Cher Public


Butterfly“The Met turned to Ms. Martínez, whose scant resume with the company until now has included only a handful of performances of Carmen and La Bohème in 2005 and 2015, respectively.  Friday night’s triumph may well leave the Met’s management wondering how it let such a gem slip through its fingers.” [Observer] Photo by Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera.

  • JohninSeattle

    I can’t wait to see her in Don Carlo this summer.

    • grimoaldo

      Neither can I!

  • nibelungen

    I like your reviews although I dont have the faintest Idea of the actual performance. I read some comments welcoming Rucinski to the Met -- I have heard him twice as Onegin -- first in the Brokeback mountain version in Munich, then jumping in for Hvorostovski in London, and its dull as a wet sock.

    • phoenix

      Perhaps you should listen to one of Martínez’ live broadcasts or better yet, go to see her when she is in Europe. She is a consummate, elegant artist -- worth all the praise bestowed upon her in this review.

  • chicagoing

    Although I skipped her Mimi for a first cast Anna Netrebko, I have had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Maritnez as Nedda, Marguerite, Desdemona, Rusalka and Donna Elvira here at LOC. In fact the current season is the first in years in which she has not appeared here in a staged opera. Ironically I had signed up for the SFO Don Carlo while Krassimira Stoyanova was still in the cast and look forward to her return in Onegin next season.

  • laddie

    I saw her sing Mimi, Carmen and Rosina- the technique is so solid she amazed with each performance.

  • RudigerVT

    I’m so eager to read this review. Alas, the page at the Observer crashed two browsers (Chrome, Firefox), twice. Each.


    • RudigerVT

      Gah! Restart.

      Great review, JJ!


  • uwsinnyc

    fabulous review.
    I saw the opening night and she was lovely lovely lovely. Gorgeous dark seamless voice, and very sensitive portrayal. the only thing I would have liked is a slightly bigger voice for some of the big moments.

  • dgf

    I have no idea why the MET has not utilized Martinez more often. I have followed her for several years now. She is a regular in Houston, where her Mimi and Butterfly have been great successes, and Chicago, where I heard a gorgeous Rusalka. She has sung frequently in Santa Fe, including Donna Elvira, Fiordiligi, and an earthy, sexy Carmen. I have visited with her on occasion at parties at the opera ranch in Santa Fe, and she is a delightful, humble, and very down to earth woman. As for the voice, the technique is solid from bottom to top, including a wonderful facility for fioratura, and her stage presence is always sympathetic. Maybe Gelb will finally wake up and hire Martinez on a regular basis, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • steveac10

      Sometimes I think it is Met policy to ignore the “stars” of the other first (and second) tier houses of the USA. Greer Grimsley, Kelly Kaduce, Sheri Greenawald and other stars of the regional American circuit over the years have been largely ignored as well.

      • redbear

        There is, of course, a long history of the Met ignoring the singers in “that other house” in the same city. Not only that, they ignored their own house singers too. The famous poster of the Masked Ball hanging at the Met, the only appearance of Marian Anderson, has a guy named James McCracken in a tiny role. He understood that he was never getting a chance to move up and went to Europe. He was right away recognized and one of his first jobs was backup for Corelli. Whenever Franco “got the vapors” and couldn’t go on, they would have McCracken warm up in the next room. Not surprisingly, Corelli got better right away.

        • Not even close. McCracken was off the Met roster from 1957 to 1963, during which time Corelli made a successful Met debut. McCracken returned to the Met singing the title role in a new production of Otello.

          If you’re trying to make the point that it’s difficult to move up in the ranks at the Met, you’ve chosen a poor example. McCracken came on as a comprimario singer and worked steadily in that capacity, singing a few lines here and there, for several seasons. There’s really no way to hear someone sing Parpignol and Normanno and the Messenger and say, “You know, we have an Otello on our hands.” And it was as Otello McCracken was finally recognized because he had a very unusual voice, not at all conventionally beautiful, and a rather hulking stage presence. In other words, he wasn’t a natural Italian “star” tenor.

