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Thread: Disappointing performances after great ones

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Disappointing performances after great ones

    Has it happened to you that you had your ears, eyes, and mind set on a great performance of an opera you love, and then you attended, saw, or heard a different performance and were utterly disappointed and even angry at the singers/conductor/stage director, feeling that they were murdering one of your favorites?

    I guess it has happened to all of us, and I thought it would be fun to start a thread in which people would post examples of the pairs of performances that produced this effect - the good one first, then the bad one. You can quote the performances in detail, or the artists involved in less detail - sometimes even a poorly sang aria will cause this effect - such as in an iconic opera character by a great singer, followed by a lame interpretation of the same character by another singer.

    Here is one example for me: Pavarotti as Nemorino in a 1970 DECCA recording with Joan Sutherland and Dominic Cossa, versus Roberto Alagna as Nemorino in a 1996 performance in Lyon with Angela Gheorghiu and Simone Alaimo, available on DECCA CD and DVD, not to mention other Nemorinos with Gigli (1953) and Giuseppe di Stefano (1955), also vastly superior to Alagna's assassination of the role. In this Lyon performance there was transposition down which should have made it easier on Alagna, and still, his Una furtiva lagrima was rather anemic.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    I think my most disappointing recent experience was at a Met live in HD performance of Aida - I'd taken both my kids as I reckoned there would be plenty going on to keep them interested.

    What I hadn't planned for was the catatonic performances from the singers playing Radames and Amneris. Johan Botha was doing his best imitation of a singing tree and as for Dolora Zajick, she has obviously played this part WAY too many times. She looked like a grouper with dyspepsia.
    Natalie

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    It happens to me all the time. I belive that great singers in most cases have only few performances in which they sing amazing and inspired and all other attempts to repeat it are worthless.

    Jon Vickers was amazing Tristan in Karajan's studio recording but when I've heard him in other performances of this work, less significant I was disappointed. It wasn't even close to what he did before.

    Even my favourite tenor, Kollo, which sang best Tannhauser in history of recorded opera with Solti spoiled this role in some 3rd rate productions and was singing so terrible that I felt like jumping on the stage and strangling him.

    There are two kinds of recordings: gems and trash. And two kinds of singers: those that record gems and those who don't. Singer can't record two gems of one opera. After they records one, all other performances of this works that they will ever give will be inferior and unlistenable for anyone who ever heard the gem.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    It happens to me all the time. I belive that great singers in most cases have only few performances in which they sing amazing and inspired and all other attempts to repeat it are worthless.

    Jon Vickers was amazing Tristan in Karajan's studio recording but when I've heard him in other performances of this work, less significant I was disappointed. It wasn't even close to what he did before.

    Even my favourite tenor, Kollo, which sang best Tannhauser in history of recorded opera with Solti spoiled this role in some 3rd rate productions and was singing so terrible that I felt like jumping on the stage and strangling him.

    There are two kinds of recordings: gems and trash. And two kinds of singers: those that record gems and those who don't. Singer can't record two gems of one opera. After they records one, all other performances of this works that they will ever give will be inferior and unlistenable for anyone who ever heard the gem.
    That's an interesting take, slightly different from what I had proposed in the original post (I was thinking more of different performers doing the gem and the trash) but actually even more interesting, because there may be too many examples of my take - basically, every time that there is a historical performance of a role, subsequent artists tends to do not as well. I think we can all understand this, my take was more in the sense of really bad murders, assassinations, of a role, when you want to go up there on stage and spank the performer, LOL.

    But like I said, your take is interesting. It may have a lot to do with voice decline with age and overuse, or with a singer trying to make a quick buck in careless recording sessions after he or she becomes famous for one of these gems in a specific role.

