Liefde voor je geboorteland is voor veel componisten een inspiratiebron geweest. Zo ook voor Manuel de Falla. De Spaanse folklore diende als basis voor zijn meeste werken, en al is de invloed van Debussy, Ravel en voornamelijk Dukas bespeurbaar, de Falla heeft zijn eigen stijl ontwikkeld en daar een stempel op gezet. Onmisbaar Spaans dus, maar ook onmisbaar de Falla!
Het humoristische libretto van El sombrero de tres picos is ontleend aan de gelijknamige novelle van Pedro Antonio de Alarcón. Het verhaal, over een mooie molenaarsvrouw en een naar haar gunsten smachtende ambtenaar, was oorspronkelijk bedoeld als een opera, maar een ontmoeting van de Falla met Diaghilev resulteerde in een ballet. Het is de folklore uit Andalusië, waaruit de Falla rijkelijk citeert, en de kern van het ballet wordt gevormd door een aaneenschakeling van dansen zoals de fandango, de seguidilla en jota.
Ook de Noches en los jardines de España getuigen van liefde voor Andalusië. Vaak onterecht als een piano concert genoemd – de pianopartij dient hier meer voor de coloristische accenten – klinkt het als een eerbetoon voor de betoverende tuinen in Granada.
Noch Domingo, noch Barenboim zijn een vreemde keuze voor het uitvoeren van de Falla’s muziek: beiden zijn van kinds af vertrouwd met het Spaanse idioom. Dat Domingo de musici als zanger benadert, is duidelijk te horen in het transparante geluid van het orkest en Jennifer Larmore zet een vurige Spaanse neer.
Noches en los jardines de España; El sombrero de tres picosChicago Symphony Orchestra olv Plácido Domingo en Daniel Barenboim Daniel Barenboim piano, Jennifer Larmore mezzosopraan
From 1960 on, all operas performed at Glyndebourne were recorded live. The more-than-valuable archive began to be polished off and transferred to CDs in 2008.
It was no coincidence that it was precisely Figaro’s Wedding that inaugurated the new series: after all, that opera gave the go-ahead to the new festival in 1934, which is now among the most prestigious in the whole world.
Gabriel Bacquier does not immediately associate you with Almaviva, and the Contessa is not the role you think of in connection with Leyla Gencer, but they both sing beautifully, with a great sense of nuance. The rest of the cast is also fantastic, headed by Mirella Freni (Susanna), then still at the beginning of her career, and the very young Edith Mathis as the ideal soprano-Cherubino. (GFOCD 001-62))
Elisir d’Amore Glyndebourne 1962
Adina marked Mirella Freni’s international breakthrough. Understandable, when you hear how beautifully she gives shape to the role: charmingly and wittily she lets her beautiful lyrical young girl soprano blossom and her height is radiant.
Luigi Alva’s velvety timbre and perfect coloratura technique made him a Mozart and Rossini tenor who was much in demand at the time, and Donizetti also fits him like a glove. His ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ may sound slightly less sweet-voiced than Tagliavini’s or Schipa’s, but his interpretation of the character of Nemorino is formidable.
Sesto Bruscantini is easily one of the best Dulcamaras in history and Enzo Sordello a very masculine Belcore.
Mirella Freni made her debut as Mimì at the Metropolitan Opera in September 1965. Her Rodolfo was another debutant: the (how unfair!) nowadays almost completely forgotten Italian tenor Gianni Raimondi. For me, he is preferable to Pavarotti. I find his voice more pleasant and elegant. And he could act!
Freni’s and Raimondi’s renditions were captured on a wonderful film, directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Herbert von Karajan. An absolute must (DG 0476709).
“O Soave Fanciulla” with Freni and Raimondi:
Many opera lovers will probably agree on one thing: one of the best Bohèmes ever is the 1973 version recorded by Decca under von Karajan. With Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti.
