Cher Public

Hell’s kitchen

A broom with a view.

A broom with a view.

Seasoned opera-goers might be understandably inclined to skip the “holiday presentation” of Hansel and Gretel but they shouldn’t. Monday’s revival, featuring Lisette Oropesa’s ideal Gretel and Donald Runnicles’s enthralling conducting, might just be the best thing the Met has done so far this season. 

When I was the same age as many of the children in attendance, Engelbert Humperdinck was a British pop star embraced by those who thought Tom Jones was too racy. Soon enough I learned that the singer had stolen his name from a noted disciple of Wagner’s whose best-known work was Hansel. I’m afraid my snob genes kicked in and prevented me from knowing this “children’s opera” until I attended Richard Jones’s vividly imagined production during its premiere season at the Met a decade ago. I was bowled over by its beauty and sophistication and rued my silly avoidance of Hansel for far too many years.

I’ve read curt dismissals of Jones’s rollicking, disturbing vision of Hansel but it strikes me as one of the Met’s most successful productions embracing both the opera’s wonder and horror. Since Bruno Bettelheim’s now-tainted 1976 study The Uses of Enchantment it’s impossible to ignore the pervasive perversity and brutality present in many fairy tales particularly those collected by the Brothers Grimm which includes Hansel.

Jones plays up the story’s devastating hunger and threatened cannibalism most strikingly with John Macfarlane’s bold drops which range from images of a gruesome, rapacious open mouth and tongue to the progression of an empty white plate to one smeared with blood.

His children scamper and misbehave with verve and spastic dance moves while their parents doggedly cope with the devastating challenges the world has thrown at them. The crowning achievement of the production is a magical forest conceived as an ersatz-dining room inhabited by wondrous human trees. The second act ends with an astonishingly moving pantomime of the children’s dream of a bounteous feast served by a dozen jolly rotund chefs each grandly presenting a platter covered by a silver cloche. I wonder why Jones hasn’t been invited back to the Met when so many others have been.

My major objection to his work here, faithfully recreated for this revival by Eric Einhorn, remains the broadly chaotic presentation of the Margaret Rutherford/Paula Deen Witch. Her dizzingly hectic scene, filled with food thrown wildly all over the set along with a prominent Kitchen-Aide product placement, fails to strike the proper note of whimsy and menace. Gerhard Siegel differed considerably from Philip Langridge who originated the role at the Met: the German tenor was less wacky, more grimly determined to spit-roast the trussed-up Hansel.

I continue to regret the Met’s return to using a tenor for the Witch despite Siegel’s pungent singing. I simply don’t understand ignoring the composer’s choice of a mezzo (or dramatic soprano) for the role particularly when Dolora Zajick, the evening’s Gertrude, might have sung the devil out of the part. And Jamie Barton, the Met’s recent Adalgisa, who won the Met’s National Council Auditions singing the Witch’s riotous aria surely would have made an unusually delicious Knusperhexe.

Oropesa runs marathons and no doubt needed that stamina for the non-stop rigorous work-out Gretel gets in the third act. Her high sweet voice always struck just the right note of girlish delight and awe. I have heard the soprano in nearly all of her many Met roles including her enchanting Susanna and heavenly Nanetta so it was most welcome to have her back after an absence of nearly four years. Although she just had a huge success as Lucia at Covent Garden, I confess I don’t hear the warmth and drama in Oropesa I’d want in that bel canto role.

She did blend well with her equally hard-working Hansel, Tara Erraught, but her weak-tea mezzo falls far less graciously on the ear than Oropesa’s ethereal soprano. While Erraught made a better impression than she had at her lackluster debut in September as Nicklausse and The Muse in Les Contes d’Hoffmann I remain puzzled at her prominence at the Met this season in two trouser-roles when I can easily think of more than a few lyric mezzos who’d be even better.

In fact Lindemann Young Artist Rihab Chaieb revealed a more potent—and steady—mezzo as the Sandman while fellow Young Artist Hyesang Park delivered a strikingly clarion Dew Fairy, the role Oropesa took at this production’s premiere in 2007.

Zajick, who had been miscast as Mary last season in Der Fliegende Holländer, wielded her still potent mezzo like a blow-torch as a deeply unhappy Gertrude. Zajick’s limited abilities as an actress unfortunately made her anger at the kids misbehaving much more convincing than her joy at their reunion.

Her husband’s Peter’s hearty “Rallalala”s belonged to Quinn Kelsey whose Met career to this point has been a scandal; a glance at his bio in the program lists just four previous roles in nearly a decade: Schaunard, Monterone, Germont (as a substitute) and Marcello. His joint-recital last week at the Morgan Library with Marjorie Owens demonstrated again that his is one of the most beautiful and elegant baritone voices before the public today and it’s a relief that the Met has finally noticed.

Following the brief Humperdinck role there’s di Luna in Il Trovatore and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor with Germont in a new production of La Traviata promised for next season. It’s about time.

It’s also about time that Runnicles reappeared at the Met after having been missing-in-action for nearly ten years since conducting the ill-fated John Doyle Peter Grimes. His strong Wagnerian credentials (he again leads San Francisco’s Ring cycles this summer) held him in good stead for Hansel; he drew breathtakingly beautiful playing from his energized orchestra—the stunning overture alone was worth the trip to Lincoln Center.

Particularly eloquent were the mysterious prelude to the second act and its ravishing pantomime. Children’s choruses usually make me itch but the touching restoration of sight to the rescued horde positively glowed while the glorious ensemble of reconciliation and rejoicing ended the evening on a transcendent high!

When I got home still haunted by Humperdinck’s bewitching melodies, I determined the first order of business (after this review) was to search out Königskinder, a work I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never heard.

Photos: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • southerndoc1

    Thanks for the review. Zajick was listed for the Witch on Met Futures for a previous run -- anyone know what happened? Agree that men don’t really work in this role.

    • Amika

      Can’t really trust the Met futures for anything. It’s a crapshoot.

  • Rick

    Thanks for the review. I am so glad when I find somebody who agrees about female singers much preferable as the Witch. The music sounds much better as sung by a woman (it is not written for a tenor, and that is obvious to hear). Also why? There are so many roles with many male roles and only one or two female roles (think Tosca) -- should we also expect Sciarrone or Spoletta to be female? And why in 2017 do we still find it “funny” or “scary” if a man dons female clothes and a wig?

    On records the Witch has been sung by sopranos (Ms Söderström, for instance) and mezzos (Ms Ludwig, e.g). Why not at the Met? I agree that Ms Zajick would be good -- and Ms Barton. I have been thinking that a double role of Gertrud and the Witch would just be the comeback role for Ms Voigt.

    Regrettably, many other opera houses have a preference for male Witches. Yick.

    About “Zajick’s limited abilities as an actress unfortunately made her anger at the kids misbehaving much more convincing than her joy at their reunion.” Well, this is tiny part of the role of Gertrud, singing one word, and it is more important that she is good in her scene with the kids and the husband in the first part of the opera.

    I miss a bit about how Mr. Kelsey did as Peter -- the review says more about how his career is progressing etc.

    And about Ms Erraught -- I find her Angelina rondo from La Cenerentola, as heard over the airwaves, from the Richard Tucker Gala, definitely off-putting. She simply did not have the high notes for this aria, I found.

    • Rosina Leckermaul

      In a revival of the wonderful Merrill-O’Hearon production, Rosalind Elias was terrific as the witch. As I recall, that first cast of that production had a male witch. In London a few years a go, a virtually voiceless Anja Silya played the witch.

  • Camille

    While I do really like what I once saw at Juilliard in the late nineties, wherein the Witch and the Mother are one and the same person, thereby underlining a lot of “issues” the Mutter has vis-à-vis her Kinder and vice-versa.

