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Friday, July 06, 2018

Jessye Norman Interview, Perhaps Some Controversy

"If I were to have these decisions about not going to countries because I disagree with the political situations, I think I would have stayed home a lot," Jessye Norman told Channel 1 in Israel in 2016.
"I think we need to understand, and admit, that these feelings always existed just under the surface, and what they needed was permission to be released," Norman said.
I recently stumbled upon this extended interview with the American soprano on YouTube:
was permission to be released," Norman said.
I recently stumbled upon this extended interview with the American soprano on YouTube:

Anyone who listens to Norman sing, or who has read her book, "Stand Up Straight and Sing!", knows she is very aware of the turmoil inherent in any life well lived.
I have never heard her speak so passionately — perhaps controversially — about world affairs. Norman did this interview during the last presidential campaign in the United States. She spoke about American politics, her view of the United States at the time, not performing Wagner in Israel and the worlds' continued bondage to racism.
Whether you agree with these views, this is an antidote to the stereotypical "And then I sang" interview attributed to classical singers.

Anyone who listens to Norman sing, or who has read her book, "Stand Up Straight and Sing!", knows she is very aware of the turmoil inherent in any life well lived.
I have never heard her speak so passionately — perhaps controversially — about world affairs. Norman did this interview during the last presidential campaign in the United States. She spoke about American politics, her view of the United States at the time, not performing Wagner in Israel and the worlds' continued bondage to racism.
Whether you agree with these views, this is an antidote to the stereotypical "And then I sang" interview attributed to classical singers.
Anyone who listens to Norman sing, or who has read her book, "Stand Up Straight and Sing!", knows she is very aware of the turmoil inherent in any life well lived.
I have never heard her speak so passionately — perhaps controversially — about world affairs. Norman did this interview during the last presidential campaign in the United States. She spoke about American politics, her view of the United States at the time, not performing Wagner in Israel and the worlds' continued bondage to racism.
Whether you agree with these views, this is an antidote to the stereotypical "And then I sang" interview attributed to classical singers.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

See this movie! RBG

The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court is as disconcerting to many of us as is the current Presidency. That the man now in office will have the power to name a Supreme Court justice is alarming.

That news broke the week after I had seen the new film about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG.

"All I ask of our brethren, is that they take their feet off of our necks"

Filmmaker Betsy West discusses her attraction to Justice Ginsburg's career. "In the 1970s, as a young lawyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued cases before the supreme court that changed women's lies for ever."

The charm and the 'adorable' quotient ' of a tiny elderly lady is a small part of the take away. These alone would be patronizing and miss the point. Justice Ginsburg, it seems to me, is a jurist who cannot abide a lack of fairness. Not favor, fairness. What is available to men should be available to women. Careers, advancement, position, if you can work for it you should be able to attain success.

She may be the first woman to articulate this so clearly-and simply-since Joan of Arc.

I'll say no more. Go see the film.


EUNICE: The Kennedy who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara. Simon and Schuster

"If that girl had been born with balls, she would have been a helluva politician."
So was quoted Joseph P. Kennedy about his fifth child, Eunice, who was born in 1921.

Eileen McNamara's new biography of Eunice Kennedy Shriver shows that a lack of physical appendices in no way deterred this driven woman from promoting and politicizing not only compassion but tangible, measurable help for those with "special needs."

'Retarded' or Mentally Retarded' are terms used throughout McNamara's book, citing Eunice Kennedy Shriver as a woman of her time. The "mentally retarded" were ignored or warehoused, even if they came from families of means.

Eunice would  know. Her older sister Rosemary Kennedy was the victim of a botched lobotomy in 1941. She lived sixty- five more years in complete custodial care, not visited by her family until Eunice made the trip in 1961. This was after a stoke incapacitated Joseph Kennedy, upon whose orders the family had not visited Rosemary.

There are threads throughout this book. Eunice's passion and energy seems to have been a product of rage. Rage that she was born female, thus "less than". The opportunities for a political life, a life of decision making, a life as a power broker. It was not the life Joseph Kennedy dictated for his daughters. They were to marry and their families would live to support the political careers of the  Kennedy men. Anything else was nice, okay, but not the point.

Coupled with this was the Rosemary's exile from the family. Specialists at the time dictated the complete separation of the "special" from their families. Why upset the routine?

Joseph Kennedy arranged for Rosemary to live and be cared for at St. Coletta 's School in Wisconsin. She had her own house, and two nuns lived with her full time. That's care few could afford. It also precluded a return to any sort of useful and satisfying life.

