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Preview: Sieglinde's Diaries

Sieglinde's Diaries

"My voice has doubled in the past few years. It started suddenly to be bigger, because I was using the microphone between my tits!" -Anna Netrebko

Updated: 2017-04-08T04:14:35.459-04:00


Ten years ago


Perhaps many years from now, I'll look back, as I did last night, and say how wonderful it was to have been at countless Fleming performances because she always made me feel utterly happy and loved, and also reminded me of love. I'd say, at one point she was all I knew, and I've never been more content.

Listless List


The List is out. Here's how our boys fared:
But the dynamic duo of 19th-century opera, Verdi and Wagner, aimed high. As I already let slip, they both make my list. That a new production of a Verdi opera, like Willy Decker’s spare, boldly reimagined staging of “La Traviata” at the Metropolitan Opera, can provoke such heated passions among audiences is testimony to the enduring richness of Verdi’s works. A production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle has become the entry card for any opera company that wants to be considered big time. The last 20 minutes of “Die Walküre” may be the most sadly beautiful music ever written.

But who ranks higher? They may be tied as composers but not as people. Though Verdi had an ornery side, he was a decent man, an Italian patriot and the founder of a retirement home for musicians still in operation in Milan. Wagner was an anti-Semitic, egomaniacal jerk who transcended himself in his art. So Verdi is No. 8 and Wagner No. 9.
Mozart was listed, of course, but only at No. 3? The other opera composers who made it are Beethoven and Debussy.  It's actually an amusing read, full of funny apologies and excuses. The exercise of putting together such lists is not unlike choosing a favorite child, if you're too serious about it. But it can also be a "gun-to-your-head" or desert island game, if you're on your second bottle of wine.

I wish a blog like Parterre Box would host a similar challenge to readers, for our very own Top 10 List of Opera's Greatest Composers.  I'm sure it's been done here and there, more times than I can imagine, but to have perhaps the greatest collection of queens bitch it out for days and days would be a true highlight of operablogging in a while.  (Sorry, it can't be hosted here, since (a) I have a readership of about a dozen, and (b) I don't allow comments in the blog.) Mascagni, anyone?

La Travesty


The limitations of her performance were particularly glaring in Act II, when Germont, Alfredo's father, arrived like a death knell to separate her from her last chance at happiness. Here, she was paired with Andrzej Dobber, whose dour, monochromatic baritone emphasized Germont's cruelty and self-righteousness, with no hint of his growing respect for Violetta's integrity and his sympathy for her, and the long duet pitted two equally stiff characters against each other. Ms. Poplavskaya simply flailed against Mr. Dobber's implacability, and this sequence, one of the richest in the opera, missed the intense development that Verdi wrote into both these people. It became part of the production's scheme without persuading us of its emotional truth.
Well said.

My lingering thought now is Holy Crap, I have to see this modern Decker monstrosity every time I go to the Met for Traviata.  It's one of my faves!  How can this happen.  My next thought, somehow comforting, is, well, who will agree to sing this Violetta here anyway.  Only youngish and semi-athletic sopranos can do that riding the couch shit with any credibility.  Seriously, of the Violettas that graced the Zeffirelli extravaganza in the past decade, only Cristina Galladro-Domas, the young Patricia Racette (but no more), Krassimira Stoyanova, maybe Anja Harteros, maybe Hei-Kyung Hong, maybe Mary Dunleavy can do this production to some degree (but will they agree to do it is another question). The list leaves out really good interpreters such as Ruth Ann Swenson, June Anderson, Renee Fleming, and Angela Gheorghiu.  That blows, don't you think?

Breaking news: Verdi and Wagner Make it to History's Most Pompous Top 10 List


The New York Times' Anthony Tommasini argues for their inclusion in his own most exclusive list of "The 10 Greatest Composers of Classical Music", otherwise known as "The Most Predictable Top 10 List Out There, Really".

