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Did the Met just hear the next Joan Sutherland?

April 17, 2018 by norman lebrecht

47 comments.


Jessica Pratt came on for the last two performances of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera this week.

She had been on standby for Olga Peretiatko, who was not outstanding.

This is what happened at Jessica’s curtain:

Jessica is a British-born Australian. In some quarters, comparisons were being drawn with Joan Sutherland, who owned the role.

That big.


Comments (47)

  1. Andrew Hogbin says:

    Hardly! Everything’s relative I suppose but, unless she has undergone some kind of immense metamorphosis since I heard her at Wigmore Hall a few years back, it’s a pretty lyric voice with a goodish technique. Her interpretation was generic I thought.

    1. Sonya says:

      Andrew, I was at Wigmore Hall myself and I recall an impressive evening with a very loud cheering crowd. This was taken that day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlL3QUC-DYg

      1. david Hilton says:

        That ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ is absolutely ghastly. Unsupported breath, missed notes, and frequently under pitch. Hardly above student level, or so it seems to me.

  2. Andrei Ungureanu says:

    Jessica Pratt is probably the best Lucia, nowadays. Her interpretation will stay among the greatest, for sure. I don’t think she is the next Sutherland, because the voice is very different and her approach to this role is not exactly the same. A great performer will never be a second someone else, but would rather stand on its own. I have seen Pratt’s Lucia on stage and I can say she is probably the most impressive bel canto singer I have ever experienced live.
    About this Met Lucia run, it’s been highly awkward. Peretyatko was the frst cast (5 performances), Pretty Yende second (5 performances), Jessica Pratt (2 performances). Peretyatko has got two broadcasts, and she was probably the worst singer broadcasted at the MET. She is well supported by media; all the review tried to excuse her for the top issues. In fact, Peretyatko is in total decline, wobble, pitch issues, no piano, she is shouting all the time, she cracked…and most important, she’s always lacked musical taste having the most illogical, unmusical variations possible. All her cabalettas ended on a random high note, usually scratchy and ugly. Whereas Peretyatko has got 5 seconds of polite applauds after the mad scene, Pratt has received standing ovations. Pretty Yende is a better singer than Peretyatko, but her Lucia is pretty common, if not boring.
    Overall, the injustice was done. Only two performances for Pratt and no broadcast, but she was great enough to make those more memorable than Peretyatko failure (5 performances, 2 broadcasts). Pretty Yende hasn’t performed yet, but she’s a bit anonymous, at least for me.

  3. Walter Galtier says:

    I like Jessica, she is a tremendous virtuoso. But her voice is not as beautiful as Peretyatko. It’s possible that Olga was not her best, she however was outstanding in Traviata in Vienna only last October, so I am not sure what happened at Lucia having not been there. And while I believe that Jessica is a fantastic singer able to captivate the audience I just can’t imagine her voice change so much to become more brilliant. But why compare her to anyone? She stands her own ground as a unique Diva. Bravissima!

  4. Allen says:

    Thanks for sorting that out.

    1. AKP says:

      No real surprise that for a badger, it is black or white

  5. Caravaggio says:

    Not so sure. Jessica Pratt will be 39 y/o this June. By age 33, Joan Sutherland had sung her historic Lucia at Covent Garden and much else. And, unlike Sutherland, Pratt lacks anything distinctive in sound and delivery. Comes to show that in these dire times, any miniscule approximation to greatness, real or imagined, is rapidly and undeservedly launched to the stratosphere. But will it last or mean anything in due course? I remain highly skeptical, if you couldn’t infer it.

    1. Olassus says:

      We could, Caravadge.

      1. Caravaggio says:

        Not to mention that by age 39 most sopranos worth their salt had already cast long shadows.

        1. Bolton says:

          I don’t know what qualifies as such but she has a most impressive record in just ten years of career. All the major houses, bunch of cds and dvds, about thirty roles of which most belcanto titles. And we are not talking Gilda here. It’s an impressive spread of Lucia, Elvira and Amina. To me it does look like growing shadow my friend.

