How to Die at the Opera

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

A scene from Berlioz's 'Les Troyens' at the Metropolitan Opera. A scene from Berlioz's 'Les Troyens' at the Metropolitan Opera. (Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera)

Host Debbie Voigt raises the curtain on this new series by counting down her five favorite ways for sopranos to die at the opera. Artists including Natalie Dessay, Mirella Freni, Eva Marton and Voigt herself are heard in excerpts of operas by Gounod, Puccini, Verdi and others.

Program playlist:

La traviata: “Addio del passato”
Giuseppe Verdi
Anna Moffo, soprano
Rome Opera Orchestra
Fernando Previtali, conductor
Recorded June 23, 1960
BMG 09026-61580-2

La bohème: Excerpt from Act Four
Giacomo Puccini
Mirella Freni, soprano
Elizabeth Harwood, soprano
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
Gianni Maffeo, baritone
Rolando Panerai, baritone
Nicolai Ghiaurov, bass
Berlin Philharmonic
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
London 421-049-1

Les Troyens: “Tous ne periront pas” and “Complices de sa gloire”
Hector Berlioz
Deborah Voigt, soprano
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
James Levine, conductor
The Metropolitan Opera Live Recording Feb. 22, 2003

Dialogues of the Carmelites: “Salve Regina”
Francis Poulenc
Catherine Dubosc, soprano (Blanche)
Brigitte Fournier, soprano (Sister Constance)
Orchestre de l’Opéra de Lyon
London Chorus
Kent Nagano, conductor
Virgin Classics 7 59227 2

Adriana Lecouvreur: “Poveri fiori”
Francesco Cilea
Renata Scotto, soprano
Philharmonia Orchestra
James Levine, conductor
CBS Masterworks M2K 79310

Lakmé: “Tu m’as donné le plus doux rêve”
Léo Delibes
Natalie Dessay, soprano
Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse
Michel Plasson, conductor
Erato 505060 2

Daphne: “Daphnes Verwandlung”
Richard Strauss
Renée Fleming, soprano
WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne
Semyon Bychkov, conductor
Decca B0005182-02

Fedora: “È vano!  È vano!”
Umberto Giordano
Eva Marton, soprano
José Carreras, tenor
Hungarian Radio & Television Symphony Orchestra
Giuseppe Patané, conductor
CBS Masterworks 42181

Il trovatore: “Prima che d’altri vivere”
Giuseppe Verdi
Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Barbara Frittoli, soprano
Violeta Urmana, mezzo-soprano
Salvatore Licitra, tenor
Leo Nucci, baritone
Sony Classical S2K 89553

Romeo and Juliette: Act V Scene and Duo
Charles Gounod
Catherine Malfitano, soprano
Alfredo Kraus, tenor
Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse
Michel Plasson, conductor
EMI 747365 8

Aida: “O terra addio”
Giuseppe Verdi
Leontyne Price, soprano
Rita Gorr, mezzo soprano
Jon Vickers, tenor
Rome Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Decca 460765

Comments [6]

Concetta Nardone from Nassau

@Mr.O'Malley, doesn't La Wally die in an avalanche?

May. 16 2015 01:19 PM
M Limoli from Saratoga Springs, ny

Thanks for having the wisdom and confidence to include yourself in the playlist!

Jan. 24 2015 01:51 PM
marilyn from Cambria Heights, NY

Well, when I first heard the announcements about the program on the radio, I must admit that Carman was one of my candidates. However, with the notable exception of that magnificent recording that Leontyne Price made for RCA a number of years ago, the role is generally sung by a mezzo, so Ms Voigt was correct in leaving Carmen off the list. After hearing the program, I realize that Ms Voigt's goal was to emphasize musucal death scenes that involved sopranos. I had a whole week to make up my own list of ways that sopranos could die, some of which matched ones that Ms Voigt chose. Stabbed: Gilda (Rigoletto), Nedda (Pagliacci); Disease: Violetta (Traviata), Mimi (Boheme); Strangled: Desdemona (Otello); Suicide various methods: Tosca, Aida, Liu (Turandot), Cio Cio San (Butterfly); Mysteriously or un-natural causes: Marguarite (Faust), Angelica (Suor Angelica), Antonia (Tales of Hoffmann); Execution: Rachel (La Juieve). Sorry, but I had to have six ways for a soprano to die because I couldn't figure out which one to leave out in order to get only five ways.

Oct. 12 2014 07:31 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

While Ms. Voigt leads off with "consumption" (tuberculosis), suggesting that it is a popular plot device for killing off the lead soprano, in the popular repertoire this condition only claims the two heroine featured in the opening segment, Violetta and Mimi. So, in fact, it is a rare means to an end (so to speak). What about dying in an avalanche? That would be even rarer.

Oct. 11 2014 08:41 PM

Didn't Carmen die from smoking-related diseases?

Oct. 11 2014 08:10 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

What, no mention of Carmen? :-)

Oct. 11 2014 07:57 AM

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