Unnatural acts of poison

So here we are at the final act of Giordano’s Fedora, and all those nasty little secrets everyone’s been telling throughout the opera are about to be exposed!

Marcella Pobbe stars as the mysterious Princess Fedora Romazoff in a performance from the Teatro La Fenice, February 9, 1968. And as a bonus, YouTube video of the final scene of this opera starring Renata Scotto and Placido Domingo. Unnatural Acts of Opera


48 Responses to “Unnatural acts of poison”

  1. ombramaifu Says:

    Renata is simply dazzling. Spanish subtitles add super camp value to the drama of Fedora final scene.

  2. Scotto is glorious. That fall down the rockery with her hair alluringly dishevelled for the death scene!

    Good to see the younger sleeker Domingo. I see he is back in the cast of Cyrano at the Met. Any reports? I am on tender hooks for his appearance in May at the Royal Opera in the same production.

    For lovers of the esoteric ( who isn’t visiting this site) London’s own country house opera ,Holland Park, is mounting Fedora in June with Diane Montagu, better know for her poised trouser roles such as Octavian. It will be interesting to see how she rises to the dementia if this work. This company has mounted other works by Cilea and Giordano in recent years. No one who saw it will forget Rosalind Plowright hand bagging Adriana. Imagine a verismo Margaret Thatcher.

  3. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Very interesting. I liked Montagu’s singing very much but the last time I saw her was about six years ago in Paris in a rather small role. (Hamlet with Dessai) She sounded very old then.

  4. la divina due Says:

    I love Scotto. Her characterizations are always something to behold. She manages to to get to the very essence of any character she is portraying in order to call it her own. I am not always a tremendous fan of her vocalism but with that tremendous acting talent, who cares.


    Oh do we have to have MORE verismo? Give me some Verdi PLEASE!

  6. Baritenor Says:

    I am praying that La Cieca sees it fit to give us more German Opera on the UA. P’raphs that famous Rosenkavalier with Ludwig, Troyanos, Adam and Blegen under Bohm at Saltzburg? Or Geriant Evans and Anja Silja in WOzzeck?

  7. Boringwhitegirl Says:

    And I’m craving bel canto. Bring on the trilling madwomen, the faster the better. Although the Rosenkavelier Baritenor is suggesting sounds awfully delicious.

  8. la divina due Says:

    i need more trills. i agree completely. please bring on the coloratura diva divine.

  9. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    My vote is for more Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, and Early-Mid Verdi – all the shit girls are just scared to sing!!!

    Examples: La Straniera, Bianca e Fernando, Attila, Lombardi, Masnadieri, Due Foscari, Aroldo, Alzira, etc. etc. etc.

  10. Baritenor Says:

    Oh, please, please, leave Attila alone. I just don’t get early Verdi. anything pre-MACBETH, I’m out. Even Nabucco.

  11. la divina due Says:

    i heart attila. it is awesome. in my opinion, it ranks up there with esclarmonde as the most difficult soprano roles to sing.

  12. paddypig Says:

    I love Scotto, still the greatest artist I have seen live. In the tradition of Olivero, a great musician and artist, she occassionally gives master classes here in New YOrk, do not miss them. No one understands Italian style, be it bel canto, Verdi, Puccini the way she does, she knows exactly what one should do. She never gave a boring performance. As she got older the voice did not always do what she wanted it to do, but as someone who worked with her during her last run of Butterflys at the Met, said, she said just as her artistry is peaking her voice would no longer do everything she wanted it to do. She moved into different repetoire as she knew roles like Lucia, Traviata and Butterfly were no longer a comfortable fit for the mature voice. I saw her Klytemnestra in Baltimore (her last stage appearance in the states). the musicality was incredible even if it did not lie in what was the best part of her voice at that time.It was still a dramatic revelation. I wish the MET would release the Tritico. This along with the Manon Lescaut video probably shows her interpretations of Puccini at their best, for a Donizetti treat see the Lucia from Japan in 67 with Bergonzi. it is also amazing.

