Be brutal, be brutal!

“Tell me, Roberto, does this costume make my manly butt look big?” Speaking of which, has Anthony Tommasini started writing under an assumed name?

21 Responses to “Be brutal, be brutal!”

  1. brutal, more brutal than Ghiergeou(?)attempt at Tosca. He was kind to her. Never have I heard such a bad “Vissi d’arte” Being in her own time zone was a kind comment, she also seemed to be singing in Rumanian. I have seen bad acting but rarely so stilted a performance, (Madonna as Tosca maybe) While she did look the part, her gesturing and to quote Bumbry “flailing her arms” came across as totally insincere. Give me chubby little Millo, she has studied the part and knows what she’s doing. you can understand her Italian and she has a real vision of who her Tosca is. (I am sure she shows up for her rehearsals!)

  2. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    I agree with Paddypig whole-heartedly. Many people say that Gheorghiu is amazing when you hear her live, but alas, I utterly refuse to buy a ticket to see her perform if she is going to continually supply the recording companies with those tawdry vocals. The only thing I have ever heard out of her on recording that I can honestly say ‘rocked the house’ was a clip of Musetta’s scena on a Puccini Diva’s compiliation that a friend of mine owns. Angela is singing Mimi and truly renders through the scene. I can’t say the same for anything else that she has sung. I also know from inside sources that Solti later felt that doing that Traviata with her was a mistake. He, like so many of us, realize her GREAT potential, sadly, her attitude and her Battle-esque mannerisms have caused her to be greatly disliked in the industry thus far – and her husband is not far behind (I think he’s a better singer than she is, and I have heard wonderful Hoffmann’s and Manon’s from him, but I can’t say that I care for his singing very much – he is good eye candy though!).

    Incidentally, did anyone know that Angela, along with Anna Netrebko (another one who I’ll reserve discussion about) are in the process of making “opera music videos” with hopes of reaching a wider audience. I have to admit, I somewhat like the idea alot. Angela has one on her website singing “Un bel di,” well, she gets through it to say the least, but the video itself is rather interesting and mildly effective.

  3. meretrice i. d'oscena Says:

    Word, and word, gentlemen.
    Gheorghiu leaves me ice cold- I listened to that ‘Manon’ over and over, thinking that I would finally hear what others hear in her voice. But I kept thinking that I was hearing the outer edges of the vibrato, but never the note itself.
    Perhaps Cotrubas spent too much time teaching her how to be eccentric, and not enough on the singing?

    apropos of nothing–
    I love Alagna’s ‘Don Carlos’ video because of the way Hampson, towering over the little cutie, grabs him in the traditional tenor-behind-and-to-the-left-of-the-soprano duet pose. It looks as if they are about to break into “Verrano a te”
    Oh, and the video is also nice for Mattila singing and looking like a Norse Goddess.

  4. Tutto Pazzo Says:

    I do like the idea of creating opera music videos in order to reach a larger audience, but I have seen Anna Netrebko’s video of the Jewel Song and was unimpressed. As I recall, it was actually what appeared to be three separate videos poorly edited into one (one in a ridiculous get up with small mirrors hanging like a mobile, one in modern dress, and possibly one in costume (I don’t recall)).

  5. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    Agreed Meretrice, although Cotrubas was quite fierce in her day, definitely eccentric in some ways, but very much an artist. I do enjoy many of her performances – sadly I haven’t listened to too many of them.

    I have heard the recording of Don Carlos with Mattila and Waltraud and Alagna…he wasn’t terrible, but certainly not living up to the levels of artistry and vocal capabilities for such a heavy role as his cast memebers were. I have not seen the video…but speaking of Don Carlo videos – has ANYONE seen the DVD from (The Netherlands, I think) with Rolando Villazon, Violeta Urmana, and Dwayne Croft? Rolando is to die for, Violeta (who I heard live and have met before at the Met, is astounding – I adore her! Her O don fatale made me cry)…Dwayne, who was also singing the same night I heard Violeta, is a fantastic singer – he did one of the greatest and most unforgettable Figaros in Barbiere at the Met – sadly, I did not like his Rodrigo, it was far too pushed and he looks SO uncomfortable singing it.

