Names, names, names, darling!

According to the indispensable Met Futures page, the role of Marie Antoinette in the Met’s 2010 revival of The Ghosts of Versailles will be sung by Angela Gheorghiu! And next season will see the debut of the singer with the best operatic name ever: Nicola Rossi-Giordano.


60 Responses to “Names, names, names, darling!”

  1. Let’s see, she just finished singing Violetta. On the Met Futures page she is listed for Marie Antoinette in The Ghosts of Versailles, the title role in Carmen, and also the lead in La Rondine. She certainly does get around (fachs, that is). Maybe she might also want to try Erda? or Isolde? Hell, just send her a contract to sing Otello, I am sure she’ll sign it!

  2. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Marie Antoinette, Traviata and Rondine all fall pretty much within the same fach. Carmen is nowadays considered a mezzo role but a century ago sopranos sang it as often as mezzos. Even a lyric soprano like Geraldine Farrar had quite a success with it. It’ll be interesting to see what she does with it. Hasn’t she recorded the role already?

  3. I think that Angela should stick to Micaela. She doesn’t have the right voice for Carmen and I predict a vocally uninteresting/underpowered portrayal.

  4. JATM2063 Says:

    Well, if everyone is going to move downrange, maybe Alagna could sing Escamillo to Georghiu’s Carmen. Then they could get, oh, say David Daniels to sing Don Jose and resurrect Mado Robin to sing Micaela. Now THAT would be “interesting to see” (but hard to hear). Farrar’s success in the part had much more to do with her acting than her vocalism (underpowered). If Georghiu did record the part already, she must have had a microphone glued to her lip. Who’s going to conduct? William Christie?

  5. Baritenor Says:

    I’m not Worried about Angela in Carmen (She’s really not that bad on her recording, taking the de los Angeles approach), nor am I worried about her Rondine, which we all know is fantastic. I am worried, however, about her Marie Antoinette. Not because of the singing, but because of the fact that it’s in English. I’ve met her several times, and her Accent when speaking english, though Charming, is pretty heavy. Do you think she’ll be understood I mean, will this be another case of Christa Ludwig, who had excellent english Diction, or of Birgit Nilsson and her infamous “I could haf doshned all Neeeght”?

  6. Baritenor Says:

    Oh, and I see that Adriana Piesczona will be singing in the Ring in 08-09. I love her to death. She was a Fanastic Marschallian (The character, not the, poster) and I’m seeing her as the Countess in Figaro in two weeks.

  7. I agree…I saw her Marschallin in Los Angeles, and I thought it was fantastic!

  8. il stupendo Says:

    since it’s a comedy and it’s Marie Antoinette Georghiu is singing, the funnier the accent, the better!

  9. paddypig Says:

    While Gheorghiu can probably do Marie Antoinette,(yes the accent would be a hoot- sort of like Kabaivanska’s performance in LADY IN THE DARK) knowing her difficult personality, she may have yet another disagreement with the MET and disappear again as has happened with numerous other engagements here. Remember the Traviata production and both she and Alagna left the Faust run they were booked for midway three years ago. It is a case of I will believe it when I finally see it.

  10. JATM2063 Says:

    And why would Georghiu want to sing Marie Antoinette in an opera that was respected but rather a dud anyway. Surely there are other things she would like to do more. (That’s right folks, I DO like Georghiu). It would be more interesting to hear her in Manon, or as Thais. Something FUN. Something Renee sings…..

  11. OperaGuyNY Says:

    I actually remember enjoying Ghosts quite a lot. Marie is a GREAT role, it’s pretty meaty.

  12. il stupendo Says:

    Marie Antoinette is nearly a gay icon so she’s cool and fabulous to sing! haha

  13. paddypig Says:

    I also enjoyed ghosts alot. I know I am in a minority. It may have been “derivitive” ( I believe that was the most common complaint) but it wasn’t boring (like THE VOYAGE, or THE GREAT GATSBY) I always loved Stratas and saw Ghosts about six times. When I first heard they were going to revive it, I thought it might be for Flanegan or Racette. I would rather have gheorghiu as Marie and skip Chenowith as Samira, I think it needs a campy Mezzo, Graves might be a good choice.

  14. OperaGuyNY Says:

    Paddypig, I agree but isn’t almost everything derivative of something else? I too found it exciting and had great accessible music. Which is my criticism of most modern works, the music is inaccessible, or more appropriately lacking in beautiful tunes. I know opera is a living art form, but there is a reason most of the works in the repertoire are from the romantic period. I often feel like some modern composers have music that is difficult just for the sake of it being difficult.

    I would love to commission a modern opera in english, in the sytle of Bellini or Meyerbeer. Something beautiful but with a modern sensibility. Which is what I felt Ghosts came close to.

    Agreed on Graves, with Chenowith there’s going to have to be transpositions, but she’s DAMN funny and a great performer. Maybe it’ll work?

  15. i saw gheorghiu as violetta, and i have to admit it was thrilling….however unfortunately for those of us in NYC she has this tendency of disappearing, i.e. her cancellation of her final performance as violetta…..
    I certainly hope she returns to do carmen, rondine and marie, because as far as i’ve seen, she’s been wonderful in every role at the MET. although, her voice hasn’t much volume or heft in the lower registers….i don’t know how she will do carmen, esp. at the MET, but she isn’t bad on her recording.

