A voi tutti, salute!
Enzo, here, somewhat ahead of schedule with his blast from the past inquiry.
However, I thought I'd get an early start, due to the July 4th holiday.
First of all, my thanks to all who responded to my request for information
on Elena Mauti Nunziata. The consensus was that she was most impressive in
the early phase of her career but never fulfilled her enormous potential.
This week's subject does not belong altogether to the past. However, her
latest appearances have been described as little short of disastrous. I am
referring to the Texan soprano Lella Cuberli. In a review of the recent
Chereau/Barenboim Don Giovanni at Salzburg, Patrick J. Smith said that
Cuberli "hung on by her fingernails" as Donna Anna. To the best of my
knowledge, Cuberli had only one engagement last season, a Maria Stuarda in
Monte Carlo. She cancelled this appearance. It would seem that this lovely
artist is retired or very close to it.
I know that Cuberli went to Italy in the mid 1970's to study voice. Her
teacher was Adelaide Saraceni, the Norina on the complete Don Pasquale
recording with Tito Schipa. In Rasponi's "The Last of the Prima Donnas,"
Saraceni states: "I have had a few satisfactory students, and among them is
the American Lella Cuberli, who has acquired a real knowledge about bel
The first time I heard her live was a 1989 Tancredi at Lyric Opera of Chicago
with Marilyn Horne in the title role. Cuberli sang the role of Amenaide. I
thought she stole the show. Horne sang out of tune for the entire first act,
but later recovered form. Cuberli was magnificent from start to finish,
singing with an exquisitely refined tone. I fell in love with the dark, warm
sound of her voice. In addition, she phrased with real idiomatic flavor and
command of the style.
The one technical flaw I noted in Cuberli's singing was a tight, throaty
constriction in the top register. This flaw only magnified with time, so
that by her final Met Semeramide performances in 1993, there was a quite
audible raspiness evident throughout. Indeed, every intake of breath was
accompanied by a very shocking wheeze. Could physical illness or impairment
have played a part in her vocal demise?
The next time I heard Cuberli was in the Mozart-Da Ponte cycle that Daniel
Barenboim presented in semi-staged form at Orchestra Hall with the Chicago
Symphony. She sang Fiordiligi opposite the then largely unknown Cecilia
Bartoli as Dorabella. As in Tancredi, she cut a very elegant figure on stage
and sang with an "Italianita" that I simply adore in Mozart.
I only had one other opportunity to hear Cuberli but did not. That was her
1992 Chicago appearances as Rossini's Desdemona. As it turned out, I was in
New York hearing Diana Soviero sing her first Met Cio-Cio-San when Otello
popped up on my Lyric Opera subscription, so I missed out. I know Cuberli
was primarily known for her work in the Mozart and bel canto repertoire, but
she also sang Anne Trulove, Violetta and Mimi. Did anyone hear excursions
into this repertoire?
The subject of Cuberli also raises a question about a recording I crave to
hear. A critic writing for Grammophone made mention once of a studio
performance of Rossini's Tancredi made in 1978 with Fiorenza Cossotto in the
title role, Lella Cuberli as Amenaide and an original instruments orchestra
(!) As I recall, this critic said the recording was either out of print or
had never been released. DYING to hear this!!! Does anyone have information
So what do list members think of Cuberli? Any and all commentary is welcome,
both positive and negative alike. As always, I am particularly interested in
hearing from anyone who saw her in the opera house. I am also curious how
Italian audiences rated her. I believe she spent many seasons there
perfecting her craft.
My thanks in advance. A happy and safe Fourth of July weekend to you all.