Cher Public

Midway through my season

Summer in FebruaryThe usually somnolent month of February was a strong one for, with over 39,000 visitors viewing the site more than 463,000 times. The most popular postings for the month follow the jump. 

  1. The Metropolitan Opera’s 2016-2017 season!
  2. Wrecking ball
  3. “It’s a return!”
  4. The double negative has led to proof positive
  5. The toothless tiger rules the restless jungle
  6. La deserta donna
  7. The end is in the beginning and yet you go on
  8. Queen for a D
  9. What Elsa?
  10. “I will applaud your discretion when you leave”
  • John L

    Not only should there be recognition for the original content of these postings, but the titles of these postings are pretty clever in terms of wit, puns, double entendres, colloquialisms, and all sorts of references.

  • phoenix

    Did anyone hear the Norma today from San Carlo di Napoli with Devia? Being particularly insensitive to Bellini’s music, how could I be even an adequate judge of the performance? -- but from what I heard the 1st act was brilliant, full of nuance & style. The 2nd & 3rd acts, I don’t know what to say. Nello Santi conducted it so slow to my ears (Scotto loved that kind of conducting but I don’t) I couldn’t quite put it all together. Devia hurled out these thin, razor edged spear-like high notes (very exciting); elsewhere I wasn’t sure about her intonation, but no matter: She sang with great artistry and she held a firm line with no quaver, so I would take her any day over that other cult granny Grubie, who is only a few years older but shakes a bit too much and is not as idiomatic nor authentic as Devia.

    • Camille

      Nello Santi is STILL conducting???? That is truly gobsmackingly amazing! I first remember his name from around 1963, or thereabiuts—my god that is really something.

      Well, Signora Devia sang exactly in that same manner… “great artistry, a firm line and no quaver”…when she was here in Roberto Devereux, June 2014 in OONY’s Last Stand. I still have photos of her, I just discovered the other day and was just thinking of her and that remarkable evening. Similarly, I was recalling Mo. Santi’s wonderful way with the Intermezzo to Manon Lescaut (which I have heard in Sirius broadcasts), while listening to Luisi’s not so hot take on the same.

      Wow. Maybe I shall try to give that a listen, if I am able to track it down and can make time to listen. Gracias, phoenix.

      • phoenix

        • Camille

          Well what can one say? Really a remarkable demonstration of longevity based on musical intelligence which is ruled over by a sovereign vocal technique. It pleases me that she has at long last the bella soddisfazione of singing this great role, one for which she must have aspired to, her entire career. Brava, Signora Devia, e forza!

          And yes, she sounds far more intact and plausible than, regrettably, the equally formidable and great Gruberova.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        IIRC, Santi conducted that first Sutherland recital that was recorded immediately after her Lucia triumph, so 1959.

        • Troppo Primavera

          Did’nt Sutherland have a big row with Santi when she made a debut in Venice in Sonnambula?She refused to work with him and threatened to leave.I think he was replaced.I’m not sure but he might have been replaced by a young would be conductor called Bonynge.

          • Camille

            She DID leave.

            There’s all about that contretemps in that first (really good) biography by Russell Braddon. Was it Sonnambula, or was it Traviata? I wish I had not lost that book. All the subsequent biographies treat her as Living Legend and National Treasure whereas in that first bio she is recognizably, and endearingly, still a human being.

            Yes, that recording to which Cocky refers to was a treasure.

            • lyrebird

              Yes Camille, the Venice kerfuffle was about tempi in Sonnambula with Santi taking a non negotiable stance and refusing to speed up for her. They (yes, Bonynge had opinions, didn’t he ever!) flew back to London, Fenice put out a statement getting the tempi stand-off arse up*, and the gala went ahead with Italian Elvira Ramella.

              (* said she wanted slower, she wanted faster)

            • Camille

              Very well, then, Madame lyrebird. I seemed to remember Traviata figured in there somewhere, so it was then she sang that first one in London.

              The Sutherland of those early days is something we are very, very fortunate to have had the recording equipment good enough to memorialize her (had Caruso only lived another ten years, for instance), as she was really something so unbelievable, the tendency would be to scoff off the recollections of those who actually heard her. How can one explain the miraculous organization of some of those trills, the picchiettati, the roulades? All like pearls or rubies or gold and silver, not unlike the cover of that album “Russian Jewels” come to think of it, and which I owned and drove everyone mad with the playing of that crazy wonderful Glière concerto all one summer long? The trouble is, after you accustom yourself to that level of singing, you have to adjust your ears back to the sound of normal human singing, always a bumpy and abrupt shift down into reality for me from those supernal regions, and an effort for me in those early days. Now, I hear so much croaking of frogs. But lo! a gentle lark sometimes will alight my shoulder, when least I suspect, so I never give up hope, entirely.

