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Subject: Re: Boheme in English
From: daaaac <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:daaaac <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 20 May 2017 17:58:52 -0400
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Vishnevskaya sang her Met debut Butterfly in Russian.  And here’s a story I posted some years ago that I witnessed (long).

The recent post about multi-language performances reminded me of a horrific cancellation story that I experienced first hand with the Opera Company of Philadelphia during its 1979-1980 season.  It was a double bill of Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole and Pagliacci, mounted for Teresa Stratas.  Jon Vickers was cast as Canio and the director was Fabrizio Melano.  The two performances were to take place on a Tuesday evening, March 11 and Friday evening, March 14, 1980.

On the previous Friday, March 7, Vickers cancelled his appearances as Canio.  Giuseppe Giacomini, after having sung Don Carlo that same Friday night at the Met, agreed to replace Vickers and travelled to Philadelphia the next day to sing the dress rehearsal on Saturday afternoon.  Stratas also sang the dress rehearsal of both opera.

The following Monday afternoon, Stratas informed the company that she was not feeling well.  At 3pm on Tuesday, she cancelled.  Carmen Balthrop was hired to sing Nedda, but Stratas' cover for the Ravel opera unfortunately was in Toronto, and the last available flight had departed for Philadelphia at 2:30.  OCP called the Met and inquired if any soprano on their roster had Concepcion in her repertoire.  The only Met soprano who had ever sung the role, albeit in English, was Alma Jean Smith.  She had sung it during her student days at Indiana University years prior.

Around 5pm, she boarded a train which pulled out of New York's Penn Station, then it abruptly stopped and sat there for an hour or so.  It then pulled back into the station and engines had to be changed.  This delayed her arrival so much that the evening's conductor, Richard Woitach was forced to conduct various Rossini overtures while the disappointed audience waited, after having heard general manager Ed Korn announce the cancellation of the evening's two stars.  Meanwhile, Melano polished the blocking with the assistant stage director, Kay Walker, so that Ms. Walker could walk the role of Concepcion wearing Stratas' costume, wig, and with score in hand.   Ms. Smith, having arrived at last from New York, was visible to the audience, as she stood on stage right, in street clothes, behind a music stand, singing the role of Concepcion in English (while everyone else sang in French).  Imagine how James Hoback felt singing a duet in French to a mute Concepcion but hearing Concepcion's lines sung in English from a distance).

Ms. Balthrop was not able to receive any direction from Melano for her Nedda as he was busy helping Ms. Walker.  During intermission and the Prologue of Pagliacci, he then worked with Ms. Balthrop.  Near the end of the duet with Silvio, her blouse parted in the back and she basically had to hold it together with one hand behind her back until her exit.  Then Melano continued giving her blocking backstage during Vesti la giubba and the Interlude but was not able to finish and had to run back and forth from offstage right to offstage left whispering cues to her (and we're talking rubber chicken and a real raw egg being used during the Colombina scene!).

Tthe cover for Concepcion came in from Toronto and since, Giacomini wasn’t available, Ermanno Mauro sang Canio. 

Donald
> On May 20, 2017, at 5:23 PM, Don <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Didn't Chaliapin sing Boris at the Met in Russian while everyone else sang
> in English?
> dond
> 
> On Sat, May 20, 2017 at 2:56 PM, kurt youngmann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
>> For some inexplicable reason I generally don’t mind opera translated into
>> languages other than their original - unless the translation is to English.
>> I simply don’t like to hear English except in operas composed in it. (And
>> not necessarily always then).  My dislike for English translation is
>> especially the case with Viennese operetta which, as I’ve mentioned, is the
>> music I grew up hearing because of my father’s Austrian background. Even
>> though I’m not fluent in German, I just love the sound of the Viennese
>> accented German in Lehar, Strauss et al. It sounds like family to me.
>> 
>> My one experience in a hodgepodge “Babel of languages” was a Munich
>> “Butterfly” back in the early 60s. The soprano, an Italian, sang in the
>> original while the rest of the cast used German. On that same trip I got to
>> see a Stockholm “Butterfly” sung in Swedish and a “Rigoletto” sung in
>> heavily accented Italian.
>> 
>> But the strangest example I’m aware of which, alas, I missed was the dual
>> language 1957 “Mignon” in Chicago. Intended to be sung in French, the tenor
>> (Simoneau?) cancelled and was replaced by Alvino Misciano who only knew his
>> role in Italian. The Mignon, Giulietta Simionato, had sung her role in both
>> French and Italian so she switched back and forth depending on who was on
>> stage with her at the time. I’d welcome that elusive time machine we all
>> wish existed so I could go back and hear that performance!
>> 
>> Kurt Youngmann
>> 
>>> On May 20, 2017, at 3:00 PM, R PRADA <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> 
>>> Opera in the vernacular was the accepted practice in many countries for
>> quite a time. Sometimes each singer sang their role in their native tongue,
>> leading to a Babel of languages in a single performance,
>> 
>> 
>> Finally, an explanation: It all makes sense now. Gay marriage and
>> marijuana being legalized on the same day. Leviticus 20:13 states, "If a
>> man lays with another man he should be stoned." We’ve just been
>> misinterpreting it all along! - George Carlin
>> 
>> 
>> 
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> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> ​Always keep a roll of baling wire and another of duct tape in your car.
> It's amazing how useful it can be.
> 
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