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Edward Seckerson

Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is chief classical music and opera critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.

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Aida hits the heights

Posted by Edward Seckerson
  • Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 10:28 am
For collectors of operatic idiosycracies, the current revival of the so-called Zandra Rhodes “Aida” at English National Opera has thrown up a real humdinger. In two runs of performances now Claire Rutter has made an extraordinary impression in the much-vaunted and highly challenging title role. She sings the role with great subtlety, finesse, and imagination, making light of the extraordinary difficulties and reminding me, at any rate, of the number of times I have heard major international singers come a cropper in it - not least the notorious Nile Scene where Verdi sets hurdle after hurdle for the lyrico spinto soprano. Rutter didn’t receive nearly enough credit for her achievment, some commentators even suggesting that she had too light a voice for the role. Honestly, some people need a crash course in the basics of vocal fachs. The good news, though, is she is learning the role in Italian for her Australian Opera debut. But she could sing it a lot closer to home than down-under - anywhere in the world, I reckon, including the Royal Opera (take note).

But the real reason for this brief encomium is something which happened in the last gasps of the great Triumphal Scene ensemble. At first I thought I was hearing things - but then it became ringingly clear that Rutter was singing an interpolated high E-flat above top C, something which I have only ever heard on an old pirated recording of Callas in her reckless youth. Apparently ENO Music Director Edward Gardner did not approve during the initial run of performances but the revival conductor Gerard Korsten did! So there it was - something we will rarely, if ever, hear again… unless Rutter has her way. It was the buzz of the interval among aficionados - but I gather that not one of my colleagues noticed or mentioned it.

Comments

Aida
phil127 wrote:
Thursday, 27 November 2008 at 01:33 am (UTC)
I am the guy (or one of them...?) who asked you to confirm that I had heard Claire Rutter's thrilling top E flat correctly, so I am thrilled that you have highlighted her superb achievement in print. I have written to John Allison at Opera about it.
Many thanks
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Sunday, 17 February 2013 at 07:52 am (UTC)
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