Cher Public

Does whatever a spider can

If familiarity breeds contempt, unusual longevity breeds a mixture of admiration and suspicion. We all can name singers who burst onto the scene, commanded attention, and flamed out in less than a decade due to imperfect technique, bad advice, foolish ambition, personal problems. Then, there are the more typical star careers: perhaps 20 or 25 really good years and then off to teaching, with some competition-judging sprinkled in.

But what of those singers who keep hanging around after 35 or 40 years in major roles? What of those who manage to reinvent themselves for second, even third careers in very different repertoire? One may ask how brightly they could they have been burning all along, and how much candle is left. A new Roberto Devereux DVD from Teatro Real, Madrid, taped October 2015, offers an opportunity to appraise the recent work of such a soprano and tenor.  Read more »

Gold rush

By the early 19th century the story of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex, and his liaison with Elizabeth I had already been the subject of a number of theatrical diversions including an opera by Saverio Mercadante. When Gaetano Donizetti decided to set it for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples for the season of 1837 his dramatist Salvadore Cammarano borrowed so liberally from the former’s libretto by Felice Romani (who had conveniently passed on) that his widow threatened a plagiarism suit.

Donizetti fashioned the title role to the formidable gifts of Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis who had created his Maria Stuarda and was considered the greatest Norma of her day second only to Giuditta Pasta. Mme. Ronzi de Begnis seems to have been a bit Zwischenfach in an age that didn’t put hard and fast labels on female voices. She excelled not only as Rossini’s Semiramide and Mozart’s Donna Anna but as Bellini’s Romeo and Rossini’s Desdemona as well. There’s no doubting she had an imposing technique for her career lasted 35 years and her success in Devereux came at the 20 year mark.  Read more »

Roberto Devereux: Tragedy Mirrored

Devereux Leyla GencerBy the time Roberto Devereux saw its premiere at Napoli’s Teatro San Carlo on 29 October, 1837, Gaetano Donizetti had lost, in an 18-month time frame, both his parents, two still-born children, and his beloved wife Virginia. (Ten years later, the unfortunate composer, after a gradual descent into madness, met a grisly end, from complications of syphilis.) The opera was completed a month after his wife’s death. We can scarcely imagine how the composer, in his grief, summoned up the means to create an opera—and one that so often teems with his richest levels of inspiration.  Read more »

Trapped in the web of love

Which operatic character could be best described as a spider?

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Text appeal

What makes Norma such a high-profile role in the soprano repertory?

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La regina d’Inghilterra ho veduto cantar

“At Carnegie Hall last Thursday, a capacity crowd witnessed what might be the final official act of a monarch who has reigned for more than four decades.”

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Victorious, happy and glorious

Even before Italian diva Mariella Devia had completed the stunning high D natural that capped her miraculous portrayal of Elisabetta in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux Thursday evening at Carnegie Hall, tens, then hundreds of those in attendance leapt to their feet to shout their acclaim.

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Over the moon

Mariella Devia will augment her already vast bel canto repertoire next year with the role of roles: Bellini’s Norma.

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