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BS: The Tenors

DonMeixner 15 Dec 01 - 11:31 PM
paddymac 16 Dec 01 - 01:13 AM
Rick Fielding 16 Dec 01 - 12:30 PM
Don Firth 16 Dec 01 - 02:52 PM
Rick Fielding 16 Dec 01 - 08:31 PM
DonMeixner 16 Dec 01 - 11:42 PM
GUEST,aldus 17 Dec 01 - 09:18 AM
Mary in Kentucky 17 Dec 01 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,DonMeixner 17 Dec 01 - 10:56 AM
GUEST,DonMeixner 17 Dec 01 - 11:07 AM
Mary in Kentucky 17 Dec 01 - 11:23 AM
Kim C 17 Dec 01 - 11:59 AM
GUEST,Aldus 17 Dec 01 - 12:01 PM
DougR 17 Dec 01 - 12:02 PM
GUEST,Aldus; 17 Dec 01 - 12:02 PM
GUEST,Aldus 17 Dec 01 - 12:06 PM
Rick Fielding 17 Dec 01 - 12:17 PM
Mary in Kentucky 17 Dec 01 - 12:39 PM
Midchuck 17 Dec 01 - 12:47 PM
DougR 17 Dec 01 - 03:53 PM
GUEST,Marc B 17 Dec 01 - 04:35 PM
Don Firth 17 Dec 01 - 04:48 PM
GUEST 17 Dec 01 - 05:08 PM
Rick Fielding 17 Dec 01 - 05:12 PM
Mary in Kentucky 17 Dec 01 - 05:53 PM
Don Firth 17 Dec 01 - 09:18 PM
Mary in Kentucky 17 Dec 01 - 11:20 PM
DonMeixner 17 Dec 01 - 11:43 PM
paddymac 17 Dec 01 - 11:44 PM
marty D 18 Dec 01 - 12:38 AM
Don Firth 18 Dec 01 - 02:40 AM
Mary in Kentucky 18 Dec 01 - 09:07 AM

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Subject: The Tenors
From: DonMeixner
Date: 15 Dec 01 - 11:31 PM

I attended and evening of music by the Irish Tenors in Syracuse tonight. If ever there was a question as to whether the voice is an instrument or not, it was answered for me this evening. Truly a great performance.

Don


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: paddymac
Date: 16 Dec 01 - 01:13 AM

As to the Irish Tenors, I've got the video of the "first" three, and a cd by the "second" three, and a video of the original "Tenors". I could not agree more as to them clearly demonstrating the voice as an instrument. In contrast to the "operatic" selections of Pavarotti, et alia, the "Irish Tenor" programs included selections from both the classic and folk repertoires. It was amazing to hear what a great voice and full orchestra can do with a "simple" folk song.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 16 Dec 01 - 12:30 PM

Last night while trying to finish some Christmas leather strap orders, I listend to Andrea Boccelli (sp.) on the tube. I know virtually nuthin' about the guy, other than he's hot hot hot! The public love him, the critics hate him, and in the meantime he's rakin' in the dough. I have to admit, I think the critics are right. He took a few very sloppy scales, and I didn't notice that intangible 'resonance' in his voice, that SEEMS to mark the great tenors.

Two nights ago I watched a biography on Mario Lanza, who the critics apparently hated as well. To me he really seemed to have it all. Was he simply too casual for the critics? He laughed, ate, drank, and fornicated a lot, and made hokey Hollywood movies. Could that be why they didn't take him seriously?

And while we're on this, what's the name of the very pretty young girl who (sort of) sings opera on the late night info-mercials? I guess promoters know that the time is right to market classical voices. Fine with me. Maybe someone will see a TV special...get interested...do a bit of hunting...and eventually find Lucretia Bori's 1920 recording of "Un Bel Dia". Hey, The Kingston Trio helped me find 'real' folk music.

Haven't heard the Irish Tenors yet Don....but I will.

Rick


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Dec 01 - 02:52 PM

The critics and most opera fans didn't like Mario Lanza very much, not because he was too casual in the life-style sense, but because he was too casual as a musician. He had a great natural voice, but he was too lazy to train it properly and learn a little musicianship. He never learned to "place" his voice (much too complicated to explain here), so he pushed it and generally abused it. Also, because he pushed, he sang slightly sharp most of the time. If he hadn't died young, he probably would have burned his voice out in another few years. He was okay with pop stuff, but when it came to operatic arias, he never really grasped the dramatic subtleties within them -- he just blatted them by rote. He only sang one full-length opera (Madame Butterfly) on stage, so he was hardly one of the greatest operatic tenors of all time as some people seem to think. He was just more famous than most.

