Tuesday, August 20, 2013


(Henry Holland)

There is a huge international cabal to WILL Anna Netrebko a legend. I’ve seen it on social media. I have seen the whores do what they are bid; and as for the ‘Net flacks!!!!! We will read, “how gorgeous she is.” Yup. Why not just bring back silent films, or have her lip sync while a professional does the singing? (They did that often enough in the “old days”. Sofia Loren IS Aida while Renata Tebaldi sings on the sound track.)

It doesn’t matter. On a gay gossip board a thread about Maria Callas just this week brought out enormous ignorance. Once, many people of culture (certainly gay men) would at least have known that her name isn’t spelt Callous and they would have read a few reports about her gifts or problems. Now, it’s mostly morons and the one nasty flamer who is both defensive and a gross ignoramus named Henry Holland, hiding behind anonymity but recognizable. Well, he did have a web site up about sucking used athletic equipment so I assume drying all those sweaty socks in your mouth is an achievement. He is one of the star creeps at Parterre Box. You should look him up.

DG is obviously counting on forcing Netrebko Sings Verdi to become a great seller. 

To have such a grandiose presentation, the actual performances are trivial things. A problem with the same old same old in anything is that so many people have recorded this material, even the once rarely encountered Lady Macbeth arias, that it’s easy to find better, in great sound, at a discount! There is a difference between someone who is not that bad and what true stars were once expected to deliver.

Netrebko will actually sing Lady Macbeth. She has also done the lighter Giovanna d’arco. In the aria she has some trouble tuning the unaccompanied material that starts the scene but it’s an appropriate sound. She doesn’t quite get the marking “semplice” (simply) when the aria starts, and her phrasing is wooden; the triplets on “semplice” and “sua vesta” are not precise or in time. It doesn’t sound as though she understands why they are there. She also has a habit of sliding upwards, why does she scoop upwards the fifth from E flat to A flat that ends the word “giovanna”? There is a larger point here. That fifth punctuates an implied endless phrase, but Netrebko doesn’t sound as though she feels the need to sculpt the entire line and is phrasing with that as the point. There are no niceties in the reading. And, while it’s a decent performance in this dreary context, there is no sense of Giovanna’s circumstances or personality.

Arrigo ah parli a un cor from I Vespri Siciliani is taken rather quickly and the tenderness of accent even a distressed Callas (in her “Callas Rarities” release) brought to it is totally absent. This was a strong part of the Scotto, Cerquetti and Caballė
live performances (I saw first and third, second is thrilling on a pirate conducted by Mario Rossi). There is again a lack of firmness and point in the line. Netrebko does not spin out the span of B to G to F sharp on “io t’amo” in the first verse, “io muoio” in the second, a magical part of every good performance I’ve heard including Maralin Niska and Christina Deutekom neither of whom made history in the role but both of whom were better than this. Nor does she sing the repeat of each of those phrases as an echo, an obvious but lovely touch that everyone does. Netrebko is not very precise in differentiating pitches that are close; the G moving down to the F sharp is blurred. She doesn’t alter dynamics much either; the ability to convey sorrowing inwardness, so striking in Scotto or Callas or Cerquetti didn’t occur to her or she can’t do it. The slow descending chromatic scales toward the end are not well tuned. She sings the written cadenza up to the high C, a good note, but that version takes the line lower in her voice than she can sound. It’s competent. And that is greatness, I guess. (Except that there are many potentially greater singers without these problems, I’d nominate Christine Goerke, Sondra Radvanovsky and, given a bit of luck, Angela Meade).

As a performance from a great star in her prime, the Bolero (slow!) from Vespri is a clumsy joke

No Ruiz in Trovatore act four, means she must herself summon the desolate, hopeless scene in “Timor di me?” She doesn’t. The recitative is lifeless; she can’t infuse the words with urgency or color. She vocalizes the high B flat rather than singing the whole word “[pie] TOSA” then fails to shape the descending line, doing nothing with the final word “sospiri” (sighs). The aria is marked adagio but is rather fast, the quickish tempo lets her blur the trills, they’re there, not wonderful. She changes some words in the aria but more importantly doesn’t feel anything – either the rhythm, or the melodic shape or the situation. She sounds like a graduate student with some ability taking a test. The long cadenza is notable for extra breaths; some vague tuning and a lack of the sense that right here in these notes are Leonora’s thoughts of love soaring softly up to Manrico. The entire aria wonderfully dramatizes its poetic conceit and Netrebko gives no indication of understanding that (or of being able to do it).

