Falsi Miti

Discussion of contemporary singers: Jonas Kaufmann, Juan Diego Flórez, Anna Netrebko, etc.
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LaGioconda
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Falsi Miti

Postby LaGioconda » 10 Jan 2016, 14:32

Which historic singers do you find overrated in relation to the stardom they enjoyed at the times of their careers and their legend-status now?

Which famous singers had great careers you cannot quite relate to?

And why?

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Pantenor
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Pantenor » 10 Jan 2016, 15:50

There was a poster on Grandi-Tenori called Vitaly who argued how much Caruso benefited so much from the invention of the phonograph/gramophone that without it (or perhaps availability of technology for everyone), he wouldn't have been considered all that special at all. The advent of talkie movies was also great for many singers' careers, say Gigli. I think neither was undeserving of their fame, however. So I am not sure anyone comes to mind, though I have to say Martinelli is a voice that has never appealed to me, and one I also find difficult to describe the merit of. Rather ugly and uneven sound.

Had recording technologies been more widespread, I think the fame would have been more evenly spread out. Therefore I say it's not so much that some singers were undeserving of their fame, it's that many others could have acquired similar fame. As for more modern singers, for me it has to be Domingo. He has been prolific and versatile beyond comprehension, but I have to say that apart from some of his earliest work and very few selected pieces, I cannot enjoy him. In almost everything I hear strain. It's hard to imagine for me that people actually enjoy listening to him.

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shutko
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby shutko » 10 Jan 2016, 19:19

What's interesting to me about Martinelli is his almost complete lack of vibrato, I'm not sure who trained him but I don't know how a singer could gain such a following with a very alternative vocal style despite the vocal zeitgeist at the time. Of course in America people like less vibrato than in italy but Martinelli had almost none... :shock: :shock:

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Pantenor
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Pantenor » 10 Jan 2016, 19:35

Yes. Straight toned singing and uneven.

TifosoBonisolli
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 10 Jan 2016, 21:19

Difficult to answer in a post - it would need a whole book to answer this properly. But I'll give my best.

Lilli Lehmann - she certainly was a wreck when she recorded, but as opposed to other wrecks of the period, there is not even a faint hint to any qualities she might have had earlier
Nikolai Figner - no voice, no technique, no top
Lina Cavalieri - no voice, no style, no technique, a café-concert singer at the most - a career entirely built on physical beauty, she'd fare splendidly in our 21st century operatic world
Luisa Tetrazzini - sharp-voiced, and the impersonated intonation problem
Enrico Caruso - vulgar singing for the standards of the period; a good voice, but a laboured, pushed top
Giovanni Martinelli - stiff "organ-pipe" tone, no hint of any modulation
Giacomo Lauri-Volpi - much the same as Martinelli, plus he's constantly prone to off-key singing
Leo Slezak - incapable of colouring his voice, frequently effortful top, very unmusical
Maria Jeritza - even less capable of colouring the voice, and - opposed to her legendary acting skills - a boring interpreter as far as music is concerned
Nellie Melba - whistle-buoy-turned-soprano
Leonard Warren - muffled, wobbly voice, lacking any acceptable lower register
Ferruccio Tagliavini - a voice imitator (mimicking Gigli, of course), not a singer
Boris Christoff - same as for Tagliavini, with Shaljapin (Chaliapin) as the innocent cause of the listener's misery
Maria Callas - one of the most vulgar voice productions of all times, an odd combination of shrill and chesty (and terribly wobbly, of course)
Renata Tebaldi - "beautiful" singing only in comparison with Callas, but certainly with nobody else
Birgit Nilsson - foghorn-turned-soprano
Richard Tucker - backward, guttural voice production, mannered, "chewing" diction
Gianni Raimondi - a bleating, pushing tenor without a single positive quality
Carlo Bergonzi - nasal, lacking any charisma, the strained top of the century
Giuseppe di Stefano - how to ruin a golden voice in no time by total ignorance of vocal technique
Ettore Bastianini - the baritone version of di Stefano, minus passion
Julius Patzak - completely colourfree voice production, horrible diction (he never learned to sing German properly, rather, he sang in a broad, vulgar Viennese dialect)
Aureliano Pertile - a tinny, rattling sound, no top
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau - the driest voice ever
Leonie Rysanek - opera's screaming queen
Joan Sutherland - both her voice production and her way of musical interpretation made her always sound like her own grandmother
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf - just one word: mannerism

Without wanting to criticize your (actually most interesting) question, it's somewhat unfair to discuss only miti falsi from the past - almost each of those (however overestimated) singers from the past sang like a god(dess) in comparison with almost each "top star" of our own sorry operatic era. (I've stopped my list before coming to the Carreras-Ghiaurov-Behrens generation, which younger listeners may consider "historic", as well - but for an account of the overestimated exponents of that - and the following - generation/s, a forum post is REALLY not enough.)

