|La Scena Vocale - Vol.2, No.5 Janvier / January 1997|
|Listings will be updated regularly.
Dans ce numéro / In this Issue
Winter Preview (Montreal)
La Scena Vocale, publiée dix fois par année, est consacrée au plaisir de la musique vocale. Chaque numéro contient un calendrier de concerts, conférences, films émissions sur le chant à Montréal ainsi que des critiques et des articles sur des chanteurs.
La Scena Vocale is dedicated to the enjoyment of vocal music. It is published ten times a year. Readers will find listings of live concerts, conferences, films, broadcasts in and around the Montreal area as well as articles on singers and reviews.
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Publicité de détail / Advertising
Féllicitation à / Congratulations to Marie Pothier qui a gagné le prix de déc 1996./for winning the Dec '96 prize. Prize/Prix: Flagstad &Melchior, The Legendary American Repertoire, Grammofono 2000 (AB 78526).
Montréal / Québec
5 Schola Saint-Grégoire
11 Puccini: La Bohème
11, 12, 14, 27
12 Concert du nouvel an
12 J. Strauss: La Chauve-Souris
14 Récital: Classe de Jane Randolph, Faculté de musique, Univ. de Montréal, B-484, 17h30, 343-6427
14 J. Strauss: La Chauve-Souris L'Atelier d'Opéra de l'Univ de Montréal, Louise-Andrée Baril, dir., Faculté de musique, Univ. de Montréal, B-484, 19h30, gratuit, réservation: 343-6427
14 Orchestre symphonique de Québec, Miguel hart-Bedoya, dir., France Duval, mezzo, Bruno Laplante, baryton, Salle Louis-Fréchette, Québec, 20h, 43$-13$, (418)643-8131
14 Concert Danube Bleu, extraits d'operette, Kathleen Brett, soprano, Jacques Lacombe, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, SWP, PdA, 19h30, 15-35$, 842-2112
15 Concert Danube Bleu, extraits d'operette, Kathleen Brett, soprano, Jacques Lacombe, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, SWP, PdA, 19h30, 15-35$, 842-2112
16 The Voice of Richard Margison, Adrienne Clarkson Presents, CBC TV, 7 p.m.-8 p.m.
16 Brahms: Liebeslieder, Trio Martlet et ses invités, Recital de musique de chambre pour commémorer le 100e anniversaire de la mort de Brahms/Chamber music recital commemorating the 100th anniversary of Brahms' death, Salle Redpath Hall, 8 p.m., gratuit/free, 398-4547
17, 18, 24, 25 Le chant et son humour, présenté par Les voix de demain, 12 chanteurs / chanteuses, La Butte Saint-Jacques, 50, rue Saint-Jacques Ouest, Métro Place d'Armes, 20h, 10$ ou 23$ (avec repas à 18h), Réservations: 277-9173, Cartes de crédit: 845-1575.
18 Verdi: La Traviata
18 Le chant et son humour, présenté par Les voix de demain, 12 chanteurs / chanteuses, La Butte Saint-Jacques, 50, rue Saint-Jacques Ouest, Métro Place d'Armes, 20h, 10$ ou 23$ (avec repas à 18h), Réservations: 277-9173, Cartes de crédit: 845-1575.
19 Récital: Classe de France Dion, Faculté de musique, Univ. de Montréal, B 484, 14h30, 343-6427
20 Récital: Classe de Yoland Parent, Faculté de musique, Univ. de Montréal, B-484, 20h, 343-6427
21, 22 Mahler: Lieder des Knaben Wunderhorn
(extraits), Sym. no 4,
22 Récital: Classe de Gail Desmarais, Faculté de musique, Univ. de Montréal, B-484, 19h30, 343-6427
22 Mahler: Lieder des Knaben Wunderhorn (extraits), Sym. no 4,
23-27 Rossini: La Cenerentola
24 Rossini: La Cenerentola
24 Le chant et son humour, présenté par Les voix de demain, 12 chanteurs / chanteuses, La Butte Saint-Jacques, 50, rue Saint-Jacques Ouest, Métro Place d'Armes, 20h, 10$ ou 23$ (avec repas à 18h), Réservations: 277-9173, Cartes de crédit: 845-1575.
