Thursday, March 30, 2017
Jacques Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann has had a bumpy ride to its pride of position in the current French repertoire. The list of setbacks reads almost like one of the macabre tales of E.T.A Hoffmann himself on whose famous stories and characters the opera is based. Perhaps the worst of these tribulations, artistically speaking, was a theater fire seven years after the premiere, whichconsumed the original orchestral parts of the four act version. Musical scholars, trying to divine the composer’s original intentions, have set upon Hoffmann with a will that would make Howard Carter look positively hesitant. Since the 1960’s official (or un-) performance editions have been prepared by Fritz Oeser, Richard Bonynge, Michael Kaye, and Jean-Christophe Keck. L.A. Opera actually presented the American premiere of Kaye’s first excavations in 1988 directed by Frank Corsaro with our Intendant and resident bari-tenor in the lead and Julia Migenes-Johnson tackling all of the heroines. That performance was my first Hoffmann in the theater. Last night the road got even bumpier on the way to the opening night of L.A. Opera’s revival of their 2002 production which was shared with Washington National Opera and the Mariinsky theatre. Diana Damrau, making her debut with the company, was initially announced to sing all four of Hoffmann’s loves with her husband the bass-baritone Nikolas Testé as the four villains. Early in March it was then circulated that La Damrau, owing to a nasty bout of bronchitis and a string of necessary cancellations, had decided to concentrate solely on the Antonia act. L.A. Opera scrambled and found the formidable Kate Aldrich available to play the courtesan Giulietta and local favorite and coloratura extraordinaire So Young Park for the automaton Olympia. All seemed well until Placido Domingo stepped in front of the curtain Saturday night. Greeted by the kind of thunderous ovation any General Director would envy he reminded us that a pre-curtain speech usually means “changes.” He then announced that Testé was suffering a horrible cold and, although he had every intention of performing a very complicated staging to his best abilities, his role would be sung from the pit by Wayne Tigges who had been found available just the day before. Moments later Placido popped into the lead position in the pit and proceeded to conduct a very vigorous account of the prelude and we had curtain up on the Nuremberg tavern where our story begins and ends. Champagne bubbles floated down from the rafters as the offstage chorus voiced the spirits of alcohol and our hero for the evening staggered onto the stage in the form of Vittorio Grigolo. Fresh from his recent Met success’ as Gounod’s Romeo and Massenet’s Werther I think the French repertoire finds his full lyric voice at its best. This fluent and flexible performer recounted of the “Légende of Kleinzach” walking across the stage impossibly crouched like a toad at the start of each verse. His dulcet and surprisingly tender delivery of the romantic central portion of the showpiece even brought a surprise ovation. Blessed with one of those voices that always sounds like it’s hitting the sweet spot, he’s not afraid to use it and the extrovert Hoffmann makes a perfect fit for his excess of personality. At the scene’s close, in a stunning coup de theatre, the contained tavern set drew back into the unknown depths of the Dorothy Chandler stage as the toy maker’s workshop was revealed in the front. Spalanzani, the absurdly funny Rodell Rosel, was joined and his assistant Cochenille, also played as an automaton, the exceedingly able Christophe Mortagne. To no one’s surprise, Ms. Park’s Olympia walked away with the entire act as a wild whirlagig of a mechanical doll with all the anticipated vocal fireworks and decorations dispatched with an exciting ease. It’s a sizeable voice for this repertoire and, still (thankfully) a member of the young artist’s program here, her recent appearances as Mozart’s Queen of the Night and Blondchen bode well for a major career. The Act II curtain went up, a bit surprisingly, on what resembled that Northern Italian city off the Adriatic. Where Giovanni Agostinucci’s set and costumes had shown a lovely Maurice Sendak influence previously it now gave way to a relentless overlay of silks and sequins in blues and greens. With Alan Burrett’s lighting bathing the lower portion of the stage in a languorous aquatic shimmer it actually looked far more like The Venetian in Vegas. I have been a fan of mezzo Aldrich ever since I saw her “here’s spit in your eye” Amneris from Busetto on DVD ten years ago. It’s a beautiful voice with a firm core and a rich purple sound. Alas she was bedecked in a sparkling emerald green dress with voluminous caftan sleeves that she tenaciously flounced across the stage. At least they matched her bejeweled and feathered headdress (did I say Vegas?) Seriously I haven’t witnessed operatic