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shutko
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby shutko » 10 Jan 2016, 22:35

The critiques above are very interesting and while I don't agree with every one (for instance I always though Tagliavini was a Schipa imitator rather than a Gigli imitator :P) some of them are honestly very true. Of course the bottom of the post is very correct in that even with the faults of these singers they still are preferable to the current generation. It's always important to be critical as opposed to being completely over infatuated with a singer. Thank you for the critiques :D I would love to see more.

Geoff
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Geoff » 10 Jan 2016, 23:43

Oh dear ! Such critiques should set the cat among the pigeons. It's very tempting to take up the gauntlet as I cannot agree whole heartedly and I become suspicious when I read such adverse comments. I'm staying out of this one.

Regards,
Geoff.

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Jimlejim
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Jimlejim » 14 Jan 2016, 06:52

TifosoBonisolli wrote:Difficult to answer in a post - it would need a whole book to answer this properly. But I'll give my best.

Lilli Lehmann - she certainly was a wreck when she recorded, but as opposed to other wrecks of the period, there is not even a faint hint to any qualities she might have had earlier
Nikolai Figner - no voice, no technique, no top
Lina Cavalieri - no voice, no style, no technique, a café-concert singer at the most - a career entirely built on physical beauty, she'd fare splendidly in our 21st century operatic world
Luisa Tetrazzini - sharp-voiced, and the impersonated intonation problem
Enrico Caruso - vulgar singing for the standards of the period; a good voice, but a laboured, pushed top
Giovanni Martinelli - stiff "organ-pipe" tone, no hint of any modulation
Giacomo Lauri-Volpi - much the same as Martinelli, plus he's constantly prone to off-key singing
Leo Slezak - incapable of colouring his voice, frequently effortful top, very unmusical
Maria Jeritza - even less capable of colouring the voice, and - opposed to her legendary acting skills - a boring interpreter as far as music is concerned
Nellie Melba - whistle-buoy-turned-soprano
Leonard Warren - muffled, wobbly voice, lacking any acceptable lower register
Ferruccio Tagliavini - a voice imitator (mimicking Gigli, of course), not a singer
Boris Christoff - same as for Tagliavini, with Shaljapin (Chaliapin) as the innocent cause of the listener's misery
Maria Callas - one of the most vulgar voice productions of all times, an odd combination of shrill and chesty (and terribly wobbly, of course)
Renata Tebaldi - "beautiful" singing only in comparison with Callas, but certainly with nobody else
Birgit Nilsson - foghorn-turned-soprano
Richard Tucker - backward, guttural voice production, mannered, "chewing" diction
Gianni Raimondi - a bleating, pushing tenor without a single positive quality
Carlo Bergonzi - nasal, lacking any charisma, the strained top of the century
Giuseppe di Stefano - how to ruin a golden voice in no time by total ignorance of vocal technique
Ettore Bastianini - the baritone version of di Stefano, minus passion
Julius Patzak - completely colourfree voice production, horrible diction (he never learned to sing German properly, rather, he sang in a broad, vulgar Viennese dialect)
Aureliano Pertile - a tinny, rattling sound, no top
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau - the driest voice ever
Leonie Rysanek - opera's screaming queen
Joan Sutherland - both her voice production and her way of musical interpretation made her always sound like her own grandmother
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf - just one word: mannerism

Without wanting to criticize your (actually most interesting) question, it's somewhat unfair to discuss only miti falsi from the past - almost each of those (however overestimated) singers from the past sang like a god(dess) in comparison with almost each "top star" of our own sorry operatic era. (I've stopped my list before coming to the Carreras-Ghiaurov-Behrens generation, which younger listeners may consider "historic", as well - but for an account of the overestimated exponents of that - and the following - generation/s, a forum post is REALLY not enough.)
Keep going! :D
Tenor freak. :D

oddjobman
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Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 08:23

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby oddjobman » 14 Jan 2016, 09:05

TifosoBonisolli wrote:Difficult to answer in a post - it would need a whole book to answer this properly. But I'll give my best.

