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Maria Callas

Sunday, July 24, 2016


The Boston Musical Intelligencer

July 12

Foundation Mounts Vocal Gala

The Boston Musical Intelligencer David Gvinianidze According to Google Translate, the Russian foundation “Talents of the World ” (ФондТаланты мира) aims for nothing less than to “develop the intellectual and spiritual potential of Man, restore and promote the lost traditions of Russian vocal art, pay attention to a wide audience to the inexhaustible treasury of world opera classics through the development of cultural values, to implement the program of democracy and moral solidarity of mankind, which is reflected in the motto of the fund “From the world of culture to the world peace.” What that means for Bostonians is that we are invited to a vocal gala of operetta, opera and Broadway at the Newton City Hall auditorium on Saturday, July 16th constituting the New England début of one of the largest Eastern European concert organizations. Ticket link here . For this promising event, the artistic director of the foundation David Gvinianidze invited Adam Klein, tenor (Metropolitan Opera); Zhanna Alkhazova, soprano (Des Moines Opera); Olga Lisovskaya, soprano (Commonwealth Lyric Theater) and himself as director and baritone to mount a mélange of arias, operetta and Broadway tunes and ensembles. Apparently replete with “creative stage direction, and great voices,” the show concludes with “delicious refreshments.” Commonwealth Lyric Theater’s singer/producer Liskova tells BMInt more about Talents of the World Foundation. Founded in 2002, the organization’s motto is “From the World’s Culture to Peace on Planet Earth,” its main mission is to popularize classical vocal repertoire. The Foundation’s president and founder, David Gvinianidze, a world-renowned singer, has won several prestigious competitions, produces many unique concert projects, and is famed as a TV persona. During the 2006 “Valsesia Musica” international competition, the famous mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto compared Gvinianidze to the young Placido Domingo. While David admires many great opera singers like Maria Callas, Feodor Chaliapin and Luciano Pavarotti, it was Mario Lanza, who influenced David’s vision for his future, for it was Lanzo, who, possessing a truly beautiful voice, made the high art of classical vocalism accessible to millions through his shows and movies. David’s personal mission is to make this royal art form more popular throughout the world, and to promote classical music in the young generation’s education. Talents of the World has produced over 80 concert projects in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Israel and Azerbajdzjan, and David’s project “Royal Tournament” was chosen to be presented at the Presidential Summit in Astana. Talents of the World not only produces concerts, but also leads an educational outreach and charitable concerts. All this activity earned Gvinianidze a United Nations medal for promoting art and culture. Adam Klein and David Gvinianidze (photo A. Maslov) Opera, Operetta, Broadway July 16th at 7:00, Newton City Hall 1000 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton For more information about the concert, please call (857) 919-4832 . Tickets: $40 at the door or $35 online here . The post Foundation Mounts Vocal Gala appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