vamping like this since Eleanor Parker in Interrupted Melody. A very lovely, if a mite too fast, barcarolle and then the “reflection duet” (only one verse) with Grigolo upped the level of excitement just in time for a thunderous reading of the Septet. I wish someone would include the brief aria for Giulietta that appears on the EMI recording with Cambreling conducting,”Qui connait donc la souffrance” right before the duet. It doesn’t appear in the official Kaye edition but I swear I recall it from that long ago LA Opera performance. It’s got a very evocative tune and climax plus it would give poor Giulietta something resembling a solo. The surprise reversal of the last acts became abundantly clear when Damrau was halfway through her lovely opening aria about the “tourterelle.” At each ascending climax where the music stops abruptly she would suddenly touch her chest as if in too much pain to continue. As the scene progressed every time Antonia would start “singing out” she would fall desperately into a fever dream of her own glory complete with grand operatic gestures and then suddenly pull back in in overwhelming pain. She is so vivid onstage and I can’t recall the last time I saw so detailed and natural a characterization from a singing actor. In a role where most sopranos are only doing the fainting Damrau’s energy was literally a revelation. She imbued every musical phrase with a life of its own including two of the juiciest trills it’s ever been my pleasure to hear. Ms. Damrau was the whole package and she’s far more exciting in person than I anticipated. Mr. Grigolo, already a man of high energy, kept up with her. Especially in their duet “pourtant o ma fiancée.” I did notice earlier, however, his falling back on his lovely head voice briefly during the middle of the Septet and later in the trio with Crespel and Dr. Miracle. Either falling off the horse technically, which happens, or pacing himself with a little rest when he thought no one was listening. The set here was both theatrically effective and grandiose but dramatically puzzling: a rooftop artist’s studio with a massive skylight overlooking Munich and enchanted doorways upstage center and then left and right. I’m sorry to say that the trick of Antonia’s Mother is telegraphed too far in advance to surprise. On the plus side Mortagne’s turn as Franz was a comic cameo masterpiece and his couplets included a surprise ending. Throughout the evening both Mr. Testé from the stage and Mr. Tigges in the pit gave excellent performances of the four villains and it’s a credit to both gentlemen that it was never as jarring an effect as you might imagine. I cannot fathom the difficulty or pressures of either situation. Bravo. Lindsay was the beneficiary of the majority of the musical restorations as The Muse / Nicklausse including her opening aria as the Muse and the Apotheosis finale,”On est grand par l’amour” added. There was also a comic piece in place of the usual “Vois sous l’archet frémissant” in the Antonia act which I don’t recall hearing before. It made fun of Hoffmann’s infatuations even so far as to mimic Olympia’s aria and Ms. Lindsay’s performance of it brought down the house. The credits say that the production is “conceived and directed” by Marta Domingo. I’m sure by now Mrs. Domingo has sat through enough Hoffmann’s to know what she thinks works and what doesn’t but I find the musical choices here uneven. I missed the new trio in the Olympia act and there’s been so much more music uncovered for Giulietta it’s like she’s stranded at the Met in 1955. Other than that it’s an energetic staging, tells the story well, and is exceedingly handsome. I found Maestro Domingo in the pit far more lively and fleet than usual and there were actually moments where I wanted him to slow down a bit to savor the music. He’s always an excellent accompanist and alert to his singer’s needs. I didn’t find the kind of transparency in sound that’s ideal in the French repertoire even though the L.A. Opera Orchestra played very well. The chorus did superb work and seemed luxuriously large with a mighty sound. The men in the tavern where especially rousing. I must ask your indulgence while I mention Mr. Grigolo’s curtain call. The man sucks all the air from the room and at the Dorothy Chandler that’s no small feat. He knelt. He kissed the stage with his hand. He mimed ripping his heart from his chest and throwing it out into the audience. He knelt in front of Mrs. Domingo and kissed her hand (and you could tell she was tickled.) The prosciutto is cut thick with this one. So if only for the magnificent performances of Ms. Damrau and Mr. Grigolo this Tales really shouldn’t be missed. Just a side note. At the beginning of the evening L.A. Opera flashes the major donors for the production on the supertitle screens. When the slide came up that mentions the National Endowment of the Arts there was an enormous ovation throughout the theater and with it the heart rose for a moment in hope.
