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Subject: Sutherland's Met Trovatore (was Re: Fwd: WHEN TO RETIRE)
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Thu, 30 Nov 2017 23:27:10 -0500
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Rich Lowenthal wrote:

"Performances can be booked years in advance, perhaps while the aging 
singer is still capable of performing the role satisfactorily." 

Bing commented on that problem as far back as the mid-60s - having to book in-demand 
singers years in advance and not knowing what vocal shape they were going to be in by the 
time the performance arrived.  (And yes, Bing may have started the book-ahead merry-go-
round, but if he hadn't done it, someone else would have.)

As for Sutherland's farewell Trovatores (of which I saw one), she certainly was not at her 
best - her voice had that "beat" in it by then - but by the time Act IV rolled around, she was 
singing very well indeed.  She was the only bright spot in an otherwise atrocious production 
(all those steps and those columns doing their menacing pavane) with Pavarotti an under-
powered Manrico and limp conducting from Bonynge.  A singer of her stature certainly 
merited that final fling, imperfect as it was.  And I'm curious - what other role(s) do you 
think would have been appropriate for her farewell?  I think Leonora was as good a choice 
as any.  At least she didn't have to transpose, like she did in the Puritani a couple of seasons 
earlier.

Donal Henahan's NYT review of the opening night was one of the most scathing I have ever 
read: 

"Normally it takes a new opera production years to decline to the point of terminal 
weariness and ineptitude, but the Metropolitan Opera's ''Trovatore'' reached that sad state 
in one evening, at last night's premiere. Placing the blame precisely is not easy, simply 
because there is so much blame to go around. However, let us start with Richard Bonynge, 
who conducted lifelessly, apparently concerned with little more than keeping the orchestra 
down. That expedient did allow the famous voice of Joan Sutherland, his wife and the 
evening's Leonora, to be clearly heard. Unfortunately, it also helped drain most of the 
vitality from a Verdian score that must either overflow with the stuff or fall embarrassingly 
flat."

Henahan went on to disparage Pavarotti's "strained and absentminded vocalism" and 
proclaimed that "Livia Budai a Hungarian mezzo-soprano with a hooty voice and little 
dramatic authority, failed utterly as Azucena. At the end of her big scene, she was impolitely 
but justifiably booed."  Nucci's Di Luna was "respectable routine at best." 

As for Sutherland, Henahan was kinder while noting her vocal failings:

"Certainly the Australian diva deserves a respect that this production did not afford. 
Although the voice now sounds wan and attenuated, what Miss Sutherland can still do with 
it at age 61 is the stuff of opera legend. The flexibility and tonal beauty, particularly in light, 
high passages, is remarkable. Notes are often attacked too carefully for any dramatic good, 
and the fabled top is no longer rock- steady. But by the time she arrived at the ''Miserere'' 
she was putting it all together vocally and the years were falling away - at any rate for 
listeners old enough to remember her when. Miss Sutherland's deft handling of ''D'amor 
sull'ali rosee'' in the same scene provided more than a souvenir for diva collectors; it was 
elegant vocalism many a young soprano might learn from."

As for the production:

"Though Fabrizio Melano was listed as the producer of this ''Il Trovatore,'' the idea that 
anyone actually directed the solo singers or the chorus strained belief. At one moment the 
staging had soldiers literally going around in circles with no evident motive. In a similarly 
mysterious maneuver, a squad of soldiers was racked up and formed into a triangle like so 
many billiard balls.  Ezio Frigerio's economical but banal sets consisted mostly of six groups 
of marbleized pillars that moved about for reasons known perhaps only to the designer. The 
long flights of black stairways, which would have made sense in the massacre scene of ''I 
Vespri Siciliani,'' served little purpose here but to force singers to totter up and down them 
perilously."

Ouch.
 
MDW

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