Cher Public

Scream and scream again

Leonie RysanekBorn on this day in 1926 soprano Leonie Rysanek.  

Born on this date in 1774 composer Gaspare Spontini.

Born on this day in 1896 tenor Kálmán Pataky.

Born on this day in 1900 composer Aaron Copland.

On this date in 1908 Oscar Strauss‘ operetta Der tapfere Soldat premiered in Vienna.

Born on this day in 1914 opera librettist Eric Crozier.

Born on this day in 1918 contralto Jean Madeira.

Born on this day in 1919 soprano Lisa Otto.

Happy 70th birthday baritone Jake Gardner.

  • Leontiny

    Completely off topic. Please forgive.
    A friend has an extra ticket for the 5pm Barbara Hannigan Satie recital at the Armory, Saturday Nov 18, with the fabulous Reinbert de Leeuw. If that would interest you email me at and I’ll put you in touch. If this Satie recital is anything like the recent 20th century Viennese school they gave it will be a memorable occasion.

  • Dan Patterson

    The great Leonie, how I miss that woman! A spellbinding singer, and I feel so lucky to have seen in so much. Many moments with her are truly emblazoned in my memory.

  • Christian Ocier

    Jean Madeira!!! A stunningly beautiful contralto with a smoky, rich, and deeply communicative instrument! In the Ring Cycle, few bettered her at Erda, Fricka, and Waltraute--what a shame that she was not asked to reprise her role as the Ur-Wala in the Solti Siegfried. She was a very underappreciated artist despite her great talent.

    • agh1

      How true. She was a lovely singer and a great artist. I heard her as Erda and Fricka, in Ring cycles conducted by Kempe and Karajan, and as Magdalena. Typically her first 1956 ROH appearance as Erda was hailed by crirics as ‘paticularly fine’, ‘vocally splendid … she projected her voice from far upstage into the house with amplitude of tone’, ‘impressive for the striking colour of her fine contralto voice’. The last time I heard her was as Fricka in what on paper was an all-time great Walkuere cast: Nilsson, Crespin, Madeira, Vickers and Hotter. Alas, Nilsson dropped out, but her replacement Grob-Prandl was, as WCO recently reminded us, no mean substitute, (Inded, it was this Brunnhilde that I thought suited Nilsson’s voice least well: other singers, such as Varnay could make much more of the great second act encounter with Siegmund.) That Jean Madeira died so young was a great loss for opera and its audiences.

      • Christian Ocier

        How fortunate you are to have lived during a time when such giants roamed the stage! I can’t even imagine any singer today who could match Gertrude Grob-Prandl’s solid technique and ample volume--and she was the replacement Brunhilde! I’ve always wished that her Tristan from La Scala with de Sabata was recorded in better sound and with fewer cuts--her Isolde is thrilling and alluring, and truly Viennese in its rich tone. That Walkure must have been splendid--was this performed during the late 50s? I know that HvK had cast a very similar group of singers (, Rysanek, Hotter, Nilsson, Madeira) at La Scala and Vienna when he was the musical director.

        Madeira’s voice possessed so much character and color, and her sense of line and enunciation always contributed to the propulsion of the drama. She also had a remarkably large repertory, encompassing Strauss, Wagner, and Verdi, French opera, Puccini, and verismo. For me, it was Wagner where her artistry was most evident. Her alto work in the 1956 Knappertsbusch Ring is irreplaceable--few other low female voices have captured Erda’s urgency and complexity as she did, and her Waltraute is no slouch either. Easily ranks among the best, which includes the work of Ludwig and Meier. Her last Klytamnestra with Nilsson and Bohm was a remarkable document--months later, she was dead. How I wish she had lived longer to essay the Amme, Kundry, and Ortrud, but maybe not Kundry since the role lies a bit high. I think in later decades, only Mignon Dunn would equal Madeira in terms of the artistry she brought to her performances. Both singers to me represent the finest of the American operatic tradition, and how I wish we had another one like them today.

        • agh1

          The performane I referred to took place in Vienna in September 1961 with Karajan conducting -- the first time that Grob-Prandl had sung the part under him. I had heard her as Venus two years earlier on my first visit to Vienna -- with none other than Nilsson as Elisabeth! I never heard Suthaus on stage, but he did sing the first act Siegmund with Barbirolli and the Halle orchestra in my student days. It was my first encounter with a genuine Heldentenor and so I had no comparisons to make; I could only marvel at the sound he produced.