  6. Walter Galtier says:

    This character ANDREI UNGUREANU is trolling for Jessica everywhere – on YouTube, Facebook, now here. Lots of its efforts are devoted to besmirch other singers, especially Peretyatko, against whom they have a real campaign on YouTube. There are amazing politics in the musical world, worthy of the murderous Lucia!

    1. David McCracken says:

      It’s sad how things go against a singer or another. I have listened to some recent clips of Peretyatko, they are cruel with comments, but sort of right. That Rossini concert was terrible, as well as many other things. What’s happened to her? If we considered this Lucia, many other sopranos sound better than her. Something is going wrong with her, for sure.

    2. No more impostors! says:

      The campaign against Peretyatko is extremely mild as compared to what she would deserve: booo and a kick out forever. She is a disgrace. And please, stop this nonsense with having a bad day! She sings like this for years! She had 5 Lucia performances at the Met. Two broadcasts which were dreadful. The most horrible Lucia I have ever heard. And it was injustice considering that so many excellent sopranos would never set a foot on Met’s stage while such a disaster like Peretyatko did. We should applaud the reaction on the Internet against impostors like Peretyatko!

  7. collin says:

    Frankly, I can’t tell this curtain call from any other typical curtain call: overly enthusiastic, over the top.

    Didn’t Jorge Luis Borges write a short story about adoring classical music fans physically tearing a performer’s limbs apart? Some Latin American magical realism writer…

    1. david Hilton says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. Seems like a typical Met curtain call to me, and I just celebrated my 365th performance attended in the house.

      Reminds me a lot of the ‘excitement’ generated by Lucia Aliberti’s Met debut in the same role, in around 1994. She was absolutely wonderful. Never heard from again. Good Lucia’s are, frankly, quite common. Take our local diva Anne-Sophie Duprels’s wonderful Lucia in Holland Park. One of the best captured Lucia’s I ever saw. Did absolutely nothing to advance her career.

  8. Singer says:

    Why does she have to be the next anyone?

    1. Caravaggio says:

      Because during desperate times, when a performer lacks or is unable to cement a unique/distinctive/extra-ordinary musical personality/imprint/signature/profile/sound/manner, the behavioral deafult is to peg said performer to some imagined greatness through association.

    2. Bolton says:

      So true. She sings well. Give up this stupid comparing everything and just enjoy the fact that someone brings down the house. The Met should learn a lesson from it and stop feeding us skinny models that simply can’t do it.

  9. Lauren Flanigan says:

    Thanks.

  10. Bolton says:

    I don’t think the point here has anything to do with Olga. She wasn’t great, it’s a fact, bad days happen. Enough said on that.
    Pratt on the other hand was outstanding. I was there on the 14th and it really blew my mind. Comparing her to Sutherland is just as stupid as comparing singers to Callas.
    After the show I went around a bit on google investigating this artist and I was impressed by the amount of stuff she has done. Check yourself on operabase and compare with any other singer from the same generation. She’s also featured in an impressive bunch of dvds but for some reason she’s been kept away from the US.
    Anyway for those that wheren’t there, the Met Lucia was the best I’ve heard in ages. And I mean ages !!! I’m apparently not the only one to think this since a few reviews came out and they are all quite impressive.

    Jorden (with whom I usually agree) wrote from the Observer that “Her singing was old-fashioned in the best sense of the term: technically assured, limpid and unerringly lovely”. Salazar wrote on Operawire a long article referring to her as a revelation and he does sound very impressed. Levine on Classics Today wrote “The singing was flawless, with hints of June Anderson and–wait for it–Joan Sutherland, in her pinpoint accuracy, spectacular and huge D-flats, Ds, and E-flats (and even an F to close the tedious scene with the Family vicar, Raimondo), and absolute command of coloratura. Long phrases sung pianissimo and a high E-flat to cap the Mad Scene that went on seemingly forever were almost bonuses.”

