Cher Public

Sul tuo capo la scure già piomba

kneelingDavid McVicar, on his knee, with… Mariusz Kwiecien during a rehearsal.” [New York Times]

  • PCally

    I’ll be the first to comment. He’s an easy target and a typical example of the kind of director the met looks for but I happen to think at his best he’s really excellent, getting some of the best acting out of singers I’ve ever seen. He’s just been pretty hit or mess lately.

    • SilvestriWoman

      Second that -- I’ve seen some pretty great McVicar productions, especially his Elektra here in Chicago. Most importantly, unlike a lot of stage directors, he actually knows the score and libretto. In a Lyric Opera program, he said that it’s what’s most important. Imagine that!

  • me

    He seems to have the right remit for the Tosca, and I agree many of his productions are good, some (or parts of some!) are major disappointments (CAV especially). I have high hopes for the Tosca, and am excited to see it -- grandeur and beauty should always have a home in opera. I’m excited for the Roberto Dev too. He’s certainly doing better than Eyre, Bondy, Sher (that Otello was terrible), LePage…

  • The Devereux set looks very handsome. The Tosca set looks like a Tosca set.

  • ‘He will no longer accept work in Germany, where, he said, “the production style is now so navel-gazing and so extreme, and has been excluding the audience for a quarter of a century.”’

    Quite interesting, this morning over coffee, after watching that Ballo last night, to think that over.

    • The Munich production was far-fetched and in some respects déjà vu, but it didn’t sound like the audience felt excluded.

  • armerjacquino

    It’s funny that he should be developing a reputation as a safe-pair-of-hands traditionalist in some quarters. Certainly earlier in his career, with the Glyndebourne CESARE, and the CG SALOME and RIGOLETTO he was seen much more as an iconoclast. I’m not surprised to hear that he rejects both poles of that debate.

    I think PCally is right in saying that where he really scores is in his direction of singers as actors. McVicar productions always score highly on detail and singers seem to love working with him. I remember seeing an interview with Claron McFadden about his stupendous Glyndebourne BOHEME where she talked about how he had banned ‘Verdi arms’ from the rehearsal room.

    • PCally

      I think it’s something of a minority opinion but I LOVED the Salome.

      • armerjacquino

        I’d have loved to have seen that production with, you know, a singer in it…

        My minority McVicar moment is that dark, brutal AIDA. I thought it was fab, despite the disturbing noises coming from Carosi and Cornetti.

        • PCally

          Armer, agree completely. Saw two performances with Denoke who was better than Michael but that says more about Michael than about Denoke….But I thought the production did so much subtle thing conceptually while never overwhelming an already overly symbolic opera with more symbols. And I thought the dance was amazing.

          Never saw the Aida, but I imagine that at the very least it was entertaining, which is more than one can say for most Aida productions. Favorite Mcvicar for me is probably a tie between the Figaro (which I saw live this season opening night) and Manon, which has the finest acting I’ve ever seen from Dessay.

          Also Armer, random tangent, but was it you who was in the NT theatre production of As You Like It? Saw it right around the time it opened and mostly enjoyed it immensely. It’s one of my favorite plays.

          • armerjacquino

            I was in AYLI, yes- so glad you enjoyed it! It was a lovely job.

    • His Cesare was, by the time it was done, not that original or unusual. Nick Hytner had already done a fairly humorous “colonial” take in Paris, though Napoleonic, not Victorian, in the 80s, a production that was staged several times before Pelly’s replaced it. It inspired many variations on similar themes.

      • armerjacquino

        I think it was the production as a whole that caused a stir with McVicar’s CESARE, not just the setting. God knows some people have never got over the fact that de Niese did a bit of dancing in one aria (in choreography designed for someone else…)

      • PCally

        I think the McVicar Cesare, original or not, it just sublimely entertaining and musically superb. My personal favorite though is the Francisco Negrin which has more weight and complexity IMO.

  • javier

    I don’t care what the sets or costumes look like. Can he tell Sondra to relax and move a bit more? Why burden her with that heavy costume, terrible stage direction, and them race through this so that she is struggling to keep up to sing strained high notes in time with the music?

    • messa di voce

      “move a bit more?”

      Never in the history of opera has a singer been required to stand in one place for 40 seconds.

