Angela Gheorghiu's misfortune turned out to be Nicole Cabell's triumph. Cabell stepped in to sing the lead role in a concert performance of Gounod's Rom_o et Juliette at Berlin's Deutsche Oper with just a few hours notice last month when the Romanian superstar was too sick to perform.
The appearance added to the growing reputation of Cabell, a young American soprano who has earned plaudits around the opera world since winning the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2005. The Berliner Zeitung's review of Cabell's Juliet was typical of the way the German press greeted her appearance: "One quickly forgot that Angela Gheorghiu canceled at the last moment, as the American Nicole Cabell knew, after a timid start, how to fill with her voice the large space of the Deutsche Oper."
Deutsche Oper officials first reached out to Cabell the night before the cancellation, after Gheorghiu showed signs of illness and concern grew about her ability to sing. Cabell had just finished a run of performances of L'elisir d'amore in Montpellier, France, the day before and she was sightseeing with a friend who had flown in from California. Cabell had hoped to enjoy a few days of R-and-R before going to Berlin to rehearse the controversial Hans Neuenfels production of Mozart's Idomeneo. Instead, she cut short her Montpellier vacation and: with her friend from California in tow: raced to Berlin to rehearse Juliet.
Oddly, it was the second time in a month that Cabell was called on to substitute for a headliner. In early November, Broadway star Audra McDonald had to bow out of a Cincinnati Opera fundraising gala because of illness. Cabell, in the middle of series of performances of G‹recki's Third Symphony with the Minnesota Orchestra, flew to Cincinnati for the gala and then returned to Minneapolis to continue her engagement there. Next up for the young soprano is a CD on the Decca label, with the London Philharmonic and Andrew Davis, which is due out in a few weeks.
Angela Hewitt last month lent a hand to the folks raising money for a new concert hall in Ottawa, her hometown. The pianist donated a private music lesson to an online auction held by the Ottawa Chamber Music Society. Her lesson drew the highest, bid‹C$1,020 from a local resident. In total, the auction raised more than C$21,000 for the society and its planned home for chamber music, blues, jazz and folk music.
Gramophone magazine's 2006 Artist of the Year, Hewitt began a full 2007 schedule with a series of recitals in Italy, including one that drew 1,000 people to the cavernous Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. Bach: Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier: was on the program, which Hewitt describes in her web journal as a warm-up for her world tour later this year.
Hewitt has also been busy in the recording studio. A Rameau disc will be released in the United States next month and recordings of Bach's viola da gamba sonatas and music by Beethoven are due out this spring. Hewitt also plans to record all of Beethoven's cello-and-piano music (with Daniel M‹ller-Schott) and two of her favorite Schumann works, the F-sharp minor Sonata, Op. 11 and the Humoreske.
Denyce Graves has visited the White House on more than one occasion: in the past few years, the mezzo-soprano performed for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. So it was not much of a surprise that she sang at the funeral of former President Gerald R. Ford, who died on December 26.
Strangely, Graves was tipped off about Ford's declining health more than two weeks before his death. She told an Alabama newspaper in mid-December that she had received a call from Ford's representatives, asking if she would sing at his memorial. "President Ford's camp wanted to know if I could perform for his funeral," Graves said. "I said, 'Did he die? How did I miss that?' They explained that each president has to plan those things in advance. I said 'yes,' but in the meantime I'd be happy to sing for his birthday or something: under happier circumstances."
Prior to the Ford funeral, Graves spent part of the Christmas season in Reykjavik and environs, performing with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and enjoying the holiday spirit near the Arctic Circle with her daughter. In the next few months, Graves's engagements include Samson et Dalila with the San Diego and Florida Grand Operas and Carmen with the Greek National Opera. She also has a book deal in the works with Warner Books.
Yo-Yo Ma played at the inauguration of his old college friend, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. The two met as undergraduates at Harvard University when they both volunteered for a campus social organization. They became reacquainted about 15 years ago and have stayed in touch.
The inauguration was especially exciting for some young musicians. About 15 children aged 8 to 12, plus high school students from around Massachusetts, were selected to play along with the world-famous cellist.
Incidentally, this was not the first time Ma played at a swearing-in ceremony. He performed at inaugurations for both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Although he describes himself as apolitical, Ma has worked hard to build cultural ties around the world. Last year, he was appointed a United Nations messenger of peace.
Yundi Li's first concerto album is due out in February from Deutsche Grammophon. The young pianist plays works by Chopin and Liszt: two composers with whom he is closely identified ... Bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff's next disc will be his first foray into jazz. The CD includes new arrangements of popular standards such as "My Funny Valentine" and lesser-known tunes ... Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy will premiere Roberto Sierra's Songs from the Diaspora with the St. Lawrence String Quartet on January 31 at Penn State University. Later this season, Murphy will appear in the Metropolitan Opera's new productions of Puccini's Trittico and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice.