Cher Public

Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere

Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere.Dame Rosalind Plowright complains that unlike most other voiceless 68 year old singers, she has trouble finding work.

  • grimoaldo2

    Pedant’s corner -- that article refers to “the first collaboration by Gilbert and Sullivan, Trial by Jury”, which is incorrect, their first collaboration was “Thespis, or, the Gods Grown Old” but the music was never published and is lost,except for a chorus re-used in “The Pirates of Penzance”.

  • Rick

    I wonder if I red the same article as La Cieca as I do not Ms Plowright complaining about lack of work anywhere in the article (yes, she does complain about ROH, London, but not in general). Quite on the contrary, she seems quite happy with the way her career went and is going.

    • Armerjacquino

      Yes, this is an odd one. She’s not happy with ENO or CG (and good for her for getting her KATYA contract paid off rather than worrying about fighting city hall) but in general she’s not hurting for work and doesn’t suggest she is- quite the opposite.

      • Porgy Amor

        Agreed, but when I read “I guess it’s a very British trait, not celebrating your native talent,” I did feel I had gone through the looking glass.

        That Giulini Trovatore recording she mentions is beautiful. One of the two I most often listen to when I want to hear the whole opera.

        • fletcher

          (Which is the other?)

          • Porgy Amor

            Muti’s on Sony. Neither of these has the greatest cast ever assembled (you know, Caruso said the only thing you need for Trovatore blah blah blah…sick of that quote), but the casts are quite good on their own merits, and both conductors look for and find a lot in it this score that, once I heard it, I did not want to do without. They take it seriously and really shape it as music drama. They are not just vocal shot-putting exhibitions with one hideous cut after another. Of course, there are other good ones I like (Mehta/RCA, Karajan/EMI), but those two are my references.

            • fletcher

              Ah, thanks. No love for the Serafin? Cuts don’t bother me in Trovatore much because I don’t care for the opera. I like the Muti too but mostly because Licitra and Urmana were in the first professional opera I saw (Tosca in LA, 2005 -- it probably wasn’t very good but I remember being absolutely electrified).

            • Camille

              Um, it probably WAS pretty good, or so I thought from the KUSC transmission of same (didn’t see it at the Music Center). It was a definite improvement over his debut Cavaradossii at the Met, that’s for sure, and by that time Urmana was still fresh at the soprano game and had settled into it.

              There was an interview with Licitra which I always recall as he was so UN-tenorlike and generous in his praise of his colleague, Ms Urmana. Nice man, and I wish he had had a happier fate.

              So, I dunno, but would conjecture you’d started out pretty well. Don’t let the fact that neither one of the leads is considered a trendy or hot singer influence you. Oh, I’ve forgotten all about poor old Baron Scarpia…who was he?

            • fletcher

              It was Sam Ramey, lol. I don’t remember much about the performance itself, to be honest, beyond that I was sitting so far back and high up in the auditorium that the proscenium cut off a good deal of scenery and Tosca’s leap was blocked from view; I promised myself to get better seats for my next show (which was Fleming in Traviata, then Netrebko in Manon).

            • Camille

              Funny, I had completely forgotten him, and I wonder how?

              I tried hard to get to see that Roméo et Juliette with the then hot, hot, and hottest team going, Netrebko and Villazón, but did not buy tickets soon enough, and it soon became impossible to get them for less than a hundred bucks so I forgot about it. Pity. Did you happen to see the Don Carlo there? Just curious.

            • fletcher

              I didn’t. I had no money and no car and looking back on those seasons there are some painful misses -- I skipped Mattila’s Jenufa, for example, and all of Conlon’s ‘Forgotten Voices’ projects. Not as bad as skipping the Chéreau Tristan when I was living in Milan, though.

            • Camille

              The Tristan Project, with Christine Brewer et al., I missed through circumstances overpowering and it is to my eternal chagrin. One day at the Central Market, some years before, I was ambling around when I came onto an area set aside with the strangest apparition — it was a Bill Viola exhibition! At that time I knew zero about him but I promptly sat myself down and starting to watch the Man in the Fire and then the Man in the Water. I was joined by a curious little Mexican boy, who sat and watched along with me. That was the beginning of Bill Viola for me and since then I’ve seen another couple exhibitions.