    Mr Christopher--you probably should start with that DVD of Jonas in Königskinder, to get an overview of the work, well worth your time. Around our house it is a sacred Christmas music item and I’ve got an old CD which features Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Peter Anders and I’ve forgotten who the girl or the witch is. It is very sweet, triste Kitsch, so be forewarned, but there are gobs of compensatory beautiful late-Romantic passages.

    Thank you for your usual wonderful review. I’m sorry, but that tongue always reminds me of the Rolling Stones album cover and really puts me off.

    RIP to the wonderful Philip Langridge, whom I always think of when this production rolls around as it was the one and only time I chanced to see him, and he was marvelous. I put him on my list to see in the future and the next thing I knew, he had died of cancer. What a waste of a lovely and talented man, so talented and so giving in his final performances here that one would never have even known he was sick, the way he larked about!

  • Rosina Leckermaul

    I really don’t like that production. Ugly, ugly, ugly!! The last time I went to H&G at theMet, a couple of seasons ago, there was so much audience commotion that a woman screamed, “Stop talking. Stop eating. This isn’t the movies.”

  • Rowna Sutin

    It’s always best to get an in house accounting of voices. I listened over the internet last night. Overall it was an A+ performance. I have seen this production so many times that I was able to imagine every moment as I was listening. There was so much to admire. Let’s start with the orchestra. Hearing the Met band play this sumptuous music makes your heart swell. And then there is Ms. Oropesa. That is one delicious sounding soprano, all glitter but with meat on the bones. She was the vocal standout of the evening. Unfortunately I agree with all the negative notices about the mezzo. I, too, don’t get why she is hired by houses such as the Met. Ma and Pa were superb. I think the role of the mother has a rather high tessitura and Ms. Zajick has all the technique to make this sound natural. I enjoyed Mr. Kelsey, but understand that he is not everyone’s favorite Verdi baritone. As for Mr. Siegel -- he sounded very good on the airwaves. As I have seen Mr. Brubaker and in my own company (Opera Connecticut), we had Anthony Laciura, don’t have a female witch to compare this with. I adore this production. And the conducting . . . oh my, wasn’t that glorious? Overall this indeed was a standout performance this season.

    • “Hearing the Met band play this sumptuous music makes your heart swell.” Same in Budapest last week: the Hungarian State Opera orchestra in the superb acoustics of the Erkel theatre make you think “this is how it should sound”.

      “I really don’t like that production. Ugly, ugly, ugly!!” Hmm. You probably wouldn’t have liked Budapest’s new prod. then, set in the loading bay of a sweet factory. It was fun.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvaWKtRiHBw

    • steveac10

      Agreed that the Met’s sudden fascination with Erraught is a head scratch (and according to Met Future Wiki she’s also next season’s Cenerentola) . They give us a truly luxury cast and conductor right down to the gorgeously lush Sandman and ravishing Dew Fairy and then cast a BSO house singer of no particular merit smack dab in the middle of it. I’ve seen and heard more Gretels than I care to admit, but none of them can top what I heard from Oropesa last evening. Full bodied and shimmering tone, killer diction (even on high) -- and that trill in the first scene that seemed to last forever took my breath away. Thankfully it’s in the Met’s promo clip for the production so I can replay it to my heart’s content.

      • H_Badger

        Would love to hear her sing it in the German!

  • PATRICK MACK

    The “Margaret Rutherford/Paula Deen Witch”!
    Oh, Mr. Corwin you nailed that one for sure.
    Beautiful. I laughed out loud.

  • Lisa Hirsch

    I love this production so much -- we had it in SF maybe 13 or 15 years ago, with Runnicles and Nic McGegan splitting the run.

    Regarding the casting of the Witch, the travesty witch tradition goes back more than a century, during Humperdinck’s life. The Met had a travesty witch in 1910.

    I think that your review contains the answer to why Zajick was Gertrude rather than the Witch: her acting abilities and the athleticism of the Witch’s part in this production. I remember Graham Clark jumping on and off the baker’s table in SF. Zajick is not a great actor and I believe her knees are not in great shape these days. Vocally, oh, yes, she’d be tremendous.

    • Porgy Amor

      Clark has been very physical and athletic in most everything I’ve seen with him: Captain in Wozzeck, Loge and Mime, Bégearss, the Shabby Peasant…of course, before he took up singing, he was a sports educator. I’m sure his stage directors were thrilled to get someone who could do so much while still delivering vocally. That slither up and down the banister in The Ghosts of Versailles during the Worm aria was something to see.

  • grimoaldo2

    “Although she just had a huge success as Lucia at Covent Garden, I confess I don’t hear the warmth and drama in Oropesa I’d want in that bel canto role.”
    I think she might surprise you. I have seen her as Amalia in I masnadieri and Violetta and she had plenty of warmth and drama. I think she is capable to some extent of adjusting her sound to the role she is playing.

    • Ivy Lin

      I think the voice has a rather intrusive flutter but I don’t hear a lack of warmth here.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXSV__Oeef4

      • I don’t mind the flutter and like the voice very much. I hadn’t heard her since her Nanetta so it’s nice to hear how’s she sounding. I’d like to hear her complete Lucia.

    • Juan

      Let’s not forget what the late great Albert Innaurato said about Oropesa’s Traviata…

      “Oropesa’s tone has a built in caress, a timbre that has a penumbra of vulnerability that draws one’s ear rather than attacking it—something that Marilyn Horne once said was the mark of a great singer.” Among other things..

      I would love to hear her sing more Bel Canto roles, I truly think hers is the ideal voice type for many of them. It’s no surprise that she was so well reviewed in London.

    • CKurwenal

      I found in the ROH Lucia that Oropesa didn’t truly let her voice luxuriate in all its full colours until the mad scene, at which point it occurred to me that her timbre in the middle and lower ranges is strongly reminiscent of Gheorghiu -- very warm indeed, and yes, Innaurato’s ‘built in caress… penumbra of vulnerability’ is a great description of those parts of the range, with top being a bit more straight forward and silvery. She’s definitely a new favourite of mine and I’m pleased the ROH got her in such a prominent role -- I hope she returns many times.

      • grimoaldo2

        Speaking of Oropesa in mad scenes, here she is in the mad scene from Hamlet, audio only, from a production in Lausanne --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEDzab7Lb5k&t=793s
        Wow! Fabulous! Perfection!

        • Christian Ocier

          Wow is all I can say too--the sound has a nice spin and flutter to it, an elegant lift and float, and a gorgeous expressive core.

  • Dan Patterson

    I appear to be alone in disliking the Met’s current HANSEL production very much. I’ve only seen it in the HD-Telecast, and I’m glad. I saw the old production live and on television and really liked it. I have seen a few “different” HANSEL productions that I enjoyed, so I’m not entirely a hide-bound traditionalist. The kids I took to the telecast of the new production did not respond well to it either.

    And I don’t like tenor witches either, so I concur with the reviewer’s wish that Zajick had sung the Witch instead of Gertrude.

    • Porgy Amor

      Oh, you’re not alone at all. A lot of people hate it. I hear about this every time there is a revival. (Usually accompanied by wishes for the Merrill/O’Hearn to come back.)

      I would not go that far, but I don’t think it’s top-flight Richard Jones (for that, the outer portions of his Trittico, and his amazing Contes d’Hoffmann, and maybe Anna Nicole, which almost made Turnage’s opera seem better than it is).

      I do have some respect for the H&G. It has some visual ingenuity and it makes its points clearly. Besides the much-discussed hunger theme, it also lays out for us that the kids are going to become their parents before too long. I don’t know if that’s as clear with every revival as it was when the production was new at Welsh National and new to the Met. These aren’t lovable kids. Hansel is already a bully; Gretel is already neurotic. There’s not much left for them but to get older, discover alcohol (and, in Gretel’s case, pills), and the cycle will be complete. They can vanquish a witch, but there are other terrors they won’t beat. It’s not a very hopeful view, but it is clear-eyed about familial pathology.

