Started by Cato, August 25, 2018, 12:47:42 PM
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Quote from: Tsaraslondon on January 04, 2020, 02:23:00 AMI read this yesterday. Osborne's singer friend makes some very good points. It makes for rather depressing reading though.
QuoteThe Manon Lescaut is a recent release from the St. Laurent Studio of the Metropolitan Opera performance of March 31, 1956. The romantic protagonists are sung by Licia Albanese and Jussi Björling, and the conductor is Dmitri Mitropoulos. This was a broadcast that acquired a legendary status among devotees, partly on its merits as one of those electric afternoons, partly for its presumed superiority to the RCA Victor studio recording starring the same protagonist pair, and partly as one of the relatively few complete opera broadcasts by Björling, who had dismayed us with frequent cancellations.
Quote"..."Louise" is true verismo, both in subject matter and musical style—the only French example of that genre to achieve a lasting success. Its composer, Gustave Charpentier, called it a "musical novel," and it does suggest both a Zola-esque naturalism and a Balzacian ambition,.... Here in New York, it is one of five operas that had been fairly regularly in the repertory of the Metropolitan through the 1940s but vanished abruptly as of 1950, never since to return. (The others: "Mignon, Lakmé, The Golden Cockerel"—but sung in French, as "Le Coq d'or"—and "L'Amore dei tre re".) All five were given some life support by the New York City Opera at one point or another, with "Louise" and "Golden Cockerel" (with the Sills/Treigle team) getting the best response, and the San Francisco Opera staged "Louise" for Renée Fleming as recently as 1999. But Louise is now no more than an antique curiosity for American opera-goers, and not much more than that even in France. Which is a shame..."
Quote"...One day in January (Mahler) told me (i.e. Alma Mahler) he had had a very remarkable opera sent him. "It doesn't inspire great confidence in the piano score, but the full score is brilliant and dramatic. Couldn't be otherwise. It was the hit of this year's opera season in Paris...."
Quote from: Cato on April 17, 2021, 04:26:29 PMConrad Osborne writes about the merits and neglect of Gustave Charpentier's Louise:e.g.See:https://conradlosborne.com/2021/04/16/mia-g-charpentiers-louise/6/Mahler knew Charpentier and conducted the opera:See:(Scroll down to #52)https://archive.org/stream/gustavmahlermemo00mahl/gustavmahlermemo00mahl_djvu.txt
Quote"...But those were works by white composers, incorporating jazz sounds into what were then modern-classical or music-theatre styles, and the jazz was that of The Jazz Age itself. Blanchard's is contemporary and prevailingly laid-back. At times it establishes mood effectively, but having set in place a sort of timbral bedding and putting in motion often repetitive rhythmic patterns, it seems content with itself. I almost never caught it in dramatic action, or heard it either generating gestures that might be followed through in the vocal writing on one hand, or adding accompanimental urgency on the other.With respect to the vocal writing, Blanchard has said that he's sought to make it sound as close as possible to everyday speech, repeating the lines to himself to discover their inflectional rise and fall. This effort to fashion a singing line from the "line readings" of the spoken language has an honorable pedigree, with Mussorgsky, Debussy, Janáček, and Berg the most commonly cited referents for it—though as soon as one starts to actually deal with their music, one discovers how unlike speech most of it (including the best of it) actually is, and how interlocked with melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic happenings in the orchestra. Blanchard seems not to have much explored his line readings for their poetic or dramatic potential; they are pretty bare. In search of emotional emphasis, he takes the voices higher and into a more songlike mode, but without the build that would make that sound organic. "Destiny" and "Loneliness" are given passages of sustained singing, listenable but unmemorable.....Fire could be said to be constructed on a through-composed, accompanied-recitative-and-arioso model, but with the constituent parts of only moderate interest on their own, and insufficiently fused to develop any sustained musico-dramatic force......The cumulative effect (of the vocal writing, spoken sections. and the performances thereof) is that in an opera founded on word comprehension, and with principal singers doing their best to fulfill the "diction" mandate, one can't follow the plot in any moment-to-moment sense. (And the program synopsis, borrowed from the St. Louis materials, was the least helpful I have ever read.) In none of the many English-language operas I have encountered on first hearing in our auditoriums, including many far less speech-centered than this one, have I encountered equal difficulty with respect to basic comprehensibility....(Concerning why this opera was chosen by The Metropolitan Opera to be performed)...... It is patent on the face of it that nonartistic considerations influenced the first decision, and were determinant with the second. That was a disservice to the piece, which, if it had a viable future, would certainly have found it in a smaller venue, let us say the Rose Theater, where the Met could still have acted as presenter, but the auspices would have seemed less pretentious and the standing of the work vis-à-vis the canonical repertory would not have been on people's minds. (One friend suggested it belonged on Broadway, but it would not have thriven there—no good tunes.)...In an evening marked mostly by subdued, tentative applause at widely separated junctures, there were two genuine ovations. They were of a sort I associate with the annual high school musical, cheering on that quirky or sexy classmate doing his or her thing up there with heady bursts of "WOO!" over furious clapping, but they were ovations, nonetheless. One was on the appearance of the evening's conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in a garment of many colors—"WOO!"—and the other at the conclusion of a step dance number in the hazing scene...
