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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