A grand night for (not) singing

Rodgers and Hammerstein is as far as Aprile Millo is willing to cross over at Carnegie Hall, and that’s what led to the rift between her and promoter Ron Delsener — and to the cancellation of the October 14 event. La Millo tells her side of the story: NYT.

10 Responses to “A grand night for (not) singing”

  1. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Brava !

    After falling for Ms. Millo in the 1980’s, I was disappointed to see her run into vocal unreliability some years later. Last time I saw her was in a Met Mefistofele when she did a beautiful job with Marguerite and then crashed as she approached Elena’s climatic high C. I’m delighted to hear all the recent reports of her fine singing and look forward to seeing her hopefully in the not too distant future.

    Kudos to her for holding up to her art !

  2. bella figlia dell'amore Says:

    Brava diva! It’s about time a soprano refused to cheapen herself or her art (taking notes, Renee? You should be!).

    The program as it was planned sounded fabulous and Rogers and Hammerstein are charming encores – certainly as far as one needs to go where “crossover” is concerned.

    the very idea of La Millo singing something on the order of Norah Jones is so wrong I don’t even know how to address it. Please don’t get me wrong – I love Norah Jones and I love Aprile Millo, but um…they don’t do the same kind of thing. And shouldn’t.

  3. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    We love Aprile, and it is very good that she refuses to settle for something that isn’t part of who she is and doesn’t show off the things she does well. However, using the term ‘cheapen’ is rather harsh…just because something isn’t classical, doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Believe me, when I was growing up – when it came to music, if it wasn’t classical I thought it was crap – in art, if I could see a brush stroke, it was amateurish – then I grew up (thankfully sooner than later) and came to learn how to enjoy other genres of each artistic field.

    The problem, ladies and gentlemen, is that Aprile does not and doesn’t seem to wish to do much crossover repertoire – and she has every right to not wish to do it. If a singer does, it doesn’t make it necessarily wrong, less the singer is unable to adapt to whatever the particular style is that they are performing in. Vocal technique is vocal technique…so if someone threw Gypsy in front of La Millo – I guarantee, if she took the time to study it, she’s be fierce. The issue is that this producer of her recital didn’t have enough respect for her, the classical public, and classical music and thereby upset the whole stew! But I’m very sorry, Bella figlia, I must disagree with you about Renee. Most people don’t know (I do because a close friend and teacher of mine who went to college with Renee had informed me of this) that Renee began singing jazz in local nightclubs and cafe’s. Granted, there aren’t that many in Potsdam, NY – but that was what she did, even in High School. It wasn’t until college that she began to explore the operatic capabilities of her voice, and my friend, had directed her in a scene from, if I’m not mistaken, La Rondine. I haven’t heard Renee’s jazz album in full, but the few clips I heard I think sound great. And the broadway album that she and Bryn did together…I think she sounded wonderful!

    Opera singers shouldn’t be afraid to indulge in various other types of vocal literature, as long as they do it wisely and healthily and are willing to assimilate to the appropriate style. In the case of La Millo – this is a woman who has established herself so truly and so thoroughly to operatic art. However, let it be known, that if Miss Millo had wanted to sing some Elton John and felt that she could do a good job with it, then I’ll all with her on it – there is nothing wrong with it.

    The really funny though, if you look at it this way – let’s say that Aprile DID sing the new suggested repertoire and felt confident and free with it – I GUARANTEE there would be tons of critics and even people posting on THIS website who would claim “She cheapened her art!”

    Crossover is a very strange bird indeed…but I will say that I think Aprile did good for standing up for herself – she is a smart lady and I don’t put anything past her – she’s a remarkable singer, a remarkable actress, and a remarkable human being. I say: Just let the woman sing!

  4. marschallin Says:

    Two aspects are being overlooked here. One – AM is an embarrassingly washed up singer that none of her NY-based fans want to admit. Two – she couldn’t sell sufficient tickets at this stage in a faded career. There is no mystery.

  5. marschallin Says:

    Someone in operaL said it much better.

    “Ok the truth is out. Millo refused to include pop material in her
    Carnegie Hall recital debut. Wow, over 20 years after her Met debut, she
    still hasn’t had a Carnegie Hall recital? Maybe “Send in the Clowns”
    or “The Best Pies in London” might have salavaged her career abit. You
    think?

