Thanks La Cieca for showing this. Since I’ve never been able to worship at the Pole of Millo, I’ve often wondered just where in the hell it really was. The next time that I visit the Met I’ll bow to it. Thank again!
Now mind you I’m NOT hip. From what I understand that there is a section in the lobby of the Met where fans of Millo would gather during her pereformances. Now that she no longer sings at the Met too often, her fans still gather in that spot–hince it’s a Millo Pole–meet me at the Millo Pole–you NY people correct and embellish please!!
Millo hit another home run last night. After Voigt’s decidedly unItalian Tosca I really needed Millo’s Tosca. While she may not be to everyone’s taste, she is the real thing. Her Italian is wonderful and she has truly made Tosca her own. She understands the smaller moments and while she is often “over the top” it is appropriate. She definitely takes risks. (singing the first half of Vissi d’arte while holding the crucifix and those “mea culpas” while she places the candles by Scarpia’s body.) She understands the conversational tone of the arias and cleverly does not flail her arms about her move foolishly. Her acting grows out of the music, it is not added on. She does the best jump I’ve seen in years and the murder scene was wild. She and Morris worked wonderfully together. She seemed to be a little cautious in the first act but was also coughing a few times. I think she had a slight cold or congestion. She is probably the best Tosca we have had at the MET in many years. She understands the style and is grand in a very old fashioned way. One is never bored. She also wears her own costumes which are simpler and more flattering to her body type than the traditional costumes in this production Poor Villa, unfortunately, while adequate was no match but Morris, despite the signs of age in his voice is probably still the best Scarpia around today. (MacNEil and Milnes are still the best I have seen live and no one will ever touch Gobbi) . One of those rare evenings at the MET when I came home truly happy and never bored.
Tommassini seems to be coming to the defense of Voigt and Fleming today in the Times. What he chooses to ignore in his condemnation of opera fans who have a little experience with opera (I have only been going to the MET since 1970 when my mother took my brother and me to a performance of CAV/PAG,-I do remember the clown in front of the curtain and the procession in CAV, thought it was cool) In his defense of these singers and their interpretations of Tosca and Violetta, T ignores any questions of stylistic integrity. No singers should not be allowed to do whatever they want with a role. an interpretation should be built on a solid knowledge of the style of the music and a secure understanding of that style (Millo is a good example of understanding style, Scotto, Olivero,Gencer and Callas were all masters of this) . One size does not fit all. One does not sing Puccini or Verdi the way one sings Strauss or Handel. Donizetti and Puccini demand different styles. Pulling your acting ideas out of a hat and just singing notes while flailing your arms about disconcertingly is not style.. And while it was obvious Voigt worked very hard on Tosca, she simply does not get Puccini’s style. the Vissi d’arte was just an aria to be sung. It is so much more. to be effective it must be performed like an interior monologue. You ain’t singing to the balcony honey, you are talking to yourself and/or to God about the awful situation you find yourself in. Voigt did not understand that or any of the small moments. Fleming simply pastes her interpretations on the performance, they never grow out of any sense of understanding of style or the music. It is all just pretty sound. ENough of my bitching for today.
Agreed, she was great! She had a couple of bobbles, but nothing unforgivable. While I also enjoyed some things about Voigt’s Tosca, Millo really has the style right. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say it was a wonderful night!
…and YES, her leap was OFF THE HOOK! The whole audience went – WHOA! The best I’ve ever seen!
Millo’s vocal problems last night were most likely do to health, she was coughing during the first act(especially noticable when she went over to the altar to “pray” and seemed to be coughing quite heavily) and had to proceed cautiously. She was having troubles with the voice but she did not sing badly. Her singing was wonderful as always. There is a difference between bad singing and having some vocal problems on any given night. The slight delay in Act 2 led me to believe there might be an announcement (MS. Millo is not feeling well, etc.). I think the problems were more health related and not that of a voice in trouble as some people will insinuate. She still gave one hell of a performance.
Re paddypig’s 1st post in this thread: hear hear, and what’s up with attempting to read Tosca’s childhood into DV’s performance? Fanciful. Très fanciful.
Debbie was the highlight of the best opera performance I have ever seen (a Vienna “Frau ohne Schatten” on Mother’s Day some 6 years ago), and I adore her. I loved her Cassandra, among other things; she once made my Christmas spirits bright at ATH and I cannot wait to hear her Brünnhilde. However, I was not impressed with her Ariadne either – a good Ariadne has to convey the character’s temporary frailty and confusion, and be generally on the timorous side. Debbie, god bless her, exhudes far too much Debbieness for that (Schwarzkopf is my candidate for poster Ariadne, though della Casa is a fearsome runner-up).
