Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
Apologists have got busy, explaining why the Andrea Chenier car-crash at Avery Fisher Hall was not the tenor’s fault.
Watch this by a French fan on Youtube. He has a point.
The person who put together this clip is correct. The orchestra is already lagging behind at their entry (celo) and the ensuing confusion among the players (which is audible) causes the conductor to pause, throwing off the beat altogether. What is missing here is a clear beat from the conductor that would have kept the piece together. Algana is totally NOT at fault here, he is facing the audience, so he has to put his complete trust in the conductor to provide a clear beat.
The conductor is beating in 4 and correctly but slower than Alagna is singing. Monsieur Alagna anticipates the third beat and and then gets ahead of the conductor. The conductor’s mistake was in not following the singer in such a simple accompaniment. It’s like a serious car crash, it takes several people doing stupid things to cause the accident. There was no reason to stop except an attempt to show-up the conductor or to cover a lapse of some kind. They are both at fault. Even Muti has the score in front of him no matter how many times he has conducted a work. I wonder if Alagna had been signing from memory if this would have happened. The moral: Singers perform from memory, conductors use the score. When in doubt, follow the person who is paid the most.
And who was taking the illegal video right under the noses of the performers in Avery Fisher Hall? I have seen camcorders confiscated under similar circumstances.
Accidents happen. Others may know to what extent inadequate rehearsal might have played a part.
But I am amused by one aspect of this explanation: The ‘defence’ of Alagna is based on video evidence that was recorded, as far as one can guess, covertly and not authorised by the artists nor the promoter. Over many years artists have, with good reason, objected to their live performances being captured unofficially on audio and now mainly video recordings, but for once it has been to the soloist’s advantage. The conductor may think differently….
Anyway, it’s only Andrea Chenier.
This just goes to show that you can’t always trust even the most reputable reviewers (including the NYT), who were all quick to jump on Alagna’s back for “sight-reading”. Even the body language of the performers shows that Alagna was in control and aware of what was going on. I’m so glad that in these days of online video (and easily made bootleg videos), the truth can be revealed in such a short amount of time. However, the damage may already be done to Alagna’s reputation. Thanks for posting this as an antidote to the sensationalism of the past weekend.
The NYT doesn’t have any reputable reviewers….
I have always been against the notion that a concert performance should go on without any break or interruption. The people who are upset by this are the ones who have the problem. If there is a mistake in the score, or some error in the performance, it makes perfect sense for me that they performers should stop and begin again at the most convenient place. Of course I believe that music is a form of knowledge and should be treated as such. If one is studying a textbook and there is something one doesn’t understand, then of course one stops until the confusion is relieved.
Of course, since most audiences believe that music should be mindless entertainment, they are upset when the “flow” is interrupted. How dreadfully “embarrassing” that there should be a single error!
Actually, the man behind the camera was filming the concert for Mr. Alagna – He also recorded clips of Aida at the Met – which is why management didn’t intervene… What I cannot understand is the outrage of the “critics” – one blogger even said that Mr. Alagna was singing in the wrong key… someone that clueless should be banned from ever “reviewing” again… The fact is that Mr. Veronesi was conducting without a score, which perhaps he should rethink. The “interruption” lasted exactly 30 seconds! I was there, and I can tell you that the audience was grateful for the do-over, and rewarded Mr. Alagna with thunderous applause at the end of the aria.
By an odd coincidence another performance of Chenier ground to a halt just a few bars later in the piece in 1985. It was the first night of a revival at Covent Garden and Placido Domingo had just started the Improvviso looking very uncomfortable. A few bars in he turned green, stopped singing and walked off stage. The orchestra gradually petered out and the front tabs came in… A few moments later the then General Director Sr John Tooley appeared and uttered the immortal words: “Is there a doctor in the House?”…
@Lauren – Do continue, please…. what happened with the performance?
Apparently Domingo threw up. The performance resumed (at the start of the Improvviso I think) after a pause of about ten minutes.
Ah… thank you! I think!
