VOICE OF LIGHT, JUNE ANDERSON IN FLORENCE - May 25, 2014
Al Maggio Musicale Fiorentino un cambiamento di programma dell’ultimo momento riporta June Anderson in Italia: programma diviso tra chansons francesi e songs statunitensi, con due bis rossiniani. Sempre immacolate l’autorevolezza della belcantista e la simpatia dell’interprete.
Florence (Italy), May 25, 2014 – Voci magnifiche e servite dal disco, ma anche tradite dal disco stesso. Voci che patiscono lo scherzo di eccedere le possibilità tecnologiche e di risultare dunque non fonogeniche. Càpita spesso ai soprani di coloratura: chi non le ha mai potute ascoltare dal vivo crede forse di recuperare nelle incisioni l’esperienza uditiva di Luciana Serra o di Edita Gruberova; tecnica e stile sono in effetti tramandati in modo attendibile, ma nessuna registrazione è finora riuscita a trattenere il calore timbrico della prima anche nell’arrampicarsi su per la terza ottava, né alcuna registrazione è riuscita a fissare l’emissione alata della seconda, grazie alla quale ogni nuovo suono sembra galleggiare sui precedenti non ancora estinti. È questo il caso anche di June Anderson: già maliosa in disco, dal vivo la sua voce ha una radiosità, un’effusione, un bagliore non alla portata dei microfoni, e che mai potranno essere immaginati da chi non l’abbia avuta davanti in carne e ossa. Per il vociofilo, così, diviene imperativo inseguirla da un teatro all’altro, anche oggi che la carriera si è assestata su ritmi meno frenetici ed è entrata nella pace di un autunno opulento e sereno.
Qualche santo protettore dei melomani ci ha messo lo zampino: nel cartellone del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino era annunciato, per il 25 maggio nel Teatro Goldoni, un recital del basso Vitalij Kowaljow; poi, a sostituirlo su due piedi, è arrivata la Anderson stessa, portando al séguito il pianista Jeff Cohen e un programma già presentato al Théâtre du Châtelet di Parigi. La ricca serie di brani si divideva in due filoni. Da una parte l’estenuata eleganza delle chansons francesi di Gabriel Fauré (Mandoline, Clair de lune, Les Berceaux, Après un rêve), Claude Debussy (Beau soir, Romance, Regret) e Francis Poulenc (Fancy, Priez pour paix, C, La Dame de Monte-Carlo). Dall’altra lo slancio e il languore dei songs statunitensi di Leonard Bernstein («Dream with me» da Peter Pan e «A little bit in love» da Wonderful Town), Stephen Sondheim («Green finch and linnet bird» da Sweeney Todd e «Losing my mind» da Follies), Kurt Weill («My ship» da Lady in the Dark di Ira Gershwin e Youkali, Tango Habanera di Roger Fernay) e Jerome Kern (Yersterdays da Roberta e «Can’t help lovin’ that man» da Showboat).
Molto Novecento, dunque, per una primadonna celebrata soprattutto nel belcanto italiano ottocentesco di Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini e Giuseppe Verdi. Qualche punto da sfatare c’è: la Anderson è laureata a pieni voti in lingua e letteratura francese, così da far sembrare meno insolito l’approccio a Fauré, Debussy e Poulenc; come ella stessa ha ribadito in prossimità del recital, poi, per un cantante statunitense intonare i songs di Bernstein & C. è tanto naturale quanto per un italiano intonare canzoni napoletane. Nello stesso tempo, soprattutto tra i francesi emerge la formazione belcantistica nel suo senso più asciutto: l’innato sfolgorio della voce della Anderson tocca ogni brano in modo affine, con uniforme bellezza di suono valida a ogni fine estetico ed espressivo; tutto è riposto nella contemplazione delle note, mentre le parole, anche quando siano firmate da Paul Verlaine o da Jean Cocteau, paiono mero supporto di un discorso musicale più importante. Non è sbagliato: qui il gioco è della Anderson, e le regole sono dettate da lei.
