Saturday, June 19, 2010

A challenge to my readers!

All three of you.

Let's do a collaborative post about looksism in opera! I want you to post videos in the comments of performances by people who are very attractive but simply not up to the part. These must be productions on a professional level, at least at the regional opera company level--not student or community productions, where one expects to hear singers who are still learning.

The purpose of this exercise is not to mock or belittle anyone. We are not mouse-potato experts on YouTube. This is about how vocal excellence has been sacrificed for looks in the age of television.

If you can't find a video clip of such an unfortunate casting--and that's understandable, because who would want to post something mediocre?--then tell us a story. Tell me about an attractive singer who didn't do the job.

More Leyla Gencer--because I can

I've posted about the divine Leyla Gencer before. I think she deserves another post, and this one will be all Norma!

Inorite! What could be better?!

While you're fanning yourselves I'll just start copying vids (OK, mostly photo montages with audio tracks, but what audio tracks!):

Casta diva, Losanna (Lausanne), 1966:

Oh no! It's truncated!

Well, let's move on to this, the ensuing cabaletta, the same performance (how odd that a photo from Albert Herring, which must have been simply amazing, is the one that displays):

O rimenbranza with Giulietta Simionato, La Scala, 1965:

In mia man alfin tu sei, La Scala, 1965, with Bruno Prevedi:

Norma requires a true diva of the sort we lack in the world today. A soprano who can handle the coloratura, high notes, and the really dramatic passages. And she must be able to show vulnerability as well as pride. We seem to have to choose one or the other nowadays. (I could go on and on about the homogenized tastes we seem to have nowadays, and about the insistence on wide-screen reality in casting that sacrifices vocal qualities, but that's another post. Actually, I should do a post about looksism gone awry in opera casting!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lest you think I'm a Wagner-/Puccini-phile

I'm not only into big ol' honkin' voices. I'm a big ol' bel canto slut, too!

Elina Garança, 2009, the Met:

I saw this production (thanks to the generosity of a friend with an extra ticket) and loved it. It was the first time I heard the wonder that is Lawrence Brownlee, and the first time I heard Elina Garança live. I might have made a few choices other than those the director made, but overall it was amazing.

I suppose there's no avoiding Cecilia bartoli on a post like this. Here she is in the same production at the Met, 1997:

If you really want something fun, turn the sound off to watch her!

The incomparable Frederica von Stade, in a 1981 movie by Jean-Pierre Ponelle:

(If I were marrying Francisco Araiza, I'd be singing 32nd notes of joy, too!)

I adore Francisco Araiza, so I'll give you his aria from the same movie:

**sigh** Isn't he dreamy?

Because I am here to educate as well as entertain, here is a performance of Henri Herz's (1803-1888) Variations on "Non piu mesta", played by Earl Wild:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dich, teure Halle!

Hubby is obsessed with this aria. It's pretty damn cool, although you must admit out of context the translation is a bit silly:

Dear hall, I greet thee once again,
joyfully I greet thee, beloved place!
In thee his songs awake
and waken me from gloomy dreams.
When he departed from thee,
how desolate thou didst appear to me!
Peace forsook me,
joy took leave of thee.
How strongly now my heart is leaping;
to me now thou dost appear exalted and sublime.
He who thus revives both me and thee,
tarries afar no more.
I greet thee!
I greet thee!
Thou precious hall,
receive my greeting!

Girl, wedding banquet hall, blah blah woof woof....

Dame Gwyneth Jones, live at Bayreuth, 1978:

Here is the amazing Deborah Voigt in concert, 1996, the Met:

Leonie Rysanek in concert, 1979, Vienna:

(As an aside, I once sang for a masterclass with the conductor, Horst Stein. He said my voice was on its way. He didn't say where.)

The incomparable Birgit Nilsson, from a 1964 telecast (unattributed TV network):

(Crazy about the dress!)

Kirsten Flagstad live, 1939.

Now for a surprise, Montserrat Caballe, 1970, BBC: