Cher Public

Plucked her eyebrows on the way

“Of course, they were all drunk and high and would’ve loved a French poodle barking out Jingle Bells!”

Born on this day in 1946 actress Holly Woodlawn

Born on this day in 1797 soprano Giuditta Pasta.

Born on this day in 1897 soprano Tiana Lemnitz.

Born on this day in 1911 singer Mahalia Jackson.

Happy 42nd birthday countertenor Ivo Posti.

  • Donna Annina

    Two years into his contract with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (2015), Louis Langrée launched a three-year project devoted to Pélleas et Mélisande, beginning with Schoenberg’s orchestral suite, a reading of the Maeterlinck played accompanied by Fauré’s complete incidental music last year, and this past weekend, a staged performance of Debussy’s opera, a co-presentation with Cincinnati Opera. Langrée led an acclaimed production in Paris and he has frequently spoken of his affinity for and understanding of Pélleas. It was well worth waiting for; this was simply one of the most completely satisfying performances I’ve attended: exquisite orchestral work from the CSO, mostly splendid singing and a staging by James Darrah that was perfectly in sync with Langrée’s insistence that less is more.
    Two weeks ago, the CSO returned to its home base in Music Hall, which has been renovated with fewer (and more comfortable) seats and greatly improved acoustics. This was the first time to hear voices with orchestra in the renovated hall and vocals had more presence and clarity than before. The orchestra is now fully in front of the proscenium by means of hydraulic stage lifts that allowed the musicians to be surrounded by the action (and no, Debussy’s orchestral positionings weren’t used): a platform behind the orchestra, staircases on either side leading to a passerelle. Projections and effective lighting suggested the natural world, from lagoon to moonlit night.
    Phillip Addis sang Pélleas with fluid ease and lovely plaintive tone, as well as impeccable diction. Every phrase was beautifully articulated. Naomi O’Connell was an ideal Mélisande, at once captivating and enigmatic, her expressive mezzo conveying an essential honesty in Mélisande’s mood shifts. Brian Mulligan was a newcomer for me and do I ever want to hear more from him. A big man with a voice to match, he embodied Golaud’s turmoil and violence with a powerful performance. My only quibble on the vocal side was Chloé Briot as le petit Yniold. Casting a woman in this role has been discussed on parterre and I’m not opposed to it but Ms. Briot didn’t make the case, singing with a wide, wobbly vibrato that she managed to rein in only toward the end of her scene.
    The true star was the CSO, delivering a luminous, marvelously expressive reading of Debussy’s score under Langrée’s direction. Speaking to the audience before the performance began, the maestro said that all the action is conveyed in the music, “even the water’s movement and the cavern depths.” He conducted with the balletic grace of a danseur noble that never interfered with the staging. It was pure pleasure to hear.
    James Darrah finally got it right, after major missteps in the previous two Pélleas installments. Movement was never exaggerated nor was anything else. Mélisande wasn’t in a tower and Ms. O’Connell sported her own shoulder-length hair brown hair. As Debussy intended, the music led the action.
    Up until last Friday evening, Pélleas et Mélisande didn’t rank among my favorite operas. It just takes one perfect performance to change one’s mind, and this was it. BTW, Camille—this will be broadcast on WGUC later in the spring. I promise to alert you when it’s on.

    • Camille

      Oh, this is SUCH good news and am so appreciative of it, too! It sounds like the utmost care and LOVE from Mo. Langrée was invested into it all, and this being such a sensitive, delicate sound world to conjure up, so much depends upon the “Less is more” aspect and a golden mean being found.

      Thank you so much! I am so happy for you and for the new renovated hall being a success. Lucky you! Here we have AveryFisher/David Geffen, and which may never see the end of renovation wrangling.

      Merci bien!!!

      • Donna Annina

        At the pre-performance talk, Mo. Langree asked how many in the audience were hearing Pelleas for the first time. He said, “I envy you.” (Calls to mind Truffaut in “Close Encounters…) but for me, it was as if I were hearing it for the first time.
        I forgot to mention that Akustiks, the company that redid the sound for Music Hall, was/is contracted for Geffen Hall. If anyone can make it work, they can. Et pas de quoi.

