Archive for the nyt Category

Weekend at Bernie’s 2

Posted in chart, critic, nyt on January 21, 2008 by lacieca

Bernard Holland of The New York Times attended(?) Saturday night’s all-Schubert program at Carnegie Hall, featuring Ian Bostridge, Thomas Quasthoff and Dorothea Röschmann accompanied by Julius Drake. Holland’s review ran 468 words, of which barely 100 addressed the performance. Here’s La Cieca’s analysis.

The ceremony of innocence is drowned

Posted in camp, critic, filth, nyt on January 11, 2008 by lacieca

“Directed by Francesca Zambello, this Little Mermaid burdens its performers with ungainly guess-what-I-am costumes (by Tatiana Noginova) and a distracting set (by George Tsypin) awash in pastels gone sour and unidentifiable giant tchotchkes that suggest a Luau Lounge whipped up by an acid-head heiress in the 1960s. The whole enterprise is soaked in that sparkly garishness that only a very young child — or possibly a tackiness-worshiping drag queen — might find pretty.

“….Ms. Zambello, best known as an adventurous director of operas, rarely lets jokes, songs or set pieces register clearly. And the impression is often of costumed employees from the Magic Kingdom of Disney World, wandering around and occasionally singing to entertain visiting children.” — Ben Brantley, New York Times

In related news, the family of Roger Bart send their condolences.

Wanderjahr

Posted in 2008, 2009, la cieca ci guarda la cieca ci vede, nyco, nyt on December 15, 2007 by lacieca

La Cieca has obtained exclusive video footage of a presentation by Susan L. Baker, chairwoman of the New York City Opera, announcing plans for the company’s 2008-2009 “season.”

NYCO’s announcement, dumped into the scarcely-read Saturday Times, would seem to indicate that our speculation of the past couple of weeks was, in fact, accurate.

Legends of the fall

Posted in critic, nyt, tommasini on December 12, 2007 by lacieca

When a monumental 20th century masterpiece is revived at the Met, who better to review it than Anthony Tommasini? Today the Times published TT’s critique of War and Peace, a compact screed of exactly 799 words. And how, you may ask, were those words distributed? Well almost half the review (351 words) was given over to a rehash of the incident five years ago when the super fell off the set into the pit. Here’s how Tony’s wordage stacks up in chart form:

Larger and more fun

Posted in bel canto, critic, fleming, netrebko, nyt on December 1, 2007 by lacieca

“… Netrebko is the larger presence. She has an earthiness and impishness — a daredeviltry — that may prevent her from ever attaining the kind of rarefied, disembodied sainthood that has been awarded, for example, to the American sopranos Renée Fleming and Dawn Upshaw but that also makes her more fun to watch.” Charles McGrath writes a gazillion words or so about “A New Kind of Diva” in this weekend’s Sunday Times magazine.

In other news, Renée Fleming is still not singing Norma.

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?

Hollanderizing

Posted in alagna, critic, hacks, met, nyt on October 18, 2007 by lacieca

La Cieca is nothing if she is not open-minded. So can someone please explain (or at least excuse) the following statement from Bernard Holland in today’s NYT?

Verdi has a way of testing his singers at the opening curtain. (See also “La Traviata,” Act I, Scene 1.)