Rosemary had more self awareness than was assumed. She new enough to resent this exile. Rosemary's rage became Eunice's.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver turned that rage into a long life of service. The Special Olympics began, literally in her Maryland back yard. The inspiration for the games came from the Chicago Parks  Authority. The games began lakeside, but the public and press swarmed to Maryland. Shriver invented "no child left behind" except she really meant it. Kids and young adults were introduced to competitive sports, each to his/her ability.

The Shriver family made the Special Olympics possible. When Mrs. Shriver wasn't in the pool or throwing a football, she stalked the halls of congress, demanding-and getting-funding. So forceful was she that the political mantra became "Give Eunice what she wants. It's just easier." She was happy to influence or nag her bother, President John F. Kennedy.

Generations benefited from Special Olympics. They still do. Generations continue to benefit by not being locked away. Opportunities were created for people who a few years earlier were warehoused and ignored. Mrs. Shriver saw that happen to her sister Rosemary. Damned if it was going to happen again.

Make no mistake, Mrs. Shriver was no sweet ladylike creature. She was a skinny, intense, hyper bulldozer. Get in her way and get run over.  Help her,  and she'll have a list for you of projects yet to be funded.  She was plagued by health problems, but nothing stopped her.

At her death in 2009 at the age of 88, Eunice Kennedy Shriver left disgruntled employees, several exhausted staffs, politicians who loved her and feared her, and decision makers who had learned to take her calls, pronto.

There was a long and happy marriage to R. Sargent Shriver. He was no slouch himself as a businessman, political candidate, and presidential appointee. Sargent Shriver was the first to lead JFK's Peace Corps,  and was chief cheerleader to the cyclone that was Mrs. Shriver.

Her children continue the work of Special Olympics, Best Buddies and advocacy for any of the less fortunate on their radar, and said radar seems to be ever expanding. At the end of Eunice Kennedy Shriver's life, the "special' had lives far removed from institutions. That is a legacy.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


What did you read in 2017?
What were your favorite reads?
Please tell!
We'll talk about favorite reads on WOSU's All Sides Weekend: Books

I've listed books read below. 
A few left over from 2016, the rest from 2017.
* indicates I especially liked this book
** indicates I loved this book
+ indicates I was able to interview the author,.

These were my favorites read in 2017:
(in order of when read)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
A harrowing  upbringing as a bi -racial child in South Africa

Lincoln in the Bardo Dan Saunders
Completely original, well at least since Edgar Allen Poe died. 

+No one Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers

Non-fiction. Two adult sons with schizophrenia. One survives. The other doesn't. The parents find a way to live on.

+Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash
The unconventional life of a college wrestler

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Because as a white guy who was raised in a pricey suburb I had no idea.

Defending Jacob by William Landy
The teen age son of a  D.A. is accused of murder. A devastating twist near the end. Just as you were getting comfortable...

+Toscanini: Musician of Conscience by  Harvey Sachs
Mr. Sachs's second, greatly expanded biography of conductor Arturo Toscanini (1865-1957). An artist with a messy private life, a searing musical talent who stood up to Mussolini and Hitler.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
Unconditional love.

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
A journey in Ireland with the Irish from 1945 to today. Infuriating and redemptive.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Vietnam, being there and living with the repercussions. Required reading for anyone who lived through the 1960s but was too young-or clueless-to understand at the time.


Middlemarch George Eliot
The Pickwick Papers Charles Dickens
The Idiot Fyodor Dostoevsky
I’ll Take You There Wally lamb
Moonglow Michael Chabon
Last Girl on the Freeway: Joan Rivers Leslie Bennett
Patient HM Luke Dittrich
The Heavenly Table Donald Ray Pollock
In the Darkroom Susan Faludi
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
His Final Battle: FDR’s Last Year  Joseph Llelveyd
How to Survive a Plague David France
Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn
Conclave Robert Harris
When Paris Sizzled Mary McAuliffe
Eileen Otessa Mostfegh
The Reactive Masande Ntsghenga
Valiant Gentlemen Sabina Murray (Roger Casement)


Do Not Say We Have Nothing  Madeleine Thien
Absolutely on Music conversations with Ozawa
*North Water Ian McAuliffe
The Sleepwalker Chris Bohjalian
*Commonwealth Ann Patchett
Victoria The Queen Julia Baird
Rasputin Douglas Smith
*Born a Crime Trevor Noah
Two by Two Nicholas Sparks
*Class Lucina Rosenfeld
Sandcastle Girls  Chris Bohjalian
Sweetbitter Stephanie Danler
Private Lives of the Tudors  Tracy Broman
The Paris Architect Charles Belfoure
God’s Kingdom Howard John Mosher  Kinneison family Vermont

