The opera itself is second or third rate verismo - and you're talking to
someone who likes Marguerita di Cortona a lot - but there's little invention
or melody other than the end of the second act, again., and in moments in
the final duet. It's just not a memorable score by any means. Dramatically,
the whole third act (the battle scene) seems totally unnecessary and too
expository too late in the opera. The staging, by Frank Zambello, is only
modestly incoherent - a triumph for her - but where she really lets you
down is the critical last scene between Roxane and Cyrano....nothing is
going on on stage, and so what should be moving is just kind of
claustrophobic and stagy. Surprisingly for MET premiers, the production team
wasn't booed at all, but in truth after the first obligatory round of bravos
for Domingo and SR at curtain fall, the audience seemed pretty
disinterested in the individual curtain calls, and there was little
Not sure if different casting or different conducting would have helped, but
this was a rather long and uneventful evening....
Except I have always liked Radvanovsky, and agree that she was THE
outstanding singer on stage tonight. Domingo was adequate, and has
tremendous stamina for a tenor of his age, but there were the usual
transpositions galore, and I think he sang a couple of Ab's as his
highest note. As REG said, the burnished middle sound, which, believe
it or not I have always liked, is going, and quickly to judge by
I thought the second half of the opera to be far superior to the first
half- maybe because Radvanovsky's big moments come in the second half.
A few times a really lush melody threatened to break out, but never
quite did for more than a few measures.
Michaels-Moore sounded voiceless to me; totally voiceless. I could
hardly believe my ears.
Interesting to have seen it, but, except for the great singing of
Radvanovsky, a bore. But- that great singing is really great.
The battle scene reminded me of a second rate Les Mis !!!!!!
SJT, who thinks that if opera houses must stage long-dead verismo clunkers
periodically, they should do "La Fiamma", which is actually tremendous.
O goody ! Heading to a theatre near me next year, scenery and singers
intact. Quel thrill ! Was it Levine ?
No. Marco Armiliato. He seemed fine, though I knew not a note of this
music before tonight. It really seemed like a long opera, and it's not,
time wise. Just a bit boring. Enjoy it at a theater near you.
<premie...@aol.com> wrote in message
I can't believe you made the Les Mis analogy...it's exactly what I
but then I thought I shouldn't say it....so much for tact...
Am I being accused of lack of tack??? Guess great minds work alike re
the Les Mis analogy!!!
And rather than Fiamma, I'd much rather Maria Egiziaca (?) on a double bill
with something else.
"Stephen Jay-Taylor" <sjayt...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
Or, as we say over here, "Fools seldom differ"
SJT, looking forward at least to Rad van Offsky's local début
> Domingo was adequate, and has
> tremendous stamina for a tenor of his age, but there were the usual
> transpositions galore, and I think he sang a couple of Ab's as his
> highest note. >
In another thread you wrote: "I knew not a note of this music before
tonight." I'm curious how you were able to tell that there were
"transpositions galore". Did you bring a pitchpipe and a copy of the
unfamiliar score to the performance and test it on the fly? Or did you
record it and test it at home?
<premiereop...@aol.com> wrote in message
Sorry, LJO, but I have a perfect, irrefutable answer for you.
About 6 weeks ago I had dinner with another cast member who showed me
the score. All the transposed pages were marked by a tab, and there
were many dozens of them.
Capisco. I had ruled that avenue out due to your comment that you knew not a
note etc etc .
"LJO" <seniorcu...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
Not at all. It's all done by association. When I want to think of the
word "capisco" I immediately think of Nabisco crackers, and voila!! (I
associate in French, too."
You're perfectly welcome, LJO. A buon giorno per te!
Edgardo di NYC
Didn't Giordano prepare a mezzo version of FEDORA for Pederzini?
Massenet a baritone WERTHER for Battistini? (Hey! That rhymes!)
Strauss was willing to adjust SALOME for Rise Stevens. Blitzstein's
REGINA exists in versions for soprano, mezzo and contralto. Okay, all
those versions were prepared with the composer's involvment. Do we
know that Alfano was so rigid as to be against this sort of thing.
