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A star is born

Happy 88th birthday soprano Antonietta Stella

Born on this day in 1790 composer Nicola Vaccai.

Born on this day in 1894 soprano Rose Pauly.

Born on this day in 1900 tenor Kurt Baum.

Born on this day in 1915 tenor Mirto Picchi.

On this day in 1950 Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul opened on Broadway.

Happy 63rd birthday soprano Isobel Buchanan.

Happy 62nd birthday baritone Mikael Melbye.

On this day in 1956 Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady opened on Broadway.

  • QuantoPainyFakor

    Smagur made the finals in the MET auditions!
    Go Trey!!!

    • Rowna Sutin

      Super news. I listened to a few of his clips, including the Tomb scene. A really appealing voice. I wish him well.

  • Rosina Leckermaul

    I saw Stella’s Butterfly at the Met a couple of times. Also her Tosca. Never saw her live in her Verdi roles, though I have enjoyed her recordings. Unlike Tebaldi and, later, Price, she didn’t have an extraordinarily beautiful voice, but she made the most of what she had. She tried very hard to develop a loyal following. I remember one night (I was in high school) waiting at the stage door after her Butterfly. All those who were waiting were invited into a large room. Stella was at a table waiting to sign our programs. As I recall, Bing fired her when she called in sick to the Met on a night she was actually singing at La Scala. She was quickly replaced by another reliable Italian soprano, Gabriella Tucci.

    • Bill

      Rosina -- after the Met Stella sang more in Vienna and I saw her in 1965 quite effective in Andrea Chenier and in Trovatore -- Mostly she sang repertoire performances in Vienna (but often with highly esteemed colleagues from
      La Scala) and I believe only one premiere -- a Manon
      Lescaut with di Stefano. I recall reading in the papers that one time Stella missed a high C in Aida at La Scala and
      had to kneel in front of the audience and beg for
      forgiveness.

      When Stella came to the Met, indeed there was already
      Milanov, Tebaldi and Callas -- but I recall when Stella
      sang her first Tosca at the Met in 1957 there were twice as
      many people in the standing room as tickets sold -- what a
      crush !, Believe Stella lasted only about 4 seasons at the Met. Her voice, if I recall was fuller and larger than that of Tucci who arrived at the Met in 1960 and sang there for about a decade -- Tucci maybe pushing her voice a bit too much in Ballo and Forza. Strangely Tucci’s last role at the Met was a single Gilda on tour a role she never essayed in the house. Stella made her debut in Italy in 1951 and probably did not have a career lasting more than some 20 years unless she continued in Italy beyond 1971. Both Tucci and Stella were born in 1929 so were 6 or 7 years younger than Callas and Tebaldi and 23 years younger than Milanov who probably had the longest active career of the five singers mentioned here.

      • Bill – actually Tucci sang a few Gildas with the Met on tour and at Lincoln Center in 1971. Her last Met performance was as Marguerite on Christmas 1972. I was at her next-to-last performances, an “Aida” on 18 November 1972 which I recorded. Along with Corelli, Bumbry, and Merrill, no one was having a decent night, Tucci in particular. The “O patria mio” is a total disaster, but so is “Celeste Aida” as well as the high notes in the “judgment scene.” I keep it as a souvenir of just how bad a potentially great cast could be. I heard her earlier that year (remember when there was a “June Festival” back in NYC after the tour?) as Elisabetta (also with Corelli and Merrill) and she wasn’t nearly as distressed as she would be five months later. But she packed in 260 performances in 12 seasons at the Met alone and burned out early.

      • Rosina Leckermaul

        I saw Tucci sing Donna Elvira and Desdemona in that 1963 new production with McCracken. She replaced Tebaldi who cancelled, as she was won’t to do.
        I read somewhere that Stella was one of the divas who recruited a paid claque (supposedly Zinka also did this). That may explain the suspiciously full standing room.

  • Am I the only one who always confuses Stella and Tucci? They were both great singers (born in the same year) doing a lot of Verdi and Puccini, but overshadowed by Callas/Tebaldi/Milanov/Price. Whenever I recall one of their live recordings, I can’t remember which one is which.

    • Camille

      No, you aren’t. I used to do the same and as Rosina points out somewhere below, Stella was replaced by Tucci, either one of whom we would now be more than gratified to have around. Of the two and to me, Stella has always been the outstanding one, and as I always am intending to listen to her in other roles, plus thinking of next year’s Luisa Miller, I’ve found this which looks very promising:

      https://youtube.com/watch?v=GyyLC2HOdtA

    • PCally

      I happen to think in some ways they actually were superior to women mentioned in that group. Their grasp of the Italian style was (obviously) far superior to Price, Milanov, and Callas’ and I think their techniques were wider ranging than Milanov and Tebaldi (they had far greater flexibility and both could approximate a trill in ways Milanov never could and Tebaldi stopped being able to do early into her career). I really happen to like these two a lot.