              I am sorry you missed Mattila’s Jenufa as she was something special in that which will be hard to replicate. However, others can and always do come along so someday you’ll see someone as great in the role.

              Oh, having no money in L.A. is one thing, but never admit to having no car. That is tantamount to, in my experience, almost a crime punishable by imprisonment. Wondering if that subway will ever get finished? It only went as far as the Wiltern Theatre the last I was on it but understand it is inching its way westward to the Pacific?

              Anyway, Milano was worth it, I’m sure of that, even if their food is funny.

            • fletcher

              We’re way off-topic here, but whatevz. It’s so frustrating to look back and see how ambitious LA Opera used to be -- the Bill Viola Tristan, the Sellars Pelléas, the Hockney FrOSch. Even the Schell Rosenkavalier looks progressive in retrospect. There was a short-lived association with Barrie Kosky a few years ago (for the animated Zauberflöte and a Dido & Aeneas / Bluebeard’s Castle double-bill) but that seems to have passed. Other than last season’s fabulous Akhnaten there is scandalously little artistic ambition for the main stage shows. The chamber operas at REDCAT have been interesting, and successful, I think, but it’s really LA Phil (and Yuval Sharon) that’s taken the lead.

              Anyway, the subway to UCLA is under construction, and soon there will be the Crenshaw line to the airport. There’s already an above-ground light rail from downtown to Santa Monica now (I take it every day).

            • Camille

              Wow, I’m more excited about the light rail than anything at the Opera. Too bad the Golden line wasn’t around when I lived, carless, in Pasadena, which I so loved and which was quite walkable, much to the amazement and scorn of all my friends and allies. “How could you WALK there…? Someone might SEE you!”

              Yes, I guess it’s changed and I wouldn’t know exactly why--the Ring was too expensive and that may be a big part of it--but the Phil always was The Big Deal and has had a big head start on the opera. The Hockney Frau was spectacular in its love of Primary Colors and the Grand Dame Gwyneth--never to be forgotten. I don’t know Yuval Sharon and have not yet made it to the Redcat, which has interested me.

              Aside from the sad demise of Conlon’s project, another thing I very unfortunately missed all of (gnashing my dentures!), I’d hoped Domingo might at least make a better case for zarzuela, and even if I did manage to see both El Gato Montesand Luisa Fernanda, but the zarzuela oublic doesn’t seem to be quite there. The Cubans were crazy for it, so maybe it’s more diffused in the Caribbean? Funny, as Domingo’s parents’ company was in Mexico City.

              At any rate, keep those traveller miles at the ready! And you can always drive up to San Francisco in a day. I guess San Diego is still limping along after the near disaster? They used the to be the happening place, in the early eighties, when L. A. was nowhere yet on the map…oh well.

            • fletcher

              San Diego is lame as hell; I was tempted to go down once, a few years ago, when they did an unusually starry Ballo with Becza?a, Stoyanova, Kim, and Blythe. Long Beach is sometimes interesting (they did a fun Fairy-Queene last year and are doing The Consul and Frank Martin’s Le vin herbé (in English) this season). I do wonder if the whole Ring disaster did some psychological damage to the upper management at LAO and left them extremely risk-averse. You would think zarzuela or even something like La vida breve would go over well here. Interesting, while LAO hired musical wunderkind Matthew Aucoin, the Phil hired a brilliant theatrical mind (Sharon), who’s been doing excellent work, none of it reviewed here unfortunately. Last season had Lou Harrison’s crazy gay Young Caesar (featuring a penis puppet ballet and dancers in jockstraps) and an evening of Beckett scenes and Schubert lieder which was really special.

            • Camille

              San Diego hasn’t really come back to form then? I wondered what would ensue. Yes that Ballo was to have been their last stand but somehow it all carried on, somehow. Although like this new thing we have called NYCO, NOT the same thing at all.

              Yes, the Supervisors were not happy about that Ring, I remember from that time, so I’m pretty sure it has engendered multitudes of official memos on $$$$$$PENDING.

