Cher Public

Let me sing a sunny song

Born on this day in 1926 singer and actress Barbara Cook

Born on this day in 1824 librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni.

Born on this day in 1825 composer Johann Strauss Jr.

Born on this day in 1838 composer Georges Bizet.

Born on this day in 1891 conductor Karl Elmendorff.

Born on this day in 1926 soprano Galina Vishnevskaya.

Born on this day in 1926 soprano Anita Välkki.

Born on this day in 1940 soprano Hana Janku.

Happy 75th birthday contralto Ortrun Wenkel.

Born on this day in 1943 tenor Giuliano Ciannella.

On this day in 1995 the stage musical Victor/Victoria opened on Broadway.

  • Satisfied

    Happy hump day, everyone. While surfing the internets, I stumbled upon this article of Herheim’s Wozzeck in Dusseldorf. The video certainly looks really interesting.

    • QuantoPainyFakor

      It would be great to have a discussion about the Warlikowski’s Amsterdam Wozzeck production now available as streaming video on ARTE. It’s really interesting and so beautifully performed.

      • Satisfied

        Thank you for the reminder! It’s one of the few ARTE programs available in the US for free! Link:

        • Camille

          Thanks QPF for the tip and Satisfied for the link. We’ll try to find some time for it in the next couple days. Especially after just having seen Warlikowski’s staging from Opéra de Paris just few days ago, it will possibly be easier to ferret things out.

          Satisfied: I left a link for you for’s concert from last Friday night of Pappano and Argerich with l’Accademia di Santa Cecilia which I highly highly recommend. They made a smashing two nights of music. It was onenof those nights, Friday night!

  • nalasa1

    Cook was certainly one of the greatest singers. What’s always puzzled me is that she claimed to not read music. Yet her tempos and notes were always perfect. How did she do that?

    • Daniel Swick

      Great coaching and an exceptional ear?

    • Rick

      I hope this does not seem arrogant -- but I am always puzzled whey I rear that this and that musician or singer does not read music. How is that possible? I mean, unless one has the equivalent of dyslexia for sheet music or is blind, it is not that difficult to learn to read music. I am not talking about reading a score (as some people can do where they can even hear the music for their inner ear) but about being able to follow a single line/voice, see how long the notes are to be and play the notes of that single line/voice on the piano. Surely a women as intelligent and musical as Ms Cook could do that?

      • Kullervo

        It’s possible if you’re in the 99.9th percentile of natural musical talents and you are supported by collaborators and teachers who are willing to work within your limitations, because you are THAT talented. It’s not like there’s regional level oratorio soloists running around not reading music.

      • Camille

        It’s called an ear, and that’s all there is to it. It’s either there, or it’s not. If it’s not, you go to Juilliard and train in solfège and ear-training. Miss Cook had, from what I remember reading, Leonard Bernstein teach her how to sing Cunegonde’s aria, note by note and phrase by phrase. Very old school.

        As a girl chained to a piano against my will, I rebelled by never learning to READ, and was able to keep up this little charade because each week I’d take home my lesson and have my mother play it through once or twice. I watched her hands and that was it. I would replicate whatever she did, warts and all, at my next lesson.

        I got busted--big-time--when Christmas time rolled around and my mother had no time to play my week’s lessons of Christmas carols. I’ll never forget the shame and humiliation of admitting to my teacher that I couldn’t read. She just stared at me, and sent me home. My mother stared at me and said “no more piano lessons for you!” It was the crime of the century but I didn’t really care as I’d already had my little girl repertory of hits, “Estrellita” and the “Missouri Waltz Song” and my specialty tap dance, the Tarantella!

        A couple years went by and I started back in, with a new teacher and I was promptly put on a note speller. This time around I actually enjoyed learning the notes and did so dutifully and in about two weeks time I could read all the music I’d once winged it through. It was never quite the same, and nor felt quite so much fun as the frisson of my outlaw days as a five and six year old musical rebel.

        I’ve another problem about pitches, too, but that story I’ll save for another day.

      • Nelly della Vittoria

        A fair number of people also say “don’t read music” as shorthand for “not very good at sight-reading” (a problem in many genres, especially if you’re working with a large and confusing orchestration, but not so surprising) rather than “can’t figure it out at the piano, note by note”.

    • Armerjacquino

      I’ve worked with countless MT professionals who couldn’t read music but were nonetheless excellent musicians. If you have a good ear and you can count, the most complicated music is learnable pretty quickly. It’s easier now, of course, as people just record complicated sections or harmonies on their phones so they can bash away at them in their spare time.

