Falsi Miti

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

Postby shutko » 15 Jan 2016, 00:12

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.)
I would like to also finally add my input on the list you've presented on the singers that I am familiar with. I stated in my earlier post that I don't agree with everything you've stated, but the critiques you've stated are not necessarily wrong.

Starting off with Lehmann I have to agree she did not record well later in her career but neither did Patti and she is still labeled as one of the best sopranos of her century. I think it would be unfair for anyone to judge Lehmann by her recordings.
Lina Cavalieri is spot on I agree entirely and find that she had a career based off physical beauty entirely, even the title of her biography seems to agree, though I have not read it.
Luisa Tetrazzini was a very accurate coloratura and displays every note clearly during runs, while she didn't have the dramatic voices of Muzio or Raisa she was a fine singer in lighter rep.
Enrico Caruso's critique is justified, his voice was not the most beautiful and he may have come across vulgar early on, but his musicianship from what has been described and from what I've heard through records is masterful. You can definitely hear through intelligent phrases that he had an idea of his character and displayed them with effortless vocal coloring and nuances.
Martinelli confuses me as I've stated in an earlier post. His vibrato being non existent created a very "stiff" sound in recordings, live of course is a different matter but your critiques are accurate. His phrasing in long passages is particularly admirable.
Lauri-Volpi is a tenor I feel the most empathy towards, the pitch issues is a very true critique but he produced a sound that was perfect for the operas prior to Verdi, grand operas like those of Meyerbeer. He was a true romantic tenor and was the opposite of the veristic artists.
Slezak was a Wagner tenor that wasn't quite in the leagues of Melchior or Svanholm but he was more 'hefty' sounding and perfect as a Tristan or Siegmund (not sure if he sang this, I prefer younger voices in Siegfried and larger ones for Sigemund)
Melba I have a hard time relating to. But she was Convent Garden's cherished magnificent singer, it is a light airy voice and pleasing at least.
Leonard Warren's voice is muffled definitely, but his lower register having flaws I cannot agree with. He had a lower register maybe not in the league of Tibbett but it was secure every time I have heard him.
Tagliavini is a voice imitator of Schipa I always thought, maybe a combination of Gigli and Schipa, I don't find this a fault entirely especially with a huge lack of Giglis and Schipas.
I feel the same way of Christoff as I do with Tagliavini, he was a great Mussorgsky singer.
You two have said everything I think of Callas, a complete understanding of phrasing and musicality - she knows what she's singing - but the wobble and raw voice production is not pleasing to some.
Tebaldi to me also never had a pretty voice and falls in the same league of Callas but not as consistent. But during good recording she definitely can deliver.
Nilsson I was never too excited by she falls in the league of false Wagner singers who can sing loudly but have no control of musical line, she was definitely incomparable to her predecessors.
Tucker I agree with, also combine these flaws with someone who can hardly pronounce Italian and you have Tucker. He was a tenor I have never been interested in.
Bergonzi's voice was never exciting and could only ever be moderately satisfying, he is an example of someone who just seems clueless when he sings, not knowing what is happening and just enjoying the modulations of his own voice - performances with no heart (sounds like certain other tenors)
Di Stefano took on roles that definitely deteriorated his voice and he ended up singing poorly by the end of his career of course early and mid career performances are outstanding and quite beautiful he was a great lyric tenor at one point.
Bastianini having no passion is something I cannot agree with at all, every live recording I've heard shows a fantastic example of musicianship and technique, he always seems involved in his portrayals. I'd love to see an example of his non-impassioned singing, perhaps I am missing something?
Pertile is one of my favorite singers and I cannot agree with him having no top, his top never felt secure but it was existent, his vocal coloring and phrasing make his recordings some of my favorites. Tinny and rattly is a good way to describe his voice, but a great vocal artist does not need a beautiful voice.
Fischer-Dieskau is a lieder singer, his opera performances never really impressed me... His opera performances are definitely what I could consider dry.
Rysanek falls close to a Nilsson for me, she loses control of her voice at times...
The Sutherland comment made me laugh because it's not entirely wrong, she definitely produced a matronly voice... Good in the role of a queen, not so much as the young Gilda...
I'm not entirely sure what you meant with Schwarzkopf? I've always enjoyed her, especially in operetta.

I would like to add a couple more to the list of singers.
First would be Jan Peerce who you have been discussing, he reminds me of Tucker in many ways which do not appeal to me.
Thill is another singer who has significant problems with control and pitch, he still moves me and displays great phrasing, but his voice seems to give him trouble and I vastly prefer the singers surrounding him in the era in France.
McCormack is always included in lists of great opera singers, but the fact was he was a great concert singer. He had a very beautiful voice nonetheless.
Del Monaco as well is a very controversial tenor, I have a hard time thinking his lack of musical line is what Verdi would have wanted. Couple this with a lack of piano and that does not exactly make a great tenor. He was definitely exciting though.

