Kind of Top Ten 2022

First of all, my apologies: this year I have hardly posted any new reviews. This was for personal reasons

 I was forced to limit myself to translations but  I did a lot of portraits of singers who deserved to be featured again.

Renata Scotto had her birthday on 24 February

Renata Scotto, ‘la mia Divina Assoluta’ 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.

Geraldine Farrar 28 February

In 1915, Cecil B. DeMille filmed the opera again, this time with Geraldine Farrar as the man-eating gypsy. Now, Farrar was not only one of the greatest sopranos and MET legends of the early 20th century, her beautiful appearance and excessive acting talent also enabled her to build a career as a Hollywood actress.

Beverly Sills was born on 25 May

Beverly Sills 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, Massenet and Verdi, she was best known for her interpretations of coloratura soprano roles. Her radiant high D’s and E-flats sounded seemingly effortless and natural.

José Carreras became  76 at 5th December

About just few of his many roles

Sara Scuderi was born 11 December

Scuderi sang in the most important theatres of the day, both in Italy and abroad, most notably in the Netherlands! She had a contract at La Scala where she received high praise for her interpretations of the most well-known operas.

Rita Streich 18 december

High coloratura soprano is one of the most admired voice types. It’s only logical, because what these ladies do falls a bit into the category of “nightingale on a trapeze”.

And November 22th it was  it was  five years that Dmitri Hvorostovsky died, only 60 years old

But, but…. I made an article about King David and music

King David…. One of the Bible’s most inspiring and appealing personalities. But did he really exist? We live in a time when all sorts of things are being doubted, and that is alright.

And in Dutch

Rita Streich: Queen of the coloraturas


High coloratura soprano is one of the most admired voice types. It’s only logical, because what these ladies do falls a bit into the category of “nightingale on a trapeze”. Sometimes it really is a bit like a circus; there are those ladies who have made it their profession to perform tricks, forgetting that their high notes should also be music.

Not so Rita Streich, for me the very best and most beautiful coloratura soprano ever. Of course, her voice is light as a feather and her embellishments impeccable, but in contrast to many of her colleagues, her repertoire is actually unlimited: opera, operetta, songs, oratorios…

She is not equally good at everything. I find her Schubert a little too light-hearted, so that much of the text is lost. But in the opera genre she is much more in her element. I am referring, of course, to her unearthly Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart) and to her other showpiece: Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos, Strauss).

Streich sings the role of Zerbinetta in such a superior way that you do not even notice its virtuosity; it sounds so natural. Just listen to her performance of  ‘Großmächtige Prinzessin’. Where many of her colleagues in that aria remind you of someone juggling notes, Streich manages to add the most important element: feeling. Note also the warm glow of her singing, which does not lose its lustre even at the highest notes.


Have you ever heard her performance of the Moon Song from Dvořak’s Rusalka? As volatile and elusive as sea foam, but filled with the desires of an adolescent girl in love:

I find Streich at her very best in light songs by Saint-Saëns, Delibes and Eva Dell’Acqua, among others. With the light golden sheen to her voice, she reminds me of an old-fashioned porcelain dancer.

Below, as an example, is ‘The Nightingale’ by Alabiev. She sings it in perfect Russian, a language that she, as a Russian-born daughter of a Russian mother and a German father, has mastered well.

Various composers
Rita Streich
Königin der Koloratur: Das Beste aus Oper und Konzert
The Intense Media 600

Hänsel und Gretel: Discography

Das Bild ist ein Holzstich nach einer Zeichnung von Ludwig Richter von 1853.

Fairy tales! As a child I couldn’t get enough of them and I still love them. My small bookcase was well stocked with them then and my current bookcase has several shelves with every fairy tale I could lay my hands on.

The story of the children lost in a dark wood, the wicked witch and – yes! – the gingerbread house particularly appealed to me; a girl who loved sweets.

I knew that the fairy tale had once been turned into an opera. In the old German film adaptation of Kärstner’s The Parent Trap, Luise/Lottie visits the performance of Hänsel und Gretel conducted by her father. This very dramatic scene made a huge impression on me at the time, so the opera was very high on my wish list.
My first real introduction to the opera, however, was downright disappointing. And I still cannot get really excited about the work. It is not sweet or scary enough for me. However, I immediately admit that a beautiful, well sung and acted production will give me a lot of pleasure!

The two DVD recordings known by me are certainly all that, and I really wouldn’t know which of the two to choose

Royal Opera House, 2008


Colour! That is what is most striking about Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s London (Covent Garden 2008) production. The enchanted (and enchanting) fairy- tale forest is green, the sky blue, Gretel’s jacket red, and the biscuits, cakes, pies and puddings are all the colours of the rainbow. Or even more. And they are so very bright!

It is a true feast for the eyes, but the singing is also at the highest level. Diana Damrau is a delightful Gretel and Angelika Kirschlager a boyish Hänsel. Even in the scenes together with real children, they are not out of place.