  16. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    I wasn’t advocating for Gheourghiu to sing Carmen or that I expect her to be good at it. Simply said that it’s not necessarily a “first” or totally crazy.

    I agree, however, that it’s probably a waste. I too would much rather see her in a production of Thais or Louise. And as Micaela, she would probably steal the show.

    I’d also rather see her as Mimi, Liu and Lauretta rather than Tosca…

  17. Baritenor Says:

    As much as I love her, Kristin Chenowith would not be on My dream cast for a revival of GHOSTS. I agree, Graves would be a great choice for the role. Does anyone think that, considering they are both still Singing, that Renee and Grahame Clarke (who I am REALLY excited to see as the Witch in Hansel this fall in LA) should be brought back to re-create their roles? And who would fill out the rest of the cast? Gerald Finley and Bryn Terfel for Beaumarchais and Figaro? Matt Polenzani or Paul Groves for the Count? Tony Lacuira if Clarke is ungettable?

  18. il stupendo Says:

    i say that Divina Chenoweth is a consummate performer.

    she will be perfect in Madame Horne’s role. : )

  19. paddypig Says:

    hope renee and clarke come back.maybe dwayne croft for figaro. operaguyny, we are on the same page, during AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY an friend next to me said, doesn’t anyone know how to write for the human voice anymore. It sort of sums up the way I feel about most modern opera. The only modern american operas I have really find worthwhile are first and foremost PORGY AND BESS (a masterpiece) also have loved Ghosts, liked Susannah and Hoiby’s SUMMER AND SMOKE, Gatsby and Tragedy left me bored, hated the Voyage, and actually appeared in a very wierd operatic version of LAST OF THE MOHICANS by Alva Henderson when I was a teen at LAKE GEORGE OPERA (back when they were a real opera company-run by Timothy Nolen and his wife, boasting many performances by Diana Soviero and Henry Price. I was in a production of Faust with Soviero and the third cover for FAUST was a very young Jerry Hadley—-I played a donkey in the Karamesse scene.)

  20. il lacerato spirito Says:

    Paddy, I couldn’t agree with you more!!! Modern opera seems to be all about the orchestra and very little to do with the vocal line. Case in Point l”An American Tragedy”. How come Baby Doe hasn’t played the Met? Oris it the sole property of the NYCO? Pretty music, pretty vocal lines and a wonderful absorbing story.

  21. TheInterpolator Says:

    Apparently, Gheorghiu was offered the role as part of a “package” of other things, though I hear it did not take TOO much convincing. More than likely, she’ll fare just fine.

    After all, if the Interpolator can trod into Milan, Florence and Venice singing Il Turco, Barbiere, Lucia, Cosi and Cenerentola — and I am CERTAINLY not a native Italian — then there should be no problem with Gheorghiu singing the French Marie Antoinette in decidedly American (not just “English”) opera.

    Believe it or not, in singing with her, I have found her to be quite a good sport. Sure, everyone has a horror story or two, but the ones that play out in the media are almost always far exaggerated.

    Some of you may know that the Interpolator once “filled in” for 3 performances of l’Elisir d’Amore a few years ago when Signore Alagna turned up sick for the first 3 performances. Gheorghiu was singing Adina, and she was a absolutely LOVELY and SUPPORTIVE colleague: she spent more than two hours with me going over our mutual blocking, working out cadenzi in the duets and finales, and meshing our characterizations into a coherent whole.

    Believe me, MANY other singers I could name would NEVER have bothered with taking such time with me, even though I had NO rehearsal time on stage or with the orchestra. I simply walked on and did it. (I had sung in this production at that theatre before, however…so I knew the “basics” of the terrain.)

    Ever since that experience, I have felt the need to defend her a bit…

    But onto other things:

    In the “Too many tenors” blog, I posted my response to the Debbie Voigt bashing that was cropping up. However, I couldn’t determine if that thread is dead, so I’ll re-post the important parts here:

    First, as noted, Ms. Voigt IS a singer of consequence — and I don’t think that is actually in dispute. Even IF one (such as Marshie) doesn’t CARE for her singing, she IS still a singer of consequence. Ms. Voigt has (and will continue to have) her pick of high-profile engagements, with her pick of repertoire, both domestically and abroad, for years to come.

    Second, I take grave issue with the Mashie’s assertion that she does not sing well. Although EVERY singer has an off-night (and even singers such as Sutherland, perhaps the most secure vocal technician of the 20th century opera stage, occasionally succombed to some human travail), Ms. Voigt is almost *always* vocally and technically secure in her delivery. She DOES sing well. Within the parameters of the repertoire she sings, she is up against a slew of vocal hurdles night after night after night that most singers simply WON’T face even if they COULD.

    Third, Ms. Voigt’s bravery, her personal integrity, her unflagging commitment to being a good colleague, and her desire to uphold the highest vocal and musical standards ALSO contribute to make her a prized singer in the American — and, indeed, world — pantheon of jugend-lyrisches sopranos. Yes, these qualities DO find their way into her actual SINGING — the actual SOUND, the actual PHONATION, the actual aomplitude, pitch, and color produced by her vibrating arytenoids. To say otherwise is either (1) stupid, or (2) willfully uninformed, or (3) born of outrageous jealousy.

    Fourth, having been privileged to sing in (at least) two different productions with Ms. Voigt, I can attest to her vocal consistency and commitment across a long run of performances.

