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09 November, 2014

Schubert's Trout comes to the Southern Highlands - final Selby concert for 2014.

Dear Colleagues,
I am happy to report another brilliant and uplifting concert in the Selby series at Chevalier College at 5pm on Saturday 8th November.  The same program can also be heard in Turramurra, Wynyard, Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne over the next week.  
Being an obligate opera fan, attending chamber music is a new pleasure and an education for me - especially after last weekend’s marvellous Met Macbeth ‘HD live’ at the Empire Theatre in Bowral.  
For the “Selby and Friends” final concert of the year we heard Mozart’s first piano trio in three movements, Brahms’ Werther’ piano quartet in four movements and Schubert’s ‘Trout’ piano quintet in five movements (the numbers of movements being the same as the number of instruments is apparently coincidental).  
The first is a jolly, light-hearted romp of melody, form and technical brilliance.  The second by contrast is a profoundly deep and melancholic work.  Brahms insisted that its score be prefaced by a picture of a gun pointed at a human head, according to our introduction.  And indeed it seemed like the most consistently minor, discordant, down-beat and sorrowful piece ever written (apart from Chopin’s short prelude in C minor). 
It was a typically brilliant move Kathryn Selby put the ever popular Schubert ‘Trout’ quintet as the last item for the year.  Five superlative artists played to a packed and enthralled audience which gave an enormous ovation (after a premature ‘Bravo’ from one enthusiast up the back just before the end!).  
By some strange quirk of timing the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra were also in Bowral earlier the same day, playing at St Jude’s Church.  What a plethora of culture in this small town!  Remarkably, neither of these events was on the official visitors’ information web site for November (nor was the mushroom rail tunnel tour).  
The two-monthly Selby concerts for 2015 look to be very enticing …
Best wishes to all our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues in the Highlands.  
Andrew Byrne .. (Redfern addiction doc)

20 August, 2014

McVicar Don Giovanni in Sydney

Excellent new production - finally a fully-fledged Don Giovanni!

Friday 25th July 2014. Don Giovanni at Sydney Opera House.

Conductor - Jonathan Darlington
Director - David McVicar
Set & Costume Designer - Robert Jones
Lighting Designer - David Finn
Choreographer - Andrew George
Fight Coordinator - Scott Witt
Assistant Director - Matthew Barclay

Don Giovanni - Teddy Tahu Rhodes
Leporello - Shane Lowrencev
Donna Anna - Elvira Fatykhova
Don Elvira - Nicole Car
Don Ottavio - John Longmuir
Zerlina - Taryn Fiebig
Masetto - Richard Anderson
Commendatore - Jud Arthur


This was a pleasing performance with a balanced cast of serious opera singers in a rich, dark and complex production. I look forward to seeing it again in better seats as the full depth of the stage was used behind and beneath a huge gangway staircase which initially angled down from the stage ceiling during the overture. Much of the opera’s action took place on or around this broad black stairway.

On the prompt side I could see the wings with outpourings of black nondescript matter reminiscent of coal tailings. Were we in hell already in Act one? There was an ornate ceiling attached to the underside of the enormous stairway.

While opera is notoriously peppered with disasters, three in the one month in Sydney would seem to indicate a lack of due diligence. After the sacked soprano and imbroglio over donors’ amenities that weren’t, this gala lost English titles at the start of Act 2. After ten minutes or so the titles finally reappeared, albeit out of synch. At that moment Mr Tahu Rhodes was half way through his famous De vieni alla finestra and must have wondered why the audience applauded in the middle of the second verse. Furthermore, the section with missing titles was crucial to understanding that the Don and his side-kick rabbit man were swapping clothes as a damsel deception. It reminds us of the days before titles when much of the stage action was murky for many of us.

Mr Tahu Rhodes sang beautifully with his large, smooth and expressive baritone voice. It makes one wonder why he is spending so much time with a microphone in light musicals. Did he do all that training to be amplified in Broadway genre?

Despite generations of reverent adherence to Mozart’s scores, there has been a recent trend to interpolate or embellish as has happened with virtually every other composer (not Wagner?). We heard a hint of such a ‘liberty’ in this otherwise ‘come scritto’ reading (Or sai chi l’onore) sung beautifully by Ms Fatykova. Otherwise everything was by the book to my ear.