    These are all respected critics that I usually like and agree with. The next Joan Sutherland? Well I don’t know about that but that girl certainly made a statement with just two shows. Not everyone rocks the Met like she did last night. The video up here shows the curtain call but there was also a very very long shouting ovation at the mad scene. I haven’t heard those vibes at the Met since a long time. Like the old times the beast was alive, loud and cheering for her Lucia.

    What else can I say… Bring her back guys

    1. Caravaggio says:

      Calling the amateurs who write for Classics Today, The Observer and Operawire “respected critics” totally negates your arguments. Evidently you didn’t think before plugging in their names.

      1. Bolton says:

        That is what I could find around. It’s three out of three. And I was there. As was the rest of the Metropolitan. So apparently everyone is wrong and you are the only one holding the absolute truth. By the way, you saw the show right?

      2. Andrei Ungureanu says:

        Especially the Operawire guy who thought that “quando rapito” ends with a C# and after someone’s comment, he’s changed in the article with “high D”. There critics have no idea what they are talking about. I never read them.

  11. Sanity says:

    I’ve just heard this tenor, Placido Domingo. I think he might be the new Martinelli!

    1. david Hilton says:

      More likely the new Lawrence Tibet

    2. Antonia says:

      Tenor? Who is a tenor named Domingo? (Bari, now – or tenor-bari, given the mix of timbre and range.) 😉

  12. Thomas says:

    I was there as well. Bolton is right. She was impressive. She started slow but by the end of act 2 the hall was screaming for her. Grigolo was doing all his usual running around but she stole the scene with the intensity of her singing. In act 3 she was from another planet. The mad scene must have lasted 20-30 minutes. People in the hall where all holding their breath. Incredible top notes transitioning into beautiful floated pianissimo and then back into super crisp high Ds and Es. Never heard such an ease in the upper register in such a huge hall.

  13. collin says:

    Who was Joan Sutherland the “next” of?

  14. Caravaggio says:

    The amusing Olga Peretyatko debacle
    https://youtu.be/juNzNwndQ7c

    1. Walter Galtier says:

      yes this is an example of just one Olga Peretyatko smear campaign and frankly it’s utterly awful. her adversaries go as far as to record her imperfections and post it, although frankly I don’t personally think it is that bad, it’s still nice and the voice is beautiful. I’ve heard Peretyatko another time live a few years ago as Nightingale in Stravinsky’s eponymous work, she was just sensational. While Jessica is possibly in a better control of her voice its sheer beauty is just not there for me. At the end I find greatness in both. And I am thrilled to here Jessica brought the house down, hopefully there will be a DVD of that for us to enjoy in sempiternum.

    2. anon says:

      Her vibrato sounds remarkably like a ondes martenot.

      1. David McCracken says:

        Peretyatko was out of tune most of the time. She produced too many scratchy and squally sounds throughout. Besides that, her interpretation was somehow cheap, with cries, sighs and screams in order to seem dramatic. I prefer the variation of the colours to produce a dramatic effect, rather than cheap tricks. Overall it was very bad for the usual Met’s level. Jessica Pratt was perfect vocally, but on the expressive side, she did not give much. Her acting is more natural and pretty focused, but she’s not a great singing actress either. Let’s give a chance to Pretty Yende though, she hasn’t sang yet. I think she is also very good. The puzzle isn’t complete though, besides Peretyatko’s failure which has been intensively discussed lately.

  15. Sue says:

    Do we NEED another Sutherland? The first one was tedious enough with her totally inaudible diction. She had the personality of an ashtray.

    1. david Hilton says:

      You sound like someone who actually heard Sutherland live. That’s precisely how she struck me. If you heard one word out of then that she sang, you were very fortunate.