    Those of you have figured out my identity (or at least *think* you have — ha ha) will probably know that I sang the Italian Tenor in Rosenkav with Ms. Voigt in a typically “high-profile” production. Having sung MANY performances of the Italian Tenor with Ms. Fleming, I was accustomed to a far different approach to Marie-Therese’s music, and I found it relevatory to be onstage with Ms. Voigt as she plumbed yet another facet of the Marshallin’s vocal and temperamental profile.

    Yes, she was a WONDERFUL singing actress, and the reviews bear that out. Interestingly, the reviews also mentioned that MY singing of the Italian Tenor’s big aria had a “more refulgent, powerful ring than Mr. Interpolator usually delivers” [translated from the German original]. I know that I can attribute that directly to Ms. Voigt’s singing — because, as we all know, good singing is contagious.

    How lucky I have been to sing such a wonderful (and short!) part with two such talented colleagues — who inspired me to experiment a bit vocally mid-career as they did. Of course, the part is so short that some experimentation is not truly dangerous. But again, how lucky I am!!

    One evening, I was in the wings (on break from a rehearsal downstairs) watching Ms. Voigt sing Chrysothemis’ big scene from Elektra. When she let loose with “Kinder will ich haben…” and soared up to that B-flat, I almost shat myself.

    No matter what your perspective, let this stand as truth beyond reproach: Singing such as THAT she delivered with “Kinder will ich haben…” and the final B-flat of “Pace” as described by ITDCS is indeed rare, exciting, glorious, roof-rattling. moving, exciting…and we are LUCKY to have it.

    And if you don’t agree, then I dare you to try it yourself and see how you fare.

    — The Interpolator

  22. Baritenor Says:

    Oh, Interpolator, good to have you back!

  23. OperaGuyNY Says:

    Oh Interpolator!!!

    HOO-RAH!!! You’re Back~!~!~!~!~!

    I do hope you’re doing well, we’ve certainly missed you and your wonderful imput.

  24. OperaGuyNY Says:

    p.s. I’m seeing Voight in Tosca next month! Neither me or my bf have heard her live and we’re thrilled!

  25. All the complaining about/defiance of Marschallin leaves me feeling like Jan Brady: “Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!”.

    Enough with all the crankypants out there! Interpolator is returned!

    Weehee![Mentally dances in jubilation]

  26. I was a super in a mediocre, boring production of “Tannheuser” in San Francisco some years ago and it wasn’t until the moment when Deborah Voigt started singing her big Elizabeth Aria in rehearsal that I realized the opera was actually supposed to be awesome.

    In San Francisco she also sang Ariadne in the Strauss opera a few years ago (just before the little black dress bullshit in London for the same opera) and She Was Perfection. I heard Leontyne Price sing it live, too, and she was beautiful and great, but Miss Debby truly sang it perfectly. And as The Interpolator says in less crude language, that ain’t easy shit.

  27. papagenodz Says:

    You are all right that Voigt, at this point, is one of the unchallenged great Strauss and Wagner sopranos we have. I’ve witnessed her work in Elektra, Ariadne, and Frau live, as well as several Sieglindes, and it’s been SPECTACULAR. I have no doubt that her Marschallin is lovely, and having met her a few times, I bet she will become great and deep in the role with a few more goes. I’m excited for the Salome here in Chicago next year.

    It does make it all the more frustrating, though, that when she leaves this repertoire, it’s not very successful. I’m not a big fan of her Aida and the Forza on the radio was not a success, no matter how great the last note of Pace pace was. Many women have sung the aria well — Cotrubas and Gheorghiu spring to mind — who could never get through Act Two, and Debbie wasn’t too far above them. I’ve heard the Lady Macbeth, and while that’s a little bit better, it can’t hold a candle to her work in Strauss and Wagner.

    Of course this charge was levelled against Nilsson, who worked very hard to combat that — thank God she had Turandot, and I have a great fondness for her singing in Tosca and Ballo, among others. Likewise Rysanek, who could be very frustrating when away from her homebase, but also provided some great singing in Italian, too.

    The difference is that Rysanek was riveting no matter what she did. Voigt, even though she can sometimes be touching and often times be very exciting, is more of a Tebaldi type, to use that tired manner of dividing singers into stimm- and kunst-. The sheer thrill of her voice in German rep just doesn’t always translate into Italian rep. I wish it did! I’d love to love her pull off an amazing Norma. I’d love to hear her do La Vestales and Ernanis and Medeas for the ages. But it probably won’t ever happen.

  28. paddypig Says:

    I agree with papagenodz, I love Voigt in Strauss and Wagner, but up to this point have found her Italian performances a bit dull, and basically not very Italian. I don’t think she has a real understanding or feel for the language. the words rarely take on real meaning. As a super in Aida, I heard many Aidas over the past fifteen years. Voigt’s was always vocally secure and poured out lots of beautiful tone, however, dramatically she was always cool and rarely seemed to communicate the text with real emotional weight. However, I would rather have her stick to her bland interpretations than do a Fleming routine (I do not consider her a natural actress either, but she insists on trying to act rather than just singing the role_ the video from Houston is a case in point. If she had not camped it up so much but just stood there and sang the damn thing it would have been much better. She could sing it beautifully) Let’s face it, some singers are simply not actors, it is a different talent, and we have been lucky with such people as Rysanek, Callas, Scotto Stratas, Verrett and Domingo (not meant to be an exclusive list) who truly understood the words they were singing and had a real organic sense of how to communicate this to an audience. We also have had amazing artists who were not actors (Nilsson, Sutherland, Price, Pavarotti, Milanov, Tebaldi, Norman,Arroyo) who may not have reached great heights as actresses and actors but usually managed to keep it simple and not make fools of themselves on stage. Often grandeur substituted for acting (That can be wonderful in its own way)I think Voigt belongs in the second category, she is not a natural actress and I will not go to her Tosca expecting Callas’s or Olivero’s intensity. I see Fleming in the same light, unfortunatley she tries to act and interpret, rather than just sing. The only time I ever saw Voigt look foolish was in the Lohengrin when that ugly blue caftan emphasized the worst aspects of her size at the time and the stylized movements made her look ridiculous. I did not understand why she allowed it. In Ariadne her grandeur and larger than life style work. I prefer her in the Strauss roles where the sense of acting is different than verismo or later Verdi which we have come to associate with more great singing actresses. (Yes I know Rysanek was a great singing actress but she was one of the few Strauss specialists who was)

