Author Topic: Agnes Baltsa  (Read 3204 times)

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Agnes Baltsa
« on: September 15, 2007, 07:59:08 AM »
Whatever happened to her? Well in the UK at least. She sang for many seasons at Covent Garden, then suddenly nothing. Popular operatic folklore has it that she had lost her voice, and that she had almost retired, however I recently found on youtube a short clip from a performance of Parsifal, with Domingo from Madrid, given as recently as 2004, in which she still sounds pretty good. Admittedly, she wasn't always a comfortable singer to listen to, as she took risks, but that was all part of the excitement. Her Eboli was absolutely thrilling, and her O don fatale brought the house down at Covent Garden.

To be honest, I don't think I ever saw or heard her give a bad performance at Covent Garden, and I saw her in quite a lot. From an impromptu Verdi Requiem, given in memory of a stage hand, who had been killed a few nights before in a terrible accident on stage, right through to her wonderfully funny Isabella in L'Italiana in Algeri, the last time I saw her. The first role I saw her do was Adalgisa in Norma, where she completely outshone the poor efforts of Sylvia Sass in the title role. Next came a wonderful production of Cosi Fan Tutte, with Kiri Te Kanawa, Stuart Burrows and Thomas Allen, in which I first experienced her gift for comedy. Maybe surprisingly, her volatile personality gelled perfectly with Te Kanawa's more placid Fiordiligi, and their voices blended perfectly in the duets. But the performance I will never forget is her Carmen with Carreras's equally thrilling Don Jose. For many years, she and Carreras were the most sought after couple in this opera, and they performed the roles all over the world, but these Covent Garden performances caught them near the beginning of their association, before any whiff of routine had crept in. I queued from 7.30 in the morning to get tickets, and didn't regret it for an instant. I haven't seen Carmen since and probably won't again.

She made quite a few recordings of a pretty varied repertoire, embracing opera, orchestral song and choral works, many of them with Karajan. Amongst her finest are her Eboli, Amneris and Carmen for Karajan, her Rosina, Cherubino and Cenerentola for Marriner, her Dorabella in Muti's Cosi Fan Tutte and her Das Lied von der Erde with Tennstedt. She is also probably the best Preziosilla on disc in Sinopoli's uneven La Forza Del Destino and there is an excellent early recital disc on Orfeo, which is well worth seeking out.

She seems still to be singing, mostly Klytemnaestra in Elektra, in which I am sure she will be fantastic. I do wish Covent Garden would get her back just once before she retires.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline knight66

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Re: Agnes Baltsa
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2007, 09:49:59 PM »
I was also surprised to discover Baltsa on the Harnouncourt Mozart Opera DVDs. I had also thought she was off the international scene. There seemed to be a problem with her voice round about the time the Karajan Carmen recording was issued. I got the impression she forced her voice too much. Her recording career seemed to cease almost overnight. Like you I enjoyed her in a number of parts and she was one of the singers with 'face'. I do wish that EMI would reissue what I think was her first recital disc. It has the Macbeth arias on it and was a visceral and exciting disc.

So, really, it was good news to read she is still active and presumably appreciated.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Agnes Baltsa
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2007, 01:02:56 AM »
I do wish that EMI would reissue what I think was her first recital disc. It has the Macbeth arias on it and was a visceral and exciting disc.



Her first recital disc was issued by EMI Under licence to Orfeo and is the one I was talking about.



It had Lady Macbeth's first two arias on, if memory serves me right. The Sleepwalking scene was on a later recital. This Orfeo disc also includes an absolutely stunning rendition of O mio Fernando from Donizetti's La Favorita.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline knight66

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Re: Agnes Baltsa
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2007, 05:01:11 AM »
TL, Thanks, what a strange arrangement. I must look out for it.

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Agnes Baltsa
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2007, 05:20:44 AM »
TL, Thanks, what a strange arrangement. I must look out for it.

Mike

I believe, though I may be wrong, it was recorded by Orfeo, who, at that time, did not have a worldwide distributor. EMI licenced the recording in order to give it a better distribution (Baltsa's career having just taken off, as it were). It has now reverted to Orfeo, which is probably fortunate, otherwise, considering EMI's present difficulties, it would probably never have seen the light of day again.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Lobby

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Re: Agnes Baltsa
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2007, 06:58:59 AM »
I too remember Agnes Baltsa fondly,

In the 80s she and Jose Carrerras were almost ubiquitous as Carmen and Don Jose, and I also saw her at Covent Garden as Isabella in Italiani in Algeri and as Octavian in Rosenkavalier.  In fact, she was the Octavian for Solti's performances of Rosenkavalier in the 80s with Kiri Te Kanawa as the Marschallin and Barbara Bonney making her debut as Sophie.  The production was filmed and is now on DVD, but because Baltsa had just filmed the role for Karajan, she was replaced for the live relay by Anne Howells.

She still appears regularly in Vienna; last year she replaced Olga Borodina as Isabella in Italiani in Algeri (the same Ponnelle production as is used at Covent Garden, the Met and many other places). 

She can also be seen in the 50th Anniversary Gala from Vienna recorded in 2005, singing Amneris to Domingo's Radames:





Actually, she and Domingo contribute one of the best performances in the whole show and are much better than the younger singers who sing the same parts in the nile scene from Aida.

Jon.