Cher Public

All woman

On this day in 1966 soprano Pilar Lorengar made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Donna Elvira. 

John Gruen in the New York Herald Tribune:

Last evening Miss Lorengar made clear why she has garnered a steadily growing reputation, and why Spanish sopranos are, these days, stealing a good deal of the thunder from their better known Italian counterparts. It is a question of vocal quality. De los Angeles, Berganza, and Caballé have each distinguished themselves via a pure and liquid sound that is as uniquely feminine as it is dramatically convincing. They seem to involve their entire physical and psychological makeup to bring a role to life, and Pilar Lorengar does no less.

Her Donna Elvira was all woman-anguished, revengeful and passionate. Being beautiful and moving with extraordinary grace, Miss Lorengar lent to the role and additional sense of vulnerability, which gave her interpretation further believability. As for the voice, that fiendish first-act aria being what it is, the soprano handled it with as much control as a debut night would allow. Ultimately, total control and composure were hers and a velvet-smooth instrument was permitted to create its magic.

That magic was sustained throughout the performance and one can only submit that Pilar Lorengar is yet another shimmering operatic star on the ascendance.

  • PCally

    One of my all times favorites, such a unique sound

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDmTLK2nLSc

    • Bill

      Lorengar was a lovely artist and a mainstay
      in Berlin but was welcome everywhere. She was a gentle woman on the stage always emitting an attractive sound.
      For me she had a bit too much vibrato in her voice , not unattractive, but often present and I am not a bit fan of vibrato -- but otherwise her tone was impeccable -- and she was very gracious on the stage and she was a regular welcome guest at the Met -- I would have preferred Janowitz’s Agathe, and maybe Zyllis-Gara in some of Lorengar’s Mozart roles but I do think that Lorengar distinquished herself in virtually every role she essayed at the Met, stayed comfortably in her fach and was indeed a disistinquished artist.

      • Rudolf

        I treasure her Marie opposite Wunderlich in Kempe’s EMI recording of “The Bartered Bride”. Also, there is a most interesting documentary on Lorengar … DVD … Pilar Lorengar = Voice & Mystery. Berganza talks about Lorengar’s vibrato.
        :)

        • Bill

          Rudolph -- yes, it is a go-to Verkaufte Braut --
          one of the best recordings albeit in German also alongside Lorengar and the fabulous Wunderlich is Frick singing Kecal on EMI .
          Another fine one, a live performance in German, is the Orfeo live performance from the Vienna Opera 1960 with Seefried and Kmennt. There is another recorded German one on Ariola with Stratas, Kollo, Zednik and Berry Also in Czech on Supraphone is one with the grandiose Benackova and I think Peter Dvorsky and Novak from 1981 which is. probably the preferred version in Czech. It used to be the Bartered Bride was ubiquitous in German and Austria (as well as in Czech and Slovak lands where it is almost the national opera Libuse aside) but in this last decade or two is is less performed in German lands for no apparent reason -- it is a lovely opera and the orchestra always thrives full of spunk. Marenka/Marie is an endearing role for any lyric soprano high C’s and all. She must be all things from charming and lively to scheming to heartbroken all present in her music and Lorengar has a wonderful rendition on disc. I do not know if she sang it on stage but most likely in Berlin.

          • Luvtennis

            For me, the recording with Benackova is the alpha and omega for that piece.

  • Armerjacquino

    It took me a long time to get Lorengar, and it was this beautiful thing that eventually did the trick:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZhBYGybW3w

    (I love that rave review for Lorengar’s debut, especially the idea that four singers share the same unique quality)

    • PCally

      This is my favorite version of the aria! There’s a live version from the Bing Gala in 1972 that used to be on YouTube that’s absolutely incredible.

      I also initially didn’t really “get” Lorengar. I don’t think it’s a sound that reads well over a microphone. A lot of her commercial recordings I think make her voice sound narrower and dryer than it is. It wasn’t until I heard a Pamina from Salzburg and an opera depot Fiordiligi from 1968 with Solti (AMAZING btw) than I got a better sense of the richness of her sound and the expansiveness up top. Now she’s absolutely one of my favorites.

