Cher Public

The swan never bothered me anyway

Elsa 500Cher public, you knew La Cieca would come through for you, didn’t you? So hurry past the jump and give a listen. 

  • giudici ad Anna, GIUUUUUDICI…..

  • kraneled

    Thank you very much

    The BRAUTGEMACH and the dramatic outbursts of Elsa were convincing, the entrance needs refinement and the second act should be more naive, not too mature. German good

    Biecziela very good, much better than Vogt and Kaufmann

    Thielemann superb as ever

    • phoenix

      ‘… second act should be more naive, not too mature.’
      -- that’s what I thought just watching those short utube clips. Fans buy tickets (How ya’ gonna keep ’em down on the farm?) to see the glamorous Anna -- not the naïve Elsa -- of course she could interpret it differently -- I don’t think they’d be crestfallen if she didn’t give ’em another rendition of Ninotchka on the River Scheldt. Sadly, no matter what she does or how she does it, I sense a deeper naivety than meets the naked eye.
      -- All that aside, her most endearing attraction: a maternal quality -- much stronger & longer lasting than any surface glamour. And when glamour goes out the window & she gets into her babushka mode, people love her even more:
      -- Love the fotshop image.

    • Lohengrin

      PB: no wonder that the Brautgemach is without any result……

    • That word “should” has no place in criticism. There are notes and words on a page and there is your taste and there is tradition. But “should” means nothing besides you’re hearing something you haven’t heard before.

  • PCally

    A little underwhelming to be totally honest, the middle sounds a bit stretched IMO and too thick and stodgy, especially in softer passages. I personally felt that same with her souvenirs CD. The music just didn’t sit well for her, making the vibrato in the middle much more prominent than it was. Hopefully there will be a full recording of one of the performances since the videos posted earlier sounded quite nice. I’m fairly certain she’ll get it together come performance time.

  • Cicciabella

    The recording quality is not the best, but Thielemann sounds really slow to me. Some more forward propulsion would help both singers. It’s wonderful to hear these two great voices in this, but the tempo spoils it for me.

  • EarlyRomantic

    On the basis of this audio clip, I feel that Netrebko waited too long to tackle the role. She is unsteady and her voice too heavy. Her pitch is also suspect, wavering between under and over the notes. She is also not fluent in German and it shows. Earlier on and had she learned German then, it may have been a different story.

    • You know very well that if Netrebko had taken on Elsa earlier, parterre and the rest of the blogosphere would have been hysterical over the bizarre notion that a light soprano whose repertoire mostly consisted of Norina and Adina and Mimi should have the effrontery to take on the massive Wagnerian repertoire.

      “On the basis of this audio clip, I feel that Netrebko tackled the role too early. She is unsteady and her voice too light. She is also not fluent in German and it shows. If she had taken the time to learn German properly and to let her voice develop, it may have been a different story.”

      • And, as I think I have proposed before: “Those who cannot do, teach. Those who cannot teach, criticize diction.”

        • spiderman

          I am actually a german native and find her diction surprisingly well.

          • And what the fuck, may I ask, is the purpose of “erasing memories” of anything? It’s an utterly artificial bit of tacky queenery that has nothing to do with art.

            You’re already on permanent moderation, so for this infraction all your comments for the next month will be deleted unread. Learn to discuss intelligently and dispense with the knee-jerk faggotry, please.

            Everyone: from this moment on, the use of “erase memories” or “efface memories” as a criticism will result in moderation: no arguments, no recourse.

      • Lohengrin

        The diction is no German at all, she uses a phonetic linguage, at the best similar to German. The lady is citizen of Austria since 10 years, living there for some more than 10 years…….To me it seems that she does not exactly know what the text means.

        • spiderman

          This might be YOUR impression because you generally don’t want to say nothing good about Netrebko. However, her pronounciation IS pretty good. As russians naturally have different vowels than central europeans which shows evidently espescially in german, you can hear that there has been a lot of effort in the correct pronounciation of the words. Listen how she sings “zugefalleN” and “sank in süßen Schlaf” that is even already on a mannered site of pronounciation, as some german sopranos would do it.

        • Please entertain us some more with your unique blend of mind-reading and xenophobia.

        • armerjacquino

          The lady is citizen of Austria since 10 years, living there for some more than 10 years…….To me it seems that she does not exactly know what the text means.

          This is extraordinary. Not content with implying that Netrebko is not enough of a professional to, you know, bother to know what the words mean, you also imply that she’s so thunderingly dumb that she is incapable of living in a country for a decade without picking up any of the language. I mean, if she’s the person you describe, it’s amazing she doesn’t fall over more.

          • Lohengrin

            It is generally known in Vienna, that AN does NOT speak German after such a long time. In a little clip on her facebook she mentions, that it is “sehr schwer” Deutsch zu singen. All somehow questionable at singung Elsa. May her voice be suitable, the Wagner-text is equal imporant as the music.
            We will hear more tomorrow!

            • Cicciabella

              If singers only sang in languages they are fluent in, a lot if them would have very limited repertoire. You can sing in a language if you understand the words and get good language coaching. Netrebko’s German may not meet your standards, and that’s fair, you are entitled to your opinion, but it is obvious from this clip that she has been coached very well and has taken instruction. Her diction is really no worse or better than the average diction level nowadays which, because of bigger halls, louder orchestras and other reasons, is not exactly ideal.