Tribuna musical

July 12

Renée Fleming returns: the autumnal charm of a great artist

August 18, 1991. First performance at the Colón of the revival of Mozart´s "The Marriage of Figaro" in a new production by Sergio Renán. An Argentine-Spanish cast except for the Countess: a beautiful young American called Renée Fleming at the start of her international career. With a crystalline lyric soprano timbre and impeccable line, she proved to be a charming actress as well. Unfortunately, that was her only operatic role in BA. We missed her in such operas as Massenet´s "Thaïs" and Dvorák´s "Rusalka", but especially in Straussian parts (the Marschallin in "Der Rosenkavalier", Arabella, the Countess in "Capriccio"), for she was a leading interpreter of all the mentioned operas. It´s useless to speculate about the reasons, but the Colón has had strong ups and downs and established artists want reliable theatres. After two decades, she finally came back during the García Caffi years; however, it was for a recital. It was quite successful and varied, and the voice was still in good condition. And now she came back, inaugurating the so-called Abono Verde. This time the charm and the savvy are still there, but her career has entered the autumnal phase, as demonstrated by what´s happening at New York´s Met, her home for so many years: last season she didn´t sing a difficult opera but an operetta, Lehár´s "The Merry Widow"; and now she has announced her goodbye to opera, with May 2017 performances at the Met of "Der Rosenkavalier" (fortunately it will be seen here on the Met´s direct transmissions at the Teatro El Nacional organized by the Fundación Beethoven). In this recital she was admirably accompanied by Gerald Martin Moore (debut), an expert singing teacher who has worked with Fleming for many years (and with several other famous artists) and has prepared operas for the Met, Covent Garden, Opéra Bastille, La Scala, and such festivals as Glyndebourne and Aix-en-Provence. What a coincidence that his first name and his surname should be the same as those of the ultra-famous Gerald Moore, the greatest accompanist during golden decades. Anyway, G.M.M. gave precious support during the Colón evening. I have my reservations about some of the choices in the programme. First, I was sorry that there were no Lieder, not even from Richard Strauss. Second, I believe that singers in recitals should stick to their sexes: a woman should sing texts clearly designed for women, and a man those that are evidently masculine; self-evident, the reader may think, but often disregarded by artists; and there were several instances in this case. Third, she is a singer for joyful or melancholy music, but not for stark drama: the terrible content of "L´altra notte in fondo al mare", from Boito´s "Mefistofele", in which the mad Margherita , imprisoned, says that she was wrongly accused of killing her baby and her mother, needs a true tragedian such as Callas was. Finally, there was a bit too much Broadway in her gestures on certain pieces, in themselves rather crossover. A moot point is whether you like or not that artists should speak to the audience; I think it is a wrong trend, concerts are just that, music played or sung. She talked a good deal in a very American way (like Joyce Di Donato). She started with, yes, "Porgi amor", the initial aria of the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro", in evident reminiscence of her Colón debut; the result was tasteful but the voice was not settled yet. Two Händel arias followed: a fast, humoristic one from "Agrippina", early and Venetian-influenced; and the lovely "V´adoro pupille" sung by Cleopatra in "Giulio Cesare in Egitto"; she did well in both. Then, two welcome Massenet items: "C´est Thaïs, l´idole fragile" from the homonymous opera (neglected by the Colón since 1952), and the sad "Adieu, notrre petite table" (with its previous recitative) from "Manon". She felt quite comfortable in both. Saint-Saëns wrote 120 songs but they are little-known; "Soirée en mer", strophic, on a Victor Hugo text, seemed to me beautiful and fluid; both artists were fine. And then, a tribute to that delicious 1930s singer, Yvonne Printemps: the sensual "Je t´aime quand même" from the operetta "Les trois valses"; in it Fleming waltzed, singing with abandon. The pithiest part of the night was the fine selection of Neo-Romantic songs by Rachmaninov, who deserve wider recognition; of the five songs I mention three: "Oh cease thy singing, maiden fair", an orientalised melody (I have the recording of tenor John McCormack); "Lilac" contrasts a fast piano segment with an airy soprano tune, and "Spring waters" is expansive and better-known as a Russian miniballet. Fleming was really good in all this group, her voice firm and brilliant. Apart from the Boito, the Italian pieces were light and though agreeably sung not idiomatic: "O del mio amato ben" (Donaudy), "Aprile" (Tosti) and "Mattinata" (Leoncavallo). I liked Fleming in the famous song "Estrellita" by the Mexican Manuel Ponce (the tune fits her like a glove) but she was over the top in "La morena de mi copla" by Carlos Castellano Gómez. Encores: lovely in the "Moon aria" from Dvorák´s "Rusalka" and melting in "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini´s "Gianni Schicchi", but not convincing in "I could have danced all night" from Loewe´s "My fair lady" (Julie Andrews was the right one for this). A nice sweet evening. For Buenos Aires Herald