I am glad I saw Debbie do Naxos (sans Dessay, sick in 2001). I am glad she enriched the Ariadne catalogue with her interpretation. Feel free to say she’s the best Ariadne ever, but please let’s not dismiss dissent (especially informed dissent) as mere rantings of obsessed diva groupies. The greatest thing about an opera blog like La Cieca’s Pole (oh the visuals) is that we can flaunt our obsessions on our sleeve like a corsage (incidentally, wasn’t “Obsessions” the title of a Debbie CD).
I enjoy delightful one-note operas like Marshy’s love for La Studer (her Salome and Glawari are my favourites). I may not always agree with Marshy (and I don’t), but there’s often something to learn from her posts, even if some are heavier on the don’ts than on the dos.
It’s somewhat surprising that today’s article was as operatically one-noted as the obsessed diva groupies it set out to savage. Or maybe not.
Thanks for the hot-off-the press Millo reviews, paddypig and operaguyny. Being 3,000 miles away, I need to live vicariously through your descriptions. Your comments about understanding style are so right on, and it is so often lacking in most singers today. Oh how I wish Millo would be engaged by SFO. We would even be willing to designate a pole in the War Memorial. Might we hope for a podcast of last night for posterity (hint, hint)?
I am intrigued by your comments about her final leap. What exactly did she do that elicited such an audience response? I assume she did not bounce back into sight.
I’m delighted to hear the reports of Millo’s success…I saw her Tosca in Chicago last season with Shicoff and it was thrilling despite some pitch problems in “Vissi d’arte”. She is truly the “keeper of the flame” of Italianate diva style.
Often you see the Tosca scout out the landing platform and kind of ‘hop’ off the castle. Not our Mlllo, oh no!
She held a momentary pause, then “O Scarpia, avanti a Dio!” (GLORIOUS – BTW!!!) then she LEPT with abandon and turned to the FRONT as if to say “You will see my FACE as I die!” You could hear everyone gasp, then go “WHOA – YES!” It was AWESOME!
Thank you for the reports on Millo’s Tosca. I hope Peter Gelb engages her to sing a full run of an opera, instead of these single performances here and there. And let’s hope that they don’t wait for her to be past her prime before finally giving her a production.
Kashina, I totally agree–I have often wondered what the hell this one performance (if that) per season was all about for dear Aprile. At one time, she appeared very often. What is this “Tosca thing?” About 20 different divas sing the role during a season.
The leap sounds tres exciting. One more question if I may. How did she handle “avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma”? It always amazes me the infinite variations in approach, singing or speaking, manic or depressive, to this crucial line, and how it encapsulates the soprano’s style and concept of the character.
Glad to hear about Millo’s Tosca. I bet she makes the best of the role. Without any intent to be critical, however, how were her high C’s ?
In defense of Voigt, Nilsson, Rysanek, Mattila and other non-Italian Toscas of the past, present and future, remember that when Puccini wrote his operas, there was no such thing as a Puccini style. I think the first Tosca in the so-called Puccini style was Claudia Muzio. The key exponents of the role early on were Farrar, Jeritza, Ternina… I bet none of them sounded any more Italian than Voigt et al.
Interesting…..Marshy, not until now have I heard ANYBODY but Il Guarany TO DATE say that Cheryl Studer is a favorite anything, despite your grandstanding of the dame. Another point is that not once person besides you has given laudatory note by note reviews of Cheryl….Why the hell isn’t she doing Tosca, and giving La Millo a run for her money? From what I’ve heard, Aprile can have be missing for a while, and people will miss her like crazy, whereas La Studer disappears from it all, and most people on this blog say “who the hell cares?”
