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I saw Latonia Moore conquer the Metropolitan Opera

Twitter has been a-flutter all night with reports of Latonia Moore’s stunning debut as Aida at the Met, replacing Violeta Urmana.

Nothing has appeared about it yet on 20th century mass media, and only one blog has, so far, acclaimed her live broadcast.

So here’s an instant I-was-there report from an overwhelmed Slipped Disc reader, Ann Smith:

I had tickets for the matinee of the last performance of this season’s Aida at the Met today. The title roles were to be sung by Stephanie Blythe (Amneris), Marcello Giordano (Radames), Violeta Urmana (Aida) and Lado Ataneli (Amonasro). However the program included a little piece of paper indicating that Urmana is ill and will be replaced by Latonia Moore in her Met debut!! I was a bit disappointed at the news of a rookie singing a powerful and demanding role.I had never heard her name before.
Aida appears in the first scene of the first act, so we met Ms. Moore very quickly. She appeared young and lovely and really nervous. But she quickly got into the role and amazed her audience with a powerful smooth and velvety voice. She melded in with the cast, always in tune with the conductor and the orchestra (unlike one of her colleagues) and enchanted the public with her singing as well as her charisma and acting. The opera had 2 long intermissions ( a good 40-45 minutes due to backstage equipment trouble), which allowed enough time to chat with your neighbors.

Everyone was in awe of this young soprano and she was greeted with loud cheers and applause at the end of every act. At the end of the opera she received a loud standing ovation with a few flowers thrown at her. She was visibly moved, alternating between pumping her fists in sheer joy and triumph and taking deep tearful bows. It was really exciting to witness her unplanned debut. She was clearly very prepared to jump in and by all appearances, she took great advantage of the opportunity that came her way.

I should add that the opera was most enjoyable. The sets were magnificent: great Egypt paraphernalia in impeccable taste, with lithe dancing, prietesses, incense, temples, gold, a few real horses on stage, awesome male dancers (have I already said that) and of course a brilliant Stephanie Blythe. Gosh can the woman sing. It all seems so effortless and so gorgeous and so beautifully resonant. I was intimidated by her presence as a mere audience member. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be debut-ing next to her. A consummate artist, she was very gracious to Ms. Moore, congratulating her on stage and ‘directing” the applause her way.

Slipped Disc heard and met Latonia once, ten years ago when, as an extremely young award-winner, she sang in a DG recording of Mahler’s second symphony with the Vienna philharmonic, conducted by Gilbert Kaplan. The voice, already powerful, was rather inflexible but she took so quickly to guidance and instruction that intelligence was never in doubt, and the charm was irresistible.

Since then, she has sung Mimi is Dresden, Liu at Covent Garden and Aida, unhappily to all appearances, in Hamburg.

 (photo: www.abendblatt.de)

A big future beckons for Latonia. A fan website has just been opened.

Here’s a a taste of her Aida in an inadequate concert performance, three years ago.

 

UPDATE: 24 hours behind the 21st century, the New York Times has published a sour little review of Latonia’s debut. Reading between the lines, we don’t get the impression that the critic, Tommasini, was present at the performance but, rather, that he watched a broadcast. He really should have specified. Many who were there (and some have commented below) will regard the review as a snooty piece of hackery.

SECOND UPDATE: We have since been assured that Tommasini was indeed in the house for the performance. Very glad to hear it and we apologise if his amour-propre was in any way impugned.

 

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Comments

  1. I heard the performance on the radio and without the benefit of being present one could tell this was a special moment. I agree with your “20th century mass media” dig. Thank you from posting Ms Smith’s report.

  2. I was also there yesterday and felt privileged to witness Moore’s Met debut, an event that I think will be long remembered for its artistry, beauty and skill. She rocked the house and was amply rewarded with thunderous applause and sustained cheering. Stephanie Blythe, however, was clearly the star of the afternoon but was most gracious in deference to Moore’s big moment. How fortunate were we in the audience to witness such performances?

  3. Julie & Paul; Northport Maine says:

    We had a similar response to hearing her on the radio broadcast — those long ovations, and an interview with her at the intermission. The Met scored big earlier this season with another late fill-in: Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried. That makes two exciting, new Texans on the Met stage in one season! Speaks well for the furtherance of the art.

  4. It was a thrilling experience to be there for Latonia Moore’s debut at the Met. One long time opera fan said, at the second intermission, that Ms Moore had not had the opportunity to do a stage rehearsal prior to taking the role on Saturday, but had performed Aida in San Franscisco a few years ago. This fan also said she found Ms Moore’s performance to be the best she’d seen since Leotyne Price. I am a reltively unsophisticated opera fan, but even I could see, hear and feel how Ms Moore grew more confident as the opera progressed, until she fully occupied the role, let loose that beautiful voice, and moved me to tears.

