Cher Public

As if they never said goodbye

Handsome singing by Roberto Alagna and extremely heavy makeup on Barbara Frittoli highlight these excerpts from Adriana Lecouvreur in Monte Carlo. 

  • PCally

    Considering how naturally beautiful Frittoli is, it’s absolutely perverse that someone thought to make her up like that.

  • CCorwinNYC

    The Teatro Colon has announced that Frittoli will do Norma there next November--I can’t imagine.

    • ER

      My initial response was to say “ouch” that is going to be a disaster. But Norma is a role all its own and and it’s hard to predict who will do well in the role. Marina Rebeka is a good recent example who was spectacular despite not having anything close to what one would call a “Norma voice”

      So who knows, Frittoli may be a hit.

      • Camille

        MR has all her voice together and all her marbles and all her technique. She gave an excellent Giulia Grisi-style interpretation of the role and I applauded and lauded her for her take on it AS, it would probably be entirely okay in a regular size theatre and not the Big Behemoth.

        • ER

          what is a Guilia Grisi-style interpretation ?

          • Camille

            Giulia Grisi was the first Adalgisa, to the first Norma of Giuditta Pasta.

            To make a long story short--Pasta’s voice (a weird one and sort of a paragon to Callas from the descriptions I have read in Stendhal (fun guy!) in “Life of Rossini” starting going south by mid-1830s and La Grisi, who was a beautiful young lady (oh she had a sister by the name of Giuditta, too, with whom she used to sing Giulietta to sis’s Romeo in Bellini’s Capuleti e i Montecchi, and HOW WEIRD is THAT?)
            I digress—
            Anyway, around about 1835 or maybe a little earlier, Giulia G. wrote to Bellini asking his blessing to sing Norma and he said pretty categorically that she had to be outta her ever-lovin’ mind. So, foiled! Unfortunately for all the rest of us but fortunately for the ambitious bella Grisi, Bellini up and died in the autumn of 1835, about six months after having been royally received at the Paris Opera for his I Puritani and presented on stage with some kind of a
            medal or award from none less than Gioacchino Rossini. In other words and in modern parlance, he was a “made man”. But I digress again.

            With Bellini conveniently dead, Pasta’s powers playing out, Malibran that headstrong daredevil dying only a year after Bellini did so, and depressed terribly about his demise, well, there was nothing to stand in her way. She got on her sacerdotessa rags, whipped out that mistletoe sickle, and howled at the chaste goddess of the moon with no one, at this point to object. Now, from what I have read, she was a good actress so what she couldn’t convince vocally she did with sleight of hand and a sickle. And eventually, she gathered experience enough to more or less fit herself into the great role. There are some gorgeous pictures of her in the role and her beauty assuredly helped her along.

            Bellini objected to her singing it initially as the voice was wrong, for him, and who should know better than he what effect he wanted? With him and Malibran (who had great success too with the role), she was someone associated with the opera and therefore had more intimate and detailed knowledge of it. That, and her beauty, made her get away with it. Bear in mind she had the roles of Elvira in Puritani and Norina in Don Pasquale written for her voice. Now, those roles are always considered the province of leggiero coloraturas.(PaceM Callas, boys!) Those were written long after her Adalgisa in 1831, in 1835 and 1840-41 I think, respectively.

            Norma is soprano catnip. Like Tosca and several others. The girls can’t help
            It. MR is on the light side but her fioriture her almost all excellent and that counts for anlot in this music. With time and practice and the right theatre, I hope she too will reach Pasta like proportions.

            • ER

              Camille you make me smile with your lovely and detailed responses. Thanks.

      • ruxxy

        What about Reba Mcentire? :)

    • Camille

      Oh NO!!!! Get off the train at Adriana, fritolay! Don’t go the Norma ride to HELL!

      That reminds me, I just found in the rubble a CD of The Gwyneth Jones Norma, and which I’ve never played so imma gonna listen in…

      • Christian Ocier

        YIKES!!! I’ve heard a few tapes and pirates of Jones’ Norma. It’s a painful experience.

        • Camille

          Yes, I’m locating my emergency band-aids and Neosporin as we speak.

          AND—BONUS! The Flavio is Jummy Jonas, PRE Stanley Method as Flavio.

          Should be a merry sleighride tonite!!

        • Camille

          This far I am diggin’ it! “Casta diva” with the heretofore undiscovered but finally recovered by Philip Gossett ‘birdsong obbligato’, in its first ever outing!

          For someone who has shouted out Isolde and Brünnhildes galore it is not a disgrace, TBH. I’ve heard MUCH scarier at the MET, by Mesdames NN.

          • Christian Ocier

            Oh rimembranza was probably my favorite excerpt from that performance (it showed off Jones’ ability to draw her enormous voice back into a lovely shimmer), but the occasional Elektra note sounds very jarring when interspersed between her more delicately controlled singing.

        • La Cieca

          Yes, compared to all those other recordings of artists who performed the heaviest Wagner and Strauss roles for more than three decades and then decided to sing for their own pleasure a single Norma on their 60th birthday, Jones is not nearly as good as…. uh….