  29. I’m somewhat conflicted. First, do we know that Fleming’s acting in the video was her choice or the director’s imposition? Also, don’t we want to avoid the now-I-stand-over-here-and-sing-my-aria approach to opera? And do we believe “bad acting is better than no acting”? I think I have more questions than answers.

  30. il stupendo Says:

    i LOVE joanie sutherland’s grand ‘bad’ acting! : )

  31. OperaGuyNY Says:

    As someone who has a little experience in this area, (BFA’s in both Acting and Voice and an MFA in Musical Theatre) I’ve seen both sides. Sometimes the technical aspects of both (acting and singing) are simply overwhelming – sometimes you just need to stand there and sing in order to do the score justice. True “Acting,” in the modern sense of the word, is very difficult for Americans who have to sing in a foreign language that they don’t necessarily speak fluently. Understanding the text is paramount to informing your choices as an actor, so if you have some stiff acting it may be from not having enough time and history with the role. But with “good” acting comes risk, you have to be willing to go there – emotionally and energetically, and sometimes as a singer you just CAN’T without blowing out your voice. Exhibit A: Callas.

    Would you as a audience member rather have a singer take that risk and blow a high note in the intensity of the moment? Or would you rather them be in control, but come off cold. I’m not sure how I would answer. I tend to go to the opera to hear great singing, but when you’ve seen everything you start to want something more – I get that.

    In school we used to have a comment that came from a master class we once had: “Nice voice, but who cares?” Which for us meant, you have to give MORE than just your voice, give a little soul, a little heart, tell the story.

    I’m seeing Voigt in Tosca, I’m sure she’ll be great! I never got to see any of the greats, Sutherland, Sills, Tebaldi, etc. I’m sure I would have been thrilled by their performances.

  32. Baritenor Says:

    I believe “Nic voice, but who the hell cares” was something that Callas origionallly said about Tebaldi.

  33. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    A quick interjection. There is alot of very intelligent discussion happening here – it’s very nice to read it. This time, believe it or not, I have few words to say.

    Paddypig…I’m not so sure that I can agree with you having Madame Arroyo on the list where you put here. Alas, I am far too young to have ever seen her perform live and there are few videos of her operatic performances (unless La Cieca can dig some up for us – that would be a real treat)…but as one who works very closely with Ms. Arroyo, it is simply stunning how much importance this woman puts on the text and discovering, knowing, and living in the moment as the character while always singing with a free, unaffected and always beautifully spun tone…this is something she imparts to all young singers who cross her path. I’ve learned quite a bit from coaching that I have done with her. She did, recently, admit that she never considered herself, no did the critics, a great actress…but she always made it known that she made her best efforts to be as believable in her expression and tone colors and declamation and to be as true to the character and the composer as she could be. She has, in her stories, cited many examples where the singers she worked with had such glorious voices but she only wished that they would have given something to the individuality of the character. I won’t mention specific examples because I don’t wish to inaccurately convey her stories out of context.

    However, at the mention of Joan Sutherland and her “bad” acting, as it was called…just the other night, Ms. Arroyo told a recent story of when she and Joan (they are very close friends) were in Brussels (I assume judging the Queen Liz Competition – but she made no mention of it)…someone had approached Dame Joan and referred to her as an ‘artist’ to which Joan replied: “Ahhtist! Ahhtist!! Did you hear that, Martina, they called me an ahhtist! I wasn’t an ahhtist…I was a gymnast!!”

    What with Ms. Arroyo’s impression of Joan’s accent – I nearly peed in my pants I was laughing so hard!!

    Brett…thank you for pointing that aspect out about the Fleming video.

  34. il stupendo Says:

    because of Joanie’s HEROIC size, no one can match the spectacular death falls that she does after reaching her final Eb!

    thank you for that wonderful anecdote, Il Tenore. 🙂

  35. OperaGuyNY Says:


    I woke up this morning with a hankering for some Joan, and as I write this I’m listening to her NORMA (the ’65). I would have given anything to have seen her live!

  36. rysanekfreak Says:

    Memories! I was lucky enough to have seen Sutherland “live” a few times. I was especially lucky to see the legendary pairing of Sutherland and Horne in “Norma” in San Francisco.

    It was a night of fabulous vocalism. After the Adalgisa-Pollione duet (Ermanno Mauro), I experienced a first: being in an audience that started rhythmic clapping…and did not want to stop. Everyone was just so excited that we HAD to do it.

