Elena handbasket

It appears that La Cieca’s concerns about the suitability of Maria Guleghina for I vespri siciliani are shared by certain members of the Washington Opera administration. An insider whispers that MG’s (infrequent) vocalizing at rehearsals has been “horrific,” and members of the company are just waiting for the axe to fall. Expect Domingo to protest (and oust) the soprano immediately after Labor Day.


15 Responses to “Elena handbasket”

  1. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    The question is: where do you find a replacement ?

  2. John_E_Skikey Says:

    I had heard that Lisa Daltirus is the Elena cover for this production, but I can’t see her going on for a full run of performances. Again, not sure of the wisdom of Ms. Daltirus in this role either.

  3. belcantist Says:


  4. Solaperduta Says:

    Lisa Daltirus is not the Elena cover. The Elena cover is the phenomenally talented, incredibly underrated Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, and I, for one, pray she goes on.

  5. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    I still stand by Guleghina. It doesn’t make sense that she would be doing so poorly as Elena. I mean, here is a woman who can sing Nabucco, Lady Macbeth, Odabella in Attila, and Leonora in Forza…four roles that are some of the heaviest and most demanding in the entire repertoire…Elena is clearly much lighter than those girls…maybe that’s the problem, it might be too light for Guleghina’s massive instrument…but I would imagine that a role that requires outbursts and a strong sense of line and certainly a strong ability to sing clean, florid music…that Guleghina would be perfect for the role. I hope she does well.

  6. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    P.S. – I didn’t mean to suggest that she was singing the role of Nabucco…I should have typed Abigaille in Nabucco. Forgive.

  7. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Regardless of what Ms Guleghina’s abilities may be, I find it difficult to believe that a professional singer, with the experience that she has singing very exacting roles, would have committed to a role without having ascertained herself that she could do it.

    Of course, it can happen. She may be ill. The voice also changes. Still… she’s busy these days doing Traviata, Abigaille, Tosca, etc. elsewhere.

    I wish her luck. We need more singers willing to stretch, be willing to try new repertory, and bring passion to the stage. And that she will.

  8. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    Tenore di Grazia…

    I do agree with you that it is apalling to think of a professional singer making a mistake in repertoire or being unprepared for a run of performances…sadly that sort of thing occurs alarmingly often in this business and has for many years. Clearly before the fach system was developed…many singers sang things completely out of their vocal capabilities…even some of the greatest singers known to our ears – Callas, Tebaldi, Caballe, etc – and certainly stunningly frequent amongst modern singers – there are SO many singers – good ones – today who have this tendency to sing things that they have no business singing.

    It’s amazing to think that a singer would sit through private study of a score, and private coachings, and then rehearsals with conductors (sadly many who don’t know voices well enough) and then rehearsals with orchestra and the rest of the company and not discover that they are incapable of performing that role to either the best of their abilities or to the standard by which the composer expected of that singer!!! It happens damn near everyday.

    I would like to think that Guleghina is a sensible singer…and I certainly believe that the role of Elena is within the reaches of her vocal talents…but it’s true that the possibility exists that she hasn’t devoted an adequate amount of time to studying the role in a way that would enable her to build the role into her voice and be prepared at her rehearsals. Perhaps she didn’t leave as much preparation time for the role as she should have.

    This is a problem I continue to notice amongst people who are making their careers singing and those who are in the process of working towards that goal. As young singers, or singers that are in high demand (popularity, fame, etc.)…we find ourselves faced with several issues. The first is the need for work – the need to perform – and the idea that one doesn’t have the ability or power to say no…especially to individuals who have claims to ‘power’ in the industry. So a light lyric soprano who is trying so desperately to make a name for herself is suddenly offered to sing Mimi somewhere barely half-way prestigious – but seeing as she has no other offers or prospects, she takes the gig and thus can potentially destroy her instrument.

