biografieën

Bubbles for Beverly. Lest we forget

Beverly Sills, the American ‘coloratura queen’, never reached the high status that colleagues Callas and Sutherland had in Europe. In fact, many people did not even know she existed. The reason? Lack of an exclusive contract with an important company. And: she did not travel. As the mother of two severely handicapped children, she wanted to be with her children as much as possible.



Beverly Sills (25 May 1929 – 2 July 2007), was born in Brooklyn as Belle Miriam Silverman. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Odessa and Bucharest. As a child, she spoke Yiddish, Russian, Romanian, French and English.

Although she had an enormous repertoire, that ranged from Handel and Mozart to Puccini,, she was best known for her interpretations of coloratura soprano roles. Her radiant high D’s and E-flats sounded seemingly effortless and natural.

She was most associated with Donizetti’s operas: Lucia di Lammermoor, La fille du régiment and the three ‘Tudor queens’. Her Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux is simply the best ever.
But also her Manon and Thaïs(Massenet) are unforgettable, as is her Violetta (La Traviata) and all three female roles in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann. Yes, she sang all three in one evening.


At the age of three, Sills won a ‘Miss Beautiful Baby’ contest, singing ‘The Wedding of Jack and Jill’. From the age of four, she performed professionally on the Saturday morning radio show ‘Rainbow House’ under the name Bubbles Silverman.

When she was seven years old, she started taking singing lessons with Estelle Liebling, who remained her only singing teacher. A year later she sang in the short film Uncle Solves It (filmed in August 1937, released in June 1938 by Educational Pictures), by which time she had adopted her stage name, Beverly Sills.




LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR


Sills’ Lucia (Westminster 4712502) for me remains one of the best interpretations ever, especially talking about studio recordings. Her portrayal unites the best of Callas and Suitherland: the virtuosity, vocal beauty and pure intonation of la Stupenda and the great acting of la Divina. Not really a great tragédienne (but then, neither is Lucia), she is more of a passive child-girl who just lets it all happen. The rest of the cast (Carlo Bergonzi, Piero Cappuccilli, Justino Diaz) is also of a very high level and Thomas Schippers conducts very firmly. But what makes this recording really special is the use of a glass harmonica in the madscene, exactly as Donizetti had originally prescribed it



ROBERTO DEVEREUX



A New York Times reviewer wrote that it was undoubtedly the most exciting event of the 1970 musical year and I believe that immediately. The performance of 24 October 1970 was recorded live and we are more than lucky to have it.


Julius Rudel (well, what happened to the days we had such maestros?) conducts firmly and with a great deal of love for the work. So beautiful that it makes you want to cry.


Domingo’s voice sounds like a bell and his performance causes ecstatic ovations. And I can be brief about Sills’ Elisabetta: overwhelming! No one, no one has ever sung the role better. She is Elisabetta. You must see and hear this, if only once! The applause after her ‘L’Amor suo mi fé benata’ seems to last for ever.


Below Beverly Sills in the last scene of Roberto Devereux:




THAÏS



Below Beverly Sills and Sherrill Milnes in the final scene of the opera:



MANON


Sills also sang in German.

Below she sings ‘Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben’ from Mozart’s Zaide. In my opinion the best interpretation of that aria ever:



And she sang songs too
Below, ‘Breit über mein Haupt’ from Strauss:




Don’t miss the wonderful homage to Beverly Sills, ‘Made in America’ (DG 0734299), with a selection of brilliant archive footage, including La Traviata with Ettore Bastianini.




In this 75-minute portrait, Beverly Sills talks openly and honestly about her life and career. The portrait is illustrated with rare recordings and photographs from the Charles Mintzer Collection.



Below is Beverly Sills’ farewell performance, where as an encore she sings the Portuguese folk song ‘Tell Me Why’ that Estelle Liebling, her only singing teacher, provided her with  when she was ten. As a tribute to Liebling, Sills ended each recital with this song.

Ivan van Kalmthout: Music has always played an important role in my life

The 52nd edition of the International Vocalists in 2018 was the last competition for director Annett Andriesen. After twelve years of incredible dedication and fantastic leadership (something for which she was honoured with speeches, a standing ovation, a wealth of flowers and a ‘modest’ bouquet of twelve roses), she handed over the baton to Ivan van Kalmthout.

Ivan van Kalmthout and Annett Andriessen

Van Kalmthout had previously worked as interim director of the Liceu Opera House in Barcelona and as director of the Berliner Staatsoper in Berlin, and in 2017 he joined the IVC board. Time for an interview.

Van Kalmhout is a true Brabander. He was born in Etten in 1968. His father’s family comes from Zegge and his mother, who comes from a Moluccan KNIL family, grew up in Zundert.

Ivan van Kalmhout with his mother


“About my family… My grandmother was Moluccan. You can’t see it in me, but my grandmother was very dark. My grandfather came from Tilburg. He was stationed in Tjimahi and that is where they met. My mother and my sister are really exotic looking. When I saw all the portraits of regents in the Rijksmuseum for the first time, it became clear to me that my appearance has nothing to do with Indonesia. I might have been born in the Netherlands in the 17th century! “




And what about the music?

Ivan Kalmhout: “Music has always played an important role in my life. My grandfather played the piston in the local brass band and he could also sight-read the music. My mother would probably have become a successful soprano if she had had the chance. She certainly has the voice and the temperament for it! I myself was fascinated by the violin as a child and studied it for quite a while.”

“Through a LP record with a piece by Wieniawski played by Emmy Verhey, I first heard a solo aria, sung by Hebe Dijkstra. ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix’ from Samson et Dalila. I already knew some symphonic music with vocals and also the ‘Ride of the Valkyries ‘ but this was a new experience. I remember that I could not quite place it. But I found it fascinating. And after listening to it for a few times, I was ‘sold’ on the genre. I think that’s why it’s so important for children and young people to have the opportunity to come into contact with classical vocal music. We’re also trying to emphasise this aspect in the new Opera3Daagse.”

“A bit later I discovered Maria Callas and that was like a bolt of lightning to me. What I’ve inherited from that passion is a great fondness for the combination of text and music. When a singer is able to express the deeper truth of a text, it really touches me. Opera is not a literary genre, of course, but when the poetic truth is grasped by an interpreter, it has more impact than any other top-level theatrical text. When a singer sings technically perfectly but has clearly only looked at the notes, I can often do little with it. But sensing what is going on with sometimes very banal texts and being able to give the same word, repeated three times, a different meaning three times (‘amour’ in Carmen, for example) is for me one of the greatest gifts an interpreter can bring.”

Ivan van Kalmhout with Eva-Maria Westbroek


After secondary school, van Kalmhout studied business administration and management at Nyenrode Business University in Breukelen, after which he joined Pieter Alferink and his Artists Management. In 1991, he was asked by Marc Clémeur to join the Flemish Opera in Antwerp (and Ghent). There he worked as assistant artistic planning, together with Hein Mulders.