      • Well, PCally you are now an enemy siding with a bunch of fools (I see your up voting the assholes in another tread). You don’t know what you’re talking about as in fact does no one who has commented. I knew Stella well, met her when I was a child, and saw her often in a brief Met career. I kept up with her in later years. She was a lot of fun and very smart. But its a pity that she was a very good rather than a great talent, or perhaps someone with a great talent who in reality was good to very good. I was at the Luisa Miller she sang with “Pippo”, saw both dress (where she was spectacular) and prima (where she wasn’t, and he was terrible, having been better at the dress).

        I saw Tucci all the time in her entire Met rep.

        Neither had a vocal endowment to match Tebaldi or Milanov, just a fact of sad nature which kisses who it pleases. Stella had a big voice and could churn out a lot of sound but she was on the crude side and it wasn’t a sound of great beauty. She certainly had more going on than Milanov but would have killed for that basic vocal gift. She was no match for Tebaldi who had an immense and glorious voice. As far as I know she could not trill with any clarity, nor was her florid singing any better than Milanov or Tebaldi. She was wonderful in her way, but really at her best in verismo as the Fanciulla live telecast from Japan proves — poor as the surrounding performance is.

        Tucci was a wonderful singer, although on a smaller scale than any of these ladies. In a barn like the Met she was best as Butterfly and Violetta — she is one of the most moving I’ve ever seen in either (although Stella and Tebaldi were sensational in Butterfly). The Violetta was easily handled in all acts, vulnerable, intense and absolutely heart felt. But she was lower cost and reliable so Bing overused her. She did a ton of Aidas (39) for which she didn’t really have the power. She should not have done Forza. She was good in Trovatore but even that was a big sing for her. Her best Verdi role was Alice Ford, where she was adorable and which suited her well, followed perhaps by Desdemona. Luisa Miller and Gilda (there is a wonderful Japanese telecast) came too late at the Met.

        She went into a decline from over singing around 1969 and was finally fired in 72. She never regained her confidence or freshness of tone. Very sad and long life. She had a rare reality, warmth and openness.

        But this is it for you from me.

        • PCally

          I’m sorry if I offended. I don’t really remember taking sides in any argument, so I’m sorry you feel that way. Either way thanks for your informed post on a imo underrated singer who would be of great value today.

          • O PCally, don’t take me so seriously. I am furious about some people here. To paraphrase Conrad, “the idiocy! The idiocy!” But I take too wide an aim with my fury. You are one of the smart ones here, so I apologize. And Rosina also has made some good points in this thread, so I apologize to him/her for being snippy about other contributors.

            • Camille

              Mrs John Claggart—would you be so kind as to give a bit of detail regarding the three performances la Stella gave, two of Trovatore and one Madame Butterfly with the MET at the Academy of Music and at which you likely assisted? What was the voice like in that auditorium and how did she manage the Butterfly geisha aspect of It, always a challenge?

              I’ve never really understood the criticism of her as I’ve always thought her wonderful, just overshadowed by that huge tebaldian nimbus here in the States, that is. She seems to have performed a bit more in the latter fifties as Tebaldi began to run into some troubles vocally. I don’t have much factual information about it all as I was not around them, but you were.

              Thank you for your valuable thoughts and keen insights.

            • Daniel Swick

              I always thought of Stella as the bigger voiced of the two and perhaps less glamorous in appearance. When I think good Italian Spinta I think Stella. Her style was blowsy (she recorded Linda di Chamonix at the beginning of her career for Cetra!!!).
              Tucci had the smaller voice and had a Moffo-like attractiveness. I had a recording years ago of a Tokyo Aida from 1966 (I think) with Simonato (so maybe ’65?) And Corelli. They were having a good night. Tucci was best in the floaty bits…The O Patria C is very well handled and she acquits herself well throughout.

            • southerndoc1

              Tucci’s high notes are radiant in that Aida, and she gives an excellent performance that was probably too small-scaled for the Met.

            • PCally

              No worries, sometimes it’s hard to perceive intended tone through writing so I need to sharpen my skills a bit with regards to that.