The singers mentioned are all popular for many reasons but none of them can be described as absolutely perfect... no singer can fit this description. Another interesting question would be the historical singers we consider underrated... but that's for another time :P :P :P

CVAULT1
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby CVAULT1 » 15 Jan 2016, 02:19

Likes & dislikes of some voices are a personal matter, of course. Many of the singers of the "scream into the horn" days did not record well, so you really can't make a clear judgement on them from what was left behind. Leo Slezak's top did not record well, but he certainly could color his voice. His lieder recordings are some of the best ever made, and many of his arias are excellent. Who could sing the "Viens gentile dame" as well nowadays? For the modern singers, Nicolai Gedda also did not really record well. He sounds rather hard. In the theatre, though, he had a round, creamy, tunnel of sound, not anything like what the microphones picked up in a studio.

TifosoBonisolli
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 15 Jan 2016, 02:33

:D

Patti is exactly who I was thinking of (as is Maurel) when I wrote of "other wrecks of the period" - but in Patti, gone as her voice was, I recognize outstanding musicianship. She knew how her music had to sound (she just didn't have the voice left to prove it). In Lilli Lehmann's recordings, nothing like that for my ears.
That Tetrazzini was accurately displaying all coloratura notes is true, no doubt. She's just almost constantly off-pitch, reminding me of Leo Slezak's (I adore him as a humoristic writer!!) hilarious "opera guide" to Lohengrin... first act: "Lohengrin enters and sings 'Nun sei bedankt' a quarter-tone low."
Di Stefano gave his first heavily flawed performances as early as 1950... I, too, was long inclined to like him because in his first few years, he undoubtedly made some beautiful (studio as well as live) recordings. But over the years, I've had to revise my fondness. In fact, his "mid-career" performances were already horrible. Sad but true - just listen to him in 1955 (at age 34, that is!), and he was a wreck.
I promise I'll be looking for Bastianini (and Schwarzkopf) recordings that illustrate what I mean - not today, though.
As far as Pertile, I totally agree that a "beautiful" voice is anything but important for a great singer. Beautiful sound, however, is another story - Schipa had one of the ugliest timbres ever, but you'd never notice because even with that voice, he is - thanks to his unparalleled technique - able to produce a beautiful sound. But I admit it's also a matter of (my and your) personal ability to relate to a singer - I wouldn't necessarily say that Giovanni Inghilleri produces a more beautiful sound than Pertile, and yet he's one of my favorites (but at least, he had a *really* secure top!).

I have no objections at all against your additions to the list, although I didn't forget any of those singers - personally, I wouldn't put them on the list, but I certainly understand why they can be placed there. I like Thill, he left many wonderful recordings, but his technique was definitely not up to the splendid quality of his voice, and that's what cut his career short - he lost his voice at an age when a true fort ténor should in fact reach the height of his power. And I kind of love del Monaco (the way you'd love an unruly child), but I'm fully aware that this is a fault (or a whim at best), and that he was totally unmusical and in many respects a caricature of a tenor. I respect (but don't love) McCormack. And I, too, am having a hard time with Peerce, I just want to add that he was capable of much more than his really terrible voice production would lead to assume - excellent coloratura, for instance (hear his Il mio tesoro), and he also had a far better top than his twin (I agree) Tucker. But he would ruin everything by his gung-ho, why-should-I-take-pains-with-cultivated-singing voice production.

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Pantenor
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Pantenor » 17 Jan 2016, 12:49

So who does everyone is the biggest false myth? Domingo is my number 1.

TifosoBonisolli
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 17 Jan 2016, 17:47

TifosoBonisolli wrote: I promise I'll be looking for Bastianini (and Schwarzkopf) recordings that illustrate what I mean - not today, though.
Today, I've tackled Bastianini - Schwarzkopf will have to wait further since I'm really not up to listening extensively to two of the singers from that list on the same day :shock: .

Let's be fair with Bastianini and start with a *good* recording (for his standards): "Cortigiani", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNYG5dv0kgI. He's in splendid voice, even his (often pretty shaky) top is working well, there are no obvious mistakes or faults here. And yet, what an utterly boring recording! No nuances, no modulation, no messa di voce - all notes come at precisely the same volume, all notes come with precisely the same colour. This Rigoletto is not suffering; he's enjoying his beautiful voice.
For comparison, let's be fair again and not choose somebody from the Golden Age of Opera, but a perfect contemporary of Bastianini: György Radnai, 1920-1977: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4EUuKSfEUY. His voice is not nearly as splendid as Bastianini's, his top is not even shaky but virtually non-existent, and he sounds as if he smoked 80 non-filter cigarettes a day (which I'm actually convinced he did), so please don't tell me he's a second-rate singer in many respects because I know that. But just pay attention to the vocal acting - THIS means interpreting Rigoletto. (He's so good at that that I'm actually willing to overlook all his vocal and technical shortcomings.)