Ermonela Jaho and Elizabeth de Shong in Madama Butterfly © ROH 2017. Photograph by Bill Cooper ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ (One fine day) is an aria from Giacomo Puccini ’s 1904 opera Madama Butterfly , sung by the title character, Cio-Cio-San. It has become one of the best-known movements from the opera, with audiences entranced not only by its beautiful melody but also by its heartbreaking encapsulation of the tragedy at the opera’s heart. Where and when does it take place? ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ takes place in Act II of Madama Butterfly. In the first act, the 15-year-old Japanese geisha Cio-Cio-San marries the American naval officer Lieutenant Pinkerton while he visits Nagasaki. Pinkerton views their marriage as just a way to have a good time, but for Cio-Cio-San it is a deeply serious act – so much so that she converts to Christianity, offending her family who disown her. By ‘Un bel dì vedremo’, three years have passed since the wedding. Pinkerton left shortly after the marriage and has not returned. Cio-Cio-San lives in his house with their young son, and her maid Suzuki. Their money is running out and everyone urges Cio-Cio-San to forget Pinkerton and make a new marriage. But she firmly believes that he will return, and in ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ imagines that happy day. Meanwhile, Suzuki weeps. What do the words mean? Read our line-by-line translation of librettists Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica ’s original Italian text, created in 2003 by Royal Opera House surtitler Kenneth Chalmers: ‘Un bel dì vedromo’ Un bel dì vedremo levarsi un fil di fumo sull’estremo confin del mare. E poi la nave appare poi la nave bianca entra nel porto, romba il suo saluto. Vedi? È venuto! Io non gli scendo incontro. Io no. Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle e aspetto, e aspetto gran tempo e non mi pesa la lunga attesa. E uscito dalla folla cittadina un uom, un picciol punto s’avvia per la collina. Chi sarà? chi sarà? E come sarà giunto Che dirà? che dirà? Chiamerà ‘Butterfly!’ dalla lontana. Io senza dar risposta me ne starò nascosta, un po’ per celia e un po’ per non morir al primo incontro, ed egli alquanto in pena chiamerà, chiamerà: ‘Piccina mogliettina, olezzo di verbena!’ i nomi che mi dava al suo venire. Tutto questo avverrà, te lo prometto. Tienti la tua paura, io con sicura fede l’aspetto. One fine day we’ll see a thread of smoke out on the horizon, and then the ship will appear. The white ship will sail into port. It will fire its cannon Can you see? He’s back! I don’t go down to meet him. I stand on the brow of the hill, and wait And the long wait means nothing. Out of the bustling town comes a man, a tiny dot, heading for the hill Who can it be? And when he arrives, what will he say? He’ll call ‘Butterfly!’ from afar. I’ll say nothing, but stay hidden. Partly to tease, and partly so as not to die when we first meet again. He’ll be a little overcome, and call, ‘Little wife, verbena blossom!’ The names he used to call me when he was here. This will all come true, I promise you. Keep your fear to yourself. With a faith that can’t be shaken I'm waiting for him. See the full score on IMSLP here (from p.230). What makes the music so memorable? In this wonderful aria Puccini exploits music’s power to represent several different mental states at once: he vividly depicts Cio-Cio-San’s strength, while also telling us with heartbreaking certainty of her inevitable tragedy. Cio-Cio-San sounds vulnerable in her opening phrase, but it demands great vocal control from the soprano. The opening melody’s rhythmic simplicity and its shimmering orchestral accompaniment create the sense of a lovingly savoured dream – although one tinged with melancholy in