Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky
Widely regarded as the world’s foremost contralto, Poland’s Ewa Podleś' engagements include the Metropolitan Opera (La Cieca in Ponchielli's La Gioconda), Seattle Opera (title role of Händel’s Giulio Cesare, Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma and Erda in Wagner’s Ring cycle); San Diego Opera (Cesare; Marquise de Berkenfield in Donizetti's La fille du Régiment); San Francisco Opera (Principessa in Puccini's Suor Angelica), Canadian Opera Company (Cesare, Jocasta in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, Klytämnestra in Richard Strauss' Elektra and title role of Rossini’s Tancredi); Houston Grand Opera (Ulrica in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera and the Marquise); Dallas Opera (Bertarido in Händel’s Rodelinda and Erda); Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera (Azucena in Verdi’s Il Trovatore), Michigan Opera Theatre (Ulrica), Opéra de Monte Carlo (Ježibaba in Dvořák’s Rusalka, Countess in Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame), Madame de la Haltière in Massenet’s Cendrillon at Paris’ Opéra Comique, Barcelona’s Teatro Liceo and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Minnesota Opera (Malcolm in Rossini’s La donna del lago) and Klytämnestra in Warsaw and Nice. Current highlights include a concert at the Rossini Opera Festival of Pesaro, the Marquise at Madrid’s Teatro Real, Erda in Siegfried at the Teatro Liceo, Babulenka in Prokofiev’s The Gambler in Monte Carlo and a return to New York’s Caramoor Festival for Madame de Croissy in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. Previous Caramoor appearances have included the title role of Rossini’s Ciro in Babilonia, Tancredi, and Azucena in Verdi’s Il Trovatore. In addition she has sung principal roles at the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin and Deutsche Oper Berlin; Frankfurt Alte Oper; Teatro Bellini; La Scala; La Fenice; Teatro San Carlo; Warsaw’s National Theatre; Théâtre Châtelet and Opéra Bastille. She remains a member of Warsaw's Teatr Wielki.
Ms. Podleś’ past performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall include Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice with the Oratorio Society of New York, Ulrica with the Collegiate Chorale, baroque and Rossini programs with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Das Lied von der Erde with the Philadelphia Orchestra; and Szymanowski’s Three Hymns with Sinfonia Varsovia. Among her signature pieces is Rossini’s cantata Giovanna d’Arco which she performed with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra in Pittsburgh and at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and Toronto Symphony. The University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan has presented her in recital, as Tancredi with the Detroit Symphony and as Orfeo in a semistaged version. She has also sung with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco, Detroit, Seattle, Montreal, American, Toronto, NHK, New World and Pittsburgh Symphonies; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and National Arts Centre Orchestras; National Orchestra of Spain; Hong Kong and Dresden Philharmonics; under such conductors as David Atherton, Leon Botstein, Myung-Whun Chung, Gerard Schwarz, Nicholas McGegan, Neeme Järvi, Lorin Maazel, Constantine Orbelian, Alberto Zedda and Pinchas Zukerman. An acclaimed recitalist, she has been on the major art-song series of Cleveland, Atlanta, Vancouver, Philadelphia, St. Paul, Chicago, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Toronto, Moscow, Warsaw, Montreal, San Juan, Québec and New York. Festival invitations include New York’s Bard Festival, Aix-en-Provence, Flanders, Montpellier and Lanaudière. Collaborations with Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre includes two Deutsche Grammophon recordings: Händel’s Ariodante and Gluck’s Armide. Other issues include two acclaimed Delos recordings: Händel Arias and Russian Arias; three recital discs with the pianist Garrick Ohlsson, the last of which was recorded "live" at Wigmore Hall. Just issued on the Dux label is a DVD of her recital with Mr. Ohlsson at the Chopin University of Music in Warsaw.
Mme. Podleś vocal study was with Alina Bolechowska at Warsaw's Chopin Music Academy. Awards include top prizes at Moscow's prestigious Tchaikowsky Competition.
