29 March 2005


(another quiet blog week)

I withdraw yet again from the blogqueendom, because: (a) work intervenes; (b) the guilt of missing the Met Der Rosenkavalier is eating me up inside (yes, I missed my last chance last week; but Alex Ross was there); (c) Sieglinde needs a spring break too. I shall come back in a week or so. In the meantime, gossip with the NYCOF, the NYCOF's cats, and Mme. Grisi Pasta. They may even have dish regarding Sieglinde's mysterious absence. And no, there's no truth to the rumor that Jersey Girl Sieglinde's middle name is Book and she's sneaking off to the Virgin Islands for some R&R&*blush* with some local music critic.

Lastly, here's the scene in the Schiavo-free section of Tampa Bay over the weekend.

Yet another reason why Sieglinde is just spent.

23 March 2005

Forced Silence

work/travel intervenes

The pain of missing the prima Tosca Monday is immense. My sister was kind enough to fill in for me; read NYCOF's report here. I've been saying all along: the HMS Maria, docked at Lincoln Center, is a circus ship. No one gets hurt, save Scarpia (she knows tae bo), Cavaradossi (during the love duet), and those who take opera too seriously. Comments from others who were there are mostly positive, but just wait till the Saturday broadcast spreads the insanity across the land and globe in two weeks. Our prophetic vanguards of standards and tradition shall come out of their caves to announce, once again, the (re)appearance of the final straw. Requiem aeternam, indeed.

Tonight, a sneaked-in Rosenkavalier; this weekend, decompression, and back to bormal (blog normal).

18 March 2005

Maria, full of grace

I miss her already

17 March 2005

Met 2005-06

Between the lines

[Met press release here.]

1. Tobias Picker's An American Tragedy: ominous title.
2. Company premiere of Mazeppa: just keep him off the Verdi and the Wagner, thank you.
3. Natalie Dessay in a new production of Romeo et Juliette: who's covering.
4. Anna Netrebko in a new production of Don Pasquale & Rigoletto's Gilda: ka-ching.
5. Angela Gheorghiu in La Traviata: Zeffirelli wins this staring contest.
6. Opening night: Act II Tosca and Act I Figaro with Bryn Terfel: what're they opening, an Outback Steakhouse.
7. Season closes with gala performance honoring Joseph Volpe: in other news, Kathy Battle scheduled on the same night to sing Let the Bright Seraphim by the plaza fountain as patrons file out the post-Volpe opera house.
8. Olga Borodina in a revival of Samson et Dalila: after this season's Graves/Walewska, a revival indeed.
9. La Portaméenta, Marcelo Alvarez, Jesus Lopez-Cobos in Manon: as seen on DVD.
10. Countertenors Andreas Scholl and Christophe Dumaux debut in Rodelinda: how much are front row orchestra seats again.
11. Violeta Urmana as Ariadne: next up, on her path to high soprano heaven, Zerbinetta.
12. Deborah Voigt and Aprile Millo share 7 Toscas: guess how they're divvying up the 7.
13. Andrea Gruber, in the straight and narrow, moves into Aida: Angela Brown is pissed.
14. Missing-in-action, Maria Guleghina and Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson: equal-opportunity oversight.

Not a long list, but I'm excited about: Dessay/Vargas in Romeo et Juliette; Juan Diego Florez returning to New York in Don Pasquale; Borodina in La Cenerentola; Mattila in Fidelio and Lohengrin (repeats, but at least she's around); Diana Damrau debuting as Zerbinetta; Scholl/Dumaux debuts; Voigt Forza Leonora; Gheorghiu and Hei-Kyung Hong, two contrasting Violettas; Mazeppa company premiere; Rolando Villazon's Duke of Mantua ... Things I'm "curious" about: Anna Netrebko's Gilda; S&M; Alexandra Deshorties as Musetta; catblogging; Swenson's Adina (is there any left); Hillary Clinton vs. Condoleeza Rice.

But a much longer list of things I'm not excited about: now I'm depressed.

16 March 2005

Cura returns

Samson at the Met

Maestro Cura tells his adoring mob by the Met stage door that he's hoping to come back to us in four years, for something like Stiffelio or La Fanciulla del West (all under negotiation). O Signore. Four years is a long time. That prepubescent yodeler that has set up permanent residence in his upper middle/top register will be old enough to drive in four years. I'm seeing a fatal car wreck in our future. Meanwhile, the best thing about debutante Malgorzata Walewska is her website. (I promise to be a bit more generous tomorrow.)