the predominantly minor harmony. This theme returns with appalling power at two later points in the aria: first as Cio-Cio-San sings the word ‘morir’ (die), accompanied by the full orchestra playing ‘tutta forza’ (with all force). Almost before we can recover it returns again, again fortissimo, Cio-Cio-San this time rising to her highest note in the aria on the word ‘aspetto’ (I wait). The orchestra’s strong close firmly evokes Cio-Cio-San’s certain hope – while twisting the knife in our hearts. Madama Butterfly’s other musical highlights Where to start? Madama Butterfly is one of the most famous works in the opera canon, for good reason. Puccini returns to numerous melodies throughout the opera, giving the work both musical unity and dramatic inevitability; for example, the primary melody from ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ returns with powerful force when Butterfly sees Pinkerton’s ship sail into Nagasaki harbour. The famous Humming Chorus that follows shortly after is a remarkable, wordless evocation of Cio-Cio-San’s invincible patience as she waits, futilely, for Pinkerton to come to her. Their great Act I duet ‘Viene la sera’ (Night is falling), as well as being one of Puccini’s longest and most beautifully written, is crucial in establishing the basis of Butterfly’s love. Equally important is her relationship with her family, terrifyingly captured in the wedding ceremony, with music drawing on authentic Japanese melodies . Classic recordings Over the past decades there has been no shortage of great sopranos who bring their voices and their souls to this role, finding different ways to interpret Butterfly’s vulnerability and strength. Classic recordings include Victoria de los Angeles ’s at the Royal Opera House with Rudolf Kempe in 1957 ; Renata Scotto ’s with John Barbirolli in 1966 ; or Renata Tebaldi ’s with Tullio Serafin in 1958 . Mirella Freni appears on two iconic recordings, with Luciano Pavarotti and Herbert von Karajan in 1974 , and in the famous filmed version from the same year, again with Karajan and this time opposite Plácido Domingo . Of recent years the most famous audio recording must be Angela Gheorghiu ’s with Jonas Kaufmann and Antonio Pappano from 2009. The many DVD recordings include Anthony Minghella ’s wonderful production for English National Opera , filmed at the Metropolitan Opera, New York , in 2009 with Patricia Racette and Patrick Summers . More to discover Cio-Cio-San is perhaps the primary example of the noble, self-sacrificing heroine who is such a familiar figure in opera’s history. There are several in the Puccini canon, who all have wonderful key arias: Mimì from La bohème with ‘Mi chiamano Mimì’; the fiery Tosca and her ‘Vissi d’arte’; Suor Angelica ’s ‘Senza mamma’; Liù from Turandot with ‘Tu che di gel sei cinta’. It’s a thread that runs through 19th-century Italian opera, with just a handful of the many wonderful roles including Verdi ’s Violetta from La traviata and Gilda from Rigoletto , Bellini ’s Norma , Donizetti ’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Rossini ’s Elena from La donna del lago . But Butterfly is very much a work from the turn of the 20th century, with the near contemporaneous Pelléas et Mélisande by Debussy in many ways a close cousin, particularly in its use of harmony. Madama Butterfly runs until 25 April 2017. Tickets are sold out, but 49 tickets for each performance will be released the week before as part of Friday Rush . The production is broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 30 March 2017. Find your nearest cinema. The production is a co-production with Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona , and is given with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, Aud Jebsen, Spindrift Al Swaidi and The Maestro’s Circle .
