The Heavenly Blend of Sopranos and Mezzos

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mezzo-soprano Tatiana Troyanos as Dorabella in 'Così fan tutte' at the San Francisco Opera. Mezzo-soprano Tatiana Troyanos as Dorabella in 'Così fan tutte' at the San Francisco Opera. (Ron Scherl/Redferns/Getty)

In the crazy world of opera, mezzos are usually the sane ones and the ones the soprano can trust. They’re the servant, the companion, the sister or the gal pal. But sometimes they become the soprano’s most fearsome rival. When that happens, they pull out all the stops and sparks fly.

This week, host Debbie Voigt offers examples of soprano/mezzo-soprano relationships illustrated with performance by Angela Meade and Jamie Barton; Kiri TeKanawa and Frederica von Stade; and Marilyn Horne, Tatiana Troyanos, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and others.

Program playlist:

Madama Butterfly: “Flower Duet"
Giacomo Puccini
Mirella Freni, soprano
Christa Ludwig, mezzo soprano
Vienna Philharmonic
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Decca 417 577-2

Eugene Onegin: "Pora, ditya moyo!”
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Nuccia Focile, soprano
Irina Arkhipova, mezzo soprano
Orchestre de Paris
Semyon Bychkov, conductor
Philips 438 235-2

Lakmé: “Vien, Mallika”
Leo Delibes
Natalie Dessay, soprano
Delphine Haiden, mezzo soprano
Orchestra du Capitole de Toulouse
Michel Plasson, conductor
EMI Classics DCDB 7243 5 56569 2

Werther: “Ah!  Le rire est béni” ... “Les larmes”
Jules Massenet
Christine Barbaux, soprano
Tatiana Troyanos, mezzo soprano
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Michel Plasson, conductor
EMI 7243 5 66516 2

Così fan tutte: “A guarda sorella”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Kiri TeKanawa, soprano
Frederica von Stade, mezzo soprano
Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg
Alain Lombard, conductor
Erato 2292 45682-2

Norma: "Mira, O Norma"
Vincenzo Bellini
Angela Meade, soprano
Jamie Barton, mezzo soprano
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
James Levine, conductor
Live performance recording courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera

The Merry Wives of Windsor: “Nein, das ist wirklich doch zu keck”
Edith Mathis, soprano
Hanna Schwarz, mezzo soprano
Staatskapelle Berlin
Bernhard Klee, conductor
Berlin Classics BC 2115-2

Ariodante: “Bramo aver mille vite”
George Frideric Handel
Juliana Gondek, soprano
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo soprano
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Harmonia Mundi 907146.48

I Capuleti e I Montecchi: “Odi tu?” and “Vieni, Ah! Vieni”
Vincenzo Bellini
Anna Netrebko, soprano
Elīna Garanča, mezzo soprano
Vienna Symphony
Fabio Luisi, conductor
DG 00289 477 8031

Tancredi: “Dunque? ... Addio”
Gioacchino Rossini
Lella Cuberli, soprano
Marilyn Horne, mezzo soprano
Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice
Ralf Weikert, conductor
Sony Classical

Adriana Lecouvreur: “E sia!” [excerpt]
Francesco Cilea
Renata Scotto, soprano
Elena Obraztsova, mezzo soprano
Philharmonia Orchestra
James Levine, conductor
RCA Masterworks 79310-34588

Aida: “Fu la sorte dell’armi á tuoi funesta” & “Sul del Nilo al sacro lido”
Giuseppe Verdi
Leontyne Price, soprano
Grace Bumbry, mezzo soprano
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Thomas Schippers, conductor
Sony Classical 88883721202-10

Comments [6]

M Limoli from Saratoga Springs, ny

I grew up an undying fan of Joan Sutherland. She could do no wrong. I recently read an article written by a knowledgeable critic who echoed my words but went on to read my mind when he add, "until I heard Callas."

Jan. 24 2015 01:41 PM
William NYC

This quote was written by Marilyn Horne for OPERA Magazine about Joan Sutherland.

"We were together again for my Met debut, in Norma in 1970, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. We had plenty of favourites-among them Semiramide, with its extended duets, and the Verdi Requiem-but nothing touched ‘Mira, o Norma' and we did that opera in several places. I still can't walk down the street in New York without someone coming up to me and saying how they will never forget our partnership. We never had to work hard to blend: we both just knew how to listen. And we both wanted the sum of the parts, not the parts. Her voice, with its gorgeous, silver sound, went straight into the ear, with great resonance. People forget how big her voice was."

La Stupenda indeed.

Nov. 22 2014 04:21 PM

Agreed as well. A soprano/mezzo program without the most famous or infamous duet of all, the one where Maria Stuarda calls Elisabetta "figlia impura di Bolena", is a joke. During a rehearsal of the original, the two singers started a physical fight after, according to Donizetti, the soprano singing Stuarda delivered that line too realistically lol. The duet from Anna Bolena where Giovanna confesses she's Bolena's rival and the one from Don Carlo, between Elisabetta and Eboli, are both superior music to anything presented, except the Norma of course. I'd fire the editor of the show.

Nov. 22 2014 01:13 PM

Agreed as well. A soprano/mezzo program without the most famous or infamous duet of all, the one where Maria Stuarda calls Elisabetta "figlia impura di Bolena", is a joke. During a rehearsal of the original, the two singers started a physical fight after, according to Donizetti, the soprano singing Stuarda delivered that line too realistically lol. The duet from Anna Bolena where Giovanna confesses she's Bolena's rival and the one from Don Carlo, between Elisabetta and Eboli, are both superior music to anything presented, except the Norma of course. I'd fire the editor of the show.

Nov. 22 2014 01:11 PM
Alan from NJ

I agree, not just in today's program, but also in previous weeks, Joan Sutherland has been conspicuously ignored. Ms. Sutherland was surely one of the greatest opera singers of the 20th century and not to plat an excerpt featuring Ms. Sutherland in one or more than one of the "soprano categories" featured during the last 2-3 weeks is a missed opportunity for veteran and novice opera fans.

Nov. 22 2014 01:01 PM
Virginia from NYC

After reading the list of recordings and not seeing Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, and reviewing the other programs and seeing that Joan Sutherland wasn't listed anywhere at all I realized I wasn't supposed to be taking
this program seriously. It was a relief.

Nov. 22 2014 11:24 AM

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