Verdi makes the Miserere inevitable that way; the answer to Leonora’s sounds of love in the night is a chorus of death. The monks, offstage, sing a cappella with just a bell forlornly playing an E flat, but when Leonora enters the entire orchestra shudders, these are the wings of death. More than anything Leonora must mirror the rhythm, giving her words a hard or frightened point – Netrebko has no real rhythm, in fact she’s a bit behind. She artificially darkens her vocal color but that actually obscures the words. Moreover, she’s isn’t precisely in tune, she’s not able to sound clearly the crucial phrase E flat F flat G flat down to D flat on contende ambascia. And the cry, sento mancarmi, which others have infused with terror, is entirely bland. The great phrases where she cries, “how could I forget you?” in response to the tenor, “di te, di te scordarvi” are not inflected with anguish, they are dead. Poor Rolando Villazon in a far off echo chamber bleats Manrico.

She shakes a fist a “tu vedrai” but lacks rhythmic point and in fact, is anonymous – allegro agitato is the marking, reflected neither in the orchestra nor in her attack. Verdi marks dynamics, a crescendo on the fourth, C to F (o con [te]), and then again on nella [tomba] and then places accents on strong beats leading to a big crescendo for the cadenza, where she sounds like a babushka in thick boots stomping out the cold. Comical. There’s only one verse. Just as well. Lack of a really thrusting attack in Tu vedrai is a problem in conveying Leonora’s sudden resolve, which must contrast with her dream sorrow in D’amor sul ali errante, and her terror in the Miserere.

In exposed vocal material of this kind the singer’s ability to use cues from the score, from the composer’s own timing of effects and sense of form is crucial. And it’s interesting that Caballė, not always inspired and apt to drop consonants and change vowels, in two live performances (from Florence and Dallas) makes so much more of this scene. That’s a glorious sound but the timbre is by no means all. Within her means, Caballė (who doesn’t sing “tu vedrai”), makes most of the expressive points strongly – without the chance of retakes.

What is there to say about the Macbeth arias, as recorded here? I saw in at least two European on line sites about the bit of Macbeth’s letter to his wife, which are written to be spoken: “Oh!!!! She speaks the opening lines!!!! Amazing!!!” You read them or you skip them. And, dear reader, if you or I whispered them into a mike with a Russian accent we’d sound spooky too, except I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t run out of breath before the short lines were finished.

“Ambizioso spirto tu sei Macbetto” lies over an octave but her attack is rough on the E that starts it, the color of tone changes (for no reason) on the E below and it sounds like she is going to break on the D sharp F sharp E on the word “malvaggio”. Even on a recording she needs to take a gulping breath to manage the big run up to the high C, though none is indicated and it breaks the line. The marking of the aria is “grandioso”. Clearly, Lady Macbeth is to make something striding of the line, to seize it forcefully. Netrebko can’t, she’s working just to get through. The first trill is a blur, she omits subsequent trills and doesn’t feel the rhythm when she cries “io ti daró valore” – (“I’ll give you the courage!”) -- the point of the aria is missed. She can’t make the slow crescendo that is marked to start with “accetta” and to grow to a very loud B flat followed immediately by a drop to pian pianissimo (ppp) – what she does is sloppy and irrelevant.

One is always struck by how much Verdi makes of melodic inflection. In just these few lines all this character’s steely cunning is made to sound by the simplest means. But Netrebko is hit or miss – in all three arias. She shows neither special mastery of the vocal line nor any great imagination. If one turns to another Russian, Galina Vishnevskaya in 1976, singing the role far past her vocal best and working hard to manage, she still understands how to make the rhythms work, how this music must be seized and colored. There, extra breaths and some unpleasant sounds are forgivable because the character is so vividly understood. I end this post with Vishnevskaya in this aria, not because it’s a great performance vocally, because it shows what sheer understanding and an imagination that meets the composer’s intention can do.

In the other Macbeth arias some phrases are easier for Netrebko than others, but she really isn’t able to manage a compelling complete performance of any, and again, for a great singer in her prime the small saves and lazy compromises are a lot to accept. Neither her timbre nor her manner is arresting. She only does one verse (thankfully) of “Or tutti, sorgete!” and doesn’t get a doctor or serving woman to help set the Sleepwalking Scene. She certainly doesn’t set the scene by herself.