      • Dan Patterson

        It was time for a new production, certainly. I liked a version I saw long ago on video (ENO, maybe?) wherein H&G were inner-city slum children, the Sandman dispensed powders of a very different sort, Peter passes out drunk, Gertrude becomes the Witch, and many of the same points were made as by the Met’s current production. However I can’t help but think this approach is at war with the glorious, hopeful music.

        • Porgy Amor

          I like the ROH’s Leiser & Caurier production more as well — the one that can be seen on video with Damrau and Kirchschlager (Connell and Allen as the parents, Silja the witch). It has its share of “parental discretion advised” elements, such as the bodies of the witch’s previous victims hanging in the freezer, but I find them better in balance with the sentimentality and uplift. The end of the dream pantomime, when we find out what can be inferred is the thing the children want more than anything else, is really touching. The leads in the filmed version are both so good, and so appealing in the relationship they create. I even like their staying in character and initially pretending to be frightened by the audience’s applause at the end.

          • CKurwenal

            I saw a performance from that run -- the only time I have ever seen this opera. I thought the whole thing was just brilliant -- Kirschlager and Damrau in particular were wonderful, both individually and as a double act. Silja was great fun so it didn’t matter too much that she couldn’t really sing, but she did produce a very loud final high note at the end of her aria that kind of redeemed her, and made it possible for me to imagine the impact she made in her heyday in bigger roles (which is why I like seeing decrepit singers I only know from recordings who ought to have retired long ago, for the insight it can give you into what they really were).

            Conversely, Connell, who had astonished everybody around the same time by jumping in as Turandot and reportedly doing a brilliant job, didn’t make much of an impression on me which I’m sorry about as it was the only time I ever saw her. Perhaps it is a difficult role in which to make an impact?

            • Porgy Amor

              Cocky, I felt the same way about Connell on what was released. And about the rest as you described it.

              My favorite Mother is Helga Dernesch on the Everding/Solti film. She must have really been something to see on stage in her dramatic-soprano prime, although she could only get away with those roles for so long. On this evidence, though, I see why Karajan and others wanted her for them. It’s a remarkably full characterization in both singing and acting, and it makes me wish we had more of her on film. That goes for mezzo roles she sang later too, e.g., Marfa and Die Amme.

            • Camille

              PA & CK--

              Let me just say this bit about Connell—in my experience of her in both staged and concert opera, she was either switched ON or OFF. I had experiences of her in both, and the ON button was quite something. The OFF was meh.

              Also saw Helga Dernesch as Marfa in San Francisco in autumn of 1984 and must say she got my attention as she was the only female featured on stage but I do not recall any such “great performance”. That was the only instance of having seen her. Freely admit to not having much love for Mussorgsky—my opinion is not dissimilar to Tschaikovsky’s. Again, I may have heard her on an OFF night.

              Also, bear in mind Connell died in early 2012 so that late Gertrude (a sh*tty role--I mean, who likes her, the Witch has all the fun?) was probably too late and she probably gave two hoots about it. Just saying.

            • Armerjacquino

              I must have seen Connell on an ON night, then- sometime in the late 80s or early 90s at Covent Garden as a supremely thrilling Lady M who stripped the paint from the walls. Bruson was no slouch as the husband either.

            • Camille

              Oh did you get to see her in that, too?!?

              Yes, DEFinitely an ON role for her and that is where I first heard her and also with Bruson as Lord Macbeth! The Lady was supposed to have been Verrett, sick and cancelled, then Dimitrova, whom I missed dammit! And then along came Connell, of whom I’d only yet heard that recording of Lohengrin as Ortrud, a breakout for her. So, I was not that familiar with her and peeved I’d missed the other two
              Ladys, but she made up for their loss!

              It was a success for her and she was invited then to sing Iphigénie en Tauride in which she was also really splendid. The beginning “Grand dieux…” is still painted within my memory for such was its great vividness.

              You saw them not too long after I heard them, 1986 I believe, so they were a practised pair by the time you got to hear them. I’m SO pleased you got to see them both in their primes--estimable artists both and very convincing in their respective portrayls and as a team in that Macbeth, a very favorite opera of mine but oh so treacherous for its performers and not to even mention the theatrical superstitions attached thereto!

              Sorry to run on so but I’m so glad someone knows her at her best and has seen her formidable, no prisoners taken Lady.

            • Christian Ocier

              Solti’s video of Hansel was the first opera complete with dramatic action and visuals that I saw after at least four years of not actively listening to/watching opera recordings (at the time, I’d been listening to a lot of chamber and symphonic stuff). Helga’s strongly characterized portrayal of the mother reminded me of the things I valued most in a singer’s craft--her ductile vocal and facial expression, the power and color of her voice, and the vocal acting and stage presence. Listening to performers like herself made me unearth gems from my collection and returned me into a state of appreciating opera’s nuances and artistic merits.

              I’d already expounded on Helga’s qualities as an artist on a Parterre post many months ago. While her soprano career was unfortunately cut short, the years when the voice worked with the artist (her word painting, the dramatic immediacy of her phrasing, etc.) were magic. I immensely enjoyed her forays into the dramatic soprano repertory, although looking back now it seems unwise for someone so young (29-32) to have dedicated the early years of her career to the hochdramatische roles. Helga’s voice, in her earliest official Wagner recording (Ortlinde in Solti’s Walkure), emitted a beautiful, bright and soprano like sound. Had she curtailed her first Isolde’s and Brunnhilde’s early on, and focused on developing her support, range, and stamina with less demanding roles, I think she would have sustained a very long prima donna career. Another singer who followed a similar trajectory, Regina Resnik, also suffered from a premature darkening of the voice, likely due to her taking on so many mature roles that pushed her vocal core downwards during a time when voices should be settling. The primary difference between the two is that Helga embarassed herself more onstage with her rapidly shortening soprano during the mid-70s, while Resnik reinvented herself wisely in the late 50s. But what incredible artistry and commitment came from both. Resnik and Helga were so invested with the words, and colored their voices to suit the music and the character, such that a listener can immediately conjure the story even through the progression of the voice alone. Even in the absence of a Brunnhilde or Isolde video, listening to her in those 70s Karajan recordings sufficiently creates a stage within the mind. Nilsson may have been the most formidable Isolde vocalist since Flagstad’s time (or ever), but when Helga, despite her technical flaws, created Isolde onstage, I commiserated with the pain and the rage of her character. What an artist! Thank you for reminding me of that wonderful video.

          • Rosina Leckermaul

            I really liked this production. Visually clever and never at war with the story or music.

          • Dan Patterson

            Obviously, I must get hold of this. Thanks for the recommendation. I used to be quite partial to Silja.

    • Rosina Leckermaul

      You’re definitely not alone.

  • Arianna a Nasso

    “I wonder why Jones hasn’t been invited back to the Met when so many others have been.”

    Are you sure he hasn’t been invited? As much as we may think the Met is the best gig in the world, not every artist agrees. Just because the Met makes an offer doesn’t mean an artist will accept it. He may have enough offers close to home that he doesn’t feel the Met is a priority, now that he has it on his resume once.

  • Camille

    Does anyone remember the NYCO production (I just did as I’d combed my memory for performances), which was staged in Central Park? That was a near hit for me, but better by far than this ugly thing now on view at the Met. That TONGUE! It’s the Stones!

    I no longer recall the Juilliard production, either from about the same time.

  • Thanks for another great review, Christopher.

    I’ve seen three Richard Jones productions – this H&G and his BSO Lohengrin (with the hero sporting a t-shirt) on TV, and his Ariodante in person at the COC. The first two were were mixed successes that still had much more going for them than against them. I especially like the visual look of the H&G. But his Ariodante was simply a revelation. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything in that staging either but I’ve never seen a succession of da capo arias turned into such engrossing, relevant drama.

    I know Rihab Chaieb from her time in the COC young artist program. She’s a talented singer and a poised performer. I heard her to a solid Mozart Sesto a few years ago and I’m sure she’s only grown as an artist since.