    I hope to have the opportunity to hear her often in the future

  5. At best she was adequate – her phrasing was poor – her tonal colouring non existent , dynamic range seems
    stuck at forte , it could be that the ovation was for her” debut “under the most trying of circumstances . One
    would have to hear her under better conditions to tell if she is any better than this performance – she has
    sung Aida before and if this was truly her best she has a long way to go to be thought of as a good Aida
    never mind a great one . Ms. Blythe was her usual self when not growling the low notes to impress the
    gallery . Mr. Giordano after the “romanza ” lets you know one is in for a tough time – he cannot sustain a legato
    line so barks his way with the verismo school and was barely tolerable in the tomb scene , why he is at the
    Met is baffling . The orchestra is always excellent and in this case more so considering the
    most unimaginative pedestrian conducting .

    • were you in the house? I was and it was most exciting. She was far better than adequate. She is clearly thought of as a great Aida already, maybe not in your mind but clearly to the majority of people and thats what matters.

      • Yes I was in the house . It is all a standard of comparison -when you have heard live 3 of the greatest
        Aidas’ then Ms. Moore is not yet there , however sentimental one gets over her debut – of course she was
        not helped by the wretched tenor and yet because of him she sounded better than she was -I find the
        NYTimes review more than kind and spot on – in this day Ms. Moore must be careful in listening
        to her uncritical admirers for whom she can do no wrong , they will toss her aside as quickly as they
        build her up if she should not meet whatever standards are current . She has a gift and it will be interesting
        to follow how she handles it . If this were her first Aida one could hold back considering the nerves the
        debut and all the hoopla but it is not her first Aida and considering this it is passable and not much more.

        • Monsterlette says:

          “Ariel,” hmmph, is this you, Tommasini?
          Seriously, people like you are sadly transparent and desperate for validation of intellect and taste; it’s textbook behavior, psychoses 101.
          I have found that, almost always, the motivation for endless rhetoric-sodden critiques such as yours, is that snarky curmudgeons simply want other people think they are used to much better. Pity.

          • Baguette says:

            Monsterlette, read over what you just wrote and ask yourself if the shoe doesn’t fit your own foot. Can’t you manage to disagree without sticking knives in other people?

    • Well, I was working in the orchestra pit yesterday and I must say you are considerably overstating your case. She HAD NO REHEARSAL, ok? Do you even know what that means?

      You don’t have to be in love with the voice to know that she was the most musically interesting Aida in the last 20 years. Add to that the FACT that her intonation was perfect. I thought she was outstanding and I have played this opera several hundred times. Please, have a heart!

      • -I sat in my car for two hours to hear the last two acts and felt as if I were there. What a voice! I grew up on Ms Price and felt as though I were hearing vocal history again…..

    • As a trained voice teacher and performer, I don’t agree with your analysis. What I heard was quite the opposite . What are your qualifications to make such negative criticism (in regards to Ms. Moore)? I do somewhat agree with your other criticism. I wonder if you’ve ever had the experience of stepping up to perform at the last moment and being able to be at 100%. I have.

    • I have to agree with ariel. This just wasn’t great singing by any measure. O patria mia especially was a mess. I think there is always excitement in the house when an unknown steps in and debuts at the last moment. The audience usually roots hard for these singers and tends to overlook the flaws. And with mediocrity abounding at the Met these days (and for the forseeable future), who can blame the audience for wanting something to cheer about. And while I was happy for Ms. Moore for the response she received, it was overboard, to say the least.

  6. Well we in Hamburg/Germany had been very happy to have seen Latonia Moore in several productions here.

    My first stunning encounter was her appearance as Amelia in “Ballo en Maschera” and I recond it was the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard so far.

    Addionally she was singin Cio-Cio Sun in Mme Butterfly over her and certainly Aida. There was actually one critic that wasn’t content with her Aida in Hamburg, but most people I’ve spoken to loved her also for her Aida in Hamburg.

    We are hopping to hear her again in Hamburg soon.

    Greatings, Nico Tillmann

  7. I urge everyone who is reading this blog to actually read the review Mr. Lebrecht posted. It is quite complimentary of Latonia Moore and one paragraph is mildly critical.

