Cher Public

Pretty in Puritani

At the Met’s second performance of I Puritani this season, Diana Damrau finally admitted defeat to bronchitis or whatever ailment has plagued her (and half the singers at the Met this year) and cancelled. Happily—oh so happily—Pretty Yende was still hanging around after her last Barbiere (she is scheduled for a few Juliettes), and she knows the role of Elvira, having sung it in Zurich last June. Instead of a Puritani with only one star in the famed Quartet, we had a Puritani Quartet for two. 

Heaven only knows what the Zurich production of Puritani was like, but Yende’s interpretation was very different from Damrau’s. Instead of the rather giddy canary whirling about the vast Walton mansion, Yende was a sterner presence. At the end of Act I, she fiddled on the floor with a discarded bouquet of white roses, and she spent Act II toying with a wedding veil—whose? it can’t be the one the Queen eloped with in the previous scene.

Yende’s bel canto chops were never in doubt. She ornamented wherever she could, in “Son vergin vezzosa,” in “Vien diletto e in ciel,” in the final cabaletta, where she sang Sutherland’s variant with considerable credit. More impressive than that was a sweetness, a lusciousness to the overall tone that recalled Mariella Devia and contrasted with Damrau’s rather metallic sound. More impressive even than that, her pitch was absolutely true throughout “Qui la voce,” where Damrau sang flat. There were some insane high notes—was that an F at the end of Act I? And a great deal of confident singing altogether!

The voice seemed a bit small in Act I, and she came down to the footlights to go mad, but she seemed to gain strength in Act II, easily matching the other singers. She and Javier Camarena, such happy partners in Barbiere, seemed truly to enjoy each other’s company, tapping phrase for phrase in “A te o cara” and the great Act III duet. He sang gorgeously up to ringing high D’s, and ornamented the later verses of his serenade in a felicitous and appropriate way. Alexey Markov seemed to have a cough, and choked on several lines in Act II. Luca Pisaroni, a suave Mozartean, was out of his depth as Giorgio, a role that requires the room-filling sound of a James Morris. “Suoni la tromba” went for naught.

I had thought, during the Barbiere, that Yende did her best singing in the Lesson Scene, where she is out of Rosina’s character in an aria di bravura. Her Elvira justified my feeling that she is potentially a great dramatic coloratura. If anything, the lacework was a trifle excessive, though on such an occasion (last minute substitute in a part no one’s heard you sing) and in such an opera as Puritani, this is of no importance. For a more dramatic role, one would hope for less ornament and more dramatic point. For Elvira’s mad scenes—well, the dramatic point is the singing. This appears to be a natural role for Yende, and I hope we shall have more of her in it.

  • Camille

    Yes, those were F’s at the conclusion of Act I! (Key of Bb major). Apparently Pretty consented to providing the Hi Fas for Camarena, Haha! They were quite thrilling in this particular instance, as well as very appropriate for one certainly gained the impression that povera Elvira’s lights were out and and definitely taken leave of Casa Valton.

    What particularly impressed me was how she played the madness: not a giddy, silly primadonna display but more like inhabiting the real pain of loss and betrayl by a young, inexperienced girl. There is something very HONEST about her character and the way she expresses herself which, much more than the voice, interested me. Hopefully, the voice will fill in and with various little things she does --she’ll eventually find a better way of executing on a vocal level.

    In all, a captivating presence and although her name is “Pretty” I would more accurately dub her “Bella“.

    I will have a bit more to say about Camarena later
    on and about the review--very quick turnaround!!

  • simonelvladtepes

    There was a clanking fan or some other source of continuous low level clanking noise in the MET pit the entire performance last night. Who do I complain to about this? It’s bad enough you have to put up with feedback loops from malfunctioning hearing aids from the audience, but from the (MET) pit? If no one complains they won’t fix it.

  • I was there last night, and opening night as well, and in my opinion (and apparently in that of many others in attendance), Pretty Yende delivered a breathtaking performance. Lovely, youthful sound, surprisingly adept coloratura, beautiful floating pianissimi, and fantastic high notes -- thrilling both in number and quality. And then there was the sensitive, thoughtful acting and natural chemistry with Camarena. I haven’t heard such stampeding applause at the Met in quite a while. Far less impressive was Maurizio Benini. He was constantly skipping ahead of or falling behind singers during numerous ensembles, leaving them to audibly pick up the pieces. Other choral and orchestral pieces alternated between flaccid and rushed. The met orchestra sounded as lackluster as they did at the premiere. And lastly, there were many, many empty seats up in the family circle. I don’t think I have ever seen a more geriatric audience at the Met. I joked with my date that the empty seats belong to subscription holders who have since passed away. A cruel joke, but also, probably not far from the truth.