    Another issue is that when singers tire of their usual repertoire and they begin to feel that they need to do something ‘larger’ or ‘heavier’ or ‘rarer’ or ‘more popular.’ That almost always has negative results when such actions are taken without careful consideration and deliberation. Another problem is that many singers take on far too many roles all at once…they don’t leave time for them to rest and to relax…to allow for vocal changes…to allow time to study and learn new scores or to relearn old ones for new performances…and eventually they burn out very quickly – too much travel, too much singing, too many engagements, too many parties, too many of everything! There are some fantastic singers right now who look like they fit into that category. Mr. Florez…if one looks at his upcoming engagements – I fear that a) he is taking on a few too many ‘heavier’ roles than necessary (too much Donizetti) and b) he hops around the planet & damn near every three days he’s halfway around the world and he’s singing 12 different operas and 30 different recitals in a 12 month period. This cannot be healthy unless one is planning for an early retirement. And it would be a true shame if he burned out. I personally find his singing to be extremely refreshing and very beautiful and I would be very disappointed were he to leave the operatic scene sooner than necessary. And that is an honest statement – I will admit, I have more personality traits of a bassoonist than I do a tenor (seeing as I hold degrees in both fields).

    Tying this back into MG…it is possible that she has not alotted a sufficient amount of time to studying and personalizing the role or Elena which is why she isn’t sounding so wonderful in rehearsals – she might be afraid. It is a crazy role and is very demanding.
    I think what you have had to say in your comment, T di G, are of merit…but I disagree with you on one point – Sadly, I do not find it difficult to believe that a professional singer would commit to a role that is beyond their reach – either for vocal or time management reasons. It’s a truly disappointing thing, especially when it is a singer as great as she is. Let’s hope that it is just an illness that is affecting her and not her lack of preparation or ability. (This is beginning to sound like that whole Carol Vaness thing with NYCO…hmmm…)

  9. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Ah, Tenore di Coloratura Superba, I do so much agree with you ! It’s always baffled me why singers commit mistakes so obvious to everyone else. Why is it that no soprano is satisfied until she sings Tosca regardless of her voice category? Or why tenors feel they all must sing Manrico?

    As someone who melts at the sound of Tebaldi’s voice, I cringe when I think of her singing Tosca and Maddalena while in her early twenties. And Carreras, why, oh why?!

    Now as to my posting, I was merely trying to be optimistic / charitable / hopeful. After all we don’t truly know that Ms Guleghina can’t sing the role of Elena or is having difficulties with it. It’s only hearsay.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if she not only sang the role but had a triumph with it? We need a Verdi soprano.

    One reason I so enjoy Mme La Cieca’s blog is that it’s not just about bashing singers and operas. I am more often than not quite discriminating (unforgivable ?) when it comes to judging singers. But, this is a time when I’d rather give Mme Guleghina the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best.

    However, this doesn’t mean at all that I’m of the sort that stands up to applaud anyone who manages to walk across the stage without falling down. Notice how every performance these days get an immediate standing ovation ? Perhaps that’s the reason we encounter so much bad singing… but that’s a topic of discussion at some other time.

    Before closing, I should add that another reason I enjoy Mme La Cieca’s musical salon is the opportunity of chatting with charming tenors such as you, The Interpolator, and others. I look forward to your postings.

  10. TheInterpolator Says:

    The Interpolator has finally returned to these shores, to the Land of the Free (interpolate High-C here, tacky and WONERFUL though it is), and the Home of the Brave (insert wild applause here, in appreciation of the High-C in the penultimate phrase of the National Anthem). I have been abroad in The Old Country doing some oh-so-serious Rossini opera-seria, complete with High D’s I’ve been whining about in these pages.

    Before getting down to bid’ness re: MG and I Vespri, the Interpolator would first like to report, for those interested, that the arias in both acts went well each night, and that one of them may well become a staple in the Interpolator’s concert repertoire. Although there are written high D’s in this version of the score, the second aria is in G-major and does NOT have a written high D — yet it literally screams for one.

    So, “Regnava”-style, the Interpolator bullied the conductor (who was actually very sweet about it — and just sweet in general, but never mind) into allowing the Interpolator to insert the high-D to conclude the aria, complete with a glorious portamento down to the G for the final vocal release.