Quote...My last two visits to the Met of the 2021-2022 season—the new Lucia, the old Turandot, a week apart—left me feeling not merely disappointed or angry (though both of those), but despondent. Between them, they describe with painful exactitude the principal sources of our operatic agony: in production, a choice between a post-operatic Demolition Derby that gorges on the energy of cultural displacement, or a plainly exhausted, mechanical gesturing after "tradition"; in performance, a shocking diminution of vocal presence and quality and of the creative spark in interpretation, with an orchestral contribution to match; and with the two in tandem, the submergence of performance in production, of the aural in the visual. New direction at the Met could make some headway against these powerful crosswinds (especially with respect to production), but I think it would be in modest increments. Where, after all, would one go in search of directors and designers of creative imagination, strong operatic background, and technical mastery who are not the products of postmodern education and the autereuristic mentality? Where would one venture to discover some lost tribe of singers of power, grace, and expressive urgency? Or conductors of fiery and/or profound inspiration, and the means of evoking same in their players? And then, how might the Met, a mammoth institution embedded in a beleaguered social, economic, and political environment that is somehow sclerotic and disruptive at once, heave itself about toward a yet-to-be-discovered way of working toward a goal it has not defined? For the first time, I have found myself in serious conversations with devotees and professionals who are not among the merely disgruntled or rebellious, yet believe the Met should close up shop, should clear the deck for new efforts. And fervent believer as I am in the necessity for a large-scale institution of social continuity dedicated to the vivification of the great body of rich, deep, and uplifting works of our operatic repertory (to say nothing of my long personal attachment to this one), I have found myself in difficulty trying to disagree with them......The New York Times has a new chief music critic! The NYT is another central, once-vital institution that has lost track of itself ... and its engagement with classical music has been stripped of rank long since. Nevertheless, its influence—locally, nationally and even globally—is impossible to overestimate, and that is as true in the arts as anywhere else, given the virtual annihilation of daily journalism. The "new" critic... is not really new—Zachary Woolfe has been on the premises for a long time, both as critic and as editor. ... (He) appears to guarantee continuance of the Arts and Leisure section's standing apportionment of 90% Leisure to 10% Arts, with the former frequently mislabeled as the latter. Naturally, the Times' announcement warmly commends "Zack" to us, partly because he's good at "demystifying" classical music for us, but more importantly because he comes to grips with the "major issues confronting the field," which are said to be "The continuing obstacles female conductors face; the lack of diversity in major orchestras and on podiums; the ways classical music should change in an era of racial reckoning; and the field's complex, fraught relationship with Asian and Asian American musicians." In other words, the "major issues" of classical music and opera aren't artistic at all, or even economic/existential! They are instead the leading components of the social justice narrative that has come to define this hegemonic newspaper's identity (though remarkably, one of its key components, LGBTetc. inclusion, goes unmentioned), and if Zack knows what's good for him, he will continue to push them forward......he will not, I predict, slip the bonds of the paper's self-imposed "major issues" mandate, which is to view all artistic effort in the light of Diversity.It is this same mandate that, in a sort of Declaration of Dependence, has been proclaimed by the Met......My point is not that the Met should never mount contemporary operas, but that the openings for them among the canonical works, which collectively have established the standards, should be jealously guarded, and above all that they should be selected on the basis of artistic merit, not for their conformity to the demands of Diversity...Diversity has nothing to do with artistic merit. It is neither pro nor con, but irrelevant to it. I would call it artistically neutral...