        • agh

          And her first Traviata in 1960 at ROH.

      • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

        Camille: Santi, whom I have never liked and who, like Nucci (never liked him either), is today considered a venerable Master and “Grand Old Man” is 84, which as conductors go is not entirely ancient.

        • Camille

          Is that all, only 84? I reckoned he was 184, at least.

          Well, he must have done something well to have lasted this long and I know very little about him aside from the Sutherland related incident and a performance or two I’ve heard, notably, that Manon Lescaut from either the seventies or eighties.

          By the way, Benedetta, I read with quite a deal of interest a small essay you wrote a few days ago on the reality of the lives of Soviet artists, those lucky enough to go abroad back in Cold War days. It was of considerable interest to me, as, for some reason, I always had a great curiosity about them and what the hard, cold reality of their existance must be have been like. Always suspecting it was not a pretty one, that it was grim, and that they were controlled like a bunch of bunnies in a lab experiment. It seems my suspicions were more or less on target. A hard life for so many very greatly talented and disciplined professionals, and hope they are finding much greater satisfactions and freedoms these days, although things in the former Soviet Union are far, far from being any type of bed of roses, that is certain.

          Anyway, thank you for giving me a peek behind that rusty old iron curtain. I wonder if all those rumors about the really imposingly talented and prominent Obraztsova were true, especially after having seen that tribute to her at the Bolshoi shortly before she passed away. One hates to think those rumors true, but then, it is hard for Americans to judge anything that transpires there as it is utterly a different mind set and world view.

          Well, thanks.

          • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

            Camille: thank you for your kind words and I am glad you enjoyed my post about Soviet artists. A fountain of memories for me if not exactly the Fountain of Bakhchisarai.

            • Camille

              The Fountain of Bakhchisarai?? Is that where one goes to drink the tears of forgetfullness to remedy a broken heart??

              Kein Dank! You did a real service with your thoughtful reflection upon a subject which has long made me curious. Spasibo ancora.

            • Camille

              crochemaestrissimo! Is this the end? Doesn’t she jump, or is thrown from the parapets?

              Monsieur Camille loved the harem show, all the while saying “I can’t BELIEVE this music was written in the 1930’s…sounds like Minkus.”

              Looks like the Balanchine type of ballerina, a lot, to me. Very beautiful and I still can’t read Cyrillic and I don’t know what to do about it. Besides, I get it mixed up with Armenian, which I really like the characters of!

    • Hippolyte

      Norma has a third act?

      • phoenix

        Well, that depends upon which tabloid paperback you choose --
        Three-act edition:
        Two-act edition:
        And there is also the mjc edition, which predates the pre-1923 curator edition listed above, but is no longer in print -- however, I have been led to believe the author still has the original handwritten copy:

      • Camille

        Sure Norma does a third act:

        In this rare edition, Norma decides NOT on a funeral pyre for herself but shoots the man we all know and hate as Pollione (inexplicably translated as “Joe” instead). Adalgisa the vergine is nowhere to be found in the action but she’s most likely down at Schwab’s Drugstore on Sunset Boulevard, having a root beer float. And as a bonus, in a RARE cameo, La Cieca Se Stessa may be seen talking on the telephkne toward the end of the clip.

        There are some people and some productions that carve up Norma into three parts but I am not buying any of it. Thinking now that I’ve even read of a four act version as well. WhatEVS!

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          Camille! Belated greetings on your return! When the Met unveiled the Sutherland/Horne “Norma” in 1970 it was done with three intermissions. The issue of Opera News which covered the 19 December 1970 broadcast lists the performance as “Opera in FOUR acts” and had three intermissions (which I attended, sitting in prime Orchestra for $14.50) It lasted from 02:00 p.m. till 05:40 p.m. You can view the cast pages here:

          Notable was the last minute replacement of Ezio Flagello by Paul Plishka in his “42nd Street” moment after singing dozens of performances in comprimario roles like the Jailer in “Tosca” (“L’ora!”) and the Notary in “Der Rosenkavalier” for three years.

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            Afterthought: when I started going, the Met was performing the likes of “Rigoletto” and “La bohème” in four acts, so you had an 18-minute act bookended by two 30-minute intermissions!