    • grimoaldo2

      i have mentioned on here before two Richard Jones productions in London that I enjoyed tremendously- his Ring at Covent Garden and Lulu at ENO. A great pity that neither of them were filmed. He made them both very entertaining and quite often hilariously funny. Siegfried Act One, often a yawnfest, was quite the most entertaining I ever saw or ever will, with Siegfried Jerusalem, John Tomlinson and the wondrous Graham Clark, already mentioned on this page, as Mime.
      Clark was also astonishing, performed feats of acrobatics as well as singing a fiendishly difficult role in Prokofiev’s The Gambler at ENO years ago.

      • Rosina Leckermaul

        Ah, the Jones GOTTERDAMMERUNG with Brunhilde walking around with a paper bag on her head. Sheer nonsense. The night I saw it the ROH was almost empty. Word had gotten out. Total disaster. At best, Jones is a mixed bag. The ENO LULU was brilliant. We’re seeing his PARSIFAL in Paris in June — I have some trepidation.

        • Camille

          Rosina, this IS your opera so you keep on insisting until you get things to your own dainty-mouthed satisfaction! What’s right is right.

          I read this first sentence of yours in such way that I thought it Dame Gwyn wandering around the stage with a bag over her head and hoped at least it was Harrod’s. And then I realised, NOT.

  • Brackweaver

    No more tenor witches please. When in the house I frequently shut my eyes to bad acting or a production I don’t like. I can’t ignore a male witch. I saw a production of H&G that had rats crawling around. It didn’t bother me as much as the constant flubs in the French horn section. (And they play a lot!) Usually I’m game for a new twist on a familiar opera but not as much with H&G. Maybe it’s the time of year. Perhaps in the summer I’d react differently.

  • Camille

    You know, all this talk abiut tenor vs soprano in the role of die Knuspsrhexe has piqued my curiosity. I went to the piles and found my Schott H&G and the characters are listed thusly:

    Peter, Besenbinder……..Bariton
    Gertud, sein Weib……….Mezzosopran
    Hänsel……………………….Mezzosopran
    Gretel………………………..Sopran
    (Deren Kinder)
    Die Knusperhexe…………Mezzosopran
    Sandmännchen…………..Sopran
    Taumännchen……………..Sopran
    Kinder…………………………Sopran und Alt

    Well I’ll be damned! The Dew Fairy is not a “pretty lady” at all but a little man, too, just like the dewy one! They are both “Männchen”, yet “Sopran”. The Witch and Mamma are both mezzos therefore making it possible to be sung by the same artist. Nowhere in the score does it mention anything about giving Die Hexe to “Sopran oder besonders begabter Falsettsänger”, as Dr Strauss states in the front of Die FRohSCH, and this is a thoroughly researched and definitive edition, to wit: “For the first time, all available sources of Engelbert Humperdinck’s fairy-tale opera, Hänsel und Gretel, have been consulted in the preparation of the new edition”.

    So then, how did the habit of the tenor-singing Hexe get established and by whom and when? Looking at the Met Archives -- it was sung in 25
    of the first 26 performances by Louise Homer, the première in the presence of the composer, in 1905. I haven’t yet traced to the exact performance when the tenors took over but they were by the late sixties here. Very interesting!

    • Bill

      Camille -- actually I like a soprano timbre for Hansel -- some of the earlier ones I heard (not live) were Gruemmer, Seefried and Jurinac. All blended particularly well with their Gretel’s, Von Stade. a mezzo in cast lists, had a soprano
      timbre as well. And did not Anna Moffo make a film of it as Hansel ? Darker sounding Mezzos sing Hansel have some trouble tripping over the quick vocal passages of the first act.

      Also the review mentions that Oropesa runs marathons and indeed she does -- the full 26.2 miles. While I was working
      on the Pittsburgh Marathon not so long ago (I am President of a large running club in NYC as a volunteer and used to frequently run Marathons including the first Pittsburgh Maraton ) the Pittsburgh Opera was presenting 3 performances of “The Daughter of the Regiment” downtown near the start of the Marathon that week. Oropesa sang Marie on Saturday night to considerable acclaim and very early the next morning on Sunday she
      completed the full Pittsburgh Marathon in a credible time of something over 4 hours -- then back a few days later for another Marie -- remarkable stamina and Marie must do a lot of prancing around on the stage as well. She got considerable publicity in Pittsburgh for that fete (not her feet)

      • Camille

        Haha! Yes, I remember that marathon business, quite the stunt!!

        Was Moffo the Hänsel? I do not recall actually. I can imagine listening to Grümmer sing just about anything, and including the Salzburg telephone directory. It doesn’t make much difference to me as they are pre-adolescent children, but the score does state “mezzosopran” for Hänsel—making it possible, in one lifetime—to go from being an onery little boy to becoming his beset mother and, finally, ending as I now have, an old lady with a stick. Cackle, cackle!!

        Just now finished the Fricsay Fidelio and I must say I’ll have to give it many more listens as there is much to admire, particularly Haeflinger with his sweetness of voice, Fi-Di before he smoked his voice to death, and the manner in which Fricsay conducts the entire end set of pieces, so unlike the frenetic and chaotic pandæmonium which so oft occurs!! The Leonore III war auch grandiös!

        Keep on running! It keeps the heart pumping and that’s a very good thing!

        • Bill

          Moffo was the Hansel -- it was an RCA recording with Donath as Gretel, Christa
          Ludwig as the Hexe, Fischer-Dieskau as Peter, Popp in the two smaller parts. I just looked up a review and it said that Moffo was
          an “adequate” Hansel.

          The old Karajan recording on EMI had
          Schwarzkopf and Gruemmer and the Philharmonia -- it is in Mono but a classic.

          The one with Jurinac was of the same year also conducted by Karajan in Italy but sung in Italian (maybe a concert performance) with Schwarzkopf and Panerei and Streich in the small roles. So a curiosity

          EMI issued another one in 1964 in Stereo with Seefried, Rothenberger Berry, Grace Hofmann and an aging Elisabeth Hoengen as the witch and Cluytens with the Vienna Philharmonic.

          There are several newer ones with the likes of Gruberova or von Stade etc
          and just lately a DVD conducted by
          Thielemann with the Vienna Philharmonic.

          If one thinks Schwarzkopf is too mannered in 1953 there are the complete Hansel/Gretel
          duets from 1947 conducted by Krips with
          Schwarzkopf/Seefried and Schwarzkopf sings exquisitely.

          As to the Fricsay Fidelio, it is my favorite (more so than Klemperer).

          • Camille

            Oh my god I have listened to that recording too and not even noted her presence there--think that Ludwig really stole the show with all that carrying on of hers.

            Oh, the Klemperer is my old, old friend and standby but this one certainly does have many advantages, including the clear organisation of the end, and which I so frequently cannot BEAR listening to. At the Met it has sounded like a shiuting hootenanny to me on far too many an occasion. To this day, I have yet to hear a really great performance, the one with Kampe and Vogt in L.A. ten years ago now was better than most, anyway.

            I am not so sure about the actors taking over for the singers in this one for it is rather disjunct sounding. Fi-Di really did have a beautiful goice back when, too!

            • Bill

              What I love about Fischer-Dieskau’s Pizarro
              in the Fricsay is that though he does not have a malevolent voice (say compared to Schoeffler and others) he is able with his voice to characterize the evil of the character and the duet with Frick as Rocco
              is almost scary as conducted by Fricsay.
              Why they decided to utilize actors for the speaking parts is curious. It may have been done that way as I understand it was DGG’s first ever opera recording in Stereo but the singers in the performance all had wonderful speaking voices (and F-D, Seefried, Haefliger were famous lieder singers where diction is so important and Frick and Rysanek performed their roles often). But it does not throw off the balance of the recording. And the actress speaking for Leonora when she hears who long Florestan has been in the dungeon,
              and says “zwei Jahren” it is not just merely
              shouted out as some Leonoras now do but
              spoken with such heartbreak that those two words in themselves speak volumes as to Leonora’s feelings.