*The Dry Jane Harper murder mystery Australia
Emma Alexander McCall Smith
Revolution in Color: John Singleton Copley Jane Kamensky
Robert Lowell: Setting the River of Fire Kay Redfield Jamison
The Bone Orchard Paul Doiron
*+The World Will be Saved by Beauty: An intimate portrait of my Grandmother, Dorothy Day  Kate Hennessy
Idaho Emily Ruskovich
Days Without End Sebastian Barry
The Long Loneliness Dorothy Day
Host Robin Cook
The Devil in Webster Jean Hanff Gorelitz
Home Harlan Coben
You Can’t Go Home Again Tom Wolfe
On the Edge of Gone Corinne Duyviss
*The Inheritance Nikki Kapsembellis Alzheimer’s DeMoe family
*Ill Will Dan Chaon
*Lincoln in the Bardo Dan Saunders
Elizabeth Bishop Miracle for Breakfast Megan Mullaly
Life with Judy Garland Sid Luft
Easy Essays Peter Maurin
Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion Robert Coles
One of the Boys Daniel Margariel
The Book of American Martyrs Joyce Carol Oates
Stranger in the Woods: The Story of the Last True Hermit Michael Finkel
Loaves and Fishes Dorothy Day
*Tenth of December (stories) George Saunders
* No one cares about crazy people Ron Powers
Mockingbird Songs Wayne Flynt
Dr. Knox Peter Spiegelman
The Whistler John Grisham
Since We Fell Dennis Lehane
*House of Names Colm Toibin
*Anything is Possible Elizabeth Strout
Inga (Arvad) Scott Faris
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Fact of a Body Alexandria Marzano Leznevich
Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign Jonathan Allen and Amie Parness
Jesus Sons (stories) Denis Johnson
Angels Denis Johnson
Anne Boleyn A King’s Obsession Alison Weir
*Rebel Mother Peter Andreas
*+How to Survive a Summer Nick White
When the world stopped to listen: Van Cliburn’s Cold War Triumph  and the Aftermath Stuart Isaacoff
The End of Eddy Edourard Louis
*Trajectory (stories) Richard Russo esp. “Voices”
Isadora Amelia Gray
*Saints for All Occasions J. Courtney Sullivan
The Child Fiona Barton
The One Man Andrew Gross
Prince Charles Sally Bedell Smith
We Could be Beautiful Swan Huntley
Sometimes Amazing Things Happen Elizabeth Ford, MD
*+Stephen Florida Gabe Habash
*+Toscanini Musician of Conscience Harvey Sachs
Al Franken Giant of the Senate
Modern Gods Nick Laird
You Should Have Left Daniel Kehlmann
He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly by Sara and Cynthia Brideson
Mighty Jack Ben Hatke
**The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
  T-H-U-G L-I-F-E
(They Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody)
We Were the Lucky Ones Georgia Hunter
The Hue and Cry at Our House Benjamin Taylor
*The Accusation Bandi
    ( short stories smuggled out of N. Korea)
Friedelind Wagner: Richard Wagner’s Rebellious Granddaughter Eva Rieger
The Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate Christopher Andersen
This is my face, try not to stare Gabourey Sidibe
There Your heart lies Mary Gordon
See What I Have Done (Lizzie Borden) Sarah Schmidt
Jackie’s Girl Kathy McKeon
*Mrs. Fletcher Tom Perrotta
Making Rent in Bed-Stuy Brandon Harris
Roots Alex Hailey
Less Andrew Sean Greer
*Defending Jacob William Landay
Dying Cory Taylor
The Last Place you Look Kristen Lepionka
What Happened Hillary Clinton
Camino Island John Grisham
The Last Tudor Phillippa Gregory
Mission Flats William Landay
Liner Notes Loudon Wainwright III
Wonder RJ Palacio
*Crimes of the Father Thomas Kenneally
Submission Michel Hollebecque
**The Return of the Prodigal Son Henri Nouwen
Growing up Kennedy Laurie Graham
Turtles all the Way Down John Green
Column of Fire Ken Follett
My Life with Bob Pamela Paul’
**The Heart’s Invisible Furies John Boyne
Love, Henri: Letters of Henri Nouwen
Adam Henri Nouwen
*The Ninth Hour Alice McDermott
Unbelievable My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History  Katy Tur
Bed Stuy is Burning Brian Platzer
 Victoria and Abdul Sharbani Basu
Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal history of the Zapruder Film Alexandra Zapruder
Prague Sonata Bradford Morrow
American Radical: Inside the World of an Undercover FBI Agent Tamer Elnoury
*The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien
 *A History of Loneliness John Boyne
Overweight Sensation:  The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman Mark Cohen
*Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng
Our Mutual Friend Charles Dickens
Birdcage Walk Helen Dunsmore
Oriana Fallaci Cristina DiStefano
Broken Irish Edward J. Delaney