      “terrible stage direction”

      Probably the worst 60 seconds of direction in the history of the Met.

      • armerjacquino

        Plus these little promos often don’t reflect the actual blocking. But whingers gonna whinge…

  • PurpleM

    Just returned from the 10:30 am final dress of Devereaux. Marvelous. I think it will be a triumph for all concerned. Set, costumes (!!), stage directions -- all convincing. Benini’s conducting sometimes lagged (overture & final scene) but otherwise, fine. Chorus, marvelous as always. Welcome back, Elina Garanca! Looking & sounding gorgeous. Polenzani fabulous. After his Nadir earlier this season, he’s hit another home run. Mariusz played Nottingham the friend turned villain well but was a bit blustery. Still, the audience ate him up. And then there was Sondra. I think this will be the apex of her Met performances so far. Apart from skipping her final high notes in her first and last scenes (which she no doubt will nail for all the performances) she was thrilling as Elizabeth. The makeup was remarkable and she really convinced as the aging queen. But the voice was not that of an old woman -- it rang out radiantly and the chest voice was there when she needed it. I think the Met has a true hit on its hands and with the recent Camarena Don Pasquale performances followed by Opolais / Alagna beautifully paired in Butterfly, the house has been offering some great stuff of late.

  • marshiemarkII

    I fully share your enthusiasm PurpleM!!!!!!
    If not every specific singer’s choice, as it should be, since these are all our personal opinions.

    I thought the real star was the magnificently glorious, the divine Elina Garanca, who has everything one would dream in a bel canto singer. First and foremost, a most GORGEOUS sound, legato for days, phrasing from heavens and of course effortless top notes that do not lose one micron of the beauty of the rest of the voice, what perfection!!!! And from the first row of the Grand Tier she sounds nothing less than enormous!!!!!!! It is a completely theater-flooding sound, an astonishing performance! What was that note in the confrontation with Nottingham, a D in alt?
    And then came glorious Sondra, as in many rehearsals I’ve seen with her, it took the entire first half to warm up, the voice sounded slightly curdled, and dare say shrill, and just not well put together. And then came the recitative and Vivi ingrate, and she was in glorious voice, and phrased like a goddess, legato for days also, and just a really varied and self-consistent musical line, even the questionable taste plunge into raw chest in la Regina d’Inghilterra, sounded integrated and of a piece with her gorgeous musical choices, to keep the glorious line moving along. Since Caballe not sung as gorgeously!!!! (compare with the monstrosity that Gruberova did in the Munich DVD for example). Then the very final Quel sangue versato was as PurpleM says, an astonishing piece of acting and singing, while a bit too slow (conductor’s awful choice?), just pure pathos. I did write-in in my head a probably spectacular E-flat that she must be saving for the prima. I agree that it will probably be a stunning triumph for Sondra of course! But my girl will always be the simply DIVINE Elina!!!!!!!!!!! Who also looks like a GODDESS with her magnificent figure and unbelievable beauty! A treasure from any Golden Age (do I sound like a fangurl?!?!?!?!!)

    The men, Mariusz K I thought gave lessons in bel canto, no bluster to my ears, just a gorgeously healthy well produced sound, with lots of italianita. The best I’ve heard from him at the Met, and I was not a particular fan of his before. Polenzani was more difficult for me. Some gorgeous singing, a very big sound since I last saw him in Traviata (although could have been the fabulous seat today), but he also did a good deal of crooning and even falsetto singing in his big prison scene that I hope was just rehearsal voice-saving. If it is an artistic choice it was downright awful!

    The production by far and away the most beautiful of all the three. Stunning actually, including the amazing sarcophagus that opens and closes the opera.

    • marshiemarkII

      Rehearsal applause doesn’t mean anything anyway, but Mariusz got a much bigger hand than Polenzani, and Elina’s was MUCH bigger than Sondra’s, would you agree with that PurpleM?
      At least from where I was sitting…..