    So what’s to become of the over weight middle aged diva at this point?
    She’s certainly not Magda Olivera (technique has never been her strongest
    suit) and as much as her fans ‘think’ she’s the real thing and a throw
    back to the good old days, she actually nothing more than a hyped up later
    day opera singer whose managerial and publicity machine tried (oh how they
    tried) to promote as the next Rosa Ponselle. She studied a bit with
    Tebaldi and learned nothing.

    I really don’t know what all the fuss has been about this week. I’m
    beginning to think in her case, bad publicity is better than none at all.

    I heard Millo several times live. She never cancelled on me and most of
    the time I wish she had.”

    http://listserv.cuny.edu/Scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0509d&L=opera-l&T=0&F=&S=&P=20256

    All in all, this singer hardly delivered the goods and this during her brief spot in the sun long long long ago. And that’s the sad, painful truth about the campy Millo.

  6. bella figlia dell'amore Says:

    Tenore di coloratura superba – my apologies. I didn’t mean to give the impression that doing crossover at all cheapens one’s art, if one is a classical singer. What I meant was that Millo, having the sense to know she is decidedly unsuited to the particular type of crossover she was being asked to do, took a freaking stand and refused to show poor judgement. That, to my mind, is admirable in a singer and all too rare. There are excellent singers out there who could easily slip into the Norah Jones/Elton John idiom, but Millo isn’t one of them and she’s smart enough to know it, and to do what she does well. We’ll have to agree to disagree on Fleming, though. Just call me a bitter former fan.

    I agree, by the way, that Millo could tear into Gypsy like there was no tomorrow. Again, it’s a TYPE of crossover to which she would be particularly suited.

    Marschallin…de gustibus non disputandem est, I guess. I like Millo. I appreciate her work.

    Hope this makes sense, I’m ungodly hung over this morning (afternoon?) following a friend’s birthday celebration.

  7. Just Another Tenor Says:

    I experienced a rather sad night in the small history that is my opera attendance. I was lucky to get one of the tickets to go see the Cosi Fan Tutte at the Palais Garnier (Interpoltaor, how can you be intimidated by this place, it so exquisute). Everyone has been camped out for months trying to get a ticket (a tawdry sex story? Us French will fight to get in to see that), as much was expected of the direction of Patrice Chereau.

    The direction was, as a matter of fact, adequate, and I was for once truly convinced that Ferrando does indeed fall in love with Fiordiligi. Some will argue against that, but it was the stance the direction seemed to take, and the fluid and colorful tenor of Mr Mathey convinced me of it validity. If he was a bit shaky in the first act aria (and only in the aria, his ensembles were flawless), he made up for it with security of tone and presence on stage in the second. The same can be said of the Fiordiligi, who seemed visibly scared at the idea of singing “Come Scoglio”, but sailed through the rest fo the role. Elina GAranca, superb mezzo that she is, seemed to be enjoying Dorabella’s tessitura (no other mezzo does it seems!) and seemed so at ease in the role she appeared to be operating on auto pilot in her second aria. Same of the secure and wonderful baritone of Stephane Degout. Both the mezzo and the baritone seemed better suited for act I, whereas tenor and soprano triumphed in act II… Funny how that works!
    Raimondi is not a spring chicken, and made the best of what is left of the instrument.

    That leaves the case of Barabara Bonney, which puzzled me. I am a HUGE fan of the woman. Her Zdenka, Sophie, Pamina, Adina is the stuff which makes opera history, and I grew up in Paris rushing to see her anytime she was performing. I had not seen her Despina before.

    I am not sure it is a role that is ideal for her – there was nothing wrong with the way she sang it, it just sounded underpowered, as if the role sat too low for her. There were no shaky tones or insecure moments, it just sounded less bright than I have heard her in the past. She interpolated high notes wherever she could, and boy were they wonderful. But that is not what despina is about.

    I was lucky enough (in this case) to be seated in the side loges right above the stage, on the first level. I therefore had a view not only of the stage, but i could turn to my right and see the conductor’s face and body.