As with Mozart’s other operas I sometimes find myself vexed by the relentless philandering sociopathy on stage … yet we hear the most wonderful string of miraculous arias and set pieces that one would not be without. And for the first time in over 20 years the company now performs the entire work as Mozart left us. Like other composers, he tinkered with his works and to my mind it is a travesty to leave out the added pieces. And it must have been so unsatisfying for competent singers to have big arias omitted.

Mr Longmuir has come of age and cuts a fine figure on stage with all the necessaries for the noble but puling Don Ottavio. Nicole Car has an extraordinary and bell-like soprano, almost lifting roof tiles. And she puts her all into the drama.

Mr Lowrencev just seemed wrong for Leporello. Taryn Fiebig cuts a fine Zerlina while Richard Anderson again plays Masetto, frequently the victim of a king-hit (or coward punch as we are now meant to call it). It almost goes without saying that the chorus and orchestra under Maestro Darlington were splendid.

This production is a worthy and faithful outing with an excellent cast - it should not be missed by those who like Mozart operas and who can get to the Sydney Opera House this month.

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..

Post script on opera company surveys: at 7am after each opera performance I have attended I receive a promotional email with link to a survey asking me my views on the performance. I have done one of them and deleted the rest. This is yet another gauche move by a company which, looking at next year’s anaemic season, needs a funeral director in place of its current management. Very sad for a once great opera company which performed up to 18 different operas each year most with international quality casts.


Jonas Kaufmann at The Sydney Opera House

Jonas Kaufmann in concert with Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under baton of Jochen Rieder at the Sydney Opera House 7pm Sunday 17th August 2014 (repeat of same concert from Sunday 10th - plus an extra encore). 

Dear colleagues in opera,

We were treated to a magnificent and memorable evening of opera arias and concert favourites which would be hard to find a rival since the golden age. 

Not since Pavarotti and Sutherland sang in this hall in 1983 have we heard such glorious vocalism.  As well as having an enormous and beautiful voice Mr Kaufmann is also a very serious singer.  He has clearly studied every note and every word of each aria, imparting their lines with depth and meaning.  And his command of forte-piano is consummate, wielding the crescendo-diminuendo like no other singer I have heard.  His pairing with maestro Jochen Rieder was crucial to the evening, one reason being that some slow tempi chosen could easily have got out of control.  Both visiting artists are Germans of the same age … they almost look as if they could be brothers.  And the whole night was about control breath control, pitch, dramatic and legato control in the context of big, dramatic vocal delivery. 

Of all the facets which opera singers have to master Mr Kaufmann ticks nearly all the boxes (I dont recall any trills).  The elements required include good enunciation, on-the-note, rolled r, true trill, inaudible breaths, long legato lines, even portamento, colouring of notes, acting and (finally) good looks which all contribute.  And Mr Kaufmann also possesses that extra special indefinable quality on stage.  Maria Callas had it to spare as all the greats have to some extent.  Kaufmann looks younger than his 44 years and he has a genuine and well humoured appearance on stage.  And he sings what audiences want to hear.  So there you have it, the perfect tenor and nothing like the archetypical short, stocky operatic hero. 

Being a single vocalist doing major arias he needed some recovery time which was ably provided by excellent operatic pieces from the companys Opera and Ballet Orchestra.  It was the last night of their guest lead violinist (who played the Meditation from Thaïs superbly).  It was touching that Mr Kaufmann spoke briefly to wish her well for the future and thank her for leading such a fine orchestra in Sydney.  And he plucked a flower from one of the enormous arrangements, presenting it to her with some gentlemanly style. 

My only slight disappointment was a lack of any lesser known aria or some Wagner perhaps.  Mr Kaufmann or his advisors may have been taking Nellie Melbas controversial advice to Clara Butt on tour in Australia: Sing em muck, thats all they will understand!  There were no German pieces until two Viennese encores.  Virtually all brackets were top-of-the-pops tenor items.  By contrast, a generation ago, each of the Three Tenors sang E la solita storia del pastore…’ from LArlessiana in their concerts something few of us will ever hear in the full opera.  Another regret is that no other singer was showcased, nor the marvellous chorus of our opera company but that is show-biz. 

I was also perplexed that both halves started with a concert piece.  Knowing the need to space out the vocalists high-octane output it would have seemed more logical to get on with it early. 

The rousing overture to the Sicilian Vespers was followed by Cavaradossis act I aria Recondita armonia from Tosca.  The Louisiana music from Manon Lescaut preceded the improvviso from Andrea Chenier by Giordano.  Then we had the Forza del Destino overture followed by its long tenor aria La vita è inferno all'infelice.  The entre act from Pagliacci was followed by Recitar Vesti la giubba to end the first half to an enormous (sitting) ovation. 