Rodolfo has always been Pavarotti’s calling card. For years he was considered the best interpreter of the role – his fantastic legato, the smoothness and naturalness with whih he sang the high notes are truly exemplary. Incidentally, as befitted a typical Italian tenor of the time, he sang the end of “O soave fanciulla” at the same height as the soprano. Not prescribed, but it was tradition!
Freni was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Mimi’s in history. Tender and fragile, with her heartbreaking pianissimi and legato arches she managed to move even the greatest cynics to tears.
Von Karajan conducted theatrical and passionate way, with ample attention to the sonic beauty of the score. As the Germans would say “das gab’s nur einmal.”
In 2008 we celebrated not only Puccini’s 150th birthday, but also von Karajan’s 100th. Moreover, it was 35 years since the famed conductor recorded La Bohème: a cause for celebration! And lo and behold – Decca has released the opera in a limited deluxe edition (Decca 4780254). On the bonus CD, Mirella Freni talks, among other things, about her relationship with von Karajan and about singing Puccini roles. It is really fascinating.
SIMON BOCCANEGRA 1977
In 1971, Claudio Abbado conducted a magisterial and now legendary performance of Boccanegra at La Scala. It was directed by Giorgio Strehler and the beautiful sets were designed by Ezio Frigerio. In 1976, the production was shown at the ROH in Covent Garden. Unfortunately, no official (there are ‘pirates’ in circulation) video of it was made, but the full cast did fortunately go into the studio, and thus the ultimate ‘Simone’ was recorded in 1977 (DG 4497522).
Abbado treats the score with such love and such reverence as if it were the greatest masterpiece of all time, and under his hands it really does transform into a masterpiece without parallel. Such tension, and with all those different nuances! It is so, so beautiful, it will make you cry.
The casting, too, is the best ever. Piero Cappuccilli (Simon) and Nicolai Ghiaurov (Fiesco) are evenly matched. Both in their enmity and reconciliation, they are deeply human and always convincing, and in their final duet at the end of the opera, their voices melt together in an almost supernatural symbiosis:
Before that, they had already gone through every range of feeling and mood, from grievous to hurtful, and from loving to hating. Just hear Cappuccilli’s long-held ‘Maria’ at the end of the duet with his supposedly dead and now found daughter (‘Figlia! A tal nome palpito’).
José van Dam is an exquisitely vile Paolo and Mirella Freni and Jose Carreras are an ideal love couple. The young Carreras had a voice that seems just about created for the role of Adorno: lyrical with a touch of anger, underlining Gabriele’s brashness. Freni is more than just a naive girl; even in her love for Adorno, she shows herself to be a flesh-and-blood woman
Gounod’s Faust with Plácido Doming, Mirella Freni and Nicolai Ghiaurov was recorded in 1979 by EMI (now Warner) and it is easily one of the best recordings of the work. The orchestra of the Paris Opera is conducted by Georges Prêtre, one of the best conductors of French repertoire.
The cast is finger-licking gorgeous: Mirella Freni is a fragile and sensual Marguerite and Nicolai Ghiaurov a very impressive Méphistophélès. In the small role of Valentin we hear none other than Thomas Allen.
When she was sixty, Mirella Freni included Fedora in her repertoire and she gave a series of performances in Italy and Spain, finally coming to the Met in 1996. It became an enormous success. No wonder, because La Freni’s voice was extraordinary. I have never before seen her act with such intensity; it is a performance of the highest level.
Ainhoa Arteta is truly delightful as the flirtatious, spirited Olga; her performance provides the necessary comic note. As the Polish pianist, Boleslao Lazinski, the real piano virtuoso appears: Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Not only can he play the piano very well, but throughout his performance he convinces as a real primadonna, it is very entertaining to watch. Domingo also portrays a perfect Loris: tormented and oh so charming!
The staging is conventional, with lavish, larger-than-life sets and real snow behind the stage-sized windows. It is just beautiful (DG 0732329).
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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’:
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.
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!
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:
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:
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’:
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)
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.
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.
