Cher Public

The lady is a camp

galvanyBack to celebrating Shakespeare (and Halloween) this week with one of the best: Verdi’s Macbeth gets true blood-and-guts treatment from Guillermo Sarabia and the legendary Marisa Galvany at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu in 1975. 

This is also a rare dip for me into what people of my generation used to call “party tapes.”  I’ve posted some fun performances, and some cheesy operas with great casts, but I don’t think I’ve delved much into the genre of camp.

Let me attempt to clarify.  It’s not that Galvany’s is in any way a bad performance: it is just so consistently over-the-top and totally unhinged.  Well, truth be told, there is a fair amount of making up text and music as she goes along, but I doubt if anyone would dare sing the role with this combination of unabashed passion and dementia in 2016.

Galvany, née Myra Beth Genis of Paterson, New Jersey, was a mainstay of New York City Opera from 1972 through 1983, memorably exploding on the opera scene when she generated fireworks with Beverly Sills in Maria Stuarda.  While her repertoire included Tosca, Santuzza, Medea, and Anna Bolena, her gifts were best tapped in the Verdi spinto repertoire, including Abagaile, Aida, Amelia (Un ballo in maschera), Odabella (Attila), and her calling-card role of Lady Macbeth which she filmed for Canadian television with Louis Quillico in 1973.

She rarely crossed the plaza from New York State Theater: her Met debut came as a one-time-only, last-minute replacement for Shirley Verrett as Norma in 1979.  She sang six more performances as Ortrud and Gertrud (Hänsel und Gretel) on tour in 1985, and returned to the house for two performances as the Kostelni?ka that same year.

The mezzo repertoire beckoned in the later years of her career, and she added Amneris and Carmen to her résumé, often appearing with Vincent La Selva’s New York Grand Opera through the early 2000s. She recently celebrated her 80th birthday.

Sarabia, a Mexican-American baritone, was also a rare guest at the Met with eight of his 18 performances given on tour.  He last appeared with the company as Jochanaan in 1976/1977 opposite Grace Bumbry and Maralin Niska.   At Wiener Staatsoper, he chalked-up 54 performances in a decade, mostly in the great Verdi baritone roles.  He died tragically at 49 in 1985.  His final New York appearance was earlier that year as Falstaff in a concert with the Chicago Symphony under Georg Solti at Carnegie Hall.