La Cieca hears that Audra McDonald will sing the role of Kitty Oppenheimer when the Met presents John AdamsDr. Atomic in the 2008-2009 season. La McDonald, it will be remembered, premiered Kitty’s aria “Easter Eve, 1945” in May 2004 with the New York Philharmonic under Adams’ baton. The versatile songstress is currently in Houston preparing for the March 4 prima of a double bill of La Voix humaine and a new one-woman opera by John Michael LaChiusa entitled Send (who are you? I love you).

Glamour diva Marcella Pobbe stars in this week’s podcast of Giordano’s Fedora on Unnatural Acts of Opera. La Cieca is experimenting with a new web-based player for the podcast on the site; the advantage is that you can select either the current show or else any of the archived shows from a pull-down menu. Do let La Cieca know what you think of this new gadget!

Also new is one of the latest Google Video selections, a performance by Edita Gruberova in the finale of Roberto Devereux from Munich in 2005:


40 Responses to “Bombshell”

  1. marschallin Says:

    This performance by the overappreciated Edita Gruberova is pretty lousy and all out embarrassing. She constantly sings below pitch and, dramatically, is more suggestive of anyone’s favourite aunt or drag queen than true characterization. And I don’t care if the woman is 60 or 100 years old.


    i loved her in her prime; however after viewing and hearing some recent DVDs, I feel that it is sadly time to turn in the Diva’s tierra. I’m sorry to say, I felt the same way about dear Joan as the years went by. It is indeed difficult to give it all up until the old Diva(s) has no more high Cs left

  3. Well, she just sang her first staged Normas in Munich. This Roberto was highly praised, but watching it from so close, I feel somewhat embarassed too. By the way, she is about 57.


    She has never rushed to sing anything. Thus the longevity! Ive seen/heard (especially) a few divas that should have known that it was time to give it up. That Elktra from the “Met” is one I still can’t bare to listen to. To me it still sounds like a couple of cats singing out of tune–I saw it when it was first presented. Ticker-tape and all. EVERYONE seems to tell me that it IS the greatest thing on earth. Why–because Nilsson could still move? As is obvious, it’s to each their own!!

  5. marschallin Says:

    Why the obsession with longevity? No one lasts forever. Or should. As I said, the over/esteemed but certainly over/the/hill Edita sounds godawful. Don’t care if she is 20, 60 or 150. Bad singing is bad singing at any age. Bad characterization is bad characterization at any age. After seeing this clip, why would any youngsters give a fig about the campy, dying artform that is opera?


    Believe me, when I was a youngster (a very long time ago) NOONE my age gave a fig about opera. I was a lone, soon to be, opera queen as I am still. Through out my life I’ve known very few people to share my crown with. Most of the people I’ve met, in my life, are very indifferent to opera! It’s not until I go to a performance and I’m surronded by screaming fans that I realize that i am NOT alone I guess either you are born to be an O Q or not.

  7. Baritenor Says:

    Ive never been a Big Edita fan: I like her Adale on that video with Popp and Berry, and I dont mind her Queen, Kostanze or Zerbinetta when she was in her prime, but I don’t like her in Bel Canto.

    But I am VERY excited to hear that Audra’s gonna be at the Met, even If I’m not a Big Fan of Doctor Atomic (I saw it in San Francisco: Here’s hoping they sign Gerald Finley, who was brilliant.)

    Also, La Cieca, darling, a message from this sight’s only straight Queen: I LOOOOOOOOOOVE the new System!

  8. OperaGuyNY Says:

    I have her live Mozart Concert Aria CD which is good, though I now prefer Natalie Dessay’s. This Donizetti is a bit much, she sounds quite out of her element. HOWEVER I love the ending with the wig – FABU!

  9. il stupendo Says:

    i like it, scoops and all.

  10. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    I am completely and utterly embaffled!!

    This clip is astounding! To put it short: for a woman her age to have sung as well as she did I’ll applaud this woman till the day I draw my last breath! Edita may have her faults and idiosyncracies (scooping and soft attacks that seem to lack spin on the tone at the beginning of the note), but intonation has NEVER (and STILL) isn’t a problem for her – neither are her high notes. I”m very very sorry Marschallin that we must disagree again…but I think you having listened to all those blatently out-of-tune Cheryl Studer recordings has impaired your ear. I’m sorry, but as far as intonation goes, there was maybe one suspect note – and I listened to this clip several times in a row.