The next step was the Staatsoper in Hamburg and the Liceu in Barcelona. In 2011, van Kalmthout was appointed opera director and artistic director of the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin. Here he joined forces with the conductor Daniel Barenboim and the intendant Jürgen Flimm.

Van Kalmthout: “It was a privilege to be able to work in Berlin at the Staatsoper im Schillertheater. For three years I was back in the repertory theatre system with an enormous amount of productions and a very interesting opera studio, where I was allowed to work with new young talents in the first year. The concert programme of the Staatskapelle was also a parade of musical highlights with first-class instrumentalists. Daniel Barenboim’s inexhaustible curiosity and work ethic amazes everyone around him.”

“When the opportunity came to temporarily fill in for Joan Matabosch in Barcelona after Gerard Mortier had to leave Madrid prematurely due to illness, I gladly returned to the theatre and the city where I had had such a good time. I was able to successfully whip into shape a very difficult year (both organisationally and artistically) for the Liceu. It was a privilege to be there for another year but it was also clear that the direction that the Liceu was headed to was a completely different one from that of the ten golden years before my Berlin time.”

© Swinkels en van Hees


When it became known that Annett Andriessen was leaving, Van Kalmthout immediately applied. He knew the competition and its atmosphere well, after all, he himself had participated twice as a member of the jury. He is therefore sure that he will be very well able to continue its tradition. I think so too. TTT Ivan van Kalmthout!

Bubbles. Voor Beverly Sills op haar verjaardag

Beverly Sills, de Amerikaanse ‘coloratuurkoningin’ heeft in Europa nooit de status van haar collega’s Callas en Sutherland gehad. Sterker: veel mensen wisten van haar bestaan niet eens af. De reden daarvoor? Gebrek aan een exclusief contract met een belangrijke firma. En: zij reisde niet. Als moeder van twee zwaar gehandicapte kinderen wilde ze zo veel mogelijk bij haar kinderen zijn.

Beverly Sills (25 mei 1929 – 2 juli 2007), werd geboren in Brooklyn als Belle Miriam Silverman. Haar ouders waren Joodse immigranten uit Odessa en Boekarest. Als kind sprak ze Jiddisch, Russisch, Roemeens, Frans en Engels.

Hoewel ze een enorm repertoire had die van Händel en Mozart tot Puccini, Massenet en Verdi reikte, was ze vooral bekend om haar vertolkingen in coloratuursopraanrollen. Haar stralende hoge D’s en E-flats klonken schijnbaar moeiteloos en vanzelfsprekend.

Het meest werd zij geassocieerd met de opera’s van Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor, La fille du régiment en de drie ‘Tudor-koninginnen’. Haar Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux is gewoon de beste ooit.

Maar ook haar Manon en Thaïs (Massenet) zijn onvergetelijk, net als haar Violetta (La Traviata) en alle drie de vrouwenrollen in Les contes d’Hoffmann van Offenbach. Ja, ze zong ze alle drie op een avond.

Op driejarige leeftijd won Sills een ‘Miss Beautiful Baby’ wedstrijd, waarin ze ‘The Wedding of Jack and Jill’ zong. Vanaf haar vierde trad ze professioneel op in het zaterdagochtend radioprogramma ‘Rainbow House’ onder de naam Bubbles Silverman.

Toen ze zeven jaar oud was begon ze  met zanglessen bij Estelle Liebling, die haar enige zanglerares bleef. Een jaar later zong ze in de korte film Uncle Solves It (gefilmd in augustus 1937, uitgebracht in juni 1938 door Educational Pictures), tegen die tijd had ze haar artiestennaam aangenomen, Beverly Sills.


LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR

Sills’ Lucia (Westminster 4712502),  blijft voor mij één van de beste vertolkingen ooit, zeker als we het over studio-opnames hebben. Haar portrettering verenigt het beste van Callas en Suitherland: de virtuositeit, stemschoonheid en zuivere intonatie van la Stupenda en het grote acteren van la Divina. Niet echt een grote tragédienne (maar dat is Lucia ook niet), meer een passief kindmeisje dat het allemaal over zich heen laat komen. Ook de rest van de cast (Carlo Bergonzi, Piero Cappuccilli, Justino Diaz) is van zeer hoog niveau en Thomas Schippers dirigeert zeer ferm. Maar wat die opname werkelijk bijzonder maakt, is het gebruik van een glasharmonica in de waanzinscène, precies zoals Donizetti het oorspronkelijk had voorgeschreven.

ROBERTO DEVEREUX

Een recensent van de New York Times schreef dat het zonder twijfel het meest opwindende evenement was van het muzikale jaar 1970 en dat geloof ik onmiddellijk. De voorstelling van 24 oktober 1970 werd live opgenomen en daar mogen we ons meer dan gelukkig mee prijzen.

Julius Rudel (ach, waar zijn de tijden van zulke maestro’s gebleven?) dirigeert ferm en met heel erg veel liefde voor het werk. Om te huilen zo mooi.

Domingo’s stem klinkt als een klok en zijn optreden zorgt voor extatische ovaties. En over Elisabetta van Sills kan ik kort zijn: overweldigend! Niemand, maar dan ook niemand heeft de rol ooit beter gezongen dan zij. Zij is Elisabetta. Dat moet je ooit gehoord of gezien hebben Het applaus na haar ‘L’Amor suo mi fé benata’ lijkt eindeloos te duren.



Hieronder Beverly Sills in de laatste scène uit Roberto Devereux:

THAÏS




Hieronder Beverly Sills en Sherrill Milnes in de finale van de opera:

MANON

Sills zong ook in het Duits.

Hieronder zingt zij ‘Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben’ uit Mozarts Zaide. Mijns inziens de beste vertolking van die aria ooit:


En zij zong ook liederen

Hieronder ‘Breit über mein Haupt’ van Strauss:

Mis de prachtige hommage aan Beverly Sills, ‘Made in America’ (DG 0734299) niet,  met een keur aan schitterende archiefbeelden, waaronder ook  La Traviata met Ettore Bastianini.

In dit ruim 75 minuten durende portret praat Beverly Sills open en eerlijk over haar leven en carrière. Het portret wordt geïllustreerd met zeldzame opnamen en foto’s uit de Charles Mintzer collectie.

Hieronder Beverly Sills’ afscheidsoptreden, waar zij als toegift het Portugese volkslied ’Tell Me Why’ zingt dat Estelle Liebling, haar enige zanglerares, haar gaf toen ze tien was. Als eerbetoon aan Liebling eindigde Sills elk recital met dit lied.

Renata Scotto: a brief overview of her many roles

Renata Scotto, ‘la mia Divina Assoluta’, was born on 24 February 1934 in Savona. She made her opera debut at the age of eighteen as Violetta (La Traviata). Her ‘official’ debut was the next day in Milan. Shortly afterwards, she sang Madama Butterfly in Savona.

Because there was no chance to hear her in the Netherlands, I travelled with a few friends, they were also great fans, to Paris, where she gave a recital. It was sold out and I really only remember the huge queue in front of her dressing room: people wanted her autograph, they came with flowers, chocolates, gifts…. I had never seen anything like that in the Netherlands.