            • Lohengrin

              “If singers only sang in languages they are fluent in, a lot of them would have very limited repertoire. You can sing in a language if you understand the words and get good language coaching.”: There is a famous Tenor, who is fluent in many linguages (German, English, Italian, French, Spanish) but not in Russian, so he misses Lenski and Hermann intentionally, because he wants to “feel” the meaning of the words to be able to interpret closely to the text.
              There was an other very famous Tenor (he has died) who WAS limited to Italian repertory!

            • la vociaccia

              “There is a very famous tenor….”

              It’s comical how you manage to turn everything into a demonstration of how inferior everyone is to Kaufmann.

            • Well you know, they’re not Aryan or anything, so of course Lohengrin doesn’t like them.

          • manou

            she’s so thunderingly dumb that she is incapable of living in a country for a decade without picking up any of the language.

            Er…..capable I think.

            • Krunoslav

              “There was an other very famous Tenor (he has died) who WAS limited to Italian repertory!”


            • armerjacquino

              Yep. Typo.

    • PCally

      Early romantic thinks that no one can measure up to studer, not just Netrebko.

      • Bill

        Well Studer DID set a very high standard as
        Elsa -- Studer was one of the finest Elsas I have seen
        along with Rysanek, Gruemmer etc.

        • PCally

          No argument from me Bill. Studer is one of my favorites in the role. But the operative word is DID. Studer will not be singing Elsa anywhere anytime soon and Early Romantic mostly comments to rave about Studer or slag off singers singing roles Studer did. By the time she was the age Netrebko Is now, Studers best days were behind her.

  • moi

    I hope this works.. because it is wunderbar, and I can’t believe that 18 years have past.

    • Gualtier M

      Or just replace the “s” with the “v” and not leave both in:

  • moi

    No such luck… sorry… go to youtube and write karita mattila sings elsa’s first aria

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    WOW! Her overtones are really making a wonderful Rysanek-like bloom. So exciting in terms of what is still to come from Netrebko. She should really make night life on the Huegel sparkle this summer. I hope she does not get too bored with the whole thing. Brava Anna.

  • tiger1

    Based on the quality of the recording, one really needs an EXTREMELY impressive sense of hearing to say something even remotely intelligent on Ms Netrebko’s ability to pronounce German. Of course, it is very seldom that lack of knowledge stops a heated debate to take place on Parterre… (c;

    • Lohengrin

      As my linguage is German it is easy for me to say something about….. PB has a much better German, he also lives in Vienna (and NY) and speaks German fluently.

      • Bill

        Lohengrin -- Piotr Beczala spent some 5 years or more
        of his earlier career engaged at the opera house in Linz, Austria where no doubt many works are sung in German translation -- then he transitioned to Zurich, a German speaking Swiss City in launching his international career.

        Anna Netrebko launched her career in Russia at first and
        was not engaged early on at a provincial or regional German Opera House. Nor did she sing much German repertoire practically even to this date save for a few Strauss songs and Kalman operetta arias. So to jump in with Elsa is a task.

        Another singer, who ended up cancelling her first Elsa’s
        programmed for Vienna and then never assuming the role
        was Renee Fleming -- who also began her international career in a provincial German speaking opera house.
        And she does speak German -- but yet when she sings in
        Capriccio or Rosenkavalier, her diction is almost completely unclear even in the parlando passages.

        I just saw the Canadian Layla Claire for the second time
        in one year as Anne Trulove in the Rakes Progress in Pittsburgh singing in English Last year she essayed the role at the Met -- in neither performance could I
        understand anything much of what she was singing in her native English (Gueden and Rothenberger were much easier to comprehend in this role while singing in English).

        Netrebko has now sung Elsa and some of those posting indicate though there may have been some pronunciation flaws in her German, others indicate she was quite comprehensible. If she continues to sing Elsa in the next few years in other houses after Dresden and Bayreuth surely everything will come together splendidly.

        • Lohengrin

          I know that PB spent years in Linz and Zürich and he was willing (!) and able (!) to learn the linguage. AN, as I mentioned, lives in Vienna for a quarter of her live, was singing in Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, all German speaking area. Hampson grew up in the western part of US and learned the German linguage to sing and understand Mahler, similar to Ludovic Tezier. Also Elina Garance speaks German fluently. In German we say “Wo ein Wille ist, da ist ei Weg” (If somebdoy is willing to do, it will be found a way to do). So there is no need to defend a person who ignored soething for such a long time and now has hard work to what others did long ago.

          • armerjacquino

            “Wo ein Wille ist, da ist ei Weg”

            Well, if you’re just going to throw German translations of English proverbs at us (‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’ first recorded in English C17th, as opposed to the German version which doesn’t appear before the C19th) then any discussion of language is going to get very complicated…

        • Shouldn’t you also mention that Beczala was taught German as a second language as a matter of course in Poland whereas in Russia the second language taught is English? Or that since Beczala spent a decade in small German theaters, he naturally would have to refine his German speech simply in order to ask directions to his dressing room?

          In other words, there is no particular “virtue” in Beczala’s German: it’s mostly happenstance.

          For Christ’s sake, the most German human being on Earth, Christian Thielemann, chose Netrebko for this project, but obviously that’s not good enough for the local Sprachpolizei.

          • 98rsd

            I spent a week in Poland in the late 80s and, although I assumed that a lot of people would speak German, I didn’t find that. Russian was much more common.

