It took over 20 years for Villi to reach the Met for its US premiere with Arturo Toscanini conducting Frances Alda (compatriot of last week’s TT subject Kiri Te Kanawa), Alessandro Bonci and Pasquale Amato in 1909.
Puccini’s operatic take on the Giselle story lasted just one season and six performances despite being on a double-bill with Emmy Destinn and Enrico Caruso arguing in Cavalleria Rusticana!
A concert version of Villi performed by the Collegiate Chorale at Carnegie Hall in 2006 starred Aprile Millo, Franco Farina and Carlo Guelfi: I remember being glad that I had heard it. After intermission Millo was promised in the third act of Turandot. Despite wanting to hear the New York premiere of the Berio ending, I’d had a long day and wasn’t feeling it so I fled at intermission. I was later told by a friend that she was good, but the show was stolen once more by Hei-Kyung Hong as Liù.
The next year Villi made a brief reappearance at the Met when Michael Fabiano chose “Torna ai felici di” for one of his arias at the National Council Auditions finals—in which he was one of the winners. I don’t recall if one hears any of it in The Audition, the documentary about that year’s competition which featured a particularly choice group of contestants including Amber Wagner, Jamie Barton, Ryan McKinny and Angela Meade!
I recall many comments through the years bemoaning the scarce local appearances of Stoyanova but in truth she hasn’t really been that absent. Over the past twenty years, the Bulgarian soprano has performed eleven operas in New York—eight at the Met (along with the Verdi Requiem) in addition to three with Opera Orchestra of New York with whom she made her NYC debut as Valentine in Les Huguenots in 2001.
As she and Marcello Giordani were by far the best things about the Meyerbeer, it was a pleasure to encounter them again seven years later when they performed the great fourth-act duet at an Opera Orchestra gala celebrating Eve Queler. Although I attended both Huguenots and the following season’s La Battaglia di Legnano with Stoyanova, I wasn’t in the mood for Anna Bolena, her final OONY opera, but at that same 2008 gala (the one that allegedly helped end Bernard Holland’s career at The New York Times) she performed a lovely “Al dolce guidami.”
When Riccardo Muti brought the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to Carnegie Hall for Otello, she shone brightly as Desdemona particularly opposite Aleksandrs Antonenko—though he was then still in decent form—and an impossibly gruff Guelfi.
My Met encounters with Stoyanova have included a really excellent Violetta (wooed by Jonas Kaufmann in his swift return after his startlingly good debut the previous season) and one of the best Donna Annas I’ve ever heard. In the Mozart though she had to contend with Erwin Schrott’s beefcake-showboating and Susan Graham’s unexpectedly disastrous Elvira. Although I missed Liù, Micaëla and Aïda, her rather lady-like Nedda was nevertheless beautifully sung as was her Mimi though it must have been the least tear-jerking Bohème I’ve ever attended; she and an unusually disengaged Joseph Calleja (even for him!) showed little chemistry.
Other US cities have had more of Stoyanova’s Verdi than New York: San Diego hosted her Ballo Amelia and Chicago Lyric has featured her in Simon Boccanegra and Luisa Miller. Unfortunately, we’ve all been deprived of Stoyanova’s recent acclaimed excursions into works by Richard Strauss. Broadcasts of Ariadne auf Naxos, Die Liebe der Danae and Der Rosenkavalier suggest we’ve been missing something special.
Puccini: Le Villi
23 October 2005
Anna — Krassimira Stoyanova
Roberto — José Cura
Guglielmo — Franz Grundheber
Conductor — Simone Young
Le Villi 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 files will appear in your download directory.
Stoyanova can also be heard on Trove Thursday in Dvorak’s Dimitrij.
The archive which lists all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer was up-to-dated in late December.