But the day finally came and she sang in Amsterdam! On 19 October 1996 she performed in the Netherlands for the first time since 1963. During the Amsterdam Saturday Matinee she sang before the interval Chausson’s  Poème de l’amour et la mer and after the interval Poulenc’s La voix humaine. She made a real performance out of it: there was a table with a telephone on it, and with the telephone cord she strangled herself at the end. Those who were there will never forget it.

This recording comes from Barcelona 1996:



During her long career, Scotto performed in operas written by 18 composers and her repertoire included some forty-five roles. And then there are the studio recordings. I cannot possibly discuss everything, so I will restrict myself to a few recordings.
The order is random.



LA WALLY


In 1953 she auditioned at La Scala for the role of Walter in Catalani’s La Wally with Renata Tebaldi and Mario del Monaco, amongst others. Giulini was to conduct. It is told that afterwards Victor de Sabata, one of the jury members, said: “Forget about the rest.”

La Wally premiered on December 7, 1953, and Scotto happily accepted fifteen curtain calls. Tebaldi and del Monaco got seven each.



LA SONNAMBULA



In Edinburgh, Milan’s La Scala staged Luchino Visconti’s production of La sonnambula, with Maria Callas as Amina. The production had been so successful that La Scala had decided to add another performance. But Callas was tired, and besides, she wanted to go to the party that Elsa Maxwell was giving for her in Venice. So she told the Scala people that she would definitely not be singing this. Nevertheless, La Scala announced the extra performance with Callas. And Callas refused. With only two days’ notice, Scotto took over the role of Amina and replaced Callas on 3 September 1957. The performance was a great success, and the 23-year-old Scotto became an international opera star overnight.

This recording with Alfredo Kraus is from 1961:




RIGOLETTO



My all-time favourite is a Ricordi recording from 1960 (now Sony 74321 68779 2), with Ettore Bastianini in the lead. Renata Scotto sings a girlishly naive Gilda, who is transformed into a mature woman through her love for the wrong man. She understands better than anyone that the whole business of revenge can lead nowhere and she sacrifices herself to stop all the bloodshed and hatred.

Bastianini and Scotto in the finale:




LA TRAVIATA




Renata Scotto has (or should I say had?) something that few other singers possessed: a perfect technique that enabled her to sprinkle her coloraturas like it was nothing at all. Her high notes sounded a bit steely but they were undeniably flawless. She possessed the gift of acting with her voice (and not only with her voice!), and because of her perfect articulation you could not only literally follow what she was singing, but also really understand it.

Her perhaps most beautiful (there are several recordings) Violetta she recorded in 1963 (DG 4350562), under the very exciting direction of Antonino Votto. Alfredo is sung by the sweet-voiced Gianni Raimondi, and Ettore Bastianini is a warm, indeed fatherly, Giorgio Germont.



And don’t think that in the old days, when everything was done by the book, the performances were static and boring! In 1973, La Scala was on tour in Japan, and there, in Tokyo, a legendary performance of La Traviata was recorded (VAI 4434).

The leading roles were played by the then still ‘curvy’ Scotto and 27-year-old (!) José Carreras. DVD does not mention the name of the director, perhaps there was none, and the singers (and the conductor) did it all themselves? Anyway, the result is really beautiful, moving and to the point. I am not going to say any more about it, because this recording is an absolute must for every opera lover.

Finale of the opera:




L’ELISIR D’AMORE


To the younger generation I would especially recommend the DVD with Renata Scotto, Carlo Bergonzi and Giuseppe Taddei (Hardy Classic Video HCD 4014). It is not only the beautiful voices of the past that impress (Scotto, Bergonzi, Taddei – who can still sing like them?), the eye is also given a lot to enjoy.

Do not think that they just enter the stage, sing an aria facing the audience and then take a bow. It is theatre pur sang and a better acting singer than Scotto has yet to be born.

Renata Scotto sings ‘Prendi, per me sei libero’:



TURANDOT



I can be very brief about this: there is no better Liu. Renata Scotto is a very fragile and moving Liu, which is in stark contrast to Corelli’s macho and seductive Calaf and Birgit Nilsson’s chilling Turandot.



MADAMA BUTTERFLY



For me an absolute ‘numero uno’ is the 1966 recording by EMI (now Warner 0190295735913) under Sir John Barbirolli. One might imagine a more lyrical or alternatively a more dramatic Cio Cio San; one with less metal in her voice or maybe one with a more childlike voice. But no other singer was able to grasp the complex nature of the girl so well and to characterise her change from a naive child into an adult woman, broken by immense grief, so impressively





LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR



Renata Scotto never recorded the role in the studio. However, there are several pirate recordings of her in circulation, with Luciano Pavaratti, Alfredo Kraus, Carlo Bergonzi and Gianni Raimondi as Edgardo.

Of these four, the recording with Raimondi is dearest to me, not least because of the very energetic and dramatically balanced direction by Claudio Abbado. It was recorded at La Scala in December 1967 and it once appeared on Nuova Era (013.6320/21). Unfortunately, that recording is very difficult to obtain, but those who search….

Scotto’s interpretation of the tormented heroine is available on DVD (VAI 4418). The production was recorded in Tokyo in 1967. It circulated for years on pirate video, but since the sound and picture quality was particularly poor, the commercial release has made many opera lovers very happy. The sound is a little sharp, making Scotto’s high notes sound even more metallic than usual, but who cares?

Her interpretation is both vocally and scenically of an unprecedented high level. With a childishly surprised expression (my brother does this to me?) on her face, she agrees, albeit not without grumbling, to the forced marriage with Arturo (an Angelo Marchiandi who is hideous in every way).

Below, Scotto sings ‘Il dolce suono’. Try to follow her example!




LA BOHÈME



History was made with La Bohème from the Met in 1977 (DG 0734025): it was the very first direct transmission from the New York opera house on TV. The production was in the hands of Pier Luigi Pizzi, who at that time was not yet obsessed with excessive ballets and the colour red.

Although I was never a big fan of Pavarotti, I cannot deny that he produces a fresh sound here and that his high notes stand like a house. Acting was never his cup of tea, but here he does his best.

It becomes really exciting when Mimì enters: in 1977, Renata Scotto was at her unprecedented peak. She spins the most beautiful pianissimi and her legato and mezza voce are so beautiful they make you want to cry. The rest of the cast is no more than adequate, but the young James Levine conducts as if his life depended on it!

Scotto sings ‘Si mi chiamano Mimì’:



Musetta was not really a role with which we associate Scotto. Neither did she herself, but she accepted the challenge with both hands. In the Zefirelli Met production of 1982, she sang a Musetta to die for. Alongside the very moving José Carreras and Teresa Stratas, she was the undisputed star of this recording (DG 073 4539 9).

Scotto as Musetta:



LUISA MILLER



In 1979, Renata Scotto sang her first Luisa at the Metropolitan Opera and she did so with her usual devotion. But before she could start her first big aria, a ‘joker’ caused a scandal by shouting ‘brava Maria Callas’ at the top of his lungs.