Real Housewife of UWS


We have something spontaneous (for lunch), something small. Dinner is the big meal. I love to eat, but no way am I going to do a diet; forget it! I just am careful about how much I eat. Sure, I would like to lose a few kilos, but I don’t want to be skinny. You see these skinny, starving women always with the unhappy faces! In my profession, you need the big lungs; my upper body is one or two sizes bigger than my bottom half.
Elsewhere, Anna Netrebko professes her devotion to TJ Maxx, Century 21, Starbucks, "The Tudors", and "popcorn, a Coke, and a movie".  Don't yawn, it's rude.

Traviata Epic Fail


(image) Verdi LA TRAVIATA, 12.01.11; c. Noseda; Poplavskaya, Polenzani, Dobber.

The sets, supposedly new, squeaked and creaked a number of times throughout the evening, which was distracting, to say the least. But what I really minded was the way Willy Decker managed to strip off the human intimacy in key scenes, all for the sake of "interpretation". The disjuncture between Verdi's era-specific story and Decker's dislocated reimagination is jarring. If his Violetta is this modernish hooker and her parties have many transvestites and their couches are from Ikea, then why the hell does the Germont family even care if the son is cavorting quite happily with some Lindsay Lohan? Surely in this imagined modern plane, morality and shame don't bear as much force as in, say, the socially rigid Zeffirelli universe.

Because of this dissonance, Decker's first scene of Act II, which is the opera's breaking heart, where Verdi wrote his most wrenchingly personal music, was a total failure. I do recall that in the traditional Zeffirelli, Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu, Ruth Ann Swenson, and Hei-Kyung Hong (to name a few) managed to induce a melodrama that left me shamelessly misty-eyed. In the new production, Marina Poplavskaya, during this scene, wanders here and there and up and down and left and right, attempting to fill an otherwise big, empty, brightly-lit sterile void. (Paradoxically, the "big" Zeffirelli production was actually cozier and warmer in Act II, Scene I, than this "spare" Decker; the singers in this current run have been inadvertently miniaturized.)

The other problem with "concept" productions is that you end up expecting to be dazzled and surprised at every turn, so that the opera seems engaging only during special effects moments or dynamic staging (like Robert Lepage's undulating Das Rheingold platform spines) but can quickly become staid and dull when things stop moving or changing. Again, Act II's crucial scene with Violetta and Papa Germont was one casualty, the proverbial drying paint of the evening. Runner up was Act III, the other emotionally packed scene, where Violetta again wanders around, but this time in her bodacious camison, obsessed with Doctor Death. (Yawn.)

More things to say about this; perhaps I'll get to them later this week. Also, a few words need to be added regarding Marina Poplavskaya's uneven but ultimately satisfying portayal and Matthew Polenzani's singular success. But the bottom line on the Decker: an annoying disappointment.

Critically short


Scary for other reasons was Sondra Radvanovsky’s first Met Tosca, sung flat and evoking all the tragic grandeur of a Real Housewife of New Jersey.
Funny! (But only one line devoted to the headliner?)

Radvanovsky did seem a bit suburban in her demeanor, but interpretation of interpretations is almost always about personal taste more than reality. What may be gauged a bit more objectively is flatness, and after reviewing one in-house recording from first note to last, I could not sense any consistent flatness in her rendition. (I should be fair to Alagna as well: his top notes weren't terribly flat either; but the way his face tensed up launching up to them was just a tad painful to watch in person.) Alternatively, I may need to take my ears in for a tune-up. (Get it??)

But what has not been mentioned in any review that I've seen thus far is the rare kind of ovation that greeted Radvanovsky, for her exquisite Vissi d'arte and during her ecstatic curtain calls. After many years and hundreds of evenings at the Met, I could sense different degrees of ovations, and believe me, there was something special going on. The evening was buttressed with the kind of sustained energetic applause and bravas from all parts of the house (not just from one or two freaks) that the likes of Deborah Voigt may never get at the Met again. (Heck, even Renee Fleming hasn't gotten it recently.) The only other active soprano that garners the same feverish adulation is Anna Netrebko, but we know that Netrebko's is as much about the back story as the evening's performance. With no-name Radvanovsky, it seemed more a visceral response to what was actually occurring on stage. If this is a "work in progress", then we got ourselves the next major New York supernova.