          • Christian Ocier

            Not trying to draw any comparisons. Within the context of that occasion, it’s remarkable that she still commanded fluency with bel canto singing. Some of the highest notes sounded raw if I recall (although they were also contrasted by beautiful floated, piano ones), but overall the performance displayed a glimpse of what could have been had she tackled the role earlier on. Her early Verdi disc (and recordings of Aida, Trovatore, Medea, and Otello) was a marvel for the beauty of her voice, her control over dynamics, and her ability to negotiate the more technically driven passages. Some of that shone through in that performance. While I would have liked to have heard a hypothetical Norma from a 70s version of herself, I’d still take her Norma over, let’s say, Jane Eaglen from that period.

            • Bill

              Well Jones did sing Medea complete and that also requires an ability in florid music. I saw Rysanek do Medea in Vienna and was surprised at her ability to tear into the florid parts. Sometimes I was a bit turned off when Jones wobbled (though she did not always) but I do not ever recall that her highest notes ever had a wobble at all -- and I did hear her
              in some evenings when she was in absolutely
              magnificent voice (Ariadne, Dyer’s Wife, Fidelio) and she was really a singer who was committed to what she was doing even when she was not in her best voice.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              Here’s Leonie’s Wiener Staatsoper “Medea” -- it’s only highlights from a complete performance but I believe it contains all of Medea’s music:

    • Nelly della Vittoria

      Announced that she’ll do what? Oh no, no, Barbara, don’t do it!

      • Camille

        Maybe she’ll sing Clotilde, as Dame Gwyn has her OWN DAUgHTEr do on this CD!!!

        • Nelly della Vittoria

          No no no, you are making things up just to make me scream aloud in cafes where people can hear me.

          • Camille

            As Anna Russell, my role model and exemplar sez: “I’m NOT making this up, you know!”

            World of Opera is so weird one doesn’t need to invent anything. Don’t scream, Nelly! Think of England!

            • Nelly della Vittoria

              I’m supposed to be in England in Jan and Feb, so I don’t need reminding. You’ll have to tell me whether Mme. Rachvelishvili is fab. in the Met Trovatore, as I’ll miss it entirely.

            • Camille

              Well, she WILL be on the Listen Live and the Saturday broadcast will she not? I have to see her but I must ich MUSS go see Dolora on Feb 6th do a swansong Azucena (that is, I fear it to be such) so that means I’ll have to see it twice!! Buggers! I will he thinking of Dima the whole time!

          • Camille

            And I quote:

            “To my knowledge, it is Dame Gwyneth Jones’ one and only essay of Norma — a controversial assumption, to be sure, not to everyone’s taste. [Es. Note: the understatement of the century!] good in house sound performed outdoors with the birds chirping and the occasional overhead airplane. Note who is singing Flavio*

            “Clotilde: Susannah Haberfeld (daughter of Gwyneth Jones)
            *Flavio: Jonas Kaufmann”

            OMG-jonas cojones have not yet dropped in this one! That Stanley Method really did transform him from Peter Schreier to Manfred Jung!

            Not bad this far but sounded as if it was recorded from the bottom of someone’s swimming pool. Écoutez! “Norma viene…!”

            • Christian Ocier

              Who’s the NN Norma you had referred to in your previous comment?

              Loved the Peter Schreier to Manfred Jung comment. I’d have to listen to that recording again, since it’s been so long and I probably didn’t know of Jonas’ existence when I first heard it more than ten years ago.

              Jones does conjure a great deal of magic with her characters, even during her later years. I remember listening to the broadcast of Unsuk Chin’s Alice during the premiere, and marveled at the powerful presence she created despite her waning vocal resources. Her Kundry with Boulez is also another great document of her singing at its finest--the broad palette of vocal expression, the dramatically immediate creation of character, the highly musical approach. I think, of all the Wagner characters she ever created onstage, Kundry was her finest, followed by Senta (my favorite Senta), Brunnhilde, and Ortrud. I wasn’t as warm to her Isolde, but maybe that’s because they never really captured her Isolde during her good nights. As a Strauss singer, she was even better--my favorite Marschallin from that Kleiber video, and a phenomenal Elektra and Dyer’s wife. Also the best Fidelio (the Bernstein live recording from Vienna with James King is my favorite; no one else makes as much out of the most important dialogue in Fidelio (O meine Leonore, was hast du fur mich getan? Nichts, nichts, mein Florestan!). Despite the occasional vocal shortcomings, what I always loved about her was that she dedicated herself to her craft, and truly inhabited the roles for which her voice was best tailored.

    • southerndoc1

      Norma Desmond?

    • Frittoli’s voice has been sounding frail for a number of years. A Norma is simply inconceivable!

  • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

    Just snaffled my Bayreuth tickets for 2018 and am due to catch, among others, the last night of the new Lohengrin. Last time I checked, this was due to star Alagna with Anja Harteros and Waltraud Meier. No doubt, being Bayreuth, all this is subject to Veränderung. But the curiosity value alone should make this quite a ride. Alas, no ticket for Domingo conducting Walküre; but hey, “we have the stars”…

    • Camille

      Alagna is going to sing in German, then? Has he ever done so before? My, he really DOES have due palle!