Sherrill Milnes, here in the guise of Luisa’s father, took the emotional Scotto in his arms and so saved her concentration. And the performance. And the day.

All this was broadcast live on TV and thus it ended up on the pirate videos in circulation. I had been cherishing mine for years, and now the performance has been released on DVD by Deutsche Grammophon, with the necessary cuts, including that famous incident. A pity, but after all it is not about the incidents but about the opera and the performance. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



In the video below, the main actors (Scotto, Domingo, Milnes and Levine) discuss Verdi’s opera and the 1979 production:




ANDREA CHENIÉR



My favourite CD recording was recorded by RCA (GD 82046) in 1976. The cast is delightful: Renata Scotto sings Maddalena, Plácido Domingo Cheniér, Sherrill Milnes is Gérard, and in the minor roles we hear Jean Kraft, Maria Ewing, Michel Sénéchal and Gwendolyn Killebrew, among others. James Levine, who conducts the National Philharmonic Orchestra, understands exactly what the opera is about. It is so beautiful that it will make you cry.

Scotto sings ‘La Mamma morta’:




MANON LESCAUUT



Here I can be very brief: buy the Menotti production with Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo from the Metropolitan Opera (1980) and you are set for life. There is no other production that even comes close to it and I don’t expect that to happen any time soon. Scotto sings and acts Manon as no other has done before and together with Domingo she provides us with an evening of old-fashioned weeping. Menotti’s very realistic, true to life and oh so exciting production simply could not be any better. (DG 0734241)



IL TRITTICO



In November 1981, Scotto sang all three heroines at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, with Levine conducting. Once a pirate released it in its entirety and it was briefly on YouTune. Too briefly, unfortunately. It is possible, however, to find fragments of all three.

Il Tabarro



Suor Angelica:



Gianni Schicchi:


On CD, the recording under Maazel from 1977 is my first choice. Certainly because of Scotto’s Angelica, nobody comes close to that. Add to that Marylin Horne as her evil aunt and the young Cotrubas as the quick-witted sister Genovieffa. In Il Tabarro, too, it is Scotto who demands all the attention as Giorgetta, helped along by a very macho Domingo and Ingvar Wixell in one of his best roles.

https://open.spotify.com/album/4ZNfRJekmwwYCYf1kN7Yim?si=KMGmDc0xRf2pTxTWrbAp4A


LA GIOCONDA



But don’t forget La Gioconda from San Francisco 1979! For her interpretation of the role, Scotto received an Emmy award. It also meant a violent quarrel with Luciano Pavarotti, whom she did not even mention by name in her autobiography “More than a diva”. He became “A certain tenor”.


FRANCESCA DA RIMINI



And no one should miss Francesca da Rimini by Zandonai from the MET:








Giuseppe Sinopoli in memoriam

On 20 April 2001 Giuseppe Sinopoli died of a heart attack while conducting Aida in Berlin. He had just started the third act when he lost consciousness……
Sinopoli was 54 years old.


ATTILA



There are those performances where everything is just in perfect harmony and you get the feeling that it could not be any better. People keep talking about them and they become legends.

Verdi’s Attila was such a performance, at the Vienna State Opera on 21 December 1980. It was Giuseppe Sinopoli’s debut in the house, his name was still virtually unknown, but the initial reluctance of the audience turned into frenzied enthusiasm from the very first bars. Verdi’s score – not the strongest – has never been heard before with such warmth, fervour and tenderness.

Nicolai Ghiaurov was a great Attila. With his sonorous bass, he gave the character not only the allure of a general but also the gentleness of a loving man.

In her role as Odabella, Mara Zampieri proved that she is not only a fantastic singer with a radiant height and a dramatic attack, but also a great actress.



The stretta ‘E gettata la mia sorte’ in the second act requires the baritone to sing the high b flat. Piero Cappuccilli hit it with ease and suppleness, and then was forced to encore by the frenzied audience, something one seldom experiences in opera. A rare occurrence.




TANNHÄUSER



I have never been a ‘Wagnerian’. I could never muster the patience to sit through hours of his operas. I found them bombastic. Pathetic. And even though I had to admit that there were some beautiful melodies, I felt that I really needed a pair of scissors and radically shorten them

That this feeling has totally changed, I owe to Domingo. In my collector’s mania (I had to have everything he had done), I bought the recently released Tannhäuser (DG 4276252) in 1989. And then it happened: I became addicted.

At first, it was mainly Domingo who was to ‘blame’, whose deeply human interpretation of the title role gave me the goose bumps. His words:  “Wie sagst du, Wofram? Bist du denn nicht mein Feind?” (sung with emphasis on ‘mein’ and ‘Feind’ and with a childish question mark at the end of the phrase) caused me to burst into tears.

Later, I learned to appreciate the music for itself and to this day, Tannhäuser is not only a very beloved Wagner opera, but also one of my absolute favourites.

I still consider this recording, conducted very sensually by Giueseppe Sinopoli, to be one of the best ever. Also because all the roles (Cheryl Studer as Elisabeth and Agnes Baltsa as Venus, such wealth!) are excellently cast. At the time, in the eighties and early nineties, this was not necessarily a given.



DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER




This CD recording from 1998 (DG 4377782) is particularly dear to me. First of all because of Cheryl Studer, at the time probably the most beautiful Senta one could imagine. Her wonderfully lyrical soprano with its easy and sensual height seemed made for the role.

The Holländer is sung here by Bernd Weikl. Not really the youngest anymore and you can really tell, but still very suitable for the role. Peter Seiffert is a splendid Steuerman, and in the role of Erik we hear none other than Plácido Domingo, a luxury!

But best of all is the orchestra: under the truly inspired leadership of Giuseppe Sinopoli, the Orchester der Deutsche Oper Berlin performs in a really magnificent way.




SALOME



I realise that many of you will not agree with me, but for me Cheryl Studer is the very best Salome of the last fifty years. At least on CD, because she has never sung the complete role on stage (DG 4318102). Like few others, she knows how to portray the complex character of Salome’s psyche. Just listen to her question ‘Von wer spricht er?’ after which she realises that the prophet is talking about her mother and then she sings in a surprised, childishly naive way: ‘Er spricht von meiner Mutter’. Masterly.

Bryn Terfel is a very virile young Jochanaan (it was, I think, the first time he sang the role), but most beautiful of all is Giuseppe Sinopoli’s very sensual, wide- sounding conducting.

Parsifal. A selective mini discography

Arthur Hacker: The Temptation of Sir Percival


I don’t think ‘Parsifal’ is the most difficult Wagner opera to sing, at least not for the tenor. All right, the ages-long duet between Kundry and the title hero requires an enormous stamina, but try to compare it to a Siegfried or a Tristan!

It is a tough job for a director, because how do you deal with all the very heavy symbolism that almost makes the work collapse? Do you strip it down to the bare bones to avoid all sentimentality, or do you go for the opposite and create the utmost in drama ?



