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Subject: Re: Gruberova in Salzburg
From: Szabo Katalin <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Szabo Katalin <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 23 Aug 2010 22:30:55 +0200

TEXT/plain (126 lines)

I managed to catch the second performance. 

I ordered a ticket months ago, but the order was
rejected, so I became quite sad that I would not
see Gruberova in Salzburg, the city where she had
quite a number of important performances in the first
part of her career (this year she returned after an absence of
19 years). However, I kept checking the Festival's website
which indicated the performance as "sold out" until
2 days before the event, when I suddenly saw 2 available
tickets, so I grabbed one of them, and took the train on the 14th
(fortunately Salzburg is just about 6 hours away from my home).

I was eager to see not only Gruberova, but also my fav belcanto conductor,
Friedrich Haider, also the famous bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, who had 
made quite an impression on me as Filippo (in Don Carlo) a few months 
ago, also Marcello Giordani whom I heard last 10+ years ago, and, 
last but not least, Joyce DiDonato (Adalgisa), of whom I had heard 
many good things, but never heard her voice before.

Well, this was really a star cast.

The location of my seat (box seat in the very back of the parterre) 
was acoustically not the best (for EUR 140...), the orchestra sounded 
quite remote, the chorus even more remote. The singers were somewhat
better audible, but far from optimal. But my ear adjusted
to the low level of the sound after a while.

Furlanetto did not amaze me as much as he had done in the role of 
Filippo. His Oroveso sounded like a routine performance. Especially 
in his first scene, his voice seemed to lack the dark color somewhat
(the acoustics might have had something to do with this). He had 
the necessary style, though. But he was not so much involved 
in his role as the ladies.

Giordani, who has a reputation of being a variable singer,
was in fine form right from the beginning. The voice is large, heroic, 
the high notes ringing. Of those tenors I have heard live, he 
has the best vocal qualities for the role. While he - unlike the ladies - 
did not really "play" (physically) his role in the (concert) 
performance, he acted well with his voice. 

Then came the introductory music to the Casta Diva scene, and
Edita Gruberova, the raison d'etre of the performance, walked on the podium.
From my (admittedly remote) seat she looked 30-40 years old, and also
sounded as if belonging to this age group (while in reality she is 63).
As Niel has already mentioned in this thread, notable were the low notes
(compared to her previous performances of Norma, and I have seen 
dozens of them). She was a good match in volume to the big-voiced Giordani, 
and also to DiDonato who has a sizable voice, too. Nevertheless, all the 
refined qualities of her portrayal were also there. She is always developing
her roles, bringing new and new surprises even to those fans who attend
several of her performances every year.

Joyce DiDonato fulfilled and even exceeded all my expectations.
As if a mezzo-goddess in full armor had suddenly sprung in front of me.
This performance (well, actually the one 5 days before) was her
debut as Adalgisa, but you would never have guessed it, she was
so well-prepared, had everything worked out so well, to the
last nuance. Right at the beginning she did some amazing
messe di voce (which indicates a perfect breathing technique).
She is the second singer who gives me the impression that
each phrase of hers tells a complete story, so well-thought-out,
convincing and nuanced these phrases are (the first such 
singer for me is - yeah, you've guessed it - Edita Gruberova). 
DiDonato sang the high notes (which are usually problematic for 
mezzos, especially when they have to sing the role in the original 
key) very well - she seemed to concentrate on them a bit, but the 
result was perfect.  Just like Gruberova, she not only sang but 
"played" her role as well (e.g. embracing Pollione in their duet), 
but this never seemed artificial, it seemed to come right from the heart.

The orchestra also gave a very nuanced and moving performance.
As always, I greatly enjoyed the two short musical scenes which I
consider "Haider specialties": the heartbreaking intro to the 
scene where Norma almost kills her children, and the wild and fierce,
overwhelming "Guerra, guerra!". 

The finale was not of this world. Yeah, Bellini wrote it that way,
but the superb artists made the notes come to life. Bravi!

Those who saw both performances said that this second one 
had been even better than the first.

The performance was well received by the audience, there was a
standing ovation at the end.

Here are the details:

Bellini: Norma (concert performance)
Salzburg, Grosses Festspielhaus

Norma: Edita Gruberova
Adalgisa: Joyce DiDonato 
Pollione: Marcello Giordani 
Oroveso: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Clotilde: Ezgi Kutlu
Flavio: Luciano Botelho
Camerata Salzburg
Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus
Friedrich Haider, conductor

If you want to see reviews, pictures and clips, check and YouTube.

Best regards

Kati Szabo

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