La luce langue is about as dead a reading of the aria as I’ve ever heard. Leonie Rysanek couldn’t pitch it but was electrifying live and is rather exciting on the RCA record, Olivia Stapp was not thought a great diva but one wonders, after this. It would take nine Netrebkos to make one Rita Hunter, who being English, one would expect to be awkward in Italian style, but one Rita Hunter makes the impact of about forty Anna Netrebkos and is infinitely more accomplished in florid music.

And now, one even wonders about Netrebko’s usefulness in this rep. At Covent Garden Liudmyla Monastyrska buried her, given what she does here (that telecast is very easy to find). True, she wasn’t subtle or Italian but that was one wallop through these arias. In comparison to all these ladies, Netrebko sounds like an amateur, and the spectacular Christine Goerke, who in different killer parts, has demonstrated all the skills La Lady needs is looking at the role.

Is it possible that Netrebko, 42, and now rather thick set, missed her moment? 

That when she should have been doing Tosca and Manon Lescaut, Desdemona, Trovatore Leonora, say ten years ago, she was taking the easy way out – being a beauty with a good voice? Well, that made her rich and a darling of the Manuella Hoelterhoff school of music criticism: “she’s thin, she’s hot, she’s GREAT!!!” It made her neither an artist nor a virtuoso and these arias (the album extends to an improbably bland “Tu che le vanità”) expose someone who will need all the hype, all the empty queen worship, all the ignorance she can get to seem important in a decade. Henry Holland, calling Henry Holland!!! But then she has the great whorehouse DG behind her. Who can fail?


  1. Ooooh, they are not going to love you at Parterre Box. Netrebko used to have her critics there (and still does, to some extent), but the fans seem to have won the day. Your very detailed analysis has really crystallized my general feeling about her. I think it is a great sound, but for me it never comes together as a totally realized performance. Vishnevskaya in that clip, with all the problems, gets at the meaning of the music far more successfully than Netrebko. I think she has a great rapport with her audiences, and she can be very lively on stage, but I don't hear that vitality in the singing (as I hear it in Vishnevskaya). I also feel that her basic sound is far more lyrical than she makes it out to be. The darkening of the voice feels very artificial, and maybe that's why it doesn't "move" as well as it should. THanks again for all your great posts. You even made me go back and listen to Berio and Stockhausen.

  2. A lot of the posters on Parterre take their cue from La Cieca who adores Netrebko. One has to be fearless to challenge La Cieca so I'm sure there are many who won't speak out.

  3. Netrebko's voice was much different 10 years ago than today. I doubt that either Tosca or Leonora would have suited her voice. Manon Lescaut would have been a stretch at the heavier moments but it still could have been great. Netrebko has improved certain technical aspects of her singing over the years, so I would hope that she will grow into this music. Even if she doesn't execute them perfectly, I still have high hopes that she will do Verdi justice, eventually.

  4. Thanks for commenting everybody. There's no point in getting into pissing matches, especially about opera singers -- any wars waged about them are unwinnable -- long after the retirement or death of the sacred fetishes (on Opera-L there have even recently been crazy dust ups about the relative talents of Maria Callas, Zinka Milanov and Renata Tebaldi. The sorts of things, accusations and counter accusations that -- word for word -- one could have heard in the Met's upstairs standing room FIFTY YEARS AGO, when even I was young!!!!!!!!!). I've seen repeated there accusations against Leontyne Prince I heard when I was in HIGH SCHOOL!!!!!!!!! I think the Netrebko Verdi album is really lousy; I gave my reasons and that's as far as I can go. Those who hear something else that is much better or don't care about what concerns me have a right to their own impressions. Life, I think will go on....

  5. Albert, right! The carrying on about Callas/Milanov/Tebaldi was rampant way back in 1956 on the Met opera line. And now they are ranting on about Price (Verdi soprano or no, just another lyric?) LOL.

    As to Netrebko, I think the next few years will be critical for her career. Bel canto to can belto?
    Although Netrebko's voice is beautiful, my main problem with her is when she actually goes from one note to another.

    The Verdi CD: yuch!