The bacchanale from Saint-Saens Samson and Delilah was followed by the flower song from Carmen.  The meditation from Thaïs by Massenet.  Pouquoi me reveiller? from Werther.  Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana then Mama, quel vino e generoso. 

After a universal standing ovation with serious foot stamping four encores started with Du bist die welt by Tauber (tenor and composer); E lucevan le stelle (Tosca); Catari Cor ngrato (written in Neapolitan dialect by American Cordillo); You are my hearts delight (verses in German then English).  Mostly Italian, but four other languages for the evening!  

It is clear that here is a man at the peak of his vocal and artistic talents who has discovered his extended staying power, like a marathon runner.  On the one hand he can sing extended roles like Siegmund and Parsifal and happily he can also sing up to a dozen arias for a concert like this which otherwise would need three or more normal tenors! 

Comments by Andrew Byrne ..


08 July, 2014

Rousing new Rigoletto in Sydney but singers overworked.

Rigoletto, Sydney Opera House, Thursday 26 June 2014
Rigoletto - Giorgio Caoduro
Gilda - Emma Matthews
Duke - Gianluca Terranova
Maddalena - Sian Pendry
Giovanna - Domenica Matthews
Sparafucile - David Parkin
Monterone - Gennadi Dubinski
Conductor - Renato Palumbo
Director - Roger Hodgman
Set and costumes - Richard Roberts
Lighting - Matt Scott
Dear Colleagues,
This performance occurred in the wake of huge publicity over the sacking of the seasons Desdemona Tamar Iveri for appalling homophobic comments on her internet page.  A form of facebook fission developed culminating in the company terminating the sopranos contract.  One only hopes that she was not paid out.  As with politicians and other professionals ones past comments can become serious baggage, especially when they reveal serious ignorance, prejudice or malice.  The singer claimed that the comments were made by her much younger husband who is a devout Christian (which does not say much for his form of Christianity).  Whether his or hers, the harbouring of such sour and unacceptable views about gay people is inconsistent with a career in opera (or any other calling I would have thought, including or especially the priesthood). 
It seems extraordinary that despite Rigoletto being very popular and following an opera “drought” of several months, that there were still empty seats in all reserves for this splendid opening night.  And price would not seem to be a factor as there were dozens of empty D reserves seats valued at less than $50 each - most with slightly restricted views, but ideal for students or first-timers.  However, this is the state of affairs in many opera houses across the world and must be due to several factors, including a general economic down-turn.  Several long-running opera companies have gone backwards of late (NYCO, San Diego, for instance).
Emma Matthews played Gilda, as in 2010.  While she is a wonderful artist, this is not her ideal role which requires more vocal heft in my view.  Yet she performed creditably under a conductor who made serious demands regarding tempo and a direction which required her to be very physical. 
Mr Terranova as the Duke of Mantua started out strongly with Questa o quella which sounded youthful and frivolous, as befits its words.  The tenors stocky frame and facial expressiveness are reminiscent of representations of the young Caruso with an almost square head on top of a square upper body.  He sang a fine Ella mi fu rapita but then, like most tenors, he omitted the (unwritten) high note in the cabaletta Possente amor mi chiama.  His La donna e mobile was superb. 
Mr Caoduro has a unique baritone voice, almost with a tenor quality and a wide beat.  He uses every traditional dramatic device and a few new ones to present a perfect wronged father and the victim of the plots curse. 
As deliverer of that curse the Monterone of Gennadi Dubiniski was under-powered and woolly.  He had an uneven gravel-like quality to his voice and I wonder why the opera company use him so often.  By contrast Mr Parkin sang Sparafucile brilliantly with one of his lowest notes close to the Guinness Book of Records for length.  Other supporting roles and the chorus were all excellent. 
The new production is based on two adjacent stage revolves.  These move the action from palace to dingy back lane to the jesters garden allowing seamless scene changes.  One had the feeling that the director ordered one or two too many cranks of the revolves yet the concept works well overall. 
There was a clever and almost revolutionary lighting design which had everything from stroboscopic flashes for the thunder storm to audio-coordinated highlight-haze spotlighting in the finale.  The projection of an enlarged shadow for Rigoletto in the final act was brilliant and highly effective in amplifying the text in which he says that killing the duke has made him feel strong and important for once in his life. 
The set was mostly black glossy mock-marble walls while the chorus were all dressed in shades of bright red.  The initial house curtain was black highlighted with crimson to great effect.  It still surprises me when directors try to put singers on stage during introductory orchestral and have them mime out bits and pieces from the opera.  The original collaborators went to some trouble to present a dramatic work which has stood the test of time, starting the action at a certain point.  I find it is not only inane and empty but also an insult to the orchestra which gets few enough chances to shine and take the limelight in opera.  Another bad habit of this company is to join acts together to save money on overtime.  This time we had the ludicrous situation dramatically where Rigoletto says to his daughter “Has time not made you weary of him” only minutes after she has exited the Dukes bedroom in Act II.  It also puts extraordinary vocal demands on an already demanding work.  The singers unions (if such exist) should be crying foul or even suing in my view, especially for the company abandoning the practice of two rest days between major roles. 
Maestro Renato Palumbo took many rubato liberties but each was done with purpose and these contrasted with long sections of strict time, sometimes particularly slow, other times fast.  He certain put his stamp on the score with the fastest Corteggiani, vil razza I have ever heard and yet other pieces were slow.  I think that the off-stage band in Act I may have been dispensed with - these are tough times and as long as it was not replaced with a recording I think we should understand.  The orchestra received a huge and well deserved ovation. 
All in all a marvellous addition to the companys repertoire and worth a visit for anyone in Sydney.  Also worthy of telecasting and one hopes this is in the works. 
Comments by Andrew Byrne ..

