Friday, August 31, 2007

Rose is a rose is a rose

I've been away from the blog for a while. I did want to say a word about the passing of Rose Bampton. There's not much factual that I can add to the marvelous obituary by Paul Driscoll on the Met's site, but I might add a few comments.

Bampton is another of those singers who apparently crossed from mezzo to soprano. Gwyneth Jones, Grace Bumbry, Stephanie Friede, Faith Esham, Martha Mödl and Shirley Verrett come immediately to mind. I think it's more common for singers to make the transition from soprano to mezzo, particularly as they enter the final stages of their careers (La Rysanek, Helga Dernesch, Felicity Palmer, Regina Resnik). Of course Christa Ludwig, an exceptional case in more ways than one, mixed and matched mezzo and soprano roles at the height of her career. (For those who do not know her Ariadne, the soprano role she sang least frequently, I highly recommend digging up a copy, either of the studio or the live performance, either complete or excerpted.)

Those singers that make the shift from mezzo to soprano before one's international career is in full swing probably found it easier to maintain career momentum. So often those who make this change are judged harshly, as if they didn't know their voices well enough in the first place. But it is perfectly natural for a full-voiced mezzo with a good top to make this transition. I know a lot of singers who have attempted to switch fachs only to find themselves suddenly considered "unhirable". Ah, the great imaginations of so many company administrators! Don't even get me started on that.

From Bampton's Met debut as Laura in Gioconda on November 28, 1932 (an event which coincided with her twenty-third birthday), the brilliance of her upper register was noted. I am too lazy to look up when she made her debut as a soprano (I do know that it was as Sieglinde) but she did so easily and with great success. She is the Leonore on Toscanini's broadcast Fidelio and there is a live recording of her Alceste from the Met that used to be available in this country on Naxos. One can also find a live recording from Buenos Aires of her Daphne with Erich Kleiber. I was delighted to find just now that there is also a recently released Lebendige Vergangenheit issue on Preiser records. This issue includes some of the recordings that I have on my VAI recording of Verdi and Wagner which is apparently no longer available.

I knew virtually nothing of Bampton's singing until I obtained this last recording. Evidently these recordings were made in the spring and summer of 1940 in New York and Philadelphia. They were released as part of a series of "World's Greatest Operas" with the singers unidentified. When I first heard them, I was quite favorably impressed. It's a well-equalized voice of good size and not a little beauty. In relistening to this recording yesterday I found the Wagner excerpts to be much more successful than the Verdi. One can appreciate her patrician musicianship and her lovely voice, but in many of these recordings, I found something lacking. Driscoll states in his obituary that "her voice, though an instrument of impressive size and quality, lacked the final measure of charisma that marks a great star" and I would probably agree.

There is reprinted in the liner notes a marvelous story. Evidently Bampton was a great admirer of Lotte Lehmann and they shared more than a few roles. When Melchior and Bampton sang Walküre together, Bampton found it hard to completely abandon herself in the highly erotic music of the end of the first act. In Bampton's words, Lehmann once said to her, "'I don't think you know the least thing about love.' I told her, 'Well, I certainly do, but I don't have to go around advertising that.' And she said, 'That's where you make a big mistake. Every experience that you have in life, you've got to use when you sing.' She broke down that barrier for me."

Of the recordings that I have heard, the one that best illustrates Bampton's greater sense of emotional freedom is her Liebestod from Tristan from those aforementioned 1940 recordings. She doesn't quite match Lehmann's insane ardor, but it is a beautiful performance nonetheless, and very well-sung at that, superior to Lehmann's from that standpoint only.

One amusing aside: I have no idea if this is true or not, but it always made me laugh. Even into old age, Bampton retained almost preternaturally unwrinkled skin. She made a elegant old lady, that's for sure. A friend told me that it was said that she retained her marvelous complexion by going overseas (was it Switzerland) every summer to have chicken blood injections. So whenever I would hear her name, that was what I would think of. In going back over the past few days, I'm happy to say that I'll remember her for more than just the purported injections.

I am looking forward to hearing more of her recordings. And the next post I write, I am absolutely going to introduce at least one of three favorite sopranos I have been meaning to write about for some time now: Florence Quartararo, Rose Ader and Meta Seinemeyer. But now I see that hours have passed since I began writing this and I must fly! (There he goes...)

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Greatest record cover EVER?

