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Subject: Roles too heavy for Freni; MDM; and brief Opera-L outage
From: Robert White <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Robert White <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 31 Mar 2009 07:32:31 -0400

text/plain (83 lines)


Freni was always a great favorite of mine, and I was lucky enough to see the 3d
performance of the historic La Scala Strehler Boccanegra back in 1971.  Her other
excursions into Verdi were limited and to my ears the two roles that clearly showed
major strain issues were Aida and Elvira (Ernani).  Though the Karajan studio Aida
sounds OK, when you see the video of the Houston opera house opening, it is clear
this role is not for her (never got to Salzburg for her performances there);  
Elvira in
Ernani (conducted by Muti) which is caught in live performance  in both audio and
video by EMI show her as distinctly uncomfortable.  She retired that role after one
Desdemona appears in a few locations (but never in the USA except for one act at a
Met gala) and would have been suitable, but why pay a Freni fee for an Otello?  Of
her late
work, I think she was quite canny in her roles (though except for the Kleiber
Boheme, I resisted late Bohemes and Micaelas), with Manon Lescaut, Tatiana (Onegin),
Adriana, Alice Ford, Fedora at the Met and Lisa (Queen of Spades) and Joan (Maid of
at other USA locations. She also tended to favor roles that allowed her to appear
with Ghiaurov.  As other listers have mentioned,  she clearly knew what her voice
could and could not do comfortably, and she didn't persist, unlike some other

 I was at two different Bulgari celebrations sponsored by Gramophone, one for
Leontyne Price, and one for Freni.  In both cases, these were ladies that clearly
knew their minds about their careers.  Freni's appearance was charming in that it
was the first visit to New York with her grandchildren (they were in their late
teens or so).  Several listers have mentioned Freni's cool temperament, and indeed
I do find it a frequent component in long lasting performer careers.

My 5 cents on Mario del Monaco.  I saw Del Monaco 5 times-- 4 times in Dallas (2
Otellos with Vinay as Iago, Ligabue and  2 Canios) and 1 Otello in Philadelphia in
the period 1962-1964.  Del Monaco had a serious automobile accident in 1960 or 1961,
and I think his singing never sounded quite the same as before.  I often have a
problem with his studio work for many of the reasons others have expressed, but the
Florence Fanciulla (with Steber)  Ernani (Met and Florence) not to mention many
Otellos from the 1950s that I have heard clearly show his appeal.  Some may still
not care for his style or his voice, but it certainly isnt anonymous, nor is it one
dimensional.  His Otellos in Dallas were my first live encounter with the opera and
I thought he was OK, but nothing more; I saw McCracken with the Met on tour 6 months
later and he certainly had a lot of voice and passion and was much more impressed. 
The two Canios in Dallas from 1962 were another matter.  He may have been in better
voice in earlier incarnations, but I was overwhelmed by his embodiment of Canio and
count myself so lucky to have seen and heard that.
My final Del Monaco was an Otello in Philadelphia in the fall of 1964 (he also did
Samson). He was in much poorer form than in Dallas 2 years earlier and so I skipped
the Samson.
FWIW, I saw Corelli as Canio the same week as the McCracken Otello on the Met tour
in Dallas, and he was the clear star of that performance (Votipka'sfarewell); I was
quite taken with his vocalism (first time hearing Corelli live could have that
effect) but he did not erase the memories of the great MDM's clown.

Yesterday we had a brief outage on the Opera-L server from around 7AM until noon
when I noticed that no mail was coming through.  We rebooted, and the mail caught up
in the afternoon.  This was the first reboot we've done in almost 14 months with the
new hardware and software. We hope to keep the same or better level over the coming

Robert W. White
Executive Director
Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS)
810 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
201- 489-1904
[log in to unmask]

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