      • Luvtennis

        While I admire a great deal of her work, I truly love her recorded Violetta. A treasured artist.

      • Armerjacquino

        I went to look at the page for that COSI and when I woke up with drool on my keyboard I could only conclude I hadn’t been thrilled by the rest of the cast ;-)

        (Ok, that’s not quite fair on Popp but I have her Despina elsewhere)

        Your enthusiasm for Lorengar’s performance does tempt me though. I like a good Fiordiligi and she does have everything it takes. She’s maybe at her best in Mozart? You mentioned Pamina- I love her performance on Solti’s first FLUTE (the wubba-wubba one)

        • PCally

          I think it might be worth it even if the cast doesn’t drive you crazy (Veasey is pretty good as well though and Popp, like Lorengar, if imo heard to better effect than on her commercial recording of the part). Lorengar has all the requirements of the role down in a way that is very rare (like think Vaness) and she’s incredibly moving. I’m susceptible to most fiordiligis, there are almost none I actively dislike, and I think she’s absolutely stunning. And I’m not at all into her studio recording, which does not flatter her voice.

          There’s a live Pamina from Salzburg on video (free on amazon prime) that is maybe my favorite Pamina (again there are lot of amazing ones though). She sounds totally georgeous and her acting/presence is really moving. There’s also an Elvira in German which is beautifully sung, though I personally prefer my Elvira’s a little tougher.

          • Armerjacquino

            Yeah, I have an Elvira too (with Stich-Randall as Anna) and I don’t think she brings anything particularly special to it.

            One of the best things she did, I think, is the German DON CARLO film. She’s utterly stunning in it.

            • PCally

              Yeah I love that whole performance. It’s actually my personal favorite Don Carlo video. i might be mistaken but I believe there are actually recordings of Lorengar singing Cherubino floating around (opposite Stitch-Randall) which I would love hear.

              Her repertoire in Berlin was actually pretty vast. She sang Jenufa at one point and THAT is something I really wish was available somewhere.

            • southerndoc1

              Changing composers, there’s a 71 Butterfly from the Met where the top of the voice has to be heard to be believed -- just spectacular.

            • MisterSnow

              Here is an excerpt
              https://youtu.be/kXy5BIEpQBw

            • Armerjacquino

              I was actually talking about the 60s black and white film, in German, where she’s even better than she is in this clip.

        • CCorwinNYC

          Keep an eye/ear out for a “Trove Thursday” posting in the very near future.

        • MisterSnow

          Is that the one with Stuart Burrows and Deutekom? I love that one.

    • Ivy Lin

      Serious question here: has Marietta’s lied ever been sung badly? Almost every version I’ve ever heard has been gorgeous.

      • La Cieca

        This one is not very good.

        https://youtu.be/1u1tqRVybmQ?t=275

        • La Cieca

          Miss Armstrong is a hard-working artist but her voice is just so very plain. Especially in context this piece I think needs a glamorous tone to make the dramatic point of the scene that Paul is is still in love with his memory of Marie.

          • PCally

            Cieca, is their a Marie you would recommend on a complete set? It seems like all the complete recordings have Marietta’s who may be exciting but are somewhat lacking in vocal glamour when compared to the plethora of mega wat stars who’ve recorded the aria.

            • Bill

              PCally -- as you well know the plethera of sopranos who record “Glueck das mir Verlieb” include a number whose voices which might be suitable to extend the volume to encompass the fully scored complete opera or others who might look too dumpy for the role. There really has to be a Jeritza like glamour. Marietta’s aria these days is a favorite piece of many sopranos in concert (Fleming might be an example) who might not want to stretch their voices into a full length opera performance as the aria can show off a sopranos endless legato and long line without taxing other technical deficiencies. The aria just floats out seemlessly.

              Actually today this Korngold aria is presented in the same way Rusalka’s “Song to the Moon” used to be (and still is) -- a gorgeous aria in itself but hardly a test for a soprano to be recommended for the complete opera
              That would be a Lucia Popp who sings the
              aria exquisitely but may not have had the vocal heft of a Benackova to encompass all of Rusalka’s music.