    The two subsequent Norma-Adalgisa duets sent the audience into a frenzied delirium.

  37. Talking about Joan’s death falls try to see the DVD of her as Lucrezia Borgia. After poisoning off the whole of the cast, she sings a fiendish aria and then gracefully subsides rigged in ropes of pearls and billowing in red velvet onto a convenient pile of cushions, like a stately galleon sliding beneath the waves.

  38. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    I’ve seen that video – with Kraus, right? She’s outstanding!

  39. meremarie Says:

    Death by cushions in opera – this should be a whole separate posting. One of my great formative operatic memories when I was a music student in 1981 was seeing Grace Bumbry and Franco Bonisolli in Meyerbeer’s L’africaine at Covent Garden, both in fabulously sumptuous (and competitive) form – (real extended high notes!) – but the epiphany for me was when the abandoned Selika in the final scene, who is slowly poisoned by a killer tree, sank onto her back in a pantomime tropical landscape, which contained 3-4 strategically placed cushions, straight out of the then oriental department at Liberty’s: it was both ridiculously funny and tear-inducingly cathartic – no wonder I have been totally mixed up ever since.

  40. and Bonisolli in thigh length leather boots and shirt open to the navel flinging himself to his knees and begging the audience for an ovation after “O Paradiso” ( well deserved for once). For sheer vanity and upstaging there was no one to compare.

  41. meremarie Says:

    those antics got way out of hand for a ROH revival of ‘Trovatore’ in which he partnered la Stupenda – this was not a happy occasion, it really wasn’t her role – I recall a review, the gist of it went ‘Joan Sutherland sings Leonora like a bird. Unfortunately, Leonora is not a bird’ – at the end of the ensemble in Act 2, she hit Ab, he hit top C and rushed forward – presumably words were said during the interval, as the curtain calls at the end were a riot, she moved away from him as if he were a pariah! And Obratsova was Azucena – bellowing from another dimension – it was as if you needed three separate volume settings to enjoy the evening……..

  42. at another revival he missed the top C at the end of Di Quella Pierra, flung down his sword and as one reviewer put it : “visibly sulked”.

  43. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    I too would be visibly upset if I missed the high C at the end of Di quella pira or anywhere else.

    I’d rather see the singer show disatisfaction/disappointment than have them smile as if nothing had happened. Some hubris per favore !

  44. Baritenor Says:

    My most lasting memories of Senor Bonisolli are an Excellent Alfredo and a terrible Manrico, which featured one of those arm-sweeping in appretation “no, Thank YOU!” Curtain Calls. Then again, he was always famous for his showboating and ego. Remember that video of TROVATORE with Domingo, Cossotto, Kabaivanska, Cappuccilli, and Karjan? Well, need I remind you that Bonisolli was the origional Manrico in that run, but flung his sword at Karajan because he didn’t like the fact that people had been invited to the Dress Rehersal. The INVITED Dress Rehersal. Naturally, he was out and Domingo had to be called in.

  45. il stupendo Says:

    fabulous VIDEO clips of Maestro Bonisolli singing trovatore with Bruson, Baglioni and Dragonican be downloaded at

    the site also has a video of Maestro Cappuccilli’s masterclass.

    and one of the most wonderful of all, Madame Olivero’s video of il son lumille ancella! sublime!

  46. paddypig Says:

    ITCS- while Arroyo indeed acted with the voice, but physically was not that great an actress, she actually jokes about it now when she speaks. Tebaldi and Pavarotti also gave the words meaning and were in character vocally, but if you watch videos of Tebaldi’s Tosca or any video of Pavarotti, there is not alot of depth in the acting.

  47. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    That is very correct, and Ms. Arroyo does admit to not having been the greatest actress of her day. She did, however, show her thoughts on her face, something that Tebaldi never did – she just stood there and smiled.

  48. paddypig Says:

    you’re a little hard on Tebaldi, watch the video of Forza, or the Tosca from Germany with George London or the wonderful duet clip with Bjorling. no she is not an actress, but she doesn’t just stand there and smile. With the Tosca, especially, she really doesn’t show much sense of character, she sort of gestures her way through the performance without a sense of character. The Forza requires less acting and she is at her best there. another comment on acting, even the greatest stage actresses sometimes need to stop and just focus on the music. A good example is Gwyneth Jones in Tristan und Isolde, she acts the role as well as sings it, but when it comes to the duet, I don’t think any soprano can do anything more than sit (or stand) there and sing. the music is simply to demanding to focus on anything else.

  49. palcofunesto Says:

    suffice to say this, this age of opera goer must endure what passes for acting, or better yet indicating with a wink, “we understand the great Italian language and it’s myriad emotions and limitless unspoken understanding.” Sure they do. It shows in their vocal execution doesn’t it? Wish it did.
    If those natural born singers like the great Tebaldi chose to speak the words, thinking we all understood it too, good for her. Coupled with that was a voice of incomparable beauty and communication that cannot be properly understood in a video, or in a vinyl have been in the theater when this giant strode the stage throwing out bolts of lightening silver and gold on reams of sound so large you can’t imagine the effect. To have been in the theater when she sang was drama, was a hushed event with the whole audience in the palm of her hand. She was Tosca. Her indifference to Scarpia made us spit, her smile was roman summer, fragant as the embrace at the end of Mario’s life he recounts in his celebrated heartbreaking aria “E’luce van le stelle”- this understanding of not only words but style used to be the absolute least you could expect, and now we are lucky if we get even that. But people who act, we get plenty of that….you can have it.