parterre box

July 4

All shook up

The first opera commission by Tanglewood was Peter Grimes. The second was Elephant Steps, with music by Stanley Silverman and libretto by Richard Foreman, who also directed the premiere in Tanglewood’s Shed on 7 August 1968. The production transferred in 1970 to Hunter Playhouse in New York City (where it won an Obie Award) and the Lake George Opera. Subtitled by its creators as “A Fearful Radio Show,” it reminded Jerome Robbins of Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. A critic for New York called it “The best piece of new music I’ve heard all year.” Another critic advised “not to ask what it is about; it is no more centered than life itself.” Silverman’s music, influenced by Händel, Purcell, Schoenberg, Django Reinhardt, Rodgers and Hart, and Cuban charanga, has been performed by musicians ranging from Pierre Boulez to Sting. His second opera with Foreman, Dr Selavy’s Magic Theatre, led the New York Times to describe him as “the brightest talent in this medium to come along since Leonard Bernstein.” Foreman, founder of the legendary Ontological-Hysteric Theater, creates a type of avant-garde, post-dramatic theater that unsettles and disorients received ideas and opens the doors for alternative models of perception, organization, and understanding. His more-than-60 plays, operas, films, and videos include titles such as Rhoda in Potatoland and Blvd. de Paris (I’ve Got the Shakes). Between 1968 and 1990, Silverman and Foreman further collaborated on Hotel for Criminals, American Imagination, Africanus Instructus, and Love & Science. Their one act opera Madame Adare was commissioned by New York City Opera and presented at New York State Theater as part of the 1980 American Trilogy project. It concerns a diva who has difficulty in deciding whether she should become a singer in the fashion of Barbra Streisand or Maria Callas, resolving to have a career in both styles after shooting her psychiatrist. They also joined forces—Silverman as music director and a band member, Foreman as director—of the New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Threepenny Opera starring Raul Julia and Ellen Greene which opened in 1976 at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater and transferred to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park the following summer. The production was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk, and Grammy Awards In Elephant Steps, Hartman is looking for enlightenment. He has a mysterious guru named Reinhardt. The reactionary forces keep warning him to stop seeing Reinhardt, but Reinhardt persists After visiting Nighttown, and then being abducted and grilled in a radio station, where he dreams of returning to his childhood, he finally climbs a ladder, looks in the window of Reinhardt’s house, and what he sees brings him illumination. The work was eventually recorded by CBS Masterworks and released as a two-LP set in 1974. Some 30 years after the premiere, I found myself in conversation with theater, film, and television actress Marilyn Sokol at a Broadway opening night party. When I mentioned that I first discovered her as the Ragtime Lady in Elephant Steps, without missing a beat she launched into her big number, “Watch Me Put My Right Foot through the Door,” delivering the entire song complete with high notes. Elephant Steps has been described as “stupendous, multi-sensory, original, diffuse, overwhelming, faintly frightening and always surprising.” To that, I’d like to add “unforgettable!” Stanley Silverman/Richard Foreman: Elephant Steps A Fearful Radio Show With Pop Singers, Opera Singers, Orchestra, Rock Band, Electronic Tape, Raga Group, Tape Recorder, Gypsy Ensemble, and Elephants ALL under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas Recorded 1973 in New York City Hartman – Philip Steele Max – Luther Enstad Otto – Larry Marshall Doctor – Roland Gagnon Rock Singer – Luther Rix Archangel – Michael Tilson Thomas Hannah – Susan Belling Ragtime Lady – Marilyn Sokol Scrubwoman – Karen Altman Post scriptum: If you missed my upload on Thursday of that evening’s Wiener Staatsoper performance of Manon Lescaut with Anna Netrebko and Marcello Giordani, you can find it here: https://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/