            • Bill

              My own experience in Warsaw circa 1971 was it was not easy to find people who spoke either English or German.
              I had to revert to my school French as more people
              seemed to have ability in that language. That said, there may be Polish (as there were in other parts of
              Europe which were occupied by the Nazis) people who
              could speak German simply chose not to do so.

          • Not important in any sense at all, but the evidence that Beczala learned German in school as a second language seems a bit ambiguous.

            Als er 1992 in Linz engagiert wurde, sprach er kein Wort Deutsch. „Mit der Operette, den Dialogen, musste ich es lernen“, sagt er in bestem Hochdeutsch.”


            >> Unverkennbare Ähnlichkeiten zu Wunderlichs Stil, manchmal auch Timbre (bei Mozart sowieso):
            „Ich kam damals nach Österrreich, ohne ein Wort Deutsch zu können. Da suchte ich mir Aufnahmen, auf die ich mich künstlerisch stützen konnte, z. B. als Tamino (aber auch „Verkaufte Braut“-Hans, „Traviata“ auf Deutsch u. a.). Und da hat es sich eben so ergeben. – Mein Lehrer Ballarin hatte früher schon gesagt, der Beczala klingt, wenn er gesund ist, wie der Wunderlich, wenn er krank ist – das war für mich das größte Kompliment der Welt.“


            • Anyway, he learned German for practical purposes, not in order to prepare himself for interpreting the Meister’s works.

              Meanwhile Netrebko’s English skills have served her well both in the rehearsal room and in dealing with the media. In general, media worldwide are equipped to deal with spoken English; German or Russian not quite so much. (Note that when Kaufmann does press in Italy or France, he speaks English.)

            • Lohengrin

              “Note that when Kaufmann does press in Italy or France, he speaks English”: No, sometimes in France he uses English but never in Italy.
              If he uses English it is to be polite to the international audience.

            • When he thought he’d stepped on my foot in the Métro (he hadn’t) he said “Pardon.”

            • Lohengrin, you’re wrong and you’re on moderation.

  • manou

    Beczala has a German?

    • Lohengrin

      Ja, er hat ein besseres Deutsch als Anna Netrebko. Er lebt u.a. auch in Wien und spricht die Sprache sehr gut.
      AN kann überhaupt nicht Deutsch, nur einzelne Wörter wie “Danke” und “Guten Tag”. Das ist für so viele Jahre in Wien ZU WENIG und für die Staatsbürgerschaft reicht es nur mit sehr sehr prominenter Unterstützung. Jede(r) andere musss eine Sprachtest machen und wenn der nicht bestanden wird, gbt es die Einbürgerung nicht.
      Wenn man/frau Wagner singt und die Sprache nicht richtig kann ud auch versteht, merkt der Zuhörer das.

      • All right, drop it.

      • DonCarloFanatic

        A censorious attitude from native German speakers does not encourage one to learn the language or to speak it in public. Although AN usually has a lot of brass, I can see why she might not want to speak in German when she’s doing the publicity rounds. Public figures do themselves no favors by speaking publicly in a halting manner; they end up sounding stupid. It’s much better to be fluent in another language that many if not most Germans already know.

        And let’s be reasonable here; the past decade has been an extremely busy one for AN.

      • spiderman

        Sorry. Lohengrin. Your posting in german is so full of mistakes I can hardly believe that your mother tounge is german. (Mine is). Or you are just very bad in typing. Anyway, my mother-tounge is german and I understand Netrebko pretty well. Better than expected actually.

        • Lohengrin

          Also sorry, was in hurry………….

        • Lohengrin

          Es macht einen Unterschied, ob man/frau jemanden “versteht” = herausfindet, ob er nach der Uhrzeit oder nach dem Weg fragt, oder ob ein literarischer Text, wie das Libretto der Walküre, deutlich verständlich ist. Mich wundert, dass ich das erklären muss. Wenn AN in grammatikalisch fehlerhaftem Deutsch (sinngemäß) sagt, dass Deutsch singen schwer ist, ist das leicht zu “verstehen”, aber die Elsa muss deutlich sein. In diesem Forum wurde nach vorbildlicher Diktion gefragt: Marilyn Horn z.B. ist perfekt.

          • spiderman

            Was Sie aber nicht bedenken ist, dass Sie von zwei verschiedenen paar Schuhen reden:
            Deutsch auszusprechen und Deutschen text zu verstehen ist ja sehr wohl ein Unterschied. Deswegen wundere ich mich ehrlich gesagt über ihre arrogante Haltung zu behaupten, nur weil es schwierig ist etwas auszusprechen, dass man es auch gleich nicht versteht. Jedenfalls bleibe ich dabei: die Aussprache von Netrebko ist sicherlich nicht perfekt aber doch auf sehr hohem Niveau, mit der Csardasfürstin nicht zu vergleichen. Punkt.

            Sorry, La Cieca … it was too tempting, not to react on lohengrins german posting in german. But I’ll change to english now and won’t react in german anymore on those arrogant assumptions.

  • Dita Recon

    I take the opportunity that the German speaking Parterriani talk about pronunciation to ask them something I have been wondering for quite a long time: I have been obsessed by the 1967 Decca Song Recital of Schumann, Wolf, Debussy & Poulenc by Régine Crespin, and while I find her French songs absolutely remarkable & very intelligible without reading the text (I do speak French), I have the impression that her German is so good that I could write down what she sings in, for instance, the Five Poems of Mary Stuart by Schumann… even if I don’t know German at all!
    So in your opinion: who’s the non-German speaking singer which impresses you the most in terms of clarity of German diction? (I’m interested because it seems such a terribly difficult feat to achieve!).