    Now, the Interpolator DOES NOT mean to say that HIS high-D or portamento are glorious (that is for the fans, and house managament, to decide). Rather, the Interpolator means that the mere ACT of sitting on a high-D, holding and holding, growing in throbbing full voice, then using a portamento down from the dominant D to the tonic G is ITSELF a glorious act, one that the Interpolator dreamed about as a teeneager listening to Joan Sutherland and Beverly Sills do repeatedly on his well-worn cassette tapes.

    So please understand. The Interpolator hopes that the audience enjoyed the panache of it, the sound of it, and the musico-drammatico effect of it serving to propel the drama. BUT…

    BUT…. Dare say it? Do I?

    Yes, the Interpolator shall say it, as he thinks that, perhaps, Il Tenore di Grazia and Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba are likely to appreciate it — agree or disagree — but appreciate it, nonetheless. So here it is:

    Holding a penultimate dominant chord-tone before final harmonic resolution to the tonic in Rossini can be — well — tacky. But here’s the thing:

    The audience LOVES it.

    The house management thinks the Interpolator became a god — for that one instant — during the D, he was a god.

    It makes a huge emotional impact on the listener, moving the drama forward and underlining the libretto words “Per sempre!” Forever! That is, “Per” on high-A, “Sem” on the high-D with fermata – hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it — then portamento down to the G on “pre” after signalling to the chef-d’orchestre that the Interpolator is about to leave the god-note and portamento down to the close.

    Now. Let’s talk a minute.

    Are any of you (particularly you two, Il Tenore di Grazia and Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba) familiar with the Joan Sutherland recording of “Come tacer…Vorreri spiegarvi” from Rossini’s “Il Cambiale di Matrimonio?” To conclude the cabaletta, she interpolates a high-E dominant chord-tone, then holds it, then she portamentos down to the vocal release note of the high-A.

    This is precisely the same thing that the Interpolator does in HIS recent Rossini outing, though in the key of G-major (thus the high-D) instead of A-major (giving us Joanie’s high-E).

    Well, if Ricky Bonynge can sanction such an interpolation, then why can’t we? After all, it was frankly Ricky Bonynge and Joan Sutherland who COMPLETE fashioned the Interpolator’s view and vision of bel-canto. I can’t help it. It is “in here” to stay. Say what you will about Ricky and Joan (and it’s ALL been said, hasn’t it!!), but nevertheless those two Aussies changed my perception of Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti forever.

    Again, like it or not, disagree or not, we must remember this: The Interpolator is a singer working in A-houses, doing almost exclusively bel-canto rep (though I include Mozart and some Meyerbeer here, if you’ll forgive that slight indiscretion, because vocally, the things that make the Interpolator a good “Cosi” Ferrando also make him a good “Fille” Tonio, a good “Lucia” Edgardo, and a good “Puritani” Arturo.

    These roles (really, the milieu of Mozart/Rossini/Donizetti/Meyerbeer/Bellini) are the one the Interpolator has been singing at the Met, Covent Garden, and of course the Bastille, and all over. The Interpolator says this not to brag (because it is NOT a braggart speaking, it is a singer who feels lukcy to get out of bed every day and be “forced” to go to work singing the Italian Tenor to Madame Fleming’s Marschallin, or Andrea Rost’s Lucia. The Interpolator is blessed, and is honored, and he will continue to hold up his end of the bargain until his vocal cords simply no longer allow it.

    And from this platform, allow the Interpolator the slight liberty to say this: I have never, EVER, given “DEMENTED” performances when forced to sing ABSOLUTELY “come scritto,” or “as-written-only.” Instead, the Interpolator’s truly demented performaces (and I suppose there have only been a few, really, but God KNOWS I try…I try, I try, I try)…

    …well, those few truly demented performances have arisen when the Interpolator has thrown caution to the wind, abandoning all decorum, and decided to not only sing but HOLD TILL CURTAIN-DOWN a final high-D to conclude Edgardo’s Act III cavatina. After all, after Lucia’s E-flat madscene, why the fuck can’t the Interpolator finalize that FAB D-major aria with a high-D to send the audience home? And, while he’s up there anyway, why can’t the Interpolator just hold that fucker until the curtain rings down, the lights go to all-black, and the chef throws his final release? THAT, my fiend, is the proper way to interpolate a high-D.