  50. paddypig Says:

    Again I feel misinterpreted, no one denies that Tebaldi had a tremendous stage presence and personality. (this is grandeur), however while her performances were wonderful, she was not a particularly probing actress. the problem today is most people try to “act” the part without any real understanding of the text, style or character. they learn to sing the part and add the “acting” afterwards. This is fakery at best and camp (Fleming Violetta) at worst. A good example of what I am talking about is the two Vissi d’arte performances on La Cieca’s website. Milanov and Scotto, Milanov gives a beautiful performance, her acting is simple and appropriate, the voice is glorious. She knows what the text is about and responds appropriately, Scotto on the other hand truly understands the character of Tosca and has made her her own. The technique and sense of style and the commitment to character grow out of the music, they are not pasted on, there is a greater intensity to the performance that Milanov lacks. This is true acting. Scotto would be the first to also point out that the way one acts in verismo is very different than the way one acts in bel canto (go to one of her master classes for lessons on style and interpretation) You do not act Lucia the same was you act Butterfly. The music controls the style. Callas was hardly a naturalistic actress, many of her movements were stylized and grand, but her intensity,timing,commitment to the drama and music made what would have apppeared stagy if someone else had done them seem perfectly natural. Perhaps the greatest example of great acting in opera I can think of is Scotto’s performance of Suor Angelica, if you can see a copy of it you will know what I mean, The acting is organic and grows out of the music. it is not added on as an afterthought. Great acting in opera is the abilty to not only with great singing, but with a sense of dramatic understanding a true sense of the character portrayed. Another example (whatever one things of his voice in Otello, many prefer a beefier tenor) Domingo brought an understanding of the character of Otello and was able to communicate this the way no one else has since.

  51. palcofunesto Says:

    scotto tosca, domingo otello.
    Both way too lyric for their roles compensating for this, logically by bringing something else. scotto is a genius of communication. with Otello, there are no exceptions, he is a stentorian beast, nneds the volume, must have ocenic thrust according to Verdi’s letters, otherwise we have a pygmie otello, of which we have many today. pity.
    Tosca was a woman of her day, look at Olivero’s tosca, there is NO emotion till there needs to be emotion. Gliding into rooms, as one would have in those days, straight backed and aloof, afterall a woman of prestige and decorum. Milanov was just fine, and brought a fabulous instrument. all bets are off when you bring that much to the table. the voice MUST be the right color, and you must sing in a style, correct. within that style is where the individuality can show, the colore
    and extenstion, the rubati, that is where you see the acting with the voice, amoung so many other vocal devices used by the great artists.
    I agree completely, acting seems more important today, pasting on some skewed understanding of what one is saying, sort of, and THEN seeing if you have the right instrument. even bigger pity.

  52. paddypig Says:

    agree, still think Olivero was probably the greatest Tosca of all time. While I don’t think the film of Tosca is a great example of her art, due to the fact that it is lip-synched, but other live clips, even though she is in her eighties in some of them, show a woman who truly understood style, like scotto, she moved into the verismo after being well schooled in bel canto. Also like Scotto, she started as a lyric and moved into the more dramatic parts later in her career. Tosca has drawn many different sopranos,(successfully) from Nilsson,Jones, Welitsch,Crespin, Vishnevskaya, Bumbry, Rysanek,Tebaldi,Crespin to Gencer, Callas, Olivero, Scotto,Lorengar,Caballe to even Kirsten, Steber and (Unfortunately and definitely not successfully) Te Kanawa and Vaness. The most successful Toscas were of course, Callas and Olivero, both who came with solid bel canto experience.As far as Domingo’s Otello goes, I feel we took it for granted for twenty years at the MET, usually people complained about the size of his voice after hearing Del Monaco, Vickers and even Mc Cracken, however, no one in the past 25 years has touched his performance. Heppner and Galozine had bigger voices, but brought very little else to the table. I think Domingo’s OTELLO will be appreciated much more in the next few years now that he is no longer singing this role (I think he should have probably given the role up a few years earlier than he did) but I think we took him for granted at the MET because we had so much of his time here.

  53. palcofunesto Says:

    One must not disavow anyone of their cherished notions of favorite performer. I respect that their are differences of opinion, perfectly valid, and seeing the depth of your lists of Tosca, you embrace a great many valid variations. Having seen late Vinay, and early Del Monaco, thru to the (hardlycorrect italian) monster portrayal of Atlantov-truly towering, rafter shattering, nuanced
    Otello, I was spoiled. For the lyric Otello’s, domingo reigns supreme. a
    true success, with caveat. Not the sublime power needed to make the humbling of Otello to the tiny being he becomes thru jealousy all the more heartbreaking.Vinay and Del Monico were devastating live.
    Archival discs of incredible quality exist at La Scala and have been issued limited in the US that show the original creators-Verdi handpicked which are revelatory.
    Tamagno and Murel. The sound became it’s conduit, the words it’s road, and the time used to bring it to you
    the space needed between the voice and public was earthshattering in alchemic concoction to beguile and to astound! Verdi after all. nothing further need be said. but again offered discussion with respect towards all.

  54. Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba Says:

    Much discussion is ensuing regarding acting vs singing and the combination of the two forces. I have written on the subject several times over the past few months and so I won’t go on to repeat myself. However, there is something that I dug up specifically to put on the website as some more food for thought. Though it describes one particular composers exact notions, I believe that what he says hold true to all operatic and vocal styles presented in theatres and on stages where a character is involved.