              Why don’t you review the stuff Patrick doesn’t, then? It would be nice to get the young person’s perspective, and wasn’t Young Cæsar talked of, a few months back, at least? It seems to have had some discussion.

              And I guess we’ve taken this chat too far so I’ll sign off now and hope you will be back with your own review of some of the other things going on, like the Phil, REDCAT, and who knows what else. I dunno about Long Beach as I never made it down there in those years, you know the drill—NO CAR.

              xxxooofrom the Big Rotten Apple

            • LA does have taxis. Some of us don’t drive.

            • Camille

              It does? I tried to get one once and waited an hour. Another time, coming from the airport, the driver discharged me along with all my heavy bags because I got lost and confused at night in an unfamiliar place and couldn’t direct him — and left me at a gas station, hahahaha! How did I get home, I wonder???? Hahaha!

        • Armerjacquino

          “Agreed, but when I read “I guess it’s a very British trait, not
          celebrating your native talent,” I did feel I had gone through the
          looking glass.”

          It’s absolutely true. From actors through TV and films to sportspeople, there’s a pervasive idea in this country that you’re getting something British you’re getting a cheaper, less glamorous substitute. It’s why, for example, we’ve haven’t managed a satirical topical TV show for years- because the first ep of any attempt will instantly be slapped with ‘Well, it’s not The Daily Show’ and dismissed accordingly.

          But also, I don’t think it’s a *peculiarly* British trait. I think there’s a fairly understandable, if often wrongheaded, tendency in most societies to value the imported over the local.

          • Porgy Amor

            My impression probably is skewed from reading Brit reviewers over the years. They, in the main, cannot be accused of failing to celebrate native talent. Often they go far to the opposite extreme, both those covering opera as well as those covering classical music on the instrumental side (if I had a, er, pound for every variation on “…but it is not a patch on the recorded versions of Solomon and Dame Myra Hess”). I say that as someone who thinks England (and associated territories) has produced many wonderful singers, instrumentalists, conductors, and stage directors.

            • Camille

              Where is the VICAR when one most needs him? He would settle this mattter in a thrice!

            • Luvtennis

              Yes, where is krunoslav? I miss him. Montynostry too!!!!

          • Camille

            I don’t think it peculiarly British at all but peculiarly human and universal.

            Example: Régine Crespin bemoaned the fact she was a prophetess unloved in her own country. The (Argentinians ADORED her on the other hand,
            Usw.

            • Agreed, Camille chere. Canadian artist in every field are constantly fighting the same fight. Everyone knows that you have to make it in the U.S first for Canadians to appreciate you at home.

            • Camille

              Is that so? I was not fully aware of that fact and it’s a shame, or should I also say, c’est bien dommage since we are being Canadian/canadien here!

              It’s bad enough that young Americans think they have to sink or swim by singing at the Met, (a dividend with high returns out in the provinces), or that was the case in years past and less so now, but to think that Canadians also should have to do so as well, is flattening. Since the Big Barn is really only suited to about a quarter, estimating on a generous, loose end of things, of the singers who pass through there, it makes for a bad sandwich all around.

    • CKurwenal

      She’s not voiceless, either.

      • Camille

        Yes, I would agree to that but with some qualification; her vooce was reduced both in amplitude and volume, therefore not making a big impression when she sang Gertrude here a few years back. Whatever she may have lacked in volume, (and I was seated in the orchestra so there was no mistaking that)--she amply made up for in her stage savvy and the lively figure she created. Great set of gams, too.

        It was quite, quite interesting to me to hear her once again after many years had elapsed for, in 1983 or 84, I’d heard HALF of her performance as Medora in Il Corsaro, (the first act I spent on the San Diego Freeway, cursing!) — given at San Diego during one of their Tito Capobianco-led Verdi Festivals. What BIT I heard was perfectly fine. I’ve always enjoyed her soprano voice, on the random occasions of hearing her over the radio and such, and feel she is a great credit to the long and august line of U.K. singers.

        Further, and on a purely personal note—I could not agree more with her on her parting shot: “I don’t give a sh*t“, and to which I commend her with a “Brava, Diva!”