Flat review


For the soprano, mark it down as a work in progress. Give the tenor extra credit for a save-the-day substitution. But the highest grade goes to the baritone, for masterfully stealing the show. ...

Most of the advance attention focused on Sondra Radvanovsky, an American soprano who has been impressive in Verdi roles and who was singing her first Tosca at the Met. She started off shakily, sounding flat in her offstage calls to her lover ("Mario! Mario!"). And she remained tentative through much of Act 1.
The only flatness audible from where I was sitting was emanating from the Mario. My only thought of the "Mario! Mario!" entrance was "Wow, she's offstage behind this Luc Bondy atrociousness, and she's as loud as Angelotti and Cavaradossi" who were front and center.

Just to make sure, I reviewed a recording my friend made of last evening, and confirmed that indeed, there was no such offstage flatness. (She also overwhelmed the dB capacity of the mic in much of Act II, by the way.) I don't have Sirius, but I'm sure that the broadcast recording would also disprove this AP report.

As for remaining tentative through much of Act 1, I would be too, if this new guy is singing with me, and he's tongue kissing and fondling my breasts and mounting me every chance he gets.

Ringing Tosca


(image) Puccini TOSCA, 10.01.11; c. Armiliato; Radvanovsky, Alagna, Struckmann.

The throbbing, relentlessly lachrymose and sonically gifted soprano of Sondra Radvanovsky enters a new dimension. She probably vaporized many in-house recordings and shattered hidden microphones tonight, with the sheer gigabigness of her top notes and that characteristic, mechanical vibrato. But the good news is that she's finally using some chest tones! Not a lot, not as big, and not consistently, but they were there when it mattered. One quibble: too much ad-libbed sobbing and screaming and screeching. But a sonically thrilling performance nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Roberto Alagna needs to download some porn and relieve himself before going out on stage, because he needs to stop molesting his co-stars. More than once, he interrupted Sondra's lines with creepy mouth-to-mouths. And then, there was actual missionary-style mounting of Sondra. It was a bit disturbing. And yes, Alagna's voice sounds like it's been put through the shredder a few times, but we still love him. The fear, shared by everyone in the house, was palpable every time he launched a sustained top note. The other guy, Falk Struckmann, did his best imitation of George Gagnidze's Scarpia.

And lastly, enough of the Luc Bondy; bring back the Zeffirelli, please.

Met Futures, relocated


(Late announcement, old news.) A few months ago, Brad Wilber's list moved from Sieglinde's pad to its own address. With abundant gratitude, I wish Brad lots of luck.