Second example, Bastianini in far less splendid voice, in other words: in his standard condition, with a (sometimes painfully) strained top. (Get me right, this is still one of the best and to most listeners, including myself, one of the most beautiful voices ever. But his vocal technique is doing him, and the listener's ears, harm.) A few sighs just don't make for an interpretation of "Eri tu", particularly if one cannot be sure whether they are due to any interpretative insight or just to vocal exhaustion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eX0bQsW0uA. By comparison, this is how that aria has to be done (coming back to "a good singer doesn't need a beautiful voice"): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwPoN2l64Pc. By the way, as always, it's probably better to listen to them in reverse order, i.e. the good recording first, the Bastianini then, so as to fully realize what is lacking here!

I cannot refrain from including a third example: Bastianini is co-responsible for one of the worst duo recordings ever made, "Solenne in quest'ora" with Mario del Monaco. Both are shouting the hell out of this subtle, lyrical piece, and Verdi must have been rotating in his tomb ever since they committed this recording in 1955: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMFiUXdyOro. What a terribly dumb roar this is! Do they know what they are singing about? Most probably not! Almost every other recordings of that piece could serve as a positive example in comparison, but this one has a particularly nuanced (yet large-voiced and 100 percent heroic) baritone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr2x3B6TArk, Hans Reinmar. (Wittrisch didn't have his best day, but he's still far superior to del Monaco's brainless bellowing.)
Pantenor wrote:So who does everyone is the biggest false myth? Domingo is my number 1.
I'm not opposed to naming Domingo here, but my personal vote would probably go to Nikolai Figner.

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Jimlejim
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Jimlejim » 17 Jan 2016, 19:07

GIOVANNI INGHILLERI

Excellent interpretation, but am I crazy for saying he sounds like a tenor?
Tenor freak. :D

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shutko
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby shutko » 17 Jan 2016, 19:12

TifosoBonisolli wrote:
TifosoBonisolli wrote: I promise I'll be looking for Bastianini (and Schwarzkopf) recordings that illustrate what I mean - not today, though.
Today, I've tackled Bastianini - Schwarzkopf will have to wait further since I'm really not up to listening extensively to two of the singers from that list on the same day :shock: .

Let's be fair with Bastianini and start with a *good* recording (for his standards): "Cortigiani", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNYG5dv0kgI. He's in splendid voice, even his (often pretty shaky) top is working well, there are no obvious mistakes or faults here. And yet, what an utterly boring recording! No nuances, no modulation, no messa di voce - all notes come at precisely the same volume, all notes come with precisely the same colour. This Rigoletto is not suffering; he's enjoying his beautiful voice.
For comparison, let's be fair again and not choose somebody from the Golden Age of Opera, but a perfect contemporary of Bastianini: György Radnai, 1920-1977: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4EUuKSfEUY. His voice is not nearly as splendid as Bastianini's, his top is not even shaky but virtually non-existent, and he sounds as if he smoked 80 non-filter cigarettes a day (which I'm actually convinced he did), so please don't tell me he's a second-rate singer in many respects because I know that. But just pay attention to the vocal acting - THIS means interpreting Rigoletto. (He's so good at that that I'm actually willing to overlook all his vocal and technical shortcomings.)

Second example, Bastianini in far less splendid voice, in other words: in his standard condition, with a (sometimes painfully) strained top. (Get me right, this is still one of the best and to most listeners, including myself, one of the most beautiful voices ever. But his vocal technique is doing him, and the listener's ears, harm.) A few sighs just don't make for an interpretation of "Eri tu", particularly if one cannot be sure whether they are due to any interpretative insight or just to vocal exhaustion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eX0bQsW0uA. By comparison, this is how that aria has to be done (coming back to "a good singer doesn't need a beautiful voice"): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwPoN2l64Pc. By the way, as always, it's probably better to listen to them in reverse order, i.e. the good recording first, the Bastianini then, so as to fully realize what is lacking here!

I cannot refrain from including a third example: Bastianini is co-responsible for one of the worst duo recordings ever made, "Solenne in quest'ora" with Mario del Monaco. Both are shouting the hell out of this subtle, lyrical piece, and Verdi must have been rotating in his tomb ever since they committed this recording in 1955: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMFiUXdyOro. What a terribly dumb roar this is! Do they know what they are singing about? Most probably not! Almost every other recordings of that piece could serve as a positive example in comparison, but this one has a particularly nuanced (yet large-voiced and 100 percent heroic) baritone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr2x3B6TArk, Hans Reinmar. (Wittrisch didn't have his best day, but he's still far superior to del Monaco's brainless bellowing.)
Pantenor wrote:So who does everyone is the biggest false myth? Domingo is my number 1.
I'm not opposed to naming Domingo here, but my personal vote would probably go to Nikolai Figner.
These are certainly not wrong comparisons and I am inclined to agree with both of your choices on these bits of vocal acting, these studio recordings are entirely boring and his voice just simply shows no nuances or colors hence the lack of passion. While I cannot advocate for the poor Rigoletto I would like to offer a better recording for his Eri Tu... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvUjL4Y0Its I do believe he sounds and acts better with this live performances... In fact I think his live performances are much more interesting than his studio recordings. That last duet was pretty funny though. I am not familiar with the singers you compared him too but I will definitely look into both as the Rigoletto and Eri Tu were very well sung.

