Cher Public

“It’s a return!”

Which legendary operatic lady of New York, now in the twilight of her career, is currently studying a dusty old bel canto score in preparation for yet another comeback?

  • messa di voce

    Has to be Millo.

  • SilvestriWoman

    Lauren Flanigan?

  • phillyoperalover

    Millo in Norma or turandot

  • Loge

    I thought of those. But twilight means “Eve”. Maybe Eve Queler?

  • Eve Queler.

    • phoenix

      At least she’s not going try sing it — or is she?

  • I first thought Millo as well,but the youtubes of her 2014 concert of Il Tabarro reveals a voice that is in no way ready for a “dusty old bel canto opera”. Is the word “twilight” a clue? Gotterdammerung? Deborah Voigt?(I don’t believe Bel Canto was a genre that ever fit her voice)

    • SilvestriWoman

      Actually, early in her career, it could have fit quite well. She was a splendid Donna Anna. At her Merola finals concert, she handled early Verdi with aplomb -- gorgeous tone, easy coloratura, magnificent top notes.

  • knowingclam

    It’s Queler. And it’s going to be Donizetti’s Parisiana with Angela Meade.

  • briankp

    Kathleen Battle is coming back to sing the Duchesse de Krakentorp alongside Natalie Dessay’s Marie in 2018! Two comebacks in one night! ;)

  • Gualtier M

    Millo had an outstanding contract from OONY for a Cherubini “Medea” that was canceled. She later hoped to perform the opera in Brazil but the Brazilian producer never got the funding together. So my guess is that the Medea is back on. Thoughts: I think she can sing it. Millo would prefer the Lachner version with sung recits translated into Italian. The musicological snob in me says that it should be done in French with the spoken recitatives. The musical pragmatist in me that has heard the work in both formats feels that a) though the Lachner recits are actually more in the style of Beethoven than Cherubini, they are attractive musically and more practical for non-francophone singers who haven’t training in dramatic recitation and b) Millo is more comfortable in Italian than French and her singing style is Italianate and a veristic overlay a la Magda Olivero can work there.

    That is: if it is Millo and it is “Medea”.

    Other suggestion -- some millionaire endow OONY with several million dollars and present a “Medea” operathon consisting of:
    a) The French version with Anna Caterina Antonacci and French singers in the original version
    b) The Lachner rewrite in Italian with Millo
    c) the Mayr “Medea in Corinto” with some demented diva like Alex Penda

    • CwbyLA

      Is Medea considered to be a dusty old bel canto score?

    • mrsjohnclaggart

      musicological snob???!!! Sancta simplicitas!!

      • Pia Ngere-Liu

        In this household, we sometimes prefer operas from the Can Belto category. And as they say, there is Bel Canto, Can Belto and Can’t Canto.

        • mrsjohnclaggart

          For you, Pia, an example of taste and restraint. Gigli in 1951 (he was 60) in Rio. Guardate, pazzo son…! (sobbing: Elisabetta Barbato)

          • Pia Ngere-Liu

            And then there is Rosa Ponselle’s interpolations in Traviata:

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              For you, Pia, only for you, the greatest Renata Tebaldi as a wild young thing suffering her death agonies in Naples in 1952. Adriana — an opera that should be banned — with the great Taddei and the young and not too bad sounding Gianni Poggi (of course he doesn’t have much to sing). The audience becomes unhinged.

            • Magpie

              Dear Pia…. first time I heard this, and maybe it shows that I am troglodyte but I love Ponselle’s Traviata. Granted she transposed down, but after this, I would rather hear this sans the high notes, than most traviatas that include the c, f, x and z note.
              I loved the way she seems to transform the voice to suit the act. I thought the coloratura was ok. I thought she was having fun in act one, vs singing like she is having fun. The amami alfredo is over the top devastating. Her screams while Alfredo denounces her are worthy of our best drag queens and for me it so worked!. Her final aria is just so gorgeous and the voice…Also, she is one of the few sopranos who seem to me not only enjoys the sounds of the words, but also makes something with the words. There was a lot of attention to detail in there. Thank you for posting this. A new favorite!

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Well two things about Ponselle, many sopranos lower “sempre libera” it is a standard downward transition as is “che gelida manina”. That is the ONLY transposition in Traviata.

              The carrying on during the “scena della bursa” can be heard done by Caniglia and Tebaldi, and the latter is hardly restrained in the clip I posted below. The knocks on the Ponselle performance are phony baloney. And NO ONE does the entire Germont scene as she, Tibbett and Panizza do it. It is truly unbelievable and profoundly moving. And yet one scumbag here called her records “creepy”.