    • Marshie: I believe that’s a high D at the end of the opera and Sondra took it when she sang the part in Toronto. I’m thrilled to hear the positive reports of her and Garanca (whose Giovanna in the Vienna video is fabulous). The title character is a difficult sing and that prison scene often tires tenors out so perhaps Polenzani was saving himself…

      • marshiemarkII

        Ciao Kashie Caro. I think at the end of the opera should be an E-flat? The D I think is what the divine Garanca sang in the duet with Nottingham, but since I am reminded by some posters that I am only an amateur, not a professional musician, I defer to one with the score that will soon turn up in the discussion :-)

        Yes the Prison scene is hard and very high, and he was really beautiful otherwise, but that crooning was horrid. I hope he shapes up for the prima, he has been doing really well lately. And the voice is at least twice as big as the Alfredo I saw back when 2010? or so, with Poplavskaya.

      • Camille

        You are correct. It is an interpolated D (Re) in alt.

    • Here’s a preview video from the Met. It certainly look opulent.

  • PurpleM

    Thanks for your comments, Markie. We were in the Grand Tier, too. Yes, Elina was truly glorious -- so happy for her to be back at the Met again! -- and you may be right about the applause. It was huge. (And of course, dress rehearsal audiences are much more subdued than regular performances). I think the prima audience will go crazy. I do think that the sometimes slow tempi were the Maestro’s choice, not necessarily Sondra’s, but who knows. I just thought the impact could have been more powerful if they’d played the final scene after Vivi, ingrato a little less slowly. I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to spoil the effects for those who haven’t seen it yet but all I can say is we were lucky to be there today and I truly hope it will be a huge success for all concerned. Cheers!

    • armerjacquino

      Can someone explain to an ignoramus what kind of part Sara is? I was kind of surprised to see Garanca playing it because it’s never exactly been cast from strength on record. Just about the most major singer ever to record it is Delores Ziegler, a fine artist but not necessarily a star. Is it comparable to Giovanna, say?

      • phoenix

        my thoughts exactly. But I am not a fan of Roberto Devereux anyway, don’t go by my opinion. As Bill noted in a previous comment, Roberto Devereux is a ‘formula’ opera. Such casting will be a luxury (I hope) -- can you imagine Garanca as good ol’ Sara? -- for those of you who witness these performances she will probably be positively memorable (I hope).
        -- Ashamed to say that although I have seen it a few times, Sara of Nottingham is not a positive fixture in my memory. Does anybody remember Susanne Marsee & Beverly Wolff as Sara at NYCO & Philadelphia? I saw them both but I have no recall except that I was unimpressed with both of them.
        -- armer, you mention Giovanna Seymour -- that is another story -- I remember them all, particularly Olivia Stapp at NYCO & the Canadian Judith Forst in Seattle, both positively unforgettable.

        • Camille

          why, that is interesting as I have, similarly, an unforgettable memory of Judith Forst as Giovanna Seymour as well, but from the San Francisco performance. She REALLY poured in on in that last difficult scene/aria.

          interesting what one does remember, and doesn’t, over the course of a lifetime.

          • armerjacquino

            BOLENA is the only bel canto opera I’ve seen live (yes, whichever pedant is about to point it out, I’ve also seen some early and mid-period Verdi…) and as much as the night was memorable for Gruberova, for good and bad reasons, the standout best performance was Garanca’s Giovanna. It was the first time I realised how BIG the voice is.

            • Camille

              Pedants? Why perish the thought! No such animal exists in Parterria!!!

              Giovanna Seymour is a seconda donna role, and I guess, but don’t really know for sure as I have never investigated the score, that Sara is also a second donna kinda role. Rather nebulous sounding category but there you have it.

            • Camille

              Upon reflection, I feel I may have misspoke here. It is not entirely apparent which category Sara’s role lies in: perhaps mezzo-soprano, perhaps comprimaria in the traditional sense, and perhaps seconds donna. Someone with a far greater familiarity with this opera should have to weigh in. I’m sorry I tried to guesstimate as I may have been entirely mistaken.

              The first thing ever I heard Ms. Garanca sing was Fioridiligi’s big aria from Così, which other good mezzos have also sung, I think, Teresa Berganza, for one. She just sings really well, that’s all but seems to me to have a mezzo timbre. Basta. Sorry, but was only trying to help.

