Whatever she had she hasn't got any more. Or to put it another way: "We are happy to announce that Marina Poplavskaya will perform in Verdi’s Les Vêpres siciliennes tonight."
This is very strange. "We are happy to announce"... hmmm...
21 October 2013 at 03:24 PM
I'm not at all 'happy'. I rebooked specifically to avoid Poplavskaya. I thought Lianna Haroutounian was wonderful in Don Carlo and was very much looking forward to hearing her. Devastated to be stuck with Popsy again after all.
What hold does Poplavskaya have over the ROH management? I don't wish her ill health, obviously, but how can she swan in and out of casting, booting out the infinitely more talented Haroutounian (in my opinion) at the eleventh hour? And why do they persist in casting her in so many roles, most of them beyond her abilities?
21 October 2013 at 04:21 PM
There is a suggestion on another site (parterre box) that haroutounian herself may be unwell, hence Popsy's reappearance. I have no idea if this is true or not, but there is clearly alot going on behind the scenes that we are not privy to.
I am going tonight and I hope that Popsy does well, not least because I am looking forward to seeing the opera for the first time and want all the soloists to give of their best.
Intermezzo replies - Haroutounian was distinctly sub-par on opening night, so it wouldn't surprise me if that's true. I have no doubt Poplavskaya's own illness is no better or worse than it ever was.
21 October 2013 at 04:42 PM
Puycelsienne: the ROH are going to have a lot of trouble explaining this one. And, by the way, Haroutounian is STILL on the online cast list for this Thursday (the list having been updated to show Poplavskaya as appearing tonight). Bizarre, to say the least.
21 October 2013 at 04:48 PM
I was gonna go on thursday but if Popsy's back I think I'LL be unwell ...
Albert Cat |
21 October 2013 at 04:49 PM
Lianna Haroutounian unfortunately suffers from laryngitis. We are very grateful that under the circumstances Marina feels ready to go on tonight, although of course she missed the last crucial rehearsals and had not expected to go on until later in the run. We hope it will be an exciting performance. We have not yet had time to assess the situation around Thursday's performance, but will of course announce it in due course if Lianna is not singing it as currently advertised. Apologies for any confusion this has caused. K
Kasper Holten |
21 October 2013 at 05:01 PM
Thanks, Kasper, for stepping forward with some information.
21 October 2013 at 05:15 PM
Will there be a DVD recording or a live broadcast of this opera? And if so I assume Popsy will, miraculously, be well enough to 'sing'?
21 October 2013 at 06:10 PM
As long as you keep Marina at the Garden and away from the Bayerische Staatsoper I am happy. Memories from the Traviatas here are still in peoples ears and she will get the reception she deserves if she does sing the Mathilde.
21 October 2013 at 06:36 PM
Ah, Kasper's post explains a lot. All best wishes to Lianna and lots of luck to Marina for tonight. I still can't think that this is an ideal role for her but I suspect she will bring her dramatic flair to the fore if nothing else.
I await with baited breath to discover who I will be seeing and hearing on the 1st Nov.
21 October 2013 at 06:50 PM
I think that no performer deserves to be hassled or booed unless he/she disrespects the audience on purpose. And, while Marina P is, by all accounts, a less than perfect singer, she gives it all in scenic presence and heroine characterization. So I don't understand what is she supposed to "deserve" from the, oh, so perfect, BSO public.
21 October 2013 at 06:56 PM
If she sings badly one has the right to boo. I don't know what the policy at Covent Garden is but recently the woman who works at the information desk said it is our right to boo if we are not pleased. Of course we are not as polite here as the English who do everything better. I want to hear good singing and if she is such a great actress let her go on the theater stage where her 'scenic presence and heroine characterization' can be appreciated but please do not let her sing.
21 October 2013 at 08:11 PM
But Mr Holten, how can Poplavskaya be too sick to sing, and then sing? Is she still sick, or is this a case of miraculous recovery (again)?
Emil Archambault |
21 October 2013 at 09:12 PM
Yes quite. Is she too sick to sing as a principal but in good enough voice to be a cover? What are we supposed to conclude from this? How can she be able to go on tonight yet for Thursday's performance still be unconfirmed? Is there a third Helene we haven't heard about yet?
21 October 2013 at 10:40 PM
The simple truth is that Poplavskaya is less unwell than Haroutounian. I understand she struggled tonight.
inter mezzo |
21 October 2013 at 10:51 PM
Rosalind Plowright. Josephine barstow is on standby.
