Hello list -
I have one outstanding memory of a conductor having problems with a singer.
I was sitting at the Met in 1970 directly behind Thomas Schippers who was
conducting a matinee performance of "Ernani" with Bergonzi, Milnes, and
Arroyo. The men were not in good voice that afternoon, and Arroyo was much
better than I had expected.
It was Bergonzi who provoked Schippers' ire. I know the lore is how
musicianly Carlo was, but not always, and particularly not on this day - he
kept holding notes after Shippers had cut him off. Finally, when he had
enough Schippers shook his fist at Carlo openly for everyone to see, and I
could hear him stamp his foot. I believe the performance went better after
that, but I don't quite remember.
I was never a "great" fan of Bergonzi, mostly because of his wooden (to say
the least) acting. So, I refrained from going to some of his performances
especially "Aida". But, I was persuaded to go to one matinee broadcast by a
good friend who assured me that Radames was Carlo's role. Well, it might
have been on another day, but he cracked the (what is it a Bb) in the
"Celeste Aida" for the whole world to hear. It seems matinees were not his
On to James McCracken - although he may not have had the most beautiful voice
in the world, his total commitment to his roles could be a guide to others
who just walk thru their performances I first saw him on his triumphant
return to the Met as "Otello" and was really thrilled with the realism he
displayed. But, the time that I remember the most was at a Lewisohn Stadium
concert in 1966. The Met was doing a concert performance of "Samson et
Dalila" with Alessandra Warfield, McCracken and Milnes as the priest (before
he hit it big). Our table was right in front of where McCracken was seated
between singing. I kept watching him no matter who else was singing and his
ferocity and total absorption into the character was plain and continued
throughout this concert performance. He won my heart that evening.
Ken Marder in Chicago ([log in to unmask]).