« David Won's Feast of Song | Main | The Sopranos »



On the radio Sunnegardgh came across quite nicely. It's a girlish sound and she had most of the notes. The beat in Margison's voice, and the relentless pushing during climaxes, were a bit painful. Last time I saw Hong do Liu was when Gruber was singing Turandot for the first time. I supered in the production and was on the stage for every performance. Hong was stunning; absolutely incredible. And yep, she stole the show every night. I didn't hear her in the theater this time around, but on the radio that B-flat was quite strident. Most of Hong's top these days sounds that way, alas. She seemed to all but shout her way through Eva earlier this season, and it didn't seem like it was necessary. Perhaps Wagner scared her a bit.

That NY Times article...it's true that it's been a few years since Swenson blew me away with her singing. But her singing isn't why she was fired. It is likely a combination of things (looks, fees, popularity, usefulness.) I'm convinced that singing came in last on the list. (Let's get these peole in front of a committee in congress and have them testify under oath, with a transcript, and see what they come up with!!) The current management is moving in its own directions and has no use for some of the singers they're inheriting. It's unfortunate, but has been part of the business all along. Melchior, Traubel, Tebaldi, Siepi - they were all forced into retirement before they were ready to go. And artists seem to accept their fates in silence. I'm not sure why. Being a martyr these days seems pretty silly to me. Swenson speaking out is definitely breaking with tradition, but I say more power to her. I also suspect that privately she will get a lot of encouragement from other singers. But publicly they will be as quite as mice.


There have been hundreds of comments on the List about how differently voices sound in the house and on Sirius. (I know, everyone on the list has an 'angle', but bear with me) In the spaces of the House, Hong's B-flat didn't sound strident but there's a good chance it sounded that way on the netcast. I have listened to a few of the freebie Met things on Sirius and I think it gives everyone a bit of metallic glare. It also seems to me that the Saturday radio broadcasts are not as mellifluous in sound as they once were but that may be an illusion.

However when people start saying someone was off-pitch on the radio but not in the house, or was wobbling on Sirius but sounded fantastic 'live' then you begin to really wonder...

How would you compare the current vocal states of Hong & Swenson? Do you think the Met is wrong to let them go, whatever the reasoning? Do you think their high fees have anything to do with it, along with a large choice of lyrics now coming along to take their roles? Would you spend money to go see either of them? If they were singing in an opera you really wanted to see, would you skip it if they were in the cast?


Radio always amplifies everything, not just volume. All the imperfections come across much bigger because the microphone is right there! I can see a wobble or a pre-wobble-large-vibrato can come across much worse on the radio than in the house. But I can't imagine pitch being something that's affected by the microphone...

Sirius, being a digital satellite channel, does add a metallic glare to the sound - on top of everything else. So things do sound worse on the radio than in the house. (Unless they sound better, as was the case with Sunnegardh.) I think some voices are made for the microphone more than others. I know someone who heard Jussi Bjorling live and says he was terrible in the theater. But on records...! On the other hand, Birgit Nilsson and the microphone were not friends.

Anywho - in a way I think Swenson and Hong's current vocal state is comparable. But again, I don't think their vocal states is what's pushing them out. I suspect many of their roles aren't hard to cast these days with cheaper singers, but cheaper singers aren't name singers and Peter Gelb says he wants to bring glamour to the Met. Jane Doe singing Mimi isn't glamourous. It's always about choices made by those in charge of casting. Can Hong still sing circles around a younger singer's Mimi? Most definitely. But for whatever reason the people at the top just aren't interested. If Gheorghiu gets sick next year and Gelb wants to have a name singer as Mimi instead of Jane Doe he'll probably call on Hong. I guess these singers are being moved to an "as needed" status. Needless to say Swenson, because of the article, won't be on that list either. I'm sure she knew that when she decided to speak out.

Should the Met have let them go? I'm not sure I can answer that question. I haven't been running away from either Hong or Swenson. But I have been running away from Deborah Voigt. I'd have seen "Die Agyptische Helena" but for Voigt. And I won't be seeing "Norma" with Maria Guleghina!


I enjoyed the performance a great deal and agree that Hong was wonderful. Within my limited experiance of opera, hers was my favorite performance in this Turandot. Remember when I said that at times I thought Sunnegardh's voice sounded shrill but that I liked it at other times? After thinking about it a bit I think it sounded shrill when she was at the back of the stage and better when she was at the front. So it might have something to do with the acoustics, or maybe she was pushing too hard for the big sound at certain times.

Anyway, I loved the production and I think this is now my favorute Puccini opera - what beautiful melodies. Since I couldn't get a ticket to Orfeo I think that was the end of my opera season - see you at the State Theater!


Susan, I did think that Sunnegardh had quite a hard time projecting from the back of the stage; she did sound better as she came forward. Her top was sometimes kind of metallic but I thought it was the only part of her voice that really 'spoke' in the big house.

You might want to consider seeing the new TRITTICO at the Met although I think you said you had some travel plans around that time.

The comments to this entry are closed.