          • Camille

            Ah so, Jungfer! Perhaps that is where I took up with the idea there had been a four act version. Very interesting -- I will have to figure where it is they carve up the sections — maybe Act II is the beginning of the last scene of Act I, for instance, with the revelation of Norma als Mutter accompanied by the Maid Clotilde e i Bambini. Now they could give another curtain, I reckon, after the big “Girlfriends Forever” duet of Norma and Adalgisa la Vergine. Then they could start the final act where the furs hit the fans. Danke Schön for die Auskunft! Hoping You Wieners are getting ready for an early Frühling! Alas, tomorrow we are getting another SCHNEE!!! My Primavera is getting Snowed OUT!!!
            UGH, NEVE!!!!

            I always liked Paul Plishka quite a bit and even got to see him some in the late nineties. Always a reliable presence. I remember him speaking on the radio at his last performances that he ‘wanted to leave before someone asked him to leave’, which is admirable and, well, I hope it was the case for this hard-working and stalwart veteran.

            Lately, when I see Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and have thought back to when I first heard him, in ’92 or ’93, summer in Hollywood Bowl, I realize that a whole another generation of singers is now starting to go into their final phase of career and it makes me feel all misty You miss people you’ve grown up with, even if the thrill of the hunt for new ones is always there, your old reliable friends are irreplaceable and, inevitably, all things move on and change.

            Well I don’t know where that came from but Der Lenz ist ALMOST DA!!!!!!!! Grossed aus NYC!

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              The 1970 Met production of “Norma” broke after the big trio where Norma stumbles across Adalgisa and Pollione (good spot for a high note from Joan). Act II was the bambini and Duet #1. Act III was basically just Duet #2. Act IV began with the Druid chorus and Oroveso’s aria.

  • Camille

    Almost forgot—- Felice Calendimarzo a tuttiquanti!!!

    There is a beautiful little primavera-dedicated song the donzelle sing in Francesca da Rimini which comes in Act III, and which I cannot find right at the moment but some of you may recall, that is sung to welcome the new season. It is so pretty.

    Felice primavera.

    • manou

      This is very à propos, Camille, since it is called Marzo è giunto e febbraio. It is here

      at around 1.10.40 (this is the whole opera).

      Very nice to see you back on these pages.

      • Camille

        Finally! Have re-found the thread again, and manifold thanks, manou!!!!! Long had I hesitated to view this as I perceived it as threat to my heart’s delight, the 1985 (actual 1984) Metropolitan broadcast of the same, starring the duo of Scotto and Domingo, the doomed lovers of choice, in those now far-off days.

        This was so BEAUTIFULLY and intelligently recreated, and, if ever there was a principe azzurro, I guess it would be His Bobbyness, Himself, in just a wonderful realization of this role. Someday now I will sit down to view the entire thing, with score in hand. I hear lots of negative things about the Bastille but this seems to be the best of the lot. And my cherished Donzelle were so charming in this allestimento, with their little puppet show; supposing this was appropriate to that era, when, I forgot, oh yes, I think dodeci centesimo, se non mi sbaglio, come sbaglio quasi semipre questi giorni!

        Tante grazie per questo bellissimo don!!!

        • manou

          Il piacere è tutto mio.

    • -Ed.

      Also here in snippet form, cara Camille nostra, though manou’s find is much more fun.

      There is diminishment when you are absent from us.

      • Camille

        Oh thank you. I am not a Caniglia fan so am not sure I can undergo this but it is what it is from that particular period, so maybe I shall give it a listen. Le Donzelle sound characteristic of that era, however.

        Thank you for the kind thought, Mr. -ed.

  • lyrebird

    Well and beautifully remembered comme d’habitude chérie Camille, and I thought I was alone in the Glière diversion (where Joan was off the trapeze and spared the hurdles of theatrical realism) whose cover I recall, imperfectly quite likely, much is imperfect not to mention the mirror, which we have, mentioned I mean --where was we? yes, the cover was St Basil’s and its Onions I thought, and will check when or more likely if I survive a certain Mardi Gras parade with heels intact and return à la campagne where these things gather dust. A bientot.

    • lyrebird

      This should be somewhere else but isn’t. Are there pills for this?

      • phoenix
      • Camille

        Yes, but don’t take Dr phoenix’s pills, you’ll have recurring hallucinations if you do…
        Take Vitamin C. Or eat an orange. Or take a stroll in the beauteous Aussie sun.