Lilli Lehmann - she certainly was a wreck when she recorded, but as opposed to other wrecks of the period, there is not even a faint hint to any qualities she might have had earlier
Nikolai Figner - no voice, no technique, no top
Lina Cavalieri - no voice, no style, no technique, a café-concert singer at the most - a career entirely built on physical beauty, she'd fare splendidly in our 21st century operatic world
Luisa Tetrazzini - sharp-voiced, and the impersonated intonation problem
Enrico Caruso - vulgar singing for the standards of the period; a good voice, but a laboured, pushed top
Giovanni Martinelli - stiff "organ-pipe" tone, no hint of any modulation
Giacomo Lauri-Volpi - much the same as Martinelli, plus he's constantly prone to off-key singing
Leo Slezak - incapable of colouring his voice, frequently effortful top, very unmusical
Maria Jeritza - even less capable of colouring the voice, and - opposed to her legendary acting skills - a boring interpreter as far as music is concerned
Nellie Melba - whistle-buoy-turned-soprano
Leonard Warren - muffled, wobbly voice, lacking any acceptable lower register
Ferruccio Tagliavini - a voice imitator (mimicking Gigli, of course), not a singer
Boris Christoff - same as for Tagliavini, with Shaljapin (Chaliapin) as the innocent cause of the listener's misery
Maria Callas - one of the most vulgar voice productions of all times, an odd combination of shrill and chesty (and terribly wobbly, of course)
Renata Tebaldi - "beautiful" singing only in comparison with Callas, but certainly with nobody else
Birgit Nilsson - foghorn-turned-soprano
Richard Tucker - backward, guttural voice production, mannered, "chewing" diction
Gianni Raimondi - a bleating, pushing tenor without a single positive quality
Carlo Bergonzi - nasal, lacking any charisma, the strained top of the century
Giuseppe di Stefano - how to ruin a golden voice in no time by total ignorance of vocal technique
Ettore Bastianini - the baritone version of di Stefano, minus passion
Julius Patzak - completely colourfree voice production, horrible diction (he never learned to sing German properly, rather, he sang in a broad, vulgar Viennese dialect)
Aureliano Pertile - a tinny, rattling sound, no top
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau - the driest voice ever
Leonie Rysanek - opera's screaming queen
Joan Sutherland - both her voice production and her way of musical interpretation made her always sound like her own grandmother
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf - just one word: mannerism

Without wanting to criticize your (actually most interesting) question, it's somewhat unfair to discuss only miti falsi from the past - almost each of those (however overestimated) singers from the past sang like a god(dess) in comparison with almost each "top star" of our own sorry operatic era. (I've stopped my list before coming to the Carreras-Ghiaurov-Behrens generation, which younger listeners may consider "historic", as well - but for an account of the overestimated exponents of that - and the following - generation/s, a forum post is REALLY not enough.)
Since there is no reply to this well thought out posting apart a short one from Geoff who declined the challenge, it fell upon me with my limited knowledge to pick up the gauntlet.
The first point I like to make is that in my humble opinion there is no falsi miti among the famous singers of the past, but there are quite a few names of the present generation that I can think of who fit the description. Up to around the seventies of last century, opera singers were judged by the ability to sing, ability to act or good looks were added bonus, but not a necessary condition. Singers studied for a long period before they can make the stage. Most of them have to work their way slowly through provincial theaters before graduating to the major houses. With such a vigorous system, the average ones would have fallen by the way side. The system nowadays is different. Opera singers are required to act as well, be good looking and to sing in order to attract the 'younger' audience (The average age of people who listen to opera on a regular basis is just over 70, and I am on the high side of the average). Singing is placed on a less important footing. It is not surprising that some of the active superstars might not even get a comprimario role if they were on stage fifty years ago.

Now to the list of singers in the post. It offered a one line negative criticism of their ability without offering the reason why they were placed on the list of falsi miti. Good singing does not depend on a beautiful voice alone. There are other attributes that make a great singer. With my limited knowledge I have to confess that there are quite a few names on the list that are strangers to me, but among the ones I am familiar with:
Luisa Tetrazzini - displayed a flexible and high coloratura, of the kind that was very much in vogue in the lyric theater of the day.
Enrico Caruso -It is generally agreed that he revolutionized tenor singing. If he was vulgar then all the others that come after him are vulgar.
Giovanni Martinelli - fortyy years career in the Met in dramatic roles is not to be slighted unless the Met was run by a lunatic during that period. By all account he did not record well, but those who heard him live attested to his voice as powerful and pure.
Giacomo Lauri-Volpi - exceptional range and technical ability
Leo Slezak - he is a helddentenor of the German school, not a Latin lyrical tenor
Boris Christoff - nothing further from the truth. Are we are talking about the same person?
Maria Callas - It is a well known fact that her voice was far from perfect. Some would describe her voice as ugly. But her ability to colour her voice and her stage presence is unmatched. When I first listened to Callas in Lucia (EMI recording with di Stefano). I knew nothing about opera and did not understand what she was singing about. I was moved by the sad singing followed by the joyful singing, something that I have never experienced before. That got me interested in classical singing. Later on I found out that it was the fountain scene, that she was singing about the ghost and how she felt about Edgardo. She is the ultimate kunst diva.
Renata Tebaldi - Toscanini described her having 'voice of the angel'. If the criticism is true than Toscanini must have resided in a place where there was no angel.
....
Could have gone on but the list is too long to go into each and everyone and I am getting tired