    Edita has always had a huge voice and it’s obvious from this clip that it still has quite a bit of sound to it – yes, the voice has aged…but the difference in her voice now from what it was 20 years ago isn’t NEARLY as drastic compared to so many other singers ranging from Tebaldi and Callas to Price and Sutherland! And I’m so very sorry, but those high notes were fierce – for a bitch at 60 years old to be hollering like that – I hope I sound that damn good and secure when I’m her age!!

    Edita has been very wise about what repertoire that she signs now in the late part of her career…she’s not running around performing alot of roles with the demanding coloratura or altissimo notes that she once used to be able to sing all day and night – however, her runs are still very clean and clear and the woman’s breath support, phrasing and musicality have ALWAYS been some of her strongest attributes.

    Something I also need to say about this that came as a surprise is how much drama she gave – I found myself captivated at certain times – though I may not be crazy about the director’s interpretation (I don’t know enough about it to really judge)…but Edita was never known for being much of an actress…and I am pleasantly surprised to see her engaging in her character in this clip as much as she did!

    Something that I don’t like watching her do, that Sutherland did throughout her career, is extend her neck and lift her chin – this is something that often strains the larynx and obscures the air flow while singing as well as reduces ones ability to focus the sound in ones resonance cavities. Somehow, Joan always managed to sing with her chin up – I would imagine that she would have sounded even better if she kept her chin down – I love her anyway!

    One thing that Edita does here that is very unlike her and does show her age vocally, is a certain gruffness that she uses in the middle and lower part of the voice – this is something that many singers (usually baritones) force into their sounds to make the words or the notes all that much more dramatic and emotionally raw. Many great artists and performers have used this technique (Behrens, Barstow, even Callas) – but I find that eventually it wears on the vocal chords in an extremely detrimental manner, especially for younger singers. Perhaps, as singers get older, and they lose certain elements of their technique or the core of their sound, the utilize this imposed gruffness and edginess to the voice to over compensate in drama and diction what they lack in vocalism.

    Cornell MacNeil used to say that people didn’t like his Scarpia because he actually sang all the right notes. Some tend to think it was because that people didn’t like his interpretation of the character. His argument was that interpreting the character doesn’t give the artist the liberty to decide which phrases to actually sing, which ones to sing/speak, and which ones to scream/shout – as many interpreters of both Scarpia and Tosca do (just to site one operatic example). In the case of a composer like Puccini, there are specific moments where he notates for the singer to speak or sing-speak…otherwise, every word is assigned to a specific pitch. Examples from Tosca that are frequently abused vocally by singers are when Tosca says the word “demone” or at the point where she stabs him – it’s clearly indicated where the singers speak/shout and where they should sing. Even some of the greatest singers – L. Price and S. Milnes didn’t follow these directions – yet they still produced an outstanding and spine tingling effect and one can forgive them for it.

    At any rate…cleary Edita does ‘push’ her voice in a way dramatically that she had never used during the greater portion of her career and it does soun odd since we are not used to it – however, it was appropriate in expressing the words that she was uttering – it may not be appropriate vocally or in terms of what Donizetti wrote on the page – which is another matter entirely – the point is that she sings and acts her ass off in this clip and it’s a damn good performance.

    I personally think people should give this woman much more credit than they do – especially when it comes to her bel canto interpretations – I only wish she had sung much more of it! But I daresay her Donizetti Queens are the best out there…unfortunately, for me, Sills sounds lovely, but her voice didn’t always have enough bite or enough roundness or enough power to really cut through those roles – don’t get me wrong, she’s still magnificent…but I think Gruberova owns those three operas, hands down!

    La Cieca – thank you for sharing this clip – I adore it! Please share more Gruberova if you have it!!!

  11. il stupendo Says:

    i have never seen a more demented elizabeth i.

    who cares what the critics say anyway when the fans are thrilled?

    ‘those who can, sing. those who cannot, talk.’

  12. Edita Gruberova is the greatest diva on earth. It’s a pity that recordings can’t catch the beauty of her voice (except the Mozart concert arias with Harnoncourt). I didn’t like her recording of “Vivi ingrato” before I heard her live.

    Elisabetta is a very shocking and disturbing role. If you see Caballe’s or Sills’ performance, it is hard not to be moved and reluctant at the same time. Gruberova can sing “better” but for the conception of this modern Munich Roberto Devereux, she portrays a very human Elisabetta.