    • Diva2themax

      I regret not going SO MUCH last night. I knew she would be amazing & I hope they give her the next performance so i can finally catch it. I have a terrible cough & didn’t want to be that person in the audience lol.

      • Camille

        Thank you for desisting diva2max as there were many others only too happy to graciously allow us to attend their coughing and spewing!

        Get better and hoping Miss Pretty will be on the broadcast this Saturday.

    • Camille

      Perhaps those empty seats belonged to the persons crowding the orchestra level? When we choose our seats last week the orchestra was only about one third sold.

      Flaccid. Yes that would be the word! At one point in the “A te, o cara” he nearly gagged the soprano but she carefully saved herself.

      If Bellinian operas don’t have better conducting they are going to be shelved, they need a lot of direction and insight from the orchestra pit. It took me considerable perseverance to bear with the tempi last night. To think of the complaints against Mo. Bonynge in yesteryears--he was a veritable funfest compared to this latest dirge!

  • calaf47

    I was there also…and your review is spot on…and yes…it was a high F at the end of act 1…a real knockout note!! Yende and Camarena were the entire show…as the lower voices were unexceptional and dull in their music.
    Thanks for the great review!!

  • simonelvladtepes

    How did Camille’s comment disappear? Can a poster delete his comments? There is only an edit function.

    • Camille

      Hey, you’re right!! Where did my high Fs comment go??

      Well, maybe I did it inadvertently as I am inept with this new system. Too bad as I haven’t time to recreate it. Mr Vlad--JC did not sound as well last night as the opening OR the videocast from Mexico City from last summer and in which he was splendid! I’ll go find comment perdu….

      • simonelvladtepes

        How could you do it on purpose or inadvertently? There is no delete function. I have my suspicions…

        • Porgy Amor

          There is a delete function. Just click the down arrow to the upper right of your post and select “delete.” I’ve never tested it out, but I have no reason to doubt it works.

          • simonelvladtepes

            Thank you, now I see it.

    • Camille

      Mr Glad the Impaler!

      Comment detected as “Spam” for some interesting reason. Now, happened the other day as I was foolish enough to attempt importing someone’s doctoral dissertation (hich I further recommend to you as well, regarding Nourrit and Duprez and the whole ut de poitrine contretemps--just google their names--it is a dissertation for the U. of Nevada, LV) — but this time I am at a loss as there is hardly anything inflammatory in my remarks.

      I’ll try to remedy it.

      Sr. Camarena seemed a little tired or stressed last night--perhaps that idiot got to his tenorial amour-propre--I don’t know--perhaps he is not feeling well himself after having been exposed to a sick colleague--perhaps he is getting worn out with being the new crowned king of the high D’s?? His videocast from Mexico City was quite different but that was under perhaps much more hospitable circumstances to him?

      • simonelvladtepes

        Considering what happened to Markov (out of the blue -- he was fine in act I) this cast may end up all of them under the weather. This virus season is particularly bad with virulent strains.

    • Camille

      here it is: spamalot and all:

      Yes, those were F’s at the conclusion of Act I! (Key of Bb major). Apparently Pretty consented to providing the Hi Fas for Camarena, Haha! They were quite thrilling in this particular instance, as well as very appropriate for one certainly gained the impression that povera Elvira’s lights were out and and she had definitely taken leave of Casa Valton.

      What particularly impressed me was how she played the madness: not a giddy, silly primadonna display but more like inhabiting the real pain of loss and betrayl by a young, inexperienced girl. There is something very HONEST about her character and the way she expresses herself which, much more than the voice, interested me. Hopefully, the voice will fill in and with various little things she does --she’ll eventually find a better way of executing on a vocal level.

      In all, a captivating presence and although her name is “Pretty” I would more accurately dub her “Bella”, as she is a textbook example of what is referred to as “la bella presenza”.

      I will have a bit more to say about Camarena later
      on and about the review--very quick turnaround!!

      • Luvtennis

        What are your concerns about the voice, Camille?

        • Camille

          There’s a reply in spamlandia at the moment. Let’s see if it clears. Strange that….

          • Luvtennis

            I ask because I just listened to her performance of Vien diletto on YouTube and found it exceptional. The coloratura is wonderfully shaped. The timbre is very appealing, and she seems to have excellent dynamic control in all registers. Of course, YouTube is not the best place to experience a singer’s art, but I much prefer Yende’s singing in the piece to that of Damrau or Anna.