            • Luvtennis

              Could Melanie Diener have managed Marie in a complete live performance. I love her in Die Kathrin.

            • Luvtennis

              Carol Neblett is actually pretty ok. As is Dalayman in the more recent Naxos recording.

            • PCally

              Agree on both counts, Dalayman probably being my first choice (and I do like her in general). Neblett I like more or less I just can’t understand a single word she is saying, which makes her an odd contrast to Kollo, who is razor sharp text wise but makes some pretty odd sounds in the process. And that recording as a whole just doesn’t do it for me, the conducting is kind of inert.

              Denoke is actually pretty solid on the DVD from the late 90’s when her top was more consistently functional. She was riveting when I saw her do it live in the Decker’s production and her voice was attractive but the top was…not there.

            • I have a recording with D. Voigt in her absolute prime. It may not have glamour but it certainly has diction and all the right notes. Unfortunately it was not a brilliant day for the tenor, despite his best efforts in a killer role.

            • PCally

              That’s the kind of voice I’d imagine would be perfect for the point. Didn’t even know she’d sung it.

            • I bought it online as a set of three files but it was clearly once sold on a “Fiori” CD:

              Richard Versalle, Deborah Voigt, David Pittman Jennings, Kaja Borris, Elena Vink, Rita Dams, Hein Meens, Phillip Sheffield
              Radio Symfonie Orkest
              Het Roder Jongenskoor en Groot Omroepkoor
              Henry Lewis, Conductor

          • Bill

            I think I only saw Armstrong twice -- once in Tote Stadt with James King -- she had a solid voice but not the required allure. The other was as the Marschallin in Frankfurt in a production which was updated to early 20th century -- Armstrong sang strongly but there was no radiance in the voice and no
            special glamour. The revelation of that performance was my first encounter with Barbara Bonney who was absolutely charming as Sophie and an Octavian named Marianne Roerholm (probably Danish) who was quite good, slender and appealing of voice. That was the first of several “updated” Rosenkavaliers I’ve seen. The last Diva I saw in Tote Stadt was Denoke (with Vogt) and she was very effective at the time . Of course Netrebko might have made it one of her choices had she been more comfortable
            in the German Language for she has the voice, the personal beauty, the movements and can be bewitching (and linger in the memory).

            • Rick

              Yes, indeed Danish. Ms Rørholm recorded Sesto (?) in Giulio Cesare and was at some point quite prolific. In her native Denmark she sang Cenerentola (with my mother as one of the evil sisters) -- and later I remember seeing her as Prins Go Go in Le Grand Macabre.

            • Armerjacquino

              I heard her at the Albert Hall in the Prom of a Glyndebourne NOZZE which was an almost textbook example of a ‘nearly-but-not-quite’ kind of a cast: Joan Rodgers, Dale Duesing, Gunnel Bohman and William Shimell were the other principals.

            • Inge Jensen

              What year did your mother sing in Cenerentola? I assume it was in Copenhagen. You might enjoy a new book ( only in Danish) about the “Golden Age” of opera in Copenhagen, by Henrik Engelbrecht, recently released.

            • Rick

              In 1987 in Aarhus and on tour in Denmark. A few years before she had sung the same part (Clorinda) in televised concert version on Danish television.

            • Inge Jensen

              Love that it was in Aarhus ( not everything happens in Copenhagen) Perhaps there is a copy of the concert in the Danish television archives ( although they are not particularly “sharing”)

            • Dame Kenneth

              Den Jyske Opera in Aarhus actually does some really good things, along with some real trash. I saw a wonderful Die Tote Stadt there about 5 or 6 years ago with Torsten Kerl and members of their company. Very well played by the orchestra. (They did Massenet’s Don Quichotte a season or two later which, unfortunately, I did not see.) On the other hand, the so called “Bier Festival” of opera, theater and music works made from Susanna Bier directed films was pretty ridiculous. The opera made of Broeren, directed by K. Holten, was silly and a real waste of time and money. The taste level is spotty. Aarhus has a lovely old town though and the food is better and more affordable than in Copenhagen. And the area around Aarhus, particularly the Mols coastline/Ebeltoft, is really lovely.

