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Subject: Re: Tebaldi's (in)famous 1963 'Adriana'
From: Michael McPherson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Michael McPherson <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 7 Aug 2017 17:17:57 -0400

text/plain (85 lines)


I was there at the 1/21/1963 performance of Adriana. Renata Tebaldi had been absent from the Met and this was her return in a production that apparently no one wanted to put on except Tebaldi. Now I will bow to no one  including you and Walter Guitan  in my love for Tebaldi and her gorgeous voice  and I attended that performance, in the orchestra standing room  with great anticipation. She received great applause when she appeared in the first act and then began that beautiful aria. But when she finished and the conductor, Silvio Varviso, put down the baton waiting for the applause, there was none. I and the rest of the house was in shock. What had happened to her voice? The rest of the performance was also sub-par  except for Corelli who was sensational.
I believe Tebaldi sang 5 performances and then left the country  and I presume one of these performances was the one you heard when apparently she was better. Tebaldi was also scheduled to appear in a new production of Otello but cancelled. Albanese and some others filled in for the remaining Adrianas but the best performance of Adriana that year was by Mary Curtis Verna at the last performance of the season.
But I am reminded of a review Tebaldi received in the NY Times. It said when Tebaldi is in good voice, no soprano in the world can touch her. Just not that night .


Michael J. McPherson
[log in to unmask]

> On Aug 7, 2017, at 4:35 PM, David Kubiak <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> A story firmly entrenched in the operatic annals and well-known to any
> serious opera fan is Tebaldi's famously badgering Mr. Bing into mounting
> 'Adriana Lecouvreur' for her in 1963, her appearing in dreadful voice,
> withdrawing from the production, and then leaving the stage entirely for a
> year to recover.  I remember myself my distress at reading the NY critics at
> the time, and even her former press manager Lanfranco Rasponi calls the
> incident 'a debacle', and says that 'her voice was simply in terrible
> shape.'  That would be bad enough, but iconic artists are not known for
> saying negative things about themselves, and Tebaldi is quoted looking back
> at the period from late 1962 into 1963, 'The voice simply became heavier and
> heavier, until there was no more voice.'
> Needless to say, as a lover of Tebaldi's voice second only to Walter Guitan,
> I have always been curious about exactly what she sounded like in '63.  The
> Met  finally made that possible by releasing the performance of 2/9, which I
> listened to yesterday on Sirius.  Simply put, I am at an utter loss to
> harmonize what I was hearing with what has been said all these years.  Her
> middle voice was completely intact and flowed with all the velvet beauty
> that made her sound unique.  As to the top, there was one occasion in Act II
> where she actually pulled off one of her famous high pianissimi (the text
> was 'la promessa [something]'); otherwise the notes above the staff were
> indeed very loud, but completely solid and in tune. She had some trouble
> with the releases, but no worse than Milanov did her whole career.  The
> duets with Corelli I thought magnificent; there was exactly one note in
> 'Poveri fiori' that did strike me as frayed, but that was it.  The audience
> was most enthusiastic.  In short, she sounded to me more or less exactly as
> she did in her return as Mimi the next year, which the Met broadcast not
> long ago -- it's unclear to me what Ugo de Caro did for her.  To my ears the
> real change in her sound did not come until she decided to take up 'Gioconda'.
> (One thing that must be said, even by her detractors, is that to her last
> recital, she never, ever, wobbled, which is the single biggest factor in
> largely keeping me out of the opera house today.  Whether it's the German
> wing (Stemme) or the Italian (Meade), audiences have become used to a
> tremolo in soprano voices that I cannot abide.)  
> It may be that Tebaldi really did suffer a collapse at a later performance,
> but the one I heard in no way corresponded to the melodramatic prose that
> has been lavished on this incident.  I would be interested if there are any
> others of us 'of a certain age' who might be able to contribute their insight.
> Thanks.
> David Kubiak
> **********************************************
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