25 Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana
25 Rossini: La Cenerentola
25 Le chant et son humour, présenté par Les voix de demain, 12 chanteurs / chanteuses, La Butte Saint-Jacques, 50, rue Saint-Jacques Ouest, Métro Place d'Armes, 20h, 10$ ou 23$ (avec repas à 18h), Réservations: 277-9173, Cartes de crédit: 845-1575.
26 Choeur: "Les chantres musiciens",
Voix de jeunes hommes, dir. Gilbert Patenaude
26 Rossini: La Cenerentola
27 J. Strauss: La Chauve-Souris
28, 29 Vivier: Lonely Child, etc
31 Schubert: La belle meunière
Février / February
1 Bellini: I Puritani
1 Bach et Schutz: Magnificat
2 Théatre d'art lyrique de Laval
2 Palestrina: Missa Ut re mi fa sol la
4, 5 Concert Opéra Italien
4, 7 Verdi: Rigoletto (film), English version from the English National Opera, Operamania, Fac. de musique, Univ. de Montréal, salle B-421, 19h30, 5$, 343-6427
8 Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
11, 14 Verdi: Rigoletto film-historique de l'Opera de Rome (1947), Operamania, Fac. de musique, Univ. de Montréal, salle B-421, 19h30, 5$, 343-6427
Janvier / January
3, 4 J. Strauss: A Night in Venice
16, 17, 18, 19m
21, 24, 29,Feb. 1,6, 9m
25,28,30, Feb. 2m, 5, 7
26 Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri
29,30 Beethoven: Symphony # 9
There are a number of vocal concerts of interest in the next four months. Opera fans will be treated to Verdi's Rigoletto and Janaceck's Jenufa by Opera de Montréal. The Laval lyric theatre will offer Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. The McGill Opera Studio will be offering Rossini's La Cenerentola while the University of Montreal will offer J. Strauss' Die Fledermaus, Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, Poulenc's Dialogue of the Carmelites and Mozart's The Empressario. The Montreal Symphony will continue their Mahler series with a program of Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn with soprano Helen Donath as well as the 2nd and 3rd symphonies. Choral Music devotees will find St. Lawrence Choir's Haydn masses and Bach's B-minor Mass of interest, as well as the UQAM Choir's presentation of Brahms' German Requiem and Haydn's Creation. Some highlights in the local recital scene include a visit by Lucianno Pavarotti at the Molson Centre, Marilyn Horne to the McGill Chamber Orchestra, Catherine Robbin and Nathan Berg at the CBC/McGill, and Lyne Fortin at Salle Pierre-Mercure.
Of interest outside Montreal are the Canadian Opera Company's productions of Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict, Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites, Puccini's Manon Lescaut and Verdi's Luisa Miller, Toronto's Opera in Concert offers Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri and Dvorak's Rusalka and the Toronto Operetta Theatre offers Karl Millöcker's The Beggar Student.
Check the listings for many other concerts and vocal events, some of which have free admission.
Un avant-goût de l'hiver
Plusieurs concerts dignes de mention sont prévus au calendrier pour les quatre prochains mois. Les amateurs d'opéra pourront voir et entendre Rigoletto de Verdi et Jenufa de Janaceck à l'Opéra de Montréal. Le Théâtre lyrique de Laval offrira au public Cavalleria Rusticana de Mascagni. Le Studio d'Opéra de McGill présentera pour sa part La Cenerentolade Rossini, alors que l'Université de Montréal nous offrira Die Fliedermaus de Strauss, Gianni Schicchi de Puccini, le Dialogue des Carmélites de Poulenc ainsi que L'Impresario de Mozart. L'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal poursuit sa série Mahler en présentant Des Knaben Wunderhorn, avec la soprano Helen Donath, ainsi que les 2ième et 3ième symphonies du compositeur. Les amateurs de musique chorale seront comblés, et pourront entendre le Choeur St-Laurent dans les messes de Haydn ainsi que la messe en si mineur de Bach, de même que le Choeur de l'UQAM dans le Requiem allemand de Brahms et la Création de Haydn. Parmi les faits saillants de la vie musicale montréalaise, notons la visite de Luciano Pavarotti au Centre Molson, celle de Marilyn Horne à l'Orchestre de chambre de McGill, les concerts de Catherine Robbin et Nathan Berg dans le cadre de la série CBC/McGill, ainsi que le récital de Lyne Fortin à la Salle Pierre-Mercure.