    Speaking of that same production at the Met, my dear friend and mentor Eduardo Villa was singing Don Carlo – truly amazing. If you have never heard this voice, you are truly missing out. One of the most BEAUTIFUL and versatile dramatic tenor voices you’ll ever hear. He can sustain the most perfectly spun, in tune, pianissimo singing right along side the most full, round, dramatic fortissimo passages. He really is astounding. Sondra Radvankovsky was the Elisabetta, she was very good, although I think her tongue gets in the way of her singing – she’s so beautiful and it’s such a large voice with so much power and individuality, just the vibrato is too fast at times. :-\
    And Feruccio Furlanetto sand King Phillip that made you want to tear your own heart out and feed it to the person next to you! His singing was SOOO moving and powerful. What an artist!

  6. ffoperabitch Says:

    I agree with the posts so far. The only thing that I’ve actually heard her sing reasonably well was “Pace, pace” at the Solti memorial concert at the Albert Hall.

    I’m always willing to give artists more than one chance to redeem a poor showing but my tolerance for the woman ended with her ludicrous attempt on that bel canto disc at the cabaletta in the Puritani Mad Scene. Not only was the coloratura far from accurate (that’s being polite) but the actual articulation of it sounded rather like farting in the bath.

  7. meretrice i. d'oscena Says:

    That’s what is so weird- I love Cotrubas, and I sometimes I can hear some of her in Gheorghiu. And yet, where Cotrubas’ ‘Traviata’ breaks my heart, Gheorghiu just frustrates.

    The stories I’ve heard about Cotrubas are less ‘Battle-Diva Nuts’ and more ‘She thinks vampires are stalking her Nuts’.
    But who cares- her Susanna, Antonia, Louise, Alzira, the other Mozart like ‘Mitridate’, that recording of ‘Pace, pace’; hell, even her Mahler No. 2… I love it all.

    I thank you for the other Don Carlo recommendations- I will check those out. DC is my favorite opera (I know. Weird.)

  8. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    No, meretrice, you’re not weird at all. I love Don Carlo too and I define the standard for sanity. I’m too fickle to claim DC as my absolute favorite but it sure is among my top.. oh well, who’s counting? So many operas, so little time.

  9. meretrice i. d'oscena Says:

    Thanks, ITdG. I’m not sure why DC is my all-time favorite; the Auto-da-fe scene, two hot leading lady roles, the most beautiful bass aria ever, and a baritone who’s in love with his best friend. Nope, no idea why I love it so much.

    And thanks again to ITdCS- because of your post, I did a fast search that found not only an October release date for the Villazon/Urmana/Roocroft/Croft DVD of ‘Don C’; but also an upcoming release date for a DVD of ‘Don C’ with my gal Cotrubas.

    I think some other people are in it with her, but having seen Cotrubas’s name before I could read the cast list, I fell in my best Olivero slow-motion swoon to the floor.
    If Baltsa had been the Eboli, I think I would have sung the Liebestod and collapsed on top of the nearest large tenor.

  10. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    I would like to say: I LOVE DC and it is one of my favorite operas. It took a while, I admit, to become familiar with it as a whole…and the fact that there are so many different versions of the score make it rather difficult for a listener to grasp the score when each time we listen to a recording we are always hearing new and different settings of the same material. On one hand, there is a freshness to this, on the other, it lacks in consistency and makes getting to know DC a laborious feat – that and the fact that it takes 200 years to perform in the 5 act version – LOL

    However, I will go on record to say that I have yet to hear a recording – live or studio or on video – that I can possibly declare as “the best” or “most appropriately cast” Don Carlo. I’m sure that such a one existed out there in performances, but may not have been kept for posterity on recording, or if it has, it has not reached my ears just yet. But please, before you all go jumping down my throat with rebuttles, let me explain my method of thinking to this.