DVD’s

Stephen Langridge



Amfortas being admitted to the ICU of a hospital, hooked up to all sorts of tubes and infusions, it really doesn’t surprise me. A bald Kundry? Yawn. I’ve seen that so many times. That her hair grows as the opera progresses? Apparently miracles are still part of this world. That there are women walking around, while we are dealing with a very strict “men only” sect … oh well.

Everything you see in this Parsifal, recorded in London in 2013, has absolutely nothing to do with the libretto. But that’s nothing new by now.
Stephen Langridge strips the story of all its Christian symbolism and brings it down to the ordinary world of ordinary mortals, he says. He himself talks about ‘humanising’ it. One thing he must explain to me: whatever is the young man in a loincloth, who has taken the place of the Holy Grail, doing there?

Innovative theatre? Very well. But Parsifal? No. Turning off the image is not very helpful in this case: none of the singers really appeal to me. Gerald Finley is a fine actor, but he is not Amfortas. There is something missing in his singing; it sounds as if he wants to make it sound as beautiful as possible. But it is not inconceivable that the direction is getting in his way. Anyway, without images, nothing at all is left of the role.

Willard White (Klingsor) lacks the necessary villainy and whoever had the unfortunate idea of casting Angela Denoke as Kundry! (and even worse: as the “voice from above”) …..Even René Pape’s sound is monochromous, as if he is playing his role mechanically.

And Parsifal (Simon O’Neill)? Oh well. He does the  best he can. A pressing question: does anyone actually know why singers always have to move like they are suffering from severe spasms these days?

But the orchestra of the ROH, under Antonio Pappano, is playing in a nothing less than divine way, surely an important plus! (Opus Arte OA 1158)



Nikolas Lehnhoff


Lehnhoff, a director I greatly admire and who I count as one of the best contemporary Wagner directors, has turned the story around. In his vision, the Grail Knights are not fighting against destructive forces, no, they themselves are the destructive force.

Once founded with the best of intentions to bring people closer together, time had caused them to lose all their humanity and to become a kind of sect, ossified and rusty in their old habits. It seems inevitable that they are all doomed to die with Amfortas; if they are to survive, they must go with Parsifal, and with Kundry, through the tunnel, into a new future. It is an open ending, different from what Wagner would have wanted, but very logical and explainable, and as such more than acceptable.

The cast is excellent. Christopher Ventris is a very convincing Parsifal. Waltraud Meier is a one of a kind Kundry and Thomas Hampson is very moving as a tormented Amfortas. Matti Salminen (Gurnemanz) and Tom Fox (Klingsor) are also brilliant.

The costumes are splendid and the choreography (the dancing flower girls and the seduction scene in particular) is very fine. The very sensually playing Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin is conducted by Kent Nagano. This splendid production was originally made for the ENO in London, after which it was performed in San Francisco and Chicago. From Chicago it was then brought to Baden Baden, where it was filmed in 2005 (Opus Arte OA 0915 D).



CDs

Jaap van Zweden


Operas by Wagner, conducted by Jaap van Zweden on the ZaterdagMatinee, it has become a household name. After the performances of Lohengrin and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which were received with great acclaim, it was a foregone conclusion that Parsifal also would prove to be a veritable feast.

We were not disappointed, because what happened that afternoon, 11 December 2010, in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw was nothing less than a brilliant. Fortunately, the opera was recorded live and it has been released (Challenge Classics CC72519). The beautifully designed, compact box contains, besides 4 SACDs, a DVD with images of the highlights of the opera and an extensive booklet with explanatory notes, synopsis and libretto.

It is perhaps not the best Parsifal ever: in my opinion, van Zweden begins a little too cautiously and soberly, but along the way it just keeps getting better and better.  Klaus Florian Vogt is a light Parsifal, just as I imagine a foolish young man to be, and Katarina Dalayman a more than convincing, seductive Kundry. Falk Struckman’s Amfortas sounds very tormented, but the palm of honour goes to Robert Holl’s Gurnemanz.

Here is the first act:

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/album/7srhSMWclQuK2bz5XgbwgC?si=tc9VMaluThyf5rK6DjAJqw



Marek Janowski


Janowski is a very experienced Wagner conductor. His Ring, which he recorded for RCA in the 1980s, is rock solid. In 2010, he and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin embarked on a cycle of 10 Wagner operas, all of which will be recorded live by the Dutch label PentaTone Classics.

I really like the Parsifal (PTC 5185 401 ) recorded in April 2011, albeit with a few side notes. Elke Wilm Schulte (Klingsor) sounds nice and mean and the truly fantastic Franz Josef Selig sings a very impressive, but at times also moving Gurnemanz.

Michelle deYoung (Kundry) is a matter of taste. Personally, in this role I prefer a fuller sound with better height, less breast tones and a little less vibrato, but she still manages to convince me. So too the tormented Amfortas by the then very young Russian baritone, Evgeni Nikitin.
I must admit that I find it hard to like the interpreter of the title role, Christian Elsner. He reminds me a little of the Wagner tenors of the past, one of the reasons why I was so late to Wagner. I find his voice sharp, moreover he tends to shout and I don’t care for that.

I don’t have an SACD, but even with an ordinary CD player, the sound enters your room in a truly grandiose way. As if you are surrounded by it, very natural and with beautiful dynamics.



Christian Thieleman


Christian Thielemann is said to be a worthy successor to Furtwängler, and that may certainly be true. He does not hide his love of the great German composers, and his interpretations of them are rightly praised.

He also shares his capriciousness and wilfulness with his illustrious predecessor, so his interpretations are often controversial. I like that, because it forces the listener to listen attentively. I like his Wagner interpretations best, they are often exuberant and elaborate.
In that respect, he did not disappoint me with the Parsifal (DG 4776006), recorded live in Vienna ten years ago. He emphasises the human aspect of the work rather than its mysticism, and the truly brilliant orchestra closely follows suit.

It was Domingo’s last Parsifal, a role he had (rightly) dropped, and although he has audibly aged, he still manages to convince completely. This also applies to Waltraud Meier’s Kundry.

Franz-Josef Selig is a fantastic Gurnemanz, his warm bass with the beautiful legato seems made for the long monologues, and Falk Struckmann plays a magnificent Amfortas.



Tony Palmer


In 1998 Tony Palmer made a fascinating film entitled Parsifal – The Search for the Grail (Arthaus 100610). Domingo is the host and tells not only about the work itself, but also about the history of the Holy Grail. It is a very fascinating and enjoyable quest, illustrated by excerpts from Indiana Jones and Monty Python, amongst others. And with the performance of the opera at the Mariinski Theatre, with, alongside Domingo, Violeta Urmana as Kundry and Matti Salminen as Gurnemanz.



Wagner and Stephen Fry



A small detour. Any film and theatre lover knows Stephen Fry of course, one of the greatest English actors of the last decades. But Fry is more than that. By talking very openly about his homosexuality and his psychological problems (he suffers from manic-depressive disorder, about which he has made a film, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive), he has made himself extremely vulnerable.

