There is finally a Number 4 in my pantheon of idols.
First was Italian Cecilia Bartoli who I made myself a complete fool over. I traveled many times to Europe to see her. I had a friend to visit in the city where she performed, if that's any excuse. The last time I flew for her was for Norma in Salzburg. I gave her I lot of advice which she mostly ignored. She tried to get me into arguments, but she scared me. I was there only for love. She seems to have finally forgiven me. We met accidentally in the aisle of the Salle Playel where she smiled and squeezed my hand. She is a very special person whom I love and respect. She has achieved true greatness. The picture is Cecilia in makeup for Ariodante at Salzburg.
Then came Russian Anna Netrebko whom I traveled only to Los Angeles to see in Manon. I wanted to be sure I didn't miss it, though it later came out on DVD through a performance of the same production in Germany. That performance is still my favorite. My second favorite performance is Il Trovatore with Dmitri at the Met. She performed many times for us at the San Francisco Opera, making travel unnecessary. Cecilia and Jonas have sung in California but never on the stage of the San Francisco Opera. Anna is a Merolini. We also see her often on the Met live in HD. I don't recall giving Anna advice. She is on another level. The picture is a shot of Anna in the described Manon production.
Third was German Jonas Kaufmann whom I first saw by accident in Fidelio in Zurich when I was visiting to see Cecilia. I called him "a Florestan to die for." This is part of the reason I would have liked to see him in Fidelio again. Over the years I have enjoyed many wonderful performances by him, even if I have only traveled when he was performing in the same city as Cecilia. One such performance was the magnificent Werther in Paris. The picture is from the recent Aida from Paris where they have removed his beard and curls. Perhaps military officers are not allowed beards. He came to the Bay Area for a concert, but never appeared at the opera. After many years, I have finally thought of some advice. He is the gold standard for pronunciation in any of the major singing languages, so no advice there. His hoch Deutsch is impeccable and beautiful to hear. I just am not enjoying his current interest in crooning. Anyone can do that.
You should notice that this is an enormous variety of voices and styles. I love only the complete performer.
I recently turned 80, a traumatic event. Suddenly I remembered a song I heard once in Germany. "Ich moechte noch einmal verliebt sein. Wie damals, wie siebzehn, im Mai." "I want once more to fall in love, like then, like 17, in May." And then suddenly I did. At this age I didn't think it possible. The door to my heart lies always through singing. So we arrive at who must be considered our official Number 4: Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen. It is an irrational passion which I would prefer not to humiliate myself over. This may prove impossible. [Too late?] I am, after all, quite silly at times. All my friends say do it. She demands respect, and I wish always to show her the respect I feel. Lise seems to be intelligent and well advised. When she speaks about her art, she shows great understanding. Her big voice is extraordinarily beautiful. So far I have seen her on film in Ariadne auf Naxos from Vienna, Fidelio from the Royal Opera, and Tannhäuser from Bayreuth.
This picture comes from Pique Dame at the Met which I wish it was possible to see.