        • mjmacmtenor

          I well remember Susanne Marsee from the NYCO LA tours in my youth. She was their resident lyric coloratura mezzo (I recall Cenrentola & Le Counte Ory with Rockwell Blake and young Sam Ramey). I met Beverly Wolff a couple of times as she moved on to a successful teaching career at Florida Southern College. Saw her doing a fierce master class (a real one, not the play). She is quite good in the NYCO Guilio Cesare (Sesto) and the first recording of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahitit. Both performances as Sara are preserved, Wolf is on the audio recording with Sills and Marsee is on the video televised from Wolf Trap. Marsee is very sweet but a bit unmemorble -- easily dominated by barihubby Richard Fredericks.

          • phoenix

            mjmacmTENOR, thanks for joggling my memory. I saw Susanne Marsee many times at NYCO & Philadelphia in the 60’s-70’s but I found her voice rather like a vacant room with nothing in it, so after a few years I just tuned her out when she walked onstage (not very polite, but that’s me). Beverly Wolff, as I remember had a rather dark vocal tone -- a more interesting voice for sure, but she didn’t project well enough in the house to grab my attention for very long.
            -- I didn’t care much for Sills in Donizetti -- infact, I think the only recording I have with her in a traditional early bel canto role is Anna Erissa in L’assedio di Corinto from Milan. This is by no means a derogation of her vocal skills -- she was not yet old by the time she did Roberto Devereux -- but poor health (and probably a grinding schedule) had already taken it’s toll on her voice -- she had lost a noticeable amount of texture. Still able to project well in almost any house, unfortunately her overtones had also lost much color. But in retrospect, that condition in and of itself (combined with her great interpretive skills) conjured up a very believable vocal image of the aging, weakening, infertile but still alert & dominant Elisabetta I. I remember enjoying her much, much more live in-house years before -- in the 1960’s (I was a young man looking for beauty) singing more lyric roles, particularly Massenet’s Manon, Gounod’s Faust & Queen of Shemaka in Coq d’Or.
            -- mjmacmTENOR, I’d like to thank you for putting up such a wonderful youtube site. There I have enjoyed your singing & many excellent clips, as well as the generous historical background writings you have provided about many of the clips: something very few youtube posters do as well as you do.
            -- Best wishes!

      • AJ: I’d say that Sara is comparable to Giovanna in its vocal requirements. It’s not quite as prominent a role as Giovanna but in the same league.

        At the COC, Sara was sung by the fine mezzo Allyson McHardy who made quite an impression with the role (though it taxed her very top).

        I think Garanca has plenty of opportunity to make a meal of it. Sara’s solo comes early in the opera and everyone forgets it but then she has a great scene with Nottingham in the final act. Only thing missing is a duet with Elisabetta.

        • armerjacquino

          Hmmm. Thank you! It seems an odd choice for Garanca.

        • marshiemarkII

          Caro Armer, I agree with you, and of course Kashie. Sara is quite comparable to Giovanna, in length and scope. One big entrance aria, beautiful cavatina, some ensembles, and the big duet with Nottingham. Nothing terribly earth shattering or overwhelmingly gorgeous, just formulaic bel canto, let’s be serious, nobody is confusing Roberto Devereux with Gotterdammerung or Fidelio here. But still very nice music, and of course Garanca no only sounds like a heavenly goddess, but LOOKS like the most gorgeous woman on earth. Her entrance green silk gown is to die for, with her impeccable ramrod straight demeanor, a thing of beauty and natural elegance. So for her this is a triumph no matter what, and she very obviously has a thing for bel canto, to wit her magnificent CD!

          However, first, I think she really is a soprano. The voice is fantastically even in register, of course it seems everyone also agrees enormous in size, no straining on any register, gorgeous voce di vagina fully integrated, and extends to a completely strain-free high D!!!!.

          What is stopping her from taking on all of the falcon roles, e.g. Cassandre/Didon, and then of course the Waltraud Meier roles, Sieglinde, Kundry, Venus, Waltraute, I mean real music!!!!!! and why not, why not go the Maria Ewing route, Salome, Tosca, and so on, she is a million times the better singer!!!!!! and who knows eventually even Isolde!!!!! she is the best singer in the world for all that repertoire. What is stopping her?!?!?!?!?!
          Does she need better management?
          She has everything at her disposal

          • PCally

            Well I personally would love for her to sing Fricka and Venus and all the Berlioz roles. But frankly I’d rather her stay away from things like Salome and Isolde. It’s a georgeous voice to be sure, with a free top but I’ve seen her fairly consistently since her debut and have see her on nights where the top is somewhat less than under ideal control and I wouldn’t want to hear her constantly having to soar over and orchestra the way a Salome must. And I personally would most certainly would rather her since the watch tower music than any of Isoldes’ music. It would be devastating to see her turn into another Ewing.