He is also a huge Wagner fan, something that has reinforced his “bipolarity”: Fry is Jewish and the majority of his family were murdered in the Holocaust. He also made a film about this, Wagner & Me (1102DC).


The documentary has won awards at various festivals. Quite rightly so, because the result is not only enormously fascinating because of the internal conflict, which a Jewish Wagner lover has to fight within himself, but also shows us the images that an ordinary “mortal” never gets to see: even if you’d ever manage to get tickets to Bayreuth – you would never ever find yourself behind the stage.


Trailer:



I am Nino Machaidze!

© Wilson-Santinelli. Courtesy Zemsky/Green Artists Management

We love to make comparisons. And not in an unpretentious way! Every aspiring football talent is called the next Johan Cruijff and a somewhat deserving soprano quickly becomes a future Maria Callas. Fortunately, this lady is spared that comparison, but even 31-year-old Nino Machaidze is not allowed to be just Nino.

“People always say that I am a new Anna Netrebko. I am not. Anna is a fantastic singer and I admire her and her voice very much, but I am not her! I am Nino Machaidze. And I keep repeating it endlessly: I am Nino Machaidze!”



Her extraordinarily beautiful appearance, with her toned body and sensual mouth, has also earned her the nickname ‘Angelina Jolie of opera’. It makes her laugh heartily. “It is of course a great compliment, because Angelina Jolie is a very attractive woman. So: thank you!”

She is fully aware that her appearance plays a not insignificant role in her career, because a beautiful voice alone doesn’t get you anywhere these days.

GEORGIA

Nino Machaidze, born in 1983 in Tbilisi, is a proud Georgian.
“My mother was a great opera lover. I remember that even in the bad times, when there were problems with the electricity or when there was not enough food, we always went to the theatre. And it was always filled!”

“For as long as I can remember I have been singing. I think I was eight years old when I started singing arias. Unlike what is common in the West, in Georgia it is natural for children to start taking singing lessons at a very early age. It is something I really agree with.”

“I was eight when I started taking singing lessons in the Tbilisi music school. When I was seventeen, I started my studies at the conservatoire. I did my training in Georgia and my technique is also Georgian. My debut, at seventeen (Norina in Don Pasquale), was in Tbilisi. Even now, as I am travelling around the world, my whole singing basis is and remains Georgian. So: yes, you can say that everything in and for me remains linked to Georgia.”

She was 21 when she was accepted into the program for young singers at La Scala. After winning the Leyla Gencer Vocal Competition in 2006, she was offered the lead role in La fille du régiment.

Below, Nino Machaidze and Antonio Gandia in La Fille du Regiment:



JULIETTE

Her career went off like a rocket when she unexpectedly had to take over the role of Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette in Salzburg from the pregnant Netrebko.

“I was at La Scala when the offer came. I sang Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi by Puccini and suddenly there was a lot of buzz: they wanted me in Salzburg. The funny thing is: I didn’t know anything about it, I was not even aware that this decision had been made. I was taken by surprise, because I did not know the role and I did not speak French. I had to learn everything in one month and my very first step was to find a French teacher”.

Below Machaidze as Juliette in Salzburg:



Nino Machaidze, only a few years ago one of the most promising young sopranos, has now grown into a real diva. Juliette, a role that made her the talk of the town overnight, has become her flagship. After her amazing debut in Salzburg, she also sang the role in Amsterdam at the ZaterdagMatinee as a last-minute replacement for Patrizia Ciofi.

After the performance I wrote:
“That cancellations do not always spell disaster was proven on 8 November 2008 during the performance of Romeo & Juliette by Gounod. After the cancellations of first Patrizia Ciofi and then Matthew Polenzano, the casting director managed to engage two fantastic replacements at very short notice: Nino Machaidze, who has already sung the role of Juliette in Salzburg (as Netrebko’s replacement), and Sébastien Guéze. Their infatuation splashed off the stage, and, since not only the two lead actors but also the rest of the cast were very young (and very good), the performance was very realistic; it was like a bunch of excited teenagers.”.

LUCIA


In 2009, Machaidze sang an unequalled Lucia di Lammermoor in Brussels, a performance that, to my great regret, has never been released on DVD. Guy Joosten’s direction was very innovative and yet anchored in tradition. He created a world in which nobody loves anybody, and in which Lucia is not only the victim, but also the instigator.

In his view she was an adolescent; a horror stories loving ‘gothic girl’,  who has a screw loose even before she goes mad for “real”. The madness scene itself was breathtaking: accompanied by the delicate sounds of the glass harmonica, Lucia rubbed her fingers over a glass that stood on the party table, creating the illusion that the sound was coming from under her hands. Nino Machaidze was a formidable Lucia: a hysterical teenager who, with a sardonic smile on her face, sang the most perfect ‘Regnava nel silenzio’.



How does Machaidze like to prepare for her performances? Beforehand, she talks as little as possible. In fact, she only talks to her husband (baritone Guido Loconsolo) or her father, who accompanies her on her trips as often as possible. “My father is really the best father in the whole world! He can’t always be with us – he still lives in Georgia – but when we are in Europe, he comes and stays with us. He and my little boy are the best of friends!”

When it comes to food, too, the soprano has her preferences, she recently confided to German magazine Concerti. “Before a performance I like to eat pasta. Preferably with olive oil and parmesan. It is good for my stomach and it gives me a lot of energy. Sometimes I take some extra vitamin C. And I never sing without a proper warming-up. I always have to be in the theatre at least two hours before the performance,  I take enough time to vocalize and so to warm up my voice in the best way. I also try to have as much rest as possible two or three days before a performance and not to do parallel productions. It is too dangerous to travel back and forth between rehearsals and performances.

Machaidze is never nervous, she said in the same interview. “There is no point in being nervous. It brings only trouble when you start worrying about everything that could go wrong. But I think that also has to do with your personal disposition. You’re like this or that…”

What does sometimes bother Machaidze is the eternal travelling that is inextricably linked to life as an opera singer. But singing brings her so much happiness that she can live with the discomfort.
“Now that I am a mother, my happiness has only increased. Being a mum is the best thing there is! And it’s not so bad to combine motherhood and a career, at least, for me. There is nothing better than being able to sing and then go back home and cuddle your baby. That feeling is indescribable.”


In 2011, at 27, she signed an exclusive contract with Sony, which – so far – has resulted in two solo albums: “Romantic Arias” with mainly Donizetti and Bellini, recorded with the orchestra and choir of the Teatro Communale di Bologna, led by the young conductor Michele Mariotti and “Arias et Scenes”, in which she already took a tentative step towards Puccini and Verdi. On the second CD, conducted by Daniele Gatti, she was assisted by the young Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan (Rodolfo in the Amsterdam La Bohème).


https://open.spotify.com/album/3uPEWmwVXV10VYIcrj6L0A?si=Ko6DWBSYQziAEfWpuYIu5Q

SOCIAL MEDIA

Here is my gorgeous dress 💖 I feel pretty, super cool and I’m in love


Machaidze is very active on Facebook, where she shares many photos of herself and her two great ‘amores’ – her husband and her two-year-old son – with her fans. All this is accompanied by lots of hearts and kisses.