(I'll bet the guy was thrilled just to get his stuff done.) I
haven't seen the production yet (and intend to) but I wonder what
difference transpositions really make in a piece which A) no one really
knows all that well and B) nobody is claiming is a masterpiece and C)
is a vehicle dependent on a star personality.
It's Bolognese, which is an entirely different language. Easy to learn if
you have ployglotesse.
Shouldn't that be "Bormannese", Stink?
StinkyShorts Bormann wants some:
Shouldn't that be "Bormannese", Stink?
Why, pray tell, do you have to enter a perfectly friendly, informative,
and even humorous thread with the above? There is NO reason to do so. I
don't believe you were mentioned, or even suggested. Please, a little
restraint will go a long way.
I was there last night and while I disliked the piece, the level of the
production was more than I would have expected -- modular units rolled onto
the stage for different scenes as well as other set changes so that it had
the look of a rather expensive production and one of the best things that
Zambello has done.
Its funny how the opera starts off rather well, the scene at the Hotel
Borgogne, then it quickly shifts into bombast!!! Musical climaxes are
rushed into no particular effect. Alfano does rather manage quite well in
the famous scene where Cyrano is wooking Roxanne for Christian.
Then, in Act III with the Battle of Arras, we are given an entirely
different tonal Debussy landscape with just a few ideas in that idiom that
soon become banalities. As you say, the scene in the battle of Arras seems
egregious and over long.
Although the opera was written in French, Alfano's tonal palette is foreign
to French opera -- heavy scoring for no particular effect when less could
be more. With French opera in general terms, there is always that
transparency in scoring which is one of its greatest attractions -- none of
that here, except in a few instances.
I'm sure that within a short time -- this work will soon find its way back
into an operatic dustbin.
Got it, now?
That would be "baloney", wouldn't it?
>That would be "baloney", wouldn't it?
It depends on where one shops.
I know this is probably an inane question but how did the orchestra get
Assuming there was one, of course.
Alan M. Watkins
Wherever did you hear such utter nonsense ? He was willing to reduce the
orchestration IF Elisabeth Schumann would consent to sing the role ( as a
soprano, ergo at score pitch.) But she wouldn't ; he didn't ; and I'd be
surprised if he'd ever even heard of Rise Stevens, who may have been a big
deal in Manhattan but was, and remains, entirely unknown in Europe.
SJT, zweiten Straussungeheuer
<alanwa...@aol.com> wrote in message
"Stephen Jay-Taylor" <sjayt...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
Rise Stevens started her operatic career in Prague -- sang under Zemlinski
(among others) and became fluent in German. I used to work with Walter
Surovy, Rise's late husband. One day at the office we were talking and he
also told me that story about how Strauss said he would adapt a version of
"Salome" for Rise if she would sing it.
Walter was a young actor at the Vienna Burgtheater in those days when they
first met. Among other roles, Walter was Prince Hal in both Shakespeare Henry
Just relieved that it was not electronic.
SJT, not volunteering his head for the salver just yet
PUH !!! Quelle race dégénérée. Why would anyone want to associate with a
man called Valery ?
SJT, who's just thought of one, but won't mention it on a family NG
In an OPERA NEWS cover story in the early 90s Stevens herself spoke of
Strauss' offer to rewrite SALOME for her. She didn't say whether she
turned him down or he later realized it was impractical, but she did
play Salome in an original opera the name and composer of which escapes
me, which premiered at La Scala -- not bad for someone who was
"entirely unknown in Europe" (there was a display on her at the Met
some seasons back which featured a photo of her in the role). Maybe
she was just telling tales (she never struck me as the sort who would
do that sort of thing or need to) but if so, she did it in print. She
also spoke of moving to Europe early in her career since it was so
difficult to get an important career started in the States -- something
which a lot of American singers did at the time. She apparantly had a
substantial European career before she came back to the States. As for
Strauss never having heard of her, she had sung Octavian in Europe in
several important houses during the 30s, some of them under Reiner I
Got it, now?
I must admit I missed that, and whoever posted it is the one who broke
up a perfectly nice, non-offensive thread. Still, not responding once
in a while would not hurt! Still, I apologize for thinking it was you
who broke up the thread.
"Stephen Jay-Taylor" <sjayt...@btinternet.com> wrote in message
>Mon Dieu (*&^%$#)(*&^%$#!!!!!
