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Subject: Re: Norma, Lyric Opera 28 Feb. 2017
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 29 Jan 2017 05:41:00 +0000

text/plain (68 lines)

You have a very valid point. The Auditorium Theater was where the original Chicago Opera was located. It's on Michigan and Congress, and it was built in the very late 1880s and remained operating until the Civic Opera House (on Wacker Drive and Madison St.) was built to replace it in 1929, I believe it opened with Rosa Raisa's Aida. Great stars appeared in Chicago -------- at both houses. Among them were Caruso, Galli Curci, Raisa, Flagstad, Melchior, Mason, and of course Mary Garden, who reigned at the Auditorium Theater and finished her last three seasons with the Chicago Opera at the new house on Madison Street. Then the Chicago Opera went broke, and the Civic Opera House was used to house the Metropolitan when it came on tour, as well as other major musical events. The Auditorium Theater fell into complete disrepair and was reduced to being used as a bowling alley during World War II by the USO. The Auditorium Theater was completely restored in 1970 and has returned to its former beauty. It's used for ballet, occasional concerts, etc. It is a magnificent theater but can no longer produce opera due to contemporary staging requirements. 
Norma was sung at the Auditorium Theater by Raisa in the 1920s and probably also sang it at the Civic Opera House as well in the early 1930s. Am not sure about Muzio. But all the big opera superstars sang in Chicago. Milanov sang Norma in Chicago on tour with the Met (in the Civic Opera House) and did a lot of other roles in Chicago as well -------- but not as a member of Chicago Opera Company. It had already folded. 
Chicago didn't have it's own resident company until 1954. That was when Maria Callas made her American debut in the opening night Norma. She also sang Traviata and Lucia during that same season. The following season (1955) Tebaldi signed on to the Lyric and Callas returned for one more season (Puritani, Trovatore, Butterfly). Lyric Opera rarely mentions the old Chicago Opera Company, and they kind of stick to their own history, which began in 1954. 
This was Chicago Lyric Opera's fourth Norma. After those Callas Normas that launched the company, the opera didn't return until 1968, when Elena Soliotis had the sheer nerve to take it on, and it was a near disaster. Then no Norma until 1997, when June Anderson attempted it. It was minimally acceptable. Now, twenty years later, comes Radvanovsky, whose Norma this evening was the greatest Chicago has heard since Callas did it here in the initial season. 
I found Radvanovsky's Norma a much more polished and refined creation than it was when she first sang it at the Met in 2013, when it was still "a work in progress. Her voice was ravishing and those high soft pianos were something from out of this world. While I found Turner and DeShong perfectly fine, I must agree about Silvestrelli. His Oroveso sounded rough, gritty, and kind of shopworn. 
But for Radvanovsky alone --------------------------------- it was an evening to remember. I don't care for the production at all, but I'm not going there. 
----- Original Message -----

From: "Donald Levine" <[log in to unmask]> 
To: "OPERA-L" <[log in to unmask]> 
Sent: Saturday, January 28, 2017 11:02:47 PM 
Subject: Norma, Lyric Opera 28 Feb. 2017 

I just listened to the Norma over FMT. It was a very good performance. 
Sondra Radvanovsky is the Norma of the 21st century. This is the third 
Norma of her's I have heard and she is without equal today in this role. 
That she moves that huge instrument with such accuracy and delicacy is 
amazing. A great night of singing and her portrayal has depth and 
feeling. I don't think any one else in the case was remotely near her 
level. Russell Thomas is a very good tenor and was a fine Pollione. I 
would love to hear more of him. I personally was not impressed with 
Elizabeth De Shong's Adalgisa but then my first was Marilyn Horne so I'm 
rather jaded. As for the Oroveso, Andrea Silvestrelli, I continue to be 
absolutely confounded that he continues to get employment in Chicago. I 
have heard him a number of time and while he is a good performer, the voice 
itself to my ears is very unattractive. It certainly isn't bel canto. 
Orchestra and chorus were fine as usual. The musical standards in Chicago 
are very high as befits one of the worlds great Opera companies. 

There was a beautiful intermission tribute to Oralia Dominguez. Nice 

One thing I find rather strange. Whenever they discuss operatic history in 
Chicago, it seems that there was nothing there prior to 1954. How you can 
discuss Norma in Chicago without mention of Rosa Raisa amazes me. Did 
Raisa, Muzio, Leider, Turner, Martinelli, Garden, among the many never sing 
there? Was the Civic Opera House not used before 1954? Does the 
Auditorium Theatre not exist? Or is their mission to only mention the 
Lyric Opera and the hell with anything that came before? 


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