Yes, Nino Machaidze is very amiable! And she is very fond of Amsterdam. “It’s a great city. When I was here recently, I had a fantastic time. It makes me really happy that I can be here again and that I am going to perform in this wonderful opera, in your beautiful opera house. The audience here is also so warm! Can’t wait!”

Renata Scotto: kort overzicht van de vele rollen die zij vervulde.

Renata Scotto, ‘la mia Divina Assoluta’ werd geboren op 24 februari 1934 in Savona. Haar operadebuut maakte zij op haar achttiende als Violetta (La Traviata). Haar  ‘officiële’ debuut was de volgende dag in in Milaan. Kort daarna zong zij in Savona Madama Butterfly.

Omdat er geen kans bestond om haar in Nederland te horen ben ik met een paar vrienden die ook fan waren naar Parijs gereisd, waar ze een recital gaf. Het was uitverkocht en ik herinner mij eigenlijk alleen maar de enorme rij voor haar kleedkamer: men wilde haar handtekening, men kwam met bloemen, bonbons, cadeaus…. Zoiets had ik in Nederlend nooit eerder gezien.


Maar er kwam een dag dat zij ook in Amsterdam mocht zingen! Op 19 oktober 1996 trad ze voor het eerst sinds 1963 in Nederland op. Tijdens de Amsterdamse ZaterdagMatinee zong zij voor de pauze Ravel (Pavane pour une infante défunte) en Chausson (Poème de l’amour et la mer) en na de pauze Poulencs La voix humaine. Zij heeft er een echte voorstelling van gemaakt: er was een tafel met de telefoon er op, en met de telefoonsnoer heeft ze zich aan het eind gewurgd. Wie er bij was zal het ooit vergeten.

Gedurende haar lange carrière trad Scotto op in opera’s geschreven door 18 componisten en haar repertoire omvatte zo’n vijfenveertig rollen. En daar komen nog studio-opnamen er bij. Ik kan onmogelijk alles bespreken vandaar dat ik mij maar tot een paar opnamen beperk. Wellicht kom ik er nog op terug?
De volgorde is willekeurig

LA WALLY

In 1953 deed zij auditie in La Scala voor de rol van Walter in Catalani’s La Wally met o.a. Renata Tebaldi en Mario del Monaco. Giulini zou dirigeren. Er wordt verteld dat hierna Victor de Sabata, één van de juryleden, zou zeggen: ” “Forget about the rest.”

La Wally ging in première op 7 december 1953, en Scotto werd teruggeroepen door vijftien keer het doek op te halen. Tebaldi en del Monaco kregen er elk zeven.

LA SONNAMBULA

In Edinburgh heeft de Milanese La Scala Luchino Visconti’s productie van La sonnambula opgevoerd, met Maria Callas als Amina. De productie was zo succesvol geweest dat La Scala had besloten nog een voorstelling toe te voegen. Maar Callas was moe, bovendien wilde zij graag naar het feest dat Elsa Maxwell voor haar gaf in Venetië. Dus vertelde zij de Scala-mensen dat ze de extra voorstelling beslist niet zal zingen voor de extra voorstelling. Desondanks heeft La Scala de extra voorstelling met Callas aangekondigd. Callas weigerde. Met een opzegtermijn van twee dagen, nam Scotto de rol van Amina over en verving haar op 3 september 1957. De voorstelling was een groot succes, en de 23-jarige Scotto werd een internationale operaster.

Deze opname met Alfredo Kraus is uit 1961

RIGOLETTO

Mijn grootste favoriet aller tijden is een Ricordi opname uit 1960 (tegenwoordig Sony 74321 68779 2), met Ettore Bastianini in de hoofdrol. Renata Scotto zingt een meisjesachtig naïeve Gilda, die uit liefde voor de verkeerde man omgetoverd wordt in een volwassen vrouw. Als geen ander snapt ze, dat het hele gedoe met wraak nergens toe kan leiden en offert zichzelf op, om al dat bloedvergieten en haat te stoppen.

Bastianini en Scotto in de finale:

LA TRAVIATA

Renata Scotto heeft (of moet ik zeggen: had?) iets wat weinig andere zangeressen bezaten: een perfecte techniek die haar in staat stelde om met coloraturen te strooien alsof het niets was. Haar hoge noten klonken weliswaar een beetje staalachtig maar waren ontegenzeggelijk loepzuiver. Zij bezat de gave om met haar stem (en niet alleen maar met haar stem!) te acteren, en door haar perfecte articulatie kon je niet alleen letterlijk volgen wat ze zingt, maar het ook begrijpen.

Haar wellicht mooiste (er bestaan meerdere opnames met haar) Violetta nam ze in 1963 op (DG 4350562), onder de zeer spannende leiding van Antonino Votto. Alfredo wordt er gezongen door de zoetgevooisde Gianni Raimondi, en Ettore Bastianini is een warme, inderdaad vaderlijke, Giorgio Germont.

En denk maar niet dat de voorstellingen vroeger, toen alles nog volgens het boekje gebeurde, statisch en saai waren! In 1973 was La Scala op tournee in Japan, en daar, in Tokyo, werd een legendarische voorstelling van La Traviata opgenomen (VAI 4434).

De hoofdrollen werden vertolkt door de toen nog ‘volslanke’ Scotto en de 27-jarige (!) José Carreras. DVD vermeldt geen naam van de regisseur, wellicht was er ook geen, en de zangers (en de dirigent) hebben het allemaal zelf gedaan? Hoe dan ook, het resultaat is werkelijk prachtig, ontroerend en to the point. Ik ga er verder niets meer over vertellen, want deze opname is een absolute must voor iedere operaliefhebber.

Finale van de opera:

L’ELISIR D’AMORE

De dvd met Renata Scotto, Carlo Bergonzi en Giuseppe Taddei (Hardy Classic Video HCD 4014) wil ik speciaal de jongere generatie aanbevelen. Het zijn niet alleen de prachtige stemmen van weleer die imponeren (Scotto, Bergonzi, Taddei – wie zingt ze dit nog na?), het oog krijgt ook het een en ander om te genieten.

Denk maar niet dat ze het toneel opkomen, hun aria met het gezicht naar het publiek zingen en buigen, want dan komt u bedrogen uit. Het is theater pur sang en een beter acterende zangeres dan Scotto moet nog geboren worden.

Renata Scotto zingt ‘Prendi, per me sei libero’:

TURANDOT



Hier kan ik heel erg kort over zijn: betere Liu bestaat niet. Renata Scotto is een zeer broze en ontroerende Liu wat in een schitterent contrast staat met de zee macho en verleidelijke Calaf van Corelli en ijzingwekkende Turandot van Birgit Nilsson

MADAMA BUTTERFLY


Voor mij een absolute ‘numero uno’ is de in 1966 bij EMI (tegenwoordig Warner 0190295735913) verschenen opname onder Sir John Barbirolli. Je kan je een lyrischer of juist een meer dramatische Cio Cio San indenken; eentje met minder metaal in haar stem of eentje met kinderlijker stem. Maar geen andere zangeres wist zo het complexe wezen van het meisje te doorgronden en haar verandering van een naïef kind in een volwassen, door immens verdriet gebroken vrouw zo te karakteriseren

LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR

Renata Scotto heeft de rol nooit in de studio vastgelegd. Er zijn wel verschillende piratenopnames met haar in omloop, met als Edgardo onder anderen Luciano Pavaratti, Alfredo Kraus, Carlo Bergonzi en Gianni Raimondi.