    • Dita Recon

      … and here is what I was talking about, Crespin singing Schumann:

      • Lohengrin

        Wonderful German pronouncation and “sound”!

      • Camille

        Thanks so much for having posted this Schumann, which is still comparatively new to me and growing on me. She sings superbly here.

        Regina Crispin’s German diction and enunciation is due largely to the fact that she fell in love with, and married her German coach, Lou Bruder.

        While attending one of her master classes here in Manhattan around the early 2000’s, I was surprised to hear her say, while in midst of complimenting a student singer’s excellent enunciation in German, that she STILL really did not have German so as to understand it all that well; that it had eluded her despite all her considerable efforts, not to mention her time spent in German speaking musical capitals, such as Bayreuth and Vienna.

        Not only of interest but quite refreshingly frank from such a diva’s diva as was she.

        Therefore, it would seem to be a case of an extremely apt pupil, capable of really absorbing the sounds of the language and able to reproduce them, a separate talent from actually speaking a language in day-to-day fashion, and not someone who was fully fluent in the language as a second language. A feat, in either case.

    • Lohengrin

      Marilyn Horne is very “German” singing Wesendonck-Lieder.

    • Bill

      Crespin sang German very well such as her Marschallin or Sieglinde she being among the best exponents of those roles during her prime. Natalie Dessay surprised
      as a young singer in Vienna with very plausible German
      (not easy for a French person to pronounce the German
      consonents without accent as Aminta, Zerbinetta etc. Sousay sang German remarkably well exquisite Lieder -- just to name three French speakers who sang
      some German repertory with success.

      Some American singers such as Studer were very fine
      singing German roles and particularly German lieder.
      Donath, Bonney and others also.

      Many non French singers massacre the language in French repertoire. I do not have Italian but one assumes
      that those who are Italian recognize all sorts of lingual flaws when non-Italians sing Italian operas.

      If one watches the Da Capo series of interviews with
      opera singers, it is surprising how many non-German
      singers are interviewed who speak the German language well (assumedly spontaneously) -- even Anna Moffo,
      in her first ever interview in the German language,
      acquits herself charmingly if a bit haltingly.

      • DonCarloFanatic

        It hurts to hear overly pronounced French.

        • Such as…?

          • DonCarloFanatic

            I don’t seem to have it on this computer, but I was thinking of a hideous Tales of Hoffmann whose Hoffmann sounded as if he was using his best high school French accent. The result was far worse than if he’d learned the role phonetically.

      • Niel Rishoi

        Crespin is my favorite Marschallin. Everything about her IS the character.

    • PCally

      Now that’s more like it! They really should have done a new production though, those costumes are hideous. I wish they were filming this, I’d love to see her fight off Herlitzius.

      • DonCarloFanatic

        I like the costumes. I’ve only seen minimalist or regie Lohengrin productions.

        • PCally

          I think the set looks like it needs a paint job and that Netrebko is made to look like Elsas so spinster aunt, at least in that costume. Give me regie any day over this, or at least something that’s aesthetically pleasing to look at as opposed to stuff that looks dusty and old.

          • Bill

            It is an old Christine Mielitz production but all her productions are Regie (though not always to my taste)
            but why quibble when the casting was from strength throughout (according to the Austrian critics I read this morning) and the conductor was Thielemann and Dresden has a great chorus and orchestra to boot. Plus the Austrian critics complimented Netrebko’s German diction and one suggested she is ready for Eva and Sieglinde -- now that would be interesting seeing as she has given up Norma -- another new possible direction for her. Keep in mind that Stoyanova, who never sang any roles in German suddenly emerged as a sought after
            and highly praised Ariadne and Marschallin, now upcoming Danae and future Eva with excellent diction
            (she also was in Vienna for quite a few years before venturing these Strauss and Wagner roles).

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              I confess I find it hard to see the appeal of a role like Eva for an established star like Netrebko, though she would probably do it very well and be lovely. I think Sieglinde would be on the low side though not impossible. I’d sooner hear her as Elisabeth. I do think her voice sounds as velvety as ever with no hint of edge, so I’d probably draw the line at any other Wagner roles.

            • Bill

              Cocky -- Eva was just a suggestion of a critic and of course we all know what a grateful roll Eva is for
              a fine German lyric. I would assume that Nebrebko would never sing it unless her husband was singing Walter and I am not sure he has ever ventured into German repertoire at all. Netrebko does however have a secure middle voice so that she could easily do Sieglinde if she ever wanted to. Elisabeth would be lovely, of course but one can expect that Netrebko will only add one or two roles to her repertoire in a season and she has a number of new roles already scheduled upcoming. I kind of wonder if she will ever venture to
              Rusalka for example or Marenka in the Bartered Bride where she could have a lot of fun -- or Milada in Dalibor -- or some Janacek -- She still has the top for some Richard Strauss -- Daphne ? (remember Kiri did not know a word of German but sang 3 Strauss roles) and what fun Netrebko might be as Rosalinde in Fledermaus -- her husband could sing Alfred. There are so many
              possibilities for a singer of her talents. She is sought after everywhere, La Scala, the Met, Salzburg, Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Covent Garden most of which would take her in any role she chose to sing. And she does not seem to be a singer who demands new productions every time often just fitting into a routine repertory production. When she made her role debut as Tatiana in Vienna it was not a new production, same as her first ever Elsa just now in Dresden -- Sometimes she surprises such as returning to Anna Bolena in Vienna and Zurich after a lapse or her upcoming announced Violetta in La Scala next season after some years away from the role.
              It would be fun if someone would persuade her to do
              Cherubini’s Medea someplace someday.

