Cher Public

A refusal of nature as a model is a tradition that goes right back to Oscar Wilde

todd-haynesHappy 55th birthday film director, screenwriter, and producer Todd Haynes.

On this day in 1843 Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer premiered in Dresden.

Born on this day in 1875 composer Joaquín Valverde.

On this day in 1900 Charpentier’s Louise premiered at the Opera-Comique.

Born on this day in 1901 tenor Torsten Ralf.

Born on this day in 1904 tenor James Melton.

Born on this day in 1905 composer Michael Tippett.

Happy 89th birthday conductor and musicologist Alberto Zedda.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor
  • Nature gets away with murder.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      This is such a boring song I can’t bear it. Tried to listen last night and couldn’t finish then, either. I wonder if AN could be a credible Delilah? Could be a an interesting role for her, and if I recall correctly, a century or so ago, sopranos sang it, not mezzos. (I was not there a century ago, but have been reading Caruso’s life story and others.)

      • Sam

        You must be thinking of another role. Delilah has always been sung by mezzo-sopranos. Of course, some sopranos have sung some parts or maybe the whole thing but it’s a chiefly mezzo role. I don’t think I’d want to hear AN sing it.
        BTW, Caruso sang alongside a mezzo not a soprano.

        • Rob NYNY
          • Lohenfal

            You’ve illuminated an interesting curiosity of opera history. With her “sol Eiffel,” Sanderson would’ve been the least likely candidate for Dalila imaginable. I assume it was her beauty rather than her voice type which led to that casting. She must be the exception which proves the rule that Dalila has to be a mezzo.

            • I don’t know where this nonsense comes from. In Jack Winsor Hansen’s compendious biography of Sanderson, REQUIEM FOR A DIVA, where he scrupulously documents every fart the sex and drug fueled beauty passed there is no mention whatever of her singing ANY of Dalila, arias or role. She did create a role in an opera written for her by Camille Saint-Saëns, called Phryné in 1893. Only an idiot would think the role was ambiguously enough written to be sung by other than a contralto as was intended. Mezzos do sing it not very well usually.

              Rita Gorr and Oralia Dominguez contraltos who pushed their voices to encompass (for a time) the big Verdi “mezzo” roles with their killer high writing made wonderful sounding complete performances of Samson, as did the great Helene Bouvier in 1946 very much in the French style of the piece. She had a club foot.

              There is an issue with definition for “mezzo-soprano” a term rare before the fach system took hold in the German theaters after 1918. Women were sopranos (high, medium and low) and contraltos (light and heavy). Verdi probably had a ripe dark soprano in mind for Azucena and Amneris, Eboli was a “falcon” role, another vague term which seems to have connoted a dark sounding low soprano who could move high for a note or two but whose strengths were in the middle and lower parts of her voice with an emphasis on declamation.

              The first Carmen, Galli-Marie was a “low” soprano in the Comique tradition (she also did Mignon), the first famous Carmens internationally were high sopranos, Minnie Hauk (an American) and Emma Calve, whose high flying coloratura records can be found in You Tube. The very first singer considered for the role was an Offenbach specialist, Zulma Bouffar, a soprano, though probably with a mellower voice than the typical high Comique sopranos.

              Octavian is a soprano role and was created by a well known soprano, Eva van der Osten (Wolfgang Windgassen’s aunt), and great singers of the role have been lyric sopranos like Jarmila Novotná, Irmgard Seefried and Sena Jurinac, all of whom can be heard on record. Lotte Lehmann sang it before becoming a famous Marschallin, as did Gwyneth Jones (not so happily captured on the Bernstein recording). Mezzos do it but often run into trouble with the higher passages and their voices are often somewhat equivocal in nature — “lazy sopranos” perhaps might be one description.

              For Dalila, contraltos like Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Clara Butt and Marian Anderson recorded one or more of the arias. So did Conchita Supervia who seems to have sung the role in Italian. On her records of the arias she uses the ripe dark lower range which is the best part of her voice. She was an example of a “light” contralto. Another example of a “light” contralto who excelled in Rossini roles is Eugenia Mantelli, whose records, accurately pitched by Ward Marston show a lovely, velvety, dark voice, which she can take high in fiorature.

            • Mrs. JC, thank you for your excellent summation of female voice-types and what terminology was used before our modern understanding of “soprano”, “mezzo-soprano”, and “contralto”.

              People sometimes say “Well, there were nomezzos back then – just sopranos and altos – so role X is a soprano role”. And that’s really not true. Even if the term mezzo-soprano didn’t exist doesn’t mean that there were no mezzo voices. They just weren’t called mezzo.

            • Lohenfal

              Mrs JC, there’s an illustration on Pinterest which shows Sanderson in an 1897 Photogravure, and identified as “Delilah.” Did she actually ever sing the role? That’s certainly questionable.