    DC is an opera (like all Verdi operas) that has a cast of very unique characters all with very unique vocal temperments and extreme vocal demands. To make ANY one of his operas work in the most successful way, one MUST have a cast of amazing singers who can do justice to the roles vocally and dramatically (the weight of importance between these two factors does alter based on the role: ie. Even Verdi himself felt that a woman who could act and not sing Lady Macbeth would suit the part better than one who could only sing it. But then we have roles like Leonora in Trovatore who really doesn’t require a whole lot of acting, persay, but should a woman get up to sing it and we find that she really can’t get through the weight, the runs, the endurance, the sheer vocal power behind the role, it doesn’t matter how great of an actress she is, she doesn’t really succeed at performing the role. Then there are some, like Violetta, who demand a strong balance of acting and singing to be equally spectacular).
    At any rate, in DC, we are confronted with a cast of 7 prominent characters (I am including Tebaldo b/c I have heard some terrible ones in my day already!). Alas, there are some great recordings out there, but always with one or two casting ideas that really don’t fit the mold. For a few examples:

    The recording with Tebaldi and Bumbry. It is on the whole a fantastic cast, and, by no means seeking to blemish the wonderful name of La Tebaldi, one cannot possibly tell me that she is clearly not in good form for that role on that recording. Maybe it was a bad day, maybe she was a little to old to be singing so heavy in the top register, maybe she was afraid of the role (we know this to be true because she did say she refused to sing it on stage b/c Elisabetta is such a heavy role). But then we have Grace singing the SHIT out of Eboli and some very good singers in the other parts. Same thing goes for the Caballe recording of the opera. If we could just replace Caballe with L. Price it would be golden. And I am one of the biggest Monserrat fans alive, but she was wrong for singing that. Same thing with Olga Borodina’s recording of it – she’s amazing and so is everyone else, except for Galina Gorkachova – she’s making up her part!

    DC is an all around difficult opera to cast, I know that I have my dream cast in my mind: Leontyne Price, Olga Borodina, Harolyn Blakwell, Eduardo Villa, Mark Rucker, George London, and Jerome Hines, Solti in the pit with old school Chicago Symphony Orchestra (the Reiner/Solti years). That to me, is the best of all possible casts, for my tastes, at least. *Sigh* It will only be a dream, though.

    P.S. I did aquire a few months ago a truly amazing recording of DC – Live performance from Teatro Colon in the mid-60’s with Jerome Hines as Phillip, Hans Hotter , a tenor named Zampieri (odd, I know – he is very good though), Gre’ Brouwenstejn as Elisabeth (fabulous and filthy all at the same time – I love it! But she really does turn out some BEAUTIFUL phrases) and a slightly older Regina Resnik as Eboli. Regina does some EXTREMELY filthy things on this recording – I was shocked and stunned and about 200 times more in love with her after experiencing it! A) She TRILLS in the Veil Song instead of singing the metered 16th notes and only sings one verse. B) she OBLITERATES EVERYONE and EVERYTHING during the Storm Trio – it’s spine tingling! C) Her high B in the aria is scooped up from below, she almost misses it but finally gets to it – but let me tell you, the drama and power that she provides in the process will do no more than scare you out of your wits, bring tears to your eyes, and goosebumps to your skin! It is breath-taking! And did I mention LOUD! I love it!

  11. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    ITDCS, don’t you think that what you said about there not being an all-around perfect recording of Don Carlo applies to just about every other opera live or recorded?

    The six or seven top singers that DC requires are indeed more than the average Italian opera, but… how often do we get an all-around top cast for Traviata or Boheme or Rigoletto… etc., etc. ?

    From that point of view, I’d say that we’re lucky to have at least two recordings of DC with as many good singers as you mentioned.

    Looking back I think that my live performances of Don Carlo have always included at least a couple of terrific performances. Great memories come back: Bumbry, Cossotto, Veasey, Troyanos, Zajick as Eboli. Ghiaurov, Siepi, Ramey as Philip. Talvela and Hines as the Grand Inquisitor. Milnes, Merrill, Hovstorvski as Rodrigo. (Also Ryan Edwards’ best performance ever may have been as Rodrigo at Wolf Trap on tour with the Met.)