            • grimoaldo

              “what fun Netrebko might be as Rosalinde in Fledermaus ”

              That gets my vote!

            • Krunoslav

              I would say, cast Anna as Elisabeth AND Venus! She’d have more fun and sound luscious besides…

            • Bluebeard

              I’m actually surprised that Netrebko did Elsa before Elisabeth simply because I thought she wouldn’t connect to Elsa temperamentally at all. She’s good as Elsa, though I hardly would put her at the top of my list for sopranos whom I’d like to hear in this role (Schwanewilms, Harteros, and Pieczonka for my top picks). Elisabeth vocally would be perfect for Netrebko, and I feel like she has the presence for the part to boot! Doing Venus as well could be awesome, though I’d imagine that would be too much for her to take on anytime soon.

            • PCally

              Bill-I had never thought of Sieglinde but that actually seems like it would fit her voice like a glove and temperamentally she could make it work. Elisabeth as well. Given that her first Elsa seems to have been a success I hope she goes in that direction. I don’t want a Marschallin from her as I personally don’t think she’s much of a text pointer and I prefer more restraint in that role, though to be sure there’s never one way for a role to be done. An Ariadne would be divine, especially that last duet. I really haven’t cared for the bits of operetta Netrebko has sung in concerts and recording etc… but Rosalinde is a bit higher and more dramatic so I imagine it could be lovely as well. I feel like the time to sing Rusalka is now and I don’t really think it will happen. Ditto Eva, which her voices seems to have outgrown. I also have a hard time picturing her in the main Janack roles as she seems so tough. I really really wish she would sing Lisa soon and maybe a few years down the road Katerina Ismailova, though that’s just wishful thinking on my part and I HIGHLY doubt it will ever happen.

              Regarding to the production, it’s a minor quibble and the run is quite short so it makes sense that a new production wasn’t put on. But surely that cast and conductor warrant a new production, certainly one less drab and “stand and sing” as that production appears to be. If I were making a role debut I would prefer it to be in a new production. In that way I’d be able to put my own personal stamp on the role and have a genuinely collaborative experience. I’ve heard that, for example, Karita Mattila does her best to sing either in new production or revivals of productions that are put on only occasional so that they tend to get more rehearsal time than usual. And despite the implications that he would have it otherwise, Kaufmann seems to appear almost exclusively in new productions, certainly when he’s singing a role for the first time.

            • Temperamentally, I think she’d be a memorable Sieglinde, but the role wouldn’t let her voice soar the way it likes. Elisabeth would be better. I can imagine an inspired “Dich teure Halle”. But really, I don’t see too much Wagner in her immediate future. There’s so much Verdi for her to sing. And if she did want to sing more German roles, why not some of those high-lying Strauss roles? How about Die Kaiserin?

  • tiger1

    Based on a snatch of an Italian article on the 2016-17 season of the Scala, just published, the 2017-18 season will open with Andrea Chenier, featuring Ms and Mr Netrebko. Of course, my Italian is basically non-existing so I could be wrong -- but if not, it is definitely news!

    • manou

      You can’t always trust a snatch.

      • grimoaldo


    • Lohengrin

      Salzburg 2017: Aida and Radames!

  • Cocky Kurwenal

    I think this role is brilliant for Netrebko and I’m enjoying her more in this than anything since the Decker Traviata. I’ve always found her voice gorgeous but have found her recent stuff in heavier Italian roles (experienced as audio only) to be a bit faceless, and I didn’t enjoy any of her Bellini or Donizetti work. To me, her Elsa sounds truly distinctive, brilliantly and fervently sung, and like a really complete character.

    Wish there was more Herlitzius on the available clips! Here’s hoping the whole thing emerges at some point.

  • antikitschychick

    Heard the recording last night. First of all thanks to La C for spoiling us with the best goodies as always. I’m very happy that this seems to have been a triumph for AN and everyone involved. The orchestra sounds superb, albeit a bit subdued to accommodate the singers I think. Tbh I was disappointed in what I heard from the clips that AN posted on her Instagram account prior to the opening night perf but I didn’t comment on them since they were very rough/short clips, plus it was a rehearsal and this is a role debut for her. Based on the above recording I heard some positive, (remarkable even) aspects to her performance and some not so positive. In terms of the positive things I heard, her voice sounds beautifully opulent with a rich and distinctive tone and her high notes sound powerful and radiant. However, I don’t think she’s singing on the breath as much as she should/could, and as a result there are some pitch problems and a wide, unwieldy vibrato in the middle register that makes some notes sag. But as is the case with all her performances of new roles I’m sure she’ll improve the more she performs this rep. It may also be that I prefer a brighter, more forward sounding voice (with more “spin”) in this rep, but there were some definite flat and sharp pitches. Bezcala sounds lovely as well but at his limit in terms of volume during all the climaxes. Perhaps he was holding back but it sounded like he was on the verge of being drowned out by the orchestra at times, though he was never inaudible and during the lyrical passages I thought his voice sounded lush and radiant with that lovely amber quality of tone he almost always has. He has the requisite lyricism and heroism for this role but he needs a bit more heft in parts, ad she needs a bit of refinement in terms of the breath support. I’d love to hear a full recording of this…hopefully soon.