            • Camille

              Yes, however nasty a character he still manages to create quite a sense of allure in his Bad Boyness. Really a terrific piece of vocal acting.

              Well, I’ve heard many “Zwei Jahren!” But do not like it shouted out in that heftig manner as find it corny, classless, and not Treue. She is, after all, under cover and has to watch her own every step, besides.

              It is very interesting, all the takes on this opera.It reminds me of the Harnoncourt version which I’ve not listened to in several years, as he did interesting things as well — should get some out and listen. I have one of Christine Brewer with Davis conducting which I forget about. So many Fidelios, so little time!!!

            • Bill

              What has happened to Christine Brewer.
              Is she fully retired ? -- I am sure she still has enough volume to play a formidable witch in Hansel und Gretel. I only saw her once, one of her two Ariadnes at the Met and at the time I thought her singing in that role was better than Urmana, Voigt, Stemme -- her Bruennhildes were aborted
              at the Met and she never sang there again despite a very warm and rich soprano voice.

            • PCally

              She’s 62 and when you limit your career and repertoire to the extent that she has, then eventually opera houses are going to stop calling. And the Brunnhilde was rumored to be aborted because she hadn’t learned it, so maybe a professional opera house would find a singer like that to be unreliable.

            • Bill

              PCally -- Thanks I had heard that rumor also that Brewer had not properly learned Bruennhilde and she seemed also always to limit her performances not only in opera but in the concert hall. Still it was a very solid and beautiful voice when she was in form. There are times when a singer booked far in advance, determines a role is not right for them after studying the part and cancels the engagement -- Garanca was booked for the Komponist in Vienna, Covent Garden and the Met and never sang it though I thought it would be a good role for her given her success as Octavian. At one time it was stated that Netrebko would open the Met with the Figaro Countess (with Schrott) and that did not happen and later her planned Norma was also dropped (and there were once rumors of a Luisa Miller in Vienna which never occurred).
              And we lost Pavarotti in Forza as he also
              (by rumor, same as Brewer) either could not learn the role or did not want to learn it. I had not realized that Brewer was now as old as 62 an age at which many sopranos are no longer singing at all or doing character roles or doing occasional concerts where they can pick what they are able to sing.

            • Camille

              Netrebko as Luisa Miller, at one time, would have been a very interesting choice and I am sorry now it didn’t happen, as that gorgeous opera still needs all the push and momentum it can possibly get. I was just listening to the old Caballé/Pavarotti recording of it last night and relishing its glories. Early Verdi? No, great Verdi, in almost every respect.

            • CKurwenal

              Brewer has sung Lady Billows this year and has at least rehearsed Ariadne (no reason to suspect the performances didn’t go ahead but haven’t seen any evidence on a quick google). A few days ago on the radio I heard a recording of a concert she gave last year in which she sang Christmas songs. I think she was going for something alla Eileen Farrell but it didn’t come off which much success. The voice appeared to have been in respectable condition but of course ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’ doesn’t have much call for blasted out top b-flats, so it wasn’t much of an indication of how her Ariadne would sound now. She did sound reasonably robust, but legato wasn’t really happening and register shifts were very clunky, which isn’t great in popular repertoire where your expectations are for something more seamless, like Farrell, or Fitzgerald.

            • Christian Ocier

              Brewer sang Isolde two years ago with David Robertson (marvelous conductor, I thought he should have replaced Gilbert instead of Jaap van Zweden at the NY Philharmonic).

              I saw Brewer’s Farberin in Chicago about a decade ago. Marvelous voice--it filled the house quite generously.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DizNDwvvWU

            • Camille

              That Färberin was supposedly one of her finest achievements and one in which she surpassed herself. You were lucky to have heard it, indeed!

            • Christian Ocier

              Agreed! Looking back now, the Frosch cast was probably one of the finest ever assembled stateside in decades--Voigt during her last good vocal year, giving a sincere if somewhat underpowered performance as the Kaiserin, Jill Grove as a potent Amme, Robert Dean Smith so fluent and mellifluous as the Kaiser, Franz Hawlata as a warm and congenial Barak, and Brewer as the most generous voiced Farberin I’d ever heard anywhere until Goerke. The voice was magnificent, providing a tidal wave of vocal sound as well as a expressive range of dynamics unheard in many other performances of the role. Her exquisite pianos and pianissimos could be heard all the way to the nosebleed seats of Lyric’s dry acoustic. It’s unfortunate that her inability to completely inhabit the roles prevented many companies from contracting her for the important hochdramatische parts, but the voice truly was a golden age instrument. In a way, her artistry reminded me of Johan Botha--large voice, capable of performing the subtle musical markings indicated in the score, but a bit wooden.

            • Luvtennis

              Very interesting comparison -- Brewer and Botha. I love Brewer’s performance as Isolde on the studio recording.

            • Christian Ocier

              Brewer’s Isolde on the Runnicles was opulently vocalized. I think I would have liked that set a lot better if Treleaven were not the Tristan.

              Botha and Brewer remind me of each other because both singers have such opulent voices. Additionally, both were able to command such a broad range of musical tricks since their voices were so responsive to the score’s markings. Both singers emitted true and well projected pianos, not disembodied falsettos. For the sheer quality of vocalism, both singers had few rivals. However, both singers were also limited in their ability to draw color and nuance from the text and the drama (although I would argue that Botha got better with time since he received more stage exposure than Brewer, who hardly got any time on the stage). Botha needed strong conductors and directors who didn’t accentuate his physical shape’s ungainliness. With Thielemann, Botha always sounded more dramatically alert and interesting as a singer. Brewer, as remarkable as the voice was, could sometimes sound very uniform from role to role. In that respect, I think both singers could be considered similar--great and incredibly musical voices, but at times disconnected to dramatic nuances.

              That said, both were infinitely better than Jane Eaglen on any given day.

            • Porgy Amor

              I read a late-in-life interview with Botha in German that was interesting (if now a little sad, because he talked about things he had planned for coming years that he would never get to, e.g., Tristan and Grimes). He was conservative in his preferences for productions, so he probably was A-OK with those Schenk Met exhibits, but he did say he had a great time with Harry Kupfer on Ariadne auf Naxos. He said he had been expecting Kupfer to be a very serious man, and Kupfer wanted him to try all this “craziness” that ended up being a lot of fun. He (Botha) had never laughed so much while working on an opera.

            • Luvtennis

              Imagine Botha in place of Treleaven!

            • Christian Ocier

              Anyone with a nice enough voice would have been better than John Treleaven. That voice wasn’t even fit enough to sing Mime.

            • Camille

              That is a fair comparison, however, Botha in his last manifestations here at the Met as Tannhäuser had somehow miraculously learned to move about on the stage and was rather animated, for him. It was leagues ahead of his stolid statue like performance as Otello five years previously in San Francisco; so off-putting I swore I ‘d never go see him again. Famous last words! Brewer, on the other hand, did the typical fat lady singing statue as Ariadne that we’ve all long become inured and accustomed to by now. It hardly mattered for what was the richness and clarity of her sounds. I’m reasonably certain she would have been incapable of executing all the athleticism necessary of being a Machine Brünnhilde, and that was probably a reason, although the true story has been well occluded up to now. What a truly wonderful voice she has/had and how I wish I’d have been able to have caught the Bill Viola/Esa Pekka Tristan&Isolde, which I lost not once but twice! Grumble,grumble!!!

            • southerndoc1

              Actually, it was the last go-round of the Schenk Ring that she started to rehearse -- he came back for the production’s farewell and was reported to have been pretty rough on her.

            • Camille

              Oh, that’s right! And I wonder why she was treated that way? As it was plenty athletic, too, from what I remember of Hildegard running around in it, that was probably already too much for her and what a shame!!!!! The Machine would likely have been unthinkable for her.
              Omg how time flies!

