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.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.)
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