Elisabeth Connell and Thomas Allen, here as real- life riff- raff, are good for a lot of delicious “schadenfreude”. And the fact that Anja Silja convinces more with her acting than with her singing should be forgiven, she is after all a witch (Opus Arte OA BD 7032)

Metropolitan Opera, 2008


Richard Jones’ production, originally created for the Welsh National Opera and recorded at the Met in 2008, is just as much fun.
Chistine Schäfer (Gretel) and Alice Coote (Hänsel) are perhaps just a little more brazen, but Rosalind Plowright and Alan Held are just as deliciously caricatured as Connell and Allen.

What makes this performance an absolute must have is Philip Langridge’s witch, even Anja Silja cannot match that! And the dream pantomime at the end of the first act is simply delicious.

During the overture and the interval, we get a look behind the scenes and get to see the make-up artists in action. Very special!

Vladimir Jurowski conducts very lightly, almost belcantesque.
Warning for purists: the opera is sung in English! (Warner 5099920630898)

Below a short trailer:

von Karajan, Milan1954


Talking about foreign languages: it is not at all surprising that an opera intended for a mainly young audience is performed in a language they can understand.

In 1954, von Karajan conducted the fairy tale in Italian in Milan, but with two German sopranos in the leading roles: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Sena Jurinac. Which makes the notion of “intelligibility” immediately relative.

Rolando Panerai is a delightful “Pietro”, but of course the CD’s greatest attractions are the Sand- and Taumännchen sung irresistibly by Rita Streich. The orchestral sound is very refined despite the analogue sound (Date DAT 12314).


Von Karajan, 1953


Refinement is also the best word to describe the (studio) recording of Karajan from 1953. It is fully worth it for the overture alone. Orchestrally it sounds even better than the Milan recording, but that may be due to the excellent sound quality.

Both Elisabeths: Grümmer and Schwarzkopf sound very credibly childlike. Their ‘Brüderchen , komm tanz mit mir’ is simply irresistible. It is just a pity that their voices sound so similar that you cannot really tell whether it is Hansel or his sister who is singing. (Warner 509996407162)


Eichhorn, 1971


There are five reasons to buy the recording Kurt Eichhorn made for RCA in 1971: Anna Moffo (Hans), Helen Donath (Gretel), Christa Ludwig (witch), Arleen Auger and Lucia Popp (the ‘males’).

Charlotte Berthold and Fischer Dieskau are not really exciting and the orchestra is no more than okay, but those five ladies! And secretly I think I may find Helen Donath’s Gretel the most beautiful of all. (BMG 74321 252812)

Below Anna Moffo and Helen Donath in `Abendsagen`:

Rita Streich: koningin van coloraturen


Hoge coloratuursopraan behoort tot de meest bewonderde stemtype. Logisch eigenlijk, want wat de dames doen valt een beetje in de categorie ‘een nachtegaal op de trapeze’. Een beetje circus, dat wel, er zijn dan ook dames die er een beroep van hebben gemaakt om kunstjes te vertonen, waarbij ze vergeten dat er ook muziek bij hun hoge noten hoort.

Zo niet Rita Streich, voor mij de allerbeste en de allermooiste coloratuur sopraan ooit. Natuurlijk is haar stem vederlicht en haar versieringen onberispelijk, maar in tegenstelling tot veel van haar vakgenoten is haar repertoire eigenlijk onbegrensd: opera, operette, liederen, oratoria

Niet in alles is ze even goed. Zo vind ik haar Schubert iets te lichtvoetig, waardoor veel van de tekst verloren gaat. Maar bij het operagenre is ze veel meer in haar element. Dan heb ik het allereerst natuurlijk over haar onaardse Koningin van de Nacht (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart) en over haar andere paradepaardje: Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos, Strauss).

Streich zingt de rol van Zerbinetta zo virtuoos dat je de virtuositeit niet eens merkt, zo vanzelfsprekend klinkt het. Luister maar naar haar vertolking van ‘Großmächtige Prinzessin’. Waar veel van haar stemgenotes in die aria aan een jongleur met noten doen denken, weet Streich het allerbelangrijkste element toe te voegen: het gevoel. Let ook op de warme gloed over haar zang, die zelfs bij de hoogste noten zijn glans niet verliest.

Hebt u ooit haar vertolking van het maanlied uit Rusalka van Dvořak gehoord? Zo vluchtig en ongrijpbaar als het zeeschuim, maar mét de verlangens van een verliefd pubermeisje:

Op haar allermooist vind ik Streich in lichte liederen van onder anderen Saint-Saëns, Delibes en Eva Dell’Acqua. Met een lichtgouden glans op haar stem doet ze me aan zo’n ouderwets porseleinen danseresje denken.

Hieronder als voorbeeld ‘De Nachtegaal’ van Alabiev. Ze zingt het in perfect Russisch, een taal die ze als een in Rusland geboren dochter van een Russische moeder en een Duitse vader goed beheerste.

Rita Streich
Königin der Koloratur: Das Beste aus Oper und Konzert
The Intense Media 600196 (10 cd’s)