À l'extérieur de Montréal, notons tout particulièrement les productions de Béatrice et Bénédict de Berlioz, du Dialogue des Carmélites de Poulenc, de Manon Lescaut de Puccini et de Luisa Miller de Verdi au Canadian Opera Company de Toronto. L'Opera in concert de Toronto présente L'Italiana in Algeri de Rossini et Rusalka de Dvorak. Finalement, le Toronto Operetta Theatre présente The Beggar Student de Karl Millocker.
Consultez le calendrier pour y trouver une multitude d'autres concerts vocaux, dont plusieurs gratuits.
Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Between 1888 and 1901 Gustav Mahler wrote 24 songs based on 26 poems drawn from the popular anthology of German folksongs published between 1806 and 1808 called Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Though this anthology was published at the high point of German Romanticism, Mahler seems to have selected lyrics with a distinctly medieval flavour, full of Chaucerian irreverence and irony. Certainly there is little in the most famous Wunderhorn songs that could be called Romantic in the idealistic sense. The voices are those of simple folk - soldiers, farmers, peasants - whose primary concern is staying alive and finding love in a feudal age of constant warfare and endless agrarian labour. Mahler's songs, though chronologically fin de siecle, are worlds away from the perfumed estheticism and exoticism usually associated with that epoch. Mahler's lyrics express corrosive bitterness and scathing social commentary that anticipate by several decades the realistic theatre of Brecht and the bleak expressionism of Berg's Wozzeck. The very title, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, usually translated as The Youth's Magic Horn, raises false expectations of chivalric tales full of dragons, damsels and mythical wizards. In fact, the Magic Horn is surprisingly irrelevent to Mahler's songs, actually appearing only once, rather insignificantly in Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen, though of course horns figure prominently in the orchestration of many of the songs. A far more appropriate title would have been The Youth's Magic Drum, or the Stravinskian A Soldier's Tale, since the military drum roll sets the marching tempo for the whole song cycle, which is thematically about, and against, war.
The twelve most familiar Wunderhorn songs were written for male or female voice, with either piano or orchestral accompaniment. Mahler himself didn't care overmuch whether the dialogue ballads were sung by different singers or one singer in different voices, nor did he care the order in which they were sung.
One of the most effective recordings of the Wunderhorn songs, by Janet Baker and Geraint Evans with the London Philharmonic under Wyn Morris (IMP PCD 2020) orders the songs according to the cycle's two main themes: peace/love and war/death. The female voice usually sings the peaceful songs, which are pastoral in character, the male voice takes the war songs, which are inevitably marches. The purely pastoral love songs - Rheinlegendchen, Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? - are about the only unambiguous songs in the cycle. The majority of the Wunderhorn songs dramatize a very unromantic battle of the sexes, depicting women as unpatriotic and subversive influences. In The Song of the Prisoner in the Tower, the male prisoner sings "passionately and obstinately" of spiritual freedom while the girl sings seductively and demoralizingly of mindless pastoral pleasure. The song concludes with the male preferring his virtuous prison to the Kundry-like charms of the seductress. Similarly in The Sentinel's Night Song, the girl tries to seduce the soldier from his guard duty. Though he hates war he does not abandon his post. Again in Verlone Müh, the woman offers herself, but for some reason the boy refuses. In Trost im Unglück the soldier and his girlfriend part on very bad terms. In Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen, the girl lets the soldier into her house but they must remain chaste until he does his military service, which he is unlikely to survive. In the sadistic Das Irdische Leben, Mahler depicts a female version of Schubert's Erlkönig who starves to death her own little boy. But enough of Mahlerian misogyny!
