Cher Public

Tales of the glass ceiling

On this day in 1976 conductor Sarah Caldwell made history with her Metropolitan Opera debut. 

  • Camille

    The Wiki page on the amazing, indomitable and you-name-it, still to this day unique talent of Sarah Caldwell, about whom I have heard plenty but never, alas, actually heard much from. Boston was really fortunate to have had her there for so long.

    • Magpie

      Hi Camille. I never heard Caldwell in concert- Darn!. However I had the luck of hearing Eva Queler. What I dont understand is the little appreciation they receive overall (most of my friends back then thought them “heavy handed, and without much insight”). Agreed that Queler never matched the beauty of Hanoncourt or whomever recorded Jenufa last. But Queler made it possible to see the opera first ( And damn it ! she had Rysanek!). So did Caldwell with so many operas of just about anywhere and anywhen. It is so easy to criticize the first attempt at conducting an opera. And they were able to bring some big names into their productions and they had enough pull to put some authors into the “fringe standard” repertoire.
      Gonna play my Queler “Jenufa” CD and have a toast to the heavy handed and insightless conductresses that showed me so many new things!

      • Camille

        Haha! The applause on that recording between acts is actually more exciting to listen to than a variety of actual performances I’ve been to in the last twenty years!! ha!

        Yeah, conducting aside, Maestro Queler did an heroic job for many, many years and whatever quibbles we may have had about her conducting (she is a TINY little woman, after all, and rather mild in personality as I observed in an accidental and random exchange with her a couple years ago at the Met), we are all terribly indebted to her force for bringing us not only so many interesting works but so many really interesting and great singers.

        If someone wants to get on the topic of conducting, there is also Dr Botstein to take to task. He doesn’t have the excuse of being a little woman, either, and is further a really brilliant man. His conducting leaves a lot to be desired, and that is an understatement. I have tolerated it over the years for he, similarly, puts on unusual repertory but I have, after that von Schillings Mona Lisa a couple seasons ago, about had my fill.

        Have fun listening to Leonie scores, Schrei, SCHREI!!! She scared the holy bejabbers out of me the first time I heard her sing the second act.

  • Sarah was a unique, brilliant, infuriating, indomitable, fiscally irresponsible artistic visionary. When I began theater design studies in Boston I discovered I could see all her productions by ushering. The highlights are too numerous to list but Semiramide with Sutherland and Horne, Boris Christoff as Czar Boris, Sills in so many operas are an indication. She produced major operas you wouldn’t find being done anywhere else. It was often a wild ride but a deeply satisfying one.

    • Camille

      Thanks a bunch for having spoken up with your first hand experience, one which I would so loved to have had myself. There was such a rich tapestry of beauties we always heard about coming out of Boston which made us so curious and envious. One only wishes that some of it were preserved on video as well.

      That was one lucky nonpareil apprenticeship you had! It must have surely informed and aided you In much of your subsequent work.

    • bart

      I also ushered for Sarah, and on the same time period. What a wonderful opportunity! I was in grad school and had never experienced this sort of opera before, despite a few early visits with my grandfather to the old Met. Hearing the blending of Sutherland’s and Hornes’s voices changed my sense of what singing could be. Not to mention how delightful Arsace (Horne) looked with her little black beard.