Hello all…I’ve taken some time away from this site as I have been extremely busy with many things both musical and non. I have been tempted to make comments on various topics over the past few weeks and have avoided doing so. This is mainly because I have never had a desire to engage in brutal gossip nor do I believe that anyone, especially those who are not musicians themselves, have the right to pass, in many cases, such uneducated and biased judgements as so many often do on this blog. It is often difficult to know what is true and what is not…it is somewhat easier to describe things that are factual, although at times, skeptical individuals will take their sides of which perspective they most want to agree with. I cannot say that I am completely innocent of this myself…we are, when it comes down to it, human beings, and we all have our passions and our takes on situations and certainly have the desire to creatively or otherwise express what it is that we truly feel – it’s one of the more glorious and most destructive qualities of our natures. I have found, as of late, that too many individuals who participate in this would-be-wonderful forum that our dear La Cieca has arranged for us take the nature of this site for granted and resort to saying hurtful and harmful things about various artists rather than constructively and diplomatically discussing music and the operatic art. Like I said, I am not without fault. In fact, I was rather upset with myself concerning my outburst regarding Cheryl Studer – clearly what I said isn’t going to destroy her career, but I unfortunately allowed myself to get carried away with my anger and frustrations at her poster-boy who, I feel in many ways, has created a very toxic atmosphere in this cyber opera world. I never liked and will never like Cheryl Studer’s voice and my stance will not change from that…however, the lesson that I personally have learned is that if there are people out there who find her singing moving and beautiful, who am I to rain on their parade. I need not agree with them…we can sit here and discuss factual aspects of her singing and discuss whether or not they appeal to our sensibilities or choose to move onto a new topic. I had originally hoped to use this forum as a place to intellectually discuss the operatic world of old and of present with other ‘opera queens’ – not to resort to exhausive criticisms of singers we don’t like nor to provide overly valiant attempts at defending the honor of artists that we do lie. All of us, I would imagine, are proud to share our love of the artistry and talents of our favorite performers, but none of us should degrade ourselves by shoving our interest down the throats of others, nor should we expend our energy trying to convince the unconvincable.
There are cases, however, where expressing fact is often taken as opinion or as an idea that needs to be discussed. I attended last nights performance because I have always been a huge Millo fan and refused to pass up an opportunity to actually hear her in person – albeit, I know that her voice is not what it was during her prime, and though aurally there were many things that dissatisfied me, I was so completely enthralled at experiencing this woman and her ferocity as an actress and performer! I will say that I don’t like when audience members clap over music – i.e. a singers entrance or exit – when I’m sitting in the audience, but I love it when I’m on stage! It really was wonderful to feel all that energy from the audience when she stepped out on stage – it’s not something that I have been a frequent witness to. I personally felt that Millo’s acting was superb – she’s not quite as sultry and shapely as she once was – but she moved around the stage with such ease and fluidity and her attention to details – both in the text and in her body movements were really impressive. She and Eduardo has some very tender and lovely moments together.
Concerning this discussion of “Puccini’s Style”…I have no doubts in my mind that Ms. Millo is completely aware and capable or performing in the noble style of such a noble composer. Unfortunately, I would have to take the stance that what we heard last night wasn’t quite a comprehensive and stable example of Puccini’s style. Allow me to explain. Millo’s artistry, particularly exemplied last night considering that she was not feeling well (this is a fact), is unquestionable in its assuredness. What we witnessed however, throughout the opera, not only with Millo, but with the entire cast, was a struggle between singers and conductor. Millo and Rizzi did have a strong disagreement several days ago concerning tempo’s and interpretations. Most of the singers were starved for air during the rehearsals because Rizzi insisted on taking very slow tempi and claims to adhereing to the score. The was most devastatingly demonstrated during the “Vissi d’arte” – what should have been a most glorious moment for her alas was not – and I personally do not hold her accountable. Some already seem to think that this was Rizzi’s way of getting back at her for their argument – this I cannot say because I do not know Rizzi and I was not privy to their discussion. However, if is true that he was insisting on sticking to the metronome markings in the score…there is not a single singer alive today or in the past that could sing that aria at the extremely slow tempo that Puccini wrote it. Some history behind this is that originally, Puccini did not write the aria and didn’t plan on it. He wanted to entire opera to be through composed without much interruption of drama and he wanted to utlize the parts where little action was occuring as opportunities for him to show off the orchestra and his ability at creating atmosphere. These details exist in his own words as well as those who worked with him during the composition and production of Tosca. It was then decided upon, though Puccini was overly reluctant, that he needed to provide the soprano with some sort of a showcase…thus Illica wrote the text to “Vissi d’arte.” Puccini wrote the aria, but as a man with a very dark sense of humor (this is seen in the character Liu whom he created in Turandot and also in the famous soprano aria in La Rondine – notice how in the opera, Puccini damn near destroys his own beautiful music with SPOKEN dialogue in stereo from the chorus – it’s almost his own sick little joke as if to say “Ha! I just wrote you the most gorgeous soaring melody being sung by a gorgous voice and I’m not going to let you enjoy it because the chorus is speaking in agitated rhythms!”) and here is yet another example of that dark humor. With the quarter note set at 40 beats per minute, each quarter lasts in duration for over one full second!!! THAT is slow. He always disregarded that aria as being of minor importance and purposefully wrote it at such an impossible tempo as his way of getting back at the standards in operatic tradition – something he was personally trying to breakaway from, particularly with this opera. So, in the case of last night’s performance, Millo was running out of breath at the ends of phrases and ended up being almost incapable of finishing the aria (she sang High Bb followed by two G’s) because the conductor was futzing around with the tempo on her – it was clearly evident that she wanted to move the tempo foward and he did not follow her – and even though I am one who strong believes in paying close attention to a score, one must also pay close attention to the performer. I was sincerely heartbroken to see something like that happen – but Millo is a strong woman and an even stronger artist and she gave an overall truly wonderful and moving performance.
