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.

  • Krunoslav

    Earlier this year Mr. Corwin posted the 1977 NYCO production of FLYING DUTCHMAN with Sarabia in the name part, Johanna Meier, Ara Berberian and Mrs. Claggart ( billed as “Diane Curry”) as Mary.

    • Luvtennis

      I want to see a director who plays up the whole Mrs. Danvers angle with Mary. Or should I say “creates a whole Mrs. Danvers angle with Mary.”

      I think Mrs. JC would rock that regie!

      • I was AT that Dutchman, Krunoslava (and Luvtennis). In fact I went to three. Besides BEING DIANE CURRY (the title as it happens of my autobiography, available from the Slip ‘n Slide web site run by Norman Lebrecht. HE edited it!! My goodness when the MS appeared there I was being dame-ed by the Queen, being sent into space by the Russians and knocking down the Bolshoi by singing at it from the street whilst I --allegedly — was molesting a young Russian with cerebral palsy. I didn’t realize I had had a life so eventful. But that Norman, not one to check his facts nor his farts, cheers!!!)

        But besides BEING DIANE CURRY, I AM Johanna Meier, the great one. She was however NOT in the opening performance. That was my twin, Earline Ballard. As I recall the first night went very badly. Mr. Sarabia had a bad nose bleed and bled throughout the performance, dabbing his nose with Ms. Ballard’s billowing dress (I exaggerate, he had an apparently endless supply of handkerchiefs). My chief visual memory was of Ms. Ballard a PROUD WOMYN OF SIZE, wrestling with the Dutchman’s portrait in pseudo-sexual ecstasy. And there was a lot of booing.

        I recall quite a fine Senta from Johanna M but alack!!! I was also NOT in the first night. That was Miss Jane Shaulis. Oddly enough after the first night that distinguished Miss fell down a steep jagged flight of stairs filled with broken glass. Well, I HAD to go on, you see.

  • Ooh, thanks for this. Galvany has been on my get-to-know list for years!

  • Goodness, the camp starts right off with the witches, doesn’t it? LOL

    • Porgy Amor

      The prelude is a mess, but the kind of mess that promises something. As William Holden says in Sunset Blvd. when Joe is reading Norma’s script: “This could go the distance.”

      Oh, my. I am up to the witches now, and settling in for a night to remember.

  • guy pacifica

    Thank you, Jungfer. This was a lot of fun. Sarabia and Galvany are both in top form. Though the prompter was so prominent throughout that she should have been given credit in the program as a speaking role…

  • PCally

    This is a pretty bonkers performance. Hadn’t heard of any of these singers and now all I want to do is track down as many recordings as I can.

  • MisterSnow

    Is it a bit wild? Yes, but Galvany also has a fullnes of sound that would be rare today. She also “gives it all” and is completely fearless. Talk about chewing th scenery! And, yes, the witches are a hoot (literally).

  • Camille

    Oh great. I hadn’t any idea there was actual footage of the damages done by Lady Macbeth/Galvany on parterre and so glad I just now discovered it. I can only say that when I heard her, years later in 1996, she was still scary and it wasn’t even close to Halloween but mid-summer. Thanks, meine Jungfer.