    Just ask Ricky Bonynge. Yep, he’s the one that taught me THAT little trick; it certainly was not the shitty, pissant house stage “unter-direcktor” asisstants at the Garden. Puh-leze.

    When the Interpolator was doing major, extensive study of I Puritani with Maestro Bonynge in preparation for his first professional-level performaces of the role (as opposed to the Interpolator’s first outing in conservatory with that piece), he was a revelation of dementia to the Interpolator. Yes, it’s true. Dementia through TEAHCING, COACHING from Ricky Bonynge. Thank you, Ric, for preparing me to sing Puritani, Lucia, and Rossini seria in ways I never thought I would.

    Now harken back. When the Interpolator was a teenaged singer-wannabe, he often listened to the Sutherland/Pavarotti recording of Puritani, as well as the Sutherland/Pavarotti recordings of La Fille and Lucia. One can well imagine the feelings that Interpolator had, wondering whether he would ever be able to sing that type of florid, near-impossible music.

    …and then to actually learn at this man’s FEET? At his piano in Switzerland and in Sydney? Allow the Interpolator another liberty: the Bonynge bashers should know that Bonynge himself truly prepared the Interpolator for engagements, RETURN engagements, and many future contracts singing the standard bel-canto repertoire, and the Interpolator will forever be grateful to him for that.

    What so MANY people do not understand — even people that seem to admire the Interpolator’s singing! — is that my “career” is still economically driven! I pay rent on an apartment in the States, I own a flat in a major European capital minutes from the opera house — and these things cost money. Flying around the world twice per month is expensive, too, and this cost is not always directly reimbursed. (OFten, it is built into the fees — but it just depends.)

    So, we can talk ’till we’re dry about the right rep, artistic maturity, and all those things…but let’s face it. The Interpolator wants to be (1) hired, then (2) hired AGAIN to the same house, (3) healthfully singing good rep, and (4) making good money at it. Why SHOULDN’T the INterpolator be making big money for it?

    Franky, much like a surgeon or a lawyer, the skills I bring to the marketplace are rare ones. Certainly, another tenor can always sing faster, higher, brighter, darker, more impassioned, or more restrained, but the Interpolator knows that he can do SOME things well. To these he will stay true.

    But at times, when I hear the orchestra hit those A-major chords to begin “Un aura amorosa,” or that C-major orchestra hit to open Count Almaviva’s “Ecco ridente” in Barbiere…The Interpolator is standing there on stage thinking “I might have to vomit first, then continue with the aria if possible.”

    Does the average guy realize — no, do gli Tenori di Grazia e di Coloratura Superba, even — TRULY REALIZE how many times the Interpolator has been put through the paces of Cosi or Barbiere? When the orchestra falls onto the lush spread of that D-flat major chord to open “Di rigori” from Rosen-k, do you REALIZE what goes through his head??!! Well fuck. Let him tell you:

    “Mein Gott. Not another ‘Di rigori’ with everyone waiting for that one top C-flat that Puccini singers CAN’T sing right, and that light tenors CAN’T get enough SOUND out, but that standard lyrics don’t have the stamina for, so they have to hire my voice type, but really they can’t afford me for the one aria only, yet it takes a voce/stimmfach of my profile to be able to sing ‘Di Rigori’ at international-A-House standards, but they’ll never book the Interpolator or GHJ or JDF or MH for it, but they DID get the Interpolator because they offered him the rare Mathilde de Shabran of Rossini at the same time, so I guess I’ll just try to sing the shit out of it, then I do sing the shit out of it, then MAYBE, but only MAYBE, do I wait around till the Vorhang of the Erste Act to say Guten Nacht or Bonne Nuit to Debbie Voigt/Renee Fleming/Kiri te Kanawa (at her last Marchallin, thank you very much, and yes I DID wait around that night, and yes the Interpolator even waited till the ending Vorhang of the Dritte Act for HER last Marchalling, and yes the Interpolator cried as Dame Kiri — the beautiful, the iceberg, the untouchable, the perfect, the gifted, the goddess, the stretched-on-an-E-flat in the Trav recording till her cords almost snapped — turned away and sang ‘ja, ja’ then walked off stage-right while the Interpolator wondered just WHAT THE FUCK he was doing singing the Italian Tenor in Dame Kiri’s puported last Marschallin and who the FUCK gave him this job, never mind the pressure) or Renate Behle or Karen Armstrong or Soile Isokoski comes offstage for the First Act after that DREADFULLY long monologue that is ridiculously easy to sing, overrated in the extreme – but hard to memorize, of course, so snaps for the non-deutschen-sprechen sops, right? whatever – but AFTER which monologue, as the sop sweeps off stage to eat fruit and crackers during ALL (yes ALL) of Act II while Sopie and Octavian both sing their fucking tits off, and while Susan Graham actually EARNS that big paycheck she asks for, and deserves, and nails the high B-flat EVERY night, and then the INterpolator shits his pants that someone actually remembered that he was singing this role at the Bastille back in the 90’s along with another tenor, alternating, and yes with Renee and Barbara — and then:

    and then:

    one realizes why Guleghina, despite her flaws, said “Yeah, you betcha friggin life I’ll head to Washington and sing Vespri.” Yep, she said YES, because she could say the SAME things the Interpolator just said above in the long(ish) paragraph regarding what A-house singers often (OK, not always, but…) think when faced with another Giovanni for me, or Nabucco for Maria, or Lucia for me, or Forza for Maria, or Barbiere for me, or Aida for Maria, or La Fille for me, or Tosca for her…

    So, to my friend Maria Guleghina, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage and being BLOWN away into inaudibility by that God-given instrument of yours, the Interpolator says only one thing:

    God speed with Vespri. You show’em what a spirited Russian girl from the Soviet provinces can do. I’ll be thinking of you not on stage, where you will do just fine, but back stage in your loge before the performance, where your mind will set itself for the vocalism and execution ahead. And should they sack you, before or after opening night, then sing the SHIT out of your next Aidas and Toscas and Abigailles, like you always do, and I will cheer you on, note for note for note.

    And perhaps we will meet, someday, for ‘Sulla tomba’ in the gardens of Ravenswood.

    God speed.

    The Interpolator

  11. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:


    Thank you for your posting. I think at this point I have a fairly good idea of whom you might be. And I will say that I agree with you that there is nothing wrong at all with interpolating high notes. In fact, I’ve done quite a bit of research regarding the performance practices of vocal ornamentation from the classical and early romantic periods, especially since I am one who is very well known for my high notes and putting them in places where others have, and where others haven’t been able to in the past.

    Rossini, when he met, later in his life, (forgive me if I don’t recall exactly which singer it was – it was either Pasta or Patti), and she sang Rosina’s aria for him. After she finished with all her elaborate ornaments and variations, Rossini turned to her and said “That was lovely…who wrote it?” And she stormed out and didn’t speak to him for days. He was truly furious with her and exclaimed “I don’t mind her putting her own variations in…that’s why arias are written, to allow the singer to individulize them…but not to keep one note of the score as it was written – even in the recitative! – no, that is too much!” The point is made that if one is to follow the traditions of singing in opera, one must do it tastefully and with good purpose.

    We’ve all been told time and time again that it was Rossini who began to write his vocal music so florid or so perfectly melodic as to prohibit singers from messing around too much with his work. However, in many ways this is an incorrect generalization.

