Cher Public

La reine

Born on this day in 1927 soprano Régine Crespin

Born on this day in 1685 composer George Frideric Handel.

Born on this day in 1901 tenor André D’Arkor.

Born on this day in 1922 soprano Ilse Hollweg.

  • Christopher Corwin

    Crespin’s sensuous live Salomé remains available here:

    • williams

      After attending occasionaly during childhood I spent the mid 70’s through the mid 80’s away from opera in various disreputable boites. Sigh! Such misspent salad days. Oh well, New York nightlife was a siren song hard to resist back then. My return to the Met was fortuitous in that it was La Crespin’s farewell performance. Been attending far too often ever since.

  • PCally

    Happy Birthday to one of the greatest sopranos of her generation and one of my all time favorites.

    THIS has to be the sexiest Kundry imaginable

    And I harbor special affection for this as well, though she’s arguably past her prime. So sensual and classy and that carnal look she gives is so intimidating.

    And here is singing the hell out of Ariadne. I cannot think of a single singer who sings the low notes with the fullness and depth that she brings.

    • armerjacquino

      Jessye Norman just read your last sentence and she ain’t happy.

      • PCally

        Armer, perhaps it’s only me that thinks this, but I’ve always found Norman’s overall vocal production to be rather artificial and manufactured, including the low notes, which (at least when I saw her in the part) were more crooned than sung. That and the fact that her register breaks are pretty large really turns me off from most of her singing.

        What I find so remarkable about Crespin is the total seamlessness of the voice. There is no adjustment made whatsoever when traveling into those chest notes and back up. Idk that I can think of any other singer (except maybe Ponselle or Flagstad) that this applies to. And more simply, I just find those low notes more appealing.

    • phoenix

      Never thought of it before (they had distinctly different voices to my ears), but for the most part they sang many of the same roles — with the exception of Charlotte & some the French rep. Also, I don’t remember Norman singing Marschallin, but she may have.

    • Bill

      I do not think Crespin sang Ariadne very often on the stage. Once in November 1964 in Chicago with Jochum
      conducting (the first Ariadne performance at the Chicago Lyric by the way) and that complete performance can be obtained on various private CD labels. I believe she also sang the role in Aix and maybe this clip which you posted is from there as the costumes/sets in Chicago were borrowed from the Met’s Rysanek production and were different from what we see here. I think Crespin sounds much better in the Chicago performance actually than in the above clip but Ariadne was a role which was perfect for her voice at the time and many of us have fond memories of her Sieglinde and her Marschallin among other German roles she sang. As to Jessye her low notes, as one would expect, were fine but as Ariadne she never had that effervescent top that other famous Ariadnes had at their disposal so Norman was never one of my favorites in that role. I doubt that Jessye ever sang the Marschallin even in her earlier days in Berlin etc.

      • PCally

        Bill-this is a clip from the Aix performance. It used to be complete on youtube but was taken down (though the complete prologue is still up, with Troyanos as the composer I think). Personally I think Crespin sounds fabulous here but I would love to be able to find a way to track down the Chicago performance if you feel it is superior. She really is one of my favorites.

        Regarding Norman, I think her first met broadcast (1985?) is pretty sublime but already (IMO) by the time of the telecast a few years later you can hear a change over the voice. Either way she’s not one of my favorites in the role. Actually I think Ariadne is one of the rare roles in which some of the finest interpreters of the role are current singers.

        • phoenix

          Their careers were only a decade or so apart but I still can’t get over how I never noticed before how many of the same roles they sang. Norman, like Crespin, knew how to subtly modulate her volume. Her fortissimos were not as voluminous as Crespin’s, but she was so articulate in her singing I never noticed it. Listen to Norman’s expressive Selika final scene with Muti -- very few singers I ever heard got as much out of it -- with such telling effect -- as she did. With the exception of the Ariadne & Les Troyens, I don’t think I ever heard her at her very best live in-house. I wish she had sung the Kundry at the Met 15 or so years before she did.

          • Phoenix: I agree about the similarities between Crespin and Norman. Too bad Norman didn’t follow Crespin’s lead in knowing the time to transition to mezzo roles. I think she would have had greater success in the 90s had she not stubbornly stuck to singing so many soprano roles (and things like the VLL in concert). Her upper register was less and less reliable by then. She could pull off soprano roles in the studio, but on stage was a different issue.

            As for Kundry, I think even five years earlier would have been made a huge difference.

            • When I heard her sing Bartok’s Judith under Boulez in Chicago (when was that? 98, 99?) I assumed she’d decided to “go mezzo”.