            • No, PCally it’s just that 1/I am nuts and 2/I HATE. I have a long, long memory for people who have attacked me viciously, usually unsolicited and who themselves are vicious horrors who pretend otherwise. I really have a need to avenge myself on long time enemies. So I sometimes get carried away. There is one scumbag, a pretentious fool and another who got co-opted by the scum bag but who isn’t so bad. But once one is firing one’s bazooka lots of others can get hit in the crossfire. But you had nothing to do with any of that and it wasn’t any lack of skill in your writing. I apologize again.

        • I always had a soft spot for Tucci. I saw her a lot, mostly in the right repertory for her. The danger signal was an Aida when the big C in O Patria Mia went awry. I got a very sweet note from Italy from her some years ago. I agree that Butterfly and, in particularly, Violetta and Alice Ford were her absolute best roles with Desdemona being very good indeed. The Trovatore Leonora went better than the Forza, and a MET tour Tosca in Boston revealed some real strain. But she was reliable, a hard worker and didn’t cause any trouble so Bing used her a lot in a pretty wide repertory.

          • Exactly right, Will, I think. I assume the American dollar was the strongest currency in the world so she sat at the Met for about 11 years and sang that wide rep, much of which was a strain. She had had a good career in Italy, perhaps not front ranking but she did sacrifice at least some years to Aida, Forza, even Tosca (she was a lovely Liu). She was Elisabetta in Abbado’s only appearances at the Met. He hated Bing and that opera company with bitter rage the rest of his life. I’ve always felt sad for her. She was very talented and in those lyric roles, very authentic and accomplished — but she also made few records. There’s a Trovatore with Corelli, and a Nedda with Del Monaco. I might be mistaken but I don’t think she even got a recital disc. She does appear reasonably often on the “Italians take Japan” videos — Aida, Violetta, Alice Ford, Gilda, Countess (Figaro), Micaela (which she sang at the Met, along with 24 Marguerites. She is consistently good in them.

            • Do I remember correctly that she also sang Gluck’s Euridice at the MET?

            • Met database is down for me, but I think she did.

            • stevey

              Hi everybody! I hope that all are well, and Mrs. JC, it’s always wonderful to encounter you here in these parts. How is your evil twin? Have you changed his hay lately? :-)

              This is probably one of my favorite things ever on YouTube, and considering it’s Gabriella Tucci- a singer I’ve always both enjoyed and admired, all the more so because she really DID seem to be so undervalued (there’s another singer that I absolutely love for similar reasons- Mary Curtis-Verna. I’ve always enjoyed both singers immensely (but I am, admittedly, an ignorant neophyte)), I thought I might share it with you…

              Yes, it’s in Italian, rather than French, but I still think it’s absolutely wonderful. I hope you all enjoy it. :-)

              With my best wishes to everybody…
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47tGA-UJwdE

            • Thanks for your greeting, Stevey! I also really liked (and even knew) Mary Curtis (Verna). She was hilarious and a great mimic of other more esteemed singers. I once played the piano for her as she did “In Questa Reggia” like Leonie Rysanek with every swoop, missed pitch and dead lower middle and middle passage, she even got the sharpness at the top (hard to do if you’re imitating someone)! Then she said, “this is how it is MEANT to be” and sang it thrillingly with tremendous impact and ease. I enjoyed everything I ever saw her do, including the Manon Lescaut in Philadelphia with Richard Tucker.

              An elderly high society matron walked onto to the desert. “Who the hell are YOU?” Asked Tucker. “I am Mrs. Henry Watkins Biddle, and am looking for Gunther, my driver,” she responded. “who the hell are YOU?” The audience was hysterical by that point. (Mrs. Watkins Biddle was discreetly escorted off by what may have been Gunther).

              Tucker and Curtis Verna shrugged and went right on, Mary died in his arms looking around just to be sure Mrs. Watkins Biddle wasn’t going to wander back on and spoil the effect.

              I adored Tucci, a really touching singer with a beautiful voice, although when she began to have problems — SHE HAD PROBLEMS. Rather like my evil twin who got into it with some enemies here.

            • Scott

              Didn’t she also record Maddalena in the Corelli/EMI Andrea Chenier?

            • That is Toni Starr — La Stella!

            • MisterSnow

              She is also in this film version with Del Monaco
              https://youtu.be/XA9OMZyKy8w

            • Scott

              Yes, that’s who I meant. My response came below another one that switched from Stella to Tucci. I’m still trying to get the hang of this.

        • Rosina Leckermaul

          I have a warm spot for the DGG TROVATORE with Stella, Cossotto, Bergonzi and Bastianini. Well sung though not fiery, if that is what you want.

