The Decline of Opera Fandom

            Date: March 28, 2000 08:59 PM
            Author: Don Operatico's Great-Grandfather (The Baritone-Cave)
            Subject: O tempora!

            There has been a distressing decline in the quality of opera fans.
            Opera "lovers" these days simply are not picky enough. In my day we
            treated singers like dirt. I remember the Norma with Diva Schmiva.
            It was only almost perfect. SHE WAS ONE HUNDRED-AND-TWENTY-EIGHTH
            NOTE FLAT ON THE E SHARP IN BAR 217!!!!!!! This completely ruined
            the performance for me and for the whole audience. Not only did we
            boo her mercilessly, we drove her to drugs. She was last seen in a
            crackhouse in the South Bronx. Serves her right! I actually enjoyed
            one performance in my opera-going career (my friends said I was
            going soft; how could I have missed that the tempo was off by
            .00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 in bar 413?)
            The truth is, we're a dying breed. The next century will only know
            tasteless morons who drool at 100th-rate performances.

              Date: March 29, 2000 07:12 AM
              Author: Christel Devlin
              Subject: I am part of the problem in the Great Decline of Opera

              Pops - I confess that I am part of the problem. I go to opera to
              enjoy it. There - I said it - curse me if you must. I know it is
              much more fashionable to treat an opera performance as a
              combination of train-spotting and judging figure skating. "I saw a
              4-8-2 Norfolk and Western Mountain locomotive pulling a cut of
              hoppers for the Wheeling WVA power compnay in 1952 that surpassed
              my wildest dreams...but it didn't have a triple axle...."

              Date: March 29, 2000 09:46 AM
              Author: Ben Schuman
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              You're completely insane.


                Date: March 29, 2000 01:48 PM
                Author: Christel Devlin
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom



            Date: March 29, 2000 08:58 AM
            Author: yggdrasil
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            Yeah. So there.

            Date: March 29, 2000 10:50 AM
            Author: Pippo
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            Having sensitive ears also (road drills make me queasy), I
            sympathise with your problem, but you may find the answer in
            watching Charlotte Church's eagerly-awaited Turandot at the Met ( I
            forget, is it next season or is that Sarah Brightman's Brunnhilde? )

            Date: March 29, 2000 06:51 PM
            Author: Don Operatico's Great-Grandfather (The Baritone-Cave)
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            Would anyone care to join me at a séance? No living singer is worthy
            of my contempt.

              Date: March 29, 2000 11:23 PM
              Author: yggdrasil
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              Like Jane getting dissed on the basis of one performance of
              Tristan which they didn't even see...

            Date: March 30, 2000 12:01 AM
            Author: joeb
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            My dear boys and girls, just a modest proposal. The true opera fan
            is dead because opera is dead (although rigor mortis is not
            complete). The last wonderful performance occured in 1975 at the
            latest and 25 years is a long time to lie a mouldering in the grave.

            And newcomers, if I may, when you have seen La Traviata eight or
            nine times and have at least four complete performances on your CD
            racks and two videos, you may find that although you want to ENJOY
            it as much as you always have, there will be something in your way.
            Memory and experience. And no matter how seriously the Diva sinks
            into despair, you will hear echoes of a finer voice a lovelier tone
            a more forceful staging.
            As annoying as they were to me in my youth - spoiling my enjoyment
            of a perfectly mediocre performance - the old time Opera Fan is
            beginning to make sense to me.
            But life is short and art is long, so probably as in so many other
            instances, I am totally wrong.

              Date: March 30, 2000 10:47 AM
              Author: Ben Schuman
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              > My dear boys and girls, just a modest proposal.
              > The true opera fan is dead because opera is dead
              > (although rigor mortis is not complete). The last
              > wonderful performance occured in 1975 at the
              > latest and 25 years is a long time to lie a
              > mouldering in the grave.

              In my opinion, THIS is why opera is dying. Because the opera fan
              cannot let go of the rose-colored past and appreciate opera for
              what it is: a form of entertainment that is constantly evolving
              and changing. If you think of opera as some frozen Maria Callas
              moment-in-time, you'll NEVER be satisfied with opera again.
              I can't wait for the moment when I hit the big time, and all of
              Standing Room says, "Oh, he's no Pavarotti." or Domingo, or Gedda,
              or Wunderlich, or Gigli, or whoever.


                Date: March 30, 2000 11:28 AM
                Author: Odeen
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                Well said Ben.
                I'm sorry yggdrasil.