          Most careers traditionally have been built in provincial theaters, and then the artists are eventually invited to the big houses to see whether they could make the same magic at La Scala as they reportedly did at Brescia. McCracken went off to Germany for five seasons essentially to learn how to put over star parts; he couldn’t have learned that at the Met, and it wasn’t the Met’s job to teach him how to become a star.

          Now, it did happen that a Roberta Peters could make a surprise debut and be ready to step into star roles almost immediately, but that was more a function of her innate talent and magnetism than anything the Met did or did not do. Her only job when she jumped in as Zerlina was to allow the performance to proceed; that she gave a star performance was pure gravy.

          Besides, it’s nonsense to speak of a “long history” of anything at the Met beyond a couple of decades back: changes in management mean changes in taste in artists and changes in the style of how the house is run. Remember when everyone was gnashing their teeth and rending their garments over Gelb’s “firing” of Sondra Radvanovsky. In fact her old contracts with the previous management had run their course and that previous management didn’t seem to see much future for her. Gelb arrived, saw and heard the response to Radvanovsky when she substituted in Ernani and essentially relaunched her Met career. But nobody, Gelb or anyone else, is going to see some girl singing Contessa Ceprano or Kate Pinkerton and say, “This is the soprano we’re going to build our new Verdi cycle around.”

          • Bill

            Also in McCracken’s time, there were far fewer regional opera companies in the USA a number of cities relying on the Met’s Spring tour to bring 5-7 opera productions to that city for a gala week. Young American singers had started to go to Europe in the 1950s, particularly to
            Germany and Austria, to join an opera company and learn
            and practice repertoire and McCracken was one of them
            who developed and then was able to return later to the
            USA as full fledged artists. Of course some of the
            Americans who joined European Opera companies stayed in
            Europe as they became established (think Claire Watson).
            An American singer now, not engaged at the Met, can
            obtain engagements in a variety of roles in many different cities -- but no American cities have repertory opera houses performing a wide range of operas 10 months a season as one can find in Germany for example.
            Long ago also Fulbright scholarships enabled some young American singers to train in Europe at least for a year, master languages such as German, French or Italian while studying voice and claiming the positibility to be engaged in Europe. There are of course some American
            singers who started at the Met doing some smaller roles
            and grew into becoming major stars -- Theresa Stratas
            is an example and of course the City Opera also developed its own stars some of who went on to major
            International Careers. McCracken probably saw little
            chance for advancement at the Met, took a risk to go to
            Europe and in that case it paid off. It is a tough financial decision to make -- and many American singers doing that route, never develop major careers, and eventually disappear from the scene. Americans used to go frequently to Italy but though many cities in Italy have operas houses, the number of performances per month there has been shrinking and shrinking so the chances
            to actually be on stage and develop repertoire are far
            greater these days in Germany/Austria and such. One problem though still exists in some instances -- the more
            provincial opera ensembles in Germany still perform
            most works in German, not the original language. The repertory system however, still extant in Central Europe, still offers many opportunities for ensemble members who may get experience singing smaller roles, covering larger roles and staying active for a 10 month season and maybe jumping to another opera house for a special assignment. Most of those with great talent are able to eventually rise in status after a few years of toil, sometimes rapidly.

            • Krunoslav

              “Theresa Stratas is an example ”

              If I point out that Teresa (sic) Stratas was a Canadian, X will say that Canadians are Americans, which they are.

              If I don’t, Y will point out that Teresa (sic) Stratas was a Canadian.