    Having seen her twice in this role (Vienna and Munich), I can tell you that it is the strongest operatic experience one can have today.

  13. marschallin Says:

    ITDCS said “Edita has been very wise about what repertoire that she signs now in the late part of her career…she’s not running around performing alot of roles with the demanding coloratura or altissimo notes that she once used to be able to sing all day and night – however, her runs are still very clean and clear and the woman’s breath support, phrasing and musicality have ALWAYS been some of her strongest attributes.”

    I am confused. This is not about Renee Fleming, yes?


    If you all want to see a truly demented performance of this opera try to get your hands on the DVD from San Carlo with Alexandrina Pendatchanska–it is one of the best things that i’ve ever witnessed or heard. Alexandrina Pendatchanska is simply phenomenal!!!! There ain’t nothing she can’t do in this role–WOW.


    As far as acting is concerened Pendatchanska would give Bette Davis a run for her money in this role. As far as singing is concerned, I really don’t think my mother, Maria in her prime could have done it any better. Pendatchanska has the power, trills, runs and loads of high Ds and E flats. Plus stamina to crown her last scene with a high D–simply glorious. The audiance is sadly doped with no response–that’s is the only drawback.
    Giuseppe Sabatini is the Tenor;
    Roberto Servile is the baritone; and Alain Guingal is the Conductor

  16. Come on fellahs! For once an historically accurate production. Queen Bess was 69 when she died and Edita is totally in character both vocally and visually! The wig deserves star billing but again the queen did wear an auburn wig to her dying days.

    I saw Gruberova about 20 years ago as Lucia in London: glassy tone and mechanical expression as I remember.

  17. LaRondine1 Says:

    I totally agree! Her performance gives me chills!
    I saw her as Ermione at NYCO last year and the crowd there really went wild. She has GOT it all!

  18. la divina due Says:

    I am going to have to agree il tenore coloratura superba. I think Gruberova is magnificent here. I think her acting was superb and believeable. Roberto is not an easy sing and she manages to pull it off till the very end. I was impressed.


    lARONDINE1, why isn’t Alexandrina Pendatchanska singing at the Met? That institutution need a roof-shattering performance and Alexandrina Pendatchanska could do it.

  20. paddypig Says:

    Could also ask why no Podles or Antonacci or Eva Mei,Why so little of Jose Cura (I know he is not everybody’s cup of tea, but he certainly sells out in Europe) why did we not see Kabaivanska since 1980, or Gruberova since about 1989.why only two performances for Olivero, no Gencer. The Met has neglected many important artists over the years while favoring some less exceptional talents who became house favorites (did someone say Fleming?)


    Cura is my cup of what have you–I’d go to see him nude or otherwise. No I guess the Met is not a leader in bring the most talented to the stage, After all, it took forever for Alexandrina Pendatchanska’s teacher Ghena Dimitrova (sp ?) to get there.

  22. paddypig Says:

    I agree about cura, The Samson certainly helped by libido.He’s hot.It was nice to see a Samson who didn’t look like Dalila’s uncle. For once Dalila probably enjoyed the seduction. and callasorphan, your mom certainly got a raw deal at the Met.


    Yes paddypig, my mother was royaly screwed by Bing and the Met. 1950s America just was NOT ready for Maria Callas. I became a Callas-fanatic shortly after her debacle with the Met. Needless to say, I suffered much verbal abuse for my adoration of La Callas. BUT she was my mom and I will always love her. (of course, I find it almost ludicrous the admiration now days–“The voice of the century”, etc. That ain’t what they said when she was singing!)


    The way EMI releases “new” compilations of Maria you’d swear that she was still ALIVE. Believe me, they make more money off of the Callas name now that she’s dead than they ever made when she was alive and especially when she was still singing. Ah death is such a career enhancer!

  25. Edita Gruberova says in her biography that she doesn’t like to stay in big cities like New York.

    Try to find her I Puritani at the Met, she is incredible ! It will certainly never be released, as the tenor missed his top notes and the conductor (Mr Bonynge) is not very good either at this performance.

  26. The Devereux finale is one of my favorite pieces. Her voice is getting a tad patchy, sure, but there has always been a dearth of singers with the courage to “do” something interesting with this kind of music, and while this performance might be a bit over the top histrionically (and the voice a bit under the pitch), I still enjoy listening to someone who is clearly passionately involved in what they’re doing. If this clip had been from a decade or so ago when her voice was a little stronger, it would have been a prime candidate for the “demented” page.


