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Jessica Duchen
Tuesday 18th August 2009
Opera Divas' Antics Provide Opportunities to Hear Rising Stars...

While I've been getting high on things Hungarian and/or historical, not to mention the current Budapest Festival Orchestra Prom on R3 (stunning, gorgeous, life-enhancing!), someone let the dogs out in New York. Angela Gheorghiu and Anna Netrebko, apparently considered the two biggest divas of the day, have both pulled out of stuff they were meant to sing at the Met next season.

According to the New York Times Gheoghiu has cancelled all the performances of Carmen in which husband Roberto Alagna was to be her co-star. The paper also reports that Netrebko has pulled out of La Traviata "because she does not want to compete with her own DVD performance..." - to which one can only really say WTF!? The beleagured Rolando Villazon was to be her Alfredo.

If I was either of them, I'd be very nervous indeed when I saw the quality of my replacements. Instead of the icy and distinctly soprano Angela, the role of Carmen will be taken by the gorgeous, sensual, chocolate-voiced Elina Garanca - a real mezzo, and one surely born to sing Bizet's lavish Gypsy. Angela has hung on, though, to the last two performances in which Don Jose is the hottest tenor in the world, Jonas Kaufmann - funny, that.

And Netrebko may face some real competition in Marina Poplavskaya, who takes over as Violetta. I heard Poplavskaya in Eugene Onegin at Covent Garden last year and was bowled over: the voice is silvery strong, the acting golden. She became the innocent young Tatiana in a way that few others manage - and if she can do the same for Violetta, New York audiences are in for a real treat.

Oh well, back to sunny London and the summer Proms. Tonight's is astonishingly lovely - if you missed it, do give it a whirl on R3's Listen Again. The klezmery clarinet in the Prokofiev Overture on Hebrew Themes, Leonidas Kavakos's glistening tone and effortless virtuosity in the Bartok Second Concerto - one of the greatest of all violin concerto openings! - and the utter verve and delight with which the orchestra and Fischer have navigated Dvorak 7... it's just been one joy after another.


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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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