                Date: March 30, 2000 11:29 AM
                Author: Tall Soprano
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                bravo, Ben.
                Joeb, I HOPE your posting was a joke [I suspect it was -- DO]
                --if it was, disregard the rest of this post.
                If not, then shame on you. The last great opera performance took
                place 25 years ago? For heaven's sake. If you REALLY believe
                that, then why don't you stop going to opera? After all, there's
                no hope and you'll never enjoy it again...just stay home with
                your recordings and remember better days.
                TS, ranting away.


                Date: March 30, 2000 12:09 PM
                Author: Janice
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                If you think of opera as some frozen
                > Maria Callas moment-in-time, you'll NEVER be
                > satisfied with opera again.

                Oh now Ben eveyone knows that. Better one should have a Beverly
                Sills "frozen" moment in time. ;-) OOOO! Better yet! How about a
                TS & Ben frozen moment!!! Stemming from the April 15th..Barber
                of Seville. WHEN and WHERE is this event to take place again?
                *another opportunity for shameless plug*


                  Date: March 30, 2000 01:14 PM
                  Author: Ben Schuman  
                  Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                  > OOOO! Better yet! How about a TS & Ben frozen
                  > moment!!! Stemming from the April 15th..Barber of
                  > Seville. WHEN and WHERE is this event to take
                  > place again? *another opportunity for shameless
                  > plug*

                  Well, Janice, since you asked, I'll tell you. Tall Soprano & I
                  are performing in the Barber of Seville (concert version
                  w/piano) - I'm Count Almaviva and she's Rosina.
                  The first performance takes place on Friday April 7, at 7:30,
                  at the Jewish Home & Hospital at 120 W. 106th St.
                  The second performance takes place on Saturday April 15, at
                  1:30 pm, at the Williams Residence at the corner of 95th
                  Street & West End Avenue.


                Date: March 30, 2000 08:06 PM
                Author: joeb
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                Dear Ben. What can I say? It was midnight and I was celebrating
                the seven odd hundredth anniversary of the Sicilian Vespers.
                I think I just got carried away.
                By the way opera fans should commemorate March 30, the
                anniversary of the S.V. by one of the three traditional methods:
                1-eating a slice of sicilian pizza. 2-french kissing the object
                of one's affection 3-causing a commotion in the SR.


                Date: April 01, 2000 10:53 AM
                Author: Allen Grzanka
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                I totally agree Ben. It is one thing to adore singers from your
                youth, but it would be a sad day for me if I couldn't enjoy
                current performers. Of course no one can replace Moffo and
                Nilsson in my heart BUT I can still thoroughly appreciate
                Fleming and Eaglen. BTW: finally got Eaglen's Norma on Opera
                d'Oro: wonderful! At first I said Mei as Adalgesa? But not only
                does it work I think it is right. She should be a lyric opposite
                the strong Norma.
                Enjoying the past, but not living in it,


              Date: March 30, 2000 01:02 PM
              Author: Trick of Fate
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              1975 wuz the year before i wuz born. what wonderful performance
              happened then? who wuz in it? u mean there wont be another 1?
              dont believe it.


            Date: March 30, 2000 11:03 AM
            Author: yggdrasil
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            Well, I wouldn't be able to judge even that because of the
            deplorable conditions of the broadcasts...

            Date: March 30, 2000 03:27 PM
            Author: Robert Wilder Blue
            Subject: I'm with Ben on this one

            BUT I also have to add that I think WE are our own and opera's worst
            enemies often. Because of our love for the art form and for this or
            that singer (usually of the past) we collect recordings. We look for
            the "perfect" performance. When we find it, we become enthralled
            with it. We even become addicted to this or that inflection or
            Then we go to the theater and are disappointed. The orchestra sounds
            thinner or quieter in the house. The singers are sometimes covered
            by the orchestra. The singer doesn't live up to [fill in he blank]
            or is having an off night. Not every night is as "perfect" as the
            recording. And finally, we come to conclusion that there is a
            definitive interpretation: Vickers's Peter Grimes, Rysanek's
            Empress, Price's Aida, etc. Well, those were supreme
            accomplishments, no denying that. And all are preserved on
            recordings. And of course there is Callas in almost everything (I'm
            sure if someone looks hard enough we could find her Peter Grimes
            somewhere in the vaults at EMI). And no one can live up to Callas
            ('s recordings). So are we then to never enjoy another Tosca or
            Norma or Aida or Empress? Granted, the Aida's the Met has offered up
            over the past 20 or so years (and other companies no doubt) have
            been a mixed bad, most a far cry from Ms. Price.
            No one needs to tell me what a night at the opera it was seeing
            Rysanek's Empress. But I happen to love DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN so I
            will continue to try to be open to new sopranos. I don't imagine
            Deborah Voigt's will be anything to throw in the dumpster. Ms.
            Studer's (seen on video) wasn't bad either. Anyway, I'm rambling a
            little. I think it's fine to adore our favorites but it really
            doesn't serve us or opera to be closeminded to others (who are
            worthy of consideration). BLUE