            • Christian Ocier

              I actually heard her rehearsing the final scene from Act III of Walkure (Du zeugtest ein edles Geschlecht) a few months before the Schenk Ring’s final outing. I was at the Met for I believe the Pique Dame with Guleghina, and was walking around the backstage area that afternoon. Glorious sound, but she was summarily removed from that production a few weeks later. A pity, as she would have been glorious vocally in that role despite her limited abilities in a staged production.

            • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

              Camille, the only time I saw Botha was in those final 2015 TANNHAUSERs at the Met. I attend only a few occasional performances nowadays. I had a hankering to hear some Wagner and also to see the traditional Schenk/Günther Schneider-Siemssen production one last time. I assumed it would be replaced as it was 38 years old and that the next production would probably be reimagined set in South Beach or on the 3rd moon of Neptune. I also checked off a glaring omission on my part of finally seeing and hearing Botha, whom I had somehow managed to miss but about whom I had heard much positive buzz concerning his vocal abilities and much negative about his avoirdupois and stolid immobility as an actor. I was quite surprised, after what I had heard, to see that he was perfectly capable of moving around the stage and not just standing still like a tree stump as I had been led to believe. While this may have been a new development for him, and he wasn’t exactly turning somersaults, he certainly fell somewhere on the respectable, “stately” spectrum of stage action, i.e. there was nothing horrendously embarrassing about his stage movements. He was large but I was, frankly, expecting much larger from what I had heard, and he was costumed to minimize the poundage. I’m glad I finally heard him before he died and his early death was lamentable.

            • Camille

              Cara Benedetta!

              He had made great strides by that time. He sang Tannhäuser very differently from what I’d witnessed before. It was absolutely Wunderbar, and will never, ever forget those performances and hold them fast and close in memory. One of a handful of Wagner performances I’ve seen in which the singer inhabits the character wonderfully and the singing is all of a piece and easily surmounted, without the grunts, groans, grimaces and saving coping mechanisms one is usually treated to. Now I regret not being in town for his Carnegie Hall apparition as Apollo in Daphne, which a friend swears was just something else again.

              Such a Tristan he would have given us and what a great loss it is!

            • PCally

              Camille-Brewers brunnhildes would have been in the schenk ring, which shouldn’t have posed problems for her. Eaglen sang in it after all and she almost literally was immobile.

            • Camille

              Yes, that is true that Eaglen didn’t move around that much, too, so it makes it even more curious that Brewer couldn’t do it. Bad knees, I’ve heard—but who
              doesn’t have them, hahah?!?

            • PCally

              Eaglen not moving around that much was kind of unfortunate because both of her runs were opposite a still quite fat Voigt who DID move around and at least attempted to create a character. Eaglen looked rather bad in comparison.

            • Botha was also very fleet of foot in his last Meistersingers at the Met.

            • Christian Ocier

              Camille, I’ll be visiting NYC this coming February to see Parsifal. During that visit, if you are around, can I meet you? You seem like such an interesting person and I’d love to have a chat over coffee.

            • Camille

              “You seem like such an interesting person…”. HahahahahaHA! I am as dull as mud in person. Ancient, arthritic, crabby and fussy. You should spend your time with YOUNG SMART people, such as yourself. You are very kind and intelligent, and I wish you very well with your musical pathway, and will think about your suggestion.

            • Bill

              Well meet at the Hungarian Pastry Shop -- don’t know about the coffee. I read in the NY Times once that the Cafe Sabarsky has the best coffee in NYC

            • Christian Ocier

              I love Viennese style konditorei’s!!! There aren’t any where I live, so I sometimes turn my kitchen into a Viennese dessert studio during the holidays. It reminds me of the one time I visited that wonderful city, and saw my very first opera ever--Die Tote Stadt. What a weird way to begin one’s opera going career! Do you live in NYC too Bill?

              Here is my Dobos Torte:
              https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/974509c001914de81660ab073c492b78a74df1f3ec8ec6e3aef65fdb6529065f.jpg

              My Buche de Noel: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/746c34f5bdb963fa78f9055f20934645f372f95bd7cb1a4a390b746a4c563971.jpg

              And my sachertorte: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/34ffbed781738603e019122153a457c22f16a04d3a2f62b9833362baaa6447cd.jpg

            • Bill

              Christian -- looks scrumptious. Indeed I live in NYC on West 79th St. but sometime am out at the house I grew up in in Essex Fells, NJ and sometimes during the summer at our Cape Cod House (Harwich -- on a pond).

              No harm in starting with “Die Tote Stadt” --
              I began with “Die Walkuere” at age 11 with Frantz, whom you mention elsewhere, as Wotan. What I cannot figure out is where you find the time to listen in detail to so many Ring Cycles? We have the scores in EF as played in the Melchior/Flagstad/Schorr days at the Met in the 1930s and there were a huge number of cuts -- the scores have paper clips blocking off the portions not performed.
              I do not not know at the time what the tradition was in Germany/Austria but the Met
              had a number of traditional cuts in much of Wagner.

              There are a number of Austrian Restaurants in Manhattan at present --

            • Christian Ocier

              I upload the files to my phone and listen everywhere while I work. Or bike, or eat. Or before I sleep. When I write papers I can’t listen but when I do experiments there is something in the background. It’s passive listening, but my ears pick up a lot of detail unless I’m wearing my acid face mask. I usually do my intentional listening during the hours before bed.

              Would you like to meet up during that trip? I may have time on the 12th of February.

            • Bill

              Chistian -- sure My private email is
              dupontstaab@yahoo.com And indeed my name is Bill.

            • Christian Ocier

              When I was a student in Ithaca, NY, I visited this amazing Austrian restaurant called Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca. Amazing place. If you ever get a chance to visit that area of NY, you should pay a visit to that restaurant. The scenery is perfect, the food excellent.

            • Camille

              Yes, I agree about her Ariadne but I never heard Urmana’s except on radio and don’t remember Stemme’s.

              All I could do those two hallowed nights was to imagine hear her singing both Brünnhilde and Alceste, and started a brava thing after “Es gibt ein Reich” the first night, as this was an Ideal Voice for those two. Alas, nothing ever resulted from those two Ariadnes, her Hail AND her Farewell to the Met. What a waste.

              I don’t know the “True Story”, nor do I care to as I know the true results and that is bad enough.

            • PCally

              I rather liked Urmana’s initial run as Ariadne. She was still relatively new to soprano repertoire and the top had more float. The last run she had all of the notes but everything had an edge to it that was less than ideal and she pretty much just parked and barked, whereas the initial run she actually was exceptionally moving. Stemme lacked the tonal glamour for the role but acted it beautifully (very hard to do in that production IMO) and I remember at the time thinking that in terms of vocal size it was a better fit for her than the stuff she was singing more regularly.

            • Camille

              Interesting. She “lacked the tonal glamor”. Yes I can understand that — perhaps it is she lacks overtones? Funny you should mention Urmana, as am currently listening to her in a Straussian Lieder recital. Quite nice and clean singing, admirable for a Kundry!

              Yes, Peter G. Davis said about her Ariadne at the time that it was the best one he’d heard at the Met, and that would include the first one: Leonie. SO—it must have been quite something else! The range is a typical mezzosoprano one, G3—Bb5, actually, as Strauss originally had in mind a lower voice, not a soprano, even if since always given by and taken over by sopranos. Not at all surprising Stemme and Urmana should find a home in Ariadne’s Höhle.

              Her voice was always right on the border and for that reason found it quite interesting as she was more intelligent than many in her group, musically speaking, I wouldn’t know otherwise.

              Stemme manages her voice in the queerest way. I can’t quite make heads or tails of it but only know for a brief span it was wonderful.

            • Luvtennis

              Ever heard the Naxos recording with Inga Nielsen? I love it. The studio recording with Modl conducted by Wilhelm F. Is also worth a listen.