    “L’opinione di Verdi sul canto”

    A Viennese journalist who visited Verdi writes: the Maestro praised the chorus and orchestra of our opera house. “I have seldom heard so many powerful young voices together. The chorus is admirable, the best I have encountered.” We spoke of the singers who contributed to the brilliant success of the Requiem. “Austria is responsible for a portion of the success,” said Verdi, “for the female soloists are, after all, Austrian. Nevertheless,” he corrected himself with a little smile, “the success is not entirely due to them; the manner in which they sing is Italian. This they have learnt from us.” I agreed. “Listen,” Verdi continued, “Italian singers are often unjustifiably criticized for neglecting acting for the sake of bel canto. Yet how many singers are there who combine both, who can act and sing? In comic opera both are easily combined. But in tragic opera! A singer who is moved by the dramatic action, concentrates on it with every vibrant fibre of his body and is utterly consumed by the role he is portraying, will not find the right tone. He might for a minute, but in the next thirty seconds he will sing in the wrong way or the voice will simply fail. A single lung is rarely strong enough for acting and singing. And yet, I am of the opinion that in opera the voice has, above all, the right to be heard. Without a voice true singing cannot exist.”

    [This excerpt was taken from the book “Encounters with Verdi” by Marcello Conati, translation by Richard Stokes, pg. 113]

    The man knew what he was talking about.

    What many opera listeners and musicians that aren’t singers sometimes don’t understand is that ‘method acting’ is not possible when singing. As Nancy Stokes-Milnes used to put it (I am paraphrasing here), all emotions and all elements that the character feels should be worn like a mask or a part of one’s costume – something that drapes over you in that moment to show the audience and the other people on stage with you what the character is going through – but it should never touch so so deep inside that it prevents you from being able to sing in the best possible manner. What happens is that as you give the illusion to the audience that you are feeling a certain way, you mix it with the energy and the intensity that does eminate from your body and the way you color the tone of the notes you sing…it goes out to the eyes and ears of the audience members and moves them. But to stand there and scream or cry or laugh in the moment means that you are doing something other than singing.

    Martina Arroyo told me a story once, as we were discussing this topic, of how she recalled a specific event in her career where the emotion of the drama in that moment prevented her from being able to sing. She was doing a Butterfly and after the “Che tua madre” the little boy on stage with her looked up and said “Don’t cry mommy” and she began to choke up because the sweetness that exuded from the child mixed with the profound drama of what Butterfly was experiencing at that moment got her choked up and she lost her ability to phonate properly for a few bars before she managed to pull herself together. Even as she told the story, her eyes began to water and I myself began to feel choked up while listening to her relay the event.

    Alas, I have to disagree witht he comparison of the Milanov and Scotto videos of Tosca present by La Cieca. The major difference to me is that Milanov had the voice to sing Tosca, Scotto didn’t. Regardless of what the dramatic intensity was or how brilliant the phrasing and the declamation is in the Scotto video (and it is brilliant), there is no voice to back it up and therefore the mission fails in many ways. But, we all have our own opinions of these things and different things move us in different ways.

  55. palcofunesto Says:

    superb quote. Verdi always used in many articles, especially the congress where he fought for universal pitch, that opera was, is and always will be voice, voice, voice. What he prayed for and spoke of in hundreds of letters to his collaboratori, to his wife, to Boito on rare occasions,sponsors, and to the day he died. He wanted the words to mean something. This they can, and still communicate without placing a serenity at risk. Sulle parole not only helped the audience enjoy but in the hands of masters such as Verdi became vocal medicine to assist the singer to his truest placement.

    What of the mess of diction which afflicts a good many american as well as european voices. Not even the natural flow of the language of which Verdi/Bellini are king seems to help. The melismatic note to note; “plunking” of notes for their ritmo but baring no free transform as spoken thought in a particular language. a lack of natural flow even on a novice ah or e seems beyond most.a true vowel being scarce to begin with. why has this been been lost in the translation?

    Is it the current fixation with obliterating the portamento from a singers arsenal, when it is absolute in the spoken langauge? why the robotic way over the natural, mind you, hopefully not abused portamenti favored by many if not all- to a certain extent- great artists?

    Does it challenge a maestro to sub divide and therefore throw the young ones off, who settled for opera when there were no symphony posts available?

    Harsh to be sure, heavy handed indeed, but what else explains the inclination by most “young” maestri to treat every voice
    the same.
    A role requiring the weight of a basketball, is required to bounce along at the speed and “bounce” of a ping pong ball. Have they no idea as to what is required of a voice sustaining an opera of a certain vocal weight?
    The elder statesmen, maestri veri, treated the singers as precious jewels and pieces of a given opera’s crown for which they were enirely responsible. what became of this glorious trust?

  56. opera80221 Says:

    I’m going to get something off of my chest here……not too long ago I saw Hasmik Papian in Norma at the Opera Colorado Performances….why the HELL can’t the Met get her, pre-empt other performances just to solidify this woman’s reputation as the best Norma of her day? Everybody knows that you ain’t THE Norma until New York falls all over themselves praising your interpretation? By the way, everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY (including the HOTTEST FLAVIO I’VE ever seen) sang like gods, BUT:::::: it was THE worst production I’ve seen to date. It looked like a lumberyard threw up…the lighting angles didn’t make sense, they weren’t flattering to the principals AT all….it didn’t compliment the best singing outside of Sutherland that I’ve heard lately…

    I guess the questions still remains…with all the excitement of Hasmik Papian singing Norma, Irina Mishura singing Adalgisa, WHY doesn’t the MET GET the girl ON STAGE there?