            • If you’d said (Don Magnifico) we might have blinked.

            • Rick

              The cutting-edge crowd of Parterre? I doubt it ????
              Of course, she could also have sing Tisbe…

      • Armerjacquino

        Props to Korngold, I guess! Don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad one either. There’s a Hendricks aria recital where she’s caught a little late, but it’s not in any way bad.

        • Armerjacquino

          Also, WHAT a kickass rep for a late-career recital. How could any opera queen, of any gender, resist?
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bc5558b46e31744a9ff36650294dd94e05708bfae69e7bba39bf925565bf0ef3.png

          • Armerjacquino

            (the Korngold is a bonus track)

        • Ivy Lin

          It sounds gorgeous even on voices where you wouldn’t think it’d be a natural fit:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kUoHdL6br0

          • southerndoc1

            The range of music that Farrell sang well is astonishing.

            • Apulia

              I stopped thinking there was ANYTHING Farrell couldn’t sing, not sure if it was when I heard the Depuis le jour recording or the Knowville……

            • southerndoc1

              The French chansons completely blew me away.

            • Armerjacquino

              Google provides this uncompromising paragraph from her autobiography:

              ‘I know Mozart cleans up your voice just as Bach does, but I never cared for Mozart- where you sing, you talk, you sing, you talk- God, it must be awful! You never get to plunge right into the music and stay there. I admire people who sing Mozart’s operas, but I don’t know how they do it.’

              So I’m guessing little to none!

      • PCally

        I think a lot of the complete Marietta’s actually are kind of lame.

      • There’s a significant difference between recording the aria and singing the role in full on stage!

      • MisterSnow

        Appropo of a recen birthday sim this version. The top may go a little “straight” tone at time, but has anything ever been sung with more gorgeous tone and intensity of legato line. Seriously, her complete series of Prima Donna albums is one of the great recorded legacies of all time with an amazing range of roles and styles. She may have been conservative in her choice of roles in the house, but in the studio and recital hall, she sang an amazing range of repertoire.
        https://youtu.be/k90RQ1sbdz4

        Love the picture too!

      • I think that exposes ascent in the main melody is tricky and even the most plush voices (even Price below) sound less than plush in it. Lorengar does as well as anyone I’ve heard.

    • Luvtennis

      I actually think Lorengar was a finer singer than Caballé in many respects. Unfortunate for her, the voice did not record as well….

  • MisterSnow

    Late career Lorengar with early Richard Leech
    https://youtu.be/wQLWbkDxp28

    • grimoaldo2

      hahaha I was just getting ready to post this
      as a comment says “on regrette seulement que ce ne soit pas chanté en français”

    • jacobelli

      This is one of my favorite moments from the Tucker Gala over the last 30 years. It shows how great a singer Leech was early in his career. And Lorengar must be nearly 60 here and is just wonderful. A very interesting pairing and a thrilling performance.

    • Tamerlano

      I was going to post this! They are both wonderful in it.

  • Armerjacquino

    Guys, sorry for the thread-swerve but I recently did a Big Tidy and found lots of DVDs and CDs I thought I’d lost. I’m currently watching the Met Centennial Gala and… quite a lot of the singing is sort of worse than I remember?

    Obviously there’s the Dove Sono fail (although the rest of it is lovely) but you got Marton horribly flatting the top of IQR, you’ve got Sutherland really sliding through the coloratura of BRL, you’ve even got the glorious Anna Tomowa-Sintow singing the hell out of the Ernani aria but with a much more pinched and narrow tone than I remember.

    Thank god for Von Stade, basically. And Dano Raffanti.

    • Nelly della Vittoria

      I may be remembering incorrectly, but wasn’t the edition of BRL Sutherland sang at the Met Centennial another tricky Bonynge arrangement where the cabaletta switches down a step or half-step to let Joan add an unwritten sovracuto at the end? (They did this sometimes in the big Maria Stuarda aria/cabaletta as well, yes?) That sort of adjustment can overbalance a singer, I suspect: it was far from the most difficult music she sang, even in the 80s.