            • NWP-Paris: That’s the interesting thing about her. She sang mezzo and alto parts (both opera and the concert rep) throughout her career, almost right from the beginning. But she didn’t relinquish the soprano rep in the 90s like she probably should have.

          • John L

            They do have some similarities despite having very different voices. They both have big round opulent voices but Crespin had a feminine warmth whereas Norman had that molten lava richness. They both had pitch issues and not the most seamless upper register with Crespin being able to make do in her early and middle career singing some of the Italian roles (I always considered Norman to be a mezzo who dabbled in the lower soprano roles). And they both have excellent German diction!

        • Bill

          PCally -- Aix did Ariadne twice during that period
          first in 1963 with Stich-Randall, Seefried, Gianna D’Angelo, Schoeffler, Dimitri Uzunov (sp), Robert Kerns and then repeated it in 1966 with Crespin, Troyanos, Jean Cox, Mesple (who looks too sophisticated to be a
          Zerbinetta, Schoeffler again, Van Dam and Robert Kerns
          again as Harlekin. So Crespins two Bacchus’ in Chicago and Aix were both Jean Cox who was singing at the
          Vienna Volksoper at the time but sang some 15 tenor roles at the Staatsoper including one Tristan through 1977 -- do not know what happened to him -- maybe not a long career but he cut a good figure on the stage.

          • rapt

            Wikipedia suggests a long career for Cox--e.g., still doing Siegried at Bayreuth in his 60s.

            • rapt

              Also Siegfried…

            • Krunoslav

              I heard Cox sing quite well as the Drum Major at San Fran as late as 1981 ( in a cast with such other older eminences as Sir Geraint ( who hammed shamelessly and mainly shouted) and Richard Lewis, who was terrific, as was the younger Janis Martin as Marie.

              His debut was in Boston in 1951 as Lesnki, and he jumped in as Walther at Bayreuth in 1984, so that is not a short career.

          • Rudolf

            @ Bill
            Wikipedia informs … Jean Cox (January 16, 1922 – June 24, 2012) was an American tenor. Born in Gadsden, Alabama. Died in Bayreuth. Married to the wonderful mezzo Anna Reynolds, who died in 2014. I fondly remember Mr. Cox from the Wiener Staatsoper, my first “Lohengrin”.

            • Rackon

              @ Rudolph, I too remember Cox quite fondly -- he was my first live Siegfried in Chicago circa 1973. He was much more my youthful ideal of a helden tenor than the reedy Hermann Esser, the Sigmund in Lyric’s 70s ring cycle. Cox also was a vocal coach for some years (I believe along with his talented wife).

        • One day, Norman’s Covent Garden Ariadne will surface somewhere. It is even better than her first Met assumption. I’ve never heard her high notes sound better. And Battle’s Zerbinetta is much better than her Met effort a couple of years later.

      • Tamerlano


        Here is the very French Zerbinetta from that Aix performance.

        • Tamerlano


          • armerjacquino

        • Bill

          I saw Mesple only once in my life -- she sang
          Olympia als Gast in the Vienna Volksoper circa 1965-6 and she sang in French while everyone else was singing in
          German (the glamorous Eszther Rethy was Giulietta)
          Mesple added a number of very very high notes way up
          in the stratosphere -- a bit pinched but directly on pitch. Jean Cox was the handsome Hoffmann. Mesple never sang anything at the Staatsoper

          • mrsjohnclaggart

            I AM Mady Mesple!!! I saw her twice, Bill, in my first year at Yale (graduate student full of hope and rather thin, how fast all would change!). It was two Rigolettos at the Met, my first time hearing Matteo Manuguerra. He was glorious. She was inaudible. But meant well. She did four Gildas and that was that. Enrico di Giuseppe who had grown up five or so blocks from me did the Duke. He was a very sweet man. I LOVED her Lakme recording though I flagellated myself after listening to it. I still think it’s a wonderful performance, with the underused but utterly sweet toned Charles Burles, and Roger Soyer when he had a voice. (I had SEEN Joan do it though in Philly, one of the GREAT experiences, her record has the greatest Vanzo, and Bacquier who hated queers but I think I prefer Mady overall, Joan sings the Bell Song down in a standard transposition but Mady does it in key not that I care about such things).

            • 98rsd

              I second your emotion on the Gilda--just awful--and the Rigoletto--quite wonderful. She was 100% flutter.

          • Krunoslav

            Mesplé was Rosine in my first real opera ( as distinct from G & S and Offenbach done at the NYCO or Sadler’s Wells), LE BARBIER DE SÉVILLE at the Op-Com when I was about 10. I later found a program with Burles, Massard, Roux and Soyer ( still with a voice, and handsome in the photos- what happened, just no technique?