    Again darlings you MUST hear and see Alexandrina Pendatchanska in this role. Mother has spoken!

  28. Prick of a thing to sing – yet she did it and the audience certainly loved it. Sure it wasn’t perfection as most live recorded performances aren’t- but if my Mother or sister could sing like that I’d never have left home- give the lady a break – and the wig gets a ten outta ten!

  29. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    So I managed to find some clips of this Pendachanska on the internet – I had not heard of her until she was mentioned in these postings. I have to say that she is quite fierce in many respects. For my personal taste, I find her vibrato to be a bit too fast, especially when she is singing legato passages. I also gather that she’s very much a singer and I didn’t seem to feel much artistry or passion conveyed in these few clips. The one clip that did strike me as the most impressive was her ‘Bel raggio’ – amazing coloratura and high notes!!

    There is a cd of hers that came up on a Bulgarian cd website, they had some very very short clips of her singing – but enough to know that her vibrato is rather quick. My main concern was that the repertoire she chose to sing was quite diverse – both the aria from Onegin and “Il est doux, il est bon” are arias generally reserved for full lyric and dramatic voices – they didn’t offer a sound clip for the Massenet though – who knows, it might be very good.

    Ultimately it seems like she belongs and needs to stay in the bel canto repertoire. It comes across as a sizeable voice with alot to offer. I hate to impose too much of a judgement when I really haven’t heard a whole lot of her singing at this point – but what I can say is that I found the things I did hear to be somewhat uninteresting in terms of phrasing and interpretation. Alas, this doesn’t always mean a whole lot – there were PLENTY of great singers of the past who were just great singers and really didn’t quite make it to the status of “artist.” Sad to say, but Franco Corelli was one of those people – and Lord knows I adore him (and his sexy legs)!!!!

    Bottom line is that I thank you for introducing her to me and I will keep myself on the lookout for her recordings and performances – she’s got a magnificent instrument!!

  30. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    I would like to add an addendum:

    Just a passing thought concerning the website that contains a few meager clips of this singer (, there is also some brief commentary about the cd that may be of interest to read. I didn’t read it earlier when I posted my previous entry…but it seems that one individual who commented on that website got a similar flavor of her singing that I did from listening to those clips as well as some other full legnth arias from a personal webpage about her. After reading his commentary, it makes me wonder if those aren’t the exact reasons why she may not have received much of a response from the audience on that DVD that you mentioned, callasorphan. I’d have to watch it to know better.

  31. il stupendo Says:

    my first thought after hearing pendachanska: sounds like bartoli transposed up dramatically!


    from what I understand the San Carlo was a Dress rehearsal and the audiance mainly consisted of rich dowergers. Alexandrina Pendatchanska got a HUGH ovation at NYCO–check the videos on this BLOG–I see nor hear Bartoli AT ALL!

  33. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    My two cents worth: I saw Gruberova as Zerbinetta and Lucia and found her spectacular in both. Her acting left nothing to be desired. Actually, she was the most active Zerbinetta I’ve seen. I have a tape of her Met Puritani and I love listening to her.

  34. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    I have checked out the clip here on Google video…I must say it seems impressive. For some reason, the sound doesn’t match with the action when I try to view it and I haven’t gotten to hear the end of the scene because the visual stops and thus so does the audio – right in the middle of a phrase. Does anyone else encounter this problem?

    From what I can hear in the clip, she is lacking that supremely fast-almost-a-flutter vibrato that she has on the studio recordings – maybe it’s a problem she’s fixed already?? I can only hope so – b/c it really is a marvellous instrument.

  35. You can hear more of Alexandrina Pendachanska at this page.


    Pendachanska’s slow or fast vibrato does NOT bother me a bit. After all I lived through defending (what was called at the time) Callas’s wobble!

  37. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Lovely voice. Can it fill a large house? A lyric soprano easily harmed by attempting high-lying roles. Could end up like Moffo, Anderson, et al.

  38. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    Thanks Brett – that was the page I referred to earlier where I listened to her ‘Bel raggio.’

  39. la divina due Says:

    Is Pendatchanska a singer one must hear live? I heard a few clips of her on the web and I wasn’t overwhelmed. It is a nice voice but I don’t get all the hype. I am assuming the voice is even more beautiful in person, correct?


    YES!! See her especially see her do “roberto” — it will knock your socks (or stockings) off! Her recital on Capricio label) was done like when she was 12 yrs old!

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