    It dawned on me in the second act that the reason the Despina was not a fit was not entirely Ms. Bonney’s fault. The conductor (it seemed to me) was out to get her, making nasty gestures at her throughout the opera, looking angry anytime she sang, and worse of all, getting the orchestra to grow louder whenever her solo lines came around. This was already not a chamber style orchestra, and although the tempos were brisk and the conducting clear, the conducotr had in mind to make this particular orchestra sound more like a German Romantic era orchestra than that of a Mozart. It was a battle of loud, louder, loudest. All the singers were at time covered by the orchestra, but it seemed Ms. Bonney suffered the most from this musical decision.

    Could it be that a conductor could really go after a singer so hegemonously in performance, and try to disrupt their concentration by erratic gesturing of an unsympathetic kind, making the orchestra grow louder to cover the singer, and overall try to ruin the singer’s evening? It certainly seemed that way to me tonight.

    Ms. Bonney did not come out to bow at the end of the show, and I ran backstage after the performance to try to get a word in to her. I caught her as she was leaving. I thanked her for a wonderful evening, and thanked her for her art. She in turn thanked me for my words, before leaving the opera house, not stopping to talk at the stage door, all the while harbouring a bleak and saddened expression.

    Well I thought she sang beautifully. Her performance was incredibly well developed, the character thought out gracefully, and she sang it with charisma and class. As I said, the only problem was volume in comparison to the other singers, but I could hear her with no problem. The line was gorgeous, the interpolations not only tactful but executed spectacularly. She did not mug her way through the role, but presented a woman who was human and believable.

    I wonder whhat makes a singer not come out to bow. It makes me sad I did not have a chance to shout out my bravo to her.

  8. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Just another tenor, my thoughts on your comments about Bonney. I bet EGO, big EGO is what’s behind what you saw. The conductor may have wanted a different singer; may have been turned down amorously by Bonney; may have been overruled with regard to some cadenzas, interpolations, whatever. Then when the performance came, he took revenge.

    The Interpolator has told us about his “fight” once with a musical coach or accompanist during rehearsals. If that person had found herself on the podium for a performance, you can bet she would have done the same as your conductor did with Bonney.

    There was an old anecdote about von Karajan not getting the singer he wanted for some performances of Lucia. During the rehearsals he made the assigned soprano do the end of the mad scene – yes with the high Eb – again and again and again… in full voice. He did it until the poor lady had no voice left and had to withdraw.

    Which raises a question: did Bonney withdraw from later performances?

  9. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Bella figlia dell’amore and ITDCS, I too did not mean to criticize crossover. (Not in my posted comments, anyway.)

    My “Brava” to Millo was for standing up to what she wanted and thought was right for her concert. I only wish singers would do that more often.

    Singers appear to have accepted the dogma that they most do whatever the producers and directors want. Go naked; sing standing on their heads; wear ridiculous costumes; have all sorts of distractions during their arias, etc.

    I understand that, as The Interpolator said in one of his postings, singers have to make a living and that means compromising and doing things they’d rather not do. But at some point established singers should put their foot down. Nothing, and that means nothing, should interfere with their singing.

    One thing is having a good production; a drama that gets the audience on the edge of their seats; bringing out interesting perspectives on the work, etc. Another one is to have a whole bunch of people carrying on behind a lead singer during his or her arias. (Cellini and Rodelinda at the Met come to mind right away, but there are many other culprits.) Or having the singer with his/her back to the audience, or far back onstage, or running around, etc.

    You can tell that I’m all for singers power. I like them center front stage; with the spotlight on them; with sets and costumes that help them get into their roles; and with everyone not called for by the composer offstage during the arias and major ensembles.

    You tell them, Aprile!

  10. marsh-shell-in, dear heart, stamp your little foot, drag in all the cat litter from other sites and wish very hard….Millo stays, and when she sings for heavens sake, save the seat for one who likes her, stay home! The only sad and bitter truth evident in and about your post is how transparent your jealousy seems of this singer. Did someone dump you long ago that loved her voice?

    People HATED Callas too, HATED Tebaldi too…that she inspires your hate is a great compliment.No one is ever UNIVERSALLY loved. People despised the sameness of the color of Ponselle’s voice. Fools. There will always be a nay sayer, and there is your niche. Stay home and listen to whomever you think is fine she fills the theaters with passionate, alive. vivid performances and the audiences cheer like mad. Stay home Mash…stay home.I couldn’t get into her ballo or her Tosca this last season…..stay home!

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