Archive for the caballe Category

Who’s the missing star?

Posted in bel canto, caballe, critic, fleming, met, midgette, nyt, scotto, voigt on November 14, 2007 by lacieca

La Cieca was just wondering about something yesterday on opera-l, and doggone if Anne Midgette wasn’t wondering about the same thing today in the New York Times. (That woman haunts my dreams, I tell you. It’s like she’s inside my head. Now, where was I? Oh, yes…) The point that dear Anne and I (among others) have mulling is this:

There was a time when Norma was considered a rarity or at least an opera that could be revived only when a very special prima donna was available and willing. The first Met Norma, for example, was Lilli Lehmann, the house’s biggest female star of that era. Even given Lehmann’s réclame, her appearance as Norma was considered by at least one critic (W. J. Henderson in Times) to be a sort of stunt:

The opera was chosen by Fräu Lehmann for her benefit, and from a financial point of view her selection was a very wise one . . . . From an artistic point of view the choice does not seem to be so commendable. There is no artistic reason why Lilli Lehmann should present herself to the New York public as a colorature singer. She may have been actuated by a not unnatural desire to display her versatility, but to get up a performance of Bellini’s “Norma” for her benefit savors rather of self-esteem than of a strong devotion to honest art . . . . She demonstrated that her voice possessed far more flexibility and that she had a greater command of the pure ornamentation of signing that anyone suspected … It must be said, however, that Fräu Lehmann took many of the elaborate ornamental passages at a very moderate tempo and sang them with very evident labor, thus depriving them of much of that brilliancy which the smooth, mellow, pliable Italian voices impart to them. Fiorituri without brilliancy have no “raison d’ étre,” and no Italian diva of standing would have received half the applause that Fräu Lehmann did for singing these passages as she did. The audience was excited by astonishment at the fact that she could do it at all.

Well, that was a longer pullquote than La Cieca originally intended to use, but, goodness, that is such excellent critical writing, isn’t it? Anyway, back to the argument. Lehmann, Rosa Ponselle, Gina Cigna, Zinka Milanov and of course Maria Callas were all big established stars when they took on Norma at the Met. So were Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballé. If Shirley Verrett, Renata Scotto and Jane Eaglen received mixed reviews for their Met performances of the opera, it wasn’t because of lack of star power or clout — they were all extremely important names on the Met roster at the time of their casting.

Then there are performances from the likes of Adelaide Negri and Marisa Galvany — (covers who had to go on) and Rita Hunter, one of the many jumpers-in for Caballé. The presence of Hasmik Papian at the beginning of this year’s run of Norma should be understood in the same spirit, i.e., a late-in-the-game substitution.

Papian is going on for Maria Guleghina, who was pulled out of the beginning of the Norma run to perform the new production of Macbeth. So the question is, who ever dreamed up the notion of Guleghina singing Norma at the Met? True, she won a big popular success here with Abigaille back in 2001 and she more or less owned the role of Tosca at the house for about five years. But nothing in those performances (or, to be frank, her few attempts at the Bellini opera elsewhere) really shouts “this woman must do Norma at the Met.” So why would a revival of Norma be put in the pipeline five years ago for a singer who neither then nor now promises to display anything special in the role?

Which is why La Cieca poses the question: was this revival of Norma originally planned for a different singer? And if so, who? Deborah Voigt? Violeta Urmana? Renée Fleming?

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Which Puritani: discuss.

Posted in bel canto, caballe, callas, cher public, discuss, met on May 10, 2007 by lacieca

La Cieca has finally found a way to harness the massive intellectual prowess of her commenters for what she hopes is a good and peaceful purpose. From time to time she is asked for recommendations on, well, this and that, and she’s realized that you, cher public represent an paralleled resource for advising, counselling and general kibitzing. Our first question for the group: what’s your recommendation for a recording of I puritani? “A.R.” writes:

The frisson that Anna Netrebko created at Met recently piqued my interest in the work again- but I find myself dissatisfied with the array of recordings available. Joan I’d have to quickly count out- a lot of the time it sounds like she’s singing the phone book. Not a Bonynge fan either. Ditto La Sills– I just don’t like the timbre of her voice. I own the Caballe/Kraus recording and enjoy it- even without most of the high notes and no trill from Montsy. Despite that she always wins me over and Kraus makes a good fist of Arturo- I don’t understand the negative crits he got for this recording. When are people going to realise that the high D’s and high F were not meant to be sung full voice- I feel sure they were supposed to be sung in head voice- esp as Arturo is at his most miserable when these notes pop up.

Devia is good, albeit a little colourless. Mateuzzi has the high notes- shame everything under a G is flat, flat, flat. Have you heard the Freni/Pav recordings? I’m interested to hear them. I also have the Callas recording- but I can’t BEAR Di Stefano- too much scooping and painful open high notes. Is there a fabulous recording I’ve missed? If only La Scotto had done it- she would have been ideal. (I too am a Scotto worshipper!)

Any suggestions greatly appreciated!

Mit Schlag

Posted in caballe, historic desserts, vienna on April 13, 2007 by lacieca

Comeback queen Montserrat Caballe shared a birthday celebration in Vienna yesterday with legendary confection the “Original Sacher-Torte.” The diva was born 74 years ago, the cake first devised just over a century earlier in 1832.

The soprano sang a brief serenade to the dessert before sampling the chocolately goodness, quipping, “Calories don’t exist!”

Scene of the meeting between the diva and the cake (described as 1 meter in diameter) was the Hotel Sacher, which claims the honor of producing the only authentic version of the Sachertorte, consisting of two layers of dense chocolate dough with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle and dark chocolate icing with shreds of chocolate on the top and sides.

The gala continues

Posted in caballe, daniels, fleming, gala, giordani, mattila, millo, podcast, ruth ann swenson, villazon on April 13, 2007 by lacieca

In further celebration of our 200th podcast, La Cieca presents a second program of superstars and their superstardom. Featured in the current episode of Unnatural Acts of Opera are Karita Mattila, Rolando Villazon, Renee Fleming, Dorothy Kirsten, Renata Scotto, Elena Obratszova, David Daniels, Ruth Ann Swenson, Renata Tebaldi, Giuseppe diStefano, Marilyn Horne, Montserrat Caballe, Kostas Paskalis, Alain Vanzo, Krassimira Stoyanova, Marcello Giordani and Aprile Millo.

And don’t forget Part One, starring Maria Callas, Cesare Valletti, Rosanna Carteri, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Tito Gobbi, Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, Alfredo Kraus, Jeannette Pilou, Cesare Siepi, Jessye Norman, Joan Sutherland and Leontyne Price.

Funny Lady

Posted in bel canto, caballe, camp, youtube on April 4, 2007 by lacieca

Sempiternal Montserrat Caballe, erstwhile Verdian, bel canto specialist, Straussian, lyric soprano, coloratura soprano, dramatic soprano and pop singer, reinvents herself once more as character comedienne.

Presenting La Superba as La Duchesse de Krakenthorpe in La Fille du regiment.