            Date: March 30, 2000 03:38 PM
            Author: Don Operatico's Grandson (The Baritone-Cave)
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom: Posted March 30, 2059

            Y'know, Joe Tenor's no Ben Schuman. They don't make them like that
            anymore. And Prima Donna Assassina's no Tall Soprano, either. They
            don't make 'em like they used to, nope, they sure don't.

              Date: March 30, 2000 03:53 PM
              Author: Odeen
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              I remember somebody on the Met Quiz once recounting a story of a
              friend who loved Nilsson's recordings of Brunnhilde and Turandot.
              And then came to hear her live at the Met and couldn't believe
              that she wasn't as loud as her recordings.


                Date: April 08, 2000 03:21 PM
                Author: Allen Grzanka
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                Just noticed this post. Obviously the person is an idiot.
                Nilsson sounded louder in the house (like a laser) than she ever
                did on recordings.


            Date: March 30, 2000 04:47 PM
            Author: Don Operatico's Great-Grandfather (The Baritone-Cave)
            Subject: The Fun of Being an Opera-Lover who Hates All Actual Opera

            I remember that baritone who had perfect pitch, sang expressively,
            and had great stage presence. I was afraid I was going to enjoy t
            his performance as Don Giovanni. Then he tripped on his cape.
            Another one bites the dust!
            I'm proud of the great singers whose careers I have ruined. Who
            wants to enjoy this stuff, anyway? This ain't pop culchah.

            Date: March 30, 2000 07:37 PM
            Author: joeb
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            Anyway, although he can't be bothered to spell normally. I've got to
            thank Trick for his sense of irony.
            He reminded me that of course the last good performance was not
            It was 1974.

              Date: March 31, 2000 02:39 AM
              Author: yggdrasil
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              No. The ONLY performance was in 1953.


              Date: March 31, 2000 09:02 AM
              Author: Trick of Fate
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              what wuz it n who wuz in it? Im interested.
              me? ironic?


            Date: April 02, 2000 01:28 AM
            Author: Sharon Thomas
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            You know the trouble with Melchior? He was no Leo Slezak, who was no
            Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld. And you know the trouble with Golden
            Ages? They only exist in the past. When you are withered and sere,
            clutching your digital ear-trumpet, and some wide-eyed
            nineteen-year-old asks, "Did you really hear Bryn Terfel (or
            Larmore, Hampson, Villarroel, Domingo, Fleming, Keenlyside, Bonney,
            Ramey, Zajick, Hvorostovsky, Borodina, Norman, Malfitano, Flanigan,
            Goerne, Eaglen, Bartoli, Podles, Voigt, Studer, Relyea, Dessay,
            Graham, von Otter, Von Stade, Van Dam)?" you can say, "No, I was
            busy worshiping Antonietta Stella. Now THERE was a voice!"

              Date: April 02, 2000 01:56 AM
              Author: Allen Grzanka
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom



            Date: April 02, 2000 07:18 AM
            Author: Steve
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            There is a problem with comparing singers of the past with singers
            who are in the midst of their careers. Compare Jane Eaglen with
            Birgit Nilsson, for example, and you are putting a 38 year old
            singer who has compartively few years in her roles against a woman
            for whom we have the benefit of referring back to a long,
            productive, and great career. This would be like comparing two
            mystery novels, one we have finished reading, with one from which we
            have read two chapters. An operatic career in progress is just that.
            A work in progress, incomplete, with more to come.
            Certainly we all have our favorites from the past whom we will
            always enjoy in recordings and rightly so, for what they teach us
            about technique and performance. Nilsson is my all time favorite
            singer, and Eaglen didn't thrill me as Brunhilde as much as Nilsson
            did, but that's okay. I still liked what I heard and appreciated her
            performance for what it was. On the whole, it is simply not viable
            to compare the total complete output of a past singer with the work
            of a singer who still has much yet to show us.
            There are many good singers today who in another 20 years will be
            legendary. But only after they depart the stage will they truly be
            ready for comparison with others who have gone before them.