Altra questione e di segno opposto è quella dei songs americani: assestati su una tessitura vocale più mediana e destinati a una fruizione più popolare, in essi la Anderson depone l’astratto involo liberty e gioca tutto sulla parola ammiccante, ironica, viva a costo di stropicciare un timbro tanto immacolato e un legato tanto aristocratico. Come spesso accade, gli assi sono calati al momento dei bis, tra gli applausi devoti di un pubblico sparuto poiché allertato all’ultimo momento: la primadonna torna al trono della grande rossiniana, da una parte porgendo omaggio al capoluogo toscano con l’aria da camera La fioraia fiorentina, dall’altra (e soprattutto) appendendo al proprio canto il sospiro dell’uditorio con la preghiera di Anna Erisso nel Maometto II. Lì, in «Giusto Ciel! In tal periglio», qualche acuto si è fatto più aguzzo rispetto a un tempo, ma i gruppetti sono svolti con una liquidità inarrivabile, e l’autorevolezza d’accento è quella di chi ha dominato le scene al culmine della Rossini-Renaissance. Bentornata, voce di luce!
A few quotations...
Peter Katona, Artistic Administrator at Covent Garden
Dr. Eddie Khambatta, laryngologist and voice expert
June Anderson in NORMA, Toronto, March 31, 2006
A beautiful display of the singing art
Vincenzo Bellini's Norma, the eighth and most famous of his 10 operas (he died a few months before his 34th birthday) is the quintessential vehicle for demonstrations of the legendary musical and dramatic art of bel canto. In the absence of such art, Norma may as well not be performed. In the presence of it, Norma becomes one of the glories of Italian operatic theatre.
Norma is currently having a more than presentable revival by the Canadian Opera Company. Thus, you may gather, the art of bel canto is present in it. Indeed, the opening performance Thursday night amounted to a vocal and histrionic triumph for the American soprano June Anderson, in the title role as the Druidic high priestess of Gaul(...)
Bel canto is a term too often bandied about, but it does mean what it says: beautiful singing, but beautiful as distinct from merely pretty; beautiful not only in its musical sensitivity and accuracy of pitch in the face of extreme vocal challenges devised by the composer, but also in its penetration and detailed communication of the emotions encompassed in the music and drama. It was all this that June Anderson's Norma comprehended and conveyed.
Elena Prokina, the Russian soprano originally scheduled to sing this Norma, was forced to cancel due to severe bronchitis. It is difficult to imagine the COC's being more fortunate in Prokina's last-minute replacement than in the utterly stylish, musically intelligent, vocally secure and adept Anderson, who also, as a bonus, looked the part: feminine, classy and dignified. I doubt there's been a markedly better Norma since Callas and Sutherland.(...)
The opera itself came off as the singing art Bellini intended it to be, with a proper Norma radiant at its centre. Don't miss it.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Soprano superb as Norma
(...) Beautiful arias and duets follow each other in grand procession. And the title role is a jewel for any soprano diva's crown.
So it's fitting that the Canadian Opera Company has chosen this great musical play as one of the two closing works in its last season at the Hummingbird Centre. And how very special that one of the great contemporary Normas, American soprano June Anderson, is present to bring down the house.
The production, a remount of the opera company's 1988 effort, is a sturdy one, mixing a fairly abstract set with a straightforward, traditional staging. There are five stagings left after last night's opening, which was one of this music season's memorable evenings.
Anderson, a late addition to the cast, has a remarkable dramatic presence. And while she's now in her early 50s, her voice is in excellent form, if perhaps not quite as flexible as it once was. Anderson captures the full conflict that besets Norma (...).
The American soprano also captures the role's intimate side, first shown in the famous aria "Casta diva," which invokes the goddess of the moon. Anderson alone is worth the price of admission.(...)
In other words, this Norma is a tragedy to celebrate.