      • WindyCityOperaman

        La Stupenda did the same thing with Anna Bolena at the end of her career. BTW I’m still annoyed by the fact that even after all this time the COMPLETE Centennial and Bing Galas cannot be released professionally.

      • PCally

        Sutherland’s transpositions were so bizarre because her lower and middle registers were the weakest parts of her voice by that period in career and the lowered music only drew attention to that. Yeah she could bang out a top note at the end but in between you get this flat wheezy sound that sounds like a different singer entirely.

        • Nelly della Vittoria

          Yes, lowering “Coppia iniqua!” etc. by a tone or even a semitone was maybe not such a good idea, what with those low trills: Col perdono sul labbro si scenda, &c.

          • Dan Patterson

            That transposition really disappointed me. I saw Sutherland sing this role three times. It would have been far better to keep the cabaletta as written and skip the high note at the end. Then Sutherland could have nailed those ascending trills. That high note is just not necessary. Callas didn’t sing one.

          • Brackweaver

            It was a whole step. Sigh.

        • Luvtennis

          Agree. Ricky should have skipped the transposition and written a cadenza to allow her to avoid the high E. Also, I am pretty sure the transposition is at least a whole step. In fact, isn’t the concluding note a d flat?

          • Nelly della Vittoria

            Anne Boleyn, it’s widely agreed, did not go out on a high note.

            • Luvtennis

              Lol!!!!! But Beverly did so Joan had to.

          • Brackweaver

            I just checked. It’s down a minor third so the high note is a d flat (or c sharp). I knew it was down and had always assumed that it was a whole step.

        • Nelly della Vittoria

          Just for some perspective, a far better performance, not exactly heart-wringing but thrillingly sung, from the same year (in music from a generally-despised opera, I’m well aware, though I have a soft spot for the aria): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L88BhEP5rE

    • PCally

      Yeah a lot of that evening is pretty bleak, especially when the Gala a decade earlier is pretty glorious overall.

      • Luvtennis

        And the “farewell to the old met” gala must have been mind blowing!!!!

    • Luvtennis

      Armerjaquino

      While the Sutherland and Marton issues are what they are, I think it may be unfair to judge ATS based on that recording. The narrow pinched tone may be an artifact of the recording. I find that recordings of her voice vary wildly in their ability accurately capture her sound.

    • I grew up watching a worn VHS copy of the Met Centennial and recently got the DVD for sentimental reasons. I’ve only watched an hour or so. Marton is quite flat on the climatic high C of “In questa reggia” but other than that phrase, I thought her pitch wasn’t too bad.

      Raimondi’s “La Calunnia” is quite good.

      Roberta Peter is barely audible in the Lucia Sextet, despite singing the top line which usually carries.

      For me, the real highlight of that first section of the concert is James McCracken’s “Dio mi potevi”. The voice is pretty frail (he was in his late 50s) but the delivery is gripping.

      And yeah, Sutherland transposes the whole cabaletta down just so she can throw in a C-sharp or D-flat, sounding out of sorts through the rest. I understand this was typical of her work in the 80s. Part of it stemmed from the fact that people had such unrealistic expectation of her and her high notes. I think she felt that she if she didn’t throw in a high note at the end of something, people would think she had lost it.

  • WindyCityOperaman
  • David Yllanes

    No homage to Lorengar is complete without some zarzuela. Since Marietta’s lied was discussed before, I present another Marietta, from Rafael Millán’s “La dogaresa”:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDeIjitw_8E

    And here with Plácido Domingo in “El dúo de la Africana” (that’s the title of the zarzuela, because the plot revolves around a company trying to perform “L’Africaine”).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7RyGfU_zRs

  • Apulia

    perhaps this is an old topic here, but just what is it that makes a voice “record well” or not? why did, if true as claimed below, Caballé record better than Lorengar? And I’ve always wondered, since I did not hear her in the flesh, if Callas really sounded….like Callas on record, or which of her records she sounded most like (at various stages of the career)……

    • Luvtennis

      In answer to your first question, I don’t think anyone can say for certainty what vocal characteristics make a voice phonogenic. Certainly, vibrato can be exaggerated by the microphones. And some large voices may be difficult to capture. Also there is a difference between recording well and capturing the true impact of a voice live. Frankly, many of the most phonogenic voices sound different, often better, live.

