Cher Public

Now I suddenly feel as if I’ve taken all my clothes off

Margo_500Can it really be 40 (Four, oh!) years since La Cieca was born on that sultry evening at the State Fair Music Hall in Dallas, Texas? 

“È difficile dire cosa sia quest’ansia, questa strana nostalgia!”

  • Satisfied

    Happy Birthday, LC!

  • Surely, it’s no coincidence that I finally watched All About Eve for the first time yesterday (I know, I know). Felicitations!

    • PCally

      Your first time!! I hope you loved it, it’s one of the best imo

  • mjmacmtenor

    Ah, the Dallas State Fair Music Hall. I saw my fist live musicals there in the early-mud 60s as a wee lad (in grade school): Carousel (with John Raitt), King and I (with Ann Blythe and Michael Ansara), My Fair Lady (with Michael Rennie), Kiss Me Kate (Patrice Munsel), and several national tours (including Mary Martin in Hello Dolly). What an introduction! Opera would come a little later with student productions by the Universoty of Washington (in Seattle) and later professional with the NYCO in Los Amgeles.

    • phoenix

      First went to the Dallas State Fair Music Hall (which had very good acoustics, at least I thought so) to celebrate the centenary of Borodin’s Prince Igor in 1990. A memorable performance.

    • auracentral

      WE unintentionally overlapped at some of those 1960s and 1970s. My King and I in Dallas was with Ricardo Montalban and Ann Blythe in 1973. Not saying Ansara didn’t do it, but I remember Montalaban vividly, and tracked down a listing via Google in the Bonham TImes or some such. My father passed away the day before I saw Montalban, so I remember me crying buckets, and Blythe was marvelous. Ceased being a fulltime Dallasite 10 years earlier when I left for college in Philadelphia. Luckily, I did get a lot of opera including Callas, Sutherland, and Berganza, not to mention Denise Duval in Thais, and some memorable Met on tour watching Rysanek’s Senta from inside the “travel curtain” What a performance. Similar distance for the Price Aida with Dunn, Konya, MacNeil.

      • mjmacmtenor

        My King and I with Ansara was about 10 years before yours. By 1973, I was in college in Long Beach CA. Glad to know that Blythe kept performing it (she was terrific) and am sure that Montalban was a good fit as the King. I am so glad I got to see some of the Golden Age MT stars — and weep at the thought of the opera starts I missed. Lucky you!

  • Patrick Mack

    I think we all deserve to hear the full details of this story. Spill.

  • I saw that same Trittico when it came to Boston at the Hynes Auditorium. It was the first time I saw Scotto and it began a life-long love affair.

    • phoenix

      Saw her do it at the Met -- I can still see her come out in front of the gold curtain that night after Suor Angelica, stricken Queen of Heaven dazed look on her face. Yes, she certainly something to make an effort to see -- wasn’t always sure about hear …

  • Lady Abbado
  • armerjacquino

    As a birthday present, la C, I will offer this up to your cher public. Can’t believe we missed it at the time (unless we didn’t, in which case apologies)

    There is SO much to chew on here.

    • Cicciabella

      Ange is too nice. I too would like to travel to the time of Lully, but only to see him hit his toe fatally with his conducting cane.

    • Lady Abbado

      We missed it because the timing was bad: it got published just two days after the scandal with the missed Tosca entrance in Vienna and all the attention was on whether she did it on purpose or not, etc.

  • Cicciabella

    Congratulations, La Cieca, on making it to the big 4-0!

    In the meantime, the International Opera Awards have just been given out. Kunde and Devia best male and female singers. Les Martyrs deservedly best opera recording. Dutch National Opera is Company of the Year. Not bad on their decidedly B-list budget.

    • phoenix

      Agree Cicci! Particular congrats from me personally to Dutch National Opera who have for almost 5 decades entertained me -- in person and on broadcast. This International Opera Awards thing is obviously not part & parcel of the disgraced Taylor Trumped Awarders.
      -- Speaking of Taylor Trumped matters, that same Tannhäuser (incidentally, other longtime commenters on this site praised it) Taylor analyzed last month is scheduled to be broadcast this coming Saturday -- 21 May -- on BBC Radio 3. In all likelihood BBC 3 will generously archive the audio of said Tannhäuser (for all to judge for themselves) because same time same day (a mini Wagner festival?): 1) RTVE Radio Clásica Española is airing Semyon Bychkov conducting Parsifal from Teatro de Ópera de Madrid (Teatro Real) + 2) France Musique is broadcasting Danielle Gatti leading Tristan und Isolde from Théâtre des Champs Elysées Paris.

  • Cicciabella

    Asmik Grigorian and Stanislas de Barbeyrac are Opera Awards young singers of the year. The miraculous Ann Hallenberg wins an award for her Agrippina collection: my absolute favourite recording of the year. Noseda takes Best Conductor. These Opera Awards people really know what they’re doing.

    • “…my absolute favourite recording of the year.” A very remarkable recording, very.