  8. I had the privelege of being present at the Met yesterday and heard the magnificent performance given by Latonia Moore and all I can say is that I have never heard anything like it in my life. Her voice was clear and lilting and she held everyone spellbound throughout the entire performance. What an incredible voice and I saw how the rest of the cast so wonderfully supported and showed her such great joy and happiness during the constant ovations that took place. It was a most wonderful moment to witness the debut of this lovely young woman with a voice like an angel. It was so evident that the audience was enthralled by her as they shouted over and over Brava Brava. I will never ever forget what it was like for me to witness this moment and I hope that Miss Moore will be given many more opportunities to display this God Given Gift!! An incredible moment for me and a day that I will always remember as long as I live.

    • Couldn’t agree more!!!! I’ve seen Leontyne Price sing Aida live at the Met!! Ms. Moore is a wonderful artist in her own right. Her iinterpretation is special . Ms. Price possesses the greatest voice that I’ve ever heard and her Aida was the best! Ms. Moore’s,also, is wonderful.. An individual artists interpretation is one of the great joys of opera. The greatest of artists have their own special interpretations that are highly individualistic and,I believe, making critical comparisons is damaging to the art form.

  9. What’s with the bashing of the “20th century mass media”? They are, by their nature, slower than Twitter or your quite informative website. But apparently you hold the commentary by the legacy media in high regard, or you would have no need to complain about their speed. Alas, Mr. Tommasini’s review, once it arrived, was not as glowing as you’d hoped, so he’s written off as a “hack.”

    But more important, I heard the broadcast of Ms. Moore’s debut as Aida and was quite impressed. I’m really looking forward to seeing her in the role at the Dallas Opera this fall!

  10. Agreed, the newspaper bashing is bizarre. Of course, Tomamasini’s only passingly critical review doesn’t fit with the social media hype, so he’s just being a spoil sport, it would seem.

  11. I heard her sing in a recital (shared with other musicians) in the Wigmore Hall here in London about ten years back and it was obvious that here was a voice that was going to go places. When she began to sing, it was one of those hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck moments — when you realise you are in the presence of something very special indeed. My only surprise is that it has taken so long: I’ve been expecting to read the latest batch of headlines at any point over the intervening decade.

  12. I hope Mr. Lebrecht will allow my response since he did allow a personal attack by Monsterlette who seems
    incapable of forming a sentence that does not display the ignorant vitriol of the writer . Text book 101 was
    quoted by the writer who seems classic example of the topic, one can only hope a full recovery .
    This is the very type of “fan” Ms. Moore should avoid . It seems that for some people a difference of opinion
    unsettles them greatly -is it that they can’t stand to be contradicted or that they are so unsure of themselves that
    to be contradicted may cause them to think . The ” is this you Tommasini ? ” gives one pause …I don’t know
    if textbook 101 covers this sort of attitude , but I would hesitate to be in the same room for too long .Then you
    get Duane who wants qualifications – to respond -” coaching , conducting “- and yes I have had the experience
    of last minute performance …and only you know how well or poorly you did . Ms. Moore it seems is not new
    to Aida , given the nerves and debut – she was in my opinion “passable ” in this performance -she may be great
    but I yet have to hear that …. I often disagree with Mr. Tommasini but in this incidence he is correct -he did
    what a reviewer should do report and comment – it may not please some ,but it is his opinion based on
    whatever experience and knowledge he brings to his task . It is an age when every one is given a standing
    ovation for just showing up ,and ignorance trumps truth .

    • Interesting! What you say has some validity. The word “potential” used by the critic is a clue, I believe, that spurred me into thinking that here is a talented performer. Even though it has been my experience that I haven’t been at my best stepping in at the last moment, this may not be the case for everyone, and I am willing to overlook some minor technical flaws that,perhaps, could be caused by “nerves” that the performer may display in their performance.

  13. Richard Kelley says:

    I too was there Saturday afternoon. My wife and I attend 2-3 times a season and I readily admit I do not have the trained ear of Ariel, Mr. Tommasini and others. I cannot comment on mid-range phrases or pitch lacking focus. Whether we speak of performing arts, sport or other endeavors, at the pinnacle of every element of human achievement there are always those who perform better. However, to be on that stage is that pinnacle and I was very impressed. I can say that I saw Ms. Moore grow more confident in her roll as the peformance progressed. In addition, one had the incredible Ms. Blythe as a comparision through out the afternoons choruses and arias. Ms. Moore won over the audience with her perfromance that afternoon. Was she perfect? No, of course not. However, had she not performed so well, the audience would not have responded the way it did. The second Texan we saw this year to show they have the ability to perform with the very best.

