Thanks to Ken Benson’s Facebook posting (via Zachary Woolfe) I learned that Monday was Eve Queler’s 90th birthday; I immediately shuffled the schedule so Trove Thursday could salute this NYC opera icon with a 1995 I Puritani featuring two of her favorite singers, Mariella Devia and Gregory Kunde.
For nearly 70 years, New York City was the world capital of concert opera thanks first to the American Opera Society, then to Queler’s Opera Orchestra of New York. Sadly, those days are over—probably forever!
Scanning OONY’s performances from 1972 to 2016, I calculated that I’d attended just 25 conducted by Queler (plus there were also a couple in the early 2010s led by a Pretender to the Throne). As I was looked over the astonishing list (remembering the many high-profile cancellations that plagued the organization), I nearly wept over the nights I might have attended but didn’t–for reasons that must have seemed good at the time! If I had it to do it all over again, my 25 would surely have been double that, at least.
During her 15 years at the Met Devia was limited to just five roles, primarily lots of Gildas, Lucias and Konstanzes. For Queler though, Devia was able to share a bit more: in addition to today’s Elvira, she was Giulietta to Jennifer Larmore’s Romeo in I Capuleti ed I Montecchi and Adelia in Donizetti’s rare opera of that name. Fifteen years after Adelia and 34 (!) after her company debut in Lakmé, Devia returned to OONY at Carnegie for a glorious valedictory Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux!
Still going strong at 66, Kunde has had a most erratic Met career. After a one-night stand as Des Grieux during that first tenor-challenged season of the Jean-Pierre Ponnelle Manon in 1987, he didn’t return until 13 years later for a single Ramiro in La Cenerentola. Eleven years after today’s OONY Arturo he reappeared at the Met to drive Anna Netrebko mad in Puritani during the 2006-07 season. Another dozen years would elapse before Kunde came to the Met’s rescue spelling an ailing Aleksandrs Antonenko mid-performance as Samson.
By contrast, from 1992 until 2001 Kunde was one of Queler’s go-to tenors. During that decade in addition to Puritani, he appeared in La Straniera, Armida, La Sonnambula, Capuleti, La Favorita and Maria Stuarda often opposite Renée Fleming or Ruth Ann Swenson,
Note a 24-year-old Eric Owens in the cast as Gualtiero.
Before today, Trove Thursday had presented nine Queler-led OONY performances of eight operas.
Boieldieu: La Dame Blanche (Fleming)
Cilea: L’Arlesiana (Moore, Cornetti, Filianoti)
Delibes: Lakmé (Devia, Gedda, Plishka)
Janacek: Kat’a Kabanova (Benackova, Kniplova)
Puccini: Edgar (Moore, Larmore, Giordani)
Rossini: Armida (Fleming, Kunde)
Smetana: Libuse (Benackova)
Verdi: I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata (Scotto/Carreras & Millo/Bergonzi)
These just hint at the astonishing variety of works she presented—from Boito to Weber, Glinka to Montemezzi, Meyerbeer to Rimsky-Korsakov, in addition to LOTS of Donizetti and Verdi! More OONY to come on Trove Thursday in 2021!
Bellini: I Puritani
Opera Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall
8 May 1995
Elvira — Mariella Devia
Enrichetta — Carla Wood
Lord Arturo Talbot — Gregory Kunde
Sir Riccardo Forth — Carlo Guelfi
Sir Giorgio Walton — Dean Peterson
Lord Gualtiero Walton — Eric Owens
Bruno — Ronald Naldi
Conductor — Eve Queler
Puritani can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.
The archive, which lists all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer, was up-to-dated in late December.