The Colón Theatre has always been a tough nut to crack throughout its long history. Even when it was well run (Valenti Ferro, Renán) each day was a fight against obstacles either true or perverse. To be General and Artistic Director is a full-time job that takes its toll on health and demands deep knowledge of many ample and difficult fields, firm ethical decisions, ability to control and delegate as well as to plan ahead no less than two years, preferably three. As a cultured member of the audience consider what it takes to put on a fine interpretation of, e.g., a Wagnerian opera such as "Lohengrin" in a new production. First the dates for five performances, four of them by subscription: even a ten-title season is an extremely complex puzzle (although Valenti Ferro managed to present eighteen!). Crucial aspects: how many rehearsals the choir needs to memorize the music and the German text (calculated by the Choir Director); how many for the orchestra to learn the music and play it with exactitude and style (the conductor´s evaluation); nowadays productions have stage, costume and lighting designers unified by the producer´s vision: how many weeks the artisans and artists of the Colón need to realize the ideas of the production team in time for the scheduled dates? Plus the costs according to budget, the contracts, the proper cast or casts… Multiply all this by the total number of operas, plus similar requirements for the ballet season; add the subscription concerts of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and its availability for the ballet nights. Add the concerts planned by the Colón in separate series, such as the Barenboim/Argerich festival; and the twenty dates of the Mozarteum Argentino plus a couple of Nuova Harmonia, and you have the legitimate work of a great integrated theatre. Unfortunately more and more intrusions alien to classical music have been given dates, denaturing the purpose of this theatre sometimes to ridiculous extremes (weddings, rock, pop, cinema stars, tango, folklore): there are other venues for all this and only a lack of clear thinking and a desire for juicy returns explain (not justify) these aberrations. During the Macri years as Chief of Government something essential was sanctioned by the Legislature: a very flawed Autarchy Law invented an absurd five-Director structure: General, Executive and three other members supposed to have "recognised cultural trajectory", one of them representing the Colón workers either from the artistic or the technical sectors. No mention of the Artistic Director (!?). Well, lawyers and accountants were named as members in flagrant violation, and the election of the representative of the Colón was delayed for years until Director General García Caffi could be sure that he had the votes for someone who wouldn´t be an independent voice. During the GC tenure happened two things: a) after six very confused and controversial years the Colón reopened in 2010: it had gone through a massive restoration; unfortunately it was incomplete (and still is: the Institute of Art went to a separate building, and many workshops work at La Nube, an insufficient Belgrano building); b) obeying Macri´s gravest mistake, four hundred people were summarily either transferred or left in a limbo without any rational previous evaluation: the 1300 people were reduced to 900 (they couldn´t be fired under the stability law); now we are back at the previous number if you sum the tercerized employees. Come January 2015 and out of the blue GC resigned, invoking private reasons. In this surreal Colón he had been both General and Artistic Direct. Implicitly recognising that an Artistic Director is essential, Rodríguez Larreta chose Darío Lopérfido as General and Artistic Director;he was a very negative Secretary of Culture during the De la Rúa stints as our city´s Chief of Government and then as President. To add to Surrealistic behaviour, later Lopérfido was named Culture Minister retaining the Colón but only as Artistic Director. María Victoria Alcaraz, for some years a low profile Director of the Centro Cultural San Martín, was named the Colón´s General Director. So she was Lopérfido´s superior at the Colón but reported to him as Minister! More Surrealism of bad quality. But Lopérfido resigned as Culture Minister for spurious reasons and came back to the Colón. And now he was offered by the Nation "an irresistible job" at Berlin (no details!) and resigned. Three candidates were evaluated and Enrique Arturo Diemecke was chosen as replacement, though changing the description of the job: not Artistic Director but Director of Programming and Artistic Production. Diemecke, of course, has been the Principal Conductor of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic for twelve years, and he will keep this position during 2017; in 2018 he will leave the post, previously choosing two conductors who will share the Principal Conducting. Lopérfido was a caretaker Artistic Director in 2015, for he respected García Caffi´s programming (only changing conductor and producer for "Parsifal"). 