parterre box

June 20

Nostra e del ciel è gloria

It’s time to add more legends to my Mixcloud site: Mario Del Monaco, Raina Kabaivanska, and Tito Gobbi star in this 1962 performance of Otello from Covent Garden led by Georg Solti. Del Monaco, never one for subtlety, enters at full speed with perhaps the most secure “Esultate!” I’ve ever heard. His career spanned the globe, singing often with the greatest divas of his time such as Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi (both were signed to Decca Records, for which they made several recordings), and Maria Callas (he was her Pollione when they opened La Scala in 1955 and at her Met debut). Between 1950 and 1959 he chalked up nearly 150 Met performances in the dramatic tenor repertoire. It is said he sang Otello 457 times in his career, which lasted till 1975. Kabaivanska, unfortunately, made few commercial recordings (there were a few recital discs released on RCA LPs which apparently never made it to the digital domain), but was a regular visitor to the Met from 1964 (debuting as Nedda) till a final Tatiana in Eugene Onegin in 1978. A personal highlight for me was her Lisa in the company’s first Russian-language performances of Pique Dame opposite Nicolai Gedda in 1972. A stunning woman known for her committed acting, she also possesses one of those unique voices, recognizable in a single phrase, of which both aspects are preserved on a DVD of Tosca with Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes from 1976. She specialized in Puccini and verismo works such as Francesca da Rimini. In 2001, at the age of 66, her career took a twist with a new role: Liza Elliott in Kurt Weill’s Lady in the Dark at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo (sung in something resembling English: “Uxley vants to make his buk on me”). Gobbi is likely the most significant Scarpia of the 20th century and claimed to have sung the role nearly 1,000 times, recording it twice with Callas, a close friend and frequent collaborator. It served as his Met debut in 1956 with Milanov and Giuseppe Di Stefano, as well as his farewell to the company as a singer in 1975 with Dorothy Kirsten and John Alexander; he returned in 1978 to restage Otto Schenk’s 1968 production of Tosca. His career actually began in the early 1930s in Italy’s provincial houses. Over the next three decades he would graduate to the world’s main stages in roles as diverse as Don Giovanni, Simon BOccanegra, and Wozzeck (sung in Italian). In addition to Scarpia, his later career focused on Jago and Falstaff. Gobbi appeared in about 25 Italian films in both singing and dramatic roles, and began his third career as a stage director in the 1960s. At the time of this performance, Solti, as music director of the Covent Garden Opera Company, was instrumental in having the company renamed the Royal Opera and gradually did away with the practice of all performances being sung in English. A little-known fact about the maestro is his presence in the Guinness Book of World Records: he holds the record for the most Grammy Awards won (31 out of 74 nominations, plus a special lifetime achievement award). Giuseppe Verdi: Otello Royal Opera, Covent Garden Georg Solti, conductor 30 June 1962 Otello – Mario Del Monaco Desdemona – Raina Kabaivanska Jago – Tito Gobbi Emilia – Josephine Veasey Cassio – John Lanigan Roderigo – John Dobson Lodovico – David Ward Montano – Forbes Robinson Un aroldo – Glynne Thomas If you’re not in the mood for Shakespearean tragedy, you may enjoy a charming, fun performance of L’elisir d’amore from a broadcast last week from Wiener Staatsoper starring Stephen Costello, Valentina Nafortina, and Erwin Schrott as a scenery-chewing Dulcamara. I know Costello has had his detractors at Parterre, but within an hour after I posted the performance, someone left the comment, “It’s so good to hear Stephen Costello back in form as he was at the last Tucker Gala.” As always, click on: https://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/



parterre box

June 9

Sierra grande

Since September “Trove Thursday” has been offering live performances every week for listening and downloading here on Parterre Box, but I realized I hadn’t yet posted anything featuring one of the “Queens of the Bootlegs,” so I now correcting that with Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West starring the great Magda Olivero as Minnie. After I’d been collecting reel-to-reel tapes of in-house and broadcast recordings for a while, one of my “pirate” contacts asked to see the list of things I’d acquired so far. He wrote back shocked: “What!? No Maria Callas? No Leyla Gencer? No Magda Olivero?” I had to admit that by then I’d heard more than enough Callas and Gencer’s bel canto repertoire didn’t interest me much. But although I’d read about Olivero I’d never heard her. He was aghast and included at the end of a tape I had ordered a few choice moments from her Met debut as Tosca. Immediately I was gripped by her throbbing voice and over-the-top commitment. There are several live Olivero Fanciulla performances “around” but this RAI broadcast from 1966 is probably the least well known. When I got this recording in college, I had never heard the opera and I have gradually come to admire it more than any Puccini work except for La Bohème. It’s not done often enough in the U.S. these days, although the Santa Fe Opera opens its 2016 season next month with a new Richard Jones production starring Patricia Racette. Puccini: La fanciulla del West RAI Torino 5 May 1966 Broadcast Minnie: Magda Olivero Dick: Gastone Limarilli Rance: Anselmo Colzani Conductor: Fernando Previtali “Trove Thursday” offerings can be downloaded via the audio-player above. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory. In addition, Fanciulla, Conti’s Don Quixote opera from last week and all previous fare remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.