  • Brackweaver

    She Loves Me was broadcast on TV a few days ago. Did anyone see it? The way it was filmed made it look at times like a sketch from The Carol Burnett Show.

    • Scott

      I was glad to have seen it, but many of the tempi for the songs felt too fast. Also, as beautifully as Laura Benanti sang, I couldn’t help thinking that she looked more like a fashion model than a store clerk. No way that a woman with those cheekbones would have to resort to a lonely hearts club!

  • chicagoing

    In anticipation of my next opera at LOC, Pearl Fishers, I pulled the CD out of my growing collection. As it did not come complete with a booklet I searched around in vain for the libretto which I assumed I must have already purchased as Pearl Fishers was the beginning of my opera experiences here and I could not believe I did not prepare for it fully. No luck. I then went online to order one only to discover why I did not already have one in the house -- there are almost no options to buy one. Surprising?

  • DerLeiermann

    Barbara Cooks sings from the Hart is my very favorite recording of hers. I love her phrasing, the clear voice, the arrangements are beautiful and supporting. It was my very first introduction to the great american songbook and I hold it in great esteem after all these years.
    I was very sad when I learned about her passing not too long ago.

  • Armerjacquino

    Wait, Vishnevskaya and Cook were born on the exact same day? I LOVE THAT, as much as I would have loved Galya’s Sally Durrant Plummer or Barbara’s Tatyana.

  • mrw

    I know this is rather late, but did anyone see Marina Rebeka’s Norma at the Met last week? I haven’t seen any comments on it here, and would love to hear some opinions.

    • Camille

      Yes I did.

      And so did Nelly della Vittoria, who was also on her/his way there but havent heard a peep from her/him either yet.

      I’ve a bit to say but just no time at present and will be back later about it all, hopefully after Nelly resurfaces.

      • Nelly della Vittoria

        Pardon, master / I will be correspondent to command / And do my spiriting gently!

        I don’t know how many thoughts I have on the matter — too much talk in the world about Norma, and how many times has anyone ever actually seen it done with any accuracy? But I thought I was quite happy to have seen Marina rather than Sondra (whom I don’t mean to sledge, but I saw the Anna Bolena she did two seasons ago and that opera, like this one, lives or dies by the ease with which the two soprani can make passion of precision; seeing it, I’d thought it was a bad omen for her Norma, overall). Anyway, MR seemed in excellent voice, and made much of the florid music in the first act (Ah bello; Ah, si, fa cuore, abbracciami…). Some things didn’t come off for her, vocally or dramatically: the crucial opening bars of the first-act outburst “No, non tremare!” (In acting as in singing she seemed more comfortable with a crescendo than a surprise fortissimo out of nowhere--but god, it’s hard music for anyone) and then in the second-act “In mia man” there were some disappearing low notes in places where they count for a lot (but this afflicts 9 Normas out of 10, and the 10th usually can’t sing Act 1). I did think — and I’m a big old partisan so you can discount what I say, though I’m obviously right — how much “better” than everyone else on stage Joyce was the moment Adalgisa opened her mouth. For all that her voice is moving awkwardly down the scale now (7 years ago, in concert with Gruberova, she took the high Cs in both duets; this time she stayed well away from them) and less inherently glamorous than Marina’s or Joseph Calleja’s (No ornaments from him — boo! — but what a classic timbre!), she was arresting and indelible as MR simply was not. The rapt specificity of her utterance, every word arriving as if discovered in the trembling moment, the fine and still finer distinctions with which she makes the shapes of phrases; sometimes — not always — even in routine productions, she makes me want to say, “Stop everything else, stop everyone at once: at last here’s someone who is Someone.”

        • Camille

          Nell!!! I have to beim Schlafgehen! C U tomorrow for all the goodies. In all, I thought she was the reincarnation of Giulia Grisi and did a very good and ethical job of it.

          A domani, NelldVitt!!!!