    I had no problem with the Elisabettas of Freni and Caballe, although I agree with you that they were not ideal. The role was also a bit heavy for Scotto, but, man, what a performance she gave! Her expression when she realizes in the first act that her handsome Spanish gentleman is no other than the man she’s expected to marry and then a few minutes later when she’s told she’ll be marrying Philip instead is etched indelibly in my mind. Almost 30 years later I can still feel Elisabetta’s pain. Yes, Virginia, there are singers and then there are artists!

    (Of course, I’ve also had my share of bad singing in this opera, e.g., Gorchakova two or three years ago. Not at their best Tucci and Jones.)

    Now here are some cases custom-made for The Interpolator. At a Met broadcast some twenty years ago of DC, Caballe held on and on and on to the final high note (Bb I believe). After a while, the audience starts applauding then realize that she’s not about to stop and quiet down and then eventually the note ends. Not quite an “interpolation” and some will say totally inappropriate but I love it.

    There are also a couple of Met broadcasts from the early 60’s where Corelli interpolates a Db at the end of the duo with Rodrigo. I understand that he was severely criticized for doing that in such a “serious” work, but boy, oh boy, it sure is exciting. I’d love to see those interpolations become the “norm.”

  12. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    ITDG, yes, I agree that in most cases, having a perfect cast for any opera is a very rare bird to come by – but I can site a few examples now off the top of my head:

    For Trav – Live Broadcast, Steber, Di Stefano, Merrill; Studio, Caballe, Bergonzi, Milnes

    For Rig – Studio, Pav, Sutherland, Milnes, admittedly, the Maddalegna could be better; Video, Pav, Gruberova, Wixell

    For Boheme – Video, the Baz production when it opened in Sydney. Outstanding PERFECT cast; There are also several that have Pav and Freni with some great cast members

    Aida – Live Broadcast with L. Price, Bergonzi, Rita Gorr, Siepi, Sereni, Solti – AMAZING

    Ballo – (and this is THE BEST EVER period) Live Broadcast with L. Price, Bergonzi, Merrill, Peters, Mignon Dunn (who sings the GREATEST Ulrica I’ve ever heard in my life! and there are some good ones out there!)

    Otello – Vickers, Freni, Glossop – the movie soundtrack. Period.

    Tosca – (although I would prefer Corelli, Domingo does well) – L. Price, Milnes, Domingo, with Mehta.

    But there are some ‘perfect’ recordings where each cast member brings to the table exactly what is needed for the opera as whole.

    Scotto was good in DC as far as drama goes – but Lord knows both she and Marilyn Horne were making it up at the Met. Poor Marilyn got lost in both of the cadenza’s in the Veil Song…I still love her though and felt that she sang very well overall, even if Eboli isn’t the perfect role for her.

    And you are quite correct – my dreamcast for DC left out quite a few amazing singers for each part. I wasn’t inferring that those I listed were the ‘only’ people for the parts, just my personal favs whose voices I think would have all blended and sounded well together on the stage. 🙂

    You seem to have quite the collection of recordings – we’re definitely going to have to do some trading!

  13. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Wow, a young singer familiar with the past generation! ITDG, you’re a rare person indeed. Some of the performances you mention are from when I was first introduced to opera.

    That Aida with Price, Gorr, et al was my first Met broadcast and my first Aida. How could I not become an opera fan? And yes, I do have that CD.

    That was the cast of my first ever live Ballo. I remember the NYTimes reviewer suggesting that the Met tape that performance and make it required listening to every singer aspiring to sing Verdi. I wish they’d do it.

    I didn’t know these operas at all at that time, wasn’t familiar with most of the music, and as I’ve said before I’m not musically trained, but I sure knew that those were formidable performances.

    As for the Traviata broadcast with Steber, it sure was a revelation. And no, that one I did not see live! I never heard Steber live – not even at the Baths – and had not expected such a beautiful Violetta and Verdi singing. Have you heard her Ernani Involame?