      • armerjacquino

        I really want to know what I’m missing with that Hallenberg recording. I heard a decent but unremarkable voice, some excellent coloratura, and a bunch of arias which interpretatively were pretty much identical. She has a very strong technique but I was bored halfway through.

        • phoenix

          Probably I should keep my 2 cents to myself but as usual here goes foot into mouth and butt in here -- rarely listen to studio recordings very often (particularly singer recital type albums) -- they always leave me cold and I don’t know why -- therefore even though totally ignorant of the issue at hand, I am in sympathy with anyone who is ever disappointed with such.
          -- When I heard Hallenberg sing in live performance of rep that I know and love -- she proved herself 1st class -- but re: awards for studio recital recordings, I know from nothing.
          -- There’s another thing about Hallenberg -- Hollywood should really consider her for the upcoming Tallulah Bankhead bio-pic blockbuster -- they must both be from the same halogroup DNA:
          -- Here’s Ann in a somewhat breathy but live performance rendition of Rossini’s Arsace aria. I wouldn’t say Ann is a bravura-type singer (certainly less so than Marilyn Horne was in the same rep) -- I guess it’s a matter of tone-queen taste as to how much you appreciate either one of them:

          • Camille

            Thanks for the halogroups, phoenix. Of great interest to me.

            Really appreciated and noted all you wrote and thank you again.

      • Christopher Corwin
    • grimoaldo

      “These Opera Awards people really know what they’re doing.”

      Yes, magnificent tenor Gregory Kunde wins the award for male singer, Devia for female singer and Laurent Pelly the director award, partly I am sure because he was the director of Offenbach’s Le Roi Carotte at Lyons which I just raved about like a lunatic on another thread, which won Rediscovered Work

      • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

        Hi Grimoaldo, and belated Happy Birthday to La Cieca. RTE Lyric FM broadcast this Opéra de Lyon performance on Saturday evening. It was so good, I missed the Eurovision Song Contest. [“Ah, sure it’s all politics”]. I freely admit to never having even heard of it before. An unexpected delight, whereas with the song contest you know all too well what you’re in for.

        • grimoaldo

          Almost no one had heard of Le Roi Carotte before the brillant Pelly production, only hard core Offenbachians like me who know how many of his works still await rediscovery. I would particularly like to see “Whittington”, a sort of pantomime/extravaganza/operetta which had its premiere in London, Die Rheinnixen, his first attempt at “serious”opera, written in German for Vienna, which was a failure, and Le voyage dans la lune, based on a story by Jules Verne which has a ballet des flocons de neige with a wind machine in it. Here is the final galop with Les Musiciens du Louvre conducted by the superb Marc Minkowski


  • danpatter

    Many Happy Returns, oh Doyenne!

  • Happy birthday LC!

    And eternal tribute to little Renata. What an amazing artist.

  • LT

    Not that these awards mean anything but quite remarkable that Devia and Kunde won best singer, considering their ages. Especially Devia.

  • laddie

    A mere 9.5 hour drive in 1976 could have gotten me to Dallas for this performance? OMG. Happy Birthday La Cieca.

  • mjmacmtenor

    Interesting car list for Tritttico. Cornel MacNeil and Ezio Flagello. Harry Theyard and Enrico di Giuseppe (both of who were sang The Siege of Corinth opposite Sills). Lila Chookasian doing the triple act decades befor Blythe. Even Betsy Norden (back in the day when the Met had house comprimarios/as) in all three. Never saw any of them live (my loss) but heard a lot of them In the Saturday broadcasts.

    • mjmacmtenor

      “cast list” (stubby fingers)

    • Krunoslav

      When I was young and then youngish I heard all of those you mention live, save for Theyard. Lili ( sic) Chookasian in fact lived in my hometown and often sang locally, the usual Mahler and Prokofiev and Brahms with the local orchestra. She and Flagello were in a Verdi REQUIEM I heard when I was 10-- with Domingo, as yet not a well known artist, plus a young coloratura out of her depth. Speaking just of the Met, the company does not now boast many people with the quality of instruments in their Fachs that Flagello and Chookasian had.

      Chookasian did the TRITTICO triple crown and so did PB favorite Irene Dalis.

  • Camille

    I just cannot believe you would admit to a day past 39, La Cieca!!!!!!!!! What have I always told you about a lady concealing her age??? Now, they all will be counting from here on, and on, and on…………it’ll be one facelift after another for you now! Only wish that Thelma Ritter would have given you a piece of her mind about this sudden revelation, but, troppo tardì!!!!

    Happy memories. The older they get, the sweeter the gauze of time doth render them.

  • This is what Our Own JJ had to say (many, many years ago!) about the experience that engendered La Cieca:

    Renata Scotto is perhaps the finest artist of my generation, a truly poetic interpreter blessed with superb musicianship and fearless, almost reckless commitment to her art. She was also my first diva.

