Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Itunes Bargains, sorta

I feel like I should post about things that feel like a steal on itunes--this one time (at band camp) someone, maybe Chalkers, posted that they had put up the entire Italian-language studio William Tell for $9.99, and though I've never listened to it, it felt great buying it. It's a four disc-er.

So, there are two complete Zerbinetta scenes you can get for a buck even though the scene is usually 11+ minutes and so "see album." And they're both old and scritchy, which means good, right?

#1: Lea Piltti, a Finn, I think. Pretty average, weak and vibratoless at the very top, better trill than most Zerbinetten. Charm factor: more the tweety-bird Zerb than the, yeah, some proponents are alluring and even complex. Dessay, it is said, gave meaning to each little trill and roulade, though I missed her in the role--the run I showed up for, she did not, and we got the perfectly ok and, the heterosexuals tell me, way cute Lubov Petrova, who does a lot of utility duty at the Met these does, doesn't she? Piltti is rhythmically pert, but not memorable. The list of her conquests is delivered more like casual 6th grade gossip than the self-amused confession of a world-class coquette. Still, hey, a dollar. What costs a dollar these days, other than [mean, mean, mean. deleted.]

#2: Joanna Kern. Wait, that's the mom on Growing Pains. Adele Kern. That's better. Well above average. Fuller tone, more variety of expression. It's a little effortful in the acuti, and the voice catches a bit here and there, trill is maybe fakey, but this is unquestionably a better sing. There are notes she leans into like an Italian lyric, and they're much appreciated. The highest arpeggio, just before "als ein Gott" is the only place she truly shows her hand, effort-wise. The D in the rondo is sort of crappy, then she rescues it for the second syllable, so to speak, and it's brilliant. The C then fails to spin, but "stumm, stumm" is sung with a curtsey and a shrug, as it ought to be always.

Now when will coat-pocket live recordings start popping up on itunes? Probably never. It's just I really want bits of the Mesple-Troyanos-(Crespin).* My god, have you heard Mesple in the role? Put aside the fact that she sounds like she could sing it up an octave and you are left with the dumbfounding fact that une francaise feels this role of an Italian character singing in German as librettified by an Austrian better than anyone, including the Slovak and the African-American. See, Zerbinetta is yet another character who can be sung as just a minx, but it's far better when she's not. As embodied by Mady, she's smart and laughs at herself a little. Combined with Troyanos' transparently high strung Komponist, and it's just about ideal. I'm pretty sure you can see it on youtube, actually. Flickery, but divine.

*Sorry NYC Opera Fanatic, if you're reading. She's just falling-apart bad on this one.

19 comments:

straussmonster said...

So I haveta ask--what are your thoughts on Hilde Gueden as the Divine Miss Z.?

Maury D'annato said...

Not entirely to my taste though obviously a skilled proponent. I'd have to go back and listen to tell you why I'm lukewarm. Which I probably will do, but not this instant, as I'm not totally sure where it is.

Maury D'annato said...

p.s. who's your fave? or faves?

alex said...

omg omg. another who shares my love of the mady mesple!

I think that MM is heavily helped by the fact that her stage presence is, bar none, the best I've seen in this part. She's like Margot Fonteyn in that you just can't take your eyes off her, even with the really crappy kinescope, or whatever this video capture is called. !!!

I think I like Hilde G. better than you do, Maury, but I think the one recording of hers that I've heard (the Bohm, Della Casa, Seefried, I don't know who else) seems miked pretty closely, such that she seems more sonically penetrating than I have otherwise heard. I wonder if on video, she would have been quite so charming as MM is -- it's a tall order, and I really couldn't tell you.

I'd actually like to hear Reri Grist (I'm assuming that "the African-American" in your post is not Grist) give the part a go -- but I think that a young lucia popp would have been absolutely diviiiiine. *sigh*

Maury D'annato said...

Af-Am is Battle, Alex, trying to think if I've heard Reri Grist or if in fact there is a recording, do you know?

Popp sang it exactly once and said it was a complete failure, if I'm remembering correctly. I can imagine, actually--there's something too wholly loveable about Popp, not enough edge?

...and yes, I am very fond of Mady Mesple, very. It's one reason it took me a long time to come around to Dessay-their voices are a little similar except that Mesple's was so much tighter and better behaved. I always found myself making that comparison.

Sarah said...

You are remembering correctly about Lucia's Zerbinetta. Or else we're misremembering in unison. But I got far enough in her big glossy biography (auf Deutsch) to recall that story.

Will said...

Grist is on a DVD with Hillebrecht and Bohm conducting. She is much revered in the part in many hearts.

I was really impressed with Gueden's Z'etta. for one thing, it's actually sexy and insinuating as well as virtuosic.

I've always been a Mesple fan, particularly as I am a life-long and very deep fan of the French school of singing.

armerjaquino said...

I've been very lucky with my live Zerbinette- Gruberova when I was a kid, Damrau a couple of years ago. On record, I think Sylvia Geszty does a pretty great job on the Kempe recording.

Maury D'annato said...

I forgot to mention Damrau. From a technical standpoint, I expect I will never hear it sung better. Character-wise, it wasn't complete, for me.

Gruberova's hard for me, for some reason. Love her in Donizetti on youtube, though.

JSU said...

