Mirella Freni, Matchless Italian Prima Donna, Dies at 84

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
lennygoran
Posts: 16062
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Mirella Freni, Matchless Italian Prima Donna, Dies at 84

Post by lennygoran » Sun Feb 09, 2020 8:24 pm

Image

Image

Image

Mirella Freni, Matchless Italian Prima Donna, Dies at 84

Ms. Freni was acclaimed for her exquisite singing in lighter lyric roles. In midcareer she also dared to explore weightier ones.

By Anthony Tommasini

Feb. 9, 2020
Updated 2:54 p.m. ET

Mirella Freni, an exemplary Italian prima donna for nearly 50 years, whose voice was ideally suited to lighter lyric roles but maintained its bloom even as she took on weightier, more dramatic repertory in midcareer, died on Sunday at her home in Modena, in north-central Italy. She was 84.

She died after a long degenerative illness and a series of strokes, said J.F. Mastroianni, her longtime manager.

In the late 20th century, when opera was becoming increasingly internationalized, Ms. Freni was hailed as a last exponent of the great Italian operatic heritage.

“That tradition is ending,” Plácido Domingo was quoted as saying in a 1997 New York Times article about Ms. Freni. “Mirella is the end of a chain. After that you cannot see who really follows her.”

Many opera lovers acknowledged Ms. Freni’s special claim on this tradition, which valued bel canto principles of producing rich, unforced sound; of shaping even, lyrical lines across the range of a voice; and of sensitively matching sound to words.

In her early years Ms. Freni won acclaim for her exquisite singing in lighter roles like Bizet’s Micaëla in “Carmen,” Mozart’s Susanna in “The Marriage of Figaro” and Zerlina in “Don Giovanni,” and Verdi’s Nannetta in “Falstaff.” She sang those roles with a matchless blend of radiance, lyrical ardor and girlish pluck.

With her beguiling stage presence, quiet charisma and the affecting vulnerability she could summon in her singing, Ms. Freni made Mimì in Puccini’s “La Bohème” a signature part. She won international acclaim in the role in a landmark 1963 production at La Scala in Milan, directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Herbert von Karajan, who became one of her major champions.

Though vocal beauty and proper technique were central to the Italian tradition, Ms. Freni placed a premium on expressivity and feeling. Commenting on the state of opera in a 1997 interview with The Times, she said there were many young artists who sing well and move well. “But that is all,” she added. “Finito! I want something deeper.

“It is important to have emotion, to live through the music onstage,” she continued. “Also, the Italian singers have a special feeling for the language. Even when we speak it is musical.”

Yet she steadily expanded her repertory and, as the colorings of her voice grew darker with maturity, sang more dramatically intense and vocally heavy roles, like Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello,” Verdi’s Aida and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. She was particularly urged on this course by Karajan, who brought her to the Salzburg Festival to sing Desdemona and the demanding role of Elisabetta in Verdi’s “Don Carlo.”

With the support of her second husband, the Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, she ventured into Russian repertory, singing Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and Lisa in Tchaikovsky’s “Pique Dame.”

Yet Ms. Freni never lost the warmth and richness of her lyric soprano origins. Reviewing her performance in “Manon Lescaut” at the Met in 1990, The Times’s Donal Henahan marveled at her longevity and excellence.

“The wonder of Mirella Freni at this stage of her career,” he wrote, “is that she continues to sing Puccini with seemingly reckless ardor while preserving a surprisingly fresh and beautiful sound.”

Still, Ms. Freni considered herself a judicious soprano. She could say no, even to the imposing Karajan, if she though a particular role was not right for her. She recorded Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” twice, including a film version conducted by Karajan, but never performed the role complete in a staged production in an opera house.

“I am generous in many ways, but not when I think it will destroy my voice,” she said in a 2013 Opera News interview. “Some singers think they are gods who can do everything,” she added. “But I have always been honest with myself and my possibilities.”

She was born Mirella Fregni on Feb. 27, 1935, in Modena, eight months before Luciano Pavarotti was born in the same town. They would become friends and colleagues.

When Ms. Freni was 5, her uncle was playing a new recording of the Italian coloratura soprano Toti Dal Monte singing a melodically ornate aria from “Lucia di Lammermoor.” Young Mirella started singing along.

“I sang all the notes,” Ms. Freni recalled in that 1997 interview. “My family was amazed. But my father, who was a ‘barbiere,’ like Figaro, thought it was unnatural. He slapped me — with love, of course — and said, ‘What are you doing, stupid girl?’ I was so angry, I refused to sing another note for years.”