I was rather impressed with how Morris sounded as Scarpia – I also heard that the other man who sang in this run was rather amazing. Villa sang some exquisitly beautiful moments – His artistry full culminating during the third act – a place in the opera where most tenors have the most difficulty singing the part – it requires them to be sensitive and filled with pathos…and often many tenors burn themselves out by oversinging in Act II with all the courageous, heroic and defiant moments, even though the tenor doesn’t have all that much in Act II – Villa never once oversang, he kept a steady sense of line and pitch throughout and had enough energy to pull back and turn some very lovely phrases and sang some very beautiful, ringing high notes.
I also want to say that I think the bassoon section of the orchestra deserved it’s own standing ovation – Puccini relyed alot on the bassoon timbre in Tosca and all three bassoonists (including Toni Lipton on Contrabassoon) rang out with full force and intensity. It’s always nice when the ‘quieter’ instruments of the orchestra get to have their say!
I liked some of Studer recordings. Haven’t heard her live. And certainly did not dislike her. Until recently. The name Studer now only brings to mind abnoxious behaviour and rude/uncharitable/insulting postings. Don’t even know what the woman looks like but feel like I dislike her intensely.
I feel like I must apologize to those people who might have misread my intentions…..I’ve listen to MUCH of her recordings, especially like her Semiramide (LOVED the pic on the cover!) I’m sure that many people like I have sit on our hands when we wished to have one very singularly minded person HAVE it. I’m sure by now Marschy must be used to it. However, I don’t see any harm in getting a little barb in there every now and then….we’re still mostly gay bitchy queens, and I’m sure Marschy must be chuckling to him(her?)self in a corner that he raised SUCH a ruckus.
By the way, just for kicks, wanted to let people know of a FANTASTIC production of Die Entfuhring aus dem Serail that I just saw in Denver…it was brilliantly staged on the Orient Express, and the interior of the train was luxuriously like that of the 20’s era….The cast was awesome, with special note of a wide eyed GORGEOUS italian hunka hunka tenor by the name of Charles Castelnuovo. He sung the music like a consummate professional.
Anyway, back to La Millo….I woulda DIED to see that stage fall …me wonders if there will be any physical reprocussions because she’s no spring chicken, and to somewhat twist around….? I woulda been screaming !
YES, opera80221!! Charles Castronovo is excellent indeed and quite the eye candy. We have been lucky to see him in SF as Tamino and last year as a superb Nadir in Pearl Fishers. In addition to offering truly lovely singing (his head voice in “Je crois entendre encore” was heaven), he was bare-chested for the entire evening and a sight to behold.
To see for yourselves, cut and paste these links to your browsers for photos from the production:
itdcs re your statement, “nor do I believe that anyone, especially those who are not musicians themselves, have the right to pass, in many cases, such uneducated and biased judgements as so many often do on this blog.”
With the greatest of respect, I think you are batting here with a pretty broad bat. Firstly, among many well qualified musicians there is often a wide divergence of opinion. Secondly- how do you define “musicians” anyhow?
Some aspects of musicianship are almost totally ignored by some teachers- and stressed by others. An easily recognised example of this is often spoken of as “the difference between a lot of men teachers and women teachers”. In my “comp days” more than one aujudicator said to me afterwards- “I’ll bet you are taught by a lady teacher” In this context they were referring to the specific skills of expression and interpretation – which led many of us to leave the pupils of those taught by other teachers (often men,)on the starting blocks in competitions. Of course I’m not damning all men teachers, but I am using this as just one example of the fact that like everything else, “musicianship” is multi faceted- and just because one knows a great deal about many aspects of it- others often have a different view based on different experiences that are no less valid.