14 March 2005

Sieglinde's Nabucco Scorecard

a critics' roundtable

Once again, Maria Guleghina's Abigaille steps all over Giuseppe Verdi's score and shreiks out across the Lincoln Center Plaza and up and down Broadway. Meanwhile, our favorite backroom critics are in an uproar. We shall begin our queens' roundtable chat today by looking at a sampling of what the press and bliterati (blog literati) have said about this season's Nabucco run at the Met. Sieglinde shall help you decode them via her exclusive scorecard shorthand. (Scores are out of a perfect 10.0.)

Maria Guleghina's Abigaille is the big moment among many big moments, and she threw her powerful soprano ardently, sometimes recklessly into the opera. Her first extended sequence (Part II, Scene 1) was impressively done. If there were bumps in Part I's opening, they may be due to Verdi's habit of writing first acts with dangerously sudden soprano parts. Like Violetta in ''La Traviata,'' Abigaille has no settling-in period; the part pounces on her from nowhere. There was not much vocal subtlety asked for on Monday, and not much given.
BH/New York Times
VERDI: a human 6.0 (Abigaille, Violetta ... same difference).
GULEGHINA: a superwoman 8.0 for awakening the corpulent queen in me.
MET: a New York Times 10.0, Tomassini-style ... and may I just say that James Levine is an unqualified genius in my book.

Unfortunately, the finest solo singing in this Nabucco came from secondary characters ... While White was a paragon of bel canto elegance, Maria Guleghina as Abigaille was a model of 'can belto' awfulness. Abigaille's music is inhumanly difficult, but sopranos past (Callas, Scotto) and present (Neves, Gruber) have surmounted its challenges. Guleghina's war-whoops, choppy phrasing and strangled plunges into a wan chest-register curdled the blood, with a mostly sensitive and dignified death scene offering scant redemption.
MLR/vilaine fille/Newsday
VERDI: a blameless 10.0, and how dare that witch deface your shrine!
GULEGHINA: a 1.3 for at least making Souliotis look good.
MET: a lukewarm 6.5, redeemed only by casting Cura in this season's Samson ("...it's true: He has the largest one I've ever seen.").

It's beyond my feeble capacity of imagination to comprehend why a premier opera company like the Met would give even a thought to, much less spend hard-come-by funding on, mounting such a piece of organ-grinder trash as Nabucco. And beyond my feeble capacity of understanding why audiences would fork over hard, cold cash to attend performances knowing in advance what to expect, and moreover, remain in their seats rather than make a beeline for the exit doors after being confronted with a cast of wobbly-voiced shriekers such as today.
ACD/sounds & fury
VERDI: an Andrew Lloyd Webber 0.8.
GULEGHINA: a who-the-f*-cares,-I-want-my-money-back, -but-wait,-I've-not-gone-to-the-opera- in-like-decades,-so-I-guess-they-ought-to-just -pay-me-for-wasting-bloglines-on-this-crap 0.2
MET: a diminishing 5.0 for not living up to "our standards" (i.e., less Italian drivel, more of that solid German stuff)

On the last Saturday in February, I turned on the radio—then still programmed to a station that does not deserve mention—and heard opera from the Met. Italian Opera, as became clear within short, painful seconds. ...And what exactly was wrong with it? What made it so excruciatingly bad? Shall I mention the perfectly empty orchestral writing—a collage of one cheap effect after another, the endless galloping runs up to some aria or end of an aria that you can see coming from a mile away, always with the same basic figures—either up the scale, sometimes down, sometimes up and down for extra excitement!? They, of course, last twice as long as even the most forgiving ears could tolerate. Then the big musical signs: Here! Clap. Here! The end of this part.
VERDI/GULEGHINA: a go to hell 0.0, I don't clap on cue, I want quiet, give me my Pelleas.
MET: a generous 7.5, for being a decent radio station most Saturdays.