      As for the second question, I think we must have posters who can comment. I was too young to have ever heard Callas live.

      • Apulia

        Thanks. And to your point about phonogenic voices sometimes sounding even better live, I did find that true when I heard Caballé live in her prime, which also prompted me to ask the question.

        • Luvtennis

          For me the issue is that Caballé did things in the studio that she could not do consistently live. And I am not talking about the practice of recording role that one might avoid live. I am speaking of some of the technical feats that were largely editing feats.

          • Rick

            Examples, please (c:

            • Luvtennis

              Her live performances of O patria mia vs. the studio with the edit before the high c. Or frankly any number of live performances where she ignores the the score and libretto or adjusts them to suit herself. Don’t get me wrong she was better live in some instances -- the Norma from Orange is miles better than the studio, for instance.

            • Rick

              The fact that she can sing eg longer phrases, better pianos, more difficult runs etc in the studio is not necessarily due to editing but can also be because she dared to do these thing in the security of the studio. I remember seeing a concert with Ms Caballé in Denmark in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Generally, she sang well, the best probably the extended scene from the fourth act of Otello. But I still remember a very loud high note that should have been piano (maybe the B towards the end of Pace?). My mother (herself an opera singer of some reknown in Denmark at the time) and I both got the distinct impression that Ms Caballé suddenly got nervous and decided that a secure forte was the safer bet. She did sing a glorious and long piano Aflat at the end of Ave Maria.

            • Luvtennis

              I agree. I did use the term “consistently….”

            • Rick

              Honestly, I never noticed -- and it was one of my first records -- will have to listen again.

            • GiacomoPuccini

              Hard to understand why they did that. I heard her do that high C piano in the theatre. She could do it. Why fake it in the recording? Same with Corelli and the end of Celeste Aida . Heard him do the diminuendo several times live and then they fake it in the recording.

            • Armerjacquino

              I think you’re coming at this from the wrong direction. The fact that they put in the edit explains why they did it. If she’d been able to do it on the day of the session she’d have done so. She couldn’t so they spliced it.

              The history of opera is full of people who could do something on one day and couldn’t on another.

            • GiacomoPuccini

              That’s exactly my point. She was often not at her best when recording. Live she sometimes did amazing things. The audience inspired her perhaps or got her to show off.

            • Armerjacquino

              I think we’ve got a crossed wire here. You asked a question (‘Why fake it in the recording?’) and I answered it. Now we’ve veered into whether she was a better performer live or in the studio, which isn’t the ballpark I wandered into.

            • GiacomoPuccini

              Lol. It’s all matter of the order in which one reads the comments. My original comment was to the effect that I thought that some of her best singing was onstage and that I thought that often she was not in good voice in the studio. If she couldn’t do the C piano one day, why not tape it the next day or from a live performance. She could do it if so moved. Supposedly she could be lazy or careless sometimes.

            • Armerjacquino

              Well, because you certainly can’t splice in anything from a live performance because the acoustic would be totally different. And making a studio edit is a lot easier than scheduling O Patria Mia for every session in case the C happened to be there. There’s a finite amount of studio time and there’s still the rest of the opera to record! I doubt, for example, Cossotto would have taken kindly to being told ‘we’re not going to do the judgement scene today after all, Caballe thinks she might have a piano high C’.

            • Armerjacquino

              And of course what you suggest is essentially what they did anyway, which is pretty circular. We’ve gone from ‘why did they splice in another take?’ to ‘they should have spliced in another take’.

          • GiacomoPuccini

            My experience was the opposite. I saw Caballe a few times when she was in top form and she was spectacular. On the other hand I’ve found her rather variable in studio recordings. I think the audience incited her to go the extra mile.