Two other songs - Revelge and Tamboursg'sell - are brilliant anti-war ballads. The quintessential and climactic Wunderhorn song (written in 1901, hence overlapping with the Rückert Lieder) is entitled Der Tamboursg'sell, The Drummer Boy. Here Mahler uses all his subtlety to depict the ethically equivocal tragedy of a drummer boy who is about to be hanged. At first one assumes the drummer was taken prisoner by the enemy, but then it becomes clear that he is to be executed by his own army for desertion. Far from being ashamed of his cowardess, his final cry of farewell is "shouted pitifully" according to Mahler's markings, obviously a denunciation of the brutality of martial law. The army's deserter is Mahler's martyr; his sympathy lies with the pacifist.
Lob des hohen Verstands, initially entitled Lob der Kritik, takes a swipe at Mahler's asinine foes the music critics. St. Anthony's Sermon to the Fishes is the wittiest anti-Catholic satire a Jewish composer ever dared set to music. It is so merciless that it makes one wonder whether the other "religious" Wunderhorn songs, especially the finale of Symphony No. 4, Das Himmlische Leben (which Mahler described as "humorous") are more sneeringly ironic than spiritual. Certainly Mahler suffered enough anti-Semitism to entitle him to some subtle anti-Christian payback.
Recommended recordings of Knaben Wunderhorn: Christa Ludwig and Walter Berry accompanied by Leonard Bernstein, piano (Sony SM2K 47170); Thomas Hampson &Geoffrey Parsons (Teldec 9031-74726-2); Fischer Dieskau, Barenboim and the Berlin Phil (Sony SK 44935); Lucia Popp and Andreas Schmidt, Bernstein, Concertgebouw.
Dead Singers' Column
Rosa Ponselle (b. January 22, 1897, d. May 25, 1981)
Mark January 22 on your calendar to celebrate the 100th anniversary of soprano Rosa Ponselle's birth. She is generally considered by critics, musicians and fans as one of the two greatest voices of this century, Enrico Caruso being the other. Indeed, she was called Caruso with petticoat due to the similarity of their voices. Her's was a large dramatic voice known for her dark velvety timbre and incredible ease of production. Her story is quite well known. A young American girl without any formal voice training is discovered singing vaudeville and makes her debut next to Caruso at the Metropolitain Opera and creates an overnight sensation.
Ponselle was born Rosa Ponzillo on January 22, 1897 in Meriden, Connecticut, the youngest of three children to Italian immigrant parents. Her father was a stern man who eventually became a baker while her mother was a housewife who was very devoted to her children. Rosa looked up to her sister Carmela, the oldest child ten years her senior; when Carmela started to take music lessons, the six year old Rosa tagged along and eventually took up piano. Naturally, Rosa learnt all of Carmela's repertoire and sang along. One day in 1908 Miss Ryan, the piano teacher, heard Rosa sing through an open window. When she discovered the next day that it was Rosa singing and not Carmela, she immediately encourage Rosa to take singing seriously.
Things began to change for Rosa. Her mother brought Rosa to hear live some of the great singers of that time including Emma Calve, Nellie Melba, Luisa Tetrazzini and Ernestine Schumann-Heink. At this time Carmela left for New York despite her father's objections to further her vocal career in New York in Music Theatre and Vaudeville. It was Carmela who encouraged Rosa to start using her singing talents to earn pocket change; until age 15, Rosa sang at the local dime store promoting sheet music. She then graduated to playing piano and singing for silent movie theatres. Pretty soon she was offered singing engagements in nearby communities. Her repertoire now consists of popular American ditties, classic Neapolitan gems and "Voi lo sapete" from Cavalleria rusticana, her first operatic aria.
In 1916 Carmela, having had success in the lead of the musical The Girl from Brighton Beach, approached Rosa with the idea of forming a sister act to perform in vaudeville. Carmela's manager Gene Hughes's first reaction to meeting Rosa was quite negative due to her weight. At the age of 19, Rosa stood five feet eight but admitted weighing 180 lbs. Carmela reassured him "Just wait till you hear her sing."