They should give awards for these things. I remember buying a copy of this in a close-out bin when I was a youngster. (Yeah, I was doing things like that when other kids were playing baseball or kickball.) I already knew Cristina Deutekom from the Solti Magic Flute recording (yeah, I know he recorded it twice; this was the relatively good one with Pilar Lorengar (another big fave of mine), Stuart Burrows and Hermann Prey.

From the very beginning she was a controversial singer. Singers often aspirate their runs when they are singing fast passagework. I don't find this to be such a grave misdeed. I have been known to do it myself; just the idea of an 'h' before each note creates a smoother emission of the air. But I have never known another singer who aspirated (or whatever the equivalent would be) with a 'g'.

I wish I had some examples of her singing to share, but I don't believe she is in my collection. So this is how the second phrase of the first act cabaletta from Ernani would have sounded. Instead of "Non v'ha gemma che in amore possa l'odio tramontar" followed by a trill, we got: "Non v'ah-ga-ga gemma-ga che d'amore po-ga-ssa-ga-ga- l'o-go-go-dio-go-go-tra-ga-ga-mo-gon-tar. Ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga" (that was the trill). To say that this was a peculiar effect would be an understatement. It sounded a little bit like one of those strange "forest creature" sounds that Yma Sumac would make.

But I digress. Suffice it to say that Deutekom proceeded, undeterred, with her career and her assumption of roles for which she was not, by nature, necessarily intended. Lady Macbeth, Norma, Odabella, Abigaille. The biggies. A friend of mine told me of going to hear her Lady Macbeth at New Jersey State Opera, or whatever it is/was called. At the intermission, he bumped into an acquaintance of his who asked him, "So what do you think?" To which Nick replied that it was about the worst thing he had ever heard. The Deutekom queen turned on him in a fury, told him that he was dissing one of the greatest performances that he would ever see, and never spoke to him again.

So clearly, she summoned up passionate feelings in admirers and detractors alike.

But no one EVER claimed that she was a fashion plate. Which brings me to the album cover. This is the sort of thing one should not even comment on. Merely present the evidence. In this case, I will simply do an A-B comparison and ask, which diva would YOU rather hang out with, much less be seen with?




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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The things I learned so well in my youth

Marguerite and I (see previous post) were both big Dusty fans, and after one of her many displays of hospitality, I gave her the wonderful 4-CD set Simply Dusty... When I spoke to Marguerite's friend Shaun last week, he asked me if Marguerite had a favorite Dusty track that they could play at her funeral this coming Thursday.
I said that I didn't know, but the one song that came into my head before all others was "Goin' Back" by Carole King. Dusty's performance has to be the definitive one, and as I mentioned to Shaun, it was played at Dusty's own funeral.
So the day after tomorrow at the West London Crematorium at Kensal Green, they will play three excerpts from Traviata, Marguerite's favorite opera (perhaps because of Marguerite Gauthier!) and Dusty's performance of "Goin' Back" [click on the link to hear it]. So a little bit of me will be there with them. Shaun tells me that in November they plan on having a memorial service in celebration of her life. Wild horses (and/or waning finances) will not keep me from that event.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Softly and gently, dearly ransomed soul

I have just spent the past week up at Bard, rehearsing and performing in the 80-voice chorus that just performed Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. We are now on the bus home and there is a movie playing that I’m not interested in watching... can you believe that they didn’t want to watch my copy of The Passion of Joan of Arc?

Gerontius... I fell in love with the piece the first time I heard it, years and years ago in the definitive recording: John Barbirolli, Richard Lewis and the sublime Janet Baker. At that time I found it transcendently beautiful and deeply moving. In fact, I so loved the Angel’s music, which was originally written, if I am not mistaken for Clara Butt,that I filched the opening solo and prepared it for the Reine Elisabeth Competition in Brussels back in the nineties. I was asked to sing it in the semi-finals, but I did not advance beyond that point. Jurinac and Cotrubas and a number of others were on the jury, I think maybe Dame Joan as well, although I have never been a true worshiper at her throne... but talk about hard hitters!!

Clara Butt

But back to the Angel: I always harbored a secret wish that I would someday sing this part. I was rudely disabused of that notion this week. Elgar’s orchestra is ginormous (I’m not sure how to spell that; the ‘g’ is soft and the ‘i’ is long) and the role of the Angel is quite rangy and challenging. I was forced to admit that it is not within my capabilities, nor was it ever, in all honesty.