When she was 12, her uncle had her enter a national competition. Singing Puccini’s aria “Un bel dì,” Ms. Freni won. One of the judges, the great tenor Beniamino Gigli, cautioned her to go slowly. It was advice that she followed.

She made her professional debut in 1955 in her hometown as Micaëla in “Carmen.” Following a season with the Netherlands Opera, she began appearing in major houses and festivals, including La Scala, Glyndebourne in England and Covent Garden in London.

She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1965 as Mimì and returned regularly to sing, among various roles, Adina in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore,” Liù in Puccini’s “Turandot” and a new 1967 production of Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” opposite the star tenor Franco Corelli (with whom she recorded the opera splendidly the next year).

But she had been absent from the Met for more than 14 years when she returned in 1983 as Elisabetta in “Don Carlo,” with James Levine conducting and Mr. Ghiaurov as Philip II. In 1996 the Met mounted a production of a rarity, Giordano’s “Fedora,” for Ms. Freni and Mr. Domingo, garnering rave reviews for both. She sang more than 140 performances with the company in all.

In 2005, at 70, Ms. Freni sang in a production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Maid of Orleans” with the Washington National Opera. In May of that year the Met presented her in a gala celebrating the 40th anniversary of her company debut and her 50th year in opera. The performance was her unannounced farewell to the stage.

Ms. Freni’s first marriage, to the Italian conductor and pianist Leone Magiera, also from Modena, ended in divorce. She married Mr. Ghiaurov in 1978. He died in 2004. She is survived by her daughter, Micaëla Magiera; two grandchildren; and a sister, Marta Fregni.

In later years Ms. Freni found satisfaction in teaching. After she enjoyed success with master classes at the University of Bologna, the mayor of Vignola, a town near Modena, invited her to establish a center for the study of singing there. Housed in a medieval castle, it drew students from around the world.

“They set up a little ostello” — a cozy hostel — “for the students,” Ms. Freni said in a 2005 interview with The Times. “They never want to leave.” She offered guidance and encouragement, but also warnings to be careful.

“They all scream,” she said. “They can’t give expression to the phrase. They don’t give the right accent to the words.” She said that she told her students over and over, “Pazienza! You must wait.”

Asked whether she thought of herself as the “last prima donna,” as she was sometimes called, Ms. Freni demurred.

“You tell me why I am the last of a tradition,” she said. “I have done my job honestly. I have worked hard and with joy.”


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/arts ... -dead.html

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 18550
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Re: Mirella Freni, Matchless Italian Prima Donna, Dies at 84

Post by Lance » Mon Feb 10, 2020 12:43 am

What's happening? We seem to be losing many great artists and others in 2020 so far. One wonders what the rest of year may bring. Thankfully, Freni has a huge catalogue of recordings we can enjoy in her memory.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

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

Image

barney
Posts: 4384
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:12 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Mirella Freni, Matchless Italian Prima Donna, Dies at 84

Post by barney » Mon Feb 10, 2020 10:18 am

My best friend named his daughter Mirella, partly because the parents liked it and partly for the singer. It's a fascinating article.
RIP, a great loss.

jserraglio
Posts: 6472
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 7:06 am
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: Mirella Freni, Matchless Italian Prima Donna, Dies at 84

Post by jserraglio » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:10 am

Lance wrote:
Mon Feb 10, 2020 12:43 am
Freni has a huge catalogue of recordings we can enjoy in her memory.
A discog, thanks to a poster on rmcr . . .
Mirella Freni: discography
Includes studio recordings of complete operas & other works and one disc of opera excerpts.

Georges Bizet: Carmen
Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Franco Corelli, Robert Merrill
Vienna Boys Choir, Chorus of the Wiener Staatsoper, Wiener Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
Rec. November, 1963, Sofiensaal, Vienna
RCA, (P) 1964

Georges Bizet: Carmen
Grace Bumbry, Mirella Freni, Jon Vickers, Kostas Paskalis
Choeurs et Orchestre, Théâtre National de l’Opéra
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
Rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, 1969 & 1970
La Voix de son Maître/EMI, (P) 1970

Georges Bizet: Carmen
Jessye Norman, Mirella Freni, Neil Shicoff, Simon Estes
Choeurs et Maîtrise de Radio France
Orchestre National de France
Seiji Ozawa
Philips, (P) 1989

Arrigo Boito: Mefistofele
Mirella Freni, Montserrat Caballé, Luciano Pavarotti, Nicolai Ghiaurov
London Opera Chorus; National Philharmonic Orchestra
Oliviero de Fabritiis
Rec. 1980 & 1982
Decca, (P) 1984

Gaetano Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore
Mirella Freni, Nicolai Gedda, Mario Sereni, Renato Capecchi
Orchestra e coro del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
HMV/EMI, (P) 1967