21 October 2013 at 10:56 PM
Well, I'm really hoping that Marina sings on Thursday. I had booked in the hope of hearing/seeing her for the first time, and the diversity of all the comments has me further intrigued. Whoever sings, I wish them well. Whatever happens, it's obvious from all the enthusiastic reviews that the evening will not be dull.
What a beautiful pic of Marina you posted, IM.
21 October 2013 at 11:00 PM
Sorry to report that Popsy sounded like she was in severe difficulty for the entire performance tonight - I'm guessing she's still indisposed, although no announcement was made. She really did herself no favours by going on......I was actually shocked by the state of her voice and hope it's just a temporary problem that can be overcome
Fortunately she didn't get booed. Will be interested to see if she manages the live cinema broadcast....
21 October 2013 at 11:36 PM
Afraid that's an understatement.....!!!
21 October 2013 at 11:37 PM
I have never in my life heard the kind of totally appalling vocalism on a major opera house stage that emerged from Poplavskaya tonight. This isn't singing: this is a full-blown vocal collapse. The breath line has shrunk to about four seconds before a noise like a Vax can be heard, sucking in enough air for any decent singer to get half way through Meistersinger without needing to breath again, yet here serving for about four more seconds before another is needed. The Act V Bolero was beyond catastrophic, pure Florence Foster Jenkins, actually laughably bad if it weren't so embarrassingly agonising to have to witness, just a series of gargles and squeaks. The rest was a patch-work of snarled, barked Sprechstimme doing duty for the chest voice she hasn't got, and waywardly-pitched, hollow-toned, ill-supported head voice going here, there and everywhere.
Over 2,000 live opera performances I've heard at Covent Garden in my time: but never, ever, anything quite like this.
As for the rest, the staging is pathetic, and largely stolen from McVicar's Faust. Has the gene-pool of supposedly "great" opera directors become so very shallow that they're now recycling each other's clapped-out, clichéd responses ("Ooooh, let's scrap the libretto and set it in the period it was composed. And in an opera house too. Won't that be enlightening! And really original too! Because of course mid-C19th French opera house politics are SO very much more relevant to us today than frowsty old C13th real-life Italian, aren't they? Hmmmmm?")
And for a show where, despite all the pre-publicity, they nevertheless wound up chopping the ballet, how come we STILL spend all night staring at bloody ballerinas?
Personally, I think Hymel has the ugliest tenor voice on earth, caught somewhere between a crack and constipation, with all the tonal allure of a hiatus hernia. Schrott oversings, horribly, but at least has the wherewithal with which to do so. Similar story for Volle, really, not so much suave as stentorian, but at least a real vocal presence.
Abysmal stage/pit co-ordination tonight, where the chorus was virtually never in time with going-on in the band, not helped by lumps of noisy scenery getting stuck and colliding with each other.
How thoughtful of the ROH to have provided us with this year's fat turkey so far in advance of Christmas.
22 October 2013 at 02:38 AM
Oh, the information desk woman said so? And who else? The woman that does the cleaning maybe? A carpenter? The fireman? I don't know why it's such a matter of pride to be rude. I almost hope that Miss P. doesn't dissapoint you by , God forbids, singing well and deprive you of the pleasure of giving her "what she desreves" in Munich.
22 October 2013 at 09:27 AM
And to be clear, that doesn't mean that I aprove of her singing or that I think she should be hired over better singers with less scene skills. I just think she shouldn't be treated with such contempt.
22 October 2013 at 09:35 AM
SJT---come off it!---it wasn't THAT bad. MP did shriek admittedly, but the three male leads were terrific vocally. Hymel can't act that well, but so what.
22 October 2013 at 09:58 AM
It all sounded fine up in the Amphi, and had no problems in hearing Popsy. The people sitting round me were all impressed as well.
I have to say that yet again the staging has its own musical role, and several times we heard squeaks and bumps, but nevermind.
All in all I thought it was a good evening.
22 October 2013 at 10:15 AM
I have to say I felt sorry for Poplavskaya last night. (Though thank you, Kasper, for explaining what was going on. Perhaps it would have been better to ask your press office to clarify that Haroutounian was ill in their press release concerning the re-replacement – no need to emphasize that Poplavskaya was under-rehearsed; that was abundantly clear from the performance. I appreciate that if she hadn't gone on, you'd have been hard pressed to find another cover, but she certainly did herself no favours.)