Van die vier is de opname met Raimondi me het dierbaarst, niet in de laatste plaats vanwege de zeer energieke en dramatisch evenwichtige directie van Claudio Abbado. Het werd opgenomen in La Scala in december 1967 en is ooit op Nuova Era (013.6320/21) verschenen. Helaas is die opname zeer moeilijk verkrijgbaar, maar wie zoekt….

Scotto’s interpretatie van de gekwelde heldin is wel op dvd beschikbaar (VAI 4418). De productie is in 1967 in Tokio opgenomen. Het circuleerde jarenlang op piratenvideo, maar aangezien de geluids- en beeldkwaliteit bijzonder matig was, zijn er met de commerciële uitgave heel veel operaliefhebbers bijzonder blij gemaakt. Het geluid is een beetje scherp, waardoor Scotto’s hoge noten nog metaliger klinken dan normaal, maar: who cares?

Haar interpretatie is zowel zangtechnisch als scenisch van een ongekend hoog niveau. Met een kinderlijk verbaasde uitdrukking (mijn broer doet het mij aan?) op haar gezicht stemt ze in, al is het niet zonder morren, met het gedwongen huwelijk met Arturo (een in alle opzichten afgrijselijke Angelo Marchiandi).

Hieronder Scotto zingt ‘Il dolce suono’. Doe het haar na!

LA BOHÈME

Met La Bohème uit de Met 1977 (DG 0734025) werd er geschiedenis geschreven: het was de allereerste rechtstreekse transmissie uit het Newyorkse operahuis op TV. De productie was in handen van Pier Luigi Pizzi, die toen nog niet geobsedeerd was door overmaat aan ballet en de kleur rood.

Hoewel ik nooit een groot fan van Pavarotti was, kan ik niet ontkennen dat hij hier een fris geluid produceert en dat zijn hoge noten staan als een huis. Acteren was nooit zijn ‘cup of tea’, maar hier doet hij zijn best.

Echt spannend wordt het bij de binnenkomst van Mimì: in 1977 was Renata Scotto op haar ongekende hoogtepunt. Zij spint de mooiste pianissimi en haar legato en mezza voce zijn om te huilen zo mooi. De rest van de cast is niet meer dan adequaat, maar de jonge James Levine dirigeert alsof zijn leven ervan afhangt!

Scotto zingt ‘Si mi chiamano Mimì’



Musetta was niet echt een rol waar we Scotto mee associëren. Zij zelf eigenlijk ook niet, maar ze nam de uitdaging met beide handen aan. In de Zefirelli Met-productie uit 1982 zong zij een Musetta uit duizenden. Naast de zeer ontroerende José Carreras en Teresa Stratas was zij de onbetwiste ster van deze opname (DG 073 4539 9)

Scotto als Musetta:

LUISA MILLER


In 1979 zong Renata Scotto bij de Metropolitan Opera haar eerste Luisa en ze deed dat met de voor haar gebruikelijke toewijding. Maar voordat ze aan haar eerste grote aria kon beginnen, zorgde een ‘grapjas’ voor een schandaal door keihard ‘brava Maria Callas’ te roepen.

Sherrill Milnes, hier in de gedaante van Luisa’s vader, nam de door emoties bevangen Scotto in zijn armen en redde zo haar concentratie. En de voorstelling

Dat alles was live op tv uitgezonden en zo kwam het op de in omloop zijnde piratenvideo’s terecht. De mijne koesterde ik al jaren, en inmiddels is de voorstelling door Deutsche Grammophon op dvd uitgebracht, met de nodige cuts, waaronder dat beroemde incident. Jammer, maar het gaat tenslotte niet om de incidenten maar om de opera en de uitvoering. En daar is dus helemaal niets mis mee.

In het filmpje hieronder bespreken de hoofdrolspelers (Scotto, Domingo, Milnes en Levine) de opera van Verdi en de productie van 1979:

ANDREA CHENIÉR

Mijn dierbaarste cd-opname is in 1976 door RCA (GD 82046) vastgelegd. De cast is om te likkebaarden: Renata Scotto zingt Maddalena, Sherrill Milnes is Gérard en in de kleine rollen horen we o.a. Jean Kraft, Maria Ewing, Michel Sénéchal en Gwendolyn Killebrew. James Levine, die het National Philharmonic Orchestra dirigeert, snapt precies waar het in de opera over gaat. Om te huilen zo mooi.

Scotto zingt ‘La Mamma morta’:

MANON LESCAUT



Hier kan ik heel kort zijn: schaf de Menotti productie met Renata Scotto en Plácido Domingo uit de Metropolitan Opera (1980) aan en dan bent u voor uw verdere leven klaar. Er bestaat geen andere productie die daar zelfs in de buurt kan komen en ik verwacht niet dat het binnenkort gaat gebeuren. Scotto zingt en acteert Manon zoals geen ander eerder heeft gedaan en met Domingo samen zorgt zij voor een avondje ouderwets janken. De zeer realistische, natuurgetrouwe en o zo spannende productie van Menotti kan gewoon niet mooier. (DG 0734241)

IL TRITTICO

In november 1981 heeft Scotto alle drie de heldinnen gezongen in de Metroolitam Opera in New York, Levine dirigeerde. Ooit heeft een piraat het in zijn geheel uitgebracht en het stond kortstondig op YouTune. Helaas. Wel kunnen we fragmenten van alle drie vinden..

Il Tabarro

Suor Angelica:

Gianni Schicchi:

Op cd is de opname onder Maazel uit 1977mijn eerste keus. Zeker vanwege Angelica van Scotto, daar komt gewoon niemand bij in de buurt. Tel daarbij Marylin Horne als haar kwaadaardige tante en de jonge Cotrubas als de spring in het veld zuster Genovieffa. Ook in Il Tabarro is het Scotto die alle aandacht opeist als Giorgetta, daarbij goed geholpen door de zeer macho Domingo en Ingvar Wixell in één van zijn beste rollen..

LA GIOCONDA

Maar vergeet ook La Gioconda uit San Francisco 1979 niet! Voor haar interpretatie van de=ie rol heeft Scotto Emmy award gekregen. Het betekende ook een heftige ruzie met Luciano Pavarotti, die zij in haar autobiografie “More then a diva” niet eens bij de naam noemde. Hij werd “A certain tenor”. Het kwam allemaal goed.

FRANCESCA DA RIMINI

Wat niemand ook mag missen is Francesca da Rimini van Zandonai uit de MET