    Rossini spent much of his time developing the orchestra and giving it greater prominence in his work. This ultimately led to him writing music that was less florid and thereby allowing him to write vocal music that would reduce the singers urges to onament. Even Verdi struggled with this – but we do know that it is not incorrect to do some variation in Verdi cabalettas. Verdi himself said that he didn’t like the High Eb at the end of the Sempre libera…but he exclaimed that such a practice was as old as opera itself and he could therefore not stand in the way of such a deeply rooted tradition.

    There is also such a mighty following that it is considered a cardnial sin for anyone to take a high note at the end of a Mozart aria. What I find to be rather ironic is that in most cases, the singers for whom Mozart and his contemporaries were writing these bravura arias for (just look at his soprano concert arias – several which I myself sing)…the point was to show off as much of the singers’ capabilities as possible – runs, trills, endless phrases, plenty of high notes (including E’s F’s and G’s!!!!) and since we are so well aware of how perfectly vain the singers of that time were…I feel almost certain that there were plenty of times when a soprano or castrato felt that it was his duty as a virtuoso to provide the audience not only with interpolated penultimate dominant high notes, but with interpolated final notes as well should the aria allow it. But of course, these singers also did such things with dramatic intent as well – not always just to show off. An example that I have already cited in a previous entry is the end of Elettra’s aria where Joan Sutherland takes, what I feel to be an appropriate gesture, a high C at the end of the aria – thus bringing Elettra’s madness to a climax as the orchestra roars to a conclusion. Granted, Joan was probably just singing another high note as she does best – Lord knows plenty of singers who had a stronger interest in the dramatic aspect of the role never sang a High C there – but I adore Joan for it and thing it fits well.

    And what you say, Interpolator, is extremely true…the audience adores to hear high notes (when they are well placed, spun, and in tune!). I have sadly been subjected to listen to many-a-girl (male or female) who made the boldest attempt at a high note and really just never quite got there. But I honestly find that when singers don’t interpolate high notes in certain areas or don’t do variations in bel canto cadenze…I feel like I’ve been jipped…I feel an emptiness…and then am forced to pull out a recording of Joans, or Editas, or Marias, or Junes (although she doesn’t interpolate as often as she should – poor thing had a sever thyroid problem and it affected her upper extension – cause that bitch had the BEST High E naturals I have EVER heard – listen to ANY of her Semiramide’s – especially on the Dal Vivo in Concerto album – fucking brilliant!) or Natalie Dessay, or Leyla, or Leontyne and quench my thirst for high notes.

    One recording that is, in my opinion, of the highest merit, and yet, proves to be a strong disappointment in so many ways, is the Rigoletto done by Edita Gruberova with Renato Bruson and Neil Schicoff – all amazing singers and artists. The problem with the recording is that NO interpolations have been taken – AT ALL. It’s dreadful! I would declare it the best recording of that opera if only Maestro Sinopoli (who was an EXTRAORDINARY conductor) had allowed it. There is something about Gilda singing high notes at the ends of the duets (along with her respective partners) and certainly a marvelous and moving addition to the storm scene…and who really wants to hear the tenor arias or the Cortegianni without the high notes!!?!?! Not me…no matter how well the damn thing is sung. I will have to go on record to say that the absolute BEST recording of Rigoletto exists only on video – and that is the movie with Luciano and Edita. They sing their asses off! If only they would put that soundtrack on CD. *sigh*