Too damned bad. He had a great gift. He could have been one of the greatest of all time. But he was too much of a slob to learn to use his voice right.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 16 Dec 01 - 08:31 PM

Hi Don, I'm gonna dig out my one Lanza album and listen for the "sharp". Now someone who sang sharp constantly was Maria Callas (and I don't have to listen to the recordings again to remember that)

A question...has any reasonably well known classical singer ever had a reputation for singing 'flat'? I've certainly heard recordings where certain singers have resorted to 'wide vibratos' while holding a note.

This may NOT be a popular thread, but as a simple fan (with a good ear, but little knowledge of what goes into making a 'complete' Opera singer), I'd love to know who you like, why, and any recordings that you'd consider "must haves". I have a number of re-issues of early recordings, and love Caruso and the woman I mentioned earlier, Lucretia Bori.

Cheers

Rick


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: DonMeixner
Date: 16 Dec 01 - 11:42 PM

I am not an opera fan, I have a too highly refined sense of the ridiculous to enjoy opera. Can someone tell me why all, I mean all, as in everyone of them, Coloratura sopranos(sp?) sound like they are singing in any key but the one the band is playing.

I once asked a friend who was real opera buff and very fluent in Italian and French to translate what was going on for me. She said not much to tell. He loves her she loves him, the rest is just emoting. I imagine thats an over simplification. But they certainly could cut the whole thing down to a more manageable show with less emoting and more point getting too.

I am not a fan of vocal music in a language I don't know. I don't care if the sets are lovely and the costumes grand, if I can't understand whats going on its all sizzle and no steak.

What I am a fan of is great voices. These guys have great voices, they use them extremely well. Are they operatic quality? I'd say that Finbar and Anthony are. Ronan Tynan is certainly the more lyric of the voices and the showman. The harmonies where just grand. The individual performances were inspiring.

Rick I imagine you are thinking of Charlotte Church another pretty little prodigy girl with a nice voice. I suspect she will become either very famous and successful or flame out entirely too soon.

In any case if you get the chance to see these guys live, do so. You won't be disapointed.

Don


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: GUEST,aldus
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 09:18 AM

Joan Sutherland is my absolute favourite..Callas, when she was at her best was magnificent. As for not wishing to hear songs in a language you don"t understand..music is the language..it takes time to understand it's many qualities..but it is worth learning. Having learned the language you will have earned the right to an informed opinion.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 10:37 AM

I have never met a person
with a really first class mind who wasted
his or her time on opera...

[ Opera is ] a form of art which is inherrently
romantic, passionate, absurd and illogical.
...And yet much of the mindset that has enabled
me to enjoy a creative life was acquired through
my intensive study of opera.--James Michener

OK, you've pushed my buttons here. I started going to opera performances regularly over 20 years ago. (We have a world renowned company in Louisville.) I went reluctantly because I couldn't find anyone to go to the symphony with me, so when a close friend and opera lover mentioned going to the opera, Hubby told her he'd pay her to take me! I've seen/heard most of the biggies done by world class singers and have fallen in love with most of them (the operas, not the singers). I'm not a good judge of voice quality, but my friend is, and I've learned a lot. We have subtitles when the opera isn't in English, but that's really just for following the story line. The sheer emotion and beauty of Un Bel Di, or Vissi D'arte, or The Humming Chorus (from Madama Butterfly, used by Andrew Lloyd Webber for "Bring Him Home"), or Mimi in La Boheme singing about first seeing Spring in the April sunrises from her little apartment, or one of my favorites, The Wedding Sextet from Lucia DiLammermoor where the action stops and each person sings their heart out...

As far as singers, the first time I heard Pavoratti, the quality of his voice was literally mesmerizing, and he was just singing scales to warm up! Maria Callas had "the voice that waves," a bit too much vibrato for my liking. I know what you mean though about too much acting while you're trying to stay serious and listen. I have a problem with Madrigal Singers and all the facial gestures. (I once had to sing a madrigal song and the director instructed us to overact.)