  13. Boringwhitegirl Says:

    I like Attila too. I bought it on LP at my local library sale, which is how I get most of my recordings, so, without the good offices of La Cieca, my collection would be awfully hit or miss. But Attila turned out to be a treasure — perhaps not quite on the scale of the Furtwangler/Flagstadt Ring, but a real favorite. Now, if I could only convince myself to sit down and listen to Capriccio…


    Attila is wonderful. Sam Ramey used to sing the hell out of it. Ordebella (sp?) is a problem. If you can find the DVD with Chiara doing dear impossible Ordebella it’s great! To me Studer was a bore! The soprano comes out without time to warm up and sings this most fiendish aria–impossib;e early Verdi! However, Chiara at Verona “knocks em dead”!

  15. paddypig Says:

    Chiara is another great artist who never got a chance at the Met (traviata one season) saw her Aida in Italy several times. always a moving performance.


    Yes indeed there are many great artist that kinda have slipped threw the cracks–I feel (hopefully not) the same thing is happening to Millo and Delora!

  17. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    Odabella is one of my FAVORITE characters in all of opera and she sings some of the BEST music!!!

    The opening aria “Santo di patria” is such an outstanding work. La Sills and La Stupenda both provide us with fantastic renditions of the work (studio recordings) with interpolated High Eb’s abounding!!!

    Alas, the girls who are meant to sing the whole role are not really wont to make the part more difficult than it already is. Amongst the most famous Odabella’s is a lady who made it one of her signatures, Cristina Deutekom – a woman who sings the piss out of it everytime! Sadly, Giardelli is conducting on the famous recording with Bergonzi and he was like Muti and didn’t allow embellishments and variants or added high notes – Lord knows the woman could belt out some amazing high notes!!! (listen to her Puritani recording with Kraus – out of this world!!!!)

    Some of the other great Odabellas have been sopranos like Antonietta Stella and Caterina Mancini.

    I recently acquired a recording with Boris Christoff and a woman named Maria Parazzini who is simply phenomenal in the part!!! A true Verdi coloratura soprano!

    Sylvia Sass also has a recording but I have yet to hear it. Studer’s recording is simply trash, and I am not yet familiar with the Chiara recording.

    Some other ladies who were known for the role (but whom I have not yet been able to track down recordings or sound clips for) are Giannini Arangi Lombardi, Luisa Maragliano, and Margherita Roberti.

    This part has also been sung by Ghena Dimitrova, Maria Guleghina, Jane Marsh and Josephine Barstow – no recordings (to my knowledge) exist or are available as of yet with any of these 4 ladies.

    There is, however, a recording of Dimitrova singing Odabella’s second (and treacherously difficult) aria the “Liberamente or piango” – which she did very well. Caballe and Callas both have beautiful recordings of this aria – it’s a damn shame that neither lady in her prime recorded the “Santo di patria” – they would have surely sung the shit out of it!!!

    Last to mention is Lauren Flannigan who does an admirable job with the role on a live recording I have of her with, I think OONY or NYCO – I don’t quite remember which ensemble she performs with. For me, I don’t think she was quite comfortable with the role (or with her Lombardi at the Met) and that perhaps this extremely heavey rep is heavier than she needs to be singing – the woman is a great talent, very musical and a great stage personality. I do have to applaud her though because both efforts in these roles were very good.

    See, the thing is, that early-middle Verdi (which really is an extension of the traditional bel-canto repertoire) is what Callas and Caballe should have been singing as their careers progressed – and they should most likely have stayed far far away from the more dramatic Verdi and certainly away from Puccini and big verismo opera (and for Caballe, things like Salome). Some people really love them in that literature – and of course they did some outstanding things with it as well as provided us with some truly moving experiences in that lit. However, concerning the appropriateness of the literature and their vocal specializations – they probably should have stayed away from Tosca and Aida and Forza and Elisabetta and all those other heavy hitter bitches.