    I’ve heard the Tosca recording that you mention but I don’t have it. (My very first Tosca was with Tebaldi, Corelli and Gobbi. Awesome.)

    I have a tape of the DC broadcast with Scotto and Horne and should probably listen to it again. I’m a total Horne fan but what I remember mostly from that performance was that by transposing down the Don Fatale the whole opera took an unremitting somber or dark tone. On the other hand, I did like her Amneris a year or two earlier very much. (Yes, I have a recording of that broadcast. I was a standee at that performance.)

    One broadcast that I remember vividly and for which I do not have a tape is an Otello with Vickers and Zylis-Gara from the early 70’s. I was emotionally overwhelmed by Vickers in the 3rd act. I heard him in the role several other times and he was always good, but that one broadcast remained unique in my memory.

    Before I go back to the Yankees game, I agree with your comment about Mignon Dunn as Ulrica. A good singer can make a small role very special. She was the Madelon for my very first live Andrea Chenier, also a broadcast performance. (At the old house, far up there in the family circle.)


  14. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    Ah, ITDG, we have already become such good friends in my mind!! Yes yes yes yes yes to everything – Yes, Eleanor Steber’s ‘Ernani involami’ is to die for. I have even heard the actual recording of her performance of that when she won the Met competition. I aspire to sing like that (just without the contanst supply of a liquid diet, if you catch my drift. Poor dear was always hitting the bottle, but sang like an angel!). Did you know that Steber was (and I believe might still hold the record) for being the only singer to ever sing a matinee and evening performance at the Met? I forget the actual order of performances, but I believe I am correct in saying that she sang her first Desdemona during the matinee and then sang a Fiordiligi in the evening – it might be the other way around though, but either way, that’s a HELL of a lot of singing! I would PASS OUT!

    Speaking of Otello’s, I have also heard the recording of Del Monaco’s very first two performances of that opera. One was with Raina Kabaivanska – *sigh* The kids today barely know Del Monaco let alone the beauty that was Raina! I have an amazing Thais of her’s – she doesn’t do the optional Db’s, but those are some kick-ass Bb’s!!!!

    Mignon Dunn rocks my world – I need to hear more of her!
    Another great but highly underrated Mezzo is Elena Obrazstova – talk about a beast – she’s like a wild animal and it is AWESOME.

    I too have Horne singing Amneris – which I think she did well given that it’s such a heavy role – she’s has a large voice, but the weight needed for Amneris isn’t quite where Jackie’s weight is. She does well though – I have the Price, Domingo, MacNeil, Horne recording from the Met – fierce!

    Oh, but back to Ernani for a moment:
    I have two of Leontyne’s recordings of that – one with Bergonzi and another bootleg with Corelli – both fantastic – but I’ll tell you, you have never heard some singing like she and Corelli do in this opera – just high and loud and big all the damn time – it’s fabulous!
    As for the aria – some other great contenders for the prize, along with Miss Steber and Miss Price are Rosa Ponselle, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Cristina Deutekom, and, dare I say it (I do b/c I have the recording of it), Grace Bumbry sings the mess out of it too!

  15. TheInterpolator Says:

    Tenore di Coloratura Superba:

    Strange question, so please forgive it: it concerns your recent mention of Elenor Steber’s Traviata.

    On a recent excursion (a few months ago) to FNAC under the Bastille in Paris, I came across one of those old “oddities” discs, where well-known singers are pusblishe singing bizarre reperoire. Well…

    This one (among MANY others we must discuss immediately, as you would just eat it up!) was a recording of Steber singing “Sempre Libera” with orchestra. The slip-sheet did not say whether it was from a staged performance or from an orchestral concert of aria excerpts…but:

    It is truly PHENOMENAL!! The Interpolator shall refrain from simply using all available superlatives to describe the minutiae of each act. He must, however, mention one:

    Miss Steber takes a FEARLESS (demented?) high E-flat at the end of Sempre Libera, while the orchestra sawed away on the dominant five chord (of E-flat, G, B-Blat, and D-flat) waiting for the soprano to portamento down to the A-flat. The crowd went WILD!! Just WILD!!