The Ponzillo sisters were billed "Those Tailored Italian Girls" and were an instant hit through 1917 taking them on tour throughout the US. Their program would include some popular songs such as Victor Herbert's "Kiss Me Again", duets of 'O sole mio' and several operatic pieces such as the the barcarolle from Les contes d'Hoffmann. (For a more in depth article on the travelling Ponzillo sisters see Mary Jane Phillips Matz's article in the Jan. 11, 1997 issue of Opera News)
As their act became more and more operatic, they were encouraged to try to get a contract with an opera company. They became friends with Romano (Nino) Romani, a conductor and vocal coach, who brought them to top-flight manager William Thorner. Thorner was at first more impressed with Carmela, but famed baritone Victor Maurel told him "Can't you hear the difference? It's the other one whom the gods have smiled upon."
In early 1918 the Ponzillo sisters were out of work because of their demands for higher pay. During the spring, due to the war, the Metropolitain was having problems casting for the Met premiere of Verdi's La Forza del Destino scheduled for Nov. 15 later that year with Caruso in the lead. Thorner arranged an audition with Caruso for both girls. "Do you know you look like me?" were Caruso first words to Rosa, referring to their similar Neapolitan features. Caruso was impressed enough to arrange a second audition two days later at the Metropolitain with general manager Giulio Gatti Casazza and in the presence of other great singers on the roster. Gatti-Casazza asked Rosa back two weeks later to sing the difficult Casta Diva from Bellini's Norma. This last audition on June 4 is noteworthy for Rosa fainted three measures from the end of the aria. Despite this, she was offered a contract to sing Leonora in Forza, Rezia in Weber's Oberon sung in English and Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. At Gatti's suggestion, she became Rosa Ponselle. Carmela having been changed to mezzo by Thorner was not offered a contract as the Met boasted mezzo Margarete Matzenauer and contralto Louise Homer on their roster. Carmela did later sing at the Metropolitain for several years but in secondary casts and did not attain the kind of success Rosa found, thus causing strained relations between the two sisters.
Ponselle worked intensely that summer with vocal coach and life long friend Nino Romani. When she returned to New York in mid-September, she had lost 35 pounds to look the way she would for the rest of her life. She was in high spirits until the day of her debut when she read a critical review of an established tenor in the previous day's opera. Her spirits were shot in fears of what the critics would say about her. Her family had to practically drag her to the opera house. To make things worse, when she vocalised in her dressing room the heavy carpets and drapes absorbed the sound making her think that something happened to her voice. She was still a nervous wreck when she went on stage but buoyed by Caruso's great singing she sang wonderfully, thus making history as the first American born to sing at the Met. Although she was an instant success, she was never really able to shake the stage fright and nerves the rest of her life.
Following Forza was success in Weber's Oberon in which she sang for the first time with Giovanni Martinelli with whom she would often partner. Her first recording session with Columbia Records followed. Her biggest regret was not having recorded with Caruso who was under contract with RCA Victor; Ponselle signed with Columbia under the impression that Victor was not interested, finding out only later that her manager Thorner had received kick-backs from Columbia to secure her services.
In her distinguished career of almost twenty years, Ponselle was a star with the Metropolitain Opera eventually receiving one of the highest salaries. Except for a visit in 1924 to Italy and several seasons at Covent Gardens (1929-31) she preferred to remain in the comforts of America; she found Italian audiences too threatening to sing at La Scala. She sang "Vissi d'Arte" for Puccini three months before his death; he said "I wished I heard you earlier". Her main roles were taken from the French and Italian Dramatic Soprano repertoire including La Juive, Aida, Andrea Chenier, Ernani, L'Africaine, La Gioconda and Don Giovanni. She will be always remembered for a memorable Norma that was revived for her in 1927. Her Violetta from Verdi's La Traviatta was criticized for transposition (a common practice in those days) but also lauded for possessing both the dramatic and coloratura demands of the role. Her last new role, Carmen, though well suited to her voice was controversial as some critics blasted her for her liberties with tempi and the vulgar dance sequences.