            • marshiemarkII

              Caro P, of course you understand I don’t think she should do all of those roles like NOW :-) but in a well planned progression, and she gains more confidence and experience approach the biggest summits, if and when it makes sense…..

              But to repeat, I think she could definitely do all of the Waltraud M roles as well as the Jessye roles, and included in those I would kill to hear her as Madame Lidoine, one of my most favorite roles in all of opera!!!!! (up there with Brunnhilde and Leonore for me :-))

            • marshiemarkII

              And AS she gains more confidence….ugggh

            • PCally

              Well she’s 40 so if she planned on doing dramatic soprano roles, she would probably have to start planning soon. Its also a question of temperament. Unlike many I think she’s an exceptional actress but generally somewhat reserved and elegant, which is the exact opposite of Salome and frankly I cannot imagine putting her and Waltraud Meier in the same sentence and she most certainly doesn’t come close to the sainted Meier in the interpretation department. I also tend to prefer a genuine soprano sound as Lidione which is why Isokoski and Crespin rank high on the role for me.

            • Bill

              PCally I think Garanca is a sufficiently intelligent
              singer to determine her future path. I suspect she will not become a soprano with a few exceptions. She was slated to sing Donna Elvira in Vienna this forthcoming
              season but I understand that is not going to take place.
              She has Delilah scheduled both for the Met and for Vienna.

              She states she will be dropping Octavian (a soprano
              role actually) after this next season. I believe she
              already has Eboli scheduled someplace or other and
              sopranos have done that role at times. I heard her last in November as Charlotte in Vienna and her voice
              has become fuller and she never forces and it is true
              there are no register breaks to behold at this time.

              She seems to be following to some extent the Anday,
              Hoengen, Ludwig, Baltsa path -- graduating from
              Dorabellas to heavier age appropriate roles. There was always talk of Troyens Didon for Berlin and Vienna but believe it has not happened (yet). Let us luxuriate in whatever she chooses to sing. She said in an interview in Vienna that she planned again to live there and educate her daughters there but I am sure that Gelb is
              nabbing her for as many performances as she is willing to sing in the USA and she does have a concert (including open air) schedule and sings some lieder
              recitals. Ludwig did go into some soprano territory but not for many years -- Urmana did the same thing but is now more back to Mezzo roles. Garanca’s Octavian is the best I have seen in the last couple of decades -- and that says a lot ! And as a number of other important singers she began as an ensemble member first in Germany and then in Vienna and learned her craft. Speaking of soprano roles, one can imagine someday that she could be a beautiful Feldmarschallin (which actually does not
              go much higher than Octavian except the B flat in the trio whereas Octavian’s highest note I believe is an A.

          • PCally

            Bill-I never said that Garanca intended on singing dramatic soprano rep, nor did I say she should. The latter part of the comment can be attributed to Marshie.

            I personally cannot wait to see Garanca as Octavian as her performances of the role in Berlin many years ago (opposite a still excellent Schafer as Sophie) were the finest of the role I’ve seen live. I was very much looking forward to her last met run and was very dissapointed when she cancelled (she was pregnant so obviously she had a good reason) and was replaced by Coote. It has been years since she announced she singing Didon and I’m pretty certain she was to have sung the role in Berlin a year or so ago and cancelled. Either way, I hope she sings the role eventually as I’m sure it would be ideal. I believe, though it’s possible I’m mistaken that she was also scheduled to sing Elvira at La Scala in the run that Frittoli ended up taking over. This was prior to the Vienna performances you reference. And wasn’t she supposed to be in one of the Kaufmann Rusticanas last season?

            • Bill

              Garanca does have some Santuzzas planned for Paris
              November/December 2016 which is normally considered
              a soprano role (though one of the best I ever saw was
              Simionato). Favorita for Munich next year, Bellini’s
              Romeo, the previously mentioned Delilah so there seems to be no immediate trend to soprano roles. She did mention in a Viennese interview not long ago that she intended to keep Charlotte in her repertoire and had her eye on Amneris eventually in the future,

              By the way, one notes that the first Roberto Devereux (premiere) this week at the Met is not sold out in any category.