              Other examples ( I wish someone had done an interview book with these people when they were all or mostly still extant), with various circumstances and lengths of time before Stateside returns (if any):

              Grace Hoffman ( ya know)
              Theresa (sic) Stich-Randall (ya know)
              Arlene Saunders
              Sylvia Stahlmann a/k/a/ Giulia Bardi
              Anne McKnight a/k/a/ Anna dei’ Cavalieri
              Heinz Blankenberg
              Grace Bumbry
              Evelyn Lear
              Thomas Stewart
              Carlos Alexander
              Lucille Udovic[k]
              Vera Little
              Keith ( a/k.a Kieth) Engen
              David Thaw (Claire Watson’s second husband)
              James Pease
              Irene Dalis
              William Dooley
              Donald Grobe
              Loren Driscoll
              Lawrence Winters
              Benita Valente
              William Workman
              Howard Vanderburg
              Margarethe Bence
              Joy McIntrye
              Annabelle Bernard
              Catherine [Ashkenazi] Gayer
              Jess Thomas
              James King
              Claude Heater
              Klara Barlow
              Helen Eriwin [Donath]
              Barry McDaniel
              Norma Sharp
              Tatiana Troyanos
              Carol Malone
              Judith Blegen
              Arleen Auger
              Janis Martin
              Judith Beckmann

              There are/were many others who went this route…

            • armerjacquino

              Fleming did as well, didn’t she?

  • redbear

    I first heard McCracken in 1963 Salzburg (opposite Price) in Trovatore. Note: Trovatore is not Otello. The audience went nuts at his “di quella pira” but they were obviously less sophisticated than the Met management. Some think it is normal that Americans need to prove themselves in Europe before an American opera company can feature them. I think it is ridiculously provincial. What is wrong with trusting you own ears and giving American singers a chance? Marylyn Horne, I remember, had a great story of having to change costumes outside in the snow in the opera at Gelsenkirchen. I first heard Marilyn Horne on February 11, 1961 when she was still a soprano. She sang “Ah, Perfido” and “Tu che le vanita” (Don Carlo) with the LA Philharmonic. The program is in front of me. That was nine years before her Met debut. If you defend the Met’s assh**e automatic rejection of talent like that, I seriously wonder about your sanity. Also, when I spoke about McCracken, his understudy for Corelli would have been when he was in Italy. He wrote a book about all that, you know.

    • It’s always amusing to hear how your anecdotal evidence from a lifetime ago so neatly reinforces your blatant anti-American prejudice.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Based on available recorded evidence, Horne wasn’t a particularly pleasing soprano, so it doesn’t really surprise me that she hadn’t been snapped up by the Met. Had she presented as a mezzo in the first place, maybe she would have appeared there sooner. But as ArmerJ points out, she didn’t exactly do badly, once she got going.

      • Horne must have been very puzzling to impresarios back in the 1960s: she sang everything under the sun, apparently: lyric soprano parts, dramatic soprano parts, modern music (Berg and Stravinsky), dramatic mezzo parts and low contralto coloratura parts. Even after her successful Met debut, her next scheduled repertoire looks like a grab-bag, Rosina, Elisabeth in Tannhauser and Orfeo. (The Wagner was switched to a new production of Carmen, true, but the point is that the Met offered those roles and she accepted them.)

        The thing is, at the time Horne was being considered for the Met, the company already had a very attractive roster of dramatic sopranos, and a deep bench of dramatic mezzos as well. There was at that time no repertoire for bel canto mezzos. So what was it that Horne was supposed to excel at?

        The “Ignoring” of Beverly Sills took something of the same pattern. She proved herself a very versatile performer at NYCO but until she sang Assedio at La Scala in 1969 she wasn’t “defined” as a type, or at least as a type the Met had need of. And within a year of that Scala performance, Sills was so in demand the Met would have had to schedule a debut for her at least three years in advance, unless she was willing to do a quick couple of Traviatas and call that a debut, which she refused.

    • damekenneth

      I preferred Horne’s other Gelsenkirchen story, the one about getting crabs!

  • messa di voce

    “If you defend the Met’s assh**e automatic rejection of talent like that”

    More than 45 years ago, and still so bitter.

    Get help.

    • armerjacquino

      Horne made her debut at the Met in her mid-thirties, opened the season as CARMEN aged 38, and sang over 250 performances there. That’s being ignored?

      Also, her name is ‘Marilyn’. Probably best to spell someone’s name correctly when complaining about how they were treated by a dead man.

      • messa di voce

        But Bing refused to let her change costumes outside in the snow.

