Middle aged blues

Peter Gelb‘s new broom continues to sweep at the Met. Perhaps to make room for the Gheorghiu/Netrebko/Damrau generation, the incoming General Manager is buying out contracts. Two Met artists in particular are targeted, and, oddly enough, these two ladies have quite a bit in common. Both are 40-something light lyric sopranos, and they have three names (each, La Cieca means.) Oh, and did we mention the red hair?


In the latest shipment from Berkshire, La Cieca has found a dazzler of a DVD: Lucrezia Borgia (Encore DVD 2087) from Milan, 2003, starring Mariella Devia, Marcello Alvarez, Daniela Barcellona and (Encore DVD 2087) Michele Pertusi. Renato Palumbo is the conductor. Excellent video of the stylish traditional production, and superb sound — which is a particular plus since all the leads are in excellent voice. (This is the same staging that was so famously booed when Renaay appeared in it, and La Cieca has a better idea now why that demonstration was so vehement. Devia’s Donizetti is elegance itself, with a pure line and imaginative but always idiomatic ornamentation. This, obviously, is the way the Milanese want to hear bel canto.) Look for the soundtrack to this production on “Unnatural Acts of Opera” within the next few weeks.

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21 Responses to “Middle aged blues”

  1. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    A quick look at this year’s Met roster tells me that the red-haired ladies about to be ousted are not actually leading sopranos.. right, Mme La Cieca?

    I haven’t paid attention to those ladies recently, so can’t say whether it’s good riddance or not. One of the “candidates” used to do a fine job as the young sister in Les Dialogues. But this was years ago. I thought she was sort of a Levine protegee.

  2. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Mariella Devia was a favorite soprano of mine. Can’t understand why she didn’t have a busier career here in the US. Perhaps we no longer appreciate a singer unless he/she has a huge voice. Or as some would say, an issue of quantity vs quality.

  3. Frau Wilhelmenia Getchürassen-Gier Says:

    Regordingk Middle Age Blueski, how come why not savingk us long trip through Met web site and to be ploease listing two names for red hair rheumaticas soon be dumpsky? Curiosity is killingk.

    Anatol Chiapyirbalzov

  4. BelleDVedremo Says:

    I rediscovered Devia by accident. I rented a Lucia di Lammermoor video online and instead of sending my the Anna Moffo movie, they sent me the Devia performance from La Scala. I had only seen her before in one thing (a concert) and didn’t like her in that. So I was surprised to be so impressed with her rich-voiced, accurately sung and warmly acted Lucia. Now I want to hear more!

  5. What’s the one flaming haired lyric’s flaming hubby to do if he doesn’t have to follow 10 paces behind the “diva” carring her baggage and shepherding her dogs out of the Met any more. Can’t say it’s a real loss for the Met, as I’ve always found her more than a bit stilted and boring. The downside is that she’ll probably hit the opera company here in Pittsburgh more than she does now.

  6. divademented Says:

    Devia is a wonderful singer. It’s too bad that La Cieca’s pathological hatred of Renee Fleming has to spoil his praise of another singer. I think we all get it La Cieca – you intensly dislike Fleming. Why taint your priase of Devia by using it as an opportunity to bash Fleming once again.
    Give it a rest every now and then.

  7. Speaking of bel canto, look who’s the next Norma at the Met in 2007. Think we can expect an elegant, pure line with creative, intelligent ornamentation?

  8. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Speaking of interesting castings, did anyone find out who is the forthcoming Lucia that The Interpolator teased us about last fall? It was supposed to be a well known American soprano singing the role for the first time… Most guesses focused on Renee Fleming, but Lucia does not appear in her current web-posted schedule.

  9. bella figlia dell'amore Says:

    Thanks for the tip, Cieca, I’m now off to buy that Devia Lucrezia Borgia. I worship & adore her.

    As for the rest, the red hair is throwing me – none of the three-name sops I can think of offhand are redheads!

  10. rysanekfreak Says:

    I purchased the DVD of this “Borgia” performance from premiereopera.com some time ago. I finally watched it two weeks ago. It is wonderful. Great. FABulous. I couldn’t love it more.
    Museum quality costumes. Bizarre statuary sets…giants pieces of statues dominating things.

    Here is a “Borgia” question for you. Since Bonynge was so crazed about inserting “extra” or “once lost” music into his wife’s performances, why did he NOT go for that extra entrance cabaletta for Lucrezia (which Caballe recorded and Sills performed at NYCO) that is included in the published French version of the score?

    Can it be that if Ricky didn’t find it first, it wasn’t worth reviving for Joan? It’s a lovely cabaletta, especially for those of us hung up on Donizetti cabalettas, and our numbers (I feel certain) are legion.

  11. The first one is easy: Ruth Ann has been a mess for years and won’t be missed.

    The second is slightly more challenging. Heidi Grant Murphy?

  12. Huh. I’ve never thought of Ruth Ann as a light lyric–she sounds medium-full to me.

    And as far as the Lucia goes, all I can think of is Gheorghiu, but she’s announced, and hardly American…

  13. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Of course, Ruth Ann Swenson ! She had been scheduled for forthcoming seasons, but that’s exactly the sort of changes that a new manager would make.

    I missread La Cieca’s posting as saying that the ladies in question had two last names; three in total. But that’s not what she said at all. RAS certainly fits the category. Unfortunately, though. She often sounded to me as potentially being rather good if she could find the right repertoire for her voice.

  14. Ruth Ann was first presented to the public as a coloratura and in her category she couldn’t be touched. Unfortunately, she has attemped a wholly unsatisfactory transistion to lyric rep. The last time I heard her the middle sounded opaque and the top notes sounded completely disconnected from the rest of her voice. Poor Ruth Ann has lost her way.

  15. bella figlia dell'amore Says:

    Uh, guys, natural or not, last time I checked Ruth Ann was a blond…not a redhead.

    I, for one, would be very sorry to see her go. I’d take her Gilda – even now – over Netrebko’s pitchless, shrill whining any day of the week.

  16. divademented Says:

    The second singer must be Hong.

  17. bella figlia dell'amore Says:

    ok. Hong. Also not a redhead last time I checked.

    And it would be incredibly stupid of the Met to ditch Hong…she’s one of the only truly terrific singers they have left. In my opinion.

  18. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    I’ve heard Hong do much beautiful singing through the last twenty years or so and would be saddened to see her go. Having said that, however, I’ll admit that her voice is beginning to show the effects of aging, although I wouldn’t think quite to the point of sacking her.

    Incidentally, the sop that first came to my mind was Heidi Grant Murphy. Blonde, redheaded..who knows?

  19. Hair color can change in an afternoon and of course it can be a matter of how red.

    I had forgotten that RAS was packaged and sold by EMI as “Golden.” Red is just a shade (and a bottle) away!

    Borrowing a page from Brett, make your own judgement

    http://www.kirshdem.com/artist.php?id=heidigrantmurphy

  20. Hong is definitely not a red head and I don’t think she is in her forties anymore. I first heard her at Julliard in 1982 in Manon. Still the best Manon I have heard live. She is an artist who has grown with the years and now is not only a fine singer but has a sense of emotional commitment that is rarely seen at this house.

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