Priestdaddy Patricia Lockwood

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Thomas Merton on Gandhi

"...Gandhi recognized, as no other world leader of our time has done, the necessity to be free from the pressures, the exorbitant and tyrannical demands of a society that is violent because it is essentially greedy, lustful and cruel. Therefore he fasted, observed days of silence, lived frequently in retreat, knew the value of solitude, as well as the totally generous expenditure of his time and energy in listening to others and communicating with them. He recognized the impossibility of being a peaceful and nonviolent man if one submits passively to the insatiable requirements of a society maddened by overstiumulation and obsessed with the demons of noise, voyeurism and speed."

A Tribute to Gandhi included in Seeds of Destruction by Thomas Merton, published in 1961.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

James Levine

I spent a lot of my time between 1979 and 1991 at the Metropolitan Opera. Usually as a standee, when $2.00 admitted you to the top floor of the opera house. Hard to see, but oh my, you could hear the splendor. And splendor it was:  the final performances of Nilsson, Bergonzi, Price and Sutherland, Scotto a lot, Milnes, Pavaortti still in his prime. Domingo singing to break your heart.

The greatest splendor was the Met orchestra and chorus. They attained world class status on their own, regardless of the soloists on a given night. The reason for all of this magnificence was James Levine.

To my dying day I will never forget James Levine's conducting in the last five minutes of Pelleas et Melisande, as the orchestra expired shortly after the heroine. Levine made Parsifal so beautiful you would stand through five hours more. His opening of Die Walkure left the audience terrified as Siegmund literally ran for his life.

The Met during my years WAS James Levine James Levine James Levine. Good.

I heard the rumors. You couldn't be within a mile of Lincoln Center or anywhere he conducted  (Vienna, Munich, Bayreuth, Chicago, Ravinia, Boston, Tanglewood) and not hear the rumors. They long predated my time in New York. James Levine liked to have sex with teen age boys. The Met engaged an African American tenor-who was at least an adult and presumably willing-to keep the conductor away from kids. Better not stand with your back to him if you are a young man. People made jokes. Adults, well placed professionals made jokes, not just idiotic kids like me.

Nobody knew anything.

It was all rumor. You can't prosecute a rumor. You can't take a rumor to court. There was never any proof offered and there were no specific accusations. You know why not? Because, the rumor mill insisted, there were huge amounts of payola, from the Met, and from Levine's management, (run by a now deceased titan long thought to have controlled all aspects of the classical music business). There were stories of divas and or their husbands coming up with alibis or bail.

Now men are coming forward claiming James Levine abused them sexually when they were young music students. I believe the men. How does coming forward benefit them? What their bravery has done is finally put a stop to the abuse. Levine is a 75 year old man in a wheel chair who I suspect has conducted his last performance. (The Verdi Requiem last Saturday. I sat listening in my car in a parking lot not caring if I was late for a commitment, the performance was so thrilling) I'm not sure what the system can do to Levine other than destroy his reputation and career. I loved his work, but after what I've read, he's getting off easy.

What troubles me-not quite as much as the abuse suffered by his victims*-are the gossip and the jokes I heard and indulged in those many years ago. I'm ashamed. I share the fury being directed toward the highest levels of Met management who are smugly "taking these accusations very seriously." Denials of any cover ups are flying out of Lincoln Center but I don't believe them.
Rumors of child abuse should have been enough to remove Levine and those  protecting him. Take all of your august financial resources and try to prove the rumors. If you really can't then they remain rumors. But was any powerful effort made to find the truth thirty years ago? Or were people too afraid of Mr. Wilford and busy CYA. A lot of the abuse currently reported took place in the late 1960s, before Levine was ever at the Met. How was this not known? How far back does the company's complicity go? To Rudolf Bing? Certainly in later years its ridiculous to suggest that no one in authority, the people who raised the money and signed the checks knew nothing about this-that they lacked facts.