    I can only imagine how fantastic Callas and Caballe would have sounded in Attila, Lombardi, Masnadieri, Due Foscari, Aroldo, etc. (Yes, I realize that Caballe DID sing some of these roles…but the point is, she didn’t sing them ENOUGH to leave a greater legacy for them). Another woman I would have loved to hear more in this repertoire is Gencer!!!


    I do feel that a super soprano could make a great career out of early Verdi–but who????????????? and Where is the opportunity and most iumportantly where is the market??

  19. la divina due Says:

    i am a dramatic coloratura soprano who recently began singing santo di patria from attila, and i find that the problem with being an “early-verdi” coloratura is that the fach is so wide open. ITCS listed many great artists who have sung the role of odabella and it is extremely difficult to label what type of artist is best suited to that literature. in my opinion, it is who can sing the part and sing it well that should be considered suitable. unfortunately, a lot of directors and conductors want a certain sound on a role, and thus may singers are forced to sing inappropriate repetoire. the best example i can think of is that many times i am beat out of singing dramatic coloratura parts because the conductor wants more meat in the middle voice, oftentimes being beat out by a lyrico spinto. it doesn’t matter in the least that half of the coloratura isn’t performed or that parts of the opera are omitted, so long as they are dramatic enough through the middle voice. a perfect example of this is leonore in il trovatore. how many artists sing the cavatina and cabaletta in its entirety? i can think of one of the top of my head, sutherland. it is very frustrating. there is no more exciting music than verdi bel-canto and it is a shame that it is being sung by the wrong voice type. no offense to anyone.

  20. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    A couple of comments. Caballe also used to sing the 4th act cavatina and cabaletta. I also heard her do the aria itself pianissimo from beginning to end, high C and all.

    One lady not mentioned who could have done something for early Verdi is Leontyne Price. “Ernani” was the only early Verdi opera in her repertoire.

    “Scotto” sang Il Lombardi to much acclaim when young. She could have tackled a couple of other early Verdi heroines.

    Also not mentioned is Nelly Mericiou, who I believe could have done quite a good job when younger. She’s done a lot of off-beat repertoire, so perhaps she did sing some early Verdi and I’m not aware of it.

    I heard Maragliano sing “I Due Foscari” and she was ok but I wouldn’t consider her a bel-canto singer by any stretch of the imagination.

    And how about Gruberova, of whom quite a bit has been said here lately? I’d love to hear her in just about every early Verdi soprano role there is up to, and including, the “Trovatore” Leonora and “I Vespri’s” Elena. Well, not quite. Let’s skip “Macbeth” and “Nabucco.”

  21. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    Callasorphan – that’s a good point – “What market?” – there are sopranos out there who could be singing the literature and who do sing it well – but the operas never get produced and so the world goes on never knowing about them. It’s a vicious cycle in that one of the main reasons why they don’t produce many early Verdi operas (aside from often inane or not as well thought out plots and libretti) is because it is so difficult to find sopranos who can tackle and are willing to tackle those roles – but they do exist out there – and they definitely have in the past.

    Divina – all that you say is true. A Verdi soprano is a fach in and of itself – anyone who sings Verdi has to be able to sing in so many different ways – look at Violetta, or Eboli, or Elena, or Lady Macbeth – as prime, well-known examples. Each character sings each act/aria with a completely different voice and different style – that’s part of the reason why it’s so bloody hard!!!

    I, too, find myself at a similar battle with conductors when they conduct Mozart or bel-canto. They want someone with high notes and who can sing all the runs, but they want it with a full lyrico spinto sound. I remember when I did Pearl Fishers two years ago – the conductor told me that he wanted to me to release a specific high Ab “like Corelli would.” And I looked over at him and said, “Well let me get you his phone number, maybe you can convince him to fly out.” (Thankfully, I had a very good, long-standing rapport with this tempermental conductor, both as an instrumentalist and as a singer, and knew when to zing him right back – normally he wouldn’t tolerate such foward response!) The point being that even when it comes to Rossini, conductors want this heavy sound where it doesn’t necessarily belong – so divina, I completely agree with you.

