French opera sung by in foreign language

Discussion of historic singers: Francesco Merli, Giuseppe De Luca, Richard Tauber, Conchita Supervía, etc.

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French opera sung by in foreign language

Post by LaGioconda »

as critic Michael Scott put it "a baby born in a stable is not a horse" implying that as in the case of Werther here for example you don´t necessarily have to be French born to catch the style of the music and the essence of the character. I find the Russians to be able to relate to this more easily somehow (Sobinov, Rogatchevsky or Smirnov come to mind in the French repertory), I find Italians singing French opera in Italian to mostly sound a bit heavy-handed sand overly extrovert, though they try hard as does Bergonzi here. Lazzari fares a little better, but none makes it sound so utterly natural and effortless and catch the poetry as Tito Schipa - though past his vocal prime - does.
Any thoughts?

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Re: French opera sung by in foreign language

Post by Geoff »

I think I agree with you. French is not the easiest of languages for non-French singers so if I may, I would like to offer a yardstick by way of the superb Alain Vanzo. Non-French voices would do well to listen (and learn) from this exponent of elegant singing in French (his own language of course).


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Re: French opera sung by in foreign language

Post by TifosoBonisolli »

Smirnov was indeed superb in French repertoire (above all in Les pêcheurs de perles, not only in Russian but even more so in his 1920 Italian version of Je crois entendre encore), as was Antonina Nezhdanova (or are we talking exclusively about tenors here?), but I wouldn't go as far as claiming that Russians in general have a penchant for French opera - much as I admire Kozlovskij, and vocally wonderful as his Werther is, that's hardly Werther by Massenet, in terms of style, but rather Werther by Kozlovskij... and same goes for a great number of other Russian singers, down to much less intriguing ones than Kozlovskij (thinking, for example, of Netrebko's positively horrible butcherings of both the French language and the French style). On the other hand again, two superb interpreters of French opera in Russian (though not Russian themselves, but Georgian in both cases) were David Badridze before and Tengiz Zaalishvili after WWII.

Generally spoken, I have no problems with French opera sung in foreign languages - on the contrary, I prefer that to bad French (and non-native French is particularly prone to bad pronounciation, even more so than most other languages). Piccaver was an exemplary Werther in German, Milona did a great job in Je crois entendre encore (or rather, in Mi par d'udir ancora), and Schipa, whom you've already mentioned, was by far the best Werther ever, whether in French or in Italian (and had he sung in Kyrgyz only, his Werther would still have been unsurpassable). The history of Faust recordings would never be complete without Michael Bohnen and Ludwig Hofmann as Méphistophélès in German, or without Giuseppe Lenghi-Cellini's "Salve, dimora" (a painfully bad translation, I know), or without "Avant de quitter" in German by Josef Metternich and (no mistake, really!) Ernst Kozub, or "Ce qui doit arriver" by Anton Moser in German or by Enrico Molinari in Italian, or the complete German recording from 1908 with Karl Jörn (great "En vain j'interroge") and Desider Zador (great "Ce qui doit arriver"). Or, shudder to think, without "Avant de quitter" ("Even bravest heart may swell") by Peter Dawson! Keeping to Dawson, his "Au bruit de lourds marteaux" ("The sparks fly through the smithy door") has, albeit in English, not that much competition. Gounod in English, what about Edward Lloyd's "Lend me your aid"/"Inspirez-moi, râce divine"? Absolutely remarkable, not just for a 59-year-old tenor.

And these are merely a few examples that spring to my mind offhandedly... but I stop here before somebody again laments, as it has happened, that I'm always writing encyclopedic posts!

And here are the related links (as usual, not everything's available online - very surprisingly, not even Dawson's "Even bravest heart"!):

Piccaver 1 ... A9387&db=0
Piccaver 2 ... A9388&db=0

Jörn ... A8934&db=0

(curiously mislabelled by the uploader, who has invented the opera "Irene" by Gounod)

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