Monday, June 30, 2014

Opera Note: Edita

If the Lord is willing' and the Rhine don't flood, then in a couple of weeks we'll have a chance to see Edita Gruberová singing the title role in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia in Munich.   Our evidence base is thin here but it seems like something to look forward to.  We saw her once before back in 1998 at La Scala in Milan--one of only two times we've actually made it here to Opera's mother church.   It's not what you would have called careful planning: we walked up to the box office at 545p and asked if they had anything for 730p.  Well, yes. So we got to see Gruberová  of whom we had not heard, singing Linda Chamonex, of which we knew nothing.   It was well worth the effort: even without clues, you could tell she was a talent to be reckoned with.

So far as we can recall, that was the only time we've ever seen her live, though we are the proud possessors of a superb rendition of Così fan tutte where she sings Fiordiligi under the baton of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. I used to say I was no Harnoncourt fan, but this is one I could play again and again.

And that is that.  Or was until last night, when the domestic Netflix goddess conjured up a DVD of--here it is, folks, La Gruberová herself, doing the selfsame Lucrezia Borgia, in the selfsame Munich, five years ago.  As I say, we'd never seen her in it: actually we hadn't even seen the opera; we just wanted to do our homework.

We count it as well spent but for the moment, I want to set the opera aside and focus on the bonus DVD: a film, The Art of Bel Canto, built on Gruberová s career.  It was entertaining and rewarding for many reasons but here is one for the moment: your attention is called to the fact that the Diva is 67 years old--per Wiki, born December, 1946.   That's right, folks, 67 years old, and for an exercise class, how many singers can you name either male or female who are still ticking along at this stage in life?  Men, maybe a few--Placido Domingo (73) of course and I forget who else.  Women.  Hm.  Well, maybe in an earlier generation: I see that Ernestine Schumann-Heink sang Erda in Der Ring des Nibelungen, aged 71.  And that Nellie Melba staged a farewell at Covent Garden at 65.  I suppose there are others.

I haven't any idea how Gruberová  does it.  I'm sure good genes help.  But another guess is that she leads a quiet life: she seems to do most of her performing in Vienna, less than an hour's drive from Bratislava from where she was born.  Also Munich, Linz, Salzburg, Zurich: the neighborhood.  Barcelona and Madrid, but little or no Berlin or Paris.  New York, just a bit: I bet it didn't agree with her (an odd outlier: Tokyo).  About the only role that seems to bend the curve is Zerbinetta from Ariadne auf Naxos which, I gather, she performed some 200 times over 36 years.  And the DVD--it's a charming presentation but tells us almost nothing about the diva herself. She mentions in passing that she has a couple of children and we see her in what might be her country place, but none of the chummy details that are the stuff of celebrity (a Google search does turn up a husband but he doesn't make it to the Wiki).    Sounds like a well-ordered life, but a life well lived.

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