Overheard on 'The Young and the Restless' today.....When Dru found out that Phyllis found out about the secret paternity test to determine if her husband or Malcolm (her husband's brother) is the father of Dru's teenage daughter, Dru went off and said (of Phyllis): 'That Heifer, You Know She Can't Be Trusted' I can't think of a better one sentence plot synopsis for Nabucco (there's a reason why they are called soap OPERAS).
VERDI: n/a
HEIFER: 10.0.
MET: n/a

I'm giving away a handy Get-Out-of-Heaven-Free card to the first person who can discern which of these three persons does not belong, and why. You may use the comments feature or e-mail me! 1) Maria Guleghina, circa Saturday afternoon's Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Nabucco. 2) Beyoncé, duetting with Josh Groban at the Oscars, in the nominated song 'Believe,' from The Polar Express. 3) The aforementioned 'opera singer,' Josh Groban. On a similar note, be sure to czech out Sieglinde's ode to the odious Guleghina. I can't disagree with much of what she has to say, but then, the ode does lurch at the basest of human instincts while missing all the important points. How apropos, considering the subject!
VERDI: the important point 9.0.
GULEGHINA: an 8.0 for not being Josh Groban but back to 2.2 for not being Beyoncé.
MET: an indignant 1.0 for catering to those who lurch at the basest of human instincts while missing all the important points.

SN/prima la musica
VERDI/GULEGHINA: no comment; still waiting for the Nabucco broadcast reel-to-reel to reach the Misty Mountains of New Zealand.
MET: a 2.0 for being oh so far away.

"Jerusalem via Babylon via Cecil B. DeMille; New York Sun (subscription), NY - Feb 16, 2005... We may criticize Ms. Guleghina, but we would miss her, and her breed. 'Nabucco' has two roles that require low male voices with tremendous authority: These are ..."--From google news
VERDI: f* you, I won't tell you anything until you get a subscription to the New York Sun.
GULEGHINA: a fat 8.0 for her and her breed.
MET: f* you, I won't tell you anything until you get a subscription to the New York Sun.

Maria, oh Maria Guleghina, oceanliner, mountain range, supernova. Maria, more than a freak of nature, you are a freak of opera. Your harsh Abigaille is never easy to bear. It violates good people’s sensibilities and blasphemes the art of singing. You mock the dynamics of sound, ridicule the question of acoustics. Your voice is carnal, erotic, exotic, extraterrestrial. You transform any music into a challenge of physics; pitchwise you will fail but you shall not surrender. Upon every scene’s end, you are often bloodied, yet you still dare the high note option. You pawn the capital every single time. You defy uniformity. You are gutsy, you are dirty, rude, profane. You destroy. You make live live. Queer, you shall never belong.
LD/Sieglinde's Diaries
VERDI: a "Verdi, whodat?" 1.0 for not writing more two-octave plunges in the score.
GULEGHINA: an inexplicable/irrational 9.8, and the residual 0.2 as soon as her check for my medical bills (and for other PR-related expenses) clears.
MET: 10.0, for refusing to succumb to agreed-upon standards of decency by casting the oceanliner in Norma in 2007, 14.5 years away in Abigaille-I-don't-care-for-vocal-health years.

11 March 2005

Friday morning quiz

(a real screamer)

The Met has plans to bring back Norma in 2007. Guess who's singing the Norma. (hint: the girl has been screeching high e-flats since birth)

Answer: the oceanliner (The picture above is from her early days as a little tugboat that could.)

10 March 2005

Dear Jessye

you are a mystery

*dial tone*
Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center ticket office; how may I help you today?
Yes, good afternoon. I'm interested in purchasing tickets for the Jessye Norman event this weekend.
Tickets for how many, sir?
Oh, for two. But before we proceed ... I need to know-- do you know if she's performing with an orchestra or is this a recital with piano? Uhm, I'm looking at your TBPAC website, and I can't find the program anywhere.
Sir, I'm afraid I can't be of any help. I don't have that information. You may want to look at this other website, the Opera Tampa site. It will probably have what you need.
OK, I'm looking ... can you give me a few seconds? Hold a sec, I'm looking ... uhm, it seems to have the same material as your website.
I don't know what else to tell you.
Let's see, can you at least assure me that she'll do more than read names off a phone book?
Whatevah. Gimme two tickets. Best available.

LATER: Sieglinde can google, of course. A UCLA site lists a program that I'm assuming is Jessye's touring program. Among the items listed is Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Is she singing the entire opera by herself, I wonder. Now that would be a show.

08 March 2005

Luciana D'Intino

An Italian Eboli at the Met Don Carlo

Lois Kirschenbaum (white hair, foreground) tells Luciana D'Intino (diva pose, center) that she stands tall among the great Italian mezzo-sopranos Giulietta Simionato and Fiorenza Cossotto. Another member of her posse asks D'Intino if she ever studied with Fedora Barbieri, citing the superficial similarity in their mezzo-bark. While I won't go as far as these fanatics in characterizing New York's "newly discovered" talent (and no, her mezzo is not as crude as Barbieri's), I will say that she is a breath of fresh Italian air, and a welcome addition to the Verdi mezzo round-robin tasked to fill the shoes of our Dolora Zajick, who seems to be quietly receding out into the gilded pages of history. (Bradley Wilber's indispensable Met futures page lists her only in Tobias Picker's commission The American Tragedy, set to world-premiere next season.)