  6. I thought I was going to post this as Mrs. John Claggart but goggle won't let me -- thanks everyone who comments. Laurence did you see that moron who uses the pseudonym "Idia Legray" say that Muzio/Scotto had equals in Gheorghiu, Fleming and Netrebko today? Where do these fools come from? Gheorghiu and Fleming had beautiful voices and both were technical whizzes (the technical skill was maybe not so true of Muzio, and Scotto began to have issues when she moved into the heavier rep, though it took a lot of skill to last as long as she did). But both Muzio and Scotto were highly distinctive with a profound connection to what they sang. I'm not sure that's true of Goo-goo as I call her, Fleming (though she works at it) or Netrebko who told Opera News SHE would have fucked Onegin and felt no connection to Tatyana except the language. She's an idiot and I can't imagine ANY of the other ladies mentioned having the same attitude. Goo-goo may not have made a profound connection to what she's sung, and Fleming may have tried hard without the distinctiveness of Muzio for God's sake, but all those other ladies were serious about what they were doing. Netrebko is a frivolous, mindless product making as much as she can. And since few divas sing at the top of their professions into their 50's, she only has a few years to find a rep that does prompt her to work hard and explore feelings, if she even has that ability. Oh well, time to calm down and have my twin, Albert or Mrs. John, fan me and tell me I'm special!!!!!

  7. The less said about Idia Legray, the better. Friends, many years ago on the NYT Opera Forum used to call her Idiote LaGoose (in private, of course). Don't get me started on dear "Mogliettina (as she was called in those days)! Sorry for being so bitchy. Ali Kashani will not like these remarks.

    BTW, I saw Scotto's Gilda in Florence, 1962. FAB!

  8. Your analytical dismissal of Netrebko's singing will be a smash hit with Artificial Intelligence if it springs into consciousness.
    In criticism, it's very transparent when someone finds bad things because he is intent on finding them. The clue is usually the absolute, no-exception negativity. With Netrebko, everything is bad, and other singers are doing it better even in their worse moments. Reading your post, one must conclude several things: that Anna Netrebko is absolutely wrong almost in every syllable she sings, that she's not far from being the worst Verdi singer today, that only whores may think good of her singing. If we listed all American and European critics who have praised Netrebko (at one time, criticized her at another), we'd have a who's who in criticism today. So, all those critics are uneducated (in operatic singing) have no musicality whatsoever, or are dishonest - all but you, the author of this blog. Only you find her singing utterly horrible and all the others are hallucinating. And your suggestion that those 'whores' are lying because Netrebko is 'gorgeous' is a particularly telling detail of the objectiveness of your 'critique', because Netrebko (deliberately) abandoned sexy image long ago and this (according to your theory) should have hurt her reviews... only it hasn't.
    All those whoring onductors/colleagues who have praised her singing (from Domingo onwards) also don't know what they're talking about or are dishonest lying bastards. Whoredom is vast, but you'll defend the honor of opera!
    And let's not forget the idiotic audience which knows nothing of opera and should drop it (right?) and leave it to experts.
    Interesting, psychologically.
    And even if I agreed that Netrebko is a mediocre singer (which I don't), for all your technical, clinical, brainy analysis above, you seem not to have the heart for opera, but the soul of an accountant. You claim Netrebko has no connection to the music, but your post shows you have no emotional connection, just pure technicality. What we, opera fans, love are the emotions expressed through the whole personality of singer on stage, not only the technical aspects. There are technically excellent sopranos who will never achieve 10% of Netrebko's popularity because they can sing but cannot move audiences. If audience consisted only of people with conservatory doctorates following the performance with scores in their hands, it might be different (I doubt even that), but the majority will happily forgive some vocal imperfections if they are moved by the singer. And for your comparison with Callas - there have been singers with MORE BEAUTIFUL voices than Callas's even in her own time. Her fame is deserved but rests partially on glamour and drama (on and off stage). If we would evaluate Callas on her voice alone she would still be an excellent singer, but would not achieve reputation surpassing all other sopranos. Funny that you think that Netrebko can't convey emotions. She does that better than any other female singer today.
    I think your underlying message is that all of us (majority of opera fans) are stupid and will believe anything commercial propaganda wants them to believe. However, if only 'honest experts' (how many of you are there in your opinion: 5%?) were allowed into opera houses, the opera would disappear. I somehow think you'd be perfectly willing to accept it - you would still have 'the legends of the past' to listen to again and again. This is it, this is your problem, isn't it? Today is always gloomy compared to the glorious past, right? Until today becomes past. I expect that in 20-30 years Netrebko will be considered a great soprano, based, partially, on her Leonora. You expect, I presume, that she'll be forgotten. Time will judge, as always.