Dvořák's Rusalka at the Opéra de Monte Carlo:
“Lending her impressive contralto and vivid dramatic gifts to yet another tragicomic character, Ewa Podleś' first Jezibaba is nothing short of stunning. From the first Abracadabra, expertly beginning with a light tone and building to the dramatic conclusion, this always surprising, explosive Polish singer makes an indelible witch, half-good, half-ogre, supernatural, sarcastic and sardonic, yet brimming with welcome humanity."
Covent Garden 2014 return in La fille du Régiment:
“…we get a brilliantly funny Marquise de Berkenfield from the formidable Polish contralto Ewa Podleś..."
Donizetti’s La fille du Régiment, 2013 return to the San Diego Opera:
“Ewa Podleś steals show at the opera’s comedic first production…it was contralto Ewa Podleś as the Marquise de Birkenfeld who stole the San Diego Opera’s production of Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment, especially the first act…Podleś showed an uncanny, almost scary, and often hilarious combination of comedic timing, vocal prowess and mastery of the stage…If her character seemed in control of the entire opera, she was.”
-San Diego Union-Tribune
"San Diego Opera welcomes back Polish contralto Ewa Podleś for the first time since her opera debut here in Handel's Giulio Cesare in 2006. Known for her stunning range and unique timbre, legendary in dramatic roles, Ms. Podleś took a comedic turn as the Marquise of Birkenfeld. With rare comic flair, she exploited the role to the hilt, both dramatically and vocally, emphasizing the importance of this pivotal character in driving the plot toward its inevitable happy end, and her clever quote from Carmen was an especially tasty amuse-bouche. A powerful presence on the world's stages, she demonstrated the versatility of a voice that has performed a wide divergence of roles at some of the greatest opera houses and symphony halls in the world."
"San Diego has heard Polish Contralto Ewa Podleś before, both in recital and in Handel's Giulio Cesare, but this was her first foray into comedy there. Vocally, she showed the wide range of her color-filled contralto voice, She was hilariously funny when, wearing a gorgeous dark red costume, she quoted a line from Bizet's Carmen. At the same time she brought out the Marquise of Birkenfeld's importance in steering the plot toward its jubilant ending."
"By far, Ewa Podleś is the most entertaining and credible of all principals as the buffoonish and tawdry Marquise de Birkenfeld... Her extraordinary acting and singing lives up to Emilio Sagi's specifications."
"While the audience awaited Tonio's aria with baited breath, famed contralto Ewa Podleś set the pace for the evening with her melodramatic entrance as the Marquise de Birkenfeld. Podleś made ample use of her unparalleled range, parlaying her burly chest voice for comical effect, and displayed an innate sense of theatrical timing when she played to the audience with physical and vocal gags that were well received. Her spoken confession to Sulpice in Act II was a moment of respite from the over-the-top frivolity of the rest of the production and was effectively moving."
2012 Title role of Rossini's Ciro in Babilonia at the Caramoor Festival:
“…a splendid cast that included a couple of breakout performances from rising artists and a much-anticipated appearance by the astonishing Polish contralto Ewa Podleś', who sings in the New York area too rarely. Now 60, Ms. Podleś gave a vocally blazing account of the warrior Ciro (Cyrus), a demanding pants role. She sang with throbbing intensity, agile passagework, plush sound throughout an enormous range, and her distinctive mellow vocal colorings. Outside opera circles, Ms Podleś has never attained the recognition her artistry merits. A towering Rossini singer, she has long had a devoted following, including many in the audience at Caramoor’s Venetian Theater, who greeted her first appearance onstage with cheers and applause.”