    • Bill

      Krunoslav -- it is a good list. Many of these singers
      you cite I saw in one place or another in Germany or
      Austria and have somewhat forgotten about. There are different examples also Arleen Auger, Studer, Weathers. Plus some who started in the USA such as Patricia Wise but who moved to Vienna/Hamburg after successes in the USA and basically never came back.

      And it is not only Americans/Canadians who impacted
      German opera houses to inaugurate their careers, for Caballe was in Basel then Bremen from 1956-1963 and
      Lorengar was basically in Berlin from 1958.

      You are correct -- it is a pity that there is not a collection of reminiscences from these pioneer Americans (or Canadians) who inaugurated careers from the late
      1940s through the 1950s in the provinces of Germany/Austria/Switzerland, the financial hardships,
      the difficulties to adjusting to a different language/
      the auditions, rejections, the public reaction to their presence usurping positions which might have been taken by natives -- whatever -- the ones you cite made it or at least achieved recognition but others did not and perhaps ended up teaching music in a USA high school or something. Now we have many regional opera companies in the USA (and Canada) and a number of them have development programs for young opera singers. In Central Europe now it seems a larger number of Asians
      (Koreans etc) are climbing through the ranks at smaller opera houses in the same way the Americans did in the 1950s and these provincial houses are inundated with talented young singers from Russia, Ukraine, Hungary and Slavic
      European countries -- hordes of them are beginning to make their mark.

  • Camille

    Ana María Martínez was announced, before the curtain rose, to be sick with a cold, but that she “IS” going to sing. Relief at not being stuck with a stunt of Opolais substituting for Hong or Hartig or whomever, a few hours after her debut sunk in, and adjusted expectations were meted out.

    She is a remarkable artist in a way I’ve been thinking about all day long and don’t know quite how to describe nor put my finger on, as I’ve not seen anything like it for a long while now. She seemed to live her part and she not at all to be acting. The voice was, slightly compromised, particularly in that it is one of slender means to begin with, a lyric and not a lyrico-spinto it would seem, and Butterfly is a challenge for such a voice. Because she is so well-schooled and so intelligent (it could have something to do with her mother, Evangelia Colón, her name, I believe, and who also sang with Placido Domingo), that she more than makes it work and still succeeded.

    There is — and I hate to say this as it sounds vague — a kind of genuineness, an ethical nature and a clean soul at work in her, that one just not witness all that very often in the theatre………., or THAT’S what I’ve been thinking to say all day and yet didn’t know how to as it sounds strange, but there it is and there you have it. Such was my impression of her, and under duress. I try to imagine what a full performance would have been.
    She is more a lyric character soprano, and what with singing such disparate roles as Rusalka, Butterfly, Carmen, Rosina, whatever, which somehow reminds me of the kind of Character lyric parts that Farra sang, and that I like as well. Above all, I perceived a penetrating intelligence at work, coupled with an absolute fidelity to the music and bringing something TRUE to the stage. Truthfulness, as opposed to the Truthiness one most often sees.

    Well, the singing was beside the point last night, and as it is a typical kind of Spanish sounding soprano, I could fill in the dots with her singing, which she thankfully never dared to force. In light of the fact she had been flying back and forth from Los Angeles to New York, in rehearsal for two different productions of Butterfly in two very different climates, I really take off my chapeau to her for this accomplishment and hope the service she performed to the Metropolitan will be appreciated in good kind.

    I don’t know what else to say but this: AMM is really quite different and exhibits quite a beautiful soul. All the success and happiness in the world should be hers, as she certainly has worked very diligently and long for it. It is perhaps reasonable the Met may have the good idea of casting her as cover for the upcoming new Rusalka production next year as she is also well-known for this role.
    At least, I do wish it so.

    !Gracias, Doña Ana María, por el don de tu talento excepcional, y también de tu corazón valeroso!

    • Camille

      Errata: “she did not seem at ALL to be acting.”
      “the character parts which FarraR sang, and which I like”.

      Casco dal sonno.

      Lucky L.A., please go see her Butterfly. I know I wish I could. Starts March 12th.