        • southerndoc1

          “how I wish we had another one like them today”

          If Barton fulfills her potential . . .

          • Christian Ocier

            Barton is a promising artist (her Jezibaba was fun), maybe Blythe if she had been more involved years ago.

          • Kedem Frühling Horowitz Berger

            Barton is a fine artist and has a wonderful voice, alas no metal in the sound. So I think the big Italian mezzo music is not for her. You can hear it in her various O don fatales -- it’s not a question of the voice ‘growing up’, it’s just wrong for her. Lied, German low mezzo roles (definitely not Ortrud or Venus or Kundry or the Strauss Hosenrollen), and if she has the coloratura, the butch mezzo roles in Italian baroque and Rossini.

            • fletcher

              I meant to comment on this a while back when people were speculating on Barton’s future -- everyone seemed to want her in their own favorite rep: so some are thinking Azucena and Eboli, others Fricka and Brangäne (or Erda and Klytämnestra), and here I am thinking Didon and especially Dalila (can you IMAGINE the ‘Printemps qui commence’…!).

            • Or maybe Phèdre in Hippolyte et Aricie.

            • fletcher

              “Et le temple et l’autel vont tomber à ma voix !” yes yes yes

            • fletcher

              I actually think she’d be amazing as Cybèle if anyone ever wanted to bring my favorite Atys back -- it’s such a good role with so many sly moments -- and I think you’re right that the French baroque has a lot of great queen / goddess roles she could mine (also Circé, Armide, Médée…) rather than something like Tancredi.

            • Do you think Villégier’s famous production has perhaps “killed” Atys for some years?

            • fletcher

              I do! It’s such a fabulous opera, it deserves more outings and I think the scenario is regie-ready. I love that Villégier production and the Christie record with Laurens, but it’s ripe for more exploration. I personally find French baroque stuff FAR more accessible than Handel, but I may be alone on that.

            • Händel is undeniably one of my favourites, but Rameau is even more so, so…

            • Christian Ocier

              Do you think Barton’s voice more closely resembles Horne’s in quality?

            • fletcher


              In this clip, yes, I hear a lot of similarities, but to me it’s a more voluptuous, feminine tone ideal for roles like Dalila, Léonor, or the Damnation Marguerite. We’ll see though! I hope she sings what she likes and feels most comfortable with and hopefully surprises us. And hopefully visits poor LA more frequently!

            • Camille

              Wasn’t it Didon’s “Adieu, fière cité” she sang as a part of her win at Cardiff? I belive she did and agree she would be a magnificent Didon. She resembles one of the earlier interpreters of the role — go take a look — I can’t remember her name at the moment but it starts with “D”. sowwwry

            • fletcher

              Maybe, but I remember her singing that at a Richard Tucker gala and it was exquisite!!

            • Lohenfal

              Marie Delna???

            • Camille

              I do not know what is going on with “O don fatale” as I’ve not listened to her as I feel she is miscast therein,
              However, I’ve heard her essay three belcanto seconda donna roles, to wit Giovanna Seymour with its murderous high tessitur in the final cabaletta, a fine Adalgisa in which she took all the written Cs, and as Agnese del Maino in Beatrice di Tenda, another rather high tessitura. She displayed great control of technical means in all three but little, as yet, stage savvy or aptitude. She has the timbre to sing Wagner as well but hope she doesn’t confine herself thereto so as to lose her flexibility. She sounds like a mezzosoprano to me and not a contralto, for the manner in which she takes her high notes. She is, of course, hampered by the figura she has on stage but that can be dealt with by a variety of means. More experience being one.

          • Kedem Frühling Horowitz Berger

            She will, of course, sing the main 19th Italian rep for mezzo, because there’s nobody else to sing it nowadays. So the velvety quality will be ruined in 5 years, and the tonal centre will go.

            • agh1

              Christian rightly referred to the singers I mentioned as giants. But there were also minnows around in those days. The Tannhauser singimg alongside Nilsson and Grob-Prandl was a disaster -- i had never heard of him before and never heard of him afterwards -- not a patch on, say, Botha. Hans Braun the Wolfram was reasonable but not in the same class as Gerhaher (or, I must admit, Fischer-Dieskau). Greindl, the Landgraf, had a great reputation, but I always preferred Frick and Boehme at that time -- and we are not without great basses today. True I was fortunate to hear some great singers in the ’50s and ’60s, particularly in Wagner, but today we can hear and enjoy specialists in ‘bel-canto’ and baroque operas which were largely ignored then. Nevertheless, it still would be good to have another Flagstad, Nilsson or Grob-Prandl!

