Vespasiano

Some Sparkling Lehar for Sunday Night

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The song, "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß" from Franz Lehar's operetta, Giuditta, as sung by today's reigning It-Girl of the opera world, the beautiful Anna Netrebko.

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Thank you. I had been looking for a complete version of this aria on YouTube. Franz Lehár is my favorite composer, and this is one of my favorite songs by him. See this article I wrote:

Evaluating Music--and Franz Lehár

I'm so glad you enjoyed this.

I also want to mention that your article regarding Lehar and the evaluation of music was most interesting. I wonder if, at this stage of my life, I could see in a musical score all the details you point out so well. I freely admit that, at least initially, I have always tended to respond to music at a more primal (unanalyzed?, emotional?) level, and that any in-depth analyses comes later when I prepare a piece for performance.

Needless to say, like you I also love Lehar's music: there is a "gilded-age" sumptuousness in terms of melody, harmony and orchestration that draws me in every time.

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V,

Thanks so much for this opportunity to bathe in Lehar again, for a nice extended musical moment.

I'm somewhat conflicted about Anna Netrebko's presentation of it. She's a defininitive opera babe with an attractive instrument and a freedom of physical expression that's refreshing to see on the concert stage. She's obviously well-trained in ballet -- I haven't seen such a pirouette in the heart of an aria since Catherine Malfitano's Lucia in NYCO's "L Di Lammermoor." Bravo to her for being able to move so gracefully and effortlessly and still sing the scena. And there is no sexier aria (not even Thais or Delilah, in my opinion. Lahar stands alone).

Technical Nitpick (spoiler follows):

That said, her vocal production is sounding tighter, the voice huskier, each time I hear her. Maybe it's just overexposure and overwork and the pressures of being the hot property of the moment. But I was much more taken with her voice in the lighter repertoire, the coloratura she started off with. Her intro DVD was fun to watch and beautiful to listen to. As a singer, the sound of tension in a voice hits me hard; I can literally feel it in my throat in response. It's still a gorgeous instrument -- I hope she takes a step back and pays some attention to its care and handling before she goes too much further.

(OK, back to full context):

Nevertheless, it was a bravura performance overall. I could watch her scramble eggs and I'm sure she would make it something exceptional.

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V,

Thanks so much for this opportunity to bathe in Lehar again, for a nice extended musical moment.

I'm somewhat conflicted about Anna Netrebko's presentation of it. She's a defininitive opera babe with an attractive instrument and a freedom of physical expression that's refreshing to see on the concert stage. She's obviously well-trained in ballet -- I haven't seen such a pirouette in the heart of an aria since Catherine Malfitano's Lucia in NYCO's "L Di Lammermoor." Bravo to her for being able to move so gracefully and effortlessly and still sing the scena. And there is no sexier aria (not even Thais or Delilah, in my opinion. Lahar stands alone).

Technical Nitpick (spoiler follows):

That said, her vocal production is sounding tighter, the voice huskier, each time I hear her. Maybe it's just overexposure and overwork and the pressures of being the hot property of the moment. But I was much more taken with her voice in the lighter repertoire, the coloratura she started off with. Her intro DVD was fun to watch and beautiful to listen to. As a singer, the sound of tension in a voice hits me hard; I can literally feel it in my throat in response. It's still a gorgeous instrument -- I hope she takes a step back and pays some attention to its care and handling before she goes too much further.

(OK, back to full context):

Nevertheless, it was a bravura performance overall. I could watch her scramble eggs and I'm sure she would make it something exceptional.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed her Lehar piece (taped, incidentally just last week) and for many of the same reasons you mention, I, too, am generally conflicted with respect to Miss Netrebko. This is a magnificent instrument and stage "creature" in dire need of serious coaching . . . much of her singing, especially of the Bel Canto repertoire, is simply wrong in my view, not least of which because both her technique and her natural vocal character do not yet fit the music well (there is no trill, the fioritura tends towards the smudged and imprecise, etc.).

For a good illustration of what goes wrong in her singing, I'll submit her performance from the same concert last week in Baden-Baden of the aria Casta Diva from Norma: here. She looks positively ravishing, of course (kudos to her dress designer on the construction of that gold number). But the singing is all over the place . . . wrong notes, wrong note values, indistinct (read, smudged) articulation in passage-work, no trill. S

In my view, Netrebko's voice is a true, BIG lyric sound (a la Mirella Freni, etc.) and when she sings that repertoire (i.e., Puccini and/or the lyric Verdi parts (Desdemona, etc.)) she is in her element. Her performance in Prokofiev's War and Peace that I attended at the Met some years back was superlative . . . but this is a role typically associated with spinto or even dramatic voices (the part was initially assigned to the great Vishnevskaya). I wonder if, now that she is such a fashionable "darling" of the opera, she will ever step back and apply herself to perfecting her prodigious talent.

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I wonder if, now that she is such a fashionable "darling" of the opera, she will ever step back and apply herself to perfecting her prodigious talent.
It's hard to do. It takes a level of integrity -- and understanding that it is an issue of integrity -- to take that step back. I suspected you had that same issue by your dry presentation of the clip, without your usual vocal kudos (which, for example, luminaries like Leontyne Price, or Beverly Sills, richly deserved). Even great singers, like Pavarotti in the mid-'70's, have come into vocal trouble responding to the demands of fame and fortune, although he straightened himself out well enough :(. And some of prodigious talent but little training, like Giuseppe Di Stefano, or Jose Carreras, suffered greatly for it.

I hope, given her obvious hard work to get to this point, that Netrebko will respond to the vocal strain I'm sure she's feeling with more hard work. And, yes, I do agree with you that she gets sloppy with the coloratura. She's getting away with it, for now, but that will also cost her vocally: Carelessness in articulation is wearing on the voice. It is both symptomatic of inadequate technical capability and a cause, since it prevents a clean release, which leads to tension and fatigue. Careless approximation is the enemy of focus, both cognitive and vocal.

We need artists who love the art form as much as she obviously does to stick around and contribute. The vocal material is there. I hope she works it out.

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We need artists who love the art form as much as she obviously does to stick around and contribute. The vocal material is there. I hope she works it out.

Hear, hear!

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