"better than anyone"

C'mon, I know you've heard Erna Berger. No comparison on the high notes, but who cares?

Maury D'annato said...

I do like Berger a lot. One phrase in particular, though I can't really describe which one. :)

straussmonster said...

I love the Kempe recording as a whole, so I've always been happy with that. For some reason I've felt little urge to collect Zerbinettas.

Gueden brings something dramatic and interesting to the role but it's technically juuuust enough beyond her that it bothers me, if you know what I mean.

Maury D'annato said...

I think I know exactly what you mean. Oddly I've never given the Kempe much of a listen, and I do adore Janowitz.

alex said...

Bah, I'm late to the party again :(

Hmmm.

As for Z's, I've only heard a couple (and some of these, not even in complete assumptions): Gueden, Mesple, Gruberova, Streich, Dessay
(incomplete), Battle, Sumi Jo (Version 1), Beverly Sills (incomplete).

Streich I remember being rather fluent, but it's been ages since I've heard it (and the other Streich that I've heard since then gives me the sense that hers was a very tight and uneasy vocalism, so ...).

Gruberova, though technically secure (though there's that scoop of hers that takes some getting used to), is perfectly charmless in the Bohm lip sync'ed video.

Dessay is characteristically fearless, though she has this really odd habit of singing to the floor. Of the two takes of Z's scene that I've watched, I like the cracked out VW bus - super-dyed hair + sarong one. I'm totally in agreement with you, Maury, on Dessay v. Mesple. It's like they were both given the same amount of voice, but Mesple's is more tightly knit whereas Dessay's is more loose -- bigger-sounding with a corresponding shallowness and lack of core, I think.

Having only heard the one Gueden Z, I can hear what's bothering Monsterchen, but I'm more inclined to think that it has to do with very close-miking on a live recording. I'll have to pull out my cds for another listen though, to be sure. I mention this only because like passages of similar "difficulty" (all of Z isn't Grossmachtige Prinzessin difficulty) on other recordings don't sound the same, so I'm inclined to give Gueden the benefit of the doubt. Incidentally, isn't there a Gueden Aminta floating around somewhere? I remember reading someone (Gruberova?) saying that while Grossmachtige P is the hardest coloratura aria in the rep, Aminta is the harder role. How is Gueden/the recording? (Also, didn't Cebotari create this? Good lord the woman must have been a miracle).

Sumi Jo is pretty good, I think -- though her brand of charm is a little too faceless for the kind of character Z is. Still, she's got those high F-sharps and bubbles through the music happily enough :) Also, it's kind of hard to compare Version 1 Z with Version 2. On the one hand, Grossmachtige is longer and crazier, and there are more bits and pieces for Z in the opera proper, one of my favorite moments in the opera is "Ein augenblick."

Ugh, I've written too much now :( Ok, must go listen to more Ariadne!

straussmonster said...

Yes, Cebotari was the original Aminta. I love her Turandot so very much.

Gueden is the Aminta on the Wunderlich/Hotter/Bohm Schweigsame Frau, which I listened to long ago but couldn't really tell you about now, except that the sound is okay but not great and the score is absolutely cut to shreds, like really totally shredded. It's an opera you can cut without massive damage, but it's ridiculous what they did to it there. Seriously, it turns into a 2 CD opera instead of a 3.

I'd give it another listen but the Music Library seems to *suck* on this front and not have it. Grrr. Damn, I can't sleep tonight.

Will give the Gueden Miss Z. another listen tomorrow.

armerjaquino said...

Janowitz was the Ariadne when I saw Gruberova as Zerbinetta. Bit late to catch her- 1987- but still unforgettable. I wrote a 'Boy and his Diva' for the print version of parterre about that night, back in the day. Gruberova didn't seem charmless to me, but then you don't get much of a sense of nuance from the back of the amphitheatre.

Has the Della Casa/ Stevens/ Peters Ariadne had a CD release yet? Or have I made that one up with my head?

Stewball said...

I saw Gruberova as Aminta in Vienna rather a long time ago (the week Margaret Thatcher was first elected if that helps) and she was just great, just bonkers-great. I loved the premise really a lot- "A man wants a quiet wife. Her marries Edita Gruberova. Complications ensue." I'd never heard E.G. before, even on record, so it was quite an introduction, and her legato in the insanely high singing lesson scene (ostensibly from Monteverdi's Poppea, but with... let's call them "variants") was breathtaking. She also trashed the set while singing at full tilt and I've been a fan ever since. Thomas Moser was in it too, young, lyrical and fresh as paint. Imagine!

Maury D'annato said...

Stewball: oh, the "Sento un certo non so che" thing where she plonks a high F into Monteverdi or something? We just listened to Die Schweigsame Frau in the car on the way back from, well, see current entry.

My story for you about Gruberova that will explain my ambivalence about her voice is that I worked at a record store after college and my fellow clerk and I one day put on her recording of "Popoli di Tessaglia" and then drew a little cartoon of an obese, quivering eighth note entitled "Edita Gruberova's Fat, Wobbly High G." There's a quality to her voice, even when she's doing the precise, insanely high stuff that is kind of, to me, like the kid that gets picked on in the playground. It's that vocal quality that makes people not like opera. And yet, she's an artist. Maybe if I'd seen her live I'd have less mixed feelings.

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