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:
Domingo and Belcanto? Surely that was more something for his colleagues Pavarotti, Carreras and Kraus? And yet: certainly at the beginning of his career Domingo was also a Belcanto singer, although his high notes were not always really that high. For him, the interpretation of both the music and the text was essential. That is why even in this repertoire he was looking for the roles in which the character had more to offer than just ‘clean’ singing.
Lucia di Lammermoor
Domingo made his international debut at the age of 21, as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in Dallas. A special event, because his Lucia was then sung by 61-year-old Lilly Pons, who said her farewell to the operatic stage with this role.
In 1970 he sang Edgardo at the Metropolitan Opera, with none other than Joan Sutherland as Lucia. Gala (GL 100.571) released the highlights, combined with excerpts from La Traviata, from December that same year (also with La Stupenda). The sound is very poor, but it is definitely a noteworthy document.
It was only in 1993 that Domingo sang the role in the recording studio. The result is not entirely satisfactory. Which is not his fault. His Edgardo sounds less lyrical than twenty years earlier, but with such passion!
Cheryl Studer, who at that time was recording anything and everything soprano, was no real Lucia. She was a great Strauss and Mozart singer and her Wagners and Verdi’s were outstanding, but Lucia was too ambitious for her. Understand me well: she did have the high notes and they were very solid, but that’s exactly what you do not want for Lucia. The notes shouldn’t stand rock solid, they should shine, sparkle, sprint if necessary, and she couldn’t do that.
However, the real ‘culprit’ is the conductor. He is rushing things along and never ever stops. Still, the recording is very worthwhile, especially if you want to hear something else from Domingo and appreciate the quality of the sound.
A reviewer from the New York Times wrote that it was without a doubt the most exciting event of the musical year 1970, and that I can totally believe. The performance of 24 October 1970 was recorded live and we are very lucky to have it.
Julius Rudel (well, where have all these great maestros gone?) conducts with a firm hand and with great love for the work. To cry so beautiful.
Domingo’s voice sounds like a bell and his performance causes ecstatic ovations. And about Beverly Sills (Elisabetta) I can be brief: overwhelming! No one, but no one has ever sung the part better than she has. She surely is Elisabetta. Everybody should see or hear her in this role (there’s also a DVD, unfortunately without Domingo). The applause after her ‘L’Amor suo mi fé benata’ seems to last forever.
Anna Bolena is considered to be the first important Romantic Italian opera and for Donizetti it was his big breakthrough. For Domingo too, Anna Bolena was a milestone: with the role of Percy he made his debut in New York.
He was then (can you believe it?) 25 years old, but his voice was completely ‘mature’: full, firm, soft, hard, begging, determined, with all the nuances in between. Talk about phenomenon!
The leading role was sung by Elena Souliotis, then 23. An almost forgotten singer now (her career didn’t last), but her intensity can only be compared to that of Maria Callas. A fun fact: La Divina was in the audience at the time!
Giovanna was sung by Marylin Horne and their duets will surely give goosebumps to the devotees. Janet Baker also made her American debut in the role of Smeton. The opera was recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 1966. My copy is by Legato (LCD-149-3), but the recording is now also available on other labels.
Pollione is one of the shining roles of the young Domingo. No wonder. A warlord and a lover: that’s what he is all about. In Norma he could show it all. He took the role in 1973 (once RCA GD 86502) and I think that’s a bit premature. Oh yes, his voice is crystal clear and so beautiful that it almost hurts, but he yet has to gain more of the needed authority. Nevertheless: recommended, not in the least because of Montserrat Caballé, who sings the leading part.
There is no doubt in my mind that Plàcido Domingo is the greatest interpreter of Otello, especially in the last 30 years of the twentieth century. Not only as a singer, but also as an actor Domingo knows how to adapt to his partners in a really brilliant way, thus his interpretation always fascinates and it is never the same twice. Sir Laurence Olivier, one of the greatest British actors, once said: ‘Domingo plays Othello as well as I do, and he has that voice!’
