Guleghina cancels and Lise Lindstrom makes Met debut as “Turandot”

Lise LindstromSoprano, Lise Lindstrom

The old proverbial concept of “being in the right place at the right time” is still working wonders for singers.  On October 28th, the Met’s resident soprano, Maria Guleghina unexpectedly cancelled due to illness, leaving B-Cast soprano Lise Lindstrom to make her debut several days earlier. In this interesting turn of events, Lindstrom solidified her place at the Met and likely caused some uneasiness for Guleghina’s future performances.

Lindstrom’s voice is a sharp, crystalline laser at the top, evoking memories of Nilsson, even if her middle and lower voice leave something to be desired.  She was accurate in Puccinian aesthetics if not a little stilted in her Italian pronunciation.  Some reviewers seem to be more concerned about the size of Lindstrom’s voice, but I say, size doesn’t really matter…it’s whether or not you can evoke something that slaps the audience emotionally in the face.  While the role of Turandot seems to me to be the wrong direction for Guleghina to take at this point in her career, she is going to have to pull out all of the stops in order to compete with Lindstrom’s new found adoring public.

Also giving an acceptable performance was Russian soprano, Marina Poplovskaya, as Liù.  The voice has a lovely, warm tone to it and pronounced beauty, however, Poplovskaya didn’t use her innately beautiful voice to its potential.  Although the audience responded graciously to her singing, Liù’s arias, which are authentic examples of Puccini’s “povera faccia melody” were lacking in emotional depth.

For me, the success of the night was resident tenor, Marcello Giordani, who sang with true Italianante impetus and remained true to Puccini’s aesthetic.  His understanding of the “punto di linea” was evident in every nuance.  Although his voice often displays its most beautiful colore bruciato in the higher tessitura, Mr. Giordani was expressive and authentic in his approach.  The Nessun Dorma, which is the key portal to Puccini’s grandeur, was sung eloquently, passionately, and with an exquisite penultimate note, held as Puccini intended it.  Many tenors extend the note when, in fact, Puccini shunned any lengthening of these notes at the end of the aria. Had he wanted to write a long note, he would have. This shows that Mr. Giordani is more devoted to accuracy than he is centered on showing off his abilities. Bravo Marcello!!!

Marcello Giordani

All in all, this performance of Turandot was much more successful than opening night’s “Tosca.”  What was more interesting was Peter Gelb’s interview during the intermission in which he suggested that they were “simply trying to give the audience something they could relate to.”  I’m all for anachronistic presentation, but bringing the past into the present doesn’t always mean that the audience wants something different, or that they can’t relate to something from the past.  After all, if opera isn’t a historical art, then what is it?  The very vocal audience at the Met, with someone even yelling out “Viva Puccini” after Giordani’s Nessun Dorma, are telling directors and producers exactly what they want.  VIVA IL POPOLO!!!!

“Ode Saffica” for the 21st century


As of late, I have been immersed in my writing and continue to ponder my mentor, the philosopher/poet/composer and most controversial “scapigliato”, Arrigo Boito.  In 1863, Boito wrote a Sapphic Ode to art in which he addressed the state of opera post Risorgimento.  He often wrote emotionally about art, and perhaps we don’t do this enough.  When one is engulfed in the trials and tribulations of academic research and writing, it is usually unnecessary to write emotionally, but factually.  Perhaps I’ve reached my boiling point and need to be emotional about my art and I chose to do it here.  Maybe I’ve been influenced by Boito…or maybe I have come to understand him so much so that I’ve chosen to adopt his “disheveled attitude.”

Art and the properties that define it swing on a constantly shifting pendulum.  But, what it is that controls the motion of that pendulum, where it stops and where it ends, where it pauses, and how quickly it shifts from side to side?  From the onset of this all-encompassing art, the shifting has been unavoidable, sometimes welcome, sometimes dreaded, but always, always a constant.  The one thing you can be sure of in art is that things are in constant flux.

Many nights I lay down my heavy mind, filled with continuous thought, and ponder this art and my place within it.  I suppose we all question our places within any grand structure to which we play part.  Simply, without it I would not want to live.  There is nothing to hear if music not be present; if the human voice were to end its plentiful expression, as it were, what else would there be for me?  To some, maybe this is too serious a proclamation.  To them, I say, “art is life.”  To them I say in the words of Adorno, “We do not speak to music, music speaks to us.  And, when we think ourselves closest to it, it lingers and waits sad eyed for us to answer.”

Have you ever stood next to a human being whose body vibrates with the splendid energy that the singing voice exudes?  A metaphysical entity if ever there was one, it is from this world and yet from another.  Consequently, I have had this opportunity to stand next to voices that bleed golden shimmer from within their fiery souls.  It is in those moments that I am humbled and awestruck to serve this art that is often surrounded by media and popular culture.  Art is not autonomous and yet it could exist as such.  For me, this is religion.  This is sacred for me.  Somedays I feel completely unworthy; others, ready to fight for the truth that art retains within its deepest self.  And how, you might ask, do we find that truth? Open yourself and expose yourself in the most vulnerable of ways, sing from your soul without shame, care not what others say or what critics think is right or wrong, maintain the values of those whose art you perform, and always, always with the most fragile and courageous love.

When someone you love is gone, and you hear music….does your heart not cry the most painful of melodies? When you fall in love and you hear music, does not every song you hear remind you of that person? How music plays in the soundtrack of our lives….and how often are we oblivious to it?

When the violin weeps its last, when the piano’s soundboard resonates for the last time, when the tubas growl no more, when the timpani are silent, and when the voice has exhaled its last vibrant exaltation, what remains….is love.  O’ gentle and destructive art, wise are you to select your warriors.  I, for one, kneel in humble respect of you that overwhelms me every day of my life.  Your devoted servant……

Published in: on October 24, 2009 at 1:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Saturday Afternoon at the Opera with Bill Richardson, featuring Mary-Lou Vetere


Boito and Verdi

Boito, Verdi, and the music in my heart…..

Click here to listen to the interview.

October 17, 2009

Opera:  Simon Boccanegra from the Vienna Staatsoper

The accordion hits the jazz-scene

Last night at the Annex Live in Toronto the fiery sound of the accordion met the jazz-musings of Jazz-bird, Adi Braun, and her colleagues George Koller (Bass) and Kevin Barrett (guitar).  These are two clips of the performance.  Enjoy.