        And on a personal note and as an aside—speaking as a woman well north of age fifty, I know JUST how she feels and say ”Well done!’ to her for getting her contract for Katya Kabanova paid! If ever there was an old bitch/witch role wherein there is no age limit, that would be Kabanicha, after all, no matter what Das Konzept. Amen.

        • CKurwenal

          I agree it was shoddy treatment and I’m glad she got it sorted. It has made me wonder though if it’s because we’re getting Mattila for the role, which would be good!

          • Camille

            I see.

            I wonder how KM will fare as Kabanicha. Her Kostelnicka here was very good and was also interesting from the different vantage point in that she still seemed young enough looking and was far more attractive than the usual beleaguered and grizzled type we see and hear. She also made all her high notes in that great passage in the second act, a big relief after what I’ve heard before her. Kabanicha is substantially lower thiugh and has nothing grateful to sing, if I recall rightly. An awful character as well whereas Kostelnicka is heartbreakingly conflicted.

            Although the Kostelnicka was hailed as a success here, and it was, it could not for me begin to touch her wonderful Jenufa, such a deeply affecting and moving portrayl, so personal.

            Unfortunately, never saw Benackova and wish I had.

    • I agree. She does say that she’s been bought out of her contract for a younger singer at the end of the piece, but the rest of the article finds her being grateful for the opportunities she has at this point of her career.

      If I have a problem with the article, it’s with the author and his overstatements. It’s hardly a risky move for a big-voiced soprano to transition to mezzo parts in her 50s.

      • La Cieca

        Especially when she was a mezzo to begin with.

  • southerndoc1

    “had the opera world from La Scala to the Met at her feet.”

    Those two runs as Gertrude sure set NYC on fire.

    • Rick

      I doubt it was Ms Plowright who came up with that phrase, SouthernDoc….

  • CarlottaBorromeo

    Some context about Ms Plowright and Covent Garden -- the 1984 Aida jump-in didn’t really “come from nowhere” as she was already scheduled for the final performances of the run. Nor was she exactly unknown at CG. Four months earlier she was the Maddalena in the new production of Chenier. (That production replaced an intended new production of Forza in which she would have sung Leonora).

    In the following five years CG cast her in new productions of Dutchman, Trovatore and Medea as well as revivals of the old Trovatore and (I think) Otello. There may have been others. In any case she was hardly denied exposure in London in the prime years of her career.

    • CKurwenal

      She had also already done Donna Anna at the ROH, opposite Te Kanawa and Ramey -- not exactly a low profile engagement, so this Aida business seems a bit of an odd story to cook up.

      I think of her as a great voice but with difficulties in terms of ease and facility, which take some of the shine off what she did. Still, very glad to have heard her at the tail end of her prime, as a stand in for Margaret Price at the proms in which she did a very beautiful and impressive Willow Song and Ave Maria.

      In her subsequent incarnations, first as a mezzo I thought her Fricka was very impressive indeed, and now in this latest phase of her career I have very much enjoyed her Zia Principessa and her Pique Dame Countess, both of which were quite chilling characterisations, but also sung with a lot of rich, generous tone. She was a far better Zia Principessa vocally than the ROH’s choice of Anna Larson in their Trittico.

    • Lindoro Almaviva

      I think you misread that. She is talking about “the greatest night in her professional life”. That could mean different things, but I guess I never took it as “My Scotto moment” or my Caballe” moment (meaning the moment she went from an unknown to a star)

    • J Anthony Kaye

      So sorry Carlotta but in the case of the Aida Jump-in, you are not correctly informed although I am impressed with your knowledge of the roles she dis sing at the ROH as a soprano. As both her husband and her then General Manager, I can tell you that Rosalind Plowright was never scheduled to sing that last performance. We only heard about Ricciarelli’s walk-out the afternoon before and told the ROH Miss Plowright wwas not free as she was performing Aida in Berlin and could not sing back to back Aidas. In any case they had thought that Anna Tomowa-Sintow would be released from Paris and would take over. It was only at 11am the next morning while Miss Plowright was flying home that the ROH called me to say that Paris was not releasing AnnaT.S. and that the house would go dark if Miss Plowright could not jump in. The first she new about it was when I met her at the airport, around 12.30 and being the trooper she is, she jumped-in to save the day. Hope that helps