    But as far as early/mid Verdi soprano roles are concerned, they are bel-canto in composition style, but vocally they are their own breed. They are not dramatic coloratura roles – they are dramatic soprano roles that require the dramatic soprano to move her voice and sing with her entire range, from top to bottom, within one measure. This is one of the reasons why Joan Sutherland (who did have a very large instrument) and why Edita Gruberova (who does have a large instrument as well) could never sing alot of these parts – they had the runs and the high notes, but their voices just aren’t big enough and heavy enough to get through them. Caballe in this literature is a mild stretch – but based on her Verdi rarities album, I think she really had what it took to get through those girls – and Callas and Gencer especially had that edginess and would have been PERFECT for those roles.

    Scotto may have done well in some of this literature, but as much as I love her, she was not very good in Nabucco, Macbeth nor in Lombardi. She really didn’t have the weight in the voice to get through those roles. Miricou’s voice is unfamiliar to me as is Maragliano.

    Grubova has been very smart not to ever sing Vespri or Trovatore – she is not a Verdi soprano and won’t be. Sutherland really did a stretch when she added Trovatore to her repertoire. I commend her for getting through it and yes, there are some magnificent moments – but even Joan herself (after her first time trying it out) said “Why do they want me to sing this role? This isn’t meant for me to sing.” She also admitted that she had never spent enough time developing her chest/low register which she even sites Trovatore as an opera where the soprano MUST be able to use it.

    Gruberova was very intelligent to only sing Violetta, the Heavenly Voice, and oddly enough, Oscar – anything more would have severely damaged her beautiful instrument. I think she did also sing Masnadieri – I’m trying to hunt that recording down.

    As for the ever so stunningly brilliant Leontyne Price (God how I love that woman!) – she sang Ernani to great acclaim and she did also sing Lady Macbeth a few times – but it was a role that she really didn’t like, so she dropped it after a few performances. She did also record (very beautifully and complete with interpolated High Eb) the aria portion from the Act II Finale of I Lombardi “Oh madre dal cielo.” She did not attempt that vicious cabaletta – whom, at this point, only Deutekom has ever recorded (both studio and live) it perfectly. Everyone else falls on their face. Aprile Millo ALSO sings the piss out of it on that podcast that La Cieca gave us a few months ago – but La Millo only does one verse of the cabaletta – and as much as I love her – like I and many of my pianists here in NY say “Cuts are for pussies.” (I love you Aprile!!!)

    Miss Price most likely could have very easily gotten through some of those early Verdi roles early in her career. But the repertoire was so esoteric even at that time, especially concerning the political atmosphere of the time (we must realize that Leontyne was the first black woman to perform ALOT of soprano roles – her and Martina Arroyo, who was probably the first black woman to sing Senta and Elsa in the early 60’s), it may not have been to her advantage to sing such unknown music early in her career – and by the time she was well established (which didn’t take long), she could sing whatever she wanted to sing!

    But even Leontyne quaked and shaked over Abigaille in Nabucco – that was an aria, a role, she wouldn’t dare touch. Even Callas was frightened of it to some degree – although she sang it magnificently!

    Lastly, ITDG, you mention Caballe’s recording of Odabella’s slow aria – she sings it so beautifully. However, Deutekom does add a few extra notes – up to an Eb, I believe.


    The story of Leontyne and Abigaille is: Rudolf Bing (just after her Met debut) asked my darling Leontyne to study Nabucco. After a short while, Leontyne’s response to Bing was:
    I’m afraid Il Tenore that MONEY is the bottom line when it comes to opera repertoire! But sadly money is the bases of almost everything!

  23. rysanekfreak Says:

    One of the best “Attila”s around would be the Houston one with Ramey and Guleghina. I was able to buy a copy of it because lots of tape recorders were working in the audience. (I don’t know if NPR ever broadcast this Houston one.)

    The performance is note-complete. Everyone interpolates high notes like crazy. Guleghina does that High Eb to her entrance cabaletta. Ramey and Guleghina embellish the second verses of their cabalettas. And the baritone (Servile?) hits the Milnes-Cappuccilli high Bb at the end of Ezio’s cabaletta.