    1. I don't even know where to begin. So writing a very detailed critical review that shows a person has listened carefully to somebody's work is to be dismissed for being clinical? Yes, the review is harsh at times, but I would take that rather than that "Well, I love her" praise that passes for informed opinion in so many forums. Netrebko is one of the mot popular singers before us today, but that is more a sad commentary on the state of the art than her actual talents (which I find to be quite considerable, but not fully realized). And regarding Callas, I think her real fame rests on her recorded legacy. It has been a long time since her scandals, and her glamour, in the pictures we have of her, seems rather quaint today, but what she did musically Netrebko will never be able to touch. And I don't find Mrs Claggart (or Albert) stuck in the past. He has had very positive things to say about Kauffman and Bartoli's Norma. But I guess you would dismiss those comments as well, because they were written in a very detailed manner that shows, once again, a person who loves the music he listens to more than the artist performing it. I believe that's an important distinction.

    2. Davorin: To say that Mrs. Claggart does not have a heart for opera is the funniest, dumbest, most ludicrous statement I have ever read on an opera forum or blog. Get real!

      As to Callas, Perfida is right. I listened to and adored Callas' recordings (as many did in the early fifties) way before we had a chance to experience her in person--and I continue to listen to her recordings today: her great art is there for all to hear. I did later see her in Norma, Traviata, Lucia, Tosca and Pirata (concert).

      Re: Netrebko, About ten years ago, I bought an orchestra ticket for her Lucia in LA. I didn't know much about her and had never heard her on recordings., I then, to check her out, listened to a CD of a few of her Bel Canto arias and immediately concealed my trip to LA. I thought her singing was mediocre or worse.
      I did see her Mimi at LOC last season and was not impressed. Nice performance.

      Her CD of Verdi arias is really not very good, but, then again, does it really matter how well she sings? LOLOL

  9. Thank you Laurence and Perfidia, my buds. Obviously I agree with your points. But I welcome Mr. Jelačić and hope he will peek in again. You can never win battles over singers, period. It's fun to debate their gifts but finally there are these people called FANS and they will react, regardless of their intelligence otherwise, with a lack of objectivity and frequently, knowledge as well.

    One of the worst aspects of opera, as I've written in this blog, is the singer craziness which goes on regardless of whether the fetish object (Netrebko in this case) can actually deliver the music as written, with fluency and accomplishment. When it comes to Verdi, she cannot do that. When it comes to other operas by other composers, there is much she either can't do and simplifies, or can only approximate. Milanov, Callas, Tebaldi, Price, De Los Angeles, Stella, Sutherland, Scotto, Freni, Nilsson -- love, like or hate some of them, and some of them were HATED -- were not STARS because of WHAT THEY COULDN'T DO. They all could deliver in spades; some could still be effective past their primes, when despite vocal limits, their imagination, musicality and understanding, qualities Netrebko lacks to any great degree, would allow them to make a powerful effect.

    It was astounding this weekend when on Mrs. John Claggart's Facebook page, fans of Sondra Radvanowsky, posted LIVE performance after live performance of the arias Netrebko butchers on this album, despite all the saves and "help" singers are given today. With no chance of retakes, or the fakery that is typical of today's recordings, Radvanowsky delivered this music with astonishing virtuosity (for example, in three different performances of the Vespri Bolero -- Netrebko's is one of the worst on a seriously intended recording). In an easier aria, "Arrigo ah parli a un core". Radvanowsky had the right tempo (about half the fast breeze through of Netrebko), she phrased like an outstanding musician (Netrebko hardly phrases at all), she offered a wide dynamic and coloristic range (Netrebko has neither), she tuned the descending scales precisely (Netrebko cannot tune them with any certainty) and sang an astounding final cadenza (Netrebko's is a mess).

    Now, there are people who don't like Radvanowsky, who question the very quality of the middle of her wide ranging voice, who find her highly finished but rather dull. But being as objective as it is possible to be, she sang an insanely difficult aria (The Bolero) and a slow, heartfelt aria (Arrigo...) with precision, ease and to fine effect. Unfortunately, the hyping remarks of Peter Gelb this weekend, the astonishing publicity DG has paid for, reveal that Netrebko is another fraud who powerful people are elevating in order to make a buck, and that her only real talent is her glamorous good looks in early middle age. They want two things, your money and your ignorance. It's what's happened in opera and is sad, but perhaps inevitable as the form becomes more and more marginal. Still, once again Mr. Jelačić is welcome and I appreciate his searching this blog out. And I ADORE Laurence and Perfidia!!!!!!!!