Returning to the piece now, so many years later, during rehearsals I had a slightly different evaluation of the piece as a whole. It has some exquisite music, some of it almost unbearably beautiful, but there is also a lot of pomposity. There is a huge choral passage which seemed to me fairly uninspired while we were rehearsing it, though it was enormously rousing in performance just a few hours ago.

Our performance was the crowning event of Bard’s Elgar Festival. There were symposia and concerts over the past two weekends that covered an enormous range of scholarly and musical material. I was able to attend a few of the concerts and the symposium this morning and I learned a lot. Two nights ago I heard a rare performance of the Frank Bridge Piano Quintet. I have heard a few Bridge pieces and never been terribly impressed, but this one completely blew me away. The response of the friend I attended the concert with was, “I want this played at my funeral.” The performance was brilliant as well, one of those chamber music events where the players were completely on the same wavelength, to the extent that they breathed as one.

And just this afternoon, I heard the American première of Herbert Howells’ Piano Quartet, in a performance almost as brilliant as the Bridge. The piece itself is nearly as memorable. The Bridge was a craggier piece, I thought, moments of soaring lyricism springing out of jagged sequential passages. But the Howells had a deeply moving second movement. There were gems like this all weekend, and during the first weekend as well.

But our Gerontius concert really swept everything before it. In rehearsals I had serious doubts about Vinson Cole as Gerontius. The voice has weathered time fairly well, but in rehearsal his distorted vowels and jabbed consonants resulted in a total lack of legato singing. It was never a large or plush sound, and when he sang out, one had the sense that he was at the edge of his resources. His piano singing verged on crooning, but it was very beautiful nonetheless. In the performance today, he surpassed himself, delivering a performance that was moving on its own terms. The vowels remained problematic, but the audience brought out the best in him.

There were two other performers this afternoon who were truly exceptional. Jane Irwin sang the Angel. She is one of those beautiful, plangent English mezzo, in the Janet Baker tradition, such as Sarah Walker or Sarah Connolly. None of those singers can surpass Janet Baker at her best, but Jane Irwin gave a performance that bordered on greatness. She radiated such calm, such poise, yet such deep intensity that it was palpable even to the chorus, as far upstage as we were. Some were concerned about her tendency to singing flat, but I found those moments few and far between. The Angel’s farewell was about enough to rip your heart out. I believe that Jane Irwin is the singer who sang Mère Marie in Dialogues des Carmélites in Chicago this past season, replacing the late lamented Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. That is a singer I would have loved to have heard in this part as well, but on the basis of her performance this afternoon, Jane Irwin can withstand comparison with the very best.

The other singer who knocked my socks off is named Carolyn Betty. She sang Mary Magdalene’s solo in The Kingdom, one of three excerpts we performed at the beginning of the concert. I remembered her from her Met Competition win a few years ago, but at the time (and over the radio) I was not particularly impressed. She seemed to have a troubled passaggio that led to a hampered top. Well, either I was mistaken at the time or else she has improved beyond recognition. This woman, aged just twenty-nine, seems to have it all. Her musicianship is beyond reproach, the voice itself is extraordinarily beautiful, and her technique seems rock-solid, which allows for beautiful legato singing as well as access to a full dynamic palette, from beautiful floated pianissimi to intense, soaring fortissimi. This woman is the real thing. Run, do not walk to hear this singer (either of these singers) should you get a chance.

One reason this piece was so moving to me right now is that my beloved friend Marguerite died in London this past Wednesday morning. She was stricken with leukemia this past year and while she had a short remission at the end of last year, the cancer returned with a vengeance this past April. By the end it had metastisized to her brain. Her friend Shaun has been very good about keeping in touch with me during her final decline and it was he who texted me on Wednesday and to whom I spoke on Thursday morning.

I can’t possibly sum up Marguerite in a few words, so I will just say that she is perhaps the most extraordinary person I have ever known. She was the funerals director for the City of Westminster. In this capacity, she arranged for the funerals and burials of those (more often than not, elderly) persons who died without any known relatives or friends. She would also take it upon herself to try to find any remaining friends or next of kin. The extraordinary stories that she told about her work experiences would have made an amazing book. I proposed more than once that we collaborate on her autobiography, which now, alas, will never happen.

Marguerite also volunteered for years for the Terrence Higgins Trust, the foremost AIDS organization in the UK. She was the buddy to probably a dozen different men in their daily struggles with the disease, and in their final days. She was a great lover of the opera and the ballet. She had a bawdy sense of humor that was irreverent and raunchy, and, no shrinking violet, she put her money where her mouth was. She was generous and kind and always ready to offer hospitality to any friends of friends that happened to come to London. My brother Jon and his wife Mary Kay spent their honeymoon in London, and Marguerite, thought she had never met them before, took them under her wing just because they were my family.