Your only "dieu" is the crud in your mouth.
Swallow it with some ground glass (as a chaser), please.
<alci...@aol.com> wrote in message
"dtritter" <dtri...@speakeasy.net> wrote in message
> sjt appears to have had a somnolent last 75 years. but it is generous
> of him to speak for an entire continent. it saves the cognoscenti from
> speaking for themselves.
"Somnolent" seems to be the word-of-the-month. Perhaps its continuing usage
will take the pressure off "latrine", "crotte" and "leave us you smell".
>"Somnolent" seems to be the >word-of-the-month.
With you, "Feculent" seems to be the description-of-a-lifetime.
>Perhaps its continuing usage will take the
> pressure off "latrine", "crotte" and "leave us
> you smell".
Why? Since they, too, apply to you.
does he think, like sjt, that rise stevens was and is unknown in all of
europe? if so, he's stupider than was previously apparent.
Very possible. There is Strauss' comment about Ursuleac that
everything he ever wrote seemed to have been written for her -- hard to
square with most of her recorded evidence (altho she obviously had a
certain intensity). Most authors just want to get their works
performed, and while SALOME was pretty successful from the get-go, in
the 30s it wasn't yet the classic it is now, so creating a second
edition of it wouldn't have seemed as unthinkable -- and it would have
been the author himself who did the tampering. Many Salomes of the
time were not exactly pin-up girls (many used a dance-double), and the
idea of a beautiful woman like Stevens in the part must have appealed
to Strauss. Mezzos with soprano aspirations have certainly tackled the
role in the past, but Stevens probably realized that even with some
*ossia*s the role would have been too much for her. The indication is
that the offer was made but not pursued by either party, so maybe it
WAS just an off-hand comment by the composer. But if Stevens had
agreed and an important conductor like Reiner had backed her up, I'll
betcha Strauss would have given it a shot.
<alci...@aol.com> wrote in message
[Interesting review snipped]
> Not sure if different casting or different conducting would have helped,
> this was a rather long and uneventful evening....
'Cyrano,' Gaining in the Translation
By JONATHAN YARDLEY
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
An occasional series in which The Post's book critic reconsiders notable
and/or neglected books from the past.
Sometime in the early 1950s, when I was in my early teens, the boarding
school at which I was being held against my will decided to amuse the
inmates by showing a movie one Saturday night. It was something called
"Cyrano de Bergerac," written by someone named Edmond Rostand, with someone
named Jose Ferrer in the title role. A film version of a French play? Ouch.
I went into the auditorium with all the enthusiasm of Robespierre
approaching the guillotine.
Two hours later I was a changed boy. "Cyrano" had knocked me off my feet,
and Ferrer had knocked me out of the park. I hadn't been to all that many
movies -- they weren't the obsession among the young that they are now -- so
my basis of comparison was narrow, but nothing since Laurence Olivier's
"Henry V," with its French sky blackened by English arrows, had so thrilled
and moved me. I bought the LP recording of the soundtrack, with Ferrer
declaiming the most stirring speeches, and soon after that I got my hands on
the Modern Library edition of "Cyrano," in Brian Hooker's incomparable
translation (the one used in the movie). The recording got lost somewhere
along the way in the half-century that followed, but the little book in its
faded red binding has been with me ever since.
These words are written the morning after an umpteenth viewing of Ferrer's
1950 film, in a print that shows its age but has lost none of its power to
rouse, move and amuse. Watching it after rereading the play for the first
time in many years, I was struck by how intelligently Carl Foreman had
adapted the Rostand/Hooker text for the screen: tightening it up, in
particular with regard to the comic relief provided by the poetic pastry
chef Ragueneau, keeping the focus at all times on Cyrano and his frustrated
love for the beautiful Roxane. A couple of years later Foreman was on the
blacklist, receiving no credit for his work on the screenplay of "The Bridge
on the River Kwai" and other films, but at the time he worked on "Cyrano" he
was at the top, and it shows.
But this isn't a movie review, it's a second look at the play itself, as
published rather than as performed. Many English translations are available,
including those by Christopher Fry and Anthony Burgess, but the Hooker
version is the one I grew up with, and reading any other (or watching a
performance by anyone other than Ferrer) is unthinkable to me. Hooker's
translation is available now only in the Bantam Classics edition, which
unfortunately does not include Clayton Hamilton's introduction to the
original 1923 version.