13 May, 2014

Selby & Friends concert at Chevalier College – serious music-making before dinner.

High culture in the Highlands!  All Beethoven concert. 
We were treated to two hours of world-class chamber music on Saturday 10th May.  5pm is an excellent time for such a concert. 
Three musicians regaled us with a pair of Beethoven pieces before a brief intermission and another two afterwards, finishing just after 7pm.  Kathryn Selby is a dazzlingly talented pianist and was accompanied by virtuoso Sydney violinist Susie Park and Finnish ‘cellist Mr ‘Tipi’ Valve, both internationally acclaimed and with good reason.  These three played together such that Ludwig van Beethoven, if he reappeared and recovered his hearing, would be rightly pleased.  
We had brief introductions by each player explaining details of the composer’s three distinct periods as well as some humorous anecdotes about his life, from a difficult childhood to a serious breakdown in later life.  The first and last items were trios supplemented by two sonata ‘duos’.  The pieces dated from Beethoven’s early years in Bonn to his mature period in Vienna, the last after two years when he ceased composing, only to return to work as productive and inventive as ever.  With his unique and era-changing style, Leonard Bernstein said that Beethoven showed an ‘inexplicable ability to know what the next note had to be’ in his music.  
We are fortunate that Ms Selby chooses to include the Highlands in her bi-monthly tours which also take in Sydney, Turramurra, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide.  The hall was almost full on the two occasions I have attended, hence late tickets would still have been available (and there are no ‘bad’ seats in this comfortable school hall).  
I hope this is of interest to readers and I highly recommend the next concert on 28th June.
Written by Andrew Byrne ..

05 May, 2014

Cenerentola - Auspicious Gala at the Met - new 'king of the high Cs'?