2016 was programmed fully by Lopérfido, and already last November he announced 2017 in every detail, published in a booklet. The press release states that the season will take place as programmed, but Diemecke says that there might be changes in the second semester! And although Lopérfido had advanced a lot with programming 2018, if there aren´t contracts everything can change. He says that he will continue to lead Ópera Latinoamérica and hold "an international representation of the Colón", Alcaraz doubts that this will be so. Our colleague La Nación had interviews with Diemecke, Paloma Herrera (who takes over as Directress of the Ballet due to Maximiliano Guerra´s resignation) and Alcaraz. The latter makes two interesting statements: with reference to Lopérfido: "it wasn´t an easy relationship because we didn´t share ethical criteria concerning management and other subjects". And about the Colón use for shows outside its vocation: "Diemecke and I will decide to whom we will rent the theatre. I have my differences about how it was used recently". It´s worth mentioning what is known about the Lopérfido 2018 opera season. The term used in the information, "comprometido", is rather "firm offer accepted by the artist", it isn´t the same as "under contract". "Tristan and Isolde" conducted by Barenboim; "Simone Boccanegra" with Domingo; Berg´s Lulu" (conductor Brönnimann); "Aida"; "The Tales of Hoffmann" (both conducted by Ranzani and the latter produced by Zanetti); Martinu´s "Julietta", premiere (conductor Kuerti) and Janácek´s "Jenufa". As the operas will be ten, three are missing from this list (one could be an Argentine opera by Matalón, as rumor has it). Says Diemecke: he likes the proposals but doubts if the budget for it will be available. In a recent article I mentioned that Guerra´s job was in danger due to great discontent with his tenure. Paloma Herrera, now 41, seems a good choice. She, like Bocca, is a product of both the Colón Art Institute and the American Ballet Theatre. As she expresses in the interviews, she will apply the same principles of discipline and perseverance of her own career to better the level of our Ballet. She wants more performances either at the Colón or elsewhere. She accepts the programming left by Guerra but wants to add to it. Both she and Diemecke believe in being present as much as they can, but this year they have previous engagements to honour, they will need efficient Subdirectors. And both as well as Alcaraz will have to tackle organisational reforms completely "forgotten" by García Caffi and Lopérfido: pensions, regulations, rehearsal times, and a big etc.For Buenos Aires Herald
Found in my in-box, and this is just a sample: Her program, the complete Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach, is one of the most beloved works in the piano repertoire (SF Performances)Best known for the beloved children’s novels A Series of Unfortunate Events he wrote as Lemony Snicket – and which he has recently adapted into an acclaimed series for Netflix – Daniel Handler brings his relentlessly mischievous style to a new play for adults. (Berkeley Rep) Violinists Itzhak Perlman, Cho -Liang Lin, concertmaster of Philadelphia Orchestra David Kim and Midori have put together special video greetings to celebrate the centennial of their beloved teacher - Dorothy Delay. (Dorothy Delay tribute)Members and alumni of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program will also perform a variety of beloved arias, duets and ensembles. (LA Opera)The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is a cultural centerpiece of the Princeton community and one of New Jersey’s finest music organizations, a position established through performances of beloved masterworks, innovative music by living composers, and an extensive network of educational programs offered to area students free of charge. (PSO)For the first time, this original jackets edition brings together all of the recital albums this beloved American mezzo-soprano recorded for Columbia Masterworks from 1974 to 1998. (ArkivMusic)The Bay Area’s beloved former SF Symphony violist Geraldine Walther, now violist of the world-renowned Takács String Quartet, will join forces with superb pianist David Korevaar to perform the Chopin Sonata for viola and piano, Schumann’sMarchenbilder and David Carlson's True Divided Light, commissioned for NVCM. (Noe Valley Chamber Music)The beloved biblical story of Noah's ark set to music,featuring nearly 500 performers of all ages at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on May 6 (LAO - again)Beloved Virtuoso Kyung Wha CHUNG Returns to Carnegie Hall, Tackling the Highest Peak: The Complete Solo Sonatas & Partitas of J.S. BACH in a Single Evening (Kathryn King Media)First are the beloved outdoor Symphony for the Cities concerts from July 3 to 9. (Minnesota Orchestra)Don’t miss Sonya Yoncheva as one of opera’s most beloved heroines, the tragic courtesan Violetta, opposite tenor Michael Fabiano as her lover, Alfredo. (Metropolitan Opera)The Aram Khachaturian International Competition has aimed at identifying talented young musicians since 2003 when it launched as part of the centennial celebrations for the beloved Armenian composer. The composer, a true Romantic, became desolate and enraged, hatching a plan to return to France and murder his former beloved, her new suitor, and her mother, then kill himself. (Boston Symphony Orchestra - describing Hector Berlioz)We need a few more adjectives.