      1. Elisabeth M says:

        Only a moron of epic proportions would write something so profoundly absurd. It’s like the Callas haters stating she had an ugly voice and a poor technique! Sutherland’s voice was a searingly large, powerhouse of a soprano with an unparalleled coloratura technique. It was mind-boggling to hear live. Yes, for a period in the 60s she rounded her consonants, but having sat through over a hundred of her performances, she was always intelligible and from the 70s very easily so. Equally, she was a sympathetic actress, if no Callas. But then, I recall Tebaldi, Nilsson and Caballe being no great shakes on that front either! Having witnessed the phenomenons of both Callas and Sutherland , I can assure you that your tiresome little barbs deserve nothing but contempt. If you cannot distinguish greatness from the merely ordinary, then get your ears syringed and move on from reducing once in a century (if that) voices to pathetic tropes.

  16. Jessica Pratt’s concert at the Walloon Opera was the most impressive feature of the season: Fille du régiment, Rosmonda d’Inghilterra, Sonnambula, Elisir, Capuleti, Comte Ory, Lucia, Matilde di Shabran. We knew little of her and most of us didn’t believe their ears for a moment. Such florid singing, such technical mastery, such stunning top notes (which literally sent electricity through our heads) by an almost unknown singer. And stamina the lady has too. We got a Rigoletto as an encore and expected that dead horse O mio babbino caro. Instead we got a Glitter and be gay, besides every recorded version I know pales. Pratt’s only weakness too me is the not overly rich timbre, maybe a bit too generic but still very agreable, not droopy or boring. Well, she finally got what she deserves and the Met would be wise to offer her a big contract. The Met’s gain would be our loss as from that moment on chances to hear her in a smaller house will be severely limited.

    1. Walter Galtier says:

      She has been very well known in Europe. Sorry but our Met is quite provincial in its own way, believe it or not. Many great singers famous in Europe are unknown here.

      1. david Hilton says:

        It’s quite a stretch to suggest that Jessica Pratt is “well-known” in Europe.

  17. Brian Atmore says:

    Did we not forget what we heard in Lisette Oropesa last year at Covent Garden? ~30 reviews, all glowing and they mentioned her being the second coming of Sutherland and Callas. She did this in Sutherland’s home turf of course. The CG production is also significantly more demanding.

    The curtain call in that video sounds pretty generic for me. I witnessed a HUGE standing ovation at Covent Garden for La Oropesa and here at Covent Garden’s our audience is much more discerning than the Metropolitan Opera. At the MET, they would give a standing ovation to a toaster if it was thrown onto the stage.

    Is Pratt good? No doubt, but honestly to me she sounds pretty average and should be the minimal quality to hear on the stage of an A-class opera house. We’ve gotten used to such poor singing that we are willing to give the crown to anyone who can get through the role still standing.

    1. Walter Galtier says:

      Well, if Pratt is average then we can conclude a golden era in opera singing has begun. Her voice may not be a beautiful as Netrebko but her virtuosity is simply outstanding, it is because of that she is compared to La Stupenda Dame Joan. And with Peretyatko hopefully is something transient, you can, after all, subscribe to her on Facebook and ask. She was very impressive just in October. Hopefully she will be back to her best soon.

  18. Alexander says:

    Of course our Lovely Granny Joan is the one and only…. by the way , why didn’t they invite Jessica Pratt to sing Semiramide ? She would have fitted it perfectly in those current circumstances .

    1. Lauren says:

      She has sung Semiramide in DC (Washington Concert Opera) and Florence, but not at the Met. I asked myself the same question as you, to be honest! She’s a really wonderful Semiramide.

      1. Alexander says:

        thank you for the information

  19. Elvira says:

    Diva material….not so fast!

  20. Edgar says:

    How wonderful would it be if someone could set all these comments to music. Would make a lovely opera buffa …

  21. Doug Barker says:

    I’ve heard both Sutherland and Pratt live as Lucia in Melbourne. Pratt almost rivals Sutherland’s technique but the voice itself could never excite to the same extent.


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