            • marshiemarkII

              P, indeedy I take full ownership of the Garanca as soprano thing. Interesting what you say about Lidoine as a bona fide soprano. Of course she is! and Crespin, whom I also adore, worship, and idolize in everything she ever did, and no less than the creator of the role, does have severe problems with the As in Mes filles in the recording (all I could possibly have heard her in, due to age reasons ;-) though I saw her a million times as Croissy of course), while Jessye sails through them in what I consider one of her greatest roles (helas en Anglais!!! My dauhhh-gh-tttters…). Isokoski I do not know in the role at all. Anyway I put that opera up there with Fidelio and Gotterdammerung, as the greatest of the greatest, so I am always interested in dreaming up an ideal cast :-)

              With Garanca we are doing no more than idle talk, I am sure she knows exactly what she is doing, and what she likes, there is no accounting for taste after all, even among the greatest, think Maria Callas preferring Rossini over Wagner! ugggggghhhhhh
              But Garanca is still very young and we can dream…..

            • PCally

              I hope she keeps Charlotte, she’s amazing in that role. Her performances in Vienna were among her best IMO. I could see her being a fine Santuzza, less certain about Amneris but only time will tell.

          • fildivoce

            Dear Marshie,

            I should just call this “Top Tones Tally”!

            Ms. Garanca did not sing a top D in her duet with Nottingham: she sang the printed option C-flat, but it turned out closer to a C-natural (9th of the dominant chord, so no harmonic harm done) and all the written B-flats of both duets. Brava to her!

            It’s a very “sopranile” part, and one is curious to hear in the part a soprano sound that is clearer and more youthful than whomever the Elisabetta may be.

            Regarding Elisabetta’s sopracuto interpolation at the end of the opera: it would be top D. Both arias in the final scene are in D major, Elisabetta’s act I cabaletta is in G major, and the duet with Roberto is in D major. She doesn’t sing any numbers that conclude in keys where an E-flat is harmonically possible, though Edita Gruberova on occasion would wallop out a great E-natural for the end of act Ii (A major)!

            Ms, Radvanovsky did ring out a clear top D late in the duet with Roberto (the same point where Beverly Sills would, though a slightly different variation of the line).

            Mr. Polenzani unleashed a couple of C-sharps yesterday: one in the duet with Elisabetta, one in the final cadence of his last act aria.

            • Gualtier M

              Giovanna Seymour was originally sung by a soprano -- Elisa Orlandi. Later on Giulia Grisi sang Giovanna to Pasta’s Anna Bolena at La Scala during the same season she created Adalgisa. Almerinda Granchi was the original Sara in “Roberto Devereux” and I don’t know if she was a soprano or a mezzo.

              The constant use of a mezzo-soprano in these seconda donna parts is purely a 20th century tradition. Bellini and Giuditta Pasta would have been shocked to hear a heavy mezzo-contralto Adalgisa such as Barbieri, Stignani, Simionato not to mention Zajick or Podles. At least Zajick lightened her voice as did Fiorenza Cossotto to sound virginal and youthful.

            • marshiemarkII

              fildivoce, you are un vero tesoro!!!! that’s exactly the explanation I was looking for, especially since I went looking for a piano score all over the net last night, and I could find none. IMSL had the full score, but I couldn’t bother to download it, too big, plus harder to read for an “amateur” such as retiring little Marshie :-)

              Anyway carisssima, the keys analysis was the crucial thing I wanted to know, to know what is and isn’t possible, and of course I am deeply grateful now that I know that the finale being in D major could only allow for a D in alt, so yesssss carissssimo Kashie you were right, again!!!

              Now regarding Glorious Garanca’s top note in the duet, again that is very interesting that it is a C-flat (B natural) and you claim she sharpened to a C. Whenever I hear something around high C, I immediately listen to the C in the Elektra Monologue as my reference in my head (of course I do not claim to have perfect pitch, not remotely) and this sounded higher, but what do I know. And I am now expecting a flood of comments and brickbats on listening to the Elektra high C in the head while listening to a second rate bel canto opera, but such are the charms of parterre, sometimes……. :-)

              You carisssima fildivoce, are exactly the kind that make parterre the treasure that it CAN be! Mille grazie again and with deep appreciation!

