segunda-feira, 1 de novembro de 2010

Joan Sutherland: Veramente Stupenda, ossia “If there is perfection in singing, this is it.”

Mais vale tarde, que nunca!

Joan Sutherland - ossia La Stupenda -, tal como se noticiou aqui, faleceu a 10 de Outubro último, aos 83 anos de idade. Era uma cantora miraculosa, tout court.

O leitor avisado conhecerá as minhas reservas diante das prestações e legado de Dame Joan: consoantes inaudíveis e superficialidade da interpretações. Sinon, era perfeita, tecnicamente.

A Callas era divina, não pela técnica - bem falível -, mas pelo génio dramático. Sutherland era estupenda pela coloratura e mestria da disciplina.

O mundo lírico dividia-se, diante de ambas: os anglo-saxónicos tomavam o partido de Dame Joan, enquanto os latinos optavam pela Callas.

Ambas geniais, embora, em tudo, diferentes. Sutherland era uma senhora recatada e singela, pouco dada a excessos de vedeta. Já Maria Callas...

Bref, é hora de, justamente, prestar homenagem à mais técnica das geniais artistas líricas.

Pela parte que me toca, recordo-a na Mad Scene de Lucia (Bonynge, 1972), um dos maiores momentos líricos de sempre, que me escuso de adjectivar...

«Aimée de ses partenaires, dotée d'un caractère d'une grande gentillesse et d'une trop grande modestie, celle qui fut l'une des divas les plus admirées de la planète se retirera, à 63 ans, dans son chalet près de Vevey, en Suisse, à deux pas de son ami le compositeur et auteur dramatique Noel Coward (1899-1974). Les dernières années de sa vie seront consacrées à des classes de maître, des jurys de concours internationaux et à sa passion pour le... crochet et la broderie.»

«She wasn't a great actor or a great beauty. Critics said they could never hear the words either, because consonants were not her strength. But it didn't matter. Sutherland possessed the most secure and compelling soprano voice of the age, based on her rock-solid technique (about which she spoke fascinatingly when I interviewed her in 2002, when she was 75).

Listen to her great roles – Lucia di Lammermoor has to have pride of place, though her Norma, Elvira and Lucrezia Borgia come close – and it's the once-in-a-lifetime combination of instrument, ambition and technique that makes her such a complete artist. Of course, it was the amazing security of her top notes and the dazzling accuracy of her coloratura that always brought the house down. But it was Sutherland's soaring, flowing line that really marked her out from the others, and that remains imperishably in the mind now that she has gone.»

«It was Italy’s notoriously picky critics who dubbed the Australian-born Ms. Sutherland the Stupendous One after her Italian debut, in Venice in 1960. And for 40 years the name endured with opera lovers around the world. Her 1961 debut at theMetropolitan Opera in New York, in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” generated so much excitement that standees began lining up at 7:30 that morning. Her singing of the Mad Scene drew a thunderous 12-minute ovation.

Ms. Sutherland’s singing was founded on astonishing technique. Her voice was evenly produced throughout an enormous range, from a low G to effortless flights above high C. She could spin lyrical phrases with elegant legato, subtle colorings and expressive nuances. Her sound was warm, vibrant and resonant, without any forcing. Indeed, her voice was so naturally large that at the start of her career Ms. Sutherland seemed destined to become a Wagnerian dramatic soprano.


Her abilities led Richard Bonynge, the Sydney-born conductor and vocal coach whom she married in 1954, to persuade her early on to explore the early-19th-century Italian opera of the bel canto school. She became a major force in its revitalization.

Bel canto (which translates as “beautiful song” or “beautiful singing”) denotes an approach to singing exemplified by evenness through the range and great agility. The term also refers to the early-19th-century Italian operas steeped in bel canto style. Outside of Italy, the repertory had languished for decades when Maria Callas appeared in the early 1950s and demonstrated that operas like “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Bellini’s “Norma” were not just showcases for coloratura virtuosity but musically elegant and dramatically gripping works as well.


“Richard had decided — long before I agreed with him — that I was a coloratura,” she said.

“We fought like cats and dogs over it,” she said, adding, “It took Richard three years to convince me.”

In her repertory choices Ms. Sutherland ranged widely during the 1950s, singing lighter lyric Mozart roles like the Countess in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and heavier Verdi roles like Amelia in “Un Ballo in Maschera.” Even then, astute listeners realized that she was en route to becoming something extraordinary.