Classical music critic
June Anderson in the title role of Daphne (Richard Strauss) at La Fenice, Venice (Italy), June 2005
The performance seemed to me an absolute triumph for June Anderson. At a career stage where she could reasonably be expected to scale down effort, ambition and new projects, she has instead taken the admirable decision to continue expanding her artistic range - as this first-ever Daphne (follow-up to her recent first ever Capriccio Countess) demonstrated. The voice took a while to come into focus, particularly in its lower ranges, but once it did the singing offered countless ravishments : crystalline timbre, clean-cut line-delineation, dead-on-target intonation, awesomely easy projection of one perilously exposed high phrase after another. Anderson may not be the young girl of the myth or the libretto, but her stage presence is at once authoritative and intelligently managed : only sharp-cut verbal projection was lacking. Which ceased to matter during the floating of the final laurel-tree vocalise, a moment of time-stopped operatic magic.
Opera, November 2005
THE BASSARIDS by Hans Werner Henze
Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, April 15, 2005
Washington Opera, September 6, 2003
Soprano June Anderson sang with warmth and brilliance as Rosalinde, and even delivered the showpiece "Czardas" in Hungarian (the rest of the opera was presented in English).
Tim Page, Washington Post, September 8, 2003
June Anderson in ANNA BOLENA, Pittsburgh Opera
Only one singer in the cast, soprano June Anderson in the title role, was able to consistently draw in the audience. In her role debut as Anne Boleyn, already she has an uncanny feel for the part. Anderson centered on a fascinating, fully human portrayal of the Queen, bringing to the fore the myriad emotions this poor woman goes through, either caused by her past mistakes or by the cruel hand of Henry VIII. Disbelief, fury, guilt, panic and serenity were just some of the emotional states Anderson cultivated with artful accuracy through body language and a flexible voice. In the Tower scene, her singing of "Al dolce guidami" was spectacularly done, flooded with deep, complex emotions.
By Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette Classical Music Critic
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 16, 2000
Anderson sparkles at Baalbek, and an orchestral weekend looms June's sensual magic
Against the majestic backdrop of the Bacchus temple at Baalbek on Thursday, soprano June Anderson's voice evoked a rare magic. She sang with purity, fullness, and ravishing beauty, bringing something extraordinarily tender and human to the imposing surroundings. Alone of the vocal performances so far this summer, there was no need for amplification. The contact between Anderson and the audience was immediate and unaltered, creating a circle of intimacy. The word "diva" literally means something divine. In a draped coral-colored gown, Anderson seemed a sensual, golden-haired goddess in perfect harmony with the illuminated ancient columns. She caught the crowd off guard by arriving on stage on time, and began her first aria even before a good part of the audience had taken their seats. No matter. From the opening of Cesti's "In torno all'idol mio", her radiant, natural musicality commanded silence. Anderson claims to prefer opera performances to recitals, because she likes the drama and theatrical trappings. Yet she is able to embody place, mood, and character without a single accessory. In Paisiello's 18th century aria, "Il mio ben quando verra", she was a trembling young woman, searching to glimpse her lover. By contrast, in the Rossini songs, she was full of burlesque humor. Apparently informed of the prayer schedule, Anderson left the stage for a few moments to await the end of the muezzin's call. The last aria before intermission, "D'amor sull'ali rosee" (from Verdi's Il Trovatore), was painfully tender, as Anderson's long musical lines and commitment created a deeply moving moment. The second half of the program transported us from Italy to France and the United States. Anderson reveled in the seductive colors of this repertoire. Especially in Bizet's setting of Victor Hugo's poem, "Adieux de l'hotesse arabe", she drew a picture of forbidden passion, taking a languid tempo and exploiting the somber harmonies. The pair of songs by Poulenc were playful. Anderson's wit and sense of French chic were captivating, giving Poulenc an airy, modern quality. Kurt Weill's "Youkali" demanded an intoxicated cabaret-style, reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich. Anderson got right into the mood. On the last work, "Glitter and Be Gay" from Bernstein's "Candide", her voice easily glided up to the high Eb, flexibly negotiating the syncopated, jazzy rhythms. She captured the bitter-sweet humor of the alternating passages of remorse and carefree gaiety, "If I'm not new, at least my jewels are!" Anderson returned for two encores: Gershwin's gorgeous "Summertime" and a stunning 19th-century French aria. Pianist Jeff Cohen was a sensitive partner. There was a natural balance between voice and piano, and in the Paisiello and the Rossini, the piano even seemed to sing. There is very little to fault in Anderson's artistry. Her sound is never forced, her phrases long and sumptuously lyrical, her coloratura ornamentation masterful. Her approach to the Italian songs is strikingly original. In contrast to the effervescence of Cecilia Bartoli, who has recorded a similar repertoire with great commercial success, Anderson's interpretations are more subtle, mature and elegant. At times one might wish for a more dynamic tempo, as Anderson tends to bathe us in the sheer beauty of sound, rather than exhilarate us with energy. But she has the emotional depth to bring out the pathos of a Verdi tragic heroine, plus the sensuality to toss off Candide. Just one question remains: "Are there still tickets for Saturday night?"