              Does it make a non-entity better to LIE about this performance? Now and then her tone is veiled and it is probably not as she sounded consistently at her very best but the great moments — are well — great. Some of the queen favorites of scum like the Googler don’t even have professional moments.

              It’s not the issue that no one is any good today, it is not the issue that some of the greats lived in a time where they were in decline by the point where it was feasible to broadcast, it is loving the art form and embracing it all. And also, frankly, demanding as far as is possible to be similarly moved, overwhelmed live today is no bad thing.

              Yes, modes of expression change but the lack of the imagination to enter a different time is a limit of the dismissive fool, not a valid critical stand. As to these people being dead, so what? Homer is dead, and more to the point with people like The Googler so is Jacqueline Susann and all the people who post here now will be dead too.

              But documents live on and being able to hear how the greats sang (and of course, Ponselle’s records are far from “creepy”) is one of the pleasures of loving opera, maybe a worthless pursuit, but for us with the disease, those things are a joy.

              And by the way, the live Carmens, the last role she sang (except for an Azucena from the orchestra pit in a Baltimore Trovatore when she was running the opera company and the mezzo had no voice), although wild and a little crazy still contain some amazing singing. As do her radio broadcasts made at the same time and afterwards, where she tosses off difficult arias thrillingly and (in the Marston collections) good, clear sound.

          • Pia Ngere-Liu

            Was the illustrious Mrs John Claggart present?

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              I was present and thought it was a circus, late Franco, crazy Caballe but it is legendary, so there you have it!!!

      • Pia Ngere-Liu

        I tried my best to like the Ponselle Traviata -- I agree with the Germont scene but i find it difficult to get past the sound quality. I tried it for a week or so and it didn’t grow on me. A CD which I got at fairly the same time was an old EMI CD of Claudia Muzio -- I listened to it incessantly. I haven’t listened to it in years and will do so tomorrow.

        • mrsjohnclaggart

          But you see, Pia, although that is a famous Muzio record, it’s very extreme in expression. That too was an Italian style (Gilda della Rizza, a Muzio rival does it almost exactly the same). Those final records were sad, for Muzio is not in voice for many of the arias, and she paid to make the records, which did not sell. On the late records I love the songs (Colombetta and Ombra di nube in particular), and the verismo — though sometimes more for intent than ease. She does Maddalena’s narration wonderfully but when she has to sing the “tune” she begins to have some trouble. “Esser madre e un inferno” is fabulous, one of the great aria performances but Mimi’s two arias though full of interesting detail have some issues. The two Otello duets with Merli are so deeply felt they are heartbreaking (they made Cecilia Bartoli cry) but she has trouble with higher phrases. I do love the arias from the perfectly awful Cecilia, especially the death scene, which are unhinged in a particularly Italian way (of that period). It is said that she and the composer, a priest named Refice were having an affair but she is twice his height so I doubt it.

          Her Edisons (the ’20’s) are probably the best one can do; the sound is very good and although she is less emphatic her voice in its prime has that incredible color and she sings with feeling — songs such as “mal d’amore”, more spontaneous and girlish readings of Mimi, “Sorgi o padre” and a very lovely excerpt from Tatyana’s Letter Scene (in Italian, she sang it at the Met), among many others.

          I wish there was a well-documented book on her life; I don’t think anyone knows just what was going on. I have silent films her many lady friends took of her in Chicago (where she was worshipped in the 20’s before the company went kaput) and they convey … something. She also had that fling with Onassis, married (photographs of the two of them show him to be very, very handsome, later he was the one who absconded with the money that Bagarozy was going to use to restart the Chicago Opera and launch one, Mary Callas) was or was not deserted by him when she lost her money in the crash, and may or may not have had a daughter… and did she commit suicide (Magda Olivero and Bidu Sayao swore she did for they insisted they were studying with her when she died, but there’s no proof, she had been ill, seems to have been fond of downers) and was she Jewish? Even though she is buried in a Catholic graveyard?

          Pia! You make me forget the present!!!!!!!!!!

          • JohninSeattle

            Mrs. Claggart, we need to get you a regular podcast. How fun would it be to have you and a guest sitting, chatting and playing clips discussed.

            Long may you thrive!

          • Magpie

            Well, damn it Msclaggart! (oh my mentor), now you have me looking for Muzio clips when i should be working or porning.
            So now you two got me hooked on Ponselle AND Muzio

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin
            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Thank you, John. You know I did the first intermission at the broadcasts a lot, playing the piano and offering analysis (not too bad but not Boris Goldovsky either) but also playing records. The record playing ended when the audience laughed at Lotte Lehmann’s acoustic recording of Vissi D’arte, one of the great performances because she sobs at the end (SOBS I should write). I screamed at them and called them a bunch of idiots. Michael Bronson who had succeeded Richard Mohr as producer and who I hated told me that was inappropriate and I couldn’t do the record session again. I wasn’t as sweet natured then as I am now.