In a glowing and perceptive review of her performance as Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” at Covent Garden in London in late 1957, the critic Andrew Porter, writing in The Financial Times, commended her for not “sacrificing purity to power.” This is “not her way,” Mr. Porter wrote, “and five years on we shall bless her for her not endeavoring now to be ‘exciting’ but, instead, lyrical and beautiful.”

She became an international sensation after her career-defining performance in the title role of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Covent Garden — its first presentation there since 1925 — which opened on Feb. 17, 1959. The production was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by the Italian maestro Tullio Serafin, a longtime Callas colleague, who elicited from the 32-year-old soprano a vocally resplendent and dramatically affecting portrayal of the trusting, unstable young bride of Lammermoor.

Mr. Porter, reviewing the performance in The Financial Times, wrote that the brilliance of Ms. Sutherland’s singing was to be expected by this point. The surprise, he explained, was the new dramatic presence she brought to bear.


Her distinguished Decca recording of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” with an exceptional cast conducted by John Pritchard, was released in 1961, the year of her enormously anticipated Metropolitan Opera debut in that same work, on Nov. 26.

At Ms. Sutherland’s first appearance, before she had sung a note, there was an enthusiastic ovation. Following the first half of Lucia’s Mad Scene in the final act, which culminated in a glorious high E-flat, the ovation lasted almost 5 minutes. When she finished the scene and her crazed, dying Lucia collapsed to the stage floor, the ovation lasted 12 minutes.

Reviewing the performance in The New York Times, Harold C. Schonberg wrote that other sopranos might have more power or a sweeter tone, but “there is none around who has the combination of technique, vocal security, clarity and finesse that Miss Sutherland can summon.”


Paradoxically, Mr. Bonynge contributed to the sometimes dramatically uninvolved quality of her performances. By the mid-1960s he was her conductor of choice, often part of the deal when she signed a contract. Trained as a pianist and vocal coach, he essentially taught himself conducting. Even after extended experience, he was not the maestro opera fans turned to for arresting performances of Verdi’s “Traviata.” But he thoroughly understood the bel canto style and was attuned to every component of his wife’s voice.


Joan Alston Sutherland was born on Nov. 7, 1926, in Sydney, where the family lived in a modest house overlooking the harbor. The family garden and the rich array of wildflowers on the hillside near the beach inspired her lifelong love of gardening.

Her mother, Muriel Sutherland, was a fine mezzo-soprano who had studied with Mathilde Marchesi, the teacher of the Australian soprano Nellie Melba. Though too shy for the stage, Ms. Sutherland’s mother did vocal exercises every day and was her daughter’s principal teacher throughout her adolescence.

Ms. Sutherland’s father, William, a Scottish-born tailor, had been married before. His first wife died during the influenza epidemic after World War I, leaving him with three daughters and a son. Ms. Sutherland was the only child of his second marriage. He died on the day of Ms. Sutherland’s sixth birthday. He had just given her a new bathing suit and she wanted to try it out. Though feeling unwell, he climbed down to the beach with her and, upon returning, collapsed in his wife’s arms. Joan, along with her youngest half-sister and their mother, moved into the home of an aunt and uncle, who had sufficient room and a big garden in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra.

Although Ms. Sutherland’s mother soon recognized her daughter’s gifts, she pegged her as a mezzo-soprano. At 16, facing the reality of having to support herself, Ms. Sutherland completed a secretarial course and took office jobs, while keeping up her vocal studies. She began lessons in Sydney with Aida Dickens, who convinced her that she was a soprano, very likely a dramatic soprano. Ms. Sutherland began singing oratorios and radio broadcasts and made a notable debut in 1947 as Purcell’s Dido in Sydney.

In 1951, with prize money from winning a prestigious vocal competition, she and her mother moved to London, where Ms. Sutherland enrolled at the opera school of the Royal College of Music. The next year, after three previous unsuccessful auditions, she was accepted into the Royal Opera at Covent Garden and made her debut as the First Lady in Mozart’s “Zauberflöte.”

In the company’s landmark 1952 production of Bellini’s “Norma,” starring Maria Callas, Ms. Sutherland sang the small role of Clotilde, Norma’s confidante. “Now look after your voice,” Callas advised her at the time, adding, “We’re going to hear great things of you.”

“I lusted to sing Norma after being in those performances with Callas,” Ms. Sutherland said in a 1998 New York Times interview. “But I knew that I could not sing it the way she did. It was 10 years before I sang the role. During that time I studied it, sang bits of it, and worked with Richard. But I had to evolve my own way to sing it, and I would have wrecked my voice to ribbons had I tried to sing it like her.”

In 1955 she created the lead role of Jenifer in Michael Tippett’s “Midsummer Marriage.”