The Future has been revised


Who cares about the season just opened? Sieglinde announces gigantic updates to Brad Wilber's indispensable Met Futures Page for the next four seasons. Check out the following:For Season 2011-12:1. Ildar Abdrazakov replaces John Relyea as Enrico in Anna Bolena.2. Waltraud Meier will share Waltraute in Die Götterdämmerung.3. Marina Rebeka debuts as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.4. For Faust, Marina Poplavskaya will share the Marguerites with Angela Gheorghiu, Piotr Beczala will sing some Fausts, George Petean will sing some Valentins, and Ian McNeill will design instead of Robert Brill.5. The Enchanted Island has a cast: Danielle de Niese as Ariel, Lisette Oropesa as Miranda, Joyce DiDonato as Sycorax, David Daniels as Prospero, Anthony Roth Costanzo as Ferdinand in his Met debut, Placido Domingo as Neptune, and Luca Pisaroni as Caliban.6. Maestro Michele Mariotti has been taken off Elisir d'amore.7. Sondra Radvanovsky has been taken off Aida.8. Tom Fox sings Doctor Kolenaty in Makropoulos Case.9. Marianne Cornelli will share the role of Abigaille with Maria Guleghina in Nabucco.10. Angela Meade joins the cast of Ernani as Elvira.For Season 2012-13:1. Elza van den Heever will make her Met debut as Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda.2. Matthew Polenzani will be Lensky in Eugene Onegin, which will be directed by Deborah Warner.3. Maija Kovalevska will sing Micaela, Yonghoon Lee will be Don Jose, and Maestro Michele Mariotti will make his Met debut in Carmen.4. Marcello Alvarez and Dmitri Hvorostovsky have been added to the cast of Un Ballo en Maschera.5. Katarina Dalayman will sing Kundry in Parsifal.6. For Il Trovatore, Franco Vassallo will sing Di Luna and Maestro Daniele Callegari will conduct.7. Norma has been added to the repertory, starring Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role.8. Barber of Seville has been added to the repertory, to be conducted by Yves Abel. Some performances will be in abridged family version.9. Giulio Cesare has been added, to feature a new (borrowed) production with a cast that includes David Daniels and Rachid Ben Abdeslam, debuting as Nireno.10. Maestro Fabio Luisi will share conducting duties for Don Carlo. Marambio and Smirnova have been taken off the cast list.11. Jose Cura will be Otello.12. Maija Kovalevska will sing the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro.For Season 2013-14:1. Falstaff will be a new production, with a cast that includes Lisette Oropesa as Nannetta, Stephanie Blythe as Quickly, and Franco Vassallo as Ford. Jack O'Brien will direct.2. For I Puritani, Mariusz Kwiecien will be Riccardo, and Maestro Michele Mariotti will conduct.3. Anne Schwanewilms will make her Met debut in Die Frau ohne Schatten as Kaiserin, with Johan Reuter as Barak.4. Fanciulla del West has been added to the roster.5. The Nose has been added.6. La Sonnambula returns, with Diana Damrau and Javier Camarena.7. A new production of Prince Igor has been added to the list, with Ildar Abdrazakov.8. Werther will be a new production, to be directed by Richard Eyre.Season 2014-2015:1. Renée Fleming will star in a new production of The Merry Widow, to be directed by Susan Stroman.[...]

She said what


Some of the more boldface guests weren't necessarily well-versed with the story. "But I did my research," said fashion designer Rachel Roy. "A family member who's German downloaded me before I came."

Valhalla fail


So this is what the Met's new Das Rheingold ending was supposed to look like. On Monday, everyone pretty much exited to the sides soon after their music ended, leaving Loge alone onstage, which appeared weird. It's a good thing the production failed this way, rather than, say, crushing a singer to death or dropping a Rheinmaiden from four stories up. Though they ought to be very careful with the curtain calls: there is a sizeable gap between the downstage area (where the curtain calls occur) and the immense modular apparatus. James Levine was about three feet away from being the biggest tragedy of my opera life.

Met opening night, 2010


(image) Wagner DAS RHEINGOLD, Met Opening Night, 27.IX.2010; c. Levine; Terfel, Blythe, Owens, Selig, Koenig, R. Croft, Siegel, Oropesa, Johnson, Mumford, Harmer.

Here's a pic of Deborah Voigt interviewing light a.k.a. Robert Lepage. There were celebrities in attendance, muttering "what, no intermission?". It was rainy too, which ruined more than a few entrances. Seating for the outdoor simulcast was hell.