              You’re correct in stating that Dalila is really a contralto role, but even Grove’s calls it a mezzo-soprano role. I guess that’s just current usage.

            • Sena Jurinac. Wasn’t it as “just another soprano” that I read she once described herself? Or has my memory failed me again?

            • grimoaldo2

              ” Verdi probably had a ripe dark soprano in mind for Azucena and Amneris”

              Yes there is a letter from Verdi to the management of an opera house putting on Trovatore where the prima donna wasn’t happy with the role of Leonora and Verdi says something along the lines of “If she doesn’t like that role, why doesn’t she sing Azucena instead, it’s a better part anyway, if I were a prima donna I would always do Azucena, not Leonora” which seems very strange today as Leonora is now considered a role for a high soprano and Azucena for a contralto or low mezzo, totally different voice types.

            • Lohenfal

              The soprano in question was Barbieri-Nini, the first Lady Macbeth. Budden speculates that Verdi’s suggestion may not have been eccentric, because she was “nearing the end of her career and her area of vocal comfort might well be expected to have dropped somewhat.” Budden also gives a discussion of the 19th century’s different attitude to registers.

            • Bill

              Ms. JC -- You mention Mignon and that seems also to be a role sung both by Mezzos and Sopranos historically -- but are there not two versions one for Mezzo and one for soprano with some high Cs included? I have recording of excerpts in German with Seefried and it has some high Cs -- but most of the role lies in the middle and I have only seen the opera once in my life and that was in German also at the Volksoper so I know very little of its history though obviously it used to be performed more often prior to 1950 than it is currently.

              Much is a matter of taste -- I too prefer sopranos as Octavian as well as Cherubino or the Komponist. My favorite Carmen on disc is de los Angeles. Ditto Charlotte in

              But there are some exceptions --
              Elena Garanca for example is slated to
              sing Delilah in new productions in
              Vienna and at the Met -- she has a luscious
              sound and so far no register breaks.
              Her Octavian is certainly one of the finest today -- since Seefried, Jurinac and
              della Casa plus Gruemmer (and Lemnitz before them) there have been practically no excellent soprano Octavians (did not Felicity Lott essay Octavian earlier in her career before turning to the Marschallin ? )
              Also Soederstrom
              Other than Jones other more dramatic sopranos havealso sung Octavian, Moedl for example, Dvorakova also Octavian lies almost as high as the Marschallin actually.

              We have had multiple Mezzo Zerlinas lately,
              and at least one (Bartoli) who has sung
              Susanna and Fiordiilgi. Berganza recorded some Mozart soprano arias and did quite well.

              Melisande is another role nowadays tackled by Mezzos though I prefer a soprano
              (de los Angeles, Pilou) sound.

            • Rob NYNY

              And since CS-S was still alive and active, he may have made alterations to the score. And it might have been a terrible miscalculation that was not often repeated. It is odd.

            • fletcher

              Or the image is mislabeled. The costume doesn’t look right for Dalila, either.

            • Lohenfal

              Yes, the composer might have created another version, as Massenet did with the Battistini Werther. As for the “terrible miscalculation,” such things happen. Witness the current Met revival of Nabucco, in which a certain miscalculation is being repeated all too often.

            • Rob NYNY

              Or Melba as Brunnhilde/Siegfried.

            • Lohenfal

              That other miscalculation also occurred to me. Fortunately, Melba decided that one performance was more than enough.

          • Sam

            One soprano in a sea of mezzos. Yeah, it was definitely a soprano role. We’ll just ignore all the mezzos from the singers who originated the role to those who sing it today.

          • Sam

            What am I to do with Munsey’s Magazine?

      • Lohenfal

        There were certain roles now associated with mezzos which were sung by sopranos a century ago: Carmen, Octavian, Cherubino. I’ve never heard of any soprano doing Dalila, however. I believe it was intended for Viardot, according to my knowledge a mezzo, even though she didn’t sing it. Matzenauer and Homer were Caruso’s Met Dalilas, also mezzos, although Matzenauer occasionally sang soprano roles like Isolde and Brünnhilde.

  • Williams

    The Met website getting a bit ambitious with “dynamic pricing”:


    The legendary Plácido Domingo brings another new baritone role to the Met under the baton of his longtime collaborator James Levine. Liudmyla Monastyrska is Abigaille, the warrior woman determined to rule empires, and Jamie Barton is the heroic Fenena. Dmitri Belosselskiy is the stentorian voice of the oppressed Hebrew people.

    DEC 12 -- JAN 7
    BUY TICKETS from $999,999

    • Williams

      Never mind…they corrected it.

      • RudigerVT

        To $9,999,990?