            • Christian Ocier

              Botha was certainly a remarkable tenor--his Parsifal from Salzburg and his Siegmund from Bayreuth attest to his remarkable skill. I wouldn’t say that we are currently experiencing a dearth of great Wagnerians either. The basses today and of the last two decades are just as potent and interesting as any artist who may have made their careers after the war. Georg Zeppenfeld, Gunther Groissbock, and Stephen Milling don’t fall short of the standards set by the likes of the Bayreuth greats. Michael Volle, Matthias Goerne, and Gerhaher come to mind as remarkable baritones. I’m less happy about the pushed-up mezzos like Petra Lang and Linda Watson, but there are other singers in recent years who have delivered the goods in that rep (Christine Goerke (who is a bit Varnay esque) and Elena Pankratova, who reminds me at times of Grob-Prandl). I know that some people dislike Stemme, but I hold her in the highest esteem and find her artistically and vocally compelling. Interesting mezzos in German rep have also begun the prime years of their career (Michelle Breedt, Marina Prudenskaya, Claudia Mahnke, the amazing Christa Mayer, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner). And one should watch out for Lise Davidsen’s career. She won the operalia competition in 2015, and will be singing Freia, Third Norn, and (I believe) Gutrune in the Pappano Ring next fall. There’s a golden age quality to that voice I haven’t heard in many recent singers. Tenors? I love Andreas Schager’s Wagner work--he’s a wonderful musician with a lovely voice. Let’s not forget Stuart Skelton and Stephen Gould (one of the best and most musical Tristan’s in recorded history).

              The problem I think with artists like Nilsson or Flagstad is that even they were atypical of their breed. These were true singularities in the history of opera. Who else before her, today, or in the future would possess Nilsson’s remarkable comfort in the high register will brandishing her instrument with that gleam and power? Who else has a homogeneous and powerful voice in the vein of Flagstad? And Melchior, who isn’t my favorite Wagnerian tenor, represented another singularity. All the other artists who made their careers during that period did not have Melchior’s vocal endowment. Most tenors were more similar to the Set Svanholm or Gunther Treptow mould.

              I don’t think the German rep is wanting for excellent singers today--we’ve recovered from that horrible drought, and are richer for the many interesting artists that will soon carry this repertory into the future.

              The area where I am actually most concerned about is the Italian standard repertory. I don’t think I’ve heard any new singers whose voices make one recall the kind of tradition that belonged to the singers of the 60s to the 80s.

            • Kedem Frühling Horowitz Berger

              …and let’s not forget two Brunnhildes who blazed for a short while and were very good -- Irene Theorin and Jennifer Wilson, who sang a real golden-age Brunnhilde for Mehta. I saw her live in Gurrelieder and the voice was astoundingly beautiful and pure. And Rachel Willis-Sorensen is a very promising singer, the voice definitely sounds Hochdramatisch to me.


            • Kedem Frühling Horowitz Berger

              If you’re unfamiliar with Wilson’s battle cry… really the most perfect imaginable since I don’t know who…

            • Christian Ocier

              Jennifer Wilson’s career was one of the big administrative blunders of the operatic world in the last two decades. She possesses a golden instrument (like Traubel with a top) and to this day I wonder why more houses didn’t engage her for the important roles. From a vocal standpoint, she was truly impressive, but I found that her interaction with the text and character (except Turandot) fell a little flat. Probably because she wasn’t given much opportunity to actually experience these roles onstage. Singers need the stage to mature as artists. I think Varnay’s Brunnhildes in Bayreuth during the 50s were already mature characters because she’d been singing the roles for a decade. When Nilsson sang her first of Wagner’s big girls, I didn’t think she brought as much interesting nuances to the roles as a decade later when Wieland shaped her understanding of character. So had Wilson been given more jobs, I think she would have soared in this rep.

              Irene Theorin to me is a bit mixed in Wagner. I liked her Elektra a lot, but was less moved by her Gott Brunnhilde. A wonderful singer all the same, but there are some roles of hers where I feel like I’m missing something.

              Rachel Willis Sorensen is indeed a wonderful singer. When I heard her Dich Teure Halle from the 2014 Operalia, I felt like the voice was just splendid. Rich in the middle, gorgeous colors, but the production seemed a bit heavy on top. She seemed to have the problem typical for most real (i.e. non Birgit) dramatics--great middle, uneasy top. But, she seems to be doing roles right now that might be instrumental for developing that top half of her voice, so I’m interested to see where she takes that.