      • Christian Ocier

        Beczala did a magnificent job singing Lohengrin in Dresden last year--there was a Bjorling-esque honeyed ring to the voice. Not quite sure how Alagna will pull off what is likely his first well documented German role, but I’m sure Thielemann will coach him through the part.

    • Christian Ocier

      That sounds so exciting, and with Yuval Sharon’s production too. When Thielemann conducts Lohengrin next summer, I think he will be the first conductor since Hans Richter to have performed all of the ten operas of the Bayreuth canon in Wagner’s house.

  • Camille

    She reminds me of the diva Edmea Tetua from the Fellini movie “E la nave va” from the mid-eighties. Happy to see good old Frito-lay again, she always gave a lot and had those beautifully expressive hands. This must be the train stop where she gets off, as this role she can still accommodate with her shortened top. It’s not called “The Graveyard of the Soprano(s)” in Italy for naught. This one, and Fedora, as well.

    Bobby baby is aging gracefully. The distant gray traces don’t worry him at all, if a little of the velours of the voice has been rubbed too raw. Anticipating next month’s Southern Italian Sunday Gravy already and can hardly wait for Nedda, Santuzza, and Turriddu/Canio to roll into town. Fasten your seatbelts, it’ll be a bumpy ride.

    • ER

      Camille, you write so wittily and beautiful I am in awe.

      Frittoli is begin to sound frayed but still has ample voice and the top is still there. I’d say her train has several stops left before the Adriana station.

      • Camille

        The only explanation is that I have been listening to operas since pre-pubes,and they have succeeded in driving me stark-staring Lucia di Lammermoor OTT mad, for indeed, I know not what I do nor drivel.

        Frittoli is at least intelligent and very able
        on the stage in diverting attention away from some of those honkers on high which she emits. I’ve always regretted not catching her Suor Angelica here--heard it though and the afternoon I did, she was ON.

    • Christian Ocier

      Can you imagine him as Lohengrin next summer?

      • Walraud Riegler


    • Nelly della Vittoria

      You know, the only time I ever saw her live was at one of those ridiculous open-air, sports-field Placido-and-friends events in, of all places, Bombay? Zubin Mehta (a child of Bombay, after all) took Placido, Barbara, the Israel Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim there, and Domingo and Frittoli were given the Brabourne Cricket Stadium and 1000 mics to sing into. It rained and rained and we all wore plastic ponchos and peered blearily out at the distant woman assuring us that she Lived for Art Lived for Love And Never Harmed a Soul WHY GOD WHY.

      • Camille

        HahahahahahHA!!!! OR--

        As Grace Moore was wont to sing.
        “Why have you reNUMBered me, This Waaaaaay” (As Gracie sang riNUMeri for the requisite riMUNeri, haha!)

        That musta been when those two wuz singing Desdemona and Othello, right? She was a good Desdemona and that’s where I first heard her.

        Once upon a time, about a billion years ago, I met Mehli Mehta, and I must say this, a nicer gentleman could not have existed. You could see how fortunate Zubie Baby was to have such a man for father and role model.

        • Nelly della Vittoria

          Oh Camille, tendre soeur que j’ai suivie, errant, seemingly half my young life was spent at the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation or among its people: it’s maybe not so strange that you should have met the man himself, but it does give me a little jolt!

          • Camille

            Oh My GOODness! So pleased I did as I’ve always remembered him with RESPECT!

            And from what I heard and read he did a truly great thing in India establishing that orchestra and suffered a lot with all the touring and travelling necessary, in being separated from his family. I’m glad to see in you that his work paid off.

        • Nelly della Vittoria

          As Grace Moore was wont to sing “Why have you reNUMBered me, This Waaaaaay” (As Gracie sang riNUMeri for the requisite riMUNeri, haha!)

          Oh, I am slain! Must consult recorded legacy to see if she ever set down Aida’s exquisite plaint, Moony pietà!

          • Camille

            Ask La Cieca! Got the story from her, Nell! Grace was from Tennessee or Kentucky or somewhere down there.

    • Luvtennis

      Or a character from Salo…. lol!

  • southerndoc1

    Barbara Frittoli does Glenn Close.

    • Camille

      With Bobby baby as Michael Douglas?

      Does the rabbit die in this one?

    • jacobelli

      From some angles she looks like Harvey Fierstein in drag. You would never know from this how beautiful she actually is.

  • manou

    I think Frittoli is channeling her inner Sarah Bernhardt, who played the role in the play -- hence the costume and makeup.

  • This is the things about Alagna. Even as the voice ages and becomes worn, the singing is always good, with admirable legato and breath control. “Handsome” is exactly right.

    • jacobelli

      I agree. He’s always very passionate and involved in both his singing and his acting, and for me that makes up somewhat for the decline in the beauty of his voice. He never just phones it in. I saw him in Manon Lescaut a few seasons ago at the Met, and even though by the end his voice was as ragged and strained as it could be, it was still a very exciting and enjoyable performance.

      • Good point. Alagna never phones in it. He earns his fees!