Domingo’s fascination with Otello started early on. In 1960 he made his debut in this opera, but as Cassio. In 1962 – it was also the last time he sang the role – he sang opposite Mario del Monaco’s Otello. In his memoirs he writes that he already knew then that Otello was going to be his ‘dream role’.
He sang his very first ‘Moor from Venice’ in Hamburg, on 28 September, 1975. He himself says it is one of the most important dates in his career. Desdemona was sung by the very young Katia Ricciarelli and the opera was conducted by James Levine. The complete production is now available on You Tube:
A year later the opera was performed at the Milanese Scala. It was the first collaboration between Domingo and Carlos Kleiber (outside of studio production). Mirella Freni sang Desdemona and Piero Cappuccilli Jago. It was broadcast live on Italian TV.
A little fragment:||
There is a sound recording also. It has been released on various pirate labels and can also be found on Spotify. It is actually mandatory for lovers of the opera, despite the poor quality of the sound and the abcense of a few bars from the third act (something happened in the audience).
Another fantastic live Otello comes from London, recorded on 19 February 1978. Again with Carlos Kleiber, but Desdemona was sung by Margaret Price and Silvano Carroli was Jago. Very exciting.
Of all his studio recordings of Otello, the one from – once RCA now Sony- released in 1978, is the one I hold most dear. Desdemona was sung by Renata Scotto and she gave the role an extra dimension. She was not only innocent, but also audibly angry, sad and scared. Sherrill Milnes was a devilish Jago and the whole was led by James Levine.
Opus Arte (OA R3102) has released an old-fashioned, beautiful performance from Covent Garden (director Elijah Moshinsky). It was recorded in October 1992. With her beautiful lyrical soprano, Kiri Te Kanawa is a dream of a Desdemona. Her passivity fits the role well, especially as it is also very much within the director’s concept. Sergei Leiferkus (Jago) is not really idiomatic in Italian, but he sings and acts well and the orchestra, under the firm leadership of Georg Solti, plays the stars from the sky.
The same production was given at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1996 and recorded by Deutsche Grammophon (0730929). It was a milestone in opera history, because Renée Fleming made her unparalleled debut in the role of Desdemona.
She really made my heart contract with sorrow and emotion. Her ‘Willow Song’ with the strongly accentuated repetitions of ‘cantiamo’, her angelic ‘Ave Maria’, her oh-so-human played despair, disbelief and sorrow – no one could remain unmoved.
The lyrical tenor Richard Croft was also visually well cast as Cassio, and the whole production was under the thrilling leadership of maestro Levine.
“We all owe a great deal to music (…) It is a form of expression that originates not so much from thinking as from feeling”. These words come from one of the greatest singers of the twentieth century, Montserrat Caballé.
In his film Caballé Beyond Music, Antonio Farré portrays the diva*, her life and her career, talking to her, her family and her colleagues. The documentary also contains a lot of wonderful (archival) footage, starting with Caballé’s debut in Il Pirata in 1966 in Paris.
The film is interspersed with fun anecdotes such as how she smashed a door because she was not allowed to take time off (Caballé wanted to attend a performance of Norma with Maria Callas). How she had stopped a dress rehearsal in La Scala because she noticed that the orchestra was not tuned well. About her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the discovery of José Carreras (how beautiful he was!), her friendship with Freddy Mercury ….
About her Tosca in the ROH in London in the production that was made for Callas. She wasn’t happy with that, it didn’t feel good, but no one wanted to change it. Caballé called Callas, it was exactly eight days before her death, and complained about her fate. “But of course it doesn’t feel right”, said Callas. “I am tall and you are not, I am slim and you are not, I have long arms and you have not. Tell them to call me, I will convince them that you are not me”.
And so the production was adapted for Caballé. “Copies are never good,” Caballé says, and I agree with her. This is a fascinating portrait of a fascinating singer. Very, very worthwhile.
* London taxi driver: “What is the difference between a terrorist and a diva? You can negotiate with a terrorist”.