La Cenerentola - Rossini - Met Opera, New York City Monday 21st April.
Angelina - Joyce DiDonato
Don Ramiro - Javier Camarena
Dandini - Pietro Spagnoli
Don Magnifico - Alessandro Corbelli
Alidoro - Luca Pisaroni
Clorinda Rachelle Durkin
Tisbe Patricia Risley
c. Fabio Luisi
Production:  Cesare Lievi (1997)
Set & Costume Designer:  Maurizio Balò
Twice in the last month I have had the privilege of hearing Mr Javier Camarena at the Metropolitan Opera House.  First as Elvino in La Sonnambula then as Prince Ramino in the Cinderella opening.  Neither is a top-of-the-pops role for tenor, yet this man shone at every vocal opportunity in each opera. 
Even with an ordinary tenor this would have been a commendable opening night.  Joyce DiDonato is probably Americas most sought after mezzo-soprano currently and she gave a magnificent performance indeed.  From her entry as the humble but sweet servant girl to the dignified and yet compassionate princess bride in the finale we heard her phenomenal dramatic and vocal talents.  Her colleagues were all excellent including the debut of Mr Pietro Spagnoli as the valet and Mr Corbelli in the buffo role.  Even the ugly sisters excelled, although their antics were almost over-the-top.  Capable Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin is in her tenth role at the Met. 
Mr Javier Camarena stood out as a tenor with some very special attributes.  Even those unaware must have noted the rapturous reception given to the tenor by the Met audience both during and after the performance.  I have not heard such screams, applause, encores’, bravo and the like since Pavarotti retired.  The conductor, orchestra and other singers also joined in applauding the tenors curtain call. 
Mr Camarena has a velvet tenor timbre, as comfortable in Rossinis rarefied complex tessitura as with simply filling the house with full bodied spinto nailed endings.  He was even able to smile in the middle of singing a long high C.  His smooth, effortless legato line and great breath control allows great expressive singing, soft and loud.  While superstardom may be premature, this man is already a member of High C royalty as in this occasion he was replacing an indisposed Juan Diego Florez (intriguingly, with some three weeks notice).  The many ticket holders who were initially disappointed at the replacement were indeed rewarded as events unfolded on this auspicious night at the theater.  
This 1997 production, mounted for Cecelia Bartoli, is a fantasy in blue stripes.  The faded tattiness of Magnificos mansion emphasises his urgent need for dowry funds.  It has never been cheap to maintain a palazzo.  Magnificos only real asset is his female offspring and everybody knows the rest of the story.  The Princes palace by contrast was perfect in the same parallel blue stripes - and with cupboards full of giant clocks, all showing midnight.  The program warns patrons about “fire effects”: the storm scene sees rain coming through the derelict palazzo roof.  Cinderella perfunctorily places buckets at strategic points then passes an umbrella to the Baron who is then struck by lightning sparks, smoke, singed hair, skeletal ribbed remnant umbrella frame and all!  Hilarious! 
The production also dwelt upon food and drink to the extent that one clever New York critic did an entire review in the form of a food review.  The prince and Cinderella met in Act I over a broken coffee cup.  The ‘beggar’ in act one is given hot chocolate and fruit.  Magnifico is made Ramiros cellarmaster.  And the first act ends with an formal pasta dinner on stage with one place setting too few, causing an excuse-me parade akin to musical chairs.  The last scene is in, on and beside an enormous triple deck wedding cake (in blue and pastel, of course!) and there is champagne all round. 
Camarenas colossal performance deserved all the cheers it received.  I was told that his Act II cabaletta was given an encore on the following performance.  This would only be the second time in 50 years that the Met has allowed such a thing (I heard Florez do one in Fille du Regiment).  It was a wonder with all the cheering to an empty stage the Mr Camarena did not come out and taken a special bow Florez once came out of character and did so in Don Pasquale I recall. 
I found the balance between orchestra and singers to be perfect ... also noting a few minor timing mishaps as others have pointed out a greater risk on opening nights.  The ever elegant Maestro Luisi took the evening at a measured pace and the Met chorus was impeccable.  So much of Rossinis humour comes straight out of the orchestra pit, starting with the most brilliant overture where the woodwind become like the Marx Brothers at the opera.  The Rolled ‘R’ Rondo “Questo è un nodo avviluppatto” was superlatively done as a literal ‘tangle’.  Such was Mr Camarena’s success that I wondered if he might be asked to do the HD video slated for 10th of May.  We shall see. 
Almost uniquely but most appropriately, there was a review of this performance on the New York Times web site before lunch the following day, and mostly in praise of the show.  As with Ms Opelais singing Mimi and Butterfly back-to-back recently (also due to illness), the Met must love getting into the front section of the newspaper rather than just the arts pages.  With lots of empty seats most nights these days it certainly could use the added publicity (although one hopes that is not the main driver of Met casting decisions). 
The excitement of this Met opening will remain in my memory as one of those rare events.  I was there at Carnegie Hall for Carlo Bergonzis big come-back as Otello (the less said the better) and for Sutherlands last night as an opera heroine in Sydney.  This opening of Cinderella was the confirmation to me and 4000 others that a new special tenor had arrived, singing his third role at the Met.  I was delighted to note that long-serving Australian opera chorus member Robert Mitchell was also in the audience, as was my nephew Hal Cullity, my partner Allan Gill along with opera fan and good friend Ms Terry Kobel. 
Vivian Liff, respected English opera writer, has said that following the three great tenors of the last era we have heard numerous great white hopes but only a few have been able to keep up the standard for long.  Messrs Florez, Kauffman and Calleja can fill opera houses both vocally and box office-wise.  Jose Cura has done some amazing performances, mostly in a different fach.  Salvatore Licitra died tragically while Rolando Villazon has dropped from view of late.  Of course there are many other fine tenors aspiring to greatness. 
One can only hope that Mr Camarena is able to keep things together and maintain his current professional momentum in New York and elsewhere.  He has few competitors in quite the same class I believe he is more than a tenore di grazia.  Camarenas contributions to YouTube are worth watching, especially Ah mes amis from Daughter of the Regiment in Mexico City despite the sub-optimal quality. 
This week I read that Canadian tenor Ben Heppner announced his retirement after many years at the highest level.  The king is gone: long live king Camarena! 
Written by Andrew Byrne ..