        • Camille

          Nelly carissima/mo

          Alas, I know no Shakespeare so I went and looked up your quote and have this much to say:

          “Do so, and after two days
          I will discharge thee”

          So far as the cabaletta, the intricate quasi-arabo style incantatory ululations on ‘senza vel’ in the aria, all done on one breath(!), the staccati in the duets with the Joycester and their gracious melded unison, her general deportment on stage (from where I was seated in score desk it was not much, and as I purposefully did NOT want to see the production another time), were all fine and a credit to the character of Norma. She only let me down in the final three numbers, starting where I had most anticipated it with ‘In mia man’. That lack, plus the continuous swelling on the top Cs, for lack of other emphasis
          and which turned shrieky at the last, made for a less effective and successful characterization BUT--this was in a theatre of monstrous size. In a theatre half this size and which would still be considered large, I conjecture she will portray Norma with more of an overarching and overwhelming impact. What I did admire was that she did not try to create a fake chest register for phoney impact. If she continues to sing it smoothly and well, and in a smaller venue, it may very well develop into a lot more. One hopes. I do like her a lot because

          About your gal, the Joycester, I had one major thought--she was so expressive with the text--and in a way one hears infrequently from singers and particularly those of American extract. It really shocked me, the first time she sang “Vieni, ei dicea…et seq….”. I would have thought she was italiana! Although she seemed very in earnest to hold her own against the big guns of the Radvan, she was still on full-tilt with Marina, which slightly inundated the much gentler druidessa. I could finally hear and see the merits of the Joyce and understand her fandulation. She makes something of very little and reminds me of my Kansan grandmother whose motto, among others, was “We’ll make do”. Indeed!

          Nelly, I have to telly U this: quite a number of years ago I actually saw your image in a travelling show at the Met Museum of Art and I must telly you that the impact of this grand scaled portrait was imperiously overwhelming and most impressively scary as well as testament to Mrs Terry’s ability. I loved it. As I do you. Must run.

          • Nelly della Vittoria

            I thought so too, about the Cs and the interpolated D at the end of the trio, and such: that as some dramatic force was being lost below the staff, the notes above it were being made to do double-duty. But I know she’s hardly unusual in this, and that this is how a lighter-voiced or higher-set singer copes with this music in the airplane-hangar-sized Met. And hey, it’s not as if she did measures-long rewrites upward, as several singers in fairly recent memory did in this rep, if not in supposed-sacred Norma. Also — it sounds like so little to praise MR for accurate fioriture (shouldn’t this be a standard professional requirement? for lazy men as well as thankless women? etc. etc. ad nauseam; you know this tune I sing) — but if you consider how many people have decided it’s a good idea to sign up for Norma first and learn how to sing a descending scale later…

            Camille, très chère, I don’t know if you know this, but they actually had the Sargent paintings on loan at the Met again in 2015, which is when I first saw this famous image of Mrs Terry in the flesh! I mean, in the oils. I’d always loved it too--like young Josie in Jo’s Boys I am no Mrs Terry but have grown up my whole damn girlhood and manhood practising my who-would’ve-thought-the-old-man-to’ve-had-so-much-blood-in-hims for my never-to-be-had triumph as Lady McB!

            They also had his portrait of mustachioed Dr Pozzi in the robe-as-red as sin, a painting whose working title I believe was Shmexy McNightgown: if you were at this gallery you will have seen me before it, unknowing, the small, brown, goblin-personage fanning itself in a flutter.

  • Camille

    I had the privilege of hearing Barbara Cook three times and always was surprised and gratified by what she had to offer. The last concert (at Carnegie Hall about four years ago) she was clearly waning and I knew it would be the last one I’d see her in. Susie Graham came on stage that night and sang for her “There were bells on the hills…” and gave the sweetest little admiring speech to her about how she listened to her back home in Texas or New Mexico or wherever the hell it was.

    Then, I’d heard her, in Santa Barbara at the Granada Theatre on State Street, in 2008, when she was still in great form, ruthlessly stealing the limelight from Marilyn Horne, who sat there with the look on her face that said “this is what happens when I’m on stage with soprano cluckaturas”.

    And my introduction was early in this millennium, and when she was already old and shoulda been retired, like any other decent woman, she was STILL out there and way out there being in love with music and her chansons and performing and that stage, that wonderful, wonderful stage, where just the other night one could hear Renée Fleming sing her song “There were bells on the hills but I never heard them singing…”, just like her friend Miss Susie had a few years back, remembering Miss Cook and the kindnesses she had paid RF, the encouraging words of advice. She is missed and it isn’t really clear that she has a successor. Or maybe she was one of a kind. Yeah, I guess so.

  • chicagoing

    Did anyone see the item in the NY Times on Wednesday, about the former theater agent who was sentenced to jail for bilking investors out of hundreds of thousand dollars in conjunction with a scheme to back a nonexistent play on Broadway? He told associates that , “he had secured the rights to the life story of Kathleen Battle… and was going to produce a one-woman play called “The Kathleen Battle Project” starring Lupita Nyong’o.”