            Tender reminds me a bit of Devia, in that the singing is very contained. And she never seems to force the tone or strive for more volume than is comfortable. I also think Yende’s timbre is more appealing in the middle register, but again, YouTube….

            I just hope she continues to develop. Opera needs her.

            • Camille

              LUV — I cannot spend any more time trying to recover the remark as I have already and it is immaterial in any case.

              The important issue is contained in your final sentence. Yes, OPERA does need her. May Euterpe bless her and keep her.

            • Camille

              And this, too: besides the fact that youtube is one thing, radio is another, and actual live performance are all separate and distinct from one another, the cabaletta “Vien, diletto è in ciel la luna” is an ideal piece for a high lirico-coloratura voice and that came off exceptionally well, as evidenced by the veritable uprising in the balcony and family circle the other night — one of the most highly applauded moments of the evening.

              My concerns are actually of no use to anyone but myself. Everyone should form their own opinion, individually and separately. There are acknowledged experts whom one may cast an ear to and listen with half an ear, and whom I will consider, but otherwise I make my mind up for myself, by myself, as should everyone.

              n.b. — very amusingly, I note that autocorrect (MY FRIEND!) wants to turn the “diletto” into “stiletto”!! ha!

            • simonelvladtepes

              See how you censure yourself? That’s what I mean it’s a well mannered forum.

            • Camille

              Vlad the Impaler!!

              Pas du tout! I am not important to anyone but myself, and sometime my husband, who is loath to admit I know anymore than him on any subject other than la lirica, occasionally consults me as resident Groves.

              And I do not know WTF is up with the spam features but certain remarks set its grinding gears into motion. I lost an altogether innocuous response to my best bud BILL yesterday and I have no idea why. Perhaps because I placed an ink? As yet I am not familiar with the system, so….

              When is it you arr returning to hear it again, Mr. Vlad? I am toying with going again next week, at least one more time--maybe as a score desk as the front of the house sound there is so good.

              Keep your incisors sharpened!!! The broadcast awaits in less than 48 hours to whet your appetite!

              Ciao 4 now!

            • simonelvladtepes

              Saturday in 9 days (the 25th?)

            • Camille

              the broadcast is in two days — the 18th, so make sure to listen in to that one as well. It’s free, after all.

              It may be a very different experience by the last performance. I am willing to go at least once more, as I am so disappointed there is no Sirius broadcast of any of the Puritanis. There are two Sirius Rusalkas plus the Listen Live, for some strange reason.

              Talk to you again, Vlad the Impaler!

            • Armerjacquino

              Before Manou beats me to it, ‘censure’ is something that happens a lot round here, and isn’t always well-mannered. People sometimes censor themselves, though. And there was a massive censer swinging around during Yoncheva’s NORMA.

            • simonelvladtepes

              Thanks, I just learned the difference between censure and censor. English not my language.

            • Camille

              Well done, armer. You get an “A”.

              Carry on!

        • simonelvladtepes

          Nu, she sings high F’s, so what, they barely registered. She’s a fine, not an outstanding singer. Light lyric coloraturas like hers come a dime a dozen. The problem is, as usual, that this was a performance at the MET. The voice is too small for the MET -- she would fare better in European houses. Also, the supposedly ecstatic mid-performance ovations: they were no more than exactly 30 -- 40 seconds long. When Damrau sang Zerbinetta in 2005 (at the MET) she got a 90 second ovation after her stunning aria the night I attended (it was better even than Gruberova’s), and it was well deserved (thank heavens it was documented) -- Yende is nowhere in Damrau’s league of 2005 vintage (today is a different story), so the MET audience ain’t stupid, 40 seconds is not 90 seconds. People are always so eager for new, sensational discoveries -- this hoopla is overblown.

          • Luvtennis

            A matter of tastes. I have never seen either singer in house, but I can say that I really never cottoned to Damrau as a singer, especially the earlier performances which struck me as mechanically competent but musically uninteresting. And everything sounded so contrived and tense and overly pressurized -- like she was underlining every phrase for emphasis. Damrau has grown as an artist since then but I am not sure I will ever be more than an admirer. Yende’s voice and her approach to the music, particularly her ability to shape a legato or florid line, are much more appealing to me.

            • Ivy Lin

              I’ve seen Damrau almost every season since maybe 2009. Looking back the bloom of her voice wore off rather quickly — in 2011 she was still a fairly radiant Countess Adele in Le Comte Ory. But after having her second child her voice never really sounded the same — the tone became harder and more colorless. She’s a conscientious singer still and always gives her all but the actual tone of her voice is not the same.

