An Interview with Virginia Zeani

Legendary for her voice and her startling beauty, Virginia Zeani
has the unmistakable presence of a great diva. Eighty-six years have not
diminished the brilliance of those Elizabeth Taylor eyes, the erect posture,
the dark music of that Romanian accent.

Post-performances of the Palm Beach Opera, there is always the whispered
question, “What did Zeani think?” A great teacher after her illustrious
career, she is analytical and was happy to share her impressions of the recent
PBO production of La Cenerentola, after admitting she might be
prejudiced in favor of the mezzo-soprano who sang the title role, Viveca
Genaux, who is one of many Zeani students now starring on international stages.
Here are some of Zeani’s observations:

Cenerentola is an opera that can be staged quite successfully in
two very different ways — one tender and romantic, one stylized and comedic.
This production, from Erhard Rom of the Minnesota Opera, was the latter, and
quite charmingly done. The collaboration of conductor Will Crutchfield and
director Mario Corradi followed that theme with lively tempi and lots of humor,
without making it a total “pochade”, or joke. Crutchfield’s background
and thorough preparation always informs his musicality.

Genaux_Steiner.gifViveca Genaux [Photo by Christian Steiner]

“I was very happy with Viveca (Genaux), whose technical security enabled
her to sing all three consecutive performances of this demanding role with
beautiful, creamy tone. She has very correct agility for the coloratura, and a
good figure as well — I liked that she was playful and sang with personality.
This is a quality I find lacking in many modern singers. Sometimes I am really
shocked at the ugly faces they make.

“On the other hand, the so-called ‘ugly’ sisters — Alexandra Batsios
as Clorinda and Shirin Eskandani as Tisbe — were very good vocally, and ugly
in the way Rossini intended, mean and silly of character.

“Rene Barbera lacks the physical stature of the ideal Ramiro (Prince
Charming) but made up for it with confidence, secure high notes and nimble
fioritura. Bruno Taddia as a clown-wigged Dandini was a very amusing actor,
choosing to emphasize wit over vocal emission. Bruno Pratico was an impressive
Don Magnifico, and Matthew Burns made some nice magic as Alidoro.

“Overall, I enjoy the Palm Beach Opera productions. They are traditional,
usually as the composer desired, they find excellent artists and understand how
to please their audience.”

When asked to expound on the challenges of bel canto singing, Mme.
Zeani added some interesting thoughts.

“Of course one has to work on the agility, the purity of intonation, the
‘tricks’ of trills, roulades, staccato, attack. But singers today often
forget what was, for me, most important; the expression, the phrasing, the
emotion. I always worked hardest on coloring the tone while keeping the legato.
Even bel canto is more than just beautiful tone — the beauty of
expression must be there, not only in the voice but in the face, the body, even
the eyes.”

Ariane Csonka

image_description=Virginia Zeani [Source: Wikipedia]
product_title=An Interview with Virginia Zeani
product_by=By Ariane Csonka
product_id=Above: Virginia Zeani [Source: Wikipedia]