              Date: April 02, 2000 09:16 AM
              Author: w.a.prozac
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              Sharon Thomas is witty and passionate, and I sort of agree with
              her, but I have one question: How can we tell apart the mediocre
              from the best without comparison to some standards?
              I love the new as much as anyone, but when someone is telling me
              how superb Bocelli is ( and I am not unwilling to give HIM a
              chance to grow), I have no choice but to bring up the great tenors
              in comparison.
              If I wasn`t remembering Troyanos, how could I know the next mezzo
              was any good at all?
              Amnesia is not the answer to enjoying the present.
              Remembering Antonietta Stella doesn`t have to exclude enjoying
              whoever it is singing her roles today. (Altough there really isn`t
              anyone doing that, is there?)
              And finally, my pet peeve: Where oh where is the next great


                Date: April 03, 2000 03:35 PM
                Author: Kelly
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                Troyanos TOLD you she was good because she MOVED you...
                You'll know the next great mezzo because she will do the same...


              Date: April 02, 2000 10:15 AM
              Author: JS
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              Very apt comparison, Steve!
              I agree that we need to have SOME standards when it
              comes to judging today's crop of singers, and there's always the
              rosy glow of faint (and sometimes NOT so faint!) recollection. But
              to consistently harp on things like, "Oh, but you should have
              heard (insert some older singer no longer active).....," or,
              heavens forefend, "Well, SHE'S no Norma......MARIA was Norma,"
              seems to me to be as self defeating as shooting yourself
              repeatedly in the foot.
              We have older recordings; some live documents, some
              perfect studio recreations. Opera (in spite of the Cassandras out
              there) is still living and breathing. Some years there are great
              Wagner voices, sometimes great Mozart voices. And once in a great
              while, a phenomenon appears........but for opera to continue to
              thrive, we need to stop defeating before it's given a chance to
              breathe. Nilsson has retired and Eaglen is still in her formative
              years. Instead of tearing her down, wouldn't it be slightly more
              constructive to say, "Boy, sh'e really grown since the last time I
              heard her."
              And now....off to the luncheon!


              Date: April 12, 2000 01:11 AM
              Author: David Groettum
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              I enjoy Eaglen. Interesting that Renata Tebaldi did not need years
              of experience to deliver definitive performances. Her "Aida" in
              Rio in '51 will probably set the standard by which all "Aidas" are
              judged. She was 29. Of course it didn't hurt that Toscanini
              coached her in it in '49.


                Date: April 12, 2000 08:16 AM
                Author: Ellie Kett
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                Hi David,
                I think, per my listening history, that Aida just about sets the
                standard. I wonder if it could possibly be put onto CD (with
                accompanying audio improvements) as that is a performance which
                should be preserved in all its glory.
                AND NOW BACK TO THE FUTURE.


            Date: April 02, 2000 11:39 AM
            Author: Mustang
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            All performance art lives in the moment. Today's telling of the
            is all that really matters. On the other hand, you won't get my Tito
            Gobbi CD's from me 'til you pry them from my cold, dead fingers.
            Make that arms... I couldn't hold them all in just my hands. But I
            If we are honest with ourselves, only the finest moments tend to
            live on in recordings and even the greatest singers had some
            performances after which they probably wished they'd stayed home and
            watched "The Honey Mooners". Well, maybe not George London- but he
            was not a regular mortal so he doesn't really count.
            I love live performance as much for the errors as the moments of
            splendour. Not to denigrate the singer, but to watch him or her
            stand up, dust off, and have at it again. Why? Because there is no
            greater thrill than confronting your own fear and failure head on
            and beating it into submission.
            One final thought- as the prevailing tastes in singing have made
            their way around the circle, we now find ourselves back in an age
            where the days of "sing every performance as if your life depends on
            it" seems to be gone, replace by a lot of careful, dull but
            technically "correct" singing. I predict that there will be a new
            wave singers who will put it all on the line, take every risk, and
            live for one great performance- every new performance- every day of
            their lives. Who knows? There may be some dusty old Cavalry officer
            leading the charge.
            Oh and yes, if you have detected a slightly militaristic aspect to
            my tone- that's where I got the monicker "mustang"- I was an
            enlisted infantryman turned Intelligence officer. I never liked the
            idea of doing things the easy way. To any Infantry grunts out there-
            HOOAH! To all you Cav troopers- AIEEAH! And for more polite company-
            quite right.