        • Camille

          “If anyone can make it work”…just last week I heard some announcement or read something somewhere that the whole operation was not going forward, for the moment. At least the foyer is no longer the homeless shelter it was turning into. That’s a start.

          Will look forward so much to hearing this some time when spring breaks through again. In the meantime I’m gonna download a score. Thanks again!

          • Donna Annina

            Zut alors--I see that Rolando Villazon is scheduled to sing Pelleas in Berlin next spring. If he shows up, I hope he keeps his manic stage presence under control.

            • Nelly della Vittoria

              I hope he keeps his manic stage presence under control.

              This is a very chic new way of saying “eyebrows” and I approve!

            • Camille

              If he can keep his manic eyebrows under control, that’s all I’ll ask.

            • Donna Annina

              Verrons…..

  • Betsy_Ann_Bobolink

    YigeLi . . . . My gratitude for the Rigoletto from Chicago.

    I respond here by default, inasmuch as the regular avenues are closed to me.

  • On the way to the Queens Ed Koch Bridge……
    one evening..I see a travel agency store that said, “La Puma.” I just cracked up, thinking of that hilarious opera copany of the sixties, headed by Josephine La Puma, mother of Met coach Alberta Masiello ( a sort of well-kept secret.). I half expected the great cult soprano Olive Middleton to exit, singing (around age 75) one of her (in) famous arias.
    For those of you who wish to sample examples of this groups. go to “Days and Nights of La Puma” or just “La Puma Opera” on Youtube.
    Some of you already know of this SERIOUS company that used to cause us to hold hankies (Big Pavarotti ones) over our faces or make sure we had a generous supply of DEPENDS on hand. No one here can imagine what it was like to witness what we witnessed, so I will outline a summary of some of what we saw, and if you go to Youtube, you will know I am not in any way exaggerating. Get the Depends ready..here I go:
    It was a Junior High School on West End Avenue, with great scenery (a table), and our first experience was the baritone, Amerigo Iorio (nice opera name) getting up on the table to sing the act one Otello Brindisi, and FALLING OFF THE TABLE!
    We informed all our friends that,since it was summer, and we were starved for opera, they MUST come. (BTW Olive Middleton, their leading diva, who had a career as Olive Townsend in the 1620’s..I mean 1920’s, became a cult figure and I understand some Met singers attended her shows. I met her once at a Milanov Gioconda, and she was so thrilled we treated her like a great diva.
    They accepted volunteer contributions and you could sign a book as a visitor. Imagine the names I used!!!!!!!!
    OK…Here is an outline of what I saw:
    1. Aida chorister with WRISTWATCH! (Memphis Standard time???)
    2. Faust prompter offstage SCREAMING the words
    3. OIlve act One Walkure w.Flashlight…well,it is dark..and Walkyries with music on their shields.
    4. Pagliacci..Nedda did not know the music after her aria..Tonio comes in…and has to leave.
    5. Sacristan shakes his ass in time with his entrance music.
    6. Mme.La Puma announced: “Barnaba ees seeck so no Gioconda..so we do Tristan!!!”
    7. Norma (on tape) Olive tries to ring the gong..Keeps trying..Finally does it…and big cheers!
    8. Ernani ..Silva says, “Entrano miei fidi cavlieri!” One old guy with a stupid beret enters.

    9.. My last perf..Fear of future bladder trouble. Girl and I get through Don Giovanni till Zerlina and Masetto scene. Leporello “pinched” pesant girl…age about 65 with HUGE white ribbon..lets out an Elektra Geschrei..we ran hysterical out…with a guy yelling, “GET OUT!!!!”

    I did a Coppelius w.another group..we had to hire their chorus..They kept talking backstage..I finally yelled, “Get back to La Puma where you belong!!!!!”
    GELB!!!!! Can’t you form a mini-Puma company??You’ll sell out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!