            • Christian Ocier

              I love the Furtwangler recording! Despite the lack of dialogue, Furtwangler’s mastery of the score, and Modl’s commitment to the text make for a riveting musical journey into this score. The rest of the cast is remarkable: young Windgassen, Jurinac, Frick. Truly one of the great Fidelios.

              Speaking of Modl and Furtwangler: this is what I’m currently listening to at work. Wonderful stuff. One of the finest Rings that there is if you are willing to accept the monoaural sound and the less than Vienna (but still very fine) playing of the RAI orchestra.
              https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eb1365ada00af4c9629749f8eb19ebb695f619ffd411c2555b0e3afc978ab74e.jpg

            • JR

              Moedl is beyond brilliant in that recording. And Furtwaengler is overwhelming--in the best way.

            • Luvtennis

              Lol! Thanks but I have virtually every ring live or studio available. I love the RAI, but my favorite complete Rings are the Clemens Krauss, the Moralt, the Kempe, The Goodall, the Barenboim, and the Mehta dvd (Wilson). For single works, the Bodansky Siegried, any of Flagstad’s Met Brunnhildes.

            • Luvtennis

              And I love the excerpts from Covent Garden conducted by Furtwangler and Beecham.

            • Christian Ocier

              I really appreciate the Kempe for the orchestral vision he brings out, especially in the cleaned up Orfeo recording. There are a few standout singers in that Ring, but I ultimately prefer Birgit for Bohm, Windgassen over Hopf, and even Theo Adam over the two bass baritones who took on Wotan during those Wolfgang years. For singing, the Wieland rings always seemed better, but Kempe’s vision demands your attention. Barenboim had a good Ring (although his orchestral reading for the Ring would improve decades later), and a stellar Wotan and an athletic Siegfried. The video is probably better than the audio recordings.

              I really like the Krauss--one of the greatest Bayreuth Rings ever. Dislike the Goodall--I’m not sure what Wagnerians love about his readings (it’s like tension on downers). If I wanted a Ring in that musical style, I’d take Knappertsbusch from the 1956 Ring over the Goodall. Plus, I can’t stand Wagner in English--the phrasing just comes off so weird for me.

              I’m unfortunately not a Wagnerian who warmed up as much to the classic Met Golden Age performances with Melchior and Flagstad, great as these titans were. Maybe it’s the sound, or Bodanzky’s reading? They never connected for whatever reason, despite the marvels of vocalism both singers are able to accomplish. Vickers though--a great Siegmund, Tristan, and Parsifal for me. Wish he had attempted other more athletic roles, but I doubt that the voice was as technically skilled for the demands of, let’s say, Tannhauser, Siegfried, or anything Straussian. For the roles that he did concentrate on though--what a whopper of an artist and sound!

              The Moralt was a wonderful document for its time. I haven’t listened to it as much, but I do recall that it had a marvelous Brunnhilde from Gertrude Grob-Prandl.

            • Luvtennis

              I love the Goodall. I think the cast is wonderful, and I have tremendous affection for the translation. Goodall is slow (too slow for some) and never reaches the heights of Kna at his best, but he finds a wonderful lyricism in the music while giving full weight to the dramatic moments. He makes the orchestra sing (even though they are not as virtuosic as the BPO or VPO or Dresden or the Met). Goodall’s Tristan is extraordinary. And the Meistersingers live recording is worth a listen.

              I used to love the Bohm. But I now find it fast and superficial. I much prefer Boulez for that type of Ring. Or The first Janowski with the wonderful Dresdeners.

            • Luvtennis

              For me, GGP was the greatest Brunnhilde after Flagstad, and more virtuosic than the great Norwegian. Sadly she was unlucky and never had a great conductor to help her polish that incredible gift. Her Isolde -- not the De Sabata, which is poorly recorded, but the Is extraordinary if occasionally slightly provincial.

              As for Vickers, all I can say is that for me he may be the greatest tenor of the last century. His Rhadames, Peter Grimes, Otello, Aeneas, Tristan, Siegmund, Don Jose, are for me incomparable. The greatest singer actor among tenors and with a golden age technique.

            • PCally

              Christian, have you heard Modl’s 1953 Bayreuth ring? The whole performance isn’t quite in the league of the Furtwangler but Modl is in probably the best overall vocal shape I’ve ever heard from her apart for the Von Karajan Isolde. Everything works for once and the second act of Gotterdammerung is terrifying for all the right reasons.

            • Christian Ocier

              I have heard that performance with Keilberth, and actually do prefer it to the more popular Krauss release. Modl’s interactions with Hotter, during a spectacularly good year for her, made for some exciting theater. And you’re right--that Act 2 was superb! To an extent, her Brunnhilde is stronger vocally than it was for Milan, although on the whole I think Furtwangler executes a far more interesting orchestral vision (I also thought he had a better cast minus Hotter’s Wotan, although I really like Frantz as Wotan as well). Along with Knappertsbusch’s 1956 and the stereo 1955, the 1953 Modl/Keilberth ranks as one of my favorite cycles from Bayreuth.

            • PCally

              LOVE Nielsen!! She’s one of my personal favs. All of her recordings are consistently excellent and I actually saw her Fidelio in Vienna. Not her best role (though the thrown together revival may have had something to do with that) but still wonderful.

            • Armerjacquino

              If we’re talking greatest FIDELIO recordings, I’m obviously going to chime in and mention the Bernstein (with a Leonore who does her own dialogue…)

            • Camille

              You know, I am forever and a day grateful to you for having the temerity to stick out your neck on that recording, BECAUSE — I had avoided it for what seemed like a million years, all the while thinking her not up to it, my beloved Agathe and Ariadne, usw. WELL, I was RONG! She got it together and how for this Fidelio.

            • Armerjacquino

              Her best part, I think.

            • Christian Ocier

              Have you heard the Bernstein live Fidelio from Vienna with Jones and King? Electric!

            • PCally

              Armer have you seen the video of her in the part? I think it’s better than the studio recording even if she struggles a bit more. For some reason I think studio recordings make the gleam in her upper register sound a bit more constricted. Live it sounds a bit freer and the tone a bit richer. And it’s definitely the best acting I’ve seen from her.

            • Armerjacquino

              Yes, she’s on fire in both her filmed FIDELIOs. The part unlocked something reckless in her as singer and actor. The other parts she was famous for all tended to be more reflective and wistful, which could lead her to a kind of placidity that has stuck in people’s minds (although her filmed Arabella is acted with a real delicate honesty).

            • PCally

              I didn’t realize there were two filmed Fidelios. I can never get a read on Janowitz. I tend to veer all over the place with her. Definitely one of the most purely beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard though.

            • Thanks, I’ll seek it out.

            • southerndoc1

              If you want to get into Wolf, I’d suggest starting with Seefried, especially some of the live recitals. Straight to the heart!

            • Camille

              Perhaps, and thanks for the suggestion but I’m still smarting about the way she ended the phrase in “O Gott! Welch ein Augenblick” at the mkment. She had a bit of a short top and which may not matter in Lieder anyway but she isn’t always easy tonlisten to, for me.

            • CKurwenal

              My top recommendation for anybody wanting to get into Wolf is Dame Felicity Lott’s recital of Morike and Goethe Lieder. The singing is incredibly beautiful but the characterisations are also extremely vivid. You can marvel at how she reduces her voice to the slightest thread on a top g-sharp in Die Sprode, or how she really dishes it out with unfettered generosity in Er Ist’s, and the legato in Das verlassene Magdlein, but the disc contains one of my favourite recorded performances of anything ever -- An eine Aolsharfe. It is incredibly atmospheric and she builds the little scene into the most incredible drama, perfectly judging how to pace it and creating the most gripping climax. It is an absolute masterful interpretation, on a par with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in Handel, Callas in Verdi etc.