To expand the discussion further, I recognise the fact that some “musicians” judge an opera performance based purely on the music “as wrote.” They ignore the fact that opera is the coming together of several dynamics- one definitely being music and the other, “theatre” which opera definitely is – and cannot be ignored. Sometimes “the theatrical effect” can be greater when the artist’s interpretation is NOT as the composer strictly wrote eg – the end of Nessun Dorma it is seldom performed as Puccini wrote. Most tenors, will opt for the version that the public clearly prefers- and who is to say Puccini would not approved anyhow? As the great man of the theatre that he clearly was, (apart from being the great composer) – I can’t help think it is highly likely that he (as have so many other composers have put on record), would have endorsed or approved such interpretive ammendments if they added to the dramatic effect of the work.
I suppose I’m going to start a storm now if I say I think the line between “musical purists” and musical snobbery is very thin.
Sorry, but for the reasons stated I find those who sit through opera performances with the score balanced on their knees, following every note, a joke! I think they miss the point (half of it at least).
They might know a lot about music but in my view they know bugger all about opera, because they miss the essence of the theatre that is an integral part of it.
Finally, itdcs, I bow to your undoubtedly greater knowledge of music than mine and must say how much I value, enjoy and appreciate your posts- but please don’t forget that many of us do see things quite differently and we form a greater part of your audiences. We too have our valid points- and the right to express them- particularly on this wonderful blog. (Blessings be upon la Cieca). We are not totally ignorant and if we post at all- it means we, in some form, care enough about “the art” to be able to express our views.
Aside from great credentials you strike me as a thoroughly nice person – please dont succumb to “musical snobbery” which is a pretty shallow dish. Peace and blessings be upon you too! :)and a long and happy association.
bravo daniel, and itdcs, your comments about musicians and non musicians is offensive. there are so many mediocre “musicians” out there who feel they have a right to pontificate to us lesser mortals who in your opinion have no right to our own opinions, and as I have previously said, most American singers are so concerened with just producing correct sound, take no risks, and have no natural acting instincts, which makes so much of their acting seem ridiculous(as a theatre person and former director and coach I know you can teach acting all you want, but a great actor is not just trained but also brings a natural understanding of a text and an ability to communicate it to the rest of us, all the technique in the world does not teach us how to do this if the instinct for it is not there already.) and this is why most American singers are so boring.(Fleming, Swenson and so many others that sing everything the same way –aka– “here comes my Bb or high C” with no sense of drama or understanding text. people can phonate their vowels all they want and breath correctly but if they do not understand the text and stylistic traditions and have a real sense of character and occassionally take risks as Millo definitely did the other night, wake me up when it is over, thank you very much. Why do you think so many people get excited about Millo, You know she knows what every word means and that the words do mean something, they are not just bridges from note to note. She has made Tosca her own and a complete character.While her health was obviously taking a toll on her performance she still kept the majority of the sold out audience enthralled.If you sat there with the score in your lap you missed the whole thing. That Tosca, warts and all, was one of the few really exciting ,by the seat of your pants performances we have seen at the Met in quite a while. Theatre and opera should be living breathing vital events. their main purpose is to entertain. If you follow a performance checking every breath and just waiting for the high C, you are missing the whole point. listen to a vocal exercise for that.
winpal: “avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma” was the cap to a great acting arc for her, starting with the Muori’s which were full of rage, then shifting to a clear sense where you could see she was distraught with what she had done complete with some audible sobs, then over Scarpia’s body you saw her posture change she kind of stood up straight outstretched her arms and delivered the line in a hushed spoken voice as if to say, “look at you now…you’re not so tough are you?”
ITDG: The High C’s were really VERY good, all delivered quite effortlessly with a fortissimo, full, mature sound. Which is why ITDCS’ comments are even more enlightening. Clearly she HAD all the notes, so something else had to be going on at the end of the “Vissi d’arte.”
On Marshy… Clearly she’s here to get our goat, so to speak. I like to think of her as the Ann Coulter of the forums, just saying harsh things in order to illicit an emotional response. Like Ann, I say we just ignore her and hope she’ll just go away.