Inside the house, James Levine reasserted his place in the universe with a characteristically balanced reading of the piece-- vibrant but controlled. I never spend a thought on Bryn Terfel, but tonight he wasn't his typical self-indulgent self, which is to say, he was brilliant as Wotan. Shades of a young James Morris, minus the snarl; the voice was appropriately overbearing, forming a heavenly pair with Stephanie Blythe's lush fat Fricka. (Next to Levine, she got the loudest ovations.) The Freia, Wendy Bryn Harmer, was thrilling and visceral, as was Franz-Josef Selig's Fasolt and Eric Owens' Alberich. And the Rheinmaidens too. Everyone benefited from Lepage's modular steroid-raked stage, which reflected sound outward, and also pushed most of the singers downstage. Richard Croft's Loge was the sole failure: too earnest, too dainty-- but I think I caught him sneezing a couple of times, so he may have been under the weather. Regarding the Cirque du Soleil: I'm a big believer, and it didn't disappoint. There were moments of tension--like, will Freia fall from the net and break her neck, did Fasolt's slide down the stage break his neck, did any of the stunt doubles break their necks, will Woglinde's wire break and break Lisette Oropesa's neck, etc.--so that took attention off the music a bit. But still it was magical and enormous and multidimensional and correctly alive: a true 21st century production. Costumes and hair, on the other hand, were just awful.

One alarming note: James Levine seemed to have unusual difficulty navigating the couple of shallow steps to get onto the stage for his curtain call. He didn't look healthy.

Met Futures: Summer updates


(image) Time again to update Brad Wilber's indispensable Met Futures Page.

For Season 2011-2012: Maestro Marco Armiliato is slated to conduct Anna Bolena on opening night; Scottish mezzo Karen Cargill debuts as Waltraute in the new Götterdämmerung, while Stephen Gould is taken out of the roster out as Siegfried; the new production of Manon (co-produced with Covent Garden) is by Laurent Pelly; the new production of Faust (co-produced with English National Opera) is by Des McAnuff, with designer Ian MacNeil; Maestro Edward Gardner will conduct some performances of the new Don Giovanni alongside Maestro James Levine; Maestro Fabio Luisi will lead performances of Aida, with Sondra Radvanovsky and Lado Ataneli joining the cast; For Ernani, Maestro Armiliato is added, while Anja Harteros is taken out of the roster; Colin Lee returns as Almaviva in Barbiere di Siviglia; Zeljko Lucic has been added to the roster of Nabucco to sing the title role; Satyagraha has been added to the repertory; Nino Maichadze will sing Marie in Fille du Regiment; and finally, Stefan Margita returns as Loge in the full Ring Cycles.

For Season 2012-2013: Falstaff is removed from the repertory; Marco Berti is scheduled to sing Calaf in Turandot and Radames in Aida; Karen Cargill returns as Anna in Les Troyens; Le Nozze di Figaro has been added to the repertory, with Mojca Erdmann as Susanna and John Graham-Hall as Basilio, in his Met debut.

For Season 2013-2014: Bartered Bride and Roberto Devereux has been removed from the repertory, while Falstaff has been added; Nico Muhly's commission is no longer called "Two Boys"; Die Fledermaus has been added to the repertory, and will see a new production, with new dialogue by playwright David Hirson.