            • simonelvladtepes

              I’ve heard all her performances since 2005 (wasn’t that her MET debut, the Ariadne?), I have tapes of all of them and agree with your observation. But in the first years she was an amazing artist, a really great voice AND an artist, the whole package, often stunning. I just played again a private recording of her MET Konstanze from about 10 or so years ago and was amazed at the rare combination of coloratura fireworks, impressive dramatic expression and the size of the voice (it’s a very impressive performance; IIRC Martin Bernheimer’s main observation about this revival was that the MET is too large for this opera). Unfortunately vocally she comes across as pathetic now in coloratura roles, she needs to change repertoire and there is a lot she can still do fine.

            • Camille

              Ah yes, I feel she needs to get out of this repertoire as well but she may not feel that or be ready to acknowledge she has to change. It is always rather hit or miss with her and can say I particularly enjoyed her as Aïthra and as the Comtesse in Ory and otherwise (I did not hear the Ariadne, unfortunately) it’s been difficult to enjoy. Her earlier work in Mozart and the Salieri is wonderful, I feel.

              And yes, I do perceive Miss Pretty’s voice as too small for this venue, but basically because it did not travel well enough, not because of its size. I will read what Bernheimer has to say--thank you. But I am giving her a huge pass as it was a
              last minute substitution and the nerves may have been overwhelming in a jungle like the MET. She ought to continue singing in Zürich and other places, for a while more, until things grow, if they do. It appears the MET is giving her another big push next season so I doubt she’ll be returning to smaller Euro houses--bearing in mind her first chance was at Scala--NO small house, that!

              On verra!

            • Juicy Bjoerling

              i was there tuesday evening as well. pretty and javier really stopped the show after their duet, holding their embrace for the duration of the prolonged ovation… until pretty broke out in a wide grin (still in character). i also attended the prima of the barbiere a few weeks ago, i agree that this week javier was in slightly fresher form, but still quite good (no heckler this time). i felt a little bit bad that pretty got the last curtain call and the loudest ovation, as he did lots of the heavy lifting all night. (if only he didn’t look so … plain onstage.) but she was quite good and deserved that huge ovation, and she was quite happy with it.

              pretty’s voice is so much more attractive than the hard-edged damrau, there’s no comparing whom i’d rather hear/see any day now. i did hear damrau back in 2007? as aithra, and she has lost al of the velvet and warmth she had then.

              comparing yende now to what she sounded like a couple of years ago in comte ory, i think the voice lost some brightness, i remember then how bright and silvery her top sounded. i just wondered how well she’d do with a more tragic character, such as elvira or lucia. the voice is not tiny as simone seems to indicate.

              btw, markov was losing his voice badly in act II, he didn’t have the hight notes at the end of the duet, and ‘suoni la tromba’ went for nothing. luckily he had very little to sing in the 3rd act. pisaroni is also kinda boring so he didn’t help much.

              camille, why did you not like her ‘una voce poco fa’? when i attended the barbiere, i remarked on how many ornamentations she performed. i had never heard it sung decorated so much before. is there such a thing as too many ornaments?

          • Camille

            Those high F’s did register with me and with many others. They were a rather weird and eerie shriek and I really wondered WTF was up as she started to emit hem—but they actually worked inasmuch as they truly signified Elvira had taken leave of her senses.

            As her way with the role during “Vieni al tempio” was more restrained --“sterner” is the telling adjective Mr Yohalem uses to describe her way with it — in this case the acuti seemed to really signify something. Ordinarily I don’t much care for extra interpolations and I did not care very much for her “Una voce poco fa”, which she would have better sung in F, as others of her lighter vocal quality are wont to do. But those are my ‘druthers.

  • Camille

    Since reading that Diana Damrau will not be on next season’s roster, I’m now wondering if there is likely to be a “surprise” announcement about her being “ill”, well--in this case she really IS--and a substitution of PY on this coming Saturday’s broadcast?

    The reason I am thinking this is: a) she was given a rehearsal yesterday morning for this one-off and she went through and delivered all the staging exceedingly well, b) bronchitis hardly is cured in the space of four or five days, c) somehow many seats were filled for last night’s performance since last week--just how did that happen? d) she is scheduled to perform in a new production (R&J) in a couple weeks time and this may help sales on that one--I am not aware of how sales went so far, so—, and finally e) Pretty is a comparatively new thing and DD has been around for ten plus years, already singing almost all of her repertoire here. She got her HD with the R&J, and that’s what’s vitally important.

    Another curious thing: the MET did not post her name to Cast Changes, and still hadn’t when last I looked a few hours ago; strange that. There was the little white strip of paper in the program, though, so there had been sufficient time to print and distribute that.

    Anyone willing to place bets on who will go loony on Saturday?

  • dcrazmo

    It was a pleasure and privilege to be there the other night. I had wanted to see Yende live, and can’t think of a better way to have it happen. I bet the Met sold many tickets to her run in “Romeo” after that. I know I bought tix.

    • Camille

      That’s what I was thinking this was partially about, pushing the R&J. I don’t inow how it’s sold but Rusalka and Puritani have not sold well. I was intending to go to that set in any case, as I wanted to see how Mr. Costello is faring these days. Better I hope. It will be interesting to hear Pretty as Juliette, as she would probably be more relaxed, rehearsed, and all that, so a more accurate judgment could be made.

  • Juicy Bjoerling

    anyone hear if damrau or yende will sing saturday?

  • Juicy Bjoerling

    i wrote this yesterday but it seems to have disappeared:

    i was there tuesday evening as well. pretty and javier really stopped the show after their duet, holding their embrace for the duration of the prolonged ovation… until pretty broke out in a wide grin (still in character). i also attended the prima of the barbiere a few weeks ago, i agree that this week javier was in slightly less fresh form, but still quite good (no heckler this time). i felt a little bit bad that pretty got the last curtain call and the loudest ovation, as he did lots of the heavy lifting all night. (if only he didn’t look so … plain onstage.) but she was quite good and deserved that huge ovation, and she was quite happy with it. she must be used to being taller than her tenor, she was taller than florez and camarena, and i think she’s taller than costello.

    pretty’s voice is so much more attractive than the hard-edged damrau, there’s no comparing whom i’d rather hear/see any day now. i did hear damrau back in 2007? as aithra, and she has lost all of the (little) velvet and warmth she had then.

    comparing yende now to what she sounded like a couple of years ago in comte ory, i think the voice lost some brightness, i remember then how bright and silvery her top sounded. maybe in a comedy she can lighten it up more? i just wondered how well she’d do with a more tragic character, such as elvira or lucia. the voice is not tiny as simone seems to indicate. i doubt anyone had trouble hearing her, especially the top.

    btw, markov was losing his voice badly in act II, he didn’t have the hight notes at the end of the duet, and ‘suoni la tromba’ went for nothing. luckily he had very little to sing in the 3rd act. pisaroni is also kinda boring so he didn’t help much.

    camille, why did you not like her ‘una voce poco fa’? when i attended the barbiere, i remarked on how many ornamentations she performed. i had never heard it sung decorated so much before. is there such a thing as too many ornaments?

    • Camille

      Well, I just did not care for the profusely over-ornamentation so much and also because I think she would have been better off singing it in F. It reminded me a bit of the story of when Adelina Patti first performed the aria (I think it was precisely this one) for Rossini. She pulled out all the stops, so much so that he famously respnded “Very nice but who wrote the aria?” She was aghast and humbly consented to being tutored by Rossini and apparently was much improved by his suggestions.

      I think, basically, that she had to pull out so many high trick variants because she needed badly to make an impression to distinguish herself from others. and to do something over the top. Also, I admit to really prefering this role sung by mezzosoprano as the contrast with the leggiero tenor of Almaviva is much more interestingly effected, especially when the singing in thirds occurs.

      I must say, in reviewing my feelings from today vis-à-vis that of 14 February, that I was terribly moved by the honestly and integrity which Pretty demonstrates. She seems so true, somehow, and utterly adorable. I noticed the tender rapport with Camarena as well, and they both looked so happy and relieved after that Act III duet, and it’s easy to see why. It was also so nice to see a young woman play the role--one who looks a good 5-8 years younger than she actually is. I get so tired of muttons pretending to be lambs———
      I am very heartened by her advent and will be interested in seeing her Juliette, which I’d already intended to hear as well as for Costello’s Romeo, as I’ve always heard him under duress, it seems.

      I will be able to judge better how her voice travels in the theatre when she is more relaxed, rehearsed, and properly given time to sing a role. It may well have been she was a little tight in the throat due to nervous tension of this terrifying debut.

      In all, I was very happy to attend her success in this difficult role and I was so moved by her demonstration of Elvira’s heartsick distress and as I have not been made to feel by many other of the slick packages parading the stage, for a very long time. There was just something….heartbreaking, and true about that which she expressed. I wish her great success and to festina lente!