Unfortunately, that is, because Hamilton explains how Hooker's translation
came to be. He is little known now except, presumably, among scholars of the
theater, but in the first decades of the 20th century Hamilton was among
this country's most prominent and influential theater critics; his many
books include "The Theory of the Theater and Other Principles of Dramatic
Criticism" (1910), "Problems of the Playwright" (1917) and "So You're
Writing a Play" (1935). Most important to the subject at hand, he was
lifelong friends with the celebrated actor, theater manager and producer
Walter Hampden. As boys in the late 1890s they "used to squander the
after-midnight gas, reading and rereading the magic text of this entrancing
play," which had first been produced in Paris in 1897, and a quarter-century
later Hamilton persuaded Hampden to mount a production with a new English
translation, the existing ones failing to capture "the zest, the fire, the
spontaneity, the brilliancy, the lyric rapture of Rostand."
For this Hamilton turned to Hooker, a poet who is now as forgotten as
everyone else in this undertaking. Hamilton correctly writes "that Brian
Hooker has succeeded in a literary task of extraordinary difficulty, that he
has written a text which is both speakable and readable, and that he has
made the vivid spirit of Edmond Rostand accessible . . . to English-reading
lovers of belles-lettres who are not able to read French."
The "vivid spirit" to whom Hamilton refers was not yet 30 years old when his
famous play appeared. Born in Marseilles in 1868, Rostand grew up in
privileged circumstances that permitted him to indulge his love for writing.
He published poetry and had three plays produced before "Cyrano," but the
overwhelming success of his masterpiece seems to have immobilized him.
Nothing he wrote in the rest of his life came even close to "Cyrano" in
either literary or commercial terms, and at his death in Paris in 1918 he
seems to have been a frustrated and disappointed man.
Had it not been for Brian Hooker, it is possible that Rostand's great play
might have remained little more than a bewitching rumor in the
English-speaking world. Before his translation was presented on Broadway in
1923, with Hampden in the title role, only three productions of the play had
appeared in New York, and only one of these in (presumably bad) English. But
Hooker's "Cyrano" ran for 232 performances -- an exceptionally good run for
just about anything in translation -- and Hampden must have loved it,
because he appeared in four more productions between 1926 and 1936. Not
until 1946, when Ferrer played the role (and produced the show), did
Broadway see anyone else's "Cyrano."
As one of those "English-reading lovers of belles-lettres who are not able
to read French," I cannot testify with any authority to the accuracy and
fidelity of Hooker's translation, but the passion with which it was embraced
by Hamilton and Hampden, both of whom were fluent in French, leaves no doubt
that it captures the essence of Rostand. Written in blank verse, it is as
much a poem as a play. Indeed, in the most brilliant speeches -- Cyrano's
witty defense of his "great nose," his "No, I thank you!" declaration of
independence, the balcony scene when, in the guise of Christian de
Neuvillette, he professes his love for Roxane -- Hooker rises to heights of
romantic verse that few others have achieved in any language.
The play is set in France, Paris primarily, in the mid-17th century. As just
about everyone knows, Cyrano is a brave soldier, leader of the Cadets of
Gascoyne, a writer and poet of sublime gifts and accomplishments who
possesses every quality to which a man could aspire, except beauty: his long
nose ("a rock -- a crag -- a cape -- A cape? say rather, a peninsula!")
precedes him wherever he goes, and persuades him that for all his nobility
of heart and soul, he can never win the love of Roxane. Instead she tells
him of her love for Christian, and he agrees to help Christian win her by
writing, for him, the great romantic words that so enthrall her. Roxane and
Christian marry but he soon dies in battle. A decade and a half later
Cyrano, visiting Roxane in the convent to which she has repaired, himself
dies from wounds inflicted in an ambush, but not before inadvertently
confessing his love, to which Roxane replies in stunned sorrow, "I never
loved but one man in my life, And I have lost him -- twice."
Any number of excerpts could be published here for the benefit of readers
who do not know Hooker's "Cyrano," but I have chosen two of my favorites.
