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Subject: Re: Chicago Lyric 'Norma' 2/5
From: Stephen Lord <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Stephen Lord <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 7 Feb 2017 18:54:28 -0500

text/plain (98 lines)

I recently conducted performances of NORMA with the wonderful Sondra and with Russell. I conducted her first TOSCA and have known her since her first MET days in MET program. And she is a dear friend. She has worked harder than anyone I know to make that unique voice what it is today. My admiration for her ethic has no bounds. I only wish I had been asked to do the Chicago performances, too.

Both the wonderful Russell Thomas and Elizabeth DeShong started their careers in my young artist program in St Louis and I could not be more proud of them.

Glad you liked the show.

Sent from my iPad

> On Feb 7, 2017, at 6:11 PM, David Kubiak <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I begin with an unaccustomed word of praise to the director of Chicago's
> 'Norma' who wrote in the program that in this opera you cannot impose
> anything on the singers, but you have to let them find the most comfortable
> way to get the music out, and work around that.  This made for a lot of walk
> to the front of the stage, plant your feet, and let it rip, which to me is
> in fact an exciting dramatic stylization in the art form.  We were also
> spared one of the most irritating habits of today's directors, which is not
> to let a bar go by without some kind of irrelevant action by
> supernumeraries.  With the exception of a white tree floating in mid-air
> this was surely the most traditional opera performance I have heard in a
> long time.  May there be more.
> People feel strongly pro and con about Sondra Radvanovsky, I know, but I
> have been a big fan since I first heard her in Lyric's 2002 'Susannah'.  I
> love the distinctive port-like timbre, and you have to know that barn of a
> house in Chicago to appreciate the sheer size of the instrument.  From the
> start she had a gorgeous pianissimo, but I would never have expected to find
> her in her current 'bel canto' repertoire.  She has, in fact worked exactly
> backwards to the norm, in moving fairly quickly into big Verdi and then in
> her mid-40's turning to parts most singers are then in the process of
> eliminating.  She must have worked very hard on her technique all along,
> since I did not hear any flatting on Sunday, which was an undeniable problem
> early on, and she has made the high pianissimo into a sound I can only call
> uncanny in a voice so large.  I think I may have literally jumped out of my
> seat a little when at the end of the opening recitative she took the
> traditional high A, and did an impeccable 'messa di voce' that was loud as
> Nilsson in the middle and soft as Caballé at the ends.  And there were
> dozens of similar moments all night.  (I think I have not heard high piano
> singing that amazing since a Beverly Sills concert in the late 60's, when
> the audience audibly gasped at the last note of 'Vivi ingrato.') People may
> carp over some fudged coloratura, but to my ears R.'s Norma was a truly
> extraordinary vocal accomplishment.
> I did not know the tenor Russell Thomas, and was impressed.  People talk
> about 'Celeste Aida' as a nasty entrance aria, but 'Meco al altar' with
> cabaletta surely is harder still.  (He did sing the C, and an excellent
> one.)  He has good metal on top, and sings very idiomatically with excellent
> Italian.  
> I am forever spoiled with Adalgisa, since my first was Cossotto -- over
> fifty years ago now.  Elizabeth DeShong was entirely adequate, and has an
> impressive upper extension, but the voice is colorless and not sufficiently
> ample, which was rather cruelly demonstrated when she had to trade phrases
> with S.R.  I saw posts where people were trying to find a way to describe
> poor Signor Silvestrini.  What came to my mind is that he sounded as if he
> were singing from under water.
> I had high hopes for the conductor Riccardo Frizzi, who played a vigorous
> overture with the now virtuoso Lyric orchestra.  But he pushed the tempi all
> afternoon, and would not allow any of the traditional rubato and
> rallentando, as for example in the phrase leading to the second verse of
> 'Mira o Norma'.  At 'Vanne si, mi lascia indegno' the ensemble broke down,
> and Norma was forced to sing one measure double time to catch up.  I began
> to appreciate what singers meant when they said that they always knew no
> matter what James Levine would be with them.
> A number of traditional cuts were restored, including one in the finale
> where the chorus continues singing after the principals' final B flat.  I
> wish they had kept the stretta of the big trio, since S.R.'s high D was
> definitely secure enough to make it through to the end.
> One last thought.  'Norma' really is a very great opera -- it's no wonder it
> forced even Wagner to admire it.
> **********************************************
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