    1. Still no one answered my simple question: how is it possible for all those professional critics and professional musicians (conductors and singers) to praise (and how!) Netrebko for certain performances for 10 years now if she is so bad?
      I guess you're in the States, but here, in Europe, many influential critics had their verdict on various Netrebko's performances.
      Claggart, Laurence and Perfidia - you can't have it both ways: either all those people are (musical) idiots or 'whores' - or you are wrong. No other explanation. (Maybe one: maybe you've never seen her live.)
      Recordings are fine, but the essence of opera is not the recording, but live performance. I think those Il Trovatore tracks are very fine but I expect true beauty from Netrebko when she starts performing it on stage. (And no, Radvanovsky didn't thrill me in that Met broadcast.)
      As for Callas: I love listening to her recordings, but if you know about vocalism, I know something about psychology and mythology. And yes, Perfidia, long after glamour and scandals pass, the Story (myth) is still passed on to the next generation and grows with each retelling; great anecdotes are remembered and embellished, bad moments are forgotten. Can we know at all if Malibran was great or awful (by Claggart's criteria)? The essence of Myth. I'm not bashing La Divina (god forbid!), I'm just saying I hope to be here in 30 years and check with you guys what the fame of Netrebko will be then, when there're less people who attended her live performances. I expect her fame to only grow.
      As for ignorance: I agree that standards should be uphold, but I don't agree that a singer with 'perfect' technique equals the best opera singer. As I said, there's more to it. The audience judges who's the best and the audience has never (since the very beginning of opera) included only highly-trained vocal experts.
      I'm not sure if the form becomes more marginal, but I'm pretty convinced that the average quality of operatic singing (large houses and small) is higher than ever before. It's getting better, not worse. And for the geniuses - they'll always be scarce.

    2. Davorin, can you point us to a learned discussion of Netrebko from a European writer? I have yet to see one.

      I think there are two issues here: the quality of Netrebko’s voice; and the quality of her artistry.

      The voice itself, I believe, is very fine. It has color, gleam, richness—what some call glamour of sound—and the voice is HUGE. I heard her Mimi in Chicago in March, and for me there was a certain thrill in hearing such a continuous flow of luxurious sound.

      Whether Netrebko possesses great artistry is a different issue. Can any sensible person argue that Netrebko is a great musician or a memorable interpreter?

      I believe it is fair to compare Netrebko to a violinist who can produce an extraordinary sound but who otherwise is in possession of garden-variety if not shoddy musicianship.

  10. Interesting discussion which I have just now seen. It has helped me understand my mixed feelings about Netrebko. I find her voice mostly beautiful, but her singing mostly generic(sometimes moving as in Iolantha, sometimes meh) NO doubt she is now a "product" which is sad because it doesn't bode well for the future. I much prefer Radvanovsky's Verdi because it reaches me warts and all. I used to have a wonderful opera companion who passed away a number of years ago. I dragged him to both Don Carlo (his favorite opera) and Vespri ( which he didn't know) to hear Radvanovsky. I say "dragged" because he was sure nobody today could sing Verdi the way it "should" be. I loved both performances, they spoke Verdi to me, and to my delight, he did too. He summarized it by "it's not her voice, it's her singing" and although I know what he means, I have no idea how to technically explain this.
    I miss the old discussions on the Met's intermission features where one could learn about those differences. I also miss the "Talking about..." series which the Guild ( I believe) used to produce. Too much marketing, too little education/enlightenment. Thanks for the discussions.