            I sure wish I could remember more than vague threads of that evening, as Massard is a favorite singer too. I do recall my dad saying she was thin-toned: his idea of the character was Jennie Tourel ( whose lone Met performance of it he had heard) or Berganza.

            Around 1989 or 1990 I arrived in NYC the day AFTER Mesplé gave what must have been her last NYC appearance, an all-Poulenc recital at the French consulate. How much one blithely missed before the internet.

            • Bill

              Krunoslav Ms. JC -- I saw Roger Soyer in a Koeln
              Don Giovanni premiere where Margaret Price made her first
              international affirmation as Don Giovanni and I thought
              Soyer at the time was wonderful, lovely voice, handsome
              figure, good acting. I only saw him a few more times
              but at least in his prime (however short lived) he was
              a wonderful French singer. Lucia Popp was the
              Zerlina in Koeln but the Don Ottavio and Donna Elvira
              were the weaknesses in the cast.

            • armerjacquino

              My parents saw Mesplé as Gilda in Paris sometime in the 60s and said she was wonderful in an otherwise very poor production. The only other thing they could remember about that night was that there was a lot of suppressed laughter at how very small and round the Duke was. I’ve often wondered who it might have been.

            • Krunoslav


              small round tenors are seldom in, well, short supply

              was it tony poncet?



              [at left, with roger gardes , chauvet, the dapper gustave botiaux and vanzo- wo was by no means tall.

              here is an album cover marketing botiaux as beefcake


            • armerjacquino

              Oooh, he’s a possibility…

          • So does anybody know anything about the backstory to Mesplé’s recording of Betsy Jolas’ Quartet II for soprano and string trio. Seems like such an improbable combination. Were they friends? Did Mesplé admire Jolas’ moxie?

      • mrsjohnclaggart

        Bill, I think in both Aix and Chicago Regine runs into a typical problem that heavier sopranos face in the last scene of Ariadne. She is sublime until then but as the line stays high, she starts to tire and sing “under”. It not bad really, but it’s a cut below the rest of her performance. Chicago has Seefried and Grist and must have been wonderful.

        At Aix, Troyanos, early in her international career is spectacular and thrills the audience. The orchestra (!) stands for her solo bow and applauds — French orchestra, American singer. She is unique and moving and with her mentor Paul Schoeffler as The Music Master. Later on, I think she became ill at ease with soprano roles like the Composer. It was still a wonderful impersonation but a little more hedged vocally.

        • Bill

          Ms JC -- As I understood it, originally the Ariadnes
          in Aix in 1966 were supposed to have Seefried again
          as it was announced early -- but I think Seefried got
          involved with her first Wozzeck Maries in Stuttgart with Carlos Kleiber conducting and then Stuttgart was invited to the Edinburgh Festival later in the summer to do that Wozzeck and Lulu and Seefried was replaced by Troyanos
          who was making her first international affirmations.
          I did see Troyanos sing the Komponist in Vienna in the
          autumn of 1967 in Vienna in a new Einstudierung of the 1954 Salzburg production with Boehm conducting, Rysanek and King plus Schoeffler (and Popp as Najade) and Troyanos had no problem with the B flat and had a success but many Viennese in the intermission said they could not understand a word Troyanos was singing and Viennese critics compared her a bit unfavorably to Ludwig, Jurinac “not to mention Seefried” which may have been logical as they had been the standard bearers of the role in the case of Seefried and Jurinac for several decades. I, myself, always had some trouble understanding Troyanos’ diction also in Rosenkavalier,
          another of her best roles in her prime. Her voice in that Ariadne was rich and even throughout the range and if she was not as impetuous as some of her predecessors
          she was very effective and received very warm applause
          though it was not her debut in Vienna which was in
          January of 1967 in the same role. At that time Troyanos was engaged at the Hamburg opera and I always found it
          strange, as she must have stayed in Hamburg for a number of years, that her German diction was not as crisp as some others.

          Ariadne is of course a very difficult role requiring a wide range of opulent tone top to bottom. Some, such
          as Lisa della Casa, who was one of the best Ariadnes I saw, had a bit of scratchiness at the bottom. Rysanek, another of my favorite Ariadnes, had somewhat different
          voices at the top and bottom. Janowitz was sublime
          throughout until later at the end when the top hardened a bit. But we have been very lucky as since the time
          of Maria Reining (and probably much before -- Jeritza, Lehmann etc) we have had a series of superlative Ariadnes even until now. The last I saw was Isokoski and that was last year directed by Thielemann and she
          was definitely up to the standard of her predecessors
          in phrasing and beauty of tone. Stoyanova has also had a success with the role though I have not heard her sing it yet though it is coming up again in April in Vienna.
          And Schwanewilms was good too (kind of vocally like
          Janowitz -- creamy instrumental sound). I never heard
          Stich-Randall sing it but she must have been good.
          Nor did I see Crespin (being in the Peace Corps in
          West Africa in 1964) but I love the richness of her
          Chicago Ariadne -- had she sung the role a decade
          earlier it probably would have been magical.