20 April, 2014

I Puritani at the Met.

I Puritani - Met Opera opening night Thurs 17th April 2014
Elvira - Olga Peretyatko
Giorgio - Michele Pertusi
Arturo - Lawrence Brownlee
Riccardo - Maksim Aniskin
c. Michele Mariotti
Dear Colleagues,
I was blown away with this performance of one of my favourite operas, despite the replacement an indisposed Mariusz Kwiecien.  Rarely since Sutherland days have I heard such a splendid bel canto pastiche on stage.  The conducting of Michele Mariotti was learned and sympathetic with the incomparable Met orchestra and chorus.  Ms Peretyatko (Mrs Mariotti in real life) is a phenomenal talent in every respect while Larry Brownlee and Michele Pertusi are at the top of their fields. 
Mr Kwiecien was replaced by Maksim Aniskin who, while not up to the standard of his eminent colleagues, was no embarrassment either.  I had also heard the dress rehearsal in which it was announced that Mr Brownlee was under the weather’, ‘marking some of his solo lines.  Mr Kwiecien normally sings supremely with his enormous, accurate and beautiful voice.  But nothing is easy in show biz! 
The 1976 production by Sandro Sequi uses a classical if somewhat faded series of settings with costumes of the era.  An indignant local reviewer wrote that the chorus members were dressed more like American pilgrims than a band of Parliamentary rebels in Devon apparently forgetting that his countrys founders were in fact rebel puritans like those in the opera fighting the establishment. 
Some people just want to know about the high notes and there were plenty.  For once there were E flats not only for soprano but also such heights from the tenor.  Mr Brownlee has a beautiful quality voice which is of sufficient size to be heard above chorus and orchestra in this enormous house.  He also interacts faithfully with his colleagues in the drama and is most dignified on stage.  He wisely omitted the falsetto high F immortalized by Luciano Pavarotti.  The replacement baritone hit an A flat at the end of Suoni la tromba, albeit a somewhat curtailed one.  For reasons unknown the conductor took the final duet section of this martial male twosome at double time, rather lowering this high point for me.  In other sections Mariotti allowed ample pauses and ralentandos for the singers, especially for his wife, just as Maestro Bonynge used to do for Joan Sutherland. 
Ah te, o cara was marvellous, followed by Son vergine vezzosa in Act 1.  The second act mad scene Qui la voce sua soave... Vien, diletto, e in ciel la luna was incomparable. 
Happily the joyous finale pyrotechnic Ah! sento al mio bell'angelo was included.  It was said that Richard Bonynge found this lost cabaletta which Callas never sang.  I recall also that it was the clip played by ABC radio when Sutherland’s death was announced in 2010.  It was for Joan Sutherland that this Met production was mounted 38 years ago – and it shows both its age and yet also its serviceability.  Another Bonynge find was a tenor-soprano duet in Act 3 used in the Pavarotti / Sutherland recording but omitted in the present Met version.  While a marvellous piece of Belliniana it does not contribute to the drama and prolongs the rescue part of the opera. 
Australian radio opera guru John Cargher used to say that this opera has three mad scenes - and it does.  Ms Peretyatko had a wonderful vocal formula for these scenes, each being close to the Sutherland versions vocally but with some original and tasteful inclusions in the coloratura.  Ms Peretyatko also had a lot more ways of going mad than just looking into space confused.  In one quiet section she giggled loudly while lying on her back. 
This was indeed a night of phenomenal singing and as with all Met performances now, if you like Bellini and you want a treat, listeners can down-load it on Sirius I understand.  But maybe wait until the wonderful baritone Mr Kwiecien is singing again.  It is extraordinary to find three bel canto operas this season in a house which used to studiously avoid them.  

Stop-press: Florez replaced by Camarena in Cenerentola, opening on Monday 21 April.  A new star is born!  More later.
Written by Andrew Byrne ..