    How did you find her singing on the recording you have (a live broadcast, I think)? Did she pull out the stops and toss in the high E-flat. Frankly, this surprised the Interpolator — but what a WELCOME one!!! She TRULY pulls it off, and never stops sounding like a lyric Verdi singer. Fab, FAB, FFFAAABBB!!!

    Now — tell us about yours!

    THEN we’ll get down to more busines and talk about Alessanrda Marc, Studer, Cotrubas, Don Carlos, and the filth and dementia of Strauss’ “Brautnacht” from Die Aegyptische Helena — and there’s lots more where that came from. In fact:

    …Someone just pop the Interpolator ONE question on the board using ONE famous singer and ONE famous recording and let’s see how far the Interpolator can take it>


    Bring on the dish!! The interpolator is safe, sound, snug in his bed after the horrendous crossing over the Gulf of Mexico from South America — and he is READY to PARTY at La Cieca’s Place!!

    Bon soir, mes beaux garcons! La boite est ouverte; donc allez-y et commencez!

  16. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    ITDCS, Steber was not the only singer to do two performances at the Met. Tucci did Faust and Boheme in the fall of 1966. I remember reading that in appreciation Rudolf Bing gave her the very last complete opera performance at the old house – Boheme.

    I also sort of remember seeing a newspaper picture of Scotto being given a vitamin shot to help her get through two performances in one day. I think it was at the Met and the operas were Boheme and Lucia but I’m not sure.

    A most interesting case was when the Washington Opera had prepared a production of Manon Lescaut with Teresa Stratas back in the 60’s. (That was before I came to the Washington area but it was highly publicized.) There had been a lot of anticipation because the company had announced that a film of Manon and Des Grieux nude in bed would be shown during the second act duet. (Hey, got to sell tickets.) Surprise, Stratas cancelled the morning of the performance. Raina Kabaivanska was the only soprano who knew the role and was readily available but she was singing in the broadcast matinee performance of Don Carlo at the Met that day. She finished her Elisabetta, was rapidly flown to Washington, and then she was Manon Lescaut that evening. I think she got to sing the remaining performances. And no, the film was not shown.

    Just remembered another one while writing this. I once saw the day-time dress rehearsal of a Met Rosenkavalier with Pavarotti as the Italian Singer and then saw him in I Puritani with Sutherland that evening. Does this count? Incidentally, that was Troyanos’ debut at the Met.

    It was also a memorable opera marathon for me. After seeing those two performances, the following day I saw the Aida with Price and Horne that we’ve chatted about in the afternoon and Norma with Caballe and Verret in the evening.

    A century ago singers used to sing a lot more frequently than they do now and I’d love to hear why all you boggers think that has changed. Just think of the first performance of Trovatore when the entire fourth act was encored. And I assume that all those cabalettas and second verses that are omitted now were sung at least during the first run of performances.

    But that’s enough chatting. Now I must get ready to go to the opera for real. Manon and Falstaff await for me. It’ll be my first time to hear Manuel Alvarez.

    Au revoir.

  17. i thought troyanos made her debut as the composer, not octavian

  18. never mind, checked the research, it was octavian

  19. Just Another Tenor Says:

    Cher Interpolator,
    moi aussi je suis pres a faire la fete avec toi, surtout que je viens a New York Mercredi. Peut-etre aurais-je l’occasion, en Novembre et a New York, de me faire rechauffer ma petite main froide?

  20. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Just Another Tenor: By all means keep The Interpolator’s gelida manina warm but I hope you do not interfere with his high notes.

    I can’t avoid remembering the anecdote of Mario del Monaco’s wife complaining to Rudolf Bing about her husband’s schedule. He was too nervous the day before singing Otello and two tired the day after. This was ruining their sex life.

  21. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Ah, and please tell The Interpolator – or whisper softly in his ear if the situation calls for it – that we miss him and his postings.

    I had all sorts of questions that I was looking forward to ask him.

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