          • mrsjohnclaggart

            Bill, were you at the first night of Leonie’s Ariadne at the Met? First time for the opera, new production. I had once again run away from the city of sewers though precociously daring. I couldn’t hear her for a long time. Then Jess Thomas came on as Bacchus and, of course, she screamed Theseus. The person in front of me threw up. But she had her voice back and managed to sound huge for the rest of the opera!

            I loved Big Jess’s first season as Ariadne, 84/5. I saw six and she was thrilling. It was a singular account of the role, a massive, ripe sound with incredible low notes and the kind of effortlessly huge (even when she was singing softly) middle register that put one in mind of legendary singers. She managed the very highest notes by singing them lightly but there were bound to the rest of her voice. Those were amazing performances.

            • Will

              I was at the first-ever MET Ariadne and loved every minute. I had already been totally won over by Jurinac and reveled in her huge, opalescent tone. Yes to Thomas--he was very fine and so was Gianna d’Angelo (that career ended very badly which was really unfortunate). Rysanek was one of my two favorite sopranos, the other being Victoria de los Angeles — totally different voice from Rysanek (a Dionysus/Apollo kind of split) but I understand that she sang Ariadne at La Scala to very good notices at one point in her career. I have always been on the look-out for a recording taken in house or off the radio — Does anyone know if such a thing ever existed?

            • Will

              I was at the first-ever MET Ariadne and loved every minute. I had already been totally won over by Rysanek and reveled in her huge, opalescent tone. Yes to Thomas--he was very fine and so was Gianna d’Angelo (that career ended very badly which was really unfortunate). Rysanek was one of my two favorite sopranos, the other being Victoria de los Angeles — totally different voice from Rysanek (a Dionysus/Apollo kind of split) but I understand that she sang Ariadne at La Scala to very good notices at one point in her career. I have always been on the look-out for a recording taken in house or off the radio — Does anyone know if such a thing ever existed?

            • Bill

              Ms. JC -- yes I was at the first ever Met Ariadne --
              I was away at college at the time but the premiere must have been during a holiday break. It is funny -- in college at the time one could purchase Angel records
              of operas in a simple package (rather than the entire
              opera in a luxury package with the texts, photos and such) and not having bundles of money I bought the Angel Karajan set side two and five. Side 2 had the end of the Prologue and side 5 had among other things Zerbinettas
              aria -- then the next month I bought side 1 and 6 the end of the Prologue and the end of the opera. I never
              got around to purchasing sides 3 and 4 which had most
              of Ariadne’s music (the two arias) -- so that part was
              the first I heard Es gibt ein Reich etc when Rysanek
              sang it at the premiere. She was fabulous and I did not
              know her work so well being at college also when she first came to the Met. Kerstin Meyer was the Komponist, slender and attractive but did not measure up to Seefried on the recording and many of the audience that
              night really did not know the opera well. The Prologue was sung in English but when Leonie heard in the Prologue that her Ariadne was to be vandalized with
              the troupe of Zerbinetta, she did not translate the famous line, “Was ist Das” and said it loudly in German and the audience broke up. The premiere was a success
              with Boehm conducting. It is said that Boehm wanted
              Seefried for the premiere but that engagement would have
              had to include a 7 week tour in the Spring and Seefried
              was either otherwise committed then or did not want to
              be away from her young family so long so Kerstin Meyer
              was engaged. From that time on (and even before even without sides 4 and 5 of the Angel recording) Ariadne became my favorite opera and remains so to this day (in High School it was Boris and I was able to see Siepi, London, Hines and Rossi-Lemeni all within a few short years and all singing Boris in English). And Ariadne is the opera I have seen the most of all, 59 times, not including the 3 times I saw the original version without the Prologue, at Julliard, with the Boston Symphony with the superb Claire Watson, and one other time. But Ariadne without the Prologue (one of Strauss’ most inspired moments in all opera) seems less interesting and I only wish that good sopranos would take up the Komponist again. The best Komponist I ever saw at the Met was Stratas and the only other soprano Komponist I recall at the Met was Lear who was in terrible voice that evening at not at all vocally alluring…but then there was Jurinac and Seefried -- even Netrebko, is she could learn the words with her bright voice, full range and temperment would be fun to hear. Plus one can mop up all the applause and go home early (except in a few
              productions I have seen in Bratislava and Budapest where
              the Komponist is on stage doing nothing much throughout the opera seria.

