Musicus interruptus (2): Dame Joan loses the line

joan sutherland norma

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  • Seriously, Norman? You’re posting videos of some of the greatest musicians in history – who also happen to be human – making mistakes? In performances from decades ago? Why would you do this?

    Next breaking news: Brahms liked a drink followed by the revelation that Blomstedt once made a beating mistake..?

  • Time to enjoy some “un-photoshopped” live recordings. Mistakes like that happen and they are not the end of the world. We know the artist; we know their craft. We love them all the same.

  • Dame Joan! I thought we’d heard the last of her; wavering, warbling and never pronouncing a single intelligible syllable of libretto. Please don’t remind us of her – she was just a flute on legs.

  • Kudos to Dame Joan for admitting the error in such an obvious way rather than try to mask it unobtrusively.

    There is a tale of Callas cracking on a high note at the opening night at la Scala. As told to me, even as the audience was collectively gasping she immediately she raised her hand to stop the performance, walked down to the front of the stage, had a word with the conductor, returned to her stage position and restarted the aria. This time she hit the note right in the middle and her supporters went wild.

    I was at a concert in the 1980s when the great Jorge Bolet was performing Liszt #2. At the time, it was obvious something was wrong as he was all over the shop. It took a very alert conductor to keep the work together. We did not know he was suffering from HIV and the disease had started to take hold of his memory. So sad!

  • It is the problem with the recordings we live with: often completely engineered in studios. We forget the living and breathing art of live performance, the thrill, the risks, the “being on the edge of your seat experience”. Someone once said they’d rather hear Schnabel’s wrong notes in Beethoven than 10 other pianists’ correct ones. I remember hearing a masterclass with pianist David Wilde in Glasgow in the early 1980s and he asked a young pianist to play the slow middle movement of Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas once again – this time with a few healthy wrong notes. He reminded the audience of Schnabel’s guiding principle: “Safety last!”

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