Caballé beyond music
With José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, Cheryl Studer, Giuseppe di Stefano, Freddie Mercury, Claudio Abbado and others.
Directed by Antonio A. Farré
In 1969 zette de mens zijn eerste schreden op de maan. Datzelfde jaar (toevallig ook dezelfde dag) zette een jonge Plácido Domingo zijn eerste stappen op het immense toneel van de Arena van Verona, naast Birgit Nilsson als ‘zijn’ Turandot. Afgelopen zondag vierden we, dat deze operalegende al vijftig jaar lang de arena bespeelt, als zanger of als dirigent.
Speciaal voor deze avond creëerde regisseur Stefano Trespidi samen met set designer Ezio Antonelli een multifunctioneel decor voor scènes uit Nabucco, Macbeth en Simone Boccanegra. Effectief: weinig omballingen, alleen de nodige aanpassingen, die vooral tijdens de pauzes werden gedaan. Waar Nabucco in een ‘Bijbelse’ setting werd gespeeld, was Macbeth modern aangekleed; Simone Boccanegra ademde de sfeer uit van de dogetijd zelf, met slechts drie rode gordijnen in het overwegend bruine en grijze decor.
De avond begint wat moeizaam: dirigent Jordi Banàcer heeft het orkest van de Arena nog niet helemaal in de vingers bij de ouverture tot Nabucco. Het klinkt niet zoals ik het graag had willen horen. Bij het ‘Va, pensiero’ lopen koor, orkest en dirigent ook nog niet helemaal gelijk, en het lijkt erop, dat dat gaandeweg de vierde akte van deze opera pas oplost. Bij Macbeth en Boccanegra is van dit alles niets meer te merken.
Arturo Chacón-Cruz presteert van alle tegenspelers van Domingo boven verwachting: een gegriefde Macduff en een Adorno vol emotie. Een stem die nergens geforceerd wordt, al wil deze nog wel eens wegvallen bij ensemblewerk in combinatie met vol orkest en koor. Anna Pirozzi moet opwarmen gedurende de avond: als Amelia is zij wat mij betreft het overtuigendst. De kleinere rollen zijn verder prima bezet, zeker Géraldine Chauvet als een fantastische Fenena!
En dan de man waar het deze avond allemaal om draait: Plácido Domingo. Vol energie en met zichtbaar enthousiasme om een uitverkochte arena te laten genieten. En dat lukt hem. Na zijn opkomst als Nabucco moet Benàcer een moment staken om een ovatie de vrije loop te laten; ‘Dio di Giuda’ wordt ademloos ontvangen en meer dan ruimschoots beloond; na Macbeth’s aria (‘Perfidi! all anglo’) gaat het toch al niet aanwezige dak er af. Domingo is goed bij stem, zingt de sterren áán de hemel en acteert met een natuurlijke flair en overtuiging, waar menig acteur jaloers op kan worden. Het slotapplaus – nadat Arena-crew, koorleden, creatives, solisten en dirigent reeds hun aandeel in ontvangst hebben genomen – is niet van de lucht, wanneer de zichtbaar geëmotioneerde jubilaris zijn opwachting maakt. Minutenlang staat de Arena op zijn kop. En terecht!
Bravo’s en gejuich overstemmen mijn traan van bewondering en adoratie. En even denk ik aan de avond ervoor, toen ik mijn grote held bij Ristorante Maffei aan het Piazza Erbe in levenden lijve mocht ontmoeten…
Veni vidi vici. Plácido Domingo had het na donderdagavond 13 juni 2013 kunnen zeggen. De uitverkochte Ziggo Dome (ja, u leest het goed, de enorme zaal was vol!) ging los als was het een popconcert. Terecht. Al is de maestro de jongste niet meer, zijn stem wil niets van ouder worden weten.