Don, were you the one Rick said to, "Give me two hours," concerning playing guitar. I say, "Give me two hours, and I'll make an opera lover out of you." (That also goes for not being afraid of algebra and for whistling through your fingers. Well, maybe four hours for the whistle.)


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 10:56 AM

Gee Aldus, its about all I can do to understand the music that I specialize in. I have spent so much time performing traditional American and British Isles folk music over the last thirty years that I never realized how irrelevant I have become. Your stinging endictment of specialization has not fallen on deaf ears. I have decided to take a crash course in Italian, French and Spainish so I can include a few baritone arias in my apparently mundane repertoire of English language traditional folk music.

That I speak no Italian doesn't keep me from enjoying the overtures or the body of music that supports the vocalists of the operas. And I am not so complete a provincial lout that I can't tell the emotions in a voice no matter what language its in, except maybe German.

But I wonder, if only a person who understands and appreciates all of the worlds music and the languages that they include is allowed an informed opinion, how will they have had the time to become competent enough to perform them all.

Don


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 11:07 AM

Hi Mary,

I got the "too highly refined sense of the ridiculous" from Jean Redpath. As to making me an opera lover in two hours I would imagine its possible with so non-pompous and willing an educator as yourself. But as I already can whistle through my fingers what I really need is the offer for the Algebra, and maybe help with spelling.

Don


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 11:23 AM

Yeou're on, Don. I've worked with lots of folks on algebra and chemistry. It's especially challenging (and heartbreaking) with teenaged girls. For some reason, by the age of 14 it's just not "cool" to be smart. Many of them hide their intellect.

And as far as whistling...I bet I can whistle louder than you can!


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Kim C
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 11:59 AM

I talked about this a little on another thread, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself.

First, Mister and I love the Irish Tenors. No question about that.

We watched Domingo, Carrerras and Pavarotti last week... we got really tickled. They are great singers but it was kind of funny hearing them attempt to sing pop Christmas songs. It just didn't fly.

The next program was Three Mo' Tenors, and it was a whole different ball game. These guys could sing opera and Ellington with complete effortlessness. They had a stage show as well, whereas the others just stood there... which I thought was a little odd, since D, C and P have all been in stage productions.

Anyway, I recommend Three Mo' Tenors, as well as anything by the Irish Tenors.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: GUEST,Aldus
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 12:01 PM


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: DougR
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 12:02 PM

Some of my favorite classical vocalists have passed on, but Rick, you were inquiring about vocalists of bygone days, so I'll name a few of my favorites: Eileen Farrell, Nan Merriman, Rise Stevens, Lilly Pons, Dorothy Kirsten, Marian Anderson. And the men, Richard Tucker, Sherrill Milnes, Norman Farrow, Ara Berbarian, and the entire Bach Aria Group, which included Farrell and Farrow, and lest I forget, Kendall Morse, of course.

I enjoy listening to The Irish Tenors also.

DougR


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: GUEST,Aldus;
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 12:02 PM


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: GUEST,Aldus
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 12:06 PM

Sorry for the two previous errors. All I meant Don, was that we ought not to dismiss something because we do not understand it. And I do think that Informed opinion has some validity..one could ask my opinion of ice hockey..but I know nothing about it..that would limit my understanding and appreciation to the point where a true follower would find I had no credibility..and he would be correct. That is all I meant.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 12:17 PM

Mary, the guy I wanted two hours with was Bert. You're welcome to Don!

I'm afraid I too fit into that category of loving to hear exciting voices, but never having been able to sit through a full opera. I'm still open though. What's the best one for a middle aged neophyte to start with? If I get the CD is that useful, or do I wait until the Toronto Opera Company puts it on.

Two questions: How's Ben Heppner regarded internationally, and who was the guy singing the Lanza stuff in the Australian film?

Rick


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 12:39 PM

Rick, I had an extra ticket to La Boheme and took a friend thinking that was the perfect one for someone not familiar with opera. She was polite and said she enjoyed it, but I don't think she did.

My recommendation is to listen to recordings of famous arias first. Learn the music. Then read the story of the opera. Then see one that has one of your favorite arias.