    It was one of those memorable performances (just one intermission) when the audience wanted glorious early Verdi fireworks and got it all. The performance just flew by like magic…one rapturously received number after another. And yes…Ramey was strutting around all bare-chested like it was “The King and I.”


    RYSANEK, it sounds wonderful. I love Ramey and YES I love Guleghina– she sure has been working on her flexibility high Ds and E flats and all–brava!!

  25. Just Another Tenor Says:

    I love Ghuleghnia as well. However, I am unconvinced by her Odabella. I did NOT see the Houston production, but had the mischance to see the Paris production – twice!
    Ramey was an awesome Attila. This season’s Met’s First cast Rigoletto, so dismissed on this site, was a wonderful Ezio. Ghuleghina was Odabella. She was pretty much booed off the stage. I do not support booing, I have never done it, and I am pretty sure I never will. However, it was hard to muster the courage to applaud at all. Her voice was all over the place. She barely sang one not correctly, was way off pitch the entire time. Her “Liberamente or piangi” was one of the worst things I have ever heard in an opera house. EVER. For a while, that performance earned her the nickname “Screecherina”
    I since then have heard her Abigaille, which I loved. So: Rock on Maria, keep doing your thing, we love it!


    I own the Macbeth with Alveriz and Guleghina and I LOVE it. It’s the performance that turned me on to Guleghina. So maybe it was an off night in Paris just sorry you JUST ANOTHER TENOR had to hear it! It is sad when one of the performers we may adore has an “Off night”! and even sadder when we are there to witness it. A friend of mine witnessed Aprile Millo’s “crash and burn” in Lombardi years ago–he worships her feet as do I!

  27. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    OMG. You mean to tell me that such recordings of Guleghina in Attila and Nabucco exist!?!? Please please PLEASE tell me where to get them!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Just Another Tenor Says:

    Actually she was bad both evenings I saw it. And my parents who saw it opening night walked out she was so bad.
    I think she was going through a rough patch.
    I own her “Manon Lescaut.” I can;t say that it is my favourite recording, but she does have interesting arguments to make for the role.

  29. rysanekfreak Says:

    I probably got the Houston “Attila” with Ramey and Guleghina from Ed Rosen at premiere opera.

    It was recorded from the audience and has the typical “program rustling” and “old crone chatter,” but that makes it seem even more as if you are right there in the audience hearing it.

  30. papagenodz Says:

    Leontyne Price never sang Lady Macbeth, neither complete in the studio nor onstage. She recorded La luce langue and the sleepwalking scene. Her Verdi roles were limited to Aida, Amelia, Leonora, Leonora, Elvira, and a very early Alice Ford, plus arias from I Lombardi, Macbeth, Rigoletto, La traviata, Simon Boccanegra, Don Carlos, and Otello.

    I agree, however, that many of the other roles would have been great for her at one point or another during her career.


    No, my darling Leontyne, for good or bad, avoided the “killer” soprano roles. Remember, the Callas Ghost” hung very heavy over “The Lady” at the time Leontyne would have tackled the role, Arroyo had success as the Lady.

  32. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    papagenodz, Miss Price DID sing Lady Macbeth and she also sane Elena in Vespri. I don’t have the dates on hand to site…but I called up a close friend of mine today (the person who actually imparted this information to me in the first place) and asked him to verify that it was correct. He did say so and told me that it is mentioned in a book titled “Diva” that he had come across one day. He’s Leontyne’s biggest fan and knows virtually everything there is to know about her career.


    I’ve followed Leontyne’s career very closely (she means a lot to my community) I was NEVER aware of her singing the Lady OR Elena– dates PLEASE. In fact, I remember an interview with her in Musical America where she stated WHY she would NEVER sing certain roles–Macbeth being at the TOp of the list–so DATES please!


    I can remember Arroyo always saying that there were always those that insisted she was Price even if they were talking to Martina face to face and Price was performing on stage. Arroyo use to joke about it on the Johnny Carson show. Martina would say NO “I’m NOT Leontyne Price I am Maria Callas!”