            Date: April 03, 2000 01:08 AM
            Author: Sharon Thomas
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            Dear Wolfgang Amadeus Prozac (I love your name), I never suggested
            amnesia or abandonment of standards. I could have made a list twice
            as long of singers now dead or retired to whom I return over and
            over. What's dangerous, I think, is dwelling on the past to the
            exclusion of the present. This is a problem for music in general --
            is there a major orchestra anywhere whose repertoire isn't primarily
            focused on the nineteenth century? But during that century audiences
            expected, and got, new music in the concert hall and the opera
            house, the same music that we now cling to. What are we leaving for
            the next century? I sometimes wonder if Mendelssohn's "revival" of
            Bach was a great event or a poisoned chalice. Obviously we wouldn't
            want to do without his music, but after all, Beethoven was hardly
            aware of it, and Mozart felt free to re-write it for a modern
            audience. Do you ever feel that today's composers have all the
            weight of Western music on their shoulders? They must think it's
            impossible to be original, so why even try?
            I didn't mean to get off on a rant. When I hear a young baritone OF
            COURSE I'm going to compare him to Warren or London or Gobbi because
            their voices are already stored in my brain. But I hope I can do
            justice to what is unique in every voice, and enjoy it on its own
            merits. Recording technology has preserved an unprecedented legacy
            for us, over a century of artists we can listen to, but this is
            equally a burden for today's artists, who are constantly being
            compared to people who lived before they were born. Let's give them
            a chance.

            Date: April 03, 2000 08:48 PM
            Author: Joan Abel
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            Must confess that I'm what we at the old Met referred to as "Golden
            Age Gerties," not the extremists who swore all the great singers are
            dead--there are still a few walking around, but one who noticed in
            the early 70s a trend towards bland, "laundered" performance styles.
            Forgive me and my contemporaries. We were spoiled. I saw the debuts
            of Callas, Nilsson, Stella, Bergonzi, Corelli; heard Hotter and
            London and Siepi, Bjoerling, delMonaco and Valletti. If I go on,
            this will rival the phone book! I was out of opera for many years,
            but what brought me back was an aria sung by Carlo Bergonzi at the
            James Levine gala. For me, it was the best medicine in the world to
            hear style, passion, musicianship all in one artist! Thanks to him,
            I'm a born-again opera fan. And Miracle No.2: this season I heard
            three singers who roused my enthusiasm: Sumi Jo, Paolo Gavanelli,
            and Rene Pape. Gotta be more where they came from. Opera isn't dead,
            just a few of us fans!

            Date: April 04, 2000 07:57 PM
            Author: Don Operatico's Great-Great-Grandfather
            Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

            You all should have been so lucky as to see Pasta, Ronconi, Varesi,
            Grisi, Tadolini. Not that I enjoyed any of their performances. But
            at least they were worthy of being panned.

              Date: April 08, 2000 10:47 AM
              Author: Seth Lubin
              Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

              My take on "the Decline of Opera Fandom" has more to do with the
              directors and producers. In 1965, the NY Post ran
              an article in it's magazine section. It was about the TOSCAs at
              the Met. It had a story and photos of each diva. These ladies
              included (remember all in one season), Maria Callas, Renata
              Tebaldi, Regine Crespin, Dorothy Kirsten, Gabriella Tucci and
              Leonie Rysanek. Each one of these women portrayed their own TOSCA,
              with their own costumes. Today, in the age of the director, the
              singer must fall into the production. They all wear the same
              costume, whether it is becoming or not. They all have to be in the
              same spot to go along with the computer lighting. . The conductor
              is convinced that his tempi are the only correct ones. It is much
              easier to find good sopranos that will be professional and fit
              into the production. If their voice or personality are not
              exceptional it doesn't matter. They fit into the mold.
              Several years ago, I was present when a fan asked Thomas Hampson
              why he sang his aria in NOZZE DI FIGARO, so far upstage. The fan
              complained that it was not in Hampson's best interest and
              suggested that singing farther downstage would have been better.
              Hampson simply smiled and stated, he had no choice. The lighting
              for the set was done by computer and if he had stood anywhere else
              he would have been in the dark.
              Opera singers are not computers, only the opera companies think
              they should be. An opera fan does not respond to a computer on
              Today, opera singers are disposable like paper cups. If one
              singer's "hard-drive" crashes another is quickly replaced and no
              one knows the difference. The late Leonie Rysanek gave us such
              wonderful performances at the end of her career. These roles
              suited her voice at the time. However there was
              a time when the great Leonie ran into a rough patch. She sang what
              she considered a terrible TOSCA. She cancelled the rest of her
              performances. Mr. Bing told her that anytime she felt ready to
              sing again, the door would be open for her. She came back and the
              rest is history.
              Today, you're great for a year or two, then someone else comes
              along and your out. No place, no nothing. Gone. Like the crashed
              hard drive. This doesn't make opera fans.


                Date: April 12, 2000 11:11 AM
                Author: Odeen
                Subject: The Decline of Opera Fandom

                Very very well put Seth!