          • I met her when I was a fat gypsy child in Trovatore. The Met came to Philly every Tuesday but cast extras locally. I was in my (probably demented) get up and passed Ms. Stella backstage and she laughed and cried, “Ehi, zingaron’!” (Means, hey, little very fat male gypsy). I was still lurking around after the Convent Scene and she asked me into her dressing and we started chatting. I had actually seen her do it before with BJORLING, but don’t remember him because it was my first time doing it (and I REGRET it to this day). The later time was with Bergonzi and the truly astounding Simionato (the audience rioted for her and I got to see her carry on up close!) and Warren.

            She thought I was very funny, and I adored her. I eventually told her my name for her was Toni Starr, ala Motown. She didn’t know what that was but laughed and laughed when I explained.

            I like that recording — Serafin who never looked at a critical edition in his life — actually takes metronomes much different from those in the old Ricordi score evidently from sheer instinct. They are VERY close to the metronomes in the critical edition, and many of Serafin’s choices are also unusual based on the score he used. Giulini said he’d never heard this recording but listened “to laugh” after he made his own, using the CR and was impressed despite himself.

            Toni didn’t really have a recording voice — it was a big enveloping sound live. But I adore the heavenly Bergonzi on that record.

            • All Ears

              Hello fountains of knowledge, or youth, or whatevs.

              I’m mad about that DGG. It could be the only DGG I’m mad about. The sound stage and balance is sensational. Serafin works wonders, Bastianini is outstanding, Bergonsi incredibly beautiful, and then there’s the gals.

              Mrs J C I was wondering if you could consult your gypsy past -- did you sit at her feet? painting her toe nails? -- and shine any light on some rumour that Callas was the chosen and Stella second choice for that recording? EMI stuff? Or a load of tosh?

              There’s a lot to comment on here -- get a load of those strings for starters, and if anyone is wondering about Wise Woman’s comments (none should doubt) on Serafin, cop this:

              https://youtu.be/g94US8h-9ug

            • Rosina Leckermaul

              I believe that’s the TRAVIATA recording. Callas had recorded a TRAVIATA and couldn’t do the Angel one with her usual. colleagues, so they gave the recording to Stella who certainly wasn’t a Violetta. At the time DGG recorded TROVATORE, they were using Stella quite regularly.

            • That was one of two recordings with CETRA who has signed Callas to a firm contract with a legally binding clause that she could not record either opera again within (I think) two years minimum of the release of the Cetra versions. There was the loads of fun La Gioconda, and then the Traviata, badly, badly conducted by the amazingly untalented but lasted forever Gabriele Santini.

              A relative had this recording when I was a young ghel (English pronunciation) and I thought then (knowing nothing) and think now that it contains some of the loveliest singing Callas was captured doing and she’s very sincere. BUT everything else is routine or worse and Santini drags everything and can’t keep the orchestra together (it’s La Traviata, not Carter’s Variations for Orchestra!). The tenor is the thin sounding F. Albanese and the baritone is the dry Ugo Savarese.

              EMI had signed Stella (who began in 1950 at 20 with Leonora in Forza opposite Mario Del Monaco with whom it was said she had a big affair right under her papa’s nose, papa went everywhere with her.). So they slotted her in to a Traviata they wanted to do rather than waiting a year for Callas. That was a bizarre choice since those years were the height of Callas’ artistic fame and Violetta was a signature role for her and she was their diva after all.

              But later, when EMI decided to do Fanciulla they first went to Callas, who laughed at them (it is said). Why not Stella who sang the role (it was one of her best)? They got Nilsson instead after apparently “searching” for an Italian. Nilsson did not know the role and learned it during the sessions in between being coached in Italian pronunciation.

              They lost Di Stefano who also sang the role, and Gobbi who had just done Rance at La Scala (Gobbi told me Walter Legge HATED him and stabbed him and that Mongelli who had been signed for Ashby was moved up to spite him. In the awful, sentimental, nauseating tome by the Cook sisters who Gobbi trusted to ghost his “autobiography” they have him paying tribute to Legge). In real life Gobbi told me Legge had been trying to get rid of him for years and did not renew his contract when it ran out.

              According to Michael Scott who was Legge’s private secretary for several years, Legge knew nothing and cared less about Italian opera and had never heard of let alone heard most of the singers active in Italy (but loved Orff and German operettas and was loyal to his Nazi buddies such as the conductor of that Fanciulla, Von Matacic.)

            • All Ears

              Thanks ghels.

  • Camille
  • Camille

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=BQWA2lkNQZE

    Tantissimi auguri all’Egregia Signora Stella—
    una bella stella davvero!!!