I first listened to Madama Butterfly on an LP at the library when I was 13 or so. I fell in love with Un Bel Di. Even though is was in Italian, I found a translation for those heartwrenching words. Next was probably Carmen because it has The Toreador Song, Habanera, and Thee I Love (not sure of the translation) which I had played at my wedding. You would like the action in that one because it has murder, infidelity, lots of sex and violence. It also has Michaela's plaintive aria (which is also the prelude to Act II, I think, and starts out like "The Minstral Boy"). Then possibly La Boheme, a real tearjerker. Then maybe Tosca where she sings Vissi D'arte while her fiance is tortured (off stage). That one was made into the pop song "Smile Though Your Heart is Breaking." Let me know when you're ready for lesson two! Did you see the movie "Pretty Woman" where Richard Gere take Julia Roberts to the opera?

I know what Aldus is saying. As a teenager I had to hide my love of Beethoven and Shakespeare from my contemporaries. I also believe that we gain a much greater understanding of something when we participate in it. I never appreciated football until I played halfback in a powder puff football game.

I think the folks here at Mudcat have about the most open minds I've ever seen, thus I'm not afraid to talk about anything here. Not so in real life.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Midchuck
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 12:47 PM

Attributed to the late Bill Monroe, when asked who he thought the great tenors were:

"They ain't but two tenors, and Ira's dead."

Peter.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: DougR
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 03:53 PM

That's great Peter!

I'd go along with what Mary said. I think she named the top three or four most favorite operas. Madama Butterfly would probably be a good one for someone that is not already a lover of opera. Your idea, Mary, of listening to the major arias is also a good one.

DougR


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: GUEST,Marc B
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 04:35 PM

Is it true that the latest incarnation of Irish Tenors is singing New York Fairytale by Shane McGowen?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 04:48 PM

Warning!! In this post, I blather on endlessly about opera, some opera singers, and my personal opinions thereof, so if opera affects you like fingernails on a blackboard, don't say I didn't warn you!!

Hi, Rick: --

Where you can usually hear Lanza go sharp is when he's "belting." It happens in a lot of places on his recordings, but one that comes to mind specifically is his recording of "The Loveliest Night of the Year." Early in the song, he's singing fairly lightly, using good head voice and "lofting" the tone. That's good. After a bit, he shifts gears and starts to belt. At this point you can practically hear the tone drop into his throat. His throat tightens up and he starts sounding "chesty." He does this a lot, especially on operatic arias. He loses his head resonance, and to maintain his intonation, he has to push harder, which is not good for the voice. That's where he usually goes a bit sharp. A well-trained operatic tenor (or any well-trained singer, for that matter) keeps the throat open and relaxed when belting and/or reaching for the high notes. Keeping the voice relaxed helps maintain head resonance, which is what allows a singer to bounce his or her voice off the back wall of a large opera house while singing over a whole symphony orchestra going full blast. And still have lots of voice left over the following day. Or thirty years later. Good breath control and a relaxed, open throat are the key.

(I worry a bit about Charlotte Church. I think she might be doing too much too early. I hope her voice teacher is a good one, and can keep the promoters at bay until her voice really matures.)

One well-known classical singer who did have a reputation for singing flat was (sorry, GUEST,aldus) Joan Sutherland. When she was young, and well into her middle years, her voice was absolutely magnificent. But when she grew older, she got sloppy. She started singing flat and "swooping" from note to note. It's really painful to listen to, especially remembering how great she used to be. I think she was pampered by her husband (conductor Richard Bonynge) and an army of sycophants who didn't have the guts to tell her what she needed to hear, i.e., "it's time for you to retire." Beverly Sills was wise. Nobody else had noticed, but she said she could feel herself slipping a bit, so she decided to retire while she was ahead. She commented, "I'd rather have people ask 'why did she retire?' then 'why doesn't she retire?'"

As far as pitch is concerned, Maria Callas could sometimes get pretty wobbly. And her voice was not the greatest in the world. Her main claim to fame was as a singing actress. People used to say that, voice be damned, watching her live performances in operas like Norma and Tosca were unforgettable experiences. She had a tremendous sense of drama and could project that to the audience.

I'm probably not the best one to make recommendations because although I have been an avid opera bug in the past, I haven't really kept up much with what's been going on lately and what recordings are available. A couple of decades ago I attended Seattle Opera regularly and now, when "Live from the Met" or "Live from Lincoln Center" or various permutations of "The Three Tenors" or other singers come on PBS, I'm usually glued to the tube. From what I've seen and heard lately, I think we are actually in the midst of a"Golden Age" of opera singers right now. Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras of course, along with mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, baritone Thomas Hampson, and bass-baritones Bryn Terfel and Samuel Ramey, plus a number of others. Many others, in fact. One of my favorite young tenors is Jerry Hadley. Terrific voice! Sopranos Renee Fleming and Anna Moffo are both gorgeous, and their voices are even moreso (definitely not the stereotypical "fat ladies"). I think Marilyn Horne has one of the greatest voices of all time. She's usually referred to as a mezzo-soprano, but in my opinion, she's a genuine contralto. Her voice is very flexible, she can do runs and trills better that most coloratura sopranos, and her pitch is dead-on all the time. And her low notes sound like rich chocolate (if that makes any kind of sense).

