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Subject: Re: Behrens sang Norma? Who sez?
From: albert innaurato <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:albert innaurato <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 13 Jun 2017 10:58:53 -0500

text/plain (99 lines)

I am reliably informed that Behrens did not sing Vitellia at the Met (has
Tritteritis set in?). Sorry to be wrong.

There are many levels of Tosca performers. Most are just workaday, of
course, and opinions will vary. But anyone who does the role needs as
mastery of "parlando", the Verismo equivalent of sung dialog. The words
need to be clear, and the rhythms need to be precisely pointed but with a
sense of "speaking" as opposed to singing. Puccini typically goes from
parlando utterances into more expansive phrases or allows expansive phrases
to end in parlando. Forgetting Behrens' ugly, choaked middle, unreliably
tuned, she cannot manage this parlando style at all. She sounds
self-conscious and ineffective. The role also needs a responsive tone so
the sound emerges as the singer wants it to promptly. Her voice is entirely
unresponsive, phrases are clumsily attacked and it always takes a while for
the color she intends to show up (sort of). In Wagner roles, conducted in
NY by Levine, that is, slowly, she has time to set up her phrases, and then
to settle into them. In Tosca, that must happen instantly, frequently in
fast music.

In my opinion, she was a very bad performer of this role (also Santuzza).
I'm not in a hurry to agree with those who thought her "Frida Leider like"
(John Rockwell of the NY Times wrote a piece saying she was that era's
Frida Leider and Eva Marton was Kirsten Flagstad. He then asked me who
Frida Leider was! He'd gotten the idea from one of that time's idiot
poseurs. Joe Horowitz. This was the sort of hype she got from the
profoundly ignorant.)

In retrospect, she made her case for some of the Wagner roles. For those
who appreciated it, good. I found her most unbearable as Isolde. On that
first night, she and Spas Wenkoff (who I had seen at Bayreuth and who
wasn't all that bad there) were booed ferociously by the Met audience. She
recorded the role for Bernstein who I ran into after the series of live
concerts that had been recorded. "Well, I tried," he said. And although I
don't have her performance annals I don't think it's a role she did often.

Her teacher evidently told her "you have a beautiful voice but no talent".
Behrens started auditioning immediately (have to grant she had grit!). Then
she met Jerome Lo Monaco who taught her the Stanley method. As was typical
in that technique she forced her larynx down, opened her mouth wide and
applied massive breath pressure to her singing. Her voice, as she attested,
grew to a remarkable degree and that made an international career possible.
(Jonas Kaufmann used this method). But anyone who watched her sing,
closely, noticed the tight jaw and the raised shoulders. This, IMO, caused
fairly early problems, difficulty tuning, and that curdled middle. Maybe
had she worked with a Stanely trained teacher (Kaufmann found the last
person alive in Germany who had worked with "the master") she'd have been


On Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 11:10 PM, albert innaurato <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> That is the craziest thing I've ever read. I'm inclined to say she didn't
> ever. Is there documentation? Her 'prentice period was short, she began
> late and somebody liked her because although hired as an "apprentice" she
> sang the Countess in Figaro right away and was stuck in small roles only
> for a season or so. She sang Fiordaligi in her early days, she did Rusalka
> in Munich (I saw one, very notable for the amazing performance of Kurt
> Moll). her Met debut was as Giorgetta in Tabarro. She was clueless and ugly
> sounding but she snapped her fingers on the word "basta" and the virulent
> scum cried, "that acting"!
> Salome with Von Karajan established her but her entry role in many
> theaters was Fidelio. She became a favorite at the Met and added Mozart's
> Elletra, Vitellia, Donna Anna (four times), Tosca (fifteen times. the first
> season was Sinopoli's only Met engagement, the remaining six were conducted
> by Badea, more her style). she did eight Santuzzas. She did five
> Sieglindes in NY and also did some at Munich, she hated the role she said.
> She did most of the heavy Wagner roles but only did Isolde six times at the
> Met (Jane Eaglen did twelve).
> It strikes me that the originator of this thread had Jane in mind, SHE did
> Norma (unspeakable), 4 Brunnhildes AND Turandot (unlistenable). Jane, in
> fact, sang Norma a lot and recorded it.
> The best Behrens live in my experience and opinion was Marie in Wozzeck,
> and I think her best document is the Empress in a pirate DVD of Frau with
> G. Jones and W. Berry very impressive as The Dyer and his wife. I don't
> think she did that role very often but she only recorded the Dyer's wife.
> I can think of a small army of people whose lives would be shortened by
> the very idea that Behrens did Norma!
> AI

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