1. at the start alagna sings flat and below the key
2. he’s not up to the part, listen to del monaco for how the rythmic pulse of this music should go
3. and yes, it is the conductor who messed it up completely perhaps coz mr alagna sang out of tune in the first passage, he’s better in the repeat
4. chenier is a superb opera only when served by singers up to it
Yes. ‘Del Monaco delivers’ – a wonderful clip on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPNRGVP67FA) and an object lesson in how to receive applause.
1. No, He’s not significantly flat – the only reason he sounds out of tune is the wrong chords are underneath him!
2.-3.-4. Your silly opinions and amateurish conjecture.
THis conductor hopefully has learned, to use a score in the future when conducting opera. What vanity on his part.
“Il tenore” can – within reasonable limits – do as he pleases in a solo accompagnato as in the bars in question here. It’s the job of the opera conductor to accompany him. And Alagna didn’t even use much freedom here. He was just quicker than the conductor expected. The orchestra part was very simple.
Any really good opera singer will actually do his part a little bit different every time, whenever he is not restricted by ensemble singing etc. Only robots will sing solo passages exactly the same way every single time.
Yes, this guy’s right. Alagna was absolutely correct. Veronesi fails to catch him on the half-note chord (palpitar) and then winds up behind Alagna by a whole bar until he’s stopped.
Why the hell is Veronesi conducting all this from memory? It’s a silly risk when you are working with singers and (probably) on very short rehearsal time.
Mr. Alagna is not alone, of course. Things happen.
A friend reported a few weeks ago that, during her Barbican recital, Ms. Fleming stopped entirely in mid-song after flubbing the words and then began again. Said friend called it “a delightful moment of levity.” I am afraid I do not remember the piece.
Veronesi? [redacted] He´s the son of former health-minister Umberto Veronesi (a lifetime senator in Rome and famous doctor [redacted] ) He´s bought himself the Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago [redacted].
I have no clue what this comment has to do with Ms. Fleming starting a song over. lol
I used to work with a conductor who insisted on doing all of every single concert, including concerto, sans score. The audience, predictably, ate it up, as audiences are wont to do with such silly parlor tricks. If anything went slightly off kilter – and since this was not a top-tier orchestra and he was not an especially gifted conductor, it did happen now and again – he was completely at sea and would look like the proverbial deer in the headlights, flapping the baton aimlessly until such time as we righted the ship ourselves. Sounds like the same thing happened here.
In the States we usually refer to these things as “train wrecks.”
Easy answer: No rehearsal.
Well, as everyone can see there is a big difference in between conducting from memory and conducting just “without the score”. The latter seems to have happened here and therefore it’s not correct to call it conducting but choreography ;-). There is, unfortunately, nowadays a great deal of conductors, especially in the symphonic repertoire doing in the same way. Very few know their stuff really “by heart”.
Dear collegues, unfortunately the conductor was made an uninterestıng, without passion and colour this beautiful score and unfortunately Roberto Alagna could not do better then what I heare on the video. I have a question to Mr.Alagne – Why are you agree to sing with this kind conductors?
… except for the part where he was singing this role whatsoever.
If I were Alagna, I would have stopped again and ask the “lady” in the front seat here to stop chewing gum excessively. These plebs have no manners.
“It seems I’m dreaming! You are making a prosecution against Maestro Veronesi and you just forget that mr Alagna WALKED OUT THE STAGE (!!!) during the second act MISSED to sing the concertato with Bersi, Incredibile and Rouger!!!! Is that also a mistake of conductor? I have never seen so many slanderers!”
I would like to ask to all these great philosophes who makes this comments: watch the video and ask yourself why when mr Alagna sings the orchestra is loud, not precise, the singing not together with orchestra, while WITH EVERY OTHER SINGER the playing is beautiful and precise. Maybe Alagna didn’t know the part…”
I played with Veronesi for six tragic years. Still wondering how in the world can anybody hire him in such an important venue.
Easy answer: he buys his jobs.
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