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I Capuleti e i Montecchi, ROH 11.iv.09

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Stephen Jay-Taylor

Apr 11, 2009, 8:32:33 PM4/11/09
Last night of the run, and quite wonderful to experience again, not least because both Garança and Netrebko were both in sovereign voice and made an absolute six-course meal of Act I, scene ii. Golden Age singing, in fact, irrespective of when that Golden Age would notionally be placed. Singing of this quality would always have qualified, and amidst so much ridiculous hot air lately about deafening, graceless tenors that shook the world - or rather Manhattan - which is in some spurious nonsensical way designed solely to disbar those who either weren't there, or even born, from having an opinion on the subject, it's heartening to realise that there's a golden age going on right now, right in front of us. The goal-posts have moved, of course: Verdi and Wagner are no longer the be-all and end-all of operatic taste, and much musical expertise is now focussed elsewhere for the time being, so that the standards of singng in Mozart, Rossini, Handel, Donizetti, to name a few, are far higher now than at any point in recorded history. Which is fine by me. The world moves on, and I for one do not care to sit, Miss Havisham fashion, bemoaning a lost past that only grows in mythical allure in direct proportion to its ever-increasing distance from verifiable fact.
Garança in particular it seems to me has everything an artist could need, from a fully responsive, technically impeccable high-ish, unbosomy lyric mezzo, to perfect stage presence and scenic intelligence. I would say much the same about Netrebko - is she pregnant again, by the way ? - with the slight proviso that I am now certain she has outgrown girly roles, vocally and physically, and should be looking to altogether more meaty fare like Bolena, say, and indeed Norma ( ideally with Garança as Adalgisa, exactly the right voice type for the 18 year-old virgin apprantice Druid rather then the laughably ancient, chest-honking old battle-axes of "hallowed" Italian tradition, the grotesque Ebe Stignani, for one...) Netrebko's due back as Manon next year, and frankly I'd rather be hearing Fleming in a farewell last gasp to the role, or possibly Dessay, than witness Netrebko yet again having to rein in her very powerful, naturally large voice in the service of such soubrettish material. Time for her to move on and sing Luisa Miller ( rather than the Gheorghiu we are actually getting, an entirely retrograde, wrong move for her I think ) and Desdemona.
It's odd how much like Anne-Sophie von Otter - who sang Romeo in this staging in 1992 - Garança looks on stage, but though I adore the Swedish singer, the Latvian has altogether richer resources at her disposal, and has a full, not-in-chest-voice lower register of impeccably effortless placement and clarity that bodes very well for her Charlotte here and Carmen in Vienna. I've heard great singers in my time, and even know a few, but I'm not about to patronisingly pity anyone who didn't hear Mme.and Sgnr C.. because they can go out today, right now, to an opera house and hear these two, alive and in their primes, and fear nothing in the comparison. Indeed, since both singers are also attractive and accomplished actors, uninhibited in movement and attentive to the surrounding circumstances of the drama - which most of the monstres sacrés I ever saw most assuredly were not, not even remotely - there is in fact actual, quantifiable, positive gain today.
So: enough of "Ah, but you never heard xxxxx snap concrete at fifty paces !" not least because I wouldn't have liked it even if I had ( and in one case did, and it was wretchedly unmusical ). Let's instead try and live in the present, and celebrate what we do have, and that in greater abundance than the local Jeremiahs would have anyone believe..
SJT, getting younger all the time...


Apr 12, 2009, 11:56:35 AM4/12/09
Perhaps I should just call you Mrs. any case, if
you're moving in that direction, you do seem to have a long ways to
go, don't you, dear?

We get Garanca in a few weeks in Cenerentola - it's about my one day
off in a Ring cycle, so I'm not sure how responsive I'll be, but I bet
it will sound great. I don't know why you think Netrebko is pregnant
again - I would hope not so soon, for all kinds of reasons. She had
not lost all the weight, I think, from her pregnancy when she appeared
here, and perhaps that's what you're seeing.

I agree with you that Manon is largely material for a somewhat smaller
voice, and also, I actually think, a somewhat lower-centered voice
than Fleming ever had. I know you love her in the role, but for me,
she never convinced vocally, and I suspect that, much as I'm getting
to like her nowadays, based on the Rusalka she may be a bit long in
the tooth. Reminder: see your dentist.