-The New York Times
“Although the part of Ciro includes no such intrinsically flashy moments, contralto Ewa Podleś' left no doubt who was the star of this show. Much of her music was essentially lyrical, befitting the sober and noble character of the mature war hero, and she had both the taste and technique to embellish the lines with simple grace. For me, the high point of the veteran contralto’s long and expert performance was Ciro’s farewell to his son in the final scene, T’abbraccio, ti stringo, an elegant middle-voice aria in moderate tempo. So simple a number might tempt a singer to fuss with the line or overload the melody with ornaments, but her trust of the piece and formidable legato allowed it to bloom. Podleś showed off her more obvious talents in an extended entrance aria, Ah! Come il mio dolor that builds steadily to a brilliant climax featuring flashing arpeggio figures for the voice that she threw off like a gymnast. She finished the piece on a long-held low E in open chest voice that thrust easily through a tutti orchestral coda…she remains the force of nature that’s inspired a cult following for more than two decades. Her curtain call evoked the kind of yelling, stomping ecstasy that’s as rare today as her artistry. Next to a Podleś, just about anyone seems a bit conventional…”
2011 Cendrillon at Paris' Opéra Comique:
“****!..his second wife, Madame de la Haltière, gets a fabulous knock-down, drag-out comic turn from refulgent-toned contralto Ewa Podleś' "
-David Shengold, Time-Out New York
"No fear of attention deficit disorder when Polish diva Ewa Podleś' monstrous stepmother is in action. Her Madame de la Haltière is a seething ball of self-importance, firing off sturdy chest notes like cannon balls; a glorious sound and funny too."
-The Financial Times
“Carrying all before her, however, was Ewa Podleś, whose ripe chest tones, incisive articulation and over-the-top stage presence made her Madame de la Haltière a pure delight.”
"In less distinguished company, the great Polish contralto Ewa Podleś as Madame de la Haltière would have walked away with the entire show. Her lower register remains earth-shaking, but more to the point, she understands the critical importance of playing farce straight. Her final declamation of 'Ma fille'--when she finally sees fit to acknowledge Lucette as a daughter--brought the house down."
"None is as terrifying as Ewa Podleś' Countess, the wicked stepmother. With her fruity contralto and magnificently upholstered derriere, Podleś threatens to steal the show; her comic acting, deadly serious, is spot on."
"...the booming contralto Ewa Podleś offered a fearsome portrayal of Madame de la Haltière, making a choice moment of the aria in which she explains her imperious character by documenting her family pedigree."
-The New York Times
"...that magnificent contralto Ewa Podleś reveals an unexpected gift for comedy as Cinderella's stepmother..."
NOW ON DVD - Pique Dame from the Gran Teatre del Liceu, 2010!:
"But then there's the Queen of Spades herself, in the mesmerizing person of Ewa Podleś, who takes this good, if uninspired, show and breathes into it the air of mad operatic genius. If you're already an admirer of this great singer (shamefully underemployed at the Met--nine performances over three decades), you'll probably already own this treasurable addition to her still-too-skimpy discography. If you're not yet a convert, try sampling a bit of her big Act II scene, where (in those haunting, still-potent Podleś tones) the sleepy Countess revisits her fabled Parisian past with a parade of titled personages--the Duke of Orléans, the Duke of Auyen, the Countess of Estrades..."Those were names!" she deliciously asserts, and we believe her: with each one, she vividly evokes not just a person but her own sometimes venomous assessment of him or her. If it's a momentary disappointment that Deflo denies her a climactic ghostly appearance in the final scene, in the long run it doesn't much matter: Podleś is there for us just as uncannily as the Countess is there for poor Gherman, but to a decidedly happier end."
"Almost walking away with the show is Ewa Podleś as the Old Countess. Today, this part is mainly taken by sopranos on their way out, singing in slim but characterful voices. Podleś, on the other hand, is in full control of her considerable resources, the voice booming when it must and scaled back for her lovely ballad."
2011 Elektra at the Opéra de Nice:
"As Klytamnestra, Ewa Podleś reaffirms her greatness as an artist. As regal as she is pitiable, frightened yet haughty and seductive in her white-ermine coat and wig of golden curls, she calls to mind Marlene Dietrich, appearing like a woman ready to confront a jealous rival. And with a cavernous voice to stir the soul, the Polish contralto misses not a single nuance of the role she inhabits."
London's Wigmore Hall recital with Garrick Ohlsson, pianist:
"Ewa Podleś recital last night was one of those rare, and very special occasions when a singer opened the lid of her soul and poured forth a stream of uninhibvited emotion. Uninhibited, by no means uncontrolled, and with an usual level of communication between performers.....A performance of rare stature."
“The astonishing Ewa Podleś returned to Wigmore Hall after an absence of sixteen years…the power and range of these tones were phenomenal. The middle register is a vast roundness, at first strangely sexless (something of the owl-like male alto in its timbre), but settling in as part of the voice’s fascinating repertoire of colours and textures…And her personality, outgoing and generous like the voice itself, warmed the hall. It was like hearing some fabled singer of the past, old Schumann-Heink perhaps.”
As La Cieca in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Ponchielli’s La Gioconda:
“The primary attraction, perhaps unsurprisingly, was Ms. Podleś. The instant her throaty, androgynous tone gushed forth, the only question that remained was what took so long to get her back on the Met stage. During a performance in which little spark could be detected in the audience, Ms. Podleś’s only rivals for affection were Letizia Giuliani and Angel Corella, the lithe, beautiful dancers reprising their work in Mr. Wheeldon’s Dance of the Hours.”
-The New York Times
With the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center:
“If Ariadne, abandoned on Naxos, had lamented Theseus with anything like the power of Ewa Podleś, the gods would have surely cowered and sent him scurrying back to her. Ms. Podleś, the remarkable Polish contralto, sang Haydn’s magnificent cantata Arianna a Nasso…with eyes blazing and head thrown back, she stormed through Ariadne’s lament with plaintive misery and crazed anger. Her voice, with its unusual timbre, easily cascaded up and down her three-octave range, from dusky, startling lows to powerful top notes. Ms. Podleś also sang Il Tramonto for mezzo and string quartet by Respighi…she was in her element with the declamatory, emotional vocal part, narrating the story of two lovers with dramatic fervor.”
-The New York Times
As Orsini in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia at the Gran Teatre del Liceu:
“A history-making Orsini by Ewa Podleś. The velvety lows and acrobatic highs, the transparency of a miraculous voice and artist whose every appearance is a privilege I don’t know that any of us deserve.”
As Azucena in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Caramoor Festival:
“Podleś remains a force of nature. As Azucena, she exuded dramatic concentration, even in an evening gown. She exulted in the old gypsy’s wide-ranging obsessions, stalked the stage knowingly, bathed the line in voluptuous tone. She pointed the text with precise prowess, explored the lower vocal depths with chesty bravado and rose to the highest climaxes with lust sometimes marked by a hint of desperation. She managed to make the linear elaborations expressive, and, unlike her colleagues, actually sang softly for extended periods.”
-The Financial Times
As Klytämnestra in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Strauss’ Elektra:
“Ewa Podleś Klytämnestra appeared as monstrous but mortally injured bird of prey. Her huge voice, of seemingly immeasurable depth and resonance, and her subtly detailed shading of every phrase suited this larger-than-life character so perfectly that the feeling gripped the hushed audience that there could perhaps be no finer performance of this role.”
Title role of Rossini’s Tancredi at Opera Boston:
“…a star vehicle for the magnificent Polish contralto Ewa Podleś, in her debut. She did not disappoint. Apparently, Opera Boston leaders heard Podleś in a Jordan Hall recital in 2006 and decided on the spot they would try to sign her up for Tancredi, one of her signature roles. A smart move. Last night she sang with enormous dramatic presence and a bottomless font of deep and soulful tone…She showed off powerful high and low notes, but it was the middle range of her voice that was so remarkably moving, a sound drenched in an aching worldly sorrow that fit this role perfectly.”
-The Boston Globe
As Händel’s Giulio Cesare at the Seattle Opera:
“CONTRALTO REIGNS GLORIOUSLY. Ewa Podleś, a contralto of amazing power and agility, took command of the title role of Händel’s Julius Caesar the way Caesar himself took command of his legions. From Podleś opening aria to the triumphant conclusion, she poured on the powerful high notes, low notes and all the notes in between, singing the convoluted coloratura passages with unstinting accuracy and a real feeling for the words as well as the music. Podleś soared up into soprano territory, and she downshifted into low gear, displaying astonishing deep tones that would do credit to a baritone.”
