Aprile Millo NYTimes article

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Aprile Millo NYTimes article

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:06 am




Can the Diva Who Once Ruled the Met Make a Comeback?

The soprano Aprile Millo thrilled audiences in the 1980s and ’90s, then receded from view. On Wednesday, she gives her first New York recital in 10 years.

By Zachary Woolfe

Jan. 29, 2019

“It’s so perfect, it makes you want to cry,” the soprano Aprile Millo said, her eyes getting moist just thinking about it.

She was sitting in a rehearsal room last week, talking about a song she was about to practice. It is on the program of her recital on Wednesday at Zankel Hall, her first in New York in 10 years.

But Ms. Millo could also have been describing her voice: an instrument of easy, opulent power and fiery yet sumptuous phrasing, a moving recollection of the great Italian singers who ruled 60 or 70 years ago.

It was a voice that thrilled the Metropolitan Opera through the 1980s and ’90s, when Ms. Millo was among the house’s reigning divas: the grandly emoting star of new productions, opening nights and TV broadcasts opposite Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

Then, at what should have been the height of her career, things petered out. Her Met performances grew less frequent; she hasn’t appeared with the company since 2007. Over the past decade, she has barely sung in public at all.

“There was a general feeling that her career had wound down at that point,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manger, said of her last performances.

But it hadn’t, and hasn’t — at least not if Ms. Millo has something to say about it. At 60, she has her heart set on returning to the Met.

“It’s not about voice; the voice has been functioning,” she insisted in an interview after the rehearsal. “But when you go through a lack of confidence, you’re not going to want to be anywhere.”

So the audience on Wednesday will be listening closely: to hear the singer still treasured as among the most authentic contemporary exponents of the great Verdian tradition, and to hear whether she still has what it takes to command the Met. Ms. Millo says her instrument is ready; it’s her nerves and her appearance — a bit more ample than in her heyday — that she feels still need work.

“I want it,” she said. “But I want to actually show up looking correct. I don’t want to offer excuses. My time will either come or it won’t. But I think God is moving me toward it.”

Born to a pair of singers in New York in 1958, Ms. Millo was that rarity: an operatic prodigy, her sound alarmingly mature when she was still in elementary school. The art form in her household was always wrapped up in transformation.

“They did the ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ duet,” Ms. Millo said, “and they were no longer Mom and Dad.”

Both parents and child embraced reinvention: Hamill was changed to Millo before she was born, and she turned April into Aprile, pronounced a-PREE-lay. She came of age on the West Coast, starring in musicals at Hollywood High School, then went on the classical competition circuit. She flourished.

Auditioning when she was barely in her 20s for the New York City Opera, where her father had sung in the 1940s (and which is presenting her recital on Wednesday), she was offered major contracts. Big roles beckoned in Europe, too. Ms. Millo instead chose to enter the young artist program at the Met, where she studied, bided her time and found a champion in James Levine.

A few outdoor performances of Verdi’s “Ernani” in the summer of 1984 excited connoisseurs, and her New York career was ready to ignite that December when she made an unexpected house debut — three weeks ahead of schedule — replacing a colleague in Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra.”

“It was like she came out of nowhere,” Michael Capasso, City Opera’s general director, recalled. “She sang that ‘Boccanegra’ — she was the cover — and the world was talking about her, literally overnight: ‘You’ve got to hear this woman.’”

Among the fiercely opinionated opera fans who were the company’s grass roots, she swiftly became so beloved that the stage-right column in the Met’s Orchestra-level lobby is still known by some as the “Millo pole,” where you’d rush at intermission to kibitz about her performances.

“For me,” the longtime artist manager and administrator Matthew Epstein said, “she was one of two female singers, what [the conductor Tullio] Serafin used to call vocal miracles, at the end of the 20th century: Borodina” — the Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina — “and Aprile Millo.”

“Aprile was a unique vocal phenomenon,” Mr. Epstein said. “And all of us who remembered what it was supposed to sound like love her very much for that.”

Not everyone was on board. “Some operagoers,” the critic Susan Elliott wrote in 1990, “are still debating whether Millo is the real thing, or merely a collection of diva mannerisms.”

But those “mannerisms,” vocal and physical gestures that might have seemed hopelessly old-fashioned coming from others, seemed, when Ms. Millo did them, the very embodiment of opera’s origins. This gave her performances an uncanny, seance-like aspect, even as they also felt wholly fresh — the voice healthy and secure — and deeply felt.