        • Ariadne is an oddly written role, all that low stuff in the beginning and them much more “Straussy” in the second half. Presumably the way it was written suited Jeritza, though recordings of her don’t seem to indicate there was anything special about her low register.

    • John L

      I just find her a bit pitchy in that Aix en Provence Ariadne clip. And there’s something about the performance that I just don’t quite like but am having a hard time putting my finger on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of hers, but it seems on some bad days she was really off.

      As for her Kundry, I totally agree. Best or one of the best Kundry ever. She gave multiple dimensions to that role. From a crazy wild woman, to a chaste maternal figure, to a femme
      fatale, to a spurned vengeful lover.

    • gustave of montreal

      mon dieu, did you hear her contrabass notes !

    • dgf

      What a magnificent voice and woman, one of my favorite artists. The Ariadne aria is divine, and “totenreich” is to die for, indeed.

  • Hippolyte

    To cleanse the sound of DeNiese singing Handel out of my ears, I turned to some oratorio rather than opera on Il Caro Sassone’s 331st birthday--

    The sublime Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in Theodora

    Jephtha’s “Waft her angels”

    and some of Mark Morris’ magical dance to L’Allegro

    • armerjacquino

      Connolly and de Niese sound lovely in that clip (as they do throughout that Glyndebourne CESARE). No cleansing required.

      • PCally

        Connolly is so great on that DVD, really special. I love her so much.

  • fletcher
    • fletcher

      Sorry, tag closing fail.

    • fletcher

      Also: Händel’s Messiah (not normally of much interest to me, but featuring Ann Hallenberg whom I’ve read about here), Adams’s El Niño, and Gerald Barry’s new Alice’s Adventures Under Ground starring Barbara Hannigan.

      • Im waiting for her new recording of Imeneo to show up.

        • (Ann Hallenberg’s, not Barbara Hannigan’s).

        • Hippolyte

          Stick with her earlier Imeneo CD, conducted by Spering.

    • fletcher

      Also (can’t believe I missed this) Yuval Sharon is putting on Harrison’s Young Caesar at the end of the season. Should be appropriately wacky.

  • I’ve always been surprised that Crespin didn’t sing Ariadne more often. The tessitura suited her well as did the temperamental requirements of the role.

    Jessye never sang the Marschallin though she once told Charlie Rose that it was the role she was most dying to sing. I think that she had a potentially good Marschallin in her if only she would have focused less on grandeur on more on the character’s vulnerability. Not sure she would have been able to pull it off dramatically without coming across as affected. And IMO, her low notes as Ariadne were more than just “fine”. :)

  • gustave of montreal

    I’m late in the news I thought Régine was still alive. Died 2007. Saw her at Opéra de PAris as Elizabeth in Tannhauser c1963. Then at the new Met as the Marschallin.

    • WindyCityOperaman

      July of 2007 was a sad month -- Beverly Sills on July 2, Regine on July 5 and Jerry Hadley on the 18th.

      LaRegine as mezzo:

      • mrsjohnclaggart

        Yes, but Hadley was the worst death. He clearly was going through a nightmare and ended it, painfully. It is so sad when a pig like Scalia has a good death, just slips away. The two ladies had much satisfaction and continued acclaim in their last years (and neither was a joy, really). But he was crushed by life. He had gotten into vocal trouble early, which was one motivation but other things were going on. In my opinion, it is very sad to think of; he was a wonderful singer and very nice person. But we live in a world where shit waxes such as the preposterous Googler and the idiot the who referred to Ponselle’s records as “creepy”. THEY live on in JOY because stupid and pretentious is a beatific state.

        • perfidia

          Thank you for saying that. I understand younger people want opera to be their discovery, and I do hate the uncritical worship of the past, but there is nothing worse than the willful ignorance comments like those demonstrate.

  • fletcher

    Love her expressions here. “Ça alors !”

    • manou

      …Avec toute la gouaille de Mistinguett!

      • messa di voce

        What’s the French term for that G string/sporran she’s wearing?

    • Wonderful -- it gives “crossover” new dimension. And it begs the question is there anything gayer than a French chorus boy? Many thanks NPW-Paris you made our evening.

    • And in Mme Crespin can go to the Casino de Paris the Mistinguett can return the favour and to to the Opéra!


  • k0000

    I’ve watched and listened to LHL’s “As with lonely steps the morn” (from the Peter Sellars production of Theodora) perhaps twenty times, and it destroys me every time.