    But of course, there is also such a thing as too many high notes and too many variations. When I met Rockwell Blake, I sang the Languir per una bella for him from L’Italiana in Algeri. I had found (from when I first began to learn the aria several years ago) many places to insert plenty of high notes (C’s D’s and Eb’s) during the repeated sections of both the aria and the cabaletta. I managed to find a very exciting variation for the runs in the cabaletta (I only allowed myself to do these things because of the repetitive nature of the phrases) and then stuck a High Eb on the end (which will remain there until I no longer have an Eb to sing). But as I sang this for him…he told me that there was too much going on and the aria was beginning to become more of a vocal etude rather than a set piece of a gentleman pining for his love to come and rescue him!! Upon further deliberation and discussion, we noticed that there were certain notes that I had interpolated…although vocally secure…were conflicting with not only the text, but also with the harmony. Soon, I was able to remove the unnecessary high notes and only leave the ones that truly helped to a) enliven parts of the aria and b) allowed a heightened sense of the text and the musical motion. I kept the variations in the cabaletta, but I removed all the extraneous high notes in the second half of the cavatina because, after listening to this great singers recording of the aria, I noticed that in order to make the second verse ‘different’ and ‘more interesting’ than the first, he did so by the coloring of his tone, and the musical phrasing and inflections, the dynamics, the styling. And of course, one has the opportunity to interpolate a high note during the little cadenza moment that Rossini provided the singer. Thus I came to a happy conclusion of feeling that not only do I now sing the aria with justice to the bel canto style and to my own talents, but more importantly to the character, to the mood and tone of the piece, and certainly to what we can safely assume, that were Maestro Rossini to find himself in the audience during my performance, he would not feel that I had destroyed or recomposed his great aria (this is a hypothetical notion – but something that I think is important for all musicians. One should always study and learn and perform a score as though the composer was present. I cannot imbue how absolutely essential and important and revealing it is to research and read what each composer had to say in his own words about his own music. One will find that so many ‘traditional’ ways of performing something are quite different from what the composer intended).

    But, my dear Interpolator, you have brought to our attention a very tricky concept indeed. “Com’e scritto.” This was the philosophy of Arturo Toscanini, one of my personal heroes. This ties into what I just said about thourough research and study of the composer, his writings, his ideas, his correspondences with other musical persons, testimonies of musicians who had worked closely with the composer…these are all tools which help us to decipher what it is that the composer set down on paper for us. Marcato in Beethoven is MUCH different from Marcato indications in Stravinsky. Why did Stravinsky feel that he needed to change the ‘definition’ of marcato for his personal use?? This is but one example…but it applies to each and every one of the creative geniuses who have provided us with gifts so that the rest of us may put our talents to use. Why is Andantino faster in Mozart but slower in Brahms? How did said composer feel about tempo and meters? These are the kinds of questions performers and conductors SHOULD be worrying themselves with ANY time they pick up a new piece of music. Sadly, it rarely happens.

    I understand what you mean, Interpolator, by singing a score “Com’e scritto,” however, I believe that the true connotation of the phrase, seeing as it was coined by Maestro Toscanini, was to follow the musical indications of tempo, meter, style, phrasing, and rhythmic/ and harmonic integrity as notated by the composer. That means not changing the tempo suddenly in the middle of a phrase just because it suits the singer or the soloist or the cello section better than if they were to perform it in strict time, it means not taking liberties with dynamics and phrasings, and ritardandi and accelerandi and articulation, etc. at the whim of the conductor or performer. As Toscanini said – “I do not care about Furtwangler’s Beethoven or Mengelbergs Beethoven; I am only concerned with Beethoven’s Beethoven.”

    What you brought to light with how this phrase applies to your experiences as a singer…is that there are many conductors who feel that ornaments and variations and extra high notes don’t have a place in opera…the sad thing (and some may find that what I am about to say blasphemous) is that in almost all cases they are stylistically, interpretively and musically wrong. There are traditions and performances practices that my be investigated and understood as best we can when making these kinds of judgements. I made my error concerning the aforementioned aria at a time when I had learned it without having taken the time to deeply probe the historical matter of how to properly sing in the bel canto style, particular with Rossini’s preferences in mind. So what it boils down to is that it is always important to sing the score “com’e scritto” – do what the composer asked – if he says rallentando, then rallentando…but if he does not make such an indication, who are you or anyone else to create one? (unless it is a composer who was open-minded to such things – someone like Tchaikovsky or Massenet. But we know that Beethoven, Mozart, Puccini, Strauss were SO detailed in their scores that taking such unmitigated liberties is very disrespectful to them and their genius. Mind you, I know that these views I have stated will and are met with quite alot of disagreement. But everything has it’s place. But I implore to all musicians to just take the time to research and to learn as much as you can about what it is you intend to perform – the conductor may not have done his homework!! For instance – does anyone know exactly which instrument Mozart preferred to use during Secco recitativi?? I can promise you that the one that we hear most frequently is the WRONG one – LOL – Mozart said so himself in a letter to his father.