            • Peter

              Arleen Auger recorded a gorgeous album of Wolf lieder.
              Here are the Mignon songs:
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-2m1jMPiMY

            • Camille

              Thank you, Peter. This may be too light a voice for me for these works, which I hold so dear. I will try to give Miss Auger a fair listen as I have largely always ignored her due to the incredible amount of hype surrounding her name when I was younger; it was off-putting. I will try to give it a go now.

            • Camille

              Well, thank you so much for these thoughts, very provoking and will most definitely listen to die Harfe, as I am a bit familiar with that one and know it to be difficult. Dame Felicity is known to me chiefly from a disc of Drei Hymnem we have, and through her quite delightful Offenbach work, but not at all as a Wolf interpreter, actually.

              Perhaps I should have explained what I had in mind a little more clearly about Wolf as it is something specific I had in mind: certain of the Spanisches Liederbuch--they are a bit of a lost continent to me, with the exception of “Geh, Geliebter, geh jetzt”, and as it is now wintertime they suitably reflect and refract off the gloomy season.

              To give an example of what I am looking for: I find what is absolutely ideal in the execution of this song with the estimable Jan de Gaetani, here:

              https://youtube.com/watch?v=2TJLdDaQc_E

          • Luvtennis

            I love that RCA recording! Moffo is no Grummer in the role but it works. And I love the conducting and Auger’s Sandman….

          • fletcher

            That Fricsay Fidelio is a wonder, so modern sounding (and I don’t mean just fleet-footed) -- also love his Don G with DFD (also my initials), but I might be alone on that one. It’s also a name I avoid saying aloud in case I botch the pronunciation -- something like Fritch-eye, I think?

            • Bill

              Fletcher -- I also like Fricsay’s Don Giovanni --
              and Fischer-Dieskau but I also may be in a minority. Fischer-Diekau seems not to be particularly admired by writers on Parterre but but for me he is a great artist of the highest echelon. There is a lot of drive in
              Fricsay’s performance. Jurinac’s Anna is the kind of voice I like to hear in the role and the 3 ladies blend well together in ensemble. Fricsay died much too early.

            • fletcher

              Fricsay and Schippers especially, along with Cluytens and Mitropoulos (Keilberth too I suppose).

        • Rick

          Well, even if a soprano was singing Hansel, the soprano could still move to both Gertrud and the Witch as both have been sung by soprano as well, e.g. Hildegard Behrens (on record) and Elisabeth Connell as Gertrud and Elisabeth Söderström and Sena Jurinac as the Witch.

        • Christian Ocier

          Great tips from Lisette about running. I should start running again--too much lifting and not enough cardio hides gainz under a sheath of fat.

          I’d be interested in seeing her Rigoletto in LA this spring.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHbPfRyxeyA

          • fletcher

            Come visit!

          • grimoaldo2

            https://www.laopera.org/season/1718-Season/rigoletto/
            The Fab is also appearing in that Rigoletto but not in the same performances as Oropesa, darn! I would be tempted to try to go to see it with Nucci, Oropesa and the Fab but he is in the second cast.
            https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/dec/21/rigoletto-review-royal-opera-house-london-david-mcvicar
            The Fab is appearing as Duca at ROH right now --
            ” Fabiano’s calculated ardour in their duet. His Duke, charismatic yet predatory, is all ringing top notes and hectoring authority. “

            • fletcher

              His cast with Lungu and Maestri isn’t too shabby. But yes, a Fabiano/Oropesa pairing would have been ideal. Anyway his shirtless instagram stories are appreciated, at least by me.

            • Camille

              omg!!! You have Maestri AND Nucci??? Jesses--how did THAT happen in Plácidoville??? Wow, I would get my arse to both Rigolettos. Honestly did not know Nucci could still croak it out. He is, what? 75? Will be 76 by the time he sings it next year?

            • Christian Ocier

              I know, I am very envious as well! It’s not often that you get a Rigoletto THAT ideally cast anywhere. I would have transferred Lisette to the Maestri/Fabiano cast, and that would have been my perfect lineup for the opera.

            • Christian Ocier

              In a hypothetical world, I would produce a new studio recording of Traviata with Oropesa as Violetta, Fabiano as Alfredo, Maestri as Germont, and perhaps Muti or Gatti conducting. Oropesa has that special way of dramatizing the dynamics of a score to accentuate the drama, as she recently did with Lucia. Her Violetta would be perfect.

            • Christian Ocier

              I’m going to have to see if LA has any conferences for the work that I do during that period. Or if there is an experiment that I could potentially do with colleagues in Pasadena. That Rigoletto--GREAT Rigoletto casts only come once in a lifetime. The Met few years ago had an interesting Rigoletto cast. This one in LA has a stellar one.

    • Luvtennis

      Maybe the date of the performance tells a tale. Perhaps It was a “special” performance.

      • Camille

        It was special in that the composer Humperdinck was in attendance as his Königskinder was about to be given its world premiere, two nights later on 28 December 1910 ( a fact that went for naught at the Metropolitan when the work’s centary came about weven years ago now ), and that’s all. Interestingly, Reiss played a role in Königskinder, (the Broom Maker), as well as Louise Homer, who once more played the role of Die Hexe! Perhaps Madame Homer was pre-occupied with the creation of a this new role, and didn’t have the requisite time to re-visit her former one? Therefore Herr Reiss was afforded with this opportunity to play Die Knusperhexe in Hänsel und Gretel? I certainly would not know the answer to this puzzle and wonder if there even is one? There is no one alive, even here in parterre(!) who was there, and to ‘splain it all to us, neither are there many Humperdinck scholars knocking about. It is a bit of a shame his music is dismissed because it does show quite a degree of invention and inspiration even if at times hopelessly indebted to and reminiscent of Der Meister!

        • Luvtennis

          I was thinking that the combination of the holiday season and the composer’s presence might have led to the decision to go super campy with a drag witch as a one-off. As we all know, drag always equals big fun! ????

          • The British pantomime dame thing.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN6nvd3HMWo

          • Camille

            Perhaps that observation would hold true in 2010 but I truly doubt it would in 1910. Suggest you read the review of that date 26 December 1910, for the climate of the times, and reconsider.

        • But often sounds a lot like Dvorak to me.

          • Camille

            My husband once had a teacher who gave him this bit of wisdom:
            “If you’re ever in doubt, guess Dvorak. You’ll probably be right”.

    • NineDragonSpot

      At this point, Domingo’s Witch seems an inevitability.

      • Camille

        HAHAHAHAHA!! Don’t say that too loud!!! We get it in the end.

      • trevor

        OMG No!

    • Bill

      At Hansel und Gretel tonight (Friday Dec. 22nd) at the intermission a spokeswoman announced that Tara
      Erraught, the Hansel, was ill and was unable to continue the performance. The announced replacement was Ingeborg
      Gillebo, a Norwegian, and she was far better vocally than Erraught -- rather a light Mezzo with unstrained top notes and an expressive face with a timbre not much different from that of Lisette Oropesa who was fine as Gretel. Other than I did not like Erraugh’s voice very much (and it is obviously unfair to make a complete judgment in that an illness was announced), I found that I could not understand a word Erraught was singing and, being Irish, presume English is her main language. Quinn Kelsey had the most understandable English. Runnicles conducted fluently and the children’s chorus at the end was lovely to hear. Quite a few empty seats and this was a Friday night but not an early start (8:00 pm) which might have been better for kids.

  • Michael Parent

    I love both the “old“ production I grew up with and the “new” production. In this weirdly spooky video Anna Russell embodies a claymation Rosina DaintyMouth.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Qgc37QMXt_M

  • Ivy Lin

    I was at Hansel and Gretel tonight. Tara Erraught was ill and didn;t perform the second half. But the performance was a total delight and Lisette Oropesa’s Gretel was amazing.
    http://poisonivywalloftext.blogspot.com/2017/12/mets-hansel-and-gretel-is-full-course.html