Naxos Blog

May 13

Sailing the high Cs

Florence Foster Jenkins, the Hollywood biopic of the eponymous American amateur soprano, opened in UK cinemas this week; American movie-goers have to wait until August before being able to appreciate Meryl Streep’s commanding performance in the title role. Acting performance, that is. You may be new to the legend of FFJ (1868–1944), so we’ll start with a brief introduction to the lady that will also act as a prologue to the focus of this week’s blog. Some of the details of FFJ’s life and recording tally remain a bit fuzzy, but some things about the lady are quite clear: she loved singing, was bad at it, but was rich enough and socially connected enough to be able to bypass the challenges of self-awareness that most of us have to grapple with, projecting herself to the top of a ladder that very few can aspire to. To set the scene, here’s an extract from her recording of the technically demanding Bell Song (8.120711 ) from Delibes’ opera Lakmé. If that was like taking a cold shower in an igloo, let’s refresh by taking a pleasanter dip into the pool of brave ladies who fearlessly strut their stuff, centre stage, before an arena of critical listeners who come to get their tingle factor from fiendishly difficult, high-lying vocal lines dispatched with disarming ease: welcome to the world of the operatic dramatic coloratura soprano. The music that composers wrote with these singers in mind created a select super-class of exponents whose names live on. One who is very much alive, however, is the Chinese soprano, Dilbèr. She was born in Kashgar, a trading centre on the ancient Silk Road, in what is now the Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang in northwestern China. But here she is in the 19th-century world of Italian opera, taking the role of Lisa in Bellini’s La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker) (8.660042-43 ). Spoiler alert: put away all valuable glassware to avoid possible shattering. Last month, the celebrated Russian soprano Anna Netrebko announced that she was pulling out of her engagement to sing the title role of another Bellini opera, Norma, at London’s Royal Opera House later this year. She said that her “voice has evolved in a different direction.” One can sympathise; walking this high-wire role has no hiding place. In contrast, Maria Callas (1923–1977) was a reliable champion of the role, performing it scores of times during her career. Here’s the diva in an extract from a 1953 performance of the aria Cast diva (8.110325-27 ). The German soprano Erna Berger had to endure a difficult and improbable prologue to her career as an opera star. Although her talent was recognised early on, her father decided to move the family to Paraguay where, following his death, the young Erna was forced to take on a job as a governess. She saved up enough money to return to Germany, however, where she studied singing in her spare time and worked in an office to keep the wolf from the door. She was eventually hired by Fritz Busch at the Dresden State Opera before joining the Berlin State Opera in 1934, where she remained for the next twenty years. She excelled in a comprehensive repertoire. Here she sings the Laughing Song (8.110733 ) from Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus. Coloratura passages were often used to colour the evil or demented nature of female characters in opera. Mozart incomparably employed the technique in the role of The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute (8.660030-31 ). The aria Der Hölle Rache provides a clear example of someone at the extremes of normality, both in vocal technique and character, as sung here by Hellen Kwon. Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor (8.660255-56 ) perhaps provides the ultimate for the unhinged in its so-called Mad Scene. Since the work’s première in 1835, the title role has always attracted the top coloratura sopranos of their day. Here is Dilbèr again as the terrified Lucia , bereft of reason, a blood-drenched dagger in hand (short synopsis only here!), leaving the listener thinking that a singer must indeed be insane to tackle such music, in costume, under the lights, and constrained by dramatic demands. And so we end where we began, with Florence Foster Jenkins, who died a few months after she took the leap from giving small-scale entertainments to taking to the stage at Carnegie Hall when, we are told, people were turned away in their thousands and scalpers were raking in their booty. It’s a bittersweet way to end this Thought for the Week, with a reprise of Mozart’s Queen of the Night aria , performed by the Diva of Din. I propose a toast to all eccentrics, everywhere, eternally!

Maria Callas
(1923 – 1977)

Maria Callas (December 2, 1923 - September 16, 1977) was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts. An extremely versatile singer, her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini; further, to the works of Verdi and Puccini; and, in her early career, to the music dramas of Wagner. Her remarkable musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina.



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