    I don’t speak German so I can’t comment on the enunciation although it did sound like she was distinguishing the vowels appropriately.

    Honestly even if I can’t make out the text, I could listen to Wagner 24/7. His music is pretty much the only music that completely calms my anxiety. It’s like a balm for my ears, heart & soul :-). Cannot wait for that Tristan next season. I wouldn’t miss that for the world, classes be damned!

    Watched the Elektra HD today as well. It was a great performance but unfortunately I don’t really care for this opera I’m afraid. The role of Elektra is almost unsingable. Thus, it borders on a scream-fest (Nina Stemme’s vocal approach/technique also exacerbates/highlights the piercing quality of the vocal writing) and the plot is kind of convoluted and nonsensical and lacks dramatic propulsion imho so I found myself tuning out at certain times and having to rewind the performance. To be clear, I was never bored, but I couldn’t really connect with what was going on either. Perhaps this piece is meant to alienate more than most other operas but I think Strauss went a bit overboard and was going for the shock factor a little too hard. The ending is certainly powerful and gripping though and I enjoyed it, but it’s appeal is on a more primal/base level, at least to me, even though the orchestration is certainly virtuosic. I’d probably enjoy hearing a recording of this or a live theatrical performance more than an HD even though the production was good and all the lead singers gave a searing performance, and the Maids and other extras were great too, except one whose name I can’t recall atm. Waltraud Meier is obvs past her vocal prime but she is is such a skilled performer and musician it almost didn’t matter that the mid to lower range of her voice often sounded unsteady and hollow. The top of the voice is still in pretty good condition though and she was very believable in the role of a conflicted matron. Pieczonka has a very bright metallic voice but seems very comfortable on stage and did not look or sound over-parted like the aforementioned ladies did at times and I like that bright sound in this rep so I liked her performance a lot. Eric Owens was slightly underwhelming as Orestes, if only because he is acting was not on par with that of the ladies. The singing I thought was quite good though. The orchestra sounded very good, if a bit too bombastic but I mean it was a huge orchestra. I thought Esa-Pekka Salonen did a great job with the tempos and making the orchestra have a cohesive sound but I’d have to listen to other recordings to have a proper frame of reference to compare this to. Overall I think this performance was on a really high level and I did enjoy the closeups of the singers a lot. Nina Stemme looked possessed much of the time but it was a very expressive and thus effective characterization and even with the mugging she always managed to make Elektra seem human. Plus she’s a stage animal. I’m glad the season ended on a high. Hopefully next season will be even better :-).

    • Lohenfal

      Anti, your comments on Elektra and Lohengrin were interesting to read. I don’t want to repeat what I wrote about Elektra a few weeks ago. It’s on one of the chat threads of that time. I imagine that the HD came across more successfully than what I experienced in the house. In any case, I assure you that Elektra is one of Strauss’ greatest achievements, as is Salome. Yes, it is harsh, and the title role perhaps unsingable to most, but more exposure to it will make you admire it more and more.

      I listened to only a little bit of the Lohengrin excerpts. It’s up to the individual listener to decide whether Anna is really suited to this music or the German language. What I heard is so contrary to what I’m accustomed to that I can’t really wrap my mind about it. Since the Dresden audience seems to have been pleased, what can I say? I don’t think that only natives should sing in German. Hampson, Heppner and many other non-natives have done rather well with the language. On the other hand, I never found Debbie Voigt or Renee convincing, and they assuredly know German better than Anna. I can therefore understand why some Parterrians were displeased with her Elsa and would rather hear someone like Harteros in this material. I would have to number myself in that group.

      • antikitschychick

        Hey Lohenfal, thanks for your response and the compliment. I googled and was immediately able to find your comments re: Elektra based on the live performance you saw:

        I’d say that’s a fair assessment and I will concede the orchestra sounded pretty superb, but, and I should have included this in my original post, I pretty much echoed Niel Rishoi’s thoughts on a performance of Elektra he saw and reviewed, which he posted on the thread containing Porgy A’s excellent compendium of all the available DVD performances of this opera. So much of what he wrote precisely described the impression I came away with, and I thank him for sharing his thoughts. I wouldn’t have had the audacity to be blunt about my impression of the work (especially not after what ensued a few years ago, when I said, rather naively, that I didn’t think Falstaff measured up to Verdi’s great tragic operas lol even though it is a tightly construed and fun opera) had he not paved the way first. It’s always a relief when someone who is far more experienced in opera going than I am has the same or similar thoughts on a performance or opera…not that it means it’s the “right” opinion since this ultimately comes down to taste, if one understands the piece and can appreciate the more subtle elements, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who had that/those impression(s). But regardless I will heed your advice and listen to/watch other performances. I usually try to approach performances with an open mind and let my instinct decide whether I like something or not (I do ponder about some things, especially directorial choices and I always try to stay engaged, for instance I thought about why the maids were sprinkling the floor with water rather than mopping/pouring the water on it, other than that being a slip and fall hazard for the singers :-P; and that immediately made the performance more interesting to me), but I understand that some things shouldn’t be judged purely on an instinctual basis, especially when dealing with a renown work such as this.

        I also agree with your comments about the production and how Chéreau tried to humanize the characters, and succeeded I’d say, but I can totally see how the performance would have come across as underwhelming dramatically from a distance.

    • Lohengrin

      About Dresden Lohengrin (short) recording: Very well said. Thank You!