SJT's first paragraph is spot on. I've witnessed only a few vocal meltdowns in my time, but this really was off the scale: total vocal collapse indeed. (No one minds the odd, human glitch – Nina Stemme cracked a humdinger of a note early on in Fanciulla in Vienna last week, but the rest of her performance was sublime; though a flu-ridden Alagna was once, appallingly, booed by the Staatsoper audience for a few minor solecisms, having refused a crave-your-indulgence announcement but having given an otherwise stunning performance.) And I'm comfortable with the 'rawness' and 'inappropriateness' of live shows, e.g. Dessay bobbed a curtsey to an attention-seeking 'Brava!' in Toulouse a few weeks ago, which brought the house down and is surely part of the thrill of live performance. But at one point last night, Schrott firmly steered Poplavskaya out of the line of the firing squad and I half-thought 'Put the poor thing out of her misery'. It only got worse for her from then on. Frankly, I was surprised to see her reappear each time – credit to her for her nerve.)
I've always disliked Poplavskaya's voice, I'm afraid (and am possibly in the minority in thinking her dramatic abilities somewhat overstated as well), and you'll gather I was disappointed not to see Haroutounian, having changed my tickets specifically for that purpose; but I did want to see a good show last night. In the past Poplavskaya's merely grated. The vocal horror show that unfolded last night was mesmerising in a sense, but for all the wrong reasons.
Erwin Schrott and Michael Volle were, of course, the real stars. (I'm not a fan of Hymel either, and he must have been struggling to keep Poplavskaya going as well, but I want to emphasize the positives, as the show is worth seeing – if they can find another leading lady by Thursday.) I found Stefan Herheim's production interesting (yes, it's derivative, but there were some nice touches and I liked the black/white ballerina motif).
Feldmarschallin, I thought at the time, 'I hope there are no foreign casting directors in tonight, because they won't take her off our hands if they hear this fiasco', but I certainly didn't boo a singer in evident vocal distress. I did what I always do, which is to applaud – fulsomely for the outstanding performers – but fold my hands quietly in my lap if someone's been truly bad, as there must be a reason for it and no one sets foot onstage with the intention of giving a bad performance. Singers are extraordinary people, and I admire them at all levels, so they'd have to deliberately behave very badly to 'merit' booing. But surely the management at Covent Garden needs to think about its casting policies. I've been lucky to find some cheap seats recently abroad, as the star singers I've wanted to hear haven't been cast much in London; and I've been an ROH 'regular' for twenty years, yet I hardly even know who the other current sopranos are in Poplavskaya's Fach (whatever that might actually be).
I say I felt sorry for Poplavskaya, but I shan't if the ROH exposes her or its audience to that sort of nightmare again. I hope she gets some help, urgently, for her own sake.
22 October 2013 at 10:36 AM
The comment section is a truly depressing read. So much open hatred and poorly veiled patronization. Popsy had some balls for coming out last night and struggling. And that's the story.
22 October 2013 at 11:26 AM
She is a trooper, though, to go on knowing she is going to be slated, knowing her voice is in poor condition. to save the show.
22 October 2013 at 11:57 AM
Open hatred, yes, not sympathy for a talented actress/singer in distressing circumstances.
22 October 2013 at 12:11 PM
I think we should be grateful to Marina Poplavskaya for saving the show last evening - and I certainly didn't think she was as bad as several folk on here are claiming! Admittedly in Act 1 the voice was all over the place, but once she'd warmed into the performance, I thought she gave a pretty decent performance both vocally and dramatically (given the circumstances). I thought she did a great job in the "Bolero" in Act 5, especially in the "sending up" of Grand Opera and it's performance style, which surely was what that act was all about. Bryan Hymel's voice did seem a bit pinched a few times last evening, but then he'd let out some fabulously thrilling singing. I thought the men all did a great job. Overall, I thought the production "worked" as well as any production of this opera could, and the producer had some good ideas, although I didn't quite "get" why Erwin Schrott was dressed up as a black version of Helene in Act 5 (and thank goodness they let him change out of it before the curtain calls!). Chorus sang well, although there were some timing problems between the orchestra and the chorus. Scenery moving was a bit noisy at times, but I enjoyed the stage pictures.
Let's not be over negative. I guess it must be nearly 30 years since we've seen a performance of this opera in London, and it is only the 2nd time it's every been performed at Covent Garden!. And if Poplavskaya hadn't gone on, what would have happened? Maybe no performance - and how many of us would have been happy about that!
Jonnie Ash |
22 October 2013 at 02:40 PM
After "SJT" wrote a rave "review" of the horrendous first night of the new Walkeure at the Met, which included the following: high praise for Voigt whose singing was horrible in tone, ridiculous in pitch and who didn't know her words, (she made up quite a few), where the storied Met orchestra led by a weakened Levine (now recovered) was never together, made numerous perfectly audible mistakes -- early entrances, uncertain releases, and the performance as a whole nearly came apart in the middle of act two -- where the greatly gifted Jonas Kaufmann lacked impact and force in the huge house and was bland in his first assumption of the role -- where the dangers to the singers of the "machine setting" -- SJT LOVED it -- were evident from the first and the actual staging was impossibly clumsy and totally unimaginative, hurting the performance of everyone -- I would take any opinion he offered as dubious in the extreme. Sometimes, in a now esoteric form like opera, the ignorant are easily believed especially when hyperbolically captious.