    I think I’ve said enough – it’s late and definitely time for bed.

    Interpolator, please don’t think that I have attacked you in any way in this commentary…you, as an artist of your caliber and having sung with as many artists and worked under so many conductors and directors know just how different each experience with the same opera is each time one goes to perform it. Your comments above were very much on the mark – I only sought to elaborate on some of them and bring some related issues to light.

    One last question for you, though: When you’ve performed Puritani, have you sung the finale “com’e scritto” – with the High F? La Cieca’s example of Puritani filth is rather sad…I feel so terrible for that singer. You can tell that he had the note, but that for whatever reason he just didn’t hook it up in the right place. What disheartens me the most is the clip of Gedda cracking on that B – it’s really quite amazing because he was such a solid and consistent singer – but what it reminds us is that we are all human and were are all prone to imperfections and error. Although, not to make comparisons, but La Cieca should include the clip of Gedda singing that same part of Puritani where he sings the most beautiful, sweet High F imaginable – it’s breath-taking! It certainly makes up for the cracked B!!


  12. Dear Interpolator: Thanks for the nice words about Richard Bonynge. His conducting has always been underrated for some reason, possibly because bel canto used to be sneered at (some of it quite deservedly, as you well know). I’m also glad to hear he was a wonderful coach for you. He strikes me as a very interesting figure who really hasn’t been given his due.

  13. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Dear Interpolator, Tenore di Coloratura Superba and others, remember that the public goes to the theatre to be entertained, to encounter beauty, to abandon reality for three hours or so, to enjoy the particular talents that each performer has, to be surprised and even astonished. To leave the theatre refreshened and reinvigorated, possibly with thoughts to ponder, with memories to cherish, and happy with his investment of time and money.

    This means that at the opera house we welcome good music, wonderful singing, and those things that the interpreters bring to make it a “live” performance, one that is unique, impresses us, makes us happy, and that makes feel that the artist is doing something special just for us. It’s not a film or a recording.

    So, why shouldn’t singers interpolate high or low notes, cadenzas, and the like? I for one am a sucker for messa-di-voce’s. The sound of a beautiful God given voice is a pleasure. For that singer to show us his or her “special effects” is a wonderful experience. We are free to judge the end result good, bad or indifferent, but pleeeeeease, do give us something to judge. What’s the point of all your learning and practicing if you’re not going to show the results to us?

    True, must of us in the audience don’t have the knowledge that you have and may not give due appreciation to your efforts. But I’m sure that every audience has at least one listener that knows. And YOU know. Again, what’s the point of being able to do something if you don’t do it?

    As The Interpolator has said, an artist has to work and earn a living, and that may mean singing when you’re not quite in the mood or don’t like what you have to sing. But you’re privileged to be an artist. When onstage, entertain us !!!

  14. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    The posting from Il Tenore di Coloratura superba reminded me of a Met intermission broadcast many years ago when they played a very old recording of Sempre Libera. It was barely recognizable with all the interpolated high notes and cadenzas. I don’t remember who the soprano was, but we were told that Verdi himself had been a great admirer of her Violetta.

    Of course, the Sempre Libera is sort of a mad scene where it makes dramatic sense if the soprano gets carried away.

    On the other hand, there’s what I think was the first recital recording by Beverly Sills where she sings a collection of coloratura arias – Lucia’s mad scene, Linda di Chamonix, etc. – the usual suspects. It’s fun to listen to but she interpolates so much that at times it’s hard to recognize the arias. After a while they all start sounding alike. Of course, in an opera she would interpolate only in certain spots and not all over.

  15. TheInterpolator Says:

    In case ITDCS or ITDG are looking for him, the Interpolator has made a large post in the “sound and fury” topic, so he will not repeat it here.

    Bonne nuit, mes amis.

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