Indeed, I met her through an ex-boyfriend of mine who met her by chance when he was staying at the Y in London almost twenty years ago. At that point, Marguerite was working as an administrator there and she helped Tim get tickets to a Covent Garden gala performance of Trovatore. Then when I traveled to London to perform with La Gran Scena, she came to my performance at the Bloomsbury Theatre and from that moment on we became dear friends.

Over the years, I stayed with her five or six times in her beautiful but small flat in Pimlico. She traveled to Athens at Christmas 2000 to hear me sing the Weihnachts-Oratorium with Helmuth Rilling. She came to visit me and Nick when we lived in New Jersey. Nick had never met her before, but they also became hard and fast friends. When Nick and I went through an extremely painful breakup two and a half years ago, she asked me if I would mind if she remained in touch with him. Though Nick and I are no longer in touch, I am happy to say that he and Marguerite remained friends until the end of her life.

Marguerite had a great love for animals, and our Finnegan loved her immediately when she came to visit us those years ago. Every night he would park himself outside the door to the guest bedroom. It took a good bit of prodding to get him to come downstairs and get his breakfast. Then he would wait by the upstairs door until Marguerite would come down, perfectly coiffed and put together. He would greet her like a long lost friend. They, too, had a special bond.

Given Marguerite’s death, singing this piece about a dying soul’s dream of its journey into the afterlife proved to be overwhelming. It is a gargantuan piece, and yet to me some of the most moving moments are the gentle ones. The Angel’s farewell is one of the great moments in this piece, and as Jane Irwin sang it so beautifully, I looked out into the hall, remembering the many times that Marguerite was in the audience when I sang. And at that moment, I felt her with me again, not in any material sense, perhaps, but in a way that transcended the physical, filled me with awe and gratitude, and brought into vivid relief the very progress of the soul into the world beyond that Elgar depicts so masterfully in this work.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Not really hidden, but treasures nonetheless

I have been wanting to post some more sound files of some singers. I have been putting off sketches and snippets of three singers that I have discovered not so long ago and that I really want to share. Proselytizing just comes in the genes, I guess.

But before I do that (and God knows when I will get around to doing that), I wanted to put up sound clips of a few of the singers that I mentioned in my last post.

First, Ninon Vallin, whom I find to be the quintessential French singer. She is well-known enough that I need not say too much about her. Her recordings of Louise and Werther with Georges Thill are definitive. She sings one of the most subtle thrilling renditions of the Falla "Siete cancionces popular espanolas" ever. No matter what she sings, she does it with such discipline and taste, such a flavor for the language and the style and such personal charisma that it is impossible to resist her. To me, she is in the Conchita Supervia mold, yet without that curious vibrato that is off-putting to so many listeners. Of Vallin is simply impossible to pick one selection, and yet, having to do so, I choose her "Dis-moi que je suis belle", the Mirror Aria from Thaïs.

Another singer who has made an enormous impression on me, but is not nearly as well-known as Vallin, is Friedel Beckmann. She was born in 1904 and had a provincial career in the German houses (Münster, Königsberg, Duisburg, Kiel) before arriving in 1938 at the Deutsches Opernhaus Berlin. I have done a little online research, but I have no information on how long she lived. She was particularly celebrated for her Orfeo and her Carmen, and evidently sang a good number of soprano roles as well, including Tatyana, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Sieglinde and Giorgetta in Il tabarro (!). (Again, shades of Christa Ludwig, with whom she shares a certain plangent vocal quality, though Ludwig sang the Färberin, Leonore in Fidelio, the Marschallin, and a few Ariadnes, none of the soprano roles that Beckmann did.)

I simply adore this singer. Her most famous recording is probably a complete Matthäus-Passion under Günther Ramin from 1941 (with Lemnitz, Erb and Hüsch), as well as a Pfitzner song, "Ist der Himmel darum im Lenz so blau". I have heard parts of the Matthew Passion, and they do not sit so comfortably on our ears. The Pfitzner is exquisite; indeed, it is the first recording of hers that I ever heard, which convinced me of her extraordinary artistry in less than three minutes. But today I post one of her soprano assumptions, "Die Kraft versagt" from Hermann Goetz's Die Wiederspenstigen Zähmung (The Taming of the Shrew).