Gaetano Donizetti: Don Pasquale
Mirella Freni, Gösta Winbergh, Sesto Bruscantini, Leo Nucci
Ambrosian Opera Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra
Riccardo Muti
EMI, (P) 1984

Charles Gounod: Faust
Mirella Freni, Michèle Command, Plácido Domingo, Thomas Allen, Nicolai Ghiaurov
Chorus & Orchestra of the Théâtre National de l'Opéra
Georges Prêtre
Rec. June 1978, Salle Wagram, Paris
HMV/EMI, (P) 1969

Charles Gounod: Mireille (excerpts)
Mirella Freni, Jane Rhodes, Alain Vanzo, Gabriel Bacquier, José van Dam
Orchestre et Choeurs du Capitole de Toulouse
Michel Plasson
La Voix de son Maître, France, (P) 1980

Charles Gounod: Roméo et Juliette
Mirella Freni, Franco Corelli, Xavier Depraz
Chorus & Orchestra of L’Opéra de Paris
Alain Lombard
Rec. 1968, Salle Wagram, Paris
EMI, (P) 1969

George Frideric Handel: Alcina
Joan Sutherland, Graziella Sciutti, Mirella Freni, Teresa Berganza, Monica Sinclair, Luigi Alva, Ezio Flagello
London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Bonynge
Decca, (P) 1962

Ruggiero Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci
Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti, Ingvar Wixell, Lorenzo Saccomani
London Voices; Finchley Children’s Music Group
National Philharmonic Orchestra, Great Britain
Giuseppe Patané
Rec. March & April, 1977, Kingsway Hall, London
Decca, (P) 1978

Pietro Mascagni: L’Amico Fritz
Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti, Vincenzo Sardinero
Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Gianandrea Gavazzeni
EMI, rec. 1968, (P) 1969

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
Jessye Norman, Mirella Freni, Yvonne Minton, Wladimiro Ganzarolli, Ingvar Wixell, Clifford Grant
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Colin Davis
Philips, (P) 1970

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni
Claire Watson, Christa Ludwig, Mirella Freni, Nicolai Gedda, Paolo Montarsolo, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Walter Berry, Franz Crass
New Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus
Otto Klemperer
Rec. June & July, 1966, Abbey Road, London
HMV/EMI, (P) 1966

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni
Martina Arroyo, Kiri Te Kanawa, Mirella Freni, Stuart Burrows, Richard Van Allan, Ingvar Wixell, Wladimiro Ganzarolli, Luigi Roni
Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Colin Davis
Philips, (P) 1972

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat mater
Mirella Freni, Teresa Berganza
Solisti dell Orchestra “Scarlatti” di Napoli
Ettore Gracis
Rec. Naples, 1972
Archiv Produktion, (P) 1972

Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut
Mirella Freni, Plácido Domingo, Renato Bruson
Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Philharmonia Orchestra
Giuseppe Sinopoli
Deutsche Grammophon, (P) 1984

Giacomo Puccini: Manon Lescaut
Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti, Dwayne Croft
Chorus & Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
James Levine
Decca, (P) 1993

Giacomo Puccini: La bohème
Mirella Freni, Mariella Adani, Nicolai Gedda, Mario Sereni, Ferruccio Mazzoli
Orchestra e coro del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
Thomas Schippers
Rec. 24-26 September, 1962, & 27 August, 1963, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma
HMV, (P) 1964

Giacomo Puccini: La bohème
Mirella Freni, Elizabeth Harwood, Luciano Pavarotti, Rolando Panerai, Nicolai Ghiaurov
Chorus of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan
Rec. Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin, October 1972
Decca, (P) 1973

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca
Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes
Wadsworth Boys’ Choir
London Opera Chorus
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Nicola Rescigno
Decca, (P) 1979

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca
Mirella Freni, Plácido Domingo, Samuel Ramey
Chorus of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden
Philharmonia Orchestra
Giuseppe Sinopoli
Deutsche Grammophon, (P) 1992

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly
Mirella Freni, Christa Ludwig, Luciano Pavarotti, Robert Kerns
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper, Wiener Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
Rec. January 1974, Sofiensaal, Vienna
Decca, (P) 1974

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly
Mirella Freni, Teresa Berganza, José Carreras, Juan Pons
Ambrosian Opera Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra
Giuseppe Sinopoli
Deutsche Grammophon, (P) 1988

Giacomo Puccini: Il trittico
Il tabarro
Mirella Freni, Giuseppe Giacomini, Juan Pons
Suor Angelica
Mirella Freni, Elena Souliotis
Gianni Schicchi
Mirella Freni, Roberto Alagna, Leo Nucci
Orchestra e coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Bruno Bartoletti
Decca, (P) 1994