              Magpie! I am heartily sorry to take anyone away from porn. I don’t know what your financial resources are (NO ONE is as reckless as me) but Ward Marston’s transfers of Muzio (ALL of Muzio though divided up into volumes) are fantastic. His transfers of Rosa’s radio broadcasts, where now and then she speaks (!!!!) are marvellous. They sell out and you’d have to check his site for what’s available but I hesitate to advise anyone to spend money. However he is a magician and the transfers are incredible. You can also look into the German label, TRUESOUND, run by an opinionated crank (and I know about opinionated cranks!!!!) — it’s a different philosophy of what old records should sound like but his transfers are very clear. They are single CDs so might be cheaper than Marston who usually does 2 CDs but sometimes does more.

            • Magpie

              Thank you Goddess Leitmetzerin. Is there anything you DON’T have? I just thanked you the other day for your mix cloud trove, but this made my day. I am playing it right now.
              MsClaggart, i spend up to $200/month in books (not porn) and music, so suggest away! I found the Muzio cds available in B&N and Amazon. they are ordered.

          • Pia Ngere-Liu

            The present is most of the time the best thing to forget -- and this is another good reminder of a great singer of the past -- Ponselle and Pinza in “La Vergini del Angeli”. I once did a radio programme with a friend of mine (who knwe Morton Feldman intimately) and we repeated this in the programme. Her Naxos Verdi album remains one of my favorite recordings. That and Callas Verdi Volume 1.

            And what about that other amazing singer of the era -- Conchita Supervia? She always makes me smile.

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Pia, be forever blessed, I LOVE Morton Feldman. I knew him too (not well but well enough). I’ve written about him extensively in my blog. The very best Ponselle records, those on the early side (the acoustics, which she said she hated because she found them so hard to make) and the early electricals, really are magic. I do find it funny the way they mic up Pinza (in “la vergine”) an electric record so it becomes almost a duet. I’d still pick the acoustics in general as the freshest, most spontaneous and astounding work she did, but the electricals with Martinelli and Pinza (who she hated because of how he treated Rethberg) are fantastic too.

              I have ALL the Marston volumes of Supervia FOUR 2 CD boxes and he has promised an additional CD of “extra” material. I may cut my throat (it is only the hopes of assholes that stop me)!!! I will say if one sits down to LISTEN to all four, by volume two one wants to commit seppuku, and that vibrato will after a time cause seizures, but a few at a time are endearing. I think her Rossini (very famous) although put over with TONS of personality is more limited than the specialists that have come along since. But there are many songs that make an indelible impression.

            • messa di voce

              Got the last Supervia disc in the mail last week, along with the complete Germaine Lubin. Still haven’t recovered from the trauma of listening to Marston’s complete 6 disc Vanni-Marcoux.

            • mrsjohnclaggart

              Surely, Messa, my massa, you have the MOST ESSENTIAL SET OF CDS of this and any century? The 6 CD COMPLETE Mattia Battistini, with selections by the amazing Giuseppe Bellantoni filling out CD 6? It even has a cylinder reliably dated from 1899, the year of my fortieth birthday! I have played it ALL at least 50 times, since, weeping, I unwrapped, my copy! Incredible work from Ward Marston and it sounds like Mattia is standing in the room!!!!!!

              I AM Germaine Lubin and have played that about thirty times and you will LOVE Lucienne de Meo, who gets a few cuts. I have the Vanni-Marcoux but have listened to it a CD at a time, lest headache intrude (he doesn’t really sing in tune I don’t think and it starts to drive me crazy, though he was, as you know, a GREAT interpreter).

              But I do INSIST upon the fabulous records of Artie Kraekmann from Chicago, one the girls, although married, known to the world as Artur Endreze. That is only five CDs and has much that had not been released EVER before!!!!

            • messa di voce

              Have the complete Battistini on EMI discs, the four discs that came out on Homophone, and now the complete Marston, which I’m still working my way through. Haven’t gotten to the Belantoni selections yet. Would very much appreciate your comments on him and on Magnificent Mattia -- perhaps the greatest singer on record?

    • Will

      Gualtier, why is it being a “snob” to prefer an opera as the composer wrote it as opposed to a version in the “wrong” language with additions by another’s hand?

      • Gualtier M

        Will I hear ya! Yes that is the proper way to do it and the way I usually think.