-The Seattle Times
Recital in Baltimore’s Shriver Hall with Garrick Ohlsson, pianist:
“Among the unforgettable moments in recent Baltimore musical life was the local debut of Polish contralto Ewa Podleś at Shriver Hall Concert Series four years ago. Her return to that venue Sunday evening proved every bit as electrifying…Mussorgsky’s chilling evocation of Death picking off assorted victims inspired Podleś and partner to yet another height. In Lullaby, the contralto delineated the characters – a mother tends to a sick child as death promises sweet dreams – with remarkable fire. The extra punch she gave to the last, chopped-off word painted an all-to-clear picture of a little life snuffed out. And how spine-tingling her last, high and mighty note was in Serenade. She and Ohlsson kept things wonderfully tense and spooky in Trepak, and they produced tremendous force in The Field Marshall – Podleś even stomped onstage to drive home the image of Death crushing the wounded and dying.”
-The Baltimore Sun
Principessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica at the San Francisco Opera:
“With the appearance of Ewa Podleś, the evening reached its apex; the voluptuous-voiced Polish contralto, making her long-awaited company debut as the flinty Princess, exuded authority.”
Rossini concert at Pesaro’s Teatro Rossini:
“…the extraordinary orchestral concert with Ewa Podleś at the Teatro Rossini on August 16, during which the Polish contralto cast into the shade all the other female singers in this year’s festival with her supremely individual voice and personality (displayed in Haydn’s Arianna a Nasso and a couple of Rossini arias). It was a profoundly moving display of technical and expressive mastery, employed with equal cogency in both tragedy and comedy, greeted with fanatical enthusiasm by an audience once again well able to distinguish real theatrical talent from mere window-dressing.”
Recording of Wigmore Hall recital with Garrick Ohlsson, pianist:
“Nobody can deny that Ewa Podleś earthy contralto is altogether unique. Here she gives a veritable masterclass to baritones with her sinister Songs and Dances of Death. The songs of Rachmaninoff and Chopin are also ideal for her. A rare opportunity to experience the singer beyond the realm of bel canto.”
-Die Welt Online
“The Polish contralto Ewa Podleś is an indomitable singer with a big, earthy, intensely expressive voice and an artistic personality to match. She has won an almost cultish following for her portrayals of operatic roles from Rossini to Strauss. You might think her oversize artistry would be unsuited to song literature, but she has a thriving recital career…If the size of her live sound does not come through so faithfully here, the vibrancy of her singing most certainly does. She opens with five songs by Chopin in Polish, sung with gripping intensity. Ms. Podleś sings piercing and impassioned accounts of songs by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. If you can adjust to the sweep and power of her singing, you will discover rich subtlety and keen attention to nuances of text in her work.”
-The New York Times
As Malcolm in Rossini’s La Donna del Lago with the Minnesota Opera:
“Minneapolis/St. Paul has already heard Ewa Podleś in concert and recital, but for her local staged opera she was met with ovations befitting a performance of stunning technical mastery and dramatic depth. This was Rossini singing at the highest level: heroic and expressive!”
The Marquise in the Houston Grand Opera production of Donizetti’s La fille du Régiment:
"An immense asset was a cast ready and willing to play the show to the hilt. The first to hit the stage was Polish contralto Ewa Podleś as the Marquise. She played the character as a scene-chewing dominatrix, and mugged and sang with delicious abandon but stupendous vocal skill. She dove deep into her low range, threw out a few high-voltage top notes and even started up the Habanera from Bizet's Camen during Marie's singing lesson opening Act. 2."
-The Houston Chronicle
Mahler #3 with the Seattle Symphony:
"Ewa Podleś sang the contralto role with the depth of sound we have come to expect from this Polish singer, both at the symphony and Seattle Opera, where she often appears. She has a remarkable voice and musicality, virtues she brought to the Mahler. Her singing was quietly powerful and emotionally resonant. The cheers at the end of the performance were well-deserved"
-The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
as Azucena in Verdi's Il Trovatore
as the Marquise in Donizetti's La fille du Régiment
as Mistress Quickly in Verdi's Falstaff
as La Cieca in Ponchielli's La Gioconda
There are dozens of audio and video links to Mme. Podleś in performance (just do a search) but here are some.
Recordings also available upon request (MSprizzo@aol.com).
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