Giacomo Puccini: Turandot
Montserrat Caballé, Mirella Freni, José Carreras
Choeurs de l’Opéra du Rhin
Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg
Alain Lombard
EMI, (P) 1978

Gioacchino Rossini: Guglielmo Tell
Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes, Nicolai Ghiaurov
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
National Philharmonic Orchestra, Great Britain
Riccardo Chailly
Decca, (P) 1980

Gioacchino Rossini: Petite Messe Solenelle
Mirella Freni, Lucia Valentini, Luciano Pavarotti, Ruggero Raimondi
Coro Polifonico del Teatro alla Scala
Leone Magiera, piano; Vittorio Rosetta, harmonium
Romano Gandolfi
Ars nova (Italy), (P) 1977
Decca, (P) 1981

Alessandro Scarlatti: Stabat mater
Mirella Freni, Teresa Berganza
Orchestre de chambre Paul Kuentz
Charles Mackerras
Archiv Produktion, (P) 1976

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
Mirella Freni, Anne Sofie von Otter, Neil Shicoff, Thomas Allen, Paata Burchuladze
Chorus of the Leipziger Rundfunk
Dresdner Staatskapelle
James Levine
Deutsche Grammophon, (P) 1988

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame
Mirella Freni, Maureen Forrester, Vladimir Atlantov, Sergei Leiferkus, Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Tanglewood Festival Chorus; Boston Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa
RCA, (P) 1991
Sony, (P) 2009

Giuseppe Verdi: Ernani
Mirella Freni, Plácido Domingo, Renato Bruson, Nicolai Ghiaurov
Orchestra e coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
Riccardo Muti
Edited from live performances rec. 7, 11, 14, 18, & 22 December, 1982
EMI, (P) 1983

Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata
Mirella Freni, Franco Bonisolli, Sesto Bruscantini
Chorus of the Staatsoper, Berlin
Staatskapelle Berlin
Lamberto Gardelli
Soundtrack of film for television
BASF, (P) 1973

Giuseppe Verdi: La forza del destino
Mirella Freni, Dolora Zajic, Plácido Domingo, Giorgio Zancanaro, Paul Plishka, Sesto Bruscantini
Orchestra e coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
Riccardo Muti
Rec. 6-15 July, 1986
EMI, (P) 1986

Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo, 4-act version
Mirella Freni, Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov, José Van Dam
Chor der Deutschen Oper, Berlin; Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
EMI, (P) 1979

Giuseppe Verdi: Aïda
Mirella Freni, Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli, Ruggero Raimondi
Vienna State Opera Chorus, Wiener Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
Rec. 1979, Wiener Musikverein
EMI, (P) 1980

Giuseppe Verdi: Messa da Requiem
Mirella Freni, Christa Ludwig, Carlo Cossutta, Nicolai Ghiaurov
Wiener Singverein, Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
Deutsche Grammophon, (P) 1972

Giuseppe Verdi: Simon Boccanegra
Mirella Freni, José Carreras, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov
Orchestra e coro del Teatro alla Scala
Claudio Abbado
Deutsche Grammophon, (P) 1977

Giuseppe Verdi: Otello
Mirella Freni, Jon Vickers, Peter Glossop
Chorus of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan
Rec. 30 April & 1-2, 22-27 May, 1973, Philharmonie, Berlin
EMI, (P) 1974

Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff
Ilva Ligabue, Mirella Freni, Giulietta Simionato, Alfredo Kraus, Geraint Evans, Robert Merrill
RCA Italiana Opera Chorus (Chorus of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma?)
RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra (Orchestra of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma?)
Georg Solti
RCA, (P) 1964
Decca, (P) 1970

maestrob
Posts: 7180
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Mirella Freni, Matchless Italian Prima Donna, Dies at 84

Post by maestrob » Mon Feb 17, 2020 11:24 am

Thanks for that!

I also have a live Figlia dal reggimiento (Donizetti) from Italy with a young and quite stunning Pavarotti on CD from the early 1960's. Wonderful!

I had forgotten that Freni recorded Micaela three times, one of her best roles.

Her husband Nikolai Ghiaurov was a client of ours at the NY Athletic club. He used to come in on Sundays, where he was waited on by a Hungarian gentleman who worked for me (My Russian was not up to the task.). He never brought Freni with him: I guess he preferred to shop alone. Ghiaurov was of less than average height, and would spend quite a bit of time talking to my salesman about opera and (carefully) about Hungarian & Bulgarian politics. He signed our guestbook, and was very courteous about it. We always played classical music for him when he was in the store.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 85 guests