“There was a ‘Tosca’ performance,” Ms. Millo recalled, “and I left the stage, and I fully expected to see the Palazzo Farnese when I went through the door. I was truly there.”

She had triumphs through the Verdi canon — “Don Carlo,” “Il Trovatore,” “Aida,” “Otello,” “Un Ballo in Maschera,” “Luisa Miller” — as well as in “Tosca” and “Andrea Chénier.”

She starred in the Met premiere of Verdi’s “I Lombardi” in 1993, a run she points to as perhaps the start of her troubles. A deviated septum temporarily changed her hearing, making her, she said, “uncharacteristically cautious” and leading to rumors of vocal problems. A “Mefistofele” in 1999, canceled at the last minute when she had acid reflux after drinking lemonade, made her seem unreliable.

“And then we run into ‘You’re not glamorous enough,’ and I got heavy,” Ms. Millo said, fearing there was no place for her in an operatic culture increasingly focused on HD cinema broadcasts. She grew perilously indecisive about engagements.

“She is like every gifted artist: full of issues, full of fears,” Mr. Epstein said. “Aprile is gripped by fear, and it is very hard for her to get past it.”

Which is not to say she has been silent. She has given master classes and been generous with guidance for young singers, and has appeared in concert here and there. Mr. Gelb, who started at the Met in 2006, said, “Over the course of my tenure, I’ve received an occasional email from her, that she’s working toward getting back to singing and she’ll let me know when she’s ready.”

Is she?

“I feel that there’s still opera in her,” said Robert Lombardo, a veteran artist manager. “I don’t think she’s going to go out there and sing Giselda” — in “I Lombardi” — “but there are roles she can certainly get into the voice, and it depends on her will and how much she wants to do.”

He mentioned Cilea’s “L’Arlesiana,” and “Andrea Chénier.” “I think she still has a couple of miles left in her to do it the right way,” he said.

Mr. Gelb is more doubtful. “I think it’s unlikely,” he said, “given the length of time she’s been away and that she hasn’t been singing on major stages. But nothing’s impossible.”

“If she were to suddenly have the goods vocally to sing on the stage of the Met,” he added, “we would put her on the stage of the Met.”

And that is where Ms. Millo wants to be. “I would like to salute that house one more time,” she said. “Because it has great spirits and a need for something that is a little bit demented.”

“I don’t want it to end with: ‘She was great and she was on the scene; where’d she go?’” she added. “I want to end nicely. I want to have a good last act. The first act was so good; it would be nice to have a good last act.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/29/arts ... ankel.html

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Re: Aprile Millo NYTimes article

Post by maestrob » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:32 am

IIRC, in 2000 or 2001, Millo was scheduled to sing the triumphal scene from Aida with the Richard Tucker Gala in Lincoln Center, and a singer (Lisa Daltirus) who had just won my competition and sung the same music with La Selva in Carnegie Hall was in the audience when Millo canceled at the last minute, not sure of her high C. Daltirus was quickly put in place and sang Aida triumphantly to rave reviews: a big break which led her to other opportunities, and a continuing career!

Millo has always been a favorite performer: I still have her debut album somewhere. Wish we could be at her recital to cheer her on!

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Re: Aprile Millo NYTimes article

Post by lennygoran » Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:01 am

maestrob wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:32 am
Millo has always been a favorite performer: I still have her debut album somewhere. Wish we could be at her recital to cheer her on!
Brian a followup-Barone and Woofle discuss her performance.



Review: Aprile Millo Keeps Opera’s Old-School Flame Alive

By Joshua Barone and Zachary Woolfe

Jan. 31, 2019

Irish folk songs, princess gowns, a harp and 20 bouquets: The soprano Aprile Millo’s concert on Wednesday at Zankel Hall, her first solo program in New York in 10 years, had it all, and then some.

Ms. Millo, 60, who has rarely sung in public recently, says she still has her heart set on a return to the Metropolitan Opera, where she was among the reigning Verdi singers of the 1980s and ’90s. So this was something of a trial run, and for the raucously adoring audience it was an exposure to an artist — beloved as a keeper of the old-fashioned flame of Italian opera — that most people at Zankel hadn’t heard live in years.

[Can the diva who once ruled the Met make a comeback?]

Joshua Barone and Zachary Woolfe, two of our classical music critics, were at the event, presented by New York City Opera, and they compared notes on the unique experience.

WOOLFE So this wasn’t your average song program.

BARONE I couldn’t tell whether I was at a rock concert or a recital, with the cheers of “Millo, Millo!” and “We love you, Aprile!” It began with a rose thrown to the stage, and I counted no fewer than five standing ovations from her (very vocal) fans throughout the night. What throwback glamour!

WOOLFE Throwback glamour, too, in her gowns, which for the first half rendered her an emerald-color, Isolde-type medieval Irish queen and, after intermission, made her a sapphire vision out of “Frozen,” complete with glittery cape. She coughed; she drank from a water bottle; she cracked jokes; she announced that she was cutting the scheduled first-act aria from “Adriana Lecouvreur” because “Anna Netrebko sang it so beautifully I’m going to leave it to her.” And the crowd ate it up.

BARONE Her charisma certainly goes far, even if the banter pushed the evening to just over two and a half hours. And it made her all the more endearing that she wore reading glasses to read music from a stand, because, as she said, “Mother’s memory isn’t what it used to be.” But did you notice a disconnect between her ease speaking to the crowd and the palpable tension in the opening numbers, six Italian songs she assembled for a rough narrative about the arc of a relationship?

WOOLFE I don’t like speculating about what artists are feeling, but I can imagine that, after so many years away, she was a little nervous, to say the least. So no, I didn’t think that opening set really bloomed vocally. Throughout the evening, actually, her breath wasn’t ample enough to fill out long phrases; her tone in the middle was a little grainy, the low register cloudy. But there was some big, velvety sound in what I’d call the upper-middle range, and wistful eloquence when she went soft. The traditional Irish songs were lovely; I think everyone got the poignancy of “The Kerry Dance,” “gone, like our youth, too soon.”

BARONE Those four Irish tunes, delicately accompanied by the pianist Inseon Lee and the harpist Merynda Adams, were the highlight of the night, or at least when her allure as a recitalist was at its peak. Like a cabaret singer, she blended Irish-American family history and song — “The Kerry Dance” was even more moving because Ms. Millo said her mother used to sing it to her at night. In “Danny Boy,” her voice was raspy and not completely at ease in the lower range of the opening verse. But it blossomed, gloriously, into a moment out of Ms. Millo’s salad days, rising from a fine quiet into a lushly phrased climax: “I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow.”

WOOLFE I also thought there was steady passion in a set of Rachmaninoff songs, which she dedicated to the Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who died in 2017. She offered another tribute, to old-school italianità, with a spirit-seeing monologue from Licinio Refice’s “Cecilia,” a vehicle for the great soprano Claudia Muzio.

BARONE These tributes throughout the night were reminders of Ms. Millo’s former colleagues and another time, when she was the diva du jour at the Met Opera and accumulating the passionate fan base we saw screaming in support of her on Wednesday. The big question, of course, is whether — after being away from the Met for more than a decade — she’ll sing there again.

WOOLFE I don’t know if that’s in the cards; the soprano-baritone duet from Act III of “Aida,” while expressive at Zankel, didn’t make me confident that there was an evening-length leading role in her voice, at least not right now. But who cares? She could bring a lot of joy to people doing concerts like this. There is clearly an audience hungry for her charm, her phrasing, her sincerity, the community she’s gathered around her. (Her encore was a singalong “O Sole Mio.”) Those things can sometimes feel missing from the New York opera scene these days, and Wednesday conjured the art form as it’s meant to be: scrappy but also transcendent, both informal and grand. And brava for that.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/31/arts ... ankel.html

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Re: Aprile Millo NYTimes article

Post by maestrob » Sat Feb 02, 2019 11:12 am

Thanks Len for posting that. I'm sorry I couldn't be there. :(

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Re: Aprile Millo NYTimes article

Post by Rach3 » Sat Feb 02, 2019 6:43 pm

In other words, she won't be back at the Met ?

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Re: Aprile Millo NYTimes article

Post by Lance » Sun Feb 03, 2019 1:21 am

I, too, am SO SORRY, I could not be there for this recital. The repertoire is of a time ago - and a time I miss very much on the live concert stage. For Millo fans who could not be there, perhaps a two-CD set may come forth. I thought the reviewers were honest in their opinions and very much aware of how nervous an artist might be coming back after a decade. (Think of Horowitz coming back after his long-time absence. Talk about nerves!) I would not rule out that Aprile won't have another chance at the Met! I hope she had a wonderful time giving her audience this concert.
Lance G. Hill

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]


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