I don't know what kind of house you think Netrebko would be a
sufficient Bolena or Norma, although we do know that the finest opera
house in the world we see her in the Donizetti in a few years. I
suppose the greatest singers naturally gravitate in that direction,
don't they? Bolena is actually a killer role in the lower part of the
voice, not the uppper register, although you need a strong top -
remember that as written, she sings below Giovanna in the duets, which
makes sense since Seymour is the younger character. The ;final scene
isn't a problem because of the few Cs, but because the coloratura is
very heavy, and must be exact, you have to cut through in the lower
part of the voice and with very skilled parlando (and what does she
think she is going to do about those critical ascending trills?).This
is, interestingly, very much the 'proper' situation in Norma, and
while I can imagine Netrebko, based on her wonderful Lucias here
(emotionally) giving us at least a vital and alive Anna, I can't for a
second think of her as having anything a Norma should have, and you've
had such good Normas there that I don't know what you think you'd get.
I would buy her as Adalgisa although the voice is now a couple of
years too 'big' for it sooner than Norma - she has some true feeling,
but no complexity or depth (and I don't think she wants to, which is
perfectly fine). I can sooner see her in some of the Verdi roles, or
even as Salome in a small provincial house on an island-nation which
didn't expect much from its singers, before I see her as Norma. At
least you didn't suggest Medea or Vestale!

Stephen, or Mrs. Briss as it were, I dearly love you, but I don't
think the resentment about all this is fitting, and it has something
of a country-cousin quality to it which a person of your
sophistication really doesn't need. I totally take your point that
much of the opera world has moved away from a Verdi-Wagner (and I'd
add Puccini) axis, and that's probably correct, and in saying that,
you are in a sense agreeing with many of the criticisms that have been
made, I think. There is much other literature in the opera world, and
many ways to perform it, and many houses are far in advance of this
than the MET can ever be, both because of its traditions, its
audiences and the mere size of the place. But some of the rest of the
characterization sounds like what it is, I think, which is a bit of
sour grapes, and a personal attack no matter how it's couched, and
unlike Caravaggio's Bacchus self-portrait, those grapes really don't
become you. When you in fact realized at the beginnng of your email
that you had no other way to refer to these singers other than by
reference to a Golden Age, you conceded, in essence, the ground in
controversy. No one contests the Rossini and bel canto renaissance, or
the rediscovery of many different sources of opera literature. That's
really not the point, although I value less the 'television' type
acting and circus antics which seems to pass so much for stage acting


On Apr 11, 8:32 pm, "Stephen Jay-Taylor" <>

Stephen Jay-Taylor

Apr 12, 2009, 2:52:08 PM4/12/09
O, I just found myself too busy to weigh in at the time in the relevant spot, but now that Jenufa and Golden Cock have both been put to bed, so to speak, I'm up for mischief, and thought I'd nail my colours etc. etc. as firmly on Steve Silverman's side of the great debate. He can't be left all alone in Essex - Essex !! - without comradely support now can he ?
SJT, never having been described as a country cousin before, rather liking it....
PS. Netrebko has a Norma in her, seriously, I have no doubt, but let's hope that if she thinks so too - and I have no idea if she does or doesn't - she limits it to the 2,000 approx. max. European houses. Or Zurich...
PPS. Because she looks pregnant. Not fat. Just more bulgy in the right place than she was, in the same dress, in the same role, when I saw her at close quarters at the end of February.....

Steve Silverman

Apr 12, 2009, 3:08:32 PM4/12/09
"Stephen Jay-Taylor" <> wrote in message

> O, I just found myself too busy to weigh in at the time in the relevant
> spot, but now that
> Jenufa and Golden Cock have both been put to bed, so to speak, I'm up for
> mischief, and
> thought I'd nail my colours etc. etc. as firmly on Steve Silverman's side
> of the great debate.

Too late, you've missed the boat. Richard has already magnanimously conceded

> He can't be left all alone in Essex - Essex !! - without comradely support
> now can he ?

I resent the implication. Some of the greatest figures of our time hail from
this part of the world: Russell Brand, Denise van Outen, Joe Pasquale, Noel
Edmonds. Need I go on? Anyway, in geographical terms I may be Essex, but
spiritually I'm Gloucestershire through and through.

Steve Silverman

Stephen Jay-Taylor

Apr 12, 2009, 5:39:44 PM4/12/09
Some of the greatest figures of our time hail from
this part of the world:  Russell Brand, Denise van Outen, Joe Pasquale, Noel
Edmonds. Need I go on?
God no, please don't ! ( though one of them is strangely sexy......)
Richard yields with touching REGularity. Something to do with advanced skill at genuflecting I imagine ......


Apr 12, 2009, 8:01:01 PM4/12/09
No Essex please, we're Americans.

Perhaps Netrebko did decide to have the spare right away, but I really
would worry about its effect on her long term, without any real time
to recouperate in between.

Do you really hear her as having the wherewithal for Norma? I guess
you do, but I really would like to hear her in the Verdi lyric rep,
and I do think that somewhere in a small house there's a Salome there
more than a Norma - Schmann was supposed to do it with reduced
orchestration and Netrebko has so much more voice.

All best

On Apr 12, 2:52 pm, "Stephen Jay-Taylor" <>

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