  35. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    Callasorphan – my next visit to a bookstore or to a music library will result in my seeking this book titled “Diva” which, according to my friend, contains the information about Leontyne singing Elena and Lady M.\

    Martina has told me some hysterical anecdotes about her life and career. One she recently mentioned was that one day she wsa approaching the stage door to the Met and the guard greeted her with “Good day, Miss Price” to which Ms. Arroyo, never missing a beat, replied “I’m the other one.” The poor guy was so embarrassed.

  36. papagenodz Says:

    Your friend, no matter how wise, is doubly mistaken in this case. Neither Lady Macbeth nor Elena in Vespri was a stage role of Price’s. The following is her complete Verdi stage repertoire:

    Aida, Amelia, Elvira, Alice Ford, Leonora, Leonora.

    Her “tried a few times and then abandoned roles” were: Cleopatra, Manon Lescaut, Tatyana, Minnie. As her career progressed, Butterfly, Liu, Fiordiligi, Donna Anna, and roles like that fell to the wayside as the monolithic roles like Tosca and Aida took centerstage.

    I wish your friend were right. A Price Vespri would be very exciting to me (although a Bolero from the wrong year could be a trial). She’s my favorite singer, but I don’t think she would have added much to Lady Macbeth.

  37. papagenodz Says:

    If you’re referring to DIVA by Helena Matheopoulos, that book is filled with many inaccuracies. In fact, the second installment, which updates it to include Mattila, Voigt, Eaglen, Fleming, etc (and includes a second chapter on Price, whom Matheopolous calls her favorite) is even more riddled with strange, vague, and false statements. Good thing it’s in just about every local library…


    DIVA by Helena Matheopoulos is an infamous book. It is infamous for attributing roles to Price that were actually sung by Martina. I’ll stick by my belief that Price never sang the Lady. I can remember the time she included one of the Lady’s aria in her Prima Donna series of recordings on RCA–the public AND the cretics of the time were very SURPRISED. As much as I love La Price, to me she was NO Lady Macbeth–the notes, yes, the character NO! It takes MORE than the notes for the Lady, It takes vocal risks! and my darling Leontyne NEVER took too many Vocal risks

  39. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Papagenodz, I’m glad you cleared the issue about Price’s Lady Macbeth. I knew she had never sung the role but couldn’t prove it.

    Your sequence of roles may not be quite accurate, though. Price kept Fiordiligi, Donna Anna and Butterfly through the 1970’s. By that time she had dropped Liu, Tatyana, Tosca, Ernani’s Leonora and Ballo’s Amelia. Ariadne and Manon were late – and very brief – additions to her repertoire. Towards the end, only Forza, Trovatore and Aida remained active.

    One question: did she actually do Alice Ford on stage? I know she did it on an opera-for-TV performace back in the 1950’s…


    One final note on Price. I own her 11 disc commerative “The Essential Leontyne Price” on RCA and the booklet gives a list of her roles–no Lady, Elena or Alice are listed

  41. papagenodz Says:

    Alice was a role at Juilliard. Sadly, we can’t hear it.

  42. paddypig Says:

    the soprano in ERNANI is Elivira, not Leonora

  43. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Paddypig, you mean “Elvira” and not “Elivira”, right?


  44. paddypig Says:



    I know that I said my last Price post was indeed my last about her. However, wonderful memories come flooding back about my darling Leontyne. When she was still singing on the opera stage, she always referred to her voice in the “third person” as if it were another human being–ah the memories!

  46. papagenodz Says:

    and let’s not forget the comment about taking our her best crystal and toasting to the voice. how can you hate that?


    Or the one when she invited some young students over to her home (Leona Mitchell being one of the group) advising them to hurry on by “while the old Diva (herself) had a few high Cs left in her!”

  48. papagenodz Says:

    Meanwhile, pulling several parterre threads together, did we all see that Urmana is scheduled for Odabella at the Met, and Gheorghiu is scheduled for Marie Antoinette in Ghosts.

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