That Levine's criminal activities and the cover ups at the highest levels of music management combined will destroy the Metropolitan Opera is a possibility. Who will give them money now? Who will join a board that may be corporately responsible for covering up criminal behavior?
It's grossly unfair to the hundreds of people who work for the Metropolitan Opera. People who go to work every day in whatever capacity, who depend upon the Met for a paycheck, who did nothing wrong and should not have to forfeit their livelihoods. Decision makers, if complicit, should pay. They were the people who had the authority to make the abuse stop. They chose to pay, deny and look the other way. For of the rest of us, in the audience, on the bus, walking past Lincoln Center, who traded gossip and made jokes, we'll have to try to forgive ourselves and hope all of these men get the best justice possible.

I'm relieved not to be in a position of deciding whether of not Levine's recordings should be played on the air. Since last week I've been listening to a Levine conducted 1987 performance of Nozze di Figaro with Van Dam, Battle,von Stade and the wonderful Elisabeth Soderstrom. I've put it away. It's not less wonderful since the news broke. But I am. The Met was a home to a lot of us, even those of us from humble circumstances. Now that home is no longer a safe place.

*I dislike the term victim but if it was ever appropriate.....

Friday, November 17, 2017


Approaching another birthday, and with the years advancing and the returns diminishing, it's time to look at a Bucket List. I do so publicly to give myself a bit more impetus to make things happen.
Have a swimmer's body? Eat whatever I want with no concern? Never need to excersise? Those boats sailed long ago. I look my age. I've earned it.


Four Saints in Three Acts by Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein 

I've always loved the elegance and craziness of Stein's text and her love for "Saints and Avila" combined with Virgil Thomson's Southern Baptist hymnal influenced music.

Stein and Thompson stressed clarity (!) You might not understand the text, but the worlds are clearly set. This is a witty and strangely moving opera. I would love to immerse myself in Thomson and Stein's worlds. 

Four Saints in Three Acts is worth knowing better.  I don't understand why this isn't done more often, certainly its perfect for colleges.

All I need is a venue, a cast, an orchestra and money. Who's talking to me?

Transformations by Anne Sexton and Conrad Susa

Anne Sexton's take on Grimm's fairy tales became an opera in the 1970s. Renee Fleming, in her excellent book, The Inner Voice, the Making of a Singer (should be required reading for any young musician) describes of production of this work in which she sang very early on.. She maintains this was one of he great events of her career.

There's a wonderful production of Transformations, set in a mental hospital. I've seen the video and I can't imagine a better staging. What a wonderful challenge this would be!

Both works have large casts and make no horrendous demand on young-or not young-voices. These could be two "community" projects.


Never been. I'd like to sit in San Marco in Venice where Monteverdi was maestro di capella. I'd like to go to Milan and say a prayer at Verdi's grave in the Casa di riposo. I'd like to take a day off form sobriety and have a grappa. I'll settle for a gelato. I'd like to wander through the Sistine Chapel. Can you wander there?

I'd like to see the faded image of Leonardo's Last Supper at the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Just to stand in front of it for a minute:


Yeah, I know. Yadda yadda yadda.

I'D LIKE TO START A CHOIR made up of autistic children who don't have language. Music is a path to language. I'm inspired by the story of a fine singer who had a devastating stroke that robbed her of spoken language. Her voice was unimpaired. Not only could she sing beautifully, but she could sing the words she had always sung. Having a day to day conversation became challenging, but she could sing Mahler or Strauss to knock you on your ass.

I heard about this and thought, Bingo! Use music to cultivate underperforming areas of the brain! And spend your time with kids. What's not to love?

....and I'm still working on this list!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Finally, I listened to a few recordings: DiDonato, Spyres, Yoncheva and Florez

The stack of new CD releases has been eyeing me with something like contempt for moths. I have scanned the walls of my office and am beginning to despair. What will I do with these shelves of recordings, many of which I've loved and cherished for years, when I'm no longer here? The days don't get longer when you reach 60, boys and girls.

But disposing of my collection is a problem for tomorrow.

For today, I want to talk a bit about a few recent releases.

Lately I've been listening to Scriabin.  The two poems, both divine and ecstatic. I'm enjoying the Boston Symphony's newly published complete Brahms symphonies with Andris Nelsons. I'm trying and not always succeeding in listening to artists who are still alive!

That's my rule for this post. For once, you can't be dead.