Quote"...nothing wrong with the tempos, and nothing technically wrong with the playing, either, save that it lacked the essential quality of an operatic orchestra, that of suspenseful dramatic action, and therefore of meaningful engagement with the singers, under whose work there was not the web of thematic development and summoning of atmosphere needed to establish an interactive sonic environment. Then, two or three times, we got a great obliterative blast from the brass, far out of the proportions otherwise observed. At this point, we have heard enough of N-S to realize that this is his predilection, and that the longer he remains the shaper of the Met orchestra, choosing new players and grooming the lot, the more that predilection will prove determinative...."...(Christine Goerke as Elsa) ...in truth only the middle octave of her voice, at full volume, can now be counted on. The top continually frays, and at the bottom she has only a shallow cackle that might be employed for children's theatre witchery, but forecloses not only the completeness of tone needed for low notes, but the ability to mold and color her scornful pronouncements (e. g., "O Feiger!", just rammed out there) or to fill in the wonderfully suggestive ascending octave portamenti at, for examples, "dass meines Jammers trüber Schein" or "Ha! dieser Stolz"—basics of the Wagnerian vocal grammar...."...If Piotr Beczała was on guard against appearing too human, he need not have worried. On the other hand, if he wished to impress as "strange" or "almost like a god," that didn't happen, either. The production gave him plenty of cover in both respects, for no one dressed in fitted black pants and a white shirt with a long tail hanging out (a carryover from the Grail Knights get-up of the Girard Parsifal), and with no face or hair other than his own to show, stands any chance of conveying godliness; and no one asked to stand in an unfurnished space for the duration of the Bridal Chamber Scene, singing at his beloved across the bare expanse, can hope to convey his hunger for love..."
Quote...And artistically, those years corresponded almost exactly with the final wave of great-voiced singers, the last years when it was possible for the major international companies, among which the Metropolitan had for three-quarters of a century maintained a position of prima inter pares when it came to singing, to assemble satisfying casts for the masterworks of the 19th and early 20th centuries. At times, these singers were guided by master conductors of a breed that has gone extinct, though in a house of full-season true "rolling rep" (rotating operas and casts six nights a week, two shows on Saturday), a knowledgeable routine on the parts of conductors and players was the night-to-night aspiration, by no means always met. Finally, it was a time when we in the U. S. could still expect that, whatever the failings or stylistic peculiarities (or the tradition-bound slovenliness, the lazy "received wisdom") of a particular production or performance might be, the point of stage direction and design was to transmit the manifest content of the given work—that is, its story and characters, in their time and place. Thus, all discussion and argumentation, including that of professional criticism, could proceed on the basis of how well that transmission was perceived to have gone, its vocal and orchestral achievements, visual style, narrative emphasis, and presentation of character action being the foci of attention. Intellectual interpretation—the analysis of meaning, of the work's relation to social, historical, or cultural issues—and/or ideologies of same—could be left to the disciplines of academic criticism, where, however, they were not much taken up in relation to their only means of transference, performance. The notion that the revisionist or adversarial varieties of such critique might be incorporated into performance itself would have been considered daft.
Quote...Many of these self-proclaimed auteurs have been sufficiently delighted with the handy appearance of post-dramatic perceptions to consider themselves "free" of one or more of the inconvenient demands of the integrated ideal, and of the stodgy requirement of working within the boundaries drawn (sharply here, more faintly there) by the composer and librettist, and are at the same time entranced by the vision of the stage shedding its own skin to don that of the screen. It is their kind of Regie (pervasive now) that I consider myself duty-bound to oppose. It's still the case, though, that our major American venues have for the most part fought shy of the most egregious auteurial divertissements....
Quote from: Cato on October 02, 2023, 05:11:17 AMMr. Osborne is probably near 90 years old, and has been ruminating about his career.