Katia Ricciarelli & Placido Domingo - Verdi Arias and Duets Orchestra of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia Gianandrea Gavazzeni 1987 ADD RCA Classics GD86534 [Flac and Scans] Eileen Farrell & Richard Tucker - Great Duets From Verdi Operas Columbia Symphony Orchestra Fausto Cleva 1961 ADD Sony Classics (Re-issued 2013) MS 6296 [Flac and Scans] Birgit Nilsson Sings Verdi Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Argeo Quadri 1962 ADD Decca Classics (Re-issued 2004) 4756413 [Flac and Scans] Anna Moffo - A Verdi Collaboration RCA Italiana Orchestra Franco Ferrara 1962 ADD SONY (Re-issued 2013) LSC 26-85 [Flac and Scans] Carol Vaness Sings Verdi Arias British Concert Orchestra Frank Renton 1988 DDD PRT Records NIXC 1 [Flac and Scans] Verdi Heroines Angela Gheorghiu Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Orchestra of Milan Riccardo Chailly 2000 DDD Decca Classics 466 952-2 [Flac and Scans] Verdi Heroines Vol. II Julia Varady Bavarian State Orchestra Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau 1996 DDD Orfeo Classics C 414 961 A [Flac and Scans]
The broadcast of Il trovatore from Wiener Staatsoper a few weeks ago seems to have pretty much set the standard for the opera for today’s Parterriani. What was it like half a century ago? Judge for yourselves from the audience response at the opening night of La Scala in 1962 when Franco Corelli, Antonietta Stella, Fiorenza Cossotto, Ettore Bastianini, and Ivo Vinco gave it a shot. Surprisingly, Corelli, at age 41, is the oldest cast member in this performance. Bastianini was 40, Vinco 35, Stella 32 and, in a career milestone, Cossotto a mere 27. (Both of the ladies are still with us). While almost everyone was pretty established in these roles (Corelli already delivers a typical late career “Di quella pira” with just a few lines, a long rest, and his trademark high note), Cossotto enters the race for leading Verdi mezzo of the era having been in the ranks of Cherubinos not long before. t is interesting to hear the progress of the voice during this artist’s two-decade Met career—from Amneris, Laura, and Eboli to Santuzza, Adalgisa, and the Principessa di Bouillon—as it grew darker and more dramatic with enough chest voice to create a memorable Dame Quickly in the legendary Falstaff in 1985 featuring the debut of Giuseppe Taddei at age 69. When Mignon Dunn was otherwise engaged, she was virtually the go-to Amneris (33 performances from 1968 through 1989) and Azucena (40 performances from 1973 until her farewell in a Saturday afternoon broadcast from January 1989). I heard her quite often, even as Eboli in one of only three Met performances in which she shared the stage with Corelli (two in New York, one in Cleveland). What remains most unforgettable for me is an Azucena from 1973 with Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, and Robert Merrill, the broadcast of which has yet to be made available on Sirius. Do they take requests?
Great opera singers