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Carol Neblett


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Somehow I missed the news of Neblett's death back in November, and only realized it when I saw a tiny "in memoriam" in the LA Times today, which would have been her 72nd birthday. She was a beautiful woman who could be electrifying at her best. I saw her many times at the NYCO, and later at the Met and Covent Garden, in a wide variety of roles: in Mefistofele, Prince Igor, Louise, Fliegende Hollaender, Tosca, etc. The most memorable was as Minnie in Fanciula del West in a gorgeous production at Covent Garden in the 1970s. Unfortunately, she could also be staggeringly bad on occasion; I remember one performance where there were murmurs in the audience that she must be drunk, and she certainly looked and sounded that way. It was an uneven career, but I am surprised that she passed with so little notice.

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Somehow I missed the news of Neblett's death back in November, and only realized it when I saw a tiny "in memoriam" in the LA Times today, which would have been her 72nd birthday. She was a beautiful woman who could be electrifying at her best. I saw her many times at the NYCO, and later at the Met and Covent Garden, in a wide variety of roles: in Mefistofele, Prince Igor, Louise, Fliegende Hollaender, Tosca, etc. The most memorable was as Minnie in Fanciula del West in a gorgeous production at Covent Garden in the 1970s. Unfortunately, she could also be staggeringly bad on occasion; I remember one performance where there were murmurs in the audience that she must be drunk, and she certainly looked and sounded that way. It was an uneven career, but I am surprised that she passed with so little notice.

I also just learned about this the other day and was likewise shocked. I never heard her in person, but I always considered her to be an uneven singer based on what I did hear. She could be sublime and then problematic. Yet as Charlie notes, based on her performances at Covent Garden she was proclaimed as one of the best Minnie's ever in La Fanciulla del West. In addition the DG recording based on that production not only received the Gramophone Magazine award for Recording of the Year in 1978, but has withstood the test of time as well.

 

0002894196402_600.jpg

IMG_0933_Sig_crop_46x20.jpg "Take it like a man!"
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I always found Ms. Neblett to be a fine soprano on recordings. I did read some negative reviews over the years she was performing but she was good to excellent in every broadcast I heard from the MET, Chicago Lyric, etc. She seemed to be a pretty savvy operatic actor, too, though I never saw her live. I do remember reading that she had some personal setbacks such as bad relationships, multiple divorces, emotional problems, etc. I also remember being especially impressed with a Chicago Lyric broadcast of Mozart's Don Giovanni in 1980 where Neblett sang Donna Elvira's aria Mi Tradi quell'alma ingrata, with unbelievable breath control that was so outstanding she seemed to never run out of air while singing almost impossibly long phrases most sopranos usually need to break up into shorter sections. She is also in my favorite studio recording of Korngold's Die tote Stadt with tenor René Kollo:

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Here is the hit tune from that recording:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRrLvKVF2ME

 

...and here is the link to her obituary, November 28, 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/obituaries/carol-neblett-dead-soprano-at-the-met-and-city-opera.html

 

TruHart1 :cool:

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How could I have forgotten that recording of Die Tote Stadt, which I used to listen to often? I also saw her live in the role at NYCO in 1975, with John Alexander, another good singer who could sometimes rise to greatness.

I agree with you completely about Mr. Alexander, whom I always felt was a truly great tenor, too often not receiving the praise he deserved at times. He had amazingly diverse repertoire, from Bellini (Sonnambula, Norma) to Wagner, (Meistersinger,Lohengrin) with a special affinity for Puccini, Verdi, Gounod and Massenet. He sang at the MET for 26 years, up until he had an unexpected heart attack at age 67, on December 8, 1990, when he was still actively performing. He was physically unimpressive and quite short, (5' 5" or less) and for most of his career in concerts, he wore an obvious toupee.

 

...from a Saturday Afternoon MET radio broadcast of La Sonnambula, 12/21/1968 with Joan Sutherland:

 

TruHart1 :cool:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ah the memories!! The star of the Zeffirelli La Boheme at the Met is the set especially the second act set but Neblett’s Musetta stole the show seemingly every time.

 

For reasons I can’t remember, I was backstage for one of her Toscas. Her Scarpia was the aging Sherill Milnes. During her impassioned Viste dArte Neblett inadvertently stepped backward moving the chair at the table back a few crucial inches. Upon stabbing her Scarpia, Milnes slumped in that chair which on cue tipped backward. Unfortunately those crucial inches put Milnes head in contact with the campaign cot stationed behind it. Later backstage I got to watch the angry tongue lashing Diva Neblett got from an angry Mrs.

Milnes.

 

Soon after her obit appeared, The Met channel on SeriusXM rebroadcast one of her Toscas. I’d forgotten what an electrifying performer she could be. She was sometimes beset by demons but when she wasn’t she was wonderful.

 

Requiesce in pace Diva Neblett.

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