  14. Kenneth says:

    After reading the “update” referencing Tommasini’s review, I read the review on the Times website. I was prepared to disagree, as I often find his reviews skewed, but in this case I thought it was right on the money. It was a very fair assessment of her performance, which I quite enjoyed: she did sound, understandably, frightened at the beginning, but settled into a wonderful performance, worthy of a Met debut. He pointed out things which Ms. Moore should take as constructive criticism and address, and that was only in one brief paragraph. He acknowledges her great talents and the extraordinary, unimaginable difficulty of making an unrehearsed Met debut in such an iconic role. Clearly, this is a young woman with the potential for a billiant future!

  15. Robert White says:

    I was listening to the Saturday broadcast via WQXR and our organization hosts the Opera-L listserv. I was also following the chat on Parterre.com and the postings on the Met message board for its Guild members– Standing Room. Standing Room is usually pretty positive on everyone , but Opera-L is too often Callas widows, Milanov widows, Tebaldi widows, Leontyne Price widows, etc. etc. Parterre is usually not far behind.

    What was clearly happening was a performance was igniting clearly in no small part to Ms. Moore. I’m sure
    a no rehearsal, international broadcast of one of the most standard (i HATE the word ‘iconic”) of standard
    operatic roles. Most have learned the opera with Milanov, Price, Tebaldi, Callas, or Caballe. The best I ever saw was L. Price 1964 and while i’ve seen many AIdas over the last 53 years, this performance most reminded me of the Scala broadcast with Stella, Di Stefano, Simionato and Guelfi under Votto. Now poor Miss Moore does not have the advantage of being native born Italian or having even one of the above as a colleague to assist her. But ignite the audience she did and kept them with her for the entire afternoon.
    If one wanted to carp, one could read the NYTimes, but their critic’s praise of Blythe and alibi of Giordani (not GIordano) weakens the legitimate criticism of certain points. I heard the performance a second time Saturday because I lost the last 15 minutes, and wanted to get so re-listened to it on Hawaii Public Radio . It was not a perfect AIda, but it was one of the most exciting I’ve heard in many a moon. To have kept your wits singing opposite Giordani and Ataneli is the sign of a real pro. Sometimes these things don’t always pan out through bad luck, or whatever, but hearing her Ballo aria on YouTube says this person has the real potential and an impressive partial accomplishment already. With no disrespect to Ludmila Monstarska (sorry about the sp.) who is scheduled for the Met HD Aida next season with Borodina and Alagna, it’s time for Latonia.

  16. Les Mitnick says:

    Like one previous poster said, a lot of us were “Aida raised” on the voices of Milanov, Callas, Tebaldi, Price, Caballe, and now Radvanovsky. The role of Aida is very demanding, and it amazes me that it is still performed so frequently, albeit by sopranos not really able to dominate it. Since I own multiple versions of Aida – four Milanov broadcasts plus her commercial recording, two Price broadcasts plus her Solti recording, two Callas versions – one from Mexico City in 1951 and the other the EMI 1955 commercial set, the Caballe EMI set of 1974, and finally Tebaldi’s 1960 von Karajan recording, ———– I have enough of an idea as to how the role should go. I also saw Price do it in Chicago in the 1960′s. But then I’ve seen other Aidas – Tomowa-Sintow (who was very good), and Andrea Gruber (no comment) as well.

    Latonia Moore has the potential to be a great Aida. The only major flaw I detected as a breath before the high C in “O Patria Mia”. There were times when her voice reminded me a little of Price. The voice is a beautiful one, but we must remember that she had no rehearsal time. I found her dramatically convincing, with a telling lower register. I will go far enough to say that hers was the best Aida I’ve heard at the Met in a very long time, though I was only listening to the broadcast. I saw Sondra Radvanovsky sing Aida in February at the Chicago Lyric and was VERY impressed. I’m not going to compare her to Miss Moore.

    Stephanie Blythe is my kind of Amneris —— booming chest notes and a voice that comes on like Godzilla. Her way is not the only way to do it, but I certainly find her Amneris on a par with Cossotto, Bumbry, Zajick, Barbieri, and Simionato (it still amazes me that the Italian veteran Ebe Stignani was so venerated in this role: to me she sounded staid, matronly, and totally without drama.)

    Giordani is Giordani. I think he sounded better on Saturday than he did in Chicago a month ago. I’m not so sure that he’s really a Verdi tenor. I much prefer him in Puccini and the verista composers. Compared to the late tenor Kuret Baum, Giordani sounds like Caruso, and Baum was kept on the roster for seventeen years, much to the chagrin (I am sure) to Zinka Milanov.

    The performance may not have been a great one, but it was certainly far above what I expected.

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