During this period Ms. Sutherland gave birth to her only child, Adam, who survives her, along with two grandchildren and Mr. Bonynge, her husband of 56 years.

Immediately after her breakthrough performances as Lucia in 1959, Ms. Sutherland underwent sinus surgery to correct persistent problems with nasal passages that were chronically prone to becoming clogged. Though it was a risky operation for a singer, it was deemed successful.

In the early 1960s, using a home in southern Switzerland as a base, Ms. Sutherland made the rounds, singing in international opera houses and forming a close association with the Met, where she ultimately sang 223 performances. These included an acclaimed new production of “Norma” in 1970 with Ms. Horne in her Met debut, singing Adalgisa; Mr. Bonynge conducted. There was also a hugely popular 1972 production of Donizetti’s “Fille du Régiment,” with Pavarotti singing the role of Tonio.

Though never a compelling actress, Ms. Sutherland exuded vocal charisma, a good substitute for dramatic intensity. In the comic role of Marie in “La Fille du Régiment,” she conveyed endearingly awkward girlishness as the orphaned tomboy raised by an army regiment, proudly marching in place in her uniform while tossing off the vocal flourishes.

Ms. Sutherland was plain-spoken and down to earth, someone who enjoyed needlepoint and playing with her grandchildren. Though she knew who she was, she was quick to poke fun at her prima donna persona.

“I love all those demented old dames of the old operas,” she said in a 1961 Times profile. “All right, so they’re loony. The music’s wonderful.”

Queen Elizabeth II made Ms. Sutherland a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1978. Her bluntness sometimes caused her trouble. In 1994, addressing a luncheon organized by a group in favor of retaining the monarchy in Australia, she complained of having to be interviewed by a foreign-born clerk when applying to renew her passport, “a Chinese or an Indian — I’m not particularly racist — but find it ludicrous, when I’ve had a passport for 40 years.” Her remarks were widely reported, and she later apologized.

In retirement she mostly lived quietly at home but was persuaded to sit on juries of vocal competitions and, less often, to present master classes. In 2004 she received a Kennedy Center Honor for outstanding achievement throughout her career. In 2008, while gardening at her home in Switzerland, she fell and broke both legs, which led to a lengthy hospital stay.

Other sopranos may have been more musically probing and dramatically vivid. But few were such glorious vocalists. After hearing her New York debut in “Beatrice di Tenda” at Town Hall, the renowned Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão, herself beloved for the sheer beauty of her voice, said, “If there is perfection in singing, this is it.”

In retirement she mostly lived quietly at home but was persuaded to sit on juries of vocal competitions and, less often, to present master classes. In 2004 she received a Kennedy Center Honor for outstanding achievement throughout her career. In 2008, while gardening at her home in Switzerland, she fell and broke both legs, which led to a lengthy hospital stay.

Other sopranos may have been more musically probing and dramatically vivid. But few were such glorious vocalists. After hearing her New York debut in “Beatrice di Tenda” at Town Hall, the renowned Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão, herself beloved for the sheer beauty of her voice, said, “If there is perfection in singing, this is it.”»

4 comentários:

J. Ildefonso. disse...

Demorei bastante tempo a dar o devido valor a esta cantora agora falecida. Curiosamente foi através da ópera francesa (Esclarmonde, Roi Lahore) que me apercebi da mestria da Sutherland. Em belcanto preferia a Callas, Caballé ou até a Gencer, Devia, Cuberli que me eram muito mais familiares. Hoje em dia, via dum conhecimento mais profundo da carreira da cantora, penso de maneira diferente e dão-me muito prazer as gravações da Sutherland.

Titanic disse...

Nunca mais é domingo.

Mr. Lg, el Mister disse...

Caro J Ildefonso:
Escute-se, para todo o sempre:
Don Giovanni – Mozart/Da Ponte. ATTO SECONDO - Aria di Donna Anna:
”Troppo mi spiace… Non mi dir, bell'idol mio …”
Na sagrada versão giovannística: Carlo Maria Giulini, Philharmonicia Chorus and Orchestra, Eberhard Waechter, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Giuseppe Taddei, Luigi Alva, Piero Cappuccilli, Graziella Sciutti , Gottlob Frick EMI 1959
… a perfeição perfecta!
… e isto não é para dar graxa ao nosso Dissoluto a mais a sua gravação fetiche. Digo isto porque é mesmo verdade! :-)

J. Ildefonso. disse...

Caro LG

Não tenho mas obrigado pelo conselho. Sou pouco dado ao D. Giovanni. Prefiro de longe as Bodas de Figaro.