D'Intino goes down the register full-throttle, and her resonant chest is "elegantly filthy," which ought to please the depraved and the purist alike. There's some difficulty in prolonging top notes (she can reach them honestly, but runs out of breath before they can make a majestic impression), which in the role of Eboli provides the final push from extraordinary to exceptional. Zajick brings Verdi's grand opera to a halt (and a momentary rupture of its careful symmetry) with the final "un di mi resta" verse of "O don fatale", seeming to just be warming up for more. In comparison, D'Intino goal is to get through it without hurting herself. With the help of her sensitive conductor Fabio Luisi, she speeds up the meter and comes out unscathed. Which is all OK, because it's about the only "negative" comment any bitter opera queen can come up with reasonably. But in other parts: the Veil Song, Eboli's fearless entrance, is the ruby on D'Intino's crown. Again, Fabio Luisi is partly responsible: he plays to D'Intino's strengths, allowing her virtuosic vocal calisthenics to dictate the orchestral cadence and dynamics. She was magnificent during Act III scene with Carlo and Rodrigo: fiery and vengeful.

D'Intino says she hasn't yet been engaged by the Met for any future performances (her only other upcoming Big Apple stint is with the New York Philharmonic, for a Verdi Requiem next season). Let's see how slow the Met can do this one.

[P.S. If you're wondering, the Sondra worship post will come later.]

07 March 2005

Sondra tonight


The first time I saw her was the Il Trovatore from three seasons ago as a Leonora (pictured above) with a brick-solid voice. (But actually, the first time I met her voice was as High Priestess at a Met Aida a few seasons before that.) The Donna Anna (in Don Giovanni) was a small detour to a peak as Elena in I Vespri Siciliani, which set her membership in the next generation of American superstars, tasked to slowly displace the 90s' formidable Fleming/Voigt/Swenson/Zajick/Hunt-Lieberson/etc. batch. (Sondra's looking for more members, by the way.)

[Tonight, her Elisabetta; then my battered ears take a week off to recuperate, when I'll also reminisce (in the Florida sun: spring training!) about the generously built voices--Voigt and Guleghina--that have damaged me the past week.]

04 March 2005

My Leonore

Voigt (in lesbian chic) exceeds the 80 lb. mandate

Beethoven's FIDELIO, The Collegiate Chorale at Carnegie Hall, Robert Bass, cond.; Deborah Voigt, Thomas Moser, James Morris, Stanford Olsen, Amy Burton (replacing an ill Harolyn Blackwell), Tom Fox; Roger Rees (narrator).

I'm spent; report and reflections in the coming days.

03 March 2005

When two worlds collide

The boys of summer are (almost) here

This might surprise you, but Sieglinde likes other things too. The first Yankee spring training exhibition game in Tampa, Florida: we got Giambi getting ready to fake his way through another Yankee season.
I'm giving A-Rod another year to prove his worth.

But this is why I'm smiling today. They don't call him the "Big Unit" for nothing. *blush*

And then, and then .... guess who's on first .....

Yes, Constantino Martinez! *faints*

Of course, the Bronx Bombers are still no match against the New York Met's own "Big Unit."

Salgo già del trono aurato ...

02 March 2005

The Guleghina Express has left the station

Nabucco at the Met tonight

Maria Guleghina, Queen of Big Things, gives it her all, once again. She could have expired for real, and no one would have been surprised. She is an animal; we were all animals.

I shall attempt a full report as soon as my beaten body reconstructs my auditory system (or what's left of it) and regains the full faculty of its other senses (doubtful).

01 March 2005

Agenda, 3/3

The new physics

So here's the boxers-or-briefs situation: there's the Fidelio at Carnegie Hall, with Deborah Voigt and Co., in the annual Collegiate Chorale thing (collegiate is always a happy word for me); then, the Don Carlo season premiere at the Met, which I had greeted with*u-huh ok* before they crossed out Barbara Frittoli and scribbled in Sondra Radvanovsky under Elisabetta.

The same evening.

Good news is, there's a way to attend both things. I know it's been done before. I've been told. Paging Lois Kirschenbaum ....