I also promised a snippet from Liane, the wonderful cabaret singer from the fifties. Her full name was Liane Augustin. I am not sure of her nationality, since her French, English and German all seem to my ear to have a slight accent. She made many recordings with the quaintly-named Boheme Bar Trio which were released on Vanguard Records and reissued less than ten years ago but which have went out of print almost immediately and which are not so easy to find. Some of her most charming are songs of the great American popular song composers, Gershwin and Cole Porter. For Liane I am actually posting two songs, the first her rendition of Porter's "C'est Magnifique" and the second an odd little novelty song called "Hallo, wer ist dort an der Tür". It's as saucy and suggestive as the Porter is sophisticated and classy.

Amazingly, I just found a youtube clip of her, from the 1958 Eurovision competition singing a song called "Die ganze Welt braucht Liebe" ("The Whole World Needs Love"). The sound and video quality are beyond horrible, but you get a nice idea of her charm and élan.

As for Carmen Melis, I listened to her Tosca last night and found it not terribly special. Let me qualify that statement, her characterization and sense of style are irreproachable, but the voice itself is rather shrill, though it is a good remastering. The extraordinary singer on this set is Apollo Granforte as Scarpia. I must post something of his performance here, and I have chosen the "Te Deum", though it is hardly my favorite Puccini moment. You can hear the way that his electric singing perfectly characterizes the animal intensity of this character. He is truly one of the great baritones. But don't get me started on baritones... Hugo Hasslo, Pavel Lisitsian, Giuseppe de Luca. That'll have to wait a while.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

And now for someone completely obscure...

Okay, there's a small backstory here: One of my favorite haunts in the city (and surely the most dangerous to my pocketbook) is Academy Records on 18th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. So convenient to the 1 train, too. It sells used CDs, DVDs and LPs, many of them quite obscure and most of them at quite reasonable prices. Of course it is generally true that the more obscure items are costlier, but not always. I found the Ninon Vallin 2-CD set on Marston Records for only eighteen bucks. That one has been out of print for some time. I have seen it on for close to a hundred bucks. Also I have found some recordings by the delectable cabaret singer Liane for less than ten bucks. I just found one of hers listed on ebay for $106.52. So you get the idea.

Preiser has a fabulous series of compilations under the moniker "Four Famous [fill in the blank]s of the Past". These are very enjoyable as well. It was through these recordings that I got to hear more of Friedel Beckmann's recordings (another singer obscure to most who sometimes sounds remarkably like Christa Ludwig, with an equally impressive intensity and musicality) as well as many, many others. Academy always has many of these titles on their shelves, but they were always going for eleven or twelve bucks, which seemed a little expensive to me for a single CD. However, Academy has recently begun moving items that have not sold into a bargain bin. Just last week I found an early Scala Tosca recording featuring Carmen Melis (Tebaldi's teacher) and Apollo Granforte as Scarpia. For only eight bucks. Likewise, they moved a good number of the Preiser series into the bargain bin. For four bucks, I found one of the many "Four Famous Sopranos of the Past" volumes. This one features Lotte Schöne (who sings with a charm matched by few others –possibly Bidú Sayao and Elisabeth Schumann – and whom I highly recommend), Fritzi Jokl, Irene Eisinger (another goodie!) and someone named Luise Szabó, whose name was vaguely familiar to me, but about whom I knew nothing. I still know virtually nothing about her, except what scant information there was about her in the liner notes; I have Googled her and found nothing else.

Here's what the liner notes, such as they are, reveal about her:

Very little is known about the short career of the Hungarian coloratura soprano Szabó Lujza (Luise Szabó). Born in Budapest in 1904 she studied at the local Music Academy and made her debut in 1927 at the National Opera House in Budapest. She caused quite a sensation as Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte at the Städtische Oper, Berlin in 1931 under the baton of Bruno Walter. Szabó also interpreted this role in the same year in Amsterdam as well as for German broadcast. In Hungary the soprano recorded her Hungarian repertoire for HMV, in Berlin she did 12 titles in German for Ultraphon — some of the latter ones have also been published under the Austrian label Kalliope. Before Luise Szabó’s career had even reached its zenith the singer died during an operation in Budapest on November 19, 1934. There was no family relationship with the soprano Ilonka Szabó.

Anyway, it has taken me a long time to tell this story. The point is that this woman is extraordinarily good. I know of no other current issues of her recordings. Her Queen of the Night is one of the best I've heard. My favorites are still Edda Moser, Lucia Popp and Erna Berger, but Szabó holds her own in this company.

