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Subject: Re: From Tom Reed: Memories of Magda and Harvey
From: REG <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:REG <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 6 Dec 2008 09:12:38 -0500
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Many many thanks to all for their recollections of Magda. One wishes that a 
book or volume or some other thread of recollections of her in other 
situations as well could be started.



--------------------------------------------------
From: "Maxwell Paley" <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2008 1:44 AM
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: From Tom Reed: Memories of Magda and Harvey

> I saw one of those two Magda Olivero "Tosca" performances, but I can't 
> remember which one it was.
>
> That was an interesting "Tosca" season in San Francisco.
>
> The opening cast had Caballe, Pavarotti and Taddei (still having 
> surprisingly much to offer), the former two having proven a smash duo  the 
> year before in "Turandot."   What I remember is that Caballe's top 
> sounded firmer and stronger than it had before, specifically better  than 
> it had in the "Turandot."  There was a joke circulating around at  that 
> time, supposedly coming from rehearsals in London of the Kleiber 
> "Elektra" performances with Nilsson and Jones (as Chrysothemis then). 
> The joke went that Jones, having recently sung in Barcelona, told  Nilsson 
> that she'd been in "Caballe country" to which Nilsson said  "You mean 
> Aballe country."  Jones, thinking Nilsson had misheard,  repeated, "No, 
> Caballe" country to which Nilsson chortled "I know what  you said, but 
> she's lost her C."  As if putting the lie to the joke,  Caballe positively 
> HONKED those high C's in the Tosca, particularly  the one that comes when 
> Scarpia's goons are dragging Cavaradossi back  out after his "Vittoria, 
> vittoria" outburst.
>
> For at least one of those Pavarotti performances, Gwyneth Jones took  over 
> as Tosca.  She had been in town singing a rather bumpy, unruly, 
> bull-in-a-China-shop FIdelio (conducted by Christof Perick who added  the 
> "e" to his name when he discovered what "Prick" meant in  English).  The 
> Tosca I saw was pure "Jones on a good night" magic when  the warts and 
> wobbles disappeared and a gorgeous woman with a big,  solid, creamy voice 
> and spectacular high notes materialized.  On her  entrance, even the 
> normally bored Pavarotti did a visible double-take  at the strikingly 
> winsome appearance of this ravishing Tosca.  A few  years later, when she 
> reprised the role with Giacomo Aragall, the  effect wasn't nearly the 
> same.
>
> Then I saw Magda.
>
> Her Act I was full of grand manner, but the voice itself was  threadbare 
> and hollow, until she pulled it together to do one of her  "spin out 
> starting from nothing and crescendo forever" effects on her  final "Dio mi 
> perdona - ei vedeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEE ch'io piango" but  Act II was 
> something else.  She got her mojo together and cranked out  the high C's 
> with that wonderfully free spinning sound that let her  crescendo and 
> descrescendo at will and gave the impression she could  easily sing softer 
> or louder or higher or lower as she wished.  She  did her "Vissi d'arte" 
> lying on her stomach, giving herself tremendous  amplification by bouncing 
> the sound off the hard floor below her.    Tozzi was a good foil with a 
> marvelously dark chocolate quality to his  sound.
>
> Act III went gangbusters with a roaring high C followed by searing  chest 
> tones two octaves below as she recounted sticking it to  Scarpia.  I don't 
> remember much about Lloveras except that he looked  reasonable and must 
> have sounded at least decent.  This was the Jean- Pierre Ponnelle 
> production which called for Cavaradossi to be tied to  a post for his 
> execution "simulata."  The idea was that he would slump  over when shot, 
> held in a standing position by his ropes, until Tosca,  "presto, su, 
> Mario" untied him at which point the body would  dramatically flop down 
> onto the stage while she shrieked.
>
> Something on Lloveras' costume caught onto Olivero's dress, so that  when 
> he flopped down it violently yanked her onto the floor of the  stage too. 
> Now, nobody knew for sure exactly how old she was, but  general awareness 
> was that she was no spring chicken.  Hence, it was  pretty horrifying to 
> see her hurtled down like that in a way that was  surely unplanned.   No 
> fear.  She pulled her dress together, got  herself up, scooted up the 
> parapet and jumped off with a terrific high  B and was out there in no 
> time, drinking in the applause like she  didn't have a pain in the world.
>
> I had just finished a run of my one and only experience of Gilbert & 
> Sullivan with the SF Lamplighters singing Giuseppe in "The  Gondoliers." 
> I was there with two new friends I'd made in the  company:  Jim Campbell, 
> a really talented young conductor and Laurie  Brent (later Laurie Feldman 
> when she reclaimed her birth father's last  name after her mother died) 
> who went on to a very nice career as a  stage director.  We went out 
> somewhere to get tipsy and talk about  what a once-in-a-lifetime 
> experience we'd just seen;  I'm pretty sure  it was Cafe-BarTosca in North 
> Beach with opera arias on the juke box.
>
> None of us will forget ashen faced Diane Feinstein striding firmly out 
> the door of City Hall, staring right into the news camera and, pulling  no 
> punches, declaring "Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk have both  been 
> shot.  And killed.  The suspect is ex-supervisor Dan White."
>
> THE place then for good comfort food and gossip was the lunch counter  at 
> Sear's Fine Foods near Union Square (where the regulars waited for  a 
> space in either Judy's or Margie's station, depending on their 
> allegiances).  The talk was intermingled horror at the shootings and 
> approval of the "Tosca" (not unanimous, though, as the one woman who  felt 
> the town just wasn't the same with "the two new bridges" still  had 
> memories of Caruso and was not about to be satisfied with anything  less).
>
> A handsome young guy with curly black hair, a full beard and flashing 
> dark eyes who was clearly out (I was closeted and married) was  thrilled 
> with the sensation made by the previous night's candlelight  vigil 
> populated almost exclusively by gay men.  "Maybe now they'll  start to 
> take us seriously!" he exclaimed.  I hoped they would but was  afraid they 
> wouldn't.  And I was way more interested in him than I  wanted to be.
>
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