every fiber of my being she takes it to the Met…

  • Cicciabella

    Another Met debut, another evisceration. Poor Jennifer Wilson.

  • actfive

    Sorry to hear that Wilson disappointed…I attended the Chicago performance when she replaced Eaglen and it was thrilling. I wrongly assumed that the Met would snap her up--looks like they waited too long.

  • YigeLi

    A minor mistake: the concert Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov sang on Nov. 8 was in Graz not Vienna. It was a crazy schedule that he rushed to airport right after his MET debut.

    The Saturday performance was not only his MET debut but also his role debut of Calaf. And he had no orchestra rehearsal at all (understandable for all these come-and-go rotating cast for Turandot, as well as similar ones like Boheme, Tosca… Poor Puccini). It’s great to see Yusif got his creditable success.

    • Lohengrin

      Which was not continued in Graz. Critics where very polite, but people from the audience where not so pleased by his performance (very loud and linear singing).

  • Evenhanded


    I saw Wilson as Brunnhilde in Die Walkure in the La Fura dels Baus production in Florence around 2008 or so. At the time, she seemed young and extremely lyric for such a heavy part. My thought then, was that she was a second tier singer by virtue of her smallish vocal amplitude -- never in a million years would I have called it a “dramatic” soprano sound. Based on that impression (in a MUCH smaller house), the cavernous Met would seem a poor fit for her talent.

    In regard to Eyvazov, I have yet to hear him live and hope he continues to develop. While I enjoyed Mr. Corwin’s review, I really despise reading/hearing phrases like “he may prove useful” in certain repertoire, etc. This is a PERSON we are talking about here -- not a screwdriver or similar utensil that may prove too small or too large and can simply be set aside in favor of something else. Just my opinion.

    • PCally

      Obviously dvds are very different from live performance but she seems to have the role down pat, it’s probably the best sung Brunnhilde on dvd (give or take Evans, who certainly sounds more lyrical). Maybe, like you said, she just needs a smaller venue.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        I don’t get this assessment. Evans as Brunnhilde was small scale and unrewarding- got the job done in the absence of anybody better, it seemed to me. I found the colour undistinguished and the delivery tense and inhibited. I agree though that what I’ve heard of Wilson (YouTube only) is pretty similar!

        • PCally

          Sorry Cocky but I have to say I disagree. I never saw Evans in the role live but I like her a lot in that video. Lyrical but not lightweight by any means, with scrupulous attention to the text and the dynamics. Wins by a landslide over Polaski (who she replaced I believe), and considerably more developed and fully formed that Wilson, especially with regards to stage presence. I don’t find Evans the most charismatic actress but she’s there, she’s present, and nothing she does is phony or faked. She also has terrific chemistry with Tomlinson and Jerusalem. Obviously that’s just my opinion but with regards to dvd Brunnhildes she’s the best sung and dramatically I would put her only behind Gwyneth (duh!) and possible Theorin (though I haven’t seen that one in a very long time).

          • mrsjohnclaggart

            I did see that Ring live and as is often the case, I thought the live performances were more compelling than the choices the video director made. I liked Evans who worked with “Reggie” Goodall and has all the good qualities he insisted on, logical phrases, accurate rhythm and eloquent and felt words. She wasn’t a vocal marvel but managed pretty well, I thought, at least at Bayreuth, where you can hear a mouse in oestrus on stage. I thought she was a relief after … certain others.

            However, PCally, you seem like such a sweet person, why would you want to crush an old lady’s stone, I mean heart? I saw Debbie Polaski’s return to Bayreuth after the convent or confinement (take your pick) and she was cautious. But the NEXT year, where Mrs. Claggart got into trouble with a monster named Frau Doktor Glatt and the asshole Wolfgang Wagner and had to be hidden in turn by D. Barenboim and his sons, Giuseppe Sinopoli and yes, James Levine who hid her massive bulk in his closet, while the Gestapo, I mean, Bayreuth security searched his dressing room (long story), Madame Polaski was sublime and abandoned. She didn’t exactly have the highest notes but there is more to the roles and problems of one kind or another have not stopped others. She is a great artist.

            • PCally

              MJC, I’m sorry, Polaski just never really appealed to me. Its not the voice so much (though it’s a bit dry for my taste) but I was always baffled because she had a reputation for being this “singing actress” and that just never seemed justified to me because she just seemed so blowsy and uninteresting. I found her Ortrud and Kostelnicka to be blunt and crude from an interpretive standpoint, especially when compared to the likes of Meier and Silja. Her “acting” just always seemed to consist of casting dirty looks and giving side eye and that was about it. I didn’t see her in the performances you mention, if I had maybe I would feel differently. Her Dyer’s wife was fine but nothing special, ditto her met Brunnhilde.

              However, the bizarre thing about her was that she seemed to get better with age. Her Elektra with the NY Phil was leagues ahead of her met performances vocally and the last time I saw her live in a staged production was the Guth ring Cyle in Hamburg and the voice had pulled a total Benjamin button. So idk, I guess she’ll just remain a mystery to me.

              Anyway, I’ll always prefer Evans whose general sensitivity and intelligence I admire quite a bit.

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Thank you for such a kind and intelligent response, PCally.

          • uwsinnyc

            “However, the bizarre thing about her [Polaski] was that she seemed to get better with age.”

            Yes I would definitely agree here. She never really had a glorious top, IMO, so she didn’t have the ‘receding top’ issue that other sopranos did.
            Meanwhile the middle got increasingly rich and mellow. She was great in Jenufa in the mid 2000s at the MET, as well as in the NYPhil Elektra you reference.

            I found her an interesting actress. I agree she could be blowsy and crude, but there was a subtle intensity and humanity about her. Her Dyer’s wife was not a shrew but a very sad woman.

            • PCally

              That Dyers wife was possibly the best met performances she gave IMO, especially when compared to the way Schnaut butchered the role (dramatically as well). Vocally it was all there as well. Can’t say I agree about the jenufa performances however. I saw her in the role both and the met and munich and both mattila and westbroek were stupendous but they were acting in a void because, as I wrote earlier, the only thing polaski was doing was passive aggressive staring. She was better vocally in munich though, which was after the hamburg performances btw (got the dates mixed up). The way I would describe her acting (the way I saw it, obviously people feel differently) is underplayed without actually being subtle, a rather annoying combination.

  • 98rsd

    Wilson was an absolutely wonderful Turandot in Santa Fe, maybe 5 or so years ago. Very healthy sound.

  • Patrick Mack

    Saw Wilson in Turandot in Santa Fe back when and she was the Gertrune in our Ring here a couple years after that. I can’t say I was terribly impressed by either. The Turandot was loud but frankly after hearing Eaglen, Ellyn Voss, Stotler,and Linda Kelm I didn’t find Wilson much a stand out. Her Gertrune was very feminine. I think she was on hand more as a ‘God Forbid’ for Watson in case she fell ill.

  • zinka

    Tonight is the night to hail the people of Paris at this sad moment. Words are inadequate….Vive la France!!!!