        However, I have seen two different concert opera performances of the Cherubini “Medée” en francais. One was by a New Orleans group called “Opera Quotannis” -- I was hoping La Cieca would be singing the title role but it was Phyllis Treigle. The singers valiantly attempted to perform the complete (often cut down) spoken dialogue. The musical and dramatic momentum just went dead when the dialogue started and the American singers weren’t adept at late 18th century French verse. There were just huge holes in the dramatic and musical continuity and the singers weren’t able to fill it in with their dramatic acting.

        The other performance in the original French version was a more polished professional effort by the Moscow Chamber Symphony led by Constantine Orbelian. Medée was the vocally compromised, theatrically game Irini Tsirakidis. They made the choice of hiring a separate cast of actors (including the RSC’s Lisa Harrow) to perform short scenes from the Euripides play in English between the musical sections in place of the spoken dialogue. It was kind of schizophrenic and definitely a compromise.

        I then heard the Lachner rewrite translated into Italian performed at Glimmerglass with Alexandra Deshorties. (From Wikipedia: The Italian translation of the Lachner version by Carlo Zangarini was prepared for its Italian premiere at the Teatro alla Scala, on 30 December 1909, and starred Ester Mazzoleni. It was this hybrid version that was revived in 1953 for Maria Callas.) Lachner wasn’t a crappy musician and composer and his recits are quite nice music and carry along the story well but project it firmly into the early Romantic period. But it plays like a complete opera with momentum from beginning to end.

        There also exists an earlier Italian version from 1802 and 1809 (shortened and revised by Cherubini) that was supervised by the composer. I would think that Cherubini would have composed secco recitatives in place of the spoken dialogue but I don’t know. Eve Queler probably wouldn’t go that route. But it would be nice to hear the Italian version that Cherubini himself supervised.

        • Gualtier M

          Found this dissertation online by Tsippi Fleischer Ph.D which answers some questions and creates new ones.

          Seems that the 1802 Vienna production was in German (same translation used by Lachner in the 1850’s) and that was the one where Cherubini instituted 500 bars of cuts. No 1809 production in Vienna at all. I can’t figure out if it was done as an opera-comique with dialogue in Germany or not (singspiel?). However, Fleischer unearths a Brussels production in 1814 with new recitatives for Neris and Medea (replacing all their dialogue?) and beefed up orchestration all by Cherubini himself. The actual autograph is owned by Stanford University.

  • If it’s “yet another comeback”, then it can’t be Queller. Gotta be Millo.

  • Gualtier M

    OONY hasn’t presented a complete concert opera since that “Roberto Devereux” with Devia In June 2014. This year it is a bel canto concert on May with Angela Meade who could do the Pacini “Medea” on my marathon season if the donor kicks in another mil.

  • la vociaccia

    “Which legendary operatic lady of New York, now in the twilight of her career, is currently studying a dusty old bel canto score in preparation for yet another comeback cancellation?”


  • Krunoslav

    Lucine Amara in LA STRANIERA?

  • gustave of montreal

    Delia Rigal ?

  • uwsinnyc

    I would guess Eve Queller too- but when are we going to find out?

  • Sempre liberal

    I also thought Voigt, but I am now leaning toward Placido Domingo.

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      It says “legendary operatic LADY…”

      • armerjacquino

        Plus, Domingo can’t have a comeback of any kind, not having been away.

  • oscar

    A “legendary operatic lady”. Can’t be Millo. She’s a legend only in her own mind. Eve Queler seems more likely plus the use of the term lady rather than singer or soprano might suggest a non-singer.

    • PCally

      To you maybe. Whatever one thinks of her (I’m not the biggest fan myself) she had an enormous following for a solid period of time. When I first came to New York she was THE most talked about singer among a select group of people who used to hang regularly at the met. There are plenty of other singers, better known and better in general, who don’t have that kind of cult. So Millo certainly qualifies as a legend, if not the conventional kind.

  • Vox

    Mari Lyn?

  • armerjacquino

    Twilight, plus the emphasis on New York, strongly suggests Queler to me. (And maybe even ‘legendary’ too, if we take the Garden of Eden as a legend, but I admit that’s me reaching massively).

    • armerjacquino

      Also- another reach- for a singer I feel like we talk about preparing or notebashing a score. Score ‘study’, though singers undoubtedly do it, feels conductorly.

    • manou

      Can somebody explain to an old lady the link between “Twilight” and “Eve”?

      • armerjacquino

        Well, you don’t get twilight in the morning…

        • manou

          Some of us are in the twilight of our years.

        • Loge

          Well, technically you do get twilight in the morning, but in customary parlance twilight usually refers to evening light.

      • fletcher

        Pretty sure “eve” and “evening” are cognates.

  • messa di voce

    Marisa Galvany.