  57. OperaGuyNY Says:

    Opera80221: I almost flew out for these performances, now I wished I had. Papian sang AIDA at the Met this past fall, so she’s definitely on the roster, she really is regarded as the best Norma on the planet right now (unless someone knows of someone else?). The Met has a NORMA planned for 2007-2008 with Maria Guleghina, which has most of us more than nervous. Maybe Hasmik will sweep in and save the day??

    I sang a couple of seasons with Opera Colorado, how is the new Opera House? It looks amazing!!

  58. papagenodz Says:

    It seems to me a similar case to “why the hell doesn’t the Met fall over themselves to get Ewa Podles?” Papian had a broadcast Aida about six or seven years ago that was pretty pedestrian (although we’ve heard worse). It seems like her artistry has really deepened since then, and we’ve heard a lot of raves about her Norma, but the opinion may have been frozen. Hopefully under new management this ancient impressions can melt and we can get some new judgments on great artists. And we can be spared a Guleghina Norma, which sounds like a nightmare.

  59. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Il Tenore di Coloratura Superba, you dissappoint me. I’m sure you expect people to judge you based on a bit more information than I gather you could have regarding Tebaldi. (Based on your youth, I can’t imagine that you ever saw her perform live.)

    TV appearances in the 1950’s and 60’s on Ed Sullivan and other shows are not good examples. The studios were small; the artists were not familiar with the medium; and they were pretty much instructed to just look at the camera and smile while singing.

    There are a couple of filmed Tebaldi performances from the 1950s and again those are very poor representation. The sensitivity of the cameras to record a live performance fifty years ago was way, way, way lower than what we have now. The lights were turned on high and the singers were told to move slowly or they would end up looking like early Charlie Chaplins.

    Of course, there were and are singers with an innate feeling for the drama, with a body plasticity, a special stage presence that makes them special. We often refer to them as singer actors/actresses. Rysanek, Vickers, Scotto, Silja, Callas, Sills belong to that select group.

    The majority of the other singers were or are passable actors at best, particularly in decades past. Tebaldi, Price, Nilsson, Caballe, Moffo, Sutherland, Horne, della Casa, Schwarkopf, Arroyo, and million other sopranos were simply honest singers who tried their best onstage. Or perhaps you’ll say that they just stood there and smiled, which of course was not true at all.

    Most of these singers had something absent from many current singers, and that is that they acted with their voices and their singing. They didn’t have to go around the stage doing all the silly things that today’s singers are asked to do. But they understood what the words and the music meant and they made the spectators believe in them just as well. They could make them cry. And they didn’t have or need supertitles.

    And most of those singers also found special roles where their personalities allow them to communicate something special. Sutherland was no actress by anyone’s standard, but she was delightful in comic roles. Price WAS whatever Verdi heroine she was personifying on a specific night.

    To their credit remember too that those singers were not trained like young American singers are trained today. Most often they were simply trained to sing. And to sing in only one or two languages. And in a certain style. Yes, many of today’s singers can sing in a multitude of languages and styles, can do cartwheels, look ravishing on TV…, and often end up being indistinguishable from each other.

    I saw Tebaldi live a few times and can assure you that as Minnie, Traviata, Tosca, Butterfly and Gioconda she most certainly did not stand still and smile. Of course that was not always the case. Singing Maddalena standing, smiling, and making sure that Corelli did not leave the stage was about all anyone could ask of her.

    As for Arroyo, I also saw her several times. I liked her and enjoyed her performances, but believe me, actress she was not. I remember in particular her Lady Macbeth with Milnes at the Met. Gloriously sung but totally boring dramatically. Talk about standing there and smiling to the audience.

    Allow me to suggest that you give these singers of the past a bit more credit, or perhaps the benefit of the doubt. After all, they became famous for some reason. Look at the photos of Ponselle, Calve, Caruso, etc. Rather laughable aren’t they?

    You may also want to take operatic stories with a grain of salt now and then. No offense to Miss Arroyo but just about every other soprano who has sung Butterfly has claimed to have cried at one time or another in response to the little boy in the last act.


  60. opera80221 Says:

    Let’s just say the FIRST time I fell in love with opera ……….at ALL…was when Sutherland/Horne sang the duets from the was a seconds from London recordings….I wore that record to the point of skipping…I couldn’t believe how gorgeous OPERA was !!!!!

    I saw Norma in San Diego in the 80’s sometime…it was when I was >>>gulp< << heterosexual, and the BIGGEST thing on my mind was my infant son at home...with his babysitter, and Cristina Deutekom was COMPLETELY out of her element at that time...Dolores Ziegler was the Adalgisa...and I remember feeling that we'd better DAMN well leave when one of the opera patrons at innermission, overheard, mispronounced her character name.....went home to be with the infant son...but Met the IDOL of my LIFE in 2003, Richard Bonynge in San Diego with my best friend……Richard and Chester were the BEST FRIENDS EVER …….I had him SIGN my recording of Norma with his wife as principal….and Sutherland…vocally, in the 60s to 80’s, will go down as the GODDESS of that role in my life

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