    First I read about her: a review of her first two Columbia recital discs in High Fidelity, strong praise for the beauty of her voice and particularly for the sense of style in offbeat Verdi and warhorse verismo. I tracked down the discs at Baton Rouge’s one record shop with a decent opera section, and I heard: a uniquely energetic, lean sound, ravishing in pianissimo, fiery in forte, with an exhilarating sense of on-the-edge forward propulsion. Meanwhile I was reading about her in Opera News. This guy Robert Jacobson was (as I would say today) a very major Scotto queen. I remember his awe as he discussed her Met “comeback” in Vespri Siciliani, and his amazement and joy at her assumption of the three lead soprano roles in the Met’s new-that-season Trittico. Wow, I thought, if these performances were anything like the excerpts on those Columbia discs, those lucky New Yorkers really must have heard something special. Lucky New Yorkers… then I found out that the Met’s annual tour to Dallas included the Trittico. With Scotto! And Dallas is only 12 hours from Baton Rouge by bus! Well, as it turned out, I didn’t get to Dallas by bus (another story), but I got there. And I must say the Met really put its best foot forward for me: Carmen with Troyanos and Leona Mitchell (what a voice!). Aida with Arroyo, Dunn, McCracken and Quilico (about which all I can remember is that Martina threw her back out during the Triumphal Scene, and thus had to die standing up). A perfectly passable Figaro in which Lucine Amara really SANG the Contessa (and how often does that happen even NOW?).

    And then came the night that changed my life. Before Trittico, I enjoyed opera; after Trittico I knew had found my religion.

    Now I should preface this with the confession that I approached this performance with one reservation: I couldn’t figure out how anyone who looked like Scotto could be a real diva. Her album cover photos revealed a short, dumpy, fortyish woman with a taste for ruffled organza, heavy eye makeup, faux pearls and frosted hair. Frankly, she looked like Prunella Scales in Fawlty Towers. In no way did she measure up to my standard of operatic glamour, which was Maria Callas, florid in red velvet (Tosca) or svelte in black chiffon (Carmen). Well, it’s funny how these things work out. My first sight of Scotto was as Giorgietta in Il tabarro, and, hey, the blonde bouf and the come-fuck-me heels and the double chin all worked -- she was supposed to look like a sgualdrina, right? And only five minutes into the opera, I was so mesmerized by her committed plastique (the exact visual analogue of her vocal style) that I forgot, then and forever, Scotto’s limitations of appearance. From that moment until now, she has always looked to me like the character, period.

    I recall the fire and passion of her Giorgetta, and the terrifying abandon with which she flung herself around that precarious barge setting. I recall the oddly moving blend of tenderness and revulsion with which she regarded Michele (Cornell MacNeil) in the final scene. Most vivid of all, still audible in my mind’s ear, is the huge crescendo she made on the high C in her “nostalgia” aria, from whisper to full-throated cry, evoking with a single sound the character’s desperate hunger to escape her stifling conventional life.

    Scotto ruined the role of Suor Angelica for me. Perhaps Diana Soviero can match La Scotto (I have not been fortunate enough to hear Ms. Soviero live in this part) but no one could ever surpass her. Besides her hauntingly beautiful singing (the rubato and portamento effects in “Senza mamma” were those only the greatest of artists would dare-- and Scotto made every liberty she took sound inevitable), I remember best the look on her face as she returned to the stage to brew the fatal potion. She literally glowed from within. Her interpretation of the Miracle was breathtaking: with no help from the Meet’s cheapjack production (a single white floodlight stood in for the Heavenly Host) she walked slowly upstage toward her “baby”, then crumpled, as if the spirit had simply and suddenly departed her mortal form. After perhaps a minute of breathless silence, the 4000 in the audience burst into what can only be called a riot of cheers, bravos, applause and sobs. The weeping diva staggered out for perhaps a dozen curtain calls, and then THE APPLAUSE CONTINUED UNTIL THE MAESTRO ENTERED THE PIT TO BEGIN GIANNI SCHICCI-- a half-hour at least!

    And her Lauretta was at once adorable and wonderfully funny-- one roll of her eyes during “O mio babbino caro” had the audience howling and applauding at the same time! The climax of this opera was Schicci’s (Cornell MacNeil) entrance during the final love duet: he listened, rapt, to La Scotto soaring up to a radiant high D-flat, then hissed his final sung line (“Get out of my house”) to the departing relatives in a tone that suggested, “You idiots almost made me miss my daughter’s gorgeous singing!”

    And that was only the first time I heard Scotto. There were many more, and she never, never disappointed. Now, about that fistfight in standing room with the jerk who called her “Miss Piggy” . . . perhaps some other time!

    • hailui

      Happy Birthday, LC. Thank you, thank you for all the substance you supply, upon which the gilding of your wit gleams to attract and then instruct those of us less-informed and less-committed lightweights.

  • Fidelia

    Happy Birthday, chère Doyenne! I am full of thanks to Mme Scotto not only for her many sublime interpretations but also for her role in the birthing of La One and Only Cieca. You’re right to celebrate : Forty is nothing to an immortal.

  • Fidelia

    Off topic: BRKlassik radio is broadcasting the première of Meistersinger in Munich today at 16:00 : 10 AM in New York.