Mystery score

Mystery score

Friday, July 20, 2007

Jerry Hadley 3

Some of the comments on my initial blog posting about Jerry Hadley raise questions that I'd like to briefly discuss. These comments either stated outright or implied that discussing Hadley's singing and vocal technique were not appropriate under the circumstances.

I disagree with that.

Opera singers are public figures; their work is reviewed and discussed in the media all the time. Musicians are humans, and sometimes the reviews are going to be bad reviews. I think all performing musicians know this and, if they're going to survive in the music business, they have to find ways to deal with the reviews and the publicity, whether good or bad. The same very likely goes for their families.

I don't think that reviewers ought to be nasty or cruel about what they say. I've written some bad reviews, and even in those circumstances I try to find and comment on aspects of a performance that I liked or that I thought could have been built on to produce a better performance. I try to keep in mind that I'm writing about humans.

When a famous musician dies or retires, it's entirely appropriate to review and evaluate the totality of that musician's career. The evaluation can certainly include details of the musician's training and must cover the trajectory of the singer's career. The obituaries I've seen all allude to his vocal and personal problems. I think the comments various people made here about Jerry Hadley's teachers and vocal technique were appropriate, despite the very sad circumstances of his passing.

As far as my own evaluation goes, it's limited. I don't have any of his recordings, and I heard him in person only a few times. The first was in Tales of Hoffman in the 1996-97 season, and I thought him very good in what was one of the better productions of that year in the Civic Auditorium. He sang well and was delightful to watch. Next was Manon, with Ruth Ann Swenson in the title role. The whole cast came down with colds and, poor things, had to suffer with the deadly conducting of Julius Rudel. 'Nuff said, given all that.

Last was Louise, in 1999-2000 season. One commenter questioned my remark about "a bad moment or two" on Hadley's part. That bad moment, alas, amounted to the entire opening scene, a dialog between Julien and Louise. Throughout the opera, no amount of good musicianship and diction could disguise the fact that the part was written for a dramatic tenor along the lines of Thill. He was badly overparted and thus miscast. I put part of the blame for this on Lotfi Mansouri, who also happily cast Carol Vaness in roles too heavy for her, such as Tosca and Norma, which contributed to her vocal decline.

I can't do a full analysis of Hadley's career, given the above. Still, from reading what other writers have had to say about him, it certainly seems possible that he made some mistakes in choosing parts, and that those mistakes eventually took their toll on his voice and career.

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