Met Futures: Happy Spring Semester Edition


First of all, I'm issuing a public apology to Brad Wilber, who's been infinitely patient with Sieglinde, who'd been buried in academic bs for a few months and so couldn't churn out roster updates in a more timely manner. I also want to apologize to the half-dozen readers who have hung around.But let's get on with the business, shall we. The following changes have been made to Brad's Met Futures page:For the 2010-2011 season:1. Das Rheingold will see Richard Croft as Loge, joining his brother in the cast.2. The cast of Les Contes d’Hoffmann has been revised. In place of Aleksandra Kurzak, Cristina Gallardo-Domas, Stefano Secco, and Isabel Leonard, we now have a cast that includes Olga Borodina (Giulietta), Giuseppe Filianoti (Hoffmann), and Kate Lindsey (Nicklausse). 3. For Rigoletto, the role of the Duke will be shared by Francesco Meli (debut), Joseph Calleja, and Giuseppe Filianoti.4. The Boris Godunov will be conducted by Maestro Valery Gergiev, and Aleksanders Antonenko and Oleg Balashov have been added to the cast as The Pretender and Shuisky respectively.5. La Boheme will not see Cristina Gallardo Domas and Luca Salsi. Instead, two gentlemen will make their Met debuts: Fabio Capitanucci as Marcello and Dimitris Tiliakos as Schaunard.6. Il Trovatore's Leonoras will be shared by Patricia Racette and Sondra Radvanovsky (dropping Micaela Carosi). Stefan Kocan returns as Ferrando.7. Barry Banks will do a number of Ernestos for Don Pasquale.8. Don Carlo's Elisabetta will be Marina Poplavskaya, replacing Patricia Racette in the roster, while Maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin has been tapped to lead.9. The cast of The Magic Flute will include Ying Huang as Pamina and Erika Miklosa as Queen.10. La Traviata will see Marina Poplavskaya as Violetta, Matthew Polenzani and Francesco Meli as Alfredo, and Marco Nistico as d’Obigny (in his Met debut). Rolando Villazon is out.11. Tosca will be shared by Sondra Radvanovsky and Violeta Urmana (dropping Angela Gheorghiu).12. John Adams will conduct his Nixon in China in his Met debut. Richard Paul Fink will be Henry Kissinger.13. For Iphigenie en Tauride, Paul Groves has been added as Pylade (while Elizabeth Bishop has been dropped).14. Armida will see Renee Fleming again. Lawrence Brownlee returns, but as Goffredo this time.15. Ludovic Tezier returns as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor.16. Romeo et Juliette will have Lucas Meachem as Mercutio.17. For The Queen of Spades, Peter Mattei will sing Tomsky.18. Joyce DiDonato will be Isolier in Le Comte Ory.19. Capriccio will not see Anne Sofie von Otter, Matthew Polenzani, and Gerard Finley. Instead, we will have Sarah Connolly as Clairon, Joseph Kaiser as Flamand, and Russell Braun as Olivier.20. Wozzeck will witness Waltraud Meier's Marie (in place of Katarina Dalayman). Philippe Castagner returns as The Fool; Stuart Skelton makes his Met debut as the Drum Major. 21. For Orfeo ed Euridice, Kate Royal will be Euridice in her Met debut.22. Aleksandra Kurzak has been dropped from Ariadne auf Naxos.For the 2011-2012 season:1. Turandot and La Rondine have been nixed.2. La Traviata has been added to the list of operas, with Natalie Dessay as Violetta.3. Madama Butterfly has also been added, with Luca Salsi as Sharpless.4. Stefan Kocan returns as Commendatore in Don Giovanni.5. Piotr Beczala replaces Rolando Villazon in the roster of the new production of Manon.6. Maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin will lead the Met's new Faust; Alexei Markov will return as Valentin (Rene Pape has been dropped from the list).7. The William Christie endeavor has a new and impro[...]

Fall flurries


(image) Ladies, I announce lots of juicy additions and changes to Brad's Met Futures page:

For the 2010-11 season: Orfeo ed Euridice has been added to the repertory, and will feature David Daniels and Lisette Oropesa (as Amor); the Danish contralto Susanne Resmark will make her Met debut as Ragonde in Le Comte Ory; Marina Poplavskaya takes over Violetta from Anna Netrebko; Kathleen Kim sings Madame Mao in Nixon in China; Anne Sofie von Otter will be Clairon in Capriccio (instead of Susan Graham); Susan Graham will sing Iphigenie; Canadian mezzo Julie Boulianne debuts as Stephano in Romeo et Juliette and then moves on to sing Diana in Iphigenie; Sondra Radvanovsky will sing Leonora in Trovatore instead of Tosca; and finally, Deborah Voigt is the Minnie in Fanciulla del West.

For the 2011-12 season: Gustavo Dudamel is no longer slated to conduct L'elisir d'amore; Maestro Michele Mariotti will debut in his place; Daedalus and Les Troyens have been dropped, while Fille du Regiment and Turandot have been added to the roster; Angela Meade will share the role of Anna Bolena with Anna Netrebko; German soprano Mojca Erdmann makes her Met debut as Zerlina, at the premiere of the new Grandage Don Giovanni; Mikhail Petrenko will be Basilio in Barbiere di Siviglia.

For the 2012-13 season: Die Frau Ohne Schatten has been dropped from the planned list, while Carmen and Falstaff have been added; the season will see the return of Les Troyens, with Susan Graham and Marcello Giordani; Rigoletto will be a new production, with Diana Damrau and Lisette Oropesa sharing the role of Gilda, Piotr Beczala as the Duke, and Zeljko Lucic and George Gagnidze sharing the title role.

For the 2013-14 season, Die Frau Ohne Schatten will return, with Maestro Vladimir Jurowski conducting.

She's back


(image) STRAUSS Der Rosenkavalier, Met 13 October 2009; c. de Waart, Fleming, Graham, Persson, Sigmundsson, White, Ketelsen, Vargas.

Curtain up: things have settled enough for Sieglinde to reboot. I'm seeing an equilibrium based on (really) short posts, but it's still being calibrated, so patience please. Last night, the return of Renee Fleming's Feldmarschallin and Susan Graham's Octavian, and a debut of a promising soprano, Miah Persson as Sophie, ethereal in a Judith Blegen hue. I'm dreading the day when I can detect the inevitable pulling back in Renee's voice. My current (conservative) diagnosis: it'll be sometime after April of 2017. Plus, you know how whatever Renee is singing currently becomes just THAT role divinely written for her: I'd say it, but that would be boring. One minor quibble: she is taking more time to warm up. Susan Graham's voice has grown tremendously in size in recent years, and the colors are thrilling. The chemistry between these ladies' voices is akin to baseball's Rodriguez-Teixeira tandem (BTW, Go Yankees.). Kristinn Sigmundsson is one of the evening's weak links. I'm not particularly aroused by Ochs' frequent interruptions, so to have a bland bass for the evening is torture times two. Meanwhile, Ramon Vargas probably had his worst outing on the Met stage as the Italian Singer. The unadorned oasis that the aria was to be didn't be. Really, it was physically painful to hear. Finally, all together now: Jimmy get well soon. Maestro Edo de Waart was either conducting or mowing the lawn, I couldn't tell.

Latest updates


I'm transitioning to another appointment (the kind that promises tenure at the end of the tunnel!), which is why I've been absent the past few months. In the next few weeks, I'll have to figure out how to achieve productive homeostasis between work and play, because I don't want Sieglinde to "die" just like that. But the new job is grueling, and the demands for tenure daunting, so no promises. Meanwhile, I have an inch thick of tickets to the Met, for an ambitious list of 20+ operas this season (many for multiple viewings, especially the Armida and the Attila). What was I thinking when I bought these tickets? Well, we'll see how things equilibrate. We may just have to settle for twitter-type blog entries, who knows.

(image) In the meantime, I invite you to enjoy the latest edits on Brad's Met Futures page:

For the 2010-11 season: Madama Butterfly has been dropped; Anna Netrebko has been taken off La Traviata; Joyce Di Donato has been taken off Le Comte Ory. For Wozzeck, Peter Rose has been taken off the roster, while Walter Fink has been added; and for Don Carlo, Patricia Racette replaces Angela Marambio. Maestro Roberto Rizzi Brignoli will debut to conduct La Boheme, and Cristina Gallardo-Domas will share the role of Mimi. Vittorio Grigolo will share the role of the Duke in Rigoletto (after his debut in La Boheme in the same season). Dwayne Croft has been added to the roster of La Fanciulla del West to sing Sonora, while Salvatore Licitra will sing Cavaradossi in Tosca.

For the 2012-13 season: Francesca da Rimini remains in the repertory, but it may not be a new production. Don Carlo will have Angela Marambio, Anna Smirnova as Eboli in her debut, Eric Halfvarson as the Grand Inquisitor, and Maestro Lorin Maazel as conductor.

Met Futures: March Madness edition


(image) Sieglinde, in the midst of work-related turmoil, brings you the latest juicy updates to Brad's Met Futures page:

For the 2010-11 season: Sondra Radvanovsky has been added to the cast of Tosca; Simon O'Neill will join the cast of Die Walküre as a second Siegmund; for Don Carlo, Simon Keenlyside has been tapped to sing Posa, and Maestro Lorin Maazel has been removed as conductor; In Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Cristina Gallardo-Domas will be Antonia; and in Nixon in China, Janis Kelly will debut as Pat Nixon.

For the 2011-12 season: Aida has been added to the roster, with a cast that includes Violeta Urmana, Stephanie Blythe, and Stefan Kocan as Ramfis; Maria Guleghina returns as Abigaille in Nabucco; and the Rodelinda cast will feature the return of celebrated portrayals by Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Andreas Scholl, and Kobie van Rensburg, alongside Iestyn Davies, who will debut as Unulfo.

For the 2012-13 season: Parsifal will be a new production, co-produced with Opera de Lyon and directed by Francois Girard, which will star Jonas Kaufmann; Simon Keenlyside will be Prospero in The Tempest; and Mariusz Kwiecien will be Onegin.

[Sieglinde at the moment is too busy to blog, but she's been to a bunch of things since she last wrote. Who knows if she'll get around to sharing her thoughts, trashing a few conductors, and not trashing Natalie Dessay for a change.]

There's always next (next) year


(image) Now that the Met 2009-10 season roster has been officially announced, it's time to shift our collective obsession to seasons 2010-11 and beyond. Brad Wilber's Met Futures page, which will remain in Sieglinde's Diaries for the foreseeable future, has just been updated with the following info:

In La Boheme, Vittorio Grigolo and Kristine Opolais will make their Met debuts in the fall of 2010 as Rodolfo and Musetta respectively, joining a cast which already includes several debuting international artists.

In the new production of Das Rheingold, Eric Owens is Alberich, and Hans-Peter Koening is Fafner.

In Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Isabel Leonard will sing Nicklausse.

In Don Carlo, Sonia Ganassi will take the role of Eboli.

Recession special: three giants on stage for $15


(image) Cilea ADRIANA LECOUVREUR, Met 10.II.2009; c. Armiliato; Guleghina, Borodina, Domingo, Frontali.

Rush review: in his slow decline, Placido Domingo can still convene a worldclass performance. A bounty of audience goodwill goes a long way, of course. His tours above the staff are understandably calculated, with some top notes on the verge of faltering, but with Domingo there is never fear of total meltdown (cf. Villazon). Thus, no matter how arduous it seems for him to scale the heights these days, the audience never feels uncomfortable or burdened. A true wonder that it's his 40th year at the Met. In the style department, he remains unmatched, bailing out this artless opera with rare elegance. Nothing he can do with his Adriana, however. Maria Guleghina is always the show within the show. Her elements were present: extraterrestrial sound, massive resonance, diminuendos galore, crystal pianos, and stage deportment matched only by her big feet. Too dominant, she's always Maria and never the role, and we've all learned to love her that way. During her duets with Domingo, I imagined instead another scene involving incestuous twins, and just how grand it could be. Why the f*ck doesn't she move onto Wagner already. I'd forsake pork shoulder for one her "Rache! Tod! Tod uns beiden!" I mean, really. The highlight of the evening, of course, was the bitch slap with Olga Borodina (who was stellar, by the way). They turned it way on, I swear they looked like they were going to burst out laughing. Forget Cilea, forget Adriana: it was Ukraine vs. Russia. All the queens went home happy.

Keep it clean, boys


Anthony Tommasini, the chief classical music critic of The New York Times, is answering questions from readers Feb. 9-13, 2009. Questions may be e-mailed to