  11. Davorin: No one can answer your "simple question" except yourself.

  12. Much foolishness from Jelačić who is defending a good looking nonentity being pimped out by fools desperate to fill big opera houses and sell CDs, increasingly difficult challenges. Jelačić's taste is what it is. It is an unmusical opera queen taste that finally I despise. It isn't about "myth" or "Malibran" (why is that name there? She never sang Verdi), it's about what we can know right now: the product called Netrebko put stuff on that CD that a true professional would be ashamed of, from her inability to phrase, to her iffy intonation, to her fakey coloratura to her coarse style to her vague rhythm. No one can tell Jelačić he has no right to adore this; but in adoring it he reveals himself as tin eared, unmusical and stylistically unaware. I have never been a Callas "freak" but even her challenged "Rarities" LP (now on CD) shows a much greater understanding of how a tone can be used to express what is written carefully in the score. That's a professional's obligation; if there are obvious flaws in her singing as singing, there are real insights. I don't believe the flaws cancel the insights but they are real enough for me to understand someone preferring other versions of this material. But there is one way that Callas is right (and not a fetish or "mythic" object), she starts with a deep, detailed, complex understanding of what is THERE in the notes, of how the music must be phrased, of how the words must be touched into the tone, of how rhythm is crucial in Verdi --- and in all those ways Nebs is nothing. And the notion that I haven't seen Neb is preposterous; I saw her at the Met from her earliest seasons, where she did good work in War and Peace; NOT as good as Kashrashvili who sang the role with the Bolshoi in New York in 1976, NOT as good as Vishnevskaya on the Bolshoi recording (1963 or so?) but OK. Otherwise, she was no better than a lot of young singers with good voices, iffy techniques and a lack of musicality. But her looks made the case for her and fine, flubbing bits of Adina (which I saw in Vienna) is not a crime, and providing a lively personality while the singing as singing lacks eloquence and brilliance is fine in Don Pasquale, but the Verdi selections are far more serious and the technical demands far more intense. I'm sick of amateur and corrupt commentators and reviewers in opera, and Jelačić's assumption that most of those people really know what they're talking about is preposterous (and notice, no quotes from anyone). Most can't read music, most have never worked with singers (I have, at the piano). But bottom line is get it right, make musical and emotional sense of it, sing it as well as you can, and then you or your fan can demand you be taken seriously and then discussions of just how good (or "mythic") someone is become meaningful. My words for Jelačić's ridiculous assertions about his amateur amour are BS.

  13. Again, agreed. I refer folk to the film of her ludicrous Lady Macbeth at the Mariinsky gala. What it shows first and foremost is the sloppy musicianship, the poor pitching, the unsuitability of the fake voice. I never know what IS the real Netrebko voice - remember she started out as the tweetiest of Lyudmilas, and even then couldn't stay in tune.

    Now please, on to positives - and to hell with the cancellations - about Harteros, who is being 'digged' at Over There. Indeed, why doesn't SHE have the major recording contract? Time is passing, and all we really have are a recital disc on an obscure label, the magnificent Verdi Requiem with Pappano and the Four Last Songs (better for Luisi than for Jansons). Mind you, in watching the Cardiff Singer of the World finales, she was outclassed then by Nicole Cabell: what a stunning winner. Along with Hvorostovsky the most compelling of them all until Jamie Barton.

  14. Thanks for commenting, David. Record companies don't want to record anyone. The (odd when you think about it) exceptions are good looking people with massive publicity behind them. Jonas Kaufmann, who while very good vocally, is GREAT looking and highly promoted. Whether he's equal to all the rep he'll put on CD before he goes isn't known; an early sample of the Verdi arias was ugly sounding. Netrebko has ALWAYS been promoted because she's a beauty, and that's why DG spent so much on this awful album. She has major engagements at all the important opera houses, and has a certain pop star aura in some countries, all of that insures saturation of a much larger market than opera CDs can reasonably expect. Moreover, are we sure DG ponied up all the money for this CD? It's not unusual, as I think I mention somewhere, for a patron to come into the picture -- the Russian government could have contributed (not saying they did, but that sort of thing does happen) and she is a Putana, I mean, a supporter of Putin whatever that would be in Russian. All sorts of other people who in the fifties and sixties would probably have been signed for a few innings to see how they sold are just ignored now. There really isn't a market, except for these few exceptions, along with Bocelli (who, however, pays for his own recordings in return for very big royalties with complete ownership reverting to him, meaning he can re-release CDs eventually) or Domingo, the famous baritone. It's nice that the genuinely gifted Joyce di Donato has a record company behind her, presumably she sells well enough and perhaps her sales are growing. But it's been a long time since a gifted singer has gotten more than a token recital and maybe a chance to record a concert piece, such as The Verdi Requiem. But for those of us who loved collecting recorded performances, a Requiem is indeed in order!!!

  15. They are discussing the "wonderful" Harteros "you-know-where"! While the soprano has a nice, biggish and burnished voice, I find her singing as dull as dishwater, not very affecting, not much personality.
    She was, imo, pretty good in the recent Trovatore and Don Carlos.

    I guess I am missing something that others hear in her singing.

  16. Not much personality? You amaze me. I've found on the three occasions I've been lucky enough to see her on stage - Royal Opera Boccanegra, Otello and that one Don Carlo - she acted her heart out. With Kaufmann in that last act, well, that was one of the great experiences. About him, I agree he can make some ugly sounds and there are some horrible ones on the Italian disc (will never find him sunshine and roses in that rep). Oh, and Harteros is a very handsome woman if maybe not exactly a beauty. Nice when the image and the top musicianship combine (in other spheres Alison Balsom, Lisa Batiashvili, Nicola Benedetti to a lesser extent).