    So maybe we should also think of the exceptions - in what occasions did someone make *two* outstanding recordings of the same role? I'm sure it happens and I have this impression that it's almost coming to me, but I can't think of any right now, will have to think about it more.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Having grown up with the classic Solti Ring on Decca, I was aghast at the way the English Wagnerian Reginald Goodall (1901-1990) ,whom some Wagnerians consider the greatest Wagner conductor of our time, conducted it.
    Back in the 70s ,I had heard enthusiastic reports about Goodalls's Wagner from critics such as Andrew Porter and others, and when my library got the EMI LP of Die Walkure ,which is sung in Porter's English translation, I grabbed it.
    But I couldn't believe my ears. Goodall's tempi were impossibly slow and his rhythmic sense exasperatingly flabby. The whole performance was crippled by his lethargy, and was dead in the water. And this recording was taken from live performances at the English National opera in London!
    The singers were pretty good, but all their efforts went for nothing with Goodall's lethargy.
    He made a complete hash of Wagner's tempo relations, taking the whole work at pretty much one funereal tempo, ignoring all the contrasts between fast and slow.
    This somnolent Ring is now available on CD on the Chandos label. It's a travesty of the Ring.
    After the electricity of Solti's great Ring, this was a real letdown.
    His EMI studio Parsifal ,which I don't think is currently available, is aslo crippled by impossibly slow and labored tempos. In the slow-moving parsifal,this is absolutely fatal.
    Yet Goodall still has his admirers. De Gustibus non Est Disputandum.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superhorn View Post
    Having grown up with the classic Solti Ring on Decca, I was aghast at the way the English Wagnerian Reginald Goodall (1901-1990) ,whom some Wagnerians consider the greatest Wagner conductor of our time, conducted it.
    Back in the 70s ,I had heard enthusiastic reports about Goodalls's Wagner from critics such as Andrew Porter and others, and when my library got the EMI LP of Die Walkure ,which is sung in Porter's English translation, I grabbed it.
    But I couldn't believe my ears. Goodall's tempi were impossibly slow and his rhythmic sense exasperatingly flabby. The whole performance was crippled by his lethargy, and was dead in the water. And this recording was taken from live performances at the English National opera in London!
    The singers were pretty good, but all their efforts went for nothing with Goodall's lethargy.
    He made a complete hash of Wagner's tempo relations, taking the whole work at pretty much one funereal tempo, ignoring all the contrasts between fast and slow.
    This somnolent Ring is now available on CD on the Chandos label. It's a travesty of the Ring.
    After the electricity of Solti's great Ring, this was a real letdown.
    His EMI studio Parsifal ,which I don't think is currently available, is aslo crippled by impossibly slow and labored tempos. In the slow-moving parsifal,this is absolutely fatal.
    Yet Goodall still has his admirers. De Gustibus non Est Disputandum.
    That's awful!
    If there is something that drives me crazy, it is a conductor with slow tempi. There's nothing more annoying!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    1. I think it would be critical to remember that Opera, as a living and breathing art form, was never originally intended to be captured for all eternity on tape or little round discs which can be played in the comfort of one's living room.

    2. If one focuses exclusively on Perfection (which, as most of us know, is unachievable and (anyway) subjective), one misses the point entirely.

    3. It's all about the attempt, the bringing together of hundreds of singers and instrumentalists to create a moment in time and to honor the creativity of a composer. Some visual ideas don't work, but you won't know that if all you do is listen to a recording. Nothing is ever perfect; the attempt at achieving perfection is the best we can do.

    4. Attempting to be less dogmatic about ones' preferences and opening oneself up to a broader acceptance of options demonstrates GROWTH; and that, after all, is to be greatly preferred to STAGNATION.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keikobad View Post
    1. I think it would be critical to remember that Opera, as a living and breathing art form, was never originally intended to be captured for all eternity on tape or little round discs which can be played in the comfort of one's living room.

    2. If one focuses exclusively on Perfection (which, as most of us know, is unachievable and (anyway) subjective), one misses the point entirely.

    3. It's all about the attempt, the bringing together of hundreds of singers and instrumentalists to create a moment in time and to honor the creativity of a composer. Some visual ideas don't work, but you won't know that if all you do is listen to a recording. Nothing is ever perfect; the attempt at achieving perfection is the best we can do.

    4. Attempting to be less dogmatic about ones' preferences and opening oneself up to a broader acceptance of options demonstrates GROWTH; and that, after all, is to be greatly preferred to STAGNATION.
    I think we all understand that, and I'm for one a big fan of watching an opera (as intended, as a total work of art) rather than listening to an opera only - see my sig. So, it's not like the topic of my thread happens all the time, that's exactly why I proposed it and asked for examples, because I believe that while this feeling that I described in my original post does eventually happen to most of us, it doesn't constantly happen because we *are* prepared to take into account your good points when we watch a performance. If it constantly happened, it wouldn't be a matter for a thread, similarly to the fact that newspapers don't stamp on the first page articles such as "Mr. and Ms. Smith from Gardenia Lane went to the supermarket today and bought cereal." What is news and worth commenting upon is what is unusual, what is the exception rather than the rule. And while your good points do apply to most occasions, there is the odd event when something we really love gets murdered by a performer and we get upset. And then, it's kind of fun to talk about it, in an innocent and relaxed way; it's not necessarily dogmatic. I believe that you may have taken my intention here a little too seriously, with your Perfection with a capital P. Yep, nobody is perfect, we're all humans, performers and fans alike, including we members of this forum.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keikobad View Post
    1. I think it would be critical to remember that Opera, as a living and breathing art form, was never originally intended to be captured for all eternity on tape or little round discs which can be played in the comfort of one's living room.