            • Camille

              Ah, let me say that I found her Mehta conducted Brünnhilde exceptional and I haven’t any idea why her career has gone how it has gone — EXCEPT THIS —

              I did go and hear her lone Metropolitan Opera outing as Turandot, and, for whatEVER reason it was, it just did not make anywhere near the same impression, nor did it make the impression of some kind of a great lost star of from another nebulæ and which impact it likely would have had, in order to launch a late career at the Met; this was in the fall of 2015. I felt she did not engage with the character or the words, the voice was not let out sufficiently nor in the same way as the portions heard before on Youtube. That could have been nerves, (entirely understandable), or lack of experience on the stage at the Met, (also understandable_, or she was “ILL” that day, also possible.

              I was absolutely crestfallen, but it was what it was , and you may read the review Mr Corwin left on the pages of parterre, which says the same but only to a far greater degree of specificity. I cannot express how sorry I am she has not been able to make a career here as was similar with Christine Brewer, the once great future Brünnhilde….

              So far as Rachel Willis-Sorensen, I’ve heard her once, corseted into the Countess in Nozze, and felt she was being strangulated by the role. It was nowhere as free as that example of “Dich teure Halle”. e.g.

              The one upon I’ve trained my ears upon is now the young and really talented Lise Davidsen, of whom I’ve heard some bits from Medea, done just last month at Wexford, apparently, and this one has really got it in spades, I think, and so far, so good. Time will only tell what happens to whom and who wins the race. It rarely happens that the best man wins….

            • Christian Ocier

              Lise Davidsen--a future Flagstad don’t you think? I’m seeing her play Freia, Third Norn, and possibly Gutrune in London next September!

            • Camille

              She is the future Davidsen as each artist is totally unique as their own fingerprint.

              Sure, there is a similarity in the middle voice, that noble deeper plummy sound which seems to emanate from the fjords and pine groves, and which Flagstad had in her later incarnation, the one in which most of us know her by — but never forget — Flagstad, noble Wagnerian she was, started out singing Nuri in that potboiler TIefland, and then sang plenty of Puccini, including Magda and Minnie(!), and a hoard of other lighter and spinto roles, ere she touched the big Wagnerian ones.

              Miss Davidsen is starting out young with these roles but I really hear no reason why not, according to the sounds she is making at this time. I wish her all the luck and good fortune in the world and may she preserve her sovereign qualities. I hope she will be the next great one, but one never, ever knows. do give us a report on her from London in that production!

            • Christian Ocier

              I wish her all the best as well. The hochdramatische fach will be much richer during the next two decades if she is able to sustain her vocal riches and build upon her artistry.

              There exist very few dramatic sopranos who give me a tingling sensation when first listen to them on record. The greats of course (KF, AV, and BN) struck me for the immediacy and vastness of their voices, as well as the humanity they brought to their art. Before I heard Davidsen, the last person who gave me that tingle was Nina Stemme, back in 2003 or 2004 when I heard her on the radio. Her career as dramatic soprano was ascendant then, and she has given us so much since. I hope that the same tingle I got about Davidsen means that she will be around to sing these great roles for a very long time.

            • Christian Ocier

              Agreed. In an ideal world, no singer of any era should be scrutinized via a comparative exercise between Legend X vs. Legend Y and current said singer. Voices are far too individual of an instrument for that to yield any fruit. All of the greatest singers carved their places into history by finding their own artistry, their own voice. Today’s young singers should be allowed by the public to do the same, although comparisons with the past will always be inevitable due to the presence of recordings.

              However, the similarities of her instrument to that old, noble Scandinavian archetype is just uncanny. Her Dich Teure Halle in that Operalia clip made me reminisce about those old Met broadcasts that featured the talents of the Traubels, Flagstads, and Varnays. I was aware that Scandinavian conservatories were mining grounds for great modern Wagner talent (Timo Riihonen is another, but he needs to learn how to phrase and act better), but I never thought I would hear a voice like Davidsen again. Where Stemme for me recalled shadows of the colorful, expressive vocalism of Frida Leider and Nanny, Davidsen brought memories of Flagstad. What a treat to have two great sopranos in that fach come within a short time span of the other.

              I’m curious to know how tall the Rheingold giants will be in this incarnation of the Warner production. Ms. Davidsen stands at a very statuesque, helden-like 6’2″, and it would seem awkward to have shorter basses cart her Freia away to Riesenheim.

