Cher Public

Born in the saddle

Born on this day in 1909 soprano Marjorie Lawrence

Born on this day in 1796 composer Giovanni Pacini.

On this day in 1859 Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera premiered in Napoli.

Born on this day in 1888 conductor Vincenzo Bellezza.

Born on this day in 1897 contralto Gertrud Wettergren.

On this day in 1904 Puccini’s Madama Butterfly had its disastrous premiere in Milan.

Born on this day in 1913 conductor and composer René Leibowitz.

Born on this day in 1914 baritone Luis Sagi-Vela.

Happy 91st birthday composer Friedrich Cerha.

Born on this day in 1924 soprano and writer Margaret Truman.

Born on this day in 1926 composer Lee Hoiby.

Happy 72nd birthday soprano Ellen Shade.

  • Camille

    Un ballo in maschera had its premiere in Teatro Apollo situated on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, 1859. There may have well been subsequent performances in Napoli but I don’t know about those, I wasn’t there.

    I wasn’t there, either, in 1859 Rome, but I was there in 1986 and do distinctly recall taking a leisurely stroll one hot summer afternoon along the Tiber and walking past a plaque commemorating this very fact, for I was absolutely floored to think of Ballo first being given at that spot. I had had no previous knowledge at all of its premiere. There was no theatre in sight, not a stone, so it was hard to recreate in one’s imagination just where and how it may have been situated. Apparently, The Tiber flooded the theatre and nearby streets at various times and so Teatro Apollo, as so much else along the banks, was eventually torn down. If I am remembering correctly, it was flooding at the time of the première of Ballo, as well.

    I also spent a lot of time walking down the alleyway Rossini fled down after the disastrous prima of Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Teatro Argentina, but I’m just weird that way and it was my favorite path to my favorite place, the Pantheon, which faces the Albergo del Sole, where Pietro Mascagni stayed while preparing the first production of his Cavalleria Rusticana, there’s a plaque on the hotel, so that’s how one would know.

  • Camille

    Gertrud Wettergren, by some happy coincidence, is being featured on the Met Sirius channel in a VERY interesting, to me anyway, performance of Samson et Dalila from 1936 or was it ’37? Anyway, I noticed it as the second oldest broadcast they’ve put out and a real historical time machine, as much as for the debut performance of the lionized maestro, Maurice Abravanel, a god on the West Coast when I was a girl, and the Samson of René Maison and the very potent priest of Ezio Pinza, long before any enchanted evenings for him. Mme. Wettergren was of a lighter type of mezzo soprano and had a fluid emission of voice without any kinks or warts apparent. A little underwhelming but solid. Pinza was a very good priest of Dagon--who knew?

    Funny to see her birthday noted herein after just having acquainted myself with her singing a couple days back. She was only at the Met a couple seasons, or so Margaret informed us. Once she sang in Swedish when everyone else was singing in the actual language, a fun thing I’ve as yet never encountered and doubt I now shall as everything is so homogenized.

    • Porgy Amor

      Ah, yes. I listened to that FDR-era holiday goodness in the period when I had Met Opera on Demand. I was impressed with René Maison — a very “hot” Samson, youthful, volatile, but with great style. I wasn’t as taken with Wettergren, I’m sorry to say, but I shouldn’t say much more; I heard it once quite a while back. I recall that Abravanel led an interesting performance in the way the individual episodes were shaped, but they sounded like episodes. I’ve heard the piece done with stronger continuity.

      I also noted that the Met audience of the ’30s was as raucous and eager to cover music with hooting and hollering as any I have heard since. Could Wettergren really have been that much of an audience favorite, to explain the carrying on her first appearance causes? I guessed she was either wearing the most beautiful gown imaginable or they were just excited about seeing a woman.

      Also, Emanuel List was the Old Hebrew.

      • I also noted that the Met audience of the ’30s was as raucous and eager to cover music with hooting and hollering as any I have heard since.

        And yet when one listens to the famous 1940 (or ’39?) Ballo with Bjoerling and Milanov, the audience is as polite as can be. I think they muster a dozen bravos combined throughout the evening, including the final bows. Strange…

        • Bill

          Kashania -- when I first went to the Met
          in 1951 there were not as many shouting Bravo as is the case these days. There was rapt and sometimes prolonged applause but mostly with the hands clapping. Even Flagstad did not command a lot of screaming -- I seem to recall that the applause often lasted longer (more curtain calls) than these days at the Met when everyone shouts (particularly for large voices no matter how crudely the large voiced singers scream out). These days the Met audiences burst out with applause but it does not last as long -- in Germany for example (Bayreuth in particular) the applause swells and swells at least if the performance is good. And of course in most of Europe the audience sits in their seats applauding at least until the conductor comes out for his solo bow and
          has the orchestra stand -- at the Met
          half the audience starts rushing out the
          moment the last chord resounds. In the early 1950s at the Met there was a known claque, at least for some singers. I rather doubt it exists today as so many live performances are taped and one can determine for posterity if a performance was
          good or not.

      • Camille

        I liked the Old Hebrew Guy but had not paid attention to whom it was. Wettergren was way too light and too cool for the role, for my money and am surprised to see her name above with “contralto” as it sounded anything but that. Mr. Maison always has the virtue of singing French comme il faut. He is also, I believe, on the Alceste with Rose Bampton.

        The way Mo. Abravanel shaped the choruses was what I liked but I was bearing in mind this work was originally an oratorio and Mo. Abravanel was renown for his way with choruses. I mean, that was all in Utah, so I didn’t hear that much of him, but he was in So Cal some, notably at Music Academy of the West. His work with Mahler, back then, was particularly respected, I recall.