Albert Innaurato |
22 October 2013 at 02:53 PM
As I wrote elsewhere, Schrott-in-a-frock is a vivid visualization of Hélène’s dilemma (he wears a black replica of her white wedding dress and replicates all her movements). Furthermore, he does reappear as Procida before the end and therefore before the curtain calls.
He did display more cleavage than Poplavskaya, though...
22 October 2013 at 03:21 PM
That's as maybe, but I was there last night, and for me SJT gets it spot on in regard to Marina Poplavskaya (indeed I could almost have believed that I had written that paragraph) though I think he's wrong in every other aspect of his review. Only goes to show: even a stopped clock is right twice a day!
22 October 2013 at 03:44 PM
And the public also deserves great orchestras and great conductors and good choruses and exciting stagings, and alas one doesn't always get that at the BSO ;-) Still i have not yet booed, in spite of thinking in was under-par with the ROH on all these levels on many occasions. Let's be a bit realistic and accept that whoever goes on stage or into the orchestra pit does whatever best they can and that they are human and all imperfect, with better night and less good nights. If you don't like a particular singer i advise not buying tickets and doing something better with your time. Always more rewarding that booing. Thank God i don't get booed at work whenever i make a mistake...
22 October 2013 at 04:15 PM
terrific i wouldn't say ;-) One has beautiful legato and style and really good French and is about the only one who can really sing the music, which is Bryan, one has surprisingly warm and powerful voice and some impressive low notes i never thought he had, which is Schrott, and the third can act really well, which is Volle :-))
22 October 2013 at 04:25 PM
And puhhlezee don't compare McVicar at his witty best with last night's repetitive and confused mess ;-) There were some good ideas though, pity they never went anywhere and stock overacting and blocking is all we got. And really pity and failure on part of the house actually as well that nobody bothered to point out to Herheim that we have indeed running productions with much of the same imagery and tricks (ballerinas and mirrors.. Ballo anyone?). How did they miss the fact that this would be a lot of deja vu making it largely boring?
I'm with you on the ballerinas which got very old on 2nd entrance (of many....)
And would people please stop directing overtures? We really honestly can sit through 15 min of music and motifs without having to see some movement on stage at the same time.
Why oh why do i get the feeling that once again the highlight this bit of season will be Wagner with Parsifal and not Verdi with Vepres... sigh :-( wish i could say differently.
22 October 2013 at 04:32 PM
that was my understanding too, that it was the actual vision Helene had of herself as bringer of death rather than happiness through marriage. However the actual way they did it was somewhat funny in a way and not gruesome enough i felt to really have impact, made me smile and wish it didn't. But i was actually one of the better ideas Herheim had.
My problem was he was trying to tell his story of the opera in Paris in the 1850's and Verdi story because the music asked for it and the 2 didn't meld particularly well. Also, because the story of the ballerinas and their fate as a symbol is just one idea, not a story as a whole so that idea kept storming in every now and then into the other line.
Ultimately it didn't work theatrically with moments of drama but no coherence or purpose or drive, whereas the music in the pit had all that, the fire never properly ignited on stage. I kept looking at the pit hearing the music soar and storm or flow and looking to the stage for a mirror of that getting none just flat images. It was nearly complete emotional disconnect from Verdi's music which was the worst and most unhappy and disappointing effect :-(
But some of it may very well have been intended because at the Insight Herheim and his dramaturg indicated that we should not be awash with emotions but rather distance ourselves from it and analyse things or be horrified but the actual character picture. I' m afraid i disagree with this approach as for me the music prompts you to not only feel BUT ALSO think. It doesn't blur the characters' faults, it just humanises them and makes them more interesting and relevant, which in turn makes good theater for me :-)
For me what we got was great music, very well played, partially well sung (to an insufficient degree, which is also why it didn't completely catch fire - i've seen all kinds of Verdi productions, but when music AND singing is good, it is still amazing)and bad theater.
In retrospect sadly this year for me Wagner has been done justice with style and memorable performances, Verdi much much less so :-(
Intermezzo replies - I think you misrepresent what Meier-Dörzenbach said at the Insight evening. The gist of his presentation corresponded closely to his programme note, which - for anyone attending the opera - is worth reading.