A combination of factors caused her retirement from the stage in 1937. By this time, she had married Carle Jackson, the rich son of the mayor of Baltimore. For the 1937-38 season she asked now Met general manager Edward Johnson to revive Cilèa's Adriana Lecouvreur, a difficult role that wrecked Renata Tebaldi's voice when she successfully demanded its revival thirty years later. Johnson refused on economic reasons even when Ponselle offered to sing for free. These two factors compelled her to resign from the Metropolitain and retire at age forty at the height of her vocal powers to the comforts of her mansion away from the stresses of performing.
One might expect Ponselle to disappear into isolation and seclusion like many a retired Diva. This was true for about ten years but changed afterward. Carle was away in the Navy during WW II, and their marriage never recovered from this interruption. In 1951 they divorced. Rosa kept the mansion named Villa Pace which today is the site of the Ponselle museum. She soon became involved in the operatic scene in Baltimore becoming director of the Baltimore Opera that gave experience to young singers. She also became involved in teaching, helping encourage such notables as James Morris and Beverly Sills. In 1954, Ponselle recording an album at Villa Pace for RCA. Though the upper and lower ranges of her voice show some wear, her voice was still as fresh and vibrant as ever. Many of her guests at Villa Pace reported being treated to Rosa vocalising things like the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Rosa Ponselle passed away quietly on May 25, 1981.
Ponselle's voice was naturally placed, resonant and free; "I was born to sing". It possessed the "colour of a mezzo, yet had the flexibility and ease of a lyric soprano." It has been said that except for Kirsten Flagstad, Ponselle had the largest voice at the Met. Although she did not credit any teacher she admitted that vocalise/exercises from Romani helped her obtain evenness and ease in her high notes. Listening to her early acoustic recordings, one notices a natural free voice that thins out at the top. By the mid-1920s, her vocal mastery was complete. Her 1927 recording of "Pace, pace mio Dio" has often been used to demonstrate the difficult messa di voce (start piano swell to a fortissimo and diminuendo to a pianissimo) exercise. Her voice is also a prime example of the spinning tone that is seldom heard in today's singers. Ponselle was to say later in life that although great voices are nature's gift, a singer is only great after a lot of hard work.
Her voice has been compared to the quality found in Caruso's, both possessing richness in tone that has been described as gold. Geraldine Farrar was known to have said that in speaking of the great voices, there is Caruso and Ponselle, and then there is everyone else. Small wonder as both voices are freely produced and they both possessed similarly shaped oval faces.
Ponselle's recorded legacy include the acoustic recordings with Columbia, and after 1923, studio recordings with RCA. Grammofono 2000's "Rosa Ponselle, The Best from Her Acoustic Recordings" (AB 78576) is an excellent compilation of her early recordings from 1918-1920.The pricey Romophone does a good job in transferring the electric recordings from 1926-28. Only two complete operatic performances - live broadcasts seemed to have survived: a 1935 La Traviata and a 1936 Carmen. Unfortunately for us, the technology of that era, and problems with mike placement only gives us a glimpse of the incredible Ponselle voice. Even so, one cannot help but be astounded by her voice. A number of Radio Broadcasts from the 1930s were also preserved and serves as the best testament of the effect of her voice. The broadcasts with conductor André Kostelanetz for the Chesterfield Hour are particularly rewarding since he experimented with mike placement and found that a microphone placed in the second or third row recreated the Ponselle's voice heard at the Manhattan Theatre. He had noticed an interesting stereo effect in her voice that closed-miking did not pick up. Of the handful of CD transfers out there, "Rosa Ponselle on Radio" (RY 17) under The Radio Years label does the best job in recreating what her voice must have really been like.
We celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rosa Ponselle's birth in appreciation of her stature as a great singer and a great voice, as well as a salute to the generous person she was after her retirement. If only we could forget that she left singing in her prime or that technology was not ready to fully capture the splendor of her voice or her greatest roles for posterity.
Auditions for the L'Opera de Montreal's 1997-98 Apprenticeship program will be held on February 2 (Winnipeg), February 22 (Montréal) and February 25 (Toronto) for opera singers and coaches. The deadlines for applications are January 25 (Winnipeg) and Februay 7 (Montreal-Toronto). Call L'Atelier Lyrique de l'OdM at (514)596-0223.
Courrier / Mail - Cantique de Noël
**** End of January issue / Fin *****