Listen here to her account of "Der Hölle Rache" and see if you don't agree. Her staccati are breathtaking, fearless and pin-point accurate, as are her triplets in the middle of the aria. She even handles those final phrases of the aria quite impressively, where so many lighter-voiced voiced coloraturas collapse. So hers is not the most menacing characterization I have heard, but there is a delightful surprise at the end (though it is less thrilling than the famous version by Florence Foster Jenkins!)

When I have a moment, I will post recordings the other singers I have mentioned here (Vallin, Liane, Beckmann, Melis and Granforte). For now, enjoy the tragically short-lived Szabó.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Justifying her reputation...

Okay, I am going to stop. Very, very soon. But I was just checking youtube to see if either the Sass Violetta from Aix or the Verrett Sleepwalking Scene from Scala had been reposted and unfortunately neither has. But I did find a concert performance of the Sass singing the Sleepwalking Scene. It is different than Verrett's. For one thing, I don't think Sass is nearly as subtle an actor as Verrett. But her singing on this occasion is quite stunning. I know nothing of the provenance of this performance. It's just something to be savored.

And, as a curio, a concert performance in 2004 of the Letter Duet from Nozze di Figaro with Andrea Röst before an obviously adoring, presumably Hungarian, public. I refer readers to a previous post in which I described hearing her in recital at the Hungarian Embassy in Paris in 2005. Let me just say that she is in much better form here than she was in Paris. But if I were Susanna, I would be very, very scared of my mistress. All those weird gestures... she seems more like Lady Macbeth!

So that we do not end on a completely bizarre note, I would like to include a sound file. This is from Sass' Richard Strauss recording. Her Vier letzte Lieder are decidedly strange, but not awful. But this song, "Verführung", with which I was completely unfamiliar, is quite stunningly done. And it's worth listening to just to hear an unknown Strauss Orchesterlied.

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And making another surprise reappearance...

Shirley Verrett as Lady Macbeth! This one is matchless. I've already gone on at great length about this performance. There's a later concert performance posted on an earlier blog, but this one, I think, takes the cake. Now, if someone reposts her Sleepwalking Scene from the same 1975 Scala performance, I'll be in hog heaven! Be amazed, and enjoy!

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Who? Why, Ileana Cotrubas, who else?!?!

I have been doing a little online research on her this morning and I was delighted to discover that an enlightened youtube user has reposted the “Sempre libera” from her 1981 Met Traviata.

Here is a review from the New York Times (March 19, 1981) of her Violetta. Okay, so it's by Donal Henahan, who often had his head up his butt. But even he got it right sometimes:

“It is unlikely that there is a better Violetta now on the world's stages than Ileana Cotrubas. In her first Metropolitan appearance as the pathetic courtesan, she gave a transfixing performance. A singing actress of great imagination and temperament, she was able to exploit the full range of emotions in her first-act scene, and unless a Violetta does that the jig is up. From the first puzzled and tentative notes of ‘e strano’ straight through to the almost delirious brilliance of ‘sempre libera’ she drew one long, unerring curve of vocal and dramatic excitement. She was not, like some Violettas, a case of conspicuous consumption throughout the night, hacking and wheezing incessantly. She coughed a little and fainted when necessary, and generally played on our sympathy like a virtuoso.”

Well, judge for yourselves.

I also found “Caro nome” from her Met Gilda a few years before that (1977, I believe). She is less perfect here; the voice is a little strained on the top, but her musicianship is always paramount. This performance is preceded by an adorable interview in which she present quite a winsome side to her personality than the adamant, demanding one that we acknowledge as well.

Yet she was and is demanding because her standards are SO high. As evidence, I submit her recording of the “Et incarnatus est” from the Mozart C Minor Mass. If this were the only evidence we had of her artistry, she would be assured of her place among the great Mozarteans, not only of recent years, but of all time.

Finally, I found this quote from an interview in which she rages against Regietheater. I espouse this viewpoint myself, so of course I quote it here:

“I teach both technique and interpretation, because you cannot separate them. I think it is nonsense to say that you have to develop a rock solid technique first and then think about interpretation later. You have to develop both of them at the same time. If you explain technique too clinically, as is often done today, you will forget everything about ‘singing,’ and this is the worst disaster you can have. I have to warn American singers about this especially. Often they are fantastic technically, but they lose all the emotion.”

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