We are talking about people with great careers, who left behind treasures that we admired every time we listened to them. We have to judge them by their entire career as a whole, not by the years that they were in declined.

ps: one last name I cannot resist to defend:
Ettore Bastianini - he suffered from cancer at the prime of his life. Is it surprising that in the latter part of his career he was not what he was?

TifosoBonisolli
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Joined: 05 Jan 2016, 23:47

Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 14 Jan 2016, 19:25

While I think it would be more interesting if also other posters could present their "miti falsi" than if we go on discussing my list, I'll reply nonetheless. Personal tastes aside, all mistakes that I was talking about are easy to prove - it's just enough to listen, and to compare recordings.
(What do I mean by "personal tastes"? Well, it's of course possible and perfectly legitimate to be less disturbed by a wobble than I am. Everyone dis/likes other mistakes more or less intensely. If you have no heavy objections against listening to a wobble, you'll have less problems with Callas than I have. The other way round, I'm mostly undisturbed by portamenti. If you are allergic to them, you'll probably hate one of my favorite tenors, Franco Bonisolli. So how much a mistake disturbs you is a matter of personal taste. But there can't be any discussion, among people provided with ears and a basic knowledge of operatic singing, about the mistakes in and of themselves. Callas had a wobble. Bonisolli used portamenti. Period.)

For example, I'm certainly no expert on angels, but if they sing like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzuzvNpgRxU (particularly from 1:45 to 2:00, and again at 2:21), like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXGl8hSmujU (note 4:15 to 5:10, including some painful off-key phrases, and the final note from 5:58 on) and like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdiUmFiVY4k (notably at 4:02), then I'm glad indeed that since I'm not likely to end up in any paradise for lack of religious affiliations, I won't be subjected to their squeaking and shouting at me. Seriously: Tebaldi had a beautiful voice, but she didn't use it in a beautiful way - so you seem to be neglecting what you (wisely) wrote yourself, good singing does not depend on a beautiful voice alone. Anyway, I didn't say she was the worst soprano ever, and if she was about as famous as, say, Antonietta Stella or Rosanna Carteri, I'd be fine with it (though not necessarily with her). But the mito of the voce d'angelo is pathetic, that's why she fits perfectly into the list here. Btw, Toscanini had an infamous tin ear as far as voices were concerned - just think of his other favorites: Pertile, Peerce, Licia Albanese...

As far as Caruso, there's no doubt that he is the best singer by far on my "miti falsi" list (and some, not too many, of his recordings are even excellent). Yes, it's true that he was an important exponent of a generation that revolutionized singing. No, not everybody after him was as vulgar a singer as he was (think of Schipa, of Villabella, of Groh, of Kozlovskij, of Réti and of about four hundred other tenors). But there's no doubt that the operatic world would have had to endure a way smaller number of vulgar singers (up to our present age, about which I absolutely concur with you btw) if chance had not made Caruso but Fernando de Lucia or, yes indeed, Tito Schipa the model of future tenor generations. So while Caruso is certainly among the top three of influential singers (together with Shaljapin and Callas), his influence was largely harmful (which he cannot be blamed for, get me right).

Finally, Slezak was a German school heldentenor, yes indeed, but can that serve as an excuse for everything? Even for https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP6nP_4Mr5k? If that's what a great tenor should sound like, then Emanuele Bucalo's cat was a great tenor, as well. Explanation if this joke was slightly too inside: Bucalo was an early baritone with a career in provincial Italian theaters, and he made one of the most hilarious operatic recordings of all times, mocking a cat that is mocking a tenor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMHNeLS30ZQ (the uploader on Youtube didn't know anything about Bucalo or the recording, and didn't therefore get what a jewel he posted).


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