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I don’t think Garanca is a soprano at all -- she is a tremendously capable singer with vast possibilities but I think she is a very authentic mezzo. I also don’t think it’s a voice that would take pressure very well, so I don’t think she could convince as the Act I Isolde, or stretches of the Act II Kundry, or Salome, where you want a bit of emphasis and stridency in some of the high notes. She’s a singer who lets her voice out rather than sends it out. I thought her very wise to drop her plans to sing the Komponist at the ROH, a few years back, given how strangulated most mezzos who attempt it end up sounding towards the end of the Prologue.

        • phoenix

          ‘… not quite as prominent a role as Giovanna … .’
          forgive my interruption kash, I am not challenging you -but in spite of the fact that Anna Bolena is a much longer work (probably almost twice as long as Roberto Devereux, an estimated guess on my part, so correct me if I am wrong), Giovanna has 3 times as much music to sing than Sara, according to the following site:
          Giovanna Seymour --
          Sara di Nottingham --

          • phoenix: Needless to say that I was just going based on my impression of both roles as a listener. Also, Anna Bolena is usually subject to more cuts than RD. I’m assuming some of Giovanna’s music ends up cut. But as a stats guy, I do appreciate those links you provided. Must look into that webiste!!

            • phoenix

              yes, the site is very interesting. If you click on any sections of the score listed for a particular role -- another web page comes up with all kinds of goodies, including sheet music links from all over the web, original libretto & English translation, etc.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        If I may chip in re Garanca/Sara, I actually think Sara makes a bigger impression in Roberto Devereux than Giovanna in Anna Bolena. In addition to her aria at the beginning of the opera, and her fabulous duet with her husband, she also has a wonderful duet with Roberto -- both duets are exciting music and a cracking good sing, and the tension in the plot turns on her.

        I also think the mezzo repertoire is really quite small and if, as it seems, Garanca wants to be relatively cautious but not sing Mozart, Handel or Rossini, she’s going to have to settle for being seconda donna now and again.

        • semira mide

          I seem to remember that during the HD intermission interview of Garanca’s Cenerentola at the MET she said that she wouldn’t be doing other Rossini roles because the rapid “patter-like” singing was too much of a challenge for someone with her linguistic background. I remember being quite disappointed.

  • LT

    Speaking of mezzos singing soprano roles, Anna Smirnova will be doing Abigaille next season in Berlin :O

  • fildivoce

    Dear Marshie, thank you for your very generous & encouraging response! I’m tempted to share more information as time goes on, especially because my NYC performance attendance life is… well, I’m finally starting to have one…!

    Caro Gualtier, thank you for your response -- there’s more to be said about all the topics & persons you mentioned -- I just wanted to add that:

    1. Elisa Orlandi was barely 20 years old at the time of the BOLENA premiere (!). Her roles until then included such Rossini roles as Fiorilla (TURCO IN ITALIA), Zenobia (AURELIANO IN PALMIRA), and Isaura (TANCREDI -- with Pasta in the title role; Pasta sang the role with transpositions -- “Di tanti palpiti” in G or A-flat major -- & varying her line so as to “repoint” it upwards).

    2. The constant use of a mezzo (particularly of the Verdian / post-Verdian ilk) is indeed a 20th-century tradition. In the 19th century, mezzos (or singers who, to our modern understanding, would fit that vocal profile) did sing the part, but that was before the setting in stone of a Verdi-and-verismo standard repertoire (and standard idea of vocal typology, vocal training, & voice-to-character-match-up). Example: the Marchisio sisters, Carlotta (soprano) & Barbara (mezzo/contralto), sang Norma & Adalgisa… Semiramide & Arsace… but also, if I recall correctly, Amina & Lisa. Several of their variazioni exist in the Ricci volumes published by Ricordi -- they carried on the tradition of heavy ornamentation even during the period when composers (Verdi in primis) were writing more richly for the orchestra & more syllabically / less melismatically for the voice. What they, their contemporaries, and that era’s performance of Verdi sounded like we’ll never know, but the recordings of Barbara Marchisio’s pupil Rosa Raisa reveal striking florid accomplishment (particularly her “Ah! bello a me ritorna” cabaletta sola, two verses).