            • Christian Ocier

              I imagine that Wilson’s issues stem from the idiosyncrasies of her voice’s evolution. On record, it sounds rich and substantial, but I’ve heard many singers who exude amplitude on the microphone and would sound much less compelling in the house. Jonas Kaufmann is one such artist--in Chicago, when he essayed Des Grieux beside Natalie Dessay, I was surprised when Natalie was better able to project into the Civic Opera House’s middling acoustic. Wilson’s voice may have an immediacy and a power that is apparent when recorded, but the focus may not be there.

            • Camille

              La Dessay had a voice that “TRAVELLED”, as they say in theatrical Italian parlance, “voci che corrano”. I don’t know how she managed it, but she did, and it was quite surprising, and this is talking early on, in 1997.

              I don’t know about the projection factor of Wilson’s voice, and I was in the balcony seated well in front where ordinarily there are no problems. To me, it was more a factor that she was uncomfortable in the house, and what with dealing with that gargantuan booby trap of a set and not to mention that overwhelming costume, well give the lady a break! No matter. It is over now and I doubt she will return, and of that I am sorry.

            • Christian Ocier

              I just read Christopher Corwin’s review, encountered some of Albert’s colorful comments and felt a bit crestfallen afterwards. This world truly has lost one of the vocal art’s most humorous and incisive observers.

            • Camille

              Amen to that. I must re-read.

              Let’s hope Lise is smart enough, able enough, canny enough, and LUCkY enough to walk through the fire and not be burned by it. Been a long while I havent heard a voice like hers. Fingers crossed over heart

            • Bill

              Camille -- Davidsen makes her debut at the
              Vienna State Opera later in November as Ariadne and that will tell us something, a larger house than at Glyndebourne where she essayed Ariadne this summer. She certainly sounds impressive in the few Utube
              extracts available to us -- a very rich Flagstad
              type sound in the middle and seemingly
              no register breaks, or unwelcome vibrato.
              I wanted to be in Vienna at that time
              (6 Richard Strauss operas within less than a month with Capriccio to come later) but it has not worked out. It is true that Flagstad
              began with Nuri and sang many performances of Kalman Operettas ( not so easy to sing as one might imagine) and took her time to getting into heavier Wagnerian roles). Nilsson first came to Vienna in 1954 with single performancws of Sieglinde, Senta, Aida, Elsa, and Elisabeth and then was engaged for Isolde the next season, Bruennhilde a few years later. Davidsen’s voice as heard on
              Utube is less steely than that of Nilsson,
              and volume is hard to determine as some things are done with the piano or in seemingly smaller venues. Time will tell

            • Camille

              Righto, but well, I still do HOPE you will make it there to hear the Strauss and write us a full report. Perhaps something in your equasion will change for the positive.

              And yes, Vienna is a lot bigger than Glyndebourne but still not as big as the maw of the mighty Met. And one never knows from one theatre to the next how a voice will travel therein. Yes, it amuses me to hear Birgit as Ortlinde I believe on an old Bayreuth recording. Oh Bill! That reminds me--I have an antique programme from Bayreuth from the thirties, one from Götterdämerung in which Gutrune was no less than Flagstad (I bought it from an antiquarian in Holland so it’s genuine). Are there collectors of this type of thing --oh well, guess I shall search the internet for buyers of musical paraphenalia. Probably worth something to someONE!!

              Keep on running! Good for the joints!

            • Christian Ocier

              I’ll report to you how she deals with the smaller Ring parts go in 10 months!

              Bill, you’ve experienced many great singers in your rich opera going life. For a house like the Met, do you think that metallic quality is necessary for sopranos to carry into a hall?

            • Camille

              His Tannhauser, to which I went four times, was golden age and gigantic, too, in both senses of the word.

              I bitterly bitterly regret the loss of his potentially great Tristan.

        • MisterSnow

          Both Madeira and Dunn -and Nell Rankin -were students of the great Swedish contralto Karin Branzell. Quite a legacy!

          • Christian Ocier

            I admire Karin Branzell’s work from the old Met Wagner recordings. She and Kerstin Thorborg brought so much authority and personality to those roles while sharing the stage with the great sopranos and tenors of the age. It makes sense now where those three great singers inherited their vocal instruction! I do see the parallels between their art of declamation, their ability to generate power volume while still maintaining a very parlando singing style, their vocal color palette. Hopefully Mignon Dunn is passing the torch to her current crop of students! This art cannot be lost to history.