    Russian backing very likely. La Putana - you made me laugh there as you often do. Can we find an appropriately abusive name for Gergiev, the bigger sinner in that wretched business?

    How good it is to be back in Widder Claggartland.

  17. David, I merely meant that Harteros' voice/singing does not have much individual personality. To me she sounds good, but rather generic, both vocally and artistically.
    She may "act her heart out" and be an attractive woman (those are plusses), but I want more expression solely from the singing/voice.

    I find that today many singers have lovely voices, pretty good techniques, but are simply rather bland.
    This is apparently what the audiences of today go for and require + a certain physical attractiveness and/or sexiness in both men and women.

  18. Well, those aren't things I go for - and I find plenty of personality in Harteros's floated high pianissimo lines. In the Don Carlo, the personality took some time to emerge, but by her first big solo it already had. Maybe ascribe that to the problems of the Fontainebleau act.

    Widder, I am not trying to suck up to you when I say you hit the nail every time for me in all your too rare recent postings. I remember being flamed by Henry Holland, but that was nothing compared to a spiteful individual who drove me away from Parterre and has, curiously, cropped up further down. You will soon find that pursuing one of the many websites of this mysterious individual will not yield much joy.

  19. David, io tremo!!! I don't look in at Parterre so I don't know who might be the "mysterious individual". I like comments and it's great to see so many and don't mind people who disagree with me but I CAN block people, so I have a bit of a safety. I hope you check in next week for I have an ENDLESS piece about Ben Britten, Lady Kildea's recent biography, Mr. Carpenter's biography and even get a mention in of TEAR HERE, and the letters, though these are very expensive in America. I am going to an insane length in that and wonder how many people will read it? But I love (much of) the music and find his various personas and the perceptions about them fascinating. I'm happy to see you so often. Laurence is one of MY PEEPS as we say here and I'm glad to see you two fencing. Disagreement is fine, it's the many, many nuts the 'Net brings out that are the problem. None of us qualify but me, and yet Mrs. Claggart is a sweetheart and mitigates Albert's homicidal tendencies!!!!

  20. Of course, gentlemen's (or gentlewomen's) disagreements are always fun and are best when they end with both coming a little closer to the middle.

    I haven't commented on Parterre for years but some arguments there can be very classy and it was through La Cieca's sidebar that I discovered Mrs John Claggart's Sad Life. La Cieca has finally done as I requested - whether through my pressure or not I know not - and removed said individual's blog from the roster. Whether said individual still manifests him/herself under the usual moniker or another I also know not.

    But here's a stirring piece of news: Joyce DiDonato has proved herself a true Mensch again (sure that's permitted of divas) and stood up against the Russian persecutions on her blog: http://www.joycedidonato.com/2013/09/05/5820/ . She is dedicating - and I'm sure it's no publicity stunt - her performance of 'Over the Rainbow' at the Last Night of the Proms tomorrow to LGBT people everywhere. But why does she have to be one of the few?

    Your heavenly lengths mark you out as unique. You write what you must, and to the devil with short attention spans. If you haven't changed in your grand widowhood I guess you never will.

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  22. I read not only your entire blog entry here but every reply. As a Britten & sometimes Pears enthusiast, I found it all enthralling musical, historical, biographical, sexual, psychological fare. Thanks to all of you.

    A couple of points: If you read B's & Ps letters to each other at the beginning of their lifelong relationship, you can't but admire the latter's obvious love for BB, as well as mature attitude towards making it work, both realistically & altruistically. Their collaborations seem mostly inspired by Britten's love of the man & of his voice. Not manipulated by Pears, altho' one might be shocked by Pears's apparent indifference when it came to Ben's works for other than his lover's voice.

    There is inconsistency re whether Britten's relationship w Wulff Scherchen was consummated or not. We may never know, but it seems clear the younger man was not ready for a full sexual relationship w a man no matter how romantically in love w him he also seems to have been.

    I believe all the testimonies of the men once pubescent boys w whom the composer was besotted that nothing sexual ever happened. I also found Sir Charles Mackerras's statement that he & others found Ben's homosexality "so amusing" v. offensive & beneath him as a modern professional, claiming furthermore to be Britten's friend!

    Finally (I have to stop somewhere or I could go on forever!), I agree about Owen Wingrave for the most part, tho' am not musicologically qualified to judge but stay as open-minded as to its future more positive effect on me.

    Thank you again for your engrossing blog & hoping to exchange feelings, opinions & words w you again sometime.