I definitely agree with Domingo being an entirely overrated singer, and while he only ever had a passable vocal technique his marketing technique was much much better :D

TifosoBonisolli
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 18 Jan 2016, 14:45

Jimlejim wrote:GIOVANNI INGHILLERI

Excellent interpretation, but am I crazy for saying he sounds like a tenor?
If you compare him to Bastianini, who sounds much like a bass (which in fact he was in his youth), then you're certainly right ;)

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Jimlejim
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby Jimlejim » 18 Jan 2016, 18:28

He sounds like a baritonal tenor. A dramatic tenor.
Tenor freak. :D

TifosoBonisolli
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Re: Falsi Miti

Postby TifosoBonisolli » 18 Jan 2016, 19:03

Ok, let's face it: I'm still owing you Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

First of all, she was a famous lieder singer, and a native German speaker of course. You wouldn't guess either when she does "An die Musik": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm_AKMV0ME0. This is not, as it must seem to anybody who doesn't know the lied or understand the text, a tearful requiem for her deceased grandmother, or a lament about heavy toothache, but an ode to the joy that music brings into our life. But what is even more amazing than her totally failed interpretation is that both her voice production and her diction sound as if she had an haywire amplifier built in, or if she was chewing on sizzling pebble stones. The placement of her voice changes constantly, it's now too open, a few instances later too darkly covered, and back and forth; just listen to the last phrase of the first verse, starting at 1:29, "in eine bess're Welt entrückt". Would you guess that the vowel in bess're and in Welt is supposed to be exactly the same? There are hardly letters for the sounds she is producing, but it comes somewhat close to "böss're Wält" (all sounds given in German here since it's a German text). On we go, verse 2, start 2:05, "ein süßer, heiliger Akkord". Ms. Schwarzkopf in vowel delirium: "ein süßor, heiligär..."
2:17, "den Himmel bess'rer Zeiten mir erschlossen", we come across a new variation on "e": simply omitting it ("den Himml", a totally incomprehensible "mir" (nothing faintly resembling an "m" here), and a very interesting "o" that sounds much like "u" (German u, of course, which would be English oo): "erschlussen".
2:39, would you guess that in "du holde Kunst, ich danke dir dafür", the two highlighted vowels should be different? Sound quite the same here: "halde" instead of "holde" (in fact, the sound here is more like a Hungarian "a", i.e. a vowel half-way between German a and o, or English ah and aw).
Also if and where she doesn't produce those mistakenly open "ä" vowels, i.e. where she covers (too much), she is aiming at that kind of "precious", artificial sound that also - a more contemporary example - Renée Fleming is driving me crazy with. Artificial like in totally unnatural, mind you, not like in artful.
By comparison, an artfully produced voice with impeccable diction, and a singer who understands what this lied is about: Lotte Lehmann, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81-g46Z_3Fk.

The same mannered diction and unsteady "pebble stone" voice production, and the resulting interpretative failure (cf. making an elegy of an ode to the joy of music) are obvious in most everything she sings; also in her famous Mozart roles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHTTXuleh7Q. Already in the opening phrase "Porgi amor", she manages to use two different kinds of "uh" where there should be none: whereas "amor" becomes a French "amour", the "uh" that she makes of the "i" of "porgi" is more difficult to describe... perhaps in an English-French mix, we might say she's singing "pordge-w-amour"? But to make things worse, she also introduces an "h" where there is none (and in a broader sense than just thinking of this phrase, cause there is no "h" at all in Italian): "p-horgi", or more precisely, "p-hordge-w-amour". I won't discuss the whole aria now, but I think you've got the picture. For comparison (and recovery), a soprano who really knew her stuff: Elisabeth Rethberg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85sQ14X9TXI.

Final example, would you dare comparing an 82-old operetta singer to one of the most famous sopranos in history, and claim the old lady wins the contest? Well, I would: Schwarzkopf, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLx8uBWY6c4. Martha Eggerth, who had never much of a voice (so not much to lose in advanced years, either), but plenty of charm, musicality, style - and (though being a native Hungarian!) a crystal-clear German diction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWuVU-Asxlo.


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