  • Camille

    And here is the companion to Rose Pauly’s “Zweite Brautnacht” and which she sings exceptionally well, “Bei jener Nacht”:

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=cw0XLQpHOUg

    I’ve forgotten what happened to her at the MET—-she came—sang—and did not exactly conquer—and left— all that I now remember.

  • Camille

    Last night received a notice from OONY about their upcoming concert on April 4th honoring tenor Giuseppe Giacomini. See Carnegie Hall calendar for more information and tickets.

    N. B.: Among others, Alessandra Marc is listed as one of the featured performers. Special Guests include Sherrill Milnes, Marilyn Horne, Marilyn Zschau, et al.

  • Camille

    Two more with a latter day Stella, Agnese di Hohenstaufen and Attila: both date from 1970.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yFqDsEuv52w

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=NXg-1N71lr4

  • Genia Kühmeier cancels again. She just dropped out of a run of “Le nozze di Figaro” at Wiener Staatsoper “for personal reasons.” Her replacement is Guanqun Yu who sang some “Trovatore” Leonoras and two Fiordiligis in 2012 and 2014 at the Met.

    • spiderman

      She seems to be singing only concerts anymore.

      • Bill

        Jungfer -- since Kuehmeier’s husband was diagnosed
        with cancer and eventually died she has cancelled most all of her engagements over a four year period. This is the third series of Figaro Countesses in Vienna which she has cancelled. She has several children and at the Vienna Opera she has only actually performed once
        in the past several years when she stepped in to replace an ailing colleague as Zdenka in Arabella.
        With her beautiful voice I always felt she was going to be one of the next great Arabellas, Ariadnes etc.
        and she would have been ideal for the new Freischuetz next season in Vienna (no cast listed yet season to be announced April 5th ). As Spiderman reports she has sung only a few concerts (like the Mozart Requiem). I have not heard this Guanqun Yu but hope she has a success.

        • PCally

          I’ve seen Yu’s met performances and she is fantastic. I think you’ll be pleased.

          • Bill

            PCallly -- I trust your judgment -- glad to hear that Yu is
            fantastic. Sometimes one is really pleasantly surprised with
            replacements. The first round of Countesses Kuehmeier was
            scheduled to sing she was replaced by Olga Bezsmertna and I was horrified at first that an unknown (to me) was to sing but Bezsmertna was perfect and has become one of the most important singers in Vienna now. Years ago in 1980 Tomowa-Sintow cancelled a Figaro Countess there and Adriana Maliponte who practically never sang in Vienna was summoned. And Maliponte fit right into the ensemble and sang a beautiful Countess as well (Boehm conducting Popp, Weikl, Berry, Trudeliese Schmidt)) . I had also liked Maliponte in NYC in Verdi etc. but was astonished how refined her singing was in Mozart.

            • PCally

              Yu was a far finer Fiordiligi than Susanna Phillips that same season, with a suprisingly rich and firm lower register than is the norm for lyric sopranos. And her coloratura was certainly exceptional for that particular role. What was really wonderful to hear was just how technically refined and secure she was in general.

              Maliponte is IMO one of the finest Violetta’s I’ve ever heard (off topic I know, but someone above mentioned both Stella and Tucci as Violetta so I just had to mention it since she’s kind of similar to Tucci). There’s a live recording with Kleiber the same year he made the studio recording. Maliponte is ASTOUNDING, I had no idea she had such temperament. Even though Kleiber’s way with the score is way to fast for my taste, she keeps up with him at all times without sounding breathless and technically she has all the demands of the score as completely as I’ve ever heard. I really wish she’d made the recording.

            • Bill

              At the Met I was able to see Maliponte as Luisa Miller and it was a lovely performance.
              Also Micaela and in Orfeo though I do not recall ever seeing her as Violetta.

            • Maliponte did eight Violettas at Lincoln Center (six in 1973 and two in 1984 including a broadcast) and 10 on tour and in the parks in 1975, plus two Euridices with Horne in 1972. I think I heard most of the Violettas in 1973 (with Domingo and Merrill) when Moffo was losing her grasp on the role, and Maliponte was one of the most memorable Violettas of my life.

            • calaf47

              I was lucky to see Ms Maliponte as Violetta in Atlanta (Met Opera on tour) with Carreras and Robert Merrill. A memorable afternoon..!!

  • simonelvladtepes

    FWIW, I just started to listen to the Serafin Traviata with Stella, Di Stefano and Gobbi (on Testament) and just can’t go on because of Stella.

    • Rosina Leckermaul

      It’s an unfortunate recording.