    • “…the plot is kind of convoluted and nonsensical and lacks dramatic propulsion…” Sophocles’s fault, I guess.

      • Just look at Greece today.

      • armerjacquino

        Of all the operas of which this could be said, I could never have imagined this one. Is there an opera with a simpler, more basic plot than ELEKTRA? Or one which drives to such a dramatic conclusion so quickly?

        What’s ‘convoluted’ about ‘I want to avenge my father. I wish my brother were here. Oh, he is. We have’?

        • PCally

          Especially since the comments (which are otherwise very interesting to read) come up on a thread about Lohengrin, whose plot is (comparatively at least) more convoluted than Elektra’s.

        • “Or one which drives to such a dramatic conclusion so quickly?” You took the words from my mouth. Or put them into it. Either way, that was exactly my thought.

  • Niel Rishoi

    Netrebko’s career trajectory is just amazing. I am so geeked about her doing Elsa and the promise of more Wagner to come. Based on the clips posted here and there, this is an *outstanding* first assumption. The brief video clip of the in-progress of production, by those few short minutes, you see Anna physically and vocally, completely in character, in tandem to the service of the drama. She has evolved to this, singing WAGNER! And acquitting herself marvelously. Yes, I’d like to see her doing Elisabeth, and…wait for it…down the road, Ortrud and Kundry. She has that temperament, that fire and music ;-) -- that would bring these characters to life. Finally: Isolde. I totally see/hear her doing this role. With a conductor like Thielemann; in his recording (which I found a revelation), he emphasized the more diaphanous textures of the score, and I think Anna would do well under his direction. She has everything the role needs: the range, the voluptuousness of tone, the dramatic sensibility, the presence. My dream wish list: Netrebko and Kaufmann doing it. Garanca doing Brangaene. Stefan Kocan as Marke.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      I’m afraid I think this is getting carried away -- I don’t think Netrebko has everything Isolde needs, or everything Ortrud and Kundry need either. I think she has a stunning voice which has grown to a thrilling extent over recent years, but I don’t think it has fundamentally changed its intrinsic nature from a lyric instrument. I would not like to hear her attempt Isolde’s narration and curse, or much else in Act I, or the Ha! ich bins section from Act III -- I simply don’t think it’s a voice that would take kindly to the kind of deployment necessary to make an impact in those sections. Ditto the last 15 minutes of Kundry’s Act II, or really any of Ortrud. Her voice is absolutely big enough to get over Wagner’s orchestration in any of those passages, but it is a soft grained, velvety sound that depends on consistent breath and rich legato to make an impact. If she tries to sing with the kind of assertiveness we expect from an Act I Isolde or a particularly excited Ortrud, I think her voice will suffer seriously for it. Naturally I’d be happy to be proved wrong, but I think if vocal longevity is a concern for her (it might not be) she should steer clear of any other Wagner apart from Eva (unlikely), Sieglinde (won’t show her to her best advantage), Elisabeth (maybe with Venus like Kruno suggests -- would sure be exciting) and possibly Senta if her top remains as secure as it appears to be currently.

  • Niel Rishoi

  • antikitschychick

    Ok I watched most of it again (Elektra that is). Apologies for bringing it up in this thread and for the typos in my above posts. It was late…

    Anyway, I enjoyed this second viewing much more, mostly because I read a plot synopsis, which I hadn’t done before, and that cleared up some of the things I didn’t understand. Elektra’s motivations and the revenge (or avenge) aspect of the plot I agree is made very clear which Strauss and his librettist strove to do as she is the central figure in the opera. Elektra wants to avenge the death of her father, Agamemnon whose death she vividly describes during her first big scene, “Allein! Weh, ganz allein” and her sister, Chrysothemis’ motivations are equally revealed, i.e. she wants to leave and get married and have a family of her own. Orest’s role is also eventually revealed although it’s never really clear why he was banished in the first place. What’s also not made clear is who exactly Aegisthus is, other than some master/lord in their household who is feared, what his relationship to Klytaemnestra is, what, if any involvement Klytaemnestra had in the death of Agamemnon and why she is being tormented with dreams of Orest killing her. None of this is really explained in the opera because the opera leaves out a huge chunk of the ancient Greek myth dealing with Agamemnon and Iphigenie, the other sister. It’s precisely that portion of the myth that was left out which explains K’s motivations because those are the cataclysmic events that led to the deterioration of the family. Thus, I think in order to fully understand and appreciate this opera you have to be familiar with Sophocles’ play or have at least read a plot synopsis of the opera beforehand since the fact that Agamemnon has sacrificed his and K’s daughter Iphigenia which is ultimately why K hated him and had a hand in his murder is kind of important. She also banned Orest because she was afraid he would avenge his father’s death but that’s less important than the A and I portion of the myth. I wasn’t familiar with that part of the myth so that’s why I was confused. All of this is minimized or not really dealt with in the opera for the sake of emphasizing the character of Elektra and her quest to avenge her father, and her brother’s banishment.

    In an opera house ppl are given pamphlets that explain the plot which they can read before or during the opera but I was watching this at home and didn’t read up on the plot beforehand as I usually do, not knowing that a huge chunk of the myth was being left out which would have made everything clear, and unfortunately I haven’t read Sophocles play either, which I’d be happy to but I don’t think reading a book or a play or an entire synopsis should be a perquisite to understanding an opera. People should certainly do it if they can and I usually do but the work should ideally stand on its own. Of course it can still be a great work, as greatness and a convoluted plot are not mutually exclusive in opera as we all know. Many great works still have big flaws.