      • CarlottaBorromeo

        Apologies for mis-remembering, Mr Kaye. I had a recollection of Ms Plowright being announced for the final two performances of that run (not the one that Ms Ricciarelli cancelled). Still that whole Aida was such a miserable experience I’m sure she would have been relieved to have had to do it only once!! I have much happier memories of her thrilling Aida in the Neunfels production in Frankfurt a little earlier…

        • J Anthony Kaye

          That was possibly the best Aida ever in Frankfurt …. :)

  • Rick

    I met Ms Plowright quite some years ago when she sang Abigaille in a concert performance and my mother Anna. She was very charming and gracious and interested in other people whereas the woman singing Fenena (who was not really a star) could only talk about herself and her important upcoming engagements -- well, I guess that (unlike Ms Plowright) she felt she had to prove herself…

  • Camille

    And for the final word on the subject of Women and Aging, here is that sage and wit, Ms Amy Schumer, to illuminate all you fellows.

    [Brangäne Warnung!—
    Bad language by potty-mouthed girls. If you are offended by such, DO NOT listen — and if you do, don’t say I didn’t warn y’all and go all Lady Bracknell on me.]

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=XPpsI8mWKmg

  • Armerjacquino

    Unexpected coda: YT decided to put Plowright’s La Scala Angelica on my ‘you should watch this’ list, so I did. She’s really, really good in it, whatever anyone might think of her later work.

    And Dunja Vejzovic (who recorded Ortrud, Kundry, Senta and the Zia Principessa- you know, like most singers do) is properly creepy and disturbing without being panto.

    I feel as if it must have been quite a night: the TABARRO starred Sass and Cappuccilli, the SCHICCHI had Pons and Gasdia.

    • Cameron Kelsall

      Yes, I remember the whole video when I was first discovering opera. All parts quite fine (though Sass has never been my cup of tea) but especially the Suor Angelica. Unfortunately, I heard Plowright do a late career Zia Principessa and it was pretty ghastly.

  • Camille

    Through the miracle of YouTube, and I DO mean that, I’ve just now heard the San Diego Il Corsaro aria with Plowright, (says it was in 1982 but have read elsewhere it was 1983 and that’s where I’d place it )—— and that was quite a satisfaction after having sat stuck on the Freeway during that performance, missing all of Act one and a portion of the beginning of Act two.

    What I’d say about her was that it sounded pretty dark and mezzoish even away back then, and it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that is where she headed, just only why did it take that many years to get there. Incredible to hear something one once intended to hear and thought never, ever to retrieve. Legal issues and liabilities to the side, the pirate kings and youtube have opened up a world of performance that has changed opera going forever.

    • J Anthony Kaye

      It was 1982 -- 2,5,8,10 October to be precise

  • J Anthony Kaye

    It has been clear to Rosalind Plowright, since her MET debut as Kostelnicka in the last performance of Jenufa (where she was covering Debbie Polaski), that someone here at La Cieca was not a fan. To label Miss Plowright “Voiceless” is quite rude, opinionated and totally incorrect. That very night, after Act 2, the conductor Jurowski told Karita Mattila that she had real competition (not very tactful, I know) and in any case the Met then gave Miss Plowright a new production and a revival of Hansel & Gretel in her own right. Perhaps a study of her reviews at Miss Plowright’s website will show that James Jordan is very much in the minority when posting information about Miss Plowright and shows great disrespect to this artist who has been on the stage for almost 40 years. Oh, and for the record, Miss Plowright’s diary is pretty full until summer of 2019.

    • Porgy Amor

      Nevertheless, I am grateful to La Cieca for bringing that article to my attention. I may not have seen it otherwise, and it was fun to read and, as you see, the post started a good discussion of Rosalind Plowright’s career. And that’s what it’s all about. La Cieca is entitled to her likes and dislikes, which we can share or not.