Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

Capriccio at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Although performances of Richard Strauss’s last opera Capriccio have increased in recent time, Lyric Opera of Chicago has not experienced the “Konversationsstück für Musik” during the past twenty odd years.

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

Un ballo in maschera in San Francisco

The subject is regicide, a hot topic during the Italian risorgimento when the Italian peninsula was in the grip of the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the House of Savoy and the Pontiff of the Catholic Church.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Vera Galupe-Borszkh [Photo by Robert Milazzo]
21 Jun 2009

Madame Says Farewell

Last week (May 27), “without further a-don’t,” as she adorably puts it, Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh, the world’s reigning traumatic soprano — lately, she says, more of a soprano “spento” — bade a last, lingering, loving farewell to her adoring public in a sold-out concert at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Madame Says Farewell

Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh Back By Personal Whim (and popular demand).

Above: Vera Galupe-Borszkh [Photo by Robert Milazzo]

 

She said it again twice more that week, in the same venue; no doubt other such occasions will occur. (In any case, there are several CDs and DVDs available. Check her Web site, www.granscena.org.)

It is easy for anyone to make jokes about opera — everyone already has. Most of them aren’t funny, never mind witty, never mind as delicious as the real thing — but that never stops the jokers. What is rare, besides jokes about opera that are actually funny, witty, and delicious, is someone who can make a joke about opera last (before a pretty knowledgeable audience, too) for three hours at a stretch, without deadening out. Anna Russell managed it — but opera, though her best-known target, was not the only string to her bow. (I’m not mixing metaphors; I’m setting them on PUREE.) Gerard Hoffnung managed it, but died too tragically young. Vera Galupe-Borszkh can still clock it in at three hours after 28 years in the saddle, which is nothing short of extraordinary — sometimes she has even been known to resort to new material! No doubt she owes some of her creativity to a long and suspiciously well-guarded but indescribably relationship with the vastly knowledgeable Ira Siff, who co-announces Metropolitan Opera broadcasts.

But how she manages to get her magnificent mane of red hair (natural, she swears by the Virgin of Kiev) out of its scruffy featherduster á la nature into a taut geisha coiffure during one swift scene change (you never saw a redheaded Butterfly? This must be the place) and then formed into a trillion sausage curls for the dying Violetta in another — that calls for skill, technique and effrontery, which have been (along with a haphazard, not to say biohazard, shtetl Bessarabian accent) the hallmarks of her career.

Born Vera Vsyevelodovna Borszkh on the outskirts, or fringes, or gym socks of Odessa, more years ago than Madame can be relied upon to count, she fled Soviet Russia “when I got tired of singing Aida in languages which got no wowels.” Later she became the last pupil and ultimately the bride of the last bel canto castrato, Manuel Galupe (“for a diva, marrying a man already a castrato is good thing — it save so much time”). Vera Galupe-Borszkh is not only a living legend (they’re common enough), she is a voice from the golden age when such things were preserved only by memory and by the rare and often unconvincing magic of scratchy shellac at 78 revolutions per minute. When you hear G-B, you not only hear the technique, the talent, the dedication of a bygone golden era, you seem always to hear in her very throat the echo of scratchy shellac. Perhaps she is one of those who has used her throat not wisely but too well — the Muse is a harsh mistress, and G-B has never been one to hold back. Fake it, yes — hold back, never.

Only a cad — or a critic — to make a distinction without difference — would point out that Madame’s sustenance of tone has begun to waver, like the breeze flitting over the Ukrainian wheat fields at noon. To put it crudely, you could drive a tractor through that tremolo. Yet, properly warmed up, she can still exquisitely float the opening tone of the opening “Pace” in Leonora’s aria from Forza del Destino so that it seems to last longer than the entire opera usually does. (Just as well she omits the rest of the aria.) Her pitch in the Philip Glass takeoff is no longer machinelike — and Glass’s music, even in sendup, does not take kindly to human performance. And was I really the only member of the audience so moved by her singing of the Sleepwalking Scene from Bellini’s La Sonnambula that I could not resist shouting: “Jump! Jump! Jump!” (A friend said he was saving the comment for Mary Zimmerman’s next curtain call.)

More grateful for her instrument in its present vocal estate (or tenement, as she has been a New Yorker for years), were five “Rossyan fok songs,” in which the audience was invited to join her. (“You are good! You must all be Juilliard drop-outs!”) Lieder, too — her signposted “Erlkönig” is justly famous, her “Morgen” sublime — were rather easier on voice and ear than the full-scale arias. Let lesser singers take note: Madame never sings with surtitles or subtitles or translations — the voice and the gestures (and the costumes) give us every drainable drop of meaning, and you’re lucky to get it.

It was a great event in the present — but it was, still more, as Madame put it herself, an evening of extraordinary mammaries. So much of the style — and the singing — and the shtick — and the annotation — seemed uncannily to recall occasions long, long ago. But it was delicious to hear her shtick it to the Met, with all the fervor of someone who might have been tactfully repressing her real opinions during a season of broadcast commentary. (“I love the Salome — where she take off everything! Even some of the high notes!”)

She was ably assisted by Maestro Sergio Zawa, engulfing the piano, and Carmelita della Vaca-Browne stealing the crumbs of the scenes Madame was chewing. Della Vaca-Browne lovingly recreated a moment I’ve never forgotten, from the very first season of La Gran Scena Opera Company di New York in 1981, when Annina beheld the gasping Violetta on her deathbed and tossed confetti in her face, then responded to her furious glare with the explanation, from the libretto: “E carnevale.” In Vera’s vocal presence, when is it not Carnival?

Ladies and gentlemen, all I can say is (to echo Tosca, one of Madame’s great roles): “Ecco un artista!”

John Yohalem

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):