    Moreover, this opera doesn’t follow the usual recitative + aria format so a lot of the key plot points are revealed in the middle of extended monologues, which are difficult to sing, and yet require a lot of vocal acting but the level of difficulty esp for those who don’t speak German or are not native German speakers means they’ll be compromised and limited in terms of what they can emphasize and in what way. So I’d say this is a very specialized work that as Niel said one would watch/listen to for shock and thrill. That wasn’t what I expected, especially since this seems to be such a revered work, although in terms of the musical values and the orchestration it’s definitely in a league of its own, and maybe that’s why I was disappointed in the work itself (again the performances and the production were great). I do like that the text is poetic and that the plot isn’t dumbed down like it is in some Italian operas but this is exemplifies the other extreme where characters just appear and one is expected to be familiar with them and their motivations, with the exception of Elektra’s motivation to avenge her father since it is made clear that he was murdered, though murder is obs something no one in that family bats an eyelash about or has any qualms with except when it comes to those they hold dear (it’s that age-old tribal mentality our race is still plagued with). I could go on but this is OT. Apologies again.

    • FragendeFrau82

      I think when Elektra was written, it was assumed the audience would be familiar with Sophocles. All the more reason a good synopsis today should include the background information that you and I did not have. I saw the HD first and was meh, but saw the last performance in the house and was blown away.

      • antikitschychick

        Agreed FragendeFrau82. Glad you enjoyed the in-house performance. I was even more impressed with the individual performances after the second viewing. The ladies were all so invested in their roles. Nina and Adrianne exerted a lot of exuberance but the details in the physicality/personenregie were never lost, which was refreshing to see compared to the usual stiffness and stock gestures we get in other operas.

        Waltraud Meier is probably the best singing actress I’ve seen along with Natalie Dessay. Ivy’s analogizing of her character to Cersei from Game of Thrones was spot on. She’s definitely a ruthless’villain’ used to using others for her benefit but Meier actually made it seem like she had compassion for Elektra and felt guilty about the way she was being treated and how tormented she was, because Elektra is her daughter after all. Cersei’s only soft-spot and what ultimately makes her sympathetic is her love for her children. I think Meier took a similar approach except she conveyed the fear that she felt because of the dreams and later Elektra’s threats which made her seem more vulnerable. It was one of the best characterizations, like ever. She was totally believable and every gesture, every glance, the body language in general perfectly complimented the text so well, you knew she knew exactly what she was saying. Plus she moves so elegantly onstage you almost forget that she is singing. Nina was fantastic too except it was blatantly obvious how hard she was working and was at her absolute limit during some of the vocal climaxes. It was exciting to watch/hear but distressing at the same time. I really liked Adrianne Pieczonka too. She is tall and statuesque, moves naturally and fluidly onstage and has a great voice. Her middle register has a nice warm quality to it and I like the bright quality of her upper register as well, and she hit that final high note right before Elektra sings “Schweig, und tanze” out of the park. I can’t imagine how much better it would have been if Chereau had actually gotten to direct these performances.

      • Zoe55

        Exactly. Part of the purpose of Greek drama was that everyone was already familiar with the plot…the skill of the playwright was found in how well he could create “Katharsis” in the audience with his lyricism and poetry. They weren’t meant to convey plot, but to elaborate on a plot already well known.

    • “Of course it can still be a great work, as greatness and a convoluted plot are not mutually exclusive in opera as we all know.” Sophocles and Hofmannsthal will be relieved to hear it.

      • Now you must try Die Frau ohne Schatten.

        • antikitschychick

          NPW-Paris, lol I’ve heard recordings and watched concert versions of Die Frau and have enjoyed them a lot. I want to try and see it live at the Met or some other theater in the future. I think it’s a great work but yeah lol it qualifies as a great work with a convoluted plot I think.

    • Cicciabella

      My experience is that reading a synopsis before you watch an opera, preferably quietly at home, is a must. I’ve been to the opera with people who don’t go often and they were mystified by the simplest of plots, even with subtitles. This is especially true if the directior has an unconventional approach to the plot. With Greek myths, you often need to know the “back story” to appreciate the character motivation, and sometimes you need to go back generations, as with Elektra. Now, when I go with peopke who I know will not automatically do the homework, I (a) recommend they read the synopsis on Wikipedia, and b) send them youtube links of the director’s work or other info to manage their expectations re costumes etc. Much as we’d like everyone to become opera crazy, we must not forget that it is an art form that requires some time investment if you’re not already steeped into the conventions. In this case, anti is a fan, so she knew she had to read up, but casual visitors who don’t understand what’s going on are likely to give up on opera altogther. May I now praise some concert halls and houses who make the PDF programme available online a few days before the performance. People can read it at leisure and even print it out. Don’t know if they still do, but COC used to prepare fantastic booklets for schools. They contained great info for newbies as well. I used to think that a production that you can’t understand without a director’s explanation is not a good one. Having seen various people being mystified by straightforward plots, I’ve changed my opinion. I now think that, if a production is “alternative”, a short note about the director’s approach should be included in the programme.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    A few years back, on this blog, AN was an average opera singer, promoted and glamorized by aggressive PR, with no trills, short neck, and good enough to sing in Detroit. Now she is toasted and praised as a soprano that even can attack Wagner. If Trump has a fifty/fifty chance to becoming president of the U.S., everything is possible in this life, I guess.