The first comes after Cyrano is derided by an aristocratic fop as "A clown
who -- look at him -- not even gloves! No ribbons -- no lace -- no buckles
on his shoes," to which Cyrano replies:
I carry my adornments on my soul.
I do not dress up like a popinjay;
But inwardly, I keep my daintiness.
I do not bear with me, by any chance,
An insult not yet washed away -- a conscience
Yellow with unpurged bile -- an honor frayed
To rags, a set of scruples badly worn.
I go caparisoned in gems unseen,
Trailing white plumes of freedom, garlanded
With my good name -- no figure of a man,
But a soul clothed in shining armor, hung
With deeds for decorations, twirling -- thus --
A bristling wit, and swinging at my side
Courage, and on the stones of this old town
Making the sharp truth ring, like golden spurs!
What language that is! "But inwardly, I keep my daintiness," "I go
caparisoned in gems unseen," "With deeds for decorations" -- it is difficult
to imagine that Rostand's original French could be more musical or evocative
than Hooker's English. Here it is again, in an extract from the "No thank
you!" speech, which follows Cyrano's friend Le Bret's plea that he "stop
trying to be Three Musketeers in one!" Cyrano asks:
What would you have me do?
Seek for the patronage of some great man,
And like a creeping vine on a tall tree
Crawl upward, where I cannot stand alone?
No thank you! Dedicate, as others do,
Poems to pawnbrokers? Be a buffoon
In the vile hope of teasing out a smile
On some cold face? No thank you! Eat a toad
For breakfast every morning? Make my knees
Callous, and cultivate a supple spine, --
Wear out my belly grovelling in the dust?
No thank you! . . . Shall I labor night and day
To build a reputation on one song,
And never write another? Shall I find
True genius only among Geniuses,
Palpitate over little paragraphs,
And struggle to insinuate my name
In the columns of the Mercury?
No thank you! Calculate, scheme, be afraid,
Love more to make a visit than a poem,
Seek introductions, favors, influences? --
No thank you! No, I thank you! And again
I thank you!
Is there, anywhere in any language, a more devastating repudiation of
toadying and apple-polishing than that? In this city, where those practices
have been raised to something approximating high art, every word of that
speech should be posted on every office wall on K Street and Capitol Hill,
not to mention the White House. With eloquence that almost literally takes
the breath away, Rostand/Hooker constructs a great avalanche of words, each
one of them exactly right, each target hit dead center.
Cyrano the man and "Cyrano" the play are romantic to the core: romantic in
the grand manner rather than in the simpering Hollywood style. Romance on
such a scale has long been out of literary fashion, with the result that
many self-appointed arbiters of literary and cultural fashion look down
their own (very short) noses at "Cyrano." The last word belongs to Clayton
"This gallant play is still as thrillingly alive as it was in 1898. Rostand
was like Shakespeare in one respect at least; for he wrote 'not of an age
but for all time.' It is only the realists, who write about contemporary
manners and contemporary morals, who grow speedily old-fashioned: the
romantics, who escape from their own period, remain forever young and
Brian Hooker's translation of Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac" is
available in a Bantam Classics paperback ($4.95).
Thanks to Jonathan Yardley and The Washington Post
Ack! I wish you had asked me a year ago, because I had that issue
hanging around for years but finally tossed it, fearing that my little
hovel was turning going to wind up like the library at Alexandria. As
I recall, it was during her pre-Met years in Germany, Austria and
Prague. What I know of her voice at that time, it was a high-placed
mezzo, not as deep as it later became. I tend to think the whole
"fach" concept wasn't quite as rigid and scarey for singers as it is
now -- if you could sing a role, you sang it. I believe she also had
the Composer in her rep, as well as Octavian, and of course both those
roles (as well as Cherubino) were sung as often by sopranos as by
mezzos. I think it was only when complete recordings were readily
available that conceptions of these roles (like Charlotte in WERTHER)
became so fixed. In her younger days Stevens sounded like she could
comfortably handle certain "zwischenfach" parts like MIGNON, which was
one of her specialties.
> in the case of the above intellectual vacuum, all remain applicable,
> misusing sagittarius (sic?...is the illegitimate extra t for toilet bowl
As you were previously advised, Squitter, stick to what you know best,
latrines, toilet bowls and the contents thereof, and leave spelling alone.