Singers from the past: Caruso goes without saying. Too bad we don't have more modern recordings of him. An absolute master of head-voice was lyric tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini. His voice seems to float, and he could practically diminish his voice to a whisper and still bounce it off the back wall. On the other hand, to hear real brute power, listen to Mario del Monaco. Incredible! I think my favorite tenor of all time is Jussi Bjoerling. His voice was like gleaming silver. Another is Beniamino Gigli. A couple of great American tenors where Richard Tucker and Jan Peerce. Baritones Leonard Warren and Robert Merrill. Basses Italo Tajo, Cesare Siepi, and Nicola Rossi-Lemeni. Coloratura soprano Erna Berger: sweet-sounding voice, all the runs and trills, and her pitch is right on.

One of my favorite recordings of operatic excerpts is a 10 inch LP of tenor/baritone duets sung by Jussi Bjoerling and Robert Merrill. The duet from The Pearl Fishers is a special treat for the ears. I don't know if it's ever been reissued. I have a few full-length recordings of operas. Two of my favorites are Rigoletto with Jan Peerce, Leonard Warren, Erna Berger, and Italo Tajo, (somebody told me that this was the first full-length studio recording of an opera ever made, and a real collectors' item) and Il Trovatore ("The Troubadour" yet!), with Jussi Bjoerling singing the role of the troubadour-knight. My favorite opera of all time is La Bohème. No great world-shaking deeds, just the story of the trials, tribulations and love affairs of a group of 19th-century hippies. Glorious music. Heart-rending stuff. I have a full-length, store-bought video of that one, staged and directed by Franco Zefferelli, with Teresa Stratas and Jose Carreras singing Mimi and Rodolfo. To the susceptible, it gets a ten-Kleenex rating.

One of the keys to enjoying an opera is trying to get a clue to what the hell's going on. Seattle Opera uses "supra-titles" (like sub-titles, only projected above the stage) which help a lot, but it's a good idea to read a synopsis of the plot ahead of time. Better still (this is what real opera freaks do when they're confronted by an opera they're not familiar with) is try to get hold of a full-length recording and listen to it with the libretto in hand, looking back and forth between the Italian (or French or German or whatever) and the English translation. The more you do this, the more the plots make sense (that's when you know you're losing it!).

Weird note:--He's definitely not an operatic tenor and his voice is minuscule compared to someone like Pavarotti, but one of the finest exponents of good vocal technique that I have ever heard is Richard Dyer-Bennet. Rock-solid breath control, relaxed throat, with ringing head-resonance all the way, and surprising projection for such a small voice. On his recording of The Joys of Love, he sings the last line of the second verse and the first line of the chorus on one breath, and he still has plenty of steam left when he reaches the end of the line. No matter what one may think of the way he handles folk songs, that sucker knew how to sing!

It doesn't mean that good vocal technique will make someone sound like Richard Dyer-Bennet or Luciano Pavarotti or Anna Moffo—you have to be born with that kind of voice—but it will allow you to make the best use of the voice you were born with, and to keep it going long after other singers have burn their voices out. I'm no Ezio Pinza or Gordon Bok, but I had some good teachers when I started out. I'm seventy years old (how in the hell did that happen!!??) and I'm happy to say that my voice is as strong and solid as it's ever been. Breath control, open throat, relaxed voice.

I'm also incredibly long winded.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 05:08 PM

Marc,

It is delightfully true.

Don Meixner


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 05:12 PM

This is marvelous. Keep it going oh knowledgable Opera buffs.

By the way, Bill Monroe was referring to Ira Louvin (gotta show I know SOMETHIN' in this thread!)

Ben Heppner? Any opinions.

Rick


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 05:53 PM

Don, keep going! I'll have to look for that recording of the duet from Pearl Fishers, another one of my favorites even though I've never seen the opera. And the quartet from Rigoletto...you don't have to be able to understand the words to feel the intense emotion of that one. (That's another story of muder, intrigue and betrayal...look it up, I don't want to spoil it for you.)

Once when I went to Madama Butterfly in Louisville the diva got sick and couldn't finish, so Edith (oh dear, I forgot her name) just happened to be on call and sang from a podium from the side of the stage while the original diva acted the part. No one minded because her voice was sheer magic. And the flower duet was beautiful.

The only voice I have trouble appreciating is a bass voice. I heard Don Carlo (that's an opera) which had some nice showcasing of the bass, but usually the leading man is a tenor.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 09:18 PM

Mary, it occurred to me that my recommendation of getting a recording of a full-length opera and going through it libretto in hand might be a lethal overdose for someone just being introduced to opera. Your suggestion of listening to arias first, I think, is better. Or listening to "highlights" recordings of particular operas. Usually the liner notes or booklet contains a synopsis of the plot and sometimes an English translation if the featured excerpts. That's probably a better way to go.

Basses. Ezio Pinza ("Some Enchanted Evening") was probably one of the smoothest sounding basses (in addition to having a reputation for being an "old smoothy" with the ladies). Another was George London. He was the first American to be invited to sing the role of Wotan at the Beyreuth Wagner Festival, and his recording of Boris Godunov is excellent. My wife and I saw Giorgio Tozzi do Boris Godunov at Seattle Opera about twenty years ago. Tozzi dubbed the singing voice for Rosanno Brazzi in the movie version of "South Pacific." Gordon Bok is a bass. (So am I.)

From the recording of Rigoletto that I mentioned, if you can beg, borrow, or steal a copy—the whole thing is great, but give a listen to Erna Berger doing Caro Nome. As she sings it beautifully, she manages to sound like a love-struck sixteen-year-old. Absolutely perfect for the role. Another of my favorites, although I don't have a recording of it, is Lucia di Lammermoor. Music by Donizetti, story by Sir Walter Scott. Lush arias, duets, and ensembles, with enough blood and thunder to satisfy any action-adventure buff. Two feuding Scottish clans, forbidden love, deceit, betrayal, murder, madness, and suicide, all to some of the most gorgeous music ever written. What amazes me about composers like Donizetti and Verdi is their ability to write things like the Sextet in Lucia and the Quartet in Rigoletto in which everyone is doing his or her own thing all at the same time, and it all comes together! Puccini does it again in La Bohème in the quartet or "double duet" where Mimi and Rudolpho, who have broken up, are deciding to get back together again while Musetta and Marcello are trying to tear each other a new one. Tour de force!

Whew! I'll just stick to trying to figure out which chord goes where!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 11:20 PM

For an online source of synopses, go to New York City Opera, click on learning center/ resource center. Beware, the blasted page is one of those that holds you hostage and won't let your browser back up, so remember where you were or want to go and use your history folder.

Also, there are culture briefs at Culturefinder.

Don, as I mentioned above, that wedding sextet from Lucia DiLammermoor is an absolute favorite. I think many people think of opera as Lucia's mad scene with all the coloratura "ramblings" and flute imitations, and they've never experienced the sheer emotion of the other arias and ensembles. That sextet and the quartet from Rigoletto were cited by Michener where I lifted the two quotes above (in his autobiography, "The World Is My Home"). You don't have to understand the words in the sextet to feel the emotions behind the statements of the wedding party. To me it was always such a powerful statement of "Here I stand, this is what I believe, damn the consequences." I had forgotten the La Boheme quartet, a fight scene and a love scene at the same time.

Back to recommendations: After listening to famous arias, I would concentrate on one of the big four operas listed above. Many operas have one famous aria, but not many folks would want to sit through the whole opera to hear one song. Examples: in I Pagliacci, "Vesti la Giubba" (The one is on the commercial where the taxi cab driver belts this one out...laugh clown laugh) or in Turandot, "Nessun Dorma" used by the BBC in the World Soccer Cup coverage or in The Marriage of Figaro, "Voi Che Sapete" which was used in the BBC and A&E Productions of Pride and Prejudice.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: DonMeixner
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 11:43 PM

As this has become an opera thread I find it a chuckle that no one has mentioned Andrew Lloyd Webber. Good , bad , or indiferent he has made a success of himself.

Of the above mentioned operas, which are in English? Have any grand operas been written for the English language? Are any successfully translated from the original tongue to English?

My daughter has done props for operas as well as wigs and costumes. Her faves are Turandot, La Boheme, and Aiida. Her least favorites are anything by Wagner but that is my favorite opera music without the vocals, although German is hardly a musical language.

Don


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: paddymac
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 11:44 PM

Magnificent thread, and a great bit for putting the vagaries of folk singers in perspective. When the great operatic voices falter over things like support, open throats, and relaxation, it makes me think more positive thoughts about folkies who do their best with little or no proper training. It also persuades me to keep telling those with great voice potential to seek out a competent teacher. Yes, they are different vocal styles, but good technique is good technique.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: marty D
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 12:38 AM

I don't mean to sully the thread but since Don mentioned Andrew Lloyd Webber, and it originally was about the IRISH tenors, how about the attempts of Rockers to write an Opera? Does 'Tommy' count as an Opera (even if you hate it)

Fifty years from now will any of Webber's works be considered 'serious'? or is that a totally different kettle of fish? Remember the Opera that Spinal Tap was going to write based on the life of Jack The Ripper..'Saucy Jack'?

marty


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 02:40 AM

I'm not actually familiar with Tommy, but I'm sure willing to give it a listen.

Andrew Lloyd Webber. He's written some darn good stuff. His . . . what? Operas? Musicals? I'm not sure how he regards them himself. Anyway, they all seem to share the same characteristic: one hit song from each, and the rest of the work is, well, okay ("I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ, Superstar, "The Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera, 'Memory" from Cats, even "Pie Jesu" from his oratorio—I did see a full-length TV production of Cats, and I know it makes some people run out of the room and hock up a fur-ball, but I thought it was great). But then, there are a number of operas that are what you might call "one hit wonders." Maybe it's like trying to pin down whether a particular song is a folk song or not. Are they operas? Time will tell . . . perhaps?

I haven't combed carefully through all the operas listen above, but as I recall, I don't think any of them are in English. There are quite a few in English, such as Samuel Barber's Vanessa, Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes and Billy Budd, and others, but they tend to be pretty modern, which to many ears raises another problem. But they are good. Just keep an open pair of ears and an open mind.

For a lot of people, Wagner is an acquired taste, but my wife Barbara and I sat through all sixteen hours of Seattle Opera's production of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung about fifteen years ago. All four operas in one week takes a lot of endurance and a cast-iron butt, but it was magnificent!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: The Tenors
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 09:07 AM

I think I mentioned above that Lloyd Webber stole Puccini's melody from the "Humming Chorus" in Madama Butterfly for his "Bring Him Home." Also, "The Music of the Night" is awfully close to "Come to Me, Bend to Me" in the musical Brigadoon.

As far as English operas, it's so hard to understand the words anyway, it may as well be a foreign language! Several examples: The Mikado (or anything by Gilbert and Sullivan). When these operas first debued (Sp.) transcribers would sit in the audience and furiously try to get every word, then hop a boat to America to be the first to present the new opera. Another example, Porgy and Bess (yes, it's an opera). Another example, Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck, this one is trying to replace or be considered like The Nutcracker as a holiday treat for little ones. I think Kim remarked above about hearing the three opera tenors singing pop music and it just didn't fly. I agree. The phrasing and pronunciation seem affected when you hear them sing pop songs. An exception might be Pavarotti singing Italian folk songs. But remember Denyce Graves singing "America the Beautiful" at the National Cathedral Memorial Service, not at all "affected" and stunningly beautiful.

Carmen is in French. Actually it was from the French Opera Comique. The critics panned it, and Georges Bizet died three months later not knowing how successful it would become.

Die Fledermaus is in German. This one is traditionally performed in Vienna on New Year's Eve, and any singer in town that night walks on in the jail scene for a cameo role. When I saw it in Louisville, Colonel Sanders of KY Fried Chicken fame walked through the jail with a box of fried chicken.

The worst operas (for me) were in English. One was a Shakespearean Midsummer Night's Dream and the other was a Benjamin Britten (forgot the name.) Sussanah was filled with American folk tunes (or tunes that sounded old) and had a jolting, surprise ending!

Rick, there is a popular instrumental version of the music from Carmen, "The Carmen Suite" where you can hear just the music. That remains one of my favorite operas because even the incidental background music is memorable. It almost uses the leitmotif technique that Wagner uses in his operas.


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Mudcat time: 14 August 11:32 PM EDT

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