Al bij het allereerste nummer, de ouverture van Der fliegende Holländer, zat ik op het puntje van mijn stoel. De Nabucco-ouverture was meer dan meeslepend en in het lichtere genre (Leichte Kavallerie van Franz von Suppé) werd ook het publiek erbij betrokken. Proost draaide zich om en dirigeerde de zaal, die met het orkest mee klapte. In het ritme.Ik was hoogst verbaasd hoeveel mensen zich er echt op gekleed hadden! Natuurlijk, de obligate spijkerbroeken waren meer dan vertegenwoordigd, maar ik merkte ook dames in avondkledij op. Of je het wilt of niet: het is altijd sfeerverhogend.
4. Het repertoire. Niemand maakte zich er met een jantje-van-leiden vanaf. Van Wagner gingen we naar Verdi en via de operette en de zarzuela belandden we bij musicals. En dat alles op topniveau. Doe ze het na!
5. Het was een avondje uit in een tempel van de lichte muze, dus kregen we er ook iets van een show bij. Lichten, lichstralen, noem maar op.
Is Domingo ’s werelds beste tenor? Voor mij wel, zeker als ik het over de laatste dertig jaar van de vorige en de eerste tien van deze eeuw heb. Nu zijn hoge noten het laten afweten heeft hij zich op baritonrollen gericht en dat doet hij met de hem gebruikelijke overgave en muzikaliteit.
Nee, hij is geen bariton, zijn timbre is nog steeds dat van een tenor, maar hij weet hierin meer te overtuigen. Misschien moeten we gewoon constateren dat hij de muzikaalste van alle tenoren is? Een fenomeen dat maar eens in de honderd jaar wordt geboren?
Zijn Siegmund staat nog steeds als een huis en de Verdi-duetten (La Traviata en Il Trovatore, geen makkelijke kost voor een bariton) bewezen niet alleen zijn muzikaliteit, maar ook de humane kant van de mens en artiest Domingo. Iedere keer als zijn partner ‘aan het woord’ was, nam hij een stapje terug en liet haar in de schijnwerpers schitteren.
Na de pauze werd het tijd voor de licht(ere) muze. ‘Dein is mein ganzes herz’ werd al bij de eerste maten op gejuich van het publiek getrakteerd en toen was de pret niet meer te stuiten.
‘So muss allein ich bleiben’ uit Die Fledermaus was zowat de koddigste dat ik ooit heb gehoord en daar gingen ook nog eens de beentjes omhoog. Ook die van de toeschouwers.
Na het wonderschoon mooi door Angel Blue gezongen ‘De España vengo’ (El niño Judío van Pablo Luna) en een duet uit Luisa Fernanda kwamen we via de heerlijke ‘Tarantula’ uit La Tempranica bij ‘Amor, vida de mi vida’ (Maravilla van Moreno) terecht. Toen moest ik even een traan wegpinken, maar dat duurde niet lang, want daarna kwamen de encores.
Plácido Domingo zingt ‘Besame mucho’:
‘I could have danced all night’, ‘Besame mucho’ (hmm… daar zou ik niets op tegen hebben), ‘Yes I can, no you can’t’ uit Annie get your gun en als afsluiting het door alle drie de solisten gezongen ‘If I loved you’ uit Carrousel – ik vond het heerlijk.
Placido Domingo zingt “If I loved you” met Angel Joy Blue en Micaëla Oeste, Amsterdam June 2013
De twee jonge sopranen die Domingo begeleidden, Angel Blue en Micaëla Oeste, waren een lust voor het oog. Mijn voorkeur ging uit naar de zeer charismatische Blue. Zij wist me niet alleen in het lichtere genre maar ook in ‘Dich, teure Halle’ uit Tannhaüser te overtuigen. Van haar horen we meer
Who is afraid of Ziggo Dome? Ik in ieder geval niet meer. De zaal is inderdaad immens, maar op de een of andere manier doet hij intiem aan en de akoestiek is er werkelijk heel goed. Natuurlijk zongen ze met een microfoon – dat kan ook niet anders – maar merkwaardig genoeg had je er amper last van. Het geluid kwam heel natuurlijk over.