It seems that every time you try to correct someone, you expose your own
alarming stupidity and ignorance.
I think there were beautiful Salomes before this incident....wasn't Cebatori
one? Certainly Ljuba was before she ate the head and all the rest.
If the discussion gets too boring, maybe we could throw some ad hominen
insults at each other....that would prove a lot.
<alci...@aol.com> wrote in message
Talk about Euro-centric neanderthals.
alarming stupidity and ignorance have met their master, thanks to this
saggggingly stooooooooooooooopid one. given an extra fifty points of
i.q., he could become howard hoodlum's twin brother, and terry
ellsworth's godson. may their tribe become extinct.
whoopps! i forgot orturd, the evil twin sister. she's raised ignorance
and vulgarity to an art form. dessert is being served in the matrine
hole. orturd can invite the saggggggggggggggging stooooooooooooopid one
as her guest.
> head for the hills, the germini twin chamber pots just overflowed.
dessert is being served in the matrine
> hole. orturd can invite the saggggggggggggggging stooooooooooooopid
> as her guest.
I've seen Rostand's play quite a few times, very well done at the Shaw Festival
some years ago, then at the Royal Haymarket in London and other venues ...and at
first, I have to admit that I enjoyed it! But what did I know -- I was young
Oh yes--- there was Derek Jacobi on B'way in an imported outing...so I know the
piece well. So the next stage produciton of Rostand's play that comes around, I
will avoid it like the plague and wish for something more engaging
For some time now, I've began to understand why Rostand's "Cyrano" gets sneers
from some pretty respectable soures. There's something so totally out of sync
and calculating for a 19th Century playwright like Rostand to reach back to
French classical Alexandrines of centuries earlier to write his play for a style
long dead and more appropraite to the time of Pierre de Ronsard in the 1500's
when Frenchmen wrote love sonnets and love poetry. If Moliere or someone of his
era had written it, I might think more of it but I doubt that the end product
would have been so cloying because that was not the style then.
That last act of "Cyrano," can be awfully treackly. Invariably, with that
autumnal glow, tree leafs fall to the ground -- one leaf at a time. Gimme a
On the other hand, I do not find anything cloying or treakly about Massenet's
"Don Quichotte" as seen at the LOC with Nicolai Ghiaurov, Donald Gramm and Lucia
Valentini-Terrani, under Jean Morel's baton.
Chacun a son gout!
Alexandrines no more disappeared from French verse in the 1500's than
iambic pentameter disappeared from English. Victor Hugo's Hernani,
that riot-provoking manifesto of Romanticism, was written in
alexandrines, and Rostand's contemporary Stephane Mallarme wrote
sonnets in alexandrines.
You're back pedaling here. You claimed that the alexandrine
disappeared in the 1500's, that the problem with Rostand is that he
"reached back" and revived it. He did nothing of the kind. He used
the enduring standard verse form for French verse. It goes without
saying that his style differs from Hugo's and Mallarme's.
Yes, it does differ...
And Mallarme is not a playwright (yes, I know he wrote a few short
pieces that are never done) so don't know why you brought him up in the
context of this discussion.
Not every drama that Hugo wrote was a verse play...
"Cromwell", 1827 - verse
"Amy Robsart," 1828 - prose
"Hernani," 1830 - verse
"Marion de Lorme," 1831 - verse
"Le Roi s'amuse," 1832 - verse
"Lucrece Borgia," 1833 - prose
"Marie Tudor," 1833 - prose
"Angelo," 1835 - prose
"Ruy Blas," 1838 - verse
"Les Burgraves," 1843 - verse
but after the failure of "Burgraves," he was convinced that he had
nothing further to offer the cause of romantic drama. After writing
some slight pieces, he abandoned the stage and worked on his novels and
And it should not be forgotten that Hugo's particular use of the
alexandrine verse aroused storms of protest from the critics.
>Whether or not your remarks about Hugo and
> Mallarme are true is irrelevant.
Not really, but you are.
>I deliberatedly refrained from expressing my
Good, make that a habit, since your opinions are invariably stupid,
obnoxious, and worthless.
So true! In fact, you should adopt this as your motto.