    2. If one focuses exclusively on Perfection (which, as most of us know, is unachievable and (anyway) subjective), one misses the point entirely.

    3. It's all about the attempt, the bringing together of hundreds of singers and instrumentalists to create a moment in time and to honor the creativity of a composer. Some visual ideas don't work, but you won't know that if all you do is listen to a recording. Nothing is ever perfect; the attempt at achieving perfection is the best we can do.
    While I do agree with what you say, the way I learn & enjoy opera works for me. I listen as I walk & I prefer a studio recording without the coughing, rustling & applause which can be sometimes be too loud (do they crank up the volume for applause?). Each day it adds up to 1 hour 20 minutes of listening & I love the way it gets embedded in my brain. But I also love to see the 'moment in time' performance & will watch my favourite DVDs over & over. And then of course seeing it live is another dimension. It's so important to me that once I've bought my ticket I go to stupid lengths in order not to miss the performance. I've been known to travel to London the day before just to make sure I'm there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Keikobad View Post
    4. Attempting to be less dogmatic about ones' preferences and opening oneself up to a broader acceptance of options demonstrates GROWTH; and that, after all, is to be greatly preferred to STAGNATION.
    I keep trying to do that but Verdi (& Donizetti to some extent) keep getting in the way.
    Ann

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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    It's so important to me that once I've bought my ticket I go to stupid lengths in order not to miss the performance. I've been known to travel to London the day before just to make sure I'm there.
    Hey, spending the night in London doesn't seem to be the worst of sacrifices.
    At least that's what I think, I've been only once to London and for just four days, and the weather was gorgeous with not a cloud in the sky, I loved the city, would love to visit again...

    But I hear there's rain and fog.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Hey, spending the night in London doesn't seem to be the worst of sacrifices.
    Yes but I only live 2 hours away.

    I went the day before in case of floods, locust swarms, typhoons, hurricanes, bolts of lightning; that sort of thing. And I stayed in the scruffy Covent Garden Travelodge because it was only 6 minutes walk from ROH.

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    At least that's what I think, I've been only once to London and for just four days, and the weather was gorgeous with not a cloud in the sky, I loved the city, would love to visit again...
    Well if you do, let us limeys know & we can have a TC forum meet up.
    Ann

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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    Yes but I only live 2 hours away.

    I went the day before in case of floods, locust swarms, typhoons, hurricanes, bolts of lightning; that sort of thing. And I stayed in the scruffy Covent Garden Travelodge because it was only 6 minutes walk from ROH.



    Well if you do, let us limeys know & we can have a TC forum meet up.
    Uhoh, maybe I shouldn't visit after all. There may be floods, locust swarms, typhoons, hurricanes, bolts of lightning... It all sounds very unsafe.

    I also heard that you guys eat kidney pies. Please tell me it's not true!!!

    (kidding, no offense intended!)
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Well, far be it from me to dictate HOW opera should be enjoyed. If your (and here I'm speaking to those who responded to my post) choices work for you, who am I.........

    And that's pretty much the point I was trying to make; I feel like list-making and enumerating is a grand waste of time. If someone creates a thread whose subject is "Your Top Ten Operas", I assume it's only because they want to disclose THEIRS, that they've come up with a list too good NOT to share and they're looking for a way of making it public. They don't care what my list is. Really.

    Listening to music (and reacting to it in a personal way) is, when you really think about it, a very solitary behavior; but trying to make lists based on likes/dislikes is of very little importance.

    And we must always remember that if we are foolish enough to make lists they are subject to change on a moment's notice, in einem gnu~!

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keikobad View Post
    And that's pretty much the point I was trying to make; I feel like list-making and enumerating is a grand waste of time. If someone creates a thread whose subject is "Your Top Ten Operas", I assume it's only because they want to disclose THEIRS, that they've come up with a list too good NOT to share and they're looking for a way of making it public. They don't care what my list is. Really.
    I don't know about that. The results of lists and polls are not that important, but they are great for getting a discussion going.
    Last edited by jhar26; Sep-17-2010 at 00:18.
    Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips..

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