The Daily Star - Lebanon, July 29, 1999
June Anderson followed up Thursday's Bacchus recital with a triumphant performance on Jupiter's steps. In Saturday's concert with the Armenian Philharmonic orchestra, under the baton of Loris Tjeknavorian, the Boston-born soprano was again a commanding dramatic presence who showed a stunning vocal power. Both Tjeknavorian and Anderson privately expressed pre-concert doubts that they had sufficient time to prepare for an open-air concert where musicians lack the concert-hall resonance that aids timing and coordination. These doubts were testimony to their profound professionalism. In practise, the experience and talent of the pair plus the orchestra carried the day, even though the first half of the concert was marred by problems with the sound system. There was also a delay at around 9.15 pm just before Puccini's "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from "La Rondine" as two loud muezzins' calls to prayer drifted in on the powerful Bekaa wind. With magnificent dignity, Anderson remained offstage until the calls had finished. In the second half of the concert, what sounded like Arabic reggae presumably coming from a restaurant was very audible as the orchestra played the overture from "La Forza del Destino". The cacophony again surfaced as Anderson sang "Ombre legere" from Meyerbeer's "Dinorah". But in one of those strange, timeless moments that can happen with great musicians live in concert, the duet between Yevgeny Noninyan's flute and Anderson's voice was totally beguiling so outstanding that it prompted the presentation of a bouquet to the soprano well before the concert's end. "This concert was one of the highlights of my career", said Tjeknavorian, who had been suffering from a headache just minutes before the concert. "I was delighted with the way the orchestra played "La Traviata" in such a slow and tragic way". Anderson, who wore a flowing dress bought earlier in the day in Baalbek, directed the audience's fulsome applause toward Tjeknavorian and the orchestra. She has sung in the world's leading opera houses. But rarely, I suspect, has June Anderson performed in such strange circumstances. "I sing the same way whether I'm in my living room or at the Metropolitan in New York", she said last week. Little could she have known how true her words would be.
The Daily Star - Lebanon, July 31, 1999
I Lombardi alla prima crociata recording, Verdi : PAVAROTTI AND ANDERSON INVOLVED IN PASSIONS OF A "GALLEY-SLAVE"
[...]Although it is Pavarotti's photograph which features on the slipcase, the opera to a greater extent revolves around Giselda, who is filled with Christian compassion and loathing for the bloodshed she sees around her. June Anderson responds to Verdi's detailed writing for the character with affection and passion. She soars lyrically above ensembles and negociates tricky coloratura passages with ease.
Timothy Ball, Classic CD Magazine, November 1997
First Callas - Now Anderson!
Norma, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Treacherous to negociate! Intoxicating to hear!
This is Norma - the Mount Everest of soprano roles that only the best and the bravest dare try!