I am afraid that to find this or any thoughtful production coherent you do have to be prepared to analyse what you're seeing and hearing rather than letting the whole thing wash over you - a purely culinary experience is what the production team were consciously trying to avoid.
22 October 2013 at 04:47 PM
Why didn't they let ME direct?
Just because you're having deja vus, it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong witht his production. This staging is very tongue in cheek and what's wrong with he ballerinas?
Now, onwards and upwards. Parsifal is next!
22 October 2013 at 04:59 PM
Well, Rog, it does seem as though Ms. Poplavskaya saved the show while unwell, and perhaps in vocal crisis. Under the circumstances and given the difficulties of the role one might cut her some slack, as we say here in the States. But your final sentence is priceless and I think very relevant to this situation!
Albert Innaurato |
22 October 2013 at 05:14 PM
Afraid SJT was right about her vocal performance - though it gives me no pleasure to confirm this. I genuinely hope she'll recover from this present vocal crisis soon and wish her well
22 October 2013 at 05:36 PM
well, that is exactly what i understood, their assumption that we do go for the culinary experience alone, particularly with Verdi because the tunes are catchier than most. And their conscious effort to engage us in a different approach to what we see. And this is what i was trying to explain, that i fundamentally disagree with their starting assumption about consumption of opera. :-) Because i don't tend to leave my brain at the door, i find the lack of subtlety or rather repetitiveness and broad brush of ideas bothersome. I feel like saying, yes thank you i understand and in many cases i even agree, i don't need to be told again and again as a 3 year old. (I had sadly the exact same issue with his Meistersinger in Salzburg, the German cultural references were literally hammered in, and i've had that in school already, don't need to be force-fed the information again quite by the ladle).
It is why i like Bieto so much in comparison, there is plenty of subtext and challenge, but it is hinted to in a more puzzling way. It is why i like McVicar as well a lot. I am being engaged to think outside the box, but the process of thinking is not prescriptive or closed ended. I like to be puzzled and challenged and made to wonder, i don't like information thrown at me and being dragged and boxed and brainwashed and simply told what to think or how to think.
I found Neuenfels rat - Lohengrin much more enticing, to give another example, or Guth's Giovanni.
I'm simply saying his assumptions about the way i consume opera are wrong for me, so unfortunately his style is too authoritative for me, to forceful simply because i strongly dislike being told what to think and not to think :-) Not my cup of tea, and i did try in all honesty. But i did think there were a few really good ideas in it. Unfortunately i don't think Verdi's operas (given his actually intense sense of drama and theater) are very good vehicles for anything else than Verdi's own drama. Let's agree to disagree on Herheim ;-) or rather the Vepres production in particular.
22 October 2013 at 05:41 PM
Well....I'm Italian. We have Maria Agresta (she should sing Lucrezia Contarini-I due Foscari at the ROH). She made a stunning debut in Turin as Elena. She has already sung with Pappano. Shouldn't he ask her to sing this very difficult role? I do not think her agenda is yoo busy.
Agresta has already sung many Verdi's roles such as Amalia (I Masnadieri) at La Fenice-Venezia (she was wonderful) and Leonora (Oberto) at Teatro alla Scala di Milano (she was very good). Rather than ill singers.......
Intermezzo replies - If the ROH had asked a singer of her stature to learn a new role so that she could be the understudy to an understudy, I can guess what her response might have been.
Riccardo Rosetti |
22 October 2013 at 09:06 PM
Kaspar, where are you? All gone rather quiet..
22 October 2013 at 09:12 PM
Comments on the opera are welcome on the relevant post, which is http://intermezzo.typepad.com/intermezzo/2013/10/vepres-siciliennes-royal-opera-house-herheim.html
Discussion about the casting is welcome here. However any specific complaints are better directed to the ROH: http://www.roh.org.uk/news/marina-poplavskaya-to-perform-in-les-vepres-siciliennes-on-monday-21-october
inter mezzo |
22 October 2013 at 09:39 PM
I'll chime in as a French person, Volle was the one whose French was pretty much impeccable.
23 October 2013 at 06:57 PM
That sounds like a line from the Wolf's Glen in Der Freischutz. Another problem piece that deserves a new production.
23 October 2013 at 09:00 PM
I was so sorry that Marina was unable to sing, as I'm particularly fond of her. Lianna was however very good in the role, although I understand she too had been suffering with illness.
I loved the performance. The set was quite different from the usual very plain understated backdrops we have grown to expect from the ROH, and I loved the fact there was ballet as well as singing. All in all a wonderful extravaganza. Would recommend.
30 October 2013 at 12:21 AM
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daddy I want a harpsichord