Arias by Handel, Purcell, Leo, Jomelli and Monteverdi

What a beautiful artist! Joyce DiDonato, like the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson leaves her own ego outside the stage door or the recording studio and subsumes herself into text and music. I couldn't keep my eyes off DiDonato during the recent Metropolitan Opera live-in HD Norma. Her Adalgisa listened and reacted in character to everything going on around her. Especially moving was her onstage support to Norma herself in the first act, long before Adalgisa has anything so sing.

This recording  gives us warriors and peace makers. There's Dido's lament and Handel's exquisite Lascia ch'io pianga. The warrior Sesto sings himself into avenging his father's murder. Monteverdi's Penelope cherishes the long awaited return of her husband Ulisse in Illustratevi o cieli. DiDonato uses a touch of chest voice which never interferes with the ability to float a gorgeous phrase. Listen to Purcell's They tell us that you mighty powers above for its shapely sweetness. For me the high point of the album is the aria from Jomelli's Attilio Regolo. DiDonato's brio and fearless coloratura remind me, of all people, of Beverly Sills.


Michael Spyres is a young American tenor enjoying quite a busy career, primarily in Europe. He already has an impressive discography complete with the robust tenor roles of Rossini that require a great deal of flexibility. I've enjoyed his work in Rossini's Otello, Guillaume Tell, and Le siege de Corinthe. In the latter he sings a role done in Italian versions (L'assedio di corinto) en travesti by  Shirley Verrett and astoundingly, Marilyn Horne.

Espoir is Spyres's tribute to Gilbert Duprez (1806-1896) supposedly the tenor who developed the High C delivered from the chest. The manly, squillante sound (ring) is greatly prized, and rare,  today.

Spyres sings arias by Rossini, Donizetti, Auber and Berlioz. Of special interest are two selections by Halevy, known today only for La juive, and that just barely. To all these he brings not only the aforementioned squillante, but a warm and attractive voice that combines sweetness with power. It's a wining combination and this disc is a winner.

SONYA YONCHEVA: Paris mon amour

If you'll be attending this season's live in HD presentations by the Metropolitan  Opera, you'll be seeing and hearing Sonya Yoncheva in Tosca, La boheme and Luisa Miller. So here's hoping that we'll all fall in love with Sonya, as the Met it seems expects us to do.

Paris mon amour pays tribute to the city of light, with selections from operas set in the French capital, many written during the belle epoque of the late 19th century. She sings arias by Massenet, Offenbach, Puccini, Verdi, Gounod, Messager and Lecocq

I appreciate the programming. Messager's Madame Chrysantheme lost its audience once Puccini wrote Madama Butterfly. Charles  Lecocq found himself competing with Offenbach in the light opera sweepstakes. The gentle waltz from Les cent vierges is captivating. yo gotta love a guy who writes an opera called The One Hundred Virgins.

Yoncheva's lovely voice suffers in comparison only to people like Scotto in an earlier time, whose recorded arias form La boheme, Le villi and La traviata broke your heart. Yoncheva does everything right. She's a light soprano, not a "juicy lyric" and she brings grace and style to a lot of this repertoire. What's missing is the dramatic tension and sense of the words that can elevate Massenet and Gounod. The arias from Sapho and Le cid  require more voice than Yoncheva can summon. This falcon repertoire is not the Yoncheva voice. Listen to Marilyn Horne or Grace Bumbry in the arias from Sapho and Le cid and you'll hear what I mean.
There's a lot of beautiful signing here but,  I don't hear the vocal chops for Tosca or Luisa Miller


Where's he been? Juan Diego Florez, our finest tenore di grazia was a fixture in New York. In recent years he's preferred to sing in Europe (where he continues to be very busy). He's expanding his repertoire away from the young man Rossini to Verdi's Duke of Mantua and Massenet's Werther. I hope he sings them in the States.

I was surprised to read that Mozart has never figured large in Florez's career. For a while he sang Donizetti and Rossini operas few others could or would. Mozart was well traveled. This new album of Mozart arias is a delight.  Florez's voice lacks the last bit of snap of Alfredo Kraus,  but he has all the flexibility and lovely tone necessary for this music.

 Idomeno's Fuor del mar opens this disc. Power? Check. Coloratura? Yes. It's fearless. I especially loved the selections from Cosi fan tutte  and Abduction From the Seraglio. The great concert aria,  Misero! O sogno K. 431 shows us that Florez is not leaving of a young man's charm in his singing, but adding the pathos and life experience of a mature artist.