Quote from: Florestan on October 04, 2023, 12:22:27 AMIs Richard Osborne, author of numerous interesting and useful books about opera and operatic composers (a superb biography of Rossini, for instance) related to him?
Quote"...Keeping in mind that what I would mean by 'truly great singing' would be singing of the sort that fulfills the demands of the masterworks of opera's maturity, I think of the early 1970's as the fading of its last generation, with such singers as Sutherland, Nilsson, Tebaldi, Crespin, Rysanek, Gorr, Simionato; Corelli, Tucker, Vickers; Merrill, Taddei, MacNeil, Gobbi; Siepi, Christoff, Ghiaurov, and several others either reaching the end or passing their peaks, and no one, really, to replace them."For Osborne, this vocal decline is the result of the current "system" in place throughout the opera world. He noted that when he started out in his career, many of the great singers placed great emphasis on private study, with the institution sticking in the background in terms of vocal formation."Now we have this system which has become so set into our way of thinking how things are done," he explained. "It's a closed shop and only has itself to refer to in terms how they go about creating voices and how they go about getting performers to develop a role. All that is now systematized and routinized and people don't seem to be able to get outside those boxes."
Quote"...Upon discovery of Heinrich's prone self at the shrine in Act 1 ("Er ist es!"), he hopped up and down like a five-year-old at a birthday party, then proceeded to peck and dab, now audibly and now not, at the flowing melody of his first solo... ...following that up by keeping his urgent, vocally expansive plea "Dir, hohe Liebe, töne" strictly to himself, or perhaps sharing it with the nearest ladies and gentlemen of the ensemble. In Act 3 he first extended this retentive treatment to his opening lines, even at such obvious climaxes as "Dies ist ihr Fragen" or "Ihr Heil'gen," and then rendered the Evening Star song in an insufferable croon, its concluding lines melting into thin air....... In the opening lines of the Abendstern song ... Gerhaher pulls every faux-sensitive feint in the manual of evasions—meaningless gaps between syllables (the equivalent of an actor sticking in senseless pauses to sound profound); straight passing notes, equally lacking in inflectional purpose, to avoid continuously vibrated, supported tone; a hyperrefined subito piano at "umhullt das Thal," etc. Anything but singing.My sole forlorn hope is that the whole business will soon be confessed as a hoax, and we'll all have a good laugh...
Quote"...In last week's post and today's, we've seen the double bind opera is caught in at present at one of its major performance institutions: the efforts to refresh the form with contemporary work repeatedly fails to approach the level reached often enough in past centuries to constitute a canonical repertory, while the performance rewards of the latter are frequently so meager as to be unsustainable. And yet, enough of Tannhäuser survived this revival to remind us of the power that still lurks in the masterpieces of the past...."
Quote from: Cato on December 22, 2023, 08:11:50 AMConrad Osborne laments a good deal of the singing in a Metropolitan Opera performance of Tannhäuser:Concerning Christian Gerhaher as Wolfram in Tannhäuser:In conclusion:See:https://conradlosborne.com/2023/12/22/tannhauser-and-the-old-opera-problem/
Quote from: Roasted Swan on December 22, 2023, 09:20:50 AMIt is only in this last year that I encountered the singing of Christian Gerhaher - specifically via the disc he recorded along Anne Sophie von Otter memorialising the composers/inmates of the Terezin concentration camp. I have to say I absolutely loved his singing there and have followed it up with getting several of his lieder discs from a good few years ago. So I have not heard him in any opera and indeed his voice might (I suppose) be in decline but on the evidence of the recitals I have heard this year I thought he was a tremendous artist and musician as well as posessing a genuinely beautiful voice.
QuoteOn Tuesday, Feb. 20, I'll be delivering a talk, with a Q&A opportunity afterward, to the Jussi Björling Societies of the USA and UK. As always with this knowledgeable and devoted audience, the subject will be singing. ......I'll be trying to trace what's happened to the classical voice over the past century, influenced by fundamental shifts in how we communicate and listen and by parallel shifts in how opera is produced, and to define where the kind of singing we love stands in today's virtualized culture....
Page created in 0.144 seconds with 23 queries.