        Also, maybe the audience carried on so as George Balachine effected a really striking and dramatic entrance for his Dalila? It’s a shame we have no record of that choreography of his: I am his ardent fan and I would love to see his work herein. One can only imagine what kind of hoochy-koochy dance he would have come up with for the Bacchanale scene, ha!

      • Camille

        Mr. Porgy,
        I am tuned to Gertrud & René once more and will give you my weekend update on the whole. Last time I was enchanted by Pinza so, and wondering what an evening with him would have been like, that I neglected the hero protagonist.

        I still really like Mo. Abravanel’s conducting and it is fascinating to hear him so many, many years before he became a Big Gun in the West.

        • Porgy Amor

          I do not know if Sirius transmits it, but Met Opera on Demand has the Traviata with Ponselle, Jagel, and Tibbett (the great Panizza conducted). That one is also a bit older (5 January 1935) than the Samson. Those were the two oldest broadcasts I listened to when I subscribed to the service.

          • Camille

            Yes, they broadcast both the Ponselle Traviata as well as her Carmen. I don’t know which is eldest--the Traviata most likely.

            I just heard Gertrud’s enthusiastic clapper at her entrance…probably her agent or husband!!

            I do like thise enciuraging welcomes for the singer and somewhat rue their demise. Gertrud still sounds like a cool mezzo to me and nowhere the opulence of Miss Barton’s recently voiced Dalila selection at the Tucker Awards, an excellent judged and executed piece of singing.

            By the way--I just noticed the planned opener of this opera a couple seasons on, with Hymel and Garanca has been CANCELLED, dammit! Why? I was looking forward to it!

            I am still so curious as to the Balanchine choreography for this I may go dig around for some trace, if there be one.

            Wettergren sang Carmen in Swedish once when Rosa was sick. She debuted as Amneris in ’35 and lasted theee seasons with Brangäne her swansong. Maybe Rosa put the malocchio on her for that!

            Thank you, Margaret! We miss you!

            • Porgy Amor

              By the way--I just noticed the planned opener of this opera a couple seasons on, with Hymel and Garanca has been CANCELLED, dammit! Why? I was looking forward to it!

              I looked at Future Wiki, and if they are correct on the facts, it is a good outcome from where I sit. The opera and the singers are still happening; only the Michieletto stinkbomb (the Paris co-production) has been canceled. If the whole opera had been canceled, there would be lines through everything.

              I would assume they’re looking for a better Samson. It isn’t the first time they’ve pulled out of a co-production after something had an unpromising opening elsewhere (Bondy’s Rigoletto comes to mind).

              That is going to be the 100th anniversary of the famous Armistice Day season-opening Samson with Monteux leading Caruso and Homer, so I think the opera is secure programming.

              My remark above doesn’t mean I’m anti-Michieletto across the board, or that I have an issue with an update of this opera. This one just turned out to be a dog in the Paris webcast. There were some musical merits, such as Jordan’s conducting and A-Rach’s singing and acting as Dalila.

            • Camille

              Ah bon!!! Thank you so much for your advices and I am so relieved to hear. Probably the tempestuous Anita would be better than Garanca but I welcome any opportunity of hearing her wonderful voice and singing.

              I am deep into Samson’s seduction yet and must not tarry!! Adieu et merci!!

            • Porgy Amor

              Here is further reassurance from the horse’s mouth, Camille:

              Gelb said he also canceled a planned 2018-19 modern-dress production of Camille Saint-Saens’ “Samson et Dalila” by Italian director Damiano Michieletto, which opened in Paris last fall, and replaced it with a new staging by Darko Tresniak of Hartford Stage. Michieletto had Samson cut off his own hair and Dalila destroy the temple.

              “Michieletto is a very talented director, however, this production of ‘Samson’ just didn’t click with the Parisian public,” Gelb said.

              (Associated Press)

            • Camille

              Haha, the diplomatic Gelb in action there!

              Well, I’ve iust finished the second act and I always have to practice “Breathe in, breathe out” after it. Mo. Abravanel really whipped that orchestra enter a tempest: I have renewed respect for his remarkable conducting.

              Margaret just informed us that m.
              Maison was actually belgr.

              And fianakoy, If Gertrud is ancontralto,
              Well then, I am Marie
              Of Roumania, as she failed my acid test of contraltoness: she doesn’t sing the lower option on “Mort” which Our Own (Beloved) Olga provided when last here in this role. Even if she looked like a pissed off Hampton’s hostess in that noisy caftan, she sure did bring it!!

              Samson’s Agonistes is commencing!

  • Camille

    And regarding Marjorie Lawrence: beside that movie starring Eleanor Parker lip-synching to Eileen Farrell’s Liebestod that we all know and love (snicker), she wrote an autobio which takes her up to her “return” performances of Elektra at Carnegie Hall sometime in the late forties, I’m fairly certain. I cannot recall the name of that book at the moment and it may he hard to find but just for your general information.

    She comes off as a brave stiff-upper-lip kind of person, not a whiner about the considerable disaster she endured with the contraction of polio. Now THAT’s what I really admire, even more than that Ortrud sung in French with Monsieur Singher. I’m remembering that she studied with Dinh Gilly’s much put upon wife, Renée, in Paris, and that she LOVED to sing Brünnehilde, first and foremost!
    An unimaginable sentiment to petite moi.

    A great singer and a courageous human heing.

    • Rudolf

      @ Camille
      Ms. Lawrence’s autobiography is worthwhile reading and available in Kindle form or hardcover or paperback.

      • Camille

        good to know. thanks. hopefully others will be curious enough to read a bit.

        • Rudolf

          Sorry, I forgot to mention the title of Ms. Lawrence’s autobiography. It is (of course!) ”

          Interrupted Melody -- The Story of My Life”.