Such a paragon is June Anderson, whose awesome vocal prowess allows her to leap to clarion high C's in a single bound, whipping audiences "into a frenzy of confetti-throwing enthusiasm." Wall Street Journal
For the first time on any stage, this great artist takes on the pagan Druid priestess - who plunges from ecstasy to despair after forsaking her wows of chastity for a handsome Roman proconsul, only to have him abandon her and their children to pursue her closest friend!
From the Lyric Opera of Chicago's 1996-1997 season brochure
From John von Rhein's review in the Chicago Tribune, without comment, of last night's Norma premiere (February 6th, 1997):
The new production succeeds magnificently ... Blood, hatred, love, jealousy, vengeance, beautiful music and wonderful singing -- all the things that make life worth living -- are in the Lyric Opera's new production of Norma.
Conklin's staging is inspired ... less quirky than some of his work the setting has been fast-forwarded to the early 19th century ...
Mostly diverting though the staging is, it is the singing that is the main attraction in this Bellini opera and, on that score, the new production is close to an unqualified success.
One has to give June Anderson credit, for not only taking on such a tough role at this stage of a comfortably settled career, but -- amazingly -- pulling it off so well. If the supreme challenge of "Casta Diva" lacked an evenness of line with high notes rather effortful, the Boston-born soprano seemed to gather her vocal powers as the evening wore on. By the second act, Anderson's clear, bright upper range was at its clarion best, the soprano singing with strength and nuanced sensitivity ... dramatically, Anderson was exceptional, drawing out all of the conflicting emotions with an intensity tempered by dignity.
In his Lyric debut, Richard Margison managed to avoid the dramatic pitfalls and make more out of this thankless character than most. While he may be short of stature, Margison lacks nothing in vocal prowess, and the Canadian's easy vibrant singing and richly heroic timbre were balms to the ears scorced by 3 Tenors-esque "can-belting."
More than a few eyebrows were raised over the fact that the Lyric has known for months about mezzo Olga Borodina canceling as Adalgisa ... and opted for the easy and inexpensive route of getting a Lyric Center alum, rather than engaging a bigger name for such a major role ... as it turned out, Robynne Redmon filled the role of Adalgisa, with aplomb. If her rather matronly timbre lacked something in tonal allure, Redmon's singing gave little cause for complaint."
June Anderson's first outing as Norma, at Lyric Opera of Chicago, had to be reckoned a qualified success.
CHICAGO The main attraction of Lyric Opera of Chicago's first Norma in twenty-nine years (Feb. 6) was not the new production by Colin Graham and John Conklin; it was June Anderson's first assumption of the Druid priestess on any stage. These are hard times for bel canto, and her Norma had to be reckoned a qualified success. The qualities that make the American soprano special in this repertory, especially her brilliance and flexibility in fioriture, are less relevant here than with other bel canto heroines she has ventured onstage, and her tone in the upper-middle range had an oddly bleached quality. More crucially, she lacked the tonal weight and color for Norma's fury against the faithless Pollione.
Still, much of Anderson's singing gave pleasure: top notes shining and secure, the voice gaining strength and poise as the performance progressed. Imperious nobility came less readily than tenderness and vulnerability, qualities memorably displayed in the scene where Norma pondered infanticide over the beds of her sleeping children. The languorous "Casta Diva," complete with subtly embellished da capo, was transposed down a tone, as was the Norma-Adalgisa duet, in which Anderson and Robynne Redmon matched voices beautifully. The soprano declined the high D at the end, though she sounded as if she could easily have managed it. Dramatically, she contented herself with striking Junoesque poses and looking glamorous in Martin Pakledinaz' costumes.
Redmon lacked the last degree of vocal charisma one expects from Norma's rival, and her consonants often emerged mushy. While deferential to the diva, Redmon brought an appealing girlish timbre to this music. In certain respects, however, the real star was Richard Margison as Pollione. Never mind that he didn't act much, or that he looked more like a roly-poly Napoleonic officer than a Roman proconsul in the production's odd costumes: his hefty, plangent tenor moved easily and without strain over an ample range.
For reasons not at all clear, Graham and Conklin updated the opera to roughly the time of the opera's Milan premiere, 1831. The central assumption -- that a cult of French Druids had managed to survive into the Napoleonic era -- did not hold up, especially with projected titles and program notes referring to "Roman-occupied Gaul." Graham could do little with the action beyond moving traffic, awkwardly, within a mini-Stonehenge flanked by a blasted Herne's Oak that glowed red just in time for the lovers' immolation. Among other oddities, the Druid warriors wore Russian-style fur hats, boots and greatcoats, and the high priest Oroveso slit the throat of a sacrificial victim while singing his aria, which Carlo Colombara accomplished without missing a beat. Conductor Carlo Rizzi brought the musical performance alive in fits and starts. He knew how the opera should go, and why, but he indulged the singers too much, particularly the leading lady. The hard-working chorus sang capably but without distinction.
John Von Rhein
Opera News, June 1997
ERNANI at Carnegie Hall, New York, on Sunday, April 6, 1997
[...] The role of Elvira has a darkness that suits Ms. Anderson's voice very well. I can't remember her singing to such good effect in recent years [...]
Bernard Holland, The New York Times, April 8, 1997
Adopted Daughter Of an Entire Regiment
La Fille du Régiment, Metropolitan Opera, November 1995, with Luciano Pavarotti
In their different ways, both principals demonstrated palpability ans substance.[...]
Ms. Anderson's take on Marie is a legitimate one. Winsome charm is at a minimum; tomboy toughness takes over. The role is, of course, one of the coloratura soprano's richest gold mines. Ms. Anderson takes its long series of hurdles with courage, adventure and cool beauty of singing.
The New York Times, November 6, 1995
'La Traviata' is memorable, by John von Rhein
With the Chicago Symphony's Verdi Requiem still ringing in our ears, Lyric Opera capped off a memorable Verdi weekend Saturday night at the Civic Opera House with a compelling new production of "La Traviata".
The lady of the camellias proved an eminently suitable guest of honor for a season-opening gala at Lyric: lavish, colorful, tuneful, romantic and, above all, Italian. That she gave the company one of its finest opening nights in recent memory owed primarily to several factors, notably the extraordinarily moving Violetta of June Anderson, Frank Galati's sensitive direction and the handsome, dramatically apt designs by Desmond Heeley. But this was a "Traviata" in which every aspect - singing, acting, conducting, stagecraft - signaled a true team effort and served to breathe musical and dramatic freshness into a familiar opera.
Heeley's painted forecurtain rises on a Paris salon that perfectly mirrors the hedonistic lifestyle Violetta will soon renounce, a grand, if somewhat corroded, palace of pleasures that has seen too many vulgar parties. With the third act we are back in the salon, now a barren, deserted sickroom over which death stands chill vigil, thanks in no small measure to Duane Schuler's atmospheric lighting.
Galati neatly foreshadows the courtesan's consumptive end in the opening freeze-frame, paints the interaction of character with telling psychological strokes and generally trusts the composer to tell the story his way.
The show belongs, of course, to Violetta Valery. Anderson quite simply has done nothing finer for Lyric Opera. She internalized every emotion of the role with her usual intensity and conviction, from desperate gaiety to startled joy at her first stirrings of love for Alfredo, right on through to her deathbed scene, which tugged mightily at the heartstrings of even the most jaded opera-goers Every dramatic gesture seemed careful thought out, yet nothing appeared mannered or merely gratuitous. The soprano's bright tone tended to lose color and body at the highest climaxes, around C and D-flat. But her fiorature were uniformly true, she was able to project easily throughout the theater even when singing softly (how beautifully she floated the bel canto line of "Addio, del passato," giving us both verses of the aria), and she commanded the audience's sympathy like the canny singing actress she is. Anderson's Violetta lives up to the great Lyric tradition.
JUNE ANDERSON'S